Pages

Wednesday, 20 October 2021

Day 583 of self-isolation - Hospital results

Hospital results

The results are good.

I got to Stoke Mandeville at 9am, chaffeured by ladysolly, and made my way to the "Ambulatory emergency unit". I didn't like the word "emergency" there, but heigh-ho. I made myself known at reception, and settled down to wait in the waiting room. I had brought a small library with me.

After an hour, I was seen by a nurse who put a cannula into my wrist, extracted three vials of blood, and taped the cannula into place. The cannula was unpleasant, but not painful. He also did an ECG. He sent the vials for analysis, and I went back to the waiting room, and read my book. Someone came round offering tea and coffee. After a couple of hours, I saw a nurse-practioner, which looks to me like a very capable nurse who is also (almost) a doctor. We had a long talk, in which she took my detailed medical history, added questions like whether I've seen any bleeding, chest pains, tummy pains, and so on.

The blood sample confirmed that I have a high blood sugar level (the medical term is "diabetic"), and also that there was some elevated enzyme levels in my liver.

Then I waited for two more hours, and then I was called for a cat scan. I lay down on the sliding bed, and they trundled me in. Then they used the cannula to install dye into me; it was a little bit painful when they started to pump it in, but not too bad. And then they did another cat scan. I have to drink a lot of water to flush it out in the next couple of days.

Back to the waiting room. I talked to the other people there; one guy had a suspected DVT, and the nice lady next to me was on her second DVT (and also had Leyden factor 5), and I expressed surprise that they hadn't put her on Warfarin. We talked about how good the NHS was, especially compared with the terrible system they have in the USA.

Someone came round with tea and coffee, and sandwiches. I had a tuna, and it was good.

Then I was called by the nurse practitioner for another talk, and this time she had the results of the cat scan.

So apparently, all my internal organs (kidneys, liver, pancreas, lungs) are fine. There's some calceous deposit on the arteries to my heart, but nothing that you wouldn't expect at my age.

I also have a small lump on the left of my chest, but everyone agrees that this is just a subcutaneous fatty lump, and nothing to worry about. And the dark spot on my face is also just darkened skin, not a problem. It's always nice to get such reassurances.

But there are three issues.

1. I am diabetic, and she gave me a prescription to start taking immediately; the diabetes is going to be handled by my GP.

2. I have a heart murmur. Again, this is quite common and not alarming, but they're going to do an echocardiogram (that's an ultrasound thing) to see if there's anything to be concerned about.

3. There's a lump in the duct between my gall bladder and my liver, and that needs further investigation. So they're going to do another cat scan, but focussed on that location. Depending on that, they might also need to do a biopsy, which consists of sticking a needle in exactly the right place and taking a small sample.

For the diabetes, I'm to avoid white rice (use brown) and white bread (use wholemeal). We can also use sweet potatoes instead of potatoes. And I'll be taking a pill, once per day. And I guess I'll be seeing someone fairly often to chack my blood sugar (which can be done with a prick test, so no big deal).

For the other two issues, I'll be given appointments with the relevant units within the hospital. 

Thank you, NHS.

 



Tuesday, 19 October 2021

Day 582 of self-isolation - Keyboard four, part three

Keyboard four, part 3

I took out all the nuts and bolts, and reassembled the keyboard with the plastic sheets. It's difficult to put in the first couple of bolts, because I have to hold the assembly with the black plastic side down, which means that I have to put the bolts in upwards, and that's difficult. But I found a fix - I used a clamp to hold the thing together, and then I could work with the black plastic uppermost. That makes it a lot easier.

I put in all the bolts and tightened the nuts, put it back in the plastic outer, and connected it to a computer.

All the keys work except the esc key, and the LEDs that indicate caps lock and num lock, don't work. I don't use the esc key much, so the keyboard is now usable, and maybe I can remap the esc key to another key. I'll ponder on this - is it worth taking everything apart just to fix the esc key (the problem is that the spring assembly has come adrift).

I can remap the esc key to the caps lock key - I don't use caps lock.

But there's other things going on.

I liked the idea of going on to an alternative to Warfarin that doesn't involve me getting prick-tested very few weeks. I gave a blood sample so they could see if I was good to go, and it came back with an elevated ALS enzyme, which is the responsibility of the liver.

So they asked me to do another blood test, and it came back with an elevated blood sugar level; 15 where the normal range is 7-11. At the same time, they did an ultrasound, and that came back as normal.

But the high blood sugar is a concern, and they want to investigate further. So I'm off to Stoke Mandeville for a cat scan (and we don't have a cat), plus blood tests, and I don't know what else. I'll be spending Tuesday being poked, prodded and pricked. I'm to get there first thing in the morning, and I've been told that it could take all day, although most of that will be spent waiting - I'll be taking a bunch of books to read.

It looks like either I'm not making enough insulin, or else I'm not using it efficiently. And the technical term for this is "diabetes", which is a nasty-sounding word, but it just means "high blood sugar", and I seem to have it, although in a mild form. It's possible that I'll be adding another pill to the array that I take each day.

While I was at the doctor, I asked her about my right index finger. The top joint has become slightly bend, and there was a while when it was painful to use. She said it's common, it's an age thing, and there's nothing to do about it (I'm not letting them replace it, I'm rather attached to it). And it's not too bad; I can type and mouse just fine (although when it was painful, I couldn't).




Monday, 18 October 2021

Day 581 of self-isolation - Keyboard four, part two

Keyboard four, part two

I tested the silver paste repairs, and all three of them worked. This silver paste is much more conductive than the graphite, and it comes with a hypodermic needle, so you can make very fine and accurate lines with it. And a little goes a long way; I got 0.3 ml and I haven't even used half of one ml.

The keycaps are all dry and ready to be reinstalled.

 



Sunday, 17 October 2021

Day 580 of self-isolation - Keyboard four, 13:10

Keyboard four

More good news, I'm down to 13 stone 10. 

And I filled up on petrol at Tesco. No queues, no shortage.

With three keyboards fixed, I couldn't stop now. Keyboard four has both ctrl keys and both alt keys not working .. and a few more. I can't use a keyboard that doesn't have a working ctrl key.

