Month: January 2012


Recycling used to mean reusing such as the earlier practice of reusing items such as milk and beer bottles which were sterilised and then refilled with the original product..

Sadly in the UK. the verb recycle g has degenerated into the Newspeak meaning of presort into the council supplied containers so that the salvageable items are not simply adding to the mounting landfill crisis. This crisis has been exacerbated by the apparently endless increase in the amount of packaging used by the retailers who claim customer demand. If you. are young and have never shopped anywhere but a UK supermarket then you will not remember the time when stuff was bought by weight rather than by packet. This is largely, but not solely, how most people buy foodstuffs nowadays and the packaging is usually designed so that you buy more than you wanted or needed.

There are places called ironmongers that will sell you a pound of nails rather than a number of packets of nails and also markets where you buy by weight rather than packet. Who actually prefers to shop like this? The large retailers such as Tesco prefer the packaged method and assert the same all the way back through their supply chains using their awesome power to bully suppliers into submitting to Their terms for homogeneity in everything so that everything is suborned to making stuff look good on the shelves regardless of quality, texture and taste. The customers are assuaged into believing that they are doing their bit for the environment by diligently sorting all the stuff into the correct containers but the reality that far more energy i.e. oil goes into maintaining the nation’s food supply. Simple example – a 38 tonne truck carries more actual potatoes that it possible could carry 38 tonnes of pre-packaged spuds in portion sizes that are cleverly calculated to be too much or too little for end-buyers.

There are ways of genuinely recycling stuff that you don’t need any more – one facility I have been using very successfully for the last couple of weeks rather than binning stuff I no longer use or need,, I have been posting items on the freecycle website closest to me.



Tidying six years of accumulated stuff from my small flat is one of those chores I just had to get round to. The various options available to me were:

Just leave and let (or whatever its called this week) sort it all out.

Sell stuff on but taking into account, packing, postage and my time costs, I would probably make a net loss for much work and petrol (its quicker and costs less to use one of the village post offices rather than the one in town with parking costs and long queues)

Sell locally via the classifieds, cards in shop windows etc but that takes time too and even for private sales the exchange of money imposes a certain legal liability for the items. Good for big ticket items but not for assorted stuff

Take to the tip (sorry recycling centre) but that’s problematic because it’s not open all that often and has a number plate recognition system so that too frequent a visit by one vehicle deems it to be trade and charged or just barred.

Freecycle is therefore the only practical solution for who hates waste hence http://groupuscules/group/freecyclefrome/ read the small print to see how it works. And work it does!

A few tips for those unsure about the whole process:

Do not publish your address or a telephone number in the advertisement, conduit negotiations by e-mail until someone is definitely coming to collect

Be honest with your item description – collectors who know exactly they are coming for are unlikely to be disappointed and leave empty handed. The Frome group allows you to add photographs so use the facility, again so that potential collectors know what you are offering. Or you can use a link to the same or similar item in the IKEA or Argos catalogues.

Be courteous and people will be courteous back – when you’re arranging for something to be collected, make sure the collector knows where they are coming; what may seem obvious to you might be opaque to someone who has never been to your area before.

Beware the car-booters who spiel some story about why they want an item for ther aged parents or their barefoot children  when actually they are simply harvesting the site for whatever thay can sell at a profit at a car-boot sale. Frome Freecycle seems to be free of them at the moment.

Don’t be pissy if someone does not appear at the agreed time – you don’t know them or anything about them and they probably have more pressing concerns than that item that “needs a little attention”.



Nosey neighbours ask me what I do all day long, my quick answer that conveys mysteries beyond their ken is”computers and stuff” which is usually enough to divert them from the truth. Truth is, I am hiding under the duvet or did for most of 2011 when I am not watching television. The baby boomers is the first generation to have always had television and have watched the service mutate from a not really important two snowy black and white channels into a room dominating shiny appliance that offers an array of channels from all over. The UK has gone digital which means that the availe choice is far greater now and in colour. Good or bad, it’s the message, not the medium. As a matter of priciness and poverty, I do not pay Mr Branson or Mr Murdoch for my television, instead taking what I can get from Freeview and Freesat. The various catchup services and iPlayer are a boon for this telly addict – can always aid procrastination by finding something to watch 24×7 although sometimes in the wee hours it it is BBC News or Al Jazeera and little else.

