25 April 2017

Decisions, decisions ............

So, Mrs Maybe decided to take us to the polls again and I face a dilemma, just how do I make my vote count?

I'm a committed european and, in an ideal world, would like to see the UK develop stronger ties with the European Community so a vote for Mrs Maybe isn't on my agenda. But, like many people, I live in a political setting where the urban area would vote to stay but it is set in a wider constituency where the vaguely blue, probably the largest single party, will vote to leave.

Were the other parties, the Greens, Labour and LibDems, to work together, I'm sure that they would be able to overcome the vaguely blues but, I doubt that they could so, Mrs Maybe will divide and conquer.

And I am left to consider the appalling prospect of my vote, however considered, being wasted.

31 March 2017

April 0 ..............

In response to the upsurge in 'fake news' where April Fool articles inundate all forms of popular media, HM Stationery Office has announced that, from 2018, the United Kingdom will no longer have an April 1st on calendars printed in the UK. Instead, calendars will carry the new date 'April 0'. This minor change will ensure that there can no longer be any doubt about the truth of articles published on the first day of April.

3 March 2017

Something close to a truth..........

A little while ago I was singing the praises of the battery drill and now I'd like to write about its close cousin, the impact driver. Again, until relatively recently, I had not used one of these things and I didn't fully understand how they differed from their bigger relative, the battery drill. The main difference is that a dedicated impact driver doesn't have an adjustable chuck or an adjustable torque setting. Instead, the impact driver has a collet that accepts hex driver bits which really describes its sole purpose, to drive things in (or out, depending on the circumstance).

As its name implies, the impact driver drives with impact which is delivered by an internal mechanism which pulses the rotational effort in a concussive manner. The result is that the impact driver overcomes any frictional resistance between, say, a screw and the material that it is being driven into. All good except that this capability, although delivering a much higher work rate (not quite as fast as a nail gun but not far away) has its downsides - specifically that pilot holes and countersinking are, in some situations, things of the past.

The images above show how the impact driver can effect finish in that the impact driver can drive a pretty beefy screw straight into ply over battens and then through the ply and out the other side, if you let it. A drill driver, with its adjustable torque setting, can be used as a rather more precise tool but it doesn't have the out and out power of the impact driver.

But, in some situations, you can use the drill/driver as an ersatz impact driver. Recently I had to remove a screw holding the heat resistant glass plate across the front of our wood burner. As anyone who has tried this will know, such screws can be somewhat difficult to remove and this was a case in point. However, using my drill/driver in reverse setting and slowly increasing the torque setting, the drill/driver acted as an impact driver and managed to remove the screw in question.

So, its all about horse for courses and the drill/driver is still the most flexible tool but, for raw power, you can't beat the impact driver.

2 March 2017

The doctrine of 'Mental Reservation'..........

I rarely plunge into the world of religious doctrine (the Christian Brothers cured me of any interest) but an article caught my eye about a lady by the name of Marie Collins. See the Guardian article here.

The article covers Marie Collins' resignation from a Vatican commission into clerical child abuse and, reading it, I was unsurprised by the situation Collins described. However, when I had a look at Marie Collins' website, I found a section which described the church doctrine of 'Mental Reservation' and I found it hugely interesting.

In simple terms, this doctrine allows churchmen (this is the Catholic Church)  to wilfully mislead without 'lying' and it goes like this: You come to my door and ask if X is at home. I know that X is at home but I say to you, "No X is not at home" and in my mind I add the rider, "to you." In this way, it would seem, churchmen can mislead, lie in my book, without lying. Fantastic! Brilliant! As if 'confession' wasn't enough (Bless me father because I have sinned, I have been pulling the choirboys pants down and sucking them off - Say three 'Hail Marys', light ten candles and go in peace my son.) now they have a mechanism which allows them to lie without lying. Why bother with confession at all?

And that made me think about Trump's Attorney General and his denial of having had any contact with the Russians. What happens if the AG subscribes to the doctrine of 'mental reservation'? 

Interrogator - 'Mr AG, did you have any contact with the Russians?'

Mr AG - 'No sir, I did not as far as you are concerned.' (The mental reservation in italics.)

Referring to another blog, Ronald L Conte Jr (a Catholic theologian) states that there are two types of strict mental reservation:
1. The direct and deliberate assertion of a false statement, qualified by the addition of words, in the mind only, that would make the statement true. 

2. The direct and deliberate assertion of a false statement, qualified by the addition of an interpretation, in the mind only, that would make the statement true.

From where I stand, mental reservation looks, in effect, like lying, deception or a deliberate effort to mislead but, in the rarefied world of Catholic theology, its a way of getting out of a tight corner. And now I wonder if other organisations practice the same sort of evasion. Republicans, Democrats, Socialists, Conservatives, Free Masons, etc etc etc. 

