Friday, 20 April 2012

to bahrain or not to bahrain

Well, as I type this now it currently looks like the Bahrain Grand Prix is going ahead.

Last year the event was cancelled by the organisers due to the protests and Arab spring type unrest.  This year the promoters apparently want to stage the race.

The FIA does have the power to call off the race and in theory the teams / drivers could boycott the event.

Already some people in force India have come into contact with unrest, having basically driven into an area where a protest was going on and people threw petrol bombs at them.  From the reports the implication is that the protestors were not specifically after the Force India people, they just got caught up in it.  However, if that's what happens when they're not specifically after the teams, I wonder what would happen if they were?

The opposition movement has, I believe, stated that they would not target the teams or anyone coming into the country to do with the race, but they have stated that the Grand Prix represents everything that's wrong with the country.  It was brought in by the ruler and that's who they're protesting against.

I guess one of the real fears I have are that the teams will get caught up in it - probably in a similar style to the Force India incident: not deliberately, but in a way that doesn't matter.

The other thing I'm afraid of is that the protestors will do something daft.  If they try to storm the track or in any way interfere there are all sorts of possibilities for things that could go horribly wrong.  While F1 cars can stop incredibly quickly, they're still having to do so from 200mph on some occasions.  And we know they crash into each other all the time - some protestor running on to the track could be a horrible tragedy.

Or they may protest and be cracked down on.  This would be horrible because it means the sport is part of the cause of people get hurt or killed or whatever.

It will also not exactly help the sport's reputation.  We're already known to many people for the vast sums of money that go sloshing around.  The idea we're staging a race basically because some Arab king wants to pay to stage it and the sport doesn't have the courage to not take his money will not be a good result.

Who knows, it may go without a hitch.  But I've a feeling that even if the race event goes smoothly F1 won't come out of the weekend well.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

a warm front

So my landlord has had a new boiler installed.

I have discussed before in the blog that I now have a heater in my bedroom / living area that's connected to my landlord's heating.  It's proven quite useful and has saved me a considerable amount in terms of electricity cost.

It's not completely removed the need for me to use my own radiators, not least of all because obviously I have no control over it.  A good example of this is that I get up quite early (about 6:30 now but more like 6:00 when I was on contract) but my landlord doesn't, so he doesn't have any need for the heating to come on until about 7:00.  That therefore means I have to have my radiator on for about half an hour and then the landlord's is effective for the half hour before I set off for work at about 7:30.

Anyway, he's gotten a new boiler fitted because the old one is apparently not up to the job.  I'm not sure if my radiator made it more obvious, but apparently he said it's not been very good since it was installed.  He reckoned it took a lot of very careful fiddling with to get right and was very sensitive.

However, the problem form my point of view was that this was going to take the hot water out of action for a couple of days.  I'm not sure why it was a multiple day job, but it was, so he told me that Monday and Tuesday there would be no heating (I'm pretty sure he'd actually been hoping that by now the temperature would be enough not to have it on anyway) but also there's be no hot water.

My hot water is obviously supplied by the landlord's boiler too and in terms of things like hot water for washing up this was no great issue, but showering would be impossible.

Now to some degree I don't quite understand this as there is an immersion heating in the hot water tank, but my guess is that by taking the hot water out of the loop it meant they would need to drain all the systems, so there would be no water (hot or cold) in it to use.  Since my shower is a power shower without any sort of its own heating element, this certainly meant I couldn't have a hot shower, but probably meant I couldn't have one at all (no water).

His proposed solution for this was that he'd put a kettle in the corridor that joins me to his house and I could use that to boil water and "wipe down" instead.

This was not something I felt comfortable with (I sweat a lot during the night and my hair gets really greasy) so instead I took myself off to a travel lodge for the night.

It worked out okay.  I unfortunately forgot to take my earplugs with me so I woke up a couple of times in the night, but when I returned on Tuesday the boiler had been installed and was all up and running.  I also forgot my comb, but that was not such a problem.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

switch it off and on again

No review today as I didn't really get the chance to do any last weekend as I was jibbering on about earlier in the week.

As such instead I thought I'd post about something that finally happened today - we went digital.  Which is to say they've now fully switched off the analogue TV signal where I am.

It seems to have taken absolutely bloody ages for it to happen.  And it seems that way because it has taken absolutely bloody ages for it to happen.

Switchover was meant to all be completed by now but there have been various delays that have meant it's only now that it's all switched over.  It didn't even happen all in one go.

They switched off one of the channels at the beginning of the month (the 4th I think it was) and today they've switched off the rest.  This has meant two lots of me having to retune my digital box, which is always a complete pain.

The problem is it takes ages and seems to be quite badly affected by atmospherics.  Which is to say that when the weather is bad like it has been just recently some of the channels can be subjected to quite a bit of noise / interference and the box tends to err on the side of caution.

Well, I say that, it's actually a really good decoder and is able to tune in to channels that other people's cant, but when it does the scanning and saving it seems to be quite conservative for some reason.  Certainly it occasionally seems to miss channels.

It did that this morning and I'll have to return it when I get back home.

