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

- George Washington

Monday 30 April 2012


Seen on the wonderful and sometimes impenetrable xkcd:

This reminds me of the only mathematical joke I know, the oft-misquoted:
There are only 10 kinds of people in the world: those who understand binary notation, and those who don't.
PS: sorry for lack of posts recently.  Working nights.  Busy.  Knackered.  Back soon.

Saturday 28 April 2012

Saturday chuckle for dog lovers

For some reason, this made me laugh a lot.  Seen on a bike forum:

Thursday 26 April 2012

RFD: Where to go?

(For those asleep at the back in last week's lesson, Daughter No. 2 and I are going on a bike tour in June.  She had never been on a bike until last Summer, when she stayed with me for a weekend and we joined the TOMCC on a rideout to Mid-Wales.  She loved it and subsequently we agreed that this year we would do something more ambitious.)

I said up there ^^ somewhere that plans for the continental trip were well-advanced.  I was lying; they are not.  What they are is real, i.e. we are definitely going.  I have booked the bike (and up to 9 passengers!) on Eurotunnel and have started to get it fettled for two-up touring.  All luggage now fits and works, probably needs two new tyres, perhaps an oil and filter change.  Other than that, nothing but email ping-pong about this and that - oh, and fatherly enquiries about passports and EHIC cards and the like.

We are starting and finishing in Calais, six days apart, so working on a 200-mile-a-day limit that gives us about 1000 miles total.  This covers Belgium, the Netherlands, some of Germany and the Northern half of France.  I don't want to try too much for the first time.  If she likes it, we can always go again next year, but a week of head-down, arse-up blasting might bore her to tears and put her off ever going on a bike again.

Some thoughts:

1. D2 is interested in all sorts, from wartime history to Gothic cathedrals to grot like Festyland (dinosaur playground thing near Caen), and is keen to just 'chill', which I translate as having a good time without exerting herself too much. For me, just being with her will be a pleasure.  After my marriage broke up, D2 and I spent a long time in separate cells, tapping the heating pipes to communicate, and spending quality time together will be fantastic.

2. I love France, and my French is reasonably good.  OK, rough but effective. I always love the chance to practise it.  She didn't do much French in school, but did quite well in German.  So going either way would be a challenge for one of us, and either would be fun.

3. I know part of N France quite well, and told her about some of it.  Her next reply was 'shall we go somewhere that's new for both of us?' which made me think that perhaps visiting Normandy and hearing about 'when I was here last year' might not be the most fun.

In the end, she will probably dither and leave it up to me, but I'd rather plan something together that would please us both.  We'll probably stay in pensions and/or cheap hotels, so any clues on that would be good too.  When I go to France, it's usually camping.

So, ladies and gentlemen, any ideas?

Dead as a Dodo?

Oo-er.  I was sitting eating my lunch and flicking through a couple of movie files that I had downloaded, when all of a sudden the screen froze.  The mouse cursor vanished and keyboard inputs were ignored.  The little netbook appeared to have gone on strike.  It wouldn't listen even when I told it to ctrl+alt+del.

In th end I forced it off by holding the power button down and restarted.  A brief flash of the Acer screen, and then:
Check cable connection!
PXE-E63: Error while initialising the NIC
PXE-M0F: Exiting Intel PXE ROM
No bootable device - insert boot disk and press any key
I have put the above message into Google (after resurrecting the old Lidl cheapie laptop) and it looks like the hard drive is toast.  The less alarming alternative is that it has somehow been reconfigured to boot from a network, which it never has done and is not set up for, and that all that is wrong is a changed setting.  But I have checked in the BIOS and reset to factory settings, and it doesn't help.  The BIOS does not give the option of disabling the network boot, just moving it down in priority.  And who changed the setting anyway?  I was eating scrambled egg at the time.

Last time  backed it up was ... er ... November?

This is going to be awkward.  All my money files, and six months' worth of photographs, and all my Outlook emails and calendar stuff, gone.

If anyone reading this has the faintest notion of clue, will it be possible to take the HDD out of the netbook and plug it into another computer so that I can at least recover the lost files, even f I can't boot from it?

In the words of Captain Darling:


The Lidl cheapie laptop is also showing signs of extreme unreliability (why I got a new one, as I recall), so if I seem to disappear from the face of the Interwebs, I'm probably just involuntarily incommunicado, at least until the shops open.

