Monday 29 October 2012

Another Wet Day


Oh how I hate wet days. My preciouses were soaked!
Now I know not all who come here will understand my anguish, but those in the leather roll have articulating ends and fine ratchets.  I was up on the scaffolding dismantling redundant lights and signs, when the downpour commenced.

But, in context, it's nothing. I'm thinking of all those people in the eastern U.S. and Canada in the line of Hurricane Sandy. I was just watching a live feed video of a crane collapsing atop a high building in New York.
My grumbling about a wet day? It's laughable.
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Sunday 28 October 2012

Taking the Piss.

 She-Pee link

Through most  of humanity's existence, the act of voiding waste was far less secret than it is now. A hundred and fifty years ago, most streets were pretty much open sewers running with stinking waste. It was relatively recent that privacy became a general requirement. 
The rapid expansion of cities during the 1800s brought the problems greatly to the fore. London had sewers long before that, but they were..... inadequate. 
Paris and London had 'cloak-men' plying their trades. For a half-penny, the cloakman would shield you from view, whilst you did what you had to do, upon the street.
Then came the great reformers of plumbing, Joseph Bazalgette, the man who designed a totally new sewer system for London saved more lives than all the medical pioneers of his age put together. 
That aside, our cities are still under-served by public sanitation. And people still pee in the streets. Men are the worst offenders, after a few drinks too many, but women are not blameless, by any means. The problem? Alcohol makes you pee copiously, but often the desire to do so does not occur until you've left the premises, and then, no business welcomes people who just come in to use the toilets, public facilities are frequently vandalised, filthy, and abused, so maintenance costs are high, and cities close them rather than shoulder the running costs.
Some cities have tried to address the problem with these portable urinal stalls. The ones here are deployed in Amsterdam, but cities around the world now use similar ones, especially in the peak tourism/festival season.
(On a personal note? Argh! No way would I, could I use one. Gak! Put a wall around it!)....

However, a couple of weeks ago, I visited the railway museum in Darlington, which makes a museum exhibit of its old toilets. And I found Victorian forbears of these modern devices, which are uncannily similar, just not moulded out of plastics.

(The Stockton-Darlington Railway was the first public passenger-carrying railway in the world, though my home town was ahead of it when it came to shifting coal.)
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Yesterday's Clouds.

Snapped out of the car window, these clouds appear to be 'lenticular clouds', not as clearly defined as some, but quite at odds with all the other clouds in the sky. In the most distant one, you can see a slight convex trail of thin cloud both before and after it. I understand these clouds are most often formed where a mass of moist air is pushed upward over a mountain or ridge. These? well, they seemed to be travelling toward the south-west, and the last big range of hills they'll have passed over would be the cleveland hills, or the North York Moors. 
Usually clouds are travelling approximately eastwards here. (Lower Wharfedale).

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Friday 26 October 2012

Trading in Newly-Hatched Humans:

Seen today in a shop window:

I thought it was a given definition for 'babies' that they're either 'new, or 'nearly new'. 
Wonder how they're priced? By weight? By fragrance?

 Still, instead of putting the kids in the trash bin, (children, kids, = 'too old to be babies'), you  could always take the greener alternative and recycle them.
( No more than 4 at a time though)
"As what?", I hear you ask.
Who knows.
Crow-scarers, maybe?
Truculent moochers?

And "*free table hire*"?

Are babies a good investment right now?
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Sunday 14 October 2012

Baumgartner's About to Jump...

Live Video.

 I'm watching the live broadcast from Felix Baumgartners ascent toward the edge of space. 
He's going the (moderately) slow way, at least compared to a rocket, his helium balloon is rising at almost a thousand feet per minute.
94,460 feet. 
18 miles up.
102,000 feet now, the point at which Joe Kittinger jumped to make the highest ever parachute jump.  Ascent slowing...........

He's going to jump.
128,000 feet
"popping the canopy....."

