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Jeremy's web site

31/5/11

How the ground looks after drought in East Anglia

We have had a serious shortage of rain in East Anglia this year. So much so that the soil in some fields has cracked up severely. I don't suppose the heavy rain we had for relatively short periods on the last two days will have made much difference. And a dry summer is forecast. Here are a couple of pics of the ground in a field supporting a crop of linseed in Market Weston on Sunday: pic 1; pic 2.

20/12/10

My Community Treatment Order has been lifted

At the last meeting I had with a consultant psychiatrist the consultant decided to lift my Community Treatment Order. This is very good news. It was weighing heavy on me. I am still taking the meds and meeting regularly with psych staff (notably the occuptational therapist) and intend to continue to do so.

17/12/10

I have made a will

I have made a will. Several years ago I bought a do-it-yourself will package from Smiths but never got around to doing anything with it. So, when I passed the stall of a will-writing company in The Forum I left my details with them. Now I have a will. Remarkably painless experience writing it. The chap went over a list of standard questions and that was pretty much that.

My pickled onions are ready to eat

My pickled onions are now ready to eat. The larger jar, with my mum's recipe of pickling spices, tastes fine. The smaller jar, with my recipe, turns out to be rather heavy on chillies, with an onion leaving your mouth burning for half an hour after eating it. Bit of a loss, really. Just about edible, but a bit of a loss, really.

20/10/10

I have been pickling

I have been pickling. I have made pickled onions and pickled red cabbage. The cabbage only takes seven days and has already tested as fine. The onions take a lot longer (7 weeks or so) and are, as yet, an unknown quantity. The recipes. For pickled cabbage take one red cabbage, slice it as you want to see the pickle sliced, salt it - place in a bowl and sprinkle about three desert spoons full of salt on it and leave for 12 hours. Rinse thoroughly and dry. Put the cabbage into a suitable jar and fill the jar with pickling vineagar. Ready in seven days. Picture of pickled cabbage after seven days. Pickling vinegar is available from Morrisons supermarkets from Sarsons which comes in a handy jar for pickling. Recipe for pickled onions. Peel the onions and place in brine made from one pound of salt to one gallon of vinegar. Leave for 24 hours then wash onions thoroughly and pack into jars. Fill remaining space with pickling vinegar. Pic of onions in vinegar. To make pickling vinegar either make do with Sarson's pickling vinegar from the jar (not bad) or warm some vinegar to boiling with pickling spices in it (can be bought from the market) then leave for two hours. The spices can be left in the jar with the pickles for extra strength (as I have done). Ready in about 7 weeks or when the onions turn brown. I used three kilos of pickling onions from Norwich market. Thanks to my mum for the recipe.

I have been making sloe gin

I have been making sloe gin. Recipe for sloe gin: Pick 16oz of sloes per 1/2 litre of cheap gin to be used. If you don't have them in your garden you can probably find them on a walk in the countryside. Ready 6oz of sugar per 1/2 litre of gin. Wash sloes and dry. Prong them with a fork. Put into bottles. Add sugar and gin. Invert bottles a few times twice a day until all sugar is dissolved. Check regularly and invert occasionally. Pic of sloe gin in bottles after a couple of weeks. About first week in December strain through a muslin cloth and bottle into small bottles. Label. I used one large bottle (70cl) of Sainsbury's gin. Thanks to Connie for the recipe.

How things travel over the web

Isn't it amazing how things travel over the internet. Today I discovered that someone had used a picture I took of a double lightning strike as a dramatic background for a space image. Finished image. Some of my most popular contributions to the web are images. That of my chest X-ray for one and a pic I took of a part of a book, a timeline of history (and again) to go with an argument on art (see below).

5/10/10

My brother was featured in The Guardian on Saturday

My brother was featured in The Guardian on Saturday. They were running a feature on 'unsung heroes of TV' and led with my brother and an interview on his role as a foley artist (sound effects artist). Click here for the online version. Full colour picture plus interview. Find out how to make a noise like creaking snow or a baby elephant.

16/9/10

Saw the Tour of Britain pass through Norwich

Just saw the Tour of Britain passing through Norwich. All over in a flash, but worth the wait. I was standing just by the sprint finish line on Grapes Hill - an uphill sprint no less. Picture of Tour of Britain passing through Norwich.

10/8/10

Olanzapine increasing my appetite

The Olanzapine I'm taking has increased my appetite. So, after only a short while weight gain is apparent. So, I'm going to have to alter my eating patterns accordingly. Standby for occasional fasting to effect weight loss! I'll also have to dig out my old weight chart in Excel and start graphing my weight again - always a useful way to look at trends are graphs. See my existing Excel weight gain spreadsheet for an idea of how quickly one can gain weight when on Olanzapine.

4/8/10

Have changed meds from Piportil to Olanzapine

I have come off the Piportil injections and am now on 10mg per day Olanzapine tablets. This should lead to a great reduction in side-effects experienced. So far, uncharacteristic morning paperwork for Olanzapine (normal motions) - possibly the effects of residual Piportil. I am expecting it to take a couple of months for the side-effects of Piportil to go away as it is a very slow-moving drug. So far the Olanzapine is only making me feel very tired in the mornings though fine once I am up and about.

25/5/10

Have taken up yoga

I have started yoga classes. Not too sure about how well I'm getting on with it, but still going along to the classes anyway. Makes for a little gentle exercise and stretching if nothing else. Am going to look into tai chi, next!

25/2/10

Am still getting DLA after review

I am still getting DLA after a review of my case. As I was worried about an error having been made in my favour I asked the DWP to review my case, which it has now done. It concluded it was right in the first case and I am still getting DLA (Disability Living Allowance) for the same reasons as before. This is very confusing to me, since neither of the the conditions they have stipulated applies to me. However, now that I have pointed this out and they have reviewed the case I can't see any point in complaining any more. It must just be the 'nearest equivalent statement' they could find for my circumstances as described by my nurse. I feel such a fraud.

4/2/10

I have been awarded DLA (Disability Living Allowance) wrongly

I have been awarded Disability Living Allowance (DLA) wrongly. The reasons given for two components of DLA awarded are: 'because you need guidance or supervision when walking outdoors'; and 'because you need continual supervision throughout the day to prevent substantial danger to yourself or others'; both of which are incorrect. Now I am having to negotiate probable return of quite a substantial amount of money and probably terms that are more close to the truth, if any, and any changes that follow. Honestly! You wouldn't credit it! It's scary that it's so easy to obtain! I simply wouldn't be able to justify claims such as the statements issued if challenged by a checking authority, so am worried about the possibility of having to return substantial amounts of cash at at later date as well as the possibility of being accused of fraud.

3/2/10

Side-effects of piportil

There are quite a number of side-effects associated with the medication I am on at the moment. This is one of the reasons for not having made an entry here for some while. The most intrusive is a truly bizarre apparent 'need to keep moving' or 'restlessness'. This means that I find myself pacing up and down in my flat for no useful reason or stepping up and down on the spot. When I stop and sit down, my legs take on a life of their own and immediately want to go somewhere again. This hasn't been quite so much of a problem, lately, which I think may be due to the use of vitamin and/or mineral supplements including magnesium, which is said to be good for 'restless legs'. In order to counteract this problem in particular, I have been prescribed Propranolol, a heart drug known as a beta-blocker. This is rather worrying, since I am being given a drug for arrhythmia to reduce anxiety. My worry, not unnaturally, is that use of the drug may in some way destabilise my perfectly stable heart. Also, because of the extreme restlessness of my legs at night on occasions, I have been prescribed Zopiclone, a sleeping tablet. Dependence develops fast (a week or so at most) with Zopiclone and I'm pretty sure I'm dependent upon it for sleep at nights. Other side-effects of the piportil and the other meds I am on include (but may not be limited to) the following: posture problems (hands held up at waist height rather than hanging normally); tongue 'juddering' in my mouth sometimes; inability to start a task (such as this one of typing this up!); difficulty in swallowing or clearing throat; painful feet or legs from the pacing up and down; a need to urinate frequently; feeling cold; air feeling too thick upon inhalation; an inability to write legibly (poor fine motor control); panicking about side-effects; a very furry tongue; loss of sensation of taste; persistence of tastes in the mouth; a runny nose in cold weather; greasy skin; and a stiff neck. One of my strategies for coping with this has been to languish in bed a lot. This I have been doing because it's easier on the feet and legs than pacing up and down and the restlessness can be overcome to a degree by lying down. However, it's very depressing - in fact, I think it may also represent a reaction to my being depressed about the treatment. In my opinion, my quality of life is immeasurably worse since being put onto this regime. In the opinion of my consultant, however, it has improved. I have been trying to get myself onto olanzapine instead, but the doctor is not having any of it. Basically, he says he is worried about whether or not I will take it. In my opinion a needless worry since I always took my olanzapine before - you only have to check out my weight chart to see the constant battle I was fighting against weight gain to see this! Because of his unwillingness to trust me on this point I am suffering a nightmare list of side-effects. Piportil is administered as an injection once every four weeks. Olanzapine is taken as an oral tablet daily. My doctor has said he is willing to consider, as an alternative to piportil, any other depot injection. This my sound very flexible, but there are only about half a dozen, all of which have bad side-effects, and most if not all are worse than piportil to live with.

Because there is now a shortage of Second Opinion Approved Doctors (SOADs), after I was discharged from hospital I was seen late by one. In the intervening time, while I I had not been seen, I challenged the medical team on the legality of continued treatment, and was let off treatment for a period. During this time, my side-effects all began to get better very slowly. At the end of the period, I refused to allow staff to give me an injection, so I was recalled to hospital for a day, where doctors threatened me with a six-month period of sectioning unless I complied, so I did so immediately. Basically, the establishment proving that it intended to triumph. This shortage of SOADs is likely to get worse since the community treatment order is being used more widely, not less. In fact, I was interviewed by a quality assurance man on the subject. Also likely to be a problem is the incidence of these kinds of side-effects as doctors refuse to trust people on CTOs.

14/12/09

Got a new electric meter

As I said, the options I'd been given were unrealistic, so my meter has been replaced with a key-operated version of the same.

30/9/9

Electricity token meter chaos ahead

Electricity tokens will shortly be withdrawn from sale at Paypoint outlets. Paypoint is urging people to change meters to rechargeable key meters. Unfortunately for Economy 10 users, such as myself, 'e.on' is only just trialling such a meter and says it cannot make such meter swaps at present. I have now heard three alternate explanations for what I am to be expected to do to obtain tokens, shortly. 1) Ring up a given number, pay for tokens over the phone and await their arrival in the post. 2) Ring up a number, specify a number of tokens, await their arrival by post, and then go and pay for them. 3) Ring a number so someone can see if there are any shops 'with a few tokens left'. None of this speaks of professional operation.

12/9/9

Got a conditional discharge from the magistrates

I was given a 12-month conditional discharge by Norwich Magistrates for the charge of (in the words of the police's 'Officer In Case') 'nuisance communications'. See story run by Norwich Evening News. This was run on the same day that the Eastern Daily Press (same publishing house) ran a full-page feature on how the military handles mental illness among its serving and former employees (basically, a four-bed unit in Peterborough, for this area). Essentially, I was expecting to get a conditional discharge in the first instance, though minus all the free psychiatry, which I consider to be unnecessary. I am, however, complying fully with the psychiatric regime. I am, more or less, no longer an in-patient, and not under Section 3 any more. However, I have yet to see a copy (as I expect to) of the Community Treatment Order that replaces the Section 3 order. I think the piece written by the Evening News manages to make my side of the incident quite plain, while sticking to the facts - and, indeed, was almost certainly written deliberately so to do. And I suspect the appearance of the full-page feature on the military on the same day is also no coincidence - basically, one could save an article like that and run it any time - or, indeed, write to order at any given time. Previously (years ago, now), I had been told that military cases were making use of civilian facilities (which the EDP story confirms).

Norwich psychiatric wards mothballed

One of the more interesting facts about Hellesdon Hospital to be brought to my attention from my stay there is that it now has a number of wards that are, effectively, mothballed - wards 12, 14, 20 empty and unused, Heron Lodge, unused. Thurne Ward had only five patients, at one point (I was on Waveney Ward - supposedly for City, as opposed to County, cases). The new Psychiatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU), last I heard, had fewer than five patients. I think all this is supposed to be because of greater pressure to get people back into the community.

29/8/9

Am on extended home leave en route to being discharged

I am currently on a seven-day period of leave from the hospital, following a successful five-day leave period, with a view to being fully discharged from the hospital shortly.

12/8/9

Have been Sectioned under the Mental Health Act, and am in hospital

On 17th July, I went to Norwich Magistrates Court. Click here to see article by Norwich Evening News. In my opinion, there are a number of errors of fact, and also opinion, in the article, in spite of the fact that a journalist was in the courtroom when I was heard, and I spoke to them directly (in the courtroom). I only sent about half a dozen discrete facsimile transmissions, although it is true to say that one of them, by dint of refeeding the original six or so pages back into the fax machine, ran to about 119 pages. After my lawyer 'flicked a quiet 'V' at me, in an interview room (not across the courtroom, as reported by the Evening News), and at a late point during the hearing, I asked my lawyer: 'Did you flick a 'V' at me, in the interview room?'. Also, I was unhappy with my representation, and, as far as I could tell, my lawyer had spoken to the press without my permission. For some reason, my lawyer did not suggest that a very short, clearly defined period of a few days, with about half a dozen transmissions might not constitute 'persistent' use of a machine. Also, the same transmissions were also sent to three other military destinations, not one of which, to the best of my understanding, complained about the content, nature, or 'persistence'. And, since I am usually careful with language, I considered some words that military personnel may not take a liking to to be merely 'accurately descriptive'. When my lawyer suggested to me that I ought not to talk to the press, I pointed out that I am a former journalist. A partner from my law firm said they would not be able to offer their services if I made such suggestions, and they dropped their support. So, I was without a lawyer, and refused to reenter the courtroom until I had a new one or was told explicitly and categorically that I had no right to a new lawyer before I reentered court. When the judges began considering sentencing, which, they indicated, they thought ought to be a custodial sentence, they called for a Probation Officer (who later made it clear that he did not know when or where one was allowed to wear hats in the courthouses) and a psychiatric nurse. The nurse suggested that some of my views were delusional and that he 'did not want to see me go to prison'. Several hours later, still waiting for someone to tell me, categorically, whether I was entitled to a lawyer or not, the police were called. At one point, while waiting in the concourse, the Clerk of the Court offered me money, which she said had come from the Chair of the three Magistrates. One police officer muttered something about 'failure to attend court', which seemed rich to me, since I was in the main concourse awaiting provision of a new lawyer. The psychiatric nurse spoke to the police, and I was sectioned under S136 of the Mental Health Act (up to 72 hours' detention for assessment). I was assessed at Hellesdon Hospital a couple of hours later, and detained under S2 of MHA. Since then, I have had a Mental Health Review Tribunal, to challenge the legality of my detention, which I lost. Doctors then sectioned me under S3 (for compulsory treatment), which they have now done. I had a test dose of 25mg of Piportil, the Monday before last, and a full dose (100mg) this Monday just past. Monday before last, I was refused permission, against my personal judgement, to reattend court, on the grounds that I was 'not well enough'. Today, I had to put a case for not attending, on the gounds that I was not well enough, suffering from considerable side-effects of Piportil (edginess, excessively sweaty feet, slight nausea) and had seen no change in what were described by the orignal nurse and others as my 'symptoms'. Since this morning's decisoin not to attend, I have taken two 5mg doses of Procyclidine to counter side-effects, which seem to be working to a degree. The 100mg depot of Piportil is supposed to last a month, so I'm expecting to be able to function better after a couple of weeks, when I may feel able to attend court again. I am hoping to challenge the validity of my case, on the grounds that someone (either lawyer or magistates (the magistrates having been congratulated by the Clerk of the court on finding the right page in the sentencing guidelines manual) did not know the likely scale of penalties (having been advised by my lawyer that I was likely to get either a conditional discharge or a nominal fine), and that it cannot be considered acceptable for officers of the court to attempt to pass money to a defendant, and that the word 'persistent' appears to have been taken wrongly. In fact, since, to medical staff here, I have described these acts as, as far as I can tell, acts of 'falling on their own swords', wishing, apparently, to not take responsibility for any such judgement. I am, barring a successful challenge to the validity of the hearing, awaiting sentencing, which the chair of the magistrates said ought to be custodial. I am also of the opinion that the magistrates may have taken into account 'unchallenged' (and possibly inaccurate) information provided by the prosecution without also taking into account key facts or opinions from either myself or my lawyer on the day. For example, if I use the words 'criminal psychopath(s)', a policing authority may not like them. However, they may well be accurate. The case continues.

Using vitamins to control effects of drugs or other substances of abuse

Since I have been sectioned, and have had to talk to psychiatrists and nurses, I have now 'made public' the fact that I have been using considerable quantities of several basic vitamins to help to remove the said substances from my body. In particular, I recomend using B12 (which Holland & Barret describes as 'Essential to mental health' - they're right!), B3 (sold as Niacin), B100 B Complex timed-release vitamins, vitamin K (which is necessary to use vitamin C and has an extremely beneficial effect on my RSI (though the pain returned when exposed to the drugs/substances of abuse)) and Vitamin C. After clearing one's intestines, which can take about a couple of weeks, and using vitamin K, I became able to use Vitamin C in quantity. I have been working on the basis that the reactions (given the relative simplicity of Vitamin B3's molecular structure) work as either 'simple chemical sticklebricks' that adhere to toxins to make it possible for the body to remove them easily, or react as per simlpe chemical reactions, requiring one Mol of one substance to one Mol of another (possibly 1:1, 1:2, 1:3, or 2:1, 3:1, etc) and, so, you need masses of comparable order of magnitude in order to successfully remove the offending chemicals completely. I have, on occasions (usually over a period of about 4 or 5 hours), used over 10g (one whole bottle) of Vitamin B3 (niacin) and, more recently, Vitamin C at a rate of about 20-30g over a long weekend. As far as I can tell, the 100mg tablets of Niacin that Holland & Barrett have been selling have reduced, since they swapped packaging from white tops to blue tops to about 2/3 of their previous strength, so you now need 50% more! Please talk to your doctor before doing as I say I have done! Do NOT take this text to imply that I believe that it is safe for everyone to do this! B12 made me get purple cauliflower ears until I took some more of the 1000ug tablets when this effect went away. This happened on a lesser scale a couple of times more, but is now no problem any more. B12 brings you down really fast, if the problem is caused by the right kind of chemical/drug (I no nothing about drugs, so can't say which). B3 seems beneficial to almost every part of the body: skin; intestines; joints; organs; teeth and brain, which it clears gradually. However, this causes a red flush of the skin all over, which lessens, goes pink, and disappears (hence DO NOT TAKE THIS AS ABSOLUTELY RELIABLE ADVICE WITHOUT TALKING TO A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL! I AM NOT A MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL!). Vitamin C merely causes tingles, but also clears the head in the same way as B3. If in any doubt ONLY USE THE QUANTITIES PRESCRIBED ON THE VITAMIN BOTTLE!!!! Of course, it may seem, to you, as it does to me, that H&B can write 'Do not exceed stated dose' on a bottle of, say, 100ug of B12, and the same thing again on a bottle of 1,000ug of B12. IF IN ANY DOUBT, DO NOT USE VITAMINS AS I HAVE DESCRIBED, INSTEAD, TALK TO YOUR GP OR PSYCHIATRIST!!!

2/7/9

Haven't shopped in Tesco for a whole year, now

The last time I shopped in Tesco was 30 June 2008. The cost of the remark made under the breath, the shopping basket thrown at my legs, as well as a wide range of other incidents - many of which may have been attributable to narrow aisles, as well as other factors, has now been of the order of GBP1,300 or so. Credit crunch, my foot! It's a behaviour crunch! I bet that if people behaved in a more civil manner, there'd be a whole load more businesses not going under. Sainsbury's has much wider aisles, which I think helps to reduce the opportunity for frictional situations between shoppers and staff.

25/6/9

Correction to soap usage figures

Apologies for appalling lapse in concentration! Possibly associated with working one or more '48hr' no-sleep night shifts, US time. I provided a time for total use of soap during one shower for Imperial Leather, rather than dividing by time of shower. Correct figures, so far, are, approximately: Simple, 35.3g/hr; Pears Coal Tar, 37.0g/hr; french olive oil soap, 27.9g/hr; Imperial Leather, 34.6g/hr. The french olive oil soap, in particular, I had found causing me problems, so had mothballed it for some while. Sells in huge blocks about 8cm cubed. Best, for quick, long showers, to saw score marks in along two edges with a serrated knife, then place long knife along edge and tap firmly to break into four longish pieces.

N Korean missile test reveals Fred, Barney, and source of ancient Egyptian 'Opening of the mouth ceremony' doodle

Saw a pic of a North Korean missile test in a UK colour supplement, the other day. Taken from a satellite which 'just happened to be in the ideal location'. With the angle of the shot in the colour supp, one could, clearly, see a character very closely resembling the cartoon figure of Barney Rubble, with, as the outline of the sea, much as you see two faces in the all-time classic candlesticks pic, what must be Fred Flintstone, leaning over, godlike, possible holding up a mirror to Barney. (Try this map shot.) The shot also reveals an owl-like figure under the arm of 'Barney'. If you then refer back to the ancient Egyptian picture of the 'Opening of the mouth ceremony'. you can clearly see the 'mirror' shape refelcted in the table of pancakes ('tablets-of-stone' cookie monster (possibly Neptune [corrected 2/7/9])). The figure to the extreme end from the mummy, whom I take to be a reference to the rock previously described as the planet 'Pluto', has a leopard skin over his shoulder, which, as far as I can tell, has also been pictured as a turtle, with, in one example, 'Urashima' riding it back from under the sea (although in my book, by way of an extremely complex artistic twist, a mirrored image). Urashima's cause of death was a puff of white smoke. Under the arm of the 'Sem priest' (Pluto), you can see an orange and white area, which, may just as easily be a fish with one long fin, 'Nemo' (as in 'Finding Nemo') or a bird with a very long beak, such as, say, an owl, or, possibly, given the location, a Kookaburra. Rather amusingly, the North Koreans have launched a test missile leaving a trail so that it resembles the object with which the Sem priest is 'censing' (odd-shaped stick thing with white area at the end). I rather suspect the folks controlling the satellite anticipated this subtle piece of humour, thus ensuring its dissemination in colour supps and the like. Somewhat alarming, really, to discover that it may be that easy to anticipate the plans of any given military force. As though one need only ask 'What terribly amusing joke can we expect people to tell, here?'. One might look for, say, "Allies' push bottles up An Nasaria" (an echo of the classic WWII headline "Allies' push bottles up German rear"). I'm sure the troops sacrificed on the altar of such management jokes feel proud to have gone that way. Mind you, it's always pleasing to find that ancient peoples also had a sense of humour.

11/6/9

Possible improvement to shower handle extension - use plastic to rivet or pin sheets together

It occurred to me that it might be easier to join several sheets of plastic together to form an extension handle for shower knobs using the original plastic to pin or rivet it than to bolt or pop-rivet - potentially easier to cut, won't rust, and possibly easier to clean. Drill small holes, file out to square and press pins to match in. Weld with plastic weld. See original design below (29/10/8):

Have found I don't need to use specialist shampoos - ordinary soap works as long as I clean deeply

Some while back, I found that I could manage to use ordinary soaps and do without the specialist 'gentle' shampoos I had been using, as long as I cleaned thoroughly. When talking about my skin complaint - usually described as a form of eczema (which was, previously, in my case, 'pomphlyx eczema' - a rash of small blisters), doctors used to advise me to wash regularly. I found that this did not work. However, I now find that my skin benefits considerably if I clean thoroughly. In fact, if I do this, I find I can also clean often, which, previously, used to cause me problems. I'm trying out various different bars of soap to see which is the most effective, quickest and, hopefully, cheapest. There does seem to be quite a bit of variation in the amount of soap I use per hour - for example, Imperial Leather, while it smells nice and spicy, disappeared at a rate of 110g per hour, whereas others, for example, Sainsbury's blue bath soap, only went at 36g per hour. I can even use coal tar soap, which is also supposed to be good for eczema. For some reason - which I suspect is associated with the ingress of various substances into my flat, I have been finding that washing my skin has resulted in a slimy mixture that it seems impossible to wash off. If it's not washed off properly, it results in reddening of the skin - in fact, I suspect that the resulting mix, if splashed onto previously washed, and thereby opened pores of other parts of skin, will cause reddening and itching eleswhere, too - which resulted in scarring of my upper right leg when I picked and scratched at the rash. And I think the form of some reddened areas on the left of my head indicate the same thing - possibly even the fact that used soap and water 'ran' or slid downwards, causing reddening in the area it covered doing so. So, I've been washing downwards only, in one pass, to make sure that used soap and water only meet skin I haven't washed yet, washing any area that is causing problems until it is thoroughly 'squeaky clean'. The last couple of washes, for example, my main problem area has been my scalp, which is a bit of a nightmare, as waste water runs down the whole body. Using ordinary soap is a lot quicker - possibly as much as five times faster - than using the shampoo I was using, and a lot cheaper. This may also be the reason that I have, previously, had some problems using calamine lotion - it contains a solution of phenol in water. On thoroughly washed skin, it dries to a clean, dry, powdery finish. If the skin isn't washed properly, I think it moves irritants into opened pores, causing further irritation and prolonging the rashing.

Found the back panel of the cupboard under my sink pushed inwards - another 'large' hole

Had a big problem with the ingress of some or another revolting substance into my flat the other day - smelled sort of smokey and vaguely of 'lazy bowel'. When I got around to looking in the cupboard under the kitchen sink (which was where I suspected the problem was), I found that the hardboard panel at the rear of the cupboard had, somehow, moved forward in towards the room. This in spite of several pipes being sealed into their holes using silicone sealant. Also, parts of the area behing had been filled using expanding foam sealant (a very sticky substance) across a comparatively 'large' area (for glue), which made this look odd. There's a possibility that vibration from the new washing machine could be a factor, but I can't see how the panel would move so far. Also some cracks - probably vibration. And cracks around an electrical socket outside it - again, probably also vibration. Pic of dislocation of panel from pipe. I suspect the fumes may have been more of a problem for neighbours than myself, as they were immediately vented out. I couldn't face the idea of working in that atmosphere, so waited for it to die down, which it did, eventually.

4/6/9

Someone kicked my door, again, yesterday!

Someone kicked my door, hard, twice, yesterday. This is the third occasion on which my door has been kicked - making a total of about four people that have done this. To the best of my knowledge, none of the people that have done this have been prosecuted for doing so.

28/5/9

More inclusions of the same type in a third brand of vinyl gloves

Bought some 'Spontex' vinyl gloves from Sainsbury's to see whether they were any good. Same problem as before:

Speck 1, Spontex glove from Sainsbury's. Speck 2, also on Spontex glove. Both seen through x10 magnifier with camera on macro. Ruler scale is in mm and 0.5mm. Graph paper is 1mm square. Speck on a Spontex glove seen through a GBP10 children's toy microscope at 200x magnification. Same speck on macro only, with desklamp mask for microscope to prevent damage to camera and eyes.

15/5/9

Am finding common inclusion problem across brands of vinyl gloves - very odd!

I seem to keep finding the same sort of inclusions in various brands of disposable vinyl gloves I buy to shower with. For some reason, I keep finding small dark (black, to the naked eye) specks in them. I have found them embedded on the inside of the glove, embedded on the outside of the glove, fully embedded in the glove material (ie: coated on either side), and also loose in the packaging.

Pic of inclusions in packet of Blackspur vinyl gloves bought in Roys of Wroxham, Norwich.
Pic of inclusions in Sainsbury's vinyl glove.

The specks picured here are about 0.25 to 0.5mm wide by up to 1mm or more long, though I have found larger. To find a problem of this nature is worrying. It is plain to anyone that it is possible to produce a filter that will remove such particles from a liquid melt or pipeline. It is also plain that QC/QA would pick up on the the inclusions. Also, particularly after this has been reported, with offending samples to check up on (which I have done), one would expect it to stop, and it clearly has not. Perhaps the most worrying thing is that various lines should suffer from the same inclusion problem. If, for example, as with crinkly plastic gloves, one were to find that the seam were not strong, or the corner of a thumb had been folded over, instead, it might be understandable. However, the same, recurring inclusion problem seems improbable.

How to make greater use of your copy of the Yellow Pages

Last time I picked up a copy of the Yellow Pages (UK commerical telephone directory, with ads) I marked up a usage table on the front, as I hardly used the previous couple. I marked three searches on the last copy (though I may have omitted to add a further two). So, in view of the current credit crunch problems, and, added to that, the fact that, recently, as far as I can tell, several brands of toilet paper have brought various different parts of my skin, including sensitive parts, out in rashes, I have begun recycling the Yellow pages. This way, I am to get use out of every single page. However, I suspect it would probably go down as a more acceptable recylcing idea if it were to be printed, in future, on softer paper. I find that cutting it into quarters, lengthwise, and then half of that again, sideways, produces the most convenient size. I have got as far as the letter 'D'.

6/5/9

Bought a new dishwasher (Haier DW9TFE3 Slimline) - works OK, but smelly

Took delivery of a replacement dishwasher, yesterday, a Haier DW9TFE3. Old one (Zanussi worktop model) a write-off - controller diddled, softener nonfunctional, and, finally, as heater switched on immediately, without any water in pan, went bang, emitting a thin white smoke that smelled of fireworks, of all things. Haier dishwasher much better mannered than the company's washing machine. Sounds rather oddly like a steam loom, with occasional small puffs of exhaust steam, and possibly the shuttle being kicked from side to side. Unfortunately, it also seems to smell like one. I can only guess that the manufacturers used an excess of some fairly crude lubricants or such-like somewhere - reminiscent of a mechanical engineering lab. Seems to work OK though. Dishes finally rid of all the accumulated dirt and grease that my bad hand prevented me from removing. Packaging, which, oddly, was honeycombed cardboard, whereas washing machine arrived in polystyrene with thick shrink-wrap, had clearly absorbed some noxious fumes from, perhaps, the warehouse. Gave me a headache. And so, as I have just discovered, locating the model number, did the delivery note. Vile. Am hoping smell of hot grease will die away shortly. General health and cleanliness improving rapidly. Hoping skin will be a lot better. Also getting around to more tidying and cleaning jobs, now that I don't have to supervise the laundry or do dishes by hand as and when skin health permits. Hand hurts, as result of having to manhandle another couple of appliances.

28/4/9

My little Bedlam story

I used to live in London, many years ago - I left in about 1997. In the last year or so that I was there, I visited the Imperial War Museum, which used to be Bethlem hospital (Bedlam). Among the exhibits housed there was an Enigma machine. Beside it was an exhibit labeled 'Modern-day spy equipment'. I moved on, then halted, and had to go back for a double-take. It was a small Maplin project I had assembled, some years ago, I think while living in Tuskar Street, Greenwich (which would have been about 1993). I forget precisely what project it was, but I'm reasonably sure it made sound somehow - possibly a radio - as I had, rather inexpertly, drilled holes in the top. Could actually have been a Velleman kit from Maplin. It was either the device I had assembled or a close facsimile - or perhaps the assembly I had effected was, purely coincidentally, a facsimile of the piece of modern-day spy equipment that the museum had acquired. If it was the device I made, it probably has my fingerprints on it here and there. I have no idea whether it's still there or not. Haven't had the chance to go. Been meaning to contact the museum, but haven't got around to it. Somehow, I can't imagine that museums get given pieces of 'modern-day spy equipment' very often. So, if it was, indeed, considered to be such, it's probably still there, alongside a genuine Enigma machine. If it actually was a piece of modern-day spy equipment, then it wasn't me that added what it took to make it such. If it was part of the kit, as supplied, then perhaps that's how it got there. Unless someone added something afterwards. Absolutely no idea how it got there. Wasn't me that put it there. However, I suspect that it was about that time that it disappeared from my possession. As you can imagine, I found its appearance next to an Enigma machine quite impressive. Another item that Catharine Arnold didn't mention in her book!

Chest X-ray for anyone worried about flu-like symptoms

Some while back, I was diagnosed as having a 'mycoplasma infection of the lungs', after complaining of long-lasting flu-like symptoms (click here for original entry of 16/12/5). So I had an X-ray of my chest. Chest cavity, apparently, stuffed with a tasty chicken substitute-like substance! Just thought it might be interesting for others to have a look at. 'Flu' (or conditions with similar symptoms) have been such a nuisance to me in the past (lasting weeks) that I have had 'flu' jabs for the last few years. Of course, if it's not really 'flu' then I suppose it's useless to anyone to have a jab. But if it is 'flu', then I get full insurance value the same as anyone else who's had a jab. Haven't had 'flu' since.

22/4/9

Stay cool free of charge while following the cricket on TV!

Keep your sunny-side rooms cool for free with home-made reflective blinds. Pic of sun blinds from inside, sun blinds from outside. You could reduce heating through your windows by kilowatts! Click here to go to build details. And keep track of the cricket on TV with my cricket score sheet: cricket scoring sheet.

21/4/9

Another 'Ming in the brawl' - a classic 'mousetrap' moment in cinematography

Yes, over the holiday period there were plenty of films to watch. And here is a still of an all-time classic 'mousetrap' moment from the world of cinematography. The film is Dr Dolittle (original 60's version). Dr D has just met with a Lady Hetherington (if I have the name correct). She sits across the desk from him. After a short while, mice crawl over the brim of her hat. Subsequently, another guest crosses the threshhold. His foot is heavily and very noticeably bandaged. In the ensuing chaos (because chaos always ensues) someone knocks a tall pedestal with a vase on it, toppling it. Here is the pic with bandaged foot, pedestal and vase with, if I am right, a vicar and Dr D's maid in it: Dr D's 'foot and vase' mousetrap moment. After a while, the more films you watch, the more you get the nagging feeling that, somehow, this mousetrap gag is perceived to be a good one and that, for reasons only known to themselves (presumably, financial gain), numerous film-makers and musicians have followed the same formula, with obvious financial gain, for years. Take James Bond, skeedaddling down the streets of Paris, the wrong way, yet again, in half a car. Tuck Pendleton, in Innerspace, on a bicycle, the wrong way down the road. After a while, it even becomes so commonplace that it's tedious beyond belief. I have, on numerous occasions, tried following the course of the one against the other. Here a scene in which there is a gibbet (Great Expectations, original version), whereafter a vase, or set of steps, or manic chase against the flow, then, hot on the heels of that, a wild goose chase, or a boat trip, or ships of the desert careering across the sands of Egypt. Why oh why oh why is it so necessary to use the same formula so often? And was Grace Jones's leap from the Eiffel Tower actually symbolic of a 'fall from grace' (possibly referring to the devil as, originally, an angel, doing so)? And was a crash into the sand/water/plane crash/car crash (actually, with Bond, landing in a cake) inevitable, for reasons of 'standard' (profitable) artistic theory? And, if The Darkness were to release a single entitled 'Some mouse blew out my gaslamp!' would the next single they would, tentatively, pen into their intended 20 Golden Moments of Darkness album, be 'Finally persuaded my girlfriend to go out, this evening'? And who'd want a copy if it was? Really begins to poke your eye out, after a while! Is this something that goes back to something very fundamental? My usual guess, in this sort of matter, would be religious toadying. Curiously, the pictures selected in The Story of Art, by Gombrich (which includes a profuse apology, at the rear, from the author, for some reason), appears to fill in even more gaps in films, if used in the same way, working almost element by element. Always assuming you get the right direction.

Another possible 'theme' or 'formula' in art

While on the subject of formulae in art, can anyone else see the same 'compositional elements' or 'form' in the following two works: the opening of the mouth ceremony from ancient Egyptian times and Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, Joseph Wright, 1768. Found it after playing with Malthus (see my entry of 19/12/6, below). Wright is of roughly the same era. So, wondered 'how far back can it go?'. So, tried Egypt. Do the various characters represent planets? Or is it a more complex model, in which another body is at the centre?

Haier washing machines from Argos

Bought a Haier 1640 washing machine from Argos, just before the holiday break. When it arrived, the rim of the drum was bent right in and also downwards. Given that it was bought as a 1400rpm spin machine, this seemed far too dangerous. Huge gap between the rim and the rubber seal in one area. At first, I thought it must have been a specific eccentric shape design feature, but no. And, the mains cable had been pressed so heavily into a formed steel corner on the rear that it had bent in. I think that maybe someone pushed it too hard with a forklift at a warehouse, forcing the drum into the glass window and the cable into the rear. So, that had to go back. A replacement arrived two days later. It seems to work, but judders very worryingly under heavy load (it was bought because it would handle 6kg) and crackles and sparks. The dishwasher I bought from Argos took 100 days to arrive, some years ago. For the bed I bought, I had to make five exchanges before getting a straight piece of wood for the headboard. The packaging had a logo on it indicating DO LIFT USING A SACK TRUCK. However, that was how it was delivered. My outstanding run of luck with domestic appliances and electronics continues. As a result of not having had a fully functioning washing machine for some months, and being let down by Argos, the machine I currently have has been doing 24/7. As a machine, the Haier seems to work. However, it is extremely unsympathetic to the fabric of the building. It appears to spin deliberatly at the resonant frequency of ordinary loads for some while before ramping up to the full 1400rpm, at which point, the damping, mass and springs appear to be optimised and it gets a lot quieter. Why it was beyond the engineers who built it to anticipate the resonant frequencies, or, even, these days, build in adaptive controls that detect this sort of problem as it begins and either back off or pass through that band as quickly as possible is beyond me. The controller makes a noise like a Fisher Price garage, going 'ding' every time you advance it. Good points include flexible programming and the ability to delay the start - which should massively cut electric costs when I eventually get to using it normally, as electricity is half price, 1am to 8am. It's also useful to be told when it finishes - a series of ghastly dings that are so tuneless it is beyond belief.

8/4/9

How to detect people outside your door, catch them on CCTV and speed up reviewing of tape, later

If you open up a standard Poundland or QD dummy motion detector camera and pop the light-dependent resistor into a standard peephole/spyhole, you can detect people outside your door. This is useful if people are attempting to pick your locks while you are in. It can also be useful if you run CCTV. What you do is put light from the flashing LED indicator light in view of the camera. This then makes identifying an area of the tape worth reviewing much easier to find - otherwise it takes hours. Additionally, you can put a modern CCTV camera on a mounting up against a spyhole in the same way and take CCTV images of what is going on on the other side of the door. By placing the indicator LED just behind the camera, it will produce flashing light just out of the main spyhole image area. If you need to, or find it useful, you can run multiple LEDs off one dummy motion detector circuit board and over long runs of cable. I have run up to five LEDs off one board, wired in parallel, including one or more over up to 50m of bell wire - should be more than adequate for most homes!

Schematic of Poundland dummy motion detector camera. Shows how you can break up the circuitry to make it easier to install in parts, and to mount the indicator LED(s) remotely. Same in TIFF format.
Exploded diagram of camera mount made of sheet plastic. Same as TIFF.

I installed these because it seemed less effort than allowing people to pick my locks all the time, given the time, effort and cost involved in rebuilding them or replacing them - ie: easier on my poor hands! I'm sort of in a 'the more pressure on the people doing this, and the more doubt I can raise in their minds about their safety as they wander round the block of flats the better' mood.

'Known signal' attacks and reporting incidents to police

After making numerous calls to the police to get them to do something about the various drug-related problems in the area, I was asked to stop calling them so often. At that point, I began to note down events that had bothered me and batch them up, sending a digest of what had happened occasionally. As far as I can tell, since then, and, very possibly, previously (which could have been one of the reasons for the police asking me to reduce calls), there may actually have been some events or occurrences that were 'staged' specifically to precipitate a call to the police - possibly one that might, for example, involve the use of a particular key word (say, for example, 'suspicious'). This has led me to wonder whether the reason for doing this is because someone actually intends to attempt a 'known-signal' cryptographic attack on one or another system, somewhere. It's possible, for example, that communications within the police force are completely secure, but that, for example, they may, sometimes, pass information to psychiatric and/or social services, which may not use secure, or such secure systems. Frankly, under current circumstances, the idea that there might not even be a possibility that such comms might prove interesting to trace through military systems, might not be that far-fetched, either. It appears, as far as I can tell, to be the best, and most logical explanation for engaging in behaviour that is clearly intended to precipitate such a call - unless other, more curious, circumstances apply. For this reason, it has seemed, now and then, to withhold comms to the police even longer. Which, as far as I can tell, has, on occasions, led to even more staging of such 'known events'. In fact, I recently send a text to the police asking 'Would it make sense to you if I were to suggest it seemed someone were trying to precipitate a report?' rather than report the crimes, in case it was a more useful thing to do. I wonder whether I'm right!

How often would a housing association property be traumatically restructured?

How often would you expect a property run by a charitable housing association to be restructured or redecorated? Probably not that often! How often would you expect to hear the fall of plasterwork after hammer drills, hammers, etc? And, is it actually possibly to eat the plasterwork? Is it possible that the reason I hear the plasterwork being traumatically removed so frequently is that the plaster itself is regarded as a form of stored food. Or, just possibly, the plaster itself, as the plaster cast of the man stopped at the airport the other day, is 'made of something interesting', and that this is how 'something interesting' is evading the detection of the police? Not quite the most fashionable style of stucco. Just-outdated 'bas-relief' letting you down in front of you high-flying friends? After refitting the ceiling lights for the tenth time, I just had to rip out the supporting plasterwork and start again. One can't be too careful with the placement of ceiling lights, you know!

Norwich Council workers stage a demo regarding contracts

Passed a wee demo outside Norwich City Hall, this afternoon. Unite and UCATT demonstrating about contractual worries concerning the review, after ten years of the contract they have been under. Unite and UCATT members on steps of Norwich City Hall. Close-up of same. Sorry if blurred or overexposed in places!

27/3/9

Another curio that surfaced re: London's mad, royalty, etc.

A while back, possibly as a result of reading Catharine Arnold's book, 'Bedlam: London and its mad', another small curio surfaced regarding the possibility of royalty having such problems. In fact, this entry was triggered by seeing an article about
Stanley Donwood (real name Dan Rickman) in The Independent on Wednesday 25th March. Seeing his 'Manhattan' (and see his similarly styled 'Hail to the Thief'), and 'Happy Family', with its distinctive red circle, echoed in 'Such a Pretty House', I couldn't help but be reminded of a history book, a set of timelines of national histories (The Wall Chart of World History; from earliest times to the present, a facsimile edition. ISBN: 0-88029-239-3). And, after a quick look, that evening, concluded that Stanley Donwood had, very probably, based several of his works on one or more part of the timeline. Specifically, about 1550 focussing on Spain, Rome and Denmark. Approximately when the 19th Council at Trent was held, since his works contain elements and colour schemes so reminiscent of this. Now, the part of the timeline that I had focussed on was the time of The Great Exhibition, of 1851, and the history of England. Ernest Augustus, son of George III is indicated, by the timeline graphic, as having died, at about 1855, while the Magnus Magnusson Chambers biographical dictionary I have (my 1993 edition's ISBN: 0-550-160418) says Ernest Augustus died in 1851. Also, consulting the book of chess games I find the next 'classic' chess game listed, Adolf Anderssen vs. Jean Dufresne, Berlin, 1852 is nicknamed 'the Evergreen game'. And, given Ms Arnold's book, the Great Exhibition, possibly Donwood's art, and the chess game, it seems possible someone is trying to tell us something about the whereabouts of Ernest Augustus. Having said that, I think Donwood may have been focussing on the building of St Peter's, at Rome, which is illustrated on the timeline, and is noted as commencing at 1506. And, I think the artwork associated with Pink Floyd's The Wall, by Gerald Scarfe, may be hinting at the circular plaza outside St Peter's, seen through eyes in the centre, so that the pillars tower over. Might be worth noting that, when I began searching the timeline for something Donwood may have been referring to, for reasons obscure (ie: I suspected, from previous researches, that Leo was important), the name of the pope I was chasing was 'Leo' - possibly Leo X, and Leo X appears at 1513.

While touching on the subject of artworks and similar that may or may not be based on this, that, or the other, or one or another idea, etc... One of my reasons for searching for popes and roman catholicism came from a play with a Russian dictionary and the original version game of Mousetrap. I forget the precise wordplay involved, for the moment, but it was upon that work that I based my rewrite of the poem 'Hickory dickory dock' (see my entry, below, of 23/7/5). I suspect that I got 'Shah' from somewhere, and by 'misreading' cyrillic script resembling the word 'Map', I think I related it to the large ball on the red tipper. As the ball passes through the red ring, or perimeter, I got, if I recall, something equating to the 'breaking of the dead pope's ring'. Though I must admit to not being an expert in Roman Catholic processes and so forth. I have a feeling that the word for 'set of stairs' may have resembled or been linkable to 'proletariat', or something of that ilk, hence 'the Tsar/Shah ran down the proletariat'. Quite a while ago, now, that. And, if you play with the starter mechanism, if I recall, you may actually find 'Lot number 3' (or similar), which may mean something to fans of 'Blur'. In terms of the unlikely, it is possibly worth noting that my pocket Russian dictionary seems to think that the word for 'hippopotamus' is likely to be useful. However, again, if I recall, from memory, the word for 'Hello!' is absent (certainly one or another of the basic pleasantries). Just the sort of word I need on holiday! Please show me the way to the hippos! And take me via a flock of seagulls on the way, if you might, my good local! Are there any electronic eavesdropping systems that can translate spoken Russian on the fly? Probably not! That would be too advanced for modern computers! Try Echelon or Raptor! Go to Google translator to translate this site into Russian! Can't remember quite what led to what, but here are a few of the key object words or similar, from Mousetrap in English, in case it's the easiest way:

dice, turntable, wood, gear, spur, stop, stop sign, sign, lamppost, clockwork, clock, boot, bucket, ball, steel ball, marble, set of stairs, staircase, guttering, gutter, drainpipe, helping hand, hand, pipework, piping, bowling ball, bowl, ring, perimeter, bathtub, seesaw, springboard, old man, barrel, spine, column, cage

All the people! And it may also be interesting to consider the idea of 'prayer', and the common usage of the word 'light' in religious circles, if you look at the game from a religious point of view!

25/3/9

The Benefits Agency - can it do anything right at all?

I have received a letter on Jobcentre headed paper (two pages of it - never can have enough of a good thing!) in, as far as I can tell, an unusually large font. It says that it has reviewed its decision of 19/11/8 in my favour and that I therefore qualify for the original IB payment for a defined period from then to a point several months after that. What it does not say is 'you qualify for the same benefit from now on', although there is a check box they could have ticked to indicate this. Possibly just a little light humour from those amusing fun-loving guys that inhabit the building across the way from me who, after messing up four months of my life and getting caught at it decided that, actually, being hung for a single sheep wasn't quite enough, and that they'd try to make my life more miserable for some while, yet. Also absent is the word 'sorry', though you'd imagine that depriving a person of income for no good reason for four months might result in the use of that at least somewhere. And no mention of compensation - though the idea that bank charges incurred, and various other problems ensuing were not their fault is ridiculous. They have, as far as I'm concerned, the opportunity to offer a 100% clear statement of the position, an apology and an offer to a) make right and b) compensate me without pressure, or they can do it under pressure from one or another source. Personally, I'd suggest offering to do so freely. As a result of their actions, I have been unable to replace a washing machine, mattress, TV, emailer (you'd be forgiven for thinking I have the world's most accident-prone domestic appliances and furniture), my skin has worsened, it has clearly been stressful, and it has strained relations with my friends, family and neighbours.

As a result of the appearance of yet another envelope containing what must, as far as I'm concerned, be misprinted documents, I continue to worry about the possibility that there is some sort of fraud being perpetuated by someone, or possibly more than one someone, either at the Benefits Agency or somewhere else - possibly involving the interception of my mail (several envelopes have arrived having been opened). The letter was all the more surprising given the strident, confident tone of the letter from a local manager, and the equally strident manner of a line-manager on the phone to me, previously. There is, also, a possiblity that the only reason that the issue has, finally, been resolved is because I withheld contact and payment from the local council and Anglian Water, both of which have since contacted me again, one threatening to obtain the funds directly from the Benefits Agency (which contact may well have provoked resolution, since Anglian Water is a profit-making company with, in all probability, a legal department of its own (or access to good equivalent services) with teeth). Norwich City Council issued a new full-value poll tax demand and demands for various documents (which it had, alreadly, frankly, had - quite recently enough, in my opinion - although the amusement value in being asked to provide evidence of 'how I intend to finance my life', under the circumstances, is considerable). The idea that resolution was only precipitated thus only strengthens my worry that some form of fraud is going on - given, as I said, the manner and tone of the line manager and manager.

