Saturday, 31 December 2011


Stop drinking

Lose Weight.

Try to build my business.

Let's just keep it at three.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Friday, 23 December 2011

Gimps, Gears and Geeks.

Gimp can make animated gifs. I never knew this before.

Here's one I made earlier.

The reson I made this particular animated gif is because I had this idea that if I was so excited by the prospect of chucking a really quick car around a track, then presumably the sort of person that goes looking for driving lessons might be too. So I intend to do a prize draw in 2012, with the supercar driving experience as the prize.

On a similar vein, I've just sent an enquiry to a local (ish) company that does skid control lessons with a view to offerering one of their things as a prize, or even some kind of collaborative venture where they offer some kind of discount, and I incorporate them into my curriculum.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

The blunt horns of a nice dilemma.

I became 44 on Thursday. I celebrated by getting up very early, and heading up Moel Famau. I had visions of it being a bit like the last time we did it, but with the added lustre of a blanket of snow.

Sadly, the weather wasn't with me. I drove to Wales in heavy rain, which eased off nicely as I got towards the mountainside carpark. The roads were snowy but drivable with care. The path up the mountain was covered by several inches of fairly fresh snow that crumped and squeaked as I strode lustily forth.

As I neared the top, it became apparent that although I was seeing daybreak, I was not going to see the sun rise. The top of the mountain was shrouded in cloud. An icy wind drove tiny splinters of ice into my face. I took a few photos then hunkered down in the lee of the tower and had a warm coffee and some cold hotdogs.

The view out over the vale of Clywyd, though, as I trudged back down, was magnificent. I will post some piccies soon.

For my birthday, several of my relatives clubbed together to buy me a supercar experience. A great gift for a petrolhead like me!

At some point in the next few months, I will get the chance to chuck a performance car around a track. But which car? I have to choose between an Aston Martin Vantage, a Lamborghini Gallardo, a Porsche 911, a Ferrari 360 or an Audi R8.

Agghh!!! The agony of indecision!

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Saturday, 10 December 2011

cloud music

Click on the picture to activate the player. This music player is brought to you courtesy of the Cloud Appreciation Society, and the standard of music offered is of an unexpectedly high standard.

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

QR Code


should take you to my website. I think.

So if I understand things correctly, if I was to get this printed out as a vehicle graphic, and stick it on  my car, someone would be able to point an iphone at it, and the iphone would read it and send that someone to my website?

driving lessons in Wallasey?

So just what business is being done?

Of the 32 vouchers that people bought, so far, 3 people have called.

One is pretty much at test standard. She's had a couple of driving tests, and failed. She reckons she was put in too early. I will be doing a 2 hour assessment of her driving in a day or two, to find out where she's up to. She probably won't need more than maybe 10 lessons.

Ditto the second one. She's had quite a lot of lessons, and gets a lot of private practice in her own car, so my job will be to assess her driving, and to try to smooth off any rough edges to get her through her test.

Finally, I had a call this morning from a woman who's bought a voucher as a christmas present for her son. He's an absolute beginner, and she will be buying him more lessons for his birthday in January. Potentially a full course of perhaps 35-40 hours here.

driving lessons in Birkenhead?

Here is as good a place as any to keep tabs on how effective this form of marketing has been for me. As more come in I intend to add to this post.

Monday, 5 December 2011

Doing the business...

The daily deal format is pretty new. Here's how it works.

A merchant contacts the daily deal website, and offers a substantial discount to their subscribers.
Interested subscribers buy vouchers representing the deal. They give their money to the daily deal website.
The website then gives some of that money to the merchant.
So the subscriber gets a product or service at a knock down price. The website take a big chunk of the money given by the subscriber. The merchant gets business.

Today, my driving school has been the focus of Wirral deals on the Living Social website.

Instead of the usual £20 per hour, Living Social subscribers are being offered 3 hours for £19. Of that, Living Social take about £9+VAT, so I actually get about £8.50 per voucher. Less than £3 per hour, but of course, some of those subscribers will go on to take proper full price lessons.

So how well is it being taken up?

It's exceeded my expectations by quite a long way. Getting the deal up in the first week of December was a huge bonus of course. These vouchers are the perfect christmas gift to give a teenager, and about twenty quid is a pretty typical amount for people to want to spend on nephews or grandkids or whatever.

So far, 20 people have bought vouchers. If all of them went on to take a full course with me, and they were all absolute beginners, and they rook the average 43 hours to get through their tests, that would be 20 people x 40 hours (43 minus the 3 cheap ones) x 20 quid. That's £16,000!

That's not going to happen of course. And that £16,000 is income, not profit, but still, this looks like it's going to have been  a really good way of getting business. Certainly better than giving some arrogant parasite £130 a week. So far, Living Social will have made somewhere around £200 from me, but it looks like I'm going to hit the ground running in the new year.

