The Blog of Zakspade

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  Speakerphone
Saturday 30 November, 2019

Unusually for me I was out in my car the other day. The weather was rather inclement and I had agreed to collect my daughter so she might avoid being rained upon during a thirty-minute walk home.

It made sense for me to get into town ahead of her being ready because of the traffic. As a result I had about half-an-hour to wait in a car park. I waited in a corner and started to watch an episode of South Park on my smartphone.

As the time of her arrival approached I took more notice of the path leading towards the corner in which I was located. A young couple entered on foot. They were both about 19, I supposed. He was tall and nondescript and she was blonde and extremely attractive. In fact the first thing that struck me was that she was way above his apparent ability to attract a girlfriend. The next thing I noticed as they walked with their arms linked was that she was on a phone.

And talking into it loudly.

She wasn’t shouting, nor did she seem angry. It didn’t even seem as if she were compensating for a bad line. She was just loud. Which was a pity.

There was no obvious way to tell whether she was talking to a male or a female. However, it was plain that she was discussing the suitability of some chap for a female friend. She made it quite plain that she thought he wasn’t good for her friend and she emphasised her point by using a stream of expletives and then peppering her whole issuance with them as she and her beau ambled across the car park.

All very loudly.

I cringed. I’m not averse to using somewhat fruity language as and when I feel it relevant, or I have dropped something big and heavy on my foot, but never in a loud voice in a public place.

On the plus side, she didn’t use a single expletive my daughter doesn’t know. On the plus plus side, my daughter doesn’t use a single one of the expletives – in public or at home.

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  A Durable Box
Thursday 28 November, 2019

I am just one person. My choice to avoid driving when it is possible to walk would be more effective if I were one person amongst many doing the same thing.

My walk to town took me to a shop. We have shops in our town centre. I like it because I can buy things there. Those shops are in my little market town which has Fairtrade status.

Unfortunately that status led me to believe that the traders were somehow more attuned to the world in general. What I saw today told me different.

If you use a desktop stapler you will need to buy staples. If you look around you will commonly see them in quantities of 5,000. If you find yourself in the particular shop I was in today you would be able to buy a box of staples. A box containing 5,000 staples. If you had long enough you could count them without opening the box because it was see-through.

See-through? But wouldn’t that mean that it would have to be made from plastic, or glass?

Well, it wasn’t glass. I’m still reeling over having seen a box of staples made from clear plastic. With all that is taking place in this country and around the world, I would have expected to have seen paper replacing plastic, not the other way around.

I live in a Fairtrade town but it seems that it doesn’t mean local traders are being fair to the world.

 

   
  Schadenfreude Mishap
Tuesday 26 November, 2019

Schadenfreude is the act of being amused at the misfortune of others. While it might feel good, I suspect that it might come with payback.

I had been following a lorry through rush hour traffic. The driver was clearly lost, drunk or stupid. When the road was clogged he drove like a maniac, when it was open, he slowed down and barely reached 15mph in 30mph zones. He slowly approached traffic lights that released traffic out of town. As he neared them they went from green through amber and changed to red before his cab crossed the line.

As a 'good boy' I stopped on the red that he had ignored. I then watched him clip a traffic island about 50 yards further on as he drove out of town. A smile broke out on my face as I imagined him trying to explain to his employer how the marks on his vehicle came to be.

When the light eventually went green I followed in his direction, although he was long gone. What I didn't realise was that his clipping the island had tore out a kerbstone. Guess who followed and saw it near the middle of the lane but didn't quite manage to miss it?

There was a HUGE thump. Within seconds I was driving a car making a bad noise. I pulled off the road onto the grassy verge and got out to have a quick look. It was dark and rush hour, so I was not well placed to examine it. As the tyre was inflated I got back in and drove another 100 yards to a side road to have a proper look without fear of being run down.

Parked and now secure I once again got out and checked the damage. Both wheel trims on the offside were junk; the front especially so. In addition, the front tyre had now half deflated, within a mere two minutes and 100 yards. Out came my torch. What I now saw was a wrecked wheel. I had nearly missed the kerbstone and had bent the wheel rim in by about two inches. I was amazed the tyre hadn’t instantly lost all air. In addition the tyre seems unharmed. Looking at the rear wheel, although the trim is toast, the rim seems untouched. Oh how I had clearly ALMOST missed the kerbstone.

