Friday, 12 July 2019

That's "Not OK Google"

You know all those fears we dismissed as paranoid delusions, that google WAS listening all the time despite assurances to the contrary.

Apparently they were at least partially correct after all.

I remember a time when some people using devices like this monitored packet traffic to be sure nothing was being sent back to base during normal conversations. It seems that just because you think they're out to monitor you, doesn't mean they aren't.

Wonder what GDPR will make of this?

Monday, 8 July 2019

Making asses of u and me.

A little snippet on The Register this morning about a company that assumed its data was backed up 'in the cloud'. Just remember, the backups are there for THEIR data, and not yours, if you're someone who stores all there stuff online for 'free'.

Thursday, 4 July 2019

At last, a film I want to see in the cinema

It seems someone has, in 21st century style, made a documentary of the Apollo 11 mission, editing together & restoring original footage. This might actually be worth paying to view on a big screen - I was almost 8 when it happened, and still remember the sense of excitement and the possibilities we might aspire to.

Later the capsule and some moon rock toured the UK. My grandfather took both my brother and I to the Biggin Hill airshow where, in a hangar, we were able to see them. the capsule seemed enormous, burnt black on the bottom. Much later I saw a re-entry capsule in the space centre at Houston, and was amazed at the incredibly tiny size - hard to imagine getting 3 men to live inside it for a couple of weeks.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Would you buy a book from this vendor?

Or would you 'buy' any digital content?

Copyright, DRM and ownership are a 'knotty problem' to say the least, when it comes to stuff online. In the early days I took a fairly hard-line approach personally, trying to treat stuff that was obviously 'owned' as though it were property, even though it was available online without the actual owner suffering any loss if I acquired the digital content.

Then came Youtube, Google prime, music and video streaming, torrents, vodlocker etc. Copyright and ownership of digital content became psychologically blurred, even though the legal framework hadn't really changed.

But the thing that's really blurred the line for me is the issue over digital content that's been paid for.

We have a couple of Kobos - painfully slow digital book readers, the business was acquired by Rakuten a few years back - plus a Nook (Barnes and Noble) and a Kindle. The Nook went first, with the digital rights being sold to Sainsbury, who then lapsed the business completely - I have no idea if we can still read books on that. Around the dsame time we also became aware that Amazon did sometimes actually pull content from Kindles if they decided that you didn't have a right to carry on reading the stuff you'd paid for. Now it seems that Microsoft are removing access to any books bought through their service, giving limited refunds in some cases.

There are lots of reasons why the attitude of the public is changing towards digital content and ownership compared to the way physical goods and services are viewed, but I reckon a big driver is this feeling that you never actually own what you pay for. In some ways the software companies are recognising this too, with SAAS (software as a service) becoming more common, where you rent use of applications on a subscription basis, being locked into repeated payments to the developer. One could discuss the pros and cons of that, but my feeling is that it will reduce the barrier to acquiring digital content regardless of copyright.

Friday, 28 June 2019

What's in a name?

If you've ever been a fan of the iDevice then you'll probably know of Jony Ive, whose departure from Apple has been announced today. He's setting up his own company: LoveFrom.

Or is that LoveForm?

Every article I've read thus far has been written as if the new biz is called LoveFrom, but someone speaking on the radio this morning called it love form, which makes far more sense for a design business.

I wonder if we've just seen a moderate failure of software design from an over-enthusiastic spill chucker?


Not that my own output here couldn't use a bit of decent proof-reading sometimes. :-(

Wednesday, 26 June 2019

Friday, 21 June 2019

Just Libra me alone, OK?

It seems that  Facebook project (Libre) to manage finances internationally was announced this week as Calibra. While listening to the wireless during the drive to work I caught Mark Carney, (American) governor of the Bank Of England talking about it with an interviewer, though I'd managed to miss out on the strat of the interview, so only put the information together retrospectively.

Would you trust Facebook with your financial data?


But on the basis 50 billion flies can't be wrong, you KNOW this is going to take off, don't you? Trump is in the White House, Boris (how appropriate his initials are BJ) is likely to become PM here in Blighty. QED.

Y'know, it could be a genuinely useful service. As Mark Carney said in the interview, this is the financial sector, and there are rules that business follows - it's not the wild frontier of internetland. Paypal because a (mostly) reliable, useful entity, though it's conception and birth occurred in the financially oriented operation. Facebook's background is data mining and selling the user as the product, so how might that work out?

Some have suggested the service would be 'free' because your data would be used to pay for the cost.

The worst part about this is, like Western Union and all those other 'helpful' firms, you know some parts of the world will embrace it with open servers arms and not care, making it difficult for the rest of us to completely avoid.

Thursday, 20 June 2019

Health has been an odd thing this last couple of weeks

I've not been overtly unwell, but looking at the longer post grumbling about facts and the bible, then considering the sensations of pressure and difficulty in thinking clearly that I've experienced on and off make me wonder what's going on inside. It's not just the head though - joints are also distinctly grumpy (waking me at night) and for some weeks now my chest has been making enough noise with internal gurgles when laying on my left that - once awake - I can't get back to sleep.

Quite a number here at work have been suffering hay fever recently, and I wonder if that's part of the trouble. Imunogenic insult of that type often stimulates all the wrong immune responses, and we get some of the flu-like symptoms without going anywhere near a virus. At the same time it's weird how it comes and goes, head feeling clear one minute, fuzzy the next. Seem to be sneezing and streaming from time to time too, though again it's unpredictable.

Yesterday was also a wipe-out. We had a babyshower for someone, and after eating a couple of smallish cakes at 9am I seemed to be in a daze - that was almost certainly glucose management, but it never settled down until after dinner in the evening. Looks like the days of munch & run have gone.

And I wonder what crazy things I've just written above? Thing is, I won't even be able to spot the non-sensical stuff for a day or 2.

Heads are odd things sometimes.

Wednesday, 19 June 2019

Keep taking the tablets.

