Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Charity Sponsorship

This is a modern phenomenon which has never quite clicked with me. If, along with a few dozen, hundred, thousand, others you agree to hand over £x to some athlete prepared to run 6 marathons back to back or ride up Mount Kilimanjaro on a unicycle, and you are completely trusting that, if he succeeds a large proportion of this £x will be donated to a favourite charity, would you, in the event of him dropping dead or otherwise failing in his mission say. "Oh no, sorry you can't have the money"?

If your answer is "no", why not hand over the whole sum right at the start and save him the trouble. Tell him you want the whole sum to go straight to the charity and he should fund his adventure some other way.

Just a thought . . .

Thursday, 17 December 2009

The Lady of Shalott

I like Tennyson and I like Loreena McKennitt, so - no contest.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Friday, 27 November 2009

Another strange sign from across the pond . . . .

This was situated at a viewing point on the south rim of the Grand Canyon. No doubt they can be seen elsewhere in the States but this was the only one I noticed.

The First Amendment states: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

I don't know exactly what the The National Park Service is afraid of but notice how it differs from the kind of sign that might be expected in  National Parks in England. These would be full of prohibitions; no litter, no picnicking, no barbecues etc.

I like the font they've used. Very 'Art Deco'.

Thursday, 19 November 2009

Bear Advice

Monday, 2 November 2009

Last Lines 4

"I lingered round them under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth"

Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights
(This is a very well-known last line, but none the worse for that. In fact when one comes to search for notable, resonant or distinctive examples they are very hard to come by. I have looked, for example, through all Dickens's novels and short stories and only found the already well known one from 'Tale of Two Cities", which I shall no doubt be driven to use at some time. Any suggestions will be welcome.)

Saturday, 31 October 2009

Climate Change Denying

The deposits of fossil fuels that we have been cheerfully consuming over the last 100 years or so, and at an ever-increasing rate,  were gradually laid down over many hundreds of thousands of years. Although aspects of  the present theories and predictions of climate change may still be open to be dispute or questioning, what climate change deniers, like Simon Heffer of the Telegraph, first need to tell us is; why should releasing this carbon in such a small fraction of the time in which it was laid down not produce some observable effects on the climate? If they can't, the sensible thing for the time being is to assume the worst and do what we can to get off this carbon jaunt.

Monday, 26 October 2009


The modern zipper has been around since 1914 and its adoption really took off after WW2. It has been through numerous manifestations. Anyway, nearly 100 years is a good long time. Could some mechanical designer now invent a version, or expert tailor a seaming technique, in which the slider does NOT get caught and jammed in the edge of the garment material.


Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Monkeys using tools

"Life", narrated by David Attenborough, makes one
wonder not only at the amazing scenes of the
natural world recorded, but also at the extraordinary
skills shown by the cameramen.
I found this particular extract particularly moving.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Science is Real

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Last Lines 3

"His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead."

From "The Dead" in James Joyce's "Dubliners"

"Cardboard Self" by James Lake

An entrant in the "Outside In" competition and currently on display at the Pallant Gallery, Chichester. It is a powerful, highly detailed sculpture made of pieces of corrugated cardboard built up on an armature of carboard tubes of the kind we discard from rolls of wrapping paper.

It was not one of the 6 winners.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Last Lines 2

"We really are at the beginning of it all. The trick, of course, is to make sure we never find the end. And that, almost certainly, will require a lot more than lucky breaks"

from "A Short History of Nearly Everything" by Bill Bryson

Friday, 21 August 2009

UK Driving Licence Rant

At centre top the orange covered licence is from 1926. Issued by a County Council it is a simple single-fold piece of high-quality card. Opening it up the driver's details are on the LH side and the blank RH side is headed "Endorsements" in Old English lettering. Moving clockwise are licences from 1961, and 1974 both issued by County Councils. The dark red one from 1974 is quite nice little item in cloth covered-card with a reinforcing scrim on the hinge.

Some time after 1974 licencing was taken away from County Councils by the DVLC and economies started to appear. . . The fourth licence illustrated, from 1977, consisted of a single sheet of A4 paper in pink and green, cleverly formatted to be folded 4 times to fit into a neat plastic pouch (also supplied) and resulting in a durable item scarcely larger that the earlier versions.

