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Today was...

Today was supposed to be cooler breezy day, so I had planned to do some strimming.

What I hadn't planned was feeling crap and making my way through a box of tissues.
Yup. Some people at work are poorly (defined as coughing without covering their mouths and sounding like angry hippos) and, well, germs in the air and such. One of the management people did a very very long and noisy nose blowing in the staff break room (to which I thought "thank god I'm not eating macaroni cheese). It may well have been him that inflicted this on me. But, then, there are a dozen others.

:-( This is why I don't like interacting with people. It's a bit weird to have a bug doing the rounds in summer, but, hey, everybody is going on holiday now. So they'll come back, their kids will go to school (a veritable bug factory) and everything will mix up and we'll all get sick all over again.

On the plus side, as far as I remember, this is the first time I've been like this since the bug that knocked me down at the end of 2019 that was bad enough that I ended up with a missing week (and, to be honest, I do wonder if this was some early form of Covid - but that wasn't going to be a known thing for a couple of months).

 

So I got up late (too much time wasted with the appropriately named Bored Panda), had tea, then unplugged the battery from the big mower and got the old C1 running. I start it every now and then and let it run for a while so it's not sitting there unused. Had to push the cobwebs out of the way. I don't think I'll ever drive it myself, I'm still extremely undecided on the issue of a driving licence. But it was basically mom's favourite thing as to her it represented freedom and independence. She... had a completely different outlook to driving to me. But, then, I'm well aware of my mental state while driving. If I have some familiar music playing, I can sort of get to work on autopilot as I've done that route enough I know every pothole. But I rarely go to Big Town any more as it was just too stressful noticing everything and having to make endless decisions on what was important and what could be ignored under penalty of death because I'm doing just under fifty in a piece of plastic and they're doing just over eighty in a hunk of steel...

Actually, at the start of the year when Caoimhe had her 5K service, I calculated that I probably ought to have had my major (10K) service this week, and finally get new sensors for the ABS.
It hasn't happened... because my little countdown gizmo that briefly pops up as the dashboard is starting says I still have 1,336km to go. I do maybe 135km a week on the work run, so, yeah, that's about ten weeks if I don't go anywhere else. It's week 29 run now, so week 39? That's after my summer holiday. However, I might want to go out during my holiday. But, yeah, it's about then that I can get it seen to. And not need to take a day off work.
I guess there's a benefit to not wanting to go out. On the other hand, I liked going out. I just... really don't like the driving part.

 

I then washed my hair, grabbed a pair of scissors, and cut my fringe. Probably looks dumb, but whatever, at least it's no longer poking me in the eyes. I should have cut the rest but didn't feel like it.

 

I then found an old 4GB µSD card that contained the Angstrom Linux for the Beagle xM. I don't need that, so I formatted it and copied some music from my new phone to the card so I can use it in the car. I tend to listen to music on my old phone using bluetooth (like streaming radio). My old phone doesn't have the same music selection due to, well, not having a lot of free space. Android loses it's marbles if there's less than half a gigabyte of free space.
This, of course, failed. Because stuff I pull from YouTube is an m4a format and my radio doesn't know how to handle that. I found two apps. The first was a batch convertor to change audio/video files from one format to another. After a few minutes, about eighty songs were converted.
Halfway through the transcoding, I realised that the white text on a textured nearly-white background (on top of an icky looking UI) was probably the app failing at coping with dark mode. So I switched it off in the settings for that app and it was still a naff looking UI but one that I could now read.

I copied these to the µSD and popped that into the radio. However only some of them had tags. Actually, all of the information had been copied across (WindHex showed lyrics in the header of some songs) but in an incompatible way so software didn't recognise the information. Which meant for a lot of songs, the title and artist and album information all read NULL.

So, card back in my phone, files copied back to internal storage, and a new app found to edit the ID3 tags. This app (Smart MP3 Tag Editor by Angolix) was actually kind of nifty in that it would try to look up the songs to get information to put into the ID3 tags and also cover art. It wasn't always successful, whatever database they were using has never heard of "HIM" (Finnish metal), and some of the matches were a little off, like if the title also matched the album, then it would suggest the first song in the list rather than the song it actually was. However scrolling to the bottom did provide alternatives so it wasn't too hard to fix.

