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An unplanned visit to the dentist

I’ve been wanting to see a dentist for quite a while as I get occasional twinges and haven’t seen a dentist for some years. When I tried to makle an appointment with my last one some months ago I was told they’d dropped me from their list as I hadn’t been to see them for too long and no, I couldn’t re-register. I’ve spent some time now and then looking for one which is currently taking on new patients and also accessible by bus but not at a silly location for when I get my own transport again. I found one several miles and two bus rides away but there was going to be a wait to register and get an appointment. I got the form filled it in and then mislaid it.

Yesterday I went into town by bus on a whim, a journey of about 25 minutes. As I approached the High Street on foot, I saw a large white lorry with a boxy rear parked in the pedestrian area, surrounded by signs declaring “Free NHS dental check-up” for anyone who hadn’t seen a dentist for over two years.

I had to wait around 20 minutes but it all seemed good and I got a letter summarising treatment needed and a list of local dentists to help me find one.

From the letter it seems to be a company under NHS contract to find the unregistered. See

My only gripe is that the website promises a goody bag for everyone but I got nothing!

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New Year, New Wine

I’ve just read my past posts here tagged ‘winemaking’ while looking for how to use sultanas but I’ll come back to that later.

Last week I took stock of the fruit in the freezer and started a batch of gooseberry and one of raspberry. The gooseberry on e was put in a demijohn [jar] after four days and is glugging nicely. The raspberry one is waiting to have the juice separated and put in a jar.

I’ve also decided to put the recipes I use on a page, so I’ll do that and add a link here later.
See Winemaking Pages

(This blog has been neglected for far too long. I suppose it doesn’t matter as I’m not at all sure if anyone reads it but it’s a handy reminder for me.)

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Hans Holbein is alive!

I’m just listening to ‘In Our Time’ on BBC Radio 4 with Melvyn Bragg. It’s a discussion programme between experts on a different topic each week, with an approximately evenly split between science and art, literature or history.

Today’s discussion is about Hans Holbein who was an artist who painted a number of portraits of Henry VIII and members of his court. But it’s two days too late. If I’d heard this before Tuesday I’d have known an answer to a queston in the weekly pub quiz – but still lost. Even the programme  trailer gave enough for a grasp of the basics.

One of the irritating things about the programme is that historians too often use the ‘Present Continuous’ to describe past events.  ‘Holbein comes to England …’ implies someone who is alive repeatedly arrives on our shores. He may have been here more than once but that’s over now, he died centuries ago.

As British Council’s Learning English says,

We use the present continuous (am/is/are + -ing) to talk about temporary things which have begun but haven’t finished. They are often happening now, at this moment.

Someone should grab people who do this, take them aside with a friendly arm around the shoulder and say gently “I’m sorry but please give it up, he’s dead. He died a long time ago and you’re misleading anyone half-listening that you’re talking about someone who’s still around. If you can’t let go and or use language properly, we’ll have to remove you from the list of prospective guests.”

Is Holbein alive? No, he’s long dead.

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Planting Record 2015

I’ll keep this as a record of seeds etc. planted this year and update it as necessary.

13thApril: Planted 29 pots of sweetcorn with Asda all-purpose seed compost in yoghurt pots. Seeds from Wilko, pots in greenhouse.

14th April: unwrapped Wilko plum tree (bought 13th Feb) and soaked roots. Transferred to pot to let roots start to grow. Maybe it’s too late. :(

15th April: 20 yoghurt pots of runner beans, 2 per pot in home-made compost.

28th April: half a dozen more sweetcorn in smaller pots.

4th May (Star Wars Day) Planted four more scruffy runner bean pots, 2 per

[maybe some missing dates here ...]

10th June (approx) transplanted sweetcorn plants in 5×5 pattern.

13th June planted last few runner beans which I tried to give away but no-one wanted them. I don’t need the beans as I still have some frozen last year. also planted three courgettes between the sweetcorn and fruit area.

16th June at last – planted two short rows of peas.

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Three early gallons ...