I opened up the plastic case, noticing that one of the screws was missing. That won't be a problem, I'll replace it with a Phillips head screw. I used the chisel to remove the rivets, that is now very quick and easy. 

I dismantled the inside, removing the key caps for cleaning. I've found another trick; to separate the two parts of the key cap, you squeeze the outer (with the letter embossed), and the inner comes out easily. But you have to squeeze north-south. I left the key caps to soak, and cleaned the plastic sheets. When they were dry, I tested the one with the narrow ribbon cable. And, as I had thought, one of the traces doesn't make contact with the connector. 

My first try at fixing this, is to use silver paste at the connector. It'll have to dry before I can see if that works. I left it overnight.

... much later ...

It worked!

So then I tested the plastic sheet with the wide ribbon cable, and the first and last traces didn't work at all. So I've used silver paste to fix this, but it'll have to dry before I can test it. Meanwhile, I've spread the keycaps out to dry, and I've drilled the black plastic keyholder. The drilling is a lot easier with the Dremel at 1/16 inch, followed by a 3/32 drill, used in a power screwdriver.

I've also ordered 25 of the screws that hold together the plastic shell - I really only need four, but they come in 25s.

And I've ordered 100 more nuts and bolts, and ten 1/16 drills, and ten 3/32 drills, all for future use.

And a chuck to fit on an electric screwdriver; because then I can use any drill bit.





Saturday, 16 October 2021

Day 579 of self-isolation - Keyboard three fixed

Keyboard three fixed

I had to completely disassemble the keyboard, but the whole job - dissassembly and reassembly only took two hours. The problem was as I thought, the spring assembly for the U key wasn't moving freely, there was a bit of plastic scurf blocking it. 

When I tested it, the right hand ctrl key didn't work, but I don't use that key, I always use the left hand ctrl key. Because it's either ctrl-c or ctrl-v. So am I bovvered?

But after fiddling with it for a bit, I think I got it working. Anyway, job done. And this was the keyboard that I thought was most likely to be unfixable!

Now the fourth ...

I also paid a routine visit to Amersham hospital, to have an INR test. My INR was 2.4, and the ideal range is 2.5 to 3.2. It has been wobbling about a bit, and they've been chasing it around. So now instead of 6.5 mg per day, I'm on 6.5 per day and 7 on weekends. Which is 6.64, a whole 0.14 milligrams more than before, a 2% change.

While I was there, I toddled over to the blood test clinic, this is part of the investigation into why my liver ALS is so high. It isn't booze; most weeks I have none, some weeks I might have a bottle of beer.

They saw me immediately, took a couple of vials of blood out of my arm, gave me a bit of cotton wool, and I was done.

So I visited the bookshop on my way out, and treated myself to four books, while at the same time helping the scanner fund.

Then, fours hours later, I went back for my ultrasound scan. I lay on my back while a nice nurse tickled me and eventually told me that she'd found nothing of interest. So I bought four more books. This is why paper books are better than e-books. I can buy second-hand paper books.




Friday, 15 October 2021

Day 578 of self-isolation - Keyboard three reassembled

Keyboard three reassembled

I've learned a bit more - don't bother with replacing the rivets at the front edge. Also - note which places on the keyholder, don't have a buckling spring assembly; mark with a red cross, otherwise you won't know which ones to leave empty when you reassemble.

So, I reassembled the keyboard and tested it. It worked ... except for the letter U. Clearly, I can't use a keyboard that is missing the U, although I can create a U using the alt key and the numeric keypad, but that's  clumsy.

I think the problem would be that during the reassembly, I didn't get that bucking spring assembly right. So, I'll have to dismantle the keyboard and try again

The original problem that this keyboard had, is solved. I think it was the mess on the plastic sheets

It'll be much easier second time around - no chiselling or drilling required, and no washing. Also, I've been gradually collecting tools to make the job easier. Plus, practice makes things easier.

I'll use "showkey -k" to test the keys. Also the grey + key on my main workstation keyboard wasn't working. I took off the keycap, and prodded the bucking spring assembly with a plastic prodder, replaced the keycap, and now it's working!



Thursday, 14 October 2021

Day 577 of self-isolation - Keyboard three, 13:11

Keyboard three

With the recent experience of fixing keyboard 1 and 2, I turned my attention to keyboard three. The problem there is that all the keys work, but some of them add extra characters, such as a #. I can't imagine what could be causing this, but let's have a look inside.

I took off the outer beige shell, took off the keycaps (and put them to soak in water with a bit of detergent - some of them were very dirty) then turned it over. I balanced the assembly on two dead hard drives to keep it steady, then selected one of my new chisels (1/2 inch) and a mallet. It turns out that this is a MUCH easier way to cut the heads off the plastic rivets than the way I did it before. So I was soon able to separate the black plastic keyholder from the steel backplate.

The plastic sheets holding the traces were really dirty; I scrubbed them with a soft brush and some detergent, and left them to dry. When they were dry, I checked all the contacts for continuity, and they worked fine - no silver paste needed.

Then I started drilling. I'm using the Dremel now, and it's much better than the big drill in the stand. I got a chuck from eBay that lets me put small drills on the Dremel. The drill got clogged up with plastic every few holes; I scraped it off with a Stanley knife.

A 1/16 drill bit from the Dremel, then I'm using a 3/32 bit in an electric screwdriver to widen the hole slightly, so that the bolt goes in more easily.  I've drilled all the 57 holes, and checked that the bolt and nut will work.

All the keycaps are clean now, and I'm leaving them out to dry.

The steel backplate was rusty in places, so I wire brushed it until it was clean with the Dremel.  And some rust had leaked into the plastic sheets, and maybe that's the cause of the problem? At some point, this keyboard must have had water inside. We'll see after I do the reassembly.

And I'm down to 13:11; BMI = 27




Wednesday, 13 October 2021

Day 576 of self-isolation - Keyboard fixed!

Keyboard fixed!

The model M IBM keyboard that I've been working on, is fixed. I tightened all the nuts and bolts, reassembled the keyboard, and plugged it into a computer. I checked all the keys and they all work!

I have learned a lot about how to do this repair. I have three more keyboards that need attention.