Manifold polluted for a second time, after a clean

Shortly after cleaning the positive pressure inlet manifold (cotton wool pad on a string with meths) and reinstalling, it was polluted for a second time. Rather annoying.

'Bedlam: London and its mad' - a bit of a "curate's egg"

I read a book called 'Bedlam: London and its mad', by Catharine Arnold. It's a bit of a curate's egg - good in parts. The factual matter, the history of the Bethlem hospital, is interesting, in itself. However, the presentation of the material is rather substandard for an oxbridge graduate. The style varies considerably, through the book. Some parts appear to be little more than her study notes from, perhaps, university days, dumped out onto page. Worth a read, as I said for the factual material, but not particularly well written. Also, there is, as far as I'm concerned, something of a personal snub in the book, which recommends the timeline of mental health history, by Andrew Roberts, but which, in spite of suggesting that 'the future will be blogged' does not mention my web site - in spite, additionally, of the fact that my web site is listed in Andrew's timeline. Also, I suspect Ms Arnold of being overly timid, and yet, at the same time, not so. There appear to be references to royalty, the great and good, etc, but, in spite of hinting that one might, for example, find a picture of someone on coinage, or note, a reluctance to actually say the word, which, again, for oxbridge, seems too timid.

Also, the book is rather infuriating from the point of view of illustrations. The cover shows an engraving of a scene from the 'Rake's Progress' series of paintings by William Hogarth, which the text refers to. Sadly, parts it refers to are obscured by graphic elements. Also, the location maps used aren't nearly as helpful as they might be. When reading Ms Arnold's book, you somehow come away with the impression that she's not the first to trip a path down the history of Bedlam. Sort of a 'me, too!', feeling! For some reason unclear, Ms Arnold indulges herself, at one point, in a diversion via Colney Hatch.

It may be interesting to note, when reading the book, that The Great Exhibition was held in 1851. And, at this point, I declare, in passing, that the chess game I added to a 'secure fax design' I put here earlier (31/3/8) was 'The Immortal Game', Adolf Anderssen vs Lionel Kieseritzky played in London, 21 June 1851. I believe my Mammoth Book of the World's Greatest Chess Games quotes one of the players saying something along the lines of 'I came to London to play chess, not to see the Exhibition!'. At the time I put the fax together, I was looking for a 'classic' chess game played at about that time, or possibly earlier.

The phrase 'So you thought you might like to go to the show!' springs to mind!

26/2/9

New positive pressure manifold polluted

After only a couple of days' use, my new positive pressure manifold appears to have been polluted. It looks as though someone has held a burning source of some drug, or substance of abuse underneath the trickle vent cover, on the outside of the window, resulting in a sooty deposit streaked along the inside of the down-pipe. There was a truly revolting sickly greasy smell coming from it that 'lingered' somewhat on the tongue or in the nostrils. Police aware.

Pic of polluted inlet manifold down-tube.

26/2/9

What constitutes a resonable time to resolve a benefits issue

My benefits issue has been outstanding since 19 November of last year without resolution. I am signed of as 'unfit to work, RSI'. I have had no money since then, other than a completely inexplicable one-off payment of around GBP100 which arrived labeled 'DWP IB'. Upon request of explanation, this was described as 'remaining IB that should have been paid earlier'. This, too, is bizarre, since I have never before, come across a payment so late in my life, leaving me wondering, again, what on earth is going on. One of the managers at the office handling the case has, apparently, 'moved' - to where, I was not told. Managers at the local psychiatric clinic, who kindly took it upon themselves to handle what is, as far as I'm concerned, an 'ordinary adult' social problem, when on the phone to me, performed some unusual 'veracity checking' (for example, offering the wrong name for the author of a letter and waiting for me to correct), etc. A CPN was extremely childish on the phone to me, leaving me wondering whether she had some odd reason for wishing to earn the right to not have to handle the problem (though I tried hard to explain that I did not need one and that I saw their specialised time and resources as limited and better spent on what they were intended for, as, I suspect, they wish thems to be). I am waiting for hard evidence that the support services of this country prefer, clearly, to look after honest ordinary folk than drug users and/or dealers. I am also keen that someone should prove that someone has not engineered a system that makes it possible for someone off with an, albeit relatively mild, disorder or two, such as RSI, but one which seems to be prolonged, can be pushed into a position where they are forced to defend a legal position with poor health, no money and, apparently, the possibilit of some sort of ongoing fraud, which other staff within the system may actually be aware of. In my opinion, resolution of such problems should, at worst, take a matter of days. Any IB outstanding, I would expect to be paid within the customary two-week period. Am awaiting resolution and compensation. During the time since 19 November, my hand has gotten worse. I have probably done more admin work than the DWP staff, and I am, now, not surprisingly, somewhat stressed. I am of the opinion that I should have to do no further work before this is resolved, and that the relevant staff should resolve this for me. I am, now, based on the previous rate, owed, by the state, something of the order of GBP1,000. I challenge anyone not to be annoyed by an outstanding bill of that size.

18/2/9

New fan suffers old noise, old fan refurbished

Finally decided to buy a new fan to replace the first one, in spite of it not clocking up anywhere near the hours it should have run. Installed it, and it immediately began to rumble slightly, which I think was mechanical noise. However, subsequently, it also began to suffer from what I think were the same sort of electrical hiccups the first had been suffering from. Refurbished the first (which I didn't dare take on instead, in case it rendered the fan unusable). After peeling the sticker off, undoing some extremely recalcitrant screws (one of which I had to cut a new slot in with a mini grinding disk on an engraver), all I had to do was lift out the armature, remove old dried grease, clean with motorcycle brake cleaner, regrease (used bicycle lithium grease) and reassemble. Turned out to have a full-length, phosphor bronze sleeve bearing. Thought it would be a ball race, but not so. Seems to work very well, so far. Possible GBP17 down the drain, but, like I said, fresh air really is too precious to go without. Found some odd brown particles in the armature - possibly organic matter. No idea what it was.

Pic of armature - note brown particles. Pic of inside of hub. Shows two plastic washers and 'O' ring (same arrangement both ends of armature).

Washing machine broke down

My washing machine broke down. The main bearing went. Think it happened after I left a hose in the drum to add some more water for too long. Terrible noise, like a cement mixer. Tried some motorcycle dry wax lube. Smelled strongly of petroleum solvent, but seemed to work for a while. Got a few washes out of it, but, sadly, bearing too loose to spin, now. Dead. Need a new one. Have to wait for DWP, now, to pay up!

23/1/9

How easy it should be for police to identify unwanted chemicals and drugs

Many years ago, I was a journalist on a magazine called 'Control & Instrumentation'. Among the subjects covered were sensors and gas detection. Here are some bits I wrote back then, one on gas detection, and another on the food industry. The gas detection feature (from 1990)shows how it is possible to identify the type and location of various chemicals in the air remotely, possibly from as far away as 20km! The food feature (1993) mentions, in passing, an electronic nose system under development at the time. This was capable of telling the difference between, for example, various foodstuffs of a similar type (eg: which beer or lager it had a sample of).

Gas detection, pg 1. Gas detection, pg 2.
Food feature (first page only).

Also, see my feature on a control system called 'Echelon' (foot of Archive Page I, if I don't get link here in time!) to see a system that sends, eg: building control signals over the mains (1993, I think!). Echelon feature.

Shower aid #2

Made a second shower aid, as my back was killing me after one shower. It's a shampoo tray that sticks to the tiles. It means I don't have to bend over so much in the shower to pick up the shampoo. It works OK. In the pic, it has garden wire as a backup in case the suckers (from an old seahorse shower radio) gave. I am worried the bad back was related to the ingress of drugs or substances of abuse, too.
Shampoo tray for reducing bending over in the shower.
The teaspoon has a blunt handle for removing the rubber bands I use to keep vinyl disposable gloves sealed while showering - without it, you end up scrabbling at the bands with slippery fingers getting nowhere.

Tesco loses about 40% of my money for six months

I have not shopped in Tesco since the last day of June, last year. As a result, Tesco has not seen the approximately 40% of my money that was passing through the shop (probably about GBP25 per week or so - more if you add in the 'money-back' transactions). Can be kind of expensive to insult people too often, huh? I note, also, in passing, that 'The Woolpack', a pub near where I live, is 'closed until further notice'. I did not enjoy the last pints I drank there (when I was last drinking) and remember the occasion vividly. Perhaps others do too?

I have been teetotal for over one year!

I have been teetotal for over one year, now, having gone TT with a New Year's resolution, last year! :)

My Freeview set-top TV box hacked - pics

My set-top TV box appears to have been hacked. Annoying, as the reason I bought it (Woolworths, knocked down to about GBP10) was that the last one had been hacked. I videod some footage with the subtitles with some very strange garbage added in. Haven't heard from either BBC or police, both of whom have a CD-R of the footage.

Still #1, still #2.

A couple of days ago, my Amstrad Emailer fell over completely. Probably the same people, at a guess!

16/1/9

Manifold for increased forced ventilation, plus mods to fan box for same

After having to go on one too many hole search-and-fill missions around my flat, I finally decided that it might be a more economical use of the rather limited good health of my hand to modify my old fan box to positively pressurise my flat, slightly, in order to keep unwanted noxious odours, drugs, vapours, other substances of abuse out. So I did. Pic of modified positive pressurisation fan box. See original entry for positive pressurisation fan box, and details of pressurisation achieved, design, etc. After a day or so of running the fan, when I got up, around midday, my head felt a lot clearer - in fact, rather worryingly surprisingly so, almost as though it had not been clear for a while, and, my right hand was in less pain, which was also surprising, given that I had had to do a (fairly minor) amount of DIY to build the lid and install the fan. About this time, the noise of a considerable amount of drilling began, downstairs, all round the flat. No idea why that particular flat requires so much DIY, but it seems to. About a day later, there were new holes in the skirting board sealant, my bedroom smelled of the usual substances of abuse, my head was not so clear, and my hand was beginning to hurt again. So, I concluded that it might be an idea to construct a quick, simple manifold that would allow me to connect my vacuum cleaner to another window trickle vent, and thereby increase the amount of positive pressurisation I could achieve. I have now done this, and it works, holding at least 900W of suction safely (though this is, clearly, getting silly!). After some use, I found that, even when the vacuum had been on at 300W for some while there was still ingress. And, on one occasion, after presssurising for some while and then switching off, there were two rooms that, after a matter of minutes only, were filling with the same thick, woolly smell tinted with a peppery form of cannabis!
Pic of modified positive pressurisation fan box.
New positive pressurisation manifold
Quick and dirty manifold to connect vacuum to hose. Note window battens hermetically welded to cut draughts - put a low-power soldering iron on a piece of new aluminium foil and drag along the seam slowly (about 1cm/second). Also improves security!
Plans for the new manifold, JPEG.
Plans for the new manifold, as TIFF.
Note the wires passing through the bodies of the fan box and the manifold to operate the open/shut flaps of the original trickle vents. Sealed with Blu-Tack. When assembling the vac manifold be careful not to get plastic weld on the nose of the hose, as it, too, may be susceptible!
I can't say for sure how much positive pressure I can now get, as I took the original U-tube manometer I made apart. At most, it will be a straight multiple of that achieved by the fan box before, but probably less.
When I came in here (Norwich Library) the other day to post this, for no particularly good reason, after successfully uploading the first three pics, my access to the internet failed abruptly, and would not return, hence the delay in posting this. Just as I was leaving my flat, after opening the front door, and closing the living room door, the fan in the fan box began to groan very noisily. It had done this before, one might think, ostensibly, because of a solvent attack, however, usually only when stone cold after non-use for some while. The timing sucked. Also, previously, there have been very odd noises borne on the motors or coils of other items around the flat - notably my dehumidifier, which at one point, began to make noises rather like guitar 'flange' effects or a typical 'spaceship-travelling-across-the-void-in-a-sci-fi' noises. As as result, I paid a visit to the police to explain the whys and ways of positive pressurisation, and hacking people's access to the web, etc. Have a look at the following spreadsheet, which indicates how easily you can produce exotic waveforms simply by superimposing sine and cosine curves: SUPERVAR.XLS. It's the basic principle that has been used to send signals ever since radio was developed! Wonder whether this would show up on an oscilloscope!

How to prevent a dehumidifier from becoming blocked with fluff - use a stocking

Defluffing my dehumidifier was a worrying experience, and also stressful on my hand, so I fitted a stocking as a prefilter to the inlet in order to prevent it getting clogged again. Seems to work fine. No need to filter the rear, so I cut a hole there - mine turned out too big, so I had to tie it back - it expands when cut. I used a GBP1.00 20 denier stocking from QD - could possibly have gone for something with slightly large holes. There does appear to be a slight drawback, in that there is fluff collecting along the vertical edges of both sides of the bucket - possibly indicating a lower-pressure channel that the air has found - might need either blocking or defluffing because of this. The waist part of the stocking fits over the machine. I have tied the tops of the legs together and cut off the leg parts for neatness.
Pic of stocking as prefilter for dehumidifier. Sorry about poor quality of pic!

6/1/9

I have been refused Income Support as I 'have been unavailable for work'

I have been refused Income Support on the grounds that I 'have been unavailable for work'. I made it clear to the Benefits Agency that I was signed off as sick by my doctor at the time I asked them to review their decision. I think someone should have told me, if this is the case, at the time I asked them to review the decision, last year. In fact, according to an old copy of a Social Services Diary, of 2002, that I hold, Income Support is specifically there for 'people that cannot sign on, eg: when ill'. When I spoke to a line manager at the Benefits Agency, he came across as nervous, and was, clearly, lying, misreading material from the Agency's own handbook. He was, as far as I can tell, trying to obtain privileged information from me before it was due. He wanted a 'written appeal' before I had received a 'revised decision with reasons' after having 'asked them to review' the original decision. In other words, wanted to hear how I was going to appeal against a revision they had not, yet, made, which, in a 'combative' legal setting would give 'his side' a distinct advantage. The official line, now, appears to be that I do, as I was worried they would suggest, qualify for absolutely no benefits at all, in spite of being signed off as sick by my doctor. I have had no money from the state since 19 November. I refuse to believe that this situation will continue until I run out of money for food, electricity or rent, but nobody has, as yet, made this clear to me or given me any assurance to the contrary. I have contacted social services, who were obstructive, and who said that 'money was not their bag'. I guarantee you that, if no money is forthcoming, shortly, there will, sure as eggs is eggs, be a problem that will fall, perhaps rather more neatly, into the remit of Social Services. However, the sure eggs will, for sure, be on their chin! In fact, as far as I'm concerned, they already are! I have, therefore, tried contacting the Secretary of State for Work and Pensions, the Rt Hon James Purnell, MP, and the Chief Executive of Jobcentre Plus. Something is wrong! There is either a hole in the benefits system, or something else has gone wrong, locally. And, if I was pushed to take the wrong route in obtaining a revised decision, it is entirely possible that others were, too!

Red marks either side of upper lip caused by substances getting into my flat

I have a red blotch either side of my upper lip. As far as I can tell, they were caused by one of the substances getting into my flat through holes in the floor or walls. They appear to be associated with the substance causing the salty taste I experienced after addressing a couple of holes in the sealant around my bathroom sink. I think the marks were caused by drinking a hot cup of something. I only had a mark on the right hand side of my face, at first, and thought maybe it was caused by washing byproducts being absorbed by recently-shaved skin, as with other similar marks. However, while the marks are exacerbated by shaving again, I have not had similar marks elsewhere. I think the second mark occurred after my hand began to hurt more because of RSI, when I had to use my left hand to lift a cup of coffee. I had been rotating the mug to avoid the salty taste, but, perhaps, had overlapped one sip over the last. When I changed hands, I had to start sipping from the other side, so any overlaps occurred on the left, instead.

Red marks on my upper lip.

Another source of ingress gone, a couple of reasons for source operating discovered

I finally got around to filling some cracks in the chipboard floor of my living room. When I was visited by a Sgt and PCSO (an odd combination to visit - unannounced, too!) from Norfolk Constabulary, I mentioned that one of the areas substances seemed to be getting in from was below my desk, where the Sgt was standing. The main problem substance seems to have been a varying combination of something with a thick, woolly smell, a peppery type of cannabis, which is occasionally blended with the smell of vomit, and, on occasions, a rather acrid smell. Rather unpleasant. I am also rather worried about the condition of whoever it may be that has been vomiting.

Reopened sealed crack between floorboards.
Lifted joint between boards along same direction as overflow pipe from immersion.

Some while back, an airlock occurred in the pipe, possibly because of some work in the flat below lifting a section of the pipe, resulting in considerable bubbling and burbling from the overflow funnel when extractor fans were on. Not sure why the sealant disappeared, but it's possible that it may have been moved by the ongoing movement of solvents and similar through cracks in the floor. I filled about 15 feet of crack - which represents a large area of hole, compared to some of the pinholes that have, for sure, caused problems in the past. I also found areas around my bathroom sink opening up, again.

Police told me not to call them

The reason Sgt Sharples + 1 visited me was to tell me not to call them so often. I told them that I called only as often as there was a problem, and that, perhaps, if they were to solve some of the problems I would not call so often. However, this seemed to be lost on them. As a result of having to repeatedly seal holes, rather than enjoy my tenancy peacefully, my hand hurts. In fact, my wrist (RHS, RSI) and occasionally other joints, hurt more when some of the substances get into my flat. This is rather irritating, to say the least. If the police removed the source of the problem, or even bothered to look thoroughly for it, I wouldn't have to do this work, and my hand wouldn't hurt! One of the reasons for filling the cracks in the boards at this point was that, I have, on one occasion, suffered a bad back as a result of showering when substances were getting into my bathroom. Possibly the same sort of sensitisation. Not wishing to repeat this, I have filled as many holes and gaps as possible, first. One of my problems, when reporting the substances getting into my flat has been that the only drug I have ever actually seen to put a name to the smell is cannabis. For all I know, the people that are the source of the substances may actually be fooling with Class A drugs, as well as the cannabis, and as well as the solvents that my combustible gas detector detected.

30/12/8

'Nother hole - sealant cut away, I think

Still finding holes in the walls and floor. Found a crack where silicone sealant I had applied appeared to have been cut away - with the naked eye, you could see a sloping edge - possibly where a knife or blade cut at an angle. Rather worrying, really. Not the first time I've found one, but first pic of one. Morre worrying, still, has been the too-frequent smell of vomit, anit-biotics, and occasionally vomit mixed with one or another substance of abuse or drug that appears to pass through the walls.

Pic of area of sealant cut away from corner in bedroom.

How to get crisp designs on a tee-shirt with a fabric pen

Just in case it has occurred to anyone, over the festive season, to letter up a protest tee-shirt, a quick how-to. Wash tee-shirt to remove finishing chemicals (or dye won't bite). Dry, iron flat. Print or draw design/lettering onto a sheet of thin card. (Braggadocio is easy to cut, as no holes in 'O's, etc, but blocky). Cut out with a scalpel or craft knife. Lay tee-shirt out flat on large surface. Position stencil, allowing for jacket opening, tuck-in space, etc. Mark corners with crosses of insulating tape for easy positioning of stencil, later. Place tee-shirt over end of ironing board, with hard card or similar under material of front (or back, if for back) with a layer of card immediately beneath fabric. Place stencil on waste newspaper, face down. Spray repositionable spraymount glue onto rear. Place face up on tee-shirt and press down. Colour in open areas with fabric pen (eg: Dylon - Dylon's instructions say to stretch the fabric. I don't, and get good results), working right up to edge. Usually don't get any blotting or leakage under the card, possibly because of the spray glue. Ink in so that all material covered. You probably need to go back and apply a second coat of ink, maybe even more to get a strong, solid colour. Even after applying several coats, the ink may still not have gone all the way through the thickness of the fabric, but should be strong and solid. However, since the tee will be very absorbent, you may have to judge whether the pen will last. Always an idea to use a new pen. Dry with hair drier between coats to minimise running beneath the fabric and to dry the card. Go back to recoat any missed areas. After final drying, peel off stencil. Useful to have a pair of tweezers with relatively blunt tip to peel off any bits that remain (spray glues do vary in strength of adhesion). Iron with hot dry iron - I put a sheet of plain paper either side of the fabric, and a thin tea towel outside of each of those. Wash to remove any glue that stayed on (usually not much, but will attract fluff, if left).
As a quick-and-dirty solution to lettering, I have got results using a standard permanent marker pen. Print or draw your design on an ordinary sheet of A4 paper. Tape it to the top layer of the shirt. Draw over the outline with the marker on the paper. This should pass through the paper and mark the shirt. Then remove the design and fill in with the marker directly onto the tee-shirt. Permanent markers do tend to run rather more, though, so allow for this in any design!
For anyone worried about precise alignment, as having a design that is 7.5 degrees off horizontal really annoys, cheat by rotating it 30-45 degrees, if it'll take it. Then no-one will know the difference.
Just on the vague off-chance it occurred to anyone to protest about something!

23/12/8

How to improve breathing again by cleaning a dehumidifier

My dehumidifier was doing less and less, switching off to 'defrost' more and more often. This turned out to be because the inlet fins were completely matted over with, I suspect, mainly fluff from drying laundry and dust. I think what was happening was that the cold coils were freezing up, as no air was passing over them. So, I took the cover off and cleaned the fins. Quite revolting to look at. With mine, you unscrew two screws under the carry handle, one each side at the base, two at the back and unscrew the control panel from the rear of the cover. The rear cover pulls off, revealing two more screws inside at mid height that hold the front on. The matted fluff peeled off the front of the fins OK with a new toothbrush. The second bank of coils (which I think dump the heat - it's basically an inside-out fridge) also needed cleaning. Had to go back to it with a bottle brush that looked like it was meant for cleaning a rifle barrel (GBP 2.50 from Jarrold) - in spite of its being narrow, it need to be shaved down with a razor blade, removing half the bristles first time (one side) and then half of what was left, leaving one quarter of the coverage. It could then be used like the toothbrush, with care, with a twisting motion. Three screws hold the fan mounting in place. After removing these to lift it away, I could then sluice both sets of coils with water using a rubber shower hose attachment. After thorough rinsing, it's working fine again. Breathing much improved as a result! Not, I suspect, a service that Social Services would be likely to perform for me! It's possible that this fluffing up was made worse by using a JML Fresh Air Globe, since the exit bay of it houses two ioniser brushes - ie: the dust in the vicinity would have been charged and more likely to bind to the fins.
Pic of dehumidifier being cleaned.

2/12/8

More holes! - Around sink and bath just before shower time!

Just before I'm likely to take a shower, I find, for, I think, about the third or fourth time at shower time, holes developing in sealant around the sink and bath. Rather a surprise, considering the amount of sealant heaped up, there. And all three areas at the same time, too! Also associated with the ingress of drugs/substances of abuse - just yet another curio of timing, I expect - bound to get 'leakage' of 'a little stray waste' at exactly that time.

Peeling under sink. Pinholing under sink. Lifting around pipework going under bath - photo taken after cutting back peeled edge for repair.

After locating, photographing, cutting back and resealing, I had a slightly salty taste in my mouth, with slight excess production of saliva, until I rinsed my mouth out with tapwater and cleaned my teeth.

24/11/8 (Minor change + addition, 26/11)

Why respect the opinion of your GP when the Benefits Agency won't?

Had to have a medical exam to check I qualified for Incapacity Benefit. The letter I got back on Saturday appears to have ignored the opinion of my GP, who had signed me off as 'unable to work' on the grounds of RSI of right wrist 'for the foreseeable future' (last sicknote). There is no tick in the 'information we used' box for 'your doctor'. And, as far as I can tell, has also ignored much of what I said in the form I filled in. As far as I can tell, there is no way someone with a skin complaint such as mine can be considered 'unable to work'. This strikes me as ridiculous, since, if I work up anything much of a sweat, I break out in a rash, which makes physical work extremely unattractive - and kind of a short-term option. My hand, currently, hurts, as I rolled some epoxy putty for the edges of my new windows in order to prevent them being levered open while the scaffolding was up. In fact, I have had to resort to paracetamol again for the first time in a while. My doctor has, again, today, signed me off RSI 'for 12 weeks' (today's sicknote). This is heartening, since she is standing by her diagnosis. The worry, to me, is that this may be treated as a 'new claim', if at all, and that, even if I do get IB it may be some time (six months or so) before the amount I get rises much above basic level. Given my GP's previous sicknote ('foreseeable future'), my financial planning was undertaken on that basis. If I find, three to six months down the line that I am given a 'foreseeable future' sicknote again, I shall be asking 'Who is going to make up the difference?'.

Top page of letter from Benefits Agency ignoring my GP

I have to say I'm rather suspicious about the whole letter, since several pages were printed out on upside-down headed notepaper (colour), while the top sheet was on photocopied headed notepaper (mono). The doctor that interviewed me for the medical exam was a charming man, but given to a worrying degree of forgetfulness, and he had to ask me to repeat several pieces of information. He actually sounded more like a judge, or lawyer, than a doctor. Last year, when I had been examined, for the same reason, at the same place (Medical Services, Norwich) I had occasion to complain about standards, and, upon getting a reply, about the standards of the reply.
After talking to the 'telephony' section of the Incapacity Benefit department, I have been offered the following options: instigate an appeal that may take weeks or months before it is completed - no money in the meantime; sign on Jobseeker's Allowance - I consider myself unfit for work, having been signed by my GP as such, as, clearly, does my GP; apply for Income Support which may only be offered at a 20% reduced rate compared to normal. The DWP did not wish to take my sicknote, signed today, off me, as I have no open claim. The appeal process apparently involves sending information challenging each point of a medical report - in fact, basically, could be considered to be the information contained in my original form together with my GP's opinion, which, as far as I can tell, owing to the way the paperwork was processed, was not considered in the first place - they have certainly explicitly stated that they have not considered my GP's opinion. Apparently, 'new claims' that arrive within six months of 'failed' claims will be rejected unless there is evidence of significant additional problems. So, if my claim fails because some admin assistant fails to take into account my GP's advice, or the examining doctor (retired or otherwise) does so, or, in fact, it fails for any reason at all, I am exposed to the possibility of no logical benefit to claim. My GP's opinion counts for nothing thereafter.

'Recoil of the dogma of medical infallibility on the doctor' and 'Why doctors do not differ' - Bernard Shaw

Might be interesting, at this point, to read the words of George Bernard Shaw, from around 1906, on the fallibility of doctors: Preface to Shaw's The Doctor's Dilemma.

The gunk that a JML Fresh Air Globe removes

Pic of ghastly orangey-brown jelly-like paste that collected around the rim of my JML Fresh Air Globe after being left in my bedroom for a number of hours in a rather worrying atmosphere.

Gunk in a JML Fresh Air Globe

Last I saw, CPC was selling a very similar machine to the JML Fresh Air Globe for a mere GBP12.77 [misquoted price - sorry!] plus VAT plus p&p out of its 8/11 to 31/12 'Toys4Boys' supplement, CPC order code, LH0091912. JML offering GBP40.00 from Woolworths!

How Drayton windows plastered my exterior wall

Pic of the way Drayton Windows left the wall beside my window. Basically, it looks like ordinary white Polyfilla was smoothed onto a steel-reinforced corner. The original had plaster that was textured and coloured throughout pink. There is a corresponding splodge of the same plaster or Polyfilla further up, but weather did not permit better photography. The plasterwork edge of the window got rather smashed about during removal, hence need for replastering. The scaffolding has all come down, now, so I can only assume that this is how the GBP400,000 project is intended to be left.

Plasterwork by Drayton Windows

My hand hurts!

11/11/8

Window company withheld information on window locks

After trying various ways to make my windows safe, and noticing a keyhole in the lock of a window in the stairwell on the third floor (as if anyone wants to break in there!) I finally decided to have a look at the handles, to see if it might be possible to retrofit a locking mechanism to them. Imagine my surprise when, after picking at a small black plastic button in the centre, it came away to reveal a keyhole! Now, I had been given a run-through on the 'features' of the new windows by the foreman of the window company, Drayton Windows, at the time they were installed. No mention was made of locks. In fact, I have a suspicion I would have asked them about them, since the old windows had some and, with a staircase assembled outside, I was likely to be nervous about security. I was given no keys. I had rung the housing association, Cotman Housing, asking about locks, and it had no useful information to offer. I asked my neighbour whether they knew there were locks. No. And they had asked. No keys - when were we getting them. Since I had no idea, and held out little prospect in the immediate, I made myself two, in brass, and gave a spare, in plastic, to my neighbour. It seems impossible, to me, that a group of workers should spend every day installing windows for one company and not know whether any particular model has a lock. For anyone else needing them, 0.25in x 0.064in stock (brass strip or plastic sheet) is just about ideal and, with some bevelling and a quick file for key surfacing is quite quick to do. I'm also rather disappointed with the local police, as I also mentioned to them that the windows were insecure, and no useful info (ie: 'Ah, a Drayton Windows window - have you tried removing the keeper button in the handle?' - or 'No problem, sir, I'll ask Crime Prevention!') was forthcoming. I'm also rather worried about the fire saftey aspects of having locks on windows in the corridors and stairwells, as, in the event of a fire, a) someone wishing to escape may not have a key on them, and b) the fire brigade, which may wish to pass a hose through the window, as it did when there was a fire in flat next to mine, 308, some years ago, might not be able to.

How crowded is your local bar or pub?

Did you have difficulty fighting your way to the bar at your local, the last time you were there? Or does the landlord need the use of my guide to reading company accounts, which explains that cashflow (the lack thereof) is usually what ruins a company? See: Reading company reports.

30/10/8

Verticals of new windows not straight - pics

Took a couple of pics of the new windows with a straight edge against them to show the curvature. - Also the first pics of me on this site for some while!

Bedroom window. Living room window.

The living room window is the one I felt a draught coming through (RHS of LHS pane). Temperature down to zero here, last night!

My site tops 100,000 visitors!

Site stats at 30/10/8: Total hits, 118,104; Total unique visitors, 100,745; Bandwidth used last month, 3.04Gb!; Average bandwidth used per day, 112.75Mb.

'Nother hole blown in sealant to repair

Found another hole blown in Vallance V1 sealant when I detected an acrid smell in my bedroom. Hole.

Seeing too many homeless rough sleepers out in the cold, here in Norwich

I've now seen four homeless people out in the freezing cold. One had fallen asleep, no sleeping bag, no coat, on the pavement, as it was getting colder. And, just last night, three in a doorway, with sleeping bags, plus a small dog. It got down to zero, outside, last night. Compliments to either Norfolk Social Services or the local MPs on this particular stunning achievement of the current socialist government of the UK.

29/10/8
(+ Minor addition, 30/10/8)

Save your wrist, water, power and money in the shower with an on/off shower knob extension bar!

Was finding it difficult to turn the water on and off in the shower with slippery hands and a wrist weakened by RSI, so made an extension bar for the on/off knob out of sheet plastic. This makes it possible to turn the water on and off with a single finger, no matter how slippery your hands are! You can then turn the water off while you are lathering, between rinses.

Pic of on/off extension bar as JPEG. Plans of same as JPG. Plans of same as mono TIFF

I used two thicknesses of 0.080in non-expanded polystyrene sheet plastic (from model shops) glued together with superglue gel, with seams welded with plastic weld (comes as a bottle from model shops - apply with bristle brush) pop-riveted together (needs a washer on the reverse, to prevent the rivet pulling through) for extra strength. The scallops on the knob are actually plane - ie: don't slope towards the wall at all, until a sharp curve at the back. If you make a dummy out of paper card, first, you can ensure you get a press fit, then trace round it onto plastic. If you cut ever so slightly oversize, before scoring and snapping (no need to actually cut right through the plastic - it's very brittle, and will even cut to a gentle curve when you snap a scored line). Then file back, slowly, with a half-round needle file on concave surfaces, and flat on convex (Maplin a cheap source for these - about GBP3 for a set). REMEMBER! You can always remove more material, but you can't put it back!. Mine press fits snugly enough that it doesn't come off during a shower, but, if you want, can be removed easily. Two thicknesses might be a little wobbly, but worked fine for me. You can easily get three thicknesses out of one GBP2 sheet of plastic.

Pic of inside of positive pressurisation fan box

Inside view of positive pressurisation fan box, with a filter holder I made out of sheet plastic. Maplin (the shop I got the fan from) does sell a filter holder with filter. Make sure you allow room for the filter in your build! I only just had room, in this design!

Inside view of fan box.

The self-resetting thermal cutout I mentioned, I got from CPC (CPC code, SN35853, pg 2605 of 2008 CPC catalogue - Microtherm 70degC 2.5A self-resetting thermal cut-out, GBP2.00), not Maplin!

One of the worrying aspects associated with using the positive pressurisation fan was that, after a short while of usage with no problem, for some, strange, unaccountable reason, it began to blow in more drugs and fumes from somewhere, instead of getting neat, outside fresh air. This could have been associated with drilling noises coming from the flat next door very close to where it was situated. When the frame was taken out, there was a knot in the wood on the top side of the slot in the wood through which trickle ventilation was expected. That said, the walls are hollow in all directions (ie: this includes downwards, too!). However, it may also be possible that it was, in fact, drawing air from either around the frame of the moving part of the window either through other gaps in the frame, or from gaps over the steelwork over the window leading to the roofspace. The window frame clearly leaked, since my cling-film 'triple glazing' inflated and deflated, last year - its direction depending on whether I was using positive or negative pressurisation. Some of the waste wood from the removed frames clearly shows gaps quite large enough to pass nuisance substances. It is worth restating that the replacement windows have a trickle vent that passes right through the moving part of the window, and thus no part of the passage can be accessed from the wall. However, there are passages in them to allow condensation to drip out.

I found the fan took about three minutes to reach full pressure in the flat, which has four rooms. Regrettably, also for some, strange, unaccountable reason, the fan, which had a lifespan of 50,000 hours (5.7 years' continuous use!) quoted in the CPC catalogue, developed a rattle suspiciously early in life - possibly associated with black, oily residue I had to remove from the blades - ie: may well have been sprayed with some solvent of the original lubricant. :(

24/10/8

A domestic positive pressurisation system to keep drugs out

After too many instances of drugs and other substances of abuse getting into my flat through holes in the walls, floor, ceiling, etc of my flat, I made myself a positive pressurisation system to raise the pressure in the flat ever so slightly above the pressure in the floor, wall and ceiling spaces in order to prevent ingress. Basically, it was a box made of 6mm plywood with a hole for a standard, 120mm off-the-shelf mains-powered fan from Maplin (Maplin code, WY08J) in the front that fitted over the trickle vent over a window and which was held there by garden wire pulling against eye and cuphooks.

3/4 view of fan box. Front view of fan box. Fan box fitted over window, with U-tube manometer over other trickle vent to measure effect. U-tube manometer.

The fan box resembles the front shovel of a digger, pressing against the wooden window frame and the plasterboard area over the window. I pre-pinned the joints with some brass wire I happened to have (0.8mm diameter) to make assembly easier, and glued it together with quick-setting epoxy resin. The sealing edges are covered with double-sided sticky sponge tape with a line of old cotton sheet on top. There is a self-resetting thermal fuse inside, just in case. For reasons unspecified, the library computer refuses to display Maplin's range of thermal fuses, so cannot put a link to it, here.
The fan never achieved a huge pressure gain - only 1-1.5mm of water (10-15Pa) in the manometer compared to the pressure of air outside (ie: the manometer could have been a lot shorter) - in fact, gusts of wind were causing greater pressure differences than the fan (of the order of an inch or so).

Unfortunately, my windows have now been replaced with new UPVC windows - part of a project costing the housing association of the order of GBP400,000 (so I'm told) - GBP60,000 on the scaffolding alone! These have trickle vents built into the moving window component itself, so the fan box will no longer fit over them.

My new windows are draughty!

Cotman Housing has got Drayton Windows to fit new UPVC windows in the block I live in. They were replaced yesterday. This was a second attempt by Drayton Windows to do this. On the first go, one of their workers picked a fight and stomped off out of my flat, with a beaming grin on his face, delighted with the result. Drayton Windows has apologised formally for this, in writing. The workers who fitted the windows yesterday were very well behaved. Unfortunately, one window, for sure, has been fitted so that a vertical is bent inwards, and possibly the other side to side, and at least one window is draughty.

My storage heater has not been repaired properly since last winter

Yesterday, two men from Hellesdon Park Electrical visited to repair my storage heater for a second time. It broke for the first time just before Dec 25th, last year. A thermostat began to leak a paraffin-like substance when I turned it up to full power. I called the fire brigade, as I did not know what was happening, but could smell paraffin. Hellesdon Park Electrical sent an electrician to repair it in about January of this year. Unfortunately, while he was working on the heater, he knelt on the replacement thermostat unit. It was not that surprising, then, when the heater went wrong, shortly after being put on full power. Another contractor from Cotman Housing had a look, during the summer, declared it to be fine, and promptly reassembled the heater with a tab stuck out of its hole while the caretaker was watching. Yesterday, the electrician from Hellesdon Park Electrical performed every electrical test he could think of except testing the integrity of the thermostatic bulb unit. It switched OK, when heated with a hair dryer (my idea). However, not wishing to call the fire brigade out for no particularly good reason for a second time, I will not be using the heater, yet. Cotman Housing is going to get another electrician (not from Hellesdon Park Electrical) to look at it. I got loads of back-chat and banter from the electrician, yesterday. As he pointed out, he had performed all sorts of electrical tests. However, he simply would not accept my word that the thermostat had been leaking. The irony is that a very similar component is available from CPC for about GBP10, and simply putting a new one in would, in all probability, have made economic sense, given the cost of calling out electricians - definitely so, given the cost of calling out the fire brigade.

How to get a JML Fresh Air Globe to work

I now have a working JML Fresh Air Globe! It is the fourth I have tried. Finally, in desperation, after returning three, I decided to ignore the instruction manual, which states, explicitly, that you must not operate it when filled above the 'max' level, which is clearly indicated on the drawing in the manual as about 1/3 the way up the bowl, which is, also, clearly divided into three. Curiously, the bowl is labeled 'MAX', in black print, with no line to indicate where smack in the middle between two of the lines moulded into the bowl. If you fill just above the word 'MAX', it will begin to operate properly! And, possibly because of some surface or production effects (possibly a waxy surface out of the mould) will even work below the lower third mark, later. Also, I think it is probably advisable to clean out the lid, which, in several of the examples I have seen, contained curious small black specks - no idea what it was - not ordinary dust, before use. I have no idea why none of the staff at either JML or the first shop I tried (Poundstretcher, Norwich - check out reviews for same on Yell.com!), which railed and railed against exchange and eventually lost my business were able to explain this to me! The more odd when all that JML has to do is to redesign the manual slightly and possibly relabel the bowl. If you don't overfill in this way, the Fresh Air Globe just spits a spray of water once or twice every fifteen minutes or so and then sits and sulks, rotating the water in the bowl, gently.

17/10/8

A guide to drugs, drug slang, etc

Found an interesting guide to drugs and drug slang. Was looking for the drug slang, mainly, in case it gave any indication of the sort of drugs that people around me might have been playing with, ie: odd words used, or ordinary words used oddly - which is, presumably, how people buying, selling or using such drugs refer to them. Please bear in mind, when reading the material on the site that I am strongly opposed to the use of drugs or other substances of abuse (in fact, I am teetotal), and the views expressed by the author(s) of the Erowid site do not reflect mine. If it helps, try to visualise someone (yourself) bent double, kneeling on the floor in a corridor of a psychiatric hospital suffering from withdrawal symptoms after playing with the drugs! Seen that more than once, myself. Check out the slang entries for 'Jones', 'J', 'Jonesing'. Words that must surely make it difficult to talk about this around me! Or, try looking up 'Double zero crypto with dice'. And, in a rather bizarre twist (which I'm sure would amuse the company) the name of a manufacturer of sealants (including the Pink Indicator Sealant I have used) and various other products appears in the dictionary - see '151'.

Erowid guide to drug slang. Erowid guide to plants and drugs. Erowid home page.

I found that, if I saved away the slang dictionary HTML pages as .txt files, copied and pasted the body copy into Word, set the font to 6pt Times New Roman (designed to be compact) across four columns in A4 with minimal space between them I got it down to eight pages for printing out. The irritating paragraph setting you'll be wanting to remove is 12 space characters which you can just delete using search and replace.

Another selection of holes to play with...

Holes, again! MORE of them! 1, over my bedroom window (silicone). 2, in the alcove of my bedroom (looks like impact damage, but too high for vacuum, and too low for storage boxes). 3, over the door in my bedroom - a surprising one, in hardened quick-drying Polyfilla.

7/10/8

Yet more holes

Three more sets of holes. Same thing again. Taking up rather a lot of time, this!
Hole 1, 2, 3.

30/9/8

More late night holes; and a children's paintbrush found contaminated

I have been kept up through the night a few times, the last week or so, tracing and filling holes. One of them, which I refilled with 151 Pink Indicator Filler, after Quick-drying Polyfilla cracked, managed to blow a hole in the wet filler. Pics of holes: cracked polyfilla; bubble blown in 151 Pink Indicator Filler, in same area, later (below 7cm mark - sorry lighting not great!). One of the more impressive aspects of this picture is that the crack is above the woodwork of the window over the door to my living room. I live on the top floor, in that area of the building. The plasterboard is only goes up a few centimetres to reach the ceiling. Not an easy passage for any smoke/fumes/vapour etc to travel to - unless coming from the roofspace - which would be unlikely to be at terribly high pressure, compared to inside the living room.

And here is a picture of a disposable plastic children's paintbrush as I found it in a pen pot on the desk in my living room: disposable paintbrush with green substance on. Found another, later, in similar condition.

Police aware. Good job I haven't got any children!

18/9/8

Another day, another hole in the wall...

Was about to go to bed late, the night before last, and my nose was assaulted, yet again, by something getting into my bedroom from another hole in the wall. Which rather helped to locate it, again. This time, in the sealant in the junction bewteen two different walls, by the door. Here's the hole: Hole in bedroom wall. The line of sealant looked, otherwise, in perfectly good condition.

'Normal' wastage or pollution caused by drug or other substance abusers in Norwich

I have made a Freedom of Information request to Norfolk Constabulary to establish how much of any given drug or substance of abuse they believe to be in the county. How many users of each, and how much they consume. Just sort of trying to pin down what sort of 'statistically normal' behaviour might result in this sort of thing. In other words, how much waste smoke might there be, purely for the sake of example, from 10 cannabis users? How much waste solvent from, again, purely for the sake of example, 2 solvent abusers, etc. In other words, is what I am being exposed to considered to be 'normal', or 'abnormal'. And can they suggest a number of people involved, and whether they are considered to be 'ordinary occasional recreational' users, or, perhaps 'not ordinary occasional recreational users'?

Smoke or CO detector problem - Whacking great pigeons in the roofspace?

Last night, after a late shower, going to my bedroom, I heard a 'pip' noise from either the smoke detector or CO detector in my living room. Wasn't sure where it came from, but 'one of the alarms in the living room' was confirmed by a second 'pip', later. After staring at the ceiling for over a quarter of an hour, nothing more happened. Then, I heard a slight 'crack', or possibly 'snap' noise. Not 100% sure where from - either one of the smoke detectors or, just possibly, from above the ceiling in between the two. There is a possibility that the LED of the smoke detector flashed less frequently after this. After reporting worries to police and fire brigade, I replaced the batteries in both. Both should have been fine, at 6 months and 3 months old. The fire service told me that both should be good for about a year. Also, the 'pips' were further apart than the manuals for either specified. When I pushed in the battery for the smoke detector, in situ, it went off for a short while, as is normal. As soon as it began, I heard a slight 'bump' or 'creaking' noise from about two yards away in the roofspace. Reported this to police, too, as rather too loud to be your common or garden pigeon. Again.

12/9/8

Found the green substance on the inside of the nose-cones of two fans

I found some more of the green substance on the inside of the nose-cones of two of my fans. I was cleaning the flat, and decided to vacuum the dust off the blades of the fans - it tends to gather on the edge, front and rear of the blades. So, I opened the grilles, cleaned the front and edges and then removed the nose-cone of the large fan and pulled the fans off the small ones. This is what I found: Inside of nose-cone of pedestal fan. Inside nose-cones of two small (6in) desk fans - one with, one without green substance inside. Spindle of small fan. I had packed the spindle out slightly with standard, pure white plumber's PTFE tape to stop the blade rattling - here, it has gone green with the substance.

Another substance/item found on surfaces in my flat

And here is a pic showing another 'substance' or 'item' I found stuck to my metallic silver plastic laundry basket. It looks rather like a couple of single 'gills' from a small musroom. I came across something like this some while back - and, at the time, it seemed a lot more like they were something deliberately left or 'applied' there than something that I might have accidentally smudged/dropped or otherwise left there myself.
Pic of 'gill' (or whatever) on laundry basket.

Three more holes I found blown in my sealant, one morning

Was lying in bed, one day, and heard a 'pop' noise from the corner of the room. So, I investigated. Found these three holes. A smell of bleach came from the area, first thing. Then, when I was filling them, some other sort of 'fruity/solventy' smell came through. Got a slight headache as a result.
Hole 1. Hole 2. Hole 3.
Can't see how there would be adequate pressure to blow holes in relatively new sealant and make a pop, ordinarily, in a flat. Not the sort of pressure an Xpelair fan generates. Top whack from a 20 Watt fan I have got about 1-1.5mm water in a U-tube manometer - ie: about 10-15 Pascals tops - about enough to move air around a building. - Try it yourself - get a plastic tube, put water in the bottom of the U-bend and blow down one side. You'll find it difficult, if not impossible to limit the difference to 1.5mm - gusts of wind passing a building create surges of an inch or so. Parmentergate Xpelair fans are about 100W (kitchen) and 30W (bathroom). It's just not possible to do that with them. (See Wikipedia for pressure unit conversion)

I'm just sort of waiting for someone in authority to remove the person or persons responsible.

1/9/8

More smudges of green substance daubed around my flat by unauthorised entrant

Someone has got into my flat, again, and daubed more of the green substance I gave a sample of to the police, some while back all over the place. Sample pics of smudges: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 (on some old video tapes kept in a draw), 6, 7.
Also, some pics of blowholes in the sealant between the floor and walls in my bedroom - air from the flat below tends to pass through them! 1, 2.

There is a staircase up to my living room window, now!

There is now a staircase right outside my living room window! The housing association has had scaffolding put up to replace the windows. My living room window is the one immediately below the top platform of the staircase - top floor, third window from the corner of the building.

22/8/8

Rang MI5

Rang MI5 on a matter of national security, and subsequently faxed them copies of some faxes (fax number not listed - you have to ask for that!).
See: MI5 web site's contact page.
This happened after contacting Norfolk Constabulary on a number of occasions, then the Royal Military Police Duty Police Station at the Aldershot Barracks (which happened to be the only contact point with the RMP the MOD switchboard was able to find for me). Then, after establishing that neither the RMP or Norfolk Constabulary wished to assume responsibility for the issue, a (possibly slightly tipsy) police constable at Norfolk Constabulary suggested I ring MI5. So I did. To get through to the Royal Military Police, should you wish to, you ring any listed number for any UK barracks or airbase and you get through to a general MOD switchboard, from which you can be put through to them (or any other base/barracks etc). When I rang MI5, they said that they only took calls if they related to national security. I said it did, and explained, and they took my call, subsequently providing me with a fax number to forward information.

Someone attempted to lever out one of my window panes!

Because my housing association is replacing the windows, scaffolding has been erected outside my flat. In the couple of days before it reached my third floor window, I glued the battens holding the window panes in, for security. I did this because I was worried about entry by removing the battens and then removing a pane of glass. This occurred to me after remembering that the housing association, Cotman Housing, had sent round someone to remove some (not all) of the windows' battens, reinsert some spacers, re-mastic and replace the battens on the grounds that 'a pane of glass had fallen out'. They did this without warning. And, to my mind, it seemed an unlikely and unnecessary thing to do, since the panes are, basically, balanced upright and, with the nails and mastic, unlikely to move, unless fiddled with. At which point it occurred to me that perhaps someone had effected entry by this means, and that this was why they undertook that exercise. The night that the scaffolding boards were laid on the frame, I heard voices outside, and, in the morning, found marks on one window frame just at the top of a run of hot-melt glue-gun glue I had applied. A police crime scene investigator visited.
Pic of marks on outside of window, View 1, View 2. (Note the tasteful application of 'Light Oak' (light brown) wood stain over the original 'Jade'!)
I also tried fixing the battens in with screws, but this was too tricky for me with a sore wrist in an awkward position, and using epoxy resin. Using a glue gun seems to be the easiest and quickest way. At the moment, they are selling small glue guns at the 99p Store in Anglia Square, Norwich, for 99p. They come with two small glue sticks, but they're very oily and dirty - go to Thorns to find them at 20p per stick. Large glue gun better, and you'd probably need about three large sticks (50p each) to do one flat.

Made a small sunshade for a digital temperature sensor

Made a small sunshade for my digital temperature sensor. I need to know when it is cooler outside than inside so that I know whether it is worth bothering to open the windows to cool my flat - given the quantity of drugs that regularly circulate in the air from flats near mine, and my housing association has put up scaffolding around the building. I was worried for the safety of my wet and dry bulb hygrometer, so wanted to put the digital sensor outside. Direct sun skews readings quite considerably, so I made a small box out of polystyrene with several layers and ventilation to try to reduce this effect. I think it still suffers from overheating, but may be rather better than without.
Pics of sunshade box for temperature sensor. Side view. End view, open. End view, half open.
The box is just non-expanded polystyrene sheet welded together with plastic weld. The aluminium foil is glued on with AN Other standard lipstick-style glue from Poundland or similar. The reason the box is such a strange shape is that it was put together rather hurriedly out of scrap pieces - hence the small square pimple on right hand side of the top, which is just there to cover a hole drilled in the scrap previously.

28/6/8

Skin on backs of my hands breaks out after washing arms

The other day, I washed my arms using my usual soap (Garnier Fructis shampoo) but, for the first time, without wearing gloves. My hands, which washed cleanly on their own, immediately became coated in the same slime I mentioned earlier from my arms. Several hours later, the backs of my hands broke out in a rash. Very possibly the same sort of rash that doctors have, previously, described as 'eczematous'. There appears to be some substance moving from one area to another that causes a rash. This additionally seems to be borne out by other patches of skin that may have suffered similarly. I am controlling this using calamine lotion.

23/6/8

My Yale lock now pick-proof at nights

My front door now has a new look. After repeated unauthorised entries and constant lock-picking activities at night, while I am in, I have finally made it impossible to pick my Yale lock while I am in, adding to my deadlock pick-proofing. Blank fitted over Yale lock. Three-quarters view of fitted blank. Blank removed, bolts fitted to seal off holes while I am out, jangly cover over seal to create noise. The blank is made of three layers of polystyrene sheet plastic (0.060in gauge) with wings on the sides, top and bottom to stiffen and prevent peeking. A ring of (approx 2mm) galvanised steel garden wire glued into the rear with epoxy reinforces. The padlock is an 'adjustable shackle' padlock. Two small sleeves of polystrene tubing glued into a rectangular frame act as spacers behind. The bolts are M6 (6mm metric) coach bolts with the square collars file round to size with locknuts behind. - The shackle is billed as '7mm shaft', but is slightly oversize - presumably the chrome, and, as you might expect, doesn't have precisely parallel shafts, which is fun when it comes to cutting out the brass plates (one on blank, one on front of door, one inside). Since I am in more often than I am out, this will greatly reduce the opportunity to pick the lock. If you see me out and about, and someone's at my door... (Layering a bad idea when it came to drilling - the layers tend to separate - permanently, with swarf in, if you're not careful.) The blank is intentionally made of rather soft, fragile material to show attempts to 'distress' it in any way. Not terribly worried about the idea, since I'll be in, when it's there. I think the lip of the plastic body of the blank below the door pull should have been shorter. As it is, when you push the shackle out of the door from inside, the blank tends to tip over, and, in this size, catches under the door pull, which, if done carelessly, could snap it off - which was the main reason for reinforcing with garden wire. Probably also available in solid steel plate, if really necessary!

16/6/8

Possible pick-marks on my door handle. Standard limits on 'security measures'.

I have found marks on the door pull that the Yale lock in my door sits in. They look too deep and too deliberate to have been made by normal use, so I suspect that they may have been left by lock pickers. This might indicate that there is more than one picker, or, alternatively, that one picker has more than one lock on their books. Bizarrely, someone swapped the components on my two 6in table fans around. One, a year old, began to rattle - possibly caused by solvent ingress into the flat. The replacement began, as far as I could tell, to rattle, about two weeks after purchase. Then I worked out that the grilles and pedestals had been swapped over. I have absolutely no idea why anyone would enter my flat to do such a thing. When I discovered that there had been damage to my door (pic 1, as found, pic 2, from side of door - note that the sliver was lifted away from the middle of the section of the wood), possibly caused by the insertion of a spiked tool to get around some flaps I had added to prevent precisely this, and that the strap of one of my watches had been snapped, and rang the police, they attended. The whole episode is rather strange - the idea that a watch strap makes for attendance, etc. I am now at the stage where I am asking police and politicians 'What do you believe to be the threshold limit for security measures taken to prevent intrusion into a person's property before police intervention to prevent the people occasioning this nuisance is initiated? For example, if I fit a standard 6-pin Yale lock and standard 5-lever deadlock and find that people are getting in, does this represent an 'agreed' level of security measure beyond which it is unreasonable to expect people to go before the intrusion is considered to be unacceptable (give or take) - 'a contract between the police and the public', as it were? Or must one go to a 7-level deadlock? And if they wish to say that 6-pin Yale plus 5- (or even 7-) lever deadlock is the threshold limit, what extenuating circumstances, if any, would lead to them not initiating positive action to remove the problem? And, as it happens, I believe that a similar contract exists between a tenant and their housing association with regard to the behaviour of neighbours in properties also run by the housing association - ie: they 'contract' to remove nuisances beyond a threshold in return for the agreed rent and other terms and conditions. 'Police approved' five-lever deadlock plus 6-pin Yale for an ordinary flat or house seems a reasonable level to work from. If they wish to state publicly that this (inasmuch as it was) is no longer the case, let them do so! My door handle. Note the pinpoint marks on the lower right, just above the triangular filed area (which I filed to remove marks, but which is again, already, marked) with vertical scratches downwards from them.

Site stats - I break the 100,000 hit mark!

I have now had more than 100,000 hits to this site! Total hits, 101,190. Total unique visitors, 85,684. Last month, 2.25Gb to web, total, averaging 72.5Mb per day. Average bandwidth per day, 57.27Mb this month. :)

23/5/8

Teetotal for five months, so far!

I have been teetotal since the New Year! I went a whole year without a drop, in 1999. It was a very odd experience, drinking again, come New Year at the end of that year. You know the taste of alcohol you got when you first tried real beer? Something bitter that you couldn't understand adults wanting? It tasted like that. Really weird. As though the body somehow develops and maintains a tolerance or forgetfulness for that taste.

Hidden data behind seals to foil certain types of attack

I have been using hidden data behind the seals over my locks to thwart a particular type of attack - 'group grifting' or 'group 'con' attack'. If I have to know what data is hidden, then I'd look rather odd, in a 'group con' attack (depending on the make-up of the group) if I didn't either use it or know it. Caught one such attack on CCTV, a while back. Put a small plastic sticky label behind the seal with random data or 'leakage' data, or whatever. This also makes picking the label away more hazardous.

Another tip on preventing burglary - hide your diary/schedule board

Another trick I have resorted to is completely wiping my 'to do' whiteboard before leaving. If no-one can see it, they won't be able to anticipate where I am about to go, or how long I'll be away, making attacks more risky.

22/5/8 + a couple of additions and small changes, 23/5/8

Some security seal designs

Here is a selection of the security seal designs I have used over the last year or so. You might get the impression I'm a little tired of having to do this while none of the people causing me problems are dealt with by the authorities.

Typewriter only, random numbers (no 'peel/tally' break - hard to use): -1-
Typewritten numbers with stamp: -2-
Random data, dingbats, graphs and spirograph - blank in keyhole (circle over sticker join for tally and easy peel): -3-
Rubber stamps and spirograph: -4-
Dot matrix (who buys that these days), stamps and spirograph - blank in keyhole: -5-
Double strike dot-matrix, stamps and spirograph: -6-
Italic dot matrix, stamps (hieroglyph) and spirograph: -7-
Italic dot matrix, stamps (hieroglyph), spirograph and punch marks: -8-
Dot matrix (2 styles), stamps (hieroglyph) and splattered ink: -9-
Same again: -10-
Dot matrix, handwriting and spirograph: -11-
Dot matrix arrows (manual random) on text with spirograph: -12-
Dot matrix (2 x 1 large font for easy recognition and stronger tally - manual random) + dayglo biro lines (also a strong tally) - possibly my prettiest design: -13-
Dot matrix with dayglo spirograph: -14-
Dot matrix, stamps and spirograph: -15-
Dot matrix with stamps, dayglo spirograph and typewritten 'leakage' word: -16-
Dot matrix, inkjet, random data, Celtic knot graphing, sine curves, spirograph (inkjet printer playing up - possibly a virus): -17-

Another thing you can do, if you are worried about the security of computer-generated random data is to impose a key on it. I used a seven-character key. If, instead of just using 'A = Rand(52,26,whatever) + 37', X$ = Chr$(A) over and over you use, X$ = Chr$(A), Chr$(A+1), Chr$(A+2), Chr$(A-1), etc, you get imposed order in what appears. It reduces the amount of random data you use, too. And, depending on how you use it, the size, layout, etc, you may be able to reduce visibility of that random element. If you vary the order every time, you effectively get a new key (though, obviously, this becomes visible when you use a seal!).

16/5/8

Summer stuff - keep cool with reflective blinds and keep score when watching cricket!

Make yourself some mirror sun blinds out of cardboard and aluminium foil. I'll be getting mine out again, shortly. Pic of sun blinds from inside, sun blinds from outside. You could reduce heating through your windows by kilowatts! Click here to go to build details.
Cricket scoring sheet.

10/5/8

Spreadsheet for producing complex randomly-designed waveforms

I have put together a spreadsheet that will produce 10 complex waveforms, for anyone wondering how I put together the curve on the bottom of my second 'secure' fax design. You can either let the computer throw the dice, or you can enter manually-generated random data (or even 'chosen' data) to design the curves. If you delete all bar the curve you're interested in and overprint it as an Excel file on its own at the bottom of secure letter designs, you get an alignment problem to be overcome as well as a complexity problem. Remove the title at the top, maybe add some more examples, and you can use them to produce manually-generated garbage curves for ultra-secure sticky paper seals for locks, letters, cupboards, computers, etc. The curves all have a probability of 1 in 1,000,000 - which should be complex enough to thwart casual reproduction by forgers - mathematical analysis would probably yield a very good approximation, but you'd have to be pretty desperate to want to reproduce something like that! See: SUPERVAR.XLS.

Twenty-one principles of defence against industrial espionage

I have summarised a set of principles of defence against industrial espionage from a book from 1967 (Espionage and subversion in an Industrial Society, by Peter Hamilton). It is intended to guide you in concentrating security resources, etc. Not necessarily to be taken as fixed principles - more as food for thought in case useful in personal domestic security. See: DEF21PRN.TXT as text file, or as web page: 21 principles of defence as web page.

Skin improving

My skin is much improved as a result of using calamine and some more long showers. :)

1/5/8

What happened to my skin?

After removing loads of the worrying green splashes and smears, and the beige stuff, too, I finally got around to feeling I could stop the clean-up. Had a shower. Ordinarily, I can only wash with Garnier Fructis shampoo, and not soap - so this was what I used. After washing my scalp, suddenly everything felt claggy. My hair became claggy (the whole 3-5mm of stubble I have there), my skin became claggy. It was like the depressing feeling you get when you try to remove a paper price tag from an OK plastic box that something came in. You just know the glue is going to remain there. After several latherings and rinsings, the most awful 'slimy' substance was created. It rinsed off, but was revolting. I finally began to feel like an ordinarily washed 'squeaky clean' me. So I tried other parts of my body, too. Same effect everywhere. Surface of the bath turning to sticky glue, periodically. Everywhere except my hands, which I have regarded, for some while, as 'too delicate' to expose to such soapings. Afterwards, I felt _great_. Like I was, finally, after some long, long while, clean. However, my hands came out in a mild rash with local reddening. This _may_ be associated with having had to use latex gloves instead of the usual crinkly plastic ones I use, but may just be because of having to wash so many areas using bleach with hands sweating under gloves of any sort. I suppose there is an outside possibility that the rash is actually associate with the substances I was trying to remove - or some by-product of them and the cleaning chemicals or process. I have, now, however, largely finished that clean-up. So I now have calamine lotion all over my hands, and have lost a thin surface layer of skin in a couple of places. Leaving me to wonder whether I would have avoided the rash completely had I washed my hands similarly. Perhaps this was what a doctor meant, once, when I had exczema and he told me to wash more frequently? Extraordinary that it should take me so long to learn that one needs to lather and rinse so many times in order to become genuinely clean. When the rash has gone I might try it on my hands, too. I wonder why this happened? In addition to feeling genuinely clean, I also felt a lot healthier, too. Quite extraordinary!

28/4/8

Have had to do a little cleaning, after finding more of the green splashes around my flat

It appears that, however the green splashes got into my house, they were rather more liberally distributed than I had thought, at first. After chasing around the house from place to place, I have now found them, additionally, in the following places:
Feet of oil-filled radiator. Foot of fan heater. Over buttons on washing machine. On a cable to my immersion heater. On some blue vinyl washing up gloves.
I also, then, found them on the walls, as splashes and smears. At about this point, I gave up taking pictures and concentrated on cleaning the stuff off. And, I strongly suspect (nearly certain), the same substance was on my doors, too, though, as it was more thinly 'applied', and the doors are wooden, less easy to spot. As a result of similar suspicion regarding some similarly odd pale brown/straw-coloured pasty smears (rather more crystalline and brittle, coming off in flakes/crumbs with the point of a chisel, and more thickly applied), such as this smear on a skirting board, these were cleaned off, too. Also, later, when I went shopping for cleaning and disposal products, I bought some polythene pedal bin liner bags from a supermarket in the Anglia Square area of Norwich. When I came to use them, I discovered a similar green 'brushed' smear on the bag. After cleaning the spot on the cable to the immersion heater, including using bleach, I went back to it to identify, positively, which cable was which, and, after handling it, touched the tip of my nose with my finger, by mistake. Shortly afterwards, I felt a strange sensation of pain sort of travel backwards into my head from my nose. Happily, this went away, after a short while.

I now have a river view!

On a cheeerier note, I now have a river view! The former brewery warehouse site is being cleared for a 435-flat property development. Demolition is in progress. The whole of my flat (from which this picture was taken) has been shuddering under repeated falls of heavy beams and tons of rubble. Earthquakes all over again! My new view from my living room window. You can see holiday boats sail past, etc.

23/4/8

'Police Aware II' - what happened to my fridge, heater and steam iron filler beaker?

I located a strange green foreign substance splashed on the underside of my convector heater, the mains cable and coolant piping of my fridge, and a beaker for filling up my steam iron. Police called and left with a cotton bud 'swab' of the substance to analyse, taken using methylated spirits to dissolve it (very tenacious substance it was, too!).

Green splash on my fridge's mains cable. (It appears to have dripped from coolant piping, above.)
Green splash on my fridge coolant piping (cold side).
Green splash on my steam iron filler beaker. Rim of same.

31/3/8

Another design for a secure fax - Norfolk Constabulary arrests three of its own - a note of congratuations

Here's another variation on my secure fax design - here, used as a note of congratulations on arresting three of its own staff, including Sgt Mark Murphy (see story by Evening News). Their cases continue.

Another secure fax design.

What happened to my torch? (Police aware.)

What happened to my torch?
Here are two photos of the reflector of my 6V torch. I noticed 'crazing' of the reflector when I needed to look under the sink to do some draught-proofing.
Outside
When I looked inside, later, this is what I found:
Inside
Civilian staff on reception at Bethel Street police station said it was just the way the torch was fitted together and declined to have it examined further. I do not believe them. The whole of the reflector of the torch is clearly intended to be reflective, and was. Their actions were disappointing, since I had been _asked_ by their control room to take it in to be examined, and, however the damage to the reflector occurred, it was not done by me. And, as such, probably represents evidence of unauthorised entry to my flat - in which case, it might very well also bear fingerprints. Which was why I had put it into a plastic bag for transit. And why I was disappointed that the man in question immediately opened it and prodded the grey pellet with his finger. I will be contacting Ever Ready, the manufacturer of the torch, at some convenient time in the near future for its advice. In the meantime, in case the police wish to change their mind, I have bought a cheap replacement to use, and will hold the old one, sealed, at home.

11/3/8

Automatic 62-character Vigenere table generator in Excel

After having a quick play with my first 62-character Vigenere table, I discovered that many of the alphanumeric characters could be represented by two ciphertext characters - ie: there was redundancy. Somewhat embarrassing. So, I have put together a quick automatic Vigenere table generating spreadsheet in Excel (paradoxically given the number '52'). This jumbles the order of the characters in the spreadsheet to reduce this effect. It also has a manual-selection table sheet into which you can pour your own manually-generated table order.
VIG52VAR.XLS.

Secure fax design

I have been using facsimiles to communicate with various people, partly to test comms systems (it goes direct, machine to machine), partly to test people (possibly). Partly because it's a lot cheaper than hanging on the phone waiting for a call centre to answer. And there's a hard copy at the other end for sure, and I hold the original. As a result, I have developed a design for a 'secure' fax cover sheet.
Design in various formats: faxcol110308.jpg (colour JPEG), faxcolmag110308.jpg (another colour format, JPEG), faxgrey110308.jpg (grayscale, JPEG), R0017599.JPG (colour photo JPEG), R0017600.TIF (as mono TIFF).

4/3/8

Full high res earthquake vid on my Myspace site

I've just put a 36Mb higher res version of the earthquake CCTV vid clip onto my Myspace site (5Mb upload limit on this site).

28/2/8

UK earthquake on vid and sound

Got the UK earthquake on vid and sound.
R0017515.AVI As video clip (.AVI) from my CCTV.
R0017511.WAV As WAV file.
Not the greatest representation in this resolution of vid clip, but the clock begins swaying. I have higher res files if anyone is interested in computing the forces and frequencies involved. Vid also ties the sound to a time. When it began, I wondered what on earth was happening. Wondered whereabouts in the flat to stand in order to be safest, and figured that towards the centre of the width of the building would be best, but, fortunately, the motion had stopped. So, went to ring police to confirm if earthquake, as if not, would have had to have had some sort of hydraulic rams of the type you see in civil engineering videos to cause that much shake. Couldn't get through several times. Phone eventually began to cut off. Tried 999 on landline. That wouldn't work. Tried mobile, and that had to search for the network for a long while, but finally got through. Police confirmed calls up and down the country, and since nothing happening at that point, went to watch Sky News. Epicentre, near Market Rasen, was actually quite close to RAF Coningsby, also in Lincolnshire.

Parmentergate Court tapwater versus spring water

Something seems to be wrong with the water from the taps in Parmentergate Court (intermittently). Occasionally, it comes out looking slightly syrupy at the top of a container, with small bubbles that do not break the surface, as though there is a layer of something at the top, or perhaps surface tension is wrong - it looks a bit like someone's spat in it. This effect sort of goes away if you boil it for a while. But definitely wrong to look at. So, bought a cheap hydrometer from Roys of Wroxham, down Magdalen Street, and compared the specific gravity of still spring sater with Parmentergate tapwater. There seems to be a small, but noticeable difference between the specific gravities. Not sure what it means, since I don't know what SG tapwater should have. However, I have a nagging feeling that the difference may be in the wrong direction. Went to make a quick vid shot of it, at the time I made the earthquake vid, but water OK at that point.
Spring water.
Tap water.

17/1/8

Upper and lower case Vigenere table for stiffer encryption

I have put together a Vigenere table for encryption using both upper and lower case alphabets and numerals:
VIGEN63.DOC. (c.f. VIGENERE.DOC).

Some fallout from the hunt for Eve's attacks on Alice and Bob - 'no key-switch encryption' using OTP + Vigenere

Have been trying to find a good guide to Alice, Bob and Eve (Alice wants to send a message to Bob without Eve getting hold of it), where Eve attacks, and how (I am assuming there must be a fairly well known standard set of attacks and locations for attack). While reading Simon Singh's book, I came across the basic idea of the two-padlock passing system, in which no key is passed. Alice locks a message in a box with her padlock, passes it to Bob, who locks it with his, returns it for Alice to remove her padlock prior to returning it to Bob, where he removes his (the only) padlock and retrieves the message. Singh points out that this does not work with a monoalphabetic system. However, using the OTP plus Vigenere table method, I have found it does. It's vulnerable, because if Eve gets hold of all three transmissions, she can find the keys and get the message - hence the search for the one-way methods using large primes, etc. If Eve sees Bob return a message, and suspects this system, she simply looks up which letter on the Vigenere table gives her the first transmission and rebuilds Bob's key. But has its interesting points, in that one need not produce a large OTP, send it securely or look after it at the other end. And Eve has to know about the system. But I was so chuffed it worked I thought I'd post an example, here (I used dice to produce the keys with the six by six conversion table, and the 36-character Vigenere table, VIGENERE.DOC):

Mess: HELLOWORLD
Key1: XJ4UDJHOKI
Enc1: U6S2LNHDB6
Key2: B43AL3IA2C
Enc2: TC12AV0DK4
-Ky1: XJ4UDJHOKI
Dec1: GLTLD5GRUB
-Ky2: B43AL3IA2C
Dec2: HELLOWORLD

I have been adding shortish random strings to emails and faxes for a while, calling them ID numbers. I suppose, if you thought it was safe, you could exchange messages adding such 'innocent' ID numbers to pass encrypted messages - particularly if you have ongoing communications. Of course, any system manager who was worried about such things might very well look for just that sort of thing automatically - particularly if message exchanges went in threes.
I wonder why Simon Singh didnt' mention it or give an example? It's so elegant, in it's way, even if terribly unsafe.
I haven't tried it using two different Vigenere tables, so don't know if that would work. In a way, it may be one should regard the table as a form of key.

17/12/7

Some stats on a one time pad created using a bingo machine, and on bingo ball manufacture

Have done the stats on FIMO bingo ball manufacture and some stats on a one time pad generated using a bingo machine. The bingo machine seems to produce very well distributed random data (see 'Letter spotter' table in spreadsheet). The second set of balls I made (the white ones) really were rather less round than the first (black). I figure if you aim for an average weight of about 1.40g per ball you should be on target. If not, try altering the weight you use according to the weight versus diameter graph. There's also a worksheet for generating one time pads automatically in the same style as the manual one I made, so you can compare distribution of any combination of letters (though the stats are certain to be different, as the method differs). See the following:

BINGBALL.XLS - stats on the bingo balls I made.
BINGOPAD.XLS - stats on a one time pad created using a bingo machine. The one time pad as a JPEG file.
BINGLINE.DOC, BINGLINE.TXT - the bingo pad in 42 strings of 25 characters (the order they were generated in), as a .DOC and .TXT files.
BNGSTRG.TXT - OTP as a single string as if typed straight across the page.
The OTP as an HTML page.

It took an average of about 11 seconds per character (about half an hour per seven 5 x 5 table row) to put the one time pad together (1050 characters), typing characters using my left hand only (apart from the 'shift' key, with my right).
I am hoping this work will lead to rather less 'interesting' effects when communicating. However, clearly, there is an element of 'fishing' about what I am doing and have been doing. I still see myself as having a line in the water, and won't be expecting 'interesting' results to cease to present themselves overnight.

11/12/7

I have added a new stats engine to my site!

I have added a new stats engine to my site! Click here to see the counter and for a link to the stats pages: Stats

10/12/7

More essential equipment for the budding spy!

Have been playing with random numbers. In view of a number of comms problems, thought it might be interesting to attach or include random strings to or in communications (in body copy of message, which is not usually visible to service provider, and in message line, which, I think, is). It was. Was using basic bingo machine. Finally, decided that it might, in view of interesting effects of simple random numbers, also be interesting to attempt some actual one time pad encryption (use OTP with, eg: Vigenere table). To generate one time pad with original bingo balls required a conversion table for full alphanumeric pad (26 letters plus 10 numerals) - basically using a 6 x 6 table, as for dice. This is time-consuming. So, made some alphanumeric balls for the machine out of FIMO modeling plastic (oven-set).
Pic of full set of balls
Close-up of some balls
Now much quicker to produce OTPs. One potential drawback I can think of is that I do not, if I use them, hold a conversion table - had to write down two columns of numbers (1-6) with corresponding alphanumeric character from 6 x 6 table. Since there are many ways to get, say, the letter 'J', but only a limited number, and, as one works through a set of balls, the odds diminish, it may be tricky to fake up a consistent, evenly distributed set of numbers (compare with results in my study of random numbers - DICE3.XLS). Hardly a massive problem, but a potential shortcoming. But much faster.
FIMO is more dense than the original plastic, so the best way to make them seems (without high resolution scales and the chance to practice) to be to make them by eye, looking along a flat surface to compare heights. Average weight per ball is of the order of 1.38g per ball to 1.45g per ball, compared to original of 1.04g per ball. I found cutting off about 9.75 to 10mm of one 'bar' of FIMO was approximately the right size to start with. If weighed accurately, it would be a lot quicker, less wasteful, and you could probably ensure no escapees. The greater weight, and the slightly 'damped' feel of FIMO means the machine is rather heavier to turn with FIMO balls and slightly quieter. Small balls occasionally fall out, in reverse (scrambling). I got a fairly standard distribution of diameter measurements centred around an average measurement 0.03mm below the original - was quite pleased! May do proper stats, later, and maybe some simulations of strength of varied runs of balls - I think best system is probably to produce standard 5 x 5 tables of characters and use table by table, so that later tables do not depend on previous ones. There may well be a maximum secure string length. Using both upper and lower case multiplies strength of pad - if 26 + 26 + 10 (one set of numbers), one 5 x 5 table has 62!/37! or 2.3 x 10e42 possibilities (or 62 x 61 x 60 x ... 40 x 39 x 38). If massively worried, you could recycle each ball as it came out, in which case, the probability for each ball would be one in 62. A second set of numeric balls complicates things, slightly. Best to work with white FIMO before black, as the stuff gets all over your hands rolling them - though soap and water reasonably effective. May also be useful to work in a cooler room. For some reason, my black balls had better roundness (may just have been tiredness with white balls) and white plastic less crumbly when rolled into fine rod for lettering. The lettering is quite tolerant of being pressed and rolled into the ball, but, as you can see, may become a little distorted - though you can straighten some waviness out, with care. You can get one set of white and one of black from one packet each of each colour. It think it might have been useful to put underscores under more of the lower case letters, too - eg: 'e', 'f', and possibly 'r' - not strictly necessary, but useful.

13/11/7

Made a combustible gas and vapour detector - it works!

I have made a
combustible gas and vapour detector - a kit from CPC (link to the kit on page of the manufacturer (Kemo)). It works just fine, and, as far as I can tell, successfully detected something combustible entering my bedroom. While I was in the living room, it triggered. I went in to find a slightly 'fruity' solventy smell possibly with a hint of fermentation. I have tested it on methylated spirits, a standard butane gas lighter, printer flush liquid and plastic weld (dichloromethane), and a marker pen. The sensor can suffer from a form of temporary 'poisoning', which means it stays triggered for a while. This varies depending upon the poison. The marker pen triggered the sensor extremely rapidly from about six inches out, and rendered the sensor useless for an hour or so. Sensitivity can be adjusted via the trimmer (2mm hex bar/Allen key). I'm not yet sure whether it will be possible to set the detector to a satisfactory setpoint and leave it permanently.
Video clip of gas detector detecting plastic weld liquid (dichloromethane).
Overview pic of kit. DPDT (double pole, double throw) switch changes between buzzer (alarm mode) or relay out via 3.5mm socket (here, to a counter counting the number of times it triggers), or isolates both.
Aerial view of circuit board.
Switch area.
Circuit diagram showing peripherals I added to the kit supplied, with Maplin order codes for the parts I used.

Other security tips

Another toy I'm using is a cardboard cutout of my shadow illuminated by a light on an electromechanical timer set to a random pattern of on and off. And, to detect tampering with your locks (Yale, deadlock) at night, put a ten penny piece on the bolt between the lock mechanism and the slot in the door - if anyone moves the bolt successfully, it will drop out.

Painters paint my green windows brown

Painters have painted my jade green windows light oak (brown).

6/11/7

A couple more spreadsheets for making seals - rather more decorative

I have put together a couple more spreadsheets for making seals. A little more decorative and colourful than previous efforts. One has a basic Celtic knot design repeated over the page, and the other has a series of sine waves.
CELTKNOT.XLS See: Celtic Knotwork Handbook, by Sheila Sturrock, for source of the design I used, plus loads more on how to, with many examples ready to use.(Publ: Guild of Master Craftsmen Publications, 1999. ISBN: 1-86108-115-4, orig. GBP9.95.)
SEALBAKE.XLS

Printer almost flushed properly after soak

My printer has almost cleaned itself after leaving it to soak with printer flush liquid (pic on CPC site wrong, when I looked!) in the ink cartridges for a week or so after an initial soak of the head for a few hours to remove built-up ink on the base of the print head (Epson Color 440). Am just waiting a while longer to see if the remaining black ink jet holes will clean up. Otherwise I may have to give the print head a second soak in a cotton bud pot lid with some flush liquid. I've used about half the bottle of flush liquid, so far. I just peeled the labels off the top of a couple of oldish cartridges (one black, one Cyan Magenta Yellow) and filled with a standard pipette with squeezy rubber top. Re-covered with insulating tape and ran the 'clean function a few times before leaving to soak. Cost me GBP40 to have it done professionally, once! Another trying exercise in actually doing nothing and waiting for a while - always seems to be harder than I can manage, that! I also had to glue one of the bronze bearings back in place. I suspect the professionals I used to flush it last time cracked it. Used epoxy glue. Poundland stuff very good, just now! Otherwise, would have been possible to just pop the head itself out and soak, without dropping out the main bearing rail. I think I may have been heavy-handed trying to move large lumps of ink with a cotton bud, where just leaving it longer to soak would have resulted in it just dropping away, which may be why I didn't get the black back immediately.

3/11/7

Four years' weight data in Excel

I have updated my weight spreadsheet (Excel).
See: WEIGHTZ.XLS.
It now holds about 4 years, 4 months' data (1,298 points). Could be interesting to compare it with the toilet water use spreadsheet, below, see if there's any correlation, but, I haven't had time to do that, yet.

1/11/7

Improve your security!

I have put together a few sketches of security modifications for domestic use.
locks301007.doc (Same thing as web page: Security.) Pic of Yale lock blanks - one five-pin, one six-pin with five 'mice', one tied on, four used: blanks.
See also 'The paper locksmith', by Rob Ives. Publ: Tarquin, 1997. ISBN: 1-899618-03-1. Original price: GBP4.50. May be discontinued, now.

Toilet water use spreadsheet updated - 496 points of data

I have updated my toilet water use spreadsheet. It now has over a year of data on it.
TOILETB.XLS.
There seems to be a curious cyclical nature to the usage curves, with a longish period (months). Yet another example of human behaviour being slow to change. Interesting to speculate on reasons for this, perhaps. And on when the next peak will occur.

What I have been up to, lately

Not much has appeared on my web site, for a while. This is because I have been rather absorbed with one thing and another, including:
Trying to unblock my inkjet printer - got three colours, just need black. Bought a fax to test comms. GBP10 second hand. Bargain. There is definitely a fault on the other side of the BT socket in my wall. I think I must have to consider this to be a crime (try all possibilities!). A certain amount of draughtproofing. I have been experiencing pressure related to removing drug users. I have been threatened with eviction (threat now past). I had possibly the most bizarre encounter with two members of the local constabulary I ever hope to have (complaint in hand) for putting a sign in my window. My first dehumidifier had to go back to Argos, as, I think, a bearing had dried out. Argos very helpfully upgraded me to next model up (DeLonghi DEM10), as none of old one in stock. Also, transformer on small one burned out, too! :( Tricky to replace, as high current (2.5A!) - 'GET' (the supplier) has not responded to my enquiry about replacement. Am now trying to keep humidity over 38 or 39% RH, but the drier the better, generally. My hand has been improving, slowly, with setbacks. My skin is much better. I found some weird shreds of something or other in a cotton wool pad bag - took it to the police. No word, so guessing harmless. I have two complaints before the management of Hellesdon Hospital for consideration.

20/10/7

My kitchen and bathroom fans draw air from walls

I discovered that, after draughtproofing various major leaks in my house, the extractor fans in my kitchen and bathroom (100W and 30W respectively) draw air from the wall cavities in my flat. Since some of this smelled of the roofspace, and there was a horrible creosote-like stain around the loft door, where air had whistled past, I figured I was better off trying to stop this. Here is a video of air being drawn through the holes where screws in the light switch go. After putting the screws back, the draught was pretty much gone. It's surprising how much passes through, after blocking the main holes in the flat! This clip shows a lighter held to the draught being blown so strongly it howls!
Video clip of air being drawn through cupboard wall.

23/8/7

My desk is picking up nasty noise from the TV and stuff

After running through several sets of chips and transistors for a small alarm project, I finally concluded I had to find what, if anything, might be inducing the signals I found induced on the legs of a table, in case this sort of thing was blowing the chips. Haven't had time or opportunity to do full tests. However, here are some fun pics from very quick setup.
Waveform induced in oscilloscope probe resting on steel arm of desk.
Setup for above. Probe is to right.
The basically 50Hz induced waveform (about 0.3V peak to peak, if I recall) has several contributors: the TV; the video; a small dehmidifier with high amperage transformer (which, for some reason, is the almost exclusive supplier of the small spike on the top of the basic 'sine' form); a lead to a shredder; and quite a large smooth (though slightly wobbly) basic sinusoidal waveform I have, as yet, been unable to trace (about half the height of the wave, centreline to top) - I can only guess at cables in the wall or floor. When the TV screen is on, I also get a small signal of about 18kHz, which I take to be the CRT's beam scanning across the screen of the TV. This shows up as thickening or blurring of the line at the scaling shown here.
I also bought a cheap socket tester from Maplin. It has confirmed all connections are the right way round, and sockets earthed. The 'earth' light glows slightly, in 'no earth' state - tried it on a 3A lighting-only extension cable (which, by definition, has no earth).

25/7/7

Ethnicity data for Norfolk Constabulary employees

 Post type  'Visibly Minority Ethnic'  'White' or 'Not stated'  Total  'VME' % 
 PCSO  6  194  200  3% 
 PO  19  1591  1610  1.18% 
 Staff  7  1275  1282  0.55% 

The response to my request explained Norfolk Constabulary's ethnicity recording policy as follows: 'Norfolk Constabulary records the ethnicity of personnel using a summary classification of either Visibly Minority Ethnic (VME) or White. The classification 'White' also includes those personnel whose ethnicity is not stated'.
Local general population ethnicity data can be found in Norfolk & Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust's response regarding ethnicity and rates of mental illness among its staff. NWMHP ethnicity and mental illness rates letter. Letter as HTML page.

Omission/correction on Norfolk Constabulary staff numbers

I have a second set of numbers for staff levels, which were described in the email to me as 'correct at the time of the request'. These also include a figure for 'Special Constabulary'. Police officers: 1,603; Special Constabulary: 279; PCSOs: 186; Police staff: 1234. However, there is no guarantee that these also applied at the time of the request regarding mental health. It is quite possible that my request was serviced by a previous enquirer's request and that data is old. However, it should give a feel for the approximate numbers.

Mind running 'Access to Justice' campaign

UK mental health charity, Mind, is running an 'Access to Justice' campaign. Click here for service user questionnaire. Click here for service provider questionnaire. Questionnaires back by 20 August 2007.

21/7/7

'Mental health problems' too wide a term for mental health Trust

Made an application to Norfolk & Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust under the terms of the Freedom of Information Act for statistics on the rate of incidence of mental health problems among its staff, as well as statistics on ethnicity of its staff. It has answered the ethnicity question, but, as far as I can tell, come up with a really lame excuse for not providing me with statistics on the rate of mental health problems among its own staff, saying 'The term 'mental health problems' as I said in my letter has a wide definition and the Trust does not measure an 'incident rate' as such'. NWMHP ethnicity and mental illness rates letter. Letter as HTML page.
I also applied to Norfolk Constabulary for the same, and got stats on both. I have been unable to put any of the stats from either into Excel, yet, as I have been busy and my hand hurts at the moment. I also have some limited stats on the number of phone calls made to police, the time taken to answer, and so on. One of the worrying problems that becomes clear from them is the amount of time the police must spend telling people that have rung on the 999 number that they do not handle noise complaints (since this is, for the most part, the responsibility of Environmental Health). Sadly the stats provided by Norfolk Constabulary are not sufficient for me to establish how well my own calls have been handled compared to, say, the average (which was the main reason for beginning DPA/FOI enquiries to the police in the first place, and which resulted in the letter from CI Bull below).

Mental health problems among Norfolk Constabulary employees

 PTSD  Other stress  Anxiety  Depression  Other  Total 
 05/06 (POs, staff)  5, 7 52, 56 8, 13 19, 21 2, 7 190
 06/07 (POs, staff)  7, 4 54, 57 7, 9 23, 19 0, 1 181

The figures for police officers (POs) does not include PCSOs. Staff is 'all other'. Apparently, it is more damaging to mental health behind a desk than out on the beat. Certainly makes you think about officers who are retired from the beat for some reason and are 'given a nice desk job'. Norfolk Constabulary has 200 PCSOs, 1,610 police officers, and 1,282 staff. PTSD is 'post-traumatic stress disorder'.

Local mental health trust sent round nurses because of political protest

Shortly after the elections, Norfolk & Waveney Mental Health NHS Trust sent two psychiatric nurses around to my flat on the grounds that I 'had been seen wearing a sandwich board'. I was a little annoyed by this, as engaging in political protest is not a symptom of mental illness. After a longish chat, they left, happy that there was no problem.

Powergen pays me compensation for meter reading errors

Powergen has erased the 'outstanding' amount that it had managed to pile up on my bill and paid me GBP10 in compensation for the nuisance, etc. My meter is a credit-only card meter, so no debt should have arisen. And, the meter man, from Siemens, had to have four - or was it five - goes at entering the four numbers correctly into the meter in order to update prices on this occasion.

23/6/7

Got a letter from my MP, Charles Clarke, yesterday

Got a letter from my MP, Charles Clarke, yesterday. It contained two copied letters relating to my casework and a compliments slip.

Larger dehumidifier relieves my catarrh faster

Bought a 10 litre/day dehumidifier, yesterday. Works much faster than the 0.25 litre model I had. I had clearer breathing in a matter of hours. Both seem to work at of the order of half rated capacity. It used an average of 187 Watts over a 12h 34min period, removing about 1.75 litres of water, which is about 139cc per hour, or 2.32cc per minute. Used 2.35kWh of electricity in that time. Not one of the three Argos stores in Norwich had one, so had to go to Cromer. Had a fry-up, watched the ships, listened for local/shipping walkie-talkie traffic, had a cold beer, and may have had my pocket picked for the return portion of my rail ticket. Have bought a hygrometer from Maplin to optimise humidity and balance catarrh relief, dry eyes and electricity costs. The cost of catarrh pastilles was getting ridiculous. I lost part of a tooth to one, last year, they're sugary, and I think they were beginning to make my stomach sore, too. Hopefully, will post some optimal relative humidity/electric costs data here, at some stage.

16/6/7

What I found in a letter from my MP, Charles Clarke

Picture of an inclusion I found in a letter from my MP, Charles Clarke:
Picture of envelope as I found it.
Picture of inclusion.

I do not know what the inclusion is, how it got into the envelope, or at what stage of the letter's life it got there. I reported the matter to the Royal Mail, as suggested by Charles Clarke's office. The Royal Mail office in Belfast said it would pass the matter to its security service. I have heard no more from it on the matter, as yet.

I have, today, received a letter from my MP, Charles Clarke, saying 'we can no longer offer you advice and support'.
Letter as .PNG scan - clarke16062007.png.
Letter as Word file - clarke16062007.doc.

I have replied, offering to cease all contact with them if they wish.

Norfolk Constabulary offers to review language and attitude to mental health issues

I have received a letter from Chief Inspector Martin Bull, of Norfolk Constabulary, telling me that he has asked staff to review certain aspects of behaviour with respect to mental health as a result of a complaint I made upon seeing the contents of some data provided to me under the terms of the Data Protection Act - notably Computer Aided Dispatch reports of my phone calls to the control room at Wymondham.
[Added material, 18/6/7...
Letter as .PNG file - nfkpol180607.png
Letter as Word file - nfkpol180607.doc
...end of added material]

29/5/7

A simple refinement to seals - tallies

Have thought of a refinement to seals. Tallies. If, before you use a seal, you apply a stamp across it and onto a piece of paper, so that half of the image is on the seal and half on the piece of paper, you can take that away as a tally, to refer to when you return to it a) as proof that the right seal is still there, and b) to establish 'ownership' of the seal. Or you can use the piece of sticker left behind when you peel the main sticker off. Or both.

3/5/7

Another seal-making spreadsheet

Another quick spreadsheet for overprinting sticky labels to make seals. For some reason, here in Norwich library, when I view it, the careful formatting of the axes of both graphs appears to have gone awry. To correct, put the axes back, rescale so the curves cover the whole page and remove the axes again. No idea why this should happen, but very annoying. The graphs are designed to minimise the amount of ink used, and the file is smaller than the one below. I found two passes, one each way up, for each graph produced adequate density for a 10p piece sized seal. If you can't reformat, it'll probably be fine if you just overprint both ways anyway. Overprinting with rubber stamps also adds an unrepeatable element.
SEAL2.XLS.
Picture of an example seal in place. VB A4 page random number printer for W3.11 PCs.

I have CCTV

I have CCTV. It cost GBP6.00 from CPC. Made by 'Mercury'. See: www.cpc.co.uk. Sadly, they seem to be out of stock, now. I installed this after continuing suspicious visits during the night to my front door. I have an audio recording of one night's activity. I used a children's 'spy' listening device. GBP7.50, Toys "R" Us. It has a detachable microphone element, which I rubber-banded to the door. It's amazing! You can hear people walking on the carpet, breathing, knees creaking etc on the other side of the door, and delicate handling of the furniture on my front door. The CCTV's audio is pretty sensitive, too, and I can get an 8-hour run on that.

1/5/7

Increase the security of your locks!

Increase the security of your locks using seals! This quick and dirty Excel spreadsheet generates three different formats of random data to print onto A4 sticky label sheets. Run the label sheet through the printer several times, possibly offsetting the paper in the feeder or changing orientation to create unrepeatable intersections in the designs. It should stop people picking your locks a) at night, while you sleep; b) while you're out. Much cheaper and quicker than buying new locks. Add surface texture to increase security - eg: by using a 'spirograph' style drawing tool (eg: 50p, Hawkin's Bazaar, UK (couldn't find the item on the web site, but it is in the shops)) with a biro that presses into the paper, or by overtyping with a manual typewriter. Make crossed cuts in the seal with a sharp knife or scalpel to increase the likelihood of it tearing, if picked. If you allow eg: a 10p piece sized seal to overlap the break between two adjacent labels, you get something much easier to use - the break acts as a starter for peeling.
SEAL.XLS (Large file! 1.15Mb!).

VOTE ANTI WAR!

Vote anti war on Thursday May 3rd! Have been out protesting with my sandwich board. Pic of me with sandwich board.

24/4/7

Cricket scoring sheet for TV viewers

Here's my cricket scoring sheet for those wanting to follow cricket on TV: CRKTSCR3.DOC. Now also added to main menu, at top. :)

7/4/7

How much water do you flush down the toilet?

Here is a spreadsheet showing how much water I flush down the toilet. Hardly glamorous stuff, but if the savings I have made are repeated, and it averts a water shortage, I'll stomach the jibes.
TOILETUS.XLS
I recorded 290 days' data. I have cut the cost from 2.95pence per flush to 1.57pence, leading to savings of about 12.7 cubic metres of water per year (12.7tonnes), a money saving of about GBP20.83 per six month period. The frequency curve (showing what I am most likely to do) is a very satisfactory stats type curve, quite similar to a simple distribution, with steep start and exponential decline. It matches basic standard deviation predictions quite closely. I average 3.99 flushes per day. For some strange reason, it does seem to make a difference which day of the week it is, varying from an average of 3.68 on a Thursday, to 4.29. I think I can stop the rather curious process of recording that data, now. Might be interesting to compare it with weight data (if I ever get around to updating that) - curiously, I weigh most on Mondays and least on Wednesdays - 0.52lb difference. And might be interesting to compare my flushing data with that of a person using Olanzapine or Risperdal Consta/Risperidone. The number of flushes per day also seems to suffer from a certain amount of inertia (see water bills, below).

14/3/7

My water bill down 41%, by GBP39, this half - spreadsheet of bills

I have cut GBP39 off my previous water bill - down by 41%. See spreadsheet of my last seven years' water bills: WATRUSEB.XLS. I have reduced the water level in the toilet cistern by about half, put a waste paper bin beside it, do not flush urine alone, and use larger loads in the washing machine. I suppose it is also possible that marking up my kettle for minimum volumes may also have contributed. It would be interesting to examine the effects on water use of the use of Olanzapine and Risperdal Consta in this respect. When looking at the graphs, note that I was in hospital from 28 March to 2 July in 2003. The particularly large bill before this period, of 18/2/3 is explained by my double-rinsing washing because of my eczema. One of the interesting features of the usage graphs is that use seems to change quite slowly and progressively. Perhaps this is a reflection of the difficulty in changing habits. I am also quite pleased with my previous bill, as I found last summer rather warm.
In this context, check out these charts from Down Under: See: Western Australia Water Corporation water storage charts for its dams, and yearly streamflow for chart of streamflow to the dams since 1911.

Keep cool using mirror blinds this summer!

The weather here in Norwich is getting warmer, and the sun is higher. Make yourself some mirror sun blinds out of cardboard and aluminium foil. I'll be getting mine out again, shortly. Pic of sun blinds from inside, sun blinds from outside. You could reduce heating through your windows by kilowatts! Click here to go to build details.

9/3/7

Watch a Yale lock go in a second!

Having had some worries about domestic security, I performed a cursory search of the web. Found this. Watch it. It's scary!
Five-pin cyclinder lock being opened by a child in one second.

Here's how it's done: Use of 'bump keys' in picking cylinder locks, on the 'Rojo' web site.

20/2/7

Speed up epoxy glue safely, and save energy on ovens

After trying to speed up epoxy resin several times (Poundland has been selling two pairs of tubes for a pound for some time) - usually on my storage heater, I tried the oven. To avoid burning it to a crisp, I was using a type K thermocouple plugged into a multimeter. This is rather a delicate toy to leave lying around on a kitchen floor, so, when I found a 99p oven thermometer, I thought I'd give it a try. So, I have produced an Excel spreadsheet comparing the two, and looking at the oven setting. I had always suspected my oven of running hot, as pasties done at 200 deg C always come out burnt. This seems to confirm this - it goes way over temperature. It also seems to suggest that the 99p thermometer is quite accurate (at least as hot as I use the oven for epoxy resin - didn't dare leave it in above 100 deg C, as the thermocouple has a plastic sheath). I found that switching the oven on for just 3 minutes is quite enough - the Poundland epoxy says it sets in 5 minutes, but it doesn't - without heat, it takes about 15 hours, with about 5 hours before it even begins to look 'set' - with an oven heated for three minutes, it takes about 40 minutes to set satsifactorily - this takes the oven to a maximum of about 60 deg C. I am hoping this will improve my cooking and also save me energy. The 99p thermometer looks very good value for money, reading the same max on 3min test, but does have a significant lag in its response (anything from 3 minutes while heating, to 10 minutes to peaking, to as much as maybe 20 while cooling) - which you would want to factor in if you were putting something sensitive in to set.

Performance of a type K thermocouple and 99p mechanical thermometer in a Glen Domino electric oven OVEN.XLS

7/2/7

Engrave in 9-pin dot-matrix font!

