1 September 2011 (Thursday) - Secure Key


I went to the doctor’s today: this insomnia is getting ridiculous. No matter what time I go to bed, I’m wide awake after four hours sleep. The doc has arranged for me to have some blood tests done. Let’s see what comes of that.


I then came home to find postie had delivered my banking “secure key” - allegedly a wonder of technology. It looks like a miniature calculator, and the idea is that whenever I log into my bank account, rather than putting my PIN into the computer, I put the PIN into the secure key. It then generates a (seemingly) random number that I put into the computer which acts as my PIN for that occasion.

So I have one PIN for the secure key, and a randomly changing one to type into the PC. What once was quick and easy now involves a lot of fiddling about: I don’t want to have to lug the silly little gadget about with me. I phoned the bank to have a whinge – they told me to suck it up and get on with it.


I then had a go with the astro club’s account: we’ve got an AGM coming up, and so it’s probably for the best that I give some kind of accounting of how we’re doing for money. There was a worrying half an hour in which I couldn’t find the club account’s cheque book – fortunately it turned up where I’d put it. It kept it somewhere safe (!), and then I lost it again.

I went through the last year’s accounts. And (would you believe it) the figures all totted up. We’ve probably got more cash in hand that we should have (I’ll go to the bank soon), and we’ve hall hire expenses coming up, but the balance sheet has been worse. I wonder if I should email it to the membership before the meeting?


After a spot of lunch I fell asleep on the sofa for over two hours (which is entirely why I went to the doctor this morning), and then I got up and cleared out my “keep this” letter rack. I have a rack into which I pop things which might be important, or which I will get round to later, or which I am a bit dubious about throwing away. There was loads of rubbish in that rack, including stuff going back over five years. And having got quite a nice pile of unwanted letters, I considered having myself a little bonfire.

But I decided against it, and played worms instead…



2 September 2011 (Friday) - At The Cinema


The problem with having a new computer is that it does take a while to get it just how you want it. And over the years I’ve lost several CDs of programs that I really shouldn’t have lost. One of them was the FTP software. For the less-techie of my loyal readers, FTP software is what I use to back up my blog to its mirror site, and also to publish websites; something I don’t do as often as I used to. Basically it moves files from one computer to another via the Internet.

With a little rummaging round the Internet I found Coffee Cup FTP. Billed as “a simplified, intuitive, and best of all free FTP client” I wasted over an hour on it before I realised it would only move my files to its manufacturer’s web space. Eventually I found what I needed – but on downloading it and using it I found out that all I had was a free trial. They will want paying eventually.

Why is it I resent paying for computer-related things? If I buy a tent or a telescope, I’m happy to pay for it. But anything on-line I rather expect to be free.


And then on with fiddling about with my presentation for the South East Kent Astronomical Society, which is only eight days away. I’m terrified! I’ve given talks to our own astro club. About a dozen. But they are talks to our own club: everyone there knows me. They know I’m the harmless, amiable bloke what does the raffle and shouts “ANUS!” whenever the seventh planet from the sun is mentioned. I must admit I’m more than a tad nervous about talking to SEKAS – I’ve been on their website and their Facebook group: they are “proper” astronomers! But then, I was rather nervous about talking to the Wadhurst group, and they turned out to be really good people. I shall hope for the best.


I then wasted the rest of the day playing “Worms” whilst waiting for the phone to ring. It did eventually. I might blog about that phone call at some point (he wrote mysteriously!).


This evening I went to the cinema: I haven’t been there for ages. In the past I’ve mentioned that I don’t like the cinema. Because I’m lumped in with the Great Unwashed, all burping and farting. Because I have to sit through interminable adverts before the film actually starts. Because I get uncomfortable sitting still for any length of time. But tonight was different – the cinema was mostly empty; the adverts only went on for twenty minutes and were actually quite good, and being a short film didn’t leave me enough time to get fidgety.

Apollo 18 was a really good film. The premise was that a whole load of film footage from a secret Apollo mission had been found, and that the film was made from that footage. In retrospect the film would have worked better if it had featured unknown actors, but I liked it. I thought it was really good.

And after recently writing countless blog entries running down recent sci-fi offerings, I’m pleased to have found something worth watching….



3 September 2011 (Saturday) - Lenham and Fudge


One of the things the doc suggested to cure my insomnia was to cut out caffeine. I’m now onto day three on caffeine-free coffee, and I did sleep reasonably better last night. I was still wide awake at 6am worrying about that over which I have absolutely no control, but better 6am than 4am, eh?


I then had a bit of a sulk. This time last year I was camping at Sumner’s Ponds. I could have been camping again this weekend – some months ago I’d had an invite to a birthday party at Sumner’s Ponds. But I turned it down because I’d arranged to go to London. The plan was to see the dinosaurs at the Natural History Museum, and then on to a sci-fi exhibition at the British Library.

But I decided against going. In a rare triumph of common sense over idiot enthusiasm I realised that I couldn’t afford it. Just getting me and er indoors TM to London will cost about forty quid. By the time we’ve bought lunch (fifteen to twenty quid) and had the obligatory pub stop (fifteen to twenty quid) and bought a couple of souvenirs, we could easily have spent over a hundred quid.

This month I shall need that hundred quid to pay my petrol costs of my (hopefully temporary) reassignment to the Kent and Canterbury Hospital


After a morning wasted playing worms, this afternoon we went on one of our AA recommended guided country walks – this time round Lenham. We started shortly after 1pm, and we started off with a rather interesting incident.

The route we were taking was quite clearly marked across some fields, and then through three gates. The map clearly said to follow the footpath through three gates, and each of the gates had footpath signs on them. As we went through the gates, I realised we were passing some rather posh houses in East Lenham: houses at which the arky-ologee club has dug before. And sitting outside the poshest house was a couple from the arky-ologee club. So I gave them a cheery hello.

They obviously didn’t recognise us, as the bloke rudely turned his back and went into the house, and the woman very rudely started a tirade at us about her being sick of hikers using the footpath, and weren’t there any other footpaths we could use. Her tone was one that I might use when cursing the dogshit I’d just stepped in.

And having gone from enjoying a lovely day in the autumn sunshine I was suddenly just as bad tempered as she was. My mood didn’t last long, but who do these people think they are? I will confront her about her attitude when we next meet. Which will be at the next arky-ologee club meeting.  And I tackle her in front of all her cronies. Rather loudly, rather obviously, and rather embarrassingly.


After a few hundred yards walking my snit subsided. Which was probably just as well. It was too nice a day to be sulking. And we continued our walk, pausing only occasionally to talk to the sheep. We did have a little part of the route where we went astray – the written instructions told us to walk along a lane looking for a stile by a sign for a fruit wholesaler. We couldn’t find any signs for a fruit wholesaler, but we found a stile just after a sign advertising industrial units. It was possible the fruit wholesaler had gone bust in the meantime, but I thought it best not to take any chances. So we abandoned that part of the walk, and continued along the lane to pick up where our route would eventually have come out.

We found ourselves passing Chapel Farm, and knowing that the arky-ologee club were digging there, we thought we’d call in. These arky-ologists were pleased to see us, and four feet under the field’s topsoil they’d found what they thought was an ancient ditch. (Those long winter evening must just fly by…)


We chatted for a few minutes, then continued on our way. At one point we walked through a field of beans. The plants hadn’t been harvested, and had all been left to go black. As far as the eye could see, there were bean plants unharvested and going bad. What was that all about?


And so back to the car, and after a much deserved bottle of pop we went round to Grafty Green to see if their pond section had any fish food. The young lad on the counter (aged about twelve) had the most expensive fish food I’d ever seen, so we gave that a miss and came home, where over tea we met our latest grand-pet. I am already a grandfather to two guinea pigs and two cats. Now I have a grand-dog. Fudge seems rather like hard work, but  “My Boy TMseems rather taken with him. I suppose to his credit, Fudge is a quiet dog. I’m told Fudge will come visiting from time to time. I wonder if Fudge will come round to drop off his laundry like his owner does….



4 September 2011 (Sunday) - Kites over Leeds Castle


Over a spot of brekkie I checked my lottery ticket. If ever I wanted to win the national Lottery, it was now. But no joy. I didn’t have a single winning number.


Following on from yesterday’s blog, it would seem that bean plants are supposed to go black and manky before they are harvested. One lives and learns.

Yesterday I mentioned that my original plans for the day didn’t come to fruition. The same was true of today. I’d hoped to go to the astro-festival at Hestmonceaux. But despite my best efforts, no one else was up for going to this. And I wasn’t going to go on my own, so instead we went to Leeds Castle with the kite fliers.


We arrived, and found ourselves directed to park at the far extreme part of a field: following a turnout of over seven thousand people yesterday, the staff were expecting a mammoth attendance from the public. And once parked we made our way to the entrance where our tickets were waiting for us. And before long we were with the Brighton Kite Fliers contingent, putting on a show for the public as part of the “Balloons and Bentleys” weekend.


We got on with the business of kite flying – with inflated monkeys, spinning doughnuts, lifters and the like. After an hour or so we got the kites in: the idea was that the balloon people wanted some space, and the weather was looking iffy anyway. We chatted with the balloonists who were very dubious about doing their thing because of the weather, but we decided to leave the kites down for a couple of hours to give the balloonists the chance to do ballooning if the weather did perk up. In the meantime we wandered around looking at the attractions.

