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Oh, hello!

It's been eighteen days since my last b.log article. Instead of writing things, I made a video every evening this month (or daytime during weekends) instead. Most of them are pretty lame, but it's impressive what can be done with an app on a smartphone...
...that were all created with, and on, my Redmi Note 12 using the free version of the YouCut video editor.
The only non-phone things were some of the included resources, such as video from my dashcam, photos which may have been taken by the other phone (depending on what I had at the time), the advent theme which was played on my Yamaha controlled by SimpleSeq/RISC OS (but recorded using that phone!), and the image size graphics in the Christmas day video that were thrown together in Draw, saved as PNG, and chromakeyed onto the video.

Anyway, I'm still here. And rather than making a video, I thought it's time to get back to the written word.

I much prefer writing. Unlike a video, one can digest writing at their natural reading speed instead of somebody else's talking speed. It's easy to scroll back to check on things, and there are no worries about accents making things difficult to understand. I have a southern English accent (sort of lazy-RP) which notably features an inability to pronounce the letter 'r' when it's in a word following a vowel, so a word like "gardener" sounds more like "gahhdenahh" (generally either the previous vowel is extended, or it is replaced by a sound somewhere between "ah" and "uh"). This is normal for a lot of English accents, it's called non-rhotic.
But I do get people saying that it's hard to understand, some seem to think I'm Australian (?), and I had to tell YouTube that my language was British English so it didn't make quite so many weird mistakes...
...of course with "British English" as spoken in Belfaaaaast, Glazgee, Zummerzet, Care-diff, Livehpoo'ell (and dozens of others), it's worth noting that there's no such thing as "British English". Most people probably think Keira Nightly, Emma Watson, Felicity Jones, Judi Dench, everybody in The Crown, James Bond...
...but with a vast number of regional accents in such a small country, about the only thing "British English" really means is that we don't misspell things like the Americans do. ☺

 

So, let's take a look at all of the nonsense I've seen in the past nearly-three-weeks. I shall refrain from talking about the disaster that is politics, as we are now so far beyond parody that the only suggestion that I have is that if Rwanda is such a safe place, then maybe all of the Tories should bugger off to Rwanda...and never come back.
That might start to fix some of the problems.

Anyway, on to other things.

 

McDonald's telling the truth?

If you go to mcdonalds.fr and call up the menu, choose Nos produits and then Nos burgers, you'll get a list of the burgers that McDonald's offers in France.
Note that the selection is utterly boring and rarely changes. It's not like the British one with a chicken Big Mac (which actually sounds quite nice).
Anyway, scroll down the selection until you get to Le Filet-O-Fish and tap on it. If you're lazy, here's a direct link: https://www.mcdonalds.fr/nos-produits/nos-burgers/filet-o-fish.
Now, go down beyond the stock photo of a fisherman until you see the "A propos" section. Expand the Les ingrédients and witness the beauty of all that is in the Filet-O-Fish...

What's inside the Filet-O-Fish
What's inside the Filet-O-Fish.

Let's see. The description here doesn't really do it justice. It says "bread", but it's a fluffy steamed bun. Kind of wish they'd use that for more of their burgers. The cheese slice is... meh, a generic McCheeseSlice. The "sauce" is tartare sauce. And...

...hang on...

...isn't there supposed to be fish in here somewhere?

 

Yeah, okay, it's my birthday...

A week before my birthday, this notification popped up.

Can't wait to celebrate you!
Please, do wait.

My 'avatar' picture is Haruhi Suzumiya, which explains why it's a manga girl. I've not really found anything I want to update it to (Wednesday is a bit too cliché) so it stays as it has for the past decade or so.
At least my Google account is old enough that they're not telling me that I have to send a scan of some sort of identity document to prove I'm over 13. They can eff right off if they think I'm going to willingly give them my identity. Hell no.

On the day, there was this message.

Happy birthday
Why so formal?

When the notification is tapped upon, it goes to an animation of stuff coming out of a gift box. Kind of cheesy. And there's an option for getting your phone sing "happy birthday". Uh... maybe children might find it amusing, but to my mind there's no bigger validation of abject failure in life than to have the so-called assistant built into a bit of tech be the one that sings happy birthday.

For what it's worth, mom used to sing it partly because she meant it and partly because she new it annoyed me, though I did manage to teach her the following version:

Happy birthday to you!
Joyeux anniversaire!
Tanjyôbi omedetô!
Cumpleaños Feliz!
The Japanese on the third line is a bit of a mouthful so normally a name won't fit, not that it ever stopped her shoving in an entire sentence of commentary. ☺

However, as is traditional I won't be actually celebrating until the 16th of June when the weather ought to be rather nicer than it is right now.