Some of those subscribers (21 of them now) will already have had lessons. Some will be just going from cheap deal to cheap deal, regardless of how well they've been taught. Some may not redeem their vouchers, or may not like me or my methods. We can't all be born with taste after all!

I will probably do this again sometime next year.

Optimistic for a change!

The deal page has also been driving traffic (excuse the pun) to my website.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Update: With around five and a half hours to go, I'm now up to 30 vouchers. 90 hours work, for £262, and the potential to bring in as much as £24,000. I have access to a list of purchasers and a bit of demographic info. 78% of purchasers have been female. Over three quarters of payments were made via computer. 10% was by Iphone. Quite a lot of them have been bought as gifts. One person has bought three vouchers, each gifted to a different person. Merry Christmas to them!

Might even be able to get the roof mended some time in the spring.

Further update: 7 dec 2011...

Living social are extending my promotion by another 72 hours - a second chance thing. not as the headline promotion, but further down the page.

So, it won't be generating customers at the same high frequency. Apart from it being less high profile, those interested in driving lessons will presumably have already seem this offer and acted on it. Still, 3 more days of it, and all the stuff about ideal gifts still being true, I could potentially double the 32 vouchers sold.

I hope I haven't bitten off more than I can chew.

Saturday, 3 December 2011


Oh, and while I'm at it, just stonethrow away, there's another lake.

This one is a beautifully formed 'r'. It even has a bit of a serif going on. Geoglyphs in times new roman.

Shame about the bit sticking out of the top, but you can't have everything can you?


driving lessons in Wallasey?


Not got much to say for meself at the moment, truth be told.

It's been a while since I posted any new letters though. Having completed the upper case lot, I lost momentum.

But I've just found a lake near Walton on the Naze, which looks like a lower case 'm'

Do I have one of those already? It's been a while. This one looks like the typeface that Roger Dean used on the album covers of proggy archetypes, YES.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Saturday, 26 November 2011

Backgammon IRL

I've been playing backgammon for donkeys years. I started in my late teens, or possibly early twenties. A few friends together, with beer or pot or both.

We would experiment with variants, such as acey deucey, and tric trac, and with different starting positions, like starting with all the men off the board. We'd even play for small amounts of money. But we never used the doubling cube.

Dutch coffeeshops used to almost always contain backgammon sets. Why backgammon? I really don't know, but they did. Last time I was in Holland, this custom was rapidly disappearing, and they seemed more like cyber cafes. I hope it doesn't die out completely.

Anyway, when I discovered the internet, one of the first things I did was start playing backgammon online. I've done so ever since, and I've gradually improved as a player, and now I'm capable of holding my own against some good players.

Backgammon is a mixture of luck and skill. You use the dice rolls you're given to maximise your chances and limit the options for your opponent. It's called Backgammon, or "The back game" because if one person ends up far enough behind in a game, they often get the opportunity to turn things around. Using the doubling cube properly is another important thing to be able to do. The stakes are initially set to one. Either player can double the stakes by offering the cube to their opponent. The opponent can either forfeit the game, and lose the current stake, or can accept the cube, after which the stakes are 2. The player that doubled can not double again until their opponent has doubled. The doubling cube is a form of psychological warfare!

Anyway, tonight, I went to Liverpool, where the Liverpool backgammon club holds a monthly meeting. There were about 12 people there, and I got to play real matches against 6 of them.

Some of them take things very seriously! There are rules and etiquettes to follow that just don't occur in online play.

For example, a player's turn doesn't end until they pick up their dice. If you roll your own dice before then, it's considered very bad form, and the player who hasn't yet finished his turn has the option of forcing you to either re-roll, or use the roll you took.

You must roll your dice onto the right hand side of the board. this presumably avoids confusion, although given the previous rule, how the two sets of dice could mistakenly interact is hard to explain.

Most of the players there tonight were of quite a high standard. A few were less so.

I beat a good player in my first match, partly because of some outrageous good luck. I lost to a very good player in my second match. Then to a less good player in my third match. I lost by the shaving of a gnat's whisker in my fourth match, to a very good player, and again in my fifth match, before beating a poorer player in my final match.

It was good fun, and I shall try to go to more in the future.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

The road goes ever on and on...

 Today, I had no work.

I had a lie in until about 10.30, mooched about the house for an hour or so, then decided to finally do the Wirral Circular trail on my bike. Because of one thing or another, I actually left the house at about 12.30, and, noticing that the wind was blowing from the North, decided to start my journey southwards.

It took about 4 and 3/4 hours to get around the entire route, but I didn't rush, and stopped from time to time to take pictures.

The weather was perfect. Light winds, cool, but not really cold, and generally quite sunny. I knew I'd end up back after dark, but I have lights, and once I'd reached West Kirby, I had the security of knowing that if things got too much, it was only going to be a short bike ride to the nearest Merseyrail Station. I got back to my starting point at about 5.15.

Here's what it looks like in Google Earth.

