mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
For our recently purchased Fiat Panda I now have the new registration certificate in hand from the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency. Today I checked that the vehicle identification number matches though it took me unexpectedly long to find it on the car as I am used to there being a plate readily visible at the bottom of the windshield or around the engine compartment or when a front door is open. Curiously, the registration certificate says European Community which I thought had ceased to exist many years ago.
mtbc: maze H (magenta-black)
Sometimes when I am happy to do computer programming for an extended period it is because I ongoingly know what the next step is and it will not be long before I see its outcome. The steady, tangible progress is rewarding. This reminds me of when I first started working out on the cross-trainer: it was not difficult each day to exceed my previous day's effort level so that was another case of clear progress arising from moderate incremental effort. Now my exercise is instead at the point where each time I hope not to backslide further.
mtbc: maze J (red-white)
I am again awakening in the morning with a sore lower back despite my previous ameliorative measures. I shall have to again consider risking buying a new mattress. Regarding my previous entry about budgeting, I ought to add mattress replacement to my list of less-than-annual expenses.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
I have claimed that many new houses or apartment complexes, even new cities, need to be created in Britain to bring house prices down to affordable levels: the issue is simply one of supply and demand. Less certainly, I suspect that the tax system should favor landlords less. )

My opinions become more confused over the right to choose where to live. For example, vulnerable poor people may be able to move into social housing in expensive parts of the country if they have family in that area. Similarly, the Help to Buy scheme introduced by George Osborne offers larger loans to buyers in the London area.

On the one hand, I can see that people would want to live where they are already comfortable and they may even require less public assistance if they have family and friends within reach. Not everybody is as ready to move among cities and countries as I. Also, I concede that my moves have taken their toll in removing from my life good friends who are not the kind to much write from afar and we have never had free childminding close at hand.

On the other hand, it had not occurred to me that I have the right to live in the city of my choice without earning enough to do so. My house moves have mostly been from, not to, my preferred city. ) From my view this is simply how real life is.

When I consider how public money could be differently spent in various ways ) then I wonder if people should be more willing to move elsewhere when necessary.
mtbc: maze J (red-white)
When I am tired and using a computer then I can relax my eyes and the text goes blurry. Perhaps it was not always so but if that is a sign of my presbyopia then it crept up on me without my noticing. It is oddly different when I wear my reading glasses: I relax my eyes and the text drifts just a little out of focus then quickly back in again, resharpening. It is as if I weirdly can no longer relax my eyes.
mtbc: maze J (red-white)
I was thinking about the traditional image of primitive humans with men going out on hunting parties, looking for fauna that may keep its distance, and women foraging for nuts and berries, doing close-up scrutiny of the flora. I then searched a little on PubMed, another useful US government website. A glance at the literature does indeed suggest that the hyperopic are disproportionately men and the myopic are disproportionately women. While I am pleased to so easily find seeming support for a casual hypothesis, I am loath to credit how I arrived at it from a storybook view of prehistory that, as I vaguely recall, significantly differs from what is now believed.
mtbc: maze K (white-green)
As shows like Breaking Bad (2008) have before it, Ozark (2017) features money laundering techniques. The ones in Breaking Bad made some sense. For example, overdeclaring the amount of cash that a business takes can raise flags if it outstrips the check and credit card receipts by too high a factor for the industry but that is not quite a smoking gun. However, one of Ozark's methods seems dangerously flaky to me so I may be wrongly guessing the detail. I provide a spoiler cut but it is a rather mild spoiler as I shall simply mention some of the show's featured techniques.

money laundering in Ozark )

I do not like to be failing to spot a technical means of subversion because from a professional point of view I must consider devious techniques when looking for security vulnerabilities in software.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
I had previously wondered if my liking of the tart flavors of flowering plants such as crab apple and rhubarb, both of which I have eaten lately, is related to how I also like sharp, mature cheeses. I now discover that acidity is a common link between the tartness of fruit and the sharpness of cheese so perhaps it is simply that I tend to seek sour tastes.

New glasses

Oct. 7th, 2017 09:45 pm
mtbc: maze J (red-white)
Today I visited the Wellgate Shopping Centre and bought cheap +1.00 glasses from Superdrug's Foster Grant range. They do indeed help with seeing things that are rather close to me, especially food nutrition labels and the like. When I have my laptop computer in my lap then they may even help with that, though the screen is at some distance and I am not wholly convinced of the net benefit that far away. I am giving these glasses a try for it anyway. Now I have them they are like a new toy and I try to find things to look at with them.