 

Mowing (yes, really)

Speaking of weather, it's colder here today. Rain and wind in the UK, so we're getting the cold air that the storm is dragging along with it.
Yesterday, however, was really rather pleasant. It went a little over 13°C. For the past two and a half days the temperature stayed between 9ish and 13ish, day and night. Got the living room and kitchen warmer again. I had the windows open yesterday.

But even weirder than that... I did the mowing! On Boxing Day!

As I was cutting the grass alongside the edge of the driveway, I spotted one of the neighbours walking down the driveway. He spotted me, did an abrupt turn, and started to walk away. Probably wandering down to see what the hell the noise was (Marte is not particularly quiet) as, well, I rather imagine that mowing the grass is not something that comes to mind as an activity to do in the middle of a northern hemisphere winter.
But, alas, the warm weather meant the grass was still growing and I don't know when I'll be able to do it next - I mean, what if it is a rainy spring? Best to get it cut when I can. And since it's supposed to rain a little today and tomorrow, and not get down to freezing until after the weekend, it actually seemed like an ideal time to do it.

Well, that's what I thought. It did, however, take nearly two freaking hours (and several cups of tea) of dumping power into Marte's battery in order to try to get the engine going. It was cold and damp and really didn't want to start, but eventually I coaxed it and all of it's wobbly parts into moving.

Mown grass.
Worth it.

 

How much?

I was looking on Amazon at the prices of Bluetooth headphones with active noise reduction because the battery that I got to repair my headphones is crap and loses about 15%-20% of its charge per day. The headphones do work, but I must remember to leave them on charge the evening before going shopping. Of course, I gave the battery a one star rating...

Anyway, I came across this.

How much?
How much?

You think "hmm, not so bad, fifty euros" until you realise that the struck-through price was €34,19 which means the price has recently gone up 46.2%.
Actually, it's probably more like it was reduced recently for something like the week long "Black Friday", and the price has gone back up to it's normal.
But, still, look at that I'm like "okay, bye".

I've added them to my wishlist. I might consider if the price goes back down to thirty-four...

 

Fixing the key holder

There's a key holder by the front door. It was a little Mont St. Michel plaque with a big hook. The hook has been loose for a while, but this morning was when it decided to come apart.

What to do? I don't think my soldering iron would be up to reattaching the hook to the plaque. Maybe the heat gun could get it up to a few hundred centigrade, but likely at the cost of incinerating the thing.

In the end I took a different option. Forget the plaque, whack two self-tappers into the wood, and use them to wedge the hook in place. Two minutes, job done.

A repaired key holder
A 'repaired' key holder.

I have used the AI "delete object" function to mess with the keys and their shadows, as, well, a photograph of keys with enough clarity that they could be copied? Not smart.

 

A new light

The light in the back kitchen was an ancient fluorescent tube that was noisy, didn't like starting, and had a loose connection so thumping it was necessary from time to time.

The old fluo light
The old fluo light.

Time to do something with it. Here's the inside. Note the black wire (and terminal block) connected to nothing. The prominent blue wire was the one that was loose, it was just poked into the block there. It could still carry current (via the other side of the circuit) but it's less awful than a 'live' wire rattling around inside an unearthed metal box.

Old wiring
Old wiring.

Here is the wiring with the old light fitting removed. The only thing stopping me from wetting myself is that there is surely no way this would work as it looks without tripping the main switch. A clunky old fluo tube starting up would load more than 650mA wouldn't it?

Bare wires
Bare wires - look carefully.

I had a replacement light. It was an under-cupboard light from Lidl that cost something like €12. With three settings (cold white, neutral white, warm white). Apparently you can daisy-chain together a bunch of these things. So I took the little joining cable and cut it in half to get the plug I wanted, and wired that up to the previous wires.
I wasn't happy about wiring between the blue and the green/yellow (so much fail there) with the black unconnected. I'm guessing somebody wired up the old light paying exactly zero attention to the wire colours (or even why the wires are colour coded), but without a tedious trek up into the loft and dealing with the Scary Spaghetti wiring up there to try to work out where and how this is wired up... the previous horrifically wrong colour wiring worked, so I have done the same.
It is not karmically pleasing.
I hooked up the new light and gently flicked the lightswitch (in the kitchen!) and the disjoncteur didn't trip out.

Testing the new light
Testing the new light.