 That blue line is exactly 36 miles long. The lowest point of the route is sea level, rising to 187 feet above sea level  on the straight bit along the bottom.

It was good to do this, but I'm suffering a bit now. My palms are a bit bruised. My wrists have taken a bit of a pounding. My thighs are a bit weak and achey, particularly if I go up or down any stairs. But all of those things pale into insignificance when you compare them to where my body intersected the saddle. Painful pressure points, perineum, pudenda and... patootie.

Here are some of the photos I took en route.

The trail does it's best to keep walkers and cyclists off busy roads. Occasionally busy stuff is unavoidable - probably the worst bit is getting across the A41 in Rock Ferry/Tranmere. That's a busy road, and you have to get across several lanes of fairly fast moving traffic. It makes use of the full 12 mile length of the Wirral Way and the pedestrianised sea/riverfront promenades from West Kirby round to Birkenhead Priory.

It's a good place to live in a lot of ways, Wirral. It's close enough to some major cities for a lot of culture to be within easy reach, but there's loads of open space and countryside too. There is quite a sharp difference between the east and west sides of the peninsula. All down the west side, it's very rural. A smattering of towns and villages surrounded by farms and woodlands (and golf courses), while the East side is pretty much one continuous conurbation, from New Brighton right down to Ellesmere Port.
driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 21 November 2011


I was in a band when I was in my mid teens.

When I say "band", I mean me and a couple of mates in someone's garage, making a bloody racket and pretending to be rockstars.

We were called Incinerator, and we got the name, not because of some nihilistic graagghhh-metal doomslayery fuck-the-world-ness, but because Peter, who's garage we practiced in, had one in his back garden for burning garden waste.

We were truly awful. Cringingly bad. We somehow didn't realise this at the time, and harboured secret hopes of playing Knebworth.

I used to have a couple of fragments of us on an old TDK D90, but alas! It is no more. It would have been an exercise in self-flagellation to post any of it here.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

"Petrol prices have tripled in the past two decades."

Well what does that mean then?

If you have annual inflation of 7% prices would have quadrupled in that period.

Well, according to this site, the average inflation rate over the last 2 decades has been 2.017045%

The doubling time at that rate is 35 years, so clearly the price of petrol has increased above the rate of inflation.

Yet, as this table shows, as recently as 2009, petrol prices, when adjusted for inflation, were lower than in 1983.

So why 20 years? Well petrol prices were at record cheap levels in 1991 and 1992, according to the table linked above. It was actually cheapest in 1992, but saying "Petrol prices have almost tripled in the last 19 years" would have sounded a bit odd.

Want to make something sound expensive? Compare it to when it was cheapest.

So, allowing for inflation, petrol prices have doubled from the lowest point.

Most of that rise has occurred over the last 2 years. And the demands of Tory MPs and the Motoring lobby cannot be met for that much longer, no matter how strident the calls.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

sigh... not again...

My desktop computer has buggered up again.

It's a fairly high performance machine, but I keep having problems with the CPU temperature. Every now and again, the computer just suddenly switches off.

These sudden shut downs aren't good for operating systems, and sure enough, when I tried to restart, I found that a file was corrupt and windows wouldn't load.

The file is called vgaoem.fon and I have no clue as to it's purpose. It could be like the bit in the Hitch-hikers guide to the galaxy where the spaceship is kept from making it's journey because an automated system is waiting for a consignment of small lemon scented paper napkins. Or equally, it could be something crucial to the running of windows XP.

I tried using the console repair thing, but although it seemed to go through as it should, when I rebooted, I got the same error message.

Now there is another way. That involves going further into the install XP process, then selecting a repair option.

that's what I'm trying to do now. But...

I have two hard drives on my PC. The computer shows them both. My O/S is on the D drive, so I select the D drive and press enter. The computer responds by telling me that the C drive is unformatted, corrupted or formatted with an incompatible file system.

Not the D drive. The C drive.

Stupid bloody damn bollocking thing.
So the next step will I suppose be to physically remove the non o/s drive from my computer and try again.

It gets worse... Looks like the hard drive itself has failed. Time for yet another clean install. It's taking an age to reformat, and there's no guarantee that the thing will actually take an operating system.

In addition, my XP disk is now showing signs of wear, as disks that have been used quite a few times are apt to do.

What I do have, however, is a proper genuine serial number. Presumably if things don't happen, I can get a copy of XP via a torrent. More messing around though.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The Unexpected Lyric Quiz!!!

Most songs just use straightforward words.

But every now and again, people will insert things from dustier corners of the dictionary.

Some of the songs and artists are pretty obscure, but many of them are mainstream acts.

No artists are represented twice in my list, but the point here is to find a song that contains each word. If it's not the same as the one I have, that's OK.

Happy Hunting!