I do not know much about optics. I knew abstractly that prescriptions for eye correction entail tradeoffs but I had not appreciated how real that is to the wearer. While my view of very close objects is improved, wearing these reading glasses ruins my distance vision. No wonder I see people peering over the tops of theirs. Maybe there is a different prescription that would correct best at laptop-screen-distance length.
mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
Since moving to Scotland I have discovered that Amazon's own logistics service sometimes deliver their packages: they are swift, with decent tracking. I also now find their budget product line branded as AmazonBasics. We bought their electric kettle and, sure, it is indeed a budget product but quite a nice one. It behaves adequately, and ergonomically it surpasses our previous cheap Tesco kettle.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
My change in car exposed me to the website of the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency which among those of Her Majesty's Government is rather unusual in being both usable and useful. Living in Ohio I was pleasantly surprised by how much value was offered by state and Federal websites. One of the best is from the Federal Reserve Bank of St Louis: their historical economic datasets are not only downloadable but there is an easy web interface for interactive graphing.

Recently I wondered how easily signs of a rise of economic inequality in America may be coaxed from Federal Reserve's data. It turns out that it is not difficult to generate apparently corroborative graphs:

changes in GDP and median income
For example, in this case the rise in Gross Domestic Product per capita appears to rather outstrip that of median personal income, in real terms over the course of forty years. I am no economist so I may be mistaken about the meaning of such plots but I was unsurprised by its form nonetheless.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
I drove our Fiat Panda into work today; it went easily and pleasantly. It was my first time driving it which may seem strange but I can tell as much as I need to about if I will like a car from a combination of being a passenger in it and [personal profile] mst3kmoxie finding it okay to drive. I realized that I maintain a mental picture of myself on the road which I found hard to fill in with the unfamiliar Fiat and mostly imagined that I instead looked like the Peugeot.

Being sat rather higher than in our old Peugeot 306 felt odd but nice. The Fiat's seats provide firm lumbar support. I don't know if car controls are more standard these days or in the UK or what: I am used to having to learn my way around them but the steering column stalk controls in the Fiat seem identically arranged to those in the Peugeot.

This morning's commute reminded me that I have a couple of unusual opinions on safe driving. One relates to how I was getting used to that the brake pedal is a little more to the left than I am used to. I generally like being barefoot; many jurisdictions are at least leery of barefoot driving but I find it safer. Not only can I still apply a sharp impulse to a pedal using the ball of my foot but I can feel exactly where the pedal edges are: there is much less chance of my pressing the side of a pedal or even accidentally including its neighbor.

My other unusual opinion is that I much like cruise control even for city streets. We had it on nearly all our cars in the US but never in the UK. I was thinking of it while driving in Dundee on a narrowing street with many parked cars and some pedestrians and bicyclists, especially in a car that I had never driven before: What I like to do is set the cruise control on a low speed then have my foot over the brake instead of the throttle and my eyes always on the road instead of my speedometer so that I am very ready for a surprise pedestrian in my path.
mtbc: maze M (white-blue)
A member of my family was booked to go on vacation to Barcelona, which is probably now full of angry nationalists and riot police, being flown there by Monarch who collapsed today. That worked out quite well really: at least they get a refund.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
Since our 2004 Vauxhall Astra is finished we are now in possession of a 2007 Fiat Panda, taxed and insured. It has a timing chain, not a belt, so that should last well if I keep up with the oil changes. We once owned a 1989 Fiat Panda that had visited the Alps and was the color of tomato soup.
mtbc: maze L (green-white)
In Boston I could accumulate savings with little effort but since moving to Scotland we have found ourselves short of money. I routinely keep an eye on bank and credit card statements but it became necessary to more properly track our spending and I thought it worth describing what I do.

I have a spreadsheet with a monthly budget. Annual and weekly expenses get converted to being per month. Similar occurs for income, except there are rather fewer lines for that. So, I can check that the budgeted expenses are within our income.

For the non-fixed expenses such as grocery shopping or electricity bills I have a single-entry system where for each expense line item I have per-month ledger cards that receive weekly or monthly credits corresponding to the spreadsheet then our actual spending is debited accordingly. Infrequently I review the current month's ledger cards to ensure that the balances are staying in line.

Some expenses occur less than annually. For those I have a separate section on the spreadsheet that tracks their amplitude, period and phase, from which I calculate two numbers. First, how much I should now have accumulated in savings to be able to meet the expenses when they do arrive. Second, how large a monthly expense line item is required in the main part of the spreadsheet to sustain a sufficient savings rate for these less common expenses.

I find that this approach gives me a good handle on our home finances without being overly onerous. I wonder how it compares to what others do.
mtbc: maze D (yellow-black)
This morning I did not get far on my way into work before the timing belt snapped in our Vauxhall Astra. It will not be worth repairing. Admittedly I do not off-hand know what the service interval is but, looking back at the records, the timing belt was last changed less than four years ago, though perhaps over 40,000 miles ago which may have been too much. I am wont to count these things more by time so I could indeed have missed that it was due, though if so then I might have liked to imagine that my regular garage may have noticed for me.

