Sunday, December 15, 2013

What if your washing machine instruction manual was like the Bible?

Some people say that the Bible is a manual for life. I'm not so sure it's that clear cut. Suppose the manual for your washing machine was like the Bible. What would it be like?


The birth and early life of the founder of the company. His/her first job. How they founded this small company manufacturing domestic appliances.


How the company survived a recession and grew from strength to strength. How early washing machines were to be treated, the type of detergent that was suitable in those days. (However many of the rules for these early washing machines still apply to day.)

Judges and Kings etc.

After the founder dies (this is not an analogy, this is a washing machine manual), there are a number of takeovers by other companies. At the end of the process the company is experiencing steady growth.

Songs about washing machines

Lots of them, mostly written by one person.

The modern age

The first electronic washing machines with fancy electronic displays (really, this is not an analogy). The growth and spread of the company as its machines are used in many different countries around the world.


Letters from one of the service people telling others how to get the best out of their washing machines.


There you are with your new washing machine and all you want to know is how you wash cottons on a 40° wash and there's this big manual full of things that mostly seem irrelevant. Maybe life is a bit more complicated than a washing machine and all that stuff about origins is important. Particularly as this manual doesn't get revised, only translated, so has to work until the end of the world.

Friday, December 13, 2013

What would you call the fans of historical scientists?

New words have been invented for the fans of people/films/TV programmes - so we have Twihards for Twilight, Gleeks for Glee and Beliebers for Justin Bieber.

If scientists and engineers from the past were still around today what would we call their fans? We could have the Newtonians (not very clever), Coperniclan, Lacelovers (sounds a bit dodgy), Curios, Pasteurites, Brunelles. Any more?

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Motor bike and pedal bike

Since our office move I've been cycling to work from time to time instead of going on my motorbike. The new office is only slightly closer to home than the old one, but there was a hill at both ends of the journey, so I never fancied it. Now I only have a hill as I go home in the evening (which I'm walking up apart from the first bit). I only cycle when it's not raining, and it's not icy, and I don't have to be home promptly, and I'm not too tired. I'm the cycling equivalent of those people who only ride motorbikes in the summer so they keep their bikes nice and shiny. (I ride my motorbike all year round, apart from when it's snowy or icy on the main roads.)

There are number of differences that have struck me between the two different modes of transport.


On my motorbike all I pretty much hear is the noise of the engine, and on roads when I can do 50mph (it's not a very powerful bike) the wind noise. I'm wearing ear plugs so the roar is duller than it would be otherwise. On the bike I get to hear the traffic, and occasionally when there are no cars near, the sound of my tyres on the road. It's nice to have a variation in the audio diet.


I can also smell more, but that's probably more to do with the slower speed, rather than the difference between a cycle helmet and a full face motorcycle helmet. There's a smell zone a couple of streets around the local Chinese takeaway. It's not strong or unpleasant, but just a background feature.


Going at around 10mph instead of 50 also means that you can see more. On my new route to work there's a field without a hedge and I can see the winter wheat sprouting already, so over the next few months I'll be able to see it grown and ripen. You also have more time to see the potholes and avoid them. (I could rant/blog quite a lot about potholes, but I'm very restrained, so that's all I'll say on the subject.)

Sociability (OK, I'm stretching the Ss a bit)

If you're a car driver (or cager as bikers call it) then you probably don't greet other motorists as you approach them. However both types of bike riders do - just a nod on a motorbike as you're not going to be heard if you said anything. I have to remember to nod at the right sort of person as a biker would probably think it strange if a cyclist nodded at them.


At the end I'm usually warmer when I've been cycling, even though I have fewer and thinner layers. There's also that post-exercise high due to endorphins, or smug self righteousness, or who knows what.

There's an app for that - Strava

One of my brothers introduced me to the Strava app which allows you to plot your speed during your cycle rides (and runs should you want to). You can also measure your progress on "segments" of road against other people. I find it useful to see my speed improve as I progress from really unfit to unfit. There's one segment on my way home and that's the only bit where I push myself at all, though I'm going to find it hard to beat the time I set the other day when I had a tailwind.


Both forms of transport involve faffing at the start and the end of journey - special clothes, making sure that wallet, keys and phone get transferred to these clothes. There's extra faffing for the bike to do with lights and putting my bike bag on the rear rack. On the other hand bike clothes are so much lighter than protective motorbike gear.

Wednesday, December 04, 2013

Going to church and a quote from Hitchiker's

Uncommon is an interesting community. As well as the website that they're working on for paying members, there's a weekly newsletter. It asks a question each week and reports back some of the answers the following week. The question last week was "where are you a regular", so I wrote this:

I'm a regular at church on Sunday mornings and fortnightly in the evenings. There's a bit in The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy that goes like this:

"There is an art, it says, or rather, a knack to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day, [The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy] suggests, and try it.


"If, however, you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment by, say, a gorgeous pair of legs (tentacles, pseudopodia, according to phyllum and/or personal inclination) or a bomb going off in your vicinty, or by suddenly spotting an extremely rare species of beetle crawling along a nearby twig, then in your astonishment you will miss the ground completely and remain bobbing just a few inches above it in what might seem to be a slightly foolish manner."

The trick with being a regular at church is not to get into a routine or a groove and just go through the motions which is like hitting the ground. You need to find that thing which will distract you and then you're concentrating on God.