Many years ago, I transcribed the 9-pin arrangements of alphanumeric characters from a dot-matrix printer. I use the font for engraving labels, etc. You can use a micro-drill or simple centre-punch to mark. If you transcribe what you wish to engrave onto a piece of 1cm/1mm graph paper, 1mm between rows, vertically, and leave 0.5mm between adjacent dots and 1mm between dots with a space in between, and leave 1.5mm between the last dot of one character and the first of the next, it should look fine. Circle each dot. Cut out the graph paper with the design on, glue it to the workpiece with Pritt or similar, and either mark with a scriber (easier to centre dots properly that way) then centre-punch or centre-punch and drill. Remove graph paper from work when finished.
Alphabet (upper and lower case).
Numerals + remainder of characters.
For an example, see the dog tags I engraved, many years ago: dog tags.

20/12/6

Comparison of 400/800W radiant heater with other heaters

First, I should say that I have no idea where I got the 'approx 400W used' figure in my entry for 19/12/6 from. My estimate for power used to heat my bedroom, produced at 3 November, was 260W. The radiant heater (made by Connect IT) uses very close to 400W for one bar (at about 403W). I spotted the oversight when, this morning, I had used 4.59kWh in 11hrs 23min overnight (the average figure turns out to be 1.93kWh). So, I averaged all the overnight power rates I have recorded, and got an average rate of power use for heating my bedroom of 209W - not surprising, then, that the 400W heater was rather more expensive. At 400W, it kept the bedroom at a fairly steady 22deg C. This is two or three degrees higher than I need it, normally, but, just now, I am keeping the flat a lot warmer, as I am continually being woken in the night by noisy neighbours. I got to the point where I was feeling cold when I was woken and had to get up, as my body was having to burn more energy at the wrong times of day. This is very irritating, and costs money. Hope no-one bought a heater on the strength of my advice! I will return to the cheapest option, the fan heater, when my neighbours stop disturbing me. The radiant heater average power figure (403W) is very similar to the oil-filled radiator figure (Glen model 2158 - 'flat', 82x62x2cm, rated 1200W, using 1285W when on, averaging 394W in use overnight). None of these figures can really be described as 'rigorous', as I only have one power monitor (they're going cheap, again!) and have prewarmed the room now and then with additional, unmonitored heaters.

19/12/6

I have repetitive strain injury

I was finally signed off 'sick' with repetitive strain injury, about five weeks ago. I injured my right wrist pruning a hedge behind my block of flats that the council had not got around to for several years - it overhung the road to about halfway across it. Typing seriously aggravates the RSI, so can't put some of my energy saving data and so on into Excel (easily - may try left hand only) - my site may be less active for some while. Obtaining Income Support and/or Incapacity Benefit seems to entail ten times as much work as signing for JSA - but many thanks to my MP's office (Charles Clarke) for helping sort out gremlins. I bought a shopping trolley to relieve the load of groceries on my wrist. Hateful thing to have to use, but seems to help. Tesco insists that my trolley be put into one of its trolleys while I shop. Looks ridiculous.

Will be comparing effectiveness of 400W/800W halogen heater

Have found a 400/800W halogen radiant heater for GBP6.95. Am going to compare energy efficiency and its ability to make a room feel warm with fan heater and oil-filled electric radiator. So far, it seems that a fan heater is a factor of several times cheaper than an oil-filled electric radiator. I used power at an average rate of 400W using (3kW) fan heater, so hoping radiant halogen heater on 400W will produce similar results, while drying out the room (thereby helping catarrh, with luck) - I am hoping radiant heat will heat and dry out the fabric of the room, which will mean I lose less energy if I need a change of air when it becomes stuffy (whereas a fan heater heats only the air - all of which leaves upon air change).

Will be making some of my own clothes

Have acquired a sewing machine to make my own pyjamas, etc. So far, have made a few more nightcaps, repaired a tee shirt, made a hot water bottle cover (not that I use a hot water bottle that often) and have a pattern and materials for a pair of pyjamas. With pyjamas at up to £25 for pyjamas that function the way I want (and won't shrink), am hoping it will pay for itself quite quickly.

Am researching The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Malthus

I am researching
The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and Malthus. Both published in 1798. It occurred to me to ask whether Malthus (or, more likely, his contemporaries) might have been able to predict, to any degree, catastrophic weather effects, by considering population growth and resource depletion - eg: forestry reserves, CO2 levels, O2 levels, possibly up to and including the effect of such levels on formation of raindrops. Initial research reveals the following contemporaneous characters: Godwin, whose work prompted Malthus; Condorcet, a French mathematician. Neckar, one-time DG of France. Condorcet, achieving office, recommended 'the worst penalty excepting death' (Life-in-death?) for Louis XVI of France - who was guillotined.

'Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.'

Anyone wondering about the sort experiments folk were indulging in, at about this time, might find it helpful to check out this pic: Experiment on a Bird in the Air Pump, Joseph Wright, 1768. Presumably, it was also possible to investigate the formation of clouds and raindrops by using the cloud chamber in a more conventional manner.

Rewrote the first lines thus:

It is an Armilliary,
And the Earth is planet three.
By Saturn and Venus,
Now which one's Mercury?
Jupiter's the largest one,
And Neptune's next one down.
If Mars is here, we'll turn the gear,
'Cos this thing's clockwork, see!

I figured the poet might be asking 'How long have we got?', and that some form of chronometer might be useful.

Looking at the albatross, I wondered whether it might represent 'the people', or 'slaves/slavery', given what was going on at the time, or possibly, in the context of the industrial revolution, 'coal', which might be a more useful angle when thinking in terms of resource accounting, CO2/O2 balance, etc, and the weather.

6/11/6

Excel spreadsheet of elec savings - cost per week for each month

Updated my spreadsheet of purchases of electricity against time to work out the saving I was making, compared to last year. Since Excel grumbles if one 'scattered' dataset is interspersed with another, I found the simplest and quickest way to overlay one year over another was to trace the whole curve on tracing paper, and place it over the original printout. By using a piece-wise form of integration (dividing the x-axis into one-week slices and subtracting this year's values from last year's to give saving per week then adding them all) I found I have made a saving of about £43.50 since the start of August. See: ELECTIM2.XLS. One of the worksheets shows cost per week by month of the year. However, the last cost per week I calculated is well below the average November figure of £13.15 at about £4.71 per week! Also, I have updated Powergen's rates in my electricity savings rate lookup table. See: ELECSAV2.XLS
I forgot to mention below that my using cold washes for laundry may be contributing. After averaging data from four nights, the cost of heating my room averages at 17p per night, using an average of 2.55kWh per night. And a flu-like affliction - 'mycoplasma infection of the lungs' may have led me to use more heat, last year.

Sign of the times around Parmentergate Ct

This graffito was sprayed on the shutters of the old brewery opposite Parmentergate Ct, a while back. One has to ask 'Who put it there, why, who for, what does it mean, and is it in any way related to the continuing nuisances we are experiencing in the area?'. See: Pic of graffito reading 'Are you getting _ed off yet!".

3/11/6

Elec costs halved, space heating on - initial figures

Finally had to turn the heating on in my bedroom, last night. Up until then, my costs were running at slightly under half the rate for this time last year. I attribute this to a) warmer weather (compare temperatures with data in my weather spreadsheet for 02/03) - I have switched on the heating about six weeks later than last year (and only in bedroom, so far); b) monitoring room temperature with a max/min thermometer; c) use of high power incandescant bulbs for lighting last year (sort of an anti-SAD measure). The temperature of my bedroom had been hanging around 20 deg C, ie: about where it was during the later part of summer, for some time. Just the last two days, it dropped suddenly. Two days ago, about 17.5 (though the room warmed overnight), yesterday, 16.5. Last night, my 3kW fan heater used 2.42kWh while I was in the room, over a period of 9hrs 16min from 10:55pm - an average rate of use of about 260W. (Powergen night rate period runs from 1am to 8am.) Max-min figures for the room temp were 16.5 min and 19.5 max. The low min would probably have been the starting point, from which it would have departed quickly, so not terribly helpful. Room was at 19.0 when I got up, which was fine. Might be able to go down slightly from there. I have spent a little time going round shops in Norwich looking for infrared bulbs that might provide the same wattage as the average rate. One GEC bulb, 250W, puts out too much visible light. Boots sell 100W IR bulbs 'for therapeutic uses', but can't seem to find bulbs on their own. Three years ago, I had a wall-mount radiant heater. Rather expensive, but it heats the objects in the room, rather than the air. This a) dries things out/keeps them dry (eg: bedclothes); and b) means that if you open the window for a while to change the air, there is still heat in the room. It may also be beneficial for breathing, allergies, etc. However, it may prove more expensive.

Vitamin B3/niacin rash - LSD or just allergy?

I had a read of the Wikipedia entry for LSD a while back. It suggests that vitamin B3 (niacin) can 'end a bad trip'. It says you come out in a skin rash. Since I have had a skin problem for some time, and have been using multivitamins and minerals including B3, I thought I'd test what happened if I took more B3. I bought some 100mg B3 tablets from Holland and Barrett. About 20 minutes to half an hour after taking one tablet, my hands began to itch, the top of my head felt like it was burning slightly, and I came out in a rash in various places (head, neck, ears, shoulders, knees, calf). Naturally somewhat alarmed, I contacted police and medical services. They assured me it was simply an allergy. The rash disappeared after an hour or so. It is not the same sort of rash as the skin problem that I have that doctors have described as 'eczema'. I have used plenty of vitamins and minerals before, including some large B complex tablets, and have never had any problems. I took a 100mg tablet again, the following day, and had no such rash. What should I conclude?
I then tried looking up 'EDTA', which, after some thought, I remembered was a chemical that is commonly found in shampoo - the wikipedia entry says it can prevent decomposition of LSD catalysed by metal ions. I tried using my Amstrad Emailer to search Google. When I pressed 'Google search', it generated an error code, switched off, and reset itself. I am in discussion with Amstrad regarding the nature of the problem.
It might also be useful to see Asimov's entry for LSD from his science book, in which he says LSD 'can produce many of the symptoms of schizophrenia'.

23/10/6

Dehumidifier eases my breathing at night

Bought a dehumidifier from Woolies, as my bedroom windows often suffer from condensation in the morning. Also wondered whether it might help with my catarrh. Seems to work. It extracts about 135g of water from the air per 24 hours. And my breathing seems to be easier at night. The last 24 hour sample was down slightly (to 118g), so I'm wondering whether it is beginning to dry out the bed, clothing, etc in the room. Might reduce heating costs, later, too. Rated capacity is 250ml per 24 hours at 30 deg C, 80% RH. My room is a steady 20 deg C. It uses a constant 27W (about 0.65kWh per day).

What is the editor of the Independent on Sunday up to?

Got a letter from the editor of the Independent on Sunday! I am unable to work out why. It appears to relate to something I wrote to him in April of this year. Additionally, as far as I can tell, he has some very funny ideas about what poor (or otherwise) punctuation indicates about a person. And, if I were the editor of a national weekly paper, I'd consider myself able to have the fax number changed, if I so wished, or know the reason why. I get the impression he wished to insult me. This is not the behaviour of the editor of a national weekly newspaper. What is he up to?
Letter from editor of IOS

Read 'On the Beach', by Nevil Shute!

I have just finished reading 'On the Beach' by Nevil Shute. I recommend it! Read it! On the Beach.

10/10/6

Hellesdon Hospital shuffling wards and creating a 'low secure' ward

I have just spoken with Jonathon Stewart, of NWMHP regarding Hellesdon Hospital. He says that both Thurne and Glaven wards are now in use, as is Waveney, so that Yare Ward can be refitted to become a 'low secure' ward. It also has plans for more building. However, I have heard, for the first time, that Heron ward is closed.

5/10/6

What is a reasonable life expectancy for a child?

What is a reasonable life expectancy for a child? Three score years and ten? 60? 50? 40? 30? 20? 10? 5? 3? 2? How long do you think it will be before there are serious problems with maintaining life as we know it on earth? 2? 3? 5, 10, 20...? Whether it's a rise in sea level, or some other climatic phenomenon, you probably have a figure in your mind. Sea level rise: 40 years hence? Is it reasonable, then, at this point, to bring a child into this world? Myself, I am worried that climatic disaster is a good deal nearer. Will Australia have enough water this year? Will the UK have a bad grain crop again, next year? Will the earth's lungs, the Amazon rainforest, dry up completely and irretrievavbly, this year? The Independent on Sunday gave it 'One year to live'.Is it, now, responsible to bring a child into this world? If your estimate of time before problems is lower than your estimate for reasonable life expectancy, would it have been a reasonable thing to do to bring a child into this world before now? As if 6.5bn human corpses on a dead planet orbiting our sun won't be quite enough without one more from you. I wonder what might find them. If anything. Should the government start a free contraception programme? What would the Catholic position on this be?

Evening supplemental...lightning strike!

Just thought I'd post a pic of a lightning strike over Norwich I took from my flat, recently. It's a double strike. I guess both forks of lightning followed a similar path of least resistance because of whorls in the clouds, or something. There is something of a 'headlights on full in the fog' effect, because of the 'light summer smog' we have been experiencing, since May. Pic of lightning strike of 13 Sept 2006. Anyone wanting to do some night photography might light to check out this spreadsheet: EXPSURS.XLS. All I did to get the lightning pic was to set the (digital) camera to 8sec exposure, with 2sec delay before take, sat on a tripod, and took shots repeatedly until I got something.

22/9/6

Hellesdon Hospital thinking of closing another ward

Heard on the radio that Norfolk & Waveney Mental Health Partnership NHS Trust is thinking of closing two wards - both for acute patients - Thurne and Glaven wards. I have already seen Thurne ward closed, with all office equipment removed, etc. Haven't been able to confirm status of Glaven. However, this now means the loss of four wards, with about 20 beds per ward since about 2003.

6-bed private women's psychiatric hospital to open in Norwich

As Hellesdon closes another ward, so a small (6-bed) private women's psychiatric hospital is opening in Norwich. A company called 'Milestones' is currently recruiting nurses. Neat timing, and possibly representative of a shift in the structure of UK psychiatric services. I think it may be worth anyone curious having a look at this paper on the history of mental hospitals in Britain: EVOLUTMH.DOC in which changes from small private concerns to public are discussed. Can't find a web site for them, but they're due to open in November, at a converted B&B in Vicarage Road, Salhouse, Norwich, NR13 6HA. Tel: 01603 782200. Contact by email: kerrieforrest@milestones06.co.uk.

Savings drive - some preliminary findings

After having a play with the power monitor (see entry below of 7/8/6), I have drawn a number of preliminary conclusions.

A lot of the energy used in washing is used in heating water. So, washing cold saves a lot of electricity. In fact, I have had two light-load cold washes, on 'delicates' cycle using only 0.08kWh, one using 0.11kWh, etc. This compares with a boil wash with 5lbs load using 1.79kWh. Boiling water for a small cup of tea uses 0.03kWh. Hence I am trying to phase out tea - this will depend on my not needing an instant warm-up when it gets colder! It appears to be OK to mix coloureds and whites on a cold wash, so I am making loads higher. Higher loads take use more energy. Also, the type of load appears to influence energy use. Sheets seem to take more energy than smaller items - presumably because a whole sheet has to be lifted, bodily, to a slightly greater height than individual socks. But, larger loads seem to do a lot more damage to my rather old clothes. This hardly counts as a plus. And, not surprisingly, if you wash larger loads, you need more drying space at any one time. This may necessitate another clothes horse, or such. I put some Poundland rope across my hallway in eight lines between cup hooks. Also, after measuring the water used by two loads, I have found that one high-load wash used about 40% more water than was claimed by the literature that came with the machine. If you reduce the temperature of the wash, the relative cost of water used and the various soaps, soda, bleaching powders and any fabric conditioner become significant. Since I have found that the estimates of the manufacturer (Whirlpool) are low, for high loads at least, I think I will measure some more loads to compare. I suspect that the reason the water used goes up with high loads is that the washing machine uses a pressure sensor to measure water depth. If a large load of clothes has to be completely wetted, and an excess of water generated to xyz level, which triggers the pressure sensor, more water will be required. The pressure sensor has no idea how much water is added. All it knows about is the level of the water across, eg: the glass door of the machine. However, 40% more water for a larger load may be more efficient than a whole extra wash. I will have to do some 'hard sums'.

Some other figures for typical uses include: standard 40 deg C wash set to 'cold' (20deg C) and 'eco' (reduces temperature and lengthens wash to compensate), 10.5lbs load, 0.37kWh; 40 wash set to 'cold', 'eco', 9.5lbs load, 0.28kWh; 60 deg C wash, anti-dust mite sheet (double), 2lbs, (zero spin) 0.78kWh (twice); vacuum bedroom (about 3m x 3m) normally, 0.49kWh, 0.42kWh; vacuum bedroom economically, 0.22kWh (by turning down power setting); iron a duvet cover (double, both sides) using 1.3kW steam iron, 0.14kWh; iron one cotton sheet (double), 0.1kWh; iron one brushed cotton sheet (single), 0.07kWh; iron a shirt (seems to be similar for several types), 0.05kWh; boil a 1.5 litre kettle, 0.14kWh. Note that, since a lot of energy goes on water heating, some of these figures are quite dependent upon the weather. If the water starts warmer, you'll need less energy to heat it to the same temperature. Cook two veggie burgers in microwave, 3 min, 0.05kWh; micro-chips, 3 min, 0.05kWh. Half-size dishwasher, 55 deg C wash, 0.57kWh; 65 deg C wash, 0.52kWh, 0.64kWh, 0.61kWh; charge two AA NiCads, 14hrs, 0.02kWh.

I have begun to add a third layer of 'glazing' to my windows, using cling film and double-sided sellotape. If you play a hair drier on the film, it tightens up and removes some, if not all - depending upon how well you apply the film - of the creases. I have draught-proofed my door and one of the windows. Draught-proofing is the most cost-effective way of saving energy. And I have added another keyhole flap on the other side of the door.

I am using a max/min thermometer to record max and min temperatures in my bedroom during the day and at night to establish comfort levels for when it gets colder. Hopefully, I will be able to minimise my heating bill in this way - it should also be useful in reduce heat rash. I was finding, previously, that my bald head was getting cold, so I had to have the heating up to avoid getting a cold. But this meant that the rest of my body got too hot. I have, now, made some nightcaps out of tee-shirt material (end of roll) in the shape of swim caps. Seems to make it possible to reduce room temperature without letting my head get cold, which is also good for my skin. The cheapest max/min thermometer I could find was GBP7.00 in the Co-Op. And its mercury had split in places. On the back of the packet, it said you could restore it to one continuous run by spinning it round and round. So, I held it at arms length and spun around as fast as I could. It did restore the mercury to one run, but the process really really hurt like hell! All the blood went to my hand, and it hurt for a day or two afterwards. Anyone wishing to restore the mercury in a max/min might be better off putting it into an old sock on a piece of string and whirling it around their head. I'm not sure if it was the spinning, but the max and min reading, at any given time, now disagree by 0.5 deg C.

I have now been recording the number of times I flush the toilet per day for about three months. After an initial change to 'economy-consciousness' by installing a waste bin beside the toilet and leaving urine until flushing was absolutely necessary, there was a step change down in the number of flushes. I now flush about four times per day, instead of maybe six. But I can't see myself getting much below this. Also, I have been reducing the volume of water used per flush, and it is now at 4.8 litres per flush. I got a water bill, this week, which showed I had saved about 1 cubic metre of water as against my previous bill, or about 5 litres per day. I was hoping this would be more, but suspect the hot weather, my skin problems, and a certain amount of energy testing with the washing machine robbed me of some of my savings. [Additional comment, 23/9/6: it would be interesting to hear what effect the use of Olanzaine was having on water consumption in the UK! I used to have to go at least three times before leaving the house, while on Olanzapine! Risperdal Consta (depot injection Risperidone) was hardly helpful in this respect, either!]

I found that my fridge uses power at an average rate of about 28W, over a period of a couple of days. After defrosting, which one might hope would increase efficiency, the average power use went up to about 34W. This, I suspect, was because the weather was warmer. So, it looks a lot like the defrosting didn't produce much useful change. Also, since, before defrosting I had to freeze a couple of freezer packs and chilled the coolbag I put things into while waiting, and, upon defrosting, had to wash the fridge, apply a bicarbonate of soda rinse, and a water rinse, there were costs associated with the process. In other words, this is one hateful job that won't happen unless or until either hygiene or function of the fridge require it. I'd be surprised if the results of descaling a kettle weren't similar. I usually boil four or five kettlefuls of water after descaling to ensure removal of all remains of acid. This almost certainly eats the entirety, and then some, of any savings made.

Sadly, I have restored the toaster. I was finding that, if I used cold bread, I was using two slices. If I use toast, I find I only use one slice of toast for the same filling. This looked too fattening, so the toaster was restored.

I am using a pump dispenser from Superdrug to dispense Dettol to sterilise my electric razor, as this uses a lot less than simply slopping a slug into the bowl. The label on Dettol says its use should be avoided in eczematous conditions. I use it to ensure no breeding of germs on the razor, and soak the cutter in cold water after the Dettol for about an hour, and seem to have no problems. Rather cheaper and greener, too! Also, to reduce eczema and other skin problems I have found it is useful to use disposable gloves. One can buy about 250 from Poundland for a pound. The advantage is that any dirt, germs, sweat, etc, that accumulate are immediately disposed of rather than being allowed to breed or brood. I have also found it useful to use the disposable gloves as liners in conventional washing up gloves. This prevents them from going black and horrible inside.

I am testing solar charging of NiCads and NiMhs

I have begun testing the use of solar cells in charging NiCads and NiMhs. Rather than waste some expensive NiMhs, I bought four AA NiCads for a pound from Poundland, and a couple of individual AAA NiMhs from the local model shop, Crystal House, for a pound each. I made a simple battery discharge machine in order to measure the total energy stored in pairs of batteries. I mounted a small electric motor vertically, with a rotor arm with two large paddles on, to produce resistance, and a magnet on the end of each arm. The magnets pass a reed switch linked to a counter. After switching on, the batteries turn the rotor until they die, at which point the counter ceases to count. Since the counter has plenty of reserve power, and uses little, this acts as a dirt-cheap data logger. I am hoping the final count figure will be proportional to total energy in the batteries, and all I will have to do is multiply the count by a scaling factor to find the number of Joules of energy (or mAh) stored. One point worth noting about the construction of the discharging system is that the counter's reed switch input is quite sensitive to electrical noise, and, after carefully routing both pairs of wires out in the same direction, parallel to each other, I had to undo this to distance the reed switch's wires from the noisy motor, as I was getting very strange effects on the counter display, with repeated resetting. I am using a Maplin solar cell panel which can be switched between 3, 6, 9 and 12V. It is made of 24 small cells which the switch reconfigures, to achieve each voltage.

An interesting modification of the design, either of the discharge apparatus or use of counter is that I may be able to produce a measure for total sunlight energy to my window in any given period. This might make it possible to take batteries off charge as soon as they are fully charged. I may be able to modify the machine by using a solar motor, which draws less power (may need to modify the paddles, as small NiMhs die rather quickly!) and use the counter as before. Or, possibly neater, is to make a light-dependent electronic multivibrator circuit that will 'click' at a usable rate proportional to light level. (The counter has a max nominal count rate of 7Hz, but I am getting good results at about 8-9Hz.) Something similar to this may also be usable in establishing a measurement of visibility (though this may require something to emit a beam, split it, and make the count rate proportional to the difference between the light levels).

I strongly suspect the best way to use the solar cell will be by charging an intermediate lead-acid battery constantly, and taking this off charge to charge smaller NiCads and NiMhs as and when that is required. This will maximise the use of available solar energy and maximise availability of the rechargeable AAs or AAAs, etc. And, it should decrease the time taken to charge. One interesting fact is that NiMhs are being developed with such large capacities that the lead-acid battery needed to do this begins to get larger than you might hope for or imagine! In other words, it may be important to obtain smaller NiMhs or NiCads in order to ensure that you can get something charged, either at all, if using an intermediate lead-acid, or within a reasonable time-frame if charging direct.

I am hoping to produce Excel spreadsheets of all my data for the washing machine, other domestic appliances, and the solar charging, and will post them here, later.

High altitude air trauma?

I am getting worried by the amount of trauma the sky seems to be suffering at high altitudes, here. I have seen several examples of long, parallel bands of lens-section clouds going across the sky. Also, I have seen quite a few 'vortex-like' effects in the sky. And, in general, there seems to be a lot of shearing. It has occurred to me that the long, parallel bands may not actually be straight lines, but may in fact be large-radius curves. Which would mean this effect was a lot more like hurricane-structure effects. Thankfully, here, at high altitude, so far.

Does Stephen Fry use sarcasm?

Does Stephen Fry use sarcasm? I think so. In The Secret Life of a Manic Depressive he seemed rather too happy, for my liking, when talking about how wonderful it was to be handled, diagnosed, and treated by psychiatrists for it to be anything other than sarcasm. Of course it is perfectly possible that sarcasm isn't part of Stephen Fry's repertoire and that he genuinely has considerable faith in psychiatrists. But I think he, like me, probably learned all about sarcasm by the age of about eight or nine. That's the trouble with grown-ups - they're two-faced! Good job the highly-skilled staff of the psychiatric profession, with razor perception, can see through this linguistic 'sleight of hand'! Most of them are grown-ups, too! It seems odd that the title of the program refers to 'manic depression', when the current term generally used is 'bipolar disorder'.

7/8/6

Plug-through power monitor going for GBP12.49

Maplin is having a sale. There is a plug-through power monitor selling for half price, at GBP12.49 (Maplin code L61AQ). Gives you kWh, V, A, W, VA, Hz, time since instrument was plugged in, and power factor. Very easy to use, and measures over 10A - going right up to 15A (whereas most multimeters won't). So far, I have discovered that my washing machine even uses power when the 'on' button is on but nothing is happening, no lights on. No idea why. One 1.5 litre kettle of water, 0.14kWh, one small teacup of water boiled, 0.03kWh, two pieces toast, 0.02kWh. Surprisingly variable mains voltage, and odd variations in power factor among various products. Some that one might think highly inductive (eg: hair drier, for motor) 'aren't'. Am doing washes, will do vacuum-cleaning, fridge, etc, etc. Will post full breakdown of usages, etc, here, as and when.

31/7/6

History of Mental Hospitals

I have transcribed a paper on the history of mental hospitals in Britain. It was presented in 1962, by one Alexander Walk. See: EVOLUTMH.DOC. Some of the language is delightfully archaic, not to mention deeply worrying, in parts. Of course, psychiatry is completely different, today. Anyone planning to contribute to the next revision of the Mental Health Act, please read!
If interested, you might also want to try a 1902 definition of 'insanity'.

On which day of the week are you lightest?

On which day of the week are you lightest? In my case, it seems to be Wednesday. Which is impressive, because I seem to be heaviest only two days before on a Monday. After playing around with pivot tables for the weather charts, I wondered where else I could use them, and about the only other spreadsheet I have that yields anything interesting is my weight chart. My version at home has more points than the version on here, so you may get a slightly different result if you try it, but I found my highest average weight (Monday) was 0.52lb higher than my lowest (Weds). (See: Spreadsheets to have a play.) When I was still able to have a long soak in the bath, I found I lost about 3lbs while in the bath (where does that go?) - on one occasion, 5lbs. So, if you want your lowest weight (poss 5.5lbs less than max) weigh after a bath on a Wednesday. :)

27/7/6

Electricity up 9.4%, wheat yield expected down

Electricity is to go up 9.4% (British Gas) from September. Wheat yields are expected to be badly hit (UK) as a result of hot weather (shorter growth period). See: BBC news story on harvest. Although fruit crops are expected to go up. We had an extremely impressive thundestorm here, last night, with a lot of lightning, and some of the heaviest rain I have ever seen. This may well have flattened some local crops. I am just waiting to hear of farmers sticking their hands out for the compensation.
I am a trifle worried that the massive electricity savings that some people (myself included) are going to try to make may upset the power system of this country. Last I read (Monday Guardian) New York had been struggling to restore power to parts of the city. If the system stalls, it can take ages to restore, not that I'm expecting that. However, even a considerable, but slow, reduction in use is likely to alter the plant used, and possibly the way it is used. It is possible the system is less stable since privatisation, and may become more vulnerable. Traditionally, nuclear is/was used as base load. Will the load go down far enough to make it hard to use nuclear as base load? If so, could be problems!

Boiled eggs out, micro-omelettes in, kettle marked up for minima

No more boiled eggs. Too energy-intensive. Eggs now arrive as microwave-cooked omelettes (fat-free, compared to frying, and possibly more digestible, with a larger surface area for the stomach to work on!). And I have marked up my kettle for the exact volume required for a small cup of tea, mug, half a saucepan of water, etc. Should save some more electricity. Though clearly not as much as not drinking tea at all. Perhaps I will make the stock I have the last I drink? I can see the time coming, very shortly, when I sacrifice the TV, video, and stereo to save standby (and possibly also usage) electricity. Might go to using the old B&W portable I have, as no standby, no channel tuning to store, and probably lower power when used. Any letters not for electronic distribution might be better produced on a manual typewriter. Cheaper, anyway.

Check out this disaster link!

Local second-hand bookshop in last week of sale. Books down to one pound per carrier bag. So, popped a copy of Red Cross 'World Disasters Report, 1993' into a bag. Cost to me, six pence. Similar reports can be found at: World Disasters Reports. My copy has sections on the dynamics of disasters. Indicators for famine are, apparently, meteorological data (Hah!), and the relative cost of food versus other goods and resources (eg: labour, luxuries, etc). My 1993 copy is all a bit 'it only happens to them', and 'this is because they don't observe human rights', but perhaps that has changed?

25/7/6

Excel spreadsheet of my weather records

I have finally finished putting my weather records into Excel.
See: NR1WTH26.XLS (1.4Mb) Norwich weather, '02 to '06. The total number of pages that would print, if you selected 'all worksheets' is about 169pp - don't do it unless you mean it!!!
I can't really claim to be able to draw any really stunning conclusions, as it is clear that the dataset (a maximum of 802 readings) is really too small. However, it is certainly useful to get a rough idea of how the weather behaves, in Norwich, and get a feel for the sort of data one might need to record to get a better picture. I have graphed a number of relationships (eg: pressure to temperature, temperature agains time), but, because of the shortage of points outside the most common time of reading (ie: 6am to 1pm), it is tricky to say that there's much validity to either a straight line trend or a polynomial trend. Be that as it may, there are 31 charts. I have tried to include a number that show the quality of the data (pretty low!). There is some evidence to suggest visibility is worsening, in my data, though this would be very unconvincing to any academic. Apart from anything else, my estimate of the distance to Norwich prison was hideously inaccurate. The distance from my window to the clock tower of Norwich prison is about 1,400m, not the 5,000m I was using (a totally inexcusable error, in my opinion!). I have applied a correction factor which I am reasonably happy with. And I think it may be possible to say that one can see evidence of the effect of human behaviour on weather (eg: lunch hour's effect on temperature), though, as I say, the data sets are small, especially when corrected for time of reading, and at that point, one gets potentially conflicting data. Whatever you may think of it, it's free, and, in my opinion, is, at least, neatly presented, with plenty of charts to make it easy to form your own conclusions. Which is what one would hope to be able to obtain free from the Met Office, but can't. In the absence of any other weather dataset in Excel, it may be as good as you can get. Perhaps it may help you to start your own weather records.
The file is 1.4Mb in size, and it's not possible for me to get anything larger off my PC in one piece. With so many parameters to choose from, it's possible to produce a large number of graphs, and I couldn't do them all. It might be useful, for example, to add a column of data for absolute humidity. However, using psychrometric charts takes time. See: Psychrometric chart for absolute humidity. An automated routine for Excel would, however, be a lot more attractive! I should probably clarify that I have been measuring visibility as the distance at which vision becomes impaired, rather than the distance at which it is no longer possible to make out the entirety of a given target (not that there was a standard Met Office target!)
I tried a Maplin max/min int/ext thermometer (GBP10). Sadly, it showed every sign of straying way off, in terms of accuracy, at high, and possibly low, temperatures, threatening an error of maybe +1.5deg C or more at about 30deg C, and possibly something similar at zero. This would have been outside the specs on the packet, and was very disappointing for someone trying to record max and min. So I took it back and got my money back.

An effect of the weather

As a result of the weather, and because I have come out in a rash, I have been using an umbrella as a parasol. I probably look rather ridiculous, but I figure I'd look a lot more ridiculous laid up in a hospital bed covered head to toe in aqueous cream. I have been using the mirror sun blinds I made pic of sun blinds (inside), sun blinds from outside, which seems to have been helping. I have been circulating cool air at night to cool the flat for the day ahead, and keeping windows closed until air is, once again, cooler than inside. As a result, I have been running on something closer to US time, going to bed at anything from 1.30am to 3.30am, and rising proportionally late.

Green energy and water measures - save GBP40pa on flushing, one-shot timer for chargers

To save electricity, I am now using all low energy lightbulbs, and have put into storage my radio alarm clock, toaster, and blender (not that I was using that much). I have hung a clockwork timer by the immersion, and am recording use of washing machine and immersion to see if I can reduce them more. If it wasn't for the fact that I live above someone, in a block of flats, I might try putting my washing machine on a timer to start it after 1am, when electricity halves in price, going from 9.87p/kWH to 5.02p. I'm now using all eco functions on washes, and may move to using a lot more liquid clothes washing soap, as this dissolves better in cold water than powder, so I can use more cold washes. I am toying with the idea of just bunging all clothes in together, to increase load weight, which will probably mean all my clothes will go a pinky-purple colour, but who cares. To save water (and money) I have lowered the water level in the toilet cistern even further. It is now down to about 5.25litres per flush (from a starting point of about 8.25litres (which I had already lowered from about 9litres by putting two small pop bottles filled with water and some stones in in the corner). By not flushing urine, I have cut flushing from about 6 times a day to 4 times a day. From the original unaltered cistern and use, I am probably saving about 33 litres of water a day (that's about half my bodyweight!), or 12,045 litres per year, (12 metres cubed - that's 12tonnes of water!). The task is made easier by putting a bin by the toilet to throw 'clean' toilet paper into, rather than flushing it. The saving in water should, at an average cost of about GBP3.21 per metre cubed of water used (allowing for sewerage charges) save me about GBP38.52 per year. Trouble is, the bathroom does smell a little of urine, after it's been hanging around for a while. I have come up with a design for a one-shot timer, to use when charging rechargeable batteries. If you put a residual current circuit breaker after a timer plug and before the transformer, after it has timed the, eg: 14 hours of charging you want, the timer will cut out. At that point, the RCD triggers, and won't charge any more. Which is great, if you wish to avoid overcharging. However, the timer may use a significant amount of current compared to simply overcharging (eg: with my shaver, it needs 14 hours' charge, but won't be fussed by overcharging). But with, say, an electric screwdriver (I had very bad skin and was going to assemble a bed) it may be rather different.

Local psychiatric hospital closes another ward

Hellesdon psychiatric hospital (Norwich) has closed Thurne Ward, the ward I was on in 2003, losing another 20 beds (roughly). This must bring the total loss since 1999 to near 60 beds (having closed also wards 12 and 14 - the old red brick building shown in one of the pics on my Inside psychiatry page). One can only assume that there has been a change in the criteria a person must fulfil in order to require a bed, since there has, presumably, been no such significant change in the incidence of psychiatric illness. In fact, I'd expect the incidence of drug-related problems in particular to be up, if activity in my area is anything to go by. I am aware that a lot more work is now being done in the community. However, it does make one ask 'exactly what criteria were being used, so wastefully, before?'.
I took a swingball set into the hospital, a while back (a tenner in Argos). I always figured it was the key piece of therapeutic equipment missing, there, and that I'd buy it one, if I had a little spare cash. After a particularly frustrating encounter with a psychiatrist, nurse, patient, visitor, or whatever, one should be able to go out, draw the face of the offender on the ball, metaphorically speaking, and leather it for half an hour. I now discover that a cheap tether-ball set is available in QD, this year for a fiver. If anyone wishes to improve the lives of psychiatric patients near the, I really would suggest that it would be hard to find better value for a tenner or even a fiver. :)

Government on impact of climate change

Emailed a chap at The Treasury who kindly sent me the documentation for the Treasury model of the economy some while back (Jan '05), asking whether it had run any simulations of economic collapse occasioned by some economic indicator or other tripping the system. He said the answer was 'no', and that any such attempt would be subject to a lot of judgement, and would probably be 'extraordinarily uncertain and highly subjective'. But he did point me at a couple of links: Stern Review, which says 'it'll be ages before anything goes wrong', and Defra statistics including crop yields (see Section 6.2), which can sometimes be used as an indicator of weather effects, in the absence of other data. Haven't had time to play with the stats properly, but hope to do so, soon. I remain worried that considerable damage could be done to the economy very quickly indeed if the weather doesn't markedly improve - something somewhere will give, whether it's farmers sticking their hands out for compensation for a 15%, 25% reduction in yield, or whatever. If money becomes valueless, chaos will ensue. And the other thing is that this need not be triggered in the UK. Any other country experiencing such a problem could have global repurcussions. Apparently, in Western Australia, the farmers are a crop behind, owing to lack of rain in what should have been the rainiest season. See: Western Australia Water Corporation water storage charts for its dams. They plant after rain, but were not able to do so. See: yearly streamflow for chart of streamflow to the dams since 1911 - very worrying! But quite impressive to see publication of such material.

My html code seems to be returning minus pound signs!

Sorry if the 'GBP' looks clunky! But, for whatever reason, after sending off code with the UK pound sign, it returned, shortly afterwards, with a question mark in its place. Only it didn't do this the first time, for some reason. Very odd. Will try to investigate. In the mean time, anything looking like ?X.XXp, or ?X is to be read as so many GB pounds sterling.

4/7/6

Collected spreadsheets on this site

I have collected all the spreadsheets I have posted on this site to date together on one page, to make it easier to find them. See: spreadsheets.html.

26/6/6

How much energy do I get through my window?

By the way, just so you get an idea of how much less energy you may need to dump, if you install reflective blinds, the maximum rate of energy from full sun is of the order of 1kW per square metre (though the average may go down to something more like 250W per sq m). See: The Oil Drum (paragraph 6) for figures. When working out what comes in, you need to allow for the window being vertical, rather than in the horizontal plane the W/m sq is measured in (ie: use the area illuminated).

24/6/6

Try out this depression forum!

I was contacted by a new depression forum - www.talk-depression.net, looking for links. Seems to be quite a well-behaved sort of place. Usual facilities. Not as busy as RecoverYourLife.com, but seems to be attracting traffic anyway.

I have gone down a size!

I can now fit into 32in waist trousers again! :) I have lost almost 20lbs to 10st 12.5lbs since my post-festive season peak of 12st 4lbs. :) Hadn't been updating my weight graph until this week, when I added the most recent data to show to a practice nurse, a result of changing GP, of which more later, perhaps. Probably ought to put in all the intermediate data, too. Am thinking of doing a little serious dieting, now (the loss so far since christmas not being a result of deliberate dieting) in order to get down to my usual fighting weight of about 10st 7lbs.

45,000 hits, 36,000 visitors

Zero catch stats of today, 45,103 hits, 35,999 unique visitors.

Is Sunday the hottest day of the week?

After a little playing with my weather data, I seem to have found that Sundays are the hottest day of the week, while Fridays are the coolest, by a margin of about 0.4degC. You can repeat this for yourself using the weather data below (see 28/2/6), which is all I've used so far. Generate a pivot table of day of week (from date plus time) against average temperature and chart it. Also interesting for relative humidity. Now, there's only a limited data set there, with, say, 30 figures per day of the week. However, 0.4degC still seems high. And, I have not eliminated the effect of the time at which I took the reading (it's very possibly I get up latest on Sundays, when the day is a little hotter - however, this doesn't look entirely consistent (I should maybe try time of reading versus day). I have tried asking the local BBC weather desk for help, but they don't seem interested. If I'm right, it could mean local weather is quite strongly dependent upon human activity. When should I schedule in my marathon? When should I do hot housework? Go to the beach? Also, if it really is so dependent, what will happen if whatever causes the changes ceases? I have quite a bit more data I intend to add and process, but data entry sucks, and takes ages, so it may be a while before I can add much more. This, as far as I can tell is a serious problem for weather analysis - even if you take a whole year's data, you only have 52 Sundays. Or, if you take one reading a day, at various times, you may only have a small number of readings in, say, the 3pm hour. Of course, professionals will have much larger data sets. Found a USB temperature plus humidity logger for £49 (see: Lascar EL-USB-2). Could massively increase datasets quite quickly.

15/6/6

Passive solution to staying cool, this summer

I have made some sun-block blinds for my bedroom. The morning sun catches it, and, on hot days, it can get like an oven. To reduce the need for cooling later, I have made some reflective blinds by gluing aluminium foil to cardboard (shiny side out, using Pritt, or Poundland equivalent). These are held against the pane by a piece of string strung across, behind, with an elastic band at one end, to give tension and to simplify installation and removal. These fix to cuphooks at each side - needed an extra triangular section tube stuck to the back of the panel to add thickness. To keep the lower end from dropping off, I've tapped two panel pins into the frame at one-third points. Cardboard box free from Tesco, the rest I had - 'zero-cost' passive solar solution. It's been overcast, since.

12/6/6

Work out how much a change of lightbulb would save!

I have put together a simple look-up table spreadsheet to work out how much money you could save by making one or another change to electricity use. It uses current Powergen rates for Norwich. The average 'used rate' is a projected rate based upon the average cost of all electricity used at whatever time, using the actual past average rate. Might be needing to find a lot of savings, shortly, what with rates going up 24% and the worsening weather.
ELECSAV2.XLS Requires full printable area of A4.

Evening supplemental...

Have just had a quick breeze round the UK webcams on the BBC web site to check for haze. Very worrying. Have a look at a few towns, cities, etc. See: www.bbc.co.uk/england/webcams/. Or see: Earthcam.com for further afield. For the best skyline of Norwich, see: View from Norfolk Tower in Surrey Street. For an outside chance of seeing me passing, see: View of atrium of The Forum, Norwich.

Will I be flooded?

If you were curious to know how safe your house is (assuming you believe the waters will rise faster than you'll choke or starve to death), you might find be interested in a map that can show you what will go with what rise: flood.firetree.net See also entry of 23/2/5 (max potential effect of Sizewell A on sea level and their anticipated rate of rise - with panoramic picture to show proximity of the Sizewell stations to sea level (8-10m)).

10/6/6

Rain falls upwards, Norwich hazes over - is eco doom here?

Took some video of rain the other day, as it consisted of drops of two sizes - normal large ones were falling almost vertically, while some were too small to be able to fall properly, and were being caught on the wind, buffeted hither and thither, some even being caught in updraughts. Also, Norwich has been suffering from hazes pretty much since election day (May 4th) and it doesn't seem to be getting any better. This is not normal, and is, to me, a very worrying sign. I have even begun to question whether we will make it past this summer - if the crops don't get enough sun, we'll starve. If the haze, which is probably photochemical in origin (as it's too dry - ie: not humid enough to be fog or mist) gets too thick we, or some more sensitive part of the ecosystem could choke. This weekend, we have been given 'the first' smog warning. As if, somehow, this is normal. So, see vid and still of rain falling upwards and still of Norwich haze.

Video of rain 'falling upwards' (4.8Mb!) (rainfallsupvidof260506.avi). Sadly, it's not the best clip I have - the best is 7.7Mb, and I have a 5Mb per upload limit, so can't show you that one. But, if you're really keen to see the larger one, just email me! I am happy to email 7.7Mb if your system can take it. Else, I can post CD-Rs upons special request (ie: P&P). (Like you can't stick your head out of your own window to see this!)
Still of rain 'falling upwards' (1.6Mb) (rainfallsupstillof260506.jpg) - if you can't see the vid you can get an idea of what's happening by looking at this still - there are two sizes of streak of rain, large drops falling fast making long more or less vertical streaks, and smaller streaks, indicating the small drops that go hither and thither.
Norwich haze, taken 13/5/6 (1.6Mb). (norwichhazeof130506.jpg) The tower of Norwich old prison, on the horizon, is about 5,000m from my window.

I want to know what will happen if a large number of members of the public panic about the weather. Suppose a lot of people actually conclude that this really could be it? What might happen then? Hardly bears thinking about!

Satellites launched to study clouds and aerosols

As if to confirm my worries of the last couple of years, two satellites (Cloudsat and Calipso) were launched a few weeks ago to study how clouds and aerosols (fine particles) form. See BBC News story of 28 April: 'Spacecraft seek climate clarity'.

Nuclear submarines stuck for place to play hide and seek?

If the arctic ice is all melting, where will the nuclear submarines go to hide? Apparently, it used to make 'an ideal place to launch missiles from', after breaking through the ice. Could be one of the quickest games of hide and seek on record!

15/5/6

'Memoirs of a British Agent' - the book online!

Have found a link to a transcript of a book about a British agent who was in Russia at the time of the revolution. It's a fascinating book. The more so to me, as he spent time in Malaya both before and after this. My grandfather, Alun Jones, was an electrical engineer/technician who worked in Malaya on a hydro-electric dam project. He used to sing 'One man went to mow' to us in Malay. I have a copy of the book, and a copy of a sequel, on his return to Malaya. See: Memoirs of a British Agent by RH Bruce Lockhart. (The web site has the title of the book wrong.) It's well worth a read. I thoroughly recommend it!

2/5/6

VOTE ANTI WAR!

Just a quick reminder to vote against war, in the forthcoming elections!

Cricket score sheet

I have begun to get hits for my cricket score sheet, again, so I thought I'd put a copy somewhere easy to find! CRKTSCR2.DOC :)

7/4/6

I quit the City College graphic design course, November last year

I quit the City College OCN graphic design course I was doing, back in November, on the grounds that it had breached its contract with me. I had rather hoped that it would resolve matters in my favour by now. Sadly, this has not happened. I quit for a number of reasons. The course digressed from the original specification, using PCs not Macs, going to InDesign instead of Quark (or not - this was, at the time I left, still undecided). The course turned out to be poorly designed with a lot of unnecessary busy work instead of concentrating on the main purpose - ie: learning graphic design on computers. There were continuing problems with IT, and there was an unclear route for reporting - with both tutor and IT department throwing me back to the other. I finally gave them a week to cure a problem in Word, and they did not. The teaching quality was poor. Classes were routinely terminated early. There was constant pressure to spend money (eg: on external hard drives, etc) when I was originally told I would only need an A4 sketch pad and a USB drive. Eventually, faced with some fundamental questions, the tutor decided to hide behind the student protocol rather than answer them. According to the staff 'learning is stressful'. This was news to me, a veteran of three universities and seven years in journalism. My initial letter of complaint was dated 18 Nov. The college has still not returned my artworks, and has not refunded any monies associated with the course. I have been waiting to post this to give it a chance to respond appropriately. Two other students also quit. Last I heard, the course will not be running next year, and there may not even be an computerised design course at all.
One of the governors, Barbara Hacker, a LibDem Councillor, has been very helpful in the process of trying to resolve this, for which I am very grateful. I regret to say that the attitude of the senior staff at the college has only come across as childish, with a letter in its defence amounting to saying 'Did not! Did not! Did not!'. So, see the next entry for today, below!

Better to buy a student a PC than pay for a course!

With new Dell PCs costing as little as £200, and a course in graphic design at City College costing £481 plus a £19 registration fee, it is now better value to buy a student on an IT course a PC for themselves than to pay a college to run a one-day-a-week, one-year course. It is impossible to add value over that differential. The governemnt should change its IT-based course funding policy.

VOTE ANTI WAR!

Vote anti war! (See below or click here sandwich board for pic of me with sandwich board - it will be out and about from tomorrow(weather permitting)!

Unusual vapour trails left by planes over Norwich

Saw a very unusual sight over Norwich, the other day. Looked like a single, very fast-moving fighter plane with a number of other trails beside it. Took a pic. Emailed it to the Norwich Evening News, which said it was interesting, and encouraged me to post it on its bulletin board. It drew a large number of views (632, so far), but very few replies. The air buff community managed to prove it is populated by loud-mouthed, uncouth and offensive individuals who, despite their derision for simple ignorance, have been unable to convince me that they know exactly what was up there. They could learn a lot from the members of the UK armed forces, who routinely display impeccable behaviour when out in public. See: entry on the Evening News bulletin board, where there are two pics. We also seem to be seeing Eurofighter Typhoons flying over Norwich, now. According to the RAF, there are 'over 20' of them stationed at RAF Coningsby, in Lincolnshire. This seems, to me, a remarkably vague figure to put on machines of such lethality and cost.

31/3/6

Cotman Housing refused permission for UPVC windows

Cotman Housing has been refused permission to install UPVC windows at Parmentergate Court by the Norwich City Planning Committee. See story quoting me in Norwich Evening News, today. :) I spoke, as did one other resident, against the application. I argued that the proposal offered no long-term solution, would be unlikely to be adequately financed, contained errors in colour specification (numerous), would increase the 'visual weight' of the windows, decrease light in the flats, would not save energy (as failing hinges caused by windows weighing the same as wood would be every bit as draughty as before), would not be as easy to maintain, etc. Basically, it was a farce. Cotman had managed to get almost every aspect of the application wrong at some point, and it was still not clear, on the day, what it wanted, or why. This was compounded by a housing officer telling me, two days before, that each flat would be paid £50, this week. After two and a quarter years of waiting for the problem to be resolved, the promise of the payment would more properly have been delayed by a few days until after the meeting. Planning produced a photo showing that, whatever Cotman's specification (which was self-contradictory), the window proposed certainly looked like some form of 'light green' (in fact, more like an undercoat colour, and nothing like either part of the definition offered by Cotman) than the 'Jade' the painters used when the windows were redecorated. I'm rather disappointed with the headline of the story in the Evening News, as I feel that what my colleague and I have achieved is likely to result in a better solution faster. And I'm anything but convinced that the contents of Cotman's proposal constituted 'vital repair work'. Something certainly needs to be done, and should have been, along time ago, but not that. I am worried that the continuing delays indicate a refusal to back down from a bad management decision some long time ago, upon which someone's reputation (and probably job) depends.

28/2/6

My old school, Culford, enables me to restart weather recording

Dr Bosworth, head of geography at my old school, Culford, has generously donated another hygrometer wick to me, enabling me to restart weather recording. I am now recording temperature, humidity, pressure, wind speed and direction, ground condition, precipitation, cloud cover, and visibility. Many thanks! By unhappy coincidence, Culford stopped holiday weather records in 1997.

Anyone wishing to begin weather recording might find the following links useful: graph of weather in Norwich with data, as recorded by myself; description of Beaufort Scale and how to estimate windspeed; simplistic guide to reading a barometer (imperial); pressure conversion and imperial barometer calibration spreadsheet; high resolution hygrometer lookup table with graphs (interpolated from an original), same but just the table without graphs; pic of my barometer (£4 from junk shop) and how I repaired it; UK Met Office.

17/2/6

Five-year hole in UK visibility data!

According to a paper on visibility trends in the UK written in 2002, there is a five-year hole in UK data for visibility! After worrying about the possibility of increased incidence of fog, mist and smog in Norwich, I contacted the University of East Anglia Climatic Research Unit, and was sent a couple of papers. One, by Martin Doyle and Stephen Dorling, written in 2002, entitled 'Visibility trends in the UK 1950-1997' suggests that it is not possible to produce a valid analysis of visibility data for the period 1997 to (presumably) 2002, as, in 1997, the recording systems became semi-automatic. And, apparently, the human interevention required to produce a 'present weather code', turns out to have been exercised 'very sporadically'. In other words, someone, or several someones, have not done their job and it's not possible to say whether visibility is getting worse or not! This is totally inexcusable! There is a link printed on the first page of the paper: www.elsevier.com/locate/atmosenv. See: Atmospheric Environment Volume 36, Issue 19 (2002) pp3161-3172. You can view the abstract of Doyle's paper, but this does not mention the data reliability problem. I was originally concerned that worsening visibility might affect crop growth and ripening - see my original entry of 17/1/5. I still am concerned! I have some data of my own, which I am in the middle of putting into Excel for analysis, which I may post here, later. So far, I have almost 25% of days from 1/1/3 to 28/1/3 described as 'hazy'. Also, just this year, I have noticed a lot of algae on the walls of the Rose Lane car park, which is odd, as most of it was knocked down, and you'd expect it to be more windy, and, hence, drier.

Am still down with catarrh

I have still yet to regain full good health since acquiring the mycoplasma infection of the lungs near the start of the school year, last year. This despite two courses of antibiotics and numerous boxes of cough and catarrh sweets. I provided a sample of sputum for analysis, some while ago, but this was not sent to the hospital for analysis. I have decided to, now and then, frequent places more usually frequented by the rich (eg: The Assembly Rooms, in Norwich), in case this gets back to the doctors via said rich people, and it encourages them to do something useful more quickly. If you catch something off me, it's not my fault!

6/1/6

Side-effects of medicines - make your voice heard!

Found a leaflet on the Yellow Card system in my GP's surgery, last week. Click here to report side-effects of your medicines to the UK Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA): www.yellowcard.gov.uk. I will be adding a link to this to my links page. Reports can also be made by freephone: 0808 100 3352.

Churches have greater priority than health on Norfolk health site!

Found a business card advertising a local health web site at my GP's surgery, last week. It appears to give greater priority to a list of local churches (but not mosques) than to organisations directly associated with healthcare. I have emailed my MP, asking for action. See: www.heron.nhs.uk. (In other words, priorities may be changed by the time you come to look at this.) I am not minded to add a link to this site to my links page until its priorities more closely reflect those that one might hope for from a government health organisation.

MP takes up windows issue, again

Charles Clarke, MP, has taken up the issue of replacing windows in my block of flats for me, again. The housing association says it has submitted a planning application to install uPVC windows. The flats are in a conservation area, and this is unlikely to be granted. I wrote to Charles Clarke, and he has now asked them for clarification of what they are doing. This is code for 'stop messing around and get on with it' - certainly on my part, and I'm hoping (am reasonably sure) on Charles Clarke's, too. It is at about this point that I think it is legitimate to question the motives of Cotman Housing Association. It cannot be ignorant of the fact that the flats are in a conservation area - that is why we have wooden windows now - and this has been dragging on for two years, already. Time's up, I think!

22/12/5

Got my X-ray back - is this a cool pic or what?

Got a copy of my X-ray from the hospital, today! Click here to see
X-ray of my chest (551kb, JPEG). Apparently, all normal - X-ray OK, bloods OK. So, I should get over the problem in the next couple of weeks. And, since I've finished the antibiotics course, I can consider myself not contagious. :)

16/12/5

Flu may not be flu!

I had something like a low-grade form of flu that I think I picked up at college for about eight weeks. It didn't really stop me getting out and about. I kept thinking I was getting better and then collapsing in the evening, a day or two later. So, I went to the GP, who diagnosed 'a mycoplasma infection of the lungs'. Apparently, there's a lot of it about. He put me on a course of broad-spectrum antibiotics (Erythromycin) for seven days. This didn't seem to make much difference, so I was sent for a chest X-ray and blood tests. Results next week. So, if you can't shake a low-grade flu, go to the doctor! It might not be flu.

Healthcare Commission condemns psychiatric hospital hygiene shock

The Healthcare Commission has condemned the cleanliness of psychiatric hospitals in its first survey of hospitals. See its reports: press release; full report (750k, PDF); results tables (150k, PDF). And see also the BBC's news story on it: BBC news story on hospital cleanliness. Can't say I'm surprised. Hellesdon Hospital is not mentioned. Lucky escape! How well I remember clearing up about a shopping bag full of cigarette ends around Thurne Ward, and the awful suspect grey spots in the bathrooms (and the mould!), and the used sanitary towel I found - you know I was actually sent down to Asda to buy some for another patient.

Have updated my 'Inside psychiatry' page

I have updated my 'Inside psychiatry' page. I've been frustrated on a number of occasions by the lack of a coherent collection of the more pertinent doctors, social workers' and nurses' notes on me that I've posted on this site over the years. Now, after having a look at the RecoverYourLife.com web site, it seems more useful than ever to anyone that might be worried about what going into a psychiatric hospital entails - what the doctors and social workers want to know, what's important, what a hospital looks like, how you can get leave, what you can take in there, challenging decisions in Tribunals, etc. So, I've put links to all that sort of stuff there. See: Inside psychiatry.

6/12/5

Found a good forum (self harm) on the web

Saw a program on self harm on TV the other day. Hence link to a self harm self help web site: Recover Your Life. Forums, chat, etc.

30,000 visitors!

Zero Catch figures, today: 30,031 unique visitors.

Teen learning difficulties unit closed down in Attleborough, Norfolk

A teen learning difficulties unit at the private St Luke's hospital, Attleborough, was closed down by the Healthcare Commission, a couple of weeks ago. The Commission 'secured emergency closure', according to Ceefax, 23rd Nov, after discovering staff 'had not received training in child protectin issues', and having 'other concerns about experience and training'. The phrase 'Trust me, I'm a doctor' comes to mind.

17/11/5

Quick joke

Patient to psychiatrist: 'How many degrees have you got?'.
Psychiatrist: 'Eight!'.
Patient: 'Don't be ridiculous!'.
Psychiatrist: 'Well, you started it!'.

See Dr Raj Persaud, Guardian Monday 7th November 9/11/5

Psychiatrist 'plagiarising material' shock

Journal retracts article after US scholar complains. Dr Raj Persaud says credits 'inadvertently omitted', Guardian Monday 7th November.

A snippet of ode, with apologies to Tom Lehrer, and his song 'Lobachevsky':

I have a friend at Mauds'
who has a friend on wards
whose friend in creche
has friend in Gresh'
with friend at CPE
His friend at RCP
has friend on PNP
whose friend on 4
is at the door
with piece by Thomas B

17/10/5

Politics halts development at potential bat roost site

Development on the St Ann's Wharf site where I was worried a bat might be trying to roost has been halted. This has happened because of a wrangle over the amount of 'affordable' housing proposed. The planners wanted more than the developer offered. Not sure whether this will be resubmitted. I'm a bit worried about the amount of noise we've had round our way, lately - loud motorcycles and cars, banging of who knows what, etc. Could easily discourage a homeless bat from roosting.

Siemens denies responsibility for damage to property

Siemens sent a man round to change the electric meter of my flat, a few weeks back. Before they arrived, everything was fine. After they left, my set-top Freeview digital TV box no longer worked. I got a letter, today, explaining that they felt 'unable' to take responsibility for this. I suggest the word to use is actually 'unwilling'.

7/10/5

Have discovered my brother, Ben, is working on 'Noddy' - I am ashamed of him!

Ben, my Emmy-nominated brother, is working on 'Noddy'. I am ashamed of him! Click on this link to see some of the background to 'Noddy'. I'm afraid I really don't see why it is necessary to resurrect an old cartoon character with such an offensive past, when creating a new one must be so easy. Or why an Emmy-nominated Foley artist (sound effects specialist) would need to take such work. By the way, Ben had nothing to do with the forthcoming 'Curse of the Were-Rabbit' film (though he did the foleys on 'Chicken Run').

6/10/5

Bat seen flying near development site

Saw a bat, last night, flitting about outside my window over St John Street (over street lamp height). Opposite my flat is an old brewery, which a developer hopes to knock down to build 435 flats on ('the St Ann's Wharf development'). There is a distinct possiblility that the bat lives in the old brewery, as it is large, unoccupied, and the bat could easily gain access via numerous broken windows. So, have been ringing around to ensure whatever has to be done is done. Spoke to the Bat Conservation Trust, which said there's a ?5,000 fine per bat for interfering in pretty much any way with bats (click here to see bat law). Norwich City Council says the matter is in hand. The decision on the development is currently with the relevant Secretary of State, and is said to be due imminently.

Last night in London airport...

Had to write a poem for my graphic design course. Had to cut words out of a page of Milton and a Madonna song to make a single, new poem (limited nouns, verbs, etc). Figured this was 'Marriage of Heaven and Hell' stuff, so consulted William Blake, whose view was that his Angel was 'reason', and the Devil 'imagination', and that their unity 'resulted in triumph for the artist', so worked along those lines. To me (after admittedly brief research) it seemed like a ghastly shotgun wedding with disastrous consequences, so I illustrated it as such. Here's the poem:

you muse
I think
you dream
I make
you whisper
I thunder
you hope
I force
Let us be one

I sort of laid it out so that there might be some confusion about the idea of one line running onto another - just playing, really. It's a dialogue between the two, illustrating their differences, with a trite suggestion that this is all plenty reason enough for a marriage. Found a cartoon of a shotgun wedding (with, strangely, the bride holding a pistol to the groom) and took a pic of a 'sculpture' in the library of City College, Norwich. The 'sculpture' is a tower of books coated in plaster of Paris, with the odd item sandwiched, squashed between the pages on a large spike. I find the 'sculpture' truly offensive, so it was ideal for my design. I focused on a purple plastic 'My little pony' horse squashed between the pages of a book. Imagination crushed mercilessly into reason, perhaps? (Devil 'conquered' by angel???). Why anybody would consider it better to wreck books in that fashion, than to preserve them for others to read is beyond me. And, quite why a school or college would wish to display such an act _in its library_ is further beyond me still. Personally, I've never particularly liked the results of my attempts at art, so won't be offended if you don't.

...so I wrote a poem
and popped it in

30/9/5

Have been discharged from supervision of psychiatrist!

I was discharged from the supervision of my psychiatrist, on Wednesday! He said that, as all was going well, I'd been off the meds for some long time, there was no point continually dragging me back to the clinic, so no need to return, and that I was to go to my GP to be referred to him, if I had any problems. I'm free! I'm free! I'm free!

24/9/5

Ben didn't win an Emmy

Ben didn't win an Emmy, sadly. :( Went to a program about blue whales. But, I think, as a nominee, he gets engraved on the winner's Emmy, anyway. :)

Time to archive this page off!

It's well past time to archive this page off, as it's becoming too big. Will see to this, shortly, so expect to see a largely empty page. All this page, as it stands, will be available at a click, though. :)

Got snapped at opening of Chapelfield shopping mall in Norwich!

Went to the opening day of the new Chapelfield shopping mall, in Norwich, and got snapped by one of the photographers there, along with hundreds of others. See: Contraband Events pics of Chapelfield shopping mall opening. I am on pic 3292. Not what you'd call the greatest pic, and they appear to have missed my 'first they came for...' badge, which is rather a shame.

19/9/5

My brother, Ben Jones, nominated for an Emmy award!

My brother, Ben Jones, has been nominated for an Emmy award. He did the sound effects on a news/documentary program about Ireland. See: List of nominees for 26th News and Documentary Emmy awards (pdf), page 32 (Nature, Ireland, PBS (PBS is a TV channel)). For anyone who was't already aware, he also did the sound effects on 'Chicken Run', for which he got a credit on the end of the film. And, he did sound on the TV comedy 'Teachers'. :)

Site stats - 27,000 visitors

Zero Catch stats: hits, 34,463; visitors, 27,000.

30/8/5

How do you confuse a psychiatrist?

How do you confuse a psychiatrist? As the great Marcel Marceau once said: '...'. Just a quick message of support for Andreas Grassl, previously referred to as 'The Piano Man', famed for remaining silent in a psychiatric hospital. I, too, remained (to the consultant psychiatrist) silent in a psychiatric hospital - until a new one turned up. Didn't stop the psychiatrist producing a diagnosis, though, which was quite impressive, since she used no other tool (such as a brain scanner that might reveal 'a dopamine axis' problem or 'incorrect levels of serotonin' (for the latter, see Asimov on LSD) - chemicals that 'raise the level of serotonin' are routinely prescribed for 'stress' - I myself was prescribed Gammanil for this purpose). Which was, on the whole, why I was doing it. I had concluded she had concluded there was no need to listen to me, so I figured she could just do without. I also note, with a certain degree of amusement, the predicament the hospital finds itself in. If this was 'a deliberate act', then the immediate question is: 'were their psychiatrists too stupid to detect this?'. If it was a deliberate act, they can't very well say he had a mental health problem. If they say he diddid have a mental health problem, they can't very well begin legal proceedings for compensation. It's rather like what I did to my front door, when threatened with being sectioned. I reinforced it. The thinking went thus: if I am deemed ill, then I will not be required to pay for it, should it be smashed down; if I am deemed healthy, then I will not be required to pay for it, as it would be a misjudgement on the part of the psychiatrist/social worker, etc. Either way, I do not pay for it. I maintain I am healthy, and the call is a nuisance. - They can pay through the nose! :) Of course, he may not be mischievous, and may have had a genuine problem, in which case, I wish him 'a speedy exit from the predicament'. Hospital is not a nice place to have to spend time - and, in general, the company isn't sparkling, either. And, of course, it could be that, by definition, if you refuse to talk to a psychiatrist, you are, by definition, without the need for any further investigation, mentally ill. I rather hope not.

Does support for freedom of speech lead to exclusion from MSN?

I noted, a while back, that my site has been removed from the MSN search engine and hits to my site had gone down a little. Can anyone assure me that this was entirely unrelated to my adding an entry voicing support for freedom of speech for Chinese bloggers? - Does MSN engage in selective 'electron-burning'?

If you blog freedom, you're excluded; refuse to talk to a psychiatrist, you're mentally ill

If you blog freedom, you're excluded by MSN; if you refuse to talk to a psychiatrist, you're 'mentally ill'. What a curious world we live in! See entry immediately below:

Badges: 'first they came for...' - ?3 + p&p

As a result of various attacks upon liberties in this country, to various groups, for various reasons, I am now doing badges reading 'first they came for...' (just those four words, and no more of the quote). If you want one, just email me. ?3 plus p&p. Specify background and foreground colour (basic range of colours only).

24/8/5

Am reading The Hidden Persuaders

Am rereading The Hidden Persuaders, by Vance Packard. I first read it about 20 years ago (an older version than the one I had to get out of the archives of Norwich Library - the version I have now is a Pelican version with additions for the 80s). It's a fascinating read, looking at how marketing developed, attitudes of the 50s, what drives sales, and the whole issue of understanding why people actually buy things, and what images the product names and advertising campaigns conjour in people's minds, etc, by way of a number of examples, and various marketing disasters and 'successes' of the time. Am rereading it as a sort of preparation for my course in graphic design.

The continuing undersized sudoku joke

Can anyone tell me why so many papers, national and local, are still running sudoku grids that are far too small to be useful? My local paper, for example, ran them at 57mm x 57mm for nine by nine grid. Sudoku grids are solved by process of elimination - you jot, in the empty space, the possible numbers (and perhaps the impossibles) and. When you have only one possibility left, you write it in. If the grid is too small to write about 7 or 8 numbers in the blanks, it's too small. Try mine, which is about the right size: Excel sudoku grid. The fact that these are still being printed at this size tends to indicate 1) the journalists haven't bothered trying them; 2) neither have the readers, who have obviously not pointed this out - unless the papers are continuing to do this anyway, in spite of criticism, which would be ridiculous.

23/8/5

Was quoted in local paper, yesterday

Was quoted in a story in the Evening News, yesterday. Six months after it ran a story about the non-repair of the windows of Parmentergate Court, I contacted them again, reporting that this had still not changed. Would you believe Cotman Housing actually suggested that this might continue for another 18 months!

Loss of old stereo channel intermittent

The loss of my right channel on my old JJ500 stereo appears to be somewhat intermittent, having come back to life twice, now. Am wondering whether this is a mechanical connection (which I might be able to fix) or some curious anomaly in some silicon, somewhere.

Am experimenting with digital camera

Am trying out some new uses of digital photography. Now that I can do this for very low cost, it is almost as cheap for me to post a CD-R as to post a single sheet of print from my PC. Am considering video letters or essays, reproducing antique books for distribution (eg: 103 year-old medical dictionary), backing up documents (driving licence, diary, notebooks, forms, handwritten letters), visualising art/craft sketches/intermediate stages (used it making the sandwich board), etc. It is a 4 megapixel camera, and can almost but not quite do 4-6pt type on a page of about A3 size, which is really impressive.

Error in history of art timeline book (or an A-Z of art book)

Have found a printing error in one of my art books. I have the pocket-sized version of The Art Book, by Adam Butler (Phaidon) and The World's Greatest Art, by Robert J Belton (Flame Tree Publishing). In one of them, the example work of art by Pieter Claesz, A Vanitas, (a skull that has swallowed a dictionary, feather, ornate glass, etc) the skull faces one way, in the other it faces the other. Someone has got their picture the wrong way round! The trouble is, without knowing the actual picture, it is hard to say which is right and which is wrong! It's a bit like Winnie the Pooh's conundrum: Pooh knew that one paw was left and one was right, and once you knew one of them, you could work out the other, but he never knew how to start. My best guess is that the older, Phaidon work is correct (having seen a pic that way round of A Vanitas on the web), but I can't be sure. The amazing thing is that the book (World's Greatest) has been in production for a whole year without this being noticed by somebody or corrected.

23/7/5

Got bored and rewrote a nursery rhyme

Hickory tickly douse
The clock down ran the mousetrap
The swan shook hands
The map fell down
Hickory vicary mousetrap
:)

18/7/5

Shodoku!

Here is a little free sudoku puzzle, to entertain and amuse! Sudoku does seem, after all, to be all the rage! :)
SHODOKU.XLS

Evening supplemental: A natural cooler for the summer

Here's a tasty way to cool down for the hot days: freeze grapes in the freezer compartment of your fridge. Then, simply bring them out and eat them, instead of ice lollies, etc. They come out a rather softish ice (presumably because of the sugar in the grapes). Very tasty! Many thanks to Louise, who told me of this idea, many years ago. :)

16/7/5

Protect freedom of expression in the UK!

Today's 'Daily Telegraph' suggests that the government is going to try to 'outlaw those who glorify terrorism'. While that is clearly behaviour I would not condone, I believe we must preserve the right to freedom of expression in the UK! Write to your MP, today! Or email them: (format of email address is surnameinitial@parliament.uk, eg: clarkec@parliament.uk for Charles Clarke (resp. security!)).

Have been signed off cognitive behavioural therapy

Have been signed off cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) by my therapist. She said (after my talking to her for about eight hours, at a cost of the order of ?700-800 to the tax-payer) that I had no sign of any mental illness (which she sort of stuttered to qualify with the words 'that I can do anything for'). I have now been signed off all forms of 'monitoring' until about September, when I next expect to have an appointment with my psychiatrist. This is especially significant to me, if you look at my weight chart: Excel spreadsheet (WEIGHT4.XLS). This reveals, clearly (as evidenced by sudden weight loss, and subsequent lack of gain (if not an actual slow fall) which the eagle-eyed may already have noticed), that I have been off the Olanzapine (in fact, not on medication at all) for about 150 days, now. So, am very pleased. :)

Have been added to the Add Free Stats directory

My site has been added to the Add Free Stats directory

How to amuse shopkeepers, your friends, and mock the security services by passing secret messages

There appear to be lots of cheap (?1-3) invisible writing pens on the market (UV ink, plus a UV LED, typically) at the moment. I really can't imagine why. (Perhaps the manufacturers of such products, like myself, are being the teensiest bit sarcastic about our security services?) So, here's a really fun way to amuse everyone: write a fake secret message, such as 'I am being tailed by secret agents', or 'Tony Blair uses several body-doubles' on a ?5 note, ?10 note (or other, if you're richer - the higher the value the better). Then, simply pass it into circulation. Who knows where it might turn up. Then, when someone uses it to pay, and the shopkeeper tests the authenticity of the note, presto, the message appears! And, the great thing about passing secret messages on a medium such as a banknote is that nobody in their right mind is about to destroy it. - Particulary if they need to pay the rent with it! :) If you're really 'daring', you could always try to multiply the number of such notes in circulation by asking a bank to change two tens for a twenty, passing them two 'messages', taking the 'blank', writing a new message on it, and changing it back (elsewhere). Of course, getting caught doing this sort of thing could be rather hard to explain - particularly at the moment. (And could be awkward if someone refuses to take the note for your rent!) :)

9/7/5

Bomb scare in Norwich

There was a bomb scare at the Castle Mall shopping centre, yesterday. I had been using the computers in the library. When I finished, I went shopping in Tesco, then began the trog home with shopping. Got to Opie Street, and saw a police car parked right across Castle Meadow. Thought, for a moment, it might have been there to supervise a postal shipment from some stockbrokers, but it was clearly blocking the whole road. Found the officer had been sat there for half an hour because of a bomb scare. Mentioned to him, that, as I left the library, I had seen (and photographed) two 'clowns' mucking around on Millennium Plain, dressed in muslim-style robes - one orange, one blue, with their faces painted in the same colours. Hardly an activity likely to calm the atmosphere, and, quite possibly, illegal, now, under the new legislation (incitement to religious hatred).
I regard whoever prompted the scare as incredibly stupid. (And, I hate to have to do it, but I'm going to. I ask the question 'Will whoever caused the scare be considered to be mentally ill?'). Also, I am, frankly a little disappointed that the scare was taken quite so seriously, in some ways, as Norwich is hardly likely to be the second choice target for a terrorist after an attack in London. Although, I have to temper that with the fact that Charles Clarke, MP, who is the Home Secretary, and therefore responsible for the security services, has offices over the Virgin store, which is, technically, Castle Mall. However, I don't know any more about it, and have no idea where, if anywhere, any threat was specified.
I have to say that I am very cynical, and that the idea that a terrorist attack might happen at the time of the G8 did cross my mind - the concept of an attack made by one's own security services 'pour encourager les autres', so to speak, is hardly new (read Tom Sharpe, perhaps?).

Cognitive Behavioural Therapists and national security

Any idea what I was talking to my cognitive behavioural therapist, on Wednesday, the day before the Thursday blasts in London? I was talking about why I had been seen round Norwich, dressed as an FBI agent, with a blue flashing light on my head, parabolic listening device, and dinky siren in my pocket. I explained how sarcastic I felt about the effectiveness of a security service that had not prevented 9/11. And I described how I had made some back-of-a-fag packet calcs suggesting that the US(/UK) Echelon system could probably just about monitor all UK electronic comms and transcribe any of interest (such as those with the words 'bomb', or 'World Trade Center' and 'bomb') on the fly, line by line. And the number of SIS operatives in the UK (eg: about 3,000 plus 1,000 added after 9/11). You can imagine I am quite surprised by the timing! I was, in fact describing how I had, basically, packed all my sarcastic gear away, 'that phase of protest' (ie: intelligence) being 'over'. How wrong could I have been? So, I've dug out one of the few items I still have, an MI5 tee-shirt, and am wearing that, plus my badges.

8/7/5

Tools for secret agents trying to prevent disasters

Clearly, I should state, today, that I, too, am sickened by the carnage caused in London, yesterday. However, I believe the time has come to seriously ask 'Why is this sort of thing still happening?'. In other words, I am also sickened by the failure to prevent this. Either we run a (now expanded) intelligence service for a reason, or we do not. If it does not function, it should be replaced. Either it knew, and did nothing (perhaps it is compromised?), or did not know (which clearly indicates a failure). So, by way of (what I regret to say I have to point out is sarcasm), here are a few, ready-made tools for struggling professionals, or for any game amateur wishing to make a start.

Basic tools for spies:
Useful guide to major players (only slightly dated)
Encryption toolkit
One-time pad generator spreadsheet (The one-time pad is the only proven 100% secure method of encyrption - rather surprising it isn't used more, given the size of a 1Gb memory card, these days!)
How to produce 'microdot' encryption
Six by six grid to use for one-time pad generation with pair of dice (use one red, one black)
Vigenere grid for one-time pad encryption
Blue flashing light and siren (essential for 'high visibility' when on 'secret' operations)
Standard MI5 'interceptor' vehicle - 100% road-legal - see: Sgt Sweeney and Insp Pincher letters
How to raise more money for your intelligence operations
How to obtain a non-standard 'interceptor' vehicle (police)

A couple of items for the more curious:
Study on randomness (how secure would computer-generated OTPs be?)
Atari STOS basic program for examining the sequential behaviour in random data in the spreadsheet above
Short study of the density of prime numbers with increasing number size (ie: how many per 100). - Interesting for curve shape. Primes are used to make 'public keys' in computer encryption. If you know how the keys to a padlock are made, you know some limits on the possible keys to them. There are sites that list, for example, the largest known primes (ie: there is a limit) :)

And I'm afraid I'll have to increase the price of the 100% genuine intelligence services badges I produce. They will now by ?3 plus P&P per badge. Available as MI5, CIA, Al Qaida (also as Al Qaida star in Ursa Major constellation - badge is much slicker - honest!). Can do KGB, upon request, and will undertake other commissions, given provision of artwork. Bespoke prices upon request. Provision, of course, is, strictly limited to those of adequate calibre - to qualify (100% pass rate guaranteed), click on the following link: email me. :)

Anyone see the BBC's 'Spy' programme? - 'Eight weeks ago I couldn't even spell 'Spy' - now I are one!

What happens after repeated security service failures?

a) A pay rise for the members of the intelligence services?
b) An increase in staffing of the intelligence services?
c) A purge like you've been eating senna pods for a month?

Tried a hand-operated CD restorer - useless!

Got a hand-operated CD restorer from QD for ?5. Doesn't seem to make any appreciable improvement to CDs, so back it goes!

4/7/5

Did Live8 work?

Did Live8 work?

1) What was the aim of Live8?
2) Did it achieve this?
3) If it did, how did it do so?
...or was it just an excuse to make a lot of noisy art in front of a large number of people?
In other words, was the 'signal to carrier ratio' correct. - It's a bit like turning the sound down on the ads on TV, watching them, and asking yourself 'What is the ad advertising?'. If you can't answer the question, perhaps it's a failure?
Which is why I put references to 'charity' below. Somehow, the advance marketing just didn't get the point across to me. - Perhaps I am alone out of the 5bn target audience on this point? Or, perhaps this is why Sir Paul spent so much time talking about what Live8 was about - ie: not money, but awareness.
Ask yourself the following questions:
1) Who are the G8 leaders?
2) What will they discuss?
3) What was Live8 trying to influence, and how?
If Live8 was trying to 'raise consciousness', whose was it trying to raise - that of the 5bn people in the audience watching it? Did 5bn people really need their consciousness raised - or was theirs just fine, already?
And, did consciousness-raising really have to involve Green Day dressing up in what could hardly be mistaken for quasi-nazi, or 'crypto-nazi' 'uniform', and raising an arm while urging people to chant 'Hey! Hey! Hey!', which, to me, and, I suspect, to many others, particularly Berliners, came very dangerously close to chanting 'Heil!'. It will certainly be the last time I feel like listening to Green Day. And, I should imagine it will be the last time quite a lot of people ever play Green Day. And, at the very least, in quarters where such criticism was not spoken, I expect they will be 'quietly sidelined' - because it 'can't be admitted' that this is how people genuinely feel. This is very worrying. The problem is, basically, compounded by the absence of negative comment from the official commentators, such as Jonathan Ross at the time. If we really have reached a stage where such behaviour is, if not actually condoned, then, at least, tolerated, I believe we have a deeply worrying state of affairs in the world. Some problems cannot be dealt with by simply 'sidelining' (as I suspect the intention is that this will be), but must be dealt with by direct action, and this is one such problem.
I was far from happy with Ricky Gervais doing his 'humorous' dance, culminating in a genuine Nazi salute plus moustache-touch. However, it has to be said, in his favour, that this was, clearly, sarcasm, and a comment on the behaviour of certain types of people. However, I strongly suspect that even doing things like this is, on the whole, unacceptable, even in jest. Green Day, however, were very much taking themselves seriously. In other words, perhaps this is a question of a worry about what one might call the 'humour threshold'. Perhaps Green Day thought they were being amusing? Perhaps they thought they were being sarcastic? But, like I said, I bet that's the last we'll see of them, in any serious way.
If you want 'charity', not 'change' (and here, see Chumbawamba's 'How to get your band on TV'), and 'Live Aid' was about 'charity', while this spectacle was about 'change', then it seems very odd to trade on the name of the former.
And, what did the various acts have to say (on poverty, anything else relevant, etc) - either musically or lyrically?
And, if 'all goes well' at G8, will it be 'it woz Bob wot won it'?
And as for inviting Bill Gates! Don't get me started!
So, did Live8 work?

Link to a drug database/library respected by psychiatrists

Asked my psychiatrist about UK availability of intramuscular Olanzapine, the other day. He muttered words to the effect that he was only interested in what was officially sanctioned by the likes of Cochrane's, and gave me the following link: The Cochrane Library Reviews. It does contain a reference to intramuscular Olanzapine. - This could fill a hole in my links page, left when RXList 'went lite'. This link also on my links page. I'm reluctant to overstate the degree of respect with which my psychiatrist views the site, as I'm well aware of how circumspect doctors can be, on such matters. To borrow from Homer's psychiatrist, when Bart starts fiddling with his books: 'Some of those may not have been discredited, yet!'.

Quick psychiatrist joke

A man goes in to see a psychiatrist. The psychiatrist examines him for half an hour, and finally says: 'Well, I've had a good look, but I can't say what it is. I think it must be alcohol'. The man says: 'In that case, I'll come back when you're sober!'.

1/7/5

Live 8: Link to the lyrics of Chumbawamba's 'How to get your band on television'

Just thought I'd add a link to Chumbawamba's How to get your band on television, from the album 'Starvation, Charity and Rock and Roll'.

29/6/5

My 1978 stereo has lost a channel :(

Was listening to digital radio from set-top box, today, routed through my old 1978 Sony JJ500 music centre, and one channel just died. I've had it since I was 13. :( Sniff. Pretty good service, 27 years. Still getting headphones, and 'through traffic'. Simple tests indicate it is probably the amp stage for the right speaker. Now I have to listen to Chumbawamba's 'Starvation Charity and Rock 'n' Roll' via other speakers (I can't help being cynical about charity).

Am being signed off by social worker

Am being signed off by social worker after 'all clear' meeting with psychiatrist, last week.

22/6/5

Have updated my weight chart

Have updated my weight chart with the last few months' data. Take a peek to see how weight can be affected by psychoactive medicine - Olanzapine can really make you pile on the pounds fast (meaning you have to fast now and then to take them off, again). Excel spreadsheet (WEIGHT4.XLS).

Live 8 falls on my birthday!

Live 8 falls on my birthday! I was born on 2/7/65, and will be 40 this year!

The Christmas stars have still yet to be removed from the waiting room of the 80 St Stephens psychiatric clinic. So, if they sing 'Do they know it's Christmas time?' on the day (we hope not) - do join in and think of those that have to sit there, in the waiting room, staring upwards at the ceiling, waiting for awful things to happen to them.

My bike has passed its MOT

Am pleased to say I have got my C90 Honda Cub back from Tinkler's after it passed its MOT. I was rather disappointed, however, to discover, the day after getting it back, that it had 'puddled' oil, on the pavement where I had parked it. Now, it is about 9 years old, has done 26,000 miles, and has never leaked before. So I was rather worried. It appeared to be coming from the chain guard, so I suspected they had done something to the chain. I checked, and it did indeed look like they'd oiled it - which was annoying, as I had asked them to consult me before doing any work, and the more so because I had clearly used a waxy chain lube, which would be diluted by oil. Then I discovered oil all over the rear axle nuts, and adjustment nuts and bolts. I was not amused! The rear axle nuts on a C90 have a specified tightening torque. It is specified for standard conditions - the addition of oil is certain to upset the calcs, and would, therefore, be a safety hazard. Chain tension isn't even a parameter to be checked during an MOT, so the action seems the more perplexing - why do unsolicited, unpaid work, after being told not to, and when it clearly upsets the owner's existing maintenance, on a ?15.50 job? After ringing to check, I found there had been no need to adjust the chain, but it was 'just oiled as it sounded a little dry', and they confirmed that they had noticed I had used a waxy lube. So, have degreased the bolts, reassembled and applied melding tape as a last-gasp backup safety (though hopefully excess to requirements) on all bolts, and relubed with my usual chain lube. Simply telling me it needed lube would have been a much better course. Not best pleased, overall. Am hoping my usual MOT place, RO Clark, will have found itself another MOT technician, by next year (which is why I went to Tinkler's).

21/6/5

Have got a place on a graphic design course at City College!

I have been given a place on a graphic design course (NAOCN Graphics) at Norwich City College, starting in September! I applied last year, but was turned down. This year, success! Went along to the end-of-year show at the college, last night, to see examples of work by the 04/05 students. The BBC is currently expressing considerable interest in the purchase of my photos from the event (am holding out for a fee in excess of ?50,000 - plus possible extras in return for the talent-spotting). :)

18/6/5

Cricket score sheet

Just thought I'd put a link to my cricket viewer's scoring sheet higher up the page, as it seems to be quite popular, at the moment! CRKTSCR2.DOC.

16/6/5

Pay less to Royal Mail for postage!

Have finally got around to updating my stamp price Excel spreadsheet with the new prices! I have also added more information (such as airmail prices, Recorded Delivery, parcels, etc). Use the ready-reckoner to work out how to make up stamp prices with only 1st and 2nd class stamps. I recommend you buy a set of ?4 diet scales (eg: from Index (which is closing down - so may be bargains!), or Argos) to go with it. You will probably pay for the scales very quickly!
STAMPS.XLS

Support Chinese bloggers!

The following may prove interesting to attach to all emails - just to annoy Microsoft (and possibly any Echelon-type snoops that may listen in to your electronica). SUBVERT.DOC. It might be valuable to add further passages, for example, on the American Bill of Rights, or the EU Charter of Human Rights, liberally sprinkled with the words 'freedom', 'democracy' and 'demonstration' (possibly with footnotes on 'profit' and 'rank hypocrisy'). (May get around to constructing this, myself, later.) If anyone manages to get a copy to China, please let me know! (I should probably add that this is one of the earliest files I created to post on this web site - See the foot of Archive I for original inclusion.) :)

14/6/5

Support Chinese bloggers!

According to the BBC, weblog entries on some parts of Microsoft's MSN site in China using words such as "freedom", "democracy" and "demonstration" are being blocked. This is apparently to 'comply with local laws'. For full story, go to: BBC news story on Chinese bloggers.

Link to another health blog (and good website)

While I was searching local (Norwich area) web authors, I came across the web site of one Abbie Thoms, who appears to have some role in web authoring, and also paints. And, as it happens, she appears to have been going through a degree of Hell over a physical health problem, which she has, for the benefit of others, blogged. I found it interesting to compare, with my site, how others deal with health problems (particularly as my blog is psychiatric, rather than physical health-related), and since my own perspective is, on the whole, that of the author, and not the reader. Go to: Abbie Thoms' web site. And check out her blog: Abbie Thoms' blog. I like the design of her site, and her painting, am impressed by her frankness, and have a huge amount of sympathy for her. (But her spelling is atrocious - to the point where I suspect affectation.)

Olanzapine 'available as intramuscular injection'

Have discovered (while checking RX List web site for update purposes) that Olanzapine is now available as an intramuscular injection. See: RX List entry for Olanzapine. Previously, it has only been available in oral form, which requires cooperation from the patient in administering. Most injectable pscyhoactive meds have traumatic side-effects. This development could generate a very different outlook on psychiatry in cases where forcible medication is deemed necessary! I have no information on UK availability, but will look into it. - More here, later, we hope! (Presumably, pregnancy is still a side-effect :) - see entry immediately below).

11/6/5

'Olanzapine makes you pregnant' shock

I noticed, in passing, that the Guthrie Theater guide to Blue/Orange suggests that pregnancy is a side-effect of taking Olanzapine. I can confirm that I have not noticed any problem of this nature in myself (to date) - and nor am I aware of it being a problem anywhere else. See pages 22/3 of: Guide to 'Blue/Orange' at the Guthrie Theater.

Is it the world, or the soil that is 'blue like an orange'?

Additionally, having had time to read the stuff I printed out from the links, below, I discover there may be some confusion as to whether it's the world, or the earth (soil) that is 'blue like an orange'. Compare the Guthrie comments ('le monde', p20) with the Old poetry version ('la terre', poem no. 8).

30,000 hits!

This site has now had 30,022 hits. Average bandwidth to web, this month, is 21.04Mb/day.

10/6/5

NPF renews my ?10/week grant - many thanks!

The npf has renewed my ?10/week grant for another six months. I would like to express my sincere gratitude to them for, once again, helping me out in this way.

When is an orange not orange? - Blue/orange

Saw Blue/Orange, by Joe Penhall, on BBC3, again, the other night. Quite entertaining interplay between two psychiatrists and a patient who maintains oranges are blue - bright blue. Anyone curious about the play (which will, almost certainly, come round again, shortly - probably on terrestrial TV) can follow these links:
Guide to 'Blue/Orange' at the Guthrie Theater. This contains a translation of Paul Eluard's poem. 'Le monde est bleue comme une orange'.
English translation of Tintin and the blue oranges.
A number of poems by Eluard, mostly in English, but with 'Le monde...' in French.

Personally, I thought the immaturity of the junior psychiatrist was rather unbelievable (that is to say, I couldn't believe a doctor, of any sort, wouldn't understand that he had to kiss the posterior of his superior, or that open rowing could be considered accepatable, in medicine). Otherwise, I enjoyed the play very much, particularly the binds and impasses the psychiatrists got themselves into, and would recommend it to anyone. :)

By the way...anyone know a cure for a voice in one's head saying: 'Thud!' (and nothing else). :)

7/6/5

Light bulb? What light bulb?

How many psychiatrists does it take to change some hanging Christmas decorations?
None! They have to get a patient to do it for them!
:)

I refer, merely, to the fact that, refusing to observe the standard '12 days of Christmas', the waiting room of Norwich Community Mental Health (80, St Stephens Rd) still has Christmas stars hanging from the ceiling. It will be the longest day of the year, in two weeks' time. One could be forgiven for thinking they are working on the '12 months of Christmas'.


Have inserted this header that I ran for a while at the top of my home page, as it's now a bit out of date, and here, with the HHGTTG review seems a good place to put it:

...perhaps the most remarkable - certainly the most successful - blog ever to come out of the great publishing corporations of the Alkaid constellation. More popular than the pages of NORCI STEP. Better selling than The Mental Health Act, 1983. And, more controversial than Norfolk & Waveney Mental Health Care NHS Trust's trilogy of philosophical blockbusters: 'Why Jeremy became ill'; 'Some more of Jeremy's longest letters'; and 'Who is this Maurice Leonard Clark person, anyway?'. And, in many of the more relapsed civilisations in East Anglia, Jeremy's web site has already supplanted the great Mind web site as the standard repository of all knowledge and wisdom. Because, though it contains a number of links that don't work, holds much that is lengthy and varied, or at least particularly detailed, it scores over the older, more pedestrian work in two important respects: first, it is slightly quicker to load; and, secondly, it has the words 'Jeremy's web site' inscribed in large, friendly letters at the top...

...and anyone who wishes to suggest I should not survive with my artistic credibility intact, by questioning whether a book about a man with two heads, a paranoid android, and character called 'Trillian' might not be making references to mental illness no more knows about literature than a tea-leaf knows the history of the East India Company (for which I actually worked for a few weeks, at a smelly warehouse in Woolpit, in about 1998) and they can pay a personal visit to Hellesdon Hospital, which is about 10 minutes out of Norwich, to find out all about it, and go on to experience the voluntary organisations that exist to help them rehabilitate, for themselves...


23/5/5

Have been to see The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy

Went to see the new version of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, yesterday. Quite enjoyed it! Rather more trippy than the first version, with obvious hallucination references. The plot is twisted somewhat from the original, and there appears to be a certain amount of role reversal or 'inversion'. I have to say I was rather unimpressed by the animation of The Book, which didn't come up to the standard of the original - in spite of the massive advances in computing that have become available since then. Overall, though, pleased to have spent my ?5.50 on it.

Fire hazards (and sexism) and how staff at NTS deal with them

Went in to NTS for the Intensive Activity Period (IAP) thing the other day, and was greeted by a sort of burning smell. Thought it might be electrical. Mentioned it to two members of staff who were there, who said that they, too, had smelt it. Neither had done anything. So, I went and reported it to reception. Went back, later, to discover a handyman pulling the plug of a heater out of the wall. A chair had been left against it, and the smell must have been foam gassing off. Rather worrying - could have ignited! Not impressed that it was left to me to action, when two other members of staff had noticed it.

Got a chat with a member of staff because I was sarcastic in my comments about the place. 'Did I mean it, or was I being facetious?'. Yes I did, and yes I was! However, no mention was made of my concerns about equality - possibly because the person I was chatting to was the one who had made the remark, and possibly because he wished to be able to say 'We've talked it through', and sweep that particular element away with that generalisation.

11/05/05

Walked 92 miles with sandwich board on!

I walked a total of about 92 miles round various towns with my sandwich board on. Did Norwich, Bury St Edmunds, Cambridge, and Great Yarmouth. Got chatted up a number of times. Got called a traitor in Yarmouth. Shook hands with Andrew Duff, Liberal Democrat MEP, and gave him one of my badges. Also palmed a badge to Dr Ian Gibson, MP (Labour, Norwich North), who was assiduously expressing official interest in a May Day socialist gathering in Chapelfield Gardens (total attendance, about half a dozen assorted minor socialist organisations and their dogs, plus a very noisy band in the bandstand - a tragic indication of the state of socialist organisations in this country today). Both Charles Clarke, and Dr Ian Gibson got back in, but with slashed majorities. In fact, in the whole of East Anglia, little changed. The notable exception was Cambridge, which went Lib Dem (so quite pleased I went there).

Electoral japes

Shortly before the elections, met the caretaker of Parmentergate Court, who explained that the reason there were large bundles of junk mail for both Parmentergate Court and Murrell's Court (the letter boxes of the latter being some five minutes walk away) on top of the mailboxes was that he had told the postman not to put junk mail into our letter boxes. This seemed, to say the least, unwise, at election time. I rang the Elections Office, in City Hall, to be told that Poll Cards were delivered by hand. Mine duly arrived, by post, some short while later. Personally, I could do without this sort of foolery at such times.

Beliefs of Jehovah's witnesses

A chat with a Jehovah's Witness, recently, revealed the following beliefs to me:

Only 144,000 people will go to Heaven.
Of these, there are only 8,000 places left.
The remaining 8,000 have already been chosen.
When all the places are filled, we will get Armageddon.
Since the last 8,000 places were reserved some time ago, Armageddon is a finite time away.
There is no Hell - those souls that do not go to Heaven simply cease to exist.
The Devil (residence unspecified) was created in 1914 - though previously a mischievous angel.
I have a feeling most of this (including the 1914 landmark) is supposed to have come from the King James Bible (written roughly 400 years ago).

I have to say that I was impressed that any form of Christian was ready to talk to me about such matters, as this is the sort of thing that seems regularly to be dodged.

What happens after 18 months on the dole - the delights of NTS

As I have been unemployed continuously for 18 months, I have been referred to a work experience organisation called Norfolk Training Services (NTS) for a 13-week 'Intensive Activity Period'. I am now on Week 3.

It is horrible.

Here is a quick digest of the story so far:

During the induction course, it was made plain that, whatever the stringent demands made upon our time, NTS clearly a) regarded its employer, the Jobcentre, as holding ridiculous notions, and b) in spite of having gotten into trouble with it, over contractual issues, such as actually providing contracted provision for the agreed time, in the past, clearly intended to flout this, again, and that there was nothing we could do about this - quite possibly even if this meant that our own contracts with the Jobcentre ended up being breached (which could, clearly, result in the suspension of our benefits (if, frankly, unlikely to result in any damage to NTS). This was an unwelcome start.

One of the men giving the induction course, as he neared the end of his piece, told us that we would 'get a talk on equality from a little lady'. This, too, was unwelcome.

I have been made to leave early on numerous occasions. In one case, this appears to be to satisfy the desire of a tutor to go and have a fag. I am obliged to put in a minimum number of hours, and don't feel like finding myself having to argue the toss with the Jobcentre.

In one of the toilets, I was greeted by the sight of a turd on the toilet seat.

The introductory letter, of which I received two copies, suggested I should take along my bank account details. The Jobcentre confirmed, correctly, that this was unnecessary. The letter omitted to mention that NTS would require a petrol receipt dated during the week in respect of which any travel claim was made. I was, however, told during the induction, that for the first week this would not be necessary. And, I suggested myself, that, since I ride a small moped, but maintain a log of all petrol fills, perhaps this might prove a suitable alternative. When I went to make my first claim, I was greeted with a stony 'You need a petrol receipt'. I explained that this was my first week. This was, rather reluctantly accepted. And, I got a sob story, for no apparent reason, to the effect that it was totally unfair that riders of small machines such as mine should get the same mileage allowance as drivers of large cars. Personally, I considered this to be a) none of the member of staff's business, and b) not her problem - or mine, come to that. However, they warmed to their cause and effectively told me I could p*ss off to another, more senior member of staff, who would also tell me I could p*ss off. I could not believe that a) this might be the first time they had encountered this very scenario, or b) they might take this kind of attitude to a 'valued' client (is this the usual response, or was I alone being offered this treatment). I asked, as politely as my temper would allow, whether they enjoyed working there. And, when presented with a rather grumpy answer, how long they had done so for. - Would you believe, a whole year!