Card back in the car radio and...

Car radio playing an MP3
Car radio playing an MP3.

 

I'm sitting outside to write this. I don't feel great, but better than this morning. Is this a reprieve or is my immune system saying "nope, not having this"? The latter, I hope.
With the little Android portable, I can sit in a deckchair with my legs crossed and prop the machine on my leg to type. Horrible posture I'm sure, but I wanted some fresh air.

 

Stopped!

There is some utterly shocking statistic (that I can't remember off the top of my head) over how many people in France drive without insurance, and since it costs a lot to get a driving licence (something like €1,800) there are quite a number of people driving without a licence.

And, yes, I know I'm driving without a licence, but it's a specific toy car intended for those who don't have a licence. We pay a lot in insurance and the idea is that we can't get up to much mischief in something that is basically a quad bike with a body. That's why it is made of plastic - legally it is considered a quad bike, so it has very specific size, power, and weight limits. No, these people without licences or insurance are driving proper cars.

As I was heading home after doing my shopping, somebody stepped into the road motioning me to pull over. Given the blue uniforms, bulletproof vests, and the rozzer-mobile behind them, I figured it was legit and not some sort of scam.

I have dashcam video but I'm not sure what the rules are regarding pictures of rozzers (even with faces blurred).

Two people. A gendarme in his thirties, and a gendarmette who looked a little younger. She asked for my carte gris (vehicle registration) and insurance papers. He asked for a piece of identity.

I handed her the two bits of paper and she started entering something into her phone. To him, I said "You can have it in English or French", handing over my passport and residency permit.

"You're English?", he asked, looking at a British passport...
"Scottish".
Not missing a beat, he pointed to the "United Kingdom" in the passport and said "It's the same thing isn't it?".
"For the moment, but vive l'independence".
His eyebrows rose slightly. So I added, "In a word, Brexit."

The woman, who was trying to keep a straight and serious face, had her phone bleep a number of times. She walked around the car to look at the insurance thingy on the windscreen and the licence plates.

I think she said "Not banned" to him, so he asked me why I didn't have a licence.
"My mom loved to drive. We went everywhere, Josselin to Tours, St. Malo to Mauléon. I never learned to drive as she really liked driving. However she lost her battle with cancer and, well, I need to get to work."
His eyebrows went a little further up.
Then he asked a stranger question. He asked me what vehicle I would think of buying if I had a licence. I wonder if this was some sort of character control question.
"You mean if I had a licence and could have any vehicle I wanted?".
He nodded.
"I'm not really familiar with them, but maybe a John Deere or Massey Ferguson."
"...they're... tractors?"
"What's the point of a Mazzarati in rural France?"
She handed back the paperwork and looked like she was really trying not to corpse.
"More realistically, probably something like a C1. It's just me, I don't need a tank."
"Tank?"
"Yeah, those monsters that mothers drive half a kilometre to take their kids to school. They're called SUV in English."
He told me they're called SUV in French. He then handed back my passport and card, carefully pointing out each piece as he handed it back so I knew nothing had been missed.
He wished me a good day, and I him, then thanked them for performing these checks.
I meant that too. If they only catch one prick in the entire day, that's one person off the road who shouldn't be there.

I drove off, hopefully leaving them with the impression that some Brits are nice, if somewhat weird. Or as Douglas Adams would put it, "mostly harmless".

Plus, I don't really get the British aversion to having ID cards. It saves a lot of bother for when officials want to do controls and checks. I think he was checking that I was a documented person (and given Brexit, if I was non-resident the 90 day rule would apply) and also that my info matched up with the car's documentation. I'm entirely legal, so if they want to eyeball the paperwork, that's not a problem. I've been stopped and checked, now, three times. Yesterday, and twice during the Covid lockdown (once at the supermarket, and once on the way to the mechanic). They look at the papers, ask a few questions, and then they're done. I guess if you have something to hide it might be a more arduous process, but then they can literally say "I am the law" so...

 

Banks should stay out of politics

Now much it disappoints me to understand that the man that spews more effluent than all of France's angry farmers ever might... actually have a point... and his bank account with an exclusive bank was closed because, well, because he's an arse and they don't want a client like him (having had a client like him for ages).

