If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Tuesday 31 January 2012

That Moment When ...

... you realise that the world is spinning off into some misty and inexplicable future, and is leaving you far behind.

What the fucking fuck are 'treggings'?

Monday 30 January 2012

BBC Spin The Stats - Again

I wrote recently about a game the whole family can play, in which the BBC's output makes perfect sense: just mentally title every programme "Why the government is consistently wrong on everything". I mentioned Huw Edwards (the newsreader) as a particularly useful player.

Tonight, I watched the 5 o'clock news where the BBC was headlining the 'decline' of '9%' in 'applications' to 'Universities'. It was fascinating. Here's a précis, and it's from memory, so don't quote me on the figures, but the direction of the conversation is right.

HE: Disaster as UK University applications are down by almost 10% on last year. Everyone's blaming the Coalition's imposition of massive rises in tuition fees.

Reeta Chakrabarti (Education Correspondent): Actually, it's not as bad as that. The 9% is only for England. Scotland and Wales are more like 1-2%.

HE: Aha! So our headline about a catastrophic UK-wide decline is a bit inaccurate, yes?

RC: Yes, it is a bit. And if you strip out mature students, the English figure is only about 2%, too.

HE: Let me bring in Nicola Dandridge from Universities UK. So, Nicola, pretty bad, but perhaps not as bad as all that?

ND: Yes, not as bad as we feared. And of course mature students tend to apply later than 18-year-olds, so the picture isn't final yet by a long way.

HE: So, to sum up, students are being put off in unprecedented numbers from applying, by the tuition fees issue. And yet the Coalition have been saying for months that no-one need be put off by the fees, as the loans need not be repaid until they are earning at least £21,000. The Coalition have had every opportunity to make this clear, but no-one seems to be listening. How can the Coalition have got it so badly wrong?

And on the BBC website, as of 23:00 tonight:

Thursday 26 January 2012

Of interest to iPhone users?

Recently I had cause to record a meeting. I started up the Voice Memo app on my iPhone 3G and two hours later I switched it off. When I checked the phone later, there it was - a voice recording of 1h 48m 0s. But it wouldn't play. I clicked (sorry, tapped) the 'play' button, it turned into a 'pause' button and a progress bar appeared. Just as you would expect, except that the progress bar ran from 0.00 to 0.00 and no sound came out. I recorded a short memo (should have entitled it 'me coughing') and that played back fine. Off to Google, then ...

Turns out it's a common problem. The solution which worked for most people on the forum I was reading, and which worked for me, was as follows:

1. Go to http://www.macroplant.com/iexplorer/ and download the program iExplorer. This allows you to read the contents of the iPhone memory (also works for iPad and iTouch) as if it were a normal external drive, and copy, move, rename etc. files as required. There are separate versions for PC and Mac.

2. Connect the iPhone to the PC and Launch iExplorer.

3. Go to Media and then Recordings, and your files will be there. There will be two files per recording, both with the filename of the date and time, such as 20120116 184403. One will have the extension .m4a, and the other .mov. You need both of these, although I don't understand why. Don't be surprised at that. Copy them to a convenient folder on your PC.

4. For me, the .mov file (200+MB) played fine in Quicktime Player. The .m4a file, still almost 100MB, was silent in any player I tried it with. A lot of people save the .mov file as an .mp3 to make it more useable. I may do this.

No matter - I have the file I need, and I can listen to my saved copy. There are a lot of other possibilities with iExplorer, such as file management directly on the phone device, using the phone as a USB pen drive, and so on. It's free, it's a small download, and it doesn't have any annoying toolbars and popups that so much 'freeware' comes with.

Highly recommended. No connection except as a satisfied 'customer', of course.

Wednesday 25 January 2012

New Element

This has done the rounds before; I remember seeing it several years ago. But it seems to have undergone a kind of cyber-renaissance, and no bad thing that it has. It's as relevant and funny today as it ever was. The latest resurgence was at Jo Nova's place:

New Element Discovered

The CSIRO announced the discovery of a perverse, perplexing atom

The new element is Governmentium (Gv). It has one neutron, 25 assistant neutrons, 88 deputy neutrons and 198 assistant deputy neutrons, giving it an atomic mass of 312.

These 312 particles are held together by forces called morons, which are surrounded by vast quantities of lefton-like particles called peons.

Since Governmentium has no electrons or protons, it is inert. However, it can be detected, because it impedes every reaction with which it comes into contact. A tiny amount of Governmentium can cause a reaction normally taking less than a second to take from four days to four years to complete.

