That Was A Week, That Was

Absolutely bloody shattered. That’s how I ended this week. Last night, Friday, I ate food and then tried to watch a film. Fell asleep at 2000 on the sofa and then went to bed at 2230 when I woke up. I’ve not even really had the hardest of jobs in the organisation. There are others who are running the testing centre and track and trace and all that and all I have to do is our core business of teaching. Knackering. But also nice to be able to see faces again. Kinda.

I bought a new cafetiere and it came with a coffee grinder so I’ve been grinding coffee beans and testing that type of coffee out. It’s fun, I guess, but not sure if it’s worth it. Especially as I bastardise my coffee with sugar and milk. I then decided to get a filter coffee machine instead of a new kettle. My kettle looks worn out but a bit of descaling has meant it still works fine so I can live with it for a while longer. The coffee machine has a timer and so I can set everything ready in the evening and come down to fresh coffee when I wake up every work day. I will say that having everything done when I walk through the kitchen is a sheer delight.

My home boiler, hot water and heating, has issues and I can’t let the heating work automatically. This has been like this for two months now. I pay money for a boiler fixing service and my initial appointment was to be about four weeks after I initially called them, and while that seemed a long time to me I had to remind myself this is Covid and my system still works to an extent. Then they cancelled that appointment because – reasons and pushed it back to mid March. Now the service company have cancelled that and pushed it to beginning of April. I will have been waiting approximately four months for something to be fixed with a house that is mostly cold. This isn’t the sort of service I pay for. Screw them.

I got a new mobile phone a while back and while it’s the same brand as I normally get it still feels new. Which is nice. Normally I get a new phone, you transfer all your data and you look at it and go “Oh, works the same then” which is exactly what you expect when devices run the same OS. This one feels and looks different somehow and that’s even after one month of owning it! Oh, I also upgraded my sim only contract and now I have 160GB of data a month. I use around 5GB. So, I’m going to have to see if I can max this out. Time to start downloading films and streaming lots of video. There was only one time in my past when I think I went over my data allowance and that was at Linton when I was trying to stream an F1 race.

I also had a bad headache this week and woke at 0200 in pain and not able to get back to sleep. I had to get up and take pills in the night, which I can’t remember ever having to do in the past. Fortunately the pain had gone by the morning and I was able to head in to work. But trying to sleep and having thoughts running through about how to organise work and cadets when you aren’t going to be there is not nice. I think I need to change one of my life rules. If I think I might take some tablets then I should take them there and then. Don’t wait to see if it gets better. Just get those drugs into my system. I have a similar successful rule about work. If I think I’m not sure I can make it to work because I feel ill then that is when you don’t go in to work. That particular rule doesn’t always work because there are other social pressures when working in my sector.

Minecraft Bedrock ran an update which also included a server update so it was a nice distraction to put the updated server on my PC. It’s not a hard job but there’s a list of things that need to be done correctly to make sure everything works properly. Which it does and so I got a nice sense of satisfaction from that. I did have a small panic when the ray tracing didn’t seem to work on the PC but it did after a short wait and so thankfully I don’t have to investigate why. I quite enjoy fixing PC things but sometimes the time involved can be quite high. Things are generally fixed either within fifteen minutes or three hours.

I hate selling stuff on eBay. I recently went through a cupboard and found some old tech items and thought I would either throw them away or sell them. So, I decided to sell them on eBay. I wasn’t sure how much I’d get but it seemed more responsible than just chucking them out. Once tech items sell I’m always worried they decided to stop working in transit and arrive broken. I would never knowingly sell something that doesn’t work [unless I labelled that clearly]. So, once things are posted I have a week of background stress until I get my positive feedback. One item I sold I accidentally labelled it as the wrong model and so that is coming back to me which is perfectly fair because that’s my mistake. I’m happy to correct that. The other item the buyer wanted to return because “it didn’t work”. Now, he had already messaged me asking for the software download and how to get the item working. This indicated to me that he didn’t understand the tech side of things. Then he wanted to return it saying it didn’t work. I messaged him asking if he had followed a detailed list of steps to get it working on his system and I haven’t heard back at all. I suspect he was hoping it was plug and play and I also suspect he was connecting it directly to his PC and not to his router. There are many things it could be and I’m not his personal tech support. So his request to return was denied.

