Sunday, 31 January 2010

booking your theory test? beware of these guys...

https://www.theorytest.net/

Here's what their terms and conditions say...

"The 'Fee for booking your Theory Test' is the combined DSA / DVTA Theory Test Fee (Currently £31.00) and the TheoryTest.net administration fee of £20.00 (including VAT at current rate)."

So they're charging you over fifty quid to book a theory test.

If you book your tests (both theory and practical) from this page: http://direct.gov.uk/en/Motoring/Motoringtransactions/DG_066356 it will cost you just the £31 fee.

But perhaps it's quicker? Or more straightforward?

No! It's not! Booking your theory test takes perhaps 10 minutes. It takes about the same amount of time to do it via this booking agent. So they're charging you £120/hour, at least, to do absolutely nothing, and to provide yo with a service that you can get for absolutely nothing via other channels.

Mug's game, innit.

Near Death Experience...

Joining a main road from a sliproad can be a dangerous and daunting task. One of my pupils got it very wrong today and nearly crashed.

(click to enlarge)

On this picture, we're travelling from the bottom right corner of the screen, joining the road heading towards the left hand side of the screen. We're travelling at close to the 40 mile per hour limit, and there's a car quite close behind us. On the main road, there's just one car, quite a long way back from the junction, but travellling quite a lot faster than the speed limit.

My pupil has a look over his shoulder, and sees the car in the distance, then has a couple of looks in his door mirror, but is unable to see the car. At this point, I don't know the car is there, and I'm concentrating on trying to get my pupil to give himself a wider field of view in his door mirror by leaning forward in his seat. As we approach the give way lines, I look to the side to find the car is almost alongside us. I immediately brake firmly and take hold of the wheel to stop my pupil from attemting to steer to the right. At the same moment, the car on the main road swerves sharply right to avoid us, and we miss each other. The person following us also has to brake sharply, and once things have sorted themselves out, he overtakes us on the main road. The driver of that car clearly thought it was the car on the main road that was at fault, and to an extent, he was.

There were two lanes available, and he was the only car on the road. He should have read the situation, checked his mirrors, and moved over into the outside lane. That would have allowe dthe traffic on the sliproad to safely join the main road. He was also travelling far too fast. Perhaps 60 miles per hour in a 40 limit.

But at the end of the slip road, there are give way lines. Drivers coming that way must give way to oncoming traffic. So we were at fault too. Perhaps, if an accident had occurred, we would have been liable.

The two things you need to do to emerge safely from a situation like this are, firstly, to be aware of what's going on around you. This specifically means what's going on behind you, and what's happening on the road you're trying to join. and secondly, you need to be travelling at an appropriate speed for the situation.

The first of these means good mirrorwork on approach, and early observations, backed up by further brief observations as you approach. Looking over your right shoulder can give a good idea of what's happening, and in a situation like this, the road you're joining is often not going to be covered by an ordinary look in your door mirror. There are a couple of problems with looking over your shoulder though. You're body twists around to the right, and this can cause you to turn the steering wheel to the right as well, which makes the car veer dangerously out of it's lane. Also, if you're looking over your shoulder, while driving forward, and something happens in front of you, well you're just going to smash straight into whatever it is, because you won't know it's happened.

The highway code recommends a glance over your shoulder as you approach the road you want to join.

Your door mirror will not really tell you what's going on on the road you're joining if you're sat back in your seat. If you lean forward in your seat, you get a wider field of view, and you still have some awareness, through peripheral vision, of what's going on ahead of you. Because you lean forward but your body is straight, the steering isn't affected as much.

If you're joining traffic that's travelling at speed, you also need to be travelling at speed if possible. If you're attempting to join a stream of traffic that's moving at 70 miles per hour, and you're doing only 30 miles per hour, you're allowing cars to close with you at a relative speed of 40 miles per hour. If you're doing 70 miles per hour as you join, then the gap you're moving into moves with you.

