Thursday 31 December 2009

Greetings from the Future!

Well, the new year's been here for a couple of hours now, but I know some of you are still in 2009.

Wednesday 30 December 2009

Clear Those Winter Miseries With a Little Steam

Some of you may remember me posting pictures of the National Railway Museum, in York, not far from my home.On that page there's a video of the first scheduled outing of a shiny new steam locomotive, built to the highest standards of 1940's steam technology, and coming into commission in 2009.
It was, of course, a crazy concept. A lot of steam enthusiasts raising money to build a giant toy.

The railway modeller's dream. A full sized locomotive. But still, the modern railway industry would say, a toy, not practical.... All this year, 6163 Tornado has been hauling steam excursion trains, in all the regions of britain, and countrywide. -Distances like the London to Edinburgh mainline run, faultlessly.
Then comes winter. The much vaunted super high-tech London to Paris expresses curl up and shiver, the Channel Tunnel is put out of action.
Across southern England, commuter trains fail, leaving many commuters stranded on snowbound stations, far from home.
But the Tornado is hauling the Cathedrals Express in the region, so they shovel a bit more coal on, and announce that they will call at the stations and take the commuters home. How's that for steampunk technology in the modern age? And they do, flawlessly, whilst the southern region's 21 st century trains shiver, whimper, and sneeze, impotent in a light snowfall.


BBC News "Passengers were rescued by a steam locomotive after modern rail services were brought to a halt by the snowy conditions in south-east England.
Trains between Ashford and Dover were suspended on Monday when cold weather disabled the electric rail.
Some commuters at London Victoria faced lengthy delays until Tornado - Britain's first mainline steam engine in 50 years - offered them a lift.
They were taken home "in style", said the Darlington-built engine's owners."

Photography for Potters (well, for rich potters)

I see lots of potters with photography angst, worrying about presentation of their works on the web. Here's the answer.

Okay... There's no price.
The cheapy, entry-level light box thingy, the photosimile 100 is a couple of thousand dollars.
This? Maybe the price of a car, who knows, they're a bit coy about pricing on their website.
Ortery site says, “We do not list pricing on this website due to international pricing concerns.”

My photos will continue to be taken with my camera phone.

Marjorie Wondered..

If she might just have had one too many rum-truffles.

Or had that last cup of tea at the Richardson's tasted a little strange?
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The Sisterhood of the Pointy Heels' Tank Division

Has been on winter manoeuvres. Note the festive camouflage. These girls can hide a main battle tank in a crowded mall, or suburban residential street.

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Whatever Were They Thinking?

This picture, and other similar ones crop up every now and then on the net. Look closely. Look at the serious faces, the driver, we've seen his type a thousand times, he's a generic hero, we know, earlier that morning, the girls in the office at the top-secret works watched as he shook the hand of the chief engineer, and stepped out to the waiting car that would take him to the test-track, we know those girls dabbed tears from the corners of their eyes, with their lace embroidered handkerchiefs. We know, if he survives this, in a few years time, he'll be going ashore as a commando to destroy a nazi u-boat nest, or he'll be wrestling the controls of a shot-up fighter plane, he MUST reach allied territory to tell of the secret rocket-site hidden in the cliff, above the dam.... they have to know, and somebody must take it out before the bombing raid at the next full moon, or they'll be flying into a trap!

So. Here he is. The all-purpose 1930s hero, about to take a test drive in the X-23...
Beside him is Georgie, the all-purpose upper-class chap, always good for a laugh, courts danger with a whisky flask in one hand. Good old Georgie. He'll die, very bravely, just before the movie ends, and we'll realise, Georgie's not the dilettante playboy we thought him, all this time.

So here they are. At the closed down racetrack, about to take X-23 for a spin. Try not to think about Carruthers, and X-22. Took them four days to collect all the bits of Carruthers and Professor Peat. And at the end, they had one kidney too many in the bucket. That may never be explained.
This contrivance is the future of humanity, it will.......
Oh Bollocks! Any fool can see this thing's the stupidest idea ever. It doesn't take any sort of genius to figure out that it will not handle at all well even on the flat, that any bump will launch it into crazy wobbling disaster, that braking... oh no. let's not even ask about braking. Or downhill.
Or carrying loads. Or .....
Or indeed any way at all in which it would outperform a car or a motor-cycle. That thing obviously cost a load of money to build. How did its advocates pitch it to the money-men? Just how, how did they imagine, in their crazy opium dreams, this thing was going to improve humanity's lot?