Since I know it works, time to whack two self-tappers into the ceiling board. Yes, I like my self-tapping screws, I do. So useful.

A screw in here, another in there
A screw in here, another in there.

Once the two screws were in place, the new light unit simply slipped into place. I plugged it in, and made a mental note to get some electrical tape to wrap around the terminal block just to make it a little safer.

The new light
The new light.

Now it's a low consumption light that comes on instantly, and is actually a bit brighter. Plus I can make the light a little bit redder if I want, though I think neutral would be an appropriate colour for the room with the washing machine.

 

Weird festive food

Every year I make a comment about nothing says Christmas quite like kangaroo, so why should this year be any different?

Festive meats
Festive meats.

There's Doe, Deer, Kangaroo, Boar, and Austrians. Looking at the pile, nobody wanted to eat the Austrians. Maybe they taste too much like wiener schnitzel?

PS: Yes, I know a doe is a deer (as in the opening line of that nursery song that tries to teach solfège syllables), so I'm guessing it's male and female deer and they taste sufficiently different to be in two separate packages rather than just (oh) "deer".

 

Repairing a fan heater

I had a Lidl fan heater. With remote control, temperature control, and the ability to sweep from side to side. I managed to find the remote control.
The problem was that the sweeping wasn't.

The bottom opened up easily - four screws. The entire top section (heater and fan) simply sat on the bottom and was held in place by a single circlip. Undoing that revealed some old congealed grease that looked like earwax by this stage.

Ewww!
Ewww!

Carefully, for separating the two parts would require much more disassembly to undo the wires, I cleaned up the gunk. The only grease I had was stuff for the mower which I think would have been too stiff, especially in the cold, for the puny little motor to cope with. So I got a paper towel wet with sunflower oil and gave it a good wipe around.

A repaired heater
A repaired heater.

As the caption says, the sweep now works. A quick clean and the heater was back to good working order. Yes, it was 11°C in the living room when I took that picture.

 

Christmas dinner

A Fray Bentos Just Chicken pie (because tradition), a pack of Paxo stuffing balls, and a pack of Ebly. I ate this while marathoning Yu Yu Hashuko. What's with that god-dude with a baby's dummy stuck in his mouth?

Christmas dinner
Christmas dinner.

If you aren't familiar with Ebly, it's the brand name of a product that's quite popular in France. The English name is wheatberry and it's pretty much the kernel of wheat with the outer husk removed, boiled until it is soft. I guess it serves a purpose similar to rice, only somewhat chunkier. It is quite nice with a blob of butter (but, then I'm the person that eats pasta without sauce so...).

I mean, I suppose if you wanted you could call this proto-spaghetti without all the tedious stuff like grinding flour, mixing the dough, and forming pasta. After all, what your digestion sees is going to be largely the same thing. ☺

Speaking of pasta, I think I need to sort myself out a linguine fix...

 

Google review shenanigans

On Christmas Day, I received an email from Google.

The following Play review (some gibberish ID) has been hidden from global view because it was identified through automated internal mechanisms as a violation of our Play Ratings and reviews posting policies.
Scaled down images look bad (no attempt to dither when reducing? (a screenshot to 202×450)) and it says "We couldn't save the result in: /storage/emulated/0/Pictures/PhotoResizer so we stored it here: /storage/emulated/0/Pictures/PhotoResizer" [facepalm emoji]
Specifically, Your review contains unreadable or incomprehensible content - for example gibberish or meaningless strings of characters.

It said I could edit the review or appeal the decision.

Oh, Google, no, no you don't.
I appealed it, obviously. I had two options - that I disagree with the policy, or that I disagree with the application of the policy in this instance. The latter was the logical choice. It's probably a subtle way of filtering out people who genuinely think that the block was incorrectly applied rather than those who would scream about their first amendment rights.

Unfortunately there was no way to add a note to point out that the "gibberish" was pointing out the absurdity of reporting that a file couldn't be saved in the exact same location that it then saves it in, so I had to hope whatever meatsack eventually looked at my objection noticed this.

Astonishingly, given the day, a reply came back six minutes later.

Thank you for letting us know that you disagree with the application of our Ratings and reviews posting policies.
After reviewing your review again, we agree that a reversal of our original action is warranted, and we will be reinstating your review with its original content.
Thank you for flagging your concern to us and allowing us an opportunity to reassess our action.

It should be pointed out that I wrote my review on the 4th of June!

Takeways? Well, I would imagine that Google gets a lot of reviews, but six months before this got flagged? Sounds like a lot of crap could get through.
Secondly, it would probably be a good idea to attach a "confidence value" to suspect reviews. For instance, mine contains plenty of actual words (including the title of the app). So gibberish strings of characters ("asdfghjkjl") could be quickly sorted out as being obvious nonsense, but a suspect review with actual words that aren't swear words should make the review "less likely to be nonsense" than an obviously nonsense one. This can then be handed off to an actual human to read and assess to either discard the warning or flag it as review spam for notifying the user.

Soz, Google, if you're going to put a mark against me, you'll need to come up with a much more robust reason than this.

 

The app programmer asked me to contact them with an example image. I didn't bother as it is plainly clear to see if you take something that isn't a straight photo (like a screenshot of a web page) and try to make it small. I tried a number of different photo resize apps and they all make horrible downscales, it's as if not a single one of them has heard of dithering. A photo would be resized the same way, but it may be less obvious, depending on the photo. Less obvious does not equal correct.

What I do at the moment (for several pictures on this page, actually) is to run a little FTP server on my phone. I use FTPc on RISC OS to connect in, grab the image, and then toss it to ChangeFSI to scale it correctly. It's pretty impressive that a bit of clunky BASIC and clever assembler originally written in 1989 can effortlessly best plenty of image resize apps created nearly three and a half decades later.

 

Anyway, hey, where's my linguine? I'm hungry dammit! Bye...

 

 

Your comments:

Please note that while I check this page every so often, I am not able to control what users write; therefore I disclaim all liability for unpleasant and/or infringing and/or defamatory material. Undesired content will be removed as soon as it is noticed. By leaving a comment, you agree not to post material that is illegal or in bad taste, and you should be aware that the time and your IP address are both recorded, should it be necessary to find out who you are. Oh, and don't bother trying to inline HTML. I'm not that stupid! ☺ ADDING COMMENTS DOES NOT WORK IF READING TRANSLATED VERSIONS.
 
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David Pilling, 28th December 2023, 01:44
I'd not encourage this, but presumably by looking at voltages you can work out which wire is which, you can get devices that do this automatically. Like a plug with neons, stick it a socket and it tells you if the socket is wired correctly. 
 
Gavin Wraith, 28th December 2023, 11:48
My default browser is Chrome on Raspberry Pi OS. This page was practically impossible to read because it kept scrolling back to the beginning. I am sure it is not your page's fault. I tried Firefox esr but that was no better. So what causes this annoying scrolling? A virus that interferes with my browsing? Some daftness in my settings?
David Pilling, 28th December 2023, 12:23
Just to say, no problem with this page on Chrome on Linux. BBC today is lamenting the vanishing of rohtic English.
Rick, 28th December 2023, 12:47
I use Chrome and Firefox on Android, and nothing weird happens. [I also use NetSurf but that's too basic to do anything fancy like autoscrolling] 
 
A quick Google suggests temporarily disabling "Pop Up Blocker" as this seems to cause such behaviour. 
 
There's also an "Auto scroll" feature in Chrome that can cause issues - take a look at Settings -> Advanced -> Auto scroll. 
 
Though, it's odd that it happens with two different browsers. Perhaps something to do with your input device? Mouse? Touchpad? Scroll options? 
 
The only client side scripting that I have here (asides from anything YouTube might pull in, but there's nothing embedded on this page) is a little easter egg that does something on a specific keypress sequence, but it's been there for over a decade. 
 
If you append &keitai=1 to the end of the URL, it'll show you the mobile version of the site. Just in case that's helpful. I could add a "Mobile version" link to the right-panel if that's any use? 
Rick, 28th December 2023, 12:53
I've just fed this page to the validator. There's the usual complaints about the embedded pseudo-tags (<deftitle> and <deftag> that are used by the blog script) and a few things that aren't technically part of the declared HTML 4.01 (such as "placeholder" in an input string box) but that I don't want to change to a later XHTML because that's a pain *and* if the placeholder is ignored by an anal browser, it's no big deal. 
 
There doesn't appear to be anything broken enough that the page would jump to the top by itself.
Gavin Wraith, 28th December 2023, 13:56
This page is OK with Chrome on Manjaro on a Pinebook Pro. But thanks for the advice about settings.
Bernard, 29th December 2023, 18:38
Sorry, what's wrong with ostrich for a festive feast?? 
 
Happy New Year to all (what's the chance of 5.30 in 2024?)
jgh, 31st December 2023, 02:12
What's wrong with ostrich? As long as you're not called Archie Duke.

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