The Ice House

Frozen fields

Very chilling weather

One regular spot in my week’s activity is a grand English baroque hall. Tucked away, easily bypassed at the Hall is the Ice House. If you haven’t seen one its essentially a big pit, with a small entrance and it seeks to be as insulated from the outside as possible. It was used to store ice… for preservation of food, for creation of exotic dishes, and to cool drinks in the summer. It is essentially a dump of ice and it ‘hopefully’ lasted all year as enough had been collected and it didn’t melt. It would have been ‘damned inconvenient’ to have run out of ice after all.

In order to ‘stock’ the Ice-House a servant – and I can’t think it was a particularly sought after job – had to go out with a cart to all the local ponds and lakes. Once at any frozen stretch of water they had to go out onto it, break the ice into reasonable sections, then load up the cart, and then trundle the load back to the Hall and unload it into the Ice House. It was not a very pleasant job – and I doubt the servant had suitable clothing and footwear for the task or the weather. More importantly, as we all know, walking on frozen lakes is not recommended. Ice has a habit of breaking and dropping the walker into the freezing cold beneath – with frostbite, drowning as the likely outcome.

I suspect the ‘lords and masters’ shed few tears over the drowned servant lad – there would have been plenty more to take his place – such ‘lower orders’ were expendable commodities after all.

This morning’s Radio 4 Today was talking about the concept of a living wage and whether it was affordable.

As our society creaks and groans and breaks apart under the strain of the financial crisis I wonder if  our “Lords and Masters’ think about those poor unfortunates walking on very thin ice, and what happens when it cracks and they fall through  into the cold chill below? The odd tear is easily and publicly displayed before turning back to their banquets.

I doubt if the ‘Lords and Masters’ would have given much thought to some decent warm clothing for the servant boy who fetched the ice from the local lakes.

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Ozymandias?

Ok, last night I watched the second of a series about the Normans. I had not, in all honesty, realised just how brutal, emphatic and long lasting the effects of the Norman Conquest were.

Today I journeyed through the New Forest (for anyone on the other side of the Atlantic, think New, think planted almost a 1000 years ago!). Never been before, delightful, in particular the ponies, who exhibit total disdain for the cars and simply stand on the road saying – ‘You want to get past, you drive round me’.

Went to Bucklers Hard, an example of a 19th Century shipbuilding village. Hmmm, I think disappointing is the best word to describe the experience. Lovely setting. Whether the current economics is to blame who knows but only two buildings open and a classic case of a site that promises much but underdelivers. 

It was William who left us the New Forest (though I suspect that wasn’t the top on his reasons for its creation agenda). William in his day was a feared, absolute monarch. Interesting that on his death (according to last night’s programme) his lords all rushed off to sort out their own survival, and the local poor came in and ransacked his body – end result, one of the greatest rulers of his time left half naked and deserted after death.

‘How are the mighty fallen’ – its from a Hardy novel…….

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That’s the way you do it!

Weymouth today, not quite sure what it would be like, small, quiet fishing village or……. well not as tacky as Blackpool – a bustling seaside resort. the grand fronted houses all now eateries and B&Bs. And on the beach, a Punch and Judy show! Along from that another relic of a bygone age – a bathing machine.

Well now, I haven’t checked out Weymouth on Google or Wkipedia, but I reckon its one of these places that suddenly thrived with the coming of the railways and mass holiday opportunites. I’m actually also minded of the fact that when I was a kid we didn’t go ‘on holiday’  – we went to see relatives…….

So there we are, we spot the Punch and Judy show, and its about to start, and its got all thse kids sitting waiting in anticipation. What is it that makes the  videogame generation still compelled to sit on the sand and watch a  few puppets?

Enagagement, a story, some rituals – these transcend the techological whirligig we live in. In education we need to realise that there are universals, that do not change – and that everythug else does!

 

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An apology

If you are driving the highways and byways of Dorset and stuck behind some silver grey Astra that is being driven somewhat cautiously its probably me, sorry! My family would say I was not a fast driver anyway but in strange, and to me, narrow roads, I take extra care. Occasionally a driver gets really annoyed and zooms past at the first opportunity – often having to whiz back in asap or wrap themsleves round an oncoming tractor or such like.

I don’t drive a huge amount in normal day to day terms, and the routes I take I know well. I’m probably equally guilty of impatience when getting stuck behind a car on my well worn routes. When I’m out of my area I rely on SatNav, and despite the urban myths, I have always found it completely reliable.

One really excellent example of SatNav for me is the way it warns me of speed limts and speed cameras ahead of me encountering them – and I’m not really here talking about avoidance, I’m talking warning. A lot of the roads round here suddenly change, the Satnav tells me to beware – good for everyone’s safety.

