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Summer holiday

Unlike in the past, the company I work for is not closing for summer holiday. Most of the time since I've been there, they would close for the final week of July and the first two weeks of August.
The last couple of years, they closed for the first two weeks of August, and let people choose to take their third week either the week before or the week after (except those who don't refuse the "fractionnement" days, who have to take the two weeks on either side).

Now? The only official close will be the week of Christmas to New Years.

So I have just put in a demand for the middle two weeks of September (Monday 11th to Friday 22nd), and the third week of October (Monday 16th to Friday 20th).
The weather is usually good in September, and it's out of the peak holiday season so going anywhere should cost less. Not that I'm planning on going anywhere, but, you know, it's like a ghost town in France in August.
Also, if there's a heatwave again (La Niña and all that), I'll hopefully be in a cooler environment.
I don't begrudge the holiday I had last year, but I felt that I got nothing done in the middle as the heat came down.

I'm also taking the week in October to give a break in the peak season on the way to winter. I know what my luck is like, I'm expecting a hurricane to pass through. I mean, it is the middle of storm season after all.
That being said, storms are scary these days.

I should add, I've applied for these dates. They haven't been accepted yet. I'm actually surprised that the website accepted my demands, given that we're still in the previous year (it runs April 1st to March 31st).

There are numerous public holiday days this year, and we'll be making a few bridges. That means, for a holiday day on a Thursday, like Ascension, we'll also take the Friday off to make a long weekend. In order that the company recoup the missing hours, we'll be doing more days of 7½ hours, and a number of weeks of 8 hour days. That's work time, not including break time.

The idea is instead of having a quiet period from, say, January to May and then gearing up for a big Christmas rush (September to December) with all those Saturdays, the company has spread itself around with different contracts to have a more constant workflow (at capacity) all through the year. The downside of this is that we'll be - as I mentioned above - doing the extra time more frequently. But on the other hand, the company has stated that unless there is an absolute need, there will be no more Saturdays.
I didn't mind the extra pay that the Saturdays brought in, but I didn't like doing them. Clearly many others felt the same way. Last year they wanted to do a couple of Saturdays in... May, I think. Pretty much the only volunteers were the Romanian temp workers. The days were ultimately cancelled because no machine operators, managers, etc.


It's worth noting that yet again the company surprises me. I first started working there in the end of 2008, and by 2011ish, the fallout of the economic meltdown was being felt all around. Schools were cutting back on their trips and outings, while the company was commissioning new equipment.
And now? Inflation way above what it should be, fuel at silly prices, electricity... that's just greed... and everything shooting up in price and...
...we're going to be working our arses off. Like, all the time.

Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining about being employed in this economic climate (who else would want a near 50 year old with no particular talents who speaks French like a Spanish cow?), but it seems all so often that it's doom and gloom in the news, while the company just sort of shrugs it off. We make something, and they've just confirmed an order to supply two million pieces. That's...impressive.

Of course, the question is will this new-found success translate to extra beans in our kitties? I won't hold my breath.


Screw the police

So this woman disappeared while out walking her dogs. Evidence so far has not shown anything, and no body had turned up.
So what do the police do? They put out a press statement implying that she was suffering severe psychological effects of the menopause and was prone to emptying the odd bottle or two.

What the hell? So the police's enquiries are going nowhere fast, so it's perfectly acceptable to turn to a horribly mysogynistic form of victim blaming and victim shaming?

I can't, honestly, say I'm at all surprised when I hear that one gender has a rather dim view of the police. Between those dipshits and what the MET's been up to...



I don't want to kick off some sort of weird conspiracy theory, but am I the only person who thinks it's a little odd that we've lost Angela Merkel, Jacinda Ardern, and Nicola Sturgeon in such quick succession?

Of course, this does make one wonder what the SNP will do now, as she was basically the face of the independence movement.
That being said, as I've mentioned in the past, there are far too many outstanding questions to consider independence.

While I fully believe that Scotland is entitled to the right of self determination and not being led around by whatever the English think they want (Disclaimer of conflict of interest - I'm Scottish), one has to accept that the only people who don't think Brexit has been a catastrophic mess is the hardened Brexiteers and the highly delusional (on a Venn Diagram, those groups would appear as one circle over the top of the other). So if saying "okay, bye" to Europe and all of the trading arrangements that have been in place for decades is proving to be painful, does anybody think that Scotland doing the same to the rest of the UK will be easy? Will Scotland be fast-tracked into the EU? Pound or Euro or what? So many questions.
And one must also consider that - like negotiations with the EU - Westminster will be as difficult, obstreperous, and obstructive as they possibly can be. Why? English exceptionalism, mostly.

Anyway, three of the women who have shone brightly in the past years - especially during the pandemic - have up and left.


A new toy

How hot is it in my toaster?
Hot hot is it in my toaster?

It's a little gizmo that you point at something to get a read of the temperature. There's a helpful laser pointer, but it says "5:1" on the side, which means that the 'sensed' area is about an inch wide at a distance of five inches.
It also seems to be prone to changing what it says as you move closer/further to it (1 inch at 5 is 2 at 10 and 4 at 20; so a foot away and it'll 'see' an area about the size of a fist) so the laser pointer for aiming kind of misses this. Oh, and there's something called emmissivity. That is to say, a piece of matt black tape and a shiny aluminium pan will provide different readings when they're the exact same temperature. Infra red is complicated.
Still, it's an amusing thing to play around with and it only cost me €6. ☺

I did have a look at opening it up to see what makes it tick, but it's cheap moulded plastic glued together. So I don't think it can be opened without actually breaking it. Given it's a cheap Chinese gizmo, I would hope to see something like an STM32 inside, but I'm more likely to see a blob of resin.

There is, actually, an ideal temperature for a toaster. It should be (more or less) between about 140°C and 170°C. Mine is reading a little higher as it's probably picking up on the heating element (nichrome wire - so to glow red it's going to be something in the order of 550°C), but there's a lot of air flowing around inside a toaster. The idea is to subject the toast to around 155°C (more or less). Too cold and the bread will just get sort of dry on the outside, too hot and it'll burn. In order to make good toast, one needs to subject the bread to the Maillard reaction. The heat causes sugars and amino acids in the bread to react with each other to form a complex chemical called acetyl-tetrahydropyridine. This chemical is one of the reasons cooked/fried food has such an appealing smell. Don't bother looking up the chemical name on Wikipedia. It's terse and complicated, so let's just say "it's why baked/fried stuff smells nice" and leave it at that.

But if it's pushed too far, these chemicals will break down to acrylamide. This is the stuff in burnt food that has been linked to cancer. It's worth noting that it's a known carcinogen to animals, but testing on humans has had mixed results. Frankly, there's no much weird shit in food these days, unless you're an ecofreak vegetarian, I wouldn't lose sleep over the odd bit of burnt toast. You're more likely to suffer from pesticides, preservatives, anti-fungal treatments, antibiotics, and all of the other things that you'd wish you didn't know about in your food.
You should, however, scrape the burnt bits off of toast. Not because of cancer, but simply because it's bitter and horrible. Toast should be pleasing, not something you have to endure.

This is what I was making.


Peppered toast (toaster), Heinz beans (microwave, too lazy to wash the pan), and two pieces of crispy coated chicken (air fryer).
And a big cup of Horlicks.


Wait, um, what?

The other night I got up at about half four to go pee. I know, TMI. ☺
So I went back to bed, didn't feel particularly tired, and tossed and turned for an hour or so before drifting off to sleep again.

The Western Wilderness. That's the big patch of grass on the way down to where Anna lives.
There were many washing lines, with a lot of brightly coloured garments flapping in the breeze. I mean, a lot. Way more than I have, and probably not mine given my favourite colours are black and dark blue (just to be a little bit brighter than straight black).

There was a woman there. Blonde/light brown hair, big glasses, maybe late 20s or so? Wearing a dress way too short for her age. She was hanging up washing. I don't know who she was, but her presence felt... right. Like she was supposed to be there.

Using a cane, I walked carefully through the grass. It was maybe 3-4 inches tall, luscious, and peppered with buttercups.
I was walking carefully, and aware that I was quite a bit older than I am now.

I got to the front. It was bright and sunny. The grounds looked well maintained, and the pine tree opposite had been removed.

I went inside and got a marker pen and a piece of paper. On the paper, I wrote "I was happy here" (in English), and drew a little smiley face underneath.

