You may have come across this, Dear Reader.
A string quartet was busking on the New York subway, playing Bach's Brandenburg Concerto #3. Suddenly their performance was enhanced by the addition of four ballet dancers, who just happened to be passing, pirouetting and leaping. Hah! It begins to sound like yet another verse from The Twelve Days of Christmas!
A string quartet busking,
Four dancers dancing,
And a Barred Owl in a birch tree!
It also reminded me of my time in London. At one point I was commuting by London Underground. There would be the occasional busker, those Tube passenger tunnels have great acoustics. Buskers were always of a better quality around South Kensington station - due to the proximity of the Royal College of Music. Way back then busking on the tube was illegal, the buskers at South Ken would perform in the arcade over the station entrance steps. These days I think busking on the tube is legal, you just have to get a licence - which probably keeps the musical standards up. It certainly keeps the standard of performances at Covent Garden Market way up.
Writing of performances of high standard, try these. Neil Gaiman reading his short story The Sweeper of Dreams.
Followed by an opera based on the story.
The opera was composed by Alma Deutscher, a nine-year-old girl from Surrey, who is a musical prodigy. This version of her opera is in Hebrew, performed for the Voice of Music Festival in the Galilee 2013 (she was 8 then), but you can click on the 'cogwheel' and get English subtitles.
H recently came across Alma on YouTube and has been singing her praises, and showing me clips of her amazing abilities, ever since. Some have taken to nicknaming Alma Little Miss Mozart, which she doesn't like because, as she says, "Mozart was Mozart, I am Alma." Should you have the time, Dear Reader, to catch her playing some of her piano compositions you'll hear why she's so named. Some of them have a decidedly 'Mozartian'
flavour with the twiddly bits and variations.
So there you are, Dear Reader -
A string quartet busking,
Four dancers dancing,
An opera by Alma,
And a Barred Owl in a birch tree!
Y'all have a good day now!
In case you were wondering, Dear Reader, it turned out H was trying to work out something for an amplifier which wasn't working, possibly because it had blown a fuse. That was why he asked me what the square root of 180 was the other night. He traced the circuit, which, fortunately, wasn't a complicated one. He couldn't contact the amp maker as they are now out of business. Finally it transpired that we needn't have gone to all that bother. Someone had 'borrowed' the fuse from the plug! Sometimes being an Engineer involves understanding circuits, sometimes it involves a bit of lateral thinking! But Real Engineering is like that.
Another Good Thing, kinda, is that the revision of timetable for the bus which H catches to and from work has succumbed to public (bus user) pressure. Sort of. The number of buses per day has been trimmed but, and this is the important thing, there will still be a bus running shortly after 4pm, so H will be able to catch that and arrive home at a sensible hour. The Not So Good News is that there is but the one bus in the morning and the one bus just after 4pm, whereas before there had been a couple he could catch, thus allowing a bit of leeway. Miss them now and it's another hour, at least, 'til the next bus. You know, considering the way the Government goes on about wanting to encourage people to use public transport rather than their own cars . . .
Way back when, well over twenty years ago, bus services were de-regulatedso that they could be run by private companies, the 'reason' given was 'to promote Competition'. Yes. Well. There was competition, and a lot of buses running frequently at reasonable prices, for a while. Then various bus operators amalgamated, larger companies took over smaller companies and the ability to change bus timetables every six weeks or so meant that bus 'services' were soon 'rationalised' and were soon being run to benefit Really Large bus company shareholders rather than bus passengers. This is Never a Good Thing. Prices went up alarmingly.
I can catch a bus here from near home to the beach. A journey of about 1 1/2 miles. For the same price I could catch a bus in Bristol from the centre of the city to where Mum used to live on the outskirts of the city. A good five or six mile journey. Price and the (in)frequency of relevant buses is why I usualy cycle around this city. It isn't that much fun on busy roads and side roads are a bit hairy, what with all the parked cars - both sides of the street, leaving just space for a car to pass me as I wobble along against the wind! That's the thing though. When you're on a push bike the wind always seems to come from in front, and it's not because I'm going fast!