The problem is that this is totally wrong and whoever at the bank who made this decision needs to be pushed out the door too. Banks should be treated like public utilities and be required to hold bank accounts for anybody provided that they have suitable funds, an acceptable credit record, and aren't suspected of fraud.

Yes, I can understand that they may not want a client that's a shit-spewing little Englander twat who dislikes foreigners despite being married to one and has ensured his kids have dual nationality so they won't be affected by the misery that he is largely responsible for inflicting upon the entire country despite never actually being successfully voted into any seat as an actual MP.
The word you're looking for is hypocrite.
(other words are available, but they aren't suitable for PG audiences)

Yes, I can understand the bank not wanting a person like him as he doesn't align with their values.
But, yeah, and? So they kick out the demagogue arsehole that broke Britain. Who is next? Who decides? On what basis? Gender? Nationality? Belief? What school a person attended?

Banks should not be political. It should only be about whether or not the person has enough money for a bank account. And, to be honest, having a bank account somewhere should be a human right. Amazingly there doesn't appear to be such a right. A number of low income and marginalised people don't get to pay-by-bonk. They don't get to go online to pay the electricity bill. Pay, for them, is cash in an envelope. Paying bills, for them, is walking to a post office - something that is getting increasingly harder as things shift on-line.
I don't understand this. When I was younger I had a Switch card. It's like a restricted debit card (you cannot overdraw with it). I know it had a bad reputation as the sort of thing paupers use, but I didn't mind it. It did most of the stuff a regular card could do. That was then upgraded (by the bank, not by me) to a debit card.

Which brings us back to the politician. Yeah, okay, he's a grifter. But he's a grifter with a bank balance more than most of us. The bank accepted him at one time. That should be enough to retain him as a client. He's full of shit, certainly, but he hasn't done anything wrong legally in the sense that the bank would get involved or care.
Sure, his values might not align with theirs... but you know what, I look at reports of people getting hammered because in this economic crisis they miss a single payment of their mortgage, the interest rates which are eye watering thanks to decisions out of their control. Do those banks represent our values?

Therefore, his account should have been closed if and when he dropped below the threshold (as it was an exclusive bank that had limits), not because they now decide that they don't like him any more.
I don't think rapidly-rushed legislation is the answer. To my mind this seems less about dealing with the banks and more about the government (many of whom in control are equally right wing nutters) looking after their own interests. Maybe, just maybe, they could have done something useful like granting everybody the right to banking facilities given the increasing move to a cashless society. But, then, they're Tories. People without money count for nothing (and I bet some of them consider it to be a fate these people brought upon themselves, like people choose to be poor).

And, of course, it gives the mouthy twat something to stand on a soapbox and shout about.

 

Let there be light

I bought some indoor/outdoor lights at Lidl, marked down to €8-something. A string of LEDs that had little plastic cases that were supposed to be like a string of Chinese lanterns. Well, given it was probably made in China, that's still true I guess. ☺

Turns out, they came with a plug that doubled as a power adaptor (and a timer). Okay, so that trashes my plan of hanging them up outside.

Plan B. Whack some nails into one of the ceiling joists and put 'em up in the living room, to be a pretty (and possibly safer) alternative to the candelabra.

String of lights
String of lights.

I had four each of red, yellow, green, blue, and purple. So I set the colours up in precisely and specifically that order from the middle to the right, repeating to make ten lights. For the left side, it was the inverse. The LEDs themselves are all warm white. While they aren't terribly bright, they do illuminate softly. That's what I like, a gentle soft illumination. I don't like bright lights.

I would say it'd be quite cosy in here in the winter, but it'd be something like 5°C so I don't think "cosy" is quite the word.

Lights over the mantlepiece
Lights over the mantlepiece.

 

 

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C Ferris, 23rd July 2023, 09:02
If climate change is true - what about people limiting their speed to 50MPH! 
 