Ultimately, what happened today was my fault. My pupil is at test standard. He's not a learner except in the sense that all of us are. I'd assumed he'd be able to deal with the situation comfortably, so I didn't brief him about it beforehand.

Live and learn.

Saturday, 30 January 2010

Bollocks to democracy.

A few months from now, millions of apathetic, ill informed, self-interested, short sighted arseholes will get off their fat fucking arses and vote tory.

It's an affront to those that fought to get ordinary people the right to vote.

Grrr!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Insert Pie Here

What could have been just a tagged subsection of this blog has got a place of it's own. It's dedicated to a very specific premise, and is unlikely to change the world, but I am having some fun with it. Check it out in my blog list.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Haiku

I was going to post a driving instructor haiku.

I wrote 3 verses of syllabic verse on how to move off safely without stalling before coming to my senses.

It was awful, and no. No matter how nicely you ask, I'm not going to post it.

Red Post

Blood, Fire, and the Setting Sun!

And the Kop. And strawberries.

So what can I do with this crimson hued missive?

Nothing important! Here are some pictures of red things that I've taken.

Wife's hair...



And nose. She's caught my cold.

A red tractor. Again.



Red sky at night.





Monday, 25 January 2010

the cost of petrol

This table was lifted from HERE...


Petrol Prices 1983-2009
Year Price per Litre (p) Price per Gallon (£) Retail
Prices
Index
Petrol Price
in constant terms
(1983=100)
5-year
% increase

1983 36.7 1.670 83.1 100.0 -
1984 38.7 1.759 87.5 100.0 -
1985 42.8 1.946 92.8 104.3 -
1986 38.2 1.737 96.7 89.4 -
1987 37.8 1.719 100.6 85.0 -
1988 34.7 1.578 104.1 75.4 -5.5
1989 38.4 1.746 112.3 77.4 -0.7
1990 40.2 1.828 121.4 74.9 -6.1
1991 39.5 1.796 131.4 68.0 3.4
1992 40.3 1.832 136.7 66.7 6.6
1993 45.9 2.087 139.3 74.6 32.3
1994 48.9 2.223 133.1 77.6 27.3
1995 50.9 2.314 147.5 78.1 26.6
1996 52.9 2.405 151.5 79.0 33.9
1997 57.9 2.632 155.4 84.3 43.7
1998 60.9 2.769 160.8 85.7 32.7
1999 61.9 2.814 164.1 85.3 26.6
2000 76.9 3.496 168.4 103.3 51.1
2001 77.9 3.541 173.1 101.8 47.2
2002 69.9 3.178 174.5 90.6 20.7
2003 77.9 3.541 179.9 98.0 27.9
2004 77.9 3.541 184.6 95.5 25.8
2005 79.9 3.632 190.5 95.0 3.9
2006 88.9 4.041 195.0 103.2 14.1
2007 87.9 3.996 204.4 97.4 25.6
2008 103.9 4.723 212.1 110.9 33.4
2009 89.9 4.087 211.3 96.2 15.4


Obviously the headline figure is that allowing for inflation, fuel is actually 4% cheaper now than it was in 1983. There's a bit more to it than that. Petrol prices have risen sharply over the past few months (oddly, diesel prices stayed pretty stable. Normally there's about a 5-10% difference, but now they're about the same).

The table is made up of prices obtained in March of each year. It's anecdotal, but consistent. I'd imagine that in a few months, an updated table would say that petrol, allowing for inflation, is around 10% dearer than in 1983, just as the 2008 figures did. I remember diesel costing upto about £1.30 a litre at one point in 2008 before prices fell back.

What difference does it make to me? Well, according to the back of this fag packet, I'm doing a little over 600 miles a week, averaging about 45 miles to the gallon. So I'm using about 13.5 gallons of diesel a week.

1 Imperial Gallon (UK) = 4.54609188 litres

13.5 x
4.54609188 = just a little bit over 60 litres.