  1. Parallelogram
  2. Pentathol
  3. Pneumothorax
  4. Pacman
  5. Stickleback
  6. Aplomb
  7. Pogonip
  8. Filibuster
  9. Posthumous
  10. Boobs
  11. Dermatitis
  12. Plebian
  13. Parasol
  14. Annoint
  15. Paramours
  16. Cubicles
  17. Mohair
  18. Yonks
  19. Spiffing
  20. Pesto
  21. Pompatus
  22. Epistemology
  23. Pancake
  24. Pavlovian
  25. Facsimile
  26. Humdrum
  27. Backgammon
  28. Pneumonia
  29. Gavotte
  30. Semolina
That's the list. I've thought of another couple, that I might tag on to the end later. They are, Silicosis, deliquesce, Fecundity, Contraflow and effervescing.

Below are some answers.
  1. parallelogram, Motörhead , Motörhead , submitted by John.
  2. pentathol, 
  3. pneumothorax, 
  4. pacman, 
  5. stickleback, 
  6. aplomb,  
  7. pogonip,
  8. filibuster, Birdhouse in your soul, They Might be Giants, Submitted by Jim Bliss
  9. posthumous, Forgotten Sons, Marillion, Submitted by John
  10. boobs, 
  11. dermatitis, 
  12. plebeian,Cry me a river, Various artists, submitted by Jim Bliss

  13. parasol, Parasol, Tori Amos, submitted by Jim Bliss

     Monster in your Parasol, Queens of the Stone Age, submitted by John.
  14. annoint, Silver Waterfalls, Siouxie and the Banshees, submitted by Jim Bliss
  15. paramours, 
  16. cubicles, 
  17. mohair, Mohair Locker Room Pinup Boys, submitted by Jim Bliss
  18. yonks
  19. spiffing
  20. pesto
  21. pompatus, The Joker, Steve Miller Band, submitted by Jim Bliss
  22. epistemology
  23. pancake, St. Alphonzo's Pancake Breakfast, Frank Zappa, submitted by Jim Bliss
  24. pavlovian
  25. facsimile, The Collector, The Legendary Pink Dots, submitted by Jim Bliss
  26. humdrum, Humdrum, Peter Gabriel, submitted by Jim Bliss

    Humdrum, The Dean and I, 10cc, submitted by Nanook
  27. backgammon
  28. pneumonia, Dust Pneumonia Blues, Woodie Guthrie, submitted by Jim Bliss (could only find a cover version on youtube)Rockin' Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu, The Flamin' Groovies, submitted by John
  29. gavotte
  30. semolina, I am The Walrus, The Beatles, submitted by Jim Bliss

    Semolina, The Residents, submitted by Nanook
Effervescent, The Effervescent Elephant, Syd Barratt, submitted by Jim Bliss

driving lessons in Wallasey?

I feel a quiz coming on.

Watch this space...

driving lessons in Birkenhead?

OK. It's a music lyrics quiz with a difference.

You see, if I was to post even obscure lyrics, they'd be somewhere in cyberspace.

So the quiz involves unusual words. The details will follow in the next few days, but there will be a list of words you wouldn't ecpect to find in a lyric from yer average modern beat combo. Simply find a song that contains the word.

Friday, 28 October 2011

The Mat sat on the Cat.

Saddo that I am, I woke up this morning thinking about noun order.

In the case of the title, the order matters.  The thing doing the sitting comes before the thing being sat on. It could be otherwise, but "sat" would have to change to "was sat on by" to maintain it's original sense.

Other nouns are placed in a certain order because of cultural reasons.

These include both common nouns, and proper nouns.

So it's always John, Paul, George and Ringo (John - Alpha smart arse male, Paul - a bit like john but a bit wishy-washier, George - Played Guitar and didn't sing as much, and hardly wrote any of the tunes, Ringo - Ugly fucker with a lousy voice hiding behind a drumkit)

It's always Adam and Eve. Never Eve and Adam. Also Mr and Mrs. Not Mrs and Mr. This is a man's world.

Try asking for any of these:
  • Vinegar and Salt flavoured crisps.
  • Chips and fish.
  • Squeak and Bubble
  • An Onion and Cheese pasty
It never rains dogs and cats(although if there was a massive explosion in a Japanese car factory, it might rain Datsun cogs).


You never get Lizst and Brahms (that one's the way it is because it's rhyming slang - it wouldn't work the other way around of course - see also "Apples and Pears" and "Dog and Bone") If I fell out with you, we'd never be at sevens and sixes. The Union Flag is always Red, White and Blue. Never White Blue and Red. It's always Cheap and Cheerful. We fall for things Hook, Line and Sinker.

I'm sure there are many many others, so this post may grow if I can be arsed.

driving lessons in Wallasey?


There's no such thing, but there should be. Power goes to the person with the biggest hammer.

Oh.. Hang on...

A google search for malletocracy will now yield one result.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

*except it doesn't. It yields 54. Every post contains the word in it's sidebar archive bit.