Governmentium has a normal half-life of 3-6 years. It does not decay but instead undergoes a reorganization in which a portion of the assistant neutrons and deputy neutrons exchange places. In fact, Governmentium’s mass will actually increase over time, since each reorganization will cause more morons to become neutrons, forming isodopes.

This characteristic of moron promotion leads some scientists to believe that Governmentium is formed whenever morons reach a critical concentration. This hypothetical quantity is referred to as critical morass.

When catalysed with money, Governmentium becomes Administratium, an element that radiates just as much energy as Governmentium since it has half as many peons but twice as many morons. All of the money is consumed in the exchange, and no other byproducts are produced.


New Game

Here's a game the whole family can play.

1. Watch any BBC News bulletin - recent broadcasts with Huw Edwards in the chair have been especially good.

2. Pretend that the programme is called something like "Why The Government Is Consistently Wrong On Everything".

3. Enjoy the feeling of calm as everything starts to make perfect sense.

Tuesday 24 January 2012


Things will be quiet here today, as I will be at the funeral of a close family member. I was speaking to the guy at a family occasion in November and he was not well. Investigations were under way. By Christmas he was in hospital, and he died last week. It seems that the medics were so intent on finding what was wrong with the first complaint that they missed the cancer that was poised to rage through him somewhere else. The speed of his decline has been utterly shocking for everyone.

That's two in a month. And it's starting to be 'my' g-g-g-generation.

In Wales, solemn black is still de rigeur for funerals. It is quite a shock to attend a funeral in England and to see the men dressed in pale lounge suits and bright comedy ties or, even worse, patterned jumpers and chinos. "It's what he would have wanted."

Monday 23 January 2012

High Standarts

Seen in Tesco recently:

Click for bigger

I 'did' Russian at school (failed with O-level grade 8, but it was a hard language with three genders and more cases than the carousel at Terminal 5, was my excuse), and it has left me with a few basic words and an ability to read - slowly - Cyrillic script. So if I ever see Russian written down I always try to read it out, even if my understanding of what it means is very limited. I like having a John Cleese moment.

I was drawn to these bottles straight away for this reason, amongst others. The script says "Russkiy Standart" ("Russian Standard" - Russian borrows heavily from English). But it was the prices that brought out the camera phone.

Tesco Value - 500ml for only£12, and 750ml for £11. Do you think they ever sell the little bottles? Don't answer that.

Sprint Down!

It's OK, I'm still here ...

Last night I decided to take the Sprint to work instead of the XT. The Sprint has a slight problem with a sticky head bearing, meaning that steering is not as smooth as it might be. Main roads are fine, but roundabouts become threepenny bits (or should I say 50p pieces?) and slow-speed manoeuvring is a bit of a jerky and imprecise affair. No matter: the night was dry and I felt like giving the old girl a run out. Mistake 1: I should have fixed the steering first.

I got to work and, as it was dark, took a naughty short-cut which ended with having to get the bike through a pedestrian gate. It's quite passable on a bike, provided you meet it at 90° - narrower angles don't work. And the surface there is loose earth and gravel. Mistake 2: I should have gone the long way round, on tarmac.

As I approached the gate, I realised that I was at the wrong angle for it and needed to straighten the bike up a bit to get through. Easy-peasy, but the steering decided at that moment to become reluctant to turn and I found I was heading for the gatepost. No problem - stop and realign. But my feet were already down on the floor (I was doing about 3 mph at this point) and nowhere near the rear brake, so I reached for the front one. Mistake 3: never touch the front brake on a loose surface.

The front wheel shot from under me (amazing how quickly it happens) and, when the bike got to 45° from the vertical, I realised that I was not going to be able to hold it, so I stepped off. Sound of scraping paintwork on gravel and cracking plastics as the not inconsiderable weight of the Sprint came to rest on a few square centimetres of flimsy bodywork. I killed the engine and then stood for a while watching petrol slowly dripping onto the ground and listening to the engine ticking in remonstration.

I was totally unable to pick it up. Every time I took the weight and tried to roll it onto its wheels, the wheels slid in the soft surface and the bike just scraped another few inches sideways, causing even more damage. Even the time-honoured method of putting your back to the bike and using your legs (by which an 8-st female can lift a Harley, seen it on Youtube) did no more than displace the bike sideways. In the end, a mate was clocking off the day shift, and with his help we got it back upright. The one bright candle in the surrounding darkness was that I remembered to put the side-stand out before we lifted it. Nothing worse than getting it upright and then doing the damn same thing on the other side!

