Thursday, 16 November 2017

A Philistine Thought

The Leonardo painting just sold for 400 million dollars struck me as distinctly uninspiring.

There is historical interest in something so old, but I found nothing to admire in the depiction of a depressed looking androgynous figure, apparently making a rude gesture towards the cosmos. Was Leonardo really a good painter?





Wednesday, 15 November 2017

A Strange Request

A recent email from my energy supplier bid me: "Simply peel off this sticker and place it on your boiler."

I'm thinking of treating that as a Zen koan on a par with "the sound of one hand clapping", and meditating on it in idle moments.

Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Expensive Water

Some of the butter substitutes, usually called 'spreads, are advertised as having reduced fat content. Scrutiny of the list of contents reveals that fat has been replaced by water, though the dilution of the important ingredients is not reflected in a conspicuously lower price.

I doubt whether use of such spreads reduces our fat intake because I find that they seem to soak into bread so that one uses more to cover the same surface area. They also make toast soggy!




Sunday, 22 October 2017

Counting a Cat's Laps

I mean the lapping operations of her tongue when Senior Cat drinks her cat milk.

I vaguely remember reading somewhere that cats take in about 0.05 ml of liquid with each flick of the tongue. That doesn't seem much so I've taken to watching Senior cat when she's drinking. Her lap speed is around three flicks per second so at 0.05 ml a time she might be imbibing about 9 ml per minute. I'm trying to decide if that is a plausible quantity. Look forward to further revelations!



Wednesday, 18 October 2017

A Change in my Reading Habits

When I moved into the present house, nearly three years ago, I unpacked whatever box of books was  most accessible, and put the contents on the nearest free bookshelf. I ended up with reference books, History, Biography, Cooking and Gardening downstairs, and Maths, Science, Philosophy and Literature in the second floor attic. Religion, Folk Lore, Psychology, Parapsychology, Economics and Politics, all of which I loosely classify as 'superstition' are in my bedroom.

That worked quite well, except that I found  myself making frequent ascents to the attic to find books on Maths and Science, but very rarely consulted the History and Biography books downstairs, so I realised my reading habits have changed, and sent an energetic few days swapping History for Maths and Science.

My journeys to the attic are now less frequent, and usually for Philosophy, hardly ever for literature. Thirty or forty years ago I often dipped into poetry books, but that form of expression now seems empty and pointless.

Without the house move it might have taken me longer to realise how my interests have changed over the years.



Tuesday, 17 October 2017

Distracted by 'Life'

I've just realised that we reached the second half of October without my posting anything here.

I've been distracted by a program for John Conway's game of Life.

Download a copy here, and share my distraction.




Wednesday, 27 September 2017

Perverse Illegibility

From time to time I'm irritated by notices that are hard to read because there's too little contrast between background colours and text colours. Notices in a supermarket printed in black ink on a dark red background are much harder to read than notices printed in black text on a white background using the same font. My toaster has a scale with numbers in black on a dark brown background.

Those who design such things must be extremely dim.




Thursday, 21 September 2017

Praising Stewed Fruit

In my childhood, puddings, if any, were either 'milk puddings' -  horrid slimy concoctions of milk and cereals - or if we were lucky stewed fruit. During the 1950s and 60s we became,more sophisticated, or so we thought, making quite elaborate puddings rich in eggs, cream and alcohol.

The threat of heart disease has made me wary of such delights, so I no longer eat puddings regularly.

A few days ago I stewed some apricots, and was surprised how well they turned out. Eaten raw apricots strike me as insipid and in texture floury rather than juicy, but once they were cooked I found them delicious, juicy with a rich flavour.




Wednesday, 20 September 2017

Enlivened by Lists

In the last few months I'd become very lazy, pottering about doing very little and dozing in the afternoons.

I decided to make a list of little jobs I needed to do, and to consult it whenever I found myself at a loose end.