Recently picked up a Linx 12.5" tablet running windows 10 cheaply to use as a sheet music presentation platform instead of the photocopies. It was a refurb, so I don't feel so bad - a new iPad uses resources and energy equivalent to >30,000 sheets of paper, so it's hard to justify such a purchase with the objective of reducing consumption (an argument I've seen used to 'encourage' purchase of such devices) when I'm otherwise computer-rich.

Trouble is, there's a whole tranche of associated paraphernalia: clamps, stands, foot pedals etc etc. This is going to be kept minimal, but will at least create the illusion that I'm following the music.

It's also been interesting setting up a W10 computer from scratch too, having to clean up the start menu, install all the usual apps (at least 1 non-microsoft non-google browser, plus libreoffice and VLC) and then try to remember/guess passwords.

I also installed PowerMusic Essentials (FOC) to organise the music when it finally gets here. Music applications seem to have generally polarised into either Apple-only or Android-only groups, neither of which seem to talk and both of which want to take your money while helping lock you into a system. At least PM works cross-platform, which is definitely a good reason to consider investing a little.

Next thing to try will be some form of photo-editing software. In terms of performance this is significantly less sluggish that my old unibody Macbook, but a long way from the (5 year old) Dell XPS with i7 quad and 16GB RAM + SSD. It does only weigh about half either of those 2, and it fits nicely on my lap at home with the kickstand out and detachable keyboard out in front without producing any significant heat at all. In fact I've been working for more than an hour and it's barely above ambient temperature

The screen is nice too - 1080P at 12.5" makes for crisp detail, and the IPS panel gives a pleasant viewing experience. A few years back I long-term loaned my little Philips 12" laptop running linux and missed it ever since. This may make a pleasing replacement, although having looked into the possibility of running linux on it, I think we'll be sticking with Windows for now.

Friday, 14 June 2019

Deepfakes and the bible.

* it seems I'm going slightly mad, or at least can't write every sentence in decent, clear English.*

Surely there's no connection, is there, other than let your yes be yes and no, no?

Our ability to make people say things they never really said for our own pleasure or benefit is not new, and has probably been around for as long as human communication itself, and knowing where a line may be drawn has always been difficult. The church has had to deal with this pretty much continuously through its history, deciding what was 'true' in terms of historical writings in the 4th century by creating the bible (later revised again when the evangelicals rejected the tales of the arabian nights the apocrypha and various other bits). Stories about the derring do of various 'saints' have peppered church history too (and remember, the winner is usually the one who gets to write history).

There seems to be something in the human character that must make stuff up, sometimes for the 'best' of reasons, like wanting their God/god to appear bigger and better, sometimes for personal satisfaction or gain.

And the ignorant masses apparently lap it all up, and worse, act on it.

I guess we tend naturally to believe the stories that confirm our personal biases or preferences, reject those that do not. Donald Trump romping with porn stars in the oval room of the White House? Sure he did. Key figures in the prosperity gospel movement taking vows of poverty and humility? You must be joking??!

So I go back to look at my bible and read Genesis and Exodus, start asking questions. Well, that was a long time ago, oral tradition and all that. Then I compare Kings and Chronicles, which are both much more 'historical' though created for different reasons. Then I read the gospel of John, and start wondering about the way conversations are portrayed and how the chronology is re-woven to create a theology instead of providing a history. And I consider James (St. James to you) brother of Jesus who ends up running the church in Jerusalem instead of Peter, setting Paul up for the mob (I really do wonder if he actually saw Paul as an enemy to be removed, for uncovering James and Peters' hypocrisy over judaism and the law).

I think I may have commented a few years back about Herodotus blantantly making stuff  up in his writings, and there have been times I wondered if the first century was like the 21st century.

Someone wanted recently to 'discuss' my 'not entirely orthodox' view of the bible with me. The problem is that I'm still trying to understand what's real, what's wishful thinking, what - if anything - is blatantly faked. 'Faith' overcomes a lot of this stuff, because it simply says that the bible is the word of God and I'll believe it whatever. It's a position I once subscribed to, but cannot, in good conscience, any longer.

What stiluated this?
And the legislative 'solution':

Plus the failure of a recent attempt to prosecute a British politician for barefaced lying in a way that would influence the gullible while holding a senior post in government. We are now, apparently, OK for our politicians to lie to us about stuff that brings them personal gain.

Tuesday, 11 June 2019

If you have been trying to comment here

and it hasn't worked (thinking of you especially, Marc) then I'm sorry. No idea why comments are broken - nothing has been changed, and I have even removed the requirement for moderation before they appear in the hope that would make it possible.

Blogger seems decreasingly functional, no longer working properly on Android and being temperamental through a browser. Maybe blogging will die out further, not just because people stop wanting to blog, but because this platform is being wound up (lack of profitability?) by google.

Saturday, 8 June 2019

I just lied.

Walking out of the Cotswold Store (outdoor equipment shop) I was accosted by someone on a stand soliciting donations and asked if I were interested in wildlife. My reply "no, but thanks anyway" wasn't true, but I didn't want to get involved or donate.


Friday, 7 June 2019

Is it cheating?

To try, make mistakes, then go back again with new knowledge?

How well do we know someone?

Tuesday, 4 June 2019

Iffy hearing can at least be amusing sometimes.

I've worked in the past with Swedish speakers, one of whom would often end a conversation (in Swedish) with what sounded like 'milky bra'.

I can see Leonard Nimmoy raising one eyebrow and intoning a gravelly "curious".

The phrase is actually mycke bra, 'micky' becoming 'milky' through rhythm and lilt.

Very good.

Monday, 3 June 2019

Every so often I get emails from the Oxford University dept of continuing education.

Seeing the range of courses available makes me realise how one could simply sit in further education ones entire life, absorbing more and more information and learning. It also makes me wonder whether I should do one or two coursse a year, just to keep the brain alive and interested in things other than science and photography (and maybe theology).