So if it goes up by 1p, that makes me 60p a week worse off. If it goes up by 10p, I'll be a six quid down. If it goes up to £2.00 a litre, my fuel overheads will go from about £66 a week to about £120. That would take my total overheads (car lease, franchise fee, insurance, and fuel are my only real expenses apart from the occasional new tyre or bulb) from about £260 a week to around £320 a week.

I charge my pupils £20/lesson so currently, I have to work for 13 lessons to break even. If I work 20 lessons in a week, I make a profit of 7 x 20 = £140. If I do 40 lessons, then I earn 27 x 20, or £540 (all before tax and national insurance). I try to aim for an average of about 35 hours a week. That's a pre tax wage of about £440. I could work harder, but I don't want to, thank you very much.

If the price of diesel goes up by about 32p/litre (this would take it to about £1.40/litre), I will have to work an extra hour each week to pay for it.

Some time in the next few years, if the Richard heinbergs of this world are correct, prices will really start to ramp upwards as supply consistently fails to match demand. It's not really hitting me yet though, and I'm a relatively big user of the stuff.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

roads

Want to know more about the the ins and outs of the highways and byways? I know I do, but I do have a professional interest.

Here are a few sites that delve into the inner workings of Britain's road network in minute detail.



This is probably my favourite road site. It's "Chris's British Roads Directory" and it's a mine of esoteric information, covering how the roads are numbered, the worst junction (and why they're so bad), C roads and where to find them, a motorway database, and much more.

The next site I'm less familiar with, but what little I've had time to look at so far seems good.

It's called SABRE, which is an acronym for the "Society for All British Road Enthusiasts"



Again, just click on the logo to take a peek.

Finally, a site that takes the piss out of stupid motorways.

Yes it's pathetic motorways and it even includes part of my own local motorway, the M53!

They don't have a logo for me to hotlink to, so here's their address instead.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

four eyes!

The optician made me wear glasses when I was about ten years old. At the time, I liked SCIENCE! and AEROPLANES! and COMICS! and DINOSAURS! and SPACE! So I was perfectly happy to wear them. Like Joe 90. I would waggle them up and down for laughs, like Eric Morcambe.

But I wasn't very organised, and I usually forgot about them, and since my eyes got better on their own, glasses just never happened. I knew I'd never be an airline pilot or an astronaut, but even then, I didn't think there was much chance of such a career, long sight in left eye, or not.

But over the last couple of years, I've just started to struggle a bit. Not all the time, but when the light is a bit poor, and when I'm tired, I've found it hard to focus on the writing in front of me.

So today, I went out and bought my first pair of reading glasses. I'm wearing them now. Look! See! This is me, in glasses!



The red eyes are because I have a cold. Honest.

Aha! A comment came in that mirrored something I'd been thinking.

Pete
said...

"Bono"

23 January 2010 12:28




So which one is which? One is an internationally acclaimed musician and humanitarian, and the other is Bono.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

kinky buggers!

I put a thing called sitemeter at the bottom of my blog yesterday. It's free and it tells me lots of stuff about whereabouts in the world people are visiting me from. How long they stay for. Where on the internet they came to me from. Loads of things.

And what most people want to see is not my musings or rantings. It's not my collection of google earth alphanumeric characters. It's the woman with three breasts.

So here, for the sake of future fun and frivolity as I look through my list of referrals is a handy list of kinks that YOU, you prurient perverted person, have come here to look at, probably via google.

Granny shagging a rhinoceros!

Aardvark lust in a storm!

Naked Teen eating apricot jam sandwiches!

Upskirt Demis Roussos!

A Huge cock! With Wasps!

Sorry to disappoint you. If I can find any pictures I'll post them here sometime.

I've also found the bit that lets me get e-mail notification of when comments are posted. Apologies to anyone that's posted in the last couple of years that I didn't spot. It shouldn't happen in the future.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

I won :o(

This is a hard post to write. I have a hefty portion of humble pie to eat.
Yesterday's escapade leaves a bad taste in my mouth. I too spent hours fighting a battle, and for what? Essentially to prove that my dick was as big as someone elses.

