The Blog of Zakspade

  January 2020 Archive Contact me
Thursday 30 January, 2020

I was out in my car because I had errands to run in town after my trip to my local post office. Having parked around the corner and off the main road I set out for town and stopped at a mini-roundabout. My view along the road to the right was limited by a bend in the road, but even if a vehicle came into sight once entering the junction, gentle acceleration is enough to get up to a speed to avoid causing any other road user to be held up.

As I prepared to make a left turn a BMW shot across the roundabout. I estimated its speed to be in excess of 60mph. After he flashed past I turned out and down the road which he hurtled. I saw the smiley/sad face speed sign flash wildly as he tripped it and I watched as he applied his brakes when he had nowhere to go when faced with a car stopped at the next roundabout further down the road. You know how a car ‘squirms’ as it squats when braking at the absolute max? Well, that was him, so he may well have been travelling a fair bit faster by that point than when he almost took the nose off my car previously.

The word ‘moron’ came to my mind.

Further into town, a different BMW cut me off at speed by going straight at traffic lights from a right-turn lane. In order to do so he had gunned his car, cut across me, then had to slam on his brakes to avoid ramming the car I was following.

By this time I was formulating thoughts on the parentage of German car drivers.

A little further up the road he suddenly braked hard and stopped. I was puzzled, unless he was a mind reader. There had been zero reaction from me. I checked my mirror to see whether there was space to reverse should he get out and prove beyond doubt that he was more than just missing a brain, when he just as suddenly turned right into a private driveway.

No indicators. A typical German car driver.

I drove on and conducted my business. Once finished I was faced with needing to make a right turn out onto a major road serving the local bypass. Whenever there was a break in the stream of traffic coming from my right, there was steady flow approaching from my left. I was stranded.

Then a car from my left indicated that they wished to turn into the road from which I was trying to exit. They stopped short and flashed their lights and waved me out.

The car was a GERMAN Mercedes.

My drive home was free of stereotypical thoughts on German car drivers.


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Thursday 23 January, 2020

Ah, my favourite pastime: walking to my local post office!

One of the joys of walking instead of driving is that once I arrive at my destination I am not forced to hunt for somewhere to park the mixture of metal, rubber and plastic that passes as my car. I don’t have to decide between blocking or impeding traffic by parking on the road, or blocking and impeding pedestrians instead by parking on the pavement.

Walking means not having to make such decisions.

It also means being able to hear the world. They may not be overly vocal at this time of year but I still get to hear the birds. On the downside, if one takes it into their mind to have a ‘movement’ while passing overhead, I am not protected by the thin metal skin of a car roof, but someone once told me it is a sign of good luck. Hmm.

There was the sound of a vehicle approaching behind me. A loud clicking accompanying it suggested it had a stone, or some such object, wedged in the tread of one of its tyres. That said, it was obviously travelling slowly (I was not yet by the main road), so it could have been a flat tyre, perhaps? I turned and looked.

It didn’t appear to be a puncture. Now facing the source of the noise I saw a modern car approaching a speed hump carefully and the sound became easier to identify as very probably being what it was I first suspected.

As it passed and made its way along the road, I saw the manufacturer’s badge on the rear and recognised the car. It was a Tesla. For those who don’t know, a Tesla is an electric car. It isn’t a hybrid. It is a car that uses electric motors to provide its motion. It has no internal combustion engine. The Tesla represents the type of car that many decry as being the ‘silent killers’ on the streets of tomorrow as they take out pedestrians who don’t hear them approaching.

My ears are nothing special, but I’ll tell you now – even without something seemingly stuck to the tyre of that vehicle, I’d have been hard pushed to have not heard it coming my way. The sound the tyres made on the tarmac alone was enough to alert me to the fact that something was coming. With the speed bump I estimate the car was doing no more than 15mph as it reached me, and if I hadn’t been able to hear it then I’d not have heard a 737 airliner if it crashed in the garden beside me either.

On my way back home, I saw an old man limping along a little way ahead of me and there was something odd about him. He crossed the road and his route was going to hide him from my view, but I hadn’t yet worked out what it was about his appearance that troubled me and I found myself desperately trying to fathom what it was before he vanished down a side road. Then it struck me:

Old man. Limping. Carrying a pair of crutches. Carrying, not using.

I learnt two things today: electric cars are not silent, and there’s nowt so queer as folk!

Monday 20 January, 2020

I wanted to attach a 4TB hard drive, via USB, to my iMac, and then share it to the rest of the devices in my household. These days my iMac is just used as a TV and I wished to have it double up as a NAS device.

The drive is formatted under NTFS. The iMac can read but not write to an NTFS volume without third-party help, but I did not want to add any such utilities to my iMac.

