Monday, 28 December 2009

Nadolig Llawen!

Well, that's christmas over and done with. Bit of a busman's holiday really, as I ended up doing the 160 mile round trip back to Wirral twice. Once to take two of the step children home, and once to take the other step child home because his clutch failed while he was driving back. It's been a pain in the arse spending 4 hours a day driving, but at least my phone didn't ring or text once over the festive period.

The barn we stayed in was a cold, dirty hole when we first arrived. My sister and her husband also live 80 miles away from it, so they're very much absentee landlords. If we'd paid for this we wouldn't have been happy. Still, once the fires were switched on, and we'd cleaned up the shit that the last occupants had left behind, it became much more warm and cosy.

We'd anticipated the barn being pretty much a base, but ended up spending quite a lot of time, particularly during the evenings, sitting in a nice warm living room. Internet access, via a mobile broadband dongle, was a frustrating experience. It would take ten minutes to load up google, if it would load up at all. So I spent much of each evening playing games, either with the family, or computer based stuff like civilisation2. It's been a while, and I'd forgotten just how repetitive it is.

Snowdonia can be breathtaking. The bridge at the bottom of the lane is a place where we'd always stop and look. Us and everyone else. That point on google earth is a mass of little blue squares.

Anyway, we're back. We've brought all the stuff in, but not really unpacked, and I feel like I need a holiday.

Some piccies to finish...

This is Lake Padarn, a few days in. Taken from the bridge of photogenaity. On the right is Snowdon. On the left is Glyder Fach. Or Glyder Fawr. Not sure which. This particular photograph is now my desktop wallpaper.

This one was taken a day earlier. We got up early, and saw mist over the lake, so took a walk down to the bridge. It was lovely. The big snowy mountain on the left is Glyder Fach or Fawr again.

Not sure what this mountain is, but it looks like a grand place for sledging.

One walk we did was up a track behind the barn, through Padarn country park. After slipping and sliding through the remnants of snow, we reached civilisation of sorts. This old tractor caught my eye.

There are quite a few different officially signposted walking routes in the area. the walk I did around lake padern was indicated by posts with white stripes on them. This picture was taken by the Llanberis slate mining museum, where many paths meet. The dark blue takes you to flooded quarry where divers can dive. The yellow follows the white but veers off into the higher hills. The green one takes you back to nature. The red one leads to either Hell or Anfield. The light blue one leads to the sky.

This also taken from the southern end of Padern, near the slate museum. Most of the snow was gome by this morning. The mountains almost always get covered in the winter. Up until a few years ago, the snow would lie in the valleys too, but these days, it rarely stays for long.

Wednesday, 23 December 2009


It's not a matter of escaping from the connectivity of modern life. It's about controlling it. I'm miles away from home here, in a sparsely populated part of the world. The phone isn't ringing. No texts are coming in. But I can power up my laptop, and post this. Mobile broadband is an expensive way of moving ones and zeroes around, but hey! These are the best of times! I'd post a picture, but the two bits of technology I didn't bring are a battery charger and connecting lead for my camera.

Here's one from the internet instead.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Away for Christmas!

We're not doing the usual Christmas this year. We're buggering off to a barn in Wales.

Here, to be precise.

Carry on without me, won't you?

Sunday, 13 December 2009


I can juggle. A bit. Three thuds standard. When I used to practice it, I could just about do 4 balls - two in eachhand. The way I learned was to use two balls in my strongest hand (my left) and once I'd got my head around looking at the apex of the ball's trajectory rather than at my hands, and understood that the act of juggling really consists of throwing and catching in the same movement, I was able to learn with two balls in my right hand. After that, juggling three balls in two hands was easy. The hand to ball ratio is just 1.5. That's 25% less than the hand to ball ratio of two balls in one hand.

There's transferrable skills in there somewhere, should you ever wish to become a driving instructor. Many people when trying to learn how to steer, try to do it by looking at the steering wheel. Unless you know where the car is going as a result of your hand movements, you have no context to what you're doing.

Friday, 11 December 2009

7 billion euros... Is that a big number?

I recently picked up a book called "The tiger that isn't"

It's about numbers and how to read them. Sometimes, a trillion can be quite a small number, while 0.1 can be enormous.

So when I read that the EU is planning to spend 7 billion euros over 3 years into a global warming fund, what does that actually mean?

Well first of all, lets divide that by 3 to get a yearly amount.

7,000,000,000 / 3 = 2,333,333,333

Two and a third billion euros a year. Is that a big number?

According to wikipedia, the population of the European Union is 499,794,855

so divide the amount being paid per year by the number of people in the european union and you get...


So each person in the EU is going to have to fork out 4 euros and 67 cents per year to save the world.

Is that a big number? I suspect it will be far too large for some people to countenance.