Wednesday 25 April 2012

Indicator Relocation - Triumph Sprint ST 955i

After I had sold the Bonnie and bought the Sprint, I decided against keeping the Hepco and Becker panniers.  They would have looked well out of place, like pit boots on a supermodel.  I sold them on eBay for a very decent price, and used the proceeds to buy a pair of throw-over fabric panniers (new) and a genuine Triumph tank bag (eBay again).  And I had quite a lot left over (although a positive Paypal balance never lasts long with me).

The panniers I got are Frank Thomas Cargo Endurance.  No longer made, of course, as dear old FT went out of business, but they won the RiDE magazine's group test and they look suitably adult and purposeful.  The tank bag fits perfectly (as it should) but there was a small problem with the panniers.  Where the panniers want to be is where the rear indicators are.  This is a very common problem, and most makers of luggage provide a kit to relocate the indicators further back.  It's usually included with the frames or rails that support the panniers.  Try as I might, I could not track down anyone who made such a kit.  I found this a little disappointing.  After all, the ST in the name stands for Sports Tourer.  I could understand no-one bothering to make such a thing for a FireBlade, but surely the whole point of a bike like the Sprint is to go touring, isn't it?  Anyway, I decided to make my own.

After a bit of puzzling and squinting at the bike and several cups of tea (my version of detailed planning), I had a scheme.  I decided to make a bracket that would sit under the rear rack, where it would be unobtrusive but would put the indicators out in the breeze where they needed to be, and several inches higher and further back than they were.  I still had a large piece of aluminium sheet from when I put rear windows in the Land Rover 90, so I used some of that.  Great stuff, aluminium - easy to cut, easy to work, doesn't rust.  It was Land Rover Marine Blue, but that could be fixed.

First job was to make a cardboard template and then cut a length of the ally to the right size.  Then using a vice I bent the ends down, drilled 10mm holes for the indicators and did a bit of shaping to fit round the rack.  Two holes for the rack bolts to go through and that got me to here:

The shaping of the ends is quite important.  The indicators have a small peg next to the screw thread that they mount with, to ensure that they are fitted exactly horizontally.  I needed to drill a hole in the bracket to accommodate this.  It was a bit of a challenge getting the positioning right, as the bike was on its stand while I was doing this, with its tail slightly in the air, so the angle between the two holes needed to allow for a different angle when the bike was back on its wheels.  The notch is to go around part of the rack that sticks out.  Then I filed it all clean and smooth:

The bracket sits on top of the Triumph rack like this:

and is then held in place by the Givi adapter mount which attaches to the rack.  The indicators bolt in place, and it looks like this:

By this point, that sawing and filing was finished and I had given it a couple of coats of black enamel paint.  The indicator cables were by now far too short, so I cut them and spliced in an extra 8" or so, which is neatly zip-tied to the rack almost out of sight and slips in under the back of the seat.  The brackets are not so far out that they look ludicrous without luggage on the bike (a common fault with aftermarket kits) and, if I say so myself, the whole thing looks, if not 'factory', then at least reasonably professional.

Rear view is tidy and the indicators are clearly visible, even with the top case in place:

and here's the whole thing with throw-overs on and ready to go:

Plans for the France trip with daughter No. 2 are gathering momentum, and I'm glad to have got one more little job out of the way.

Total time, about half a day, although I worked on it a bit at a time and stretched it out over several days.  Total cost, virtually zero.

Monday 23 April 2012

Commercial Mail

Serendipitous juxtaposition in this morning's post.

First to be opened was one of the cleverest charity requests I have seen.  It came from the Guide Dogs For The Blind Association (now rebranded as 'Guide Dogs', sadly).  The kicker, and the reason I gave it more than the most cursory inspection, was on the rear of the envelope:

Yes, Guide Dogs is a real charity, and therefore one that I would consider supporting.  (If a 'charity' gets government funding, the people supporting it are not doing so voluntarily, and it is therefore not a charity, but an agency of government.)  People with poor or no sight are worthy of anyone's sympathy and help and, as a dog lover and highly susceptible to photos of cute puppies, I am more than happy to support them.

The clever bit is what is inside the envelope.  There is a small leaflet explaining what they do (and begging for money, obviously) and there is also a cardboard thing about the size of a beer mat.

The three holes on the right are exactly the size of pound coins and the back of them is sticky.  You have no option but to look in your pocket to find three coins and see if they fit.  So I did, and they do.