So, in summary. Remove the outer white plastic shell, and remove all the keycaps. Then use a chisel or a grinder to cut the heads of the plastic rivets,and pull the keyboard apart, separating the black plastic keyholder from the steel backplate. Remove the four sheets inside.

Remove the buckling springs. Now all the bucking springs, and all the key caps, can be cleaned, in a dilute solution of detergent. All you need to do is soak them.

Use a 1/16 drill to drill from the holes in the steel backplate though the black plastic keyholder. Then line up these two, and see if you can probe from front to back with a fine screwdriver or similar. At that point, I think it's a good idea to enlarge the hole to 1/8 using a slow drill, and at the same time, improve the lineup of the holes in the steel and the black plastic. Eventually, is should be possible to bolt the two together with all the bolts - but it might be necessary to do a bit more drilling to get the lineups right.

Test the two plastic sheets with traces, to ensure connectivity between the thing that plugs into the electronics, and all the places on the sheet that is should connect to. I would expect something like 25 to 50 ohms resistance, but 90 ohms is OK. If there is a break, repair it with silver or graphite paste (silver is better, but graphite is cheaper). When the paste is dry, check it again (the paste isn't conductive until it is thoroughly dry).

When everything is properly dry, reassembly can start. First you put the bucking spring assemblies into place, then you put the plastic sheets over that, then the rubber sheet, then the steel backplate. You'll need to do all that without inverting what you're working on, because if you do, the buckling spring assemblies come loose, you won't realise it, and the keyboard won't work when it's reassembled. I found that a useful test is to wiggle the keyboard slightly, and check that the springs also wobble.

So doing up the first few screws is difficult, because you're working upside down, but after you have a few in place, you can turn it over and work from there.

I'm using phillips head bolts. And although everyone says you need washers, I found that if you tried to use a washer, then the bolts wouldn't be long enough to reach the nut. At the front of the keyboard, you don't want a length of bolt sticking out, because that will stop you from putting the keyboard assembly into the white plastic back. 

If the space bar, or one of the other big keys goes down by doesn't come up again, a touch of oil can help. And then I say a touch, I mean a lot less than a drop. I put a drop on a piece of plastic, then use a fine screwdriver to pick up a touch of oil and put it where needed.

My second faulty keyboard, is just a bit hesitant on the space bar. Now that I've seen inside the first keyboard, I don't think dismantling it is the way to go. So I took out the space bar, and put a touch of oil in the right places, and now it's a bit better.

So - on to the third faulty keyboard ...




Tuesday, 12 October 2021

Day 575 of self-isolation - Keyboard - second try

Keyboard - second try

I removed most of the keycaps so that I could see the bolt heads, then I removed the nuts holding the keyboard together. It was a mistake not to remove all the keycaps, because the keycaps that were in place, made the buckling spring parts come out of their places.

I tested the traces for continuity again, and they were all fine. So I thnk that the problem had been that the buckling spring parts hadn't been seated properly.

I reassembled the layers of the keyboard, but soon found that some of the buckling spring parts had come out of their seatings. So I took it apart again, reseated the buckling spring parts and, without turning the keyboard over, reassembled the layers and put in some of the nuts and bolts.

I think that the test to do then, is to turn the keyboard over so that the buckling spring parts are uppermost, and then shake it slightly to check that they all move freely.

So I put in all the bolts and nuts. The next thing, tomorrow, will be to tighten up all the nuts (I've just bought a 4mm spanner from Hobbyking) and see if everything works.

Here are pictures of the traces. As you can see, the wide connector connects to lines of traces that go up and down, while the narrow connector connects to lines that go from side to side. 

Pressing a key, should bring one of the white blobs in the upper picture, into contact with one of the white blobs in the lower picture. The connectors go to a small electronics board, and that knows (by seeing which connectors are connected via the keypress) which key has been pressed, and it translates tat to a scan code that it sends to the computer. Very clever.

You can see in the lower picture where I painted conductive graphite to repair three breaks in the lines. I think those breaks were caused by the water spill that started this whole repair job off.

The egg whisk that you see in the top right hand corner of the picture. is actually the key puller, and it does that job splendidly.








Monday, 11 October 2021

Day 574 of self-isolation - Jaunt to London

Jaunt to London

Another trip to London. On the way there, we noticed that each of the petrol stations we passed had a few people filling up and no queues. And in the evening, we saw a tanker filling up a forecourt.

So the petrol crisis looks to be over.

 

 


Sunday, 10 October 2021

Day 573 of self-isolation - Thirteen stone, twelve pounds

Thirteen stone, twelve pounds

Yes, another pound less. 194 pounds, 88 kilograms. Still going down.

Also, on the keyboard. I tried tightening up the nuts and bolts that hold it together. I didn't think it would work, but there was the possibility that it would, and it was an easier thing to try than to dismantle and look at the insides.

It didn't work.

So, the next step will be to undo those 57 nuts and see if I can work out why those keys aren't working.




Saturday, 9 October 2021

Day 572 of self-isolation - Testing the Model M

Testing the Model M

So it's assembled - now to test it. I started up a small computer, checked that a keyboard worked, then replaced that with the model M. I typed a few keys, and they worked! I checked the v, b and space bar, and they all worked. Those were the keys that were failing before. So my repair of the conductive traces using graphite, worked.

Then I did a systematic test of all the keys. The q, w and several others on that row and the row above, didn't work. And a number of keys in the same rows, needed a very hard press to work.

So I'm thinking that the problem is with the plastic carrying the horizontal traces, and I'm going to have to open up the keyboard again to find out what the problem is. This will be a lot easier than my previous efforts, because all I have to do is undo 57 nuts - I shouldn't need to do any drilling. And I'm hoping that I won't need to remove the keycaps.

 



Friday, 8 October 2021

Day 571 of self-isolation - Assembly finished

Assembly finished

The bolts that I used at the front of the board are too long, they stop the board from sliding under the plastic retainers at the front. So I shortened the bolts by adding two nuts at the head of the bolt.

The other thing I've learned is, to drill with the 1/16 bit to make the hole, but then enlarge is with a 1/8 bit, and make sure that the bolt goes right through and is in line. If it isn't, coax the hole a little with the drill.

