Vi Hart Goodness

She's marvellous, especially when talking about Martin Gardner...

This land is mine!!!

Check the link to Nina Paley in the YouTube page. And thank you Andy Williams for the singing - hope you r.i.p.

Sunday 30 September 2012

A quiet morning, Tina opens her cards and presents. Lesley is due at the station at 12, and I ask Tina if she minds collecting her, along with Joyce. While Tina is out, I get her bike from Tim's garage and put it in ours. Pink ribbon all over it, and a label, just right.


It's good to see Les, we chat in the kitchen, then the four of us go for lunch at the Fox - where they have a sign proclaiming "The best Sunday lunches in Basingstoke." It isn't too bad, either. Roast dinners all round, nice vegetables, attentive staff.

When we get home I put Tina's bike in the utility room and wait for her to find it. Eventually she does, then goes for a spin up and down the road outside the house. Ken and Carol call, we have cake and play Scrabble. Fun.

Later, when it's just Tina, Les and I, we watch "The thick of it" on TV - very good, as usual.

Happy Birthday Tina :)


Saturday 29 September 2012

We're up quite early and I go for a run just before eight. The sun is low in a beautiful blue sky, and the green grass is bejeweled with dew. I cough and splutter a bit on my way round, but I think my cold has nearly run it's course.

Chris rings in the morning, and the four of us cycle out to Overton for lunch. There is a charity shop in aid of the local hospice, and Chris and Tina spend quite a long time browsing. I say quite a long time; while Nigel and I were waiting outside, a couple of glaciers passed down the High Street.

Later in the day, Jim E pops round with birthday gifts for his sister. It's good to see him, we chat for quite a while. Mike rings up, it's so nice to hear from him. His knee is getting better, and Jenny's back problems aren't so bad at the moment.

Around seven we drive to Ken & Carol's and take them to the pub at North Waltham, the Fox. We have a good evening, chatting and joking. At some point, Carol asks us to rotate our right foot in a clockwise circle. Then at the same time, draw a six in the air with our right finger. It's impossible to do both tasks at once! Who'd have thought. I then get Carol to do a circle in front of her with her thumb. The circle is perpendicular to the body, with the thumb moving toward and away from the body (if you see what I mean). Then do a circle with the other thumb, in the opposite direction. Very difficult, too. A man from another table tells Tina and Carol how they were amused watching their antics, and trying them out themselves. We toast Tina's health, and retire homeward.

Didn't watch match of the day tonight. Saints lost, away at Everton. It could be a very long season.

Friday 28 September 2012

I sleep well, but am up early. After making Tina a cup of tea, I check the news on-line. There is yet another story about economic growth rates in the news.

I don't get it. Our politicians are leading us to hell in a handcart - or in a nice shiny BMW 3 series if the aspirations of people in this corner of the planet are any indication. The world population of humans is shooting up at an exponential rate. We are constantly evolving new ways of wasting the limited resources we have at our disposal. It is generally accepted that the climate is changing because of human activity, and the consequences are still largely unknown. Even the most die hard climate change sceptic has to accept the destruction of other species and habitats. Surely the only long term solution to the needs of humanity on this planet is to gradually contract?

Not if you listen to any politician, either here in the UK, in Europe, North America, the BRIC nations, or anywhere else in the world, with the exception of a few Pacific islands who are about to disappear under the waves. Listen to our leaders and you will be left with the impression that growth is the only way forward. According to these fools, only when the economies of the world are back on their feet will they start to even think about the huge issues facing us. In short, our governments are powerless to stop capitalism rushing headlong to who knows where. Like a jockey on a run-away horse, all they can do is hang on and hope. Desperate to cling to power, they won't adopt any policy which might turn the electorate against them.

What I find really sad is that the few enlightened individuals who do try to make a difference are often mocked for their convictions. I long to hear a politician who will stand up and state what they believe in, and not be swayed by ill informed public opinion. Some hope ;)

I always think that (to take one example) encouraging people to adopt low energy light bulbs while allowing aviation fuel to remain free of tax is playing a deluded tune on that old fiddle while the flames engulf us...

