Sunday, 31 March 2013

Bring on the global warming so I can turn off the bloody heating

It's that time of year again, when you wander round the house putting all the clocks forward an hour. Well, not all of them obviously. Where would the fun be if you didn't miss at least one, just so that in a few weeks time you have an excuse to be late for something. Deliberate or not, there's bound to be one that gets missed. Like the one in the garden.... oh, and the one in the car as well..... damn...
Twice a year we go through this ritual - spring forward, fall back - and every time we do it we grumble and moan to each other about "why the hell do we bother?". I bet that whoever the people are that make the decision for us to continue doing it grumble about it too, so how come those with the power let it continue?
It really wouldn't make a blind bit of difference to our lives if the clocks were all set to Greenwich mean time and were just left there.
Putting the clocks forward to 'British summer time' creates the idea in our minds that all is well, we're moving into warm weather, the promise of sunshine and long evenings in the garden with few troubles and lots of wine. And citronella candles to keep the bitey things away.
The reality is that despite twiddling the hand on my watch by 360 degrees the weather has not magically transformed into a tropical paradise. The trees are still brown and devoid of foliage, the pigeons still haven't started their annual bout of prolific shagging, and it's still bloody cold. So much for global warming.
The scientists keep banging on about how we're destroying the planet with our pollution; that we're responsible for a global rise in temperatures that are melting the polar ice caps, raising the sea level and before we know it the world will be like in that Kevin Costner film 'Waterworld'. If we're to believe this then the future is bleak - a world where I'll have to trade in my motorbike for a jetski and put my shed up on stilts.
But I have trouble believing all this, and while there may be piles of evidence to prove that climate change is happening, there's also piles of evidence to show that it's happened many times before without the aid of Chinese factories producing useless toys to go in MacDonald's Happy Meals, and Jeremy Clarkson going sideways in a cloud of tyre smoke in the latest V12 supercharged Mercedes. It's pretty clear that man's contribution is pretty insignificant compared to what the planet achieves all by itself, but at the rate we're going the temptation to do my bit to raise the temperature a few degrees by buying something with a nice big V8 is growing by the day. As Tesco says - every little helps!

The daily commute will be so much more fun when the Fens are flooded again.




Sunday, 24 March 2013

It might come in handy one day

The phrase "Don't throw that away, it might come in handy one day" is one I try really hard to avoid using these days, unless it's as a joke. There are things lurking in the darkest recesses of our homes and workplaces that should have been consigned to landfill years ago but we simply can't bear to throw it out because "it might come in handy".

The compulsive hoarder is probably the most extreme example of this mindset run riot. I distinctly remember seeing documentaries on TV about these people. One was an old Polish fella who's house and garden were stacked to the gills with absolutely everything. He never threw anything away and as sorry as I felt for him when all his garbage was cleared out of his place - he really was distraught - I couldn't help feeling that anyone who desperately clings on to things like that obviously has a severe mental disorder. A similar case was so bad that even one of the firemen who went in to assess the situation got claustrophobic and had to be hauled out - the only access to the small space in one room of this huge house where the bloke lived was to crawl over the piles of old newspapers and food wrappers, through a 18 inch gap at the top of the doorway. The space beyond was no more than a couple of cubic yards and this was the final bit of space in the entire house where the occupant lived. Sleeping, cooking and keeping warm with an open bar electric heater, surrounded by tons of dry paper. Would someone call the men in white coats please?

As I said, these were extreme cases and most people don't come anywhere near to this level. At the other end of the spectrum I suspect that even the most minimalist household will have a cupboard or drawer somewhere containing a pair of sunglasses with one arm missing, a menu for the local chinese takeaway that's six years out of date, half a packet of polo mints, and an assortment of old keys that don't seem to fit anything but you never know.....
For most of us there's at least one small bit of the house we're just a little bit scared of. In my case there's a drawer that seems to be the central repository for all the cables and chargers for numerous electronic devices, including ones for devices I no longer have. There's always that sinking feeling when I realise I'm going to have to delve into the drawer's mysterious depths in the search for a specific USB cable. It's the certain knowledge that even if I do find the right one, I'm going to spend the next hour trying to untangle it from every other occupant of the drawer. It's the drawer of despair and it will suck out your will to live.
It's not as bad as it used to be though. I used to be a bugger for holding on to useless crap, but I'm much better these days. The attic no longer groans under the weight of back copies of Performance Bikes magazine and all the packaging for every item with a plug ever bought. I now have a 'Five Year Rule' - if it hasn't been looked at or used for five years, it goes.
The exception to this rule has been DVDs which is really beginning to frustrate me. We've got piles of the damn things that never get watched any more, yet it seems so hard to dispose of them. I've lost track of the number of times I've watched 'Trainspotting' and even though I've watched it to death I still can't bear the idea of it not being there should I choose to see it yet again. The whole point of joining Lovefilm was that we'd be able to stop adding to the collection, but with the best intentions there's always the odd one that manages to sneak in here and there. One day we'll take a deep breath and disperse the whole lot amongst the local charity shops. Apart from the Red Dwarf box set of course. And Father Ted. And Aliens is a classic, I can't get rid of that, etc,etc....

The garden shed is a renowned victim of the 'might come in handy'  mentality, and if everyone was to reduce their shed contents to things that are genuinely useful, most would be down to a lawnmower, shears, fork & spade, secateurs, a big ball of string, a hammer and a roll of duct tape because every engineer knows that ultimately the universe is held together with duct tape. This process carried out, the average shed owner would only need a shed half the original size because the shed is traditionally the last resting place for all rubbish. The leftovers of assorted DIY projects like an offcut of skirting board six inches long, the empty reel that a length of power cable came on, and one rusty and slightly bent six inch nail. Every bloke has these things lurking in the shed, and it's important that they stay there because they might come in handy one day. DOH!

The Drawer Of Despair




Friday, 22 March 2013

Social Ineptitude Networks

There's a reason I started doing this blog, and oddly enough it was thanks to a certain well known social network website. Thanks, that is, to it being the most colossal waste of time ever.
Now I know that these sites have their uses so I'm not going to slag them off too harshly. Many people use them to keep in touch with family and friends all over the world, but for the majority it seems that they're little more than a place to impart every little detail of their dull mundane lives under the misguided notion that anyone actually gives a damn.
My life is generally pretty dull and uneventful, and most people if they're honest would say the same of themselves, but I don't think I've ever felt the need to show the world a photo of what I'm having for dinner. I mean why would someone feel the need to do that?
Most posts on the website in question seem to fall into one of two categories.
First is the obvious life-bores. These are the posts that tell you everything and nothing. 'I'm in the pub', 'Just been to the gym', 'Two nil down - that ref's a wanker', etc. We've all seen it and just for the record, we don't bloody care!!! If you've nothing to say, say nothing!
The other category of posts is the braggers. You know the ones - 'Just got back from the Carribean, here's all my photos of us swanning around in luxury and sunshine while you plebs were stuck in Blighty being rained on!', or 'Had to replace the car because hubby needs to commute further now.' which roughly translates as 'Just bought a brand new BMW 'cos hubby's got a swanky new job with a big salary; now don't you all feel inadequate?'.
If you met either of these types in the real social world you'd be looking for the nearest exit and desperately trying to think of an excuse to run away. These are the same people who make it their life's mission to accumulate as many 'friends' as possible in their online world because they've little hope of getting any at all in the real world.
There ended up being a number of things that wound me up about that website, especially when someone posted a comment which made you think there was something important going on or that they really needed to talk to someone, and I'd post a response in the hope I might be able to help. Any comeback? As if. Seriously, why make a comment (especially one that makes people worry about you) if you're just going to leave it hanging in the breeze with everyone else left scratching their heads wondering what it was all about?
Special mention must also go to all the garbage that filled up my newsfeed about everyone else's scores on some game or other. 'So-and-so got a high score on 'Chicken Molester', why don't you have a try?'. Tempting, but no thanks. And as for 'Farmville' - please just stop it, OK?
So anyway, in an effort to try and mix things up a bit and provoke a little light-hearted conversation I made the occasional post that could easily have made people think about things, have an exchange of views, reminisce or whatever, and I'd sit back and wait for the responses to flood in. And what happened? Fuck all.
People were happy to post follow-up comments on the plethora of 'in the pub' and 'United played crap today' stuff, but my attempts to shake things up a bit failed miserably. After a while I realised I was wasting my time and decided instead to delete my [unmentionable website] profile and write my little posts on a blog. It didn't matter if nobody read it because it seemed nobody took any interest anyway, but it gave me something to do.
So Captain Custard was born thanks to my primary indulgence being custard cream biscuits, and the pigeon supper referred to the pigeons I'd shoot in the back garden (yes it was a real pigeon's head I was holding in my original profile pic) and eat for supper. Simple really, with the added benefit that when the two things are put together the title looks like something created by a raving lunatic.
Which it probably is.

