Tag Archives: Amusement

Porch life

While we are graced with my Mother in Laws august presence (Think Albert Steptoe in drag but unable to do anything for herself apart from whine), I find myself increasingly exiled to the deck to write. Only another twenty nine days Bill, hang in there. You can do this.

We’re fortunate that we selected a house with a large covered external area (about four and a half metres by six) to live in, so I find myself sitting in the shade with my laptop on a sunny morning waiting for the kettle to boil. The nurse we’ve hired to bathe MiL once a week is giving her a good wash, Mrs S is off picking up some copy from a client for me to rehack and the dog is getting hyper about every jackrabbit that wanders into the yard. There’s just a smidge of a chilly edge in the breeze making it uncomfortable to work in shorts and t-shirt for more than an hour, but otherwise quite pleasant. Not bad for the first of May. We’ve even taken to calling this part of the deck our ‘outside office’.

In spite of a forecast for rain showers, the local weather is currently sunny with a modicum of high cloud. Our local pair of Bald Eagles have shoved off somewhere to please themselves, and there is the far off sound of a ride on mower chugging its way round a neighbours yard, the odd passing pickup, and occasionally a float plane or scheduled flight on its way to or from Vancouver. Otherwise it’s just me and the odd Hummingbird.

My one current regret is that we didn’t come here ten years ago.

Update:
Well woger me wigid! It’s bloody hailing! Oh, it’s stopped. That was a fun five minutes, I was wondering what the roaring noise was.

Why ‘Smart Meters’ increase electricity bills

If you are one of those who are concerned about ‘Smart Meters’, here is a simple reason not to have one; It will significantly increase your electricity bill if you have any electrical appliances in your house or business like a washing machine, dishwasher, heat pump, storage heaters, air conditioning, hot water heater and / or pump, or full size electric cooker. See this article here for more detail.

Simply speaking, when any domestic electrical appliance is switched on, it momentarily draws heavily on the electricity supply. The key words to remember here are ‘surge voltages’. These surges at switch on can be several times the electrical rating of an appliance, and the bigger (and older) the appliance, the larger the surge. With the old meters this wasn’t an issue, as these surges are so short that the old electromechanical meters couldn’t record them. However, the ‘Smart meters’ being purely electronic, record every last milliamp, and report these directly to the suppliers via a mesh type network on a real time basis. Never mind being billed at varying rates for different times of the day.

Essentially what happens is that if you have a family that uses dishwashers two or three times daily, or cooks with electricity using an electric oven twice a day, and has gotten used to washing their clothes regularly, then your bills will soar, especially if you cannot afford to replace all your older appliances whose surge voltages are likely to be significantly higher than more electricity efficient modern equipment.

Using this technology has also raised concerns in the Security community, including the FBI, about ‘smart grids’ vulnerability to simple software tools which can in their simplest form, shut down parts of the electricity grid. Informed opinion is that these ‘attacks’ are likely to spread. The genie is out of the bottle, and the law of unintended consequences doing a happy little jig in the shadows.

The meters themselves are also laughably vulnerable to the notorious alleged ‘magnet hack’ (Look it up yourself), where two strongish electromagnets placed diametrically either side of the meter can slow it down. Simply covering the meters with a Faraday cage (or even common or garden baking foil) type structure can completely block a ‘smart’ meters RF frequency reporting. The trick for the householder of course, is not to get caught doing it, or blame someone else (Anti Smart meter campaigners, notorious ‘electrosensitives‘ – catch my drift?) when the RF blocking device (Faraday cage etc) is discovered (“Well I didn’t put it there.”).

To add insult to injury these smart meter roll outs are being subsidised by Government (actually ‘taxpayer’) as part of a ‘green’ initiative. Which rather makes a better case for smaller government, as all big government demonstrably does is create bigger screw ups on a grander scale.

For more in depth and balanced information on the full range of Smart meter issues, read this article thoroughly.