I put all the nuts and bolts in, connected up the electronic key decoder and the LEDs, and screwed the plastic back and front pieces. Then I added the keycaps without legends; I discovered the hard way that the slight extra spacing in the keycap goes at the front. 

Then I added the keycaps with the letters, numbers etc - that was fairly easy.

But on testing, I found that the space bar and the backspace didn't work - and those are vital. After some experimentation and messing around, I found that a tidge of lubrication was what they needed. Now all the keys feel like they work.

But I haven't tested it yet ... I'll do that tomorrow.

 



Thursday, 7 October 2021

Day 570 of self-isolation - Model M reassembly

Model M reassembly

I've put all the buckling springs back in place - there are four places that are empty, but I marked those when I took it apart. Then I laid the various plastic layers down, in the correct order. And then I started bolting the black plastic keyframe to the metal back plane.

I'm hoping that the carbon paste will give a low enough resistance for the keys to all work, but if it isn't good enough, the silver paste has just arrived; I can wash off the carbon and try the silver instead. I got 93 ohms using the black carbon, and the other ones that were unbroken are about 36 ohms. So I'm hoping that a current that's a third of the normal level will be good enough.

I've installed about a dozen nuts and bolts out of the 57 total. I'll do more tomorrow, but I think I've done the most difficult part now.

Also, I've done my quarterly VAT MOSS return via the Irish tax web site, and paid the tax.




Tuesday, 5 October 2021

Day 568 of self-isolation - The Machine Stops

The Machine Stops

Suddenly, I wasn't getting access to Facebook. No browser access, and I couldn't even ping it. What happened? So I looked into it.

First of all, it isn't just me. The internet has lit up with people reporting Facebook, Whatsapp, Instagram being down. This started at about 4:45 BST, October 4th. It's a worldwide issue.

I did a "whois". This reveals that Facebook's domain registrar is registrarsafe.com. And that's also down.

Twitter is up, and that's full of reports that Facebook is down.

I would imagine that the system admins at Facebook are running around like headless chickens, but unable to do anything because the problem is at  registrarsafe.com - which is a wholly owned subsidiary of Facebook.

Somewhere there is a domain name server that should be translating "facebook,com" into an IP address, and it isn't working.

So if you're relying on "the cloud" for anything important, you should always remember this. You are relying on Someone Else's Computer.


... update ... so far it's been six hours and counting. ALL of Facebook, Whatsapp and Instagram users are cut off from these services. Six hours means that it's a major problem. Even a total hardware failure shouldn't last for more than an hour.

If I were the Facebook Network admin, I would not have set it up this way. Facebook etc, have a single point of failure. They have one DNS service, registrarsafe.com. When this is all over, I expect to see a pile of skulls outside Facebook's offices.


... update ... 10:45 and I can access Facebook, but it's very slow. And a lot of it isn't working yet.





Monday, 4 October 2021

Day 567 of self-isolation - Fourteen stones

Fourteen stones

That's 196 pounds,  89 kilograms. My BMI is 27.3; "overweight" is 25-30, so I'm still overweight, but a good distance from "obese".

My back feels great, although I'm going to be extra careful about lifting heavy things. I think I just pulled a muscle, rather than slipped a disc, although the pain was very bad. I can run upstairs two at a time, so my knees are great. And the feet work well. The only issues that I have now is my right index finger, which is still a bit dodgy, and my left eye which has a cornea problem. My left eye vision is a lot worse than my right eye. Part of that is blurring, part of that is that less light passes through. Eventually, this could need a replacement, which I can probably get on the NHS.

I don't think I've had Covid (although I spent a few hours in a car nxt to an infected person) but I have had two Pfizer vaccinations, and I'll be getting a booster (and a flu shot).

One symptom that I do get, is that I find myself struggling to remember a word - a word I know well. It comes to me eventually, and it's possible that I always had the problem but now I'm noticing it more.

 



Sunday, 3 October 2021

Day 566 of self-isolation - Model M drilling done

Model M drilling done

I've finished the drilling, and it turns out that there are not 87 holes to drill, it's 57. For which I am grateful, because each hole was a performance. I can't hold the workpiece in a jig, so I can't accurately position the hole. Each hole needed extra drilling with a 1/8 inch handheld drill.

It didn't help when my 1/16 bit broke; that happened because the drill battery was getting exhausted and the drill was spinning too slowly. Another lesson learned.

So then I tested the continuity of the conductors that the keys strike, and I found a couple of places where the continuity was interrupted, and that's consistent with the keys that aren't working on that keyboard. Looking at this, I can't see the problem, but the multimeter doesn't lie. So I'm using electrically conductive paint to fix the problem. 

The first paint I tried was graphite-based, but the conductivity doesn't seem good enough, so I've ordered some silver-based paint.

 




Saturday, 2 October 2021

Day 565 of self-isolation - Model M more drilling

Model M more drilling

It's a routine now. I drill ten or so holes through the steel backplate into the black plastic. I can't drill from the black plastic side because I can't see where to drill. So  I drill a 1/16 hole, then I can see where it goes. Then I use a 1/8 handheld drill to widen the hole slightly, so I can insert the bolt and add the nut.

For a few of them, I have to grind some plastic out of the way, or the bolt won't go in straight.

Out of the original 87, I have 21 left to do.




Friday, 1 October 2021

Day 564 of self-isolation - Model M part 2, drilling

Model M part 2, drilling

Drilling. The drill is set up in the stand, and I'm ready to go. I need one hand to hold the backplate, one hand to hold the drill trigger, and one hand to pull the lever that lowers the drill bit. Unfortunately, evolution didn't give me three hands. Fortunately, evolution gave me a brain.

I used an adjustable clamp to hold the trigger down and keep the drill spinning, so I was able to make do with two hands. There are 87 holes to drill, and it takes a surprising length of time to drill and install the nut and bolt. So far, I've done 17 of them, but it's been a learning process, and it'll be faster tomorrow.

The buckling springs are clean and dry. And the keycaps are clean and drying. All the layers from inside the keyboard are clean and dry.




 

Thursday, 30 September 2021

Day 563 of self-isolation - Tackling the Model M

Tackling the Model M 

I gave one last test to the keyboard, but b, n, / and space were still not working. How did it get that way? I spelled an entire glass of water on it.