Truly cornered the market on Malletocracy .SEO.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Ode to potatoes

O spuds! O earthly treats!
For one that eats no meat
A fine old thing to eat.

We planted one and dug up twenty.
Now we've filled our horn of plenty.

Dug from mud
this humble spud
fills the space twixt starter and pud.

We've just dug up the last of them. The kitchen is full of sacks and bags and buckets full of Pink Lady Fairapple, and Desiré. We had mash and chips for tea tonight. Again. We're giving them away to all and sundry.

Free potato with every driving lesson!

We also had Burdock today. You eat the root. It's pretty bland, so you eat it with other stuff. In this case, mashed with carrots (also from the allottment). Not found a way of growing my own Linda McCartney pies yet, sadly.

Taters have only been part of the UK diet for a few hundred years. It's difficult to envisage life without them. They're pretty ubiquitous, and I'd imagine they're the biggest non-cereal crop. (They are. I checked)

Potatoes are the world's number one non-grain food commodity. Unlike major cereals, potatoes are not a globally traded commodity and thus prices are not influenced by the vagaries of international markets.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Bombs for the homeless.

Just a thought...

Give each homeless person a bomb, to do with what they will.

It would then stand to reason that the fewer homeless people there are in our society, the safer we will all be.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

Stone Roses

Various bands have grabbed me by the ears over the years.

In my mid-teens, I got totally and obsessively into The Beatles. I could sing every nuance and "huh" and "hey".

Then as I got into my late teens, I went down a fairly typical stoner route of Floyd/Led Zep/Doors etc. Then I met Dave, who got me into more Avant Garde stuff (at least to me and my small town circle of mates). A mix of old stuff like the Velvet Underground and 13th Floor Elevators, and contemporary things like Julian Cope, REM, Camper Van Beethoven, and Pixies.

And Stone Roses.

I don't remember the exact occasion, but I know how it must have been.

We'd have been out to the pub (Probably the Greenland Fisheries Hotel) and would have come back to Dave's house and exchanged pleasantries with his mum and stepdad, really wanting them to go to bed so that we could start skinnning up. I'd get all blissed out on the sofa while Dave put some sounds on his high spec turntable. I know that the first time I heard it, I was instantly smitten. I'd have demanded to record it onto a cassette, and I played it on my walkman, pretty much every day as I cycled the ten miles to work or college or whatever it was I was doing then. It was 1989 or 1990. I was 21/22 years old.

Now 20 years have gone by. Stone Roses are reforming. People are striking their enthusiastic/cynical (delete as appropriate) poses on the discussion boards I visit.

Personally, I don't really care. I never got to see them live. I could never have afforded to buy a ticket for their famous Spike Island gig, and although I've seen that gig billed as "The woodstock for the baggie generation", the people I know that went to it weren't all that impressed with it at the time. So nothing has changed. I still can't really afford a ticket, although Manchester is not too hard to get to from Wirral.

But wow! It's 20 odd years since I sat on that couch, all blissed out, while John Squire's chords rolled over me, under me, and through me. Half my lifetime.

A generation earlier, the young adults  were being wow'ed by Sgt Pepper's lonely hearts club. I wonder how they felt in 1987, when the lyric, "It was 20 years ago today" caused a resurgence in interest.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 17 October 2011

A "Nelson" moment...

Friends, I flew my kite again today. It has sat in the boot of my car, unused, ever since I broke the video camera.

I added the kite string to the string from another kite to make an extra long kitestring. the conditions were perfect. The kite flew beautifully, and far higher than it had with it's original string.

The low sun and dark clouds formed a dramatic backdrop, so after flying it for a while, with no problems at all, I decided to risk nipping home and getting my "proper" compact camera.

 However, when I returned to the dips, it was as exasperating as the previous bit had been rewarding. The camear is much heavier than the little video camera, and this affected the centre of gravity of the kite. Strings got tangled repeatedly, and I spent most of my time trying to unsnarl a rats nest. The perfect wind had dropped, and I just couldn't get the kite to fly, no matter how fast I ran.

I must have persevered for about an hour. Just as I was giving up, frustrated and demoralised, some guy in his car slowed right down nearby and shouted "Get a fucking life!"

The timing of this pointless and unprovoked insult couldn't have been bettered. 

Think big I guess. These guys took a video camera upto the edge of space. They even plotted it's course using GPS and Google Earth.

Don't worry Bren, I'm not planning on buying a weather balloon, or a gps any time soon.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

The smell of wet salty rat...

There's this thing in the news...

Our brave lads have rescued some sailors that had been hijacked by evil Somali pirates. The victims of these foul and dastardly ruffians managed to raise the alarm by the time honoured method of stuffing a note into a bottle, and chucking it from a porthole.

Boys own adventure stuff, ain't it?

That bottle, having been thrown, was then picked up, and it's contents acted upon within a useful timescale.