Sunday, 17 March 2013

Genesis of an engineer

Progress on project donkey continues in good form, with the first engine runs successfully completed. Still a bit of tweaking here and there, but the fact that it started without any major problems having been sat neglected for over three years was cause for a little celebration (I opened yet another beer) and gave the reassurance that I haven't been completely wasting my time.
Furthermore, it's finally given the boy an opportunity to play with something mechanical - he stripped and rebuilt the clutch under direction yesterday. This appears to have given him the incentive to do more, as he actually seemed to derive pleasure and satisfaction from carrying out the task. Who knows, he may yet surprise me and realise there's more to life than the xbox.
To date he's shown little or no aptitude towards such things, but if he's finally prepared to learn then maybe there's hope after all.

For me it was all rather different. As a child I annoyed my parents by dismantling everything I could lay my hands on. As soon as I was old enough to tell which end of a screwdriver to hold, nothing was safe. If it was mechanical I was on a mission to take it apart and find out how it worked. When the item in question was in kit form on the table was usually the point at which one of the parents would walk in and it would take a moment for it to register that the pile of components in front of them was actually their prized whatsit.
The frustration seemed oddly compounded when I proceeded to rebuild it and it still worked. You'd think they'd be impressed, but whatever....
Not that the learning curve was a continuous upward trend. I've been reminded of the time when (long before the days of gripper rod) there was a new carpet that needed to be tacked down. Leaving the room for a cup of tea, dad left me with a hammer, a box of carpet tacks, and instructions to continue tacking the carpet in place. The sound of hammering left him with the impression that all was well and good progress was being made. Unfortunately, upon his return he discovered that rather than working around the edge of the room, I'd decided to make sure the damn carpet was never going to move by using up half a box of tacks all within about one square foot of carpet. I understand I was a bit unpopular then, and that dads efforts to undo my work were accompanied by much swearing and a resolve to never leave me alone with a hammer again. Give me break, I was only about five....
Time moved on and it wasn't long before it was bicycles that felt the wrath of my spanner wielding, and this progressed from essential repairs to preventative maintenance.
Leaving school to do my apprenticeship as an airframe fitter gave me the next stage in my education. A year in the training centre learning many aspects of metalworking and being able to work to very close tolerances in all these areas, followed by a further three years of on-the-job training. This time and the following years as a qualified aircraft engineer carrying out repairs and maintenance, both structural and mechanical, on Tristar, Hercules, 727, Gulfstream, Andover and others, was a terrific time that was ruined by the company management. The working environment sucked the life out of me and when I managed to secure a job at Cambridge University's Dept of Engineering I thought I'd died and gone to heaven.
I've now been there longer than I was at Marshall Aerospace and I would never go back.
Cars and motorcycles have been a constant source of entertainment over the years. I've always done my own repairs and maintenance (apart from changing tyres because the tooling is very expensive) and over the years I have learned much from just doing the jobs, along with some help in the early days from a couple of like-minded friends. These days there isn't much I wouldn't tackle vehicle-wise and complete engine strips and rebuilds are not unheard of along with anything related to suspension, steering, and brakes (including caliper rebuilds). I'll turn my hand to anything practical and I dread the day I should lose the ability to do so because in a way I consider my engineering capability to be my defining characteristic.
If that time does ever come it would be nice to think that I could have passed on some of my ability and knowledge to others so that they too may be able to do such things for themselves.
People who 'can do' are becoming rarer, and I hope that the boy does find it within himself to embrace engineering in some form, and I don't mean hugging a tractor.