The difficulty with these things is developing the will to keep going: when a course like this is for pleasure and not necessity there is less drive to push through the dull/difficult/confusing/apparently stupid parts.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

You know you have succumbed to marketing

When you have so much booze in the cupboard at home that you KNOW you don't need any more.

*edited. I need to stop posting from the phone, because a quick visual scan of the text is not enough to find my own mistakes and those of the spill chucker.

Thursday, 30 May 2019

I am both fascinated and deeply frustrated.

By this:

So much knowledge and information available, yet so completely un-readable for me.

Friday, 24 May 2019

The camera can now really tell some porkie pies.

I guess it was inevitable that the stuff of some scifi would become reality - you just simply can't believe what you see anymore, not at all.

Have a look here if you want to see the Mona Lisa smile.

It seems that face changes are now being 'easily' and commonly done, with the results posted on youtube:

It just re-emphasises that you really can't believe video clips any more.

Thursday, 23 May 2019

Am I homophobic?

It's a question I don't ask myself too often, partly because it's dumb and partly because there's no ready set of acceptance criteria against which one can gain an accurate measure. Some would suggest that if you can intereact pleasantly with known homosexual people then the answer is no, while others will suggest that if you do not fully and completely approve the homosexual lifestyle or if you call someone else gay as an insult, even in fun, then you're inherently homophobic.

This post was promted by the folloing article on aunty beeb:

And it raises the question, if one doesn't approve of homosexual activity, does that make you homophobic (I suspect the answer is yes) even if you don't distinguish between straight & gay individuals in the way you treat them.

This has been sat as a draft for a couple of weeks - I opened blogger, saw the title and thought "God, I hope so!*".

It feels like the world has gone nuts, in so many ways.

I do genuinely wonder whether, rather like caesarian section delivery which is apparently changing the gene pool (more mothers and children survive the effects of an otherwise lethal variation of physiology, thus passing it on to future generations) if the manner in which society accepts and promotes gender fluidity and a breakdown of gender stereotype is an increasingly lethal social inheritence. It's hard to find the time and enthusiams to write about it now, but from an evolutionary perspective and ignoring religious feelings, it's hard to see how either of those could encourage survival of the race.

To me, this is a far bigger challenge to the survival of the race than global warming. Certainly if large areas of land disappear under water it will result in wide-ranging suffering, death and war, but if society breaks to the point where people aren't interested in breeding and working together then the race is far less likely to bounce back in whatever world remains. I don't think gay and trans people are going to cause the end of the world (or anything stupid like that) but I do wonder if they are the unwilling, unhappy victims of relative wealth, comfort and success.

OTOH I wonder if this undermining of identity and liberalisation is a 'natural' response to overly successful development, and in the presence of comfort and abundance it is normal for humans to become decadent, lose vigour and their society to crumble and fall. When one might think people would thrive and grow, instead they are beset with depression and self-doubt. History is certainly full of events where empires rotted and collapsed because they had decayed from within.

And adversity tends to make both the church and people stronger. History has shown that a comfy church tends to do badly, but a suffering church is vital and powerful. Maybe it will be a pattern for ordinary human beings too? On a purely human level, do we need those less than fit to fail & die in order for humanity as a whole to survive? Are questions like this even allowed to be asked any more?

Maudlin thoughts at the end of a Thursday lunchtime.

*Don't take that too seriously.

Minor spelling/typo corrections added 24.5.2019

Tuesday, 21 May 2019

It's that time again.

Another year, memories a little less sharp, but still there as a dull ache inside.Actually it's quite a sharp ache - memories are much less distant than I thought, and the feelings that hover decided to pounce instead of staying back.
I don't say too much here these days, but everything just seems so futile at times.

Friday, 10 May 2019

Friday, 3 May 2019

OK, it's finally happened.

I have lost touch. (p.s. don't read it all unless you want to).

"What's new since 0.16.0? For those who've been following along, a great many things have changed over the last 5 months since the 0.16.0 release - 99 people contributed over 5,700 commits during that time!"

"With this release, we highlight our approach to innovation, while maintaining our friendliness and focus on design and beauty. Keeping the focus on design Like our previous release, we have tried to make Lamarr a beautiful desktop with design elements being minimal and clean. It features a contrasting and sharp design theme inspired and derived from the Nitrux desktop. In Lamarr, we have simplified Plasma 5 by removing many controls which may confuse the everyday user. New welcome screen: Lamarr features a re-designed welcome screen with a heartbeat animated logo. The desktop: The desktop design has been kept traditional and minimal with modern design cues featuring a white color scheme by default. The panel: The Plasma 5 panel has been modified to keep a minimal set of configuration options, which we feel is helpful to new Linux users, who may otherwise get overwhelmed by the power of customization Plasma offers out of the box."

New upstream features and improvements include: additional container support with new tools such as Podman (a container management tool) that complements the previously released tools such as Buildah and Skopeo; policy-based decryption (PBD); GnuTLS support hardware security module (HSM); OpenSSL now works with CPACF; nftables enhancements and the nft command for greater packet filtering insight; OpenSC support for new smart cards; greater support for kdump, network and timesync; integration of Extended Berkeley Packet Filter (eBPF)...."

"A nice way of celebrating the sixth anniversary of this distribution is releasing KaOS 2019.04 with fully updated Midna theme, a new toolchain and Qt 5.12.3. As always with this rolling distribution, you will find the very latest packages for the Plasma Desktop, this includes Frameworks 5.57.0, Plasma 5.14.4 and KDE Applications 19.04.0. All built on Qt 5.12.3. A new glibc 2.29, GCC 8.3.0 and Binutils 2.32 toolchain is among the many changes to the base of the system. Updates to systemd, LLVM, MariaDB, Protobuf, MESA, Polkit and Qt required the rebuild of a large percentage of the KaOS repositories. The removal of Python2 from the KaOS repositories is ongoing. Many more packages are now build on Python3 exclusively. Highlights of KDE Applications 19.04 include an extensive re-write of Kdenlive as more than 60% of its internals have changed, improving its overall architecture."