The next apocalypse

If it’s not the heat death of the universe, the Mayans forgetting to carve new calendars or whatever, there’s always good old Earth killing meteorites we can’t do anything about (Mainly because all the money seems to get spent building Wind Farms and other such idiocy). Well chums, (Well one of my two regular visitors anyway) apparently 2013 is where fire rains from the heavens and we all have to face Judgement day. (Oh, noes! Not again!)

Which kind of raises the question; why are some people so all fired keen to have a Judgement Day? Why does the Earth / Humanity have to ‘end’ to make them feel vindicated? Self important little tits. As for mankind ‘threatening’ the Earth – anyone with the least knowledge of this planets processes should be aware of how thin the habitable biosphere is. Also exactly how big it is. So long as humanity keeps its figurative room tidy, the rest will take care of itself. The biosphere was here long before we ever arrived, and it’s our species good fortune (or not) that it will be here even when we’re no more than an interesting layer of fossils.

Meteorites crash land on the Earth, or burn up in the atmosphere, every day of the year. Most of them we never even notice. Remember, approximately two thirds of the Earth’s surface is water (Gleaned from my well thumbed copy of the ‘Bumper Fun book for boys’). Living out here at the Pacific rim as I do, you tend to take a larger perspective on these things, especially when you look at the flight times to Japan, Oz or Kiwiland. Especially when you can look out on a sunny day and literally see the Earth’s curvature. I tell you, it puts all your worldly cares on the back burner. Rather like Douglas Adam’s total perspective vortex. Once you’ve got that sense of scale, everything else pales into insignificance, and there’s nothing to be scared about.

New kit

Well it happens.  Stuff wears out.  Registry gets clogged.  Bits of code get corrupted, applications and browsers require ever more memory.  My old desktop ‘pooter has been retired to where it will no longer be asked to do what it was never designed for.  Now in its superceded dotage it will serve out its last days before silicon heaven as an offline backup server.  (Of course there’s a Silicon Heaven, otherwise where would all the dead calculators go?)

The new machine is a modest but workmanlike laptop, and a new wireless router has been purchased and configured.  A Wireless printer will also shortly serve our little home / office network.

The difference in performance is quite startling.  Even the most weighty web pages appear in a trice, I can work anywhere in the house or hopefully out on our spacious deck when it warms up a bit. Until I adapt my typing to the keyboard, my speed and accuracy will be a little reduced, but seeing as the old machine was responding so slowly that I was typing faster than text could appear, there will be little appreciable difference.

Dare I say it, a spring is returning to my step.  The light dawns and all the clouds that loured upon this house will soon be fading bad memories.  Well, after my Mother in law is returned to England in late May that is.   Oh, yes, and that other minor matter….  Hmm.  Okay. (Warm knowing chuckle)

Interruption of blogging

What with work and having an extremely mobility challenged Mother in Law (We’ve had to hire a Nurse twice a week) dumped on us for the next three months, writing and commenting are going to be highly sporadic. “Bill. Mum’s falling again – help me out.” Flags up every twenty minutes. Add to that the demands of someone who basically gave up trying, and time for anything but work – eat – sleep goes out of the window.

One compensation is that I’m now a firm fan of the Netflix series ‘Lilyhammer’.

Steven Van Zandt slices his Mafia boss ham performance thick and sweet in a culture clash comedy well worth getting Netflix for. Original, funny (Often both at the same time) with some interesting insights. Five stars. Two thumbs up.

Oh gawd. The “I need the toilet” bell is ringing. There goes my day off.

Watch carefully….

Here’s a video. Why do people do amazing stuff for free? Write tremendously useful software (Linux, Apache), create forums for discussion, inform, enlighten and blow the whistle on misdeeds? Without hope (at least in my case) of monetary reward?

Because they want to be useful in their own eyes, maybe?

I’ve said it many times before in my critiques of the top down model of UK management. Free, self directed people do better work than drones. Interesting point of view, n’est-ce pas? Don’t employ, engage…..

Can’t see it catching on….. unfortunately. Too many ‘leaders’ in the way.