I do plan what I’ll be watching a bit mostly by consulting and its phone equivalent though I tend to ignore the rating numbers and form my own views about what to watch. There are some constants such as the two regional news offerings which do local good news stories but also offer the occasional tranche of good hard news stories when the presenters prove that they are not just telegenic presenters but actual working journalists. Channel 4 News of course – the others tend to be more the presenters of press releases by government and corporations. I have been known to look at Sky News but it really is dire – just what one would expect from the News Corporation. The television is set to show these programmes automatically: you can imagine may dismay when this autonetics scheduling was serious interfered with by broadcasters’ lazys sops to Christmas and New Year and the annual fight for viewing figures supremacy.

My regularly watched soaps are Casualty, Holby City and, shh, don’t tell anyone, EastEnders But some times there’s a broader point being made for example Casualty broke the issue of dodgy breast implants long before the scandal about the use of industrial rather than medical grade silicone. The two hospital dramas do provide some sort of insight into contemporary NHS health care. By comparison, EastEnders provides little more than a nod to any kind of social information provision Every time the programme ventures way from the main set its handling of police, ambulance, hospital, prison really is fanciful and not be be taken at all seriously but perhaps that’s the point? Whatever, it might be tosh but it is very well made tosh,owing its people to presenting human dysfunctionally at a level to which most people can smile smugly with th satisfaction of being able to think “well, at least my life is not as screwed up as theirs”.

Which is part of the unwritten contract between viewers and broadcasters? I have been watching television for so long that production values are important. Anyone who’s watched much daytime television would probably understand. ITV3 gets away with so many repeats of programmes like Heartbeat and Poirot not such much because of the flashy plotting but because they are well made and well acted. I wonder if people like David Suchet and David Lonsdale are paid for their share for each repeat showing? I hope so.

There are some programmes that I make sure I never see although thanks to Twitter, it’s impossible to not know what is happening in stuff like Strictly Come Dancing, The X factor and all the other prime time opiates for the masses and, get this, as well as being paid by the broadcasters, the production companies make a fortune from all the viewers’ vote phone calls. Licence to print money or what? I don’t envy Simon Cowell his largesse, good luck to him, I just wish I had thought of the concept.

As well as avoiding the “celebrity stuf there are other programmes that I avoid at all costs: the two most offensive are “The Jeremy Kyle Show” and “Deal Or No Deal” Jermy Kyle is just nasty and gets off on the forced confrontations that require the intervention of his burly minders to ‘caln’ confrontations that he has provoked for the vicarious delight of the viewing audience, Noel Edmonds first showed his true colours with Mr Blobby and further plumbs the depths of TV entertainment. Puke

One man’s Linux experiences

This may be a shocking revelation to some but Windows and Apple’s OS are not the only ones available for the end user, There are freely available (and free) alternatives derived from a commercial operating system call Unix.

Linux is the operating system which I use on all my personal computers what it is and its development history are well documented on the Web. By the end of 2011 I eventually found that the Linux version (also known as flavour) fit for my purposes is Pear OS Linux which ticks all my boxes i.e. meets my current computer needs and runs well on my antique hardware. Along the way I have tried many differn versions including the mass market favourite Ubuntu and most of those based on it such as Lubuntu, Mint, Mepis and others such as Fedora, OpenSuse and Puppy.

One cautionary note: do not indulge in radical re-installations until or unless the contents of your hard disk(s), your data, are properly secured off the machine and ideally off-site. I have been operating what are now known as cloud principles for many years and do not entrust anything unique and valuable data such as photographs to a delicate single point of failure.

You might also need a supply of blank CDs and DVDs although installation can also be made more economically and environmentally friendlily by installing from a USB stick. Trialling often involves the creation of plenty of shiny coasters or bird scarers. Such installers are easily created on Windoze using the delightful LinuxLive USB Creator or the slightly dull but practical Unetbootin on just about any machine . As well as good bandwidth for the downloading of .iso disk images containing the required OS,  it is very sensible to have a spare internet connected computer available to search for solutions when you encounter problems.

