Anorak Man - Roland Beaney
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Virtual Santa - December 2006
Thousands of people celebrated Guy Fawkes night this year with a virtual bonfire because of health and safety restrictions forcing organisations to scrap the real thing. A private bonfire was filmed and projected onto a giant screen with giant heaters, smoke machines and the sound of cracking wood coming out of giant speakers. Risk assessments and the mountain of paperwork that goes with them makes all but the simplest public event so difficult to organise these days. I suppose we will soon have virtual Christmas celebrations. Father Christmas will soon disappear to be replaced by a virtual model. There are already lots of these models in shops and they burst into life when we walk past them singing a Christmas carol and giving us a hearty Ho, Ho,Ho. One of my earliest memories was being taken to see a big tubby Santa Claus in a large department store. I was honoured to meet this famous gentleman especially when he gave me a present. Christmas Carol singers are also dying out. Now we have a cart being towed by a 4 x 4 and on the back is a set of giant speakers blasting out "Once in Royal David's City" and not a real life Carol singer in sight. It would be much nicer to hear real carol singers but Poor old Santa just hasn't got the time to fill in all the paperwork that's involved. Will we get snow this year? I only remember one white Christmas and that was many years ago. It wasn't much fun because I kept falling over but we don't need real snow any more as we now have virtual snow out of snow machines and it's much safer. Snow Ball fights like Conkers will soon be banned anyway. Whether you get your presents from a virtual Father Christmas or the real man himself, have a safe and Happy Christmas and many thanks for all your comments about my articles this year.
Reports, Reports - November 2006
Who remembers the Manual Typewriter? - October 2006
Isn't it amazing how fast technology has developed in recent years. Typewriters with ribbons that ran out of ink are museum pieces now. I can remember spending ages correcting the spelling mistakes on my letters with that white paste. Quite often I had to rewrite the whole piece. The letters used to come up from within the machine and sometimes they got stuck especially when you pressed two letters at once or in my case a whole bunch of letters at the same time. You then had to untangle them before they would go back into their slots. You had to pull a lever to start a new line and sometimes I forgot and continued typing right off the sheet. Then came the fax machine which was an amazing piece of equipment in its time. When I started work I was always being asked to take papers to another office, I used to dream of being able to pass them through the phone. Then one day my dreams came true. You could place a typed message into a large phone, dial a number, press a button and suddenly it appeared in another office miles away as if by magic. Then came the computer with those strange 3 inch floppy discs producing a new language. I remember when memory was something only humans had. Applications were only for jobs, programmes (spelt correctly) were something you watched on the TV. Cursors were people who used bad language, webs were those sticky things that spiders wove in the garden, a virus usually meant a week in bed with a runny nose and a hard drive was when I drove up to Scotland in a day. If you have any idea where we will be in 10 years time please let me know on firstname.lastname@example.org and look after those old typewriters, they may be worth a lot of money one day.
Anorakmans news - October 2006
Real Camping - September 2006
I like camping but these days we've all been spoilt and expect modern facilities such as flush toilets, electricity and showers. I remember dashing across camp sites in the middle of the night to use the toilets in the pouring rain and even worse having to empty the Porta Potty 33 hoping no one would see me. In case you don't know what I am talking about the Porta Potty 33 was a chemical toilet with 33 flushes although I never actually checked to find out if it lasted that long. I can remember the large Herring Gulls dancing on the caravan roof and the noise of the rain in the early hours of the morning when I was trying to sleep. There was no electricity so we had a small portable 12 inch TV and mini lights that we plugged into the car battery and then the next day we couldn't get the car started because the battery was flat. I never really understood how to put a tent up. You arrive at a camp site after a long drive and everyone watches you struggling with the poles and canvas. When everyone on the site has had a good laugh they eventually come over to help. Eventually I did get the knack of reversing the caravan into the small gap allocated by the warden but other drivers had to unhook their caravan and push them into place. I decided that I would avoid all the embarrassment of trying to put a tent up and hired a tent in situ. It was great to see the tent up and ready when we arrived but I still had problems. We were sitting in the tent one day when I noticed a loaf of bread that my wife had placed on the table in the kitchen compartment was moving. I thought the wine had got hold of me but my wife saw it as well. I investigated to find a mouse was towing a whole loaf of bread across the table. Later I found the same mouse had eaten a large chunk of plastic from my cassette box and when it started eating all our sweets and left a pile of wrappers round the back of the tent I decided it had to go. I picked up a frying pan and chased the mouse. He ran outside and right round the tent and then stopped, turned round to face me. It was as though he knew I couldn't do it, he just looked at me and I couldn't bring the frying pan down on his head. I left him there and turned round to find that half the camp site had witnessed the chase and all thought it was great fun. The last time we hired a caravan it came with running water, electricity and flush toilets. There was no mouse and no running across the site in the rain in the middle of the night to visit the toilets but why did the water always run cold in the middle of my shower and why did the pipes keep gurgling just as I fell asleep? A visit to the local sports centre was always the best place for a shower. Bring back the Porta Potty 33 chemical toilet and real camping. Please write and tell me your most embarrassing camping moments. My address is email@example.com
Cutting motoring costs - September 2006
RDS Digital Radio v DAB Digital Radio v DRM Digital Radio.- August 2006
Many people are confused about the different types of digital radio's now on sale in the shops. DAB digital radios are becoming very popular and selling very well but don't get them confused with RDS or DRM digital radios. Here is a short explanation.
RDS stands for Radio Data System. It's a digital technology developed 25 years ago for traditional Analogue FM radio so that you don't have to retune car radios when driving between different transmitters on different frequencies. It also allows broadcasters to supply some text information alongside the audio, display the name of the radio station you're listening to, and has applications for broadcasting travel news. Like Teletext and Nicam stereo for television, RDS was a pioneer in using digital technology for broadcasting. These technologies are becoming out of date now but they were early examples of the use of digital technology for broadcasting.
DAB digital radio was developed using all the experience gained from RDS. Everything about it is digital, not analogue. It uses technologies including COFDM and MPEG audio coding to allow listeners to hear more stations, and all in digital sound quality. Alongside those benefits, DAB digital radio opens up a huge range of new possibilities in terms of the text information that can be carried. Unfortunately in the UK the sound quality has been compromised to allow more stations to use the spectrum so that the old FM signal is still better quality. Even so, the new DAB digital radio's still produces interference free sound with a good selection of stations.
Shortly DRM digital radio's will be entering the shops. This is a very interesting development which puts digital radio onto the AM bands. Shortly you will be able to listen to stereo digital radio on the old Medium Wave and Short Wave bands. DAB only uses the FM band. As AM signals travel further we should soon have many more stations and this is a development I am looking forward to. I have had the opportunity to listen to a DRM broadcast on short wave and it sounded excellent but when the signal faded there were gaps or dropouts. This shouldn't affect MW as much.
I would be pleased to hear from you if you have any questions. Write to firstname.lastname@example.org There are also other articles on my other site www.woodleynet.co.uk click on the Anorakman link.
Dusting - August 2006
Retirement - July 2006
There are certain dates in our lives that we will remember for the rest of our days. The first one is normally the day we start school. I still remember well my mum taking me to school for my first day and bursting into tears when she left me alone. Those teachers looked mean, the building looked very big compared with my home and there were all those strange faces. The next date was when I moved on to the senior school but that was nothing compared with the tears and joy of leaving school for the last time and my first day at work. Then, I will never forget my wedding day. When I uttered those words, "I do" and the problems I had with my speech when I screwed up my notes so well that I couldn't read them. Recently I retired and that's another date that will remain etched in my memory forever. I had worked out the exact date many years before but I was then offered early retirement and it didn't take me long to make up my mind to acept it after completing 43 years in the same job. The speed it all happened came as a bit of a shock to me, in fact it all happened so quickly that I had to return several weeks later for my retirement party. So all I had to do was to lock the door and go home. As I walked out of the gate for the last time memories of all those years came flooding back to me. I remembered being told when I was a teenager that I would be bald by the time I was 25. I ran my fingers through what little hair I had left and thought, well, its not much but I still have some left. Although I got a little podgy recently I am still fairly fit and I wondered what I should do now. Should I get a part time job, should I do some charity or voluntary work? When I arrived home my wife had made the decision for me. She handed me a paintbrush. I hadn't done too much decorating around the house for a few years because I knew I would be retiring soon but since my last day at work I seem to have spent all my time with a paintbrush in my hand. The ceilings, walls, doors and skirting boards all now have a fresh coat of paint on them. Even the garden is now looking much better after all my efforts. For anyone retiring soon I must tell you to keep busy, do voluntary work, keep fit and have lots of hobbies and interests. Enjoy yourself but don't get lazy and do nothing. You'll soon put on weight and that makes everything you do a lot more effort and the decorating becomes an even bigger nightmare. Instead of driving to the shops I now walk or ride a bike. Its amazing how far you can get in a short amount of time and the saving on petrol is amazing. With the money you save you could avoid having to get that part time job in the local supermarket.
Environmentally friendly citizens - June 2006
In the good old days you had one of those old metal dustbins with a separate lid that blew off on a windy day. You just threw all your rubbish into it, put the lid on and forgot about it until you put it out once a week for the dustmen to empty. You then put your empty bin into your backyard (it wasn't called a patio then) and filled it up again for the next weekly collection. Then they introduced plastic bags, the cats soon found out that they could break open the bag and enjoy the remains of your feast from the week before and spread the rest all over your pathway. Then the bottle banks and the newspaper bins arrived where you had to post your bottles and newspapers through holes in the side of metal tanks, clear, green or red bottles had to go into different holes. That should have been easy but every time I arrived with my green bottles the bin was full and the only space was for clear bottles. The same happened to me when I arrived with a week’s collection of newspapers, the bin was nearly always full and I had to take my rubbish back home. Next came the Wheelie bins. These were a good idea for a while but soon they decided that we had to have three bins, one for general waste, another for paper and a third for garden refuge. I now dread the rubbish collection day. The Waste collection operatives as they are now called check everything I put into my bins and can reject it. After they have gone I am almost scared to look into the bin in case I’ve accidentally put some potato peelings into the wrong bin or perhaps I forgot to wash out that old soup can. Now I hear they may start weighing my rubbish and charging me per kilo to take it away. The council are constantly lecturing us on the benefits of recycling and the disposal of rubbish. Soon we will have a fortnightly collection of general rubbish. Can you imagine the pong in the summer after stagnating rubbish has been cooking in my bin for two weeks, will we get a free supply of pegs for our noses? Getting the rubbish ready for collection is now becoming a full time and very messy job. I do hope I am not polluting or wasting water by washing out my tin cans in the sink and should the remains of my tin of soup go down the drains anyway? I will spend every free moment separating my bottles, plastics, tins, garden refuse and newspapers to do the best for the environment but I do hope they don’t get charge us more for all the extra work that we are putting into it.