Looking at it in daylight, it's not so bad. A lot of scratches in the paint like a rash (red over white primer, so it shows), a crack in the side panel which can probably be ignored, and minor scuffs to the mirror and exhaust can.

Looks better here than in the flesh/plastic/metal

Crack and scrapes

That was a lovely curve, once

Decals always take a hit

That bike is going back in the garage until the steering is fixed.

Moral 1: never put off essential maintenance. Moral 2: if in doubt, take the XT.

I am unharmed except for a few aching muscles from my dead-lift exertions. The bike is hardly a wreck, but it has gone from 'ten-year-old bike in remarkably good condition for its age' to 'ten-year-old bike in rather average condition for its age', and that's a big disappointment. It would cost a lot to have it professionally repaired, so I will probably live with it. Sick Transits, and all that.


Saturday 21 January 2012

An Atheist's Epitaph

I get great pleasure from reading Greg Ross's Futility Closet, which never fails to surprise, challenge and entertain me. I don't like pinching other people's posts wholesale, but this was too good not to share. It's the text of an inscription on the monument to one George F Spencer of Vermont, who died in 1908:
Beyond the universe there is nothing and within the universe the supernatural does not and cannot exist. Of all deceivers who have plagued mankind, none are so deeply ruinous to human happiness as those impostors who pretend to lead by a light above nature. Science has never killed or persecuted a single person for doubting or denying its teachings, and most of these teachings have been true; but religion has murdered millions for doubting or denying her dogmas, and most of these dogmas have been false.
I'd call myself an agnostic rather than an atheist*, but this message rings very true for me.

*In this I follow my father, who answered my question "what religion are you, Dad?" thus: it is not that we do not know whether God exists (which can be resolved one way or the other, given time and/or sufficient evidence), but that we can never know.

I am reminded in this of J B S Haldane's famous remark: "My own suspicion is that the universe is not only queerer than we suppose, but queerer than we can suppose. "

Dangerous chemicals

Microdave points out, in comments to a recent post, that there is a website detailing concern about a chemical which, although in widespread industrial and domestic use, has been found to have unexpected and dangerous side-effects.
Each year, Dihydrogen Monoxide is a known causative component in many thousands of deaths and is a major contributor to millions upon millions of dollars in damage to property and the environment. Some of the known perils of Dihydrogen Monoxide are:
  • Death due to accidental inhalation of DHMO, even in small quantities.
  • Prolonged exposure to solid DHMO causes severe tissue damage.
  • Excessive ingestion produces a number of unpleasant though not typically life-threatening side-effects.
  • DHMO is a major component of acid rain.
  • Gaseous DHMO can cause severe burns.
  • Contributes to soil erosion.
  • Leads to corrosion and oxidation of many metals.
Go and read more here.

Thanks to MD for the tip. I shall stop drinking DHMO forthwith.

Deep Clean

From the BBC:
The neo-natal ward at Belfast's Royal Jubilee Hospital is undergoing a deep clean this weekend, following the deaths of three babies from a bacterial infection.
There was a time when hospital wards had a deep clean every day. It was called a ... well, a 'clean'.

And people worried about the complaint they went in with, not the infection they might come home with.

Friday 20 January 2012

Dog Beer

Yes, really. While on the hunt for something suitable for Anna in the final hours before the Christmas shut-down, I bumped into this in a local 'everything' store, and I had to get it for Bonkers Dog.

It's non-alcoholic, which is a relief. He's mad enough without adding beer-rage to his kitbag of moods.
Complementary food for dogs.
Best served at room temperature.

Small to medium dogs ½ bottle per day. Medium to large dogs 1 bottle per day. Shake before use. Contains no alcohol. On opening, keep refrigerated and use within 3 days. Do not store below 4°C. Do not expose to direct sunlight.
The ingredients list would curl the hair of any Righteous control-freak:
Meat and animal derivatives, Cereals.

Analytical constituents:
Crude Protein 0.8%, Crude Fat 0.18%, Crude Fibre 0.18%, Crude Ash 0.5%, Moisture 98.3%.
Not sure what the remaining 0.04% is - poison, probably.

It's made in the Netherlands, and the company even have a website, www.dogbeer.eu.

He loved it.

Thursday 19 January 2012


OK, I'm going to boast now. I am very good indeed at spelling. It's not a great achievement, and it's not half as important as those people who can't spell like to think it is, but it's what I do well. It's about the only thing at school that I was actually good at, as opposed to being good at seeming to be good at. Lousy at sport, average in all the subjects, B-stream throughout, moderately well-behaved, not bad at music - but if there was any spelling to be done, I creamed it. I could spell better than most of the teachers, which did not win me many favours if I pointed it out. I learned to keep schtum.