"Elive 3.0 has been updated and it will probably be the last updated build for the 3.0 release. This updated release includes multiple internal improvements that have been developed for the next version of Elive and I backported these improvements to 3.0. There are too many internal code improvements to list all the details but I can at least summarize some important points. Persistence - overall improvements for saving the desktop configurations based on different hardware profiles and improvements for the option to encrypt persistence; Elive Health tool - improvements for the critical temperature detection feature; USB recorder tool - now supports compressed images; Sound - support for PulseAudio in the Elive internal mixer tool, in case the user installs it....

There's a lot more of this stuff. 

I've realised that the descriptions of Linux distros now looks like gobbeldygook to me where it once made sense.

OTOH a quick read of Distrowatch has made me want to experiment a little again.

Thursday, 2 May 2019

D'you ever see something engineery and think "what about......?"

Like the idea of storing energy for laser weapons mounted on ships in a flywheel.

Ships move in a variety of directions when travelling - how is that going to work with several megawatts of energy (I can't convert that in my head to joules or whatever else is appropriate) in a flywheel that's basically going to strongly resist non-linear motion? They'd better bolt the darn thing down good & hard if they don't want it tearing free & flapping around, and the hull is going to need to be strong enough to cope too. OTOH this may give the boat a much smoother progress through the ocean than usual.

I'm fascinated to know if this has been considered at all.

Wednesday, 1 May 2019

Well that was weird.

A good friend keeps links to 'voices' that have been connected with him in the past including some that have become quiet for various reasons. Being in a momentary gap, I followed a link to and behold there was a web page as if the original owner were still alive and blogging about IT.

Very very strange.

I also popped back and had a little wander down vandermeander, and it left me sad to be reminded of what I miss now. The blogging community changed years back, and there's not been a viable replacement since it ceased.

Monday, 29 April 2019


I'm an Android user, but I like to identify as an iPhone user.


Have to love the BOFH.

Monday, 8 April 2019

The arm is

somewhat less difficult today, for which I'm grateful.

Yesterday was also a nice day, where we had a morning out together in Oxford with a bit of lunch. Over the last few years, church has been increasingly something which took away rather than adding to energy and enjoyment, and Sunday felt like a day of chores after which there was no energy to do anything.

Sunday, 7 April 2019

And todays embuggerance

is a trapped nerve in my right arm/shoulder, likely cause by laying on the floor working at awkward angles yesterday. I can barely lift my right arm, and the pain makes me gasp - getting dressed was 'interesting' as was sleeping, and I can only type because I can rest my wrist on the laptop. I leave you to imagine some of the other areas that might be impacted by this.

There's a minor issue of also producing orange goo from respiratory orifices (thank you colleagues who came to work with horrible colds last week) but that's merely unpleasant.

Thanks to imgflip for the meme generator.

Saturday, 6 April 2019

Today I had a strong reminder of how it felt to be in my 20s again.

When we had no money and I used to do stuff like fit bathrooms and kitchens in our house.

A while back we asked a plumber friend (professional, qualified, full time business) to replace a couple of taps and a waste in our bathroom sink unit, which we wished to keep. However the taps were old and the fittings holding everything together were a bit corroded and reluctant to come undone with everything in situ - he had a go, but couldn't shift joints & suggested we had a nice vanity unit fitted instead.


The answer was 'obvious' old skool - just take the unit off the wall to get better access to joints and where they wouldn't cooperate then apply brute force or a hacksaw.

To a 57 year old who hasn't done any plumbing work to speak of in more than 10 years, it took an hour to get everything off the wall and in bits - not really any touble at all - but then 2 hours to get it all back and leakfree (it all had to come apart again because the new waste leaked - seems OK now) which was annoying and a sign that I really am out of practice.

In a way I'm pleased that I can still do this stuff, but I'd have preferred him to have done it first time & just taken an extra hour over it. And I have a headache, just like I used to get from doing this stuff. There's something about mechanics that requires just as much mental agility as designing tests to measure billionths of a gram of protein, and those cranial demands make themselves felt.

Thursday, 4 April 2019

GAS begets GAS

Or spending money makes you want to spend money.

Back in mid February I was unwell with, as it turned out, a nasty chest infection that took about 6 weeks to clear. With time on my hands I became aware that cameras had moved on from my slightly older system (picked up used in Dec 2015) and had become increasingly frustrated with its poor focussing and fixed rear screen. In an uncharacteristic moment of madness and spending, a used Sony A7III and then a (grey) 24-105 lens arrived and most of my Nikon stuff got sold off.

I won't particularly review the A7 other than to say in the areas I was looking to improve the over Nikon it's outstanding. AF is instant, and with the Sony lens quite silent, and the rear screen flips out nicely for photos at ground level. The 'eye-AF' funtction is astonishing with the way it finds an eye in a face and keeps it in focus, even finding it again if the owner turns away & then back again. And it's a darn complicated little beastie if you want to change a setting from a menu).

But there was a brief bump in the road.

Trying to find a cheapskate budgety way of making things work I picked up some used kit in the form of a Samyang 50mm f1.4 lens - really nice for super-shallow depth of field and super-soft bokeh - plus a Sony adapter that allowed me to use my older Minolta fit lenses and get autofocus BEFORE I bought the 24-105. While they were nice, didn't work that well with the cameras AF system, and they also weren't 'free' so I ended up selling them for what I paid to fund the other lens.

But GAS begets GAS.

Now I remember what I've just had, I'd quite like it again please. :p  Only not yet.

Something I liked about the Nikon outfit (apart from the easy traditional and very simple handling) was that I had pretty much most of the lenses etc I could use. Now I'm back at, if not square 1, then in the early stages of building an outfit again. Patience is required. And contentment.

With the 50 f1.4 on a very dark and dull London day.