Since then I've got quite a lot done, and very rarely doze in the afternoon.

Inactivity seems to be more tiring than activity.





Thursday, 7 September 2017

Damsons

I was delighted to find some damsons in the farmers' Market today. It's very unusual to see them for sale. I don't think I've ever seen any in a supermarket. I've made damson jam.




Thursday, 31 August 2017

Check Your Nectar Points

Several times 'bonus' points, although included in the total shown on the till receipt for the day I earned them, have not been included in future totals.

For instance my points total just after shopping on 21 August when I earned 150 bonus points, was 5896, but when I did some more shopping the following day my receipt showed 'Previous Points Balance' at only 5746, so the bonus of 150 had disappeared.

I advise all readers to keep receipts for a few days and to compare one day's closing balance with the following day's opening balance.




Wednesday, 30 August 2017

The Return of the Intrusive 'h'

It used to be common for people to preface with an additional 'h' some words that begin with a vowel. Dropping an 'h' was considered a sign of incomplete literacy, so people anxious to keep up appearances often added an extra 'h' here and there just be on the safe side.

I remember quiet amusement at school when our Latin teacher once referred to 'Annibal crossing the Halps'

For several decades the intrusive 'h' was rare. The only example I noticed was when a friend called his dog 'Aristotle'. When that was abbreviated to 'Ari' it soon changed to 'Hari', but that was not a typical case because of the understandable confusion with 'Harry'.

Just recently I've detected a minor revival of the intrusive 'h' in the name of the letter itself. In a television advertisement 'aitch' has been mispronounced as 'haitch'.

Is Annibal about to cross the Halps again?







Saturday, 26 August 2017

A Modest Achievement

As I age, I rejoice in increasingly minor triumphs.

Just now I'm feeling quite pleased with myself because I've sorted through and filed a heap of papers in my out tray. Some of them had been there for two years.

Well done Ancient Richard :-))




Friday, 25 August 2017

Microsoft's Counting

I have encountered many versions of MS Windows, and have heard tell of even more, so I decided to work out how many.

In the early days there was a simple numbering, Windows 1, 2 and 3.

Then it became more complicated. I recall the following:

(4) Windows 95
(5) Windows 98
(6) Windows 2000
(7) Windows Millennium Edition
(8) Windows XP
(9) Windows Vista
(10) Windows 7
(11) Windows 8
(12) Windows 10

Did I miss a Windows 9 ?





Thursday, 24 August 2017

Rejoicing in Email

I used to be an avid letter writer, but even then I tended to forget to post letters. Unless I posted them at the very  beginning of my excursion to the shops, or to work, I usually forgot all about them until I returned home to find them still in my shopping bag.

Emails are so much easier to send and to manage than letters, that I use the post only very rarely. When I do I find it even harder than before to remember to post. Even though I pass a post box on my way to the shops I often pass it by, lost in thought, with someone's birthday card still in my shopping bag.

Living without the Internet would be horrid.




Monday, 21 August 2017

Perilous Pomegranates.

In my youth it was quite an adventure to eat a pomegranate, easing out the seeds one by one, so I was quite disappointed to see packets of pomegranate seeds for a sale in a supermarket.

Persephone was condemned to spend four month of every year in the underworld because she unwisely ate four pomegranate seeds during an involuntary visit there. Had she been offered a packet of seeds already extracted, she might have eaten enough to condemn her to permanent residence in the nether regions, condemning the world to perpetual Winter, so we muth be grateful she did not have access to a supermarket.





Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Versatile Vets

We aren't sure of her precise age because she was adopted from neighbours who no longer wanted her, but we think Senior Cat is about 23 years old.

She's quite a happy creature, but from time to time needs some medical attention.

Whatever the problem the vet sees her within about 24 hours, and sorts it out. Thromboses are dispersed, fluttering heart brought under control, hyperactive thyroid restrained, sprains soothed, bad teeth removed, and overlong claws trimmed.