Ask me to spell any word, and I will tell you. And I will be completely and utterly confident that I am right. It's possibly the only area of my life where I can say that, which is a bit pathetic really, but there you are.

Good spelling is not a mark of intelligence, any more than the ability to ride a bicycle is. But it is one of those things that people take as evidence of education, and I can't say that I am not happy to have the talent. It's one less thing* for people to beat you up about, if nothing else. I'm sure it's mainly a visual thing with me, as I am fairly good in tests that involve shapes, patterns and sequences. If I am ever unsure over which of two or three spellings is the right one, I just write them down and the correct spelling leaps off the page at me, shouting "Pick ME! Pick ME!" The right one looks right; the rest just look odd. No intellect involved.

There are a couple of problem areas. With words like 'weird' and 'shield', I can never remember whether they follow the rule or the exception. 'Sheild' always looks wrong, but 'weird/wierd' are about 50/50. I just have to remember that 'weird' is a bit weird, like Neil and Sheila. But there is one word I always have to look up. Always. And that is ...

fx: Goons-style retreating footsteps
fx: rapid riffling of dictionary pages
fx: Goons-style approaching footsteps

... Diarrhoea

It's a horrendous word - letters hardly relating to the sounds they represent, consonant and vowel clusters that are decidedly foreign (and, while we are at it, the American spelling missing the letter 'o' - diarrhea - improves matters by exactly three-fifths of bugger all and serves merely to confuse things**). The word is a speller's nightmare.

No longer. Tonight I was browsing through Sickipedia in an idle moment and I came across this gem:

Doesn't It Always Run Really Horribly Over Each Ankle?

Problem solved. I will never forget that.

Does anyone else have a spelling bête noire and a way of conquering it?

* That should be 'one fewer thing', I am sure, but that just sounds wrong.

** Yes, strictly it is the replacement of the 'œ' ligature or digraph with a single letter 'e', but let's not get testicle, shall we?

Tuesday 17 January 2012

Teaching Language

I see OFSTED are changing the way they describe what they see in schools. Apparently, what they used to describe as 'satisfactory' will now be categorised as 'requires improvement'.

In my internal dictionary, if something requires improvement, it is not satisfactory.

In other words, satisfactory will now be unsatisfactory.

Thanks for that.

Monday 16 January 2012

Picked clean

Today, I was on the day shift. Work was quiet and, unusually, we had more people on duty than were necessary. So I took myself off on a couple of long foot patrols. Away from the seething resentment at the office and into the cold but fresh January day. The sky was a clean duck-egg blue and the air was sharp and bitter.

There are parts of the site where I work which, although I have worked here for nearly four years, I had never seen. I decided to put that right. How long might I still have the chance? I walked for half an hour towards a distant corner of the site and crossed a field ready ploughed for a new stand of trees. I was out of radio range and no-one knew where I was. I liked that.

Click for embiggeration.

In some neglected woodland nearby there is a mediæval manor house. The woods are steadily encroaching, and have been since it was abandoned in the C17. It's hard to get to, as there are no roads or even proper pathways nearby, and I got proper muddy. The upside of that was that no-one had thought to surround it with chain-link fence and festoon it with Keep Out signs. It's just there, for anyone who cares to look. I spent a while in and around it, just soaking up the atmosphere.

There is a woodland ride nearby. Well, maybe not a ride: just a wide passage through the trees and undergrowth that has clearly been a major route passing the manor house at some time in the past. Plenty of delicate fallen twigs and dry leaves - and totally undisturbed by human footfall. It was eerily quiet and magically lonely.

And then I found the skull of a fox.

I left it there.


I have taken down (temporarily) the previous two posts. This is because I am entering a tricky situation with my employment and I don't want to have anything 'out there' that might compromise the negotiations that are due to happen over the next few days. I have no idea if my employers or colleagues know of the existence of this blog. I doubt it, but I don't want to take any chances.

The only way I could find to do this was to make the posts 'draft' again. I suspect that I may have lost any attached comments by doing so. If that's the case I will be mightily pissed off, and I apologise to those who took the trouble to write.

More as soon as I can speak freely. One thing I can say - things are worse than they first looked.

The posts will be reinstated as soon as I am able to.

Posting on the normal stuff will continue in its usual fitful and risible fashion.

Wednesday 11 January 2012

I like this

Things are getting pretty grim at work, and we are all having fantasies like this:

Probably 'shopped, but who cares?