On patrol-00221

And using the 24-105 on a much nicer, sunnier Oxfordshire afternoon.

Lord Blandford's Pheasant

Wednesday, 3 April 2019

We have just had snow.

Not much, but it was definitely particles that fell too slowly for hail but we're too dry for sleet.


Monday, 1 April 2019

Today I have sore fingertips

Yesterday morning I pretended to be James Herriot, unblocking a drain. There was a sharp object somewhere in there, and I managed to slice directly into the tips of 2nd and 3rd fingers. There was no pain at the time, but typically it's now open and sore. 🙄

Happiness, depression and certainty

In amongst the propaganda from the BBC about Brexit and LBGTQC(onfused) rights there has been a 'good news' piece regarding a woman who doesn't feel pain. It seems she has a particular genetic arrangement that helps her to not be aware of pain (comments about smelling burning flesh when touching hot metal, enjoying childbirth have been bounced around) and there has been some analysis done before all this hit the headlines.

This also coincided with the headline that twice as many people are using anti-depressants now compared with 10 years ago. I also seem to know far more people now who suffer serious depression than I ever did 30 years ago, depsite having somewhat suffered it myself.

On the radio (4) last week they had 'an expert' talking about why this particular person didn't feel pain as others do, and a part of it was raised canabinoids produced by her brain and a general disposition to happiness. Now the interesting part of this conversation started when the expert began to talk about happiness and the things that make people disposed towards being happy or unhappy/depressed.

A couple of key things that came out were extrovert personalities and certainty made depression less likely, while introvertion and uncertainty made a person more likely to suffer it.

This is interesting in the light of how society has been changing for quite some time. Certainty has been unfashionable for a long time now, with the post-modern backlash, and 'generation snowflake' seem opposed to anything that doesn't align with a nebulous set of all-permissive ideals. Speaking personally, I know that when I had assurance and felt certain about stuff I was far more positive and life looked much better, while over the years I have become far less likely to want to interact with others.

I'm sure my view is skewed by my own preferences.

Thursday, 28 March 2019

An aspect of modern life that boils my blood

Is wearing earphones at work. Try to talk with someone and they a) can't hear you or b) you feel like you're interrupting.


Friday, 22 March 2019

Austrian German is not German German.

I have received a letter recently from the Austrian embassy regarding upcoming European elections, and popping it through google translate does curious things with what I am sure are colloquialisms in the text.

For example: "In dolphin fields you can get used to your community.", "The shipwreck shipment through the southerly community wird ab 02 May 2019" and "Steam cabinets and wheelchairs in the wheelchairs and the wheelchair access, all the way to the bus stop 26 May 2019 at 5 pm."

Think I need to find me a German speaker to help out a little.

Monday, 18 March 2019

Reading a post this morning made me slightly sad.

It seems that my son and I are the only people who wipe water from their bodies after a shower or bath, before towelling dry.

At least, that's true for the small circle of people that we know.

And it made me feel slightly lonely too. I've always been different from others: sometimes I can dominate a group, sometimes guide it, sometimes be present watching what goes on, sometimes be ignored by it - I seldom feel just a part of it. Note the word feel - these are feelings, not necessarily how things really are - and feelings should not be the ultimate arbiter of reality.

I wonder too if this is one of the reasons for wanting adventure, to pioneer a bit - when you're doing that loneliness is not a problem, because OF COURSE you're alone. If you're in the trenches with everyone else then it can remind you more of feeling alone than solitude.

Blummin' 'eck, this is maudlin for a Monday afternoon, though I was even more maudlin this morning.

Thursday, 14 March 2019

More on the 'to vax or not vax'


Regardless. I read some statistics the other day, that before we had a meases vaccine the disease would kill 2.4 million annually worldwide. In countries without a universal vaccination program it STILL kills thousands every year. And those are just the dead, rather than brain damaged or with other long-term diseases remaining from the infection.

Vaccination really should not be a freedom of choice issue.

Tuesday, 12 March 2019

Never thought I'd see the day

But I find myself agreeing with someone who used to be a more prolific blogger. His experience is quite different from mine, both because of culture and world view, but it seems the disease of disinterest has spread to his part of the world too.

I was interested in his view of the cost of being part of church, particularly as church is no longer seen as the place we go to get re-filled and energised for the week ahead, but a drain on energy & resources on what would otherwise be a day of rest. I went looking for a post where I talked about this, only to realise I'd posted it as a comment on Backyard Missionary recently. In the post linked LT described himself as $20 in the plate and another voice drowned in the music - perhaps if that's all church really is then it's time for those gatherings to close?

Where is the real issue? Is it the people or something bigger?

Makes me wonder if a part of it is that what was underground and experienced with joy when persecuted has become the ordinary, commonplace and mainstream, sucking life out as it becomes increasingly democratised and mundane. The church has a long history of thriving and being healthy when suffering, but causing suffering when in power.

To vax or not vax?

Italy has begun to require vaccinations for children to be permitted to attend school. I hate the compulsion, but knowing that the parents who refuse vaccination will cause some of their children harm, and also cause harm to children unable to develop immunity through vaccination, it's not a completely unreasonable step.

It's amazing how short memories are, of how the diseases these vaccines prevent did so much harm.

Sunday, 10 March 2019

Toni Ertl, like you never saw him before.

 Toni Ertl and Pilgramsreuther Blaskapelle - Rosen und Flieder.

Friday, 8 March 2019

Hipsters all look the same - fact. ;-)

An amusing Friday morning article from El Reg here.

Essentially a 'hipster' saw an article from MIT Technology review suggesting that for a variety of reasons anti-conformists all end up conforming in appearance that was accompanied by a picture of a typical hipster that appeared to be himself. He complained angrily, only to discover that the photo was actually of a model, thus proving the point of the article and demonstrating that sometimes hipsters conformed so closely they couldn't even tell each other apart.