So, last night the news that the Government (anyone who has read many of my posts will realise I’m not a great fan) is withdrawing funding for speed cams, and is championing this as giving people local choice. Local choice to be knocked down, local choice to have accidents outside your house? Local choice to have the National Health Service resources used to patch up the results? Hmmmm……. sorry not convinced.

No speed cams means a freedom to drive at the speed you choose, the chances of being caught are slim unless you really exceed the limit by a lot. The same argument was lost many years ago about the libertarian concept of being able to drink and drive because it was your choice…. yeah, and the consequences for others? No speed cams also means no need to have them on the SatNav, so my safety is put at risk, thanks for that ConDems.

A decade ago I spent some time in the Czech Republic, and on one occasion was being driven round by some charming 18 year old hosts. We were driving in the countryside to vsiit some caves and they remarked that they always took great care when they saw any warning signs on the roads.  I commended them for their restraint – no they said you don’t understand – we can’t afford warning signs, so if there is one ever it really does mean this place is dangerous!

I wonder if we will end up with the odd speedcam that really means, whoa, hey this is a death trap, but for all the other places you take your chance?

Ok, had a great day at The Tank Museum at Bovington. For me and my military history interest this was amazing. So many things that I liked, that would mean nothing to anyone else – in fact I can see eyes glazing over already. The picture is of a King Tiger – the largest tank ever built by the Germans in WW2. It was impressive, but actually sank into the ground because it was so heavy, had a fatal design flaw, and couldn’t travel on most of the roads on Europe as they were – too narrow!

A piece of trivia for you, its almost 95 years since the first tanks were created, its only in the latest British tank that has a primitive toilet built in…… Sometimes the essentials are neglected in the grand design…….

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So who are the inmates?

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Everything changes……. or does it?

Visit to Dorcheter yesterday, looked on the tourist guide like a place full of wide open spaces, nice walks and plenty to see. Turned out the ‘green’ spaces were in fact representative of buildings…. my error, my assumption. Place was very much taking advantage of it being a Sunday – almost everything was shut or on limited functionality. Hard to imagine Hardy’s characters wandering the streets here – though of course they are only characters and only occupy our imaginations anyway.#Imaginationfail!

Drove via Cerne Abbas – smaller than I’d imagined – and Sherbourne – now that did look like a nice place. Ended up having lunch (substantial) in a nice roadside pub on way back to Shaftesbury. 

Started reading Crete by Antony Beevor. Wow, drop yourself into the 1940’s. Before my time of course (by not much more than a decade) but it reads like something out of a spoof absurd film – and its not, its a serious treatment of the Crete campaign and its precursor – the Greek campaign. The whole thing (well I have read up to page 30 of 343) is peopled by craziness.

The appointment of University lecturers as secret agents because they could speak ancient greek – and then flying them out to Greece with an hour or so’s training. The head of the Greek military intelligence establishing his HQ in a hotel bar, and shouting down numerous phones so people were able to listen to what was going on as they had a drink. The reliance on anyone with a ‘double-barelled’ name as being good at what they were asked to do.  The main source for our information coming from a guy who always believed most optimistically what he was told rather than ever going and having a look. The ‘agents’ sent to commando training in the West of Scotland who took their ‘batmen’ with them to look after them. A life in Egypt where officers had cocktails every day from 3 followed by a good old english roast in full uniform…..

You have to feel for the poor Greek soldiers, relying on local villagers to give them a coat to wear in the middle of winter….having to walk everywhere,  and not supported by us because our planes could not fly very close to the front line in case we ‘annoyed’ the Germans……

Thankfully this is a thing of the past, no way could anyone except in their most mischeivous moments, ever draw any paralllels with modern day……

NO we don’t work in a world of prejudice, of hanging on to ‘they way its always been’, of application of rules and rituals, of not wanting to ‘rock the boat’……….. of trusting that those in authority, by the nature of being in authority, must be right.

The world changes, but does human nature change at the same pace?

 

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Far from the madding crowd

———- Forwarded message ———-
From: Roger Neilson
Date: Sunday, August 8, 2010
Subject: Far from the madding crowd
To: post@didactylos.posterous.com

Some technical issues sorted, got wifi where I am via a variety of
tricks. Slow but perhaps that echoes the pace.

Now…. 1, 2, 3 ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday, no more
worries……….. For a week or two!’

Ok, long journey, detour to avoid the M5 where the technology informed
us of massive delays, through the pretty countryside of the Welsh
marches (would not have seen this otherwise), over the Severn Bridge
(Wow) and 9 hours later we are here.