[Warning: Not exciting. ]

I started this year with a depleted wine ‘cellar’ (nearly nothing) and when I saw some plums going cheap (a £1 a kilo, from vague recollection) I snapped up a couple of kilos to begin this year’s production. [B1]

When I got them home and started preparation I realised I’d been seduced by cheapness and ignored the quality as they were a bit brownish inside and lacked juiciness. I prefer plums with purple juicy flesh and these weren’t it, not at all. I went ahead and they seemed to start fermentation well enough but lacked the vigour I remember from the past.

I kept tasting to see if it really was producing something pleasant and alcoholic – so much so that the demijohn level was visibly diminished, to about two-thirds of a gallon. Could that really be due to me tasting it?

Two or three weeks later I saw some more and these looked purple and juicy ones, so I got some more and started a second batch. [B2] These were the juicy ones I sought and I had high hopes. The following week I got some more from the same place but these turned out similar to the first batch – browner and drier. [B3] Note: I must rein in my enthusiasm for buying plums on a whim and learn to consider the quality before purchase.

So, three batches. I continued to sample the first one and now it looks like there’s only half a demijohn left and none of the three are gluggling with the energy I’d expect. Then I realised the yeast is a bit old as I buy it in a little tub for a couple of quid but once it’s been open for three months it loses vigour and this was opened last October, six months ago.

Yesterday I went to the local town market and saw the nice wine supplies lady, had a chat and got some more yeast. I put it in all three when I got home but still didn’t notice much vigour.

Today I transferred each to another jar (what’s the term? ‘racked’) to leave the sediment behind and was a bit disappointed when I tasted them.

B1 is now in two plastic bottles. It’s ok, I suppose.

B2 seemed a bit bland. The sugar it supposed to turn to alcohol so it should be either still too sweet or noticably alcoholic but this seems to be neither. When I transferred B3 from first stage fermentation to a demijohn, I also racked B1and B2 and mistakenly put sugar in the wrong batch. Until today I thought it was B1 which suffered from excess sugar  but now realise it must have been B3.  Anyway, I put more sugar in B2 and then noticed some gentle activity.

B3 – bleugh! too sweet. Maybe with new yeast it’ll feed on the sugar and make it drinkable. I hope so.

Overall, it’s not a disaster. If I’d bought half a dozen bottles of wine at £5 each and found it undrinkable I’d have lost £30 and for three gallons it would have been a £90 loss. As it is, each gallon made with bought plums cost under £5 and may be redeemable so I see it as a learning experience with some wastage.

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I’ve spotted quite a lot of wildlife in the garden in recent times but autumn has presented a few photo opportunities.

Several days ago when putting kitchen vegetable waste in the compost bin, I saw a little bald creature with no visible eyes and kept going back to see if it was still there and still alive. Today I had a look and found five of them! Hence the title.

I’m trying to add a picture but they’re not pretty!

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The first remote control?

Yesterday  I was thinking about my early TV watching and trying to decide which was which between Vertical Hold and Horizontal Hold. Now both are redundant terms from an earlier analogue age.

When I was a child my Dad was quite technically minded but didn’t get around to doing things quickly or spending money without good reason, and I’m rather the same. We had a succession of Black and White TVs which people had given him to fix or for spares and there were always several about the house. If one went wrong, he’d decide which was easier to fix. I do the same now with computers and bits I’ve acquired cheaply or free.

For quite a while we had a television set with a dodgy vertical hold and Dad’s solution was to extend the control with a length of cable and a potentiometer, so our family must have had one of the earliest ‘remote controls’ anywhere and a bit like a video game!

Our TV viewing would start with Dad having the VH control and adjusting it as necessary. If he dozed off or was reading we’d know because the picture would start to roll up or down. It’s easy to watch like this for a short period but after a while it affected our eyesight and looking around I often noticed the curtains seeming to slide down the wall and a slight feeling of nausea. Safety wasn’t really his thing, he used insulating tape around the control and told us to be careful not to touch any bare metal.

I remember a turret tuner on the side of one set which was a combined TV and radio, with Home, Light and Third as well as the TV channels, and all in a wooden case on short legs.

Dad had othe rprojects too: he improvised a hedge-cutter by putting a bolt through a circular saw blade and gripping it in the chuck of his electric drill. No safety guard, gloves or goggles, just a blade whizzing round! I was horrified.