First of all we had a look at the Bentleys. I suppose they were interesting if you like old cars. We then mooched up to the toilets (always a good place to stop), and as the rain got worse we wandered on to the aviaries to look at the birds. Birds are marginally more interesting that Bentleys in that they actually do things. We had seen a “Bird of Prey Display” advertised, but when we arrived we didn’t see what we had been expecting. Hawks and eagles are fussy things that don’t like the rain. So rather than showing off birds of prey, they wheeled out various parrots and storks. Parrots and storks don’t care about the rain (apparently).


Deciding that wandering around a maze (lost and in the rain) would be a silly thing to do, we made our way slowly back to base. Via the Dog Collar museum (really!), the ice cream stall, and various craft stalls. Billed as “craft stalls”, there was very little there which I would have described as “craft”: the fact that we came away with ten quid’s worth of sausages better describes what was on offer (!)

Rather than flying more kites, we spent half an hour untangling some kite lines, but just as the frostbite was about to set in (oh – it was cold!) we got some kites out for the last half hour. And then home – five miles away from Leeds Castle was glorious sunshine.

It had been gold and damp, but I for one had a really good day out with friends. But I must admit I pitied anyone who’d paid the entrance fee expecting to see what Leeds Castle had billed for the day. The weather was such that no hot-air balloons took off, and with the Bentleys…what can I say? If you see one car, you really have seen them all... (!)



5 September 2011 (Monday) - Renewable Power


Just as I thought the coffee-free lifestyle was curing the insomnia, I was proved wrong. I woke at 2.50 am this morning. It was perhaps as well I didn’t oversleep, as today was the first day of my (hopefully temporary) secondment to working at the Canterbury Hospital.

The drive to Canterbury was quite pleasant – I shouted at the politicians on the radio, and I got there in plenty of time. The workload is somewhat more relaxed than I am used to, but it was good to be able to do a job well rather than a job rushed. And I got to come home via the Koi shop at Chilham where I picked up a ton of fish food. That should keep the greedy beggars fed for the next few weeks.


Meanwhile across the pond one of my Canadian cousins has raised an interesting point. Wind Farms – are they quite what they are cracked up to be? It wold seem that over in Ontario there is very little consultation with the public as to where wind farms are going. Added to which is the question of exactly how efficient (or not) the wind turbines are. Having a sunnier climate, there is a feeling over in Canada that maybe solar panels might be a more effective way to produce power.

I always thought that the production of solar panels involved the use of large amounts of dangerous chemicals, but I could be wrong.


Personally I like the idea of wind farms. Efficient or not, there are two wind farms within twenty miles of my house, and whenever I see the arrays on the Romney Marsh, or off the Whitstable coast I get a warm feeling inside. I *like* wind farms. And to be honest, despite the dangerous chemicals, I quite like the idea of solar panels too.

After all, once the coal and oil has all gone (global warming concerns aside), what will we do without “wind (and other renewables)”…?



6 September 2011 (Tuesday) - Stuff


Last week I grumbled about how rubbish I thought the new season of “Doctor Who” had become. I must admit I quite liked the most recent episode. “Night Terrors” was classic Doctor Who. Really good. But it would have been better in three or four episodes, each of twenty five minutes duration….

Talking of decent television, Downton Abbey’s second season starts in a week or so. The trailer is on-line.


I am told that my urine is a particularly volatile fluid, but there was something on the radio this morning which boiled my piss. And boiled it big-time. I’ve not had my kindle for six months and already it is obsolete. Amazon are (allegedly) about to bring out the colour version of the Kindle. It will be a book-reader, and a whole lot more. It will even stream video.

And you know what will happen next. Within a very short space of time, the Kindle will become yesterday’s technology; an unsupported format fit only for boot fairs and bins.

I was about to ask why technology is like this: why does the “next big thing” come so quickly. But the answer is obvious – because people will pay for it. Enough people will be happy to throw away their six-month-old Kindle and shell out good money on something else to make it worth the while of Amazon to bring out Kindle-II.

I’m hoping I can make my Kindle last for a little while longer before I’m forced onto the next great somebody-else’s-moneyspinner.

And just to add insult to injury, McDonalds have added calorie counts to their menus. I don’t care how many calories there are in a Big McScoff: I shall still yum it up…


I was early in to work this morning: I’m still figuring out  how long it takes to get to Canterbury, and I had to be there early. Last week the quack said I needed to do a fasting blood test (as part of the on-going insomnia investigations). So this morning I fasted and then had my bloods done. One of the disadvantages of working in blood testing is that looking up your own results is a disciplinary offence.  And bearing in mind that I’m in quite enough trouble already, I shall await to find my results through the proper channels.

I wonder how I did….



7 September 2011 (Wednesday) - Bras and CDs

A week without coffee, and no discernible effect on the insomnia; I’m going back on to the stuff. Also my blood test results have arrived with those who should be looking them up. I am reliably informed that I did mostly OK – but it would seem my thyroid’s not what it once was, and my cholesterol could be lower. All things considered, 7/10: could do better.

Which, as blood tests go, isn’t bad.


Work was OK – work was more than OK – work was good. Initially I wasn’t sure how I’d get on (temporarily) relocating to the Kent & Canterbury Hospital. But I’m rather enjoying it. The journey isn’t too bad, really. The people with whom I’m working are a good bunch, and the workload is much more manageable than that which I am used to.


And then home. Within minutes of arriving home the doorbell rang. er indoors TM had been advertising her unwanted tat on Freecycle (an Internet site on which people unload their unwanted tat to pikeys). A “rather delightful lady” had called to pick up that which er indoors TM  was giving away. Fifteen old bras, and a leaking air-bed. I couldn’t believe it – who on Earth would want fifteen used old bras, and a leaking air-bed?


I then spent a little while mucking about on the telephone to the bank and the building society. Twenty five years ago when we took out the mortgage we went with a financial advisor. Big mistake!!! Leaving aside the fact that it’s my father in law, we’re not so much having problems, as having a painful time of it all. Had the mortgage been done directly with the bank or the building society, then I rather imagine that the various financial institutions would have spoken with each other. But having had a financial advisor organise it all, everything seems to be operating in isolation.


 As it is we’ve had to get the endowment money (as a cheque) and pay it into the bank account. Actually getting that cheque wasn’t easy, and we paid the cheque into the bank account today. I then had to persuade the building society to wait for that cheque to clear, and to wait for me to come into their branch to pay off the money we owe. What with one thing and another that cheque won’t have cleared before early next week.

The building society had a plan to convert the money we owe them into another mortgage, and charge me seventy quid for doing so.

It’s all problems I really don’t need.


Yesterday I was given a CD. Tonight I thought I’d listen to it in the car. The car’s CD player wouldn’t play it, and now the CD is jammed in the CD player. I can’t budge the thing. I’ll take it to Halford’s on Saturday.

And then to the astro club committee meeting. Our chairman is a wonderful fellow – trying to keep order at the committee meeting can only be likened to trying to herd cats. But we had a really good time; and achieved quite a bit too. All sorts of plans for the next few months. Why not come along to astro club on the last Friday of every month….




7 September 2011 (Wednesday) - Bras and CDs

A week without coffee, and no discernible effect on the insomnia; I’m going back on to the stuff. Also my blood test results have arrived with those who should be looking them up. I am reliably informed that I did mostly OK – but it would seem my thyroid’s not what it once was, and my cholesterol could be lower. All things considered, 7/10: could do better.

Which, as blood tests go, isn’t bad.


Work was OK – work was more than OK – work was good. Initially I wasn’t sure how I’d get on (temporarily) relocating to the Kent & Canterbury Hospital. But I’m rather enjoying it. The journey isn’t too bad, really. The people with whom I’m working are a good bunch, and the workload is much more manageable than that which I am used to.


And then home. Within minutes of arriving home the doorbell rang. er indoors TM had been advertising her unwanted tat on Freecycle (an Internet site on which people unload their unwanted tat to pikeys). A “rather delightful lady” had called to pick up that which er indoors TM  was giving away. Fifteen old bras, and a leaking air-bed. I couldn’t believe it – who on Earth would want fifteen used old bras, and a leaking air-bed?


I then spent a little while mucking about on the telephone to the bank and the building society. Twenty five years ago when we took out the mortgage we went with a financial advisor. Big mistake!!! Leaving aside the fact that it’s my father in law, we’re not so much having problems, as having a painful time of it all. Had the mortgage been done directly with the bank or the building society, then I rather imagine that the various financial institutions would have spoken with each other. But having had a financial advisor organise it all, everything seems to be operating in isolation.


 As it is we’ve had to get the endowment money (as a cheque) and pay it into the bank account. Actually getting that cheque wasn’t easy, and we paid the cheque into the bank account today. I then had to persuade the building society to wait for that cheque to clear, and to wait for me to come into their branch to pay off the money we owe. What with one thing and another that cheque won’t have cleared before early next week.

The building society had a plan to convert the money we owe them into another mortgage, and charge me seventy quid for doing so.

It’s all problems I really don’t need.


Yesterday I was given a CD. Tonight I thought I’d listen to it in the car. The car’s CD player wouldn’t play it, and now the CD is jammed in the CD player. I can’t budge the thing. I’ll take it to Halford’s on Saturday.

And then to the astro club committee meeting. Our chairman is a wonderful fellow – trying to keep order at the committee meeting can only be likened to trying to herd cats. But we had a really good time; and achieved quite a bit too. All sorts of plans for the next few months. Why not come along to astro club on the last Friday of every month….