The final licence on the right with which all present day drivers are familiar, needs no description. It is euphemistically named the Photocard Licence and every time I come across it I feel the need of a good rant. Don't get me wrong I have nothing against the idea of a plastic credit card-sized licence with one's photo on it. It is a very good idea, but apparently, at the time it was mooted, the technology was either too expensive or just not up to storing all the data needed on a plastic card.

At this stage one would have thought an obvious solution would have been to keep the earlier licence and added a decent sized photo to it, as in the manner of a passport. But no, instead of rethinking and backtracking (perhaps it had gone too far and too much money had been spent) they compromised by keeping the inadequate card with a vanishingly small photo and supplementing it with an A4 sheet of flimsy paper on which all remaining data could be stored (including endorsements), i.e. we were to be saddled with an inconvenient marriage of 15th & 20th century technologies giving us two items to look after instead of just one. When they were first issued, this problem of keeping them together was obviously forseen and a special plastic wallet was supplied, but this has long since been discontinued and the driving public has been left to shift for itself.. . .

To compound the annoyance the licence holder is sternly warned that neither part of the licence is valid by itself and both parts must be produced together whenever required.

Well thanks a lot! I hope the Government Minister responsible for pushing this dog's breakfast through feels ashamed of himself - but I doubt it.

Monday, 10 August 2009

An Arundel Tomb

This 14th. century tomb to Richard Fitzalan, 2nd Earl of Arundel and his wife Eleanor is in Chichester Cathedral, moved there from Lewes Priory after the dissolution of the monastries. Their poses are unique. Her right leg is crossed over her left so that she is slightly turned to her "Lord", her right hand is lightly clasped in his ungauntletted left. Their feet rest on their pet dogs. It has been made famous by a wonderful poem by Philip Larkin. Here is the last verse:-

Time has transfigured them into
Untruth. The stone fidelity
They hardly meant has come to be
Their final blazon, and to prove
Our almost-instinct almost true:
What will survive of us is love.

from "The Whitsun Weddings"

Tuesday, 4 August 2009

Last Lines 1

"But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs."

From Middlemarch (1871–72) by George Eliot.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Sun beds

The current fuss about the danger of using sunbeds, justified I'm sure, reminds me of an experience of my childhood. After a tonsillectomy at age 5 it was decided I was "run-down" and should have "sunray" treatment. Once a week I would attend the local childrens' hospital, don some dark-green goggles and sit naked with a lot of other youngsters in front of a large lamp. I don't remember it being as primitive as a carbon-arc lamp but I'm sure it was nowhere near as sophisticated in its emissions as a modern sun bed. The sessions lasted about 15 minutes and continued for a few weeks. I don't know if they did me any good but I'm sure they did less harm than subsequent teenage sunbathing on Brighton beach. Of course that was before the days of skin cancer scares.

How medical fashions change.

Thursday, 16 July 2009

Saturday, 11 July 2009

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Pale Blue Dot

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

twitter addiction

How addicted to Twitter are you?

Created by The Oatmeal

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Recorded for Posterity . . .

. . . a red public telephone box,

With a working telephone.
Minimum charge 40p. How quaint!

Monday, 29 June 2009

What I want in a vacuum cleaner is:-

a) disposable dust bags. I do not want to mess about emptying dust chambers. I want to be able to easily lift out a full dust bag and drop it in a bin. There, - job done.

b) for it to be as light as possible and with a comfortable lifting handle for ease of carrying it around the house.

c) for it to have a power lead that automatically rewinds for storage.

d) for it to have easily dismountable extension tubes and tools.

Let's get this straight. I could not care less if the suction drops off as the bag fills up. I don't measure the amount of dust in the carpet before and after cleaning and even if I could and did and was worried about it, I could just keep cleaning for a little longer or clean more often.

Does anyone agree with me here? And does it perhaps make you wonder if the success of a certain very popular make of cleaner that looks like a miniature chemical processing factory, and has made its inventor a small fortune, might not have been solely due to the public's gullibility?

Monday, 22 June 2009

Its not that I like North Korea but, . . .

. . . taking into account the number of times during the last 60 years that the USA and the UK have invaded smaller, weaker nations is it any wonder that a poor, isolated, paranoic country like North Korea wants to have its own nuclear deterrent?

It is always good to try and see the other side: