Month: February 2018 (page 2 of 3)

Gentleman Jim

I am in the process of building one of my electronic gizmos.

For this particular project, I need a transistor. But not just any old transistor… I’ve got plenty of those.  No, for this I needed a ZXTP2012ASTZ.

Yes, a ZXTP2012ASTZ.

As I’m sure you have realised, this transistor is a little bit out of the ordinary and, as such, none of my normal suppliers stocked it.

I eventually found it on Mouser. They’re a major supplier of electronic components, but I’ve never used them before.

I added the transistor to My Basket and clicked Checkout.

Mouser presented me with a price for my purchase: 59p.

Fifty-nine pence. That’s alright. But then they added another £12.00 for postage!

How the hell can something of that size warrant 12 quid postage?

For those of you not sure how big a transistor is, that it should justify 12 quid postage, I have included a picture… with a 5p coin for scale.

Turns out, Mouser have a standard 12 quid P&P added to any order under 33 pounds.

No matter what it is.

Ridiculous!

Obviously, I didn’t buy it.

But then, I mentioned this to a chap I talk to regularly on the radio.  Jim said that he often ordered stuff from Mouser and would be happy to add my transistor to his next order. What a top fellow!

I received an email from him yesterday, telling me it had arrived.

As he only lives ten miles from me, I took a drive over and we had a good ol’ chat over a cup of tea and a biscuit.

It was good to finally put a face to the voice I’ve spoken to, so many times over the past couple of years.

And he never even charged me for the transistor.

Get Smart

… was a rather excellent American spy spoof series in the  late 1960s.

But that’s not what the title of this post refers to.

Oh no: Agent 86 and his frolics with KAOS will have to wait for another day.

No, yesterday we had our aging gas and electricity meters replaced with brand new, sexy smart meters.

This is brilliant! I can now stand in my kitchen and literally watch my bill going up!

Of course, the idea is that you should “Keep Gaz and Leccy under control”. 

Apparently.

But, if you’re cold, you turn the heating up. If you’re hungry, you put the grill on for some cheesy toast. If you’re thirsty, you put the kettle on for a nice cuppa.

It’s already under control.

I suppose one could always cut back to save a few pence: maybe only half-boil the kettle? Lukewarm tea, anyone?

As well as with gas and electricity though, smart meters are now being installed in the water sector. And some people are up in arms about it.

Many people see it as an attempt to increase their bills.  Trust me, it’s really not.

Yes, some people will see an increase, whilst others will see a decrease. This is because you are only paying for the water that you actually use… which has to be a fairer system, surely?

Why should a little old lady living on her own, pay the same as the family of five next door, who are running a car wash service in their back garden?

Not preaching… just sayin’

Being smart: it’s the future.

Yesterday, I drove like a twat!

This week has been school half term and, as such, I was fully expecting the roads to be much emptier than usual.

I was fully expecting my commute to and from work, to be a doddle. Because it normally is when the schools are off.

But not this week. Oh no: this week, the roads have been as bad as usual.

Nay. Nay. And thrice nay, I tell you, the roads have actually been worse!

The mornings have been slow and torturous, thanks to broken down lorries and accidents. 

But the evenings have been worse. Much worse.

No word of a lie, every night this week, I have been caught up in stationary traffic on my way home, thanks to accidents on the motorway.

Every.

Single.

Fucking.

Evening.

Some have been worse than others. Tuesday night was pretty bad, thanks to a lorry shedding its load of portloos across the M25.  That was quite possibly a real case of the shit hitting the van.

But yesterday evening was truly awful.  Stuck in stationary traffic for ages at the Hemel junction, I found myself starting to get frustrated.  I spend so much time in traffic nowadays, that I’m kind of used to it now and it’s like water off a duck’s back. But, being stuck in stationary traffic for the fourth day in a row, meant it was starting to get to me. Please God, just one day! Just let me have one decent journey home!

Eventually, things started moving again and we all slowly crawled past the five-car shunt that was surrounded by the flashing blue and red lights of the emergency services and in unison we all shouted “Learn to drive, you bastards!”
Well, I shouted it.
In unison with myself.

I have rarely felt so frustrated and I decided to put some music on.  Normally, a bit of Mozart or Bruckner will smooth the waters for me, but, so pent-up was I, I needed something with a bit more oomph. I needed to let it out.

Once past the accident, the road was clear. I put on some AC/DC, turned the volume up and put my foot down; singing at the top of my voice. Well, I call it singing, but it was more like shouting really.

At junction 11, the end of the slip road divides into three lanes. Two are for turning left and the third is for going straight on or for turning right. They are marked accordingly. But, very often, impatient drivers will get into the middle lane and then cut across to turn right, forcing the vehicle in the right hand lane to give way or risk hitting them. It happens to me quite often and normally I will let them in, just to avoid having a prang in my car. “Tsk”, I’ll say.

But, it happened again last night and this time I didn’t give way.  My still pent-up frustration, boiled over into anger and -fuelled by Brian Johnson screaming at me that I was Back In Black – I refused to let this opportunist get eight feet in front of me.  But, having flown down the middle lane at speed, he had a speed advantage on the roundabout and I was ultimately forced to brake and let him in. 

Where normally I would have tutted and let it go, this time I let him know he was a twat. I flashed my lights at him and then I followed him round the roundabout at speed, just a couple of feet off his rear bumper. We headed up the short stretch of dual carriageway at a quick pace and then took the first left turning.  Still I hung onto his tail lights. We blatted down the road together, completely ignoring the 20mph speed limit… until I suddenly realised what I was doing. This bloke was driving like a complete twat, but I was too.

I slowed down and let him speed off down the road. He was probably chuffed with himself for having left me behind, but I didn’t care.

I turned the music down, slowed to within the speed limit and took a deep breath.

My first ever bit of road rage. 

I didn’t like it.

Ring Ring

Talking of mobile phones, it’s always fun to change your ringtone to something different to what came installed on the phone. 

Of late, the original Nokia tune has become a fashionable ringtone again… in an ironic sort of way.

Many people choose a popular tune or a comedic catchphrase, and I myself have added several to my phone.

All are TV theme tunes from the 1970’s and when my phone rings, someone of a similar age to myself will pop their head up and say “Ooh, that sounds familiar…  what is it?”

So, here are the theme tunes for you to have a guess at.

Anyone who gets all five will win a speedboat.*

Number 1

 

Number 2

 

Number 3

 

Number 4

 

Number 5

 

*Not really.

Ringing in the changes

It’s that time again.

It has been two years since I got my current mobile phone and the contract runs out next month.

Now, I am on the Three network which, whilst it has been quite reliable, just hasn’t quite offered the coverage that I get with Vodafone on my company mobile.

And so, I am thinking about jumping ship to another provider, despite having been with Three for a number of years.

And my Sony Xperia phone has been as solid as a rock for the past two years. I’m still very happy with it and would happily stick with it, really.

Except.

Except it is two years old and the battery is knackered. And you can’t just change the battery, because the phone is sealed, because it’s waterproof.

And besides. It’s two years old and I suppose I fancy a change.

But, this is the bit I don’t like, because now I have to choose a new phone and there are just so many out there now to choose from (not including Apple, of course, because… it’s Apple).

And once I have chosen my replacement – which should be easy in theory, considering my minimum requirements – I then have the rubbish task of choosing a network to go with.

Again, that should be easy, because they are all the same.

Well, nearly.

Finally though, it’s the confusing and time-consuming task of choosing a package to suit my needs, without it costing the earth each month.

I think I want unlimited minutes, 4GB of data and 12 texts.

Or maybe I want unlimited minutes, unlimited data and 14 texts.

But, y’know, looking at my current usage, I can probably save money and get away with just 200 mins, 500MB of data and 10 texts.

I just don’t know.

What I do know though, is that hours of surfing the net and scouring mobile phone websites, lies ahead of me, before I lose the will to live and eventually just walk into Carphone Whorehouse and let Johnny No Stars talk me into a package I’ll inevitably regret later on.

Earwig o again

I’ve got one of those earworm things, y’know, when you get a tune stuck in your head and can’t shift it.

As earworms go, it’s not a bad one though.

It’s actually one of my favourite pieces of music and I stumbled upon it by chance, many years ago, when I was visiting some friends in Norwich (we weren’t going to see the quiz of the week, I might add) and I found myself mooching in HMV, whilst my mate and his wife were shopping next door for cushions or some shit like that.

Scherezade is the piece I’m talking about. By Rimsky and the Korsakovs.

It’s a wonderful piece of music, one of my favourites, but annoyingly, I just keep playing the same thirty-second loop in my head and not the whole 40 minutes.

Anyway, on a related note, I was in town t’other day and noticed that our HMV had closed down.

This upset me slightly, as it was the last ‘record store’ in town.

OK, I can’t even remember the last time I actually bought a record or CD from there (or anywhere else)… but it upset me nonetheless.

Gift Horse

Next weekend is the current Mrs Masher’s birthday.

And what does one get for the girl who has, well… me?

Darned if I know.

I can’t get her chocolates, because she’s on a diet.

I can’t buy her clothes because… well, she’s on a diet and what fits now might not fit later.

