Sunday, March 20, 2011

A little long in the face?

The photo above shows one of the traveller ponies currently being kept in the makeshift corral on the small area of scrub land between the back of Morrison's car park, and the river front walk. A couple of ponies have been living there for just over a month now; both the Police and the RSPCA are aware of this, and have inspected their conditions on more than one occasion. The owners are providing bundles of hay and fresh water daily, and there are no grounds for any action to be taken on the grounds of neglect or cruelty. The ponies have become the subject of visits by parents and carers with small children who like to visit and bring the animals treats of carrots and apples; indeed the two are beginning to get fat on the proceeds of their visitors. I went round to take the photo above (click for a larger version) earlier this afternoon, and had a chat to a woman thus feeding the pony pictured above.  She remarked that she thought they should not be kept on the land - I told her about the inspections and that under the circumstances, no laws were actually being broken. She did not seem convinced, and said "look at him - he's so sad". I replied "but he's always got a long face" which did not exactly go down too well.

This is the first entry to the Maggot Sandwich made with my brand new Acer Aspire One netbook; I have decided that my old Asus EeePC 901 can go into well deserved retirement. More on that later. I am contemplating a redesign of the look and feel of the Blog. I think it is starting to look somewhat long in the tooth and tired. I may well try a couple of different options during the week, so if you happen to take a look midweek, you may see something that looks radically different. No decisions have yet been made as to any layout or colour scheme configurations - I am just getting a bit bored with the current theme. Blogger have coincidentally just announced some fairly major upgrades and improvements to the service, which I gather is now the 6th most popular location on the web. You can read about the upgrades by clicking here.

Just as I was publishing this update, an email dropped into my inbox - from my long time friend and high powered captain of industry. Alan Ault, Managing Director of cutting edge market research and consultancy company Wavemetrix asked if I would publicise him, as he is looking for sponsorship as he is running in this years' London Marathon. Nothing that unusual, you might think, but previously, Alan has been to healthy living what Cyril Smith was to hang gliding, but now that has all changed. He's running to raise money for McMillan cancer Support, The Alzheimer's Society and Greenwich & Bexley Hospice. I will be sponsoring him, and hope that you can too. You can visit Alan's Virgin Money Giving web page by clicking here. I just wonder if he will pound round the 26 mile course with a fag in his mouth...

The RSGB (Radio Society of Great Britain, of which I am an inductee) made the following statement concerning the Japanese earthquake and Tsunami: After the 8.9 earthquake that struck near Sendai, Japan at 0546UTC on 11 March, Japan has been rocked by tsunamis and power outages caused by trouble at a nuclear power station. Some 55,380 houses/buildings were damaged by the earthquake and 3,000 houses washed away by the tsunami. The RSGB has sent a message of support to the JARL who, although based in Tokyo, has still felt the quakes but has suffered no damage. Sadly, the Yaesu factory in Fukushima has been damaged. Thankfully, no staff were injured, although it will take a week or two to get the factory up and running as it is just 60km from the nuclear power station. Sadly, many of the subcontractors used by several of the manufacturers in Japan are based near the coast; it is unclear what has happened to these businesses. The Japan Amateur Radio League HQ station, JA1RL, along with other amateurs throughout the island nation, is maintaining the effort to support the disaster relief operation. JA1RL continues to operate as an emergency traffic centre on 7.030MHz as well as 2 metres and 70cm. While 3.525, 7.030, 7.043 and 7.075MHz have been mentioned as in use, it’s wise to keep those and all of the Centre of Emergency frequencies clear of normal and non-urgent traffic. In less damaged areas, the electric power supply is being restored gradually and local amateurs have started to establish stations at shelters.

The shot above shows a selection of computers in my possession; from left to right you can see my work computer - a Lenovo X201 mini laptop (very nice, very powerful, small and light - luckily I get it for free, as it goes with my job - I love working in I.T!). Next is the new Acer dual processor core netbook, now running Mint 10 Linux. The big machine is my mainstay - my Apple iMac 24" with all the option boxes ticked. Lastly you can see my old Asus EeePC 901 mini netbook, which is being pensioned off after a long and productive life. Lastly, on the far right you can see the Bluetooth keyboard and Magic Mouse for the Mac. I have a couple of other computers, but these are the main ones I use on a regular daily basis. 

As this is being written on a netbook, rather than on my Apple Mac, you can correctly surmise that I am happily ensconced in my familiar corner in the Robin Hood & Little John, typing away before ordering my lunch. I have my Sony earbuds in, and am writing to the sound track of “Animals” by Pink Floyd – a sorely underrated album, in my opinion. When I purchased the netbook, it came with Windows 7 Starter Edition and a number of preinstalled pieces of "evaluation" software on it. In the business we call this "crapware". I fired up the netbook for the first time, and waited whilst it went through post power -- up configuration. I planned to run all the latest updates on Windows, then use the inbuilt utility to back up the OS onto DVD before wiping the hard drive and installing Linux (good system administrator that I am). As soon as the system was up and running, I got a pop - up saying "would you like to start your 90 day trial of McAfee Security Essentials?" To which I clicked "No". A moment later, another pop - up window appeared - "would you like to start your 90 day trial of McAfee Security Essentials?". To which I again clicked "No". And then it happened again. In desperation I clicked "Yes" and went as far as the End User Licence Agreement, whereupon I clicked "I do not accept" at the prompt. Second later I got "would you like to start your 90 day trial of McAfee Security Essentials?" Yet again - Aaargh! How do people put up with this kind of thing? It is the digital equivalent of a mugging.

I successfully did all of the upgrades, plugged in an external DVD burner, which Windows said it recognised, then fired up the backup program, which smugly said "You do not have a DVD recorder connected to this computer". Sending a quick prayer of thanks to St. Linus of Torvalds and then instead inserted the boot DVD for Linux Mint 10 and spent half and hour cheerfully nuking the Windows installation for once and all. I now have my self respect back, along with a speedy and malware resistant new netbook, only running the software that I decide I want. How much did this operating system cost? The cost of a single blank DVD and a short time to download the software from online. All entirely legal and non - pirating. Linux is the premiere example of free and open source software on the planet.

Earlier I passed by The Laughing Buddha Chinese restaurant in Bexleyheath Broadway; I had not been in the place for many years, so out of curiosity, I stopped to take a look at the menu. Mostly, it was nothing out of the ordinary; one thing however jumped off the page at me. Clear as day, they were offering Shark Fin Soup. I don't know if you watched the recent documentary about the barbaric methods used to make this so called “delicacy”, but it is horrible in the extreme. Most Chinese restaurants in London no longer offer the dish, but here in suburbia it would seem that no such scruples are present. It will be interesting to see what the local press make of the issue. You can read about the process of shark finning by clicking here. I would urge you to avoid the establishment - which I gather is not exactly rated highly on the culinary scale in any case.

Whilst taking photos of the traveller ponies behind Morrison's, I heard the familiar throb of a slow, large displacement marine engine; turning around through 180 degrees, I looked out over the River Thames and took the photo above (click for a larger view). The ship was on its' way down river and out to sea. Many people seem to ignore the fact that Erith is a maritime town with a long history in connection with shipping and the sea. A talk is being held at Erith Library by local historian Ken Chamberlain on the 30th March; he will be giving an account of the history of Erith and the role the town has had in many important events in the past. Tickets are £2 each, available from the library.

Bexley Community Police Engagement Group (BCPEG) are holding a briefing and conference open to all local residents, to debate the current situation regarding crime and security on local public transport. Details of the meeting are on the banner below; I hope to attend, along with a few members of Erith Watch.

Whilst waiting for a bus in Plumstead, I got a good look at one of the new Enviro 400 models now running on the  99 route between Bexleyheath and Woolwich. When one looks at the back of the bus, below the upper window / emergency exit, one can see a matt black panel with grilles partially concealing three fans. I think they are too far from the engine to be cooling fans for the power plant and gearbox, and I wonder if the buses are actually air conditioned? Any feedback from the transport enthusiasts out there would be welcomed.

You may recall that some time ago I wrote a slightly wistful piece on the long disappearance of the Mushroom Double Swiss Burger. Well, earlier this week I saw an advertising hoarding on the Docklands Light Railway that was promoting the new Burger King Cheesy Mushroom Melt in the Middle Burger. To me, this sounded like the Mushroom Double Swiss under a new name. That lunch time I tested my assumption by buying one at the Canary Wharf BK outlet. I was sorely disappointed. The new burger is nothing like the old Double Swiss - apart from the fact that mushrooms are involved. The new burger is filled with what appears to be gloopy mushroom soup, glued into place with melted processed cheese and a lump of rather dry minced dead cow, rather than the sauteed jewels of sliced fungus, fused with Swiss cheese that came in the original. I ate the sandwich with a heavy heart, and for the rest of the day, a heavy stomach too. It sat in my lower intestine like half a ton of Blue Circle quick set, to the point that I was unable to even contemplate supper that evening. Avoid.

Something a little different in the video department this week; instead of a short clip, here is an hour long professionally produced video documentary about the history and influence on diverse musical styles that has been brought by the Cry Baby Wah Wah pedal. It is a fascinating and informative film, which I would strongly recommend that you watch - you can click on the tool bar below the video in order to make it full screen for easier viewing. Let  me know what you think.

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