Oops, I did it again

Randolph, so long and thanks for all the fish your patience hosting my site & email over the years.

This is my blog, at a new host. Replacement pictures to come later.

Link to 2018 post “Killed“.


I planted and grew an onion, and harvested it (I think this is the word despite some misgivings based on the scale of this operation) a few days ago.

It started out about 2-1/2 months ago as 2 stems and roots split from one onion which was going off. One stem eventually flowered and was subsequently eaten by our local wildlife, but I somehow got one to grow.

I’m probably going to prepare and eat it later today, or sometime this week.

And here it is!

The Onion

Needs to be said: my wife planted and nurtured the tomatoes, with a little help from me (building the planters and filling them with soil & compost last year). The onion though, my tending consisted of occasional watering once a week and repositioning it when the stem drooped.

Now I was going to use this as a metaphor for and then mention stuff that’s happened to me in the last 5 years since I involuntarily absented myself from the pnut.io social network – enjoying its 7th anniversary today. But naah, this blog post will stand alone as a metaphor for growing plants without a clue!

Question Time

I’ve just watched a recording of this week’s BBC Question Time, a Thursday evening tv show that assembles a few people who can speak about whatever subjects the audience (both in the studio and having submitted questions beforehand) think are newsworthy. It doesn’t matter if they know nothing provided they can speak convincingly.

Gary Lineker is an ex-English football player who transitioned seamlessly into the profession of sports presenter. He’s articulate, witty, and universally liked. Well, pretty-much. He tweets about issues affecting the disadvantaged, i.e. those without a voice, who battle against a political and social system set up to deny them often basic human rights. He tweets about politics.

Some of his latest tweets mentioned the UK Conservative (right wing) government’s proposed law to prohibit people claiming asylum if they enter the country using any illegal means, with a policy to then deport them to another country without hearing any asylum claim. Crucially, when they are deported the UK will bar them from ever again applying for asylum.

Now of course this ignores the United Kingdom’s international legal obligations to treat asylum seekers fairly. And it implicitly defines ‘illegal’ as whatever the government says it is. And it makes things legal in this country that will be frowned upon by other more tolerant countries, and ignores the people who drew up our once world-class democracy.

Gary Lineker works for the BBC. His contract is as a freelancer so his political views are irrelevant when it comes to what he says outside work, a fact established as far back as 2016 after one of his Brexit tweets. But neither the assembled Question Time panel nor the chair (who also works for the BBC) mentioned this, or even alluded to it. Instead, speculation and opinion were allowed to muddy the waters. I’m certain the producers of the show would have the facts to hand, but to stifle the question at the outset wouldn’t have been as entertaining would it.

If he was a political journalist the rules would be different. But he’s not.

So what did he say when accused of having inflammatory views?

“There is no huge influx. We take far fewer refugees than other major European countries. This is just an immeasurably cruel policy directed at the most vulnerable people in language that is not dissimilar to that used by Germany in the 30s, and I’m out of order?”

The right wing backlash was immediate, from government ministers to the right-wing press. It actually surprised me how many people from all parts of the political spectrum espouse the concept of free speech for everyone whilst making it plain that Mr Lineker isn’t entitled to any.

And so, because the right wing now runs the BBC, the BBC told him that he can not resume his broadcasting duties until the matter is resolved. It “decided that he will step back from presenting Match of the Day until we’ve got an agreed and clear position on his use of social media”.

There was a clear position, a precedent set in 2016 after his Brexit tweets, but the BBC ignored it this week.

And all of his colleagues, and everyone conceivably able to present, when asked to step into his shoes, declined. Because that’s the right thing to do. (More here).

1997-03-23 Internet

It’s 1997, March the 23rd to be precise. A Sunday afternoon. I’ve not long returned from PC World in Stretford England, the closest store that I believed would stock everything I need.

Everything I need: a US Robotics Sportster Flash “modem” & cables, and an Internet for Dummies book.*

I’ve plugged everything in, installed the driver software on my PC, and I’m ready to open the icon on the desktop: MSN, the Microsoft Network.