Compare that with the treatment of humans. One has to wait a week or more for a doctor's appointment, that often leads to another appointment with a specialist. It seems rare for a doctor to deal with a problem on the spot.

Furthermore doctors deal with only one species of animal, while vets deal with any living creature except for the members of just one species.

Just add a few months more to a vet's training so vets could treat humans too, and we could dispense with not only doctors, but with dentists and chiropodists too.



Thursday, 20 July 2017

A Challenge for Synthetic Phonics

Reading about functions of a complex variable reminded me of hyperbolic functions, and I wondered what advocates of Synthetic Phonics would make of 'sinh' and 'tanh' .

Non mathematical readers should note that the words are pronounced 'shine' and 'than', the latter with the 'th' unvoiced




Wednesday, 19 July 2017

The Prime Minister's Past

I've already blogged about the fining of the Home Office. Now there are reports of horrid goings on in overcrowded prisons.

Prisons would not be so much overcrowded had not a former Home Secretary pressed for longer prison sentences, and resisted proposals to reduce the numbers sentenced to imprisonment by de-criminalising the possession of drugs.

The former Home Secretary in question is the present Prime Minister!



Sunday, 16 July 2017

Punishing the Home Office

The Home Office has been fined £366,900 for breaching the government's senior salary pay cap.
What impact will that fine have on the Home Office?

Will the HO turn its heating down to save fuel, use cheaper toilet paper in its loos, or go to the market to buy bargain packs of broken biscuits to serve to visitors ?
 
 
 

Friday, 30 June 2017

Pots of Gold

Yesterday I joined a party of U3A members visiting The Crown Derby pottery factory, in Derby as you may have guessed.

I discovered quite a lot during our tour of the factory. Only a quarter of the china is made up of clay, half is bone ash and the remainder some sort of powdered mineral.

Designs are put on as transfers, moistened with water and eased into place by hand.  Pots go into the kiln five times, twice to bake colours in place.

The last and shortest baking is to fix the gold - almost all Crown Derby wares are gilded somewhere or other. The annual consumption of 16 kg of gold costs them about 2 million pounds, a figure reflected in the prices of goods in the shop.



Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Fractions in the Media

On Radio 4 this morning someone said that the SNP lost 'almost a third' of its seats in the recent general Election.

In 2015 the SNP won 56 seats. In 2017 they lost 21 seats.

One third of 56 = 18 2/3   21>18 2/3





Tuesday, 20 June 2017

A Metricated Man

I've just checked today's weather  forecast, on a site that initially gave temperatures in Fahrenheit. I found they didn't convey much to me, and had to change to Celsius to achieve full comprehension.

At one time I could cope with either scale, but no longer!



Tuesday, 13 June 2017

Web Site updated

My web site now has recent pictures of the front of the house (follow the link on the index page) and corrected versions of my philosophy notes.



Thursday, 8 June 2017

Fifteen General Elections

This morning I voted in a General Election for the fifteenth time. I've never missed one since I was old enough to vote, twenty-one in  my youth.

Examination of the various opinion polls has proved an interesting statistical exercise. Assuming the variations between the recent polls are just statistical variations, I think the result of this election will be much like that of the last one, except that the Scottish Nationalists will lose a few seats to the Conservatives and to Labour.





Wednesday, 24 May 2017

Windows Perversity

I recently noticed that my wireless router was using the default password set by the manufacturer, so I changed it, and then had to log the computers on with the new password.

My Windows 10 machines was the perfect gentleman, noting that something had changed and prompting me to enter the new password. My Windows 8 Laptop was less obliging, presenting no password prompt and just saying it couldn't connect. After fiddling about for a while I tried the right mouse button in desperation, and got a little box with a place to enter the password. Thereafter all was well. So there is at least one respect in which W10 is superior to W8.