Clearly, waiting for it to dry out, hadn't worked. Time to do a bolt mod.

I already got the nuts and bolts, and taking the outer case off was easy, I already had the right nut driver. The big thing now, was to remove the plastic rivets that holds it together. That gives me access to the innards of the keyboard, so I can see what's wrong and hopefully fix it.

Getting those rivets off was very difficult. I couldn't find my wood chisels, so I tried using a combination of a Stanley knife and a Dremel. That was still difficult, but I got there eventually.

I took off all the keycaps, and I've left them to soak in detergent, likewise the springs. The keyframe was filthy with brown stuff, so I soaked it and brushed it, soaked it and brushed it, and now that's clean. I checked and cleaned the four layers of membrane, and I've left that to dry. 

At this point I'm stymied, because my Dremel won't hold the 1/16 inch drill (I've ordered a chuck) and my big power drill (which will hold that drill) is out on loan, so I've recalled it.




Wednesday, 29 September 2021

Day 562 of self-isolation - Fourteen stone one pound

Fourteen stone one pound

I think I'm losing weight too fast. I'm also slightly constipated. I'm going to drink more. And I've signed up for a flu shot.




Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Day 561 of self-isolation - New keyboard

New keyboard

My new keyboard , made by Unicomp, arrived. I ordered the wrong one, a US layout, but they kindly offered to swap it for a UK layout. It has a USB connector, because I foresee a time when that the old PS/2 option won't be available on computers.

I've been trying to fix a server vick0; it's been crashing every few days. I tested the memory, that's OK. I tested the WD 160 gb hard drive, and that was OK. But I'm replacing the drive anyway, and we'll see if that fixes it. If that doesn't work, I swap the PSU.



Monday, 27 September 2021

Day 560 of self-isolation - Surge pricing

Surge pricing

I've been hearing a lot of ideas for handling the petrol shortage. And it is a shortage - telling me that there's plenty of petrol but not where I can buy it doesn't help.

So here's drsolly's solution to the problem. Surge pricing. A big tax rise, temporarily. The price per litre goes from £1.38 to £2.00, and the tax will go back down as soon as there's ample petrol in the stations. The additional revenue will always be useful - for example, it can go towards paying back the huge loans we made to handle the pandemic.

Drivers with half a tank of petrol will think, hmm, I could top up at £2.00 per litre, or wait a week and see what happens. Right now - there's no downside to topping up a half full tank.

And the long term solution to the HGV driver shortage is also easy. Pay them more.

 



Sunday, 26 September 2021

Day 559 of self-isolation - Petrol shortage

Petrol shortage

It turns out that you need a lot of HGV drivers to run the UK economy.  It turns out that if you tell non-British drivers that they aren't welcome here, then they leave. It turns out that when you make importing and exporting subject to much red tape at the borders, then driver time is taken up with paperwork when they culd be driving.

It turns out that this leads to shortages. Who knew? Chicken, vials, supermarket shelves and now ... petrol.

There isn't actually a petrol shortage, there's a shortage of HGV drivers to truck the petrol to petrol stations. As far as I'm concerned, that's a difference without a difference. 

So when the possibility of petrol shortages became clear, a lot of people rushed to fill their tanks - which caused a real shortage. Bojo saying "Don't panic" led to, obviously, panic - who would have thought otherwise?

We're going down to London tomorrow by car (we don't want to travel on the train because of Covid). We have a full tank, filled a couple of weeks ago, we don't travel much. 

If it gets really bad, I have my electric bike.

 



Saturday, 25 September 2021

Day 558 of self-isolation - 14-2

14-2

Yes, down again. Ladysolly remarked on  how slim I'm looking. And my back is feeling a lot better.

And each time I drop a pound, I celebrate with a bottle of beer.

Incentive!

 



Friday, 24 September 2021

Day 557 of self-isolation - Busy week

Busy week

Tuesday I got called by the Anticoagulant clinic, about the possibility of me going onto a more modern system than Warfarin.  It turns out, my ALT liver enzyme is too high, so I stay on Warfarin, plus I have to see my GP about my liver.

Wednesday I had a blood test. My blood was too thin, so I have to reduce my Warfarin dose.

Thursday I had a dental checkup, the first for a very long time (because of Covid). Everything was OK.

My back is feeling a lot better; a trip to London is imminent.

 



Thursday, 23 September 2021

Day 556 of self-isolation - 14-3 and electricity

14-3 and electricity

 As mentioned in my previous blog, I am now under 200 pounds.

Electricity doesn't grow on trees. In the UK, a quarter of it is blown on the wind, but wind has been a bit low in the last few months. And a lot comes from gas-fired generators, but the wholesale price of gas has gone through the roof.

There's a price cap; it stops energy providers charging whatever they want.

The cap is reviewed every six months and from 1 October, another 12 per cent increase will come into effect. But wholesale electricity prices have gone from 53 to 83 (£ per Mwh) in the last several months, and a puny 12% rise isn't enough. 

The electricity companies are being squeezed between the anvil of the price cap and the hammer of rising prices. Some of them will go bankrupt.

I'm not surprised. A long long time ago, I looked at the likely effect of an attempt to stabilise the price of wool. My conclusion was that it would work well as long as there wasn't any major mismatch between supply and demand, and then it would fail catastrophically. I was right; as I remember, it failed in 1985. I came to this conclusion after looking at price stabilisation schemes for other commodities - they had all failed.

If the existing system stays in place, the next review will be in April, and if prices stay high, the cap will have to be raised substantially, and that will be very unpopular. No-one likes a higher price - except the supplier.

It will all end in tears.




Wednesday, 22 September 2021

Day 555 of self-isolation - Things fall apart

Things fall apart

Should I blame Brexit, or Covid, or an incompetent government?

The first consequence is that gas providers are caught in a squeeze. They offered fixed price contracts, but they werent expecting gas prices to go up sixfold. Four energy firms have gone under, and four more are likely to follow.

The second consequence of soaring gas prices, is that fertiliser manufacturers have closed down, at least temporarily. But that has led to a shortage of CO2, a by product, and that impacts the food industry. 