Saturday, 16 March 2013

Child of the 80s

Felt obliged to share this video with my audience. Pretty much sums me up and the world I grew up in....






Tuesday, 12 March 2013

In recognition

While it's not exactly dining table subject material, the state of toilets at work is a subject that at some point is bound to raise its head, and when it does the most frequent question that comes to my mind is "Do these people leave their toilet at home in this state?".
Seriously, you sometimes wonder if there needs to be an instruction manual on the back of the door explaining how to use a bog brush, because there's clearly a fair percentage of the population who don't have a clue what it's for.
I think the situation is made worse working in a place where there are people of many different cultures, a fact that explains the occasional sight of a pair of footprints on the seat. It's also a reasonable assumption that  either some people's diet is not what it should be or there exists some kind of fetish for inserting a sprinkler attachment up the arse. Sometimes it doesn't so much require a bog brush as an industrial pressure washer and a biohazzard suit.
The individuals I feel sorry for are the cleaners that have to deal with this shit (literally) every day and get paid a paltry wage for doing so. I really believe that any kind of sanitation worker should be on a decent salary because they're doing a job that most people wouldn't want to have to do, and can you imagine the state of the country if they weren't doing these jobs? What would the place be like if the dustmen didn't collect the rubbish even for six weeks? Imagine the smell. Imagine the rats.

So as this blog has somehow now exceeded 1000 page views I'd like to celebrate by raising a toast to sanitation operatives everywhere who's undervalued job it is to prevent our country turning into a complete shit-hole.
To all those that clean our toilets, sweep our streets, pick up litter, erase graffiti, collect our rubbish, process our sewage, and in any other way improve our environment - I salute you.
Cheers!

Sunday, 10 March 2013

Tit not Tat

I can't hold it in any longer. The overwhelming desire to rant about my biggest pet hate has finally got the better of me and I need to vent.
There are many things that piss me off including Audi drivers, litter louts, other people's iPods, thieves, Skrillex and Chris Evans. But none of these create quite as much bile as tattoos on women.
Now at this point I should say that there was a time a few years ago that I considered getting a tattoo, but as it involved doing something permanent to my body it would need to be a careful decision. So I gave myself time to look around at the world around me and came to the conclusion that I didn't want to look a twat, especially when I got old and it got blurry and indecipherable.
Now tattoos have been around for an extremely long time and while I can accept that perhaps soldiers in a military unit would want to have their emblem on them, the flip side of the coin is the recent surge in popularity of tattoos with women. They've become trendy, an essential accessory to go with the Mini and the designer shoes. From the cute little dolphin on the shoulder, through the ridiculously trashy 'tramp stamp' across the lower back, to all-over desecration, I hate them all with a passion.
To me tattoos are the most unflattering, unsexy, unfeminine thing a woman can do to herself. If Anne Hathaway was to fling herself naked on the bed in front of me demanding to be satisfied and I was faced with a tattoo of a frisky lizard darting its tongue where mine should rightly be, I'd hand her her coat and tell her to sod off.
The female body is a wonder of natures creation (mostly) and it does not need decoration like that.
It's like buying a Ferrari and slapping one of those tacky 'No Fear' stickers on the back. Or redecorating the Sistine Chapel with scenes from Reservoir Dogs. It shouldn't be done.
How many people are going to reach middle age to find that the tattoos they so desperately wanted when they were younger are suddenly a major embarrassment that stops them from wanting to go swimming or wear the clothes they'd want to. Something they dread being seen if they have to strip off for a new partner perhaps.
Personally I like a bit of porn (there, I admit it) but even that little pleasure has been trashed by this passion for paint. Stupendously gorgeous women who disrobe to reveal a rose bush growing up her flanks or something. It's horrible, unnecessary and this mutilation needs to stop.
Maybe it will. Hopefully it's just a fashion fad like platform soles and bell-bottoms, but by the time the victims realise it will be too late and they're stuck with their mistake for the rest of their life.
On the other hand perhaps I'm just a moaning old fart who has excessively outspoken views on certain things.