A year or so back, I got into a sort of race. Driving on some fast dual carriageways, punctuated by roundabouts, someone tried to overtake someone else, who wanted to prove their own prowess as a driver. I don't remember precisely how it developed, but suddently there were 3 cars barrelling down the road. Braking late. Struggling for grip around the roundabouts. All of us were men. None of us would make eye contact with each other. None of us would back off. All of us were prepared to put the lives of ourselves, each other, and in my case, my wife and friend, on the line before we'd drop out of the contest.

Nobody got hurt, although it could easily have been different. My brakes had got very hot, and I couldn't stop in time to make the bend that took me away from the industrial estate. I ended up going onto and right round a roundabout. If there'd been anything coming round, I would have gone straight into them.

At the time, I had a sort of tunnel vision. Afterwards, I wondered why the hell I'd done it.

I think the same thing happened yesterday. You can clearly see the "What the fuck am I doing" moment on yesterdays post. And I think it's that revelation that has led to the other guy has going. I well and truly rubbed his nose in it, not by fighting fire with fire, but by showing some compassion and understanding for what it means to have to live up to your own expectations.

I do understand and can even condone my own behaviour here. I HAD refused to be baited on any number of occasions. I HAD watched this guy wind up half of the people on this forum. So I was getting my own back in style. Weeks of trying to be reasonable got swept away in a tide of stubborn vindictiveness. Ugly as fuck.

I hope he's OK. I even hope he comes back. I think I can cope with him better now that I have a handle on where he's coming from.

Pushing buttons

There's been a lot of button pushing going on over at Head Heritage lately.

Flame wars seem to be the order of the day, and a whole loads of threads have turned into shitfests.

Most of this centres around one poster. In the past this wouldn't have happened for very long, but this time, for whatever reason, when it's turned to personal abuse, the perpetrator has been allowed to remain as part of the community.

That may even be in part down to me. I asked for a previous troll not to be banned, although he was, and I was critical of the site's policy of removing the comments of banned posters. Perhaps they've decided to show us what happens when you allow a disruptive individual to continue to ply their trade without censure. Or, as one person put it. "Maybe Holy doesn't give a fuck about this place any more."

Anyway, there's trouble at 'mill, and no sign of it stopping any time soon.

I made a decision not to respond directly to this particular poster, although I have added my weight to the criticism of others occasionaslly. Mainly I've stood to one side and watched the shit fly.

That's a bit passive though, isn't it? Why let the bullies win? But if you're going to respond, how can you do it without getting emotionally embroiled and tarred with the same brush as the person you're swearing at?

Well, I thought I'd go at a tangent. I created a poll asking respondents if they thought dodge one should be banned from Head heritage. Two simple options - yes or no. Nothing serious. Just a way of venting my own frustrations as much as anything else. I'm certainly not going to send an indignant e-mail off to Head Heritage showing the results, and demanding that SOMETHING MUST BE DONE!

A couple of people responded on Head Heritage to say they found it a bit creepy but quite funny. And that was about it.

But...

Someone has spent hours trying to take the poll down. The comments page has become a steady stream of abuse, from all kinds of user names. From canvassing for votes to personal abuse. I think one or two of the comments were genuinely from people interested in the poll, but most followed the same near-identical formats. He's tried lots of different ways of getting me to close the poll down, and is still trying now. Hours later.

There's ego for you. That's half the trouble with this person. He just has to win. And he can't. So he throws a big tantrum and everyone runs away or has a tantrum of their own.

Hours! The man has spent hours concentrating on little else but spamming a meaningless poll! I'm starting to think we're dealing with someone with a genuine mental illness here.

The funny thing is, when the poll opened, I voted against his expulsion. I thought I'd give the silly bugger a fighting chance since he seemed to have made so many enemies over the last few days. But unexpectedly, most people voted no.