This is Felix Baumgartner's latest attempt to go beyond the furthest barriers set to man. 
Sadly submerged in corporate sponsor branding. You'd be forgiven for thinking this is Red-Bull's idea, as you hear "Red Bull/Stratos being name-checked every few moments. But it's not. It's Baumgartner's mission. 
Red Bull/Stratos are just the corporate sponsors, they're the moneybags, the facilitators, not the drivers. Just a necessary evil. 

The highest any man has been in a balloon, is likely to be exceeded. 
No sustained flight powered airplane is capable of this altitude. Oh yes, the X-15 rocketplane, launched from beneath the wing of a bomber in the stratosphere, has achieved a higher peak, 325,000ft.
 Alexandr Fedotov, a Russian pilot holds the world altitude record, set on August 31, 1977, when his MiG E-266M reached 123,523 feet. That's still the limit for any plane that took off and landed itself.
And that again was an artificial lunge into the void, not something that could be sustained. Just an upward blip. 

The highest sustained altitude flight for any plane is 85,000ft, held by the Lockheed SR71 Blackbird. He's currently 35,000 feet above that. Amazing. Incredible.

Saturday 13 October 2012

Unofficial Notices on the Tube

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That Fokker's a Babe-Magnet!

This one isn't a Fokker. See how glum and un-animated those girls are?
This one, though? 

Which reminds me, of the old World War II pilot, invited into a girls' school, to talk about  his experiences.
 He's waving his arms around, his hands depicting dogfight duels, he says, " All of a sudden, Blam! holes in my wing, I look over my shoulder and there's this fucker on my tail!" 
"Girls", the head-teacher breaks in, "Stop your sniggering, a Focke is a type of german fighter plane..."

The old man pauses. "That's very true, Miss. Only this fucker was a Messerschmitt!"
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A 'B' in Art

I know you've probably seen this already, all over the internet. But take a moment to think about the beauty here, accidentally created by bees. Once you've thought about that, ponder on their cell-ordering. I wonder, does one bee work on one cell? how do they choose which cell to fill. Why the random spacings? Any Apiarists out there to enlighten me?
Oh. Yes, the obligatory bit. Beekeepers in France found their bees making rainbow honey, and eventually tracked the source to a recycling plant a few miles away which had drums of brightly coloured M&Ms outside. The bees, finding this an easier source of nectar than sucking it out of individual flowers, told the rest of the hive, who made a bee-line for the brightly coloured sweetness.
The processing plant has now made the M&Ms off-limits to the bees.
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Friday 12 October 2012

Polish Your Stylus,

 And spin the disc, for T-Rex's NEW single.

(Marc Bolan, who died in a car crash in 1977, would have been 65 this year)

Thursday 11 October 2012

Adventures in Retail

Customer Service, according to my undercover-agent in the retail world, is all-important. Beware the 'mystery-shopper'.  He/she is paid to report back to headquarters how attentive you were, how long it took before you offered your help.
Here, the Apple Sisters show how it's done.

Wednesday 10 October 2012

Cazeline Allayed

I have to go change my petrol tank (gas to you, though gas is gaseous, and gasoline is not...), so I'll...(what? oh yes. gasoline/petroleum... the mix that approximates what we use in our car engines is a petroleum distillate, which was, once upon a time, sold, in Britain, as clean-burning lamp-oil.......).
We Brits call it petrol, Americans call it gasoline. So far as I can determine, after etymological searches, the most likely origin for gasoline is not in the U.S., but over here. It seems that back in the 1860s, John Cassell, publisher, and Coffee-house magnate of London, having seen the  newly discovered petroleum wells in Pennsylvania, became also a purveyor of clean-burning lamp oils, ( the internal combustion engine was yet to be invented), and sold a petroleum distillate with his invented trade-name, 'Cazeline'.  He first advertised it in the Times, in 1862, which was the first recorded instance of the word.