Should I be visiting the beach I've found it well worth while consulting the current wind direction. If it's at all breezy here, centre of the city, then ithe wind's going to be quite strong down the Front. If there's at all an Easterly component in the wind direction I go one way. Should there be a Westerly component, much more likely, I go the other. We do, occasionally, get Northerly or Southerly components to the wind direction. Northerly generally means the fountain by the Castle will have frozen, and it's harder to cycle home, though I don't get quite so heated! Southerly is ok. When it's a Sou'Westerly gale force kind of wind the best thing is to stay at home. Yes, 'tis spectacular to watch the waves racing at the seashore seemingly trying to come ashore even over the sea defences. 'Tis good to stand on one of the banks (earthen, not financial) to feel the strength of the wind too. But, on the whole, 'tis best to stay at home. Sou'Westerly gales generally come with heavy rain. On a push bike! that's No Fun. At. All.
And Finally - and a totally different subject - felt owl ornaments. That's ornaments which look (a bit) like owls and are made from felt. Ok? I can just see one of those snowy owl ornaments being used as a 'gift topper' for a present involving anything Harry Potter! Oh look, there's even one with knitting. Looks like a needle-felted jobbie. Go have a shufti, Dear Reader. Should you have Small People at home at present and should you want to give them an interest other than computer games and TV, you could do worse than start a felt-owl-making project. Should you not have Small People with you why not make a few yourself? It's Christmas after all. Ok, then, try after Christmas when life's a little less hectic.
After which - y'all have a good day now!
Ok, ok, I admit it, when it comes to the English language I am a bit of a pedant. You may have noticed, Dear Reader. I am English, I speak, and write, English by definition. What I do not write, or speak (usually) is English (US), which is a whole other ball game!
Anyway, 'scuse the pedantry but I have had enough. Pay attention, or even Listen Up, Dear Reader. The subject of today's lesson is "Less or Fewer" - which word should be used, and when.
Basically and unlike a lot of other English stuff, 'tis easy. If you are talking about discrete things eg: people, dogs, trees, blogs, - the word is 'Fewer'.
If you are talking about continuous stuff eg: water, rain, noise, time, - the word is 'Less'.
Thus you can have less milk, but fewer glasses of milk. There can be fewer traffic jams, but less traffic - even though traffic itself is made up of discrete items, cars, lorries, trucks, vans, buses etc. There is less time until Christmas, but fewer days, or hours for that matter. When I studied Statistics we were told that time is 'continuous data'. That said, days and hours have a defined length and are thus discrete!
Got it, Dear Reader? Then let's have fewer people making fewer grammatical blunders. And less annoyance generated in pedants such as myself! BTW - that is a correct use of myself. Unlike all too many of the others you may come across these days. But that's another Peeve!
Oh yes, when things go the other way you have more, regardless of whether the increasing quantities are discrete or continuous.
Y'all have a good, and gramatically correct, day now!
I was going to bed late last night when H suddenly asked me a question -
H: What's the square root of 180?
Me: Do you have your phone (mobile)?
Me: Does it have a calculator function? Mine does but it's downstairs.
H: Don't think so.
Me (thinking hard - which of the two* would it be?): Well, thirteen squared is 169 and fourteen squared is 196. !80 is between them, about midway, so the square root of 180 should be around thirteen and a half.
Good grief! After getting my brain into that kind of gear is it any wonder I had such difficulty dropping off that I got up again after an hour and did other things until I actually felt sleepy. Then I went back to bed and slept.
This morning I got out my (mobile/cell) phone, called up the calculator program and did a bit of simpl-ish arithmetic. Yes, my phone calculator does square roots**! It's a fairly old model too, not one of your flash iPhones or lookalikes. In fact it's so old that the soft-ish plastic (faking that it's rubber) cover is beginning to fall apart. The actual phone is fine, just the cover. Pooh! Anyhew √180 = 13.4164079 Which is nearly thirteen and a half!