The ship was captured by the pirates 620 miles offshore by the way.

So, did the bottle somehow reach the shore? Where no doubt some random beachcomber saw it, recognised it, and acted upon it? Or was it spotted bobbing in the oggin by some passing tramp steamer?

You lucky, lucky, lucky bastards. The US Meanwhile have thwarted a terrorist plot.

I wonder what the government have been pushing through today.

Anyway, I actually did once find a message in a bottle. It was after a spring tide. The bottle had been washed up on the Dee estuary. I found it while out walking. It contained a brief letter explaining that it had been chucked into the Sea by a girl called Sarah Charnley, of Blackburn, Lancashire, while on holiday in Anglesey. I found it about 18 months after I she launched it.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Um... A couple of things...

One thing I've observed as a teacher is that there are gender differences between how Men and Women deal with errors. I offer no opinion as to whether this is due to nature or nurture, and what I have to say is said using a big broad brush.

When Men make an error, they tend to blame something external. It was the other guy's fault. It was the traffic lights. It was the shoes they're wearing today. I've done it myself.

Women, on the other hand, tend to blame themselves, even if it's not their fault. I can even give you an example using google earth...

My pupil, Helen, came down the road centre top and turned right, following the curve of the building at the bottom of the picture. She then encountered a red light, and stopped. Meanwhile, at the junction behind her, someone misread the filter light, and went straight ahead when they shouldn't have done, and smashed into another vehicle. Big loud bang. Airbags out. Helen turned to me, wide eyed, and asked, "Was that my fault?"

That's pretty typical. It's by no means universal. There are men who will do this, and there are women that will point the finger elsewhere when they make mistakes.

My job, in a sense, is to make people make mistakes. This might sound odd, but while the repetition of stuff people can do is useful for reinforcing the techniques people have learned, once they can do it without thought, it no longer really needs reinforcement. So my job is to challenge my pupils - to put them into situations that they are not totally comfortable with, and which they are sometimes going to get wrong.
Mistakes also lead to a fuller understanding of what you're doing. Instead of just knowing what to do, you also learn how to get back on track when things go wrong. This is vital, because nobody gets it right all the time.
So it's far more important to learn how to get going again after you've stalled, than to try to pretend that you're never, ever going to stall.

What else? Well some thoughts about left wing reactionaries.

Over at Head Heritage, someone posted a post about a Spanish Duchess, who, now in her 80's, has married someone 20 years younger than her. The article linked to was accompanied by a less than flattering picture, and the post generated a whole lot of comments along the lines of "Don't think much of yours, Mate."

It was left to the board's residant tory troll to point out the ugliness of this behaviour.

As you might expect, rather than fess up, some perfectly reasonable people went on the defensive instead. "It's OK to take the piss out of an old woman because she's rich", said one class warrior. "If someone had "I love hitler" tattooed on his face, I shouldn't comment on it then" said another, beautifully proving Godwin's Law. in a lame and incorrect attempt to use reductio ad absurdum to justify his behaviour.

Ultimately, we on the left are trying to make the world a better place. I like many of the people making those comments, and I understand how difficult it can be to say "I was wrong, and I'm sorry", but a better world doesn't mean just redirecting the shit to a different section of society.
driving lessons in Wallasey?

Friday, 7 October 2011

Back to basics...

I was trying to work out a system of gambling by running a simulation on a computer, rather than spending money in a bookies, but doing it manually was tedious. It was just the sort of thing that a computer could do easily, if only I could find the right program.

But I couldn't, so I wanted to write my own.

But modern computers do everything for you. You can't just dash off an ad hoc program like in days of yore.

Actually I suppose you can, but as ever, I had to be a bit perverse and go about things in an arse over tit manner.

Hence I downloaded first a ZX Spectrum emulator. This was extremely unwieldy. It had to emulate the spectrum's method of assigning commands to individual keys. - Press L to get the command, "LIST" for example.

So I tried a BBC emulator instead. This was much better. It assumed that when you typed "x=1:y=5" that you meant "LET x=1: LET y=5" instead of having to type in the command. It allowed me to just type in what I wanted, rather than constantly have to refer to a table of commands and their PC keyboard equivalents.

It's not perfect. Once a line of code is in place, I can only edit it by typing "EDIT line number" for example, but it's simple enough.

Funny what you remember. It must be 25 years since I used a BBC micro, yet I know what I'm doing (mainly)

Not got the program I want yet, but it's coming.

As you can see, I'm trying different methods, like calling procedures and jumping to different line numbers. Very much a work in progress...

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

black looks

The new look is inadvertant. Blogger now offers some shiny clean new ways of displaying whatever it is you want to share with the world, and I gave it a brief try. Unfortunately, after deciding that shiny and clean don't go with what I have to say, I found I'd lost all my customisations.

No big deal, but I've been busy today. I've not been able to access the internet from my desktop computer, although I have still had my laptop.