Fukushima; almost a year on

It’s almost eleven months to the day since a Tsunami overwhelmed the sea defences at Fukushima, Japan. Eleven months. Since then Germany started shutting down nuclear power plants, even though none of them are likely to be hit by anything like the Quake that hit a small area of Japan. Lots of people over here went into a muck sweat about it, chewing enough potassium iodide to make themselves much sicker than any Radioactive material from the damaged power plants might have done. More fool them. No doubt same will complain that every single sniffle they’ve had since has been radiation induced, despite XKCD’s amusing little graphic on the subject making a nonsense of such assertions.

The National post has some interesting before and after pictures of the area. Although there aren’t any shots of the three damaged power plants, the surrounding area is looking remarkably tidy.

If anyone’s interested in facts rather than rent seeking hysteria; The interim IAEA report can be found here. Of course a thorough cleanup of the reactor cores will take ten years, which is about par for the course, but with no attributable deaths (or even serious injury) to radiation poisoning, I’d say panic over. Not that any panic was justified in the first place. Chernobyl this wasn’t.

New light through an old window

Lyrics here. Ring any bells?

How do I feel about Europe?

Picked up from the Angry Exile via The Filthy Engineer, this propaganda bowel motion of silliness from the Grauniad entitled “How European are you?”. Having taken the quiz, I wasn’t completely convinced by the result, and so did a screen grab to make a couple of amateurish but philosophically accurate corrections without changing the overall feel of the thing.

The one thing I find so totally offensive about the original, and highly ineffectual, version is that taxpayers money was probably used to fund its creation.

They think it’s all over – it is now

Having worked over most of the festering season, I’m heartily glad it’s all over and I can visit to the January sales replete with the knowledge that I don’t have to max out my credit cards to buy a brand new slaptop. Been a profitable Crimbo as far as I’m concerned. Lots of Clovertime and an inflated post foetid season paycheck to follow. January looks as though there’s more of the same on its way, which you won’t hear me bitching and kvetching about.

I mean, come on. Why spend the best part of two weeks off when you can coin it covering for people making themselves unhappy? I’ve always had misgivings about Christmas, and on the whole prefer to take my time off when the weather is warmer and I don’t have to trip over other peoples’ spoiled brats and unhappy spouses. There’s also the issue of not being squeezed for every last dime for taking a break during School holidays, as they’re always the most expensive.

Oh thank you dear, another glass of wine? The good stuff if you please. Now jusht ash I wash shaying.. (Hic) Whersh my key thingy wossname…. snore.

What conspiracies?

Sometimes I look at these blogs and view them with the same jaundiced eye that a bar regular looks at the visiting nutter. Especially those wide eyed innocents who repost the semi coherent crap about how 9/11 was ‘done by the government’ to justify some otherwise unpalatable turn of foreign policy or create a ‘casus belli‘.

All of these conspiracy theories are crap. Every last single one; from UFO’s, ‘chemtrails’ and black helicopters, to ‘who shot JFK’, faked moon landings and 9/11 being a demolition job. Even the assertions of ‘New world Order’ are little more than Politicians letting off esteem. As for the ‘club of Rome’, that document is aspirational more than anything else, so no, it lacks credence, as do those politicians who try and follow the principles. A bureaucratic edifice of such rigid construction will rapidly collapse under its own internal socio-economic pressures. As we can see happening right now. Like the old Soviet Union, such entities are too rigid and inflexible to survive for long.

Why do I make this bold assertion (sic) prey tell? Simple, because I understand logistics and processes. I’ve also trained as an Engineer. You know, worked with real materials and seen, first hand how they behave under various conditions. How breaking strains alter under differing heat and pressure conditions. I also understand (to a degree) the science of illusion, having spent some time on the fringes of the ‘creative’ industry as an AV technician. Ever seen a movie being made? A proper feature film? Pre and post production? Worked and talked with people who do special effects for a living and seen how they ‘fake’ it? Then taken a good long look at the credits list of a movie at the cinema? Yes, I’m one of the sad buggers who doesn’t leap up from their seat the minute the end credits pop up, because I’m looking for names I recognise in the first and second units and the whole army of people it takes to put a half way and not so decent movie together.