The comments after the article were also comedy gold:

Yup. I remember at a large bike rally a small child was found wandering around early in the morning and was taken to rally control.
"Ok, lad? You've lost your parents?"
"What's your Dad's name?"
"Ok, and what does John look like?"
"He's got a bald head and a long beard and tattoos down his arms!"
"Let me take a guess. Is he wearing jeans and a black shirt and a leather jacket?"
"Yes, do you know him?"

Was conformity ever so similar?

Wednesday, 6 March 2019

Just driven through horrible countryside

I'm working for a couple of days out towards East Anglia, pretty much directly east of where we live. I won't name the towns, but driving through the grey drizzle and pre-dawn light this looks such an ugly, almost blasted countryside. Possibly sunshine and clear skies would help, but I doubt it.

An early departure meant a clear run and early arrival, and now I'm looking at mouldy grey and orange brick buildings with ventilation stacks on top surrounded by a high fence topped in barbed wire. I came for a job interview at this place in 1997 and was pleased not to work here then. Hopefully I'll complete their training adequately today and not have to return in the morning.

Presently my throat is not happy, and the less I need to talk the better. At least it's just a demo, rather than teaching.

Monday, 4 March 2019

A man has been charged with assault by beating:

Presumably with beating an egg? 😉

Sometimes reality seems stranger than fiction, and the law only partially connected to reality.

BBC News - Jeremy Corbyn egged: Man charged over Finsbury mosque attack

Friday, 1 March 2019

How are you Toni, I hope you're having a great day?

I had a call from a recruiter at lunchtime that I'm sure I've never previously heard of. Then I saw this:

Last month, a world-wide telephone survey was conducted by the UN.

The only question asked was: "Would you please give your honest opinion about possible

solutions to the food shortage in the rest of the world?”

The survey was a complete failure because:

In Eastern Europe they didn't know what "honest" meant.

In Western Europe they didn't know what "shortage" meant.

In Africa they didn't know what "food" meant.

In China they didn't know what "opinion" meant.

In the Middle East they didn't know what "solution" meant.

In South America they didn't know what "please" meant.

In the USA they didn't know what "the rest of the world" meant.

And in Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Great Britain everyone hung up as soon as they heard the Indian accent.

Friday, 22 February 2019

You know it's not big, and it's not clever. Well it's not clever anyway.

Artificial intelligence.

Do those words scare you? Excite you?

Well, perhaps they should, but not for the reasons you're thinking.

As a couple of people I know these days like to say, AI is not what you think it is. It's not a cold, dispassionate and amoral mind of greater sophistication than any human could manage, but simply a set of algorithms that have been trained to interpret a limited aspect of the world through a block of data presented to them.

There's an article here that's intended to be what passes for Friday afternoon humour in the IT industry, but is actually so accessible and levelling that it should be mandatory reading for people concerned with the care of people and the impact AI might have on them. Yes, it's a bit nihilistic, a touch sweary, but it's insightful and also funny. The article is probably biased too, but then again, everything people produce is only neutral from their reference point.

Seriously, if you don't really know what AI is then you should read it.

Suppose I should make some lunch.

I'm just not hungry right now, but I bet I don't lose any weight. :-p

Thursday, 21 February 2019

Lurgy is back with a vengeance.

My brain isn't quite right, and I read the title of Chris's Hilary Mantel book as bring up the boobies.

Now that's a pleasant thought for a sicknote Thursday.

Saturday, 16 February 2019

Spring is almost here.

The snowdrops have peaked round here and the wood pigeons are sending out invites to make more pigeons.

Thursday, 14 February 2019

You know you have a cold when.....

You can't remember whether you need 8.5 grams or 85 grams of NaCl for a litre of physiological saline - and you don't seem to care.

Meh, as the kids used to say. So much for the benefits of a week in the sun. 🙁

Saturday, 9 February 2019

The computer cooling system is whistling away merrily.

Lightroom is building previews from the pictures of Fuerteventura, where we spent the week as Chris's birthday present. The island is interesting, sunshine good, but 15'C with a strong breeze when the sun has gone down *feels* distinctly chilly.

Monday, 4 February 2019

Spanish doesn't always translate well.

I've just seen a lorry with on the side. 😲

Sunday, 3 February 2019

My phone made a notification chime.

Chris asked "was that you?" to which I replied "pardon me for tinkling in public".

Somehow that was funnier spoken out loud. 😛

Friday, 1 February 2019

When you don't feel at home when 'at home'. (former draft)

Or am I "getting old"?

For those who don't know, the group of churches we're connected to has regular 'celebrations' where everyone from across Oxfordshire gets together for communal worship and teaching. They're a slightly mixed blessing, in that it's a major effort to get into Oxford (though less so now than when we all met in the cinema in George st.) since it would mean using the park & ride because of council restrictions about vehicular access. When all the churches across the area came together there could be more than a thousand bodies squeezed into the auditorium.

That was back in the mid-late noughties.

Cue 6 year break due to our time at Heyford park - what has been a large, thriving, excited charismatic congregation seemed to have shrunk to be mostly middle aged or retired with a few exceptions and suddenly as a guitar player* I've gone from being a bit 'surplus to requirements' to often being in the band for these things - it's nice, but also feels like one is only wanted when there's no-one better available. A part of the reason for the change is that different groups of churches now meet together at different times instead of all at once, but it seems to reflect the fragmentation of the Salt & Light organisation in a wider sense - see previous posts here and here. Thinking back, I can see when the change started happening in the mid 2000s, several years before we got involved in Heyford Park, but the vague feeling of disquiet that I had then didn't mean anything.

I wonder, if we'd never left & returned, would it have been like the theory of frogs and heated water, so we'd never have noticed the difference?

The way we do church locally now doesn't feel like church either, and I'm finding it difficult to take seriously. Everything feels random, haphazard, a bit meaningless . Perhaps I've become fossilised and can't adapt to the changes and lack of pattern or systematic organisation?