With the use of cards very common - have one with your current details license insurance - if out of date limit the vehicle to 30MPH
Rick, 23rd July 2023, 09:16
If you limit me to 30mph, that would mean I'd have to drive a little bit faster. 😋 
 
With respect to limiting speeds for climate change, in a word, no. 
Around here, a nearby Very Big Town decided to limit the speed of cars on the ring road motorway in order to try to cut emissions and thus pollution. It was a massive failure. Because cars are designed to operate most effectively at normal driving speeds (somewhere around 65mph-ish). When they are going slower, they are less efficient, which means greater emissions. Particularly if it's a jam and the meatsack behind the wheel might not be changing gears optimally. 
Nowadays the speed limit is as normal, and if pollution gets too high certain categories of vehicle are banned on certain days (that's why I have a Crit'Air sticker). I guess it's sort of similar to that ULEZ thing in London. 
 
Ideally, we'd have hybrid cars that ran off battery until the charge went too low, at which point a small petrol engine would take over. But it seems that everybody is pushing for fully electric that lacks range, takes time to charge, requires a lot of precious metal (and associated waste), and really just moves the point of pollution from the exhaust pipe to the power station...
Anon, 23rd July 2023, 13:25
Converting files to MP3s? If you're on Windoze then try Foobar2000. It's a bit fiddly to set up, but once it's done it's simplicity itself. Drag a bunch of WAV, FLAC, M4A, OGG etc files to the playlist window, right-click, go to Convert > (your preset here). It'll convert them to whatever file format you've set in the preset, naming them correctly and transferring all the metadata across. 
 
I have presets for "Audiophile MP3" (so Lame with -V0, produces huge files at ~275Kbit but completely indistinguishable from lossless), "High quality MP3" (lame -V1, ~230Kbit) which I sometimes use when burning a bunch of albums to a DVD-ROM to play in the car. 
 
Interesting techie point - when you encode an MP3 (from FLAC or WAV) to a given bitrate, the encoder just makes multiple passes until the desired bitrate is reached. So if you store everything as a -V0 VBR then make smaller versions (eg -V1 or -b192) using the -V0 file as the source, it'll sound just as good as if you'd made the smaller file from the original WAV. It's actually doing the same job, just in separate stages. Also -V0 disables the low-pass filter so doesn't remove high frequency content. Using -V1 does (hence reducing the file size) but in fairness this is inaudible on most home and car audio kit, unless you have some really esoteric 'audiophile' equipment. 
 
Now... EVs. They're great if you only do short trips, eg up the town for shopping, or to a nearby Big Town for a big shop. For example, Big Town here is about 10-15 miles for a large Sainsburys. Or if I wanted to go into Big City, it's about 20 miles, some of which is on a motorway. This would involve a round trip of no more than 50 miles. In this situation an EV would be ideal. It would be even more ideal if you had solar panels fitted at home and didn't drive every day, you can leave the car plugged in and it'll charge at 2kW (between 8 and 12mph depending on the EV). (I find it entertaining that DV charge rates are expressed in miles per hour!) 
 
Unfortunately my driving pattern these days tends to be infrequent but long journeys, for which an EV is not (yet) ideal. I want to be able to drive to my friend's house (90 miles away), drive around a bit when I'm there (another 20-30 miles perhaps) then drive back home (another 90 miles - so just over 200 miles in total) without having to stop halfway back to fill it up with electricity. My diesel will do that and still have over half a tank left. In fact on a trip that's largely motorways I can get nearly 600 miles out of a tank. 
 
So what would be the environmental impact of scrapping a perfectly good diesel car (which has at least another 5 years of life left, probably more like another 10) and replacing it with an EV, with all the lithium that needs to be mined by orphans in a third-world country, compared to just continuing to run my diesel until I run it into the ground? 
 
So I can't drive into the ULEZ, or the Birmingham or Bristol CAZ (unless I want to pay a fortune towards the local government beer fund), but it complies with all other CAZs in the country. 
 
A friend has just changed his car and bought an EV. There's a lot to like about them. The low-end acceleration is incredible (remember an electric motor develops maximum torque at low speed). But the only way he could get the range he needed (350 miles) was to get a "crossover SUV" style EV. He'd rather have had a large hatchback or estate, but the EV versions of those had a fairly pathetic 200 mile range. 
 
I'm holding fire on an EV until I can get something with a normal saloon or estate body style, and until the range is over 400 miles. It'll happen - battery technology is constantly improving. Possibly within the next 5 years, who knows? 
 