I have a spare empty 4TB USB hard drive already formatted to exFAT. The iMac can read and write to an exFAT volume. The plan was to hook both drives to my iMac and transfer the data over before reformatting the NTFS hard drive as exFAT. Then I would transfer the data back to the now freshly formatted hard drive. I favoured exFAT over the native iMac format as it allows me total access in case of hardware failure.

Problems started when my iMac wouldn’t mount the NTFS hard drive. It was visible to the hard disk utilities which could tell me lots about the drive, but it simply refused to mount it for me to access the contents. My laptop would have worked fine, but as there is somewhere in the region of 3TB of data on the hard drive, I did not wish to commit my writing tool to such a brainless activity that hinders my ability to use it for work.

My data recovery PC in the garage!

I rushed out to garage with both hard drives and powered up the PC. The fans span for a second before everything died. A little fiddling followed but there was nothing. No life. Nothing. Not a peep. I left it working the other day so I figured it was just one of the many devices hanging off it that confused the poor mite.

Rather that mess about with it and turn the Five-minute-hook-up-drives-to-transfer-data job into a tech-fest, I dug out my second machine. It didn’t have a hard drive installed and wouldn’t boot properly from the one I removed from the original PC, so I figured on quickly installing Windows offline in order to do a quick(?) and dirty files transfer. Unfortunately I couldn’t get it to boot from DVD. A quick look through the BIOS told me it just needed drives properly identifying, but that meant more fiddling, so out came PC number three.

This machine also lacked a hard drive so I installed the one from the ‘dead’ PC and fired it up. It complained a bit but otherwise ran well. The only issue was that it couldn’t access the Internet to source a suitable Ethernet driver (d'oh!), but given that I didn’t intent to let it connect even to my network, that wasn’t a problem. After the faffing about that I had been through so far, I was pleasantly surprised that it even allowed me to set the correct screen resolution and it emitted sound!

I connected both external hard drives and started the process of transferring files. As the ports used are USB 2.0 (the drives are both USB 3.0) the data copy was slated to take almost 8 hours. Am I bothered? No, I'll wander out there this evening and see how it is doing. And because I didn't want to waste more time making it secure (or find that elusive Ethernet driver) I decided from the outset to run it offline, but the downside is that I didn't leave myself the option of using RDC (remote access) from the warmth of the house.

A five minute job that became a harried forty-five minute rush: I'm beginning to wonder whether a third-party app to allow my iMac to read and write to NTFS in the first place might not have been the better solution – and I ultimately still have to determine why the first PC appeared to die.

When I worked in IT, techies were never properly appreciated, but so much hard work goes on behind the scenes. This household cannot lose data, but the messing about to achieve it is a right pain!

  Timing is Everything
Thursday 16 January, 2020

You know those times when approaching one of those tiny roundabouts and the car approaching from the far side cuts across instead of trying to go around it so as to assert themselves and make you give way, even though you thought you had more than enough time to drive straight over?

Like the driver who cuts the corner of junctions to cut 0.09 microseconds off their journey time.

I was following a small car which turned right across a mini-roundabout ahead of me. Partway across it took a very odd path – suggestive of having to take avoiding action to miss another vehicle that the corner had obscured. I even commented to my passenger at the time how they had taken an odd-looking line through the junction.

Twenty seconds later I could see the reason for the curious manoeuvre when I reached the roundabout and prepared to drive straight on. They had indeed cut across the roundabout, as well as a vehicle approaching from the right. Unfortunately for the person driving, the muscular effort saved was wasted by having to stop and explain their saving to the occupants of the police car they had almost hit.

  Friday the Thirteenth
Monday 13 January, 2020

Saved by three days!

If today was last Friday, we would be doomed. Imagine if instead of today being a Monday, it was a Friday? Planes would be falling out of the sky; cars would be crashing at random; herds of stampeding elephants would flatten schools, killing dozens of children, if not hundreds; and buttered toast would always fall butter-side down.

Like it does every Friday the thirteenth.

It’s a good job it is so rare.

Luckily there are only two this year instead of the three that occurred during 2017 – and we all know what a disaster of a year that was!

  Wet or Dry?
Saturday 11 January, 2020

There was a mishap with one of the dog beds. The result was that I dropped it out into the garden on the patio. My intention was for it to be rained on and ‘aired’ before returning it to its rightful place.

What actually happened was that the weather was never dry for more than a single day, so the wet dog bed never even got as far as drip-dry before the next downpour.

However, a recent break in the weather allowed me to hang it on the washing line and from there it became dry enough for me to throw into the garage to be again hang on the washing line during the next dry spell.

All was good, except...

...the smell that greeted me the next day was awful when I went into the garage looking for something. The word rank seemed hardly expressive enough to describe the effect of being wet after being slept on by a dog. The bin seemed destined to receive further landfill.

I briefly considered removing the dog hairs with the garage vacuum cleaner then stuffing it in an old pillowcase and thrusting it in the washing machine, but given the weight when soaked (I didn’t feel confident about hanging it on the washing line when soaking wet), I wrote off the idea. It languished while I agonised over the waste of an otherwise good dog bed. Then I decided to try and better understand what washing machine manufacturers mean when they rate their products.