I went back outside and sat on a blue wood and metal bench that was underneath the living room window, just to the right of the front door. I placed the piece of paper on my lap and rested my hands on it so it wouldn't blow away.

I looked up at the bright blue sky, a deep clear blue punctuated only by the sun.
I closed my eyes and smiled.

And then died.



Wait, um, what?

I'm not sure what's more surprising here. That I died, or that I was me. Usually when I dream, I'm not me, but somebody else. And while there's a town that is a fairly recurrent location, it's not a place I've ever been.

So it's something of a novelty when somebody or somewhere I know turns up in a dream, especially if that somebody is me and the somewhere is here. That's maybe happened a dozen times in all the years I've been here (which counts for around seven and a half thousand sleeps).

And then I die. Don't forget that bit. I kinda feel like that's an important part.


At least "I was happy here". Yes, I am. Or was? Whatever, I don't need my subconscious to tell me the obvious.
As for the not obvious. Well, let's just say this dream that I remember vividly (I usually only remember tiny bits, most of what I dream is just forgotten) has disconcerted me for the past couple of days. Not in a disturbing way, more a "what the hell was that?" kind of way.

Still, I suppose in terms of dying, I guess knowing when enough in advance to write a little note, sit down, and just go... that's far better than the multudionus other and generally less pleasant options.


And on that happy note, I'll just lay back, close my eyes, smile, and...

...upload this so you can read it.
(phew! close call!)