We're a tolerant lot at Head Heritage. We value our freedom even in the face of such abuse. So votes came in at about 2-1 in favour of not banning him. The actual result was about 6-3 at that point.

So I changed the "Yes" into "No" and the "No" into "Yes"

Instantly, the guy was losing the battle. How would this change things?

Not at all! He was an obnoxious pillock when he was winning. He's an obnoxious pillock now that he's losing. He's now posting messages in my name, and trying to post links to pictures on porn sites.

But enough! I'm actually quite enjoying this, which is a bit immature of me. I'm shooting fish in a barrel since I'm dealing with someone that has no imagination and has to win, or think he's winning. Isn't that something not a million miles from being a psychopath?

More than that. I've engaged with Mr Troll over the last few minutes, and rubbed his ego in it. He reckons I'm paranoid and that he's not Dodge One.

So someone who's not even directly involved is spending hours on his behalf?

Really?

Occam's razor says he's lying. But again, why bother? The more I think about it, the more I think I'm dealing with someone that has a mental illness. That makes me ashamed of what I've done. But only a little bit. Just because someone is fucked up, doesn't mean you should allow them to rule the world.

But wait...! What's this????

Another insight!

If you're a Man. If you're own perception of Yourself as a Man is of a strong, capable entity, that can be a hugely powerful force. I'm generally fairly self-effacing, and in touch with my feminine side and all that, but I wouldn't be comfortable crying in front of a stranger, for example. That's exactly what happened last year when I underwent counselling as part of my attempt to stop smoking cannabis. The counsellor somehow got through the wall I'd built around myself, and I really let go. Not for long though. It was enough though.

So if you're that kind of Man, you're not allowed to get it wrong, or to be seen to be weak, or to be beaten either mentally or physically.

Now I do feel ashamed. I've taken the poll down.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Compartmentalisation.

I did a lot of things in the few days I was away down south that I don't do up here. I smoked spliffs. I got drunk. I didn't smoke cigarettes, but that's about the only resolution I didn't break.

Then, I came home and stopped doing those things again, although I have to admit, I did feel a real urge to go and buy some tobacco.

So Aylesbury, like The Past, is another country. Making the trip down there takes about 5 hours (I could do it quicker, but I try to get there and back using one tank of fuel. This is just about possible, but only by driving in a very fuel efficient way, and not really going much above 50 miles per hour.)

It also costs me a full tank of fuel, which comes to about £40.

So here's the rules... If I'm here, I stay on the straight and narrow. If I want to break my resolutions, I can, but not easily.

Sounds like a plan.

Saturday, 16 January 2010

Where have all the hitchers gone?

I've ridden my thumb to all points of the compass in years gone by. Since I have a perfectly adequate car, I don't do it any more.

It's always been something of a lonely undertaking, or at least it was when I was doing it. Apart from once when I went to Glastonbury with a girl. That was dead easy. Safe, you see.
Bloke on his own... Bit dodgy, know what I mean.

So I spent hours at a time stood on the access roads and verges of the service stations and motorway junctions. Occasionally, I'd meet a fellow traveller. Grafitti saying "Joe Phillips world tour '91" or "Hitching from here? Don't bother! It's shit! I've been here 3 fucking weeks!" was pretty ubiquitous on the back of the roadsigns.

Having taken advantage of the kindness of others in the past, I do try to keep an eye out for hitchers, and if I can pay it forward by getting someone closer to where they want to be, I will do so.

But there are none to be seen. Apart from the occasional trade driver with red trade plates, they are all gone.

I don't know whether this is because of some cultural change, or whether security/policing of places like motorway service areas has become a lot heavier handed, or what, but whatever the reason, hitch-hikers seem to have vanished from the face of the earth.

Friday, 15 January 2010

absinthe

I took a bottle of Absinthe down to Dave's.

I don't know what I expected to happen. I was hoping to see Kylie Minogue in a green frock.
Nope. It just made me drunk.

