Saturday, 30 June 2012

The Grand Opening of Paper Scissors Stone

...was a roaring success!

The shop was packed, and it was only by dedicated and concerted action by a whole bunch of us that chaos was avoided.

We will try to bounce off each other. I will promote the shop to my pupils, and offer a discount on driving lessons for people that do workshops at PSS, and will also link to the shop website from my site.

Bren will offer discounts to my pupils, and promote my school through her shop, and will link to my website through hers.

More later. It's been a busy day.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 27 June 2012

Barter II

So far no roofers have contacted me. I'm not that surprised to be honest. As was pointed out when I made my original barter post, the overlap between people who live on Wirral, people who are roofers, people who need driving lessons, and people who visit this blog is small.

I have a problem with my computer. It keeps on switching itself off without warning. More so on warm days like today. I have the case open, and a fan heater blowing (unheated) air straight at the CPU, and it still wants to overheat from time to time. According to BIOS, the cpu fan speed is 0, but I can see it going around.

So if there's a computer fixer living nearby that wants to sort it out in exchange for work of an equivalent value (more or less) please let me know.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 26 June 2012

Subliminal messages

To be able to do something properly, you need to be able to do it without consciously thinking about it.

So my job is sometimes to talk (and get my pupil to talk) about any old bollocks as long as it's nothing to do with the task at hand.

Hence, we might be driving down the road, and dealing with stuff, and if my pupil can do that while talking about football or the film they watched last night or whatever, that tells me a lot about where they're really up to.

And so it was that yesterday, my pupil, Ben, was driving home through Tranmere. It was about quarter past six in the evening.

"What would you like for tea?" I asked him.

Ben wasn't sure.

"In the best of all possible worlds", I added.

Ben was still uncertain. We drove along a bit further.

Eventually, he announced that he'd quite like Pizza.

We'd just driven past this defaced hoarding:

Ben, who'd been unconsciously, but diligently reading the road ahead, while consciously contemplating what he'd enjoy eating, was astounded when I pointed out what he'd just passed.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Update: The hoarding wasn't defaced at all. It was cunningly done that way to make people look at it. Just in case we weren't already aware of them.

I will definately not be buying my car insurance from these annoying bastards.

Sunday, 24 June 2012


looking for one of those online flash games.

I don't think it exists, but any game where you get to throw shit at David Cameron looks like a surefire winner.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Shit comedians

It's easy to say "I never really rated Jimmy Carr". today.

I always found his humour to be pretty peurile, regardless of what a selfish prick he turns out to be.

So just for the record, if it transpires that Frankie Boyle also thinks that being a millionaire entitles him to do such a thing, I won't be in the least bit surprised.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

The Footy

I have something of a love - hate relationship with the beautiful game.

On the one hand, it's pure kinetic theatre. A massively complex 4 dimensional thing. You can't deny the drama of it. Few things can get me on the edge of my seat the way a hard fought match can.

It's pretty much the world game, and in most parts of the world, it's very much the working person's game. Someone once described massive football crowds as "The Labour Party at prayer".

But I also find the increasing corporatisation of it depressing. It's been the vehicle that allowed Murdoch to make the money he needed to buy his empire. It's seen the top stars earn £100,000 a week. I don't care how good you are at kicking a ball. There's no more justification for paying footballers that kind of money than there is anyone else.

Sounds churlish I suppose but there you go.

 Also, the nationalism and jingoism (and far right politics) that attaches itself to the game at a national level (not just in England) makes me very uncomfortable.

That said, I have to admit, I'm really enjoying the Euro 2012 tournament. And enjoying supporting England too. I'm enjoying the tournament because there's seldom been a dull match. Almost every game has been played with passion, and it shows.

Years ago, I was up very late getting stoned with a mate, and watching South American football on the telly. We had no currency in either of the teams involved, yet the match was excellent. We were enthralled. Then, after that had finished, it was followed by the US football league. Rudi Voller was playing for one of the sides I seem to remember.

Dear reader, the match was unwatchable. Although the players undoubtedly had skill, it was sterile, and passionless.  A dry wank of a match.

Anyway, thoughts on this tournament...

Probably the biggest disappointment were Holland. They never gelled as a team. Watching players like Arjun Robben descent to petulance was pretty pitiful. Did they learn nothing from the World Cup Final? They ended up so much less than the sum of their parts.

The worst team was probably the Republic of Ireland, although being up against Spain, Italy and Croatia can't have helped their cause. Perhaps if they'd have been in a different group, I'd be posting something else here, but despite the passion of both players, and supporters, they seemed out of their depth.

England, under Roy Hodgeson, are a tight, disciplined unit. Their matches have been interesting rather than stylish. The England - France match was probably the most boring match for a neutral of all the matches so far. I enjoyed it personally, but then I like 5 day test matches too :o)

For once, the media expectations were more muted going into the tournament, and that seems to have helped too.