Time to clean the pond - May 2006
Ponds make a nice feature in the garden. Its so relaxing to sit by the garden pond and watch the fish swimming around. Then my wife reminded me that the pond needed some attention. Some of the paving slabs were sinking, the plants needed tiding up and the water was getting very green. Why do women have to spoil a nice relaxing afternoon and think about work? Cleaning the pond is one of my least favoured jobs in the garden and a job I save for a nice sunny day. Unfortunately for me this day seemed to be ideal, the sun was shinning, it was reasonably warm and the soil was very dry. The buckets had already been placed into position for me and I rolled up my sleeves, put on my oldest clothes and set about this messy task. Off came the net which I have to put over the pond because the local cats are excellent at fishing!!! Its a solid seamed green pea netting that I place over the pond and pegs keep it very tight. So far it has resisted all efforts to breach it by our local feline friends. I then start the arduous task of bailing out water with buckets. Unfortunately at that time my wife had found some very important washing to do indoors. Pond water is excellent for watering the garden and I tipped each bucketful of water over my plants and lawn, no water wasted here. Gradually the water level dropped and it was time to start catching the fish. My wife returned from her important assignment indoors with a net and tank to put the fish in. The fish are never happy about this part of the process and avoided me at all costs. This meant that I had to be careful not to pick them up accidentally in the bucket and tip them onto the garden. I wish they would realise that their better option was to go into the net willingly. This is when we realised that we had other visitors in the pond. The entire frog population of the area had decided to make their home in there. I caught my first frog in the net and handed it to my wife. The frog hopped out of the net and my wife tried to catch it in the net before it made it back into the pond. Unfortunately for me the net contained a big lump of mud and dirty weed and this all flew out of the net and into my face. The frog made it back into the pond. I was now very dirty and at that time my wife found another important task to do indoors. The fish were still not keen on entering the net so I decided to do more bailing. I was now getting into the very smelly stuff at the bottom of the pond. What a pong!!! I was head first into the hole trying to net a fish when a frog jumped out at me. I was so surprised that I slipped and splattered into the mud. I was filthy and very smelly. My wife wondered what all the fuss was and brought me a cup of coffee, how thoughtful of her. I was now very determined to get the fish and with the low water level I soon netted them all and my wife put them into the tank. The frogs were another thing, there were 16 of them hopping all over the garden and as soon as my back was turned they hopped back into the pond. As fast as I told them to hop off they hopped back. While the frogs played in the garden we managed to clean the rest of the pond out, put the plants into fresh containers of soil and fill the pond with fresh water. The butyl liner has now lasted 20 years and is still ok. These liners are so much better than the plastic moulded ponds. I filled the pond with water and while the fish were getting acclimatised to the new water still in their tank which I had placed on the ledge I bought some sand and made the paving slabs level. Remember, never put the fish straight into fresh water and never use cement in a pond with fish in it. I have never used a pond filter and I have kept fish for over 30 years. I clean the pond out every second year. I can now enjoy watching the fish again swimming around in their nice clean pond and the garden is looking green and growing well with all that green pond water. No harm came to any of the frogs during this operation in fact I think they enjoyed keeping one step ahead of me.
A visit to the municipal tip - May 2006
Spring has sprung, the first cuckoo, the grass is growing, the weeds are growing and I've been to the municipal tip. It must be something in our genes, as soon as the clocks go forward, the sun comes out and the temperatures rise men develop an overwhelming desire to tidy up the garden, the shed and the garage. Do you remember the days when a garage was for keeping the car in? Today its used mainly for storing junk. Mine is looking more like a workshop at the moment with lots of paint pots and brushes. Bags of soil and stones for the garden and tools for all those odd jobs. I also have a coffee table and a chair. The garage seems to have replaced the shed as a place to store all our “Come in Handy one day” bits and pieces. My Mother-in-Law's shed has now become a summer house. It has a carpet on the floor and pretty ornaments and pictures on the wall. It also has a lounge chair and a table and baskets hanging from the roof. Its now an excellent place to retire to when you have a disagreement with your partner. Most of my rubbish comes from the garden now that the council has decided not to dispose of my garden refuse. Those little bags are far too small and expensive for me. Unfortunately I return home from the tip with a very dirty car and a clean up is required. Its becoming a real joy now to visit the dump to see what other people throw away. There was a bird cage there with lots of toys for the budgie to play with. There were pictures and records, stereo systems and lots of tables and chairs. A bit of attention with a sander and much of this stuff could be used again but the man seemed to be reluctant to let anyone take it away. Surely the ultimate in recycling. Perhaps we should look again at some of this stuff before we dump it after all much of it is better than what we are currently buying in the shops in flat packs.