8 September 2011 (Thursday) - Stuff

I see the pooh sticks race we did at Teston Kite festival has made the local paper. I must admit I’m a tad jealous – when I ran it last year we didn’t get such publicity.


Meanwhile, despite several suggestions of help and advice, the CD player in my car remains stuffed up. This could be a blessing in disguise – for some time I’ve been intending to replace it with one into which I can plug a USB memory stick. Perhaps this is God’s way of making me finally do so. I shall have a look in Halfords at the weekend.


To work – I’m quite liking the morning drive to Canterbury. Just as I got to work my phone bleeped - a text from “Daddy’s Little Angel TM. “My Boy TM would seem to still be holding her responsible for his missing trousers. I must admit I’m getting sick and tired hearing about his missing trousers. If it is so much of an issue I shall take him trouser shopping at the weekend.


Work was OK, and then home for a crafty pint in the Locomotive. One of my colleagues from work updated me with all the rumours about me. The rumours are wrong: which is actually a shame. And after a beer or two I forgot that Jason was coming round to collect the posters from the astro club’s display at Challock Goose Fair this weekend. He called whilst I was in the shower, and  was rather surprised when I answered the door wearing a towel and a smile.


And did you know that Star Trek is forty five years old today. Would you believe it?




9 September 2011 (Friday) - New Car Stereo


It transpires that I’ve been driving past a new colleague’s house every day this week. Today I stopped and gave him a lift. This will be a very short-lived arrangement as the bloke left work today, but whilst he was in the car he showed me a short cut.

I am always very dubious about short cuts. If they were truly shorter, then they would be called “the way”. The short cut I found today goes round the back of Chartham directly to the hospital, cutting out quite a bit of minor roads and traffic lights. However it does involve a lot of single track country lanes. This morning’s journey did save time. However while taking the short cut going home this evening, I met several oncoming cars and tractors, and the journey wasn’t that much quicker.

I don’t think I’ll use that short cut again – going the other way has better roads, and is more scenic. And every day as I look across the valley I see a huge bird flying. I really should take binoculars, stop the car and see what that bird is. As far as I know, there are no eagles in Kent: I can only imagine it’s a buzzard.


And so to work, where I learned than a two week secondment is to become a month’s secondment. I don’t mind, really. The pace of work is very much different to what I am used to, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

And this evening I got to skive off early.


Yesterday I mentioned that the CD player in my car was stuffed up, with a CD jammed in the works. The nice man at Halfords said if I could get to him before 6pm he’d fit an all-singing-all-dancing new stereo into the car for me. I rather hoped he could get the CD out of the stereo for me whilst he was at it. In the end he extracted the entire CD playing mechanism – the knacked CD is still inside it. It will probably stay there.

There is a little gap round the edge of the new stereo – I’ve ordered a trim for it which should arrive in a week or so.


We popped round to South Willesborough for a barby for the evening. Very pleasant: must do it more often. And we came home to good and bad news. The good news is that I’d won the Euro-Millions lottery. The bad news – I’d actually won £2.70. I shall squander that tomorrow..



10 September 2011 (Saturday) - Comets


This morning’s haul of emails included one from Becky Brasil who was offering some advice on how I might “set my love tool to thrill”. That was thoughtful of her, but with my back it’s probably best that I turn down her offer. Love tools are best set to “off” these days…..


“My Boy TM phoned – would I drive him to the arse end of nowhere to collect some fence panels? So we set off to deepest nowhere, loaded the car up with fence panels and brought them home for him.

He’s got a fence to build - it would seem that my grand-dog Fudge is quite adept at escaping into next door’s garden and leaving his “fudge” there. So far the neighbours are oblivious to Fudge’s fudge, but it can only be a matter of time until they get the hump, so replacing the dodgy fence is a “must”. I suggested that as well as fence panels, he might need fence posts to hold the panels, and met-posts into which to put the fence posts.

He assured me he would sort it out tomorrow. In the meantime Fudge will either cross his legs, or do what he does best.


Together with er indoors TM we went to the building society to pay off the outstanding mortgage money. Having been told on the phone I could just turn up at the branch and be treated like royalty, I was rather miffed to have to queue up with the Great Unwashed. But eventually we got sorted. And after twenty five years the house is (mostly) now ours. We still have a small mortgage to pay for the loft extension, but that’s peanuts compared to what we’ve owed in the past.

We then went on to McDonalds for a celebratory burger, and afterwards had a bit of a mooch round the town with Martin. er indoors TM did some shoe shopping whist I sat and waited and slept and then, just before going home, we popped into the toy shop and picked up a Lego advent calendar. Advent calendars – in September (!)


Home again. We’d not been home long when “My Boy TM turned up (minus Fudge) whinging about the cost of fence ingredients. He’d been to B&Q and had had a shock when he realised that you don’t get much change out of a fiver when building a fence from scratch. So we had a rummage in the shed and came up with most (but not all) of what he’ll need. He still has to get three more met-posts and the fence posts, but rather than heading off back to B&Q, he left our house to go up the pub. I could be wrong, but I have a sneaking suspicion he thought I was going to get his missing bits for him. If that is the case, he’ll have another think coming in the morning.

Mind you, he seems confident he’ll get the job all done tomorrow. Hammering in met-posts, putting up fence posts and panels, and giving the whole lot a coat of paint. And all this after an afternoon and evening of serious drinking.

I think he’s being a tad ambitious, but time will tell – it usually does.


I then spent a little while putting the finishing touches to the evening’s PowerPoint presentation. And then spent a long while copying music to a USB memory stick. Once upon a time I had loads of USB memory sticks. Now I have two. Where did they all go? And what is it with USB memory sticks. So many of them have silly crappy security on them that makes them utterly unusable for what I want to do with them. If only I could format them, I might get somewhere. But Windows 7 doesn’t let me format a USB memory stick.


And so to Folkestone to deliver fags and a lego girl angler. After a quick cuppa I took the Rear Admiral to be part of my posse for the evening. I’d been asked to speak to SEKAS on an astronomical topic of my choice. I must admit I was rather nervous about doing so. I’m quite happy to talk to my own astro club – but everyone there knows me. They know what I’m like – they know that I’ve blagged my talk from Wikipedia and that  I’m going to shout “Ur-Anus!!!” half way through. But SEKAS are “proper” astronomers and expect better. Or so I thought. I arrived to find a car-ful of friends from our astro club who’d come as moral support, and a dozen or so SEKAS people. Everyone was really friendly and welcoming. My talk on comets went really well (I thought). And after coffee and a raffle, bad weather put paid to any star-gazing so I gave my talk on the Fermi paradox as an encore.

I went along to the SEKAS meeting expecting to be something of a disappointment to them: I came away feeling that I’d done well. Both talks seemed to be accepted – both caused some lively debates and questions. The people there were really friendly. I might just go back there again…



11 September 2011 (Sunday) - Sound Mirrors


It could have been a good night’s sleep, but the torrential rain rattling against the windows woke me before 6am. And then next door were clanging their infernal piano at 8am. 8am – on a Sunday (!) I could go round and have a whinge, but it would achieve nothing.

And having them being so anti-social means I can be as noisy as I like (whenever I like) with a clear conscience.


The piano stopped clanging after half an hour, but the noise was replaced with the sounds of “My Boy TM “quietly” collecting the tools with which he was planning to fix his fence. It was at this point that I gave up trying to sleep and had a spot of brekkie instead. And then once brekkied I did some ironing whilst we watched last night’s episode of Doctor Who. I quite liked last week’s episode: last night’s was good too.

Half way through the episode the phone rang. “My Boy TM wondered if I had a saw he might borrow.


With Doctor Who watched and ironing done we met Chippy for a spot of McLunch, and once lunch was McScoffed we set off to Dungeness. Last year we found out about a guided tour round the sound mirrors about two hours before the walk started. And when we turned up the walk went ahead despite torrential rain, hurricane force winds and sub-zero temperatures.

Today (with a little more notice) the wind was still strong, but it was warm and dry, and seven of us joined a party of over fifty people to have a look-see at the Romney Marsh’s sound mirrors.


The sound mirrors were built in the late 1920s: the idea being that at the time no one lived on the Romney Marsh – it was deserted. And so with no other noises to interfere, the sound of enemy planes could be magnified by sound mirrors. And the first ever early warning coastal defence system was built. The mirrors are quite impressive to behold, and it’s a shame that the things were never actually used in anger. With a maximum detection range of twenty miles, and ever increasingly fast aeroplanes being built in the 1930s, a sound mirror would only give (at best) fifteen minutes advance warning of an enemy attack. With the advent of radar in 1937 (which could detect enemy aircraft at a range of over sixty miles) sound mirrors became obsolete.

The sound mirrors are now on private land; and having fallen into serious disrepair were bought my English Heritage a few years ago. Some work has been done to them to prevent them collapsing, and a few times a year they are opened up to guided tours.


Today’s tour was good – the chap running the tour was on his own: he could have done with an assistant. And it would have been nice if the pikey element had made an attempt to get their brats to shut up (or at least go away) when the tour leader was speaking. But I enjoyed it – and would certainly go again.


