Month: June 2019

Institutionalised

Today, Harry and I visited the Royal Institution, down that London.

It was this: most excellent.

Harry was invited as part of the Maths Masterclass events that the RI has been running.  He attended 10 of them, earlier in the year, up at Bletchley Park and this was a follow on.

He got to sit in the famed lecture theatre for four hours, along with a whole load of other kids, whilst the parents (actually: parent singular, as only one was allowed to accompany their child), did similar maths puzzles and games in one of the other lecture rooms.

It was a lot of fun. For both of us.

And during the lunch break, I got to tour the place a bit and soak myself in it’s history and scientific grandeur.

I think I may have squealed  a bit like a girl, when I found myself standing right outside Michael Faraday’s actual laboratory – excuse the reflections on the photo: it was behind protective glass.

Harry was less impressed. To him, Faraday – and Davy, for that matter –  is just an old dead bloke who invented lots of things that aren’t as good as what we have today.

Aarrgghh!

Hopefully, when he is older, he will understand the significance of what Faraday achieved.

On another note, on the train on the way home, I overheard the conversation of two young girls seated behind us.

I say ‘overheard’ but they were talking rather loudly.  It kinda went like this:

“How is it at work? You still stupidly busy?”

“Yeah. We have this big job in Dubai that…” and she went on at length about some new hotel that she was involved with. “How’s it with you? You still on that same project?”

“No. They’ve moved me on to the Apollo 11 project now. It’s REALLY interesting, but a lot of it goes over my head, to be honest.”

My ears pricked up at this point. The Apollo 11 project? What’s this all about then? What’s this young girl doing that involves Apollo 11? Where does she fit in? What’s happening? I need to know… tell me… tell me…

But, then they got up and left the train at the next station, so I never got to find out.

Aarrgghh!

I officially give up! Yet again.

Morse code is an anachronism.

Invented and used in the 1840’s, it seems somewhat out of place in today’s high-speed world, where data rates are so high that whole sentences of text can be sent in the blink of an eye.

It’s an outmoded form of communication, that just doesn’t sit well with modern  methods.

And yet… it does.

It is still used by the military – not necessarily as the main basis of contact nowadays, but certainly as a fallback, I’m sure.

And in the world of Amateur Radio, it is still a much sought-after skill amongst many.

There are plenty of amateurs out there who can do Morse.  Many of them excel at it.  And there are even some that won’t use any other method to communicate over the air.

Sadly, I’m not one of them.

I would LOVE to be able to read morse code, properly.  I can send at slow speeds and I can read it at very slow speeds. Very slow. Very, very slow. Reading is the hard part.

Rather like learning a new language (and ostensibly, that’s what it is), there are many different methods for learning it. Over the years I have tried reading books (Duh!); listening to tapes and listening to other operators sending. I have tried several PC programs and mobile phone apps. I have built machines for practicing with (see picture above), eventually taking them apart and using the bits for another project, because I was getting nowhere.

Frustratingly, in my teens, I did learn how to read and send, and could do so at about five or six words a minute.  If only I’d kept it up.

Similarly, I used to be able to parlez francais to a reasonable degree.

But I allowed them both to lapse and nowadays I struggle to learn either.

And it really annoys me.

I’ll admit that this is partially down to commitment. I don’t seem to have the time nowadays to study for such things.

And the inclination. That’s kind of gone too: I want to learn it, but I don’t want to put in the effort.  Like the rest of the MTV generation (yes, I think I just about fall into that category) and, as Freddie Mercury sang: “I want it all and I want it now”.

And so, after several months of “giving it another go”, I have hung up my headphones.

Again.

For the last time.

That’s it! I have resigned myself to the fact that morse code will forever evade me.

No more, will I try learning and decyphering that strange sound of dits and dahs pouring from my radio speaker.

No more, will I spend hours in the car listening to an 800Hz tone beeping out letters of the alphabet to me.

No more will I drive the family mad, as I sit in my room badly tapping away at a morse key.

No more, will I… who am I kidding? Give it three months and I’ll be back at it for another half-hearted attempt.

Guilty, as charged

I do wonder about myself sometimes!

Last night, I built a wireless charger for my phone.

It took about a week for the bits to arrive from China, and then about an hour for me to fit it into a suitable container that would act as a charging pad – I used the lid off of a jar of decaffeinated coffee.

My schoolboy error?

My phone doesn’t do wireless charging!

Oh well, at least it was quick and cheap. And it hasn’t gone to waste, as Amelia’s phone does have that functionality, so she has already snaffled it away to join the junk on her bedside table.

*Must do better research next time*

Short changed

Once again, I’ve been looked over in the Birthday Honours list. Pah!

Oh well. Maybe next year.

Last weekend, I fitted a new burglar alarm for my aged aunt. My dad came along to help run some of the wiring.

Her old alarm was also fitted by me, about 20 years ago and, whilst it still worked OK, it was getting a bit long in the tooth.  But the main reason for replacing it, was because she was struggling to reach the panel nowadays.

And so, I replaced it with a nice new one and then added a remote keypad in the hallway, at a level she could reach easily.

She was very pleased and gave me some money for doing the work. Of course, I refused: she’s family.

But she insisted.

And I refused.

This went on for a while before I grudgingly accepted. She’s proud of still being able to pay her own way, I can understand that. “Take it. Treat your dad”, she said.

And so, last night, we went out to our favourite Toby – we love a carvery – taking dad and his partner with us, to have a meal… paid for by my aunt.

The total cost of the meal came to 4 pounds more than she had given me.

I’ll pop round to see her later, to see if she will stump up the rest.

 

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