Time to get out for a run and burn off the calories of my take-out last night.

Week Four – Completed

So, I survived another week, but around 7000 people didn’t. It’s saddening to see these numbers and to think it all could have been avoided. “But surely those in charge are finding it tough to make the right decisions, what else could they have done?” I hear you cry. They could have followed other countries who were already successfully combatting this pandemic. This article explains how it’s done well. At least BJ will have killed as many people as Tony Blair and his illegal war, just BJs people were all white and we don’t like that – or I bet we don’t care as I am willing to put money on the Tories winning the next general election.

I had a moan on Twitter about a news headline on the BBC. I read a headline and then I read the article and apparently teachers aren’t any more likely to die of Covid than the general population. I wonder if that’s because we are a mix of people and similar to the general population? Also, the article says absolutely nothing about the rates of transmission and covid positive cases. Just deaths. Not about increased risk of death because of increased cases.

The worry for me is that the BBC seem to be putting forward an agenda based on trying to keep their funding because most other media is anti-BBC because it’s funded centrally and they see the BBC as their competition. Also, the government hate the BBC News because tories are pro-business [really that should be pro-making money for themselves and their mates but not pro looking-after-people] and they see the BBC as a left leaning organisation that stops fair competition in this country. That’s the same reason they don’t like teachers. They think we are left leaning. I think they don’t understand people who would want to help and care for others and not just be out for themselves. Also, it turns out that a secondary effect of teachers is that we look after your children and tolerate their selfishness and try to help them understand the world. This means you parents don’t have to worry about doing all the things you should [how many times do you see that schools should teach about – sex, religion, caring for each other, how government works, how to cook, how to clean, how to look after money] and you can go out and work and grow the wealth of the richer strata of society.

This week British Gas phoned me to say that my boiler technician appointment was going to be moved because of covid restrictions. I guess that’s reasonable but it’s moved from 3 Feb to 31 March. I just hope my boiler doesn’t fail completely in that time. I think it’s the pressure vessel. I also wonder if I’ll need a new boiler due to lack of spare parts. This boiler was installed in 2004 so I’m not surprised it’s starting to fail. And if I need a new boiler that’ll get me thinking about how I could try to go greener rather than burning fossil fuels right in my kitchen. It’s something I need to look into.

I’ve been looking into my phone habits this week, trying to start to block out things that I know do not aid my mental health. I have removed BBC News from my main tab in my browser. I have deleted the Guardian app. I have removed the Apple News App. I am going to try and make sure I don’t look at the news too much. Nothing really changes and I’m no longer able to shrug off the things I read. So it has to go. There are other things I would do when I am not great mentally but because of Covid I am unable to do those. I would go to the cinema a lot. While I’m waiting for a film to start I read books on my phone because I don’t care for adverts or trailers. These are books about aviation and I’m currently reading one about the F-16XL which was free from NASA. I haven’t read any of it since my last trip to the cinema which was [checks this website] in October 2020. I should probably start seeking out films to watch at home but I am making do, at the moment, with NFL and The Expanse.

To help with distractions from political news and the pandemic I have subscribed to Scientific American again. I even paid extra so I could get the print versions of the magazine. I find that the technically dense articles really help distract me from the horror of the real world, even though the science covers all the real world better than any other form of news. I don’t have the first print edition yet but I do have electronic access and so I am reading articles on there. I also read Private Eye and I won’t cancel my subscription but I have found the last few editions just too depressing to read – they explain the corruption and cronyism better than all the other newspapers combined. I’ve just finished an article on Sci Am about social media and how we seek out views that support our ideas etc. The article was called “The Attention Economy” and it backed up many conclusions I had been coming to over the last few months.

