Wednesday, 25 March 2020

Wondering about Coronavirus?

Probably not, but the company I work for makes viral antigens with various applications. Here's my friend and colleague Andy Lane talking about our coronavirus antigens in a podcast:

https://www.thenakedscientists.com/articles/interviews/antigens-mass-producing-coronavirus-parts

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

Please don't keep sending me

Please don't keep sending me those 'uplifting' videos that you found on social media, the bits of scripture picked because they say nice things, or the recordings of Christian exhortation.

We're all different. I just don't want all this stuff.

Perhaps it's real for you?

Thinking back to the periods when I've led worship teams, people would often send me links to songs that were utterly unsuitable for a congregation to sing, or would wonder if we could do a certain song 'like this' which would involve a large band with a horn section and carefully crafted parts - we would have a guitar or 2 and a keyboard if we were 'lucky'.

Yours in finest curmudgeonly style. ;-)

Monday, 23 March 2020

Well that's a change.

  • From tonight, people in Britain will be allowed to leave their homes for only “very limited purposes” - shopping for basic necessities; for one form of exercise a day; for any medical need; and to travel to and from work when “absolutely necessary”
  • People are warned not to meet friends or family members who they do not live with
  • Shopping is only permitted for essentials like food and medicine, and people are advised to do it “as little as you can”
  • Police have powers to enforce the rules, including through fines and dispersing gatherings
  • All shops selling non-essential goods, such as clothing and electronic stores, are ordered to close
  • Libraries, playgrounds, outdoor gyms and places of worship are to close
  • All gatherings of more than two people in public - excluding people you live with - are banned
  • All social events, including weddings and baptisms are banned
  • Funerals are not included in the new restrictions
  • Parks will remain open for exercise but gatherings will be dispersed
  • Restrictions “under constant review” and will be checked again in three weeks. They will be relaxed “if the evidence shows we are able to”

Just a quick reminder that Corona isn't the only type of virus out there.

And thieves & crooks also see opportunities when the rest of us are inconvenienced.  If you receive an email purporting to come from WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, do not open it. Especially do not open any attachments included with it.

Stay safe, stay away from non-immediate family and keep your bodies and computers healthy, mkay?

Friday, 20 March 2020

Perhaps not so funny

I've just seen a meme in a 'funnies' thread that said something along the lines of "Anti-vaxxers - welcome to the world you wanted".

I would ask if this experience is likely to change opinions about vaccination, but human nature being what it is, that's extremely unlikely.

As if you've not read or heard enough about Corona virus already.

Some of the more interesting links I've come across in the last couple of days:

A nature article suggesting covert (asymptomatic) infections are probably quite common and seeding new outbreaks: https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00822-x?

The work of Imperial College, London, that helped changed the UK government's strategy from voluntary social distancing to closing non-essential industry and business:
https://www.imperial.ac.uk/media/imperial-college/medicine/sph/ide/gida-fellowships/Imperial-College-COVID19-NPI-modelling-16-03-2020.pdf

Potential therapeutics for CV infection:
https://www.theguardian.com/science/2020/mar/19/prospects-treatment-coronavirus-drugs-vaccines

A short paper on some vaccine development work in the Jenner Institute, Oxford: https://www.paediatrics.ox.ac.uk/news/covid-19-vaccine-development 

The search for a vaccine and global competition:
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/19/us/politics/coronavirus-vaccine-competition.html? 

Not in the least exhaustive, but if that's what you want then google is your friend. ;-)

Wednesday, 18 March 2020

I had forgotten the other side of serious exercise

And that is the day-after low that can sometimes come along.

Not helped by the poo that comes from Corona virus affecting people around me, making them miserable, unsettled and grumpy.

Tuesday, 17 March 2020

Just managed to run 5.4K

It was slow at around 37 min, but I'm going to make sure my body is in the best condition it can be for when Corona virus arrives. 

Friday, 13 March 2020

Hold my beer



OK, I confess to stealing the above meme image.

Today is a slightly sad day for the UK. The lass on the right has proved once again that American divorcees are a danger to British royalty, and as night follows day, so trouble follows them into union.

Unfair? Possibly.

I'm sad about this personally, having watched what feels like a train-wreck take place with two people who are clearly unhappy, yet not knowing either how to handle things well, nor being willing to seek advice from those who might have helped them.