The other issue I have is that the recording schedule gets wiped when it rescans.  This is sort of understandable as the channel numbers may change or, as I say, some channels may be lost; however the bit that I don't get is that, if you do the retune it scrubs everything before it does the retune.

So as soon as you hit the "scan" button it deletes all the old channels and the recording schedule.  So if you don't save the results of the scan you end up with 0 channels.  It's rather weird, though considering it's the only compliant I have of the box that's not too bad going.

One weird thing that did happen between the two switchovers was one Sunday morning it had really poor reception across all the channels - literally searching brought up only about 8 channels, all of them BBC.  This rectified itself by the afternoon (thankfully, as it was a Grand Prix day!) but then after that it seemed to be picking up additional channels from the next region over.  I therefore had two radio 4s and two BBC Parliament channels (the duplicates were more than a little random!).

Hopefully I'll be able to do a scan when I get back and it'll pick up the channels it missed and not give me the random extra ones.  Then it's just a case of setting up all the recordings again.

One thing I did notice this morning was that the signal strength had shot up for all the channels it did pick up.  This is something they said would happen after switchover, as the digital signal apparently would interfere with analogue.  I'm not sure if they'll "turn-up" all of the transmitters once the whole country is switched over, but certainly the signal was saying it was around 60% where it had been about 40% before (percentage of what I'm not sure!).

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

chinese grand prix

Last weekend it was the Chinese Grand Prix.

Usually China is quite a good one.  It's a Hermann Tilka designed circuit, but it's one of his better ones.  You normally get overtaking, particularly into the first corner.  As with many Tilka circuits there's a gigantic straight (the start/finish straight) and this has also become the DRS straight.

This has led to the slightly odd situation of people who would have had a go into the first corner instead using the DRS to do an easy overtake down the straight instead.  This wasn't so bad this year as it was last year, but it still clearly happened.

However, the race was a bit of an odd one.  As I say, usually China is good, but this year it only got good in the last third.  The first two thirds was actually weirdly boring.

I mean the opening couple of laps were good, but after that it seemed to settle into the weird sort of rhythm where everyone seemed to be doing their own thing.  However, at about two thirds of the way through these different things and a few incidences all seemed to converge such that (with the exception of Rosberg who was way out in front) everyone seemed to end up in the same stretch of track with either more or less grip on the tyres.

This led to some really exciting racing and over-taking and so I really enjoyed the end part.

In terms of the championship Lewis is on top.  This is a reflection of him having finished third in every race where everybody else has been all over the shop.  I believe he has stated that it was his intention to be consistent this year, though his expression after the first two races where he looked like he'd already lost the championship suggested he was thinking more along the lines of consistently winning.

It's too early to know if the Mercedes will now be a fly in Lewis's ointment.  For the first two races they qualified well but had a lot of trouble working the tyres in the race so tended to fall back.  In China you wouldn't have known they had any troubles as they performed very well throughout the race (Schumacher suffering with a wheel change problem that put him out).

Whether this means they've really cracked it or it just happened to work for the Chinese Grand Prix and the conditions (it was quite cold) it's difficult to know.  Certainly it looks like Red Bull have lost their edge.  The lack of changes to the rules this year mean that others have caught up and the one thing that did change (blown diffusers) seems to have been key to the Red Bull design.

Monday, 16 April 2012

burn, burn, burn

So this last weekend I had a few things on my to do list, one of which was burning and ripping some audio books.

I listen to audio books when I'm walking.  I find music difficult to walk to as you naturally want to fall in to step with it and of course each song has its own tempo.  Well, unless you listen to dance music I guess, as loads of songs are at exactly the same tempo.

I use audible, which is owned by amazon.  It's all done digitally - you download the audio books and they have their own player thing.  Their player is actually terrible, but I don't generally use it.

What I generally do is burn them to CD (I've discussed this before - you're only allowed to burn them once) and then rip the CD and stick those on a tiny MP3 player I have (a Sanso clip).  Ripping the CD means I have to deal with iplayer, since audible uses its own proprietary format.  It's a necessary evil and generally seems to work okay.

Anyway, the to do list only featured ripping and burning as one of the things I had planned.  It was a grand prix weekend, and one of the ones the beeb was showing in full, so that would obviously take up a big chunk of time, but I hadn't expected that doing the audio books would take quite as long as it did.

The problem was I'd stacked up more audio books that usual and also the books I'd purchased were mostly quite long.  So while burning each Cd only takes about 5-10 minutes, when you're doing 30 of the things you're talking 2.5 hours at the minimum.

Ripping the things is quicker, but it comes with a kind of admin burden.  The reason for this is I just use windows media player to do it and it doesn't really recognise the tracks.  That means you have to go through and re-name everything.

I don't do this to the extent I could - I just rename the files and folders, rather than editing the Meta data, but still, it's horribly tedious.  And it's horribly tedious on top of the whole ripping process, which is tedious too.

There are associated tasks too, like downloading the audio books, backing the files up, putting them on the MP3 player, etc, so all told I'd say I spent a total of around 7 hours doing all the stuff that I needed to just to rip the audio books.

When you consider that the total time for the Grand Prix adds up to 6 hours (1.5 + 1.5 + 1 + 2) it's not really surprising I didn't get much else done at the weekend!