Category Archives: Thoughts

2018/19 – What Happened?

So, I had some plans for the last twelve months, and it’s time for an update.  It won’t make for hugely positive reading…

The list from the post a year ago is as follows.

  1. Keep on working on losing weight.
    This one is a long-term thing, and one I’ve written about before. For me, it’s a struggle – I’ve worked with a number of resources this year so far, and feel better-informed than I was, but there’s still a long way to go. If nothing else, this year so far has eliminated a lot of options and bullshit.
    RESULT : Absolutely sod-all difference. Which is both positive (I’ve not gained any) and negative (for fuck’s sake, nor have I lost any)
  2. Keep on improving fitness/health
    Linked to losing weight, I’ve had more success with this one over the last 12 months, but there’s still stuff to do and improve.
    RESULT : Fitness and strength have continued to improve, with very few visual clues/hints that it’s happened.
  3. Continue doing the stuff I enjoy
    Various bits here – but basically, do stuff I want to.  Not as a “fear of missing out” (“FOMO”) thing, but just as in “I really want to see/do [x]” and doing so.  (This is, of course, in direct contrast to ‘doing less’ in the list below, so it’s a bit of a balancing act!)
    RESULT : This one’s been a success, actually. Although it’s not been a great year in many ways, at least I’ve kept on living my life and generally enjoying it.
  4. Be more sociable
    I’ve realised this year that I’ve been utterly crap with seeing friends – I’ve been doing a lot of stuff, but at the same time it hasn’t been overly sociable, hasn’t involved going to see friends at all.  And that needs sorting.
    RESULT : And this one’s been a failure. In fairness, it hasn’t got much worse, but it hasn’t got any better either.

I’m getting rid of some of the longer-running goals. They’re still things I want to work on – I’m not giving up on the plans, just on the having them as goals – but it affects me more when I see my ongoing failure to complete/do/start them year on year.

So I’ll note them here as reminders, but they’re not part of the main “What I’m aiming for” list. See if it works better for me as advisories, rather than as targets/goals.  And those reminders are…

  • Writing
    I want to do more writing – I’ve got the ideas, but it’s finding the time, inclination and drive to get them actually going. I hope to schedule more in – I’ve also invested in some tools that should allow me to do so – but we’ll see.
    RESULT : Nope, hasn’t happened. Even more ideas bouncing round in my brain, and an absolute zero on getting them addressed
  • Business plans
    As with the writing, I’ve got the ideas, but need to allocate time and energy to getting them to work.  In some cases I’m frustrated by time, in others by funding for getting them how I want them. We’ll just have to see how things go.
    RESULT : Nope, nor this. Ideas are still there, but I’ve done keck-all with them
  • Doing Less
    This is kind-of related to the above two – if I could sort my brain out so that ‘doing less’ was better, then I’d hopefully have more time to spend on the writing and business ideas.
    RESULT : Nope. Still been an idiot all year and kept busy for about 95% of the time
  • Plan Better
    And the final one, which controls all of the others – make better plans, notes, and be better organised.
    RESULT : Again, Nope. Not even close.

So, all things considered, while it’s not been a bad year per se, it’s also not been a good one.  Which also goes to sort of explain why I’ve been crap at getting this organised/written, and why I haven’t yet thought about whether I’m doing this for the coming year, or just sacking it off.

Smart Motorways, Dumb Drivers

I’m really not surprised that there are now some calls to do a safety review of the “Smart Motorways” concept.  It’s a particular source of interest as I travel on the M1 on a regular basis, and that’s one of the roads that will be looked at.

The concept of Smart Motorways ( flexible speed limits, the ability to make the hard shoulder into a running lane at peak times ) is a decent one, but it also missed out a couple of key factors.

The first – and most important – of those is that a huge number of drivers are fucking idiots, and have no idea how to handle the flexibility of the hard shoulder. I’ve lost count of the number of times I can see the hard shoulder being in use – with signs saying so every quarter-mile or so – and no-one using it. (Admittedly, I tend to then use it and make progress past idiots, but I’d rather see the lane being used correctly)   And of course there’s also a significant number of drivers who won’t even use the inside lane, preferring to stay in the middle one, overtaking fuck-all for mile after mile, which also screws things up.

The second factor is that they didn’t seem to think about what happens when someone does have a breakdown or an accident, it necessitates at least a full lane closure (because there’s no hard shoulder to get in to) which screws the traffic up worse than it used to.  Yes, there are refuge areas off the main running lanes, but there was a stat (which I can’t find in a story right now) that only something like 30-35% of breakdowns manage to get to the refuge areas rather than stopping in the live lane.

So yes, I’m not surprised that they’ll probably be getting reviewed – I do think they’re a good idea in general, but at the same time I don’t think they’re all that suitable for UK drivers, primarily because of some of their apparently unique behavioural traits.

Environmental

On my post about mileage and so on, BW commented “No environmental conscience chez toi, then, eh? 😉”   And I can’t deny, that annoyed me a fair bit.

So…

    • That weekend, I hired a car that was supposed to have a better Eco-profile than my current car. Sadly, that turned out to not be the case – it got a lot less MpG than mine, and generally wasn’t very good.  But the intentions were there, at least.  Even though I should’ve stuck to my usual car.
    • Where possible – in this case, the run to and from Oxford – I carried friends, rather than everyone driving individually
    • Taking public transport was simply not a realistic option, for a range of reasons, including
      • I’d still have to drive to my nearest station, and (as I understand it) shorter journeys like that are the worst environmentally, as most of the nastys happen on start-up/warm-up, rather than on longer runs
      • The runs to Oxford and Chichester would both have been over three hours each way, and cost more than the fuel for the entire weekend
      • The journey to Kent wouldn’t have been possible at all
    • Also, knowing the mileage etc., I make use of a carbon offset programme – it’s not perfect, but (I hope) it helps
    • The Big Cat Experience in Kent use most of the money from the experience days and so on to go towards ecological and animal protection/preservation projects overseas.