I like the idea of EVs (moreso given the increase in electricity coming from renewable sources) but we're not quite there yet for 'the masses'.
David Pilling, 23rd July 2023, 13:58
I did not like the look of the first person I sold a piece of software to - but I learnt a lesson, it does not matter, you treat everyone equally. 
 
When Blackpool (shaky town) was the centre of fraking, what happened was that any business who supplied the frakers became a target for protesters. 
 
It's been interesting to watch on TV who has owned up to having a Coutts account, many of them are more disreputable than Farage. Wonder what the advantage is. 
 
I did once have a look, having heard the Queen was a customer, but saw the money limit and went away. Turns out that limit is just to keep the common folk away, lots of tales of people who don't have so much money being customers. 
 
I've been de-banked twice - banks just find you are not what they want. 
 
There must be people with serious problems, how do they go on, bank robbers (is there a box, tick if you've ever robbed a branch of this bank), murderer, worse. 
 
EVs a neighbour is an early adopter, he has just got rid of his second EV, anyway it had a petrol engine to top up the battery if needed. The new one is all battery. Pure battery ones have a green square on the number plate and it is amazing how many I see. 
 
All battery gets better treatment, so there is an incentive. 
 
Probly you could carry a small generator around. 
 
He has numerous apps that say where he can charge etc. ISTR it is 400 miles range, big vehicle. 
 
I presume UK is full of ANPR cameras linked to insurance database. On the TV programs that follow cops, one common task seems to be stopping cars without insurance - i.e. they know the car and stop just it, rather than at random. 
 
C Ferris, 23rd July 2023, 15:04
Somebody came up with baby jet engine generator - as back up :-) very compact.
Rick, 23rd July 2023, 20:05
Anon: Rarely use Windows these days. And when I do it's XP so the more modern stuff probably won't work on it. 
 
I translated a 128kbit M4A file (from YouTube) to a 192kbit MP3. It's for my car, so I don't need perfection. 
 
David: UK might be full of surveillance cameras. Rural France isn't...
Anon, 24th July 2023, 14:03
M4A at 128Kbit is about the same quality as MP3 at 160-192Kbit (depending on encoding), so probably a sensible choice. 
 
I used to have stuff encoded at 192Kbit to play in the car. This was fine when I had a Fiesta, the road and wind noise was sufficient to mask any compression artefacts. When I changed cars to an A4[1], the cabin noise was that much lower that I could hear compression artefacts on 192Kbit even at motorway speeds. Also around that time I switched from using an MP3-compatible CD changer to using an iPod, then to USB sticks. It made no sense to create a lower bitrate version just to play in the car, so now I encode everything at -V0. 
 
[1] This was before all the bellends started buying Audis; at that time the person riding your exhaust pipe and not bothering with indicators would have been in a BMW, most likely a 3-series. All the aforementioned bellends (round here at least) have now stopped buying Audis and started buying Teslas. Which means I can once again drive my car without people assuming I'm a bellend who doesn't know how to use indicators. 
 
I did run a few albums through Foobar2000 with lame -v1 just to get a few more albums on a DVD-ROM. I can't hear the difference in the car. Or on the computer sound system (SPDIF to Denon RCD-W8, Mission 760iSE speakers). Or upstairs (Yamaha RX-V673, Gale 5). I can possibly hear a slight drop in quality on the front room system (Arcam AVR360, Monitor Audio Silver RX6), but I'm not sure how much of that is 'because I know it's slightly lower quality'. Might be worth doing an ABX test. Either way, disk space is cheap nowadays, so no point encoding at anything less than -V0 for the 'master' version. 
 
Here's an interesting point. MP3 files from lame encoded with -V0 are better quality (which you can measure if not hear) than -b320 (320Kbit CBR). 
 
As an aside - Foobar2000 is available as Win32 and Win64. The Win32 version will run quite happily on XP. 
 
I find Foobar2000 a bit clunky as a music player (I still use Winamp on the PC) but as a library manager and converter I've not found anything better.
Anon, 28th July 2023, 18:44
Correction, the computer's SPDIF output is linked to a Denon RCD-N8 (not the W8), a typo on my part. I don't think the W8 model has an SPDIF input.

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