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Anon, 17th February 2023, 23:33
British police? Hmmm... nothing surprises me. They like nothing more than to fit up an innocent person simply to boost their 'statistics'. And who cares that they didn't commit any crime? It looks good on the figures, right? 
The entire judicial system in the UK is rotten to the core. The only difference between the UK and a 'police state' is that at least in North Korea or China (other fascist regimes are available) is that you know the State is corrupt. Here in Blighty they like to portray themselves as 'the best in the world', but underneath? Almost as bad as certain countries in the Far East. 
Examples? Ok, sure: 
1. My car was vandalised on my driveway. My CCTV showed a clear image of the perpetrator (some drunk bloke coming home from the pub that slashed all 4 tyres on 6 cars in my road, including mine). Yet the police said they were 'unable to trace the offender'. A quick post of stills on Facebook yielded a name and address. I went back to the police with this information. 'Not conclusive', they said. Despite the guy's mug being clear as anything on the footage. In the end I brought a civil damages claim against him for the cost of the tyres and civil trespass in the Small Claims court. (The pub in question closed some time back and there's been no tyre slashing since.) 
2. A (female) friend received death threats by text message (possibly WhatsApp) from a chap she'd hooked up with before deciding he was an idiot. He knew where she lived and sent repeated messages threatening to firebomb her house. Police did nothing, despite the clear evidence of threats to kill. 
3. Another female friend was raped. The police accused her of being a prostitute and said she was 'obviously asking for it'. Again they refused to take action. 
4. I myself was assaulted by two police officers (not even in uniform). They then tried to charge me with 'assault PC'. Fortunately there was CCTV covering the area where it took place, which clearly showed the two officers grab me and force me to the ground when I was simply going about my lawful business. 
None of this should come as a surprise. Public feeling towards the police in the UK is at an all-time low, especially after the Sarah Everard case. Wayne Couzens is, sadly, a good argument for bringing back capital punishment; he's the kind of evil scum who deserves to fry. However, remember the old saying, 'hard cases make bad law'. 
As D-Ream said back in the early 1990s - 'things can only get better'.
Rick, 18th February 2023, 07:31
Your other female friend ought to pursue a case against the police. One's manner of dress does not provide an invitation to intercourse, and it's not up to some random plod (who I'll guess was male?) to make that sort of decision. 
It doesn't surprise me, though. Just another in a depressingly long list of reasons why an XX chromosome carrier would be right to distrust the police...
VinceH, 18th February 2023, 12:30
You sometimes read in books, or hear said in films and TV shows that when you die in a dream you die in real life - i.e. the dream death coincides with your actual death in your sleep. 
I reckon nonsense like that is written by people whose dreams end just before they die - or who, when they wake up, don't remember the dream beyond that point. 
I say that because I've died in my dreams plenty of times. The most recent was about a week ago. I was a school kid again, and I had a new bike which was locked up somewhere. A school bully wanted me to give him the key and tell him where it was, so I was running around trying to avoid him and his pals. At some point I ended up in the countryside, at the top of a steep hill, and there was a friend with me. We both ran down the hill, which became so steep, and getting steeper, we were just sliding down. I said to my friend that he shouldn't have come with me because it's dangerous - just before the hill became a cliff, and the slide became a fall. We hit the ground below and died. 
Then the bully hit the ground and died - he'd chased us down. 
Anon: Things can only get better? Nah. I'm expecting things to get worse before there's any sign of that happening. ☚ī¸
Anon, 18th February 2023, 16:33
I did suggest to female friend in 3 above that she pursued a claim against the police for failing to investigate and for defamation. She said it would just drag the whole thing up again. 
VinceH: I did have a weird dream once where I got shot, then realised as I slumped into unconsciousness that it was a tranquilizer dart. Everything faded to black then I woke up, half expecting credits to start rolling - possibly with a "To be concluded..." caption!
Rick, 18th February 2023, 16:54
Oh, I've died loads of times in dreams. But, does it count if I'm not me? ;) 
As for dying in dreams being dying in real life... the really obvious question is how does anybody know, given that a sleeping person won't be narrating their dreams, there's no portal to watch what somebody is dreaming, and the person dreaming of dying would in fact die so can't exactly say they were dreaming of dying. The whole idea doesn't make sense. 
I agree with Vince. Things can get plenty worse. And they will. 
Gavin Wraith, 18th February 2023, 17:51
I find dreams very interesting. If I recall a dream then I usually recall other dreams that are somehow related to it, geographically in some sense. As if there were a dream landscape inside my head. It is clear that dreams are stitched together from everyday sensations or one's memories of them. In ancient times people took dreams very seriously. Has anybody read Ismail Kadare's book, The Palace of Dreams? It is a sly attack on Hoxha's totalitarian state in Albania. The central McGuffin is that if dreams really did foretell the future, MI5 or its equivalents would have agencies for finding out what people have dreamed, just in case their brains were hatching some danger to the status quo.
David Pilling, 18th February 2023, 23:33
The missing woman case - I watched the Police news conference and the detective in charge said she would not reveal any more info for the sake of the family. Then a few hours later they did reveal all. There was just one dog. I regularly drive through the place, touching seeing the signs on all the lamp posts. 
Infrared thermometer - useful. I suspect some are more reliable than others. Inside the key component is an infra red sensor, akin to those in security lights. It is like a one pixel thermal camera. Good idea to try it on the toaster. This week someone invented a new strain of wheat that does not produce acrylamide when toasted. You can buy the sensors and attach to an Arduino etc. 
Yep, surprising Nicola Sturgeon departed. Everyone says big boost to Labour winning next election. Or if they were bound to win anyway, Scots Nats would not have much leverage for a referendum. 
Mrs Merkel has had a lot to be sorry about - ISTR she apologised for making Germany dependent on Russian energy. But said apologising for their military weakness would be too easy. There was a tweet from the German embassy in London saying they were now using no Russian oil/gas/coal. So they've done well. 
David Pilling, 19th February 2023, 04:07
IR, non-contact thermometer, good for checking car brake temperatures.
VinceH, 20th February 2023, 00:58
Yup. Nonsense. 
As I said, I suspect the origins may lie with the people who write such things simply not remembering those bits of dreams. 
Or it might just be a silly trope that, once someone had used it, others thought "yeah, good idea" without stopping to think. 
And now I'm thinking of A Nightmare on Elm Street. Obviously, the entire premise of those films is that you die IRL if Freddy kills you in your dream - but I can't remember if they suggested the more general trope. 
Guess I might have to watch them again soon to check. 🤷‍♂ī¸
Rick, 20th February 2023, 19:07
So... after all of the searching, her body was found in the river/in the reeds less than a mile from where she went missing...? 
The police screwed this one up in multiple ways. And, of course, the media did the usual circus routine and - quite rightly - got called out by the family. 
It's a sad conclusion, but listening to the news reports and reading some online "papers", I'm not sure which is the more tragic - the discovery of her body, or the past three weeks? 

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