Monthly Archives: March 2018

  • Fishy business

    When it comes to advertising, your correspondent shares George Orwell’s opinion as expressed in 1936 in “Keep the Aspidistra Flying“, i.e.:

    The public are swine; advertising is the rattling of a stick inside a swill-bucket

    However, I’ll make an exception for a local fishmonger’s van seen on Good Friday in Fouesnant market in Brittany and depicted below.

    Fish van seen in Fouesnant market. Brittany
    Click on the image for the full version

    Billing themselves as a hard-working/responsible/serious company (Maison sérieuse), Poissonnerie Cabioch & Fils’ signwriter clearly has a humorous streak when it comes to advertising her/his client’s common items of trade.

    For those not well versed in French, the bounties of the sea shown on the side of the van are listed below with their equivalents in English. Some also have slang meanings in French. Each link in the list leads to the relevant Wikipedia page in the respective language for the species concerned.

    Talking of fishy things, it’s very nearly April Fools’ Day, or for the French “Poisson d’avril“. For children, “Poisson d’avril” consists of sticking a paper fish on the backs of people they wish to make fun of.

    The earliest known occurrence of “Poisson d’avril” in French is found in the “ Doctrinal du temps présent” by the 15th century French poet and priest Pierre Michault, dating from 1466. However, its use to describe a traditional trick played on 1st April is only confirmed in the 17th century, when its earliest known occurrence is found in “La Vie de Charles V, duc de Lorraine” by historian Jean de Labrune published in 1691. It is first recorded in the dictionary of the Académie française, the guardians of the French language, in 1718.

    Fish fingers going over a weir
    A fish-fingery April Fools’ prank. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

    Finally fish – in this case rotten fish – also come into play in French if one wants to call someone every name under the sun; the equivalent French expression is “engueuler comme du poisson pourri“.

  • LibreOffice 5.4.6 released

    LibreOffice logoToday The Document Foundation (TDF) announced the availability of LibreOffice 5.4.6, the sixth minor release of LibreOffice 5.4 family which is currently targeted for deployment in an enterprise or corporate environment and conservative users.

    Download LibreOffice

    LibreOffice 5.4.6 is available for immediate download.

    LibreOffice 5.4.6 includes almost 60 bug and regression fixes. Technical details about the release can be found in the RC1 and RC2 change logs.

    Professional support

    TDF advises mainstream users and companies to deploy LibreOffice with the support of certified developers, migrators and trainers.

    Several companies sitting in TDF’s Advisory Board provide either value-added LTS versions of LibreOffice or consultancy services for migration and training.

    Donate to help LibreOffice development

    LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can support The Document Foundation with a donation. Donations help TDF to maintain its infrastructure, share knowledge and fund attendance at events like LibreOffice Conference, which this year takes place in Tirana.

  • Railway works on (four) track

    My home is very close to Stapleton Road railway station and for some time now Network Rail has been carrying out its Four Track project up Filton Bank between Bristol Temple Meads and Filton Abbey Wood.

    In the final week of July 2017 and the first two weeks of August that year, the disused viaduct over the old course of the River Frome (culverted for the polluting monstrosity that is the M32 motorway. Ed.) and Stapleton Road. The viaduct was originally decommissioned in the early 1980s, allegedly for safety reasons. Network Rail has released a time lapse video of the viaduct’s demise.

    This June the replacement viaduct will be in situ and hopefully there will be another time lapse video to record its installation.

    Below are a couple of photographs of works now underway for the replacement viaduct.

    Piling works for the new viaduct
    Piling works underway for the new Stapleton Road viaduct.
    General view of the works site for the new viaduct
    General view of the works site for the new viaduct

    Meanwhile, further down towards Temple Meads, trackbed preparation works are well underway at Lawrence Hill station near the site of the Wain Brook culvert (posts passim). Note the use of geotextile beneath the sand.

    Trackbed preparation works at Lawrence Hill
    Trackbed preparation works at Lawrence Hill

    According to Network Rail, the Filton Bank Four-tracking project will:

    • enable a significant increase in the number of passenger trains, helping to meet growing demand;
    • enable an increase in freight operations, supporting our economy;
    • increase the line’s flexibility, reducing disruption as a result of maintenance.

    Since September 2015, Network Rail has been carrying out a broad range of enabling works along Filton Bank, and these will continue up until the new tracks are laid in Autumn 2018. These works include:

    • the provision of a fourth platform at Filton Abbey Wood Station;
    • six major earthwork sites to create new trackbed;
    • around 10 miles of plain line track,12 switch and crossings and three miles of track drainage;
    • upgrades to six underbridges, a new viaduct at Stapleton Road and improvements to three footbridges;
    • resiting of two GSM-R; communications masts;
    • work on around 30 signalling structures;
    • route clearance work at 10 structures.
  • Trinity Mirror local “news” – readers respond

    Ever since the takeover of the Local World newspaper titles by Trinity Mirror in October 2015, several Local World titles seem to or actually have given up on reporting serious local news preferring to give preference to what are essentially advertorials (e.g. restaurant reviews) and trivia instead of the hard work of investigating corruption and wrongdoing in the local corridors of power and/or amongst the
    city’s so-called great and good.