I just found a whole heap more on monowheels at Dark Roasted Blend, a blog of the bizarre that never fails to amuse.

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Sunday 27 December 2009

Saturday 26 December 2009

An Inconspicuous Beginning. Three Years Ago Today, Dec 26, 2006.

Three years ago today, I moved into my rented Blogspace at the cheaper end of town, rolled up the rusty, graffitied shutters, strapped on my surplus-store bargan blogachute, and jumped into the internet.
I'm still free-falling, somewhat uncontrolled, and of course, so long as I don't ever pull the ripcord, I can be confident that the blogachute will be in full working order.
Back in the first few days, I wrote more. I was probably trying to convince myself I wasn't as indolent as I really am, and trying to persuade myself I had something to say, but of course, in that very first post, I didn't really say much!

I've learned a lot, met some great people, had some fun.... Afer the first few tweaks I haven't messed with the colours, layout, or whatever much at all.
Funny really, You'd expect, if you saw my everyday garb, I'd be a green or blue blog.
I didn't use a sitemeter at first, then I got two, one you see, one you don't.
Activemeter says there are 75,000 visitors, Sitemeter is more conservative at 49,000.
Most of those people fell into here by accident and left after a quick muttered "What the hell is all this nonsense", but some stayed, some keep returning, and have done so from the early days, some of those constant returners are unknown to me, all I see is their identifier in the meter, so I know they're long-term visitors, but I know nothing of them. Except when I click on the "special tools" icon, and activate their webcam and microphone. Hey, Santa Monica! Nice wallpaper, I think your goldfish is dead.
Oops, look at the time! I have to go out now, so more musing on the why and wherefore and retrospection will have to wait.

Who are you, where from, when did you first drop by Grit in the Gears, and should I give up now ?

Tuesday, 26 December 2006
An Inconspicuous Beginning.

Damn... What have I done? And why?

First of all who am I?
For most purposes, these days, I am Ersatz Soubriquet.

I have another name, several, in fact, but Ersatz has been taking over in leaps and bounds. He first came into existence... A long time ago, I won't disclose how long just now, but it was before the internet, when he worked with a quill pen.
Stop that!
Ersatz, you never had a quill pen.
I did!
Liar! You remember, you had a pen, like a wood stick, with replaceable nibs, that you used for carving the desk until Mr Dennis smacked you with a ruler. And then you had to ask Mr Dennis for a new nib and he was very cross.
And you had to dip the pen in an inkwell on the desk, full of Parker's patent Quink, blue-black, washable, for schools, refiller from the big bottle in the cupboard. And then you left a big blob of ink on your book, and then you blotted it with blotting paper, which was pink until it got blotty all over, and you always had blue fingers and..
What the hell is all this? What are you doing? ink and nibs indeed, you're supposed to be introducing yourself to the as yet, mythical reader.
But there isn't a reader, The reader is a myth, it's just me!
Look, this is the innertent, or as the rest of the world outside our fuddled head knows it, The Internet ! (ooh good! if you hit the keys harder the letters are bigger and blacker)(or whiter, in this case) and the innertent is full of shoals of aimless people who might happen along here and read this.
But why would they?
Stop asking questions, just trust me, they might, and if they did, they wouldn't want to read about your early school years.
They might.
Trust me, I'm your more sensible self, they don't.
So. You're me?
I am, only more sensible.
Oh. Do you remember Mr Dennis then?
Yes. He was very big, we were about eight years old, and he smelled of pee. And he had an old greeny coloured jacket and he could throw a piece of chalk so it hit you right between the eyes.
I remember that. He was very big on not day-dreaming, or looking out of the window, or bending nibs.
Bit of a tough task, then. me, us, never been good at focusing on the task in hand, the present, and so on.
Right. Lets try focus, get together in the same brain and get on with it, shall we?

I've just signed up for this bloggery and I've no idea how it works or who the hell wants to know what I think about anything.
Will I persist? who knows. time will tell. I'd better learn how to do it now, so don't hold your breath, unknown first reader, because it might take months to figure out... Like what happened there? fonts changing size? and there's no teacher in the room. Maybe if I pull out the computer's plug it will fix itself... shall I buy a new keyboard?

That's it, I'm intimidated now by the empty space, I'll just go read someone else's blog and pretend I'm clever enough to do it.

