Monday 1 July 2024

Throwaway Culture

 There seems to be a complete lack of tuning parts available for my kettle. I bought it in Woolworths in 1998 when I moved into my first house, so it's almost brand new. There's a power switch on the kettle itself with an over-centre latch. The kettle gets power from a circular base and when you lift the kettle off the base a little spring flips the power switch to off. The little spring broke, so the kettle was slightly too dangerous for me. I uprated the spring from 22SWG to 20SWG. Sadly the slightly different shape and size of the spring meant that I required a set of shims for the plunger that actuates it. Neither uprated springs nor matching shims seem to be available for my kettle (or any other kettle) and I had to manufacture both. I had a surprising amount of piano wire and small brass bar in stock, but I don't have anything (other than a cold chisel) to cut piano wire and I don't have a watchmaker's lathe to part off the shims.

Richard "Beyond Repair - no. Beyond Economical Repair - yes" B

The Good Life

 Outdated reference to an outdated reference: In the late 90s one of my best friends moved from Plymouth to Surrey. There he met a girl, and the first time I met her and her friends I made a very poor impression on them. We were at a party, one of these women had a ludicrously posh (to my westcountry ear) accent and a slightly imperious manner. I heard her say to her (then) boyfriend "Jason, fetch me another beer". I couldn't help but say "Chequebook Jerry" in my best Margo Leadbetter voice and the two people near me erupted in gales of laughter. Nobody else had heard what I said, but they heard the laughing, and then my friends proceeded to repeat and explain it.

The posh girl and her boyfriend are now married. I went out with one of the offended women for a number of years. My friend married somebody different.

Richard "Penelope Keith" B

Friday 21 June 2024


 Welcome to the boring world of Positive Crankcase Ventillation systems. Little did I know that on modern (post 1960's) cars, they connect the crankcase to the inlet manifold so that blowby doesn't pressurise the crankcase, and so that the blowby and the oil mist get burned in the engine. Damn Los Angeles and their smog problem!

I took my sports car to Snetterton last week and had a miserable time. I got black flagged twice for making excessive smoke. So much in fact that people came out on to the pit wall to gawp and speculate. While we did get to do some high speed driving (after the oil level had dropped), and engine ran pretty well it used A LOT of fuel.

I have since done a compression test and the engine looks a bit worn, but not catastrophically so. This is my best guess about what went wrong: The engine is just a bit more worn out than it was the last time I used it. The oil was topped up right to the top. There's a long right hand corner which pushed the oil up towards the PCV system. This combination of factors overwhelmed the PCV system and pulled a load of oil into the inlet tract and we burned it whenever we opened the throttle wide. The soot has messed up the lambda sensor in the exhaust, and it's now overfuelling wildly. The engine is already out of the sports car and in the back of the Fiat Panda waiting to go down to the engine builders.

I record this here just for the next time I have to do it: It takes more than a day, but less than two days to take the engine out of my Caterham. You have to have three people present when you crane it out. I know we've all seen Ed China do it with one assistant, but I simply cannot replicate that.

Richard "Catch Tank" B

Zip File

 The Mandela effect is nothing but data compression, but it's going on in the human brain. One of the main techniques in data compression is to look for commonalities and to encode repeated data in a shorthand form. Just as an example, imagine we're trying to compress some text. You could replace the word "the" with the letter "t" and it would save you a couple of characters each time it came up. You'd then lose a few characters if somebody used "t" as a word on its own and you had to disambiguate it. He was wearing a white do-not-expand-t shirt.

The Mandela effect is where a large number of people all have the same false memory: Nelson Mandela died in the 80s. Darth Vader said "Luke, I am your father" Pikachu has a black tip on his tail. It's fun to think that they're connections to alternate histories, or artifacts of programming changes in the simulation that we're living in. Sadly, after a long chat with my boss I now believe something much more prosaic.

The only Mandela memory that really bothers me is the Fruit of the Loom logo. It's a company that makes cotton goods, their logo is a pile of fruit. I remember the fruit being in front of a horn shaped basket, but it isn't. What we think is actually going on is that every time you see a pile of fruit in that style, it's in front of a horn of plenty. You've seen it on pub sigs, menus, invitations, and countless other places. When my memory filed away the Fruit of the Loom logo from when I bought a packet of sewing needles, it coded it as just another example of fruit in front of a horn of plenty. Every time I retrieve the memory it comes out with the basket included. It's quite disconcerting.

Richard "cornucopia" B

Tuesday 28 May 2024

Grow Up

 Since my last blog a general election has been announced. I had a delightful chat about it with my barber, and we are now part of a grassroots political campaign. You should join us! Like me, she doesn't think that any of the political parties represent our views and our values. Unlike me, she was unaware of the idea of a spoiled ballot. She loved the idea that she would still have to attend the polling station, and so couldn't be accused of not taking part in the democratic process. She loved that spoiled ballots are counted, and that there could potentially be more spoiled ballots than votes for a particular candidate. She then correctly pointed out that we could draw a crude little picture – "like you used to at school".

The only political positions that I want to hear about for the rest of this campaign are when you spoil your ballot, whether or not there are going to be veins visible on the shaft, and whether there will be teardrop shapes shooting from the tip.

Richard "can I count on your support?" B

Imaginary Cat

 In my late 20s and early 30s I was in a serious relationship with a woman. There were a couple of memorable things about her.

Looking back at 20 years remove, I think that in one respect I was slightly less sympathetic to her than I now am to an imaginary cat. I lived in Plymouth, my girlfriend was studying in Southampton, so during term time I would travel up there by motorbike every couple of weeks. The journey was cold. noisy, uncomfortable and time consuming. It was made even more hasslesome by her worrying about me. I thought that I was the one taking the risk and who would be inconvenienced or injured if anything went wrong. I found all the checking in to re-assure her a chore. It didn't, however, discourage me from using a motorbike.

I now live alone and I often consider keeping a pet. I realised that if I had a cat at home which wouldn't get fed if I wound up in hospital, that I wouldn't dare to get on a motorbike for fear of starving the cat.

Imaginary Cat:1, Wendy:0

Richard "slightly autistic?" B