In a short while I’ve got to look into car insurance as mine is due soon. II haven’t changed supplier recently and so I guess I’ll be able to save £100 by shopping around. I’ll go have a look. I need to remember that I want to make sure Europe is covered as I’m hoping to get to Germany this year even if there’s no music available to see.

North Downs Panorama
North Downs Panorama

Here’s a view of the North Downs over a pond that shouldn’t exist. The water is a flooded field and spends about a month underwater each year. The road to the left floods too and ironically this is right next to a water works plant.

Phishing Text
Phishing Text

I wouldn’t have clicked on the link anyway but I did enjoy sending this text.

Who Would Design Such A Thing?

As far as I can tell, so almost forever, the save icon for Windows applications has been on the left of the screen. That’s where it goes. That’s where everyone looks for the save icon. A minor issue is that the save icon is an image of a floppy disk which no one has used in over twenty years. Well, you would think that someone at Microsoft would be in charge of consistency but it appears not because their screen clipping tool has the save icon at the top right. I just want to know why.

Because - Consistency
Because – Consistency

Naming Conventions

If you browse this site regularly you may have noticed that the title of the communication doesn’t immediately have a lot to do with the content of that communication. It does, it’s just not obvious.

When I review a film on this site then the title of that communication is the name of that film such as this review of Now You See Me from 2013. There is a page somewhere in the old sites that has reviews of films going back to 2004. There might be stuff mentioned about films in this page which has stuff going back to 2004, I can’t be bothered to read it all.

Some of the cadet camp communications follow a naming convention of using the RAF TLA for the base where I stayed like this one from my first summer camp as a commissioned officer. I used the term BZN for the name of the RAF Station. That way I know I can find the other camps by searching although I think the Cyprus camp was named Via Platres. This was a reference to the name of the village we drove through everyday to get anywhere from Troodos base high in the mountains.

The Lego communications follow the format of Lego XX – Kit Number. The XX stands for the number of the communication of that type. It turns out there have been sixty six communications about the building of Lego sets. The last one is here. I think quite a few cover my building of the bucket wheel extractor a few years ago.

All my album reviews are named Album – Band. This makes a certain amount of sense and along with the movies is probably the only group of communications that is easy to find. Although as I write this I am only up to the P section of the albums by name. I chose to write these alphabetically by album name because I wouldn’t then be writing reviews for twenty AC/Dc albums on the trot. It mixes things up a bit.

The main problem with me trying to be clever about the naming of each communication is that I forget what they were called and end up searching my own website to find what I wrote or thought about a particular thing. This isn’t easy as sometimes I haven’t used the words that I thought I did when writing about that topic. In one communication I reference the Olive Harvest but that doesn’t mean anything unless you have the key to the code.

I’ve basically created a mess with these communications and I love it. It makes things harder to find. I end up seeing stuff I’d forgotten about. It is also slightly click-baity for which I apologise. You see I’ve written something and it won’t be obvious what it is unless it’s in those categories mentioned earlier, I bet you can’t wait to find out what madness lies within.

Not Fitting In

I guess this is a follow up to my choices communication last week. I finished that by saying that I expect to wake up sad at what this country is. I do believe it’s worse than that. I went to bed last Thursday, the day of the General Election, not really thinking about what the next day could bring but hoping for change. When I woke up I looked:

I am not pro-Labour. But I had hoped they would win. Because I care about people and do not want the conservatives leading this country for the next five years. I am not a member of the Labour party, I am a member of the Green party. The Green party has policies that closely match my own ideas about governance and the future of this planet. Next closest would be either the Lib Dems or Labour. The Lib Dems are damaged after being in a coalition with the tories and also electing a religious nut as their leader.

I do think that I feel depressed at what I see is a selfish choice by the country. I do not trust Boris, I have never liked the tories. I have never agreed with what they have done. I didn’t particularly agree with Blair and New Labour but at least they spent money and then saved the economic place of this country. The tories then forced austerity onto this country and the life expectancy shows that. The poor are going to suffer because people are selfish.