I'm sad too, because this has broken the social contract between the royals and the British public: if 'we' are the subjects, then they belong to 'us' too. From some perspectives it looks like they're simply born into a position in which they are fabulously wealthy, but with that wealth comes belonging and responsibility and a set of duties that can't be denied. By running away from all that, H&M have also rejected the people they were supposed to have a duty towards, and no-one likes to feel rejected.

For them, coronavirus couldn't have come at a better time, because right now, no-one really gives a wet slap what they're doing or where they've gone, and if they're lucky no-one will remember or care much about them for many months, by which time the feelings of loss will have faded.

I hope this doesn't rebound negatively on the rest of the royal family. While I'm far from an ardent royalist the royal family, and especially the present queen, have given the UK something special, different from so many other countries. Beware the dis-united republic of Great Britain.

Thursday, 12 March 2020

There's a certain irony

When the UK's minister for health tests positive for Coronavirus.

It's also an interestingly challenging time for societies across the globe, to see how their elected or non-elected politicians handle this particular crisis, and to see the benefits or disadvantages of private vs publicly controlled healthcare systems.

As Christians the response we should make to such a situation may depend on our own situations. Traditionally this is a group who have shunned personal safety in order to serve others, eventually often at considerable personal cost. Yet I seem to know a number whose health is likely to make them rapid victims, likely dead, and as such causing far more trouble than if they simply self-isolated for the next 8 weeks. Martyrdom is only useful if there's a really good reason for being a martyr.

What's going to happen? No-one really knows.

I know that's not news, but I've recently come across someone in the healthcare sector declaiming 'thus and so' about things in a manner that wasn't necessarily correct or particularly helpful - part of the problem rather than part of the answer. We probably won't have full, useful answers until the outbreak has run its course and real numbers on the actual event have been recorded and analysed, however the following is my take on useful things to know, based on what I'm reading and seeing:

1) There are a lot of asymptomatic/very mild infections - people don't know. I'm basing this on the rapid spread of the virus through populations, and where it's not been possible to track a source of infection for individuals who've tested positive, plus the Korean finding (they tested very extensively) of lots of cases with a relatively low mortality rate.

2) Not everyone clears the virus quickly. There have been a couple of reports of re-infection, but much more likely a test has given a false positive/negative along the way. My expectation is that some individuals continue shedding virus well after the 14 day quarantine period is over.

3) If we all isolated ourselves for a month the virus would likely come back. We need some herd immunity, but a vaccine won't happen for at least another 6 months, probably more, unless someone decided things are so bad that we can waive the usual safety and efficacy testing.

4) People don't/won't isolate themselves, because habits are too hard to break/the advice only applies to others/people just forget.

5) Minimal reports from Africa and India seem to suggest a hot climate is helpful, but I also wonder if we're not hearing about infections from there simply because no-one is testing and there are so many people dying of the usual diseases that a few more aren't even noticed.

6) Warm weather may not make any difference at all, since Tom Hanks & his wife are both now positive, having apparently caught the disease in Australia (assuming they didn't bring it from the US with them - who knows, because no-one really has any idea how foar it's spread in America right now).


So wrap up, stay warm, and keep at least 1M away from everyone else. :p

I hope you're all still here in 6 months.

*edit*
There's an amusing irony that this afternoon I have a sore throat and a mild cough. However in mitigation, I did spent almost 1 1/2 hours on the telephone with a customer, so that's probably why the throat is sore. Chris has gone to a prayer meeting, while I'm self-isolating at home. As she left I said "I'll try to kill it with whiskey" to which she replied "good idea". :-)

Sometime I need to get another bottle of Stroh 80 - there's nothing else quite like it with honey and lemon to sooth a sore throat.

Saturday, 7 March 2020

How do you know what to do?

This morning I replaced the float valve in my mothers toilet cistern because the old one was faulty, taking around 15min to fill the cistern. This afternoon I replaced the valves in our kitchen mixer tap, because one side had started leaking after about 5 years of use and under the very high mains pressure we have here.

I invited Chris to the kitchen to see what I was doing (just in case, y'know?) when she expressed the title of this post.