On the way home my phone beeped – a text to tell me that the fence had been completed. So we popped round to see “My Boy TM, his entourage, the fence, and Fudge. It’s not a bad fence (as fences go): a shame it only goes half way along the garden, but you can’t have everything…



12 September 2011 (Monday) - Stuff


I’m hoping my loyal readers haven’t noticed the change, but publishing yesterday’s blog was rather tricky. The nice people at Blogger have changed the blog publishing software. Whilst the new format looks a lot better; it’s different to what I’m used to. And different always takes some getting used to.


I listened to my new car radio as I drove to Canterbury this morning. I’m not sure quite what I was expecting, but I was rather disappointed that it wasn’t radically different to any other radio broadcast. Perhaps I need to fiddle with the graphic equaliser some more.

One thing that is very noticeable about my daily drive to Canterbury (specifically the drive home) is the timing of the radio’s financial news. When driving home from my normal base the radio tells me how much a Euro is worth (in pence) as I’m driving between B&Q and the traffic lights. Nowadays I get that information a couple of hundred yards past the Granville pub in Lower Hadres.

In the past I’ve obviously made the subconscious connection that being told what a Euro is worth means I am less than thirty seconds from home, because nowadays whenever I’m told what the Euro is worth I suddenly realise I’ve still got twenty minutes more driving to do.


And so home where I checked my emails. Among them was one from SEKAS (the astro club to whom I spoke on Saturday). “Thank you on behalf of SEKAS for giving us your talks on Saturday. I was impressed by your presentation of Fermi/Drake at Ashford society last year and enjoyed it even more this time, knowing what was to come. It was great to have that available as the rain prevented any observing. The ''Comets' (talk) had me on the edge of my seat, with a splendid mix of history, science, scepticism and (mainly non-) observation. Altogether a most enjoyable evening”. 

I’m feeling quite smug about that email….



13 September 2011 (Tuesday) - Crackpots

I hear the banks are being forced to separate their “domestic” operations from their “high-flying gambles”. Apparently it’s taken governments (of all political persuasions) years to realise that whilst it’s fine for them to play roulette, poker, and wild guessing games with their own money, they shouldn’t do it with mine.

It amazes me that having seen the society caused by the wanton greed provoked by Margaret Thatcher, it’s taken them so long to realise than unfettered capitalism is fundamentally evil.


Meanwhile the moon is back in the news. Far be it from me to encourage the conspiracy theorist crackpot lunatic fringe, but I have a question. NASA have released photographs from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter. Look at this link, and you can clearly see tracks made by the L.R.V. (moon buggy), and you can see the L.R.V. parked where the astronauts left it. But you can’t see tracks going to or from the L.R.V. itself. What’s that all about?


Talking of crackpots, did you know that the planet Saturn causes backache? No? I didn’t know that either. But it says so on the Internet, so it must be true. Apparently it’s something to do with the fact that the planet Saturn emits blue rays. (I’m using the word “fact” in its loosest sense here!).

I mention this because eighteen months ago I wrote a blog entry entitled “Backache, Saturn…”, and just lately my blog-tracking software has gone mad: this particular blog entry has recently received loads of hits. Presumably from new-age crackpots who believe that sort of twaddle.

It’s ironic that if you type “Saturn backache” into Google, my blog entry appears way ahead of the loony nonsense.


The other day I whinged about my Kindle becoming obsolete. Perhaps not so – it would seem that Amazon are talking about having a cyber-library. For a fee I will be able to borrow books for my Kindle (rather than buy them). A novel concept.

I wonder if Ashford’s new library will try to compete…



14 September 2011 (Wednesday) - New Sledge

It’s something of an anniversary today – I’ve been working in blood tests for thirty years today. Under other circumstances I would have made something of the day, but being only on my second week of my secondment, I thought I’d keep quiet.

Work was not the same as ever today – it was a vast improvement over how it has been in the past, and this evening I came home via the shortcut I learned about last Friday. That did shave a few minutes off of my journey, but (flushed with success) I then tried another shortcut round Mystole. Short cut – pah!. It started off reasonably enough. Whilst it didn’t actually become a dirt track at any point, I could definitely hear the duelling banjos. I shan’t take that route again.


Yesterday I went into Halfords to get the fascia fitted to my car radio, and I saw they had sledges in stock. I went home, and regretted not buying one, so this evening I popped back. I can remember the last but one time when it snowed; you couldn’t get sledges for love nor money. And the last time it snowed, sledges were over fifty pounds for cheap and nasty rubbish ones. Halfords are currently knocking out rather decent sledges for fifteen quid. Having bought one, it probably won’t snow for ten years, but here’s hoping.


Meanwhile science has found an extra-solar planet which isn’t entirely unlike Earth, and which has liquid water.

It’s a sad indictment of our society that this is seen by the media as (at best) a bit of a joke: if you call up Google News, the science section is all about the latest computer games and the most modern mobile phone. So to make up for that inadequacy, let’s have something else from our friend science.

I don’t like wasps, but something that winds me up far more than wasps are people who go into hysterical fits and start panicked screaming whenever a wasp is within ten miles of them. Science has found that the fuss made by such people actually attracts more wasps. If you really don’t like wasps, keep still and keep your trap shut. Because having a major stressy does nothing but call over more wasps.

And why am I mentioning wasps in autumn? Because science says the warm autumn will give an extra lease of life to the buzzing little fellows…




15 September 2011 (Thursday) - On The Beer

I popped into Asda on the way to work this morning. I go to Asda because it’s convenient: it’s on the way. But I have to wonder if they want my custom. The staff are very friendly and helpful once you get to the store, but it’s the car park. Most of the car spaces are blocked up by all the supermarket trollies which are scattered all over the place. I had to stop the car, get out, and move all the trollies so’s I could actually have a parking space. What’s that all about?


Here’s something which struck a chord. The Dunning-Kruger effect is a recognised, measurable phenomenon. It describes how truly stupid people not only fail to recognise their own stupidity, but also are unable to recognise when others know better than they do.

Along the same lines is the Downing effect in which dumb-asses and men overestimate their I.Q. scores, whilst geniuses and women underestimate theirs.

I’m sure I have no reason to mention this… Perhaps I’d better stop this train of thought – least said, soonest mended.


Meanwhile in Doncaster some delightful fellow has got into the Guinness Book of Records for having the world’s largest collection of Daleks. Personally I would have thought that the world’s largest collection of Daleks would have had more than 571: I suspect that record won’t last long once serious collectors hear about it. For myself, I quite fancy having a crack at the world record fry-up.


This evening was the (Ashford) works booze-up. We went to the Phoenix’s curry night. Very good – I would certainly go again; if only for the mild on the hand pump. A mild – in September!!! There are one or two photos on-line….



16 September 2011 (Friday) - Teston Kite Festivals

It’s no secret that the kite festivals at Teston feature very highly in my annual calendar. Since the last kite festival at Teston I’ve spent time in communication with various people who are involved with the running of the kite festivals at Teston. There have been all sorts of rumours that Kent County Council wants to cut back the current two festivals each year down to only one. And if that’s not bad enough, there have been rumours that there won’t be any future kite festivals at all at Teston Bridge Picnic Site. The reason -  because the kite festivals cost too much to put on.

Or perhaps “cost too much” isn’t the right phrase. “Generate enough profit” might be more descriptive.


There was a big meeting about the matter yesterday. Kent County Council have decreed that Teston Kite Festival is not cost effective in its current form.

Kent Kite Flyers are going to be approached regarding the running of the kite making workshop (told to do it?), thereby enabling Kent County Council to reduce staffing and therefore costs. And volunteers are to be sought (conscripted?) to help on the day with parking issues and directing the traffic. More trade stands will also be drummed up to gain more income.

The (paid) site warden’s job will be to stand at the front gate collecting parking monies

Only after this has all been done, and a serious profit has been raked in, will “the management” consider whether the event will be allowed to continue.


In the past it has been suggested that Kent County Council wash their hands of the festival, and pass it onto someone else to run…

In theory the last four kite festivals at Teston have been run by the Kent Kite Fliers. Perhaps I’m being harsh, but at the last four Teston festivals, the Kent Kite Fliers have arrived two days after me, and then huddled in a corner of the field far away from everyone else. And made a point of keeping themselves to themselves.

I may well be very wrong, but from what I can see, their input to the Teston kite festivals of 2010 and 2011 has been minimal at best. I’m told they advertise the event (I wonder where), and that they organise height clearance with the C.A.A. (which isn’t difficult).

It speaks volumes that at the last weekend when we were there, when a new warden wanted to appoint one of the campers to hold the car park key overnight, other wardens advised him to ask for me by name. It’s pretty obvious that the Kent Kite Fliers have had their chance to do something with the festival, and (in the opinion of Kent County Council) not lived up to expectations.


So what of the future of Teston Kite Festival?

In June 2009 I was told that Ron Dell was stepping down as the organiser of Teston Kite Festival, and that another organiser was being sought. In August 2009 I was approached by several prominent kite fliers to ask if I’d consider taking on the running of future festivals at Teston. At the time I said that if no one else would do it, I’d do it. After all, how difficult could it be to run a gentle weekend at a Kent picnic site? I could do that. What costs are there?

Any costs might well be offset by the use of volunteers. There may well be the need for extra litter clearances. Anyone could go round with a dustbin. Up till now the children’s kite making workshop has been staffed by Kent County Council staff. This could be run by volunteers. Car parking might be an issue – but could it really be that difficult to arrange the use of some of the back field? – It’s been done before.