50 shades of grey seems like an underestimate. 

20 February 2017

Reality in Trumpland (what's he smoking?)

Its very easy to poke fun at Donald Trump. He presents a huge target and his regular and outlandish claims and statements of 'fact' give a new meaning to the term 'fake news'. But poking fun a Trump disguises the very real threat he represents to us all.

After the financial chaos of 2007/8 governments both here and in America brought in regulations to restrict the ability of banks to indulge in 'casino banking'. Banks had to split their operations so that their 'riskier behaviours' were undertaken with their own money rather than yours and mine. At the same time, banks were required to hold larger capital reserves so that, should the worst come to the worst, they could call on their own reserves rather than coming running to the taxpayer. All well and good but now Trump wants to get rid of these restrictions because, in his view, they are bad for business, confirmation if such was needed that Trump likes to play with other people's money, rather than his own.

Now, I have felt for some time that the financial sector needs a real overhaul to promote modest rather than excessive rates of growth. At the same time, banks, and bankers themselves, should be made directly responsible for their actions. This might mean that irresponsible actions might result in bankers loosing their houses rather than savers loosing their savings.

But the financial establishment is a pretty resilient beast and, thus far, has shown itself capable of resisting meaningful regulation. In Trump (as with Thatcher and Reagan before him) the financial institutions have a great supporter and they can probably look forward to a reduction in regulation and a bonanza in bonuses. And this might finally bring about the collapse of free market, unregulated capitalism, which, in turn, might offer the opportunity for the restructuring that the institutions have so successfully resisted for so long.

So Trump might, by accident, represent an opportunity albeit a painful one. (Read about Charles Eisenstein's thoughts on the subject here.)

13 February 2017

Battery drills - strengths and weaknesses

Its unusual for me to post about DiY, in fact I think that this is something of a first but, because I'm doing a bit of drilling and sanding, my attention turned to battery drills and how they have improved over the years.

I bought my first battery drill from Lidl back around 2003/4 and, although it was a relatively cheap model, it was a bit of a revelation. Firstly, I was no longer tethered to a mains supply as I had been for  decades before so, less tripping over wires and running out of length on the extension lead. Secondly, the drill had a keyless chuck so no more loosing the chuck-key. Then, thirdly, there was the clutch on the chuck which meant no more over-driving screws, now I could set the clutch to stop driving when the screw was firmly in place. All in all, battery drills were a revelation and I wouldn't be without one now, they make life easier and more productive.

More recently, when both of my Lidl drills clapped out (battery failure on both after about 10 years) I decided to invest in a slightly more upmarket drill. The features are much the same but now battery drills are fitted with LiPo batteries meaning they are much lighter and recharge quicker. Not only that but they seem rather more powerful than the old drills and it is quite easy to drive a screw straight in without any pilot hole. And therein lies the problem. Because these new drill/battery combos can drive screws that are quite beefy, the temptation is to do just that, no pilot hole, no countersink, just fit the screw on the driver tip and bang it in which doesn't result in the most pleasing of finishes where the screw head crushes its way into the wood, or ply in my case.

So, now I'm looking into the subject of countersink bits and that is a whole new world of joy because countersink bits have come a long way since I bought the old Stanley profile countersinks back in the 1960s. What I have found is that there are countersink bits designed not to 'chatter' (which provides a hole like a 50p piece) and not to marr the surface (when fitted with a depth guide).

All in all, power tools and drills have come a long way but, as ever, there are downsides and the biggest that I have seen is that current battery drills encourage speed (not a bad thing) but can also encourage sloppiness (not so good).

So, I'm off to invest in a decent countersink drill bit which, I hope, will make my battery drill all the more effective.

7 February 2017

Housing market 'broken' - Conservatives wake up from coma

So now the Conservatives are turning their back on Margaret Thatcher's signature policy of making everyone in Britain a home owner (code for shackled with debt). Why, I wonder has this happened now when its been pretty obvious to most people that the housing market has been broken for years. Well, I suspect the answer is pretty simple. Its most probably been driven by the sons and daughters of Conservative MPs calling up their parents and asking for some financial help because a sweet little one bed box in Ilford is going to cost £2M!  Gosh, Ilford is a dump, how can a one bed cost that much? The answer is, of course, quite simple. Saint Margaret pushed everyone into home ownership (supported by her immoral 'right to buy' gerrymandering) and made sure that lending was as easy and unrealistic as possible. So we end up with a seriously overheated property market where everyone, excepting Russian Oligarchs, are being priced out of the market.

And now the Conservatives have awoken from their coma, realised that the housing market is completely bonkers (driven by the London/Westminster/City bubbles) and now 'renting' is back.

How long before that sweet little one bed box in Ilford is renting for £2,500 a month?