    This certainly seems to ring true if one examines the Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of warped record.

    Today’s most spectacular piece of trivia from the Temple Way Ministry of Truth concerns an encounter with an unpleasant object in the men’s toilets of McDonalds, not a caterer likely to feature in the aforementioned restaurant reviews (McDonald’s restaurants is a well-known modern oxymoron. Ed.).

    When allowed to comment, Post readers are not shy in expressing their views, as shown by the exchange below on the offending article.

    comments read 1 This is not news and 2 The Post isn't a newspaper

    As alluded to above, most of the Post’s alleged online news content can accurately be described as “clickbait“, which is defined by Wikipedia as “web content whose main goal is to entice users to click on a link to go to a certain webpage or video. Clickbait headlines typically aim to exploit the “curiosity gap,” providing just enough information to make readers curious, but not enough to satisfy their curiosity without clicking through to the linked content“.

  • It’s Pi Day

    Listening to Radio 3 this morning, presenter Petroc Trelawny announced that today is Pi Day, an annual celebration of the mathematical constant π (pi). Following the US date format style (MMDDYY), Pi Day is celebrated 14th March, since 3, 1, and 4 are the first three significant digits of π. Pi has to date been calculated to over one trillion digits beyond its decimal point.

    A Pi pie. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons
    A Pi pie. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

    The earliest known official or large-scale celebration of Pi Day was organised by by physicist Larry Shaw in 1988 at the San Francisco Exploratorium, where he worked, at which fruit pies were consumed.

    Besides maths and the sciences, Pi also turns up in the arts. In literature for example, in Terry Pratchett’s fictional Discworld city of Ankh-Morpork, Unseen University is a school of wizardry staffed by a faculty mostly composed of indolent and inept old wizards whose main function is not teaching, but eating big dinners. The University’s unofficial motto is “η β π”, or “Eta Beta Pi” (Eat A Better Pie).

    Still in world of literature, Life of Pi is a fantasy novel by Yann Martel, which was adapted into a 2012 film of the same name directed directed by Ang Lee.

    Finally, Kate Bush’s 2005 album Aerial features the track Pi.

    Happy Pi Day! I shall be celebrating by eating a pastry product. 😀

  • Driverless vehicles – a nationwide danger?

    Every day in the UK people are being seriously injured or even killed by vehicles which apparently have minds of their own or are not under the control of a human being.

    If you need confirmation of this fact, just open any local newspaper or visit any local news website.

    Police Accident road sign

    Yesterday’s Bristol Post carries such a story of a fatal collision in Burnham-on-Sea in Somerset.

    Bearing the headline “Pensioner driving a mobility scooter dies after being hit by truck in Burnham-on-Sea“, this is a tragic tale, whose first sentence reads:

    An 80-year-old man has died after being hit by a pickup truck while driving his mobility scooter in Burnham-on-Sea.

    Further details are then provided by a police officer who confirms the absence of human intervention the other party involved in the incident. The officer is quoted as saying the following:

    At about 11.50am, a Nissan Navara was travelling along Oxford Street and, having turned into Adam Street, was in collision with the man who was on his mobility scooter.

    Nowhere in the article – short though it is – is there any mention of the Nissan Navara having a driver.

    This phenomenon of vehicles without drivers but with a mind of their own is not confined to the West Country either.

    A quick glance at the Express and Star website reveals that yesterday in the Bewdley and Stourbridge area, another crash occurred in which at least one of the vehicles was driverless.

    The crash involved a black Ford Ka and a black Ford Fiesta.

    The driver of the Ford Ka, an 18-year-old woman, sustained serious head injuries.

    Why is such a peculiar style of wording used for press reports of road traffic collisions? Are the highways and byways of the country really full of driverless, out of control vehicles with a sadistic or psychopathic streak?

    Probably not.

    The likely explanation for this curious style of reporting is that the majority of road traffic incidents ending in collision and injury will involve either insurance liability or criminal liability or both. The wording used carefully avoids attributing any blame.

    Furthermore, these collisions are often referred to as “accidents“. The last thing the majority of road traffic incidents are is accidental since the majority of them involve either driver error, as shown by the graph below.

