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.

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.



Feeling grumpy.