Now what? Preview button..... post... Labels?

Anyway, mythical first reader, If you do happen by, please leave a comment. Try not to wound me too much.

Posted by soubriquet at 7:03 PM

Thursday 24 December 2009

Light as the Breeze, Tower of Song...

She stands before you naked
you can see it, you can taste it,
and she comes to you light as the breeze.
Now you can drink it or you can nurse it,
it don't matter how you worship
as long as you're
down on your knees.
So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
at the cradle of the river and the seas.
And like a blessing come from heaven
for something like a second
I was healed and my heart
was at ease.

O baby I waited
so long for your kiss
for something to happen,
oh something like this.

And you're weak and you're harmless
and you're sleeping in your harness
and the wind going wild
in the trees,
and it ain't exactly prison
but you'll never be forgiven
for whatever you've done
with the keys.

O baby I waited ...

It's dark now and it's snowing
O my love I must be going,
The river has started to freeze.
And I'm sick of pretending
I'm broken from bending
I've lived too long on my knees.

Then she dances so graceful
and your heart's hard and hateful
and she's naked
but that's just a tease.
And you turn in disgust
from your hatred and from your love
and comes to you
light as the breeze.

O baby I waited ...

There's blood on every bracelet
you can see it, you can taste it,
and it's Please baby
please baby please.
And she says, Drink deeply, pilgrim
but don't forget there's still a woman
beneath this
resplendent chemise.

So I knelt there at the delta,
at the alpha and the omega,
I knelt there like one who believes.
And the blessings come from heaven
and for something like a second
I'm cured and my heart
is at ease

Leonard Cohen

Well my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I'm crazy for love but I'm not coming on
I'm just paying my rent every day
Oh in the Tower of Song

I said to Hank Williams: how lonely does it get?
Hank Williams hasn't answered yet
But I hear him coughing all night long
A hundred floors above me
In the Tower of Song

I was born like this, I had no choice
I was born with the gift of a golden voice
And twenty-seven angels from the Great Beyond
They tied me to this table right here
In the Tower of Song

So you can stick your little pins in that voodoo doll
I'm very sorry, baby, doesn't look like me at all
I'm standing by the window where the light is strong
Ah they don't let a woman kill you
Not in the Tower of Song

Now you can say that I've grown bitter
but of this you may be sure
The rich have got their channels in
the bedrooms of the poor
And there's a mighty judgement coming, but I may be wrong
You see, you hear these funny voices
In the Tower of Song

I see you standing on the other side
I don't know how the river got so wide
I loved you baby, way back when
And all the bridges are burning that we might have crossed
But I feel so close to everything that we lost
We'll never have to lose it again

Now I bid you farewell, I don't know when I'll be back
They're moving us tomorrow to that tower down the track
But you'll be hearing from me baby, long after I'm gone
I'll be speaking to you sweetly
From a window in the Tower of Song

Yeah my friends are gone and my hair is grey
I ache in the places where I used to play
And I'm crazy for love but I'm not coming on
I'm just paying my rent every day
Oh in the Tower of Song

Wednesday 23 December 2009

"By Jove", cried Frank, "A Chance to Practise My Resuscitatin' Skills!"

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Zebra, Revealed.

"It is embarrassing", thought Horace, "to be a functionally naked zebra, dressed only in thigh-high striped fetish-stockings... Why didn't she tell me the fucking drier's broken?"

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Rocket Scientists do Pre-Launch Checks

On the first horse in space...

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Your captions invited in the comments box!

Body Clocks

This morning, I woke, thinking.... "Damn!, that alarm's going to go off any minute now!",
so I reached for the alarm, which is set for 06:50, and what time is it? 06:49.......

How does that body-clock stuff work?

Mind you, it's not reliable, I have heavy duty sleep skillz, I can zizz all the way into the afternoon if I know there's nothing pressing to do.
I sometimes wish I was a morning person, up before the lark etcetera. But I'm not. On the other hand, I'm fine with being up all night, and going to sleep way after sunup.

I could NOT get up and straightaway fix the burners on my stove at five in the morning, oh no. Bits of me awake at different times, there's a start-up sequence... The brain is last. Some people claim my brain never quite gets started. They may be right.

Sunday 20 December 2009

What Browser?