I’ve chosen the closed infrastructure of MSN just because it seems easy to get into, I don’t really care, I mean, it’s right there on the desktop! I’d read about the other United Kingdom “Internet Service Providers” (ISP) so I’m not totally in the dark. And I reason, once I’m running at a speed I like I can choose another ISP to suit my needs, at my leisure.

“ISP”. I’m one of the few people I know who understands what those 3 letters stand for, both as an abbreviation and as a concept.

This is a big moment. Big. I’m about to step into the slow lane of the Information Superhighway, to begin my small participation in the start of a golden era of unprecedented access to information, an era in which I know for certain it will be no longer possible to feign ignorance of a subject or to pass disinformation off as fact.

I’m breathless with anticipation, can’t you tell?

And after a few dings or dongs and a squawking raspy noise as the modem connects to the remote server, it works first time.

Now what?

Yes, I’ll browse the communities in Microsoft Chat, that’s what. “Browse” like in a shop, not like with an “Internet browser”, I’ve not used one of those before!

Looking in a couple of chat rooms I’m ignored, how rude! And then a third “What’s Cooking Online”, abbreviated to “WCOL”. I’m instantly welcomed by Norma (her real name) from Texas, one of the regulars and I guess a moderator, who throws a wall of text at me explaining the room’s purpose. I try my best to read that but the chat roils about me and it’s gone.

She’s from Texas, the USA, and I’m chatting in real time. Practically real time.

But I make my excuses and leave, I’m paying per minute for the privilege of connecting via the phone line, and while I’m “online” it stops all incoming calls.

Wow. It’s past midnight already, I’ve absolutely no sense of the passage of time. I’ll need to be careful how I manage things in the future.

Nothing productive happened the next evening either. Or the next.

*2023, February 22. A Wednesday evening here. Now.

I bought another book that day, the name of which escapes me now, but the Dummies one, wow, I learned a LOT from that one.

What’s just struck me, how did I know where to go and how did I know what things to buy to get online? It’s not as if I could open a browser window and search is it.

Magazines. Glossy, flappy papery things.

This post is prompted by Terence Eden‘s post Necroposting – blogging from before you started blogging – Terence Eden’s Blog I’m eventually going to change the posting date to the one you see right at the top.


💡 This is a test of publishing a public page from a private Notion, er… whatchamacallit.

I’ve been using the Obsidian notes/’second brain’ app for a few months and like what I’ve found. I triaged then imported all the notes I’ve made over the years in Evernote, OneNote, Apple’s iOS Notes, etc., etc., in short text files from many different times in my life.

There’s nothing missing from the user experience, there are many useful ‘community’ plugins to enhance the base Obsidian app.

But, there’s always a but: noticing someone in my Mastodon social network timeline running Obsidian and Notion in parallel prompted me to take a look at the latter. (I must be going through a masochistic period at the moment, I ran OmniFocus and Todoist task management services in parallel for a while before choosing the latter, at least for the medium term).

Notion has a lot going for it, not the least of which is because it’s a web based service I can access my texts on my work PC, and though Obsidian can be synced to more than one device, it still relies on the basic concept of having a local copy of all the Markdown files within one of its ‘Vaults’. I simply don’t want my notes escaping into a work environment.



Best ever gift

Prompted by the Free Talk Friday post in Reddit’s r/Browns on December 10 2022:

My best ever gift was a shiny plastic space rocket with a shiny red nose. A pointy shiny red nose. I’m sure it wouldn’t be allowed to be manufactured these days, it was so pointy.

Now we had a set of chairs with imitation leather cushions and a perfect amount of padding. Perfect for a small boy to puncture with a shiny plastic rocket with a shiny red plastic nose. What a satisfying sound it made each and every time I punctured the cushion in a pattern of dozens of obsessively-created holes.

Until dad found out…

I’ve no idea how many minutes I had the rocket, but I never saw it again.

Maybe that’s why I never made it into space, and maybe it’s why I’m a Browns fan.

Knocker upper

Frequently portrayed as a job most likely to be seen in the gaslit streets of the grim mill towns in the industrial north of England, but more likely a viable profession anywhere large numbers of people worked for large employers, a knocker upper was responsible for waking people from their rest each workday morning. Why? Well, the alarm clocks of the day, before radio or home telephones, were unreliable, untrustworthy, even if a home could afford one.