The theory of the Intensive Activity Period is that I am placed in a work environment, and do a full working week. In return for this, the company I am placed with pays nothing at all. In return for a full week's work, I get a total of ?15 added to my existing benefits. From this ?15, the first ?4 of any expenses claim is deducted. The first expenses claim I referred to, above, resulted in a payment to me of ?3.50. The second (being a Bank Holiday week), of ?2. One can, immediately, see why such a determined attempt to rebut such and expenses claim might be deemed necessary! I am not at all happy with the political theory behind the Intensive Activity Period. It clearly undermines attempts of other workers to obtain a living wage for the same honest work. I am aware that some local employers requiring largely unskilled, or semi-skilled manual labour are 'large' users of this scheme, and have alse been told that some participants work a 60-hour week on lorries for this ?15. How this squares with tachometry, I am unsure.

I have been trying to obtain a placement in web authoring. Since I have no experience, there have been limited vacancies I have been able to apply for, until now. However, I have not, personally, been attempting to sell my services for absolutely nothing at all. I have had one interview for a placement (which compares favourably with my own success rate in hunting for jobs in journalism - if you do not allow for the fact that I was not attempting to sell the services of a graduate engineer with seven years' experience in journalism for absolutely nothing). My placement officer has, now, as far as I can tell, more or less given up hope that this idea will bear fruit - certainly within the 13-week period. So, I can see myself ending up in some stupid, boring, dead-end placement getting 'work experience' of typing up some ignorant, overpaid, illiterate manager's handwritten drivel as a secretary or administrator. This will, presumably, be seen as a triumphant endorsement of the system.

The attitude of many of the staff is poor, throughout. I can understand some of their problems, as, after trawling through the standard newspapers (eg: for myself, the Monday and Saturday Guardian, and the Thursday EDP), and, in my case, the Yellow Pages plus internet searches, there is very little else a person can do. As a result, the staff are very jaded, and people end up sitting around doing very little, discussing religion, politics, football, or attempting to download 'unsuitable material' from the internet. However, in my opinion, if they cannot find staff that are either willing or able to do something more positive, and/or the management are not willing to instruct them to do so, then they shouldn't go seeking such contracts from the government in the first place. There are probably others that might feel able to offer better provision at similar costs to the taxpayer.

I don't like having to be there, but I have to. The least the staff could do is to treat their valuable clients with respect.

I have, it has to be said, been happy with the staff of the canteen, but, apparently, the canteen is not run by NTS.

The latest problem is a member of staff who clearly regards one of the tables in the canteen (which, as I say, is not run by NTS) as 'his', and not to be sat at by mere clients. He must be in his late fifties. However, this doesn't seem to put him off such childish behaviour as, effectively, saying 'Mine!'.

It must, surely, take a superhuman effort to rack up a list of complaints as long as this, just two-and-a-half weeks after taking someone on.

I strongly believe that I was making much better use of my time before, and would certainly feel inadequate if I was unable to sell my services to somebody interesting for absolutely nothing at all.

I am 100% confident that any member of staff of NTS that reads this will continue to treat me in a completely professional manner.

Have found an insectocutor for ?9

Have found an insectocutor for ?8.99 in QD! So far, only one victim, but it is early in the season. Might yet offer it to my parents, as they live next door to a farm which provides a liberal supply of flies.

Got a new iron on social services funds!

Tried to get a new steam iron out of the Advisor's Discretionary Fund, via Jobcentre (under New Deal, I think). Unfortunately, the rules have been revised, and this is only avaialble to those actually going into work, and not merely interviewing for it, and the fund has been cut from ?300 per head to ?100 per head. So, my ADF request was turned down. No problem with that. Fair's fair. Luckily for me, my social worker was more than happy to provide me with the ?8 necessary to buy a new one - which is great, because I had a terrible time trying to persuade my old iron to work, while preparing for the work experience interview I had. Thanks!

This is a long entry!

This is a long entry, isn't it?

22/4/5

VOTE ANTI WAR!

Have now also been to Bury St Edmunds and Cambridge with my sandwich board reading 'VOTE ANTI WAR' (see pic immediately below). Actually got shot at, yesterday, in Cambridge, by a young schoolboy with a home-made crossbow! Missed me, luckily. Little hooligan! Cost him his bolt, which was 'decommissioned' and binned. I have now walked about 42 miles with the sandwich board.
For the benefit of any Labour or Tory politicians reading, it might be worth pointing out that, were it not for the behaviour of a social worker at a Mental Health Review Tribunal, in 2003, the sandwich board would never have materialised. :)

18/4/5

VOTE ANTI WAR!

Me wearing VOTE ANTI WAR sandwich board

Vote anti war! I have finished making a sandwich board which reads 'VOTE ANTI WAR', and have been wearing it round town. Walked about 11 miles on Saturday, three on Sunday, and another three or four today.

Original picture of me wearing 'VOTE ANTI WAR' sandwich board, (larger, and in wrong orientation).

On the whole, the reaction has been quite positive, although I'm rather worried by the number of people that have asked questions such as 'Which war?', 'What are you doing?', etc. I passed a couple of youngsters in the market who said 'Yeah, I hate traffic wardens. I'll vote anti-traffic warden'. Sometimes I wonder about the standards of education in this country. A clown making balloon animals swore at me - hardly the behaviour one would expect from a children's entertainer.

23/3/5

20,000 visitors!

20,324 visitors to this site, to date! Average bandwidth to web running at 14.17Mb per day.

Daytrip to Yarmouth

Went to Yarmouth, yesterday. Had just put a new tyre on my moped, so thought it would be a good idea to 'scrub it in'. Went via back roads, and Caister-on-Sea. Didn't realise there were wind turbines offshore, there, now. Took some pics, but it was very misty, and the turbines were hardly visible. Caister is just up the road from Yarmouth, so you can see them from there, too. Got caught in a downpour on the way back. Hardly desirable on new tyres.

Got a rail discount card

As a result of being unemployed for 18 months, I qualified for a discount rail card. Apparently, I can get 'up to' 50% off rail travel. I don't find the idea of rolling up to a station in the hope of 50% off, only to find it's only 10% off particularly attractive. And, since rail travel is so expensive, anyway, even at 50% off, I can't see myself having much use for it. Still, at least it gives somebody in the Jobcentre something to do. Make them feel gainfully employed. Make it look like something positive is happening. I am also having to go through a number of other procedures, as a result of being unemployed for 18 months. I am not at all confident any of the other measures represent anything more than management noisily being seen to do something, anything. I am not expecting any genuine gain on my part, as a result of it, but, quite possibly, considerable hassle. As far as I'm concerned, it just represents another opportunity to be deprived of my benefits. And I'm more than a trifle worried about Gordon Brown's idea to tinker with Housing Benefit in order to encourage people back to work. Sounds like an excuse to go cutting it. Trust me, I'm trying to get back into work, and am doing everything I possibly can. But, with my last job ending (due to unfair dismissal in breach of my contract) back in 2001 (31st Dec - Happy Xmas!), it's a little hard to get interviews.

10/3/5

Have released a book 'into the wild'

I released a book 'into the wild' under the bookcrossing scheme - see www.bookcrossing.com. Had bought a copy of 'Illusions: The Adventures of a Reluctant Messiah' by Richard Bach, off the second-hand shelf of the local bookshop for 20p, and was planning to give it away to a friend. And, what with the plot of the book, and my original intent, thought it would make an ideal book to release. Left it with reception at Norwich Community Mental Health. Not entirely sure what they made of it. Sadly, no news of it on bookcrossing, yet.

Am investigating RSS feeds

Am looking into creating an RSS feed from this site for syndication.

Translate this site into other languages!

I have added an automatic translator that will translate this site into other languages. Just click on the flag to translate into your language of choice! You have to wait for a little while for it to do it. (There is also a copy of this at the foot of this page)


Klicken Sie eine Markierungsfahne an. Cliquez un drapeau. Klik een vlag. Scatti una bandierina. Estale uma bandeira. Chasque una bandera.

Do your French homework here!

And here is Altavista's translator - translate a phrase to another language! (I will remove this, in due course, but leave the copy at the foot of this page.)

Find other web sites based in my vicinity!

Find other web sites based in my vicinity!
Click on the icon below!

GeoURL

2/3/5

World Book Day, 3rd March - a recommendation

To:
Whoever comes to this site.
I think you'd like to read:
Pure Madness: How fear drives the mental health system. By Jeremy Laurance. Publ: Routledge, London, 2003. ISBN: 0-415-36980-0. Price: ?9.99.
because:
It provides a very clear picture of what drives the mental health services in the UK, how they are perceived, and what the Government's plans are really likely to mean for public safety.
from:
Jeremy Jones.

Jeremy Laurance is Health Editor of The Independent.
I think the most quotable quote I have come across in his book, so far (I haven't finished reading it yet), is:

'Overall, the National Confidential Enquiry [into Homicide and Suicide by Mentally Ill People] concluded that 9 per cent of homicides by people who had been in contact with mental health services in the previous 12 months (9 per cent of 11 per cent of the total number of homicides) were preventable. That amounted to just 4 homicides a year in England and Wales, less than one per cent of the total. The Government's plans to clamp down on mentally ill people, outlined in the December 2000 White Paper, are not going to make Britain's streets a great deal safer.'

Curiously, this view of the paper's Health Editor appears to be somewhat at odds with the views of Michael Howlett, of The Zito Trust, expressed in The Independent on Saturday 26 February, after the conviction of John Barrett for the murder of Denis Finnegan. Howlett says, under the headline 'Many would have been saved if family's fears were heeded', for example: '...our mental health services operate within a culture that underestimates the real risk some patients pose to themselves or others when they fail to follow prescribed treatment plans in community settings'.

I have to say that, from the way Laurance speaks of the Zito Trust in his book, I suspect he has his slight misgivings about its views and motivation (or at least the likely success of what it campaigns for). Of course, it wouldn't be a good newspaper if it weren't possible for different journalists and other contributors to express differing views on any given matter.

On its front page, on 26/3, The Independent asks: 'Is there still such a thing as care in the community'. Yet, in his book, Laurance reports that there are those that suggest it has never really been properly tried. Overall, he suggests the only way to improve public security is to make mental health services attractive to the users, and that draconian clamp-downs will seriously impinge on the rights of many, are likely to turn people off, and thus in any case as the quote suggests, aren't likely to be very successful.

It goes without saying that I in no way condone murder or other violent acts, but, given my environment and the comment I am making, I feel obliged to say so explicitly - though it would be nice to be in an environment where such obvious statements could be taken for granted.

Bookcrossing

Came across the idea of bookcrossing the other day. Release a book 'into the wild', and track its progress on the internet, as it is handed from one recipient to another (theoretically). See: bookcrossing.com. I may get around to releasing a book or two. I have one or two from the 50p shelf of the local second-hand bookshop in mind - paradoxically, many of the books I get that way are old public library stock.

I have rung The Independent and asked if they can get Jeremy Laurance to release a few copies of 'Pure Madness: How fear drives the mental health system' on the bookcrossing scheme for World Book Day.

23/2/5

Rise in mean sea level due to Sizewell A power station

A quick, back-of-a-fag-packet calculation shows that the waste heat from Sizewell A, if all discharged into the sea, could, over 40 years, have raised sea level by a maximum of about 0.00018mm. I used: life, 40 years; thermal output of reactors, 1600MW; electrical power output, 420MW; surface area of oceans, 3.58e14 sq metres; volume, 1.34e18 metres cubed; water, 1,000kg/cubic metre; cubic coefficient of expansion, B, 1.8e-4 1/K; specific heat, 4,183J/kgK; change in temp, dt = Energy/(mass x specific heat); expansion of fluids, dV = V1.B.dt. Calculate change in temperature, hence change in volume. I have seen a figure of 2.1e-4 for cubic coefficient of expansion. My figure came from a book of formulae (Gleick). Of course, there are all sorts of assumptions involved, but it's interesting to see a significant figure emerge for a single power station. Rather scary that it could be that simple (which, of course, it's not, if you see what I mean). Bear in mind it's just a rough order of magnitude calcluation. Try putting the figures quoted by
Tim Barnett, AAAS, into the calcs: surface temp rise, 0.5 degrees centigrade, 0.15 degrees lower down (ie: try assuming 0.15 throughout, 0.5 throughout). British Nuclear Group is expecting a total mean sea level rise of 11mm per annum due to all sources.

How many links are there to a site?

Thanks to my brother for pointing me to a link that tells you how many links there are to a site: www.marketleap.com/publinkpop/. Was rather pleased to discover that my site is rather better connected than either www.norci.org or www.meridian-east.org (which are the same thing). Paradoxically, my site was the first listed as linking to them.

25,000 hits!

This site has passed 25,000 hits! 12.13Mb to web per day.

How far I walk

I am averaging about 5,000 steps a day, according to my new pedometer (Poundland). This is about two and half miles.

Get your VOTE ANTI WAR badge!

I have a limited number of VOTE ANTI WAR badges. ?2 inc P&P in UK, free to friends. They measure 36 x 30mm, read 'VOTE ANTI WAR', and have a box with a cross in it adjacent to the text. Available in black on white, black on orange, black on green. I would recommend black on white, as the most potent general message. Just email me to order. Specify colour scheme desired.

12/2/5

Will Sizewell drown because of global warming?

Well, the official answer is 'no'. They are working on a figure of a rise in sea level of 11mm per annum (including allowing for the dipping of the South of England into the sea after the melting of ice over Scotland). I spoke to PRO, David Webb, who said that, while the visitor centre has been closed, and visits to the stations stopped, following 9/11, you are quite free to walk the beaches in front of the stations and also quite free to take pictures. So I did, yesterday. I took a series of pics with my camera on a tripod, which my brother, Ben, very kindly stitched together to form a panorama. My guess is that the stations' bases are about 6-8m above current high tide level, max. I am waiting for further some information (chiefly on decommissioning) from Mr Webb, which might clarify matters. Sizewell A stops generating power at the end of 2006.
Panoramic picture of Sizewell power stations.

Sadly, the quality of this pic isn't as good as it might be - there is slight 'vertical banding' in the pic. However, it gives you a good idea of how the land lies. The construction in the foreground is a pumping and filtering station that draws sea water in for cooling.

This question arose when I began to consider what might happen if sea levels did rise. Another cheery thought I had was that we would lose all our ports, ships would have nowhere to dock, and we'd lose all international trade. I'll have to try to find some authoritative figures...

7/2/5

MP reopens windows issue with Cotman Housing Association

My MP, Charles Clarke, has very kindly reopened the continuing windows issue with Cotman Housing for me. Hopefully, I can expect a copy of any letter from them to Mr Clarke, as and when they furnish him with an explanation of the situation.

Christmas continues, in Norwich

The Christmas season seems to be continuing well beyond what is considered normal and decent, here in Norwich. At a concert in the St Peter Mancroft church, opposite The Forum, I noticed that they still had a Christmas nativity scene on display. Also, the BBC still has Pudsey Bear overlooking the area outside The Forum, from his position in the window of the BBC studios. My understanding was that there were twelve days of Christmas, and that decorations, etc, were expected to be tidied away on 6th January. The Pudsey Bear icon's continuing appearance tends to smack rather of wearing one's heart on one's sleeve, long after it is fitting to do so, as, frankly, does the nativity scene. Personally, I find the whole Children in Need thing, with cutesy Pudsey rather difficult to stomach at the time it is current (after my personal experiences with charities and their apparent function - ie: creating gainful employment for charity workers, at the expense of more sensible funding arrangements and greater funds for the needy). I mentioned Pudsey to reception staff at the BBC, who, without actually saying so, made it clear that I was an unworthy uncharitable nobody, it was her business what the BBC displayed publicly, and that she might, if I was lucky, though probably not, pass my comments on so that they could be ignored. So, now Christmas extends from Halloween to, presumably, Valentine's Day - and, who knows, beyond?

5/2/5

Panoramic view of Norwich

My brother has very kindly stitched together a series of digital pics I took of Norwich, from the hill in front of Norwich Prison (the buildings on top of the hill), to form a 360 degree panorama. Thank you, Ben!

Click on this pic to view full size panorama of Norwich

Click on this pic to view full size image of plaque

360 degree panorama of Norwich (353kb)
Thumbnail of 360 degree panorama of Norwich (18kb)
Picture of plaque showing what's what in panorama (82kb)
Thumbnail of plaque (16kb)

Link to Ben's web site (www.sleepychinchilla.com), where you can see webcam pics of chinchillas.

2/2/5

Got my model of the economy

Have had a chance to have a quick look at the model of the economy. A number of questions to answer, at the moment, but could be interesting. Am curious to know how good the model is for oil, as some of the data it is based on doesn't go back much beyond the start of the flow of oil. Also curious to know about the 'informal' economy, which isn't mentioned specifically (though it may already be included).

Using digital cameras in Norwich library

I can now use my digital camera in the library. A Jessops card reader (Secure Digital, ?12) works fine. There is a possibility that the library will install some of its own, at some stage. Also, it is considering adding CD burning facilities to some PCs.

Evening News runs story on Cotman's window problem

The Evening News ran a story, today, on the continuing windows problem in Parmentergate Court. We have had railings up for just over a year, while they 'try' to sort this mess out. Apparently, the latest argument is over whether the work done will be signed off for anything other than opening the windows beyond the stays. As if, somehow, windows are there for decorative purposes, and not expected to be used in the normal fashion. It is, indeed, getting truly ridiculous! The cost of this is, to my understanding, at least ?4,300 in compensation, plus ?300/week for one year, = ?15,600, for rental of the railings. Total ?19,900. And that's before paying legal costs, and the labour costs involved in the work to date.

Will rising sea levels drown our nuclear power stations?

Doing a little bar-side thinking (though sadly not in a bar) about rising sea levels, it occurred to me to ask 'If sea level rises, will we lose our nuclear power stations', and, if so, what will happen. After all, they represent quite a large chunk of our 'base load', and are hardly likely to constitute 'acceptable marine pollution'. Might try to investigate how far the sea would have to rise to constitute a threat.

Stats

Last month, I supplied 412Mb of data to the web, ie: 13.3Mb/day. Total visitors to date: 18,363. 24,094 hits.

28/1/5

How the government models the economy

Got a letter back from the Treasury, today! It tells me that the Treasury uses a model with about 450 variables, which are interrelated using about 40 estimated equations and a further 280 'technical relationships and accounting identities'. This is not the exclusive means to decisions. Other factors are included, such as 'a great deal of judgement'. I intend to take up one Mr Vaughan on his offer to send me the 225-page public model documentation (electronically), to get an idea of what is involved. However, a model of that size may well be too complex to absorb fully. However, it may be interesting to see which factors are lumped together, and maybe get a feel for what influences what.

Barian Baluchi, fake psychiatrist, jailed

Glad to hear that this country will not tolerate people pretending to be doctors. Psychiatry is quite frightening enough as it is, without fakers. It is only a pity that he was not prevented from engaging in such activities earlier - as I understand it, various people suffered as a result of his actions. (Mind you, suffering is a routine result of psychiatrists' actions). It begs the question 'How did he go about this sort of thing uninterrupted for so long?'. I wonder whether any of his 'patients' noticed he was, in some way, unsuitable for what he was doing? Perhaps less successful or useful than real psychiatrists? Or whether they didn't. Suppose they did? Why didn't they say anything? Perhaps they were too terrified of being accused of some psychiatric affliction that would require a strong prescription of something with nasty side-effects? Or is it simply possible to walk into a psychiatrist's office and pretend to be one? It might be seen as a poor reflection on the requirements of the job, if it were. Surely it can't be that easy to fake that? Maybe it is. I shall have to find out who blew the whistle. What does one have to do be charged with inadequacies or misconduct in the medical profession? What with Shipman's tally increasing, it rather looks like even a personally signed confession to gross misconduct would result in no action.

24/1/5

Thought I'd found my first corpse, on Sunday!

Went across to the garage, on Sunday, to buy a paper. On the way over, I saw a man lying on the ground. A passer-by passed by, doing nothing. Got to where he was and saw no sign of life. Tapped the sole of his shoe with the toe of my foot, and nothing happened. Thought I might have found my first corpse. After a little more persuasion, he began to breathe noticeably - he may even have been unconscious, before. It was cold, I had no idea how long he'd been there, so I ran to the garage to use its phone to call an ambulance. It duly arrived - possibly a little slow - but not too bad. By this time the corpse had managed to get up, and was smelling strongly of alcohol. Ambulance crew got out a gurney, strapped him in with warm blankets and took him away - presumably to warm up properly. I'm getting a little tired of finding myself having to call emergency services and do the good Samaritan thing, round here. I couldn't believe someone walked straight by. I mention this story because I feel it necessary to make it known that I think some part of the health service has, again, performed well (as did the nurse taking my bloods), in order to make it clear that if I believe some part of the service is not, this isn't to be taken as a generalised view, on my part, of the whole. It's a shame I feel that way, but it's a situation generated by personal experience.

21/1/5

I am not diabetic!

Got the test results from my GP, today, and all three samples (glucose, thyroid, 'all blood') completely normal. So, I am not diabetic. Which means that my tiredness and change in eyesight are down to something else. Guess I'm getting old (eyesight). My feeling is that the tiredness must be down to either depression and/or stress caused by the psychiatry. My personal feeling is that an instant cure, with no ill effects, could be effected by stopping my meds immediately (well, possibly after two weeks or so to get over them). My feeling is that any claimed gains resulting from my taking 2.5mg Olanzapine a day (described by my consultant psychiatrist as a 'homeopathic' dose) do not warrant the negative effects on other aspects of my health. However, such a move would have to be sanctioned by my pscyhiatrist, who ignored my suggestions that I was feeling depressed, the last time I saw him - clearly not a psychiatric symptom of any note. I am yet to be impressed by any sense of a holistic attitude towards general (and psychiatric) health in a psychiatrist. Who knows, maybe I will be, shortly? It'd be nice to have the first part of the day back in my life. As it is, I can't leave the house for about two hours after getting up (which is happening late, anyway) - doesn't leave much of a day, during the winter months.

20/1/5

Got a better pedometer from Poundland

Poundland currently selling pedometers (?1). Seem to be much more sensitive than Walkers Walk-o-meters: 2,400 steps vs 240! Think my Walkers one is basically completely stuffed. Will keep an eye on the new one to see if it tails off the same way.

Strange font problems with my site's text editor

Curious anomaly in fonts, today, with Zero Catch text editor. Didn't get the usual font when looking at some files, but did with others. Didn't feel like editing, with that happening. However, it seems to have returned to normal, for the moment, hence today's entry. Hopefully this will just be a blip. Mind you, also had problems with my email system, and with viewing my site itself, today, too.

Got a letter from Paul Flynn, MP

Dropped a line to Paul Flynn, MP (Newport, West), as he was debating mental health issues in the House the other day. He very kindly wrote back. He says he is hoping there will be an interesting report from the Health Select Committee on a battle between MPs and others and the pharmaceutical industry. Paul Flynn's web site.

18/1/5

What happens when North Sea oil runs out?

Started reading up on the end of empire, on the grounds that the UK had been sustained by North Sea oil, after its empire finally disappeared. Coincidentally, I found a book on economics on the 50p shelf of the second-hand shop near me, which suggests that oil may have actually depressed industrial output in the UK, because of its effect on the exchange rate, and tying the country's currency to oil prices. So, am now slightly confused about whether it was a good or bad thing. Mind you, the book was written about 20 years ago. Also interesting to speculate on what will happen, when it finally goes - an additional factor, now being our being increasingly tied to Europe. So, am making some rudimentary enquiries. Might try to spur a practising journalist to research this and write it up properly for me.

How does Labour model the economy?

Have written to Gordon Brown asking what equations, if any, he uses to model the economy (or whether it is too complex to reduce to anything simple). Watch this space.

Be nice to me! I had a blood test for diabetes, today

Had a blood test, today. Trying to eliminate diabetes from our enquiries into why I may be suffering from tiredness and changes to eyesight. Olanzapine is known to increase one's tendency to diabetes. (Other explanations include the fact that I am getting old (pushing 40), and may be suffering from stress and/or depression resulting from psychiatry). I'd just like to say a big thank you to the nurse that took the three phials of blood for making it the most painless bloods I've ever had done! Much appreciated!

Meridian East still billing itself as NORCI

Norwich mental health rehabilitation company, Meridian East, formerly known as NORCI, still appears to be using the old NORCI web site - complete with name, etc. Compare www.meridian-east.org with www.norci.org. Meridian East had, the last time I was updated, three computing suites at its disposal - two in Norwich, one in King's Lynn.

17/1/5

Am keeping weather record, again

Have restarted my weather recording (temperature, pressure, humidity, wind, precipitation, etc). May post some graphs, when I have a significant body of data. Sadly, I do not have the facility to record sunlight reaching the earth (anyone see Horizon, 'Global Dimming'?). We do get something looking a lot like chemical smogs over Norwich, and, curiously, summer mists, these days.

Made some plastic dog tags

Have made some plastic dog tags. Basically, the same dot matrix design as the metal dog tags I made in '02, but made of translucent plastic with kite string instead of chain. The metal ones may have been stimulating an eczematous reaction. May just have been sweat, but we'll see, now.

Changes to Meridian East management names

Apparently, Alan Holland now calls himself 'Chief Executive' of Meridian East (formerly NORCI), and Suzi Heybourne is 'General Manager'. (Alan Holland used to call himself 'General Manager'). I am not aware of significant expansion of the company necessitating this apparent additional tier of management.

Stats

Hm. Supply to web now averaging 12Mb/day. I was worried it might have sky-rocketed to accommodate search engines. Perhaps that was a one-off. Hits climbing nicely!

8/1/5

Early thoughts on the quality of prosecution cases in court

After watching the proceedings of a few trials, now, I am beginning to worry about the quality of cases that get put by The Crown and the police. I strongly suspect that if I had based news or features stories on research of the quality that I am seeing in Court, I would, myself, have ended up in the same Court! That is to say, the cases don't impress me. What I am seeing is a few pertinent facts dressed up by a lot of theatre. And, I am also worried about the possiblity that this problem is compounded by people involved in the process not taking the responsibility that they are charged with during the process. This, it seems to me, may be resulting in covering of butts, and taking the easiest course, which is to not risk letting someone roam free, and therefore to prosecute them, and that this same abdication of responsibility is mirrored elsewhere in the process, apparently 'adding weight' to cases, and resulting in an expensive trial and possibly a conviction where none is required. I am also slightly worried that 'sensitivity' to 'victims' may be hindering enquiry for better evidence. However, I would qualify these opinions by saying that I have only seen a few trials, and that I hope that what I have seen is unrepresentative. Go along to see a trial, yourself, and form your own opinion!

Reliability of Walk-o-meters

After using the Walkers Walk-o-meter for some while, I have come to the conclusion that it is very unreliable. For example, the other day, I went for an hour's walk, and it only registered a few hundred steps. Also, the reset button is too proud, and gets pushed when you kneel or bend down. When it works, it's great. But for constant use, it's not really up to the job. Mind you, it was free. Might try to acquire one that works well, as keeping an eye on exercise seems a good idea.

Link to history of Quakers around Shoreditch

Andrew Roberts, who very kindly listed my web site in his history timeline of mental health, has supplied me with a link to his history of the Quakers around Shoreditch, which includes his summary of what Quakers are about under the heading 'Love and unity'. Link to Andrew Roberts' Quaker history.

This site has been going for three years!

I have been running this site for three years, now! :)

Supporting search engines - time for Beeching?

I have supplied 20 and 30Mb of data to the web per day, the last two days. This may be due to me registering with several blog search engines, which I suspect suck data automatically. I'm not sure how many more search engines I can support! I'm worried about the way of the world if I have to supply that much data to search engines in order to achieve a relatively modest hit rate. Beeching's cuts spring to mind. Am hoping my registering will bring more traffic my way.

22/12/4

Season's greetings!

Season's greetings to all! Happy New Year for when it arrives!

Am I mad if I refuse an ID card?

Wrote to my MP, asking whether, if I refused to carry an ID card, I would be considered to be exhibiting symptoms of mental illness, or commiting a crime. Since an ID card will very likely be necessary to access benefits (JSA, HB, CTB, etc) and medical services (prescriptions?), refusal to carry an ID card (or to provide biometric data to produce one) might well be seen by social and psychiatric services as a deliberate act that might be detrimental to my general and/or psychiatric health. So, would I be considered to be mad, or would I be committing a crime? And, more importantly, will everyone else that refuses, similarly, be treated in the same way as me? What I am asking for is equality for those considered to be mentally ill in the matter of how crimes are treated. Crimes should be treated as crimes, and not as symptoms of mental illness. This concern derives from having been labelled 'eccentric' at a Mental Health Review Tribunal for demonstrating against war. Paradoxically, this refusal, leading to the stated concerns, might well lead to the state wishing to forcibly administer medical and social services - ie: Sectioning me - occasioning very expensive use of those same services for which ID cards will be required. Rather counterproductive. Curiously, got a letter back from a senior caseworker within Charles Clarke's office, which basically told me not to worry because it would be some time before this happened. Have replied, today, saying that when this happens is not of concern to me, so much as what happens when it does is. Her letter promises to forward my concerns to Charles Clarke. Watch this space!

Link to npf

Have been meaning to provide a link to the Newspaper Press Fund, which now seems to call itself 'npf - The Journalists' Charity'. So here it is: npf. Email: enquiries@npf.org.uk.

13/12/4

Newspaper Press Fund (NPF) awards me a grant

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Newspaper Press Fund, which has awarded me a grant of ?10 a week for the next 26 weeks!

2/12/4

MP forwards councils' reply on traffic

Got a letter from my MP, Charles Clarke, today. It includes a copy of a letter to him, from Anna Graves, of Norwich City Council, with one from Sam Ralph, of Norfolk County Council, agreeing with her sentiments. The letter from Graves says they're trying to move things on, re: the blockage on Mountergate, a couple of car parks are due to be redeveloped, and that as a result of the Thurs 11th Nov gridlock extra traffic wardens will be deployed during busy periods to prevent blockages (especially at junctions). And it ends with the usual 'we're trying' message. I knew about the redevelopments anyway. I am worried that the measures will not alleviate the problem, as it seems to occur too frequently, and with too little stimulus.

Got on local radio, last night!

Was listening to local radio, last night, when the DJ asked if there were any bloggers listening. So, I rang up and chatted on air. Plugged my web site. No noticeable difference in traffic, sadly. :( Thanks to Nick Laurance, anyway!

Have been observing in court all week

Have been going to the courts all week to observe. Still comparing my views with the verdicts of the jury. Quite instructive. It is possible I may not be in tune with 'the man on the Clapham omnibus'. However, am not too worried about that. Am slightly surprised by the amount of room there is for discussion on points of, what might seem quite basic, points of law. It's also interesting to see what a person in the public seats sees, compared to what the jury sees. It seems, to this inexperienced observer, a very artificial form of presentation. I recommend the experience. Just turn up! Spoke to a freelance court reporter about how her job differed from my old job. Am thinking of continuing to go for a while, to see if I can get a rough feel for how a case is likely to turn out, and get to the stage where I can anticipate jury verdicts.

How to repair windows the Cotman way II

Workmen finally turned up to mend my windows, the other day. Very quick about it. No safety harnesses used to cut the danger of dropping a frame. Didn't take the opportunity to change all the hinge mechanisms, which seems very shortsighted, as it'll all have to be done again, later. And, they managed to forget two screws, which clearly left my windows more unsafe than they were before. Brilliant. Found them and got them to put them in. So, nearly a year's wait for a handful of screws to be changed, and two hinges out of six.

26/11/4

Met Norwich Humanist Group

Went along to the Norwich Humanist Group meeting in the Quaker meeting house, last night. Had been told it was going to be a literary event focusing on Norfolk. And as such, it was. Rather more open than the Quakers with their philosophy, although also slightly reticent. Was told that the organiser had decided on a programme that might be considered to divert, somewhat, from the basic humanist agenda, which wasn't really what I wanted to hear. One person commented that they all pretty much believed the same thigns, you see. Anyway, they gave me some back issues of magazines, and a slim volume to read. Saw Linda Smith on Question Time, last night, too - the new president of the British Humanist Association. Can't say I was too impressed. Rather lippy, not letting the Bishop of Liverpool finish, and not necessarily clearly logical. That said, the Bishop James Jones also managed to distinguish himself on that programme by refusing to be drawn on a position on homosexuality.

Went to observe the courts today

Had been meaning to go down to the courts to observe, for some while, and finally got around to doing it, today. Only caught the tail end of a sentencing hearing. Quite interesting seeing the process at work, and the characters involved. Couldn't help thinking of all the Spy prints I had seen, while a journalist at various press lunches at Rules, in Covent Garden. Couldn't help but feel for the defendant, as his barrister offered his description of his client's life to the court. Seemed all too reminiscent of listening to a social worker's description of my own supposed quality of life, and prognosis. Was also interesting to see the relationship between the barristers and the local journalists. Will probably go back again, at some stage, as pretty high interest factor for a free activity.

25/11/4

Postcard from MP, letter from Number 10

Got a postcard from my MP (noting contents) - had written regarding continuing failure of Cotman Housing to remedy windows, and because it was offering to donate money to somebody else's charity if I filled in a satisfaction questionnaire (you can guess how I feel!). Also got a letter from 10, Downing Street, acknowledging my letter complaining about the 'electoral cleansing' in Iraq, which has now been forwarded to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office.

How to repair windows, the Cotman way

Work has now begun on the windows - apparently, a year's delay related to deciding on replacing approximately six screws for each window - and I think they're still not addressing the problem of worn hinges. Caught some workmen reaming the remnants of a Philips head screw moulding out of its top with an electric screwdriver, and asking for a hammer to remove it - so that they could put a screw about a quarter of an inch longer in. Can't see a huge safety gain, myself. Told a member of Cotman who gave every impression of being so utterly fed up she couldn't care.

Walk-o-meter safety and results

Have glued the top of a split pin to the body of my Walk-o-meter with araldite and attached a string with a safety pin to it, for safety. My mum lost her last pedometer when it fell off her belt. I seem to be walking an average of about 3,000 steps per day, which is about 1.5 miles. Will continue measuring over two weeks, to see what I average, normally, and then go about deliberately increasing it for the good of my health. Link to Walkers web site.

Local craft

Thought I'd add a link to the site of a local craftsperson who was demonstrating her wares in The Forum. She makes 'cartoony' models out of Fimo clay, including wizards, ghosts, and small animals. Never been able to get the stuff to look any good, myself - always out of shape or had fingerprints on it. Hers looks good and clean. Footz.

Quaker meeting

Went to a Quaker meeting, yesterday lunchtime. Sat in silence for half an hour, broken by a man reading from the Bible. At the end, much mutual handshaking. Was hoping someone might feel like talking to me, afterwards, but no-one seemed to want to offer. There was lunch, but it smelled meaty (I am a veggie), and the atmosphere didn't immediately present itself as overwhelmingly friendly, so looked, but didn't try. Met a woman on the way out, who, belatedly, offered food. Turned it down as politely as I could, and asked a little about the subject. But, yet again, someone was unwilling to offer much. Seems to be a trait of Quakers. Somehow, though, I feel that one should only have to fish so many times for what is, frankly, a fairly obviuos piece of information, and that I have now exceeded that number. Asked whether the book I got off the net (see link below) was any good, and was told it was. Pity. Am hoping to get along to a Humanist meeting at the same Quaker meeting house, tonight. The woman was quick to point out that they merely hired the hall. Might boil down a digest of the contents of the intro book, as a free summary, later.

My brother's web site in web cam top ten

My brother's web site is currently sitting in the top ten list of Earthcam.com. Go to sleepychinchilla.com to see cuddly chinchillas - most active evenings and mornings, apparently. Also got a mention on the Steve Wright show, as 'web cam of the day'!

20/11/4

My Walk-o-meter arrived, today

Ordered a Walk-o-meter from the Walkers web site, a few weeks ago, and it finally arrived, today. It's red. It's always on, and is already slightly feint, so not sure how long it will last, although should be possible to change battery. Seems to work fine. Have walked about 1,000 steps to the library, as well as about 200 round house, so not sure quite how I'm likely to be able to rack up 10,000 steps in a day. If I can get around to tidying up the filing system for this site, I'll try to do a guide on 'How to calibrate your Walkers Walk-o-meter pedometer'. Last time I had one, I found my step length was 2.5ft. But, it didn't count every stride. So, some jiggery-pokery required for all-round accuracy. What I thought I might do, as the Walk-o-meter only counts steps, and doesn't convert to distance, is compile a 'distance walked' ready-reckoner as an Excel spreadsheet. Then I'll print it out, shrink it down on a photocopier, and encapsulate it so I can easily carry it with me on countryside walks. Watch this space!

How far is it around a running track?

When I last calibrated a pedometer, I used the running track in Catford, London. Now, having consulted running track dimensions on the web, I'm not sure I did it as accurately as I might have done. The measure line is apparently 20cm from the inside line on tracks without a guard rail, and 30cm from the inside track when there is one. So, two Pi r gives an error of about 6 x 20cm per lap (I walked as close to the line as possible - possibly on it), which is about 1.2m, almost two paces out. Makes me wonder whether there really is an advantage to getting the inside lane if you can run a little closer to the rail. Went to the UEA track to check if it was OK to use it, and was told it would cost about ?3 to use, and they weren't happy about use of the inside lane - and they didn't know how long it was, either! It has a guard rail, and I think it's a 400m track!

19/11/4

This site included in a history of mental health!

Discovered that my web site has been included in a timeline of mental health, by one Andrew Roberts: Mental Health Timeline, 2002. Many thanks, Andrew! I am deeply flattered to think that this work might merit an entry in such a history!

18/11/4

MP notes my voice added to nuisance calls problem

Got a postcard 'noting contents' of my letter to my MP, Charles Clarke, on nuisance phone calls. Had been experiencing an increasing number of nuisance calls (silent, sales), including from a person-tracing agency from Scotland supposedly trying to find a Mr Ahmed, at a neighbour's address (but not being too picky about which neighbour). Registered with the two numbers BT suggests to eliminate this problem, then immediately got a marketing call from BT. Still waiting for effect of registration to kick in.

Lack of integrated transport policy in Norwich

Met some people from the Transport section of Norwich City Council in The Forum, yesterday. Aired my worries about the apparent lack of an integrated approach to transport policy and the possible sacrificing of sound engineering judgment to 'people power'. Also got a package in the post about the northern bypass route - again, I am worried about just how decisions are being made. It's all very well saying it's the will of the people, but if the calcs show it'll go wrong, what's the point.

Will of the people: hunting

About time this country adopted a more civilised approach to the way it treats animals!

Will of the people: smoking

As a student, I always shied away from smoking, as tobacco caused so much devastation to the areas it was grown in, as well as for health reasons. As a journalist, I smoked - about 30 Gauloises a day. Loved it. Gave up when catching trains became a problem. Frankly, if I had the money, now, I might smoke again. However, there is a determined part of me that says 'smoking is bad for the planet', and that anything that eases this situation is good. What I want to know is whether the same angry crowds that turned out to defend the liberty of people to do what they want (terrify foxes in a prolonged death) will turn out to defend the right of people to smoke. Somehow, I can't see it happening. And yet, the same arguments for 'liberty' can be applied. As I think I've made it clear, I, for one, won't be out demonstrating on this issue. That said, there are arguments for continuing to allow smoking in psychiatric hospitals - strange that a drug that proves so reliably calming to so many people, with so few short-term side-effects, which is actually advocated as such by psychiatric health professionals, is not available on prescription. Obviously, what is needed is to develop a cigarette that does have pronounced short-term (as well as long-term) side-effects, costs the taxpayer twice as much, and which is only available from an exclusive club, which professionals would then be happy to prescribe. Would you pay ?50 or so per month for cigarettes that gave you diarrhoea and made you gain weight continually? Probably not. Or ?200 or so per month for cigarettes that caused a lasting urinary complaint. Again, neither would I. But we live in a world where similar behaviour is not only sanctioned but regarded as essential and beneficial, and such expenditure has, effectively, become mandatory. - PRIVATISE PSYCHIATRY COMPLETELY! You know it makes cents!

16/11/4

MP takes up gridlock and housing issues

Was delighted, this morning, to receive a letter from my MP, Charles Clarke, informing me that he had forwarded a letter expressing concerns about the gridlock (see below) to Sam Ralph, at Norfolk County Council, and Anna Graves, at Norwich City Council, and that he had asked the Chief Executive of Cotman Housing 'for an overview' of its continuing failure to get around to replacing windows since a problem was discovered in January of this year. More later, when they get back to him. Tried faxing his new office, No. 2 Castle Mall, Norwich, to say thank you, but was unable to get through.

'Electoral cleansing' in Iraq

Wrote a letter to my MP, Charles Clarke, yesterday, expressing concerns over the role of the US and UK in Iraq, and the potential damage that this might cause to free and fair elections in Iraq - either by actually killing opposition or by causing considerable intimidation. Don't suppose he'll be too happy about this, given that he's just helped me out. However, I felt the need, absolutely, to distance myself from the actions of the US and UK, yesterday, still felt the same today, and so posted the letter anyway.

12/11/4

Gridlock in Norwich, again!

There is a pressing need to do something to prevent the recurrent gridlock in Norwich. Yet again, last night, the traffic outside my window was at a virtual standstill for about an hour and a quarter (possibly more), with hardly anything moving from about 6.30pm to 7.45pm. Over a year ago, there was a bomb scare that caused gridlock across the city. These days, it doesn't seem to take an incident like that. Last night (Thursday) was late-night shopping in the city. But, it also happens on match days when Norwich City FC is playing at home - hardly the best of adverts for Norwich! The situation really is getting ridiculous. It's not just a need for a policy push to encourage people to use the park and ride, or walk, or bike it. The problem is in real danger of crippling the city. And, as if it's not bad enough that the City has been causing congestion because of restructuring, today I got a letter in the post asking me what I'd like to seen done on the stretch that backs onto the piece they've just been fiddling with! It's as though there's no integrated approach, round here! Am also rather worried that sound engineering judgement is being sacrificed to people power. Something must be done! So, have contacted various local agencies to try to get some of them to act. Personally, I walk around Norwich, and use a C90 moped to get about over longer distances.

11/11/4

Happy Birthday to my brother, David!

Yup! My brother was born on Armistice Day! Happy Birthday, David!

Bogus drink-driver caller in Hopton area

My dad tells me that someone is making bogus drink driver calls to a crimestopper helpline in his area (Hopton/Garboldisham). Apparently, a person on a bicycle, with a mobile phone, is hanging around pubs, and, when someone leaves, is ringing the crimestopper line, telling them so-and-so has left in a car, tanked up - when they're not. This has apparently led to perfectly innocent people being accosted in Hopton high street by the police. The chap is rumoured to be up for ?200, if a call leads to a successful conviction. Dad says this is hitting pub business in the area. I'm all in favour of moderation, or even abstension, when driving (my mum once got hit by a hit-and-run drunk driver), but it seems like rather stupid behaviour, to me. The police are probably quite busy enough trying to stop genuine drunk-drivers, without being led down the garden path in that manner. The concept of justice in this country seems, to me, looking at the broader picture, to be a dying one. Pity. It probably took rather a long time and a lot of effort to establish.

10/11/4

Am looking into secularism and Quakers

Saw an article in a paper mention the National Secular Society, a week or so back, was curious, so have been doing some rudimentary research into secularism, and so on. Turns out the Norwich Humanist Group meets in the Norwich Quaker meeting house. This was rather surprising to me, as humanists are often affiliated to the National Secular Society, which campaigns for the disestablishment of the church (separation of church from state), and an end to privileges granted on grounds of religion (eg: tax breaks, etc). Also decided to have a look at the Quakers, too, under the circumstances. Got sent a whole free book by them, after filling in request for info on the Quaker web site. I have to say I am surprised at the choice of venue of the humanists, and disappointed that it takes so much effort to find out what Quakers are about. A single sentence or two should suffice. Instead, even on the web site you don't find it. And the book runs to many pages while still remaining more than a little vague. My personal feeling is that it would be wrong for me to attend a humanist function (always assuming I saw my interests aligned with them - I haven't made up my mind, yet) with secular aims (assuming they were) in a religious place, as I like to respect other people's religions (as long as they genuinely are religious in nature, rather being more political in nature, and don't impose themselves on others) - I'm just coming to the conclusion I don't like to hear of them being subsidised where secularist aims might not be (in part because they do sometimes seem to be more political than religious, and seem to be trying to throw their weight around more, these days). The local happy-clappy church in my street got ?100,000 for new buildings - as far as I can tell, they are used as a revenue opportunity (coffee shop and function rooms), rather than exclusively religious purposes. I'd quite like to be given ?100,000 to start up a business. Anyway, as I said, am still looking into the whole area

9/11/4

Ice rink reassembled outside library

The ice rink has reappeared outside the library. Despite having the opportunity to produce a flat area for shows and so on, while repaving, the Council chose not to take it. Consequently, again, the thing has had to be put up on a raised scaffolding arrangement.

RAF demo preceded ice rink

For a week before the ice rink was put up, the RAF had a largish exhibit outside - a full-size Harrier jump jet model, plus a full-size model of the nose of a Jaguar, three missile batteries and various small arms. The small arms were unmuzzled (you may have seen the large, bright yellow blanks they put in, when on show). So, I was rather alarmed when a lone peace demonstrator told me that, while she had been shouting for peace, some of the RAF squaddies actually pointed their weapons in her direction. I duly complained to the senior officer. Was told, the following day, by RAF police, that it had been made clear that this would result in jail, and that they had protested innocence. Mentioned this to said demonstrator, who was there again, who told me that she had only been told that this was what had happened. More than a little upsetting to discover one had been given bad info. Does little for trust among demonstrators. Anyway, not deterred by all this, I sat in the cockpits of the planes, to get a chance to talk to RAF personnel, gave out MI5 badges, and on one day, went round handing out sweets (chocolate eclairs and chewing gum) - rather as the squaddies said they had been doing in Iraq to persuade the locals of their honest intent. Personally, I don't think many of them bought it. But then, I don't think many Iraqis do, either.

CIA activities in 73/74

Am reading a book from the 20p shelf of the local second-hand book store on the CIA. It purports to be a diary of an agent in the 60s. Quite interesting, all the dogma and training stuff. Getting rather tired, now, of the diary in Quito, Ecuador, which typically reads: 'Massed crowds threw tomatoes at commie pinko lefties again - we'll show Castro! - Huzzah, Whizzo and Hip Hip Hooray for the USA!'. One thing it does show, however, is the degree of hatred that the Americans were willing to express for communism through their security services - and presumably still do (although possibly other creeds, these days). It shows a willingness to sabotage every political effort at every level, cradle to grave, that cannot immediately be described as pro-American. Personally, I think this is an exceedingly naive form of behaviour. One of the more interesting points to consider is that this was all written before the advent of email and the internet. Today, there is Echelon, which probably obviates the need to do anything as crude as steam open an envelope on a hot damp piece of blotting paper. Am not sure I have the stamina to continue to the point where he moves station. Makes me admire the heroic periods of time spent by some people reading my blog! My most determined readers, I salute you!

Am I alone in finding espionage fascinating?

Am I alone in finding espionage a fascinating subject, at the moment? I think not. Try me! Ask me what I'd rather see done with ?5bn!
Today's Times sees someone label those that do not believe there is a genuine Alqaida threat 'deluded'. I wonder if they mean that in a genuinely medical sense? Are they really advocating labeling and medication of such people? I do wish some people would be more precise in their use of language!

25/10/4

20,000 hits, 15,000 visitors!

Zero catch figures, today: 20,159 hits, 15,062 unique visitors, 10.40Mb to the web per day, on average, this month.

Got a postcard from my MP, re: Mental Health Bill

Wrote to my MP regarding the Mental Health Bill, and duly got a 'point noted' postcard back, today. You have until 31st October to comment and try to do something to stop the injustices it might lead to! Go to the Mind web site for a quick summary of criticisms. Write direct to Tony Blair on this subject! Go to the Number 10 web site and send him a quick email!

Search engine updated!