"The petroleum oil is sent from America in a crude state, just as it pours out of the earth. The business of refining and preparing it for use is extensively carried on in England and France. The London Hydrocarbon Oil Company, in their manufacturing establishment at Southall, apply to the American oil a patent process of distillation, by which the pure transparent liquid known as cazeline, giving, a most beautiful light, is disengaged from the grosser elements of the petroleum, as well as from the spirituous part, which yields an explosive gas. The latter substance is largely employed instead of turpentine for various manufacturing purposes, while the cazeline is burned, without the slightest danger, in the lamps on our drawing-room tables, free from smoke and smell. Nor are these the only uses of the petroleum oil. Experiments have lately been made, by order of the French Government, to test its value as fuel for the engines of their steam navy. It has been proved that a given quantity of this substance will generate, in half the time, as much steam as could be produced by burning twice the weight of coal. It seems likely that the introduction of this portable fuel will have a great effect upon the development of steam navigation. The Southall works alone can refine fifty thousand barrels yearly."
Cassell's  business thrived, but soon the company noticed a falling of sales in Ireland. On investigation, they found that a shopkeeper in Dublin, Samuel Boyd, was selling counterfeit Cazeline and wrote to him demanding that he stop infringing their registered trade name. Boyd, rather than respond, or cease trading, simply went through all his stock with a pen, altering the first letter to a 'G'.  He was, he claimed, no longer selling Cazeline, his stock was 'Gazeline'.
"Cassell v. Boyd was heard by the Master of the Rolls in Dublin in 1865. Boyd claimed he had coined gazeline himself in 1862, from the French word gasogène (which is a device for producing fizzy water), and ordered his own labels. But, he said, the labels had been misprinted. The coincidence of Boyd’s printers producing in error the name of the market leader was more than the judge could believe and he ruled for Cassell.
Yet cazeline did not endure. Its latest mention so far found is from 1920. It was gazeline (or gasoline) which flourished."
"Gasolene was first used in an advert in the British newspaper, the Hampshire Telegraph & Sussex Chronicle in 1863. The first use of gasoline to be found in America is in an 1864 Act of Congress which declared a tax on the oil." (Oxford Dictionaries' Blog)

I was very pleased, it passed its test perfectly, but then I started to notice an expensive smell.
And here it is, draining precious fluids into a plastic box. You can see, though, on the outer seam, the leak, seeping through. On closer examination, I found the interior to be badly corroded. You can get epoxy lining stuff, to seal and repair, but the cost is nearly as much as a new tank. So I  bought a new tank instead.
And no. I did not leave the fuel in the green tub whilst I worked. I decanted it into steel jerry-cans, changed the tank, and chucked it back in, through a fine filter-mesh. And there was a lot of rust and scale, no wonder the fuel pump kept getting blocked. The tank level sender was badly corroded too. Still, 1962 to the present isn't too bad a working life for it, is it?

 The new tank is not as well or as heavily made as the originals. The original tanks were made of an anti-corrosion coated steel, looks as though it was tinned all over. The new ones are just painted. I doubt they'll last fifty years.
That's the sort of thing that keeps me from being too idle at the weekends. I drilled the rear cross-member to fit a quick-release tow-hitch/recovery-hook assembly, too.

I've been a bit busy.


It's been a bit chaotic. Diggity diggitty dig, pipes, conduits, cables, draw ropes, lamp posts to raise, bash holes in 150 year old walls, uncover all sorts of mysteries, go home filthy, collapse and fall asleep.
And repeat. There's more, inside the buildings, new 3" gas pipes to run, new incoming mains cabling, new fibre-optic data cabling. Meanwhile the fire-sprinkler system air-compressor thew a fit and burned out its switchgear and fuses, so that's to do in the morning,  and the cctv cameras on one wall need to be moved for the bricklayer to put up a new fascia wall...
And tomorrow, there's a forecast of storms and torrential rain. Luckily, we're mostly out of the trenches now, but I don't much look forward to putting up aluminium scaffold towers around the lamp-posts and working up-top if there's lightning. Hey ho. I'll wear my rubber boots.
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Your Very Good Health.

An information film explaining, in 1948, Britain's new 'National Health Service' (NHS).