I do not feel as though I am part of this country. I do not stand with the beliefs that have arisen from this election. This country has in reality, it turns out, always been a bit racists and a very entrenched in its views of class and society. The country seems to believe that poor people are poor because they deserve it or did something wrong. That isn’t the case.

It’s quite telling that the first thing I did Friday morning was think about where in the world I can live, somewhere I feel my views are shared by those around me. Somewhere tolerant. Somewhere I could feel at home. I’ve never really felt comfortable with the retrospective jingoistic bullshit that this country falls for all the time. God, what a country of assholes.

It Was Better Than That

The other night the colours on display in the sky stopped me in my tracks and I just stared. The red was so deep and rich, contrasted with the black of the approaching night. I tried to take a photograph that would capture the hues but I don’t think it really does the sunset justice. Photographing atmospheric events is tricky and probably requires a deep investment in time and getting the DSLR out. I took this photograph with my iPhone and while the camera is good it’s not great. Also, I don’t do much in post. I like the shot to work. The things I will do are crop and maybe white balance adjustment. I rarely use filters as they seem to be a little “cheat”.

Sunset Colours
Sunset Colours

This view is in stark contrast to the view this morning through the window of . . . . nothing. There is fog out there and my normal uninterrupted view of around ten kilometres of countryside is reduced to 0.05km.

Over-Acting Joystick

Do you ever watch action movies and wonder where reality ends for them? It’s always the little things for me. Those small aspects of controlling mechanical objects that films like to exaggerate and mess up. But, it’s not just film, I see this sort of thing in kids cartoons and other media.

Last night I was watching a submarine based film. It was terrible and had loads of parts to it that I hated. But in it they had a small rescue sub piloted by two submariners. While driving this craft along they, on more than one occasion, had to turn “harder” and then ever “harder”. So, what did they do? They pulled harder on the joystick and made grimacing faces to show that this took more effort than normal to turn this tight. What shit.

Here’s some explanation. When we [humans] first made mechanical devices we had rigid linkages to the control systems and if it was going to take more effort to move the control system then we would have to put in more effort to our hand sized device be that a control column, wheel, or pedals. There used to be a direct mechanical connection from one end of the system to the other. This is fine for objects requiring little force to move control systems as humans can provide that force for a limited time.

Then, over time, our mechanical devices became larger and required more force input to move the control systems. Engineers and designers soon realised that the pilot/driver/controller couldn’t provide all the force [push or pull] required to move the control surface and so they needed help. Also, if large effort was required over a long period of time the pilot would become physically tired very quickly. So, powered control systems were invented.

When a pilot/driver/controller moves the control stick/wheel/pedals they actuate a motor which helps to turn the control surface or device. Now, it starts to get a little complicated. There is required a certain level of feedback force to the pilot through the control column so that they can “feel” what is going on with the aircraft/sub/car etc. This amount of feedback is controlled very carefully to ensure that the pilot can understand what’s happening to their craft while also allowing them to maintain a high level of work without becoming over-tired.

So, in the submarine movie they had the pilots obviously physically straining trying to turn this craft but that would not be the case in real life. Once the control column is moved as far as it will go there is nothing else you can do. It wouldn’t take that amount of effort to maneuver and you can’t turn a little tighter by grimacing. It’s bullshit.

This trope is similar to driving fast in a chase. It always seems the vehicles have another gear to change in to or the driver can put his foot down more. If you are being chased why aren’t you going as fast as possible from the very start. It’s lazy filmmaking because they could do other things to make the action interesting. The producers just settle for the easy.

So, as a rough guide to powered control systems and feedback devices I would suggest that anything before 1950 would require effort to move a control surface. That is a very broad brush. Many bombers had powered control systems and so it’s not the absolute guide but it does set a rough idea of how to spot the crap in a film.

What Value – Life?

Where this communication ends up I don’t know. It’s a theme I’ve been thinking about for a while now and I’m not sure what my conclusions are. I think about this whenever I watch a film with an aircraft crash or if I visit the Survival Equipment chaps at an air force base although it doesn’t just apply to flying stuff. Let’s see what happens.