And my weight is down to fourteen stone three pounds

 



Tuesday, 21 September 2021

Day 554 of self-isolation - No soap

No soap

We usually buy Le Serail Olive Oil Marseille Liquid Soap because ladysolly says it's kinder on her hands. But they're out of stock and "coming soon" could mean anything.

We buy from them, because they're based in the UK, and have always been no hassle. But we can't buy from them if they have none to sell.

So I went to the people in France who make it. They only deliver to France, Belgium, Germany, Spain and Italy. Another Brexit dividend.

So I bought another brand, from Amazon. Also, it's two pounds cheaper. And it's probably indistinguishable from what we used to buy, and it'll probably be what we buy in future.

I notice that you can also get donkey milk soap. I suspect this is down to Cleopatra.

The good news is that my back feels a LOT better today.



Monday, 20 September 2021

Day 553 of self-isolation - Carbon dioxide shortage

Carbon dioxide shortage

Gas prices went up, so two fertilizer plants closed. CO2 is a by-product of those factories, so we have a CO2 shortage.

CO2 is used in food preservation and processing. Without CO2, we're going to have a meat, bread, cheese and salad shortage. 

Christmas is coming, and the goose is getting fat. But we can't handle the poultry. Christmas might be a bit sparse this year.

No problem! We can import CO2 from Europe ... no, wait, we left the EU.

Our oven-ready government is divided between 1) there is not problem, and 2) this isn't a government problem. Businesses should find a solution. For example, they could import CO2 from Europe ... no, wait, we left the EU.

The whole climate change thing, is down to too much O2 in the atmosphere. So surely there are other places where CO2 is a by-product? Such as cement works, fossil fuel power stations?

 


 

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Day 552 of self-isolation - Boosters

Boosters

Next week (or soon after), me, ladysolly and millions of others, will get Covid booster jabs. This is to reduce the impact of Covid over the winter months. We'll also be getting our flu jabs.

 



Saturday, 18 September 2021

Day 551 of self-isolation - Imperial is back!

Imperial is back!

When I was a lad at school, units were, pounds, feet and seconds. And gallons, rods (my allotment was ten rods) and pints. That's the 20 ounce UK pint, not the flimsy 16 ounce American pint). Inches and (my personal favourite ) horsepower. Pounds, shillings and pence; also half crowns and the thrupenny bit, farthings and ha'pence. Bushels, tuns and acres, gills, quarts and pecks. We had so much fun memorising all these and the conversions between them. And doing financial arithmetic - adding two amounts of pounds, shillings and pence (and farthings).  I loved it all.

Then, suddenly, everything went metric. For me, that was in 1965. Centimeters, grams and seconds. Then we went metric again, meters, kilograms and seconds. Those two conflicting metric systems have been playing hob with my brain ever since.

And then, in 1856, we signed an agreement to move to metric, and only 19 years later, metric measures were lawful in the UK. No, wait, I seem to be going backwards.

Today, we're metric. Centigrade instead of Fahrenheit, eggs in dozens, national speed limit 70 miles per hour. Beer in pints instead of 0.568 liters. 

Let confusion reign.

What is even worse than a system of units that has no rhyme nor reason? Two systems of units, incompatible with each other.

I was out geocaching with my friend Jeff Bones, and as we walked along, we were having one of those pointless arguments that one has to pass the time. This was about metric and imperial. He had his GPS set to feet and miles, mine was set to meters and kilometers, and he was arguing that feet and miles were more natural units. I argued that meters and kilometers, were easier. "So, OK Jeff, answer me this. How many meters in a kilometer?" and of course he knew that it was 1000. "And how many feet in a mile?" He had to guess three times before he got it right.

The proposal to bring back imperial units, is one of the most stupid that our half-baked government has so far proposed. A generation of children will have to be taught feet, inches and yards, and stones, pounds and ounces. And how to convert between them. And the time spent teaching them this idiotic stuff, is time that won't be spent teaching them how vaccines work, and why you shouldn't trust emails arriving on your computer, and Newton's laws, and how to evaluate a claim made by someone.

This is a very silly idea, but, of course, it will be dropped as soon as they realise that NO-ONE CARES.

And the sooner that road signs and the speed limits go metric, the better.





Friday, 17 September 2021

Day 550 of self-isolation - Sir Clive Sinclair

Sir Clive Sinclair

Died aged 81.

He had many achievements, including the ZX80 and ZX81, but his most significant computer was the Sinclair Spectrum. I had one, in the early 80s, and it was great fun, and it led me to the IBM PC. I also had a Z88 (I still have that). A brilliant portable computer with an 8 line by 80 character screen, and a built-in word processor and spreadsheet.

He also made an electric bike (the Zike) which was a commercial failure. And an add-on for an ordinary bike that powered the rear wheel with a friction drive. And the C5, which looked like a little car, but was actually a recumbent electric bicycle, and was another commercial flop.

The Spectrum is still alive, via emulators and keen collectors and can be bought on eBay.

I was given a Spectrum by a friend, who thought I could make more use of it than he did. He was right - I dived enthusiastically into the bits and bytes, and found a friend, Mike, who was a fellow enthusiast, and we'd meet for lunch and talk about what we were doing.

One day, Mike told me that he had something even better in his office, and we went there so he could show me. It was an IBM PC running Lotus 123, and he'd set up a complicated model of something, and he showed me how if he changed this or that, the consequences could be seen. As his hands flew over the keyboard, I realised that my friend Mike, who was in no way a programmer, had written a program as a 123 spreadsheet. And I had a blinding flash of inspiration. Everyone would want one of these, because it meant liberation from the "computer department" who usually say "Yes, we can do that, but you have to write a specification for us to follow, we can't start it for the next six months, and it'll take us another six months to complete".

So  I knew that I had to get one. Because the Mikes of this world were going to need support, and they wouldn't get it from the computer departments, who actually loathed micro computers (one of them said to me "if everyone has one of these, they won't need us").

And that's how I became the IBM PC guru of the UK.

 



Thursday, 16 September 2021

Day 549 of self-isolation - 200

200

Today I weighed in at 14 stone, 4 pounds, which is the glorious milestone of 200 pounds.