Have finally refreshed my search engine. It had been playing up, and refusing to count the enormous number of words on my site. It now claims to have all 304,847 searchable. Please try it (click on Search this site on the menu!).

13/10/4

Stats service upgraded!

My stats supplier, Add Free Stats, has upgraded the service. You can now see where the visitors came from, and how they found the site without having to click on an icon for each and every one. Click here to get to stats button at foot of page, and click on it to view stats. You may have to wait a little while with a largely blank page before it appears. However, it even gives location to within part of a city! My unique visitor count is also nearing a milestone, at nearly 15,000.

11/10/4

Cash supports plastic at Tesco

Discovered the other day that there is a 2.5% surcharge on goods in Tesco in order to support plastic transactions. As far as I can tell, this is an across the board levy on all goods, and not a charge applied to any given transaction. The total on my receipt adds up to the total of the prices the goods are marked up with in the store, and the debit to my account is the same. Seems rather a high price for using actual cash. Perhaps it's worth that much to the company to get the money in digital form that little bit quicker?

Have made Egyptian hieroglyph 'flash cards'

In an effort to finally get around to learning Egyptian hieroglyphs, I have made a set of 'flash cards' with the glyphs on. I am using a book called 'How to read hieroglyphs', by Dr Mark Collier and Dr Bill Manley, publ: British Museum Press, ISBN: 9-780714-119106, price ?10. There are 335 glyphs, so it may take a while!

A comment on the BBC's 'Spy' programme

At the time Richard Tomlinson released 'The Big Breach', I bought a copy. - A friend at work arranged it using his credit card over the net for me, and promptly got charged twice for it. It is interesting to note the the programme the recruits on the BBC 'Spy' series (which reaches mainstream TV today) follow bears considerable similarity to the sort of thing Tomlinson describes. Although Tomlinson also describes a certain amount of rather juvenile horseplay (such as handing a fellow recruit an ice cream while out on exercise, leaving them holding it for no apparent reason). After reading his book, I was left wondering exactly what the taxpayer got for its money. The standard of literacy also reminded me of a classic engineering student joke, which I modify, here: 'Three years ago I couldn't even spell 'spy' - now I are one!'.

27/9/4

Important lessons for decluttering

Last year, I took a gamble while decluttering. I threw out lots of paperwork relating to a former employer, Morgan-Grampian (later Miller Freeman). This decision was vindicated when I went for an interview for an editorial position, a week ago. The interview confirmed that all I needed to say was 'the editor agreed with the personnel director that telephony was unscientific so I walked away'. So, I didn't need the reams of paperwork that had been exchanged in relation to this. It was all just perpetuating bad vibes. Accordingly, I have thrown out a large amount of legal casework papers relating to NORCI, for which all I needed to say was 'I was unfairly dismissed in breach of my contract and got a ?5,000 settlement'. I hung on to the ACAS document proving this, and one or two other key letters from the boss. I am now three-quarters of the way through decluttering my living room, and making good progress.

Nearly 20,000 hits!

I am approaching the 20,000 hit mark for this site! :)

28/8/4

Don't panic! I am fine!

Am rather touched and flattered to have received a worried enquiry because of the lack of additions to my site, lately! I am fine. I have just been busy elsewhere, and not much to complain about, so nothing added. Also, I appear to be getting a lot of hits for 'Abilify', and am pleased to be doing so, so have let things lie for a while. However...

Postal service remains poor

After appearing in an article in the local paper complaining about postal service, mine remains poor. Couple of test packages took too long to arrive, one damaged. Cheque sent to US for this web site took almost three weeks. Postman regularly crumpling job applications into my box, despite clear marking not to do so. Another local paper has just carried a comment on just this matter. Something must be done!

Am quitting allotment

Allotment has proved to be too expensive, too time-consuming for returns, returns not what I want when I want, storage is necessary (freezer, house), and I hurt my hand in the Spring. So, stopping, September.

I am a spy. It's official. But don't tell anyone!

Bought myself a fun toy for my birthday. A badge making machine, from Argos. I now bear formal accreditation for the Central Intelligence Agency, MI5, and Al-Qaeda. I am, therefore, quite definitely, and without a shadow of a doubt, a spy. But if you tell anyone, I'll have to shoot you. I may yet produce a badge accrediting me a member of the replacement service to the KGB. Anyone wishing said tokens of membership of any of the above organisations can email me to arrange production of a badge (likely cost about ?2 plus SAE). Have already 'accredited' two members of Al-Qaeda and one CIA. Any other major nation's intelligence service also catered for, upon production of suitable artwork. Big raspberry to anyone who can't spot sarcasm. :)

31/7/4

Side-effects of Abilify aka Aripiprazole - I have tried it!

This week I finally got to try Abilify/Aripiprazole. Unfortunately, the experience was not a good one. I took one 15mg tablet at 5.00pm on Thursday. I didn't notice anything at all for two hours. Then, quite quickly, I began to experience constriction of my throat. Luckily, this wasn't to an extent that obstructed my breathing. It just felt like some muscles were tensing involuntarily, and like I had a lump in my throat. It was very uncomfortable. This persisted overnight. I also had a slight ache in my right rump. Tried catarrh pastilles (creosote) which helped slightly. I spent a mostly sleepless night in discomfort. I came out in quite a pronounced sweat (although it has to be said it was a hot night, anyway). I took some antihistamines (in case the throat problem might be allergic), and some aspirin, to cool the sweat. The sweat stopped, and I fell asleep. The throat problem was quite a bit better in the morning. However, it returned, slightly, in the evening. Took one aspirin, last night, to help ease it. No problems, so far, today. Was very worried that this might be indicative of something potentially fatal (see: Info on Abilify from Bristol-Myers Squibb which lists unexplained high fever as a reason to stop use immediately). Overall, this is very disappointing, for something I was told had no side-effects. I have spoken to the Norfolk Mental Health Care Pharmacist. He tells me that they have had three people experience odd side-effects upon taking their first dose. I wondered whether things might be better if it was accompanied by Procyclidine (which helped ease a similar problem with Clopixol). I _might_ _try_ it again, if offered a procyclidine safety-net (or similar). However, if it's going to take Procyclidine to make it bearable, I'm not interested. Procyclidine is given as an anti-Parkinsonism drug, and anything that needs that is _out_. My consultant gave me permission to go back onto the 2.5mg of Olanzapine I've been on if I had any problems, so I have. He's now away on holiday for a month (it's alright for some - there's no holidays from the dole!). Head of NMHC Pharmacy, Steve Bazire, tells me he tries out the various medicines they handle, which seems more than a little brave, and, frankly, I wouldn't be surprised if it's illegal or at least unethical. Have warned him to be careful with this one.

Have acquired a new halo

Have acquired a new halo! Best reflective motorcycle product on the market! Goes round your helmet, so it's always with you. Finally found it on the web: Bikeseen.com. Or ring 07739 469 702 and talk to Tim, in Milton Keynes, who's very helpful and friendly. Despatched before arrival of payment that day. Wonderful! Couldn't find one for love nor money, locally.

Site stats

Supply to web, yesterday, 36Mb. Average daily supply this month, 13Mb. I'm sure it must be search engines. Mind you, lots of hits from people looking for info on Aripiprazole. ;)

16/7/4

Newspaper Press Fund awards me ?400

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the Newspaper Press Fund for an award of ?400 for the purchase of motorcycling equipment and new spectacles. This is the second time it has, so generously, helped me out. Thank you very much!

10/7/4

'It is OK to kill the mentally ill' - UK courts

The case of Bernard Heginbotham reinforces, yet again, the idea that it is OK to kill the mentally ill. Bernard Heginbotham apparently killed his wife, Ida Heginbotham, of 67 years, after being told she had to move to a home for the demented. But, apparently, this was OK, 'because it was an act of love', according to the judge. So, murder is murder unless the victim is mentally ill, when it becomes an act of love? Suppose Mrs Heginbotham had been physically disabled? This sort of discrimination is unacceptable, and should be stamped out. I don't care whether Mr Heginbotham was 100, or whether his wife was mentally ill. Murder is murder. Perhaps it speaks volumes about the services for the mentally ill that Mr Heginbotham couldn't face the idea of his wife suffering them? However, that, again, doesn't excuse that kind of behaviour. If Mrs Heginbotham had tried to kill herself, she would very probably have been labelled 'mentally ill' and medicated. In this society, it appears, it is OK to kill the mentally ill, it is not OK for the mentally ill to kill themselves. This sends a clear message to those that would abuse the mentally ill that it is just fine to do so, and that the establishment will back you up. And that is wrong!

Site maintenance

This home page is getting overdue for archiving away, as it's over 100kb in size. This will probably happen after I have performed some even more overdue site maintenance. I am experiencing delays in creating the site because I adopted the exceedingly simple policy of dumping all files into the root directory. This made writing code a cinch, and also finding anything afterwards, if I knew the file name. However, it has finally caught up with me, and I now have to wait while my provider assembles and transmits a truly huge HTML file of 1.1Mb every time I want to see my file manager screen, which results in delays of up to five minutes at a time. So, I have to bite the bullet and file everything properly and rewrite reference links. This is likely to take a while, but should be worth it in the end. So, if you're a sucker for original material, archive now, or make do with the 'second edition'.

8/7/4

Sunday Times fails to add psych hospitals to survey

The Sunday Times very kindly sent me a copy of its latest survey. It does not include psychiatric hospitals, despite its promise to do so. I have rung round a little and will be writing letters to try to get this redressed.

Will the British Library archive my web site?

I have sent an archived versin of my web site to the British Library, which is to archive 6,000 web sites, for posterity. I have yet to hear anything from them. You never know, you could be looking at a piece of British history!

MP replies, re: Post Office

My MP has written back, with a letter from the Royal Mail. It evades the central point, even questioning whether I have a genuine complaint with them, and adds very little to the debate. I shall be writing back to my MP, asking whether they might try harder.

Interesting facts about mutant humans

Would you believe I got a hit from someone searching one of the search engines for 'interesting facts about mutant humans'? I have no idea why the search engine thought this was the place to direct them - honestly, if this is the best search engines can do I think it's a poor reflection on mankind!

5/7/4

One in five US soldiers mentally ill after Iraq

According to the Financial Times, one in five soldiers returning from Iraq is suffering 'serious' mental health problems, with figures rising to one in three, if you include 'anxiety'.

Have made a 'Pong' machine

Assembled a Maplin kit TV tennis game. Works fine. Very rudimentary, but quite impressive for one chip plus a few peripheral components.

Abilify aka Aripiprazole in the UK

My consultant psychiatrist has written to the pharmacist at NMHC asking when Abilify aka Aripiprazole will become available on prescription. Will keep you posted.

Scales on the guitar are easy!

Bought a book for ?5 that opened the door to guitar music for me. I have no idea why, but I never discovered how easy scales were on the guitar - you only need to learn one pattern for each type of scale, then you can repeat them for all the rest. Easy. The book has pictured fingering for all common scales. 'Really Easy Guitar! Scales. By Cliff Douse. Publ: Wise Publications. ISBN 0-7119-9175-8. Got it from The Works. Really, it was as though I had been locked out of a beautiful garden for many years, and for some reason was granted access. Am practising till my fingers are sore (which is quite a short while!).

28/6/4

Abilify aka Aripiprazole in the UK

I appear to be getting quite a number of hits from people wanting to know about availability of Abilify aka Aripiprazole in the UK. My understanding, from the Norfolk Mental Health Care NHS Trust web site is that it was supposed to become available in June, this year. Click here to get to the NMHC pharmacy web site's listing for Abilify aka Aripiprazole. I am, myself, attempting to get to give it a try right at the moment, and will post news of how I get on with it, if and when I do.

Site statistics

My supply to the web seems to keep creeping steadily up. Yesterday's figures from 0catch are: 46 hits from 46 visitors using 38.5Mb! My average supply this month has been about 13.6Mb per day. My best guess at the reason for this is that I am being scanned by more and more search engines, although I have to say that, as a result of being on more search engines my hit rate also seems to be increasing.

12/6/4

Norwich City Council election results, 2004

I have put together a spreadsheet of the full results of the Norwich City Council elections, together with an analysis and graphs (using much the same spreadsheet as 2002) showing who got what for how many votes: Norwich local election results (146kb).

The headlines are: Con, 18.3% of vote, 1 seat; Lab, 28.1%, 15; Lib Dem, 33.2%, 18; Green, 17.4%, 5; in a Lib Dem loss of control to 'no overall control'. Turnout: 34.9%

The analysis reveals that 14% of the electorate's votes won power. The Tories got 2.6% of the power for 18.3% of the vote, whereas Labour got 46% of power for 33.2%. It'd be entertaining to see the Conservatives advocate PR!

Personally, I am delighted to see the Greens increase their share from 2 seats to 5, with an increase from the 2002 percentage from 9.75 to 17.4%! They now have the same privileged position in Norwich City Council that the Ulster Unionists had in the UK parliament in the early nineties, with, presumably, similar bargaining powers. Overall, I am very pleased with the elections results: Greens doing well, Labour given a bloody nose for taking us to war.

Euro election proportional representation seat calculator

Don't forget to try out my d'Hondt Euro election seat calculator spreadsheet! d'Hondt vote allocation spreadsheet.

Cricket score sheet

Have updated cricket score sheet (nothing to do with Labour's drubbing!) with 'How out' line at foot, for more copmlete recording: Cricket score sheet.

8/6/4

Vote anti-war!

Make your vote an anti-war vote! Don't let the government get away with dragging us into an illegal, immoral and hugely expensive war! Vote Green or Liberal Democract! If you're worried about the prospects of smaller parties, check out my seat allocation calculator for the European vote, d'Hondt vote allocation spreadsheet to see who needs what to get a seat.

Got a second poll card!

Ordinary delivery of poll cards finally turned up, yesterday. I now have two poll cards, with two different 'numbers on the register'. Apparently, one of these is wrong, so I only get one vote.

Just got a pair of trainers for ?3!

Trainer hunt day, today. Just after buying a pair of cheap walking boots to use for biking and the occasional walk (many thanks to Liz and Derek for funds!) I discovered my trainers were cracking on the sole. Sadly, trendy retro look style not suitable for my feet/purse. Finally found a ?10 pair in Shoe Zone, where I got last ones from. Showed them old ones, and, without receipt, they offered me a refund, as quite young, so got new ones for ?3! Very impressed!

3/6/4

d'Hondt proportional representation election result calculator

I have put together a spreadsheet that enables you to calcluate how many seats each party/individual would get, given the percentage of the vote they got, using the d'Hondt system of proportional representation vote allocation (which will be used in the forthcoming European elections).

d'Hondt vote allocation spreadsheet.

So, if you are curious to know what effect tactical voting might have - whether your favoured party is likely or unlikely to get in - you can experiment with different percentages of the vote and find out. I have set the spreadsheet up with the candidates and parties for the Eastern Region of the UK, and produced some dummy data based upon the main parties' shares of the votes in the 2002 City Council elections, with the remainder shared between the other players. Personally, I want an anti-war vote, so wanted to know how likely the Greens were to get in. With seven seats up for grabs, the spreadsheet seems to indicate a need for 11-12% of the valid votes. Given that people are more likely to vote Green in a proportional representation vote, and that anti-war feeling is likely to be high, I figure an increase from the 9.7% they got in the 2002 local elections to that figure is quite possible. In case you want to construct one for yourself, with different numbers of seats, candidates, etc, I've put a sheet with the formulae on it in there, too, so you can see how it works. Vote anti-war!

Allotment update

Have had three goes at determining the composition of my soil. Got Sand, 84.4%; Silt, 8.9%; Clay 6.7% using washing powder and water softener. Got 55.5%, 38.9%, 22.2% using washing up liquid, then 55.5%, 38.9%, 5.6% reusing the same mix. I think I need to pin down the chemicals required and the method!

Have transplanted cabbages, recaged peas, planted some celery plugs generously donated by my neighbour, Brian, and done lots of weeding. Am expecting potato crop to come onstream, soon! Birds (mainly wood pigeon, I suspect) have eaten most of my gooseberries. I think mildew or pigeons have got most of peoples gooseberries. Brian reckons the birds are more voracious, these days. It would be interesting to know why - I shall talk to some RSPB folk.

Totted up the total cost of the allotment so far. Just over ?100, which included about ?32 of capital items (tools, etc). Will be interesting to see whether I break even. I think, next year, it needs about ?30-40 of manure to maintain or raise fertility.

29/5/4

Found a forum for art by the mentally ill

While checking out the origins of my hits, I found a really well put together site showcasing 'art by the mentally ill'. It has prose, poetry and images, some nascent journals, and chat room facilities. Go to www.madnezz.com! It's well worth a look!

Met my MP, who has written to DTI for me

Bumped into Charles Clarke, MP, Secretary of State for Education, in The Forum, yesterday. He was doing some video interview. I suspect he was mainly there for the official launch of the Council Informatin Service, which was taking place in the library. I hung around until he had finished then went and said thank you for taking up my case with the Royal Mail and various other matters. He said it was nothing and moved on. Am quite pleased to have made contact, as, last year, when things were getting hot, he cancelled a meeting with him at his surgery and asked me to address all mail to London (see letter below, now telling me to send material to local office). Got another letter from him, today, in which he says he has written to Stephen Timms, MP, within the DTI, as person with responsibility, 'asking what has been done to restore confidence'. Rather telling use of the word 'restore', I think! Am not on machine with scanner, so can't add scan, right now, but might do later.

I have now got onto a machine with a scanner, so here is letter from MP:
Letter from MP (as Word file).
Letter from MP (as the raw PNG graphic used in the Word file above).

Have begun testing soil on allotment

Started a simple soil test, yesterday. It's basically mixing a sample of soil in water with some soap poweder solution, shaking for five minutes, and seeing what settles out after 40sec, 30min and 24hrs (sand, silt, clay). Should tell me what kind of soil I have. Early indications (24hrs not up, yet) are that I have a very sandy soil (which rather fits with my observations) - possibly 'loamy sand'. Actual results later. Am not too sure I'm using the best form of soap ('Calgon' recommended, so added water softener powder to some Tesco soap powder) so might retry with washing up liquid (I think it's just there to separate particles).

Output from this site still rising!

Yesterday, 14.19Mb; the day before, 12.44Mb; the day before that, 10.31Mb. No idea why this is, but am, as ever, proud to be a net supplier to the world of quite prodigious quantities of data.

28/5/4

Casualty list for allotment so far...

Found a fledgling blackbird, belonging to the friendly blackbirds that I have been feeding worms, stuck in the netting of the caging I put up. It had obviously been there some time, as its mother was feeding it. So I found a way of opening it to the outside world and it tumbled out, with a slight limp. Casualty list, so far, stands at 6 rats (key not working on keyboard, can't do third letter of 6!), one wood pigeon, and an injured fledgling blackbird. It's beginning to get rather depressing.

Usage appears to be accelerating

Usage now up to 7Mb/day. Probably just a statistical blip.

27/5/4

MP offers to take up issues with Royal Mail for me

My MP, Charles Clarke, has offered to make representation to the Royal Mail for me regarding delivery problems. I have asked him to go ahead and do so.
Letter to Charles Clarke asking for help with Royal Mail.
Letter from Charles Clarke offering help with Royal Mail.
Letter to Charles Clarke asking him to go ahead with help.

I like to think that this rather backs up my comments of yesterday, that it is definitely worthwhile raising issues with MPs, as they will, occasionally, feel able to help. If it happens that this is only when your interests coincide with theirs, then so be it, but it is worthwhile trying, all the same. However, I think that may actually be rather unfair on Charles Clarke, who has also helped me when it is is a problem specific to me.

Cricket viewer's scoring sheet

Here is the cricket scoring sheet I was using during the test match, in Word format: Cricket score sheet. I marked the outcome of each run on a dot. Tallied the cumulative score on the lines on the right, and noted the passage of wickets at the bottom. It could probably do with a line less of overs dots and the addition of a line at the bottom for 'How out'.

Bandwidth supply going up!

After supplying 7.04Mb today (so far) and 10.31Mb yesterday to the web, my daily average this month has gone up to 6.8Mb/day!

25/5/4

Social Services: 'It's mad to write to your MP'

Had a quick trawl through the data on me from Social Services. It includes a letter explaining a position from a social worker to the Social Services Compliments & Complaints Unit. The social worker describes me as 'one of the most difficult people I have ever had to work with', and goes on to describe some of the range of letters I had written to my MP, recently, as supporting evidence for his actions (presumably) and position. Personally, I would be very worried if I felt I was able to say that Social Services was actually labeling people 'mentally ill' because they wanted to have their views heard. As a journalist, I used to receive a huge number of press releases. Sometimes new, sometimes old, sometimes interesting, many not interesting. I was quite able to deal with those I thought boring. It was rare to get feedback on my work, and I appreciated the few occasions that I received it. The law actually protects the right of certain categories of people deemed to be 'mentally ill' to write to their MP and/or The Home Secretary. I feel aggrieved by what I have found. My MP, Charles Clarke, has been happy to help me on a number of occasions, for which I am very grateful. Sometimes he has written letters on my behalf, sometimes he merely notes the point I make (which, I'm sure, reflects the fact that many others have made the same point). I strongly suspect that my MP is guided by the volume of correspondence he receives on any given subject. I believe that the more often I express my views to influential people, the more often they are likely to be heeded. I am sure my MP, and his staff, are more than happy to read my letters. I think it would be very dangerous to begin detaining people as 'mentally ill' simply because, or even partly because, they wish to have their voice heard by an MP. I shall be talking to Social Services to clarify its position on this matter.

Test match scores

Decided to try to follow the cricket (England v New Zealand) by scoring, to try to get a better idea of what was going on. It worked, up to a point. I found noting who had scored what simply too much to take on, partly because all cricketers wear helmets and visors, nowadays, and partly because of the difficulty of keeping track of what the camera was on at any given moment at the same time as noting what happened every ball. So, I eventually contented myself with noting what happened every ball on an array of oblongs of six dots to indicate each ball of an over, making a tally mark count of runs, and noting the score at each fall of wicket, the faller and their manner of dismissal. I've got a much better idea of who's who, and the rate of progress England might make, now, but I think it was rather intrusive into the enjoyment, and next to impossible to do completely (particularly with interludes for horse racing). Might put the Word file of the score card I used here, later.

Polling card latest

A polling card arrived, today! It had been posted. They're about twice the size, this year. Mine has my address misspelled.

Am thinking about doing an exit poll

Am thinking about doing an exit poll at the elections. So, have been asking about rules and regs governing this. Basically, no asking people before they go in (behaviour which I'm sure party-political tellers indulge in), only on the way out, and no publishing results before close of poll (which is Sunday 13th for European elections, as Spain closes 9pm, local time on 13th). Will be receiving 'guidelines for tellers' tomorrow, I hope.

The d'Hondt system of proportional representation

Have checked out the d'Hondt system of PR being used in the European elections. According to the dictionary I looked at on the web, it favours larger parties slightly more than other systems. Read about it for yourself on TheFreeDictionary.com: d'Hondt system of proportional representation.

24/5/4

10,000 visitors!

This site has now had 10,108 unique visitors! Today's figures from 0catch: Total hits: 14,009; Average daily rate of supply to the web: 6.54Mb/day!

Politics and polling cards

My polling card has yet to arrive! It should have done, but has not, apparently because there is an entry control system before my postbox. This should, hopefully, be rectified, soon. You don't actually need a polling card to vote, so am not worried on that score. However, there are a lot of benefit cases in my flats, of which there are 85 in the block. In 2002, I did a count of who voted when. Only 282 people voted at my polling station. So, not encouraging over 80 people to vote is very significant. So, I am preparing some literature to encourage people to vote, and to vote with an anti-war stance. Am thinking of putting some of the wording of a polling card on a sheet to distribute, to encourage greater participation/turnout, along with a list of candidates (see lists of candidates on Norwich City Council's guide to elections) and an indication of which are/were anti-war.

There have been boundary changes (see Norwich City Council's map of new boundaries), and my central city location is now grouped with a more peripheral city ward (was Mancroft, is now Thorpe Hamlet).

Am also researching the proportional representation system that will be used in the European elections. I am told it is (without checking the spelling) the 'De Hont' system. Elections office of Norwich kindly sent me literature on everything but this system.

Who voted when, and who got what for how many votes in 2002

Thought here might be a good place to post the results of the count I did at the 2002 elections in Norwich. I was curious to see how many people voted at what time of day - whether there was a morning and evening peak. Sadly, the most significant feature turned out to be the low turnout. So, then, with data from the EDP, I produced a graph of just who got what with what percentage of the electorate, the vote, etc. It was very revealing! The Greens, for example, only needed a tiny sliver of the vote to get two seats on Norwich City Council.

Who voted when, W3.11 Excel spreadsheet.
Who voted when, same but 'better' trending, W2000 Excel.
Who got what for how many votes, W2000 Excel.

Am getting hits for typos!

I appear to be getting hits for the typos that I found in my medical notes, in particular 'stratergies'. There's no justice in the world!

18/5/4

Big 'thank you' to Doug & Connie for caging!

A big 'thank you' to Doug & Connie for the garden cage they have so kindly given me! It's great! Its tall enough to stand upright in. I've set it up on the allotment, and sown some fresh Brussels sprouts inside (the birds having eaten my first batch). Am hoping it will also preserve my cabbages and cauliflowers, after transplanting.

Collecting Social Services data today

Am picking up my Data Protection Act data from Social Services, this afternoon, so will be able to see what they've been saying and doing about me. Watch this space!

13/5/4

Allotment update with pics

Have been doing more sowing. Parsnips didn't show too well, so have sowed a couple of new rows of a different variety - pity, because the first lot were coated with fertiliser, so should have done well. Birds have eaten most of my Brussels sprouts seedlings. Dad gave me some copies of pics he took on 4/4/4, which I've scanned:
View of my allotment and the whole site.
Me preparing a drill area by hoeing.
Sowing some seeds (dwarf French bean, I think!), with Mum supervising.
Another shot of me sowing seeds, with Mum, seen through pea and bean frame.
Writing out labels, seen through pea and bean frame.
Pics by Derek Jones, 4/4/4.

Am thinking of getting a soil test done by a local lab to see what condition the soil is in. Not having the eyes of a professional, I can't say. However, digging late last summer, the soil handled more like a dry powder than a decent tilth, so I'm pretty sure it needs more organic matter to help retain moisture. Any ideas on cheap additives would be more than welcome. Does newspaper work, or would it poison the soil with inks? .

Got a postcard from my MP re: ID cards

Got an acknowledgement 'point noted' postcard from my MP, regarding the letter I wrote about compulsory ID cards.

King Street Festival 2004 - official figures guess

Spoke to Andi Gibbs, who was one of the organisers of the King Street Festival, this year, this morning. He said he was delighted with my count, and said they put their estimate of attendance at 35-40,000. Sounds very optimistic to me, still. I'm sure there wouldn't have been the same level of entry from five or six other points. I'd still put the figure at 10-15,000 max, even allowing for the football supporters passing through. Excel spreadsheet of my count. I'd guess the accuracy of my count would be no worse than plus or minus 5% - probably better (except perhaps in the first quarter hour period because of the Lord Mayor's parade stampede). See entry below, 4/5/4.

4/5/4

Norwich's King Street Festival attendance figures

The year before last, the organisers of the King Street Festival claimed that 100,000 people had attended. The population of the entire city of Norwich is roughly 100,000. I sincerely doubted, at the time, that the whole of Norwich came. So, this year, in order to satisfy my curiousity, and to see just how much Norwich wanted such a do, I performed a count of the people entering King Street from 'the main entrance' to it, at the junction with Rose Lane. Numbers were considerably swelled by Norwich City supporters making their way from the city centre to the football ground, as City were playing at home - the yellow shirts being a bit of a give-away. In total, I got a figure of 7,747 through that entrance. I reckon at least 1,500 of these must have been match-goers. Once the kick-off time had passed, numbers went right back down to their approximate level, before, of about 1,000-1,200 per hour. Even if you estimate the same number entering via other routes (and there are many, and the other end was reported to be rather dead) you still only get 15,000. And, I was generous, even counting babies in pushchairs. Put the results into a spreadsheet and graphed them. Excel spreadsheet of King Street Festival attendance figures. Personally, I could quite happily live without a market being subsidised to appear on my doorstep for one day.

28/4/4

No Aripiprazole as named patient :(

My psychiatrist has refused to make me a named patient to try Aripiprazole. This appears to be down to an unwillingness to take responsibility for something 'untried' (though it has been around in the States for some while), and an unwillingness to jump through all the administrative hoops necessary. However, the NMHC pharmacist, Steve Bazire, is off to the States very soon to get information on it, and it might be put on the NMHC list as a result. My psychiatrist has promised to act promptly on any positive information received as a result of the trip. However, he has agreed to me taking a lower dose of Olanzapine. I will now be going down to 2.5mg daily (taken as 5mg every other day - the tablets are entero-coated, so cannot be broken in two). Hopefully more normal bowel function will result.

Possible new variant of virus affecting my email

As I mentioned before, I have been experiencing odd emails on my hotmail style account. Messages that appear to be error messages from other systems are telling me that emails I have sent have been refused by their system. In fact, I have not been sending any such emails. These all seem to be about 40kb in size. I have also received an email that appears to be from Symantec, telling me that the code sample I sent them (I didn't send them one) contained a new variant of the virus 'Mydoom.j.'. I have tried to confirm the authenticity of this but have not had anything back from Symantec, yet. I would advise anyone worried about emails I have sent them (I haven't been forwarding any attachments) to update their virus definitions and run a scan - check for Mydoom variants in the definition list.

27/4/4

Have updated my CV

Have updated my CV. New CV.

Wrote to MP, re: ID cards

I have written to my MP to protest about plans to introduce ID cards. Letter to MP.

Weight, diet and psychiatry

Latest update (prepared for the benefit of my psychiatrist, basically) on my battle against the flab. Am due to see him, tomorrow. Am hoping he will try me on Aripiprazole. My weight. You can clearly see the effect of two different drugs on my weight, although you have to bear in mind I've been dieting lately. My weight cycled slowly on Risperdal Consta fortnightly/three-weekly depot injections. When I went onto Olanzapine it went up fast. Then I began dieting, which brought it right back down again. Now I am on a 'half-diet', keeping a watching eye on it. If I go onto Aripiprazole, I am hoping it will drop steadily even further. If I don't, I may diet more strictly until the drug is on general release, this summer. You also have to bear in mind I'm now more or less middle-aged, and middle-age spread is setting in, I think. Lately, my diet has included a lot of eggs (two per day), firstly to deal with the loose motions Olanzapine causes, and secondly, in an 'Atkins' diet way, by providing a lot of protein to suppress hunger. On balance, I prefer life with them than as it was before. Doesn't completely deal with the loose motions, sadly - goes to show how pronounced the wretched effect is!

Hi to old stagers!

Big 'Hi!' to the various journalistic old stagers I've been contacting! And another big 'Hi!' to any other mutual friends that they may pass this site's address on to!

26/4/4

Put a wood pigeon out of its misery

Found a wood pigeon trying hopelessly to clamber up some netting on a neighbouring allotment. It was badly winged, so couldn't fly. I decided to put it out of its misery. I hit it on the back of its head with a stick. Poor thing. Rather sad. Went home feeling like a murderer.

Allotment update

Have planted runner beans, some sweet pea plants that were excess to my parents' requirements, salsify, brussels sprouts, various salad leaves. French beans showing, as are the salads. Have finally dug over the whole plot, so should be relatively easy to maintain. You can certainly tell it was left to run to weeds (as was the neighbouring plot), last year. Have been promised some extra netting from a man who used to be in the trade. Big thank you, in advance, to Doug.

Doom

I have acquired a cartridge with 'Doom' on it for my Nintendo Gameboy Advance, second-hand, for ?9. It was a long time ago, now, that I last played Doom. I can recall with some considerable accuracy the date: - April, 1994. Ten years ago, almost to the day! How vividly I recall being invited to play, by Mike, and being greeted by the words 'Welcome to Hell!'. And I was so appalling at video games, too! Well, I am rapidly gaining experience of slaying various mutants. The phrase 'Die, Alien blob!' comes to mind. It benefits tremendously from sunlight on the screen, mind you. A bargain, at ?9!

BT hanging onto my money

A surprisingly large amount of the overcharge is being held back from me by BT. Some of this is down to subsequent bills. However, I am rather worried by the behaviour of the company, if this is par for the course. On a large scale, such behaviour could be very lucrative. I have got about ?30 of the money back, but will not be getting the remaining ?30 or so they feel they owe me back until about May 10th.

13/4/4

Bobby Fischer taught me chess!

Have been reading an old chess book I read as a student. Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess. It's out of print, now, and the copy I've got had to come out of special storage from the library. As a student, I liked the way it taught techniques, rather than recipes. It's a programmed learning book, which I tend to get on well with. The book concentrates on the final attack on the enemy king. Almost every page sets you a problem to solve. No need to understand standard chess notation, as it's presented graphically, with plain English explanations. Bobby Fischer Teaches Chess; by Bobby Fischer, Stuart Margulies PhD, and Donn Mosenfelder. Publ: Gower Press, 1972. Can't find an ISBN for it. Am on the lookout for a book of chess problems, now.

Fingertips hardening for guitar

Have started strumming my guitar more regularly. My fingertips are beginning to harden, so I can play for longer, now.

Aloe plant in flower!

My largest aloe vera plant has put out a flower stalk. It's still telescoping upwards, at the moment, but looks like it will have orange flowers. Will try to get a picture of it for here.

Site stats

10,000th visitor, soon! Am at 9,321. Daily bandwidth is about 6.4Mb to the web every day, this month.

8/4/4

Got a letter from Charles Kennedy!

Wrote a very short postcard to Charles Kennedy, when he was ill, wishing him well and assuring him parliament needs people like him to try to stop our country going to war. He very kindly wrote back, thanking me. Letter from Charles Kennedy.

Hello to former EDAT students!

Have been putting the names of former colleagues on my course at Warwick University into QueryServer.com to see who's on the web. A big 'Hi!' to those I've made contact with, and any others happening on this site!

Obtaining power tokens

Have, today, received a replacement electricity account 'credit card'. It came with a letter listing the seven closest Post Offices to me. The Post Office no longer sells power tokens, which was the whole reason for getting a new card. Nice one, Powergen! I have, however, successfully bought some tokens from 'Mr News'.

Curious 'hotmail' error messages

I appear to be getting strange error messages to my hotmail account. The messages tell me that my email to a.n. other account contained material that could not be delivered (eg: a virus). The thing is, I haven't been emailing the a.n. others. This has happened several times, with different dud addresses. Attempting to email the recipients to find out what has happened results in a 'bad address' message. I can only assume viruses are at work.

Why is soap powder perfumed?

Why is it that soap powder manufacturers seem to assume that everyone wants to smell of an exceedingly cheap perfume added to their laundry? Hasn't it occurred to them that some people like to add their own perfume, which may be considerably more expensive than that which comes in the powder?

2/4/4

BT overcharges me by ?127!

BT has overcharged me by ?127. At the time I took on the contract, it was made clear that there would be three payments of ?44 to cover the start-up costs, and, thereafter, I would be charged a rate based on the average usage of the preceding three months. This has not happened. Instead, they have been debiting ?44 from my account every month for the last seven months! No wonder my benefit-pound seemed to be doing less work! I assumed that I was just being less frugal, eating better food, and occasionally splashing out when I oughtn't. It seems that this was not entirely true. When I rang BT, they immediately said that they didn't change direct debit orders unless specifically asked. Yet another example of the poorest customers having to sort out administrative errors in favour of large companies. BT is going to refund the overcharge. However, I was not impressed. It was precisely to avoid this sort of error that I went with BT, rather than shopped around. I was expecting good service. How wrong I was! Anyone starting a telephone account with BT beware!

1/4/4

Potential electricity token sale chaos

The handover of power sale from the Post Office to various high street outlets may have hit a problem. Apparently, unless your account card is a Powergen card, it will not be recognised by the Paypoint system. Also, today, when I asked the local shop to me that runs this to try my card, their system had gone down - a first, apparently. I am faced with a power cut in a matter of days, if my card (which is branded Eastern Energy) does not work. It is posssible that it will work, as the Post Office card reader displayed 'Powergen' on its screen when the card was swiped. If, however, I find that the Mr News reader will not acknowledge my card, I shall be furious. I have had no notice of this problem until today, when the staff at Mr News told me they had had a circular explaining that this problem exists. Anyone faced with this problem should ring 0800 183 1551. Owing to traffic, I got an automated system that asked for name, address, account number and a telephone number for them to ring back. Great, if you happen to have a phone at home. Not so good otherwise. Curiously, the people least likely to have a phone are more likely to be on a meter. After my credit runs out, I get the option of ?5 of 'emergency' credit. After that, it will die. I am not aware of any easy way to make it work, if things get that far.

Allotment update

I have planted potatoes, with the help of my mum. Peas and beans later, together with a few more lettuces. Also various other seeds to go, in due course. I have now, more or less, reached the back of my allotment. That's an awful lot of digging to do.

Evening supplemental (power tokens)

Have spoken to Powergen, who will be sending me a new account card. This should take a couple of weeks. In the interim, I have been given a 19-digit number, which Mr News assures me will work. Meanwhile, Mr News needs a new Paypoint machine. This still leaves anyone in this area rather short of places to get electricity from. And, moreover, it should not be down to us, the impoverished consumers, to chase after administrative matters like this!

29/3/4

Win a dictionary and/or ?15 book token!

Here is the completed Everyman Crossword from The Observer. Everyman solution.

Allotment update

I have been doing a lot of digging and weeding, and have almost the entire plot done. I am sincerely hoping that, once I do reach the end, control of weeds will be a cinch. Hoping to plant potatoes (earlies and lates) later this week. Also various other seeds waiting to be planted with 'April' tag on them.

Trying Aripiprazole

I have been told I shall have to wait until my next appointment with my psychiatrist to talk about becoming a named patient to try Aripiprazole. This is due late April. More then.

25/3/4

Have got medical notes after DPA request

Picked up my medical notes from Hellesdon Hospital, yesterday, as per Data Protection Act request, after paying ?23 for the copying. Have read some parts and scanned others. One or two pages slipped on the way through the copier, and I think one or two omissions, too, so can't read the entirety.

I think this, once again, makes the case for ensuring notes are made in non-fading black ink, and that adequate margins are provided for, and respected by, those making notes, so that photocopies can be made with greater success.

I am pleased to note the use of rubber stamps to indicate the author of notes. This makes it immediately clear who wrote what, when all that is other wise available is an illegible scrawl.

A quick scan for spelling errors before setting out for the library revealed the following: warrent; passivly; wilst; stratergies; condiscending; shreiking; facillitate; recieved; Jeremey; setteled; pleseant. Apparently, I was actually notified to the police as a missing person when nursing staff in the office failed to pass on the fact that I had gone to the laundry!

'Vegetarianism is merely a nicety' - NMHC

One of the things that becomes clear from the notes from NMHC is that vegetarianism is regarded, by staff at all levels, in about the same light as cutting the edges off cucumber sandwiches. That is to say, it appears to be regarded as a quaint luxury which need not be catered for, and that asking for vegetarian meals is considered to be making a nuisance of oneself - quite possibly even a symptom of mental illness. I think most people would agree that a vegetarian, faced with no meal, who is then, would you believe, offered meat, instead, might be ever so slightly annoyed. (And that's sarcasm, for those that struggle with the concept).

Hellesdon Hospital a no-smoking zone

Hellesdon Hospital is doing something to placate the no-smoking lobby. It has, apparently, become a completely no-smoking zone. Although there are still smoking rooms for patients. So it isn't. Or is. Or might be. Staff a little unclear on how to express the policy concisely. Apparently, the right to smoking can be written into a care plan. Presumably, the hospital shop no longer sells tobacco. So, this must make some people very dependent upon others to obtain it for them.

Hellesdon Hospital yet to demolish Ward 12

Ward 12 still appears to be standing. Pity. It is a horrible place. Demolishing it will make a lot of people happy.

Norfolk Mental Health Care changes signage

The Trust appears to have thrown a sop to the NHS by way of altering its signage. I strongly suspect that it has not comlpied completely with the standards expected of it. I strongly suspect they are using a similar, but incorrect, font (it should be Frutiger), and that the colour may also be slightly out. There is also still use of the ghastly green previously used. It may seem minor, but I'm certain the NHS spent a large amount of money on setting a standard corporate image. We, the public, should be entitled to expect compliance - otherwise it looks like they don't feel they're on the same team and are sticking two fingers up at the rest of the NHS and the public. It is conceivable that the Trust did not go to one of the approved signmakers listed by the NHS.

Special 'Hi!' to the nurses!

Special 'Hi!' to the nurses and other staff of Norfolk Mental Health Care I spoke to, yesterday!

Becoming a named patient to try Aripiprazole

The quest to become a named patient to try Aripiprazole continues. I was referred to my GP by my consultant psychiatrist to arrange this. My GP promptly threw it back in the direction of the consultant, saying that the person naming the patient assumes responsibility for what is a relatively untested drug, and that it would be unusual for a GP to assume such when this was clearly the job of a consultant. So, the ball is back in the court of my consultant, who is going on holiday for three weeks, shortly.

Support for the Middle East

Have taken to wearing a Palestinian headscarf, to indicate general support for people whose land is being annexed, and general sympathy for peoples (Arabs) in an area we are oppressing.

23/3/4

Argos finally compensates me

I have been paid compensation by Argos for the late delivery of my dishwasher. I got a letter from my lawyer, telling me he had written to them, in which he omitted to include a copy of the letter. And, I got a letter from Argos telling me to provide evidence of loss of money or accept a suggested ?25 compensation. Since my lawyer had not been particularly helpful in undertaking to extract the compensation, and had whinged on an on about how Argos would not talk to him (as if this was some form of extra in the service) and given that I rather suspect I got a funny handshake from him, when we first met, and he was saying he was unable to justify further action, I decided the prudent thing to do was to accept the ?25. So I did. After spending 10 minutes on hold ringing the suggested number, I went and talked to staff in the local store who, very helpfully, sorted out a petty cash payment.
Letter from lawyer to Argos.
Letter from Argos to me, offering compensation.

The urology of Risperdal Consta

My consultant urologist told me that the effect upon the bladder of Risperdal Consta is primarily a neurological effect (ie: neuromuscular) as opposed to a muscular effect, which, I suspect, contradicts the advice my GP gave me. He told me it should get better over time, roughly six months in total. So, he said to come back in three months, if there was still a problem. Can't imagine why this wasn't spotted in the trials of the drug, before it was granted approval.

Using nicotine gum seems to work

I have been about two weeks without any nicotine product at all. At present, I am not suffering any cravings. It seems as if the nicotine gum approach works! Mind you, it's not as if I had been smoking long, so perhaps there wasn't the engrained habit and chemicals I had on previous occasions.

Cleaning up after ionisers

I noticed darkening of paint around the area where I had my ioniser plugged in, in my bedroom. I have often cleaned the cable of the ioniser, but didn't think anything of the darkening of the paint on the walls until I noticed darkening of the plastic box the ioniser was standing on. This cleaned off, so I tried cleaning the walls. Big mistake! All that happened was that microscopic dust particles were liberally smeared across otherwise sound (and recent) paintwork. Encouraging to think that that wasn't in my lungs, though!

Buying electricity tokens in Norwich

Got a letter from Powergen the other day saying it was abandoning the Post Office in favour of high street retail outlets for the sale of electric tokens. Here is the letter, together with a list of local outlets.
Letter from Powergen.
List of local outlets supplying electric tokens.
My card was refused by Mr News's card machine. I can only assume they are going to effect a wholesale changeover on April 1st. Very foolish!

19/3/4

I will not forgive being dragged to war!

I printed a tee-shirt, last night, to protest about having illegally invaded Iraq for no good reason. I sat for ages trying different phrases out to see if they would look good, be asy to produce and adequately express my anger at what was done to this nation by parliament last year. Eventually, I settled on 'don't try telling me war was right'. The truth is there is no adequate way to express my anger in a form compact enough to fit on a single tee-shirt. Printed the words out in Braggadocio (a font that doesn't require you to cut out islands in 'O's), cut out a stencil, spraymounted the stencil to the tee shirt and inked it in in bright red fabric pen. I believe it was inexcusable to go to war, and having done so has damaged the standing of the UK in the world. I think it was a sickening waste of ?2.5bn or more. My sympathies go to those that have suffered as a result of it.

Thanks for allotment donations!

Many thanks to my brother, Ben (see
www.sleepychinchilla.com), and his wife, Bell, for the generous donation of two crowns of rhubarb and a couple of packets of sunflower seeds, and for their work in planting them on my allotment! Loved the rhubarb I had last year, and am looking forward to more, this year!

Argos bed quality

I'm becoming more and more disappointed with Argos quality. The mattress of the double bed I bought a year ago, described as 'firm' now undulates more than my allotment. No matter how I arrange it, I end up feeling as though I'm sleeping on a hillside.

15/3/4

Have been sowing seed on allotment

Have been sowing seed on my allotment, now that it looks like winter is ending. Have sown carrots, spinach, onions, radish, leeks, and parsnip. Big thank you to my mum for help and expert advice!

Site stats - it's a rattling good read!

Today's scan of my stats page indicates someone has spent almost a whole hour looking at my web site. I am mightily flattered! Apparently they came through an NHS portal, which, if Visualroute (German version still works for free and unregistered) is to be believed, is in The Netherlands! Quite why the NHS should have an outpost in The Netherlands is beyond me. Perhaps it's cheaper to put our computers there?

As for stats, today, already, I have supplied nearly 15Mb to the web, and am averaging a whisker under 5Mb (4.96) per day to the web.

Got a mention on BBC radio, over the weekend, but doesn't seem to have drawn massive numbers to my web site.

11/3/4

Campaign against junk mail!

I have decided to advocate a campaign against junk mail! When you get junk mail with a prepaid envelope in, seal it and send it back to the originators, thus wasting their postage!

Campaign against telephone cold-callers

I am also advocating a campaign against junk telephone calls, or cold-calls! When your viewing of the evening's film or football is interrupted by someone selling financial services, ask them to hold on for a minute. Go back to watching the TV, and a couple of minutes later go back and ask them to 'just hold on one more minute' and keep them hanging on the phone for no reward. My personal record is a staggering ten minutes of believing I'm the slightest bit interested. Doing this will mean they're not pestering someone else (and someone might do this for you, one day), and secondly, they probably won't call you back again.

Dishwasher now working!

The plumber came and plumbed in my dishwasher. I can recommend the services of MJL (Michael Larkins) of Norwich. Came on time, polite, helpful, friendly, did the job, and charged according to the estimate. Seems to be working without any leaks, so far. The dishwasher is an amazing item to have! Crockery and cutlery are actually emerging shining! This is an entirely new experience for me! Thanks, once again, to the Newspaper Press Fund, which made this possible!

9/3/4

Comparing nicotine chewing gums

I have now tried two types of nicotine gum. What are they like? Niquitin CQ is billed as 'mint flavour' but barely tastes of mint at all. Boots' own nicotine gum tastes mintier. However, I think they must use different nicotine delivery mechanisms. Niquitin CQ tingles your mouth (you're supposed to rest the gum against your cheek), whereas Boots' own doesn't seem to do this. Chewing Niquitin CQ makes you feel a little like a wild west cowboy chewing a quid of tobacco. Saw an article in a Sunday paper. I think it was right. Gum tends to keep you addicted. What you gain is a house that doesn't smell of smoke, and lungs free from smoke. I just haven't seemed to get around to the willpower bit of stopping nicotine intake. I have, however, reduced from 4mg pieces to 2mg, and a low number of those, at that. The thing is, I actually like smoking sometimes. But, I can't afford it, and wish it wasn't addictive. The down side of nicotine chewing gum is that it sort of pulls everything out of your teeth, which feel 'exposed' or sensitive, as a result.

8/3/4

Chinchillas on webcam

My brother, Ben, has set up a webcam for chinchilla lovers - go to: www.sleepychinchilla.com - Now testing streamed video!

3/3/4

Votes for detained psychiatric patients!

Having heard that the Prison Reform Trust is campaigning to restore votes to prisoners in this country, I decided to write to my MP, to get him to campaign, if indeed he is doing so, for votes for detained psychiatric patients, at the same time. Letter to MP. I do not understand the logic behind removing the right to vote from someone held to be 'ill'.

How to look pretty while on Olanzapine...