There have been two crashes of the Boeing 737 Max 8 aircraft where everyone on board was killed. Straight after the second airlines started to stop using the aircraft and then eventually the FAA and CAA decided to withdraw the airworthiness certificates of those aircraft. The underlying thinking here is that you can’t have an aircraft type which regularly crashes killing people. It is a requirement of the manufacturer to correct any faults in the aircraft type. Society has a lower limit to what it expects the death rate for flying to be, whether most participating in that society understand that or not. The regulators have stepped in. Another pressure is that the market would stop choosing the 737 Max and Boeing would die if they didn’t make the changes. Society and capitalistic market forces require the product to work well. Human life has a value and should be cherished.

I’m old enough to remember the Herald Of Free Enterprise ferry disaster. I can still remember my dad telling me about it when he picked me up from cadets that evening. I remember feeling sick. I’m not sure why this affected me more than an aircraft crash but it did, maybe because I’d never heard of a ferry disaster before. There were issues with the ship’s operation procedures and the resulting investigation made recommendations which improved the safety for ferries in this country and around the world. The ultimate thinking here was that human life has a value and we should do all we can to preserve it.

In 1986 the space shuttle Challenger [rather the Space Transport System] launched and then blew up about a minute into its flight. This killed all seven astronauts on board. Nasa stopped all flights and investigated the disaster. There are, I guess, many pressures here: government funding, shuttle cost, human life, public relations, the cold war. It was deemed necessary for the programme to be paused while changes were made to ensure the safety of the astronauts. The lives of these people was important and nobody wanted to experience the “ultimate sacrifice”. To those youngsters out there who need to know, there is a phrase in my circles: “Space is hard”. Yes, space is hard. It’s complex and difficult and there will be sacrifices [just think about that word there!].

It would seem that companies like to try and cost cut to maximise profit and so the market forces only come to bear after a particular problem catches them out. So human life to companies is cheap, until they have to make changes I guess. My evidence for this is the General Slocum disaster in New York. A fire caused the Slocum to be abandoned. Most members of the public on board couldn’t swim, it wasn’t a common thing in 1904. Some of the life preservers were wired in place, maybe to stop them being stolen. The life preservers were meant to have cork of a certain volume in them to maintain buoyancy on humans. This cork was meant to be solid chunks and the amount was measured by mass. The life preserver manufacturer had chosen to use granulated cork as it was cheaper, but because it didn’t meet the mass requirements they then used metal bars hidden in the vest to bring the mass up. When humans jumped into the water the cork bubbled out of the vests as it wasn’t in large lumps and then the people were dragged under the water by the metal bars. 1021 people died that night. I guess afterwards there were investigations and corrections put in place to save this happening again on this scale. The city decided that human life is precious.

In the 1960s the Chevrolet Corvair had a design flaw that meant its handling could be unsafe. The company only started to rectify this after the problem was made public and even then it initially decided that the extra safety features should be “optional” and a paid extra on the model. This time a company succumbed to public pressure and eventually the Corvair was produced with suspension similar to contemporary designs. In this case human life was deemed to be precious but only after the flaw was made public and pressure was applied to the company.

When I visit the Squippers on an RAF base it becomes quite clear that the whole purpose of the military system is the protection of life of people within that particular branch of the military. The safety equipment designed to help a fast jet pilot in the case of a problem is impressive. The aim is to preserve the life of the pilot or aircrew in as many situations as possible. It doesn’t always happen but effectively the aircraft is expendable and the life is not. The motivation for this could be that aircrew are hard to find and cost a lot of money to train but the principle is the same, there is a value to the human life and it should be preserved.

So, governments and companies place a value on human life and it is generally seen to be a bad thing for people to die because of bad design or systemic issues with the rules and management of a system. If there are rail crashes then they are investigated. All shipping accidents are investigated and rules put in place to make sure those type of accidents either don’t happen again or the risk of them happening again is reduced to an “acceptable” level.