Google chrome's ad, here on youtube, is a beautifully made ad. I really love it, clever, witty, improvised, hacked together in the basementy-good.
Only I'm watching it in Firefox. And everything Google is trying to sell here as a virtue in Chrome, Firefox already does for me.
I tried Chrome at beta stage, and wasn't overawed. I tried the current version, just now. Nothing that makes me say Wow!, that's so much better!.

Great ad. Product? um? well, I suppose if you were using internet explorer it might look pretty neat.

I've tried Safari too, and Opera. They're okay, I suppose.
Firefox just works, reliably, quickly, it scrubs ads and banners off the pages before they can load, it's like Chrome, but BETTER!
And there are loads of plugins and add-ons available, should I want them, to custom fit it to my preferences.

Later.... One thing Firefox messes up with is some instances of flashplayer.
Some of my posts contain goear embedded swf files, if i have Adblock plus plugin enabled, these files do not load properly. I can set an exception rule in adblock, for the page, for the element, for the file, but it still won't load. Adblock's f.a.q. says it's firefox, not adblock that causes it.
Mind you, if i disable adblock the music plays.
I don't want to disable adblock, because if I do, I get to see the commercial internet, with advertising all over it. Like people who use other browsers see it.
I don't want to wait for pages to load colour pictures and animated gifs advertising crap I'll never buy.

Saturday 19 December 2009

Great Video, Shame About the Song.

I loved the graphics. I've been interested in this sort of 3D cutaway illustration since I was a kid, and had a book showing fold-out pages of cutaway drawings of ships through the ages.
Dorling Kindersley used to publish, (maybe still does), books of cutaways, castles, cars, cows...

Dorling Kindersley's Offices.

As for the music... Yawn. um. Yawn.
Sad really. The video's far better than the sounds it's designed to support.

Ooh! another. By H5 Studios.

Friday 18 December 2009

Rudolph's Secret Vice

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This via BoingBoing, I really liked these guys, I love the way in which the video is made, the home-made, yet slick production.
Mind you, I won't be buying a goat. I dislike goats, extremely. They always strike me as sinister, nasty creatures, more importantly, they're nasty little desert-creators. They eat anything. And they curse you with their slitty goat-eyes.
Well, I did live, briefly, in a house with a goat on the roof. He was on the roof of the sauna, to be more exact, had his own goat-ladder, which he.... or she, I never enquired... would mince up, in a somewhat mincing manner, to munch the grass and flowers upon the rooftop. Roofgoat and I regarded each other with mutual emnity. "Curried Goat", I would mutter, and the goat would belch something satanically guttural in return.
I'd have preferred a lawn tractor.

Um. Where was I? Pomple... pamplemousse is french for grapefruit.
I like them, check out their other songs on youtube.

Thursday 17 December 2009

Dance Me

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic 'til I'm gathered safely in
Lift me like an olive branch and be my homeward dove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Oh let me see your beauty when the witnesses are gone
Let me feel you moving like they do in Babylon
Show me slowly what I only know the limits of
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the wedding now, dance me on and on
Dance me very tenderly and dance me very long
We're both of us beneath our love, we're both of us above
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to the children who are asking to be born
Dance me through the curtains that our kisses have outworn
Raise a tent of shelter now, though every thread is torn
Dance me to the end of love

Dance me to your beauty with a burning violin
Dance me through the panic till I'm gathered safely in
Touch me with your naked hand or touch me with your glove
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love
Dance me to the end of love

Then We Take Berlin....

First We Take Manhattan, by Leonard Cohen

They sentenced me to twenty years of boredom
For trying to change the system from within
I'm coming now, I'm coming to reward them
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I'm guided by a signal in the heavens
I'm guided by this birthmark on my skin
I'm guided by the beauty of our weapons
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I'd really like to live beside you, baby
I love your body and your spirit and your clothes
But you see that line there moving through the station?
I told you, I told you, told you, I was one of those

Ah you loved me as a loser, but now you're worried that I just might win
You know the way to stop me, but you don't have the discipline
How many nights I prayed for this, to let my work begin
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I don't like your fashion business mister
And I don't like these drugs that keep you thin
I don't like what happened to my sister
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I'd really like to live beside you, baby ...

And I thank you for those items that you sent me
The monkey and the plywood violin
I practiced every night, now I'm ready
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

I am guided

Ah remember me, I used to live for music
Remember me, I brought your groceries in
Well it's Father's Day and everybody's wounded
First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin

Thrills and Spills and the Chance of an Omelette

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I Was Given a Sexist Mug

Sigh. We poor men have to put up with these sort of sexist jibes all the time.