Instead of checking for debris left by a moron driving a lorry, I had relaxed and indulged in that schadenfreude and managed to wreck a wheel, possibly a tyre, totalled a pair of wheel trims, and wasted time changing a wheel in the dark and drizzle.

Lesson learnt.

   
  Anti-Proof
Sunday 24 November, 2019

With it being a Sunday, there was no trip to be made to my local post office. However, fresh air is always to be welcomed, and so it was that I was out taking it in a manner so as to provide fortitude and bolster my constitution.

That’s just a way of saying that I was walking somewhere.

It is often claimed that certain driver-types can be identified by the vehicles they choose to drive. As a pedestrian walking alongside some pretty busy roads, I tend to get both the time and the opportunity to study road users and analyse them with regards to their alleged propensity towards adherence to any particular trait expected of them due to their chosen vehicular transport.

That’s just a way to say that I watch the passing traffic.

My walk took me towards a busy mini-roundabout. A BMW passed me heading towards the roundabout, its right indicator flashing and disproving the claim that BMW drivers never indicate. I watched as it slowed to negotiate the white painted hump serving the busy confluence of roads. Still indicating right, it took the left exit off the roundabout.

At least the BMW driver indicated.

   
  Messing About
Friday 22 November, 2019

At the beginning of the week I planned to walk into town to attend to something. I checked the weather in order to be sure that I wouldn’t need to use the car. A negligible chance of rain. A walk it was going to be.

On Wednesday I checked again. It was about the same over the period of the task and the walk into town and back home. There was maybe a slightly increased chance of rain, but it wasn’t anything to be bothered by. So walking into town on Friday afternoon was going ahead.

Yesterday – the day before my intended trek into town – I again checked and once again it was much the same story as previously. If anything, there was a miniscule reduction in the likelihood of my being rained upon.

I woke on Friday morning. There were things to prepare for the afternoon. I looked outside and watched the heavy rain. I hadn’t checked how the morning was going to be because I wasn’t intending to be out until later in the day, so it was neither expected nor unexpected. However, I figured that if I checked the forecast right now I would at least be able to gauge how accurate it was by relating what I was seeing to what it was presently claiming.

What I was being told wasn’t good news. The forecast of the last week had changed quite dramatically and I was very probably either going to get wet or need to take the car. As I have to take some paperwork with me, the car is looking as if it is going to be pressed into service. With it being a Friday afternoon, it has to be the worst time to use a car in my town, but unless I wrap myself and the precious papers in plastic, the car it will have to be. However, I thought I would keep an eye on things because if they felt the need to change the forecast so drastically and abruptly, then maybe it might turn out better in the afternoon after all?

Come midday and I made the final check before having to commit to a method of making my way into town. My hope is that things will improve. Instead I see that while all week I have expected to be able to walk, now it is almost a certainty that I will be rained on, and quite heavily.

I used to have a better idea of what to expect in the ‘old days’ when the weather forecasts carried those maps with isobars and wind directions instead of the stupid dumbing down symbols. Nowadays the ‘experts’ no longer allow the people affected by the weather any chance of trying to determine for themselves what the outcome may be. I suppose that is a little like Global Warming. Like the heavy rain falling at I write this, I can see it is happening, but the reason is because – who says why?

   
  High Jinks
Wednesday 20 November, 2019

Driving home the other evening I was subjected to one of those clowns who thinks a safe distance between them and the vehicle in front is less than a car length.

In town they were ‘up my chuff’ as the colloquial term goes. I can see how the slower speeds maintained in a built up area can fool someone into closing up on the vehicle in front, but when I entered a 60MPH zone, the distance behind me was maintained.

Many years ago I was driving along a dual carriageway during daylight and the car behind had two people in the front chatting away to each other. In fact, neither spent much time looking ahead, instead preferring to face the person to whom they were speaking. Not a good thing for whoever is supposed to be in control of the car, but that’s what I was seeing in my rear-view mirror.

I really don’t hold with this brake checking thing. If I apply my brakes it is because I wish to slow down or stop. It isn’t because I feel the need to make a statement. However, something had to be done, so I slowed gently in order to encourage them to overtake. They could then be on their way and not cause me to fear they were going to be so inattentive as to eventually end up parking in my car’s boot.