But then, could I conscript any volunteers? Do people really want to give up their holiday time to shift dustbins and organise car parking and generally dogsbody about purely because the council is too mean to pay their staff to do the job?

I don’t mind volunteering to do a volunteer’s job, but I must admit I’m not keen to volunteer to do a job that until now has been done by a paid employee.


And then there’s the whole sorry tale of public liability insurance. Taking on the festival would make me legally liable for everything and anything (no matter how ridiculous). There is always some prat who wants to sue because I hadn’t adequately protected him from his own stupidity. Such public liability insurance isn’t cheap. I’m reliably informed that other kite festivals pay over a thousand pounds for such cover.


However, after a bit of research, my main objection to taking on Teston kite festival would be the cost of the hire of the field. As well as running a kite festival for the council, were I to take it on, I’d be expected to pay the council (about) five hundred quid in hard cash for the use of the field.

A field which is just sitting there and would have been used for the kite festival anyway.


In the cold light of day I remembered something that I posted on June 15 2009 when I was considering taking on the running of Teston kite festival: “…there would be all the petty triviality of the day. Chasing the power kites and stunt kites into the area provided for them. Stopping the one-liners from getting in the way of the steerable stuff. Asking the normal people not to play football right in the middle of a kite festival. Stopping the pikeys from having a major rave in a corner of the field. ….smoothing the ruffled feathers of the chap whose kite-flying teddy bear was kidnapped for a bit of a laugh. And then appeasing the chap whose kite was stolen by someone who wrongly thought that he was the chap who’d nicked his kite flying teddy bear. Or telling senior citizens that they can’t use a drainpipe bazooka to fire potatoes across the field. Or politely asking people playing didgeridoos at 1am to shut up. “


I think the bottom line is that I need to ask myself one question. “Do I enjoy the Teston kite festival?

I like camping at Teston. I like that very much. I like flying kites there, and I like watching others fly kites there. But the actual kite festival bit….

On reflection, when at the Teston Kite Festivals, I spend most of the Saturdays and Sundays whinging on about how I prefer the Friday at Teston before the kite festival because the normal people aren’t actually there. On 10 August 2009 I blogged: “I can’t help but wonder if invading the picnic site twice a year is the best thing to do. Once a year we camp on a friend’s farm. There’s no one there but us. A lot of the kiting people do something similar at a camp site in Sussex – they book a whole area for themselves and so can do their own thing. Joining them is looking more and more attractive.


It would be a shame to lose the Teston Kite Festival, but at the moment the opinion of “those in the know” is that the June festival is in danger of being lost in 2013 if they cannot create lots of profit in 2012.

If you feel strongly about saving the Kite Festival click here to make your views and ideas known. But be prepared to volunteer to do a lot of work which (up till now) paid staff have done.


I shall end today with the observation that when we camp at Brighton Kite Festival we make a point of setting up camp up a hill well away from the crowds of normal people. Last September I went up to Sumner’s Ponds for a weekend. I preferred there not being any “normal people” about. Take the kite festivals in Margate, Berck or Dieppe. They are “kite” events – no one there would dream of trying to set up a game of football or rounders or a barbecue right in the middle of the kite flying.

There are too many “normal people” infesting Teston Kite Festivals. If we could have the site for the kiters and the campers I might be interested in taking it on. But I’m not interested in putting on a show for the public who clearly aren’t interested, and see us as being in their way on their picnic site.

Perhaps the Teston Bridge Kite Festivals have run their course? On reflection I would rather drive further and go to where the normal people are either absent or are there as audience rather than being in my way…



17 September 2011 (Saturday) - Carp, Anniversaries...

I had a reasonable night’s sleep: which was good. I woke about 7am, and after lying restless for half an hour I thought I’d have a quick go on the computer. I had some silly bits of paperwork to do. It’s amazing how silly bits of paperwork can take up so much of your life: what I thought would take up ten minutes actually kept me quiet for over two hours.


After a spot of brekkie, me and er indoors TM went up town. I‘d found a dozen DVDs that I thought I might flog to the CEX shop. They took ten of them, and gave me a fiver’s credit. So I spent that on more DVDs. We then mooched round town a bit more, then came home, where we watched the last episode of this season of Torchwood.

I won’t say too much about it, as I know there are those of my loyal readers who haven’t seen it yet, but let’s just say that I’ve never been a big fan of Torchwood, and this season has done nothing to change my opinion of the show.


The plan for the afternoon had been to go fishing. But the weather wasn’t good, and I must admit to having had reservations about going fishing because of the weather. But we set off for fishing as planned. Half way there the heavens opened, and I suspected the worst. But the downpour stopped as quickly as it started, and we had a really good (and dry) afternoon at the pond. Steve and Sarah got to try out their new rods, and I got to try out float-ledgering. I was quite pleased with float-ledgering – it seems to have worked. I only had one fish all afternoon, but it was the biggest fish I’ve had this year.


Unfortunately as the afternoon wore on, it got rather cold; and so we gave it till half past five and then came home.

I washed off the worst of the carp slime and the sheep poo, and set off for Hastings for a silver wedding anniversary party. Twenty five years – I feel old….




18 September 2011 (Sunday) - Old Smokey


I was rather late to bed last night, and just after I’d dozed off, work phoned at 1am. The poor girl who was on duty was so apologetic that she’d had to phone me – she knew she shouldn’t, and she knew I’d not been there for three weeks, but there was no one else she could call.

Having been woken, it took me a little while to doze off again. And I was sleeping very peacefully when I was woken at 6am by what sounded like the entire county exploding. For those of my loyal readers across the world who also heard the explosion and wondered what it was, there is no need to worry – it was just “My Boy TM coming home quietly.

He’d been to France with a gaggle of his mates and, as always after a skinful, he comes home to me because he doesn’t want to disturb his girlfriend. How thoughtful (!)


Apropos of nothing, I weighed myself just after brekkie. Since I last weighed myself (a month ago) I’ve lost over a stone and a half without really trying. That’s impressive. So I thought I might make the most of this by embarking on a diet and fitness regime. I’ve signed up with myfitnesspal.com, the idea being that science has shown that people lose twice as much weight if they actually write down what they eat and what exercise they do.

The problem I’ve had with diets in the past is that I have absolutely no idea what the calorific content of any food is. But this website tells me, and tots it all up for me. Did you know that my two slices of peanut butter on toast and a cup of coffee contained 317 calories. That was one seventh of the day’s worth.


Having counted calories we then popped round to Chippy’s for a sausage sandwich (302 calories), and I slept through the rugby whilst we waited for our lift. Paul soon arrived, and we set off to Dover’s Western Heights to review some old haunts.

We arrived to find that two thirds of our number were already there, but “Daddy’s Little Angel TM was delayed having a tiddle. So whilst some of our number did sightseeing, together with Paul and Chip, I clambered into St Martin’s deep shelter. We had a good scramble about in the dark, and soon the stragglers had arrived, and all ten of us were underground in the dark. At the deepest part of the tunnel (several hundred yards in and down) we found we could go no further unless we got on our bellies and scrubbled. So I got on my belly and scrubbled. Unfortunately it turned out that you couldn’t actually scrubble very far, but you don’t know that until you try.


We came back up to reality, and our plan was to try to get into the Grand Shaft. It was open, but unfortunately the area was swarming with hundreds of cub scouts. The Grand Shaft had been opened for them, and we were told to shove off by a po-faced old twat (in scout leader uniform) who clearly did not care about the public perception he created of the Scout Association.

We then had a plan about how best to proceed, and we found another tunnel and an anti-aircraft pill box. I then led the way round to the Drop Redoubt via various footpaths and tracks. And there’s no denying that I might have taken a wrong turn somewhere along the way. But we eventually found our way out of the brambles and back to civilisation.


Through the rabbit hole, and avoiding all the cubs swarming everywhere we met some people from the Western Heights Preservation Society who told us that they were having an open day in a few weeks’ time. We might just go back mob-handed and have a look-see. If any of my loyal readers are up for it, there are details to be found here.


We’d (arguably) chosen the wrong day to go to the Western Heights – cub scouts were swarming everywhere. So once we’d met up with Pete, we thought we’d go where there wouldn’t be any cubs.

Old Smokey is behind two “Keep Out” signs. Once past the second of these signs we made our way to the tiny little hole in the wall which allows the brave, foolhardy and plain daft access to the inside of the North Gate. Most of our number scrabbled through a very small hole to get inside. The last time we were there we found a rusting spiral staircase leading up. The last time we were there we’d looked at that staircase in fear and trepidation. This time we just climbed it. It has to be said that it wasn’t worth the climb. At the top was a very dull area and a bricked-up door. So I climbed down, and was amazed.

The last time we’d been in this bit we’d looked at the upper gallery, and wondered how on Earth we’d ever climb up there. I looked up to see three faces peering down at me from that gallery; including the face of the most recent fruit of my loin.


Deciding that faint heart ne’er scrabbled up the insides of very dangerous Napoleonic forts, I started to scrabble. As did everyone else. There was a dodgy five minutes when over-zealous scrabbling on Paul’s part ripped out the arse of his trousers, but in a serious triumph of idiot enthusiasm over common sense, eight of us climbed up something which only three months ago I had confidently decided was un-climbable.

