Archive for the 'Uncategorized' Category

Been Busy

Still am. However, while looking for a replacement for Picasa (boo! bad google) for Wen, I did discover that my Photography Subscription to Adobe (Lightroom + Photoshop) also includes a neat little Photographic Portfolio generating tool. Here’s what it did in 15 minutes.

Exam Madness

I’ve been a school governor for an alarmingly long time – the last 10 years at a Cottenham Village College, now an Academy. This apparently makes me more qualified than anybody in Government to see how ridiculous their claims about “grade inflation” are.

Every school, under several shades of Government, has to produce monstrous amounts of documentation: policies, plans, guidance, self-assessments, declarations, statements of ethos, etc, etc.

Chief amongst these for many years has been the School Improvement Plan. This has to show how the grades achieved by the pupils would be better next year than last year. If a school did not achieve this improvement, then it would be classed “failing” with promised terrible consequences for all.

Can anyone see yet why the accusation of “grade inflation” is completely hypocritical? Yes, Gove – at the back there, boy!

And now there will be the “English Baccalaureate Certificate”. Has he even looked that word up in the dictionary? In English it means a University Degree (Bachelor of Arts, or Bachelor of Science).

Diegogarcity

My new favourite word, as it describes a phenomenon which happens to me all the time: the coincidence of learning something new (usually a word) and then almost immediately noticing it turning up in the book you were already reading, a radio programme you listen to every day, etc.

It was coined by Aldiboronti, a member of the Wordorigins.org discussion group:

It is a play on serendipity, as Serendip is an old name for Sri Lanka. For this concept, Aldi chose another Indian Ocean island as the namesake.

I don’t know how widely accepted it is, but I hope to promulgate it by using it as often as possible.

Harry Law 1930 – 2011

Harry built things.
All four of his sons also learned how to build things, watching and helping him. For some of us this was more theoretical than practical – I do know how to mix cement, and about sharp sand and aggregate, I’ve just never felt the need.
He also mended things. He had a curiosity which meant he found out how things worked, and so how to repair them. With four of us, all taking on his love of driving, it’s hard to count the number of cars which were nursed through MOTs on Mum & Dad’s driveway.
You may know how that curiosity cost him the tip of his finger. As a very young boy he watched a farm hand remove a stone from a straw chopping machine by poking inside it with a finger. When it was unattended later he tried the same trick himself but omitted the crucial step of stopping the machine first. That short finger was useful when he smoked his pipe because he could use it for tamping down the tobacco.
He considered studying Architecture but gave it up to help his Dad on the farm. He didn’t mind, because it meant he could work outside, which he preferred. His drawing was limited to plans and sketches, but it was a skill inherited by Phil & Ian professionally, and passed on to me and Colin as a hobby.
He met Ann, the landlord’s daughter in a pub he visited, and when he asked her to marry him, Mum said it was either her or farming. He chose wisely. He had several jobs before settling at Halsteads and staying there until he retired.
He worked a lot when we were young, doing jobs in the evenings as well as working during the day, but I particularly remember him looking after us on Monday nights when Mum was at night school learning enamelling or cordon bleu cookery. He let me and Phil stay up to watch The High Chaparral.
He didn’t cook much but he did make breakfast. Porridge for all of us in the pressure cooker – just the biggest pan there was. He used a large cast iron frying pan to cook a mean fried breakfast and on Pancake Day in a joint effort with Mum on a production line of frying, sugaring and lemon juicing which could never keep up with four hungry boys.
John Bishop recently said his dad invented the people carrier, but my Dad did that. He put four seats and windows in the back of the transit van. I’ve always enjoyed being driven, especially at night – with Dad driving, and Mum keeping him awake, the back of the van on a Sunday night coming back from Blackpool was always a safe and comfortable place to sleep. Although Ian disagrees – he says he never slept, instead watching the road with one eye and Dad in the mirror with the other.
Harry liked beer and wine. On one visit to Phil & Sue in Germany he took back a crate of empty weissbier bottles from the previous trip, worth just 6 Euros. Phil asked why he had bothered for such small change, but Dad said if he made room in the car to take the empties, there would be room to bring back full bottles.
I cannot ever remember him being angry. During a Saturday morning Sekiden pistol fight, when Mum was working at Preston’s, a favourite tiered glass vase was broken. Instead of shouting at us, Dad cut off the broken tier and ground the edge to produce a shorter tiered even lovelier vase. Which Mum spotted as soon as she got home.
He had a tremendous sense of humour, despite the adversities he suffered from GBS, which robbed him of the last years of retirement he deserved. The photograph album which you can look at later shows how often he laughed, and that he was very photogenic. He could also really carry off wearing a hat.
He was strong – he arm wrestled all of us and won. On a visit to Cambridge, a missed signpost turned a walk in Wandlebury Country Park into a marathon trek and I remember him carrying Robyn for what seemed miles until we got back to the car.
That strength, and visits every day from Ann, helped him survive six weeks in intensive care and a year in hospital. His sense of humour made friends of everyone who met him.
He rarely complained about the change of lifestyle brought on him by GBS. Instead, after years of us trying to get them connected, he finally discovered the computer and developed a new life online. Here was something I could teach him, but he was a great learner and soon had everything organised – bank accounts, bills, photographs, even Facebook. I would see “thumbOK” appear online during the day and we would chat occasionally.
Some things he actually did better. One stereotype he fitted exactly was that of the man who shopped for his wife on Christmas Eve. Many a Christmas Holiday started with us, rushing into town dashing from shop to shop looking for something to go with the tin of Roses. But now, armed only with his typing thumb and Ann’s M&S Credit Card, and instructions to Mum to sign for but not open parcels, everything was organised. He even printed out labels – all we had to do was the wrapping.
After we all left home, a visit from Mum & Dad usually involved a job to be done (too many to list but including house extensions, car ports, internal walls, sheds, ..). This wasn’t entirely selfish as Dad liked to have something to do whilst Mum shopped. Later, we could repay him a little because he always had a list of jobs for us to do when we visited him. He had always thought it through and presented the solution not the problem, along with which tool to use and where to find it in the shed.
Harry built things. I’m proud to say that best of all, together with Ann, he built a family.