MP3 Players - April 2006
My mother-in Law handed me an MP3 player recently and asked me what it was used for. I said it was for playing music on. She then asked if it was for playing tapes or records. I told her is was a device for playing digital music and I realised then that she had no idea what I was talking about. Apparently it came free with a new chair. Now what a chair has to do with a state of the art digital device defeats me. It took me two hours to open the box it was packed in. No amount of pulling and tearing at the packaging would open it until I found a very large knife and a hammer, I wonder how my Mother in Law would have got into it? Amazingly the player was eventually removed from its package in one piece. Most of these gadgets seem to come these days with a 64 page instruction manual with only one page in English and that is written in a strange type of English you find in the leaflet at the bottom of flat pack wardrobes. Have you ever been able to find anyone that understands how to put anything together just by reading the leaflet? The first line told me what to do if it fails, now that really inspired confidence in the product. A few years ago a device like this would have cost a considerable amount of money, nowadays they give them away free with all kinds of stuff. You can now buy a TV with a free DVD player and a digital camera comes free with a new computer. I eventually got the MP3 player working, there was a couple of demo tracks on it and the sound was quite good but I found the controls difficult to manage. There was a control that had to be pushed up and down or in and out to do a multitude of tasks and it wasn't very responsive. You have to download your music from the internet and the player has its own USB socket to plug into the computer so that you can load music onto it. This would have been a big problem for my Mother in Law because she hasn't got a computer. Perhaps an MP3 player should be sold with a free computer!!! There are lots of different types of MP3 players in the shops now and normally the more you pay, the more storage they have. Mine had 256MB. but some have more than 4 times that amount of storage and some of them could take your complete library of CDs. You can also get them with a built in FM radio and most of them have a facility to record voice messages. They are very robust and no amount of shaking made the tracks jump unlike the portable CD players so they would be ideal if you like to listen to music while jogging in the park. The famous I Pod is an MP3 player and has a shuffle facility so that your tunes don't come in the same order of play. As long as you have some means of recording, downloading and loading tracks onto it via a computer and can understand the instructions, unlike me! they are well worth buying. It may be worth buying a cheap one at first for about £30 and this will take a couple of CDs of music so have a look in the furniture shop for a cheap chair.
Spending a penny - April 2006
It has been said that when two young men are deciding where they want to go to in the evenings their decision will be based on the availability of girls. In their middle years their decision will always be based on what the food will be like. After the age of 40 their decision will be based on the availability of toilets. The ultimate solution is to ensure that there are always a couple of toilets nearby. There is nothing worse than fighting your way through crowds looking for a toilet and then just making it to the door to find the convenience is inconveniently closed for cleaning or sometimes closed for 6 months to save a penny or two. Many shops do not have a toilet and many pubs now put up a sign saying, "These toilets are for patrons only." There comes a time in everyone's life when they are desperate for a convenience. I always "go" before I leave home but because my wife always makes sure I have a cup of coffee just before going out the minute I leave the house I want to "go" again. Coaches without toilets are the worse places. Isn't it funny that as soon as the coach pulls away I want to "go." Traffic jams on motorways are another dreaded area. Where are you supposed to go on the M3 when you've been crawling along in a traffic jam for two hours? Planes have a lot of toilets but I used to take a window seat, unfortunately as soon as the burly passenger sitting next to me falls asleep I want to "go". Have you ever tried climbing over sleeping passengers in the middle of a flight? Those circular toilets in town centres are a no go for me, someone told me that you only get 10 minutes and as soon as your time is up the door flies open. Apparently this is to stop people overstaying their welcome but someone fell asleep one day and after 10 minutes the door opened up causing him terrible embarrassment. Please, if you have a convenience on your premises make them available for emergencies, you might be in the same predicament one day and if you are in a cinema don't make fun of the poor guy who has to leave for a few minutes. I wonder if you can plot a course on a SatNav to the toilets?