From the Industrial Revolution through to the 1950s in the United Kingdom, the knocker upper’s job entailed arriving at the appointed time and tapping on the subscriber’s window with a long pole until they appeared at it. Or a pea shooter with dried peas. Or gravel. Or maybe rocks, but they probaby wouldn’t stay employed for very long.

This morning, a grey and wintry morning in the once-grim, once-industrial north of England, as I waited for my car to heat up a little so I could scrape its windows more quickly and efficiently, I had a brilliant idea, one I just had to share with a near neighbour.

Instead of, in this age of ultra-reliable timepieces, a wake-up call, why not a service that arrives outside one’s home, starts one’s car and scrapes the ice from its windows.

I’m absolutely certain it’ll be big. I see cars throughout the wintry months with uselessly-small patches of cleared glass, just enough to look forward through; it’s obvious their occupants are far too important to undertake the finger-end-numbing task, and prefer other lesser motorists to take any necessary avoiding action during the journey.

So, what time is convenient for you, and what shall I pitch the weekly cost at?

And will you get up when you’re called to pay? Whether you do or not I’m still going to have to pay my legions of early-rising gloved and scraper-wielding slaves, aren’t I.


This is a test of the Obsidian to WordPress plugin.

I’ve been using a really great notes app called Drafts on my iPhones since 2013, and lately on my Mac.

Someone I know on Mastodon mentioned a couple of days ago that they were taking a fresh look at another notes app/service called Obsidian.

Obsidian doesn’t keep all the notes in one file like Drafts, it instead saves in plain text files – in my case I’ve chosen to save as Markdown – and enables the creation of links between any number of files. Drafts does it too, but it’s an app with less scope and file portability.

Obsidian works on multiple platforms whereas Drafts appears only on Apple hardware. I’m using it in Apple hardware but it can be installed on Androids, Linux and Windows.


#blog , #write

Computer book acquired

Some 8 years ago I asked the Internet for help finding a computing book I bought at the beginning of the nineteen eighties – over forty years ago. (I’m spelling those numbers longhand because it’s an age ago and that needs appropriate emphasis). Now I’ll always regret letting it go because it set a foundation of understanding, of a love of things of computing that continues to this day. This weekend, after a chance conversation on Mastodon’s Appdot.net instance, I found it again.

It’s ‘The Good Computing Book for Beginners‘ by Dennis Jarrett, the link goes to the second edition – available for loan from The Internet Archive. Not only that but there’s a copy of the second first! edition of the book available on eBay UK. Or there was, I bought it!

From the preface of that second edition it turns out that I bought one of the 30,000 copies of the first edition. It’s pleasing to recall my memories of the book are relatively accurate: it has a predominantly orange cover, a computer keyboard on the front, and a longer version of the most important thing I remember, mentioned in the 2014 blog post, a key phrase something like “computers are fast rule following idiots”. It’s not quite as US-centric as I recall but maybe that’s because it’s been updated to reflect the start of the UK’s early-eighties home computing boom.

Thanks @mdhughes, your tip proved absolutely invaluable!


Just over a year ago I ran a Minecraft server on a used Windows 8 tablet converted to Windows 10. It soon became apparent it wasn’t the best solution so I looked around and eventually figured out https://mcprohosting.com would give my daughters and me the best and cheapest performance.

We picked a world seed, fired it up and began to explore. My youngest daughter took to it like a, er… child does to new things, and explored the world, made and built things, exploited it as far as it could go, and then pretty much left for places she could more easily interact with her friends. No great loss there.

Before their boredom set in I built a scale model of our home and let the girls furnish it – and populate it with Mollie cat and Ruby dog.

But the very best thing I did was creat a perpetual morion machine using red stone and plungers. Here’s the YouTube video, screenshot not long before I closed the hosting account:


Incidentally, if I’d not closed the account and the details hadn’t been removed from the server, Mollie & Ruby would probably be a bit hungry by now, I can’t recall if we left the doors open when we left! (There were plenty of sheep and cows and chickens around, don’t worry)!