The Blog of Zakspade

April 2020 Archive
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Pink Pig
  Coronavirus! The Truth!
Saturday 25 April, 2020

There are many claims surrounding the origins of the Coronavirus that causes Covid-19. Of those that exist, many have subtle variances that add to the number overall.

For instance, the story that the Chinese were responsible for releasing it on the world has a number of variations: germ warfare, lab incompetence, food hygiene inadequacies, and Chinese terrorist actions, and even then they are further divisible according to how one wishes to emphasis whatever narrative or agenda is being pushed.

The one that makes me smile the most at the moment is the ‘link’ between 5G and Coronavirus. Some of the videos and articles were seen and read by me when they were about mobile phone signals, 2G, 3G and 4G rollouts. Naturally all have been re-edited to suit the current hoaxes, but they top my list of ‘funnies’ that make me giggle.

Well, maybe the ‘How to Dry an iPhone After Being Dropped in Water’ advice comes close. What's that one? Oh, that is the wonderful word on fishing it out quickly and giving it a minute in your microwave to get rid of the water…

Hang on, no, both have been replaced by the latest wise words on Coronavirus, and I feel I may take this one a little more seriously.

Coronavirus is being transmitted through aliens not adequately sterilising their probes in between abductions.

You read it here first, folks!


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  Stuck at Home
Wednesday 22 April, 2020

The last few weeks, as I’ve made my customary walk to my local post office, the weather has been glorious. Usually, with sunshine at this time of year comes the occasional sound of lawnmowers making the first cut of the year.

There has been no ‘occasional’ about it this year. My nose has been subjected to the smell of fresh cut grass almost consistently this month. But it isn’t just the sound of lawnmowers that has filled the air.

I never knew that so many people owned pressure washers! I have seen so many on my daily walks of late that it appears I am missing out and should buy one (online, of course). The drives of my hometown have never been cleaner and more devoid of moss and weeds than at any other time since I have lived here.

There is also the sound of vacuum cleaners. My guess is that the interior of cars will be at their cleanest since the day they were first registered for the road.

On the flipside, there are no aircraft in the sky, so the sounds that attend being stuck at home and hunting about for things to do, are not in competition with airliners, helicopters, or joyriding light aeroplanes.

Now, what brand of pressure washer should I buy?

  Oh, the Irony!
Monday 20 April, 2020

Coronavirus, Covid-19, originated in China. That's nothing contentious; it's just an undisputed fact.

How it came about is something which has been debated. Some say it was engineered in a lab and released upon China's enemies. Others claim it crossed from bats to humans through unprotected sex.

Or something like that, a-hem!

However, that it first reared its viral head in China is true.

As part of a vaccine-free strategy to stem its spread, nations around the world have introduced measures.

One such is the shutdown of society. This means a number of things, but it benefits takeaway outlets as sit-in establishments have all been forcibly shut.

Takeaways restaurants have seen takings go through their roofs (the fallout is slate tiles).

My household helped with the provision of such rain from the skies in that we have ordered a takeaway. Yes, we ordered a ‘Chinese’ over the weekend...

  The Knock
Saturday 18 April, 2020

There was a knock at the door. The dogs barked and I remembered why I had never wasted any effort in fitting a doorbell.

Once the crazed hounds had been secured I went into the hallway. There was no sign of anyone through the glazed top panel of the front door but I opened it anyway. There was a huge box on the doormat.

Across the road the driver of the delivery van made a thumbs up gesture and I acknowledged him.

It wasn't a one-off. This is how parcels have been received for the last few weeks and it has become the norm.

Once I took it in, the dogs insisted upon making a thorough inspection of the box.

It's good to see some things never change.

Wednesday 15 April, 2020

I recently watched a programme about the making of a particular 1990 blockbuster film. At the time a disused Illinois school had been taken over and used for sound sets, locations and production offices.

A pair of the principle movers behind the film’s production showed the documentary team about the now reopened school and its grounds, highlighting what areas had been used for the various parts of the film. As the pair entered through a main door a ‘forbidden’ sign featuring a red circle and a diagonal line was plainly visible. The item in its centre was a hand gun.

A school having to erect a notice on the main door to forbid the taking in of hand guns?

Imagine the reporting if a school in the UK mounted such a sign on a door into their reception!

Things change, and it looks like the Americans have just accepted that there is a reason to post such prohibitions. Likewise, I wonder how many of the things currently part of our society here in the UK will become just another one of those things once Covid-19 becomes a footnote in the history books of tomorrow.

  The Device
Monday 13 April, 2020

Imagine having written 110k words. Now, read through them and tidy things up. It drops to 90k.

All is good. However, you wish to tweak it through altering pronoun use and switching to greater use of direct speech. The target is to have it ready for a third party to read by the time the end is reached.

