Sunday, 26 January 2020

Day Off

Most people take a day off work to go somewhere nice or to do something special. I took a day off work to spend it it my garage in the middle of winter making brackets that I would rather have bought.

I thought that I would like to be able to change the windscreen on my Caterham to a little aeroscreen. The car is low powered and it runs out of go on the straights. The windscreen is large and flat and stands almost upright. I believe changing to the aeroscreen should give me another 10mph top speed.

Getting to the fasteners on the windscreen stanchions involves taking a lot of the interior apart so I don't want to be doing that at a track day. I bought a pair of brackets that should provide captive nuts for the windscreen stanchions, but they didn't fit. I cut them up and fiddled about with some box section and some polyurethane adhesive and made these. They do fit accurately but they took me hours to produce.

This is the aeroscreen (it's still got the protective film on), a motorcycle mirror and a bracket that I made to join them together.

One of the questions that you never get asked in a social situation is "do you own a press brake?" although I wish you did. In my case the answer is "I don't know, does this count?". This is a very hard extension bar, my aluminium bracket, and a bit of soft wood in a very large vice.

Richard "I wish I'd never started" B

Wednesday, 22 January 2020


This week I share with you an old favourite family story. I don't know exactly when this happened but you can make a fair guess from the vehicles involved. My older brother had bent one of the half shafts on his Ford Capri and was fixing it in a hurry. He got a replacement from a scrapyard in Devonport. He got to and from the scrapyard as a pillion on his friend's Z750, on the way back he had the half shaft in his lap sticking out each side of the bike. They came back through the city centre and were very very nearly involved in a nasty accident. The rider went to cut between two queues of cars at high speed. While the gap was big enough for the bike it wasn't big enough for the half shaft of a Ford Capri. It became clear to my brother that the rider had forgotten about his passenger's cargo and that he was just about to be stuck off the back of the bike and probably have his pelvis shattered in the process. He let go with both hands and JUST managed to get the long, heavy, cumbersome shaft upright before they shot between the cars. Like some kind of incompetent post-apocalyptic knight with his rusty scrapyard lance.

Richard "retro" B

Tuesday, 14 January 2020


This weekend I changed motorbike from a Yamaha TMAX (XP500) to a Honda Super Cub (C125). Obviously it's much smaller and slower, but I'm really pleased with it so far.

The clutch is automatic and the gearbox is upside down. I think you'd describe it as "One down, three down". It also has a Pacman door so that you can go round the back from 4th straight to neutral. As I've come from an automatic bike with a CVT I keep forgetting to put it into gear before I try to pull away. All my other motorbikes had the gearbox the right way up, so I quite often force it into the wrong gear during acceleration.

My least favourite change is the front brake. On the TMAX I had twin 4-pot callipers with high performance friction material and a 120mm front tyre. You could stand the bike on its nose with the pressure of two fingers and it felt like you could ruche up the tarmac in front of you if you wanted. It's not quite the same on the Super Cub. The mirrors are too close together and I've had to put one of them on an ugly extender. I also no longer get nodded at by bikers.

The fuel economy is absolutely outstanding, and the servicing costs should be low. It's fun to ride and it looks cute. The funniest features are an automatic clutch (so that delivery men have their left hand free to cold their cargo) and a heel pad on the gear lever (so that businessmen don't scuff up their smart shoes).

Richard "roll the power on gradually" B

Tuesday, 7 January 2020

New Decade

I know it's ridiculous to believe in good omens or to put meaning in random events, but I'm really hopeful about the 2020s.

You always try your best to make the best cup of tea that you can, you use the same ingredients, utensils, techniques and temperatures time and time again, but sometimes the tea is delicious, sometimes insipid, and usually mediocre. I have a friend who marks every cup of tea he is served out of ten. I believe that discretionary bonus points have sometimes been awarded, either for serving the tea with a chocolate biscuit or once for serving it topless.

I marked it myself, but the first cup of tea that I made this decade was a 9! It honestly was that close to Plato's perfect form for a cup of tea.

The first engagement in the culture war of 2020 (that I'm aware of) had a wonderfully positive and empathetic message. It was criticism of a mean spirited web comic about schadenfreude. The character New Guy was written as the butt of the joke, but because he had to question taking pleasure in other people's misfortune the author had accidentally created a very positive and caring character. All the edits, memes and criticisms are promoting empathy, friendship and fair treatment.