I've been regretting it today.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Haiti

http://mw1.google.com/mw-earth-vectordb/haiti/Haiti-Earthquake-nl.kml

Poor sods.

Dublin in GE in 3D



Somebody's been busy!

Virtually every building in the centre of Dublin has been rendered as a three dimensional model.

It takes a while for it all to download, but it's pretty impressive to drift down a street with the buildings towering over you. Seeing more and more of this as time goes by.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

district nine

watching this tonight.

More snow...

In the last week, I have had five driving tests cancelled. Also, when the snow was thick and fresh, I had co cancel further lessons either at my pupils requests, or because it just wasn't safe. So I've lost perhaps 30 lessons over the last seven or eight days. That's about £600 that I really could have done with earning. The snow doesn't stop the bills and expenses from accumulating.

So I'm not overjoyed by the fresh white carpet that Our Lord God Almighty laid on my doorstep overnight.



Still, looking on the bright side, the fact that I have no work to do for the next few days means I can drive carefully down to Dave's house in Aylesbury.



No snow in Google Earth Aylesbury! Hurrah!

Monday, 11 January 2010

11-01-10

and yesterday was

10-01-10

Whitstable



This is Whitstable, on the estuary of the River Sheppey, between Sittingbourne and Herne Bay, on the North coast of Kent.

It was for many years, the home of Peter Cushing.


Sunday, 10 January 2010

War? Huh!

What is is good for?

Well, it's been the fountainhead for some hauntingly moving songs.

Pink Floyd's "When the Tigers broke free" is one.

"And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda" is another.

Here's Shane McGowan singing it with feeling.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

The Whole Damn Life

PHLEBAS the Phoenician, a fortnight dead,
Forgot the cry of gulls, and the deep seas swell
And the profit and loss.
A current under sea
Picked his bones in whispers. As he rose and fell
He passed the stages of his age and youth
Entering the whirlpool.

Gentile or Jew
O you who turn the wheel and look to windward,
Consider Phlebas, who was once handsome and tall as you.



From T.S. Eliot - The Waste Land.

____________________________________________________


Yesterday, I wrote:

This year, I resolve to:

1. Blog more.

2. Stay off the cigarettes.

3. Ditto, cannabis

4. Ditto, alcohol

5. See more of my mum and dad

6. Deal with the issues that are causing me worry.

The first one is easy. The other five are kind of inter-related.



I don't like change. Despite the radicalism, I'm quite a conservative (small c) person. Yet life is about change. Nothing stays still forever.
My first taste of that was when I was 10 years old and my nan died. She was only 59, although to me she seemed like an old woman. My mental image of her has her standing at the kitchen sink, peeling potatoes, with a cigarette in her mouth. I loved my old nan. When my dad told me she'd died, I understood enough to know I'd never see her again. It's difficult even now to find words to explain how that made me feel. How it felt for my mum to have lost her mum when she was only 30 must have been far worse.

A year or so later I was about to go from being one of the biggest kids in Primary school to one of the smallest in secondary. I remeber being troubled about it, and my Dad was quick to reassure me that everything was going to be alright. But that's not really what was bothering me. It was change that I didn't like. I didn't really understand it but the first existentialist inklings were starting to dawn on me.

Dear reader, I've been both fortunate and unfortunate. I chose not to face up to mortality. I chose not to grow up. I spent almost 30 years as a child. I had no responsibilities. I refused to carry my own weight. I spent most of my time and all of my money avoiding reality through drink and drugs. Almost 30 carefree years! Lucky me!

Except it was nothing of the sort. I was horribly fucked up. I was an immature, self-obsessed, arrogant idiot. I sponged off my parents, I alienated what few friends I had, and I ended up fighting with my Dad.

It couldn't last of course. Things change anyway.

One thing that changed was the effect cannabis had on me. It stopped being this lovely brown gateway to beautiful music and wide open thoughts, and became something much darker. Sitting on my own, in my squalid untidy flat, having just taken a nice big hit, the thought struck me...