After this, nothing remains but to put the beer mat in the envelope provided and post it off.  Which I did.  Very effective fundraising, this - no coercion, no guilt-trips, just 'this is what we do, this is why we need your money, here's how to do it' - and then make the process a bit more interesting and 'fun' than just writing a cheque.

Next up was this serious-looking envelope:

Anything anonymous like this, or addressed to 'The Householder' usually goes straight in the bin, but out of curiosity I opened it.  Ambulance-chasers:

There was a reply-paid envelope, so I put the letter and the original envelope inside it, added the extraneous matter from the Guide Dogs letter, bulked it up with a few Tesco receipts (cash only), unwanted business cards, old post-it notes and few bits of chewing gum.  And posted it back to them.

They need to know how much we care.

St George's Day

Proud to be English.  Glad to be English, too.  Logically, that means I am glad not to be one of the others, and I suppose that's true.  But England is, and always will be, home.  I have lived out of it for 22 years now, but I still feel a sense of homecoming when I cross the Severn Bridge and see the signs saying "Welcome To England".  So I wish you all a very happy St George's Day.

And also a very Happy Birthday to Derf, one of my regular commenters!  I've sent him an email telling him he's a rancid skunk's rectum.

No I haven't.

Yes I have.

It's traditional at this point to quote something worthy, so I am going to remind you of John Of Gaunt's words in Richard II.  But I am going to quote past the usual bit and on to the end of the speech.  See if it makes you think differently.
This royal throne of kings, this scepter'd isle,
This earth of majesty, this seat of Mars,
This other Eden, demi-paradise,
This fortress built by Nature for herself
Against infection and the hand of war,
This happy breed of men, this little world,
This precious stone set in the silver sea,
Which serves it in the office of a wall,
Or as a moat defensive to a house,
Against the envy of less happier lands,
This blessed plot, this earth, this realm, this England...

But ...
This land of such dear souls, this dear dear land,
Dear for her reputation through the world,
Is now leased out, I die pronouncing it,
Like to a tenement or pelting farm:
England, bound in with the triumphant sea
Whose rocky shore beats back the envious siege
Of watery Neptune, is now bound in with shame,
With inky blots and rotten parchment bonds:
That England, that was wont to conquer others,
Hath made a shameful conquest of itself.

Ah, would the scandal vanish with my life,
How happy then were my ensuing death.
Scandal it is.

Friday 20 April 2012

And is their German leader called Herr Kutz?

You Couldn't Make It Up Dept.

From the Beeb:
Sixteen Amish women and men charged with beard- and haircutting attacks against fellow Amish have plead [sic] not guilty in an Ohio court.

The six women and 10 men are charged with hate crimes motivated by religious differences, conspiracy and assault.

The suspects are also accused of trying to destroy evidence, including shears, a bag of hair and a disposable camera.

Prosecutors say the attacks were part of a feud directed by a breakaway Amish bishop ...
... Samuel Mullet.
Oh yeah!

Tuesday 10 April 2012


One minute I was leaning into a corner, perhaps going a little too fast and unaware that the surface beneath me was wet and slippery. The next I was crashing down on my left side and sliding. I must have tensed my neck against hitting my head on the ground, as last night and today I have terrible neck-ache. My jeans took the brunt of the fall, and I have no injury on my left side except for some bruising which stopped me from lying on my left side last night. All my joints are aching. To be honest, it shook me up quite a bit.

Must remember that ceramic kitchen tiles are lethal when wet.

And when the Bonkers Dog is whining to come in, it is not a blue-light emergency.

Sunday 8 April 2012

OK, I give up ...

What the fuckity fuck does this mean?
Privately educated with an MSc in contemporary urbanism from the London School of Economics, Trenton Oldfield makes an unlikely agitator against elite society.

He describes himself as "rich, open-minded, multidisciplinary, efficient, focused, intelligent, honest, unique". Oldfield is listed as having worked in project management roles for various charities and non-governmental organisations, including as a co-ordinator of a project to regenerate the Thames between Kew and Chelsea.

You forgot 'wanker'.

Wait, there's more ...

He writes: "This is a protest, an act of civil disobedience, a methodology of refusing and resistance." Oldfield's blog dismisses the Boat Race as a "pseudo competition" that allows the elites to "reboot their shared culture in the public realm".