Some of it is certainly me, and I definitely don't see faith, the bible or the people leading these things in the way I used to. Having seen the other side of church leadership, so many things that are done may happen from the best of intentions, but often they also seem pragmatic or simply someone's good ideas (and not always so good). A common problem for leaders seems to be seeing something done elsewhere and the leader thinking to themselves "THAT looks really good - let's try it at home" and of course it's at best a bit mediocre, because it may be good, but it was never intended for the new recipients. The 'hearing God' part of the process is often a little tricky because who hears an audible voice, sees angels or messages in 10ft high letters of fire that cannot be mistaken? I can see that I was guilty of doing that at Heyford Park, with a teaching series on Ephesians 5 ministries, but of course *to me* it looked really good & seemed right, while causing a certain amount of puzzlement & confusion. At least it wasn't outright damaging, like some of the things we've seen imported, driving away people who were otherwise committed and trying to work out how to live as part of a community.

So where does this leave me?

Still going through the motions (cue jokes about swimming and Southend pier) trying to be useful, make a positive contribution, not pull people down, serving a bit as ability allows. Someone I know who was looking for a church went along to a few meetings at an associated group, but didn't see the point: bible studies were just a series of questions with no teaching and little apparent guidance, meetings were disorganised. I keep doing this because the alternative seems less good, rather than because I'm convinced it brings life and builds faith. It's tempting to find another church, where I've no expectation or investment, one which is a bit more teachy and a bit less fluid. But I won't (for now).

* I realised that on Sunday I was the oldest person on stage by 17 years, and when I started doing that I was one of the young, dynamic guys - the drummer hadn't even been born when I first played in a celebration meeting.

Don't we love a night without sleep?

I know the warning signs: manic time putting data together for a report, getting home later than usual & then an evening full of activities which require significant concentration and attention detail, feeling fired up when I should have been lethargic.

And so to bed: body feels uncomfy and in my case fingertips are slightly itchy and very rough on the bed sheets. And the mind simply won't close down. Flight details, data from the report, gifts for someone at work, gifts for a birthday, ache in the hips, skin feeling cold, what arrangements for getting the car in for new tyres tomorrow, a need to sort out insurance, should I upgrade the camera and which one to get. The list goes on and on.

Here I am at work, unable to concentrate, head running one day ahead and wanting to get on with tomorrow when today has troubles that are neither of interest nor easy to fix.

Happy Friday. ;-)

Thursday, 31 January 2019

It shouldn't make us complacent, but.....

Interesting article about Finland's approach to homelessness on the BBC website.

It seems they have made dealing with homelessness a priority, in contrast to the UK which deals with it in 'a more traditional way'. The article also points out the number of rough sleepers in England has risen from 1768 in 2010 to 4751 in 2017.

In 1987 Helsinki had 18,000 homeless and now has 6,600.

Wednesday, 30 January 2019

You Canuk be serious.

No hidden meanings behind this - I hope my Canadian friends also find it amusing.

Who will take ownership?

Or how, when you think a job is being looked after, it's STILL your job to sort it out. 🙄 😡

Trust and modern life.

This is a post about online information for buying stuff.

Remember the 'good old days' of shops and businesses that sold stuff, making recommendations tp their customers?

I've just ordered a new set of tyres for my Mini: for those who care, Bridgestone Turanza T005s. I need something with decent grip, economy, comfort, not too much noise, good handling. Just like almost everyone does. 10 years ago I'd have rocked up at the local tyre place, asked what they recommended from the premium brands that wasn't too expensive and gone with that.

And been happy*.

Now I have to spend several hours online, reading roadtests, checking reviews, trying to guess who is telling the truth, who is still in honeymoon phase, who has an axe to grind and who is being paid by the manufacturer. To make matters more compliocated, aparently a tyre type is developed through the course of its lifespan, so older reviews may not even be meaningful.

While ignorance is not bliss, getting expert advice in an area about which one really knows little and has almost no chance of developing deep & meaningful knowledge is not foolish.

Holidays are the same. "We'd like to go to Greece, the mainland looks nice and this is what we can afford - what do you have?" Now I spend hours pawing through hotel features, location information (is it really by the beach or is the sea actually 200 vertical meters BELOW the accomodation?) reviews etc. Cars ditto. Cameras - well, that's a little more personal, but ditto. etc. etc.

The purpose of the internet is, apparently, for us to review things so that others can read our reviews and then make a different choice anyway.

And for a few key characters to make lots of money from us, but that's another story.

Is there a point to this post?

Not really, other than to observe that mankind will always spend just a little more than is in their budget, regardless of whether it's money, emotions, energy, time or anything else that's available to be traded away. And nobody wants to take responsibility or be sued.

*Generally this has been true with 2 notable exceptions.

1) I had a blow-out while driving through France, the spare I had was functional but of dubious legality and the 'good used' spare I picked in while in France was outrageously expensive and apparently made of teflon. For the journey home I actually found the bald spare to be safer than that replacement.

2) Toyo. Apparently a great brand just newly available in the UK, therefore very cost-effective according to the tyre supplier. While OK in the dry, at the first sign of rain they lost all adhesion, as I discovered by slithering into the back of another car at low speed, causing £600 worth of damage (mid 90s). The 'borderline' Michelins I'd replaced were MUCH better & safer, and within a few weeks I'd replaced the Toyos, even though we couldn't really afford it, because they were absolutely lethal - one brand I will never buy again if I can help it.

The new Bridgestones are good, more grip than the worn tyres, pleasantly supple on bumps, not too noisy. They roll a little less easily & fuel consumption is slightly up, but that's to be expected as a trade-off for grip.

Thursday, 24 January 2019

Never trust a man bearing discounts

Or other things, but that's a different story.

Booking airport parking this lunchtime, got a price going direct, then went with an email from people we've booked through in the past. They had a discount code etc, lots of possible 'off-site' parking, but the one that I really wanted by the terminal was more expensive than booking with the airport.

That's my business they've probably lost forever.