    Dept of Transport graph showing causes of collisions 2005 to 2014
    Source: Department of Transport

    So, are the country’s roads full of metal boxes intent on causing harm to humans? Unlikely, but they are full of frail, fallible humans in charge of potential killers.

  • This year’s first celandines

    Spotted on Stapleton Road this morning.

    celandines spotted on Stapleton Road on 5th March 2018

    Actually, the plant’s full name is the lesser celandine (Ficaria verna).

    According to the Woodland Trust, lesser celandines may be found along damp woodland paths and tracks, as well as stream banks and in ditches. They also grow well in the shade of hedgerows, in meadows and in gardens: they usually start to flower between January and April each year.

    As one of the first flowers to appear after winter, they provide an important nectar source for early pollinating insects, including some bee species.

    In earlier times, the plant had medicinal and nutritional uses: lesser celandine was once believed to be a remedy for haemorrhoids and was known as ‘pilewort’. It is also high in vitamin C and was used to prevent scurvy.

    Furthermore, the lesser celandine has its place in literature too. William Wordsworth (1770-1850) composed three poems to the plant between 1802 and 1807, of which one – To the Small Celandine – is reproduced below.

    PANSIES, lilies, kingcups, daisies,
    Let them live upon their praises;
    Long as there’s a sun that sets,
    Primroses will have their glory;
    Long as there are violets,
    They will have a place in story:
    There’s a flower that shall be mine,
    ‘Tis the little Celandine.

    Eyes of some men travel far
    For the finding of a star;
    Up and down the heavens they go,
    Men that keep a mighty rout!
    I’m as great as they, I trow,
    Since the day I found thee out,
    Little Flower!–I’ll make a stir,
    Like a sage astronomer.

    Modest, yet withal an Elf
    Bold, and lavish of thyself;
    Since we needs must first have met
    I have seen thee, high and low,
    Thirty years or more, and yet
    ‘Twas a face I did not know;
    Thou hast now, go where I may,
    Fifty greetings in a day.

    Ere a leaf is on a bush,
    In the time before the thrush
    Has a thought about her nest,
    Thou wilt come with half a call,
    Spreading out thy glossy breast
    Like a careless Prodigal;
    Telling tales about the sun,
    When we’ve little warmth, or none.

    Poets, vain men in their mood!
    Travel with the multitude:
    Never heed them; I aver
    That they all are wanton wooers;
    But the thrifty cottager,
    Who stirs little out of doors,
    Joys to spy thee near her home;
    Spring is coming, Thou art come!

    Comfort have thou of thy merit,
    Kindly, unassuming Spirit!
    Careless of thy neighbourhood,
    Thou dost show thy pleasant face
    On the moor, and in the wood,
    In the lane;–there’s not a place,
    Howsoever mean it be,
    But ’tis good enough for thee.

    Ill befall the yellow flowers,
    Children of the flaring hours!
    Buttercups, that will be seen,
    Whether we will see or no;
    Others, too, of lofty mien;
    They have done as worldlings do,
    Taken praise that should be thine,
    Little, humble Celandine!

    Prophet of delight and mirth,
    Ill-requited upon earth;
    Herald of a mighty band,
    Of a joyous train ensuing,
    Serving at my heart’s command,
    Tasks that are no tasks renewing,
    I will sing, as doth behove,
    Hymns in praise of what I love!

    Incidentally, back in 2011, the Daily Mirror christened Stapleton Road “Britain’s worst street” where “murder, rape, shootings, drug-pushing, prostitution, knifings and violent robbery are commonplace“.

    As a local resident for over 40 years, I didn’t agree then and nowadays still don’t agree with or recognise the Mirror’s sensationalist description. Surely somewhere that dangerous wouldn’t be home to such gentle and uplifting life-forms as the lesser celandine, which have inspired such souls as one of the great English Romantic poets?

  • Post exclusive: UK’s Met Office now part of Walmart, Inc.

    In amongst the blizzard of snow-related news coverage, one significant item of information has been overlooked by almost all of the media: the Met Office, formerly an executive agency and trading fund of the UK government’s Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy, is now part of major British supermarket chain Asda Stores Ltd., which is itself owned by US retail giant Walmart, Inc.

    Indeed, the only part of the mainstream media to pick up this news yesterday was the Bristol Post, the city’s newspaper of (warped) record, as shown by the screenshot below of that mighty organ’s home page.

    screenshot bearing the wording Asda - Met Office extends yellow weather warning for ice to cover Bristol and South West

    Unless the above headline and tagging are yesterday’s deliberate mistake by the Temple Way Ministry of Truth, it is most baffling why such a momentous government asset disposal has not been mentioned elsewhere.

    Finally, Walmart is rumoured to be such a hands-on company that the heating in all its stores is controlled from corporate headquarters. This blog trusts that Met Office employees are prepared for such control-freakery.