My least favourite subjects at secondary school were French (which I took to 'O' Level) and Maths (to 'A' Level). Props to the Mmes and Mdles, I can still, more or less, read French and understand it, with the help of une Dictionnaire. French speaking Readers may have noticed my occasional (blundering) foray into the language. Writing it comes harder as I've largely forgotten which letter combinations make which sounds! As for French 'as she is spoke' - I don't, nor do I follow it, unless it's spoke p-l-u-s l-e-n-t-i-m-e-n-t.
Props too to the Maths mistresses who explained the mysteries of some of what can be done with numbers in such a way that mmph years later I can still give a rough estimate of what a square root of a number might be, even in the dead of night! No, Dear Reader, H didn't specify why he wanted the information, nor yet again this morning when I showed him what my phone had produced. Why did you want to know, Dearest? Come to think of it, H did two Maths 'A' Levels and is a professional Engineer, why didn't he work it out himself? Maybe his brain had already shut down for the night? Wish mine had, I'm dozy now!
Right, having bragged about my nocturnal brilliance and the kind of things we talk about, I shall shut up. Y'all have a good day now!
*"Which of the two" - back mmph years ago we had slide rules and (four figure) log(arithm) tables - which also included sine, cosine, tangent, squares, square roots etc. Each number in the square root tables had two possible results. It was up to you to count off the digits in pairs from the decimal point to work out which number would be the relevant answer. Thus the square root of 180 would be the one for 1'80.0 and not the one for 18'0.0 (which would be a bit more than four) Similar mental gymnastics were required with the slide rule. Don't worry, Dear Reader, just use your calculator and be grateful.
**I just called up the calculator program on this computer. It merely does the basic four functions (+ - x ÷) and a few memory thingies.
Some people wonder why other people bother to knit, what with being able to go to the shops and buy a perfectly good (though unlikely to be woollen) jumper for possibly less than the cost of the yarn. And that's before you factor in the time taken knitting - and the possible equivalent in wages, which will be more than basic rate because your knitting skilz are more than basic. See the post I made about handknit socks and why I shan't be selling them any time soon.
( Reasons Why I KnitCollapse )
Maybe I'll even knit a sock for Mum's little dog, so that he won't feel the need to run off with one of hers. Fortunately he no longer chews them up, he just carries them around in his mouth which makes them very soggy! He'll present them to Mum as if to say,
"Here, Mum! Look what I found lying around!" While Mum knows perfectly well that that sock was 'lying around' on the middle of her bed. She'd put it there to stop him getting it! He's a very dear little dog, she says. Hmmm, reckon I've some acrylic yarn somewhere. Maybe I should even include some of that dayglo orange so Mum stands a chance of being able to see it too.
Right, time to go knit some more. Y'all have a good day now!
Apparently bookies are giving odds for the Queen using this year's Christmas Address to announce her abdication. Two things should be born in mind at this point.
One: bookies will give you odds for anything, the less likely the event, the higher the odds, that's how they stay in business (and in profit. There is profit to be made in gambling - from the punters!) and
Two: our monarchy does not have a tradition of abdication. Unlike in countries like Belgium, where a ageing monarch will abdicate in favour of their younger successor, British monarchs have a tradition of remaining monarchs until they either drop off the tree, or are forcibly terminated - see Richard III and Charles I. Yes, the present Queen's uncle did abdicate, without too much pressure, but he is generally regarded as a bit of a failure and all round Bad Egg* by his successors, and by some of their subjects.
I wouldn't hold my breath, Dear Reader, I think Her Majesty is in it for the long term. She'll go when her Maker says she's ready and not before. Sorry, Your Royal Highness, you'll just have to exercise patience a bit longer. Or maybe a lot longer, bearing in mind that Queen Elizabeth the Queen Mother, and your grandmother, achieved her century and then some!
Change of subject - we've been getting Christmas cards, including one today which shows a grey-brown and white owl perched in a tree. The picture is titled "Barred owl in birch". This leaves me wondering a) quite what the owl did to get itself barred and from where, and b) could this be an alternative verse for the Twelve Days of Christmas? You know, "and a Barred Owl in a Birch tree!"
And will you look at that, apparently the average person in the UK is using 10% less electricity than they did five years ago. Maybe all those (much maligned) low-energy light bulbs, and LED fairy lights, are having an effect after all. And this despite the boom in large TVs, computers, smartphones and tablets. Now, if we'd just remember to disconnect our re-chargers when we aren't actually recharging our phones/tablets/etc we could use even less. Hmmm, I wonder what our electricity bills look like compared with the bills of five years ago?
And Finally - the Royal Mail sorting centre in Glasgow is getting 'glittered up'! (Quite likely so are other busy sorting offices) They are processing so many Christmas cards that surplus glitter, spilling out of envelopes, is threatening to clog up their machines! We are requested to seal envelopes properly, that way glitter is less likely to leak out, to write addresses clearly and to remember to use the postcode. The letter sorters are also getting covered in glitter!
In case you were wondering, Dear Reader, Last Posting Dates are today for second class post and Saturday, 20th December, for first class post. (I think the parcel deadline may have passed). That's if you want things to arrive before Christmas. I personally wouldn't advise you to try posting (mailing) anything between Christmas and New Year, it has a tendency to get lost in the system. Possibly because they'll be giving the sorting machines, and maybe the sorters, a deep clean to remove all the excess glitter so that they work well for the New Year!
Which seems as good a place as any to write - y'all have a good day now!
*Apart from dropping his brother Bertie (George V) in it, he was pro-Hitler. Goodness only knows what would have happened if he'd still been on the throne in 1939!
Have a look at this, Dear Reader. A black cat attempting to blow a purple sousaphone! Srsly.
Remember me writing about a sweater dryer - where you could dry your hand-knit woollens flat, like it says to do on the ball band? Amazon has one, and it takes up far less storage space than the one shown me on that posting. Now all I need is a bar over somewhere to catch any drips so I could hang it. In fact Amazon has several, including this posh version with flat areas for damp sweaters and a fan thingy to blow dry air over them to dry them quicker. Personally I think one I could arrange over the dehumidifier would be a Good Thing. Maybe a bar from the kitchen ceiling so I could hang the hanging version? Thinx: would it be possible for a reasonably competent DIY-er to build something like this?
Somehow more Seasonal - how a flying marsupial rabbit saved Christmas, well Xmas anyhow! Sweet? But that's the thing. So much of what goes on at this time of year is Seasonal, and about celebrating Xmas. As I've written before, Dear Reader, Jesus is the Reason for the Season, and for the rest of your life too.
Also somehow Seasonal - a student didn't have the money for a taxi after a night out. A nearby homeless man offered her his last £3. She wouldn't take it but was so touched that she started raising money in the hope that she might be able to help him out of homelessness and back into the world as most of us know it. It turned out that she raised more than £20,000 and has gone on to make friends with more homeless people. So it looks as if she's going to be able to help quite a few, which is a Good Thing.
Part of the trouble is that it seems to be so easy to become homeless these days. Fall out with your parents and run off? Trying to get away from abusive parents/'carers', just about managing to get by then losing your job, your mortgage provider forecloses, rents rise and you suddenly can't afford to rent anywhere, you run out of friends' sofas to sleep on, etc, etc. There are organisations like Big Issue, among others, out to help those who have become homeless and to help them start their way back into 'normal life'. It must be a hard journey though, there is so much to consider and to pay for in 'normal life'!
Meanwhile my knitting continues. The body of the aran weight cardigan is growing longer and now that I have the pilling cardigan back I might just sew some buttons onto the yellow replacement one. It's supposed to be warmer today, it's raining so it must be. However it still feels chilly.
And Finally - H starts his Christmas holidays tomorrow. He's been accumulating leave and this firm want him to take it this year. So he's off until about Twelfth Night. Just hope that the firm can manage without him. Hope that the bus company will still be running the relevant services when he goes back too. Anyhew, posting may become somewhat erratic for the next three weeks as H spends a lot of time on the computer.
Merry Christmas, Dear Reader, and a Happy New Year!
If you remember, Dear Reader, I mentioned some time back about a fairly local village which was up in arms because they couldn't get a good phone signal. The phone mast had been erected on a nearby hill. H reckoned they'd have done better with a mast on the village green.
Hmmm, time was, and not so long ago, that the proposed erection of a phone mast anywhere near housing brought about the most vociferous protests. When erected there would be complaints from those nearby about all kinds of illnesses - which people hadn't had before the mast was built. The fact that some people had 'symptoms' even before the masts had actually been turned on made me, at least, think a bit but . . . As I said, H, who knows about these things, reckons that people are in far more danger from the radiation due to having a mobile phone clamped to their heads than ever they are from any radiation due to a nearby phone mast.
Then again, once upon a time, and less than one hundred years ago, people were up in arms about electricity pylons and their 'unsightliness' and, possibly, potential health hazards. Actually I think people might be onto something here, for all peregrine falcons have been recorded using the occasional electricity pylon as a nesting site. The chicks seem to fledged successfully! That said, these days most people would rather have pylons 'cluttering' the landscape than be without electricity, for all there's a pretty unsightly cat's cradle of the things to the northwest of the city. It's getting to be pretty much the same these days with mobile phones, although they don't have the connecting cables, which is probably a good thing.
As for having Broadband connectivity, well, living in a city definitely helps there. Though the Post Office is attempting to roll out a higher speed service to villages locally. Hmmm, wonder if that sort of service requires any form of mast, and how much protest the erection of such masts might produce. I dunno, everyone wants the advantages but very few want things cluttering potential views. Heigh ho!
That was the postman's knock on this sunny morning. (Woohoo! The sun is shining!) Wool Warehouse have sent my free nine balls of wool. Hmmm, must go source a pattern for a cadigan in double-knit yarn. Hmm-mmm, as the yarn is 100% wool could I knit it in the round and experiment with steeking? (Cut into my knitting? Even if it means never purling? Aaaarrrggh!) They've also returned the pilling cardigan, which is kind of them, and in it's own organza project bag. That's four large and one small project bags I have now. I'm still finding pills around my 'knitting' chair as 'tis! I'm also beginning to wonder whether this cardigan, which I knitted to replace the pilling one, is starting to pill. I've pulled off quite a few now, and I've only been wearing it for six days! Maybe it's just as well I bought the yarn from another supplier.
And Finally - courtesy of Spitalfields life, some illustrations of Yuletide as drawn by George Cruikshank, between 1838 and 1853. Plus ça change! They do say that a lot of what we now consider to be Christmas customs came in during Victoria's reign.
Y'all have a good day now!
BTW - I've just heard a glowing reccommendation for the Paddington Bear film from someone who went and saw it. Apparently it had everyone laughing, from young children to their grandparents. Not bad for a take on a fifty-year-old bear! Should you be wondering what to do for a special occasion.
It's warmer this morning. I have been sat here for quite a while and my fingers are still warm. To maintain the situation I've found my mitts. They aren't exactly things of beauty, being knitted from oddments of four different but toning sock yarns, but they are cosy, which is always good at this time of year.
So the Cambridges have released photos of young Prince George. Doesn't he look like his Dad did, though a tad rounder in the face? Should you be too young to remember, Dear Reader, he does. Actually Prince William looked very like S at the same age, though everyone said S looked like the Prince! I can see there being a run on that guardsman tank top the little prince is wearing too, and, possibly, black knee socks. Apparently the Duchess is listening to a lot of Classical music with George these days. Perhaps it soothes the too often savage breast of an eighteen-month-old toddler? Or maybe it soothes the frazzled Mum so that she can continue to cope. Bet they had a Nanny for those awful all-night shifts very young babies seem to pull though!
It seems that the Transport Secretary is up for Questions as to how air traffic control for the whole of the South of England went down last week. I'll tell you how, Dear Reader. Various 'authorities' insisted on cuts and amalgamations, that's what happened. Thus what had been covered by several air traffic control groups were cut and amalgamated into one large one. Consequently when computer failure hit it knocked out the whole of the south of England. Had the several group controls been left then perhaps only one would have gone down and the others could have worked things around it. What was that about not putting all your eggs into one basket, Dear Reader? Duh!
