Monday, 8 June 2020

You probably knew this already, but

smart goods are a dumb choice.

What happens when the maker stops supporting your appliance? If you bought a Samsung, that could be as little as 2 years after purchase.

I grew up in a household where tech was loved and we (the male part at least) wanted to bring on the future with all its connectedness. Then I saw how it was done and didn't want a part of it more than necessary.

After support is finished, I wonder what happens? Will it be like a mobile phone, where it still kind-of works sluggishly while being increasingly vulnerable? Will the 'smart' part of the applicance simply disconnect itself (perhaps after being directed to do so by the maker or user) or will the thing simply stop working and become a true piece of junk? If you as an owner should choose to disconnect your fridge from the internet by some means, does THAT brick it, or will it keep working. If you don't disconnect, will it then be hacked to serve in a bot net?

I can see a reason for smart TVs, but general household appliances?

This wasn't really meant to be ranty, and I'm not grumpy about this in any way really. But sometimes, rather like when on holiday you see items of junk made to be bought by tourists that would be spurned by the locals, so it *feels* like these were made for techno-tourists and not for real use.

Wednesday, 3 June 2020

I'm from the government, I'm here to help you and your friends

That's the title used for a Register article warning about scammers using the UK track and trace program. If you're in the UK and get a call from someone claiming to be contacting you regarding the T&T program then it seems thetre is no way at present you can verify they are who they say they are.

Easy for me to say, but my advice would be to not believe anyone who calls up making that claim. I know of no solution to the problem right now.

So, if anyone from the UK is reading this - I hope it's been useful.

* edit *
Having considered this a little more (I know, 'shooting' from the hip is dumb, but sometimes I just get the urge to write) possibly the best approach if anyone DOES receive a call will be to ask where and when they were nearby the infected person. While far from foolproof, it will at least give an indication of whether the caller is genuine and working from real data.

And NEVER give them useful personal information such as date of birth, national health number or national insurance number etc, let alone any kind of financial information. If they have access to computer records of your phone number and address then they have access to those things too, if they need them.

Saturday, 30 May 2020

Just ran my first sub-30

minute 5k. Not bad considering I ran 5k yesterday too - usually runs without a rest day between aren't so good. 

It feels like I cheated a little, because I had a lift to Ardley and ran back, but the first 3k are all uphill, balancing the final kilometer down hill at the end. This also makes me wonder if I'm fitter than it feels, but have just got soft and can't put up with the hurt to keep going.

It's not always helpful

to be a little OCD, automatically recognise patterns etc. Queueing for Tesco, people just stand where they want, failing to see or ignoring the space marks on the floor.


Thursday, 21 May 2020

Today is that day again.

16 years.

More than a lifetime.

Saturday, 25 April 2020


Kilometers run.

Since January 13th.

Sounds good right up until you realise that's over a 3 1/2 month period, and then it seems hardly anything. We walked 35k in 2 weeks in August last year. 

I've just got back from another run - 7.2k in about 50min - and it's too slow. When my speed drops below 6min per kilometre impact from each footfall starts to become a problem - instead of bouncing, each foot thumps down, jarring and causing damage. If I can get the speed up, not only will it feel more satisfying but it will actually become more comfortable. 

Thursday, 23 April 2020

Would it be wrong to say

that I'm enjoying not having to meet people during lockdown. I like the quiet roads, the half-empty supermarkets where people move out of each others way & give others space instead of pushing them out (well, that's true of Bicester Tesco - OTOH Sainsurys Kidlington was a horrible, crowded, dismal place).

Makes me wonder what I'll be like when the lockdown is over - I already don't want the crowds to come back, to have to go to meet people again - no idea if I'm going to want to play guitar with others, and I'm reasonably sure I don't want to 'go to church' (there, I've said it) though it's likely social pressure will ensure I do both those things. Life when I retire may well be very, very quiet.

Or perhaps I'll stop using computers and suddenly discover a desire to meet face-to-face again?

Saturday, 18 April 2020

There are relatively few 'adequate' statistics.

Y'know what I mean - about Covid infections.

There's an interesting artricle here from Rueters about the USS Roosevelt where the virus was able to infect a controlled and isolated population who were all then examined at tested for infection.

It seems that 60% of infections were asymptomatic among a young, healthy population.

OK, now another less solid statistic.

BBC Radio 4 PM show - you can stream it here - had an interview last night around 5.40ish with with an anonymous doctor working in a coronavirus ward. The interview was voiced to make it less traceable. She estimated that 20% of positive Covid cases, as in people clearly displaying the correct symptoms, would test negative first time using the PCR test for viral RNA, only getting a positive result on a second test.