Having slowed enough, I dropped a gear. After slowing a little more, I changed down once more. In my mirror the two people in the car behind me were still oblivious to me in front of them and the now much reduced speed. It was only when I was crawling along in first gear that the driver frowned at me and appeared to say something to their passenger beside them. From the look on their face, and the gestures they made toward me, they seemed annoyed, but at least they overtook and I was able to relax and get on with driving rather than worrying about whether the fool was going to pile into me.

Clearly, going slow isn’t a successful way to rid oneself of a moron following too closely.

However, afterwards I discovered that if a little jink with the steering is made – especially in bad weather – then the vehicle behind generally drops back. I supposed that they possibly think the road surface is slippery and they wish to avoid whatever I have been affected by, but I don’t really know.

Back to the other night. As it was late, I slowed to about 25MPH and meandered gently so as to give the impression that I was either distracted by something in my car, or drunk. Sure enough, the car behind me dropped back. The driver possibly went home and told their spouse, dog or Facebook Friends that they were following a drunk home that night, but it matters not to me. They dropped back and their number plate was once again visible to me.

Wouldn’t it be nice if it was possible to drive without having to play games in order to ensure not having to suffer those who really haven’t a clue on how to conduct themselves on the road?

   
  Simply the Best
Monday 18 November, 2019

In case you haven’t noticed, there is a General Election coming up. It is to be held on Thursday 12 December, if you were not aware of the date.

So, what happens now? Will politicians stand on street corners and proclaim how the UK will prosper under the political regime they will install and we will all be happy? Or will they read out prepared statements that will indicate to the Electorate what to expect should any particular party form the next government?

So far the signs are not good.

Instead of learning about what each party stands for, I seem to only know that all the party leaders are to be avoided. For instance, the Tory leader is a liar; that of Labour supports terrorists; the LibDems are led by someone who is adhering to their own interests above those of the nation; and the other parties are all run by maniacs who are so ideologically driven, they are blind to the realities of life.

The above can’t all be true, can it?

   
  The Jackson Phenomenon
Saturday 16 November, 2019

Is it just me? Am I alone in noticing? Or could it be that everyone knows, except me?

I fear mentioning my observation, my question; that by doing so I worry that I might invite ridicule and derision; that my status and reputation amongst those in polite society will be adversely affected, and I will be tossed aside, languishing in the proverbial gutter.

That downfall might even result in my eventual descent to the gutter in reality.

Here I go – the query on my mind is coming, if I manage to conjure up enough bravery; and I can summon the courage to speak the words in my mind.

Has anyone...? No, I can’t. But I must! If I don’t I will be forever left wondering whether I was on to something.

Has anyone ever noticed, ...? Gah!

Deep breaths.

Has anyone ever noticed . . . how you never see God or the Devil in the same room together? It almost seems as if they are the same person wearing different clothes.

Now I suppose I will be damned. Damned to, to somewhere. Such is my embarrassment, anywhere would do...

   
  Road Works
Wednesday 13 November, 2019

Oh the irony!

The road on which my favourite sub post office is sited has been the subject of a ‘rolling road works’ for some time now. They started at the end farthest from town, digging a trench in roughly 150 metre lengths. At each end they used traffic lights to control the passage of traffic past their working area. Once they lay whatever they are laying, and refilled and resurfaced the infill, they move the whole section of barriers and traffic lights along the road towards town.

They have done quite well, it must be said, but the fact remains that road users are still held up and at busy periods it leads to a great deal of disruption. That said, the road surface left after they have moved on to the next stretch is well finished. So they are certainly not shoddy workers.

Now they are nearing the end of their project. The area along which they are working is now the narrowest part of the road, quite near the entry into town. The earth they dig out has to be carried by a dumper to the other end of the road as it heads out of town. There isn’t the room to pile it by the roadside. When it comes to infilling, the dumper has to carry some of it back.

Imagine my grin yesterday when I saw that halfway along the road, situated about midway between where they are working and their ‘base’ at the top of the road, a fresh road works has sprung up. The new band of brothers seem to have arrived to dig up the footpath next to the road so as to fix a water leak and appears to have nothing to do with the contractors down the road.