The rules governing the use of roads by people with vehicles have developed over time and change on occasion to make the roads safer. Deaths on UK roads have decreased over time and seem to have settled to around 1100.

There are probably many factors in this. I mean, when I was a child seatbelts WEREN’T compulsory to wear. Can you believe that? It was decided that people could choose for themselves whether to wear a seatbelt or not. There is only one problem with that: people are stupid. The best thing for a car would be to wear a five point harness and make sure it’s tight. But that is quite a hassle. Volvo invented the three point harness and gave away the technical rights to the whole industry. This means we have seatbelts in cars that, while they aren’t the safest, they are the best balance between safe and convenient.

When you get into a car you ACCEPT the risk that driving on the roads brings. You accept the balance between getting somewhere in comfort and the risk that you might not arrive. Now, you might not be aware of this, but it is what you should be thinking. Driving, or to an extent existing, means you implicitly accept the associated risks. If driving was an activity supplied by a company you would have to sign a disclaimer each time you decided to go somewhere. You decide to accept the implicit social contract every time you do something like driving or getting on a train etc.

The value of human life is not measurable. Current society tries to do the best for the people within that society. It tries to educate. It tries to help. It tries to save.

Except it clearly doesn’t.

Individuals on the whole are largely selfish and lack empathy. I mean this from a point of view of looking at individuals within a system. I’m not talking about you. I’m talking about a single person within a system, within society. Our system of collectivness means that we each have our freedoms within that social construct. We chose what to do with our own lives [we don’t really as free will is an illusion but that’s for another time], we can spend money how we want, we can arrange our time how we want. There are restrictions within that. I hope that everyone pays their tax [they don’t] and many of us have to work to get money to pay for the things we use but generally we have a certain amount of freedom.

This freedom leads to us not caring or thinking about others as much as we should. We all vote or feel empathy for the latest finalist on Britain’s Got Talent because their gran died when they were young and the zit on their nose lasted for ten years but we lack the empathy for people around the world who have oppressed lives. We don’t care collectively about the thousands of people dying in wars [Yemen] or those being abused by their own governments or those systematically killed through religion or lack of action of governments. We don’t care about the critical underfunding this country has had for over ten years now causing deaths and poverty on a massive scale. We don’t care about people more than one degree of freedom away from us. We don’t seem to care about people dying. Why do we lack this empathy? We don’t seem to care about the child-rape cabal headquartered in Rome.

It seems that some systems and social constructs are there to help us survive. They are there to save life and preserve humans. Lives are values in a social structure. But, as individuals, we seem not to care. Maybe it is too much for individuals to take on the world and do the “right thing”. There is only so much an individual can do to make changes.

In this country people still vote Tory even though their policies over the last ten years have led to the UK having a need for FUCKING FOOD BANKS. Let’s get this straight. FOOD BANKS. Places where people who can’t afford FOOD can go and get food. FOOD BANKS. There’s a lack of empathy for these people. As long as I am comfortable I don’t need to think about the lives of others and help them.

Damn, I’m not sure where this is going. My starting point was that human life is precious and yet in so many ways we don’t value it and people are dying through so many preventable causes but it’s not visible, so we don’t know or care about it. Maybe I need to lay out my arguments a little better. This communication seemed to end in a rant about selfishness and lacking empathy. It started well but ended up as a grumpy old lefty moaning.

I’ll come back to this.

Not 4WD

One of the laces on my running shoes died just over a week ago. I’d been thinking of getting new ones as I was sure these were now two years old and running out of steam. I also know I had written about the new trainers when I got them as a way of keeping tabs on when I bought them. It turns out that was just about three years ago! Here’s what they looked like new:

New – three years ago

This is what they look like now:

Three Years Old
Three Years Old

You can see they are worn, with holes appearing, there’s almost no tread on the soles. So, I took a trip to a local running shop and went for blue this time:

New Blue
New Blue

I guess we’ll see how long these ones last.

By the way, this is the 1501 communication published on this site. Keep an eye out for more over the next few years!