I started about 18 months ago at around 250, so I've shed about a fifth. 50 pounds is what one of my electric bicycles weighs, so I'd been dragging that around with me everywhere.

I wish I could say that I feel bouncy and light, but the back problem hasn't gone away yet, although it is improving slowly. But before the back problem developed, I was fine at running up stairs two at a time - now I can barely stagger one by one.

But the back is improving, and I'm optimistic about the future, both in terms of back pain and weight loss.


 


Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Day 548 of self-isolation - The few

Never was so much owed by so many to so few
 
Today is the 81st anniversary of the Battle of Britain, where Britain stood alone against the Nazi aggressors, and defeated them in the skies over our islands, using a well-organised system of defence with the newly-invented radar at the front line.
 
Today we are fighting a different battle - against Covid-19.

And we have a well-organised system of defence with the newly-invented weapon against the enemy - the vaccine.
 
On May 10, 1940 Churchill said “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”
 
That wasn't quite right. We had radar, and the RAF. He also said "You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be; for without victory, there is no survival."
 
Strangely, in America many of them don't want to take the vaccine. They'd rather take a horse deworming medicine. Americans, eh? But Americans are wll known for trying all the wrong things first.


 

Tuesday, 14 September 2021

Day 547 of self-isolation - Jabs for teens

Jabs for teens

The UK's chief medical officers say that children aged 12 to 15 should get a dose of Covid vaccine. This is good, and brings us into line with what many other countries are doing.

But ministers still need to make a decision. When they do, it'll be the Pfizer vaccine, probably administered at schools.

I had myocarditis myself, a long time ago. It manifested as an intense pain  in my left elbow; which means "heart problem". So the whisked me off to hospital in case it was somethnig really bad, and I lay there for a week, reading books. Myocarditis is an inflammation of the linig of your heart. 

It went away without any treatment, and I was released, but for several weeks there was a huge gap between what I thought I ought to be able to do (for example, walk half a mile), and what I could actually do. I don't think there were any long term effects, except now I know what a heart attack might feel like.



Monday, 13 September 2021

Day 546 of self-isolation - No trip to London

No trip to London

Not today - my back is still knotted up. And because of that, I'm getting waitress service - it's really painful for me to stagger downstairs.

Maybe next Sunday.





Sunday, 12 September 2021

Day 545 of self-isolation - Awfulness in America

Awfulness in America

In America, the daily death toll has reached over 2000 in one day. But the truth is, because of the strange reporting system in Florida (and other states, as explained in this blog recently), the true number is at least 500 more.

How do we know this?

Because every day, the number of new deaths that day is reported, but the total number of deaths increases by several hundred more than the number of new deaths. This is because previous days figures are being revised upwards, by several hundred. It makes a data analyst want to scream.

So, for example, Florida is reporting zero deaths for Thursday and Friday, which looks very good when you're assessing the state of the pandemic. But death does not take a holiday, and the coffins are still being filled. The difference that their way of reporting makes, is that we don't know how many coffins are filled until a week or two later.

It's almost as if the politicians of Florida are in the side of the virus, but don't want people to know how bad things are.

America is also tearing itself apart over the concept of mandatory vaccines. Actually, vaccines have been mandatory for many people for a very long time. You can't send a child to public school, unless they've had all their shots.

And part of America has turned from malaria medicine (Hydroxychloroquine) to horse dewormer (Ivermectin), in a desperate attempt to avoid taking one of the vaccines that has been tried, tested and fully approved by the FDA, and is proven to provide a major boost to the immune system in its fight against Covid. Nearly all the people in the Covid wards in American hospitals are unvaccinated. 

How did this happen? The roots of this disaster are in an educational system that has failed, a healthcare system that has failed and a large population of faith-based wishful thinkers.

Churchill said "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing - after they've tried everything else." But there's lots of half-baked folk remedies that they can try.

 And it's not clear that they will eventually do the right thing.

 



Saturday, 11 September 2021

Day 544 of self-isolation - NS&I

NS&I

I tried to change a NS&I fixed interest bond so that it would be cashed in at the end of the period. The default is to roll it on, but the interest rate is a desultory 0.5%, which is ridiculous.

So I logged in to the web site and tried to change the maturity option, but it wouldn't let me. This was on September 1, 9 days before maturity. So I phoned them on 08085 007 007. They told me that I couldn't change anything because there was a security lock on the account, which is applied when there isn't much activity on the account. 

Well, it's a long term savings account, so there wouldn't be much activity.  And then they removed the security block.

But I still couldn't make the change to the maturity options. So I phoned them again.

This went on and on until the 7th of September, at which point I still couldn't make the change, and so I raised a formal complaint.

It turned out that when they put it all online, they made some mistake with that account.

So on the 8th. they phoned me, but the call was from a number I didn't recognise, and the call got dropped. And by the time I called them again, it was 16:10 and the relevant caller had gone home.

I called again on the ninth. Still no luck.

On the tenth, I got lucky. I was able to speak to the right person, and he told me that the bond has matured, and cashed in, with the money going to my bank account.

He also told me that my complaint had been upheld, and I've been given £50 in compensation.

Which goes to show, when a major organisation makes a major blunder, it's worth making a formal complaint.

And my back is still giving me major grief.

 



Friday, 10 September 2021

Day 543 of self-isolation - Back again

Back again

It's slightly better, but it's still painful. But not as painful as the situation in Idaho, where hospitals have started using a triage system. If you're too ill to be likely to benefit from intensive hospital care, they'll just put you in a conference room until you die.

And that's why we've been so concerned over the last 18 months, about overwhelming our hospital system here.




Thursday, 9 September 2021

Day 542 of self-isolation - More back

More back

I'm still getting a lot of pain from my back, and I'm using a walking stick, which helps slightly.

Today I went for my routine blood test. It hurt to go downstairs, it hurt to get into the car, it hurt to get out of the car, it hurt to walk to the blood test room - you get the idea. I'm hoping that when I go to sleep tonight, I'll wake up feeling a lot better. I'm fed up with staggering around.

It feels a lot like it did when I broke my ribs, which is actually helpful, because all the pain management tricks I learned then, are useful. For example, it hurts to stand up using my back to get upright, but it hurts a lot less if I first get my feet directly under my center of gravity,and then lift with my legs, using the stick for balance.