H/t a blog reader who prefers to remain anonymous. Thanks!

Monday 9 January 2012


A friend sent me a text message last night. Just the one word: Gnab.

I reckon that's bang out of order.

In other news, on my way home from work this morning, I almost head-butted an owl. He pulled another six inches of altitude just in time, and we missed. I'm glad he did, because he was quite big.

Friday 6 January 2012

Jury Service

A comment on my recent post about the Stephen Lawrence trial made me think. Derf:
It is still a mess. It will remain a mess. I am glad I wasn't on the jury.
Yep, me too. Trying to sift actual hard evidence out of the morass of hearsay, political pressure and 'that' video footage must have required the wisdom of Solomon. I'm sure they have done it right, and I congratulate them for it. It reminded me of some jury service I did many years ago. It must have been in about 1976 or 1977, so I expect that I won't get into trouble for talking about it if I don't mention names.

The jury system is one of the foundation stones of our civilisation. Anyone who is accused of a crime has a right for the evidence to be heard by a jury of his or her peers, and they - and only they - decide on guilt or innocence. Not the judge, nor the police, nor the newspapers, nor the Home Secretary. It's not a perfect system, but it's better than anything else yet invented. Balanced with the right to a jury trial is the duty to perform jury service when asked to do so. Most people use every trick in the book to get out of it, but I was in my early 20s and was quite happy to do my jury service just for the experience.

The case concerned a couple of young men who had been badly beaten up by some local thugs. The young men were in court, nice chaps, good families, well-spoken. The thugs were there too, and suitably shaven-headed, tattooed and thuggish. The young men had been involved with a Sealed Knot re-enactment of a Civil War battle near to Leeds, and in the evening they had strayed into the Kirkstall Road area to find a pub and have a drink. In full Cavalier dress: long, flowing hair, floppy hat with feathers, thigh-boots. When you live in a city, you get to know where you can go, and where it is not advisable. I would definitely have been in two minds over going to this pub dressed normally, never mind in fancy dress. Inevitably, a bit of name-calling started. I'm pretty sure the word 'poof' was involved, but in 1976 this was just a low-grade meaningless insult, not a crime against humanity. A fight ensued in which the young men, for all their Civil War bravado, were soundly thumped. Cuts and bruises, nothing major, but the Police got involved and quickly rounded up the local talent. Eventually, it ended up in court.

The judge was very keen to point out that we should try the case on the evidence before us, and not on anything we might think about the accused, or have heard from others, or might assume from their appearance and demeanour. That is absolutely right and proper: anything else is the stuff of mob rule, witch-hunts and lynchings. But it does raise a problem - common sense has to take a back seat.

In the case I was sitting on, this was indeed a problem. For one thing, the young men had been involved that afternoon in a battlefield enactment, and admitted that they had received some of their injuries from that. They were trying to argue that this cut was from an opposing halberd, whereas this one was inflicted by the defandants; this bruise was got in a ruck with some Roundheads, whereas this bruise was not. It was a flimsy case from the outset. Also, it seemed from the evidence that the police had been told of an assault and had immediately gone out and arrested three of the most likely candidates. In this they were probably right - the three defendants seemed a nasty lot and, if they weren't guilty of this assault, it is likely that they were guilty of others. But that's not evidence. The behaviour of the police witnesses in court was appalling. The Sergeant came in and gave his evidence and sat down. The Constable who gave evidence next positioned himself so that he could see the Sergeant, and paused before answering every question until he had seen whether the Sergeant nodded or shook his head. It was blatant collusion, and every single jury member noticed it. Added to the fact that there was no direct evidence to link the three to the assault, other than their general nastiness and being in the area at the time, and we had no option but to find them not guilty. Common sense said they probably did it; the evidence, such as it was, did not support it. The police Sergeant snorted in disgust and it didn't help when the biggest of the three, who had to file out of the court past the jury box, nodded at me in passing and said "Thanks, mate". I had been elected jury foreman, and it was me who had to announce the verdicts. An uncomfortable moment.

In retrospect, the police were doing their best to nail some pretty unpleasant characters, and they probably knew that the three had committed the assaults, or had been involved in similar offences which had not got as far as a court appearance. But the police's opinion is not enough to convict in a British court, and rightly so. No doubt the police were mightily pissed off with the jury and felt that we were stopping them doing their job, but that's the way our justice system works, and I'd rather live under this than any other system. Get the evidence, persuade a jury, convict. No evidence, no crime.