"It's going to happen to me, too!"

I was about 30 years old, and the weed had just torn away the veils of denial, and left me staring face to face with the prospect of growing old, and dying. And I couldn't look away. These days I never can. If I smoke pot, then by association, or by chemical action, or whatever means, I get panic attacks. Physically, I go as stiff as a board, and start shaking uncontrollably. Mentally, I go off into a horrible funk. Everything turns to dust around me. I look at my wife and see her face wither and age in my minds eye. I see the same thing in the back of my hand. The paint peels from the walls. The roof timbers rot. Then as the peak of the drug wears off, this stuff stops happening again. Or used to. Getting through to myself that I wasn't enjoying the stuff took serveral years and a lot of bad experiences. The mental images of dissolution I can conjure up at will now.

At the moment, a lot of my time is spent worrying about the future, and it's spoiling my enjoyment of the present.

Neil Gaiman created a character called Robert Gadling, who does a deal with Death that means he is spared. He lives, unaging, from the 14th century to the present day. In his final scene, he meets Death and she offers him the chance to die.

Here's what he has to say:



I don't know. Death's a funny thing.

I used to think it was a big sudden thing, like a huge owl that would swoop down out of the night and carry you off.

I don't anymore.

I think it's a slow thing. Like a thief who comes to your house day after day, taking a little thing here and a little thing there, and one day you walk round your house and there's nothing there to keep you. Nothing to make you want to stay.

And then you lie down and you shut up for ever. Lots of little deaths until the last big one.



Every time I lose a chip from a tooth, I think of that thief. The same thief took all my grandparents. In the next few years it will take my parents. And my wife. Unless I go first of course.

I got a text message the other day, from my mum. She's just partially retired. She's had a hard old life in a lot of ways. Too much shit from other people. Including me.

I'm so glad I straightened out and that they can feel proud of me. I'm glad I straightened out while they were still around to see it. My last grandad's last christmas, I couldn't afford a present for him. I'd pissed all my dole money down a grid. There'll always be a burden of guilt attached to that memory.

Anyway, I got this text. My Dad had a blood test and now has to go and have a biopsy on a lump in his prostrate and bone scan. I spoke to him briefly on the phone the day after. He sounded cheerful enough about it, but I could tell that really he was terrified. He was quick to pass me on to Mum. Of course this could just be something benign, but he's 70 years old. In ten years he will be 80. then 90. Last timeI saw him, he was finding it hard to walk down some steps. I thought the old bugger was indestructable. He could do anything. He was built like a barrel, and he could do anything. Now he can't bend his knees. Something will get him before too much longer. Perhaps at some point you learn to accept mortality, but it hasn't happened for him yet.

When I was busy throwing my life away, he would get so angry with me. "You'll soon be 30, then 40" he'd say, which put us at loggerheads of course since what he was trying to make me see was the very thing I wanted not to see. The war ended when instead of trying to ram the future down my throat, he quietly said to me, "You're going to have so many regrets, Son.".

Days pass like nothing. Take 7 of them and you get a week. Take 52 of them and you get a year.

Bump. It's 2009.

Nudge. It's your birthday.

Bang. It's summer!

It's Christmas!

Bump. It's 2010...

6 years from now, my wife will be 60. Six years ago, I was starting on the path to becoming a driving instructor. If it's as short going forward as at is looking back, We will be there in no time.

The long hereafter? Well, in a way, I'm less bothered about the gulf of time ahead. It means as much as the billions of years that went by without me before I was born.

Growing old and dying terifies me. The actual process of dying? Well, it's what we spend our entire lives trying to avoid, isn't it?
Losing the people that I love terrifies and saddens me. I mourn their passing before they've passed.

There are things that help. One is the thought that I could get run over by a bus today. Not sure why it helps, but knowing that it could all be taken from my hands in the blink of an eye is somehow reassuring. Another is alcohol. If I get absolutely blindingly drunk, I stop worrying about the future for a while.