Sunday, 3 March 2013

To address the balance

After getting this morning's rant off my chest the day got better.
Having consumed a breakfast of eggs on toast and coffee, it was off for a walk in Wicken. Past the fen visitor centre and across the fields, back into the village near the windmill, and  a welcome visit to the Maids Head. Every walk should end at a pub, and a rather interesting pint of Oakham 'Inferno' made the world seem a better place.






Much of the rest of the day has been taken up with further progress on project donkey.
The old girl is starting to take shape now, despite finding many examples of poor maintenance and repairs in its obviously hard life.
On the plus side, the critical engine internals seem to be in pretty good shape which is promising.
I'm certainly thankful for working at an engineering establishment as it gives me access to all sorts of equipment that makes the job easier such as lathes and milling machines for making new parts and a bead blast cabinet for bringing new life to old corroded items.
Still a long way to go but there's no rush. The whole idea is it gives me something to do!


Call in the exterminators - we have a parasitic infestation

In recent months I've become increasingly subjected to calls and texts on my mobile from bastards who want me to claim compensation for this that or the other. This is a sore point. I hold today's compensation culture responsible for the decline in social responsibility that we see on a daily basis.
So many people are completely unwilling to accept responsibility for their own actions - always wanting to blame someone else for anything and everything because in their mind there is no way that anything could possibly be their fault. Especially if there's the chance of a big fat cheque.
If I'm walking along the street and trip over a joint between two paving slabs my first thoughts are "Silly bugger, should be looking where I'm going", quickly followed by "That was embarrassing, I hope nobody noticed". The last notion that would pass through my mind would be "I'm going to sue the council over that uneven slab - that'll teach them to make me trip!"
But this "It's not my fault" attitude has so permeated the collective consciousness of the population that hardly anyone is safe from the claws of the country's financial parasites.
Outdoor events, even small local ones, have had entry fees shoot up and it's purely because the insurance requirements have become ridiculous. Everyone's now so paranoid that some self-righteous tosser will fall over a guy rope holding up the marquee and sue the organisers that health and safety has taken priority over enjoyment, and all this costs money which the punters have to cover at the gate.
A well know scam of course is when someone claims compensation for 'whiplash' injuries in the case of a vehicle collision. Very handy one this because it can't be disproved by a doctor, so the claims keep on rolling in as our car insurance premiums keep climbing.
The very biggest contributor to this situation is the rise of the 'no win no fee' lawyers who seem determined to encourage people to bleed dry anyone they perceive as having wronged them in the smallest possible way, and this practice has to stop. How these bastards sleep at night is beyond me, and the same goes for anyone who thinks this is an appropriate way to conduct their lives.
The message here is simple - Take Responsibility For Your Own Actions!

And yet this is just another example of a part of society that always wants something for nothing, and here I can extend today's rant into the realms of the social spongers. Those who choose to sit on their fat tracksuited arses in front of the telly all day instead of working in the mistaken belief that the world owes them a living despite them never having contributed to it.  I'm talking about those who make a career out of popping out sprog after sprog and living off the benefits system. In America they'll give a hand-out for the first one but after that you're on your own - an idea that would put a stop to this behaviour in England where if they collect enough kids by assorted fathers they get a big house and a seven seater people carrier 'for free' (in other words paid for out of the taxes put into the system by those of us who are apparently stupid enough to actually work for a living).
The benefits system has its place and I'm certainly not saying that nobody who gets them deserves them. That would be foolish and wrong. What gets me is those who take the piss; the work-shy dregs of society who are manipulating the system under the delusion that it's their right to live this way. And all the time the system allows this to happen there will always be arseholes determined to milk it for all it's worth.
Here endeth the rant for today.
Must do something more light hearted next time....