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More Shots of Asses in Fancy Pyjamas

I only gave the post that title because I knew it would get all the wrong search hits....
One of my most visited posts by distant strangers was a photo of farm tractor collectors magazines in a window. I titled it "Tractor Porn". You'd be amazed at how many people, every day, search Google for "Tractor Porn"..... Okay, guys, sorry. I'm just search-engine baiting, and it's cruel. Of course, if you're reading this blog in an educational establishment, you'll probably find it blocked on the grounds of it containing words like nipples. I find that lubricating my drive shafts, and also my ball-joints, (oh yes, I have jointed balls, in my steering linkages).. lubricating those things is greatly facilitated by having grease-nipples, onto which the ball and socket end of my Tecalemit high pressure grease-gun clamp, I pump the handle, the connection stiffens, and lube squeezes out of the gun, slithers greasily across those shiny mating surfaces.

Where was I? Oh yes. Max commented in the previous post, and seemed to doubt the veracity of my zebra-drawn carriage picture.
These pics are to show that it was not a one-off.
Some neat Zorses on the last pic, or are they Zonkeys? or Mebras, or Zules?

This guy looks a bit shifty. I wouldn't trust him with my sister.

But But... what was in FRONT of the zebras?

Zonkeys? Zules? Neat PJs, guys.
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Wednesday 9 December 2009

Seen in the Sky Over Northern Norway, This Morning. ... Subtitle: Oh My God, We've Just Lost Power on the Port Reindeer! MAYDAY! MAYDAY!

This lasted for, according to many witnesses, over a large area of northern Norway, about two minutes.
So far, nobody has come up with a definitive explanation.
The most persuasive one so far is that we're seeing the traces left by a Russian ballistic missile, spinning out of control, and ejecting a fine mist of fuel vapour as it spins. This vapour is sufficiently far into the upper atmosphere to be illuminated by the sun, long before sunrise occurs at ground-level, just as vapour trails from high flying aircraft are often illuminated in the pre-dawn sky.

The Russian Navy is exercising in the White Sea, not so very far away, but..... the Russians deny any launches at or around 7:45 a.m. local time.

There do seem to be sufficiently large a number of reports from different sources to suggest it's not a hoax

Station F - F Archangelsk,RUS
2009-12-08 16:54:55 (GMT+0)
Signal quality 100
Message number 79 Type A (Nav warning)

031230 UTC DEC 09
09 DC 0200 TO 0900 10 DEC 0100 TO 0900
65-12.6N 036-37.0E 65-37.2N 036-26.0E
66-12.3N 037-19.0E 66-04.0N 037-47.0E
66-03.0N 038-38.0E 66-06.5N 038-55.0E
65-11.0N 037-28.0E 65-12.1N 036-49.5E
THEN COASTAL LINE 65-12.2N 036-47.6E

"Russia’s troubled Bulava submarine-launched ballistic missile will be test-fired on November 24. Of the 11 test launches that have been conducted so far, only five have been successful.

The missile will be launched from the nuclear powered Typhoon-class submarine Dmitry Donskoy, which is the only vessel in service with the Russian Navy capable of testing the new missile, RIA Novosti reports.

The Bulava was last test-fired from the Dmitry Donskoi in the North Sea on July 15, but self-destructed soon after launch due to a defective steering system in its first stage."

Source: Barents Observer

The Bulava is a 5,000 mile range intercontinental ballistic missile, with capability for multiple re-entry warheads. Somehow that seems like a return to the bad old days of the cold war.

I'm sure things will become clearer in the next few days. But I wish I'd been there to see this strangely beautiful happening.

Update:- Russian Defence Ministry have today confirmed it was a Bulava missile, launched from the submarine Dmitry Donskoi. "It has been established ... that the missile's first two stages worked as normal, but there was a technical malfunction at the next, third, stage of the trajectory," a Defense Ministry spokesman said."

A very expensive light-show. Half of Russia's military budget has been going into these missiles, recently, and 8 out of 12 launches have been failures. In this case, a very visible one. The builder blames the failures on poor quality components coming from the 650 suppliers, and says this would not have happened under the soviet regime. Hm. And under the soviet regime, he might reflect, the chances are that he'd be lucky to get sent to a gulag.

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