Tag Archives: Timeout

Bedtime? Says Who?

Last week seemed to revolve around cars and driving, starting the week with long distance trips (to Canterbury and Salisbury), then fixing broken cars, a damaged engine undertray and nixed horns from an unwarranted attack by a particularly vicious piece of traffic calming, plus a petrol leak, culminating in thrashing my old M5 around Cadwell Park on a track day on Friday (a good way to end the week!).

Cadwell Park is mostly associated with bikers, but is also quite entertaining in a car, especially a tail-happy BMW – when I first enquired about track day insurance a while ago, the bod on the phone gave me a quote, and then when I said it was Cadwell, they said, ah, and added another 50%!

Here is the old girl in her war paint…


…none the worse for our trip into the bushes in the snow a few weeks ago.

In a mad moment of preparation before one of the long drives, we threw out the rubbish bag from the back of the car.  I later got a text from home saying that we had just managed to recycle 28 empty Red Bull cans: something of a record even for me.

Quite coincidentally, I was idly running my eye over two piles of books on the table in my study, all in the process of being read or passing through to the bookshelves…


On the right is a workaday pile of business books that show some current industry themes (Semantic Web, Information Security, Agile IT Organisations..).  The left-hand pile, however, reveals my recent predeliction for texts de-bunking mumbo-jumbo in all its irrational varieties, and I wonder if, maybe, this signals the start of the slippery slope to becoming Grumpy?

OK, Step forward, one and all, to tell me I’m already there…

Anyway, connecting Red Bull with grumpiness in any form, whether caused by lack of sleep, or too much blood in my caffeine stream, I was particularly exercised last week by an article in the paper – so, much so that I tore it out and carried it in my wallet, waving it at people, and saying “Says Who?”.

I have it here now and I am waving it at the screen in an agitated way.  It is entitled “Night-owl children ruin body clocks” from the Sunday Times, and the first sentence reads “Children who are allowed to stay up past their bedtime watching television or playing on a computer are at risk of late-night sleeplessness for the rest of their lives”.  To me this is grade A bunkum, as despite the strictest bed-times enforced by my parents, a thin gruel of educational TV and definitely no computer games (not invented), today I inhabit a nether-world of late nights, living in a time zone that is somewhere about GMT – 2 (“Mid-Atlantic” according to Windows clock) or GMT – 3  (“Montevideo/Buenos Aires/Georgetown/Greenland”).

I recall a moment during an interview many years ago with PWC Management Consulting, walking around the offices taking in the atmosphere. My escort said “We have hot-desking here, and starting time is 9-30am” (how civilised, I thought), “but if you don’t get in by 7am then you don’t get a desk” (ho ho, st&ff that for a game of soldiers, I thought)

Who are these mysterious people, “they” who dictate when we should sleep and wake? Who says what bedtime is and should be?  In a world of the Internet, Digital TV and 24hour opening at Tesco who needs to have a set bedtime?  Says Who?  Nanny? Granny? the NHS?

Alvin Toffler put his finger on this point in “Future Shock” many years ago, when he commented on the transition from cock-crow, to factory whistle and school bell – training us all to live, work and sleep to a rhythm of coordinated factory production.  Be a good little robot, and Thank Ford for the Brave New World. (OK, mixed literary allusions there, I know)

Well, ranting aside, I was pleased to see later in the week, another article in the same domain, but this one said  Teenagers improve grades with a lie-in…..    Unlike Matter and anti-Matter which annihilate themselves in a E=MC2 sort of way when they get mixed together, News and anti-News stories just sort of disappear with a slight “moo” and a whiff of fish.

And so to bed…
the worrying aspect is that the article quotes the sort of statistics about insomnia, sleep-walking and sleep-related breathing problems that some intellectually challenged politician might seize on to force us all to go to bed at 8pm…for our own good>

Snow, What Snow?

Confusing as ever, over the last couple of days, the Lincolnshire Wolds handed out another helping of its quixotic and capricious micro-climate.