Once in the upper gallery of the North Gate we made our way to some windows, and waved at the three sensible members of our party who’d remained in (relative) safety. And assuring ourselves that they were safe (sitting outside in the sunshine) we blundered off in pitch darkness with no idea where we were or where we were going. At one point Stevey recognised a vertical shaft as one he’d fallen into (as a teenager) and broken his ankle.


Time was pushing on, so we decided to move on. Getting up to the upper gallery had been tricky. Getting down would be easy. Getting down safely, not so. But we scrabbled, scrambled, climbed, and clung desperately to wooden beams. Eventually we were all out, and we made our way to the detached bastion – “Old Smokey”.


This time all of us managed the climb in. We scrambled about quite successfully. “Old Smokey” has the advantage of having a lot of windows, and so not all of it is in pitch darkness. So this time we could see what we were doing. We wandered around, we found some used condoms (and they say romance is dead), we climbed to the top, and made our way onto the top, where we sat and enjoyed the view. Wonderful!


We then realised we were hungry – it was after four o’clock. So we made our way back to the cars and went on to the Eight Bells in Dover for a spot of Sunday lunch (503 calories) and a crafty pint (220 calories). We’d timed lunch just right – we’d had a smashing day, and we came out of the pub to find that whilst we’d been eating, the heavens had opened.


We had a great day – as always there are photos of the event on-line. And as I mentioned, we’ll be going back in a few weeks’ time, admittedly in a much more controlled manner…



19 September 2011 (Monday) - Instant Weight Loss


Yesterday I mentioned that I’d signed up with myfitnesspal.com, the idea being that science has shown that people lose twice as much weight if they actually write down what they eat and what exercise they do.

I had a little look at the software today. I’d told it that I was UK-based: it took that to mean Welsh. I wasn’t standing for that (!)

I then mucked about adding a weight loss monitor gadget onto the top of the blog page. And after half an hour’s fiddling about I decided I didn’t like it and deleted it. That was a total waste of time. Instead I added a badge half way down on the right had side of this page which will record my weight loss. Or that is, it will record weight loss once I’ve told it that I’ve lost any weight.

I also found that if I exercise, it allows me to scoff more calories on the day when I do that exercise. I thought the idea of exercise was to lose weight, not to allow you to shove more food down your neck. But what do I know?


And then I looked at the food settings. The idea is that you put down absolutely everything you eat and drink. Absolutely everything – five per cent of yesterday’s allowable calorific intake went on two glasses of squash. I had no idea that there were calories on orange squash.

I was amazed to find that three pints of ale (which isn’t really a lot for me) is getting on for a third of my daily calorie requirement. And I was even more amazed to find that there are more calories in three chocolate digestive biscuits than in a pint of beer. I’ve found that I can get double the biccies for the same calories if I go for Rich Tea, so it’s Rich Tea all the way from here on in.

And would you believe that there were just as many calories in today’s lunch (peanut butter sandwich, apple, banana, bag of Doritos) as there was in yesterday’s roast dinner.


But after all is said and done, the device does give you a total of the day’s calories you’ve scoffed, and the day’s calories that you are allowed (adjusted for exercise). I suppose as long as input doesn’t match requirement, weight loss will follow. We shall see.


Meanwhile did you know that today is International Talk like a Pirate Day? No? I’d forgotten about it too. As had pretty much everyone, including the organiser, who would seem to have abandoned ship….



20 September 2011 (Tuesday) - Dur !!!


Here’s a rather worrying statistic. Apparently over half the UK population are of the opinion that creationism and intelligent design crackpottery should be given equal credence with evolution in schools science classes. It’s a shame that the take-home message of this statistic (that over half the UK population are demonstrably stupid) has gone overlooked.


It strikes me that if creationism and intelligent design crackpottery is to be taught in schools, it should be taught on an equal footing with the tooth fairy, magical pixies and other such drivel.

Fortunately there are moves afoot to put this sorry state of affairs right - A group of thirty prominent scientists (including Sir David Attenborough)  have signed a statement saying it is unacceptable to teach creationism and intelligent design, whether it happens in science lessons or not.

And, for once, the government on the side of sense: The Department for Education said: "The education secretary was crystal clear in opposition and now in government that teaching creationism as scientific fact is wrong”.


I’ve been told before that I can be somewhat evangelical in my apathetic agnosticism; and that I should be more tolerant of people who want to believe in all sorts of superstitious old tosh.

I accept that it is the right of stupid people everywhere to believe in whatever nonsense they want. But it bother (and amazes) me that stupid people go on in their beliefs, no matter how half-baked.

Only last week I had a conversation with a very intelligent person (who lectures in science subjects at MSc level). This person was utterly dismissing all talk of global warming and climate change. Whilst she accepted that the evidence all looked very worrying, she was absolutely convinced that global warming would never happen because her god wouldn’t allow it. She was adamant that this stood to reason: why would her god create the world, only to let it get stuffed by global warming? The fact that this same god has let famine, plague, tsunamis and Hitler slip past him is apparently utterly irrelevant…


The problem I have with “belief” of the religious and creationism and intelligent design crackpottery variety is that it simply doesn’t stand up to any kind of reason or common sense. If I believe something to be true, and evidence is presented to show that I am wrong, then I modify or abandon my belief.

However the religious and the crackpots blindly cling to what has been disproved. How does that work?



21 September 2011 (Wednesday) - Swimming

Something which amazes me is how people know exactly what the price of petrol is in so many different petrol stations. And this fixation about how you can save one penny per litre if you drive miles to buy your petrol.

I was reliably informed that petrol from Morrisons in Canterbury was two pence per litre cheaper than from Tesco’s in Ashford. So after work I went to Morrisons in Canterbury. It involved negotiating some rather dodgy narrow country lanes, and trying to get to a petrol station via a car park was an experience. But having gone well out of my way and having made a journey I otherwise wouldn’t have made, I’ve saved myself seventy five pence.

It would have been a lot quicker if I just went to Tesco’s in Ashford; personally I think the time that I wasted fiddling about was worth a lot more than that seventy five pence. But what do I know?


And then on to the Stour Centre for a bit of swimming. I was rather amazed to have to pay up £4.60 when er indoors TM had distinctly said it would only cost two quid. But do I complain? The Stour Centre have a deal whereby you can buy a monthly ticket for twenty quid and then you can go as often as you like. So after four swims in a month I’d be in credit.

However if I were to take them up on this offer I could only pay by direct debit, and they demand two months’ notice of cancellation. I think I’ll stick to “pay as I go” for the time being.


I hadn’t been swimming since the summer of 2007, and it showed. When I got to the pool I had the choice of slow, medium or fast lane. I thought I was probably a medium, but would start off in the slow lane. I was glad I did. I was one of the slowest there. And I developed a rather odd cramp between my shoulder blades. But I carried on regardless. I’d set myself a goal to do ten lengths before I gave up. In the end I did twenty-two. That’s just over half a kilometre. I don’t think that’s bad going for my first swim in four years.

Plugging my data into my fitness pal (dot com) tells me that half an hour’s swimming burned up about as many calories as were in Sunday’s roast dinner. Perhaps I should do more of this swimming lark.


And in closing I’ll make the observation that on the day that Google Plus goes live, the latest Facebook upgrade is so dreadful that it seems designed to push all of its users over to Google Plus..




22 September 2011 (Thursday) - Walkies


There was quite an interesting episode in Asda this morning. As I walked in to get lunch, it was clear that one of the operatives was getting a dressing-down from his boss. I walked into the store just as the arse-kicking was ending. The chap who’d been reprimanded then walked alongside me, muttering as he went. I was hoping he’d turn off somewhere, but he matched me pace for pace all the way to the fruit and veg aisle where he stormed up to another member of staff and started aggressively shouting at him. It would seem that this second chap had squealed to the bosses about the first chap’s slowness and general incompetence.

The recipient of the arse-kicking was not happy, and as he shouted at the squealer, he emphasised every word with a thump on the squealer’s chest.

I did have plans to spend some time looking for some fruit which might be a bit more adventurous than my usual apple and banana, but in the event I couldn’t get away quickly enough.


I had a phone call at work today. Having sent out the results of my blood test a fortnight ago (!), my quack phoned today to tell me that my cholesterol level was borderline high. That would come as no surprise to anyone who’s ever seen me. The quack suggested that I go back to see her (which is much easier said than done) and get my blood pressure checked. Then, knowing both my blood pressure and my cholesterol level, the quack will know what medicine to prescribe to lower my cholesterol level.

It strikes me that the obvious medicine would be a lot less chips, but I didn’t have the heart to tell her that….


Home – and more exercise. er indoors TM  had suggested we had a walk round the park this evening. And what’s the point of having a grand-dog if you can’t take him for walkies every so often. So we popped round for Fudge and took him on a stroll round the park.

It has to be said that Fudge hasn’t quite got the hang of walking to heel: he is still a tad excitable. For some reason he behaves far better when er indoors TM is walking him than when it’s me on the business end of the lead. And there’s no denying I wouldn’t dare let him off the lead.

There was a dodgy five minutes when Fudge fudged, but in this enlightened era we were equipped with poop bags. We had a minor squabble as to who got to do the poop picking, and I lost.

But we got a good walk in – and the Internet tells me that on that walk I shifted 269 calories. Basically about the calorie content of the sandwich I had for lunch.


My cousin mentioned the other day that she was joining the twenty-first century and getting a Sky-Plus box. She asked me if I had any hints or tips about using the thing. I told her that it was a brilliant toy because you can record programs on it, and then when you watch them later, you can fast-forward through the adverts. She thought this was amazing, As did I.