Having also spent a deal of my working life in the public sector, I know how driven by cock-up the whole process of Government, both at local and national level, is. Because it is made up of people. Not super humans, but ordinary working stiffs doing stuff ‘by the book’ which has been written by another working stiff who is mere mortal flesh like the rest of us. People who make mistakes, as we all do. People who talk about their work, who bunk off early because its Friday and hide their mistakes from the boss lest they get fired or disciplined. The result being that Government leaks like a sieve. Even the so-called ‘secret’ CIA leaks, the UK security services leak, Mossad, the Russians, the Chinese, everyone leaks. Sometimes these leaks are managed for the purposes of political ‘spin’ by politicians, who are no smarter than the rest of the Mark 1 Human being (Possibly more dishonest, self interested or devious, but definitely not smarter). Sometimes a guy in a bar will say something about what he does to impress a girl with the object of removing her lingerie. Without spending a whole life in hiding, there is no perfect secrecy.

A fortiori; we are gossips. It is human. Leaks happen. That is human. So how on earth does anyone expect an imperfect agency, to wit; Government, to be perfectly secret about hugely complex operations? Even the Atomic Bomb programme leaked back in the 40’s. Even with the ‘special services’; they might not talk, but their neighbours do. Comings and goings at odd hours are noticed. Oddities stand out from the patterns of everyday life. Changes in behaviour. For these big conspiracies to happen, there’s a whole logistic chain of fallible humans to link together. The bigger the event, the easier it is to pick up a trail.

Let us take the example of the ‘space race’ chronicled and filmed to perdition, and with the AV technology available at the time, impossible to fake. For proof, look at Hollywoods finest contemporary portrayals that would have used state of the art camera technology and direction techniques. Now compare with the footage shot by Armstrong, Aldrin, and all the other Apollo astronauts. Then work out how many people would have had to been in on the ‘fake’. It would have been far easier to go there than fart around making truly convincing fake footage. I believe Mr Aldrin still gets pretty steamed at being called a liar by the crazies, and I don’t blame him for punching one of them out. He should have stomped on the nasty fuckers head, and hang the consequences.

For 9/11, look at the physics of failure in a stressed steel skin constriction skyscraper. Faking those with explosives would have necessitated weeks of placing obviously linked explosive charges in offices where people were actually working. Controlled demolition requires (According to a Civil Engineer friend of mine) a lot of work which would not have gone unnoticed. Supporting pillars would have had to be drilled, the charges would have to be linked with stuff like cordex running everywhere to ensure that the charges all went off in the correct order. Far easier to ram a Jet Airliner into a building and let the intense heat of burning aviation spirit weaken the internal structures to the point where they undergo catastrophic failure and the mass of the top thirty or so stories drops at 9.81 metres per second, crushing the rest (Which increases the falling mass), and splitting the external stressed skin from the inside like a banana. All the way down to the basement. As for WTC7, that caught fire, and the fire suppression system couldn’t cope with the blaze. A structural failure on the 13th floor sealed the buildings fate and it collapsed. No need for any conspiracy. No tinfoil hat required.

As for constructing buildings with the object of such a demolition in mind, that would be asking for spontaneous structural failure during the first storms, never mind some spurious Government ‘black ops’ Agency. No Civil Engineer or Architect would design such a thing on purpose. On top of the damage to the building there would be the damage to your businesses reputation. You’d never work again. As for the ‘Drone’ theory, oh FFS! Look at drone technology for 2002. The only place you’d get the level averred to is out of Star Trek or Star Wars. So yes, 9/11 conspiracy theories are total bollocks.

My point here is that governments are largely blunt instruments, good for large scale stuff, but they are also untidy and obvious because they are made up of people. Homo (not so) Sapiens. As Douglas Adams once noted ‘people are a problem’, or rather he should have said that problems are often made up of people screwing up, then covering up, which being imperfect, they also make a mess of. Quod erat demonstrandum. Every single day, everywhere. Ain’t life grand?

Meanwhile…….

Over here on Vancouver Island…..