Why was I grinning? Well, on its journey from the established project along the road to their holding point for soil and equipment, the dumper was forced to stop and wait in a long queue of vehicles caught by the traffic lights erected by the more recent road working team. The driver suffered the pain of having to wait then fail to get to the lights before they returned to red, requiring it to then wait again.

But my grin was bigger after I had posted my parcels. On my walk back home I saw the dumper heading back towards the main road works. It was again required to stop in a long line of traffic, and again missed the green light!

I’m obviously a bad person because I found the whole thing quite amusing.

   
  Discs
Monday 11 November, 2019

Over a period of many years I have amassed a collection of titles and utilities for PCs. Some are old, very old.

I occasionally run old operating systems upon ancient/virtual hardware because I sometimes offer data recovery – sometimes just a simple transfer from redundant media – such as copying data from 5.25” floppy diskettes.

Unfortunately said packages reside on a variety of hard drives dotted about the place. For over ten years I have neglected to keep them in order. I have promised that ‘one day’ I will burn the lot to optical discs.

I recently had a need to use some ‘interesting’ tools that Microsoft doesn’t like. I tried to take one off a networked hard drive and my Microsoft Windows 10 laptop promptly told me that I had tried to access malicious or unwanted software. It denied me access, and then promptly deleted the required software.

Fortunately, along with my chaotic manner of applications storage, I have multiple copies lying about on various drives – only some are connected to my network. So I knew where another copy was lurking, but I now knew that I had to take care. Without hacking, a modern Windows defence system cannot easily be turned off.

I can create rules and suchlike, but it is a case of losing stuff I don’t expect to find on any given volume. So after my little ‘dispute’ with Windows, I set about burning all my software onto DVDs. Most of it was done via a burner attached to a Windows 10 machine, but the really interesting stuff had to be done via an old XP machine which I was able to run as a standalone without any antivirus protection so as to ensure the images were as I intended and not as Microsoft wished.

Two brands of disc were to hand: TDK and Verbatim. Instead of it being that ‘one day’ it became a couple of weeks. Now it is easier to find what I want without having to work to a hazy deadline set by the eventual discovery of the required software. Additionally, Microsoft (nor anyone else) can impose their idea upon me of what is safe and what isn’t, along with deletion of said ‘dangerous’ software.

All was going well but the TDK discs were failing at a rate of one in every three burn attempts. Meanwhile the Verbatim discs all behaved themselves, except one, which failed because the burning machine failed.

This morning I had a need to re-burn a disc because I had missed off an application However, I couldn’t read the disc! It was a TDK disc and I ended up having to recover the data! The disc had verified after being burned, so I had thought it was okay. I checked all the TDK discs and every one of them was difficult to read or required data recovery. All except one disc which was a total loss. Luckily I had backed up all the images up as ISO files on a remote drive, so I was able to access that instead. When I checked my burn logs I discovered that the failed DVD was burned only two days ago!

I am now in the process of re-burning the TDK discs to Verbatim discs because they have proven to be much more reliable and trustworthy than the TDK efforts. All that time wasted, but at least I have learnt never to buy TDK discs in the future.

Footnote:
Apparently TDK stopped making blank DVDs back in 2006. So I’ve either had mine a long time or I bought old stock. Whichever matters not as I’ll never be buying them again. Had I checked before starting then I would have discovered that Verbatim have a seriously good name for archival grade discs.

   
  Ear Buds
Saturday 9 November, 2019

Once again I was on my trek towards the local post office. As I walked along the quiet estate road toward the main drag into town, I heard the thumping of loud music being played with the bass turned up high.

Ahead of me was a car approaching. As it neared the volume grew louder. I wondered how anyone could drive a car with such loud music deafening them.

The car and I arrived at the same junction together and I was treated to a clear view of the driver as he turned into the road I was about to cross. Not only that, but due to his driver’s window being fully down I was subjected to the full volume and force of his chosen melody. My glasses were but a few decibels from vibrating in sympathy with the deep bass sounds attempting to shake his car apart.

I really do marvel at how anyone can claim to be fully in control of a vehicle while being subjected to such sonic abuse and distraction, but as he floored it and sped away up the otherwise quiet road, I saw something that went some way towards explaining how some people might be capable.

He wore ear buds that probably served to deaden the noise and were likely plugged into an iPod, or similar, and playing whale song.