It’s only just occurred to me that I had the technology to do this over twenty five years ago. The machine I used was a video cassette recorder, or VCR.

Do you remember them? -  They were all the rage, but with the advent of DVDs, VCRs fell out of fashion. And as they went, so did people’s ability to record programs off of the telly.

On reflection it’s amazing that people are seeing the recording ability of a Sky-Plus box as being something revolutionary. It’s no such thing. It’s a reinvention of something which is older than my children.


Mind you, something which was never a problem with the first generation of recording stuff off of the telly was the etiquette of talking about telly programs. Back in the day it was expected that telly programs were watched when broadcast, and so were fair game as topics of conversation. Nowadays with Sky-Plus it would seem that everyone Sky-Pluses everything. No one watches the telly as it is broadcast any more. An innocent comment of “did you see on the telly last night….” is usually immediately met with shushing from an assembled throng who have recorded said program to watch at some indeterminate date in the future.

So how long can one reasonably give family and friends to watch a TV program before making comment on it? What is a reasonable length of time to wait?


Five days ago we recorded “Doctor Who”: we watched it yesterday I liked it. The first part of this season was decidedly iffy, but these latest episodes are really good. And then we watched Downton Abbey tonight – I liked that too. What happened was… 



23 September 2011 (Friday) - This n That



The news today has something which could quite literally change the course of human history. For the last one hundred and six years we’ve all believed Albert when he said that E=mc2. It would seem that he was wrong. The consequences of this mistake are astronomical. Quite literally astronomical. Practical interstellar travel is no longer theoretically impossible. As our planet becomes utterly bollixed up by global warming and catastrophic climate change, abandoning ship becomes a practical proposition. When the sun dies (which it will), humanity need not die with it.

However I can hear the surprise in the voices of my loyal readers even as I type this. Of course this wasn’t headline news. Headline news is some old drivel about money, arguing politicians, soap stars, tits and bingo.


In more mundane news, after work we went swimming again. It has to be said that the slow lane of the pool at the Stour Centre has to be seen to be believed. I wouldn’t say that it is where the porkers go to exercise, but the last time I saw anything like it was when I took the scouts on a boat off of Vancouver Island on a whale-watching expedition.

But I swam between and around the orcas, and covered a distance of six hundred metres. I’m getting better. Mind you, swimming is dull: up and down, and you can’t really talk to anyone without drowning. And I suspect that you couldn’t use an iPod without it short-circuiting.


And then I did the monthly accounts. My credit card bill had a charge of a fiver from last Friday for “Product Support AG” and gave a reference number. I’ve phoned the bank – I have absolutely no idea what that was all about, and it’s five quid I could do with. The bank have no idea either, and will phone me back to tell me. Or so they say…


I then plugged the day’s calories into myfitnesspal (dot com). I really need to do a bit of food research. I had this vague idea that fruit is good for you: I’m giving up with bananas – they are riddled with calories. I can eat three apples or four carrots for the same calorie allowance. And I like apples and carrots, but I’m not actually that fussed about bananas…



24 September 2011 (Saturday) - More of The Same


For the last week I have calorie-tracked every single item that I have shoved down my neck. I have made a point of being under my daily calorie requirements every day. I have taken up swimming, and have borrowed my grand-dog to do more exercise. I have been permanently hungry. And at this morning’s weekly weigh-in I find I’ve actually gained a pound in weight. What’s that all about?


I then spent some time arguing with the bank and building society. The endowment part of the mortgage has been paid off; the repayment part is still running. Despite having been set up some fifteen years apart, both are paid on the same direct debit. The building society told me that this was impossible, and told me to ask the bank what they were playing at. The bank assured me that this was impossible, and told me to ask the building society what they were up to.

After a lot of to-ing and fro-ing the building society said that they (probably) wouldn’t take the money they didn’t need any more. So I shall bide my time, and if they do I shall get the bank to claim it back, and I’ll worry about it then.


To town. I needed some insoles for my shoes – the current ones are wearing thin. eBay would have been cheaper, but a walk to town and back is all good exercise.

Whilst there I had a plan to have a crafty McDonalds. But have you seen the calorie content of their scoff? My favourite McTipple (Quarter-Pounder meal with ketchup, banana milkshake and toffee sundae) comes in at 1870 calories. That would have been nearly my entire day’s worth of calories in one hit. So I contented myself with staring hungrily through the window, and came home for a ham sandwich.


The original plan for the day involved going to Folkestone to the Lees Lift Beer Festival. I’d been planning this for months, but I’m afraid that realistically it was a non-starter of an idea. Much as I like a beer festival, by the time we’ve got to Folkestone and poured endless ale down the necks of both myself and er indoors TM , had some dinner and come home again, we’d be lucky to have change out of eighty quid. An afternoon’s fishing costs less than a couple of quid, and I don’t feel grim for two days afterwards.

So me and the Rear Admiral went fishing. We had a few tiddlers, and I again proved the efficacy of float-ledgering, and we spent a pleasant few hours in the sunshine.


And then whilst the rest of the universe enjoyed Saturday night I set about the laundry. Shirts don’t iron themselves, nor do undercrackers and socks sort themselves…



25 September 2011 (Sunday) - Kites over Capstone


I suspect my loyal readers are getting thoroughly sick of hearing about My Fitness Pal. But last night I think it’s fair to say that it exceeded the expectations of even its staunchest supporters. Yesterday afternoon I went fishing, and so I thought I’d see if that counted as burning up calories. It did – three hours of sitting on my bum exchanging insults with the Rear Admiral burned up 980 calories. I can’t see how that works, but if it says so on the Internet, it must be true.

Also that would explain why our bathroom scales told me that (despite having put on a pound yesterday), I’m four pounds lighter today. So I’m claiming those four pounds as vindication of dieting, and will give it another week.


We’d planned to go to Capstone Park for the “Kites over Capstone” event today. I spent a little while this morning (on the internet) trying to find when it started. I could find no reference to the festival on anything that wasn’t either just the name of the event, or was an argument about how rubbish the event was going to be on a kite-flying forum. The local council’s on-line advert for the day made me believe that the day was some sort of bicycle event.

I must admit I was suspecting the worst. It was no secret that many of “the usual suspects” of the kite flying fraternity had gone to other kiting events today: some actually driving past Capstone on their way elsewhere. And after driving thirty miles to the place, I was far from reassured by the stupid girl who met us on arrival. We found a huge banner advertising the event, and a girl standing by the banner, wearing a tabard marked “Event Steward”. I asked this girl where we should park. She seemed surprised to be asked, and thought for a bit. She had a vague idea that the event might be down the road somewhere; possibly on the right, but she wasn’t sure.


I could quite happily have gone home at that point, but we pressed on. We found where we were supposed to be, and where we needed to park. It was at this point that another half-wit in a yellow tabard directed us along a nearby lane. He assured us that would be closer to the kite flying if we followed his directions. I suppose that if you take the phrase “closer to the kite flying” to mean “a much greater distance away from the kite flying than this car park here”, then said half-wit was probably correct.


Eventually we met up with the rest of our contingent, and despite my earlier misgivings, a fun time was had by all. It was a good day, with a decent wind for flying kites (perhaps a tad too strong at times). As we walked in I had seen the stunt bikes doing their things, and I had planned to go have a look-see at some point. But in between flying kites and having a crafty kip, I never got round to it.

It was a really good day. I would like to do more events like this, but I suppose I have only myself to blame. Having made the decision to join a kite club which makes no secret that it is based sixty miles from home (the clue is in the name “Brighton Kite Fliers”), I really can’t expect the club events to be on my doorstep. 


And so home again. I think I must have caught the sun, as I can feel my face glowing. After a really good (619 calories) bit of tea, er indoors TM went bowling. This exercise-diary nonsense has got so that I seriously considered going bowling with her to burn off some calories. But then I realised that going bowling would mean spending money I haven’t got doing something I don’t actually enjoy. So I fiddled about on the Internet instead…




26 September 2011 (Monday) - Sid

Last week I grumbled about Sky-Plus and how no one watches telly programs when they are supposed to any more. Last night when I could have been watching Downton Abbey I watched Doctor Who instead. I’ve been really impressed with Doctor Who lately. Up until the most recent episode.

The most recent Doctor Who episode (Closing Time) was something of a disappointment. Quite frankly it didn’t know whether it was drama, sci-fi, thriller or comedy. It tried to be all of them, and wasn’t actually any of them. I was disappointed. I was expecting great things from the episode – a guest appearance from James Corden, cybermen, and the first cybermats to be seen since1975. But the episode was something of a let-down.

I’m beginning to see something of a theme - the last three times the Cybermen have appeared in Doctor Who (A Good Man Goes to War, The Pandorica Opens, The Next Doctor), the episodes have been rather poor.

Which is a shame – cybermen have always been my favourite Doctor Who baddie.


And so to work. I arrived to find a family in full “domestic” at the hospital door. Mother was trying to remonstrate with teenaged daughter who was in hysterics. The more mother tried to reason with the daughter, the more the daughter would scream “You are a f$@*ing retard!!”.

I watched this little drama for a few minutes, before getting on with my daily round.


Hypothetically speaking, it has often been said that an infinite number of monkeys pounding on an infinite number of typewriters would be able to produce Shakespeare's works by accident. It would seem that this adage has been put to the test, albeit using computer simulation of random character generation than monkeys. It would seem that simulated cyber-moneys aren’t doing very well.