Pinched by the Fuzz (except taxis)

Longstanton Road is “access only” for a small stretch where it passes the disused airfield – presumably because it was a military airfield and there were (a) secrets and (b) aeroplanes. That was many years ago.

Some of the former officer accommodation, and some rather big houses, are now privately owned and at least one or two are occupied by Councillors. They have complained to the Police that cars are using the road. The Police have acted (a little reluctantly and apologetically in the case of the nice constable I spoke with) and this morning were dishing out £30 fixed penalties. It’s the way I go to work.

It’s a fair cop. It’s been coming, I suppose, because I’ve seen an increase in traffic using it as the route to Cambridge. I never do that, it spoils it for everyone. I expect the residents of the big houses do go that way to Cambridge, too, but not this week. I’m sure the Councillors go the long, correct way.

However, given that the alternatives are (1) an extra 1½ miles via the A14 (which can take upwards of 20 minutes when there’s a queue of trucks going to Folkstone),  or (2) an extra 2 miles via Cottenham, it’s not a bad toll if it only happens every 4 years. (The nice policeman advised me that they’d be there all week, clearly implying that next week they’d be gone.)

It does gall me that taxis and invalid carriages are allowed to use this route. Taxis also get to travel up Silver Street in Cambridge where other cars must take a 1½ mile diversion through extra traffic. Why? What do they do to earn these short cuts? They are just another vehicle except that for every single journey they carry one extra person.

Marquee Moving


Andrew Lansley MP was visiting a neighbour of ours, so they put a marquee up on the lawn.

Later they decided to have the reception indoors, because of the wind – a good decision, as the marquee got away!



 


The tree stopped it hitting any buildings. And after everyone (un-)pitched in (including the MP), it was made safe. Only the tree was damaged.

There was an official photographer watching us take it down (he didn’t help). Maybe his pictures will turn up in the Cambridge Evening News, if nothing else happens today.

Deathly Hallows

Phew! Finished it, so now no-one can tell me who dies and who doesn’t. What a relief.

ParcelFarce

I order stuff off the interweb all the time. If it fits through the letterbox – DVDs, CDs, games – then I get it sent home. Everything else I have delivered to work and generally that used to work out fine. Almost all my Christmas shopping last year was subcontracted by Santa via the office.

Since we moved a little closer to Cambridge from the wild fenlands, however, the delivery times have changed. So a “signed-for” ParcelForce package which somebody has to be in to receive obviously goes to work. The address is “Oakington Business Park”, so there is a clue there. They try to deliver it at 8:05 in the morning. They leave a card: “we will attempt delivery tomorrow”. I bet they wouldn’t deliver at home at 8-oh-bloody-5.

I suspected it was for me, so I came in an hour early (what businesses start at 8:00am? Milkmen? Certainly not postmen.) and they were here again at exactly the same time. Why would you do that? (I know, as a software engineer, I always see if it happens again, but I get more than 2 attempts before I give up.)

I suppose it worked. I got the parcel.

Generalize

So, the man on the radio was probably nervous. (Who wouldn’t be, interviewed on “Today” on Radio 4, which by necessity means you’ve been untimely ripped from your bed.) It did sound like something he’d rehearsed, but probably not something he’d listened to. Still, I’d like to think he wishes he hadn’t said it now:

“It’s always wrong to generalize about anything.”

Thanks to the power of the BBC’s Listen Again, I have discovered that it was Grant Hearne, Chief Executive of Travelodge talking about private equity financing of businesses.

Yesterday I couldn’t even spell plummer..


Tool and Pipe
Originally uploaded by DerekL.

..today I are one.

It started when Robyn noticed something growing on her bathroom ceiling. Closer inspection revealed an excessive amount of damp.

Up into the loft I went, and the insulation under the cold pipe to the shower was completely wet through, as was the plasterboard ceiling. I couldn’t see anything on the pipe though, so I mopped up.

Next day, I looked again, and this time I did notice water leaking from the end of the lagging. When I took more lagging off I could see a very slow drip from much further down the pipe – it had been running along the lagging before escaping. I tried some very old (too old in fact) pipe sealing goo stuff. It didn’t stick so I put a tin under the drip and asked my Dad for advice. He told me of the magic of push-fit connectors and pipe-cutters.

The next day I checked again. The sandpapering I did to the pipe to make the goo work had obviously made the hole bigger, and the tin was full. Now I could see a very fine spray. This time I turned the water off.


Repaired
Originally uploaded by DerekL.

I thought I’d go to the newly opened Screwfix Trade Counter, but I was a week early. I had to go to Plumbase across the road where the cutter was £20 (but “Made in England”). When I got home I had fixed it in 10 minutes. Magic. (It would have been 5 minutes, but when I first cut the pipe I discovered that I hadn’t quite turned the water completely off, and had to scramble like a loon back across the loft to the tap.)