The most impressive thing he did was to build a reel-to-reel tape recorder from scratch -  mechanical parts and electronics, including the tape heads. As related projects he built some test gear to test and prove the machine: an oscilloscope and an audio oscillator, which he calibrated from borrowed equipment.

I was very young, a toddler when the tape recorder was used and he’d begun to dismantle it for parts before I knew much about it but I remember the oscilloscope and oscillator in my childhood and used the tape recorder case for years to store model railway rolling stock and still have it.

My Dad survived well into his 70s with no significant injuries from his chemistry (including explosive) or high voltage experiments, going up a ladder for weeks replacing the roof of the house or dangerous garden tools. He taught me a great deal and he was more interesting than most Dads, I think.

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My fortieth birthday

It is my birthday today but this is a recollection of a day a few years ago.

Two things.

Unusually I was working in the London area and as I was paying I stayed at the YMCA in Wimbledon near my work. Being in London made it possible to meet up with some friends who knew it was my birthday and got together in someone’s flat to help me celebrate and I think we had a good time.

The evening broke up fairly early due to people having to get up and do other things so I was on the tube heading back to me accommodation when something rather nice happened: an odd man was behaving a bit oddly and a nice young lady sitting opposite caught my eye and smiled. This doesn’t happen much as people on the tube nearly always avoid eye contact and studiously ignore those around them so I was very pleased and smiled back. My mind started racing as I wondered whether my appearance might be less of a barrier to social possibilities than I’d thought. I wondered about possible further moves – and did nothing. That was it.

Back at the YMCA at about 11pm but still my birthday I decided to see who was about and went to the TV lounge. It wasn’t a room which encouraged social interaction and there were two ot three others present. Several of them left leaving just one other. There was a Western on which isn’t my choice and I sat there and watched.

Within a couple of minites one of the film characters sitting quietly with just another told him that it was his birthday. As I wondered whether to say anything to the only other person in the room about it being my birthday, he said to me “it’s my birthday today!” sdo I told him it was mine too.


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AGW summary

I wrote the text below on a forum three years ago (on Mum’s birthday) to summarise my understanding of Anthropogenic (ie man-made) Global Warming and I”ve just found it and thought I should post it to remind myself about one of the main neglected topics of this blog.

This is the argument: the climate has always changed; cycles happen; some are due to variations in the sun, the Earth’s orbit or the inclination or its axis. CO2 has been higher and lower and the temperature has varied between ice ages and warmer periods. The temperature can be explained by all the input variables, until the industrial era, when we started burning fossil fuel and adding CO2 to the atmosphere. Currently the sun has been getting cooler but we’re still warming up. This is very puzzling if you ignore the effects of CO2 in the atmosphere, but quite understandable if you take it into account. We know from isotope ratios that the extra CO2 is largely from burning fossil fuels, hence it’s mostly our fault.

Another summary from someone on Digital Spy who writes:

The solar insolation is one of the major factors in the earth’s climate. It varies according to known facors such as the postition of the earth in it’s orbit around the sun. These factors include eccentricity, tilt and precession (ETP) and vary in a regular and predictable way, as predicted by Milankovitch. In general, the climate over the whole earth has varied in line with these cycle, although there have been local effects such as caused by major volcanoes.

What is different over the last century is that the temperature records show a rise that is inconsistent with Milankovitch cycles and is therefore unlikely to have been caused by a variation in solar insolation. The most likely explanation for the rise is that increased levels of CO2 have acted as a greenhouse gas and trapped more heat within the atmosphere, leading to a global overall temperature rise.

In summary, the rise in temperature over the past century cannot be explained by purely natural causes, so a non-natural cause must exist, and that is most likely to be man made carbon dioxide.

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I present (Ta-Da!) The Stairbag – an airbag safety system for stairs.

Imagine a RasPi (a tiny cheap computer) with its new camera attachment trained on a flight of stairs in a place where there might be vulnerable people around – say the elderly or infirm or those in police custody. If the RasPi with camera can ‘see’ and detect a human being with flailing limbs and travelling downwards at high speed with abnormal or zero contact with the stairs, it would inflate an airbag at the bottom to break their fall.

The processing is needed to distinguish between a person and inanimate objects such as dirty laundry or a pack of toilet rolls thrown by someone too short of time to take them in person.

It’s cheap-ish and simple. It could save your life!

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