But they are doing better than the real monkeys who, when presented with the keyboards back in 2003, produced five pages of the letter "S" and then broke the keyboard.


Meanwhile in Folkestone the menagerie grows. My second grand-dog (Sid) has arrived.



27 September 2011 (Tuesday) - More of Sid


I spent a while on the Internet this morning looking at photographs from last weekend’s steam rally at Kingsfold. The photos were taken by a chap I’ve met less than a dozen times. It’s amazing how the Internet changes things. I can remember people coming onto work with their holiday photos, and everyone else couldn’t get away quick enough.

Nowadays people put an album of photographs up on Flickr or Facebook or Photobucket or some such site, and I for one am transfixed.


And so to the dentist for a scale and polish. What is it with dentist’s waiting rooms - why is there always an angry man in the corner arguing with himself? And why is he always sitting by the magazines so that you can't get a magazine without attracting the nutter's attention? And the magazines themselves - oh dear! Our dental surgery has a whole load of magazines about flying light aircraft all dated 2001 - 2003. Hardly very riveting.

I got in to see the fangquack only five minutes later than scheduled. I must admit my bloke's usually good with timekeeping. That is, he's good with timekeeping or he cancels the appointment the day before. Today was good - and he asked after my tie. I went in there once wearing a tie featuring the various pump clips from the Shepherd Neame brewery, and that tie would seem to have stuck in his mind.

The fangquack had a root round in my gob, took some X-rays and sent me on my way for another six months; on the understanding that if the X-rays were iffy, he'd phone me. He does this a lot: he tells me that the fillings in my fangs are getting old, and that he’ll have to replace them soon. He then X-rays them, and we hear no more about it for a couple of years. He’s been doing this for ages – keeping threatening to replace the fillings, but never doing it. All the time they aren’t hurting, I’m happy to have them left as they are.


Getting to work in Canterbury was then quite a game. I started off stuck behind a tractor which was dragging a very strange metal object. After five miles, that tractor was replaced with one which was spraying hay all over the road. I followed that one from Wye to Chartham which, for those of my loyal readers who don't know the area, is quite a way. By the time I'd waited for idiot drivers to fart about in Shalmsford Street, a journey which usually takes me twenty five minutes took well over an hour.


I did my bit at work, and then came home to find Sid (and his entourage) were visiting. So in the spirit of keeping up with the healthy new lifestyle I took Sid for a walk. It has to be said he’s easier to walk than my other grand-dog: he doesn’t pull at all. If anything I had to drag him about. I had quite a major walk planned, but I had to cut it short as Sid had another engagement this evening.

Unfortunately Sid had a potty emergency this evening. You wouldn’t think that such a small dog could generate so much diarrhoea. Fortunately it was on the lino. Bless him...



28 September 2011 (Wednesday) - Bit Dull

I am told that my grand-dog Sid has recovered from his bout of potty emergency. On reflection I suspect feeding him the two-week old sausage meat I was keeping as a fishing bait probably wasn’t the best thing he could have been eating.


To Asda for an apple and a carrot (I love this healthy eating!!). Whilst there, I thought I'd get some biccies. Rich Tea have a fraction of the calories of other biccies. And they are 50p a pack. But I was thinking diet – low fat biccies might be good.  A pack of low fat Rich Tea was £1.08. Stuff that - there is only so much dieting you can do!

I even had two choccie digestives today – 140 calories !!!


I had a brainstorm on the way to work this morning. As I approached Shalmsford Street I indicated to turn right, slowed down, and drove straight past the turning. What was that all about? So I took the next right turn to (hopefully) get back on course, and then spent twenty minutes lost in Chartham. Twenty minutes - how is that possible? Chartham's a tiny place.


To work, where I did my bit, and then came home again. There was lots I could have done this evening. The arky-ologee club was having a lecture on lidar use (whatever that might be).

Stevey was getting his telescope out on the East Cliff at Folkestone.

But I stayed in and did dull boring paperwork. Sometimes it has to be done. Personally I think it wasted an evening, but what do I know?


Meanwhile my Kindle has become obsolete as Amazon have released the latest version – the Kindle Fire. Expert opinion on the device would seem to be mixed. Whilst it’s an excellent e-book reader, it doesn’t have a camera, nor can you make phone calls on it. The iPad can do all of these things (and more), but for double the price.

I suppose it’s all about what you want from a device really. My toaster makes really good toast, but it doesn’t wash my undercrackers(!). Or do I really want to watch the telly on my lawnmower?

But not to be outdone, Apple are believed to be launching the new iPhone next week. I expect it will be pretty much the same as the last one, but with enough silly gimmicks that those with more money than sense will throw away their old iPhones to get new ones.

Me – I’ll stick with what I’ve got until the contract runs out…



29 September 2011 (Thursday) - Walkies


As I dressed this morning I noticed that I'm doing both my belt and my watch strap a notch tighter than I used to. Perhaps this diet is working?

My piss boiled as I listened to the radio on the way to work: what is it with the British and the weather. It was glorious from February through to early June. People complained it was too hot. There were some wet weekends over the summer; people complained about what a rubbish summer we were having. And now having had three consecutive sunny days, the radio is awash with talk of "Indian Summers", and devoted ten minutes to the subject. Surely there are more important things to discuss on peak time radio than the weather?


In the past I've always had my lunch in the work's staff room, but since I've been working at Canterbury I've taken to eating al-fresco. I park my car in a corner of some rough-standing (jokingly known as a staff car park), and go there to eat my lunch. I have a wonderful view across the fields as I scoff my scran and browse my kindle.

Whilst munching on my carrot I saw a doctor nervously smiling at me. His car wouldn't start - could I help him? He must have been in dire straits if he needed my help: when the Bat-Mobile went west at Xmas I correctly guessed the alternator was at fault (not that I know what an alternator is), and when the Green Man's window mechanism broke at Teston a few years ago, I passed the screwdrivers. I know nothing about broken cars, but I had a look at this one. The poor doctor looked like he was going to cry if I didn’t help him.

I sat in the drivers seat, turned the key (how quaint!), and rather than getting the normal engine noise, there was a strange clicking sound. I confidently announced that the starter motor was knacked, and that it was a job for a mechanic. The poor doctor seemed so grateful for my sage advice, and I went back to my Kindle, leaving him phoning the AA.

I wonder if it really was his starter motor?


Walkies – and so I picked up the grand-dog Fudge. Walking him round the block shifted a few calories. More so for me than Fudge. My original route had to be amended – there’s now a travelling fun fair in the middle of the park. Where did that come from? So we diverted into the Bowens Field Wetlands. Which were even wetter when we left. For a small dog, he generates an awful lot of tiddle.


Home – where after a spot of tea (325 calories), whist er indoors TM  flogged candles to the assembled throng, I hid upstairs and did the monthly accounts. My car insurance has gone up by fifteen quid a month. When did that happen?

And then I went though my letter rack. The union had written to me. Did I fancy becoming a union rep (again). Possibly. I shall think about that one. A red reminder from the electoral register. They always send red reminders regardless of the fact I filled out the return ages ago. A letter from the car insurance people telling me they were putting their prices up (!) A change to my tax code. Whatever that means.


I then did another on-line survey for which I earned a quid, and then I went to on-line survey dot com, and cashed in my earnings. A few weeks ago I got a voucher for Amazon from them which was worth ten quid: tonight I got another tenner’s worth of Amazon voucher from them, which I spent on books for my Kindle. Two more Terry Pratchett books.

I must admit I’m not sure about Terry Pratchett’s books. I’ve heard such great things about them, and having read one or two in the past I was disappointed. Generally, in life nothing lives up to the hype it generates. So I’ve given it a few years, and I’ve gone back to Pratchett, and so far the books are amusing enough. I’ll persevere with them for a little longer…



30 September 2011 (Friday) - 1900 - Not Out !!

Did you know that this is my nine hundredth blog entry here on Blogspot? And before I started blogging here I did (exactly) one thousand blog entries over on Yahoo 360 (until they shut down). So I’ve been blogging daily for 1900 days. Which is every day since 10 September 2006. That’s just over five years ago. I had no idea when I started that I would become such an avid diarist.

If anyone is that bored, you can read the history of the last five years (as I saw it) over here.


To work. I quite like the journey, even if the sun is in my eyes all the way there and all the way back home again. I think that I must have decided (albeit subconsciously) that the "short cut" actually is shorter than "the way", as my on-board auto-pilot seems to make me want to take the short cut every day. Even if the road is a tad narrow in parts.

There was a dodgy five minutes this morning when, just as I was navigating a particularly narrow stretch of lane, I met a dustbin lorry coming the other way. It wouldn't actually have been a problem *if* the dustmen hadn't filled the only passing place with wheelie-bins.

Oh, how I laughed!


This evening was astro club. We had a great turnout – over eighty people, and a lot of new members joined. After a brief AGM in which the committee was elected unanimously the evening’s speaker talked for over an hour on the moon. Informative, informal, a really good talk.

It’s rather a sobering thought that the next person to walk on the moon with probably be Chinese, and that the first person to walk on Mars is probably currently about ten years old.


And after a particularly spectacular raffle, we had a really good evening with the telescopes. Including “Dobbie” – the club’s new Dobsonian scope.

I really need to get my telescope out again…