Whilst the rest of Britain wears a white overcoat, the skies over the Wolds looked like this…
…and the ground looked like this…
…ok, a little bit of snow, and it was slippery down the (unsalted) hill to town. Indeed, the score on the journey out on Monday morning was:


  • An oil lorry stuck in the mud/slush in the grass verge
  • An articulated grain lorry that had slid to a halt up the hill – being rescued by local farmer and tractor
  • one lady who had parked her car up the nice new Miss-Marple style finger posts
  • a couple of dainty wiggles and balletic sideways moves from the 4×4


But we made it past the place where, a couple of weeks ago, I took a 180 degree flip into the mud and bushes (rear wheel drive that time), on the ice-sheet provided kindly by Anglian Water who have never fixed the leak from the hill-top reservoir, and past the useless grit bin at the top of the hill.

Isn’t there some sense of completeness in the Cosmos, in the fact that Wikipedia has an entry on grit bins (with pictures). Although this article and similar might give suggest some organisations have a rather more proprietorial attitude to their bins than Wackipedia might suggest…

The keener-eyed amongst you may be wondering about the pile of junk in the foreground – a legacy of last summer holiday. Unlike the sun-worshippers and other more conventional holidaymakers, I set myself the task of making a Pond Cam, to observe the comings and goings at the pond (and prove that I still “cut it” on a down and dirty bit of systems integration and soldering). And here it is replete with wireless infra-red camera and solar panel…
Well it works (day and night), which was a good result, but not without its challenges, like the relatively short range of the wireless transmitter, so this coming year I might just take a few days off in the summer to IP-enable the pond to close down the distance. Well, it is already mains-powered, so why not a little bit of powerline Ethernet, an IP Web-cam and some video streaming…

A bit of context here: It’s a wildlife pond so is intended to look a bit scruffy, with bits of old rotting tree stumps (no suburban goldfish here), and it does the job very well!

Roll on summer (or the promised, but as yet unseen 15cm of snow).

Single Retail Banana: How does that work then?

“How does that work then?” is one of those phrases like “What’s that all about, then?” used by stand-up comedians to punctuate their observations about life and “that”.

One of the curses (and blessings) of my personality type is that I probably can tell you how “that” works, or have a very good guess at synthesising an answer. This ability derives from my encyclopaedic knowledge of how stuff does actually work, built up from lifelong study driven by unending curiosity.

Knowing how stuff works is very useful, but sometimes of course, the curosity can lead one into strange directions.

And so to the Single Retail Banana (SRB), which I have now observed in various motorway service areas, and wondered on how it came to be.

The Traditional Bunch Banana (TBB) is quite a good product with its own fully recyclable packaging, in multipack format (i.e., hands/bunches). The SRB is however an interesting development – somebody has managed to get bananas to grow as singletons, rather than in bunches with a little vestigial stalk, rather than the full monty torn off a bunch (see the picture below)
Comparing Banana Stalks

The SRB could of course be a variety of banana that just grows that way, but my guess is they stick a little band/ring on the stalk to restrict total growth and make the fruit drop off (just like farmers do with lambs tails)

So, imagine the excitement as the group of fruit design consultants and edible plant engineers got together and realised that they could make a banana that saves money by picking itself, requires no processing to tear the bunches and with less stalk, costs less to transport. What a thrill!

…Died in a Blogging Accident: Who could be at Risk?

Until I read XKCD this morning, I had never thought that blogging could in anyway be a risk to my or anybody else’s life. But then I thought further, if it was true, who might be at risk, and what might make one more succumb when blogging?

Well, I don’t know any better this evening than this morning, but a quick glimpse at the QDOS top 20 bloggers makes an interesting checklist…


Web 4.0: Watching the Web Grow Old

I was interested to see in a recent article in The Economist, Sir Tim Berners-Lee gave an analogy between Web 1.0 being, to paraphrase, the “Net in Nappies”. With Web 2.0 we now entering the teenage years (going out, getting drunk, making a fool of yourself, showing off, sharing stuff with your mates, generally extraverting in many ways).

Which, although the article does not say as such, extrapolates to the Semantic Web (Web 3.0) being the grownup “web of data”, or the adult Internet (note the lowercase 'a', as the Adult Internet was hijacked years ago).

But extrapolating further still, what will Web 4.0 be then?
The Beige Bulletin Board?
The Cardigan Connection for Crumblies?
The Stannah Stairlift of data?
The Walk-in Bath of Bytes?

I hope it is more exciting than that…