So the final edit is chapter by chapter – each is read and reread until moving onto the next. It becomes refinement and removal of the odd typo. Progress suggests the total will be close to 100k by the time it is finished. Until…

Partway through, reference to an object is spotted. However, it assumes it to be somewhere it can't be, according to the opening third of the book. It is merely a single line, but the whole chapter makes no sense if that one line is removed.

“What we have here is a failure to [properly] communicate,” a line lifted and adapted from the 1967 film, Cool Hand Luke.

Instead of being able to whizz through the manuscript, ironing out incidents of ‘fat fingers,’ I spent much of the holidays rewriting a whole chapter; and all so the contents of a coat pocket could be on a coffee table, where it was supposed to be.

Easter means different things to different people...

Friday 10 April, 2020

Statistics, everyone’s friend. They say so much, and never lie. You only have to look at the stats on how many people believe them to realise that they never mislead or are untrustworthy.

I was studying my webstats the other week. It seemed a good idea to look and try to understand how this blog, and the other web space sitting alongside it, was being accessed.

Well, maybe it wouldn’t be everyone’s cup of tea; however, figures suggest that tea is more popular among people in society than it is to caterpillars or elephants.

Rather than my having unrestricted access to the server logs, the data was presented to me in pretty colours and graphs. It was all easy on my eye and the figures made sense. Or at least they seemed to, until I tried to interpret what they meant.

According to what they stated, I have somewhere in the region of 14,500 unique visitors to this website per year. Given that my idea of coding never progressed further than writing HTML in Notepad when I was required to maintain a website while attending university, it might now be more obvious why it isn’t very pretty.

So if I can attract that many people to my website as it is, then surely, with a bit of tweaking and making it prettier, along with targeting of search engines, that number could only increase? If that were the case, then I could monetise it and realise a very decent income from advertising. I’d become rich! Well, if not rich, then marginally better off.

My heart was racing. Could I really be looking at a means to make my living? The excitement was there, but my head lagged behind as it sought to determine how those figures had been generated.

My first step was to work out how they were translated from bare log files. The dream died the second that I discovered that the total of 14,500 was calculated from simply totalling up the number of unique visitors per day. Simple maths meant multiplying it by 365 (366 if for the current leap year). Unfortunately, each day’s total is disregarded upon the commencement of logging the following day’s access. Any unique visitor on one day would be regarded as such again if they visited the website the next day, or any day afterwards.


Hang on, that would mean that if John Smith read my blog once every day over a year he would register in the presented webstats as 365 unique visitors?

Yep, that’s it!

Major deflation followed as I worked out that the 14,500 possibly meant an average of just under 40 unique visitors per day (14,500 divided by 365).

It was a salutary lesson in not taking statistics at ‘face value’ and acting upon them. A bit like not reading newspapers without questioning what the figures they quote for things really mean.

You are obviously not reading the words of a person who is rich off the back of those who read these words.

  Missing Sirens
Sunday 5 April, 2020

One of the signs of normality is emergency vehicle sirens. I know that seems a back-to-front statement, so let me explain…

I live in a nice market town. It received its market charter sometime around when dinosaurs ruled the Earth, or thereabouts. Whenever, it was a very long time before the invention of the horseless carriage.

Consequently the roads in, out and through the town are not capable of supporting the numbers that now belch toxins into the air. Instead, we have a nice slow carnival-like processional affair that some claim is 'traffic' and others liken to a mobile car park.

However one thinks of it, the impenetrability requires the copious use of very loud sirens affixed to vehicles wishing to reach emergencies. With the reduction of others driving through town, the air is cleaner, the roads are safer, and no one has a need to blast other road users with audible warnings. These days no one needs to move out of the way by mounting kerbs or willing themselves to be smaller.

Hence it is the lack of sirens that highlights the abnormality of today.

  The Day of the
Friday 3 April, 2020

I went shopping yesterday. Usually it is delivered, but panic-buyers, who believe everything the papers say, have hogged all the available slots.

Everything on my list was available. I even stood in the relevant aisle and deliberated over which brand of toilet roll to purchase.

However, such is the stupidity and selfishness exhibited by many, the half-dozen two litre bottles of fizzy drink couldn't be purchased. As the limit was three, then three it had to be. The fact that there were pallets and pallets of the stuff meant nothing.

Rules is rules…

So I cycled out to the store this morning to pick up an additional three bottles. Nothing else wanted – just those three bottles that I had been denied yesterday, but what a trip!

My first observation was on how few vehicles there were on the roads. Sure, I had noticed this on my walks to the local post office, but I hadn't fully appreciated just how quiet the roads really were.

