Excessive Renewal

This time last year, I was planning on going to a friend’s wedding over in Madeira, and bought some travel insurance along the way.

Obviously it didn’t work out, because of Covid and the like, and the insurance didn’t get used for any other trips, for similar reasons. Thankfully, I’d had a good deal on it, so wasn’t too upset. Them’s the breaks, and all that.

This week, I got the renewal letter from the company, telling me what I’d pay this year.

Now OK, there’s been a lot going on in the world this year, and I assume insurance has taken a kicking (although I wouldn’t have thought it was a huge one, in comparison to travel companies, credit cards and the like) but still, the increase from last year to this is a 50% rise.  And bear in mind, there’s no way I’d be using it ’til at least May/June, so it would cost me more to able to use it for less time.

Needless to say, they’ve been told to fuck off. I’ll buy travel insurance again as and when I need it – but that’s still not going to be any time soon.


Bow 2

Having got back into my archery this year, the winter season brings its own interesting issues and problems.

Basically, everyone shoots at shorter distances – twenty to thirty metres, rather than fifty to eighty – and ideally indoors, for the wimps. And if possible, that means dialling down the power in the bow. Heavier/bigger arrows also help, as they’re slower than the usual ones.

Unfortunately, my bow is already dialled down to pretty much the lowest weight it can manage, which is around a 45lb pull. That meant at the short ranges my club uses, I was going to end up putting the arrows through the targets and into the concrete wall behind (indoors) and losing all the fletchings (feathers) as well.  Which becomes very expensive, very quickly.

Having looked around a bit, I went back to my normal archery store in Newark (it’s a bit of a slog to get to, but worth it for their customer service, knowledge, and prices) and bought a second bow, specifically for winter/indoor archery.  It’s a good little bow, from a Chinese company called Sanlida, and cost me £175 including the sight, arrow rest, and small stabiliser.  That’s incredibly good value!   Additionally, if I decide to use it all the time, I can also dial it up from its current setting (about 25lb pull) all the way up to 70 lb, which is pretty epic.

I bought it a couple of weeks ago, and have only used it a couple of times so far, but on that limited experience, I’m really pleased with it. It’s doing what I want, and the current power means it’s accurate enough, without damaging things.

But it does also mean I now own two bows – although that’s OK too, as I’m using both.  If they’d gone back to sitting doing sod all, that would be a bad thing. But as it is, I’m OK with it.


A Flaw In The Safety

Following on from the post a while back about driver assistance things, I had another interesting one a few days ago.

I’d hired a Vauxhall Insignia in order to ferry people around a bit, and the weather was disgusting – heavy rain, lots of spray, and lots of idiots with no lights on.

Anyway, on the section of the M4 I was driving on, there were roadworks, and the lanes had been narrowed as a result. And that was where the problem came in.

The Insignia had the Lane Change Warning thing, which detects when the driver is drifting across lanes without indicating – and in the case of the Insignia, it also tries to push you back into the lane you’re departing. Not my favourite thing at the best of times, but in this case it was actually picking up on the wrong lane markings (because they were glossy and shiny in the rain) and so actually kept on pushing me “back” towards the crash barriers, and would have left me scraping along them if I’d not been paying attention.

I can understand why it happened, and how. It was also easy enough for me to sort things out (eventually by turning off the Lane Change completely) but I can also easily see how things could’ve gone wrong, if I were the sort of driver who relied on these aids, who didn’t pay attention, or left those aids to do things because they’re there to help.

And what would’ve happened in that situation if it were a fully autonomous (“self-driving”) vehicle with no controls, or potentially people who didn’t drive, or couldn’t understand the danger signs?

There’s still a way to go on these things, I think…


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.


Mileage

This weekend has been one with a fair bit of travelling. It’s just the way things worked out, but it made for a busy one.

On Friday I was over in Oxford, seeing XKCD‘s Randall Munroe at the Sheldonian Theatre doing a talk about his new book.  That was enjoyable – and I’d never been in the Sheldonian before, so that was an additional bonus.

On Saturday I was down in Chichester to see a staging of Macbeth, starring John Simm and Dervla Kerwan.

And then on Sunday I was in Kent, at the Big Cat Experience, as they were doing a “meet the big cats” experience. I’d decided that I wanted to go, and classed it as a birthday present to myself. It was a lot of miles/driving for a two-hour-ish thing, but it was also worth going, and I’d certainly consider going again.

All told, I’ve covered nearly 800 miles over three days.  I’m a daft, daft, daft sode.


Repeat Locations

In the last eight days, I’ve been at the Barbican centre for three of them.  I don’t mind – I like the Barbican – but it does make for an interesting feeling of deja vu.

Last week, I spent two days there attending the Lead Developer conference (again) – it’s been running for five years now, and I’ve been to four of them.

Then last night, I was back there to see “Conversations with Nick Cave” – a different type of concert, with Cave performing songs solo with just a piano, interspersed with lots of questions from members of the audience.

I’ll aim to write more about both things (and a couple of other things that have been keeping me busy and/or a dirty stop-out) but right now I’m absolutely knackered. So those bits of writing will come later. Probably.


Good Omens

Last week, I went to see Neil Gaiman at the Southbank Centre, as part of the promotional activities for the new series of Good Omens. (It got released on Friday on Amazon Prime, and will apparently be on BBC2 later in the year)

Good Omens (the book) was written by Neil and the late Terry Pratchett thirty years ago, and it was one of Pratchett’s dying wishes for Neil to write it again as a TV series. At the time, they thought he’d got plenty of time, but he went downhill rapidly, and so after Pratchett’s funeral, Neil wrote the series, and then insisted on being the showrunner in order to make sure that it got to screen in a way that both of them would’ve found acceptible.

Anyway, I’d managed to get tickets even before they announced that he’d be accompanied on stage by David Tennant and Michael Sheen (who play the two main characters of the series, Aziraphale and Crowley) which made it even better.

The entire evening was fun – there was a choir of Satanic Nuns (if you’ve read the book, you’ll understand) in the foyer of the Southbank Centre, singing Queen songs (again, book, understand, blah blah) which boded well for the rest of it.

Compered by Kirsty Wark (who also appears in the series), they talked about how the series came about (see above), the story of Neil and Michael meeting for a dinner where both of them couldn’t work out how to tell the other that they didn’t want to play Crowley (Michael had originally been cast, but realised as he read the script that he was far more Aziraphael) , Neil discovering that Michael could do a pitch-perfect impression of David Tennant, and many other tales.

From the sound of it, while there were problems along the way, the fact that Good Omens is loved by so many people (and has been for a long, long time) worked as a great leveller of those problems – another story being that Nick Offernan was brought in very late in the day to replace someone else, and told Neil that a) he’d have paid his own flights in order to take the role, and b) that when the director apologised to him for coming such a long way for so (comparatively) few lines, he said “I’d have come twice as far for half as many

It was a really good evening, and when the series came out on Friday, I saw the entire thing in the space of an evening (not something I usually do, but this time it was worth it) and I can honestly say that they’ve all done a bloody good job of the entire thing. Utterly worthwhile.