I have been reminded of this by the Stephen Lawrence trial, and the criticism of the police in their apparent tardiness in searching and then arresting the racist thugs that committed this dreadful crime. An anonymous tip-off isn't evidence, and we are so quick to blame the police for heavy-handedness when it suits us. Perhaps they were just aware that the case needed to be strong, and that arresting and searching people without sufficient cause would make a successful prosecution less, not more, likely.

Music mystery

OK, have a go at this. Well-known band having a bit of a larkabout.

Name the band.

For bonus points, name the singer, the year and the flip-side.

No Googling!

Thursday 5 January 2012

Sparkbright Products Voltage Monitor

I've been meaning to do a post about this for a while, but tomorrow always seemed a good time to do it.

A few months ago, on the advice of someone on an internet forum (yeah, I know) I bought an LED voltage monitor on eBay. The reasoning was this: a couple of years ago, both bikes died on me in the same week. Curiously, for the same reason - a failed regulator/rectifier. The Honda ST1300 died on the lane up to the house after a 50-mile ride (phew) and the Yam failed a diagnostic session with a multimeter after it had only just got me to work and back one day. In both cases, the reg/rec had failed and either no charge or a wildly varying charge was getting to the battery. In both cases, the components were replaced and the bikes ran normally afterwards, without even toasting the batteries. But it occurred to me that I had been lucky, and if this had happened a long way from home I would have been in a right pickle. Early warning of a failure could have prevented a lot of grief.

I started to look for a dial-type voltmeter when someone suggested this indicator LED. It's made by a guy in Glasgow, and everyone on the forum who had bought one raved about it. It's hard to find a place for a dial-type gauge on a bike anyway, so I punted a tenner on one (actually a twenty, cos I bought one for each bike - and I haven't got round to fitting it to the Sprint yet).

Link to the product here. Sparkbright Products shop here.

It's a three-colour LED (red, amber and green) and it displays the bike's system voltage as follows:

Voltage Output
>15.20 Green/Red alternating (over-voltage)
>13.20 Green (charging)
>12.45 Amber (75% plus)
>12.25 Red slow flash (50% approx)
>12.00 Red 2 flashes, repeat
>11.80 Red 3 flashes, repeat
<11.80 Red 4 flashes, repeat

I mounted it on the bike next to the instruments, but (as it is constantly on when running) out of my direct line of sight. This is the position:

And this is the light when it's working (it's red because the engine isn't running and the battery is half-dead after a lot of circuit testing):

When I fitted it, I just fastened it to the clocks with insulating tape and pushed the wires into a switched live and the indicator earth - a temporary arrangement to see if it would work. It did.

In fact, it is very reassuring. It stays green for 99% of the time, and shows amber for a couple of seconds every so often. So I am in the golden 13-15V area for most of the time, and the voltage dips into the 12V area occasionally. I anticipated that this might happen, as the connections to the bike's electrics are hardly robust and may well be a bit flaky. And, let's face it, the XT is a shed - 99% good is 50% better than I have the right to expect. But the key thing for me was that it stayed green even with the lights on. It's an old-skool thing, from the days of dynamos, but I always have the sneaking suspicion that having the lights on is draining the battery. It isn't.

Today, I have been checking all the wiring and the earths on the XT to try to locate an intermittent and peculiar fault, and I decided to make an honest component of it and wire it in permanently while the tank and the plastics were off. A longer earth wire was soldered on and connected to the battery negative, and I used a Scotchlok (yeah, I know) to tap into a switched live at the ignition switch.

All seems well, although a true test will be the commute to work tomorrow night. Will it stay green all the way? Watch this space. In fact, I suspect it has already proved itself. On the two journeys between home and work before the intermittent fault appeared, it was going to amber far more often then usual, indicating that the voltage is dropping lower than it should. The bike's performance remains the same with no cause for concern, but perhaps this little device was giving me an early warning of trouble?

As far as the product itself goes, I would recommend it wholeheartedly. It's well-made, robust and waterproof, and the wires to connect it are neatly tinned. It seems to work perfectly. Running along with the light showing green is reassuring, and (hopefully) I will know about any charging problems before they leave me by the side of the road. The maker, Dr Andrew Ferguson, is a helpful guy, and his communication is personal and friendly. I will probably fit one to every bike I own from now on, as a tenner is not much to pay for peace of mind. The only thing I would do differently is that next time I will get a smaller unit. The 10mm standard bulb is a bit too big for something that is on all the time, when all you need is a speck of light in the corner of your eye. When I mount the other one to the Sprint, I will be careful to mount it well out of my line of sight, as it can be distracting, especially at night. Next time, I will probably go for the 5mm version.