And I'd like to roll in a third factor - a paper from the European Centre for Disease prevention and Control.

Basically it looks like some people may remain infectious for quite a bit longer than the 14 days currently used to quarantine potential infections. I recall discussing this online a few weeks ago with someone who was being a bit 'I work for the NHS and am therefore irrefutable' who was absolute in his conviction that 14 days was exactly enough because that was what he'd been told.

So putting this lot together, it's little wonder that despite the best efforts of many governments, Covid has been rampaging through various societies.

20-20 hindsight is a wonderful thing!

Wednesday, 15 April 2020

As you get used to it.

So I've been running for a few weeks now. At first it was hard work - I could just about manage 3 kilometres without stopping, but I'd feel pretty dreadful during the run and cough for the rest of the day. 

Gradually it became less hard and I could extend the distance to 4K, then 5K  a couple of weeks ago. 

But here's the thing: it's started to feel harder again.

This is normal, but I don't entirely know why. Perhaps it's because it's not so overwhelming that I'm able to notice all the hurty bits much more. Perhaps it's because I'm not fit and strong enough to run easily that it's hard to break out of the plodding. Or maybe I'm just not driven enough to over-ride my body's demands to take it easy. 

If I can keep running for a few more weeks like this then I should break through, but if I stop for a while then it's back to square one. 

Funny when a face pops up

Between 1980 and 1984 I worked in the virology department of Wellcome Research Labs at Beckenham, where our laboratory head was Dr. June Almeida. According to this piece on the BBC website she was responsible for first identifying and along with 2 other collaborators (Drs. Tyrrell and Waterson) naming the Corona virus.

It gives me no particular claim to fame, wisdom or any other attribute, but it's definitely interesting for me. I remember her reasonably well still, and she was a little fierce but definitely had a good sense of humour - I played a minor trick and she could have roasted me as just a technical assistant, but instead found it funny. It was also a privilege to go with her down to the electron microscopy suite she used and see her making images of viruses.

Tuesday, 14 April 2020

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes

The only people who should be truly free are those who will not use their freedom.

I am also reminded of a phrase by Francis Schaeffer that freedom is not license.

With that lot said, I felt slightly chilled by the headline that OFCOM are going to investigate a BBC presenter who spoke out in a way that suggested the idea that 5G radio could cause coronavirus symptoms was plausible and not clearly understood. That the man is a fool is without question, at least in his understanding of sceince, medicine and engineering, but there's something slightly chilling about the idea of someone being investigated because they're a fool.

Perhaps the problem lies with those who gave him a platform in the first place?

People have complained, as they should, and so an investigation should take place. Hopefully he'll realise what a pillock he is and apologise.

Tuesday, 7 April 2020

Living in Britain is like experiencing

The opening chapters of a distopian scifi novel.

From the 1950s.

Quatermass and the antenna etc.

"Hey look everyone, I just burned down a 5G mast!"
"WTF, why can't I post this on social media?"
"It's a conspiracy - they have shut off my mobile coverage!"

No amount of rolling-eyes or facepalm emojis are enough for this level of stoopidity. 5G causes coronavirus.

I've even had someone who is an electrical engineer send me a whatsapp link to a video from the 'Vodafone boss' blowing the whistle on 5G and covid-19. I think I actually shouted at my phone when that popped up, not least because the person who sent it lives in another country and I can't shout at them for numerous reasons.

If I ask "has the world gone mad?" will I hear the word "yes" return as an echo?

There are several reasons not to like 5G, not least of which will be the sprouting of many more masts than 4G, short range and poor service to rural areas, but delivering coronavirus over the airwaves is not one of them.

I don't want to use the R word, but sometimes it seems appropriate.

As a nation, we're doing our best to hold back the good Dr. Darwin and his ages-old selection methods by fining and making examples of people who refuse to stay away from each other at this time. With careful marketing I reckon catching and dying from Covid-19 could be made fashionable - if people are dumb enough to believe half the things they do then I'm sure that one could be sold too.

Yours, tongue somewhat pressed into squamous cell surface. 

Walking away from this and back to the lab made think there must be a lot of very confused and unhappy people around, that they see this as real and needing something doing about it.

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:

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:

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:

Potential therapeutics for CV infection:

A short paper on some vaccine development work in the Jenner Institute, Oxford: 

The search for a vaccine and global competition: 

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.

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.


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.