Wednesday, 20 February 2019


Picture this if you can: Me, wearing tartan pyjamas, racing driver shoes and with my moustache elaborately waxed clambering up to the outside of the kitchen window with a bottle of olive oil and a screwdriver in my hand. How did I get into this situation? Like any avoidable disaster it's a tall stack of unfortunate decisions that all seemed right at the time, but that add up badly.

I was visiting my friends in Wimbledon at the weekend and they asked me to bring tools so that I could change a window handle for them. I was introduced to my DIY challenge in the washing-up aftermath of our breakfast and it looked like a very simple job. I hadn't dressed because I was still planning to shower. I had already tamed my moustache because I didn't want to eat too much of it with my breakfast. I realised that I needed to get to the outside of the window to change the handle and the patio was cold so I pulled on the most convenient pair of shoes. They were the ones I had taken off when I arrived at the house and as my car has a very narrow pedal box they were driving shoes. It's a house of millennials so there was no lubricant in stock to free off the sticky latch mechanism so I Improvised with olive oil.

And all of a sudden they're laughing at the spectacle I'm making.

Richard "dashing" B

Tuesday, 12 February 2019


The problems that beset my life seem weirder and rarer than those that normal people have. At the moment, for example, my kitchen floor is covered with molybdenum disulphide.

What's that? Very slippery and seemingly completely waterproof.

Why? Well not on purpose obviously, I put newspaper down, but it gets everywhere.

How? My sportscar has seats that you can slide fore and aft, the squab bears directly on the cockpit floor. Over the year they have picked up grit and marred the floor and the squab. When I was cleaning and proofing the leather I thought it was a good idea to sand the bottom of the squabs flat and lubricate them with "dry moly". It was cold raining and windy outside so I did it in the kitchen and now stepping in there is like stepping onto an ice rink.

Richard "low μ" B

Tuesday, 5 February 2019


For the last couple of weeks I have been living in a cold house with occasional tepid running water. This week I finally had my boiler replaced. As I was standing in my kitchen watching the plumber he asked me what I did for a living. "Computer Programmer". Long awkward silence. "I'm a heating engineer" he said eventually as he drained my heating system and took my boiler off the wall. No Shit!

My house has a combi boiler so as well as heating water for the radiators it heats water for the hot taps on demand.  When you turn on a tap it senses the flow, lights the burner and heats the water that is heading to the tap. My last combi boiler had a preheat function so that heat exchanger was always hot and you got hot water at the taps more quickly. I'm careful with my money, I live alone and I don't use that much hot water so it would infuriate me that the boiler would burn gas every hour or so just to keep the hot water ready. You could turn the preheat function off, but then I would waste a load of (metered) water between turning the tap on and it running hot.

For nearly a decade I have wanted the combi boiler to have an external input that switches between eco and preheat.

My first job was designing consumer electronics and I worked closely with the software engineers on user-interface. I've spent over 20 years as a software engineer and, although I am not one, I have worked with technical authors who had to describe what I have made to the general public. I am spectacularly well placed to be able to read the user manual and the electrical section of the installation manual for a new combi boiler.

I was delighted to read that my new combi boiler has an electrical input to control the preheat function, and display modes to show you what state it is in. I asked the plumber about fitting an external timeswitch to control preheat and he said "it doesn't work like that." I showed him the page in the manual and he insisted "it doesn’t work like that" I showed him the page in the electrical interface manual and he said "That's just because it's the same circuit board as the system (non-combi) boiler."

As soon as he left I tool the boiler apart and ran some dangerous tests connecting live mains to the various inputs. I was right, he was wrong, and I now have timer controlled hot water preheat. Woohoo!

Richard "This is my manor" B

Thursday, 31 January 2019

I Can't Get Down

Nothing funny or interesting happened to me this week, but I did hear a great story. I had read about a woman who got stuck in a tree while trying to rescue her cat (which was stuck in the same tree). Apparently our fire brigade is so stretched and so risk-averse that they won't get cats out of trees anymore but they will rescue cat owners.

My mum's friend spent a good amount of time in Sweden and told us about a challenge that their fire brigade often face. Elk like apples and will search out the trees or break into orchards. A hungry elk can also clamber up an apple tree in search of food! Moreover the windfall apples are often starting to ferment and the elk have a low tolerance for alcohol. One of the courses that the Swedish fire brigade run for their recruits is how to rescue a drunken elk out of a tree.  Judging by the amount of elk meat that gets served the woman telling the story did wonder if the elk are "rescued" with a captive-bolt gun and a hacksaw.

Richard "call the elk brigade" B

Monday, 28 January 2019

Supply and Demand

If it weren't for double standards I wouldn't have any standards.

In most economic matters I'm very pro free market and competition. Let the consumers decide how they wish to prioritise their desires and let the invisible hand balance supply and demand. I find it trivially easy to understand how rent controls destroy accommodation in a city. When the tickets for a concert sell out in a single day and then turn up on ebay at twice the price it strikes me that the tickets were too few or too cheap and that the touts are doing a valuable service. I'd rather pay an entry fee to walk on Dartmoor than fund all of the national parks through my taxes and I think parking should be paid for by the hour and roads by the mile.

But god damn isn't it unfair when rich people have taken a liking to something you want and pushed the prices out of your reach!

It's the time of year that I'm planning and booking track days. I have a friend in the South East whom I like to drive with (I trust him with my life, my car, and to a lesser extent my expensive tyres and friction materials) and he can easily put me. The nearest circuit to his house is Thruxton but I don't like it (too fast, too frightening, nowhere to overtake, doesn't suit my underpowered car). I searched outwards in a spiral from where he lives and found the perfect track day. It's less than an hour away, it's a lovely circuit, it's a full day, open pit lane and novices allowed. The problem is it's at Brands Hatch and because of its name and its proximity to London its full of millionaires and their supercars and I can't afford to go.

Travelodge in Bedford here we come!

Richard "Rand" B

Thursday, 17 January 2019


Quotation marks (and quotation fingers) have a few different meanings. They demarcate the part of the speech which is attributed to someone else, they add emphasis and they sometimes show that the quoted section is wrong, euphemistic, imaginative, almost like a sarcasm mark. Like saying my blog is "popular".

In the run up to Christmas I got a card from my cleaner. The inside of the card was printed with the message With Best Wishes. When she signed it she also added double quotes around With Best Wishes so it looked rather like she didn't really wish me the best. My friends and I laughed about it and added lots of sarcastic quotation marks to our own Christmas cards.

The thing is that my cleaner quit last week. Maybe she hates me and she meant exactly what she wrote in my Christmas card.

Richard "Labour Relations" B