To me it all seems obvious, the knowledge of the principles behind how all this works having been acquired so long ago that I can't even really remember how I learned. Some of it definitely came from watching my father, some from trial and error as I tried to do what I knew could be done by someone skilled in the art (and wished my father was there to do it at the time). So it was natural to run my fingertip around the bottom of the handle on the tap, seeking the indentation that would tell me it was held in place with a grub screw. I expected to find isolation valves below the sink on the hot & cold feed to the taps, and they were there just as expected. The original valves came out with a sharp blow from my hand on the handle of the spanner to break the mild corrosion/limescale on the threads, rather than levering away on the spanner & causing additional wear/stress on the tap body. Then everything just screwed back together without trouble, a reverse of disassembly.

Its pleasing and useful to do this stuff - I'm just grateful that it all makes sense and isn't hard to do. I'm sure there's an illustration here about learning in other areas, often seen as us 'knowing' something in such a fundamental way that we assume it must a) be true, b) be self-evident and c) that everyone else should know it too.

Sunday, 1 March 2020

What shall we play?

When my mini was written off I didn't get a chance to recover my property from the car, and it was emptied by a salvage company before being removed by the insurance company.

Hence stuff got missed. Like the CD in the player, the memory stick with many hours of music and stuff I can't recall right now. It was great to get most of the stuff back eventually - I'd quite missed the Pignose G40V amp that has become so much a part of my sound - but I've now got to re-rip and then store a large portion of the music again.

Might as well add some more music too.

Man, this takes hours!

Wish I still had the tools - baked in to an earlier version of Linux I'd guess, probably openSUSE or Sabayon running KDE - that would find the album information & encode that too, because all my tracks are nameless & I have to enter album info myself. :-P

While we're talking about that, I have to say once again how impressed I am at the way the mini's infotainment functioned. Sure the new car has a bigger, brighter touch screen control system, but the mini used a simple menu & joystick control, and I could work through music storage with no more than a quick glance at the screen. This Skoda (and VW & Seat) system works much more like a tablet, meaning touches, swipes and taps are required. In a moving, bouncing vehicle. Where the driver has to watch where they're going.

I KNOW this system is not unusual, and in fact is better in this respect than many others presently available on the market. I just wonder what they were thinking when they put this kind of system together, because it really IS hazardous to find music while driving. Perhaps there's voice control that will work? I've a lot more to explore yet, though TBH I don't really want to learn all the different systems - a little like computers, I want the system to support me rather than me support the system.

Yes, I have suffered modest buyers remorse. Not a lot, but a little. And another countryman would have been cheaper, though having all the same flaws as the previous vehicle.

Thursday, 27 February 2020

Do you care who knows where you go?

An interesting article on internet browsers 'phoning home' with information about what you view on the internet.

This isn't the stuff of tin-foil hats, but is worth considering if privacy is important to you.

Monday, 24 February 2020

Everything smells

Especially when you already have a scent firmly embedded in your nose, and that is probably also in your clothes.

Yesterday I ran the smoker again, smoking some more cheese, salami, chorizo, a couple of steaks and a bacon joint. The sweetish smell had got into the house this morning, even before I went out to empty it after running overnight, and once the stuff was in the kitchen then all of downstairs seemed to be filled with the smell. Sat here at my desk at work, I can still catch the scent from time to time.

This time I tried oak to begin with. Normally the dust smoulders for 10-15 hours, but the oak dust burned through in around 3-4 hours, so I reloaded about half the spiral with some beech and ran it  overnight.

Food done this way lasts a long time, both in terms of reduced spoilage and because the intense flavours allow less to be used. Last week I finished the last piece of salami that was smoked back in October, by which time it had thoroughly dried (just like real salami should be) to a hard, reddish material that offered resistance to cutting and biting, rather than just greasily squidging out of the way as wet salami often does. In this case the red colour comes from paprika, included in the salami by the maker. At some stage I need to try this with saucisson, hopefully with the smoke overpowering the slight rotten meat taste that an air-cured sausage sometimes has.

Jam isn't my thing, but these are the kind of preserves I could live on. :-)


Wednesday, 19 February 2020

Collected the new car last night

Kidlington to Stafford is a long way when everyone else is going home at the same time - about 2hrs 20min for a little over 100 miles - although the journey back was better at around 1hr 40min.