Outside of those things, there’s also the following other little bits

  • I’m still using a car that’s now ten years old (and passes the MoT emissions test with flying colours) rather than using up a load of resources with a new vehicle
  • My domestic waste/rubbish is absolutely minimal – indeed, if I didn’t have cats, I’d be easily able to get away with one domestic waste collection per month – and I recycle far more than most people.
  • I rarely fly anywhere – the last time was two years ago
  • Most of my electric/electronic devices are recharged via a battery bank that charges off a solar panel, rather than via the mains.

There’s probably other stuff as well, but anyway, it’s a pretty good start.

I fully accept that my environmental profile isn’t perfect – my main downsides are electricity and driving. And I balance as much of that as possible. However, I’m also pretty sure that it’s a lot better than that of most people.

Even more importantly, no matter what I do to improve my profile, it’s utterly irrelevant in comparison to other environmental things. For example, if the new phase of advertising on video screens (particularly the stand-alone street-furniture versions) were deactivated/turned off overnight it would save more in a week than I could contribute in a lifetime.

So – do I have an environmental conscience?  I’ll let you decide – although I think the answer is generally yes.

Annual Car Costs

The start of October is expensive when it comes to the car, because it’s the anniversary of when I bought it.

So first there’s the renewal of the vehicle tax, although happily that’s not a big expense at £30 for the year.

Then there’s the insurance renewal, which is always a fun dose of bureaucracy and weirdness. And at least that one is an expense that’s spread through the year – I could do it in one payment, but find I usually can’t be bothered.

And then of course there’s the MoT test. Never fun – even if it passes with no problem, you’ve still spent time beforehand worrying about what’ll happen, and figuring out as many of the financial permutations as possible.

Last year, it passed the MoT OK, with just a couple of advisories – although one of those was about the brakes needing attention next year. So I knew that was going to come up, as well as the MoT and a service – which makes it all already Not Cheap.

Luckily though, that was it. I got one small advisory for this year, but absolutely nothing else to worry about. I suspect the clutch is likely to die sometime this year (although I said that last year too) which’ll be an expense at some point.

But for now, it’s all sorted, and my wallet isn’t as light as it could’ve been, so I’ll take that as a positive…

 

Withdrawn

Over the last week, I was supposed to go to two different concerts. In the end I didn’t go to either of them.

The first one turned into a farce, with tickets not delivered, a venue with a remarkably disinterested customer services team, and all just became a lot more hassle than it was worth.  I’ve been in touch with them since, and there’s been some progress, but still, not a good experience at all.

The second one, well, I just wasn’t in the mood at all. I’d purchased the ticket when the gig was initially announced, but as it came closer to the day I was totally unfussed about it, not at all excited or even looking forward to it.  And then on the day itself, I’d been for lunch at one of my favourite places (newly re-fitted and re-opened) and was feeling epically fat as a result, which isn’t really conducive to a good concert.

In both cases though, I also just wasn’t really in the mood for dealing with people – and particulary the type of vacuous bastards that seem to be the gig-going majority at present.

I was going to write a bit more about how I was dealing with it, and some of the other stuff around sociability (or lack thereof) but at the moment I can’t really be chuffed to do so.

More during the week, I’m sure.

Equinoctual

Today is the Autumn Equinox, when the day and night are equal in length.

What that means is the from now until next March, the nights will be longer than the days.

Winter is coming, my friends, winter is coming

Kindling Discontent

Last weekend, while down in Devon, I lost my Kindle. Entirely my own fault, and primarily due to being a dickhead – but still, bloody annoying.

I ordered a replacement pretty much immediately, and hoped that Amazon had improved the method for restoring all the books I’ve got onto the device. It’s been a bloody awful experience the last couple of times, but the last time was three years ago. So, knowing how swiftly they release new stuff on AWS/Cloud, it’s got to have been worked on, surely?

Welllllll, yes and no.

The experience is a bit better – at least now it keeps a record of what books have been put into Collections (think of each Collection as a bookshelf) which sort of makes things easier. But not much – because you can’t actually select, for example, a set of Collections and say “Deliver these”.

Instead, it’s still horrifically manual, and dirt-slow. You have to go to the Amazon site, and then “Manage Content and Devices”. If you only have a few books, then great, that’s fine. I haven’t – I’ve got about 600.  So even selecting the maximum of 200 books at a time – which is sort-of easy, although still involves scrolling the page down until it’s got that full 200 listed, and then “select all” – then takes forever to actually push them to the Kindle.

With the Collections, once the books have been pushed to the Kindle, it should then put them into the right places – so that’s at least a small improvement. Last time, I had to re-add books to the Collections as well, which made the entire thing a massive pain in the arse.

The thing is, none of this should be difficult. So long as one does backups of the device (and the Sync process is actively encouraged by Amazon, so one can read a book on one device and then continue it on another) then it should be a simple matter of going “Copy the stuff from this backup onto that machine”, in the same way it does for my iPhones.

All told, even with the improvements, it’s a rotten first experience with a new device. It surprises me just how bad it actually is – the entire thing seems to be something that Amazon doesn’t expect to happen, or that’s only been tested with five or ten books. I wonder if it’s something Amazon will ever get round to fixing…