The UK, of course, is giving more than any other nation. £500 million a year according to the BBC article. So divide that £500,000,000 by the 2009 estimate of our population (61,113,205) and you get the princely sum of... £8.1815378525803056802535556758969. Per year. Almost 16p per week.

Holy Jesus fucking Christ! How can we eat? What about the Children?


Thursday, 10 December 2009

The acoustic properties of unhomogenised hot milk and granulated coffee compared with the acoustic properties of homogenised hot milk and coffee...

You will need:

1 mug

enough milk to fill the mug

a teaspoon

enough granulated instant coffee to at least partially fill the teaspoon

a microwave oven, with a connection to mains electricity

at least one hand

at least one ear


To investigate what happens acoustically when you stir granulated coffee into a mug of hot milk


Fill mug with milk.

Place milk filled mug into microwave oven.

Heat on full power for 2 minutes (750 watt oven) or until milk is hot enough to make what you'd describe as a "hot" drink.

Add granulated coffee to mug of hot milk using teaspoon. (Any brand of coffee will do here. Caffeinated or decaffeinated are both fine. When I did this experiment, I used Kenco de-caff, but ethical experimenters should find that fair trade organic instant coffee will work just as well)

Stir. Vigorously enough for the spoon to repeatedly tap the internal sides of the mug.



Well you can hear it can't you? The note generated by the spoon's contact with the mug changes. It becomes lower. Perhaps by as much as an octave.


The process of homogenising hot milk and granulated instant coffee in a mug causes a change in the acoustic properties of the medium.

Suggested further research:

The three main factors here appear to be the solvent, the solute and the noise generating media.

So, other soluble materials, such as chocolate powder, andrews liver salts and sugar could be added to hot milk, and stirred so that their acoustic properties can be analysed. Insoluble materials, eg, sand, and woodchips could also be added to the hot milk.

A different solvent, such as water, vinegar, molten lead or sulphuric acid (H2SO4) could be used with coffee, or with other solutes as mentioned above.

Finally, different media could be used. A plastic spoon and a snare drum full of hot milk/cofee solution may generate a different dataset for example.

The possibilities are endless with this one, kids! do try this at home!

Tuesday, 8 December 2009

Mind the gap!

Here, according to is where the British parties stand on a social and economic spectrum...

And here's where I stand...

I don't support any party uncritically, but I suppose I will be quixotically voting Green at the next election, if I don't quixotically exercise my democratic right to tell them all to fuck off by spoiling my ballot paper. Certainly they seem to be the only ones that come close to my position.

Now, I've posted the test before, a couple of years ago, on a non-political forum, and many of the people that answered the questions that defined their positions found themselves placed as left wing and libertarian. Why not take the test yourself and see where you stand? Regardless of your political persuasions, please feel free to take the time to add a comment to this thread letting me know where you fit in and whether you thought the questions were fair.

So assuming the questions are not leading people in a certain direction, as one person suggested in response to my posting of this test, a couple of questions need to be asked.

1. Why do the mainstream political parties occupy the political space that they do, if they want the votes of people who hold a far more left wing and libertarian viewpoint?

2. Why do people who have a left wing and libertarian viewpoint keep voting for centre right parties?

I suppose the second question answers the first.

Monday, 7 December 2009

"I was wrong, and I'm sorry"

- words you never see on internet discussion boards...

You'd think it would be easy wouldn't you? I mean, it's not like you're face to face with the people you're arguing with. You're just a collection of dots on a computer screen.

Yet that very lack of person to person interaction seems to make it harder maybe.

But my experience is, the best you can hope for, even if you demonstrate conclusively and unequivocally that the other guy got it wrong, is that they just shut up. It seldom causes them t change their point of view. So the reason for taking the time to argue on internet forums is not to win an argument against an opponent, but to present a good argument for your audience.

Thursday, 3 December 2009

The RTP filter and the Great Money Trick

One of the books that helped to define the way I look at the world is "The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists" by Robert Tressell.

You can find the text online HERE or it can be purchased from a wide variety of places if you'd prefer paper to pixels. I recommend your local independent bookshop, rather than the big sellers, if posible. Ideological, that's me.

The book itself is an explanation of Utopian socialism, and is both somewhat naive, and something of a polemic. It's a reflection of it's time (it was written in the first few years of the 20'th century) and yet so much of what it has to say still reverberates.

So, for example, when I read people discussing filesharing, I can see that Tressell would have approved of it completely, but would consider the artists creating the stuff being shared as having contributed something of value to society, and to be therefore entitled to their fair share of the things produced by that society.

Or more specifically, when I read today's news, and I find that the Board of the Royal Bank of Scotland are threatening to resign if they don't get their multi-million pound bonuses I find myself thinking

The men work with their hands, and the masters work
with their brains.
What a dreadful calamity it would be
for the world and for mankind
if all these brain workers were to go on strike.