So we bought a 1 YO Skoda Karoq. It's relatively comfy, quite relaxing to drive and has far too many electronic bits inside that I need to learn to use. Hopefully that won't take too long, and it can be set up as needed easily - last night I used an Android app to mirror the phone sat nav on the car screen, and this morning my phone kept bleating as the bluetooth wanted to connect.

This is just an ordinary car really. I remember when I first had the Countryman, about how I could feel the road, how it went round bends on rails, the responsiveness of the engine. I also remember how, after a while, it was hard to understand why other drivers didn't simply get on with the business of driving and going where they needed to go. A colleague with an electric Renault Zoe described a local major road as having bends where he felt a need to slow down, while for me in the mini they were gentle curves that presented no apparent hazard at all.

This car may help me be a little more generous to others who are also driving ordinary cars.

*edit*

The registration starts SX68. I wonder if the same registration in the following year will become a personal number plate? 8^0

Monday, 17 February 2020

It's been a crazy time

For some weeks I've just not had the emotional energy for much interaction online. Been off my usual photography forum since mid Jan, then came the accident and a mad scramble to get things sorted and replace the car. I've noticed a good friend has suddenly starting wearing out their 'POST' button, but I've lived so little on the internet recently that it all passed me by.

Tomorrow we drive a couple of hundred miles to collect the new car, hopefully bringing to a close this particular phase. It will be good to move on, not be dependant on others for transport etc.

Saturday, 15 February 2020

Buying a car - how to lose an atypical customer

When we were younger and had no money buying a car was easy: you found the least crappy thing you could afford, often in a private deal or from a back-street dealer, plonked down a few hundred quid and drove away in something you knew would be scrap in one or 2 years time. No-one gave you sales talk, tried to flog insurance, extended warranties, paint sealing treatment, financial packages etc - they all knew the deal too.

Actually it sucked, but that was because you knew the car was probably junk, but it didn't matter other than you couldn't really afford for it to break down for a while.

Now we have money to spend on cars, and it requires visiting showrooms that are operated by main dealers all with quotas to reach, sales 'exectutives' with commission to make etc. So you dance with them to their tune, spending the first 25-30min in the showroom having photocopies taken of your license, answering questions about why you wanted to try the car you came to view, what your priorities are when puchasing a car (which of brand, style, space, value, colour etc most important to you) before being told what a wonderful car it is that you're going to see and how it's a really good price right now.

When we bought Chris's mini (Sytner Mini, Slough - I want to add the word 'despond' for John Bunyan fans) everything we said was "perfect", and it was tempting to make comments about bowel movements, just to see if it would elicit the same word. At collection time* a few days after agreeing the deal we were taken into a darkened room with the car wrapped in a bow - they played congratulations style music with cheering in the background, as the lights were brought up to reveal..... a shiny car with a bow round it - as though we'd made some kind of life-defining choice and this would be our salvation.

It took a lot to stay in the room and not run away from the insane people who had our new car. ;-)

But back to the present.

We've been to main dealerships twice in the last 8 days, both with somewhat similar, though non-identical experiences. Both times we've been lucky enough to have a new recruit deal with us, and that's greatly reduced the  amount of twaddle that's been peddled, but neither experience was actually enjoyable. I'm trying to analyse why, and I think it's because there's a cultural gulf now between ourselves and a typical member of the public that they'd normally deal with.

There's been one exception.

This afternoon we visited a car dealer in Wheatley, just south of Oxford. They were relaxed, friendly, mature, were happy to give us a key and let us look at the car without recording our inside leg and shoe size in their Contact Information Management System. They took a copy of a driving license, got the car out and we drove it for a couple of miles each. The whole thing was like grownups working together without playing games, and it makes me want to give them my business, even though I don't think it's entirely the right car for us.

Tomorrow we're going to try one more car, then make a decision. It's terribly tempting to go back to Wheatley regardless.

*I must remember to tell whoever we buy from NOT to do this, on pain of losing the sale.


If anyone cares, we're probably buying a Volkswagen Tiguan or Skoda Karoq. Yes, it's an SUV, but it's a small one, and very practical for our needs at this stage in family life. It was tempting to get another Mini Countryman like I had before, but the ride was a bit too hard on our broken-up roads, and it gave back-seat passengers a hard time.