Tuesday, 23 May 2017

Elusive Manifestos

I can't find election manifestos for any of the parties. I've asked in vain at the local branches of both Smiths and Waterstones, the only places in Market Harborough here likely to sell them. Perhaps one is supposed to read them online.

I'll try in Leicester next time |I'm there.



Monday, 22 May 2017

A Fruitful Meander

On today's visit to Sainsbury's, instead of going straight to the places where I hoped to find the items on my shopping list, I strolled along every aisle in the shop to see what was there. I spotted various things in surprising places, but the great find was redcurrant jelly. I blogged about redcurrant jelly before after searching for it in vain among the jams and preserves, but today I found it, among pastas herbs and spices.

I sometimes meander around the house too, looking in every cupboard and drawer to remind myself what's there. I may do that again soon. It can be quite a revelation.



Tuesday, 16 May 2017

A Significant Sum

The Labour Party proposes to increase income tax for those with annual incomes exceeding £80 000.

Wondering why they chose that sum, it eventually occurred to me that £80 000 is just a few thousand pounds higher than the salary of a Member of Parliament.



Saturday, 13 May 2017

Vulnerable Computers

Numerous computers have succumbed to an attack that exploited a vulnerability in their aged operating systems.

Apparently the vulnerability had for several years been known to American Security people who had joyfully exploited it to spy on people's data, until hackers stole the secret from Government computers. Microsoft responded by releasing a 'patch' in March, but those in change of the National Health Service computer systems still hadn't got round to applying that patch in mid May, when a virus struck.

From time to time Government agencies demand that computer security systems should have a built in weakness, often called a 'back door', to allow them access. If Governments can't keep such back doors secret malicious folk will be able to use them too.



Wednesday, 26 April 2017

Reassured

When shopping today I remembered to buy something I hadn't put on my shopping list, evidence that my ancient brain still functions !!



Thursday, 20 April 2017

Too Late

This general election comes too late. It should have preceded the decision to leave the EU not followed it.

Leaving the EU is a complicated procedure with far reaching consequences that are hard to foresee. The decision to leave should only have been made, if at all, as part of a detailed plan of how to go about it, set out by people prepared to implement it.

The only sensible way to go about that would have been for a party with clear and detailed plans for leaving to present those plans to the electorate and win a general Election on the basis of that policy.

The present government has given notice to leave the EU without appearing to have any clear idea of how to go about it, and now seeks reelection in the hope of entrenching itself in power before its incompetence becomes obvious to all.

I recommend a vote for the Liberal Democrats.




Tuesday, 11 April 2017

What is a Whistle-blower?

Whistle-blower usually refers to people who expose some misconduct in some organization of which they are a member. It is a matter of concern when such a person is made to suffer for their actions.

In a recent case the term has been used differently. The board of Barclays Bank received anonymous letters alleging misconduct by an employee. After an investigation failed to substantiate the accusations the CEO tried to find out who had made the accusations, and has been accused of breaking rules made to protect whistle-blowers.

Making false accusations is quite different from exposing misconduct. It seems to me reasonable to find out who made the accusations, so that the person wrongly accused may seek redress.



Thursday, 30 March 2017

Sad

Our leaving the EU makes me very sad.  Despite all it's faults the EU broke down many of the barriers between countries. I liked the feeling of belonging to something larger than Britain.

Now I feel like an alien in a foreign land, surrounded by narrow minded bigots.




Sunday, 26 March 2017

Grammar Schools

I have mixed feelings about the government's proposal to encourage the creation of new grammar schools

I think I benefited immensely from attending a Grammar School but there were quite a few boys there who gained little from the opportunity.

When I taught in a College of Further Education, I came across a fair number of good students who came to us from Secondary Modern schools.

I have doubts about the selection procedure. That seemed to be directed at selecting what were thought of as the cleverest children, with heavy reliance on intelligence tests. Being at least moderately clever is useful for anyone pursuing the sort of academic education grammar schools provide, but it is also important to be studious, attentive and conscientious. I can't think of an easy way to take such factors into account, but I think we need to think carefully before setting up a lot of new schools. The experience of Independent schools could be helpful, many of them use entrance tests without provoking great controversy.