I can’t get her a 21 piece socket set with a ½ inch drive reversible ratchet,  because I got her one of those for Christmas.

So, I asked her: “What would you like me to get you for your birthday, Mrs M?”

Even she struggled with that one! I was expecting a list of options, but no.

After some thought, she said she wanted a laptop.

A laptop? Now THAT I can do!

I wonder if I should get her a pink one or a white one.

B&B

The erudite Mr Jones mentioned in a post earlier, of how much he enjoys taking his morning tea back to bed with him.

I think he has also mentioned previously, the joy of having breakfast in bed.

You are sadly mistaken, my friend.

Many claim this as an enjoyable little luxury, but does anyone really enjoy having breakfast in bed?

Really?

You know already that I don’t!

I’ve never seen the attraction.

Firstly, I don’t see how sitting upright in bed, propped up with pillows and balancing a bowl of Rice Krispies – other breakfast cereals are available –  can be more comfortable than sitting in a chair at the dining room table. Let’s face it, it’s not.

And then there’s the tray – if you have one. Again, balancing a tray containing a bowl of cereal and/or toast; a cup of tea/coffee; a glass of juice etc, isn’t easy. One wrong move – a sudden burst of hiccups – and it’s all over your 10 tog, duck-feather duvet – of course, other tog values are available.

Then there are the crumbs – especially if you have toast.  Doesn’t matter how careful you are, there will be crumbage. Which you won’t find until you get back into bed later that evening, when it will feel like half of Yarmouth beach is in bed with you – other, stonier, British beaches are available.

So please, tell me, where’s the luxury in that?

Or am I missing something.

Nothing on the telly

Working – as I do – alongside people of a younger generation, I’m constantly reminded of just how fucking old I am.

I was chatting with one such millennial the other day, and he was saying about how he was thinking of getting Sky TV, because he was a bit of a night owl and there’s not much on the thirty-or-so terrestrial (Freeview) channels after midnight.

He was genuinely taken aback when I told him that I could remember when we only had three TV channels: BBC1; BBC2 and ITV and that they would all switch off sometime just after 11pm, after playing the national anthem.

I told him of how – in 1982 – I made a special effort to get home from work early, just so I could watch the launch of Channel 4.  I was so excited at the time: an extra TV channel! This was history in the making.

Of course, nowadays, new TV channels come and go regularly. Some have fleeting lives, lasting only a few months whilst others seem to go on forever, despite the niche audience they are targeted at.

For today’s generations, this is the norm: super-thin flat-screen TVs with a gazillion channels.

But for us old farts, four channels was always enough.

Some would say it still is.

Knowledge Is Power

I don’t mind admitting that, when I was young, I was a bit of a swot.

I loved reading and I loved learning from reading.

Even if I were reading a storybook (a novel, in adult parlance), I would generally learn something. 

About the world.

About nature.

About humanity.

Something.

Many times, I would just learn a new word. I loved learning new words and would often take two books to bed with me: a novel and a dictionary – so I could look up any words I didn’t understand.

It’s no idle boast that as a young teenager, I easily had the largest vocabulary in my family.

My parents bought me a small set of encyclopaedias – I remember they had purple covers – and they took pride of place on my bookshelf.  I’m pretty sure that I read them from cover to cover more than once, over the years.

On a Saturday, I would go into town on the bus and would spend a happy couple of hours in the Town Library… just reading anything that took my fancy or – more often than not – looking up something that I’d heard or read about and just felt I needed to know more.

Once I started work, I never had the time so much, to go into the library. More than that, my thirst for knowledge became more immediate: if I wanted to know about something, I wanted to know about it now! And so, I spent over a thousand pounds on a set of Encyclopaedia Brittanica.

A beautiful set of books and, undoubtedly, the best repository of knowledge that money could buy… at the time.

I kept them for years.

And then Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web.

A game changer.

In an amazingly short period of time, all the major knowledge houses had their encyclopaedias or dictionaries and the like, online. Even Microsoft got in on the act with it’s own encyclopaedia: Encarta, which, to be fair, was really very good.

And then, of course, we got Wikipedia – another game changer… because it was free.

Nowadays, just about anything you want to know (and at any time you want to know it), is available somewhere online. For free. It’s bloody fantastic!

And, at Amelia’s Parent’s Evening, last night, the teachers were extolling the virtues of several websites, aimed specifically at helping kids with their education, by providing online, extra-curricular lessons and teaching.

Wow! If I’d had all this when I was their age, maybe I would have done better at school than I did.

Maybe I’d have gone on to university and made a huge success of my life.

Or maybe I’d have been a winner on The Chase.

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