And I do have to get up now and then just to walk around, otherwise the whole back seizes up and it's agony to stand.

Mustn't grumble.

 



Wednesday, 8 September 2021

Day 541 of self-isolation - Ow, me back

Ow, me back

My back hurts, owing to lifting too much heavy shopping. That bottled water is really heavy, and I think I lifted it carelessly.

My nuts and bolts for the Model M keyboard conversion haven't arrived yet.

 


Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Day 540 of self-isolation - Brexit blues

Brexit blues

We've wrecked our fishing industry. Who could have guessed that when we left the EU, we would no longer be part of the EU and be unable to enjoy the benefits of belonging?

Farming's got a similar problem. For example, the Brexit butcher shortage means that 100,000 pigs could be destroyed. Who could have guessed that telling foreigners to go home, would lead to a shortage of workers?

But the worst problem is HGV drivers. Imports and exports take longer, and we told a lot of EU truckers to truck off.

But wait! There's more. Brexit rules change in October, and UK and EU bodies were not ready for new paperwork needed next month. The new rules mean lorry drivers importing goods will need some 700 pages of documents.

Maybe the ration books will be blue.

 


 

Monday, 6 September 2021

Day 539 of self-isolation - Reubens

Reubens

On Sunday, we went down to London toe visit the family. And as a special treat, we ordered takeaway from Reubens, the only kosher restaurant in the West End.

I had Chicken soup with Kneidlach, a salt beef sandwich, two latkes and apfelstrudel for dessert. Yum!

But it took a long time to arrive, and only the soup was still hot.

 



Sunday, 5 September 2021

Day 538 of self-isolation - 14 stone 5 pounds

14 stone 5 pounds

BMI is weight in kilograms (91) divided by height in meters (1.80) squared. That puts me on 28.

Weight loss in continuing. Where will it end? According to the tables, when I reach 12 stone 4 pounds, I will be at the top end of "Normal weight". Right now, I'm at the top end of "Overwight", but at least I'm no longer "obese".

 



Saturday, 4 September 2021

Day 537 of self-isolation - The "Weekend" effect

The "Weekend" effect

We've known for a long time that there seems to be fewer deaths from Covid over the weekend, and we also know that this isn't because diseases takes a holiday.

But now we have clear data about the cause of the weekend effect. Two thirds of US states, don't make a report over the weekend.

This shows us how important it is to delve into the sources of statistics, and to understand how they are generated. So Florida, a heavy contributor to USA deaths, seems to only report deaths on a Friday. California, on the other hand, reports daily, including Saturday and Sunday.

 


 

Friday, 3 September 2021

Day 536 of self-isolation - Fake Florida numbers

Fake Florida numbers

According to the numbers from Florida, there were ten deaths from Covid yesterday, zero the day before. This is down from 200, two weeks ago. These are non-comparable statistics (the polite work for fake).

Until recently, Florida counted deaths by the date they were recorded. That's what most people do.

But now, they count deaths by the date that the person died.

The problem is that it takes time to process death certificates. The effect will be that from now on, the numbers will always appear to be on a strong downward trend. But then, some days later, the numbers of a few days ago will be revised upwards, and we'll realise that there wasn't that strong downward trend. But then, the more up to date numbers will again give the false illusion of a strong downward trend.

This doesn't change the number of deaths in Florida in total, but it does paint a rosy picture for the last several days. So, although the number now for August 28 is 14, that number will be revised upwards (I'd guess by a hundred or so) in the next week or so.

So from now on, Florida is going to look as if things are hugely improving ... even though the revised final figures available a week later, will show that this isn't right.

This has also affected the USA total death statistics, and is the reason why  each day, an additional 500 deaths are reported that weren't included in the previous day's numbers. So, for example, yesterday, USA deaths were reported as 1480. But the total deaths in the USA increased by 2017. Those additional 537 deaths, are deaths that are newly added to prevoious days.

The purpose of gathering statistics, is to guide policy. A statistical method that gives the appearance of a dramatic drop in deaths, where actually the fact is that the death rates continue very high, is going to mislead policy makers, and lead to policies that do not properly address the issue of the pandemic.

Most people aren't going to know that this is happening. Many people, even knowing that there has been a change in the definitions, will accept the false narrative of a sharp decline in deaths. There are very few people who are used to looking at statistics, noticing an anomaly, and discovering the reason for the anomaly.

For example. Yesterday, Florida was showing 10 deaths for September 1.  Now it's showing 48 for September 1. And this number will increase over the next week or so, as more and more September 1 deaths are recorded.

Let's put this bluntly. Florida is faking their statistics, giving an illusion that the pandemic deaths have ended. Faking the numbers is not a good basis for setting policy.


 


Thursday, 2 September 2021

Day 535 of self-isolation - Ivermectin

 Ivermectin

From the start of this pandemic, some people have been desperate to pretend that there's an easy, cheap answer.

They're right, of course - the easy cheap answer is to get vaccinated, with one of the tested and approved vaccines. But some people (and I don't understand why) refuse the easy answer, and are looking for something else.

It started with Hydroxychloroquine (HCQ). Donald Trump needed something so he could claim there was a fix for the pandemic. HCQ could kill the virus in a glass bowl - but it wasn't effective in people. That lasted for a few months, but then we saw all the studies that showed that it wasn't a useful remedy. The next attempt was ... disinfectant. Or strong light. And yes, once again, those would kill the virus in a glass bowl (in vitrio), or kitchen and bathroom surfaces, but no-one would be insane enough to inject disinfectant. Would they? It turned out that there were a few people who fell for that one, adding to the hospital occupancy.

The current scam is Ivermectin, which is a useful medicine for deworming horses. So, some people (mostly Americans) are rushing out and buying horse medicine, dosing themselves with it, and ending up in hospital with poisoning.

In August 2021, the state of Mississippi announced that 70 percent of recent calls to poison control centers were due to people taking Ivermectin in a dose formulated for large animals. 

I've heard some people claim that they won't take the vaccine because they don't know what's in it. I wonder if they know what is in Ivermectin?