While I'm on my soap box, there is a truly sad news story today about plastic waste in the Southern Ocean in the Antarctic. A research ship has found microscopic plastic particles in the sea at a concentration which compares to the rest of the world's oceans. These particles will enter the food chain with unknown consequences. "Would you like a bag for that trivial purchase?" "No thanks!"

I feel better having got that off my chest. There's a lot more but I don't want to alienate anyone... You've just ordered your new Audi? Oh well ;)

I am also acutely aware that earning my living sat in a car burning fuel all day is hardly environmentally friendly. I'd rather not do it, but I do like to have a roof over my head. So, to be honest, I'm as bad - if not worse - than everyone else. Except I beat myself up over it :)

A couple of lessons in the morning then I meet with Yvonne at her Dad's house. Graham was 90 last week-end and looks remarkable well. Yvonne wanted to meet my dad so the two of us visit Basing. Dad is OK today, we chat a bit and then help him to the table for lunch. Yvonne and I go to the Bell in Odiham, and have a beer and a sandwich.

Later, I collect Tina's bike from Winklebury Cycles. Gary is chatty as always, and shows me a new electric bike. The motor is in the front wheel hub, the battery on a small rack at the back, and the power only kicks in when you pedal. He encourages me to try it out outside the shop, it's great. A bit weird at first, but really effective when you get used to it. I manage to get Tina's bike home and secreted away in Tim's garage before Tina gets home.

Gareth Malone tonight on the TV - still just as good.

Thursday 27 September 2012

I arrive at Natalies' house at 8:25 and to... I'm getting a real sense of deja vu here. Natalie also passes. She asks me to sit in on the test, unlike Ben. Unfortunately, Natalie only makes this this decision when the examiner enters the waiting room and asks her. I spend the test with my legs crossed in the back seat.

I have a cancellation in the middle of the day, and pop into town. A couple of lessons in the afternoon, then home. Tina is at home already, which is nice. She has Pilates in the evening, then we watch the second part of "Room at the Top" - very good.

Wednesday 26 September 2012

I arrive at Ben's house at 8:25 and to cut a long story short ( I can do it, I CAN), he passes his test. Phew. I see Natalie, his sister, next. She has her test tomorrow, and goes on a sort of melt down today. We stop the lesson, I drive her home, and say I can see her later, after my lunchtime lesson. When I do see her, she has settled down, and things look a bit more hopeful for tomorrow.

I phone Jim, who is after ideas for presents for Tina's birthday. He has an exam tomorrow, and is studying hard. Home before Tina, who has had her hair "done." I remember to compliment her :) Extra Brownie points there... I wish I had hair to be "done." I rather fancy a pony tail, Status Quo style.

There is an adaptation of John Braine's "Room at the Top" on the tellie in the evening. I'm sure I've read the book, but the plot is lost in the mists of time. It works well on the small screen, and it's only in two parts, finishing tomorrow.

Tuesday 25 September 2012

So, as I understand things...

There's this great big cloud of dust and gas. We're talking big, here. The dust and gas swirls around, and sometimes accumulates in dense areas. If there is enough matter in one place, gravitational forces generate enough pressure to start a nuclear reaction - and a star is born.

Stars have a limited shelf life, and will die when all the hydrogen at their core is depleted. Depending on the size of the star, various things happen. If a star is big enough, there will be a rather large explosion - a supernova. Supernovas occur around once a century in our galaxy (the milky way).

In the early universe, only the elements hydrogen and helium existed. When stars die, and their hydrogen supply runs out, new elements are formed under the intense pressure and heat. When stars go supernova, these elements are ejected out into space. Every physical thing we can see, know or imagine is made up of these elements, including every atom in our body. We truly are star dust.

Originally the gas and dust that would become our Sun was the core of a cloud much larger than the solar system, probably several light-years across. The core was slowly rotating at first, but as it collapsed it spun faster, like a spinning ice-skater pulling in her arms. The rotation prevented the material at the core's equator from collapsing as fast as material at the poles, so the core became a spinning disk.