Friday, 7 February 2020

Did you ever think the Germans were humourless?

Just came across Simon Weckert and an amusing google-hack.

This reminded me of the way we'd find workarounds to make otherwise sensible systems do more interesting things.

Want to pedestrianise a road? Take a bunch of old smartphones with you. Certainly not cheap, but apparently effective.

Thursday, 6 February 2020

Taking the mick?

Thornton's chocolates.
I'm impressed by their sheer brass neck, putting so much chocolate into so little packaging.  🙄

Monday, 3 February 2020

A successful ressurrection?

A recurrant theme of cinema for the last 20 years has been to remake and reshoot successful films or extend their series, but with more recent actors, better CGI, and in some cases a reworking to include misandrous thinking. Sometimes the films are good (most recent films adding Spiderman to the Marvel series can stand up on their own) while sometimes they are not (did we need to remake Ghostbusters with women?) .

Then there's the Starwars debacle.

It was therefore with some trepidation that I approached Amazon's new 'Star Trek' series Picard.

The essence of the original series (TOS) with William Shatner was 'cowboys and aliens' with lots of classic, memorable lines to use in the playground, plus a come in peace and shoot to kill approach to action where the good guys always won using courage and 'magic' technology. It suited a simple world, where war was still a fresh memory, the general public were not technologically savvy or especially liberal, and it naturally found a place in many hearts.

The Next Generation (TNG) with Patrick Stewart was a very different beast. Pushing a strong liberal and libertarian agenda to the point of being preachy at times, it also suited a generation that felt they had put the wars behind them and were looking for a society that would continuously offer them more of everything that was fun without guilt. In contrast to TOS, there were a broad spread of characters starring, though none could overshadow Patrick Stewart, not that I think any of them would have wanted to.

Almost all the shows were able to encapsulate a complete story in 45-60min of screenplay, and the time often seemed much longer, simply because everything was packed in so tightly. There was the odd double-episode, but they were rare. This made the shows relatively satisfying, at least to a viewer who was not demanding or overly concerned with dotting every i etc. Possibly because of growing up with TV in this format, I dislike a story in episodes.

So to Picard.

I was already aware that this was a series, rather than 1 off shows, but it felt like I had barely started watching before the first episode had finished. Where did that time go?! The show is very carefully paced, suiting a now very old lead character, yet at the same time in that first epsiode it never once dragged (that happens a little in episode 2, with too many returns to Chateau Picard, but not enough to spoil it). 

In terms of feeling and visible technology, this is much closer to the latest Startrek movies reboot than any of TNG TV programs. That's not a bad thing, since they were well done in sympathetic style, though see my opening comments, but it does mean comparisons are going to be a little apples and oranges.

In terms of philosophy, thus far it has escaped the worst ravages of 'me too', and although there will be lots of opportunities to present men as weak, shameful and failing in contrast to strong, powerful and successful women, I'm hoping they won't spin the series like that. My one concern is that IF they don't then the series will be critically damned for having missed an opportunity to strike a feminist blow, and presented as a failure, rather than success for having presented the sexes naturally and with equality. Not that they are afraid to handle current kinds of issues: as shown in the live TV interview scene where the interviewer has an obvious agenda they wish to press, also the obvious moral stagnation and disinterest within the Starfleet organisation mirroring western democracies that are facing accusations of failing nations through actions taken in relatively recent times.

I have high hopes however.

Patrick Stewart does very well reprising his role - I suspect that JLP simply is Patrick Stewart. The other key characters revealed so far look potentially interesting and are developing nicely. There's lots of scope in the plot (no spoilers from me) for things to go in interesting directions and hopefully it will all come together well in following episodes. Personally I would rather have it edited into a single film of perhaps 4 hours duration, but I'm prepared to put up with episodes for something of this quality.

Saturday, 1 February 2020

Think I'm still getting over Thursday's crash

Couldn't sleep last night, not helped by spending the last couple of evenings researching replacement cars.

Headache.

Tired.

Feeling grumpy.

Bluech

Thursday, 30 January 2020

Thus begins the hunt for a new car

This morning I had a close encounter of the third (party) kind, and the countryman is unlikely to drive again. C'est la mort.