We should also consider how much any schools are needed, now that so much information is available through the Internet. Younger children need supervision, and all pupils will need access to labs and workshops, but herding all under 16's together 5 days per week may no longer be necessary. Hard thought is needed and it would be a mistake to try to recreate the state of affairs that prevailed 50 years ago without considering alternatives.



Thursday, 23 March 2017

Artificial Dilapidation

I recently noticed a young lady wearing jeans with a hole much larger than one expects to see, even in the most dilapidated of jeans.

Then I noticed a few strands of fibre criss-crossing the hole and realised that the hole was kept in shape by some sort of netting. I suspect that those jeans were manufactured with a hole.

I wonder if clothes with holes cost more than intact clothes ?



Sunday, 19 March 2017

Something for Nothing

A retailer sent me a 'points' voucher for something I wanted to buy anyway, but I looked for it in vain.

When I went to the 'customer service' desk to tell my sad tale, the lady in charge credited me with the points anyway. So vouchers for something that isn't there may still be valuable. In this case the points are worth 40p



Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Well Hung Bananas

I recently received an unusual present, a banana stand.

It looks like a miniature gallows, with the noose replaced by a hook, from which one is bidden to hang a bunch of bananas. It is supposed to stop the bananas trurning to brown sludge as quickly as they usually do.

A little to my surprise, it seems to work.

My only guess at a possible mechanism, is that the arrangement allows the dispersal of ethylene.

Ethylene is alleged to be emitted by ripening fruit, and to speed up ripening, and bananas are regarded as a potent source of the gas. Adding a ripe banana is often recommended as a way of getting unripe tomatoes to ripen.

Ethylene (C2H4) has molecular weight 28, the same as nitrogen and a little lower than oxygen, so it should have a density close to that of air, suggesting that it would tend to hang around in an enclosed space, but draughts in the air should disperse the ethylene emitted by a hanging banana. However, that is just my speculation.




Sunday, 26 February 2017

Redcurrant Jelly

I recently used up the last of my homemade redcurrant jelly, and I see no prospect of making any more.

In the previous house I grew my own fruit, but if shops sell redcurrants at all, they do so only in minute quantities at extremely high prices. I should need about 30 100 gram punnets costing more than a pound each to make a reasonable batch of jelly. As making jelly is the only use for redcurrants, I don't see the point in selling them in such small quantities.

I therefore bought some redcurrant jelly. It was most disappointing. It was extremely sweet, lacked the sharpness I expert from redcurrant jelly, and the texture suggested that the setting agent was gelatin, not pectin.

I miss my old fruit garden.



Friday, 24 February 2017

A neglected Garment

Many years ago, most likely in the late 1970's, I decided to get a new overcoat capable of keeping me warm in the coldest weather. At the time it was fashionable for overcoats to be just rather large jackets, reaching down no further than the lower boundary of the buttocks, and leaving legs exposed to the freezing blasts of the Winter winds. So I went to a shop offering made to measure overcoats. Having extracted an assurance that the cost would be the same however long the coat, I specified that it should reach well below my knees.

Staff in the shop were so shocked that they made me sign the order form to signify my consent to the length.

Thus was born my Harris Tweed overcoat.

I used to wear it for about six weeks each year, in the very cold spells we used to have in January and early February, when the insulation it provided more than compensated its weight.

I can't remember when I last wore it, but I sure It must be more than four years ago, and probably a lot longer.

So far this Winter I've encountered only two brief flurries of snow, and in both cases the snow melted within an hour or two of falling, and there has been no frost severe enough to last all through the day. The temperature has always been above freezing by noon.

I firmly believe in climate change !!!





Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Living Dangerously in my Youth

I've just read the warnings on a packet of aspirin tablets. Apparently aspirin should not be  taken by anyone under the age of 16.

In my schooldays anyone indisposed was sent to the school secretary, who gave them an aspirin. No matter what the ailment, it was always an aspirin !  How did we survive!






Saturday, 11 February 2017

The Telephone Directory

A new Telephone Directory arrived today, and I wonderd how long it is since I used one.

I'm fairly sure I haven't looked up any  number in a directory since I moved house rather more than two years ago, and suspect I didn't use one for several years before that. Who, if anyone, still uses directories ?



Thursday, 2 February 2017

An Innumerate Minister

Christ Grayling, interviewed on BBC Radio 4 this morning, responded to concerns about the possible extension of Heathrow Airport by saying that there has been a quantum change in the noisiness of planes.

As a quantum is the smallest change physically possible, that doesn't reassure me at all.

It often happens that dim people hear clever people using some word and think they can make themselves look clever by using it too, and do so without first finding out what the word in question means. It worries me when such people somehow get into the Cabinet.







Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Inspired by Atomic Models

Media chatter about sugars got me thinking about their structures, so I used some atomic models I bought a few years ago, and made models of the glucose and fructose molecules. The differences between them and their relations to other sugars were suddenly crystal clear.

Students of chemistry should be issued with such models as a matter of course. Perhaps they are now. I wonder why we weren't.



Sunday, 29 January 2017

Economical Word Processor

Editing a document using Libre Office, I noticed that it contained about 20 000 words, and amounted to about 119 000 characters.

Checking the file I noticed it occupied only 64K on the disk, suggesting commendable economy. MS Works, the word processor I used to use, needed about 160K to store an earlier and  slightly shorter version of the same document.



Monday, 23 January 2017

Counting My Books

I have about 1250 books. The number isn't precise, because I wasn't sure what counted as a book. I decided not to count maps, guides to stately homes and museums, back number of magazine, and what I call 'pamphlets', some of which differ from books mainly by being very thin.

I decided to count after hearing a news item estimating the mean number of books per household at around 150. I wonder where that survey drew the line between books and pamphlets

Before moving house I had even more books, but carried out a purge before moving, and another after moving. I guess that I used to have 1500 or more.




Thursday, 19 January 2017

Counting to 3.6 billion

It was recently claimed that eight rich men own more than the 3.6 billion poorest people. I wonder how the 3.6 billion was obtained.

In many societies most property is held in the name of the male head of the household. Even in some quite prosperous households wives and children are not recorded as having any property.

The 3.6 billion may thus include many family members of people who are quite prosperous.





Thursday, 5 January 2017

Filenames upset my Browser


I put on a web page a set of photographs with names  base_name001T.jpg...to base_name015T.jpg

The browser (Google Chrome) gave a perfect rendering of the page when it was in my computer, but when I put it on my website the files base_name009T.jpg and base_name011T.jpg  were not found, and base_name010T.jpg was converted to base_name001T.jpg. There was no problem with the other files.

I doubt if there was an error in copying the files to the site as I use a batch file to load all the jpg files in the relevant directory. Nevertheless I checked that the errant files were on the site and in the correct place, and reloaded them several times with no effect.

When I entered directorypath/base_name010T.jpg into the navigation bar of my browser, the file name was altered to base_name001T.jpg and that file then displayed.

Eventually I renamed the problem files base_nameZ09T.jpg,
 base_nameZ10T.jpg, base_nameZ11T.jpg, and then all was well. I wonder what happened ? Why just those filenames, and not the others?




Tuesday, 3 January 2017

Pictures of the Underworld on my web site

I've just added some pictures of the underground chamber revealed when we had some work done on the house earlier this year. this is a link to the relevant page



Monday, 2 January 2017

After idling for months I have at last started to sort out my website. I've just added a few pictures of the house. I hope they will just be the first of many this is a link