So, where’s here? Well the title may give a clue, otherwise think of
the famous Hovis advert – cobbled street, hillside, freewheeling down
for a thick slice….

And the view from our patio in this barn conversion…… Pretty good really.

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Far from the madding crowd

Some technical issues sorted, got wifi where I am via a variety of
tricks. Slow but perhaps that echoes the pace.

Now…. 1, 2, 3 ‘We’re all going on a summer holiday, no more
worries……….. For a week or two!’

Ok, long journey, detour to avoid the M5 where the technology informed
us of massive delays, through the pretty countryside of the Welsh
marches (would not have seen this otherwise), over the Severn Bridge
(Wow) and 9 hours later we are here.

So, where’s here? Well the title may give a clue, otherwise think of
the famous Hovis advert – cobbled street, hillside, freewheeling down
for a thick slice….

And the view from our patio in this barn conversion…… Pretty good really.

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Where’s all the books?

AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by Ευτυχία (Jim is Nice)

Ok, I’m not in the publishing business so I may be completely wrong but here’s my views.

I use an Ipad now. I love the screen and the fact that ‘books’ are far more readable on them than they are as ‘books’. I also love the fact that I can store lots of them without having to shuffle stuff round on bookcases all the time. I also, form a professional viewpoint, thin that the ebook is a great solution to resource problems in schools – either as purchases, or as home produced materials.

Now I ‘think’ that the days of manual typesetting went out decade ago, I may be wrong. I assume these days that the books are set up on some software which then ‘talks’ to the printer and off the process goes.

So, why do books cost a lot of money?

  1. Paper costs
  2. Labour costs
  3. Ink costs
  4. Marketing costs
  5. Transport costs
  6. Admin costs
  7. Royalties to writer

Now of the list above only 6 & 7 really count when it comes to ebooks. The digital ‘print’ already exists, you have to stick the ebook out in the marketplace somehow and then as there is no additional cost per sale, everything you sell is profit and goes towards your ‘bottom line’.

A good detailed breakdown of all this can be found here http://ireaderreview.com/2009/05/03/book-cost-analysis-cost-of-physical-book-…

So, my questions.

Question 1:

Why are ebooks almost the same price, the same price, more expensive than ‘real books? (all of the pricing structures seem to apply) The one that does not apply is an ebook is significantly cheaper than a ‘real book’.

Question 2:

Why are so few books available as ebooks? I looked yesterday at the number of books published by an author I liked – wanting to buy some as ebooks, he has written over 20, and yet less than a third were available as ebooks!

Either I am very stupid (and have not understood the costs of publishing at all), or there is extreme lethargy in the publishing industry (yet they could make significant profits here), or there is a fixed pricing policy here that makes sure that printed books and ebooks have an equivalence of cost in order to ‘support’ the printed book industry.

I’d love some answers people!

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What’s it really worth?

AttributionNoncommercialNo Derivative Works Some rights reserved by bostone

Yesterday I took my car into two places for sorting. A stubborn oil leak needed finding and then fixing. So, first off a steam clean of the engine, then round to the garage to get them to find and fix the oil leak. Cost of the steam cleaning – including an all over outside wash and polish – £20! Money well spent. Then I sat and waited for the call  from the garage regarding the oil leak. They had found it, its was a small seal that needed replacement – cost around £12. But…….

 

Yes I sensed the but was in fact more like a buuuuuuuuuuuuuuut. To get to it would require dismantling of the engine sump, removal of the clutch and the gearbox. Six hours work, estimated cost £270.  So I did a quick calculation in my head of the cost/benefits analysis and reached a conclusion.

Whilst I was sitting waiting for the call my son alerted me a clipping about Leicester City Council and buying some Ipads. <a href="http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-10859748.http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-10859748.</span>

So, I wonder if anyone has really calculated what this is worth – or what the cost/ benefit analysis is? Knowing councils well I suspect internally they will have doen a business case. I have had one for a couple of months now. I have had the odd ‘conversation’ with people about their worth. 

If one starts to think about the fact that their battery life is phenomenal, their portability is great, their screens are great, they can handle pdfs and gather information fast and the total cost of ownership is going to be significantly less than clumsy laptops, and that they also will, by their ease of use, be adopted by anyone who is given one, I’d say the business case could be pretty convincing.

If they can only wean the users off needing a ‘paper copy’ ‘just in case’ or ‘I can’t read from a screen’ they’d probably save the cost in a year!

How often do we only see the headline cost of something? Factor in time saved/spent, factor in use and transformation.  

Where was I, the oil leak……

I still have the oil leak. I reckoned the cost of the odd fill up of oil over the next few years was going to work out far far cheaper.

And the steam clean and valet……. wow the car looks much nicer, and I could swear it drives better!


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