Metric or not? - March 2006
Many years ago at school they started to teach us how to use metric measurements. The teacher told us that Imperial measurements will go and be replaced by their metric counterparts. Soon shillings disappeared as we accepted metrification of our money. The temperatures were then given in Centigrade as well as Fahrenheit and many years later we had to buy our vegetables in kilo's. All this cost us a lot of money. Now Lord Kinnock, the former labour leader has come up with the idea that we should abolish the mile. He says that all imperial measurements should now be replaced by metric and thinks it would make life easier for the foreign competitors in the London Olympics in 2012. Of course it would but why should we have to alter all our road sign at a cost of £700 million. Surely this money would be better spent on more deserving causes. Mr Kinnock also claims that our road signs contradict the image that our country is a modern, multi-cultural and dynamic place but the USA is leading the world with modern inventions and certainly a multi cultural society yet they don't seem to have any plans to abandon the mile. Metric measurements are easier to work out and it would be easier for us if we changed over but at what cost? I think I will always be weighing myself in stones and measuring my height in feet and that doesn't worry me at all. We seemed to cope quite easily with the decimalisation of money but how many young mums weigh their baby's in kilo's today? Additionally they told us all those years ago at school that the Internal combustion engine would soon disappear in favour of a more efficient system. They decided to stop teaching us how the internal combustion engine worked in favour of other systems that were supposed to be replacing it. That didn't help me at all because I am still driving an internal combustion engine 40 years later even though countless £millions have been spent on the development of other supposedly more efficient engines. We have too many bottomless pits eating up our money, the Health Service, defence and schools are notorious for this but lets not let decimalisation become another bottomless pit for us to drop more money into. I think Lord Kinnock along with many other experts are wrong and they should realise that most people visit our country because we are different. They expect to see imperial measurements just like they expect to see us driving on the left side of the road and double Decker buses. I remember learning Esperanto at school, whatever happened to that language? It was supposed to be an easy language for everyone to learn so that we could all correspond easily wherever we came from. It died out because the experts realised that everyone wanted to keep their own identity. The French are very proud of their language just as we are very lazy in learning foreign languages ourselves. Lets keep our own identities and stop wasting any more money on trying to change ours.
Do we need a Satnav - March 2006
I had a visit from a good friend recently. I opened the front door and as he walked into my house I heard a robot type voice from under his coat say, "You have reached your destination." I looked at him puzzled and burst into laughter when he told me that it was his SatNav. He had programmed it to find him a route from his house to my house. I asked him why he had to use a Satnav to find my house when he has been coming here for 12 years. He didn't know what to say but explained that he had to bring it into my house as he was worried about someone stealing it from his car. He also told me that if it didn't know it was at his destination it would get confused when he went home as it might route him back to my house again.
Winter Blues - February 2006
What is your favourite time of the year? Some people like the autumn with its decaying leaves causing train delays, the constant stream of youngsters turning up on the doorstep at Halloween in gory clothes demanding treats and the sound of fireworks from October until New Years Eve. There are also people that love the winter with thoughts of snuggling up in front of a flickering fire with snow falling outside. I suppose the winter months have some good points. There is no imminent danger of getting sunburn or skin cancer, there are no wasps, no foul smelling barbeques, I can eat more chocolate because it is supposed to create a thermal layer to keep out the cold. January sales are an excellent excuse to search for bargains in the gadget shops and there are better programmes on the TV except Big Brother of course. I can also wear an overcoat with lots of pockets to store all my phones, wallets, keys and other bits and pieces I seem to carry around with me these days.
There's a thief about! - February 2006
Unhealthy electronic games. - January 2006
According to a pole by Children's TV channel Nickelodeon, traditional schoolyard games are losing out to low effort computer games. The survey showed that children prefer to spend their break times playing with a hand held computer or a mobile phone rather than take part in physical activities in the playground. My favourite playground games were Hopscotch, Football, Conkers, Skipping, Hide and Seek and rounders. Today the only game left out of that lot is football. Hand held consoles, text messaging, virtual pets, and e-mailing have taken over with the old Yo Yo coming in at number 7. Children today may have nimble fingers but according to this survey they are becoming fat and unhealthy. Apparently a third of boys and half the country's girls are getting less than the recommended exercise a day. Mobile phones were virtually unheard of back in the 1980s but they seem to be taking over our lives now. You can listen to your favourite music, with the MP3 player, listen to your favourite radio station, get the news, football results, weather forecast, send an e-mail, take a picture or movie with the camera and then exchange them with your friends via blue tooth, play an endless selection of games, send text messages and phoning a friend on them is well down the list. Soon you will be able to watch your favourite TV programme or even turn your oven on with them while you are on the way home from work. Lets encourage children to play the old games as well as using the new technology or are they considered too dangerous for them now?
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