We will probably end up doing a car swap, with Chris getting something new, comfy and quieter, me getting the rattly, slightly harsh riding car that I don't think she ever really enjoyed driving very much. It's an ill wind, as they say.

I'm OK, a little achey but no harm done except to confidence and shortly the bank balance.

Monday, 27 January 2020

And sometimes truth depends where you stand.

That can, of course, be a cop-out.

I've just been looking through some data produced a while back using a couple of different kits to couple enzymes to antibodies for the assay work we do. I plotted the values in a couple of different ways, using log or linear axes. Where a set of concentrations reduce over a range of say 100 fold, plotting on linear axes will make the difference at the highest concentrations obvious while masking behaviour at the lowest concentrations. If the same data is plotted on log axes then the behaviour of the data over the whole standard curve is normally revealed, at the expense of making big differences (like double the signal) at the top end seem relatively small.

Of course if you are used to these things then it's easy to read what's going on, but from a marketing perspective, big change = eye-catching.

I wonder what the church has done over the years like that? Society does it all the time, and we're constantly being told about rights for this minority group or reform in that area going on. This is often not difficult to read, but can result in some eye-catching headlines and pressure to shut up and get in line.

Back to the church, is Missional one of those areas that look like they're making a big difference at the wide end without touching the more sensitive parts? Actually, is that true for evangelicalism generally - not that I have energy, inclination or enthusiasm to investigate it, but I wonder a little.

Or am I just a little slow, having missed the POMO 'deconstructing church' bandwaggon?

Sunday, 26 January 2020

Quotes and truth

Today I came across 2 quotes alongside each other, that have been used in newspapers:

The presence of those seeking the truth is infinitely to be prefered to those who think they've found it. Terry Pratchett, quoted in the independent.

A man does not attain the status of Galileo merely because he is persecuted; he must also be right. Paleontologist Stephen Jay Gould, quoted in The Times

While taken out of context, one says to me that they would prefer to remain proud in their self-deceit, while the other recognises the need for truth.

So here I sit, broken hearted.

Usually there's an iffy next line to complete the Limerick. In this case I'm sat outside the church building in Oxford waiting for someone to unlock. The email giving details said to be there at 8.30 ready to practice for 9am. Scrambled to get out, having got home late last night, extra stuff to load into the car too, and forgot headphones for the (slightly loathed) IEM. 

I was feeling nervous and unprepared, but in a way this has helped. I've always maintained that worship should not be too professional, and this helps prove the point. 😉

Friday, 24 January 2020

Abuse and cruelty isn't in the business model.

While listening to the wireless in the car this morning, they were interviewing Nick Clegg - the former British deputy Prime Minister, ex-leader of the Liberal Democrat party in the UK, and now PR person (title, head of global affairs) for Facebook.

He came across badly to begin with, being asked questions about the use of Whatsapp to exfiltrate data from Jeff Bezos phone, apparently not having significant technical understanding and offering 'nuffin to do wiv us' answers. When quizzed about proposed taxation of internet companies by the UK, the grease oozed and the politician surfaced, suggesting piecemeal taxation would be ineffective and that any money obtained would be just a tiny amount compared to the taxes normally taken by the UK.

And then he earned his money with a bit of real insight.

The interviewer moved on to online material posted that encouraged children & vulnerable adults to self-harm or even committ suicide, wanting to know why it wasn't being stopped, with an undercurrent suggesting that this was something the business actually wanted on their platform. In a way she set up the situation for Clegg's answer, but at this point he became much more serious, much less obfuscatory. It seems it's a real problem for them too - the advertisers don't like it - and it *sounds* like they're doing all they can  to 'fix' the problem.

So where does this stuff come from, and why can't they fix it?

As a kid at school, life was frequently deeply unpleasant. The smarter bullies would set up situations where you were given choices that either ended up in public humiliation or getting physically abused in some way in order to show their superiority (while surrounded by their gangs) while the less bright ones would just threaten and punch. When the weaker children were picked on they would attempt to divert the attention of the bullies on to other, weaker or more vulnerable children. Some of the kids I knew at the age of 13-14 were already talking about getting into protectionism when they left school (and they had few choices apart from a local sweet factory, since they were disruptive and unlikely to get qualifications).