In a meeting this afternoon I introduced myself as ‘The token Englishman’. Good meeting, lots of ground covered. Stuff organised without fuss and bother. People have heard my accent and diplomatically tiptoed away from the subject of wall to wall riot reports.


This evening Mrs S and I went to see ‘Cowboys and Aliens’ a Spielberg Sci-fi / Western / Horror romp. In the queue outside one of our two local multiplexes we took our place in line, only to be handed a free two for one ticket by a complete stranger. Not a promo worker, just someone who had saved up a bunch of special offers and handed them out to the queue. So we had the added bonus of getting in half price. Enjoyed the movie thoroughly with Mrs S hanging tightly onto my arm during the shlocky bits where the monsters almost leap out of the screen at you.

Walked outside, in the middle of town with the highway less than a hundred metres away. You know what? Without a siren in earshot. Not a Cop, a Fire Engine or Ambulance. The traffic barely a whisper. In the car park there was no discord. No shouting, no arguments, just a little far off good natured joshing between friends. Even in my relatively quiet town of origin in England that would almost be unthinkable. Every day was punctuated with sirens of one sort or another.

There are days on this Earth, in this locale, with the neighbours and space we have, that it seems like this part of Vancouver Island is the place God comes to chill with the locals on his time off. Although I’m sure some selfish self-entitled tosser will try and ruin it at some stage. But for the moment we have peace. I intend to savour it while it lasts.

Super buru

Just watching the familiar landmarks skip past sends a chill down my spine. Quarter Bridge, Bray, Hawthorns, St Johns and up to Ramsay, down to Creg and into Douglas again. Being reminded about TT week and Mad Sunday always get me where I live. The memories are so intense, even decades on, they’re burned into the back of my skull. Must do it again some day.

Worth seeing


Medieval, bloody, and with a great cast; (Purefoy, Giamatti, Jacobi, Cox, Mara and even Charles Dance) This one is definitely going on the ‘must see’ list on 8th July.

Pass me broadsword, chuck. King John needs a spanking. Yes indeedy.

How to really fight a Cyber-war

Just saw this about an Al Quaeda website being hacked by UK intelligence, and for once I heartily approve.  Now that’s how to fight a Cyber war; with a little wit and humour, not bullets and bombs.  Although if whoever did the hack really had their wits about them, they could have subtly changed the article into something the web site readers would not have readily recognised until Creme Brulee was loaded as opposed to explosive.  So instead of terrorist bomb, you have the far less dangerous terrorist comedy culinary disaster.

The whole idea of any Cyber war should be to discredit an enemy, disrupting their lines of information flow without it making obvious that anyone has done so.  A change of syntax here, the odd change of punctuation, and perhaps a pun in the right place is quite sufficient.  Before long, all the wannabe Bin thingy’s who visit the ‘terror’ site in question will have followed the detailed instructions and made complete idiots of themselves.  Swapping their Twitter feed for something more innocuous might help.  Removing the wind from someone’s sails can do more damage to a radical political movement than a team of Duke Nukems on amphetamines.

My point is that those who engage in violence as the first answer to conflict often suffer from low self esteem.   Playing head games with them in a way that they cannot respond violently to, I contend, is therefore more effective than a first nuclear strike.  It’s also a lot more fun screwing with the head of those who mean you harm than putting a bullet in their brain.  Less destructive all round, and no-one has to clean up the blood and gore afterwards.

To take a recent example; blowing someone’s head off and feeding them to the fishes may be deeply satisfying on one level, but it only creates in the mind of some followers a determination to have as ‘glorious’ a death as their beloved leader.  Not showing the body is also a mistake from a strictly Psy-Ops perspective.   Perhaps exile and ridicule would have been far better tools to dissociate a ‘leader’ from their one time followers and supporters.

Carefully applied ridicule and disinformation does not kill the person, but takes care of the really dangerous shit, and I’m talking about stuff that doesn’t go ‘bang’ here.  I’m talking about ideas, which are almost impossible to kill with bullets.  Unless of course you discredit them completely.  That requires subtlety, and is therefore a little more tricky.