Wednesday, 23 January 2019

It's a little sad to see the slow death

Of the Windows phone. I KNOW it's going to be unsupported at the end of this year, but rather than keep it running right up to the end, it's getting the death of a thousand cuts (if there were ever that many apps available to be closed down). Contactless payment is the latest victim.

Once again, I'm staggered that Microsoft really have so little clue about running a business that makes and supports stuff. I sometimes see this kind of behaviour in other, smaller businesses, but somehow I expect an organisation that turns over multi-billions of dollars to be better guided, more consistent and thorough, less forgetful. If nothing else I expect managed, planned obsolescence, ESPECIALLY in public-facing areas where ordinary people are expected to buy stuff from them & become repeat customers. This seems to just be a trainwreck happening while I watch.

More than 6 months after jumping ship I miss my Lumia 640. It was slowish, didn't have much screen life (or a great screen) but I liked the interface - the Xiaomi is a much better phone, but Android isn't that great an OS to work with.

If you're a Chromium user that doesn't love adverts

Then you may soon have to think about another non-Chromium based browser. It seems that Google are about to block ad blockers except where the ad blockers are already on-board with Google, passing through ads they are paid to whitelist.

I don't use Chrome/Chromium. I'm not a fan of the interface and I feel that Google already knows far more about me through my phone, web searches and this blog. So if you're a Chrome/Chromium user or your browser of choice is built on the Chromium engine, IF this happens and you start getting served ads then let me encourage you to change your browser. Brave is recommended at present.

So we had snow last night

Winter in Britain is a bit pathetic these days, and despite the snow coming down in large lumps, it barely settled at all around here. The harshest winter experience I've known in the last 12 months was actually back in September between Caronport  Canmore and Wetaskiwin in Canada, as their autumn was getting going.

In some ways it's great that things aren't so cold, but we've seen a big change here, even compared with 15 years ago when the valley floor would sometimes flood & freeze hard enough to skate on.

Thursday, 17 January 2019

Life in draft format

It seems I have written more than 3600 blogposts in the >18 years of bleating here, and have 101 drafts that have never seen the light of day.

Often this is a result of being stimulated by something, starting to write and then running out of energy/enthusiasm/newsworthiness before completing the post. Sometimes I'll start and think "this really isn't somewhere I want to go right now" and just park the thing as a draft, if it doesn't get deleted. And sometimes I'll just click 'new post' and then not write anything at all, which then saves a blank page as a draft.

So I may try to review and complete some of those 'parked' posts over the coming weeks. I'm sure that will make for a roller-coaster ride of thrills and excitement. ;-)

Wednesday, 16 January 2019

How is she doing?

An older lady telephoned St. Joseph's Hospital. She timidly asked, "Is it possible to speak to someone who can tell me how a patient is doing?"
The operator said, "I'll be glad to help, dear. What's the name and room number of the patient?"
The old lady in her weak, tremulous voice said, Norma Findlay, Room 302."
The operator replied, "Let me put you on hold while I check with the nurse's station for that room."
After a few minutes, the operator returned to the phone and said,
"I have good news. Her nurse just told me that Norma is doing well. Her
blood pressure is fine; her blood work just came back normal and her
Physician, Dr. Cohen, has scheduled her to be discharged tomorrow."
The lady said, "Thank you. That's wonderful. I was so worried. God bless you for the good News."
The operator replied, "You're more than welcome. Is Norma your daughter?"
The lady said, "No, I'm Norma Findlay in Room 302. No one tells me anything."

Talking of old ladies, apparently Julie Andrews will no longer be endorsing Rimmel Vibrant Shades lipstick as she claims it breaks too easily and makes her breath smell

In a statement she said: “The super colour fragile lipstick gives me halitosis”

Descent of the machines

Not so much rise of the robots then? Sometimes common sense seems like a superpower.

Saturday, 12 January 2019

Apparently it's true

Two peoples separated by a common language.

We didn't have the "green thing".


Yesterday after shopping in our local supermarket I was in the queue at the Check Out and heard when the young cashier suggested to the much older lady that she should bring her own grocery bags, because plastic bags are not good for the environment.

The woman apologised to the young girl & then sighed, "We didn't have this 'green thing' back in my earlier days."

The young clerk responded, "That's our problem today. You folk didn't do enough to save our environment for future generations."

The older lady said "Ahh yes you're right -- our generation didn't have the "green thing" in its day." She sighed then continued:
Back then, we returned milk bottles, lemonade bottles & beer bottles to the shops. The shops then sent them back to the plant to be washed, sterilized & refilled, so those same bottles were used over & over, thus REALLY were recycled. But we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Grocery stores put our groceries into brown paper bags that we reused for numerous things. Most memorable was the use of brown paper bags as book covers for our school books. This was to ensure that public property (the books provided for our use by the school) were not defaced by our scribblings. Then we were able to personalise our books on their brown paper bag/covers. But, too bad we didn't do the "green thing" back then.

I remember how we walked up stairs because we didn't have an escalator in every store or office building; walked to the grocery store & didn't climb into a 300-horsepower machine every time we had to go 200 yards.

Back then we washed the baby's nappies because we didn't have the throw away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy-gobbling machine burning up 220 volts. Wind & solar power really did dry our clothes back in our days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. . . . But we didn't have the "green thing" back in our day.

Back then we had one radio, in the house -- not a TV in every room. And if anyone did own a TV, it had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of a football pitch. When cooking we blended & stirred by hand, we didn't have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send by post, we used layers of old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap. Back then, we didn't fire up an engine and burn gasoline just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didn't need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But we didn't have the "green thing" back then.

We drank from a tap or fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink instead of buying a new pen, & we replaced the razor blade in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didn't have the "green thing" back then. Back then, people took the bus & kids rode bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mothers into a 24-hour taxi service in the family's expensive car or van, which cost what a whole house did before the "green thing"..

Oh and we had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didn't need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 23,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest leisure park."

. . . . But it's so sad this current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didn't have the "green thing" back then?