When I got home from work, I got the new dongle that arrived today and after a lot of messing about, got back online.

That though, is just the start. I now have to install a load of XP service packs, before any of the applications I want on my computer (anti virus, google earth, etc) can be installed.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Sunday, 2 October 2011

That was just a dream...

Flying dreams are rare, at least to me. But now and again, I do get them. Generally they are enjoyable, but there always seems to be an element of uncertainity/fear/menace/doubt attached. Flying dreams can easily turn into falling dreams.

There are different types of flying to be done in a dream. One sort is fast. You swoop. You soar.

One sort is slow. You float, just out of reach, of those below. Movement through the air is made by twisting and angling your body.

And sometimes you're not in control at all.

Once upon a time, I was riding my bicycle down Heath Lane in Willaston. As I came to the hump-backed bridge,

a car came the other way. That it was a Ford Cortina has no obvious meaning.

In desperation, I pulled hard on the handlebars, just as I reached the crest of the bridge, and suddenly...

I was perhaps 50 feet up in the air. There must have been some strength in my dream arms. I bet even Lance Armstrong (must have strong arms with a name like that) couldn't make a bike go 50 foot high off the crest of a bridge.

This was not really a flying dream though. I had no means of remaining aloft. I'd become seperated from my bike, and now I came back down again.

Fortunately, I landed in a bush, so I was OK.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Saturday, 1 October 2011

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Yay! SMS a go-go!

I spent hours trying to get gmail to forward driving school enquiries to my phone without success, but eventually, by using a proxy service, I got it sorted out. Enquiries from my contact form cause my phone to alert me about a minute after they've been sent.

Good times (inserts a big smilie)

driving lessons in Wallasey?

On the Beach

Ever read "On the Beach" by Neville Chute?

It's a scary and dark story alright.

The premise of the book is that a major war has taken place in the Northern Hemisphere, and lethal amounts of radiation are gradually moving southwards. It follows the lives of a group of people living in Southern Australia as they move towards their inevitable fate. I cried buckets when I first read it.

There are few glimmers of hope in the tale. Part of the plot involves a nuclear submarine, which has been sent as far north as it can go, to find out if the radiation is clearing at very high latitudes. Pardon the spoiler, but that hope is snuffed out.

The characters are in denial. On one level they know the end is coming, and that they can do nothing to prevent it, so they act as if the threat doesn't exist. The American submarine commander buys presents for his dead family. A woman plants flowers in her garden that she will never see bloom.

There's a huge difference between waiting for the end of life on earth,, and waiting for a bloody huge financial car crash of course, but still,

driving lessons in Wallasey anyone?

Monday, 26 September 2011

up and away in my beautiful balloon....

Having established the basic mechanisms for a flight simulator, it's something of a mystery why Google Earth haven't extended the concept to far more than the two aircraft it features.

Imagine being able to pilot a helicopter! Or a space shuttle! Or for that matter, a submarine, or car, or boat...

Well, what google earth don't do can always be done by someone else of course.

You can pilot an airship, or sail a boat.

that's about all. You have to use your imagination, and pretend that if you smack into something that isn't water, bad things will happen, as the ships will sail merrily on through parks, gardens, fields, mountains and buildings, almost as if they weren't there, but it's an interesting way of looking at the scenery for a while.

They promise improvements in version 2...

e-mail to sms...

driving lessons in Wallasey?

I got a couple of enquiries today via the contact form. Unfortunately, I didn't get to read them until several hours after they were sent, so I'm currently trying to find out if it's possible to either make the contact form generate a text message to my phone, instead of an email to my gmail account, or to forward those emails (and only those emails) to my phone as a text message.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Easter Island

I'm currently (re)reading Jared Diamond's book, "Collapse".

The two main chapters in the book go into considerable detail about modern Montana, and the Norse settlement of Greenland a millenia ago.

Diamond also devotes a considerable portion of the book to Easter Island - One of the most isolated societies in the world, and one that collapsed because of a number of reasons. Jared Diamond lists it's isolation, the people's destruction of their resource base, the relative fragility of Easter's ecosystem because of it's geographical location, and the guns, germs, and steel of visiting Europeans.

And that isolation is profound. This is what Easter looks like from 20 miles up.

You need to zoom out to over 2,000 miles above the earth before you see another inhabited bit of land - Pitcairn, 1,200 miles to the west.

Mark Lynas, a journalist with a keen interest in climate, ecology, environment etc, posted a summary of a book that claimed to debunk Diamond's work on his blog.

Now, a few days later, Jared Diamond has taken the time to respond, and Lynas has published his response in full, here:

Lynas is critical of bad science, regardless of source. He's been critical of groups like Greenpeace in the past, rather than trying to force the facts to fit an agenda. He tends to act as a collator of research. His book, Six Degrees is a drawing together of thousands of research documents, and this mini "debate" about the work of two different researchers, Diamond on one side, Hunt and Lipo on the other, comes as no surprise.