At the age of  16 I went to work in another 11-14 school as a lab tech, and I saw exactly the same kind of behaviour again.

To me, the problems in Facebook, Instagram etc are all about ordinary people. I've been lucky to work with generally well educated people, though have seen a reasonable number of bullies, liars and the odd nut job over time. It has sometimes made me forget that ordinary people camn often be extremely unpleasant. It also makes me ask whether I've been like that at times without realising it.

The problem isn't Facebook as such. The problem is giving everyone a public voice.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Posted once before (so worth repeating then ;-)

 While everyone is pondering the future and how we might have to change things, perhaps we should be reviewing the various alternative political and economic systems available to us:


SOCIALISM
You have 2 cows.
You give one to your neighbour.

COMMUNISM
You have 2 cows.
The state takes both and gives you some milk.

FASCISM
You have 2 cows.
The state takes both and sells you some milk.

NAZISM
You have 2 cows.
The state takes both and shoots you.

BUREAUCRATISM
You have 2 cows.
The state takes both, shoots one, milks the other and then throws the milk away.

TRADITIONAL CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell one and buy a bull.
Your herd multiplies, and the economy grows.
You sell them and retire on the income.

ROYAL BANK OF SCOTLAND (VENTURE) CAPITALISM
You have two cows.
You sell three of them to your publicly listed company, using letters of credit opened by your brother-in-law at the bank, then execute a debt/equity swap with an associated general offer so that you get all four cows back, with a tax exemption for five cows.
The milk rights of the six cows are transferred via an intermediary to a Cayman Island Company secretly owned by the majority shareholder who sells the rights to all seven cows back to your listed company.
The annual report says the company owns eight cows, with an option on one more. You sell one cow to buy a new president of the United States, leaving you with nine cows.
No balance sheet provided with the release.
The public then buys your bull.

SURREALISM
You have two giraffes.
The government requires you to take harmonica lessons.

AN AMERICAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You sell one and force the other to produce the milk of four cows.
Later, you hire a consultant to analyse why the cow has dropped dead.

A FRENCH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You go on strike, organize a riot and block the roads because you want three cows.

A JAPANESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You redesign them so they are one-tenth the size of an ordinary cow and produce twenty times the milk.
You then create a clever cow cartoon image called a Cowkimona and market it worldwide.

AN ITALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows but you don’t know where they are.
You decide to have lunch.

A SWISS CORPORATION
You have 5000 cows. None of them belong to you.
You charge the owners for storing them.

A CHINESE CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You have 300 people milking them.You claim that you have full employment, and high bovine productivity.
You arrest the newsman who reported the real situation.

AN INDIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
You worship them.

A SPANISH CORPORATION
You have 2 cows but owe Santander for 6.
Nobody drinks milk.
You have a siesta and read about the collapse of the Euro

A GREEK CORPORATION
You lease 2 cows and pay somebody 3 times the going rate to milk them using borrowed money.
You refinance the 4 cows to secure the services of Goldman Sachs. They sell the future milk production of the 60 cows and fund your lifestyle.
You retire to anywhere that doesn’t use the Euro.

A BRITISH CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Both are mad.

AN IRAQI CORPORATION
Everyone thinks you have lots of cows.
You tell them that you have none.
No-one believes you, so they bomb the cr_ap out of you and invade your country.
You still have no cows, but at least you are now a democracy.



AN ARGENTINIAN CORPORATION
You don't have any cows.
But you claim sovereignty over the ones belonging to your neighbour

 
AN AUSTRALIAN CORPORATION
You have two cows.
Business seems pretty good.
You close the office and go for a few beers to celebrate.

A NEW ZEALAND CORPORATION
You have two cows.
The one on the left looks very attractive.


There's an amusing irony to this trip

In a couple of weeks I'm due to visit another company for the first business trip since May 2012 when I went to the ESHRE conference in Lille.

The irony? It's to Belgium.

Google maps live view doesn't paint a pretty picture - flat, wet, in a new town at least 10K from anywhere that's anywhere. It's a privilege to travel with work, but sometimes it comes with a sense of humour.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

Driving a new car feels odd.

So my 9 year old mini with 126,000 miles went for an 'authentic' service with the local mini dealer this morning, and I had a loan car with 893 miles instead.