Highly recommended.

Shirt Potatoes

... being the most polite way of saying 'tits' in a blogpost header.

Specifically, plastic ones. Or 'enhanced', to use a term the owner and her surgeon would probably prefer. I'm sure no-one can have missed the furore about the implants provided by the French firm PIP, which are full of industrial silicone and apparently prone to popping while in situ. Latest from the Beeb here.

Part of the debate is about whether the state should pay for their removal, if this proves to be the recommended solution. My view is that they should not be. If you are stupid enough to undergo a non-essential major surgical procedure for the sake of your vanity, that's up to you, but if it goes wrong, I am sorry, but it's down to you to put it right. I would hope the clinics involved will fund the procedures out of sheer guilt and a desire for good PR, but if they won't or can't, then you are like any other consumer of a defective product - sue or walk away. I most expressly exclude from this opinion anyone who has had reconstructive surgery, augmentation or reduction for genuine medical purposes. For those people I have the deepest sympathy and I believe the NHS should step in. If that means I am guilty of dividing women into 'good' and 'bad' recipients of breast surgery, then so be it. If anyone thinks that a woman who has lost a breast, or part of one, to cancer can be compared with a woman who just wanted bigger norks 'cos it gives me confidence, innit', then they are either stupid or not paying attention.

I don't know anyone who has fake boobs, and I certainly have never knowingly, er, fondled one. I do know someone who had breast reduction surgery on the NHS, though. She was blessed/cursed from an early age with the most colossal basketballs known to medical science. They made her utterly miserable, she couldn't wear normal clothes, they gave her backache, they stopped her taking normal exercise, and they attracted the bully at school and the dinosaur jokester at work. She loathed them, and her doctor supported her in having them drastically reduced on the NHS. Today, she is a pleasant and proportionate C-cup, roughly (that's a Mk 1 eyeball observation, by the way, not a confirmed measurement), and she is a confident and happy woman. She's also a very pretty woman, and now when you look at her you think 'what a pretty girl' rather then 'how does she stand up?' I have no problem with that at all.

But getting bigger/firmer/perkier bosoms because the man in your life demands it/you think you're 'worth it'/you lack confidence with your modest chest configuration/you think it will help your career are most definitely NOT sound reasons to have major non-essential surgery. Your body, your choice - if you want to have it done, don't let me stand in your way. But don't expect me to pay for it to be done, or to fix it when it goes wrong. (And I'll cut you the same deal on the penis enlargement that Russian bloke keeps writing to me about.)

I've seen those ladies on the internet with their fake grapefruit-shaped bazongas, and frankly they are a massive turn-off. Nice, firm, gravity-defying boobs are one thing, but when they keep their identical shape even when you lie down, something looks amiss. And when they are spherical, rather then the natural teardrop shape, than I am afraid it tickles my giggle-gland and all desire goes out of the window.

Ladies, I will let you into a secret. We chaps don't really care. We like you small or large, pert or saggy, firm or squishy. Braeburns or spaniels' ears, bee-stings or bazongas, pointing at the sky or knocking your kneecaps, no worries. We are so glad you have them, and are so delighted that you have chosen to share them with us, that we really aren't bothered about minor details like that. Please don't think we would be anything other than disturbed if you decided to alter them.

And if your man thinks that your body is so unacceptable to him that you ought to undergo surgery, then you are with the wrong man.

Wednesday 4 January 2012

Justice? Maybe, but at what cost?

I am deeply uneasy about the outcome of the latest Stephen Lawrence trial.

The manipulation of the Lawrence family by a host of vested interests, from Imran Khan making his name as a 'human rights' lawyer, to the involvement of various members of the racism industry, which turned a grieving couple into footsoldiers for the Left. And much as I try to sympathise with her loss, I found Doreen Lawrence's statement to the press after the trial rather graceless and confrontational.

The results of the McPherson Inquiry, which branded the police for evermore as 'institutionally racist' and introduced a concept that which is both illogical and destructive, and yet suits the climate of the times.

The publication on national television of covert videotapes showing the accused behaving in a racist and violent manner in their own homes (is it even legal to do this?) which, while causing revulsion in anyone who saw it, was not criminal in itself, and was not evidence of their guilt or innocence, and yet virtually ensured that they could never have a fair trial in this country.

The abandoning of the ancient rule of double jeopardy, which has ensured for around 800 years that the state could not oppress a person by prosecuting them over and over again for the same offence. I think natural justice demands that this is justified if substantial new evidence comes to light that was not available at the original trial, but it seems here that the 'new evidence' was minimal at best, and making the change retrospective so that the Lawrence murder was specifically included looks highly manipulative to me.

