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


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.



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


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


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


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


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


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?



Wednesday 1 September 2021

Day 534 of self-isolation - September


In April 2020, we heard about the trials starting for the AstraZeneca vaccine, and it was hoped that they would be complete by September 2020.

So here we are in September 2021. The vaccines have been available for nine months, and here we are with the pandemic still raging worldwide.

It's not all bad. We vaccinated people are unlikely to be hospitalised, and VERY unlikely to need a ventilator, or a coffin. But the unfortunate unvaccinated are still dying in large numbers. And the delta variant is sufficiently infectious that we're never going to reach herd immunity.

Come November or so, I'll probably be getting a Covid booster, along with the annual flu vaccine.