Tomorrow we look at a Fiat Panda in Angus that we may buy. It has been SORN'd which makes extended test drives rather awkward but for £1,000 it may be worth the risk if it looks good. (A SORN declaration amounts to that the car is not taxed as it is not on public roads.) With our income two cars may seem excessive but I am reluctant to rely only on our Peugeot 306 given that it is over twenty years old. The Panda would be expected to offer better fuel efficiency and that bears upon cars' dominant cost, at least at UK prices. We bought the Astra just over twenty-five months ago and I save £500 each year toward car replacement so the Panda is the right price. I should separately write more about how I budget.

When we lived in Ohio the state did not require annual safety inspections for cars so we got used to catastrophic failures happening under us: when the Astra abruptly became inoperable on the A90 it was not a very remarkable event. I had mentioned earlier this year how I hardly remember my UK driving test. I noticed today that, although I could recall pulling onto the A90 and how the start of my drive went, I have no memory from after the warning lights came on to when I had safely parked off the side of the road.
mtbc: maze B (white-black)
A few months ago I complained about Asda's labeling of their canned fruit giving nutrition information that excluded the juice that the pieces of fruit were in. This evening I came across a couple more inadequate nutrition labels and was unsurprised to discover that they too were branded Asda: oven fries with no information by post-baked weight and a selection of twelve pieces of Indian food with no per-piece information apart from for only one of the kinds. I do not think that they are trying to deceive. Instead, I suspect that they are just too lazy or ignorant to label helpfully.

Certainly it is usual for other brands' labeling to not be wholly convenient but they do usually provide enough information that one can calculate what one wants to know: divide by number of identical pieces, adjust for some factor based on mass loss in baking, etc. I do not mind having to think about the information that they choose to provide but I like there to at least be enough of it without having to weigh individual kinds of item both pre- and post-baking and suchlike.
mtbc: maze I (white-red)
This month I have been receiving more spam so I concluded that it is time to risk increasing anti-spam measures. I no longer graylist, partly because it was a hassle to maintain with some large services retrying delivery from a new host each time. Instead, I periodically download lists of miscreants' IP addresses and have the firewall redirect their incoming deliveries to a tarpit. I have now added FireHOL's level 2 list to those I redirect away from my MTA: at least based on a small sample, it includes the IP addresses of many hosts that recently spammed me. I wonder which lists others favor.
mtbc: maze N (blue-white)
Following my recent entry on golliwog dolls the news brought the results of a poll, UK attitudes toward the Arab world, with most of those expressing an opinion believing that Arabs have failed to integrate once here and that for security it is fine to employ racial profiling against them.

I was thinking about integration and the degree to which religious observance hinders it. It is only through work that I have got to know Jews and Arabs, though back in the US; there is no obvious religious diversity among my present colleagues in Dundee. Even for hosting observant Muslims, socially it is not all that difficult even to share food given suitably washable crockery and silverware and a liking for vegetable curries or whatever. Muslims may even be easier than Jews in that respect: many Sunnis even eat shrimp which surprised me as I had thought that Islam largely accepts the Torah. I suppose that it might be uncomfortable to mix with women with uncovered heads; I have not asked.

I should mention that the large mosque near my workplace typically does open its doors when Dundee has an Doors Open Day, probably including a couple of weeks ago when I wholly missed that there was another such day occurring. Were I to take advantage of one of these days then the mosque would be near the top of my list as I have perhaps never been in a non-Christian house of worship.

Maybe I am mistaken for thinking along religious lines here: perhaps many British Muslims are actually African and the feelings against Arabs are more about some other cultural difference or some unavoidable consequence of awkwardness arising from British foreign policy over the past century or somesuch. However, in practice I suspect that many respondents regard Arab and Muslim as being loose synonyms, especially given that question about racial profiling. They may even be wrong about Arabs failing to integrate.
mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
I have mentioned wishing for viable alternatives to sites like Amazon that have a good range of stuff. I am willing to pay a little more for a site that annoys me less. Still, I am not very good at finding them. I sold a couple of things through not-eBay but do not now recall which sites I used. Recently I tried to avoid Amazon by buying through eBay instead and the seller then bought me the item through Amazon as a gift.

It is not as if there are not other fairly wide-ranging vendors out there so much as, at least for the UK-based ones I have looked at in recent years, mostly their websites are rather poor from my point of view. Perhaps they are tailored more toward people wanting to look at photographs from their tablets than to actually read information. At least one success last week was buying a book through AbeBooks.

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mtbc: photograph of me (Default)
Mark T. B. Carroll

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