Richard "What Would New Guy Do?" B

Monday, 30 December 2019

Alternative History

Science fiction often gets dangerously close to being philosophy. When you make a decision does the world in which you made the other choice exist in any real sense? Is "now" the trunk of a tree of myriad branching possibilities? If not, then why do anything - the whole history of the universe is a predetermined train ride with only one set of rails. If not, how do we get to the other universes?

This cartoon from 2018 explains it very nicely:

My favourite treatment (until recently) is in one of the Alastair Reynolds books. A scientist working on time travel is injured in a laboratory accident. His colleague isn't just vaporised, but his entire history is erased. He never existed, except in the scientist's memories. The scientist is driven mad by living in a universe where nobody remembers his friend and his life left no physical evidence. He eventually finds suitable grandparents who _could_ have produced him.

On Boxing Day I got a Christmas card from a closely related alternative reality!

It was delivered by hand from the family across the road and it was addressed to "Richard, Marie, Charlie and Evie". I'm single and live alone, but in the reality that the card came from I'm married and have children. The design of the card itself gives no clue about the differences between our universes, and the printing company exists in both. I'd say that the fact it was delivered on Boxing Day indicates that when the Catholic church invented leap years to stop Easter marching off towards midsummer they came up with a slightly different algorithm - be honest, you never really understood whether 2000 was supposed to be a leap year or not.

Hot Marie used to often come to my band's shows and I've been to her house a couple of times. In this universe she never seemed interested in me, but given the chance I would definitely have married her, and I would have taken every opportunity to try to impregnate her.

The most inexplicable thing about the other universe is that my oldest son is called Charles. I would have expected it would be John, like my father and his first son. Marie probably chose it, or I already had a nephew called John.

Or maybe the chap two doors down with the girlfriend and two children is also called Richard.

Richard "I'm in the wrong universe. Let me get off." B

Saturday, 21 December 2019

The Rise of Skywalker Review

Don't read this article if you're going to go and see The Rise of Skywalker and you expect to get some enjoyment from it.

I was disappointed. I had been hoping that this film was going to be so bad that we could all laugh about the whole Disney trilogy. Frankly I wanted it to be so bad that Kathleen Kennedy and Jar Jar Abrams would have got laughed out of the room if they'd offered to help with the school play. I wanted The Room in a galaxy far far away  - oh hi Mark. I wanted The Rise of Skywalker to make The Fantom Menace look like Citizen fucking Kane. Instead, the film, I'm sad to say is solidly mediocre.

It looks great, the music is fine, the acting's fine - the emperor is wonderful, the plot is tedious and hectic at the same time and the characterisation is wafer thin. The main story, as best I can remember is: Go to location 1, get McGuffin 1 and escape from the minor baddie. Go to location 2, use McGuffin 1 to get McGuffin 2&3 and escape from the minor baddie. Remember that you can't trust a ginger. Use McGuffin 3 to get to location 3, get McGuffin 4 and escape from the minor baddie. Lose McGuffin 4, find McGuffin 4 and use it to get to the final location and the final boss.

There's very little threat or tension. Just about everybody has impenetrable plot-armour, or a fairy-god-deus-ex-machina-mother. Chewbacca is captured and we see the spaceship he's on destroyed, but then he turns out to be alive on another one. The final McGuffin is destroyed, but we had another one in the glove box all along. Mary-Sue is beaten in a lightsabre fight, but at the critical moment her opponent is force-distracted. Everyone is captured and then easily rescued, the rebel's are hopelessly outnumbered and them massively reinforced. The minor antagonist is thrown down a cliff and then climbs back up. The protagonist is killed and then restored.

My favourite thing about the film, unless I've misunderstood the ending, is that the dark side wins and the memory of Luke Skywalker is ground into humiliated dust. The resurrected Palpatine wants Mary-Sue (his own granddaughter) to kill him so that he and his ghost buddies can share her body. She's tricked into doing it in self defence in the final fight and by the end of the film she's taken the Skywalker lightsabres (yes there's two of them - don't ask), the Skywalker moisture farm and the Skywalker name for the Palpatines.

I for one welcome our new Sith Skywalker overlords.

Richard "dew. it!" B