"Most standing alongside the Thames today are in fact the pumped-up though obedient administrators, managers, promoters, politicians and enforcers; functional, strategic and aspirational elites," he writes. "The transnational-corpo-aristocratic ruling class (invisible) haven't turned up today and would never consider doing so, despite the best endeavours of Bollinger, Xchange and Hammersmith & Fulham's mayor."

Make that 'complete wanker'.

Saturday 7 April 2012

This weekend I have mostly been ...

... Barry Bucknell (Google it, youngsters), or Man At Ikea.

The 'Study' had been for several years ankle-deep, nay knee-deep, in crap, and impossible to use for any purpose other than opening the door, slinging something in, and slamming it shut again before things tumbled out. Hence the scare quotes around the name: studying of any sort was simply not possible. Since we have been on our Make Nowhere Towers Habitable crusade (am I allowed to use that word?), we have plumbed the depths of, and made liveable accommodation out of, the kitchen and living room, and this week it has been the turn of the 'Study'. All the rubbish (and 90% was indeed rubbish) has been examined, and by a process of triage either a) taken to the skip, b) put in a recycling point for the Sally Army, or c) put in the spare bedroom for further consideration. Anna is a hoarder, so there was a lot of 'c'.

Last week, we ventured up to Cardiff to visit those nice Swedish people at Ikea and purchased a set of bookcases. (The deal is, we go shopping, I don't complain, and we have Swedish Meatballs for lunch. Works for me.) The bookcases are called 'Billy', which I think is rather nice. They were delivered on Wednesday, and yesterday I spent the day putting them together. I still have all my fingers and toes, and my sanity, so it wasn't too bad an experience. I can say that I was well impressed with Ikea's stuff. The materials are of good quality, and the fixtures are neat and well-made, and altogether it is not too much of a trial to spend half a day with a few hand tools and get the things built up. I reckon it took me six hours to go from a bare room to this:

Probably two of those hours were spent getting the whole thing lined up and square, and anchored to the wall correctly. Lumpy carpet and walls that are not square in any plane made it a challenge. Also, lots of tea was drunk and breaks were taken ("need a new drill bit - probably easiest on the bike ..."), so the time taken was pretty reasonable.

A couple of things stop me giving Ikea 10/10 for quality and service. One shelf had half an inch of veneer missing, and another had a scratch on the front (visible) edge:

I am going to contact them to see if they can do anything about those, but it's hardly the end of the world and I can live with a couple of blemishes. I think that remembering how the room used to be helps with this zen-like calm.

Today has been Book Day. Or, rather this afternoon has been Book Afternoon, after this morning was Potting Compost And A Few Other Things While We Are Here Morning. This is the state of play as of knocking-off time tonight:

Looking good. We are going to run short of bookspace, I can see that coming, but all that means is another comb through the residue, being one notch more ruthless than last time.

That's beige, that carpet. I had forgotten.

Friday 6 April 2012

An Outward and Visible Sign ...

David Cameron is making very clear signals to the European Court of Human Rights, in a test case on the right of workers to wear symbols of their faith:
The ministerial line on the right of a worker to display a token of faith was laid down in a statement to European human rights judges. It gives the Government’s opinion in a key test case.

The document, prepared under the supervision of Lib Dem Equalities Minister Lynne Featherstone and approved by Home Secretary Theresa May, says Muslims must be content to keep their religion for their own time. Those who are unwilling to do so are ‘free to resign and seek employment elsewhere’.

The Government submission to Strasbourg said ... ‘the applicants’ claim of discrimination is manifestly ill-founded’ and said that the legal rights of Muslims were satisfied ‘where the individual in question is free to resign and seek employment elsewhere or practise their religion unfettered outside their employment’.
That's telling 'em. Two small changes, of course.

Encouraging child smokers

Just in, this from Health Secretary Andrew Lansley:
The Government has commissioned extensive research into what motivates young people, especially boys, to do something. The inescapable conclusion is that making something forbidden and hiding it from view is the most effective way to get young people to try something out. Indeed, even to adults, the phrase 'under the counter' is suggestive of secret pleasures and forbidden fruit, and used to work very well in the sale of pornographic materials in earlier times. We are confident that this measure will work spectacularly to get more young people than ever before to try smoking. Peer pressure is all very well, but this approach uses proper psychology, like what them scientists do.
Of course.

Monday 2 April 2012

Spot The Difference

Yvette Cooper was interviewed on the Andrew Marr Show.

As reported by The Guardian:

And by the Daily Mail:

Same photo, different crop by picture editor. Newspapers that clearly know their readership.
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