Interesting stuff for sure.

It's the end of the world as we know it

I first heard REM way back in the mid 1980's. My mate Dave would get me stoned when he was up from Portsmouth Poly, and I'd listen, spellbound to Murmur, Document, Reckoning, Life's Rich Pageant. Even Fables of the Reconstruction and Dead Letter Office had their moments.

I have to admit, when Green was released, I found that I was losing my affinity for what they were doing. At the time, I blamed myself for kneejerking against them signing up with Warner Brothers, but listening back, Green really doesn't stand up there with their best releases.

Since then, I've only really listened to their new output sporadically. I retain a certain soft spot for New Adventures in Hi fi, but I couldn't name most of their 21st century stuff.

Michael Stipe is, of course, a much broader artist than just REM. He's also very much visually creative. I think he has much in common with David Byrne, although Byrne tends towards static works, while Stipe is associated with TV and film.

They've split, without acrimony, at a time of their own choosing. I wonder what they will do next?

So many memories of blissed out times. Thank you REM.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


I'm trying to put links to various social media websites on my website.

I want people to "Like" my website, so I became an approved developer, and generated the code for a facebook "Like" button.

I put the code into my website, and upload the updated page to my ftp server. Then I take a look at my page.

And there at the bottom, exactly where I want it is a lovely Google+1 button.


I do want a google+1 button on my page, but I don't want two google buttons and no facebook button.

This one has me scratching my head.

Just as a matter of interest, I shall put the same code here. The next line should be a facebook like button...

Never mind. Just a cache problem. It shows up properly on Bren's PC, and now shows up properly after I closed the window and opened the page in a new window.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Saturday, 17 September 2011

Donkeys Vs Penguins

It all started here, on a whim.

But then I revisited the idea on Google Insights. Penguins are more popular than Donkeys, although their popularity is more sporadic. Donkeys just plod on, while penguins alternate between manic surges and bouts of ennui.

So I decided to run with this a bit.

What would win in a fight between a penguin and a donkey?

What has the larger population?

If you had to kiss/shag/marry/eat one or the other, which would you choose?

And so on.

Who would win in a fight between a penguin and a donkey?

My wife reckons the donkey would win. I think it depends on the arena. If they were to fight in a field, the donkey would easily win. the penguin's waddling gait and soft flippers would be a disadvantage compared to the donkeys' quadrupedal stance and vicious hooves and teeth. On an ice floe, or in the cold waters of the Antarctic ocean, I reckon the penguin's streamlined form, and  thick layers of fat would balance out the donkey's weight advantage. In addition, in water, the penguin would be able to swim underneath the donkey, and stab it in the belly with it's sharp beak. The donkey, with it's bouyant body would be at it's mercy.

What has the larger population?

According to This Document, the world's donkey population stands at around 44 million.

This Link breaks down the number of penguins into their various species. The cumulative total comes to about 64.5 million.

Go penguins!

If you had to kiss/shag/marry/eat one or the other, which would you choose?

I'd kiss the donkey. I'd shag the penguin. I'd marry the donkey. I'd eat the penguin.

There. I said it.

more insights

Google Insights is coming up with some odd graphs.

Regular reader, John, pointed out that Llamas are more popular than Elvis (actually Llamas aren't, but Llama is)

the search patterns for "Dracula" and "Frankenstein" are almost identical.

As are the patterns for "Cheese" and "Ham".

Cheese is not worthy of mention in Vietnam. Ham, however is huge. Perhaps it's vietnamese for Llama.

Monday is International Talk like a Pirate day.


There has been a long standing debate about what it's better to be - A pirate? or a Ninja?

Pirate wins the battle on Google Insights.

There you go. More soon, I suspect.

Where's Wally?

If finding the guy in the stripey jumper wasn't enough, the where's Wally pictures also had other things to find, like a rolling pin or a crocodile or what-have-you.

So anyway, here's the deal.

I want some interaction here, dammit! I type away, and the site stats say people are reading what I write, but rarely do they have anything to say about what I write.

This is fine. I'm writing for me more than for anyone else. I'm glad it's getting read, and I'm not seriously craving or courting attention.

But I want you, the reader of this blog to set me a challenge.

Things that I must find on either google earth or google street view.

Now, it's not enough for you to just say "OK. Find a guy in a stripey jumper". It must be something you have seen yourself, so that if I fail to find my own example, you can post to say "Well here's the one I found..."

Apart from that, anything goes really.

This post was prompted by finding a dead person on Google Street View.

Update: Well, why not take the idea further?

 If I find a whole load of stuff (which is what I spend time doing anyway) and award points for finding it, there's a sort of online game that people can play. Why should I have all the fun?

Easy stuff like "A purple car" earns just a few points, while hard stuff like "A man with a bucket on his head" would score loads of points.

Hmmm. I feel a website coming on.