My liver took a beating for 20 years. It sits in my body, quietly ticking. Occasionally grumbling.
Alcoholism is no real answer. It's just a slow form of suicide, for people that haven't got the bollocks to jump off a bridge or take a knife to their wrist.

Anyway, this has become a bit more rambling than I wanted it to be, but I did want to put it all down on "paper". I thoought I'd finish with a couple of pertinant videos. The first is a song by They Might Be Giants. The second is a time lapse photography project by a guy called Dan Hanna.




Friday, 8 January 2010

Resolutions:

I don't usually do this kind of thing, and generally fail to keep up any resolutions that I do make.

Irresolute, that's me.

So I'm posting this a week late.

This year, I resolve to:

1. Blog more.

2. Stay off the cigarettes.

3. Ditto, cannabis

4. Ditto, alcohol

5. See more of my mum and dad

6. Deal with the issues that are causing me worry.

The first one is easy. The other five are kind of inter-related.

Amazing what you can pick up in the sales.

Available in a range of sizes and colours

.

Ice

Google reckoned it was -12°c a short while ago.

I went and took a walk down to the waterfront to see if hell had frozen over yet.

It hadn't, but everything was really still and clear.



The thick fluffy snow of two days ago has by-and-large compacted into solid ice. Treacherous, but actually a bit easier to drive uphill on, because the snow doesn't just get piled up in front of the wheels.

I haven't worked for two days. I'm supposed to have a pupil on test tomorrow, but it is more likely that hell really will freeze over. There was a fantastic satellite image of an almost cloud free Great Britain, almost toally white from Land's End to John O' Groats.




France Gets it too, but the Republic of Ireland stays green. Lucky buggers. I love the snow, but it's a pain in the arse too.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

Snow

Snow is like rocking horse poo round here. We're generally a bit warmer than everywhere else because we're next to the sea, and the Clywyd hills catch most of what does arrive.

Not today though. We got more than enough.

Went out in it of course, and slid down a hill.

And we made a snow rabbit.



Good times!

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Google Earth History

I tagged my last post with "buildings", which led me to look at my other buildings post.

That turned out to be about the demolition of the Blackburn Meadows cooling towers. I found them on Google Earth and the image showed two flattened piles of concrete rubble. The image was updated on 21st September, 2008.

I've not really looked at the history thing much yet, but it does look interesting. It could almost end up being a sort of ultra hi-res time-lapse picture of the planet.

Here's the entrance to Wallasey Asda in May, 2000...



By 2005, the T junction had been replaced by a mini-roundabout...



And 2 years later, a red bus had managed to get to the middle of it...



A frivolous example I know, but Google Earth is documenting so much. They're not just taking a photograph. They're making a movie!

I wonder how somewhere like Pripyat will look. Or Alpine Glaciers. Or Antarctica. Or the Maldives. Like the roundabout above, I suppose there are lots of tiny changes that add up over a long period of time.

Of course there are exceptions.

Burj Khalifa



I could hardly do a blog that uses the Earth as one of it's motivations without letting the official opening of the worlds' tallest structure go without comment.

This thing justifies the superlatives. It's, quite simply, one of the greatest architectural feats in human history. While previous record holders out-topped each other by a few metres, this thing kicks them all into touch. If we were talking 100 metre sprints, it would be like someone doing it in about 7 seconds. It's more than twice as tall as the Empire State Building, and serves as a statement just as much as that famous pile ever did.

The whole thing is as much a testement to an accumulation of wealth as it is to engineering ingenuity, but decadent or not, it's still pretty breathtaking.

Google Earth's pictures of it are pretty recent. Only 3 or 4 months old. Here's how it looks. I had to turn it sideways for best effect.



Actually, been thinking about this a bit more. Aren't all the great structures a symbol of power and affluence? The Pyramids? Stonehenge? "We build this huge artefact because we fucking well can!"