I got a hit to my web site from a request to a search engine reading 'How to look pretty while on Olanzapine', which confirms what a depressing drug it can be to take. I can only assume it was referring to the weight gain problem. I appear to be managing my weight gain problem really well. Here is my current weight chart! I am using a combination of dieting techniques: Weightwatchers, restrict fat intake, and bulk up by using green veg; Atkins - protein makes you less hungry, so eating eggs, and cut down on carbohydrates. Lapsed, slightly, over last week or two, which is visible in graph. But, overall, doing well, I think!

...getting off Olanzapine

The easiest way to stay pretty, of course, is to avoid the Olanzapine in the first place. Letter to my psychiatrist asking to be made a 'named patient' in order to try Aripiprazole.

Data Protection Act, Norfolk Social Services and psych services

Got a letter from Norfolk County Council Social Services, yesterday, about getting data from them. Essentially, it's a courtesy letter explaining my rights (which I already know), and what I had to do (which I had already done). Unfortunately, no DP2 form was included, so I cannot scan it for you, but will request one to do so later. Letter from Norfolk Social Services on how to get data from them.

I was told my letter requesting data did the job of the DP2 form, so I include it here, as an example. DPA letter to Norfolk Social Services. I wrote almost the same letter to Norfolk Mental Health Care NHS Trust for data from them: letter to NMHC Health Records Office.

Selected letters to my MP

On the unworkability of road tax late payment fines.
On the war in Iraq.
On belated legislation to stop chaos when new members join the EU.

How to use Word more efficiently

A selection of control commands and alt commands for speeding up use of Word that I typed up for my parents, who have just got a new PC. Keyboard commands for Word.

Prime number density

Produced a graph of the number of prime numbers per 1,000 that one finds with increasing number size by writing a program in Visual Basic. Prime number density Excel graph. This is interesting because of the use made of prime numbers in today's common encryption routines. It's a little like asking 'how many unique keys can you make for your high security padlock?'. RSA chooses two 'large' primes in the assembly of its keys. Haven't yet found the details of exactly how large 'large' means. However, it is interesting to note that the list of the 5,000 largest known primes begins with a prime of about 1,000 digits. Take a look at your keys and ask yourself 'could I have guessed they'd look like this?'.

Site stats

Have hit the 12,000 hit mark! 0Catch figs today: 12,091 hits, 8,538 unique visitors. I am supplying about 4Mb of data per day to the web!

Big thank you to Newspaper Press Fund

Thanks again to the Newspaper Press Fund, now that I have a worktop dishwasher. Just waiting to get it plumbed in!

28/2/4

Argos 21-day delivery takes 95 days!

Argos finally delivered my compact dishwasher. The Argos 21-day delivery took 95 days. And no compensation offered for poor performance! Plumber now on order to add drain and supply.

23/2/4

Data Protection Act requests to NMHC and social services

Have made requests to Norfolk Mental Health Care NHS Trust and Norfolk County Council Social Services for data stored on me since I last made requests, under the terms of the Data Protection Act. Watch this space!

Aripiprazole 'available to named patients'

Have been told, by NMHC Pharmacy, that Aripiprazole is available to 'named patients'. Have made a request to my psychiatrist for him to arrange this for me, so I can give it a try. 14/2/4

Happy Valentine's Day to all!

Happy Valentine's Day to _All_! So it reads on the wall of the car park next to my block of flats. I can only assume this anti-war graffito was expected to be demolished harmlessly, along with a number of others that appeared shortly before Valentine's Day, last year, when the UK invaded Iraq. I must say I share the sentiment.

Am off quetiapine and back on olanzapine

After the first dose of quetiapine (100mg) I felt like I was drunk, after one hour, and felt tired and heavy. I was working up the dose every three days by 100mg, supposedly to 400mg every day. After four days, my head was also beginning to feel woolly. I decided that these were unacceptable side-effects, and got my psychiatrist to OK a change back to the olanzapine regime. I shall just have to put up with the upset stomach that olanzapine causes.

I have acquired a dartboard

I have acquired a dartboard! It was sitting in the attic of my parent's house, gathering the odd spot of bird lime from the occasional trapped bird, and going very slowly to mildew. I am a terrible shot, but I'm sure I'll improve!

9/2/4

Win a dictionary!

This week's Everyman crossword solution:
Everyman solution.

Photo accolade?

For some reason, a link to my web site has appeared on a professional German photographic service web site! I think it is because there is a photo of a courtyard (where I live) somewhere on my site. I'm quite flattered!

Emailer repaired itself

My Amstrad Emailer has cured its 'beep' problem. I think it must have got new/replacement software on one of its dialouts. However, a different button is now highlighted. Probably just a variant on the adverts that blight it.

Have shaved off red hair

Have shaved off my long red locks as they were beginning to irritate. Dye was expensive, a severe irritant, and wasn't fast, and a professional haircut would have been another ?5 on top of the cost of the dye. Draughty!

7/2/4

Reply from MP re: power stability and nuke safety

Here is the reply from my MP to the letter I wrote regarding stability of power and decommissioning. There are two parts, one from him, one from Patricia Hewitt, MP:
Covering letter from MP.
Letter from Patricia Hewitt, MP.
And a document was enclosed. It is available online:
A public consultation on modernising the policy for decommissioning the UK's nuclear facilities.
There is a chance to comment on this until 27 February.

Window falls out of my block of flats

A window fell out of its casement in my block of flats the other week. Since then, we have been told windows will be inspected (mine have not), a fence keeping everyone away from the line of fire has been erected, and we have been told we can only use windows with limiters attached. This is plainly ridiculous. The housing association, Cotman Housing, is in dispute with the original suppliers over liability.

Argos

Thought I'd post the letters I've had back from Argos to indicate its attitude to customer service:
Letter from Argos of 19 January.
Letter from Argos of 4 February.
And here is the letter my lawyer wrote to them:
Letter from Fosters to Argos.

Giving up smoking

Am trying to give up smoking. Am using Niquitin CQ gum (didn't want to use patches because of my eczema problems). Rather mixed results. Every time I feel a bit depressed about things (generally the medical regime) I go out and buy a pack of cigarettes. I can't afford to do this. Can't say I'm terribly worried about a slow, ugly death.

Weight

Have managed to get my weight down to about what it was before I started taking Olanzapine - today, 11st 8.5lbs!

Change of meds

Have, today, picked up a prescription for Quetiapine. This is reputed to have a less disruptive effect on the digestive system than Olanzapine, though may have rather bad long-term use problems (shakes/tremors?). This is a lot more expensive to the NHS than Olanzapine - over twice the cost!

27/1/4

Am off Section 117!

Have been signed off Section 117! This means no more Section 117 meetings, which is great as I found them to be a waste of everyone's time. Also, I no longer have to have visits from the Community Psychiatric Nurse, which I also found a waste of time. And, I am hoping to get off the Olanzapine, with its characteristic side-effects, and onto something called Quetiapine, which doesn't have the same problem, until the summer, when a new drug called 'Aripiprazole' (brand name 'Abilify') comes onto the UK market. Probably worth a try, but am a bit cautious because I am still suffering side-effects from the 'new' (ie: untried) Risperdal Consta, and I came off that months ago! I'd be very interested to hear any personal accounts of what it's like to be on Aripiprazole (Abilify).

Cookies needed for stats

Unfortunately, my statistics supplier has started using cookies. This means that your computer must be set up to accept them in order to see my user stats. This is a pain for me, as I use the computers in the library, which reset every hour, so I have to log in to see them.

Amstrad Emailer

Amstrad Emailer has started to 'pip' instead of beep when saving emails. One of the 'buttons' on the screen appears to be permanently 'on'. This is not good.

Argos

Argos simply doesn't care about customer service. Got a letter back from them, thanking me for the lovely letter from my solicitor. Gave themselves another two weeks to deliver and said nothing to make up for the huge delay or the inconvenience caused. Don't buy large items from Argos!

Allotment

Have dug most of the way back to the end of my allotment in preparation for the supposed big freeze. Broad beans shooting. Onions poking their heads out. Winter lettuce seems to be OK. Spring onions lost in small river of grass, though. 13/1/4

This week's Everyman crossword solution

Everyman 2989 solution.

Amstrad Emailer

Over the festive period I bought an Amstrad Emailer. It seems to work OK. I can even view this web site's index page (though none of the more interesting Word, Excel, etc files that hang off it). However, the charges have gone up since the box was printed. It's now 15p per session plus local call rate. Also, the undeclared cost of sending texts is a whacking 50p! And, worst of all, the wretched thing won't receive texts. Otherwise, at its new price of ?30, it's something of a bargain. Anyone who thinks they should have my email address should contact me via the address at the top of this page.

Mobile phones

My old Mitsubishi Trium mobile phone, on Vodaphone, has been playing up for a long time. So, to resolve the texting crisis, I have been hunting for a mobile. Bought a Siemens A55 mobile on the Orange network with Text Saver package yesterday. Seemed like a bargain. Unfortunately, after wasting 50p on texts to it, I went back to the shop, this morning, to discover that Vodaphone wasn't told about the new 07969 numbers that Orange has started using, so Vodaphone isn't sending stuff to them. I could send from the Orange to the Vodaphone, but not the other way. Apparently this is being fixed. Otherwise, the Siemens A55 mobile seems to be pretty good. I have got adequate signal strength in my flat in Norwich, and at the shop in the city centre. I now plan a trip to Cromer to test its suitability for walks along the North Norfolk Coast. The Text Saver package should mean I get more or less free texting for a year, which is great.

29/12/3

Win a dictionary!

Here is this week's Everyman crossword, from The Observer - just fill in your blanks and send it off! I must apologise to anyone that copied my last effort, as I made a mistake! Everyman crossword.

Happy New Year to everyone!

22/12/3

Supplemental...

Insanity in 1902

Here is the transcript of the entry from Quain's Medical Dictionary of 1902 for 'Insanity': Entry for 'Insanity' (181kb). This is quite a large file (for a Word document) as it contains about 27,000 words! It seems to major on insanity being hereditary and classification of disease by the age of the person. It's quite interesting to see the various authors wrestle with the changing fashions of the time.

Encouraging contributions to the web

After observing the stats (see Add Free Stats counter at foot of this page) for some while, I have come to the conclusion that the web could really do with more contributions, and that these should be easier to find using the search engines. So, I have written to my MP asking him to encourage wider participation. Letter to MP.

Win a dictionary!

Here is yesterday's Everyman crossword from The Observer - just fill in the blanks in yours and send it off to win a Penguin dictionary! Everyman crossword.

Legal action looms for Argos

Will be consulting a solicitor, today, to see what I can do about the appalling service from Argos - rang them up on Friday, and they gave themselves another 28 days in which to deliver the dishwasher!

Caught a sixth rat

Looks like some more rats have moved into the nest in my shed left by the last lot.

Insanity in 1902

I have finished typing up the entry for 'Insanity' from Quain's Medical Dictionary of 1902. I just need to proofread it to try to eliminate mistakes and then I'll add it to the web site. There are about 27,000 words, so it might take a little while, and I'll probably miss something somewhere, so please be patient! Am hoping it'll be here in the next day or so.

18/12/3

MP forwards my letter and feature to Secretary of State at DEFRA

My MP has forwarded my letter regarding the stability of power supplies in the UK, together with a feature I wrote in 1990, to Lord Whitty, the Secretary of State responsible for energy at the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.
Letter from Charles Clarke, MP.
Scan of my feature on control in the power industry (Word).

Insanity in 1902

As I passed a second-hand book shop in Rose Lane, I notice an enormous medical dictionary on the 50p shelf. I bought it without hesitation. When I got it home, I was delighted to find it had been published in 1902! I am in the process of copying its section on 'Insanity' into a Word document which I shall post here, later. Most insanity is attributed to heredity and to an excess of blood in the brain. Perhaps one of the most interesting facts about it, is that it predates the invention of schizophrenia, which, if I recall, was the work of one Eugen Bleuler.

One of the more interesting snippets worth typing out here is under 'Imperative Ideas:

'Mental besetments or obsessions are very significant symptoms, occurring, as they always do, in neurotic subjects. They vary greatly in character, and though apparently trivial at first may assume great importance. Many are of a simple character: one person is obliged to count the gas-lamps or the numbers of the houses ; another must tread the pavement carefully, avoiding the joints or stepping on them...'

15/12/03

Win a dictionary in a crossword competition!

Again, I have completed, for you, The Observer's Everyman crossword. All you have to do is fill in the blanks and post it off! Everyman crossword.

Argos gets even later!

Waited in, this morning, for delivery of my dishwasher. No call by 11.00, despite being promised one, after 10.00 if no show by then. Spent about a quarter of an hour trying to get through to the delivery company's staff, who told me it 'hadn't been loaded onto the lorry this morning'. Useless! They said I should ring Argos and arrange for another delivery note to be sent to them! The cheek of it! As if it's my responsibility! Did so, and asked about compensation. Write to us! Advise don't bother with them unless it's not available elsewhere!

13/12/3

Stability of power supply

Saw a program on BBC2 called 'Blackout Britain', on Weds 10th December. It suggested that lack of spare capacity was causing power problems. In 1990, I wrote a feature about control systems in the power industry. Wrote a letter to my MP, with a copy of it, highlighting a key point: instabilities used to occur at low demand periods, when a small number of power stations were running at high load - the new structure changes this. Letter to MP.

Statistics of psychiatry

Psychiatric illness accounts for 1.8% of finished hospital episodes, but 12.9% of hospital bed days. Neither figure approaches the one in three or four mark, never mind 50%. I have written to my MP, to urge him to seek clarification of claims regarding funding made upon the basis of statistics. Letter to MP.

How expensive is a moped?

I have updated the spreadsheet of the running costs of my Honda Cub C90 moped. Headlines are: After 6.6 years, and 23,600 miles (10m/day), the total cost of petrol was about ?500 for 166 gallons of fuel. The machine cost about ?1,500, new. Honda mileage spreadsheet.

What weight gain do you get on Olanzapine?

Have updated the weight chart for last few weeks. You can clearly see the weight gain (average of about four pounds) after starting on Olanzapine (5mg/day). Weight chart.

8/12/3

Supplemental...

Have had a quick look at the DOH health stats. Quick calculations show that mental health 'finished episodes' represent 1.8% of all hospital finished episodes. You appear to be 40 times more likely to be admitted for a cancer episode than for schizophrenia. Also, based on a population size of 47.4m (which seems oddly low), about 0.07% of the population will be admitted for a schizophrenic episode (cancer, * 40 = 2.8%).

Will have a longer look at stats at home. To see original figures, go to www.doh.gov.uk/hes/free_data/index.html. See Table 2 (Primary Diagnosis) and look under F00-99, on page 8.

Win a crossword competition!

Yes! You, too, can win a fabulous New Penguin English Dictionary from The Observer! I have completed, for you, the Everyman crossword. Just dig out your copy of The Observer and fill in the blanks! Everyman crossword.

Norfolk Mental Health Care on stats

Norfolk Mental Health Care has replied to me, re: statistics. I will investigate the sources it mentions. Letter from NMHC NHS Trust.

Quote of the day.

'Doctors are men who prescribe medicines of which they know little, to cure diseases of which they know less, in human beings of whom they know nothing'. (Voltaire). 5/12/3

Don't buy large items from Argos!

Don't buy large items from Argos unless you're really desperate! I am still waiting for a dishwasher to turn up after a month. The catalogue says 21-day delivery. I was told 28-day delivery by staff at the time I bought it. I have now been told that it is, in fact, 41-day delivery. No compensation has been offered to me, as yet. I have written to them asking for some: letter to Argos Direct. Watch this space for the reply. It was only last year that they fouled up on the delivery of a pine double bed! Can they be trusted with large sums of money? Are they making misleading claims to squash the opposition?

I have got some pics back...

State of the mail today

Here is the postbox in King Street: Pic of postbox. It has been this way since before industrial action began.
Here is a pic showing the building work going on around it which will, in all probability, increase demand for postal services: Pic of postbox in context.

Rats

Pic of rat hole.
Pic of dead rat in trap.
Pic of another dead rat in trap.

Building the ice rink

Sand foundation.
Refrigeration tubing.
Skaters on the rink.

Pic of me with red hair

Pic of me with red hair.

Joke of the day

What's the difference between God and a pyschiatrist?
God doesn't think he's a psychiatrist.

4/12/3

Five rats!

Total is now at five rats. Last one managed to escape the trap, after a bonk on the nose, but died anyway. Bait untouched overnight, the night before last, so might have done for them all.

Gridlock

A bomb scare caused gridlock outside my block of flats when police cordoned off large parts of the city. Turned out to be a suitcase full of clothes left outside a bank by a woman. We had a bomb scare about a year ago, and an anthrax scare at Norwich Union because a letter picked up dust on the way through Royal Mail machinery. I am all for taking every sensible precaution, but wonder, seriously how the idea of Norwich, of all places, being a likely terrorist target is weighted when dealing with such incidents. London used to be 01. Birmingham 02. But Norwich doesn't figure until you get to 01603!

Joke of the day

Doctor, doctor, I think I'm shrinking!
Well, you'll just have to be a little patient!

29/11/3

Three more rats!

Have caught three more rats. That's one a day. Trap even appears to kill when the rat is just caught by the tip of the nose. Poor things! Think I might have killed all the rats in the nest, now, as the remaining bait was left untouched - either that or the remainder didn't feel like eating round a pool of blood.

Joke of the day

Nurse: 'Doctor, there's an invisible man in the waiting room'.
Doctor: 'Tell him I can't see him!'.

25/11/3

Gotcha!

Caught a rat! Poor thing caught the bar just behind its eyes. There's obviously no love lost among rats, because its family had comletely cleaned the trigger plate of the remaining Snickers bar and peanut butter. Burned the corpse and reset the trap.

How much does a person's weight vary?

Spreadsheet of my weight since leaving hospital. Have been keeping a close eye on it, as weight gain is the most common side-effect of psychoactive medication. Since July, my weight seems to have been varying almost sinusoidally by quite a few pounds. So, no use saying 'I've lost three pounds!' unless you view it as being within certain bounds. Stuck around the 12st 0lbs mark, at the moment - I appear to be keeping weight gain more or less under control while on 5mg/day of Olanzapine, which I consider to be pretty good.

Challenge to the right to demonstrate

Morning Star (which I have bought out of curiousity and to wind up locals) reports that the Civil Contingencies Bill may lead to prevention of honest demonstration. Since my detention under the Mental Health Act was upheld on the grounds that my demonstrations against poor intelligence, or use of intelligence leading to acts of hostility were 'eccentric', this is more worrying news. I have, therefore, written to my MP to urge him to defend the right to protest. Letter to my MP.

Joke of the day

A man called the secretary at the psychiatric hospital and asked who was in Room 18.
'Nobody,' said the secretary.
'Great,' cried the man, 'I must have escaped!'

24/11/3

Rats take bait

I can confirm that rats like Mars bars and peanut butter. Licked the trigger plate of the trap completely clean! The trap is now rebaited and set. Met one chap on the allotments who said he caught five - used chocolate. After cutting a couple of slices of Snickers bar and rebaiting I very stupidly went and ate the remainder of the bar. So, went to GP, this afternoon. Am assured I am not likely to pick up any popular diseases.

More statistics...

While talking to GP, asked for rough estimate of psychiatric workload. He guessed at between 30% and half of his time. Also noted that psychiatric patients take up a disproportionate amount of their time.

How long does a psychiatric nurse reproduce for?

How long does a psychiatric nurse spend reproducing. Odd, perhaps even suggestive, wording, I know. But then, it seemed odd to me, at the time, when, after helping one to prepare photocopied artwork for tee shirt printing, she asked me 'How long were we reproducing for?'.

Joke of the day

Doctor, doctor, last night I dreamed I was a tepee. The night before, I dreamed I was a wigwam.
Just relax - you're two tents.

Doctor, doctor, I've got a cricket ball stuck in my ear.
How's that?
Oh, don't start...

I'm not intending to offer more than one joke at a time as a matter of course. This second one just happens to be adjacent, in the book, and it appeals (groan).

20/11/3

Lies, damned lies and statistics...

A lot of figures are bandied around for the number of people held to be mentally ill. Particularly when one or another group is hunting for funding. Some say one out of every four GP appointments is to do with mental health. Some say that one in four, at some stage in their life, will suffer from mental illness.

I have never seen figures to back this up. So, I have begun a small inquiry. I have written to Norfolk Mental Health Care NHS Trust for admissions figures, and to the Norfolk & Norwich University hospital for the same. Regrettably, I have yet to hear from either. I have, however, received a letter back from my GP, who says: 'I am afraid we do not keep statistics of the type which would be required to answer your question. I am sorry not to be of more help'. Watch this space!

Joke of the day

A man went to the doctor's complaining of a pain in the stomach. The doctor gave him a thorough examination, but could not find anything obviously wrong. The doctor sighed: 'I'm afraid I can't diagnose your complaint. I think it must be drink'. 'All right then,' said the patient, 'I'll come back when you're sober'.

18/11/3

Electronic cookery

Have finally got around to playing with an electronics project kit I bought to try to learn about the peripheral components used around ICs, etc. Spent a happy hour or so, last night, sorting out resistors into number groups. So far, have made an electronic 'bird' (which sounded almost, but not quite entirely unlike a bird) and a 'horror movie sound effect' circuit. Being short of easy to use variable resistors, it falls back on the light-dependent resistor. So, if you walk near it, the pitch changes.

Joke of the day

You know how some people just have a joke on the tip of their tongue whenever the occasion calls for it? Well, I'm not one of them. So, I've bought a joke book to cheer myself (and others) up. Will try to add a smidgin of humour to each day's entry.

I date this girl for two years and then the nagging starts: 'I wanna know your name!'.

Any connection made, in the mind of the reader, between the selection of this joke and my entry of 14/11/3 is entirely delusional, and can be treated by any number of expensive modern medicines that can be prescribed by a GP, or, in cases of persistent association, a psychiatrist.

17/11/3

Rats move in on allotment

Discovered a rats' nest in the shed on my allotment. They got made homeless when some garages were torn down, and are now making homes all over the allotment site. Have baited a trap with peanut butter and Mars Bar. Trap says to leave baited but not set for a week, then to set baited. If anyone knows of a more humane solution, I'd be glad to hear of it.

Allotment back under control

Have just about restored the allotment to the state it was in when I caught flu. Have planted Japanese onion sets ('Radar') and broad beans. Unfortunately, in the process, I seem to have caught another cold. :(

14/11/3

NHS warns of bogus psychiatrist

The following appeared on page 113 of Ceefax today at 11.27am:

PATIENTS WARNED OF BOGUS PSYCHIATRIST
The NHS has written to more than 2,000 patients warning them that they may have been examined by a bogus doctor.
Barian Baluchi, a psychiatrist at the Kimia clinic in central London, is reportedly under police investigation.
Westminster Primary Care Trust says patients who have seen Mr Baluchi since 1998 should visit their GP again if they are worried about their treatment.
Channel 4 News said there were concerns patients may have had inappropriate treatment or medication.

Newcomers to this site are referred to a letter I wrote to the GMC on 30/05/02: GMCHAS.DOC, and to a letter I wrote on 29/05/02 to Dr Andrew Hassan, of Hopton: HASSAN.DOC, asking for data, and a letter to Norfolk Constabulary. These letters were posted on my web site before 13/6/2, on 30/5/2. Click here to be taken to that entry.

While in hospital, one patient told me that they sometimes imagined that their partner was someone else. They were made to look very zombified by their meds.

One has to wonder why it has taken five years for the matter of Mr Baluchi to come to light. But perhaps not for very long.

Other problems with Risperdal Consta

Came across an interesting page on Risperdal Consta while searching. May confirm my hypothesis that oral Risperidone might cause less problems than the depot injection of Risperdal Consta. Am also curious to note variation from lot to lot, as some injections I had seemed to have more/less effect. Stanford on Risperdal Consta. This is based on a press release date 29/10/3, apparently.

12/11/3

Stats

I appear to have supplied the world with 60Mb of data, so far, today, as yesterday! I have a feeling this is someone doing an archive of the entire site. However, yesterday's 60Mb was divided among 58, whereas today's is among 11. I appear to be getting a lot of hits because of my entries on Risperdal Consta. I imagine these are rarities, at present, as the drug (in depot form) is relatively new.

More Risperdal Consta side-effects

I should, perhaps, have added that Risperdal Consta also causes slightly loose motions. Not nearly as bad as what you get with Olanzapine (I am still OK, as it goes), but definitely not right. Perhaps I should do a proper 'Yellow Card'?

Ice rink in Norwich

An ice rink is being assembled outside the library in Norwich. Last year, had a plastic surface. This year, a real ice one was brought across the Atlantic!

Tip for getting on search engines

Am now on MSN, Yahoo, DMOZ. Hence, am getting more hits! Got onto MSN by signing up for Zeal and submitting my site there. From there, it has been reused. Very quick, too! DMOZ took ages to acknowledge my submissions properly, but was fast once the submission got through.

7/11/3

Megastar snubs BBC's mental health series

I have concluded I don't want to take part in a BBC2 series about people living with mental health problems. Found a call for people with compulsive or addictive behaviour on the discussion forum run by the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health. Not me, really (unless you count letter writing), but thought I'd make contact. The entry read: 'BBC2 is making a sensitive and intelligent six part observational documentary series about people living with mental health problems'. I was rather struck by the inflated self-opinion, but continued.

Basically, they want to follow six people around for six months for a series of six 40 minute programs to be aired in a year's time. I exchanged a couple of emails then rang, today.

A short way into the chat the woman from Mentorn TV began telling me details about one of the other 'possibles'. Wasn't terribly inspired by her attitude to confidentiality (had made it clear that my chat was to be off the record until such time as I was confident enough to proceed). I suggested to her that the world of mental health might turn out to be a lot smaller than she thought. Asked her what she thought were the most important issues. She had done six weeks' research but was unable to name one. I became a little worried that they're more interested in participants as curios or oddities. Asked about her background, quite early on (as I was beginning to lose confidence). She withheld the fact that her father had helped set up Mind in the North East, which, potentially, might make her partisan. Overall, she came across as being inexperienced. Said I'd be happy to provide background material, or chat, generally, about mental health issues, etc, with her, but that that would be all. Advise don't touch it!

Allotment goes green

A fresh crop of various seeds has delighted in the opportunity afforded by my bout of flu, and my allotment now sports a beautiful green lawn.

Got those Olanzapine blues

Morning paperwork tends to suggest olanzapine may be beginning to exhibit its most famous undeclared side-effect. :( Was hoping orodispersible version might not do this. Will confirm, later. On the plus side, I think the side-effects of the Risperdal Consta are gradually gettin better. Am hoping to 'rechallenge' the Risperidone problem, once I am sure the effects of the injections have worn off (ie: try oral risperidone to see if it still causes urinary urge incontinence).

5/11/3

Mental illness no barrier to employment in MI5

According to the Sunday Times, MI5 hired the services of a man who had been sectioned to The Priory for a year because of stress. To me, this seems more than a little unlikely. I have never heard of anyone being sectioned for suffering from 'stress'. The actual terminology used in the sectioning papers is 'suffering from a disorder of a nature or degree' that warrants detention. I would think, on the whole, that any 'disorder' a person is suffering from (ostensibly) would be something of a more severe nature than 'stress'. Also, one might expect the stress problem to be ironed out to a level thought low enough to discharge them well before a year is up. Also, to my knowledge, The Priory is a private celebville, costing about ?300 or more a day (although a friend of mine said she thought they took in a few charity cases). The man is described as a builder. He would have to be some celebrity builder to be able to afford that! However, it is nice to know that what must surely be one of the most exclusive employers in the country is into equal opportunities. The idea that they might be too incompetent to bother checking being too ridiculous to contemplate. You should see the application forms I got when I applied for a job with the police! I had to list my home addresses from the age of 14! It is also worth noting, in passing, the hypocrisy of the newspaper, which provides more than enough informaton to identify the embassy concerned, but is either too chicken to identify it specifically, or is playing silly 'lead-'em-on' games with the readers. Perhaps the opportunity for MI5 to get into an embassy was held to be too good to miss? So. Mental illness is no barrier to employment in the intelligence services!

Equal rights in employment from December

Will be interesting to see how the incoming equal rights law (arrives December) is administered. Will positive discrimination be allowed? Allowed 'in certain professions'? Will the church be able to refuse to employ atheists? Will gay night clubs be allowed to specify 'no straights'. I have a feeling exceptions are usually confined to the military and police, etc. What will MI5 do?

Privatise psychiatry!

Psychiatry in the UK should be completely privatised! As it is such a popular enterprise with all the patients, there would, without a shadow of doubt, be no significant loss to the practitioners or the users. I am completely confident that the world is full of people that would willingly part with ?80 every two weeks for an injection that did nothing more to them than turn them into a urinary urge incontinent. (That's for 25mg/2week - for 37.5mg/2week it's more like ?100). Similarly for Olanzapine - approx ?1 per tablet per day to give you motions like water. (More for the orodispersible version). Mind you - can't comment on the side-effects of orodispersible version of olanzapine, yet, as may not have had time to cut in - am hoping this version will cause less upset. Interestingly, the leaflet with the drug does list some more side-effects that declared with the last lot (if I recall correcty) - however, it fails to mention loose motions, which is the first thing most users of the drug will mention to you. Personally, I would simply be unable to afford the drugs at all. I get ?53 a week. I simply cannot take ?7+ out of that. I certainly couldn't afford the ?80-100/2week of Risperdal Consta. The only reason that this money intended for me is being used in this manner is that I don't have a say in it. Isn't it amazing the way psychiatry can turn me into a supporter of Tory policies? Rather makes you wonder why the government is ready to continue lashing out on these sums - perhaps they need an expert opinion? As I understand it, in the States, psychiatry is mostly privatised. Most psych work is paid for by insurance. Run-down public services are maintained for paupers. Complete privatisation of psychiatry would make the world a very different place!

New crossings in Norwich very dangerous

It's getting rather dangerous to cross the roads, in Norwich. The council has put up a new set of crossings where they have put in a new shortcut for buses (by the Anglia TV building at the top of Prince of Wales Road). They are awful. The button boxes that indicate whether you should be crossing or not are at an angle, so you have to step back a pace or so from the edge of the road to be able to see them, and there is no indicator of status on the other side! Add to that that there are now buses cantering up the hill from a completely unexpected direction, and that there are raised kerb stones to trip over, and you have a truly lethal crossing. Go back to the old style, I say!

'Finding Nemo' is garbage

Went to see 'Finding Nemo', on the strength of previous Pixar pics - especially Monsters Inc, which I love. Good, if sad, short of a snowman, made in '89 shown with it, though. Unfortunately, 'Finding Nemo' is just a load of American sentimental bilge. 'The true supremacy of family bonds over all adveristy'. Maybe it's Disney's fault? Waste of a fiver. Pity.

4/11/3

Is blanked off postbox strike victim?

A postbox in the street next to mine (King Street) was blanked off a couple of weeks ago. However, this happened before strike action began. I am wondering whether this was done because it was underused. It had already gone (as many, I suspect) from timed collections to 'we'll see about it every now and then'. The thing is that new housing is being built directly opposite the postbox on derelict industrial land, with more planned. So demand will be going up, within the next year.

Frank Bruno

Saw part of the Frank Bruno interview with Trevor McDonald, last night. Didn't like the interviewing style, which I thought was rather negative. Rather worried that Bruno was being very guarded. This would hardly be surprising behaviour, as people that are deeply worried that a doctor might write them a stronger prescription if they don't like what they say tend to be guarded. I wish him every success in improving the lot of those going through the mental health system. I would, however, caution him that charity has, in my opinion, become one of the great failures of our time. My personal experience of a mental health rehabilitation charity has been negative. I am not terribly impressed by the way the big boys (Mind, Sane, etc) have acted, either.

Time to reassess charity

I believe it is time to reassess the role and operation of charities in this country. I believe that they increasingly operate more as a source of employment for their staff than for the benefit of their supposed beneficiaries. I also believe that in many cases, the roles they perform should be performed by government, which would make for a more sensible distribution of funds (Guide Dogs for the Blind is the richest charity in this country, I believe), and more accountable service for the people of this country. I am getting increasingly fed up with seeing people stopping people in the street trying to sign them up on direct debits - particularly when they don't know the first thing about where the money is going.

New email account

Have written off my email account, as searching through a sea of 50 odd emails to find three or four is getting to be wearing. New email address flagged at top of page under 'email me'. Wonder how long this one will last for.

28/10/03

Got a card from No 10!

Got a thank you note from 10 Downing Street!
Card from No 10 (as PNG).
Card from No 10 (as Word file).

10,000 hits!

According to 0catch figures, I have broken the 10,000 hit barrier: 10,058 hits; 6,855 unique visitors.

This web site has been operational since January 2002. So, that's about 450 hits per month. Check out the Add Free Stats vistor info by clicking on the button at the bottom of the page.

23/10/3

Reducing side-effects of Risperdal Consta

Should have mentioned, yesterday, that, for a while, I tried using Oxybutynin (Ditropan) to relieve the urgency problem. Was started on very low dose (2.5mg/day) and increased it, myself, over a few days or so, to 5mg 3 times a day (later OK'd by GP). This seemed to be beneficial, although it didn't entirely resolve the problem. It caused one Hell of a dry mouth. I also suspsected it of causing inner ear problems, and so stopped taking it. However, my GP said the inner ear problem was probably a coincidental case of labyrinthitis virus which would go away in a couple of weeks (as, indeed, it did). Also, the oxybutynin may have had a bad reaction with a couple of tins of 4% lager - bad headache!

22/10/3

Am finally off the Risperdal depot injections

Since April, I have, to a greater or lesser degree, been suffering from urinary urge incontinence (a desire to urinate, even if not necessary) because of the Risperdal Consta depot injections I have been given. I am about to start on Olanzapine tablets (5mg/day) until I feel less sore and less troubled by this, at which point, if for no other reason than in the spirit of scientific enquiry, I am hoping to try oral Risperidone, to see if, when it is metabolised, it fails to cause the problems it does when absorbed directly into the bloodstream. For the psychiatric nurses out there, the Risperdal Consta injections have been causing the problem at just about all doses, right down to 25mg/three or even four weeks, but it is much worse on higher doses (ie: it is dose-related). We (my psychiatrist and I) gave up on the injections at the point at which it became impossible to reduce the dose any further (it is a complex injection in which a suspension of slow-release particles is created in a largely water-based solvent). I am hoping I will find it a good deal easier to get myself out of the flat, now!

Amnesty International

I have become involved with the local branch of Amnesty International. Went along to one meeting. Am currently absorbing background information that will allow me to write a half-decent letter on behalf of one of the characters adopted by them (a former pilot in Pakistan being held without appeal on spying charges). Watch this space for info on the case, later.

Protest! Protest! Protest!

USDAW (communications workers) were protesting outside the library yesterday with large pink inflatable elephant, about export of jobs by BT. They seem to be doing their best to give away their resources. Free badges, buns, balloons, allsorts. Am wearing badge in sympathy.

Yet another group of charity collectors in the street, today. This time it is Friends of the Earth. Was rather disappointed that they were, so overtly, after the money and not feeling obliged to inform. Sadly no protest badge available, not for love nor money. Pity. They're so much less mad than flashing blue lights or FBI jackets.

20/10/3

Chainsaw massacre!

Yup! It definitely looked like I had been murdered in my bed the other night! I dyed my hair red. Schwarzkopf R37 Hypnotic Red. Unfortunately, the dye wasn't fast, and leached onto my bedclothes. Boots, however, were very good about the problem. Paid me ?24 compensation for some new bedclothes. It washed out easily so I'm ?24 up on the deal. I quite like the effect of the red hair, but I'm wondering what to do when the roots grow out.

Get Well Soon, Tony!

Have sent Tony Blair another Get Well Soon card. This time, I've heard he's been ill. Watch this space for a thank you note from No. 10, I guess.

Junk email problem

My email account may be in the process of disappearing under a snowstorm of junk email adverts. Anyone experiencing problems contacting me should text me, ring or write. This is the problem when you post your email address on your web site. A small number of people ruining a good idea for a large number of people. If I find I have to change my email, I will try, yet again, posting my email address in the hope that it doesn't succumb. It probably only takes one inconsiderate individual to start the process of messing up an account. If I ever find out who did this to mine, they're toast!

15/10/3

Flu

I got the flu and a nasty cough. Sorry for the absence! Am just about struggling to get out and about, now.

The Sun replies

Got a letter from The Sun, regarding the Frank Bruno fiasco. Letter from The Sun. Apparently, the price of the slur was ?10k. Probably not even enough for Sane to hire another body. Cynic that I am, I find myself asking how much of the ?10k will find its way to those the charity purports to help.

Newspaper Press Fund helps me out again

I would like to express my gratitude, once again, to the Newspaper Press Fund for helping me, financially, to get a dishwasher up and working in my flat. Letter from NPF. I used some latex inspection gloves to do some polishing the other day, and came out in a rash all over again. Am hoping some medic or other will do an allergy test and prove what it is I am allergic to (eg: possibly the latex; possibly the powder used inside the gloves).

29/9/3

SANE backpedals on The Sun

Keen observers that read the original comment from Sane on The Sun, and who have also read what is there today will notice a considerable difference in its position.

And. What's this? Sane is delighted to announce that it is to be the beneficiary of The Sun's Frank Bruno Appeal for mental health.

Is this a bigger misjudgement of the situation than that made by The Sun?

So. Rethink says it's terrible and that the government should give it money. Sane says it's terrible until The Sun gives it money. How terrible it would be for these organisations to not make actual capital out of the situation! Political capital not enough for some! 'The only question, now, is 'how much?''.

26/9/3

Reflexology at The Forum

Just had a demo of reflexology in The Forum. Was laid on bed, barefoot. Feet cleaned and powdered and duly massaged. 15 minutes. Was only supposed to be demo of relaxation. Which worked. Most of the noise and hubbub shut out apart from a few noisy people. Not altogether sure it was any more relaxing than just relaxing, though, to be honest. Mind you, sounds relatively cheap for private medical care, at ?20 per hour session.

Site maintenance

Had been labouring under the impression that all links on this site worked, as search engine I use for this site supposedly checks all links as it goes, and has, to date, reported no faults. However, use of W3C checker indicates a few duds. So, will be updating - mainly on links page, as I'm not sure how many people trawl back into the archives.

Unfortunate news about Frank Bruno

Local news and Ceefax reported police called to disturbance involving Frank Bruno at Goodmayes hospital. Nobody injured. Nobody arrested. No more details than that. Saw a couple of cases of the police being called, while inside, myself. If the staff are worried about a person who is there voluntarily (though not by their mental health) they might 'expel' them from the hospital. If they are worried by their mental health and/or they are sectioned they might send the person to a secure unit. So, doesn't sound like it was too much to worry about. Impossible to say, really, though. At the end of the day, you don't want to find yourself 'involved in a disturbance' of any kind anywhere. Probably not too sensible to speculate, either. This blogger says keep an open mind (either way) until more detail is available.

The Sun on Frank Bruno - some influential views

Rethink (formerly National Schizophrenia Fellowship): 'Shameful' - govt should give us money to fix this
Sane: 'Damaging insult - Apologise!'
Mind: Sun needs long-term commitment to mental health issues. 'Bigot of the year' award likely.

24/9/3

Best wishes, Frank Bruno!

This blogger wishes Frank Bruno the best possible transit through the mental health system and good times thereafter.

The Sun gets it wrong...

I have written to the editor of The Sun, Rebekah Wade, following its treatment of Frank Bruno's sectioning: letter to The Sun. This kind of journalism should have been ditched a long time ago. It is poor work and, I suspect, out of tune with public feeling - both in the case of Frank Bruno and more widely.

...as, so recently, did the Eastern Daily Press

It wasn't that long ago that I was complaining to the editor of the Eastern Daily Press, and, subsequently, the Press Complaints Commission, about the use of the word 'INSANE!' on the front page of its local paper to describe hindrances to its own publicity stunt (ferrying a boy called Issa to the UK for an operation to treat severe burns). Mind you, they were quoting Dr Ian Gibson, MP, who was, at the time, President of local mental health rehabilitation company, NORCI (now called Meridian East). You would expect better from both. Letter to editor of the Eastern Daily Press of 7/8/1. And, Letter to editor of Eastern Daily Press of 12/8/1 on the same subject, but on air on the radio. Letter to the Press Complaints Commission. Didn't get a positive response, on that occasion.

22/9/3

Pics of my allotment

Allotment as I found it.
Allotment seen from other end.
After a bit of digging and seeding.
Burning up the weeds.
View from road after more work.

10/9/3

9/11: Remember those that let it happen!

Just a quick pic of a 9/11 demo someone chalked on the pavement on the approach to the library in Norwich, last year, but which was washed off before the anniversary. Remember those that let it happen! (195kb). Not something, I think, that is likely to appear again, this year, as it may be considered, by some, to be symptomatic of 'abiding delusions' or similar (or, at the very least, 'eccentric behaviour' supportive of a Section 2 detention under the Mental Health Act (see page 2 of clarke030703.doc - a letter to my MP with the reasons the Mental Health Review Tribunal for continuing my detention under S2 - note the mention of 'eccentric behaviour' describing my political demonstrations)). And there's been a lot of rain today, too.

Is it mad to wear a 9/11 teeshirt?

Is it mad to wear a teeshirt intended to evoke memories of 9/11? Just a question. What about a CND teeshirt? Che?

9/9/3

6000 visitors!

0catch stats: total unique visitors: 6009; total hits: 8918.

5/9/3

Police feedback on my interview

The police have very kindly sent me some feedback on my interview. It's interesting to compare the shortcomings that I was aware of with those of concern to them. Sadly, my weakest area, apparently, was one I would have been unable to do anything about at interview: experience in using databases. Feedback letter from police. Overall, very positive, I think. Concludes 'you gave a good account of yourself'. I definitely like the look of the police as an employer.

Marsh says 'no'

Got a letter from Marsh, who also interviewed me, for the position of 'policy support role' which says that on this occasion I was unsuccessful and wishes me the best.

How do people end up here?

The Add Free Stats counter (go to foot of this page) seems to be providing some interesting feedback. Quite a few of the visits seem to be cursory (timed at a duration of 0min, 0sec, which suggests just checking to see if I've added anything). My news that the Sunday Times will consider psychiatric hospitals in its next survey is pulling people in from the Sainsbury Centre for Mental Health's discussion forum: www.scmh.org.uk. I also appear to get regular hits from the 'Jeremy Jones' web site (which lists web sites run by Jeremy Joneses). But the most interesting part is the curio referrers. I have had two hits from people looking for poetry (one with madness, one with 'Get Well Soon'), Jellytussle (from the Uncle books), roulette, 'job description + modern matron + mental health' and so on. You can find these by clicking on 'Referrers' in the orange box at the foot of the AFS stats page. I think my web site has made it onto some major indexing systems and, with over 250,000 words, it's not surprising it's pulling people in. I appear to have taken off!

Allotment news

Have weeded and forked over a small part of the allotment. Have sowed some late radish seed, and some all-year-round lettuce. Parents have very kindly come along and helped with weeding, digging, and installing a compost heap frame. Special thanks to them for that. Also pointed out that I have stray everlasting spinach plants on the allotment. So, have been eating spinach, and also the odd micro-potato and some rhubarb that I inherited. Soil is proving very easy to weed, being almost dust in parts, and similarly easy to fork over.

Life laundry sales raise ?17

Sales from unwanted items have raised ?17 at Cash Converters. It's not like that on the life laundry shows. On TV you discover priceless paintings of pedigree dogs and raises hundreds, if not thousands at car boot sales and auctions.

Social Services helps out with phone

Norfolk Social Services has paid for the installation of a landline at my flat (?75). I will have a landline from Monday 8th Sept. Anyone who thinks they're supposed to know the number can email me, txt me etc. Will try to inform first - BT slow telling me number. This is great news, as using mobiles is very expensive. Sadly, Social Services could not run to paying the line rental, as it originally offered to do at a Section 117 meeting (2nd July) as the fund for that purpose is for emergency cases only. What they wanted to do was provide the means to keep lines of communication open, as they believed communication failure was a factor in my last hospitalisation. Another case, I suspect, of the statutory bodies' budgets evaporating only to condense out again in the lap of the voluntary/private sector.

2/9/3

I now have an allotment!

I have taken up an allotment and have begun working on it. I have tidied out the lockup and the shed on the allotment itself and have weeded and forked over an area about 8ft by 8ft. I think winter lettuce is going to be first on the agenda. Pictures here later.

30/8/3

New hit counter added!

I have added a second hit counter, which definitely gives you a list of the last 40 visitors to the site, as well as a load of other stats. I've put it, just to be the same as everyone else, at the bottom of this page. Compare the two! Click on it to see the stats!

Didn't get the job with the police

Got an interview with the police for the position of temporary Intelligence Unit researcher. I was one of about a dozen. Apparently, when they advertised the position of Traffic Warden, recently, they got 500 applicants! Unfortunately, on this occasion, I was not successful. Will be contacting them 'for feedback on my interview', as suggested.

Who's visiting this site?

Seems, as part of Bravenet's ongoing programme of upgrades, as though it is no longer indicating who is visiting the site, although you can see how they got there. Makes the 'recent visitors' page seem rather pointless. I shall be looking into this to find out whether this is likely to continue. If it is, I might look around for another hit counter.

28/8/3

Stats on this site

Bravenet has upgraded its counter code, so I've pasted in the new. The stats section (click on the counter at foot of page) now seems to be fully operational again and has a few new graphs/analyses. See who's been visiting in the 'Recent Visitors' section! If you click on the 'referrer' hotlink, you can find out how they got here, too!

According to Zero Catch, I have now had 5821 unique visitors, making 8700 hits.

Still doing life laundry

Am struggling to get used to the experience of being able to see carpet on the floor in my flat. This decluttering is making me feel old - no youthful piles of clutter everywhere, loads of clear surfaces. Anyone want to buy a UV lamp, vacuum cleaner, drawing table, set of dumbells?

23/8/3

Am considering an allotment

I have tentatively put my name against an allotment in Plumstead Road. Am currently weighing up how much work is likely to be involved, and whether I am likely to get around to doing it.

15/8/3

Newspaper Press Fund helps me out

I have, today, received a cheque for ?1,610 from the Newspaper Press Fund to pay off my overdraft and enable me to get a small dishwasher, to ease my eczema. The Newspaper Press Fund is a fund set up to help needy people associated with the newspaper (printed) press. I joined it, way way back in the early 1990s at a time when the National Union of Journalists was being derecognised by the major publishing houses. I would like to express my gratitude to the Fund, and in particular to the people who helped guide my application through its processes. I feel as though a weight has been lifted from me and I have been given a fresh start. Thank you! Letter from Newspaper Press Fund.

12/8/3

Learning the kings and queens of England

Finally found a couple of poems I had a quick root around for the other day but couldn't find during my ongoing declutter. Had been meaning to post on my web for the general good of learning, etc. Kings & Queens of England. Willy, Willy, Harry, Ste... Unfortunately, the rhymes only go as far as Victoria.

30/7/3

Am researching family tree

If anyone wants a copy of the tree as it stands (errors and all) just email me.

14/7/3

My latest Curriculum Vitae

Have updated my Curriculum Vitae: My CV.

NMHC Modern Matron replies to 'that Sunday Times letter'

Letter from Lesley Gray, Modern Matron. This letter, of course, makes a whole lot more sense if you read the one below.

That Sunday Times letter in full

Letter I wrote to the Sunday Times, briefing them on a few mental health care issues and a few of my personal grumbles after the editor of the Good Hospital Guide supplement, Alastair McCall, answered my postcard by saying he'd include psychiatric hospitals in his next guide. Letter to Sunday Times of 4/5/3.

Letter I wrote to my MP, in a similar, though perhaps less thorough vein, about mental health care. Letter to MP of 16/4/3.

25/6/3

Pics of inside of a psychiatric hospital

Here are pics of the ward I have been staying on
Pics of the inside of Hellesdon Hospital as Word document.
Inside Hellesdon Hospital, Zip file of 18 pics.

Letter from Sunday Times re: psychiatric hospital survey

Letter from Sunday Times regarding the survey of UK hospitals, and its promise to include 'leading psychiatric hospitals' in its next survey.

24/3/3

Got a letter from the Prime Minister!

Got a letter from 10, Downing Street, this morning!
Letter from PM (Word).
Letter from PM (PNG image).

Last home page archived off! Go to: Archive IV: archive230803.htm!


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