Gas and dust in the disk spiraled gradually in to the center, where it accumulated to form the Sun. But because dust is denser than gas, some of the dust settled to the mid-plane of the disk. These dust particles stuck together to make clumps, then clumps stuck together to make rocks, then rocks collided to make planets. In the case of the "gas giant" planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune, the rocky cores were massive enough to also attract some of the gas. The outer layers of these planets are made up of hydrogen and other gases.

So the Sun is the collapsed core of an interstellar gas cloud, and the planets, asteroids and comets are small lumps of dust or ice chunks which stayed in orbit instead of spiraling into the Sun. The planets all formed within a very short period, probably a few million years, about five billion years ago.

The sun comprises around 98% of all the matter in the solar system. It is 875,000 miles in diameter, and so distant that light takes around eight minutes and twenty seconds to travel the 93 million miles which lie between us. The next nearest star to us is the faint, red dwarf star called Proxima Centauri. This star is only 4.2 light-years away. 4.2 light years? That's nothing, surely. Only about 266,000 times further away than the sun. The farthest object we know of in the universe is estimated to be (wait for it) 30,000,000,000 light years away. That's thirty billion light years. So if we shine a torch in that direction, 30 billion years later the light will get there. Phew.

Our galaxy, the milky way, contains an estimated 200 to 400 billion stars. There are an estimated 100 to 200 billion galaxies in the known universe. How many stars and potential planets in total? You do the sums, my head hurts... It does put things into perspective :)


I don't have any lessons until 11:45, so I pop up to see Gary about Tina's bike, and it's good news - he should be able to get the one I want before the week-end.

Tim and Peggy pop round for a cup of tea and we have a pleasant chat. When I go to my lesson, the learner isn't there. I send them a text message, and come home. I'm able to finally sort out a photo project for Lesley. Last week or the week before I asked her if she needed anything for her new flat, and she said a photo of the family would be good. I got a nice frame the other day, and have made a print using five pictures of the four of us at different ages. For once, everything goes smoothly with the printing. I make a second print for Jim, which is also successful, then the printer spits out a message saying one of the cartridges is empty.

I see Nicola at 4:30, our third lesson, things go well. Home for dinner, then meet Ben at the station for a late lesson at 6:30. He has his test tomorrow. I'm wondering if anyone will pass at the moment. Ben should, but so should the last two candidates...

Monday 24 September 2012

Jim is 27 today. Bloody hell, how did that happen? Tina goes to work, I text the boy. Get one back, lovely.

I sound like Lee Marvin - Ken's cold is a really good one. It's so good to share things with friends. How can I repay him?

Did a 9 a.m. lesson with Shadreck. I am not happy about his test next week, he's not really ready, so I let him know his options (cancel, or do it in his friend's car), and leave it for him to contact me. I don't feel too bad, as I never asked him to book the test.

I pop into Winklebury cycles and leave a message for Gary to contact me if he can get a ladies model for Tina. I hope he can. I'm trying to work out how old her current bike is, it could be about eight years but who knows?

Two lessons at lunchtime, then home to load up the car and take the hedge clippings to the dump.

A bit of TV in the evening for me n Tina. Les and Jim both call, it's good to chat to them.

Sunday 23 September 2012

Up early and I have to do a lesson! It's Ben, who has just started work and has a test next week. I don't mind working odd hours so long as it's not regular. Then we collect Chris and Nigel and drive to St Catherine's Hill to meet Dotty and Tim for a walk.

The walk is lovely, despite it raining hard. We aim for Twyford, and lunch at the Phoenix, highly recommended.

As we walk back to Winchester I get my camera out in a church and it's wet. Bugger. It seems to be dead (why oh why did I turn it on????) so I remove the battery and put it back in my wet bag. I am so stupid.

We have a coffee in Winchester, head back to the cars, and say goodbye to Dotty and Tim. A lovely day out, excepting wet cameras.

Home again. Camera in the airing cupboard, wet clothes off, heating on. Yes, I know, heating on in September. Whatever next? I spend a little time on Adrian's website adding a Facebook button. I hate Facebook almost as much as Apple :)

Tina and I video chat to Jackie and Paul in Canada. They are going to Paul's Mum for dinner after chatting to us. We share a few jokes, rib each other about our football teams (they are ManUre) and arrange to chat again next week.