And that's the problem faced by so many Service Providers these days. The Government is demanding cuts in spending, these result in cuts in services and cuts in personnel. So the actual work done suffers. Then the Government gets all up tight about how (eg:) would-be immigrants aren't given proper background checks and the occasional known criminal gets in. But will they allow more funding for the Borders Agency? What do you think, Dear Reader? Ok, so there is still, probably, some slack in some places which can be taken up and no harm done but . . . The thing is, all these 'Services' require money and money is just what they aren't going to get. No government is going to raise taxation in the run up to an election and no other party is going to promise to improve Service provision by raising taxation - which is about the only way they're going to be able to afford such things. Thatcherism has a lot to answer for, if nothing else it promoted Greed. Since then we've become accustomed to think of 'me first' rather than (to paraphrase John Kennedy) 'what we can do for our country'!
And Finally - did you hear about the Climate Talks agreement in Lima, Dear Reader? 194 different countries attended, talked, discussed, etc, etc - more global warming due to hot air generated! They've come to an agreement - to have another summit in 2015 at which they hope they'll come up with something useful. So we all knew, more or less, that if they came up with any real pledges they would be the lowest common denominator and, probably, watered down on that but . . . It's not as if we have another planet to escape to when this one goes toes up on us. Aaaarrrggh!
Should you wish to do something constructive, Dear Reader, how about changing to a Green energy provider. I'm currently trying to persuade H to change. He says that electricity comes 'from the same pipe' regardless of whether it's been produced by coal/gas burning power stations, nuclear power stations or Green sources. I say I know this but reckon that Green energy production should be supported on principle. Get onto it before the end of next January and Ecotricity will give up to £60 to Tearfund per new customer, and you'll get sent some Fair Trade chocolate. Sounds good to me, even without the incentives, but there we are. As I've written before, we only have the one planet!
Of course, if we also want to save Energy, and money, we can just put on another sweater, some mitts, woolly socks and move about a bit more vigorously. You could knit your own, or buy your own - local charity shops often have a good selection for very reasonable prices. Y'all have a good, and warm, day now!
You may remember, Dear Reader, I mentioned getting some King Cole Magnum chunky yarn and knitting a cardigan from it? Within two weeks of wearing it was pilling like nobody's business. I pulled off the pills but they kept forming. I contacted King Cole and informed them. They said to return the garment to my supplier for examination - like I'm going to all this trouble cos I'm lieing! About two weeks ago, at King Cole's request, I returned the cardigan to my suppliers, Wool Warehouse, for examination.
Wool Warehouse have a really good customer service attitude. They carry a wide range of (branded) yarns, get orders in the post promptly, have free postage on orders over £25 and have recently taken to sending out orders in draw-string organza bags, which do very nicely as project bags - being organza means you can see what project they contain without having to open them.
Anyhew, yesterday I received an email from Wool Warehouse
Which I thought was really nice of them. I had a shufti and chose some Cascade 220 Quattro in shade Aruba (1955), which should be sufficient to make most of a cardigan for me. I'll either buy another ball or some toning wool and do some patterning somewhere on it. WW says they'll be putting it in the post on Monday. w00t! for Real Customer Service! Though it might have been nice to have had a yarn which wasn't so rough in the first place! Guess the moral of that story is to stick with High(er) Quality yarns and use something with a higher wool content for jumpers etc.
Meanwhile it looks as if the Chinese authorities have finally (after three months!) gotten fed up with the protesters in Hong Kong. They've started removing barricades and arresting protesters. The number of protesters had diminished considerably since the original acts back in late September and early October, however various protesters have said that they "will be back". The Umbrella Protest may be being shut down by the Chinese government but, like mushrooms, it may well pop up again. We shall see. I reckon that the Chinese government has, so far, been either very forbearing towards the protesters or it has been biding its time until (Western) media had largely forgotten about the protest before it waded in to clear things up. Which do you think, Dear Reader?
And Finally - a couple of ideas for Gifts for Knitters. Sheep by Species cards - because anything with sheep is good. And a couple of gift tags, particularly for those giftees who maybe don't quite realise how much effort you've put into their gifts (and also have a sense of humour). Remember, just because a thing is Handmade doesn't mean it was cheap! Y'all have a good day now!