So who will win? I rate England as the 4th best team left in the tournament, behind Spain, Germany and Portugal. So I suppose they will be losing semi-finalists. The final will be between Spain and Germany, and could potentially  be a classic.

We'll see. So far my attemps at predicting the outcome of the matches has been comically bad.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Tuesday, 12 June 2012


I don't know how much it would cost to fix my roof, but we need our south facing slope redoing. The slates are 100 years old, and so are the nails that hold them to the beams.

To go from absolute beginner to passing your test generally costs about £1,000 including test fees.

So, if you're a roofer, who wants or needs to learn how to drive, perhaps some arrangement can be made?

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Update: The conversation  this post generated reminded me of a thing called LETS. This allows people to exchange their labour for credits that can be used to employ the labour of others. So I don't necessarily need to find a roofer that needs lessons. By teaching a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker, I can earn sufficient credits to use the services of a LETS roofer.

Sunday, 10 June 2012


Take 2 kilograms of sugar. Dissolve them in water, and add a bit of yeast.

Allow time for the yeast to turn most of that sugar into carbon dioxide and alcohol.

While drinking said alcohol, consider laws of thermodynamics.

Brewing alcohol is neither endothermic or exothermic. The energy stored as sugar turns into  energy stored as alcohol. It's the same energy, but expressed slightly differently.

So if you consume those 2 kilograms of sucrose based energy, after they've been transformed into ethanol based energy, but get hardly any exercise, what happens?

That's right. I've gained several extra pounds in mass in less than a fortnight.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Saturday, 9 June 2012

How to stop wind turbines from chopping bird up into little pieces

A valid argument raised about wind turbines is that they kill birds.

This is true, and with this in mind, I've been trying to think of some work arounds.

Here's my first idea.

This metal cage surrounding the rotating blades of the fan prevents errant budgies from being killed, while still allowing a flow of cooling air to be emitted from the front of the fan.

I actually suggested this idea on a forum, and was loudly decried as a crank. The cage would prevent the wind from reaching the blades of the turbine, they said, and the added weight of such a structure would impede the turbine's ability to face the wind.

So it's odd then, that despite the dense metal mesh enclosing the blades of this rapidly turning fan, it somehow fulfills it's function. Still, the critics do have a point. Such a cage would presumably have some effect on the output of the turbine, and experiments would have to take place to determine the optimal ration between keeping the birds safe, while maximising output.

So here's a development of the idea, complete with both an extremely dangerous turbine, and some birds.

As you can see, this one doesn't employ a cage, it uses a net. This net prevents the birds from being chopped to bits by the rapidly spinning propellor, while the propellor itself manages to output sufficient thrust to keep the aircraft aloft.

What not to like?

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Friday, 8 June 2012

First Black President

Just been reading an article about how Prez Obama got into bed with Big Pharma and ditched his election promises.

A thought struck me.

I've heard numerous times over the last few years that the election of Barack Obama was a hugely important thing, because the good people of the United States, for the first time in history, had elected someone who wasn't 100% white.

Fair enough. Does anyone still think that electing Margaret Thatcher was an important breakthrough for Women?

driving lessons in Wallasey?

ten green bottles....

That's a slight exaggeration. I have just nine demijohns fizzing on a big tray thing in the back bedroom.

Although the marmite brews were undoubtedly alcoholic, and in small doses, actually quite tasty (Bren liked it, and described it as a liquour) I found that where I'd used quite a lot of marmite (the second and third demijohns I got on the go) the taste was rather overpowering.

I'd tried using frozen raspberries and blackberries from the allottment. This demijohn has now stopped bubbling, so I suppose I should bottle the contents, and put the bottles somewhere to mature.

What happens with all this is that yeast and sugar and water react to produce carbon dioxide and alcohol. Everything else is flavouring really. So I thought I'd try using fruit juices.

Did the usual thing of dumping a load of sugar into a demijohn, then I added yeast, and 2 litres of various juices into 3 demijohns. And waited.

And nothing happened.

I thought about the situation and decided it might be to do with the acidity of the must. Fruit juices are quite acidic, and 2 litres of juice per demijohn seemed to be quite a lot.

So I bought some more demijohns, and some more sugar, and decanted half the contents of the fruit juice demijohns into the new demijohns, and topped both up with water.

Result! I now have 6 fruit juicy demijohns bubbling nicely. I also have the last of the original marmite demijohns, and the frozen real fruit demijohn that's ready for bottling. That's 8.

The 9th is an experiment that I started this morning. It contains 2kg of sugar, 8 pints of water, and a teaspoonful of yeast. That's all. I wonder how they will all turn out? 

driving lessons in Wirral?

Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Ray Bradbury

I just happen to be reading a collection of short stories by Ray Bradbury - The Day it Rained Forever.