Then I realised that with fewer vehicles, came fewer brain cells. Those cars on the road didn't give way at junctions, nor refrain from pulling out on me. I put it down to drivers not being bothered to give way to cyclists because no one was going to be around to report them…

That also seemed to be the reason for many cars heading down the main road at speeds far in excess of the 30mph limit. I stopped to watch the smiley/frowny face speed indicator a while. Every car that passed did so at a speed that triggered it; many at speeds that warranted disqualification.

Cycling through the town centre was an eye-opener. Those establishments still operating had queues outside. Stores and banks were operating a policy of limited customers inside at any one time. It reminded me of the need to queue for bread when I lived in Poland.

The other thing of note was the number of empty parking bays. They were not entirely deserted, but one particular type was conspicuously 100% free: the disabled bays. That was eerie.

I carried on through town and reached the supermarket. Given that all I wanted was those bottles of pop, I didn't figure on experiencing any problems. However, as I approached the road leading to the car park area, I came to realise that the ignorance displayed by those few drivers on the road towards me on a bicycle was actually just poor and arrogant driving aimed at everyone.

One car nearly took the nose off another at a roundabout because they failed to give way. Another, that had assumed a right of way that road craft, line markings, and the Highway Code all refuted, narrowly missed a bus. And areas of black and white stripes were ignored at all times – no matter who was walking across (some seemed keener to aim at buggies than others).

Oddly, I felt a little better for that, now realising that it wasn't just because I was on a bicycle – no, they were just being moronic towards everyone in equal measure.

Then I closed in on my target and was horrified. As I looked for where to chain up my bicycle I saw a queue that stretched from the entrance and down the side of the store. Waiting twenty or more minutes in a line just to buy stuff I already knew was freely available wasn't something I was prepared to do – especially given the colour of the clouds in the sky. So headed back home, deciding to take in a smaller supermarket by way of a minor detour as I did so.

Again I witnessed a truly dreadful standard of driving during my journey, but his time I was consoled knowing it was idiots who were applying their idiocy to all. However, this time, because I had approached from an unusual direction, I had to travel through an entire car park. I was aghast at how vehicles were parked. Thinking about it, the word ‘parked’ seems inappropriate and perhaps ‘dumped’ is better.

About 10% of the cars would have attracted those yellow Police aware stickers if they had been anywhere else. Stolen and dumped, almost certainly, were it not for the fact that scaremongering by newspapers and news outlets; having successfully driven the majority into panic, was to blame.

Of the rest, only half seemed to have been parked by drivers who knew what the round thing inside the car did.

No matter, all I needed was somewhere secure to lock my bike, then head inside for those three bottles of soft drink. Then I saw the queue. It was far longer than that at the bigger supermarket from where I had just come.

For a moment the whole experience reminded me of the 1963 film, Day of the Triffids, barring crashed and overturned cars.

I gave up and cycled home, careful to avoid the roads and sticking to the footpaths. After all, why respect the law or common sense when it has plainly been ignored by the rest?

  HGV Nightmare
Thursday 2 April, 2020

I had just reached the end of my road on my daily trip to the post office and my ears were assaulted by the sound of a large diesel engine. As I rounded the corner I was faced by a 44 tonne articulated HGV.

The roads through the development on which I live are deliberately twee and twisty, expressly so as to inhibit free flow of large vehicles. So the sight of a huge lorry trapped by a combination of tight bend and parked cars was unexpected.

Despite the isolation measures that have led to quiet streets of late, householders had flooded out to gawp at the hapless vehicle.

The driver couldn't reverse. It couldn't move forward. He was stranded and probably cursing his SatNav, although I couldn't be sure as he was Hungarian.

The moving of a couple of cars meant the lorry could advance, but it was only deeper into the maze of little residential roads that made up the area. It was pointless trying to direct the driver out of the estate as no one spoke Hungarian and his English was rather rudimentary. So one of the householders got out their bicycle and instructed the driver to follow him out of the estate.

Such was the teensy-wincey nature of the roundabouts and corners; the lorry was forced to go around them the wrong way so as to make the turns. However, eventually he was led out and back to the main road.

The odd thing is that the development has just the single way in and out. There is no way anyone can reach anywhere else by going through.

My theory is that he didn't know left from right, and if I'm correct, he was probably supposed to be in Turkey…

  The Lonely Helicopter
Wednesday 1 April, 2020

My regular walk to my local post office has become a rather quiet affair of late. No airliners from the nearby international airport passing overhead at 5-10 minute intervals; fewer cars using the main road on which my destination is located, and only those with essential business out walking.

All very quiet.

Then I heard a sound that had escaped the attention of my list: a helicopter was flying overhead.

I'd forgotten about the helicopters. How I could forget the flying machines that buzz the town by flying over built-up areas as low as the law permits? Apparently the minimum legal height is low enough for the rotor wash to cause the windows and doors in my house to rattle.

Ah, how I have missed that.

On my way back home the same helicopter flew overhead again. A double dose!

As far as fixes go, that was a doozy!