Now I'm completely fine with a new car, and an unfamiliar vehicle is no trouble, but car tech has moved on again. This time it was keyless ignition (where's the switch, do I just press the clutch or what?) and a lack of obvious controls for adjusting the driver's side mirror. Some things that should have been great weren't so smart, like the instruments were mostly analogue, but a bit dark and cramped, difficult to read at a glance.

At some stage we're going to have to chop this old mini of mine in, but I've no idea what we'll replace it with yet.

*edit*

The interior of the new car looked really nice after dark, with everything suddenly much clearer and making more sense. The leathery interior had that nice 'new and expensive' smell, and generally seemed a lot better than first thing when all I wanted to do was get to work ASAP without hitting anything.

But driving back to the dealership tonight, the new car felt kind of vague, rubbery, a bit wandery on the road instead of precise and crisp, and with poor feedback & action at the brakepedal. There was plenty of power, but also turbo lag, and it just made the experience a bit remote, imprecise, uncertain and took away confidence that the car would go where I tried to point it. Getting back in my own car, it felt crisp, precise, relaxed and like I was connected closely to the wheels, engine and brakes. Certainly the ride wasn't terribly comfy compared to many more softly-suspended cars, but it did feel good.

A colleague described a bend on a road we both use to drive to work as though it were a corner, requiring significant slowing to get around. He drives a Renault Zoe electric car, and also describes himself as not being a good driver. The bend is gently sweeping left-hander with reasonable visibility and a wide carriageway, and certainly far from being a corner *to me*. I wonder if the Zoe is as bad as I think it is, and it makes a gentle bend like that feel like a corner, simply because it's a rotten drive without either feedback or precision? My old Peugeot 307 was nice & floaty over bumpy roads, but handled like a drunken cow on the bends.

I'm also impressed that my old car still feels good to drive at this mileage. There's certainly less power than when it was younger, but it says quite a bit for build quality that things haven't become sloppy or worn out.

I have amusing memories of a Ford Cortina E MkIII we owned briefly. It had done around 100,000 miles, but didn't feel too bad solo or with a front passenger (if driven gently at London speeds). We popped down the motorway to Gatwick to collect my parents and grandfather from Gatwick airport, and on the return journey, full of luggage too, it was more like trying to guide a boat up the motorway than drive a car. We got back safely, but my knuckles were a little white at times. And related, I have similar memories of a Sierra with only 50,000 miles that was a company pool car, but that was a horrible drive even solo.

Yup, the mini is good.

Monday, 20 January 2020

Like a fine wine

We aren't the kind of household that just throws things away because it's been around, unused, for a while.

I should correct that.

I'm not the kind of guy who throws things away, just because they've been sat around unused for a while. Chris isn't a guy, and she DOES sometimes throw things out, but generally she's not wasteful and we both have a fair bit of stuff 10+ years old.

I digress.

Some time back I posted a picture of some of Lauralea's jam, given to us on a previous visit, stored carefully from 2013. That's Chris's department, since I don't do jam.

However recently it became obvious that the wine rack (stored in the coolest, darkest room) was beoming full, and free space was needed. Now a while back we were given a vast quantity of victoria plums by a friend which were duly converted to wine and jam. After 6 months they were sampled, and while the jam apparently tasted OK if you managed to chisel some from the jar, the wine flavour embodied all that was unpleasant in yellow plums.

In the hope of improving, it was laid down to mature.

A couple of years later it HAD improved, and we drank some, then for reasons no longer remembered it was forgotten and left. Over Christmas I re-explored the bottles. Several had severely corked and were un-drinkable, but 3 appeared to have survived intact, and although they'd thrown a sediment, once that had settled out after the change from horizontal to vertical they were sampled.

The nose was like a Rheinessen or other German wine, with strong scents of green apples and flowers. Flavours still had a background of plums, but not in bad way, with a pleasing amount of acidity balancing a moderately dry and quite long finish. It's actually not bad, though I suspect a fair bit of the alcohol has departed via the cork.

We dated these bottles - 1996. That wine is older than some of the people I work with.

Just for a bit of context, I have a 'special' bottle of wine on the same rack - 1982 Coteau du Layon, that I'm still waiting for an occasion to crack open & try.

Guess our house is a place of relative stability.