It's a book I've read many times before, and each time I read it I'm enthralled by the poetry of it all.

Funny old thing you know, but when Jeffrey Archer pops his clogs, or Jackie Colling shuffles off this mortal coil, I doubt if many of the people I know will care too much. So what is it about the passing of Sci Fi authors that leaves such an impression?

You see, I was also moved by news of the death of Kurt Vonnegut, and Arthur C Clarke, and Isaac Asimov, and to a lesser extent, Robert Heinlein, although politically I was miles away from Heinlein.

All of them seemed to me to be committed humanists. Vonnegut, Clarke, Asimov and Heinlein overtly, Bradbury more subtly.  I'm told that the Martian Chronicles are a metaphor for the European displacement of indiginous Americans.

Like Vonnegut, Bradbury's work contained few outright villains. Even characters like Captain Beatty were emotionally and morally complex.

Anyway, I was looking online for some kind of recording of a Mark Radcliffe session. This featured Frank Black, and he was reading exerpts from the Martian Chronicles.

Can't find it anywhere unfortunately.

Anyway,. Ray Bradbury was one of the true giants of 20th century literature, regardless of genre.


driving lessons in Wallasey?

Monday, 4 June 2012

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Unstung hero

Nothing heroic. It was just a good title for this post.

Today I played golf with my Dad.

We were playing the last few holes, when we found a golf ball close to the tee we were about to play from. The undergrowth nearby had just been strimmed, and the floor was covered in nettle fragments. Bits of stalk and leaf all over the place.

Regular readers of this blog will be aware that I'm scared shitless of nettles. Far more than the simple pain of being stung would warrant. Still, while wearing shoes, I don't have too much of a problem with walking on them.

The golf ball  we found wasn't any of ours. I picked it up. My Dad asked me if it was damaged so I took a close look. Sure enough, there was a small crack in the casing. I threw the ball into a nearby litterbin.

"Don't do that!" said my Dad. "I can practice with that ball".

So I put my hand in the almost empty bin and pulled the ball from the bottom. Looking down at it, I found that between the pad of my thumb, and the golfball was a big piece of nettle leaf. My bare thumb was pressed against a fresh green bit of nettle.

Dear reader, I was in no way heroic. I yelled and pulled my hand away in a blind panic. The ball went back into the bin. I don't know what happened to the leaf. And as luck would have it, I wasn't stung.

But I'm shuddering now just thinking about the event.

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Pale Blue Dot

Zoom out...

But for us, it's different. Look again at that dot. That's here. That's home. That's us. On it everyone you love, everyone you know, everyone you ever heard of, every human being who ever was, lived out their lives. The aggregate of our joy and suffering, thousands of confident religions, ideologies, and economic doctrines, every hunter and forager, every hero and coward, every creator and destroyer of civilization, every king and peasant, every young couple in love, every mother and father, hopeful child, inventor and explorer, every teacher of morals, every corrupt politician, every "superstar," every "supreme leader," every saint and sinner in the history of our species lived there – on a mote of dust suspended in a sunbeam.

The earth is a very small stage in a vast cosmic arena. Think of the rivers of blood spilled by all those generals and emperors so that in glory and in triumph they could become the momentary masters of a fraction of a dot. Think of the endless cruelties visited by the inhabitants of one corner of the dot on scarcely distinguishable inhabitants of some other corner of the dot. How frequent their misunderstandings, how eager they are to kill one another, how fervent their hatreds. Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity – in all this vastness – there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. It is up to us.

It's been said that astronomy is a humbling, and I might add, a character-building experience. To my mind, there is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly and compassionately with one another and to preserve and cherish that pale blue dot, the only home we've ever known.

- Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot: A Vision of the Human Future in Space, pp. 8–9

driving lessons in Wallasey?

Friday, 1 June 2012

first taste

My first demijohn, started on 11th May had pretty much finished fermenting.

So I've just drawn off a glass of it

First impressions? Well it looks like dishwater. It's still very cloudy. Presumably if I leave it long enough this will clear, but this one is a very pale brownish yellow like overdiluted orange juice. It smells a bit like scrumpy. It tastes...

Well it tastes nothing like anything I've drank before. Imagine mixing a bottle of proper scrumpy with a bottle of sherry and you're in the right area. It's both sweet and has a sharpness. That sharpness I think is alcohol. This is seriously strong stuff by the feel of it.  Perhaps well over 15% abv. I don't have a hydrometer or whatever it is they use but it's strong enough to make me shudder in the same way that loony juice like Thunderbird Red does..

It's not particularly pleasant to drink. It's sickly sweet and overstrong. I'm drinking this one glass neat. In future I will dilute it with water or fruit juice or something.

Does it taste like marmite? Hell no.

driving lessons in Wallasey?