The big white box in my kitchen has a sticker on it proclaiming a rating of seven kilograms. The manual states it can take a seven kilogram wash load. As an engineering-minded chap, and knowing how much heavier some clothing can become when sodden, it caused me to ask myself whether that was the weight of a wet or dry load.

Did the manufacturer’s website answer my question? No, that would have been too simple. So I tried a variety of such sources only to discover that the answer seems to be one that manufacturers feel isn’t worthy of answering! That had me digging deeper.

Logically the wash load rating ought to be the dry weight. After all, clothes tend to go in dry then become wet as the machine runs through its cycle. Unfortunately various materials hold water in differing ways due to their construction, fibre content and material. This means that two jumpers of the same weight when dry may become very different when soaked. A load of seven kilograms can become 14 kilograms or 11 kilograms depending on what was being washed – hence my uncertainty.

Eventually I managed to frame my question in a manner that returned the answer I was looking for: multiple sources told me the rating referred to dry weight. Machines are built to handle much more than the figures stated. That said, their washing ability varies depending on how that loading is managed. Many articles of clothing, leading to a full drum but markedly below the wash load capacity by weight, leads to the inability of the machine to correctly agitate the load in order to separate out the dirt. The result can be: dirty clothes in, dirty clothes out.

Over all it is a complex matter. However, I now felt I better understood what my washing machine could manage so as to avoid having it marching across the kitchen floor as it bounced about trying to handle a load that was overwhelming it.

Then I set about weighing the dog bed to see how close it came to the seven kilogram limit. I weighed it a few times to be sure, such was my surprise. It was one single kilogram. The most water absorbent articles of clothing have been known to double in weight, but those that do so are not common. Generally the weight gain is under that. Even if I have a freaky material making the dog bed and it quadruples in weight upon becoming soaked, it won’t exceed four kilograms.

If I had weighed the thing in the first place then I’d have had no need to worry about it, but then I’d not have learnt so much.

Wet or dry? This washing machine owner no longer cares...

  The Flash
Thursday 9 January, 2020

This morning was exceptional in that I was out in my car! Not only that, but I was driving through town right at the peak of the log jam that is commonly, and mistakenly, referred to as traffic.

When I look up the definition of the word, I read, vehicles moving on a public highway. For much of the time I witnessed little by way of movement.

Mind you, on my way home after attending to the life-or-death event (my daughter wanted a lift), a road sweeping lorry pulled out on me at a roundabout. So sudden was his move that I didn’t get a chance to express my displeasure by sounding my horn. No, all my efforts went into braking and swerving.

Such is the intelligence of those who planned the road layout in my little market town, each major junction and roundabout features a pedestrian crossing on their exits. So when it is busy, someone correctly crossing the road will bring all the roads in the immediate area to a standstill as they become blocked at the same time.

Well my chum, having caused me to consider the choice between wrecking my car against the side of their lorry and wrecking it against anything coming from the road he was turning into, then tried to run down the woman pedestrian nearly halfway over one of those cleverly placed zebra crossings. In the same way that he had failed to cause an accident with me, he also missed the female pedestrian as they jumped out of the way.

At this point, my car was pointing in the correct direction and stationary, allowing me to watch the woman. As quick as a flash she whipped out her mobile phone and took a photo of the back of the lorry – presumably to record the vehicle’s registration number.

The view in my mirror behind me as I left the scene was of the woman appearing to be speaking to someone on her mobile phone as she looked up the road in the direction that the dozy/ignorant lorry driver had headed.

I smiled. Not the normal reaction after being faced with a moron driving a lorry, but my day had been made, none-the-less.

Monday 6 January, 2020

My dog is multi-talented.

When out walking, his nose goes down to the ground and he follows whatever scent he believes exists expressly for the purpose of having him haul my arms off.

If walking over the fields, once he gets more than 30 metres away from me, he ignores me unless I shout very loudly and repeatedly.

He is a beagle. However, he can pull like a husky and I end up sounding husky after we’ve been out together. Maybe I have the name of his breed wrong?

Friday 3 January, 2020

I hope everyone had a great Christmas and their New Year started well and looks to be heading along the same lines!

A quiet Christmas and New Year was intended. The Christmas went as planned and we were poised to raise our glasses as the clock ticked over midnight and heralded the New Year. As we did so, fireworks went off in the neighbourhood.

I spent the next fifteen minutes on a sofa with a small dog nestled under my arm.

Okay, so things were as they were. I’m not complaining. However, the knob who decided to let loose with their fireworks at quarter past one in the morning wasn’t doing anything but demonstrating that the clocks in their house were rather inaccurate, or they were not in possession of enough brain cells to cope with breathing and thinking.