If you posses only one computer but are stouthearted I’d suggest that you opt for the dual boot option that installs the new OS alongside the original and be prepared, if all else falls, to reinstall Windoze from the original installation disc. Be warned that any Windows installation takes an unnecessarily long time – one of the immediate delights of Linux is that you can go from start to end of some installations in 30 minutes.

Another caveat bis that some devices may not work with your Linux OS, basically the manufacturers were too lazy to supply the drivers. On the other hand, I have discovered some bits & pieces that never worked as intended, if at all, with any version of Windows but have been magically restored to full functionality by the introduction of a Linux based OS (the original installation discs are redundant) which turns out to be plug and play at a level that Microsoft are still trying to reach.

OK, an hour or several days later a computer is just expensive piece of junk even with the world’s best operating system. It needs application software to actually do anything more than consume space and electricity and look pretty if you like that sort of thing.

All the different Linux distributions, distros for short, come with a set of applications. Now it gets difficult as you need to choose what you want to use your computer for. Guessing that the first thing anyone does is to access the Internet, I’d suggest you use the installed browser to see what else is out there and find the one best suited to your browsing needs and machine’s capabilities.

The installation software will have included some sort of package management software (I just looked and there are 36, 063 packages available to me for this machine), what do you want to do today?

Many people want to write and do sums with spreadsheets so need the Linux equivalent of Microsoft Office – the usual offerings are LibreOffice and OpenOffice. I do not like clutter and run from a small disk so my preference for daily use is Koffice but you don’t pay any money and you makes yer choice? Go with whatever works for you.

There are many offerings for playing music and video – the one I use is called VLC and can handle nearly all sound and video filetypes.

Why I would like to meet Stephen Fry

Why I would like to meet Stephen Fry?

For a start I think that he is very bright and arguably the Oscar Wilde of our times. He succeeds in expressing himself in English whatever the medium and knows a lot of stuff and I suspect/hope that he takes the trouble to find out about a subject before he utters forth.

He is very funny without the need to put others down or patronise to make a point. Probably capable of acerbic wit but does not need to display his erudition for all to admire. Mr Fry’s use of the language is humbling: I have yet to hear him use a word incorrectly although he isn’t shy to coin a newism if that is what is needed to make the point. My personal favourite is “earworm” lifted from the German “Ohrwurm” which is far more communicative than any previously existing English circumlocution.

I would like to meet him to confirm to myself that he really is as nice as his TV/radio personae suggest. I suspect that he is a friend in deed to those to whom he is close.

I share his interest in new technology; writing as a retired technologist, I assert that, with money no object, a predilection for Apple products is simple common sense. A computer is after all just a device for communication and part of the Steve Jobs legacy is the provision of global products that facilitate the process.

Hagiography aside, Mr Fry is a hero in the mental health business. I have watched “The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive” many times and thank him for his role helping to explode some of the myths around the subject of mental illness and its consequences for the sufferer and those around him or her. Successful and prosperous people do not need to reveal so much of themselves for personal gain. Maybe they achieve some sort of cathartic release but that does not matter. Far more significant is the fact that he articulates the condition to a broad audience and thus helps the cause of greater general awareness and understanding of all metal health illness.

Before he came out as a manic depressive (the term I prefer because it is more descriptive in everyday English then the term bipolar with its qualifying numbers which are doubtless helpful to the trade that must be seen to be scientific), Stephen Fry wrote some for me life-changing words about depression. I read them on the Samaritans website in 2001 and at last helped me begin to understand what had been wrong with me for so long. I would like to meet the man behind the words essentially to say thank you for his courage with the self-exposure that has brought succour to say many.
The principal reason for wanting to meet Stephen Fry is that I would love to meet someone with whom I could converse, with someone who does not thimk in one straight line. He is one of life’s raconteurs but he also knows hot to listen to people: Stephen Fry in America showed a an expert listener in action where he met and conversed with many different people.