The craven and cringing response of the Police to any criticism of their actions, when a robust defence would have been warranted - although aspects of the inquiry were incompetent, I have seen nothing to suggest it was anything worse than that - and would have left the Met with some self-respect. But listening to Cressida Dick on the radio last night, apologising humbly and 'admitting errors' like some Soviet prisoner, and then hearing someone (Trevor Phillips?) praising her for her 'humility' and 'ability to learn from her mistakes' (I paraphrase) was sickening.

As usual, others have articulated this far better than I can, so I urge you to go and read possibly the best post on the subject that I have read, and one which sums up my unease better than I can.
That they are guilty, there is little doubt – yet I am left with uncomfortable feelings surrounding this case, which feels more like a political show trial than an unbiased search for justice.

My contribution to the revolution

I've been a bad boy. Really bad. I know I have a reputation as an easy-going, rather raffish gangster type, sort of Kray Twins with added charm and charisma, but this time I have done something really appalling. Even the criminal underworld which is my natural métier will be outraged and probably shun me for ever as an outcast, too dreadful even for their flexible morals.

If the thought of clubbing baby seals to death and raping the rain forest is too much for your sensitive Western mindset, then please unsubscribe from this blog immediately. Close this window and go to visit Casual Acquaintances Of The Earth or something.

I have purchased a product which, while not actually illegal (yet) is certainly disapproved of and deliberately unavailable through 'official' channels. Before long, buying it will be illegal and, soon afterwards, even owning one without a Government licence will bring fines and imprisonment, like firearms. It's going to make my life better, even though some will say that it will do so by making life for others far worse. All it took was a simple decision, and a visit to eBay, followed by a wait for the Christmas rush to die down and the postal service to return to normal.

Cocaine? Dynamite? Enriched plutonium? Nope. Here it is:

Genuine 100-watt light bulbs, bayonet fitting, clear, General Electric, dark spaces for the lighting of. Cheap as chips, four quid for ten plus postage. Should last me a few years.

I've had a couple of revelatory moments recently. The CFL bulb in the bathroom I use went phut (they seem to do this with depressing frequency, despite the 'long life' label) and all I had to replace it was an ancient 60W traditional bulb. The difference was astounding. Not only did it give a light you can easily read by (not that I ... never mind), but the light was instant. No more fumbling around in the semi-darkness until the bulb had reached its full, if modest, output. Just bright, cheerful light at the flick of a switch. Just how electricity ought to be, in fact.

Then the kitchen fitters smashed the 60W standard bulb that had been lighting my garage for the last ten years, and all I could find to replace it was a 100W version (amazing what you can find when you have to clear out the airing cupboard). Again, just 'wow'. All the dark and dingy corners of the garage are now lit up as if by searchlight. I have found tools I had forgotten I owned.

These bulbs are the way forward. I won't be using the 100W bulbs in many places, but my next move will be to buy several boxes of 60W ones. Then, as the current crop of CFL crap fails (as it will do, and with depressing rapidity), I am going to replace them with PROPER bulbs. If it puts a couple of pence on the electricity bill I will take the hit, although with the relatively short life of CFL bulbs I am not sure that the overall effect might not be a positive one. But we are children of the post-war era, and therefore pretty good at turning things off when we don't need them, so I don't feel particularly profligate about using a product that works well instead of one that works badly.

I will never buy a CFL bulb again. Traditional lightbulbs for the win!

He knows when you've been good ...

Sent to me by a friend. Brilliant!

Sunday 1 January 2012


From the Grauniad:
The Labour party has made a "serious complaint" to the BBC about a lack of political balance in its news coverage as it attempts to reinvigorate Ed Miliband's leadership and counter what it sees as widespread media bias in favour of the David Cameron-led coalition.
I have no words.

Good Start

I'm commuting by sports tourer at the moment, as the little Yam has developed an annoying habit of losing its electrics at random times, and until I find and fix the fault I can't rely on it to get me to work and back on unlit roads.

This morning, I had the most amazing run into work. The roads were dry and clear (two cars, one bicycle in the entire journey, which is no big surprise at 5.30 am on New Year's Day) and visibility was excellent. Although not exactly warm, the temperature was mild enough to be unnoticed. So much high-speed tomfoolery was to be had, even in the pitch-dark with the standard crappy Triumph lighting.

Dry road, clear air, warmish, sparse traffic. Let's hope it's an omen for 2012.
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