And Not A Moment Too Soon

December 3rd, 2014 at 8:39am

I can’t take much more of this. Still. Mustn’t get too glum. I’ll be retiring in two years’ time.

Customer one: [Ring, ring] “Hello – locksmith.” Hi, buddy. Can you change a watch battery?

Customer two: [Ring, ring] “Hello – locksmith.” How much to change a barrel? “£72 if it’s a regular Yale.” Would it be any cheaper if you changed two?

Can you imagine what it must be like for an emergency service operator?

“Emergency. Which service do you require?” Hi mate. You allright? Listen, I can’t find my brown and gold handbag.

“Emergency. Which service do you require?” Uh. I’ve slept through my alarm.

life, locksmithing

I Pity The Fool As Well

November 14th, 2014 at 12:47pm

Apparently there have been some murmurings about the cost of the Rosetta-Philae mission to comet 67P.

The response to these criticisms from one scientist was to quote BA Baracus’, “I pity the fool”. Me too. Well, “pity” is too kind; “feel contempt for” is probably closer.

This illustrates a very common theme and ignorance of economics. What actually is the cost of a big science project? A whole bunch of people in employment? Perhaps the critics imagine that if the people working on a big project were all sacked they’d cost society less; or they’d all go and help alleviate poverty somewhere in the world. What about raw materials? In a tiny spaceship and lander? Come on. Did the project consume a vast amount of electricity that could have been better deployed elsewhere?

The elephant in the room of western society is just what we are all going to do with ourselves. Politicians talk wistfully of full employment but really the problem is finding ways for society not to crumble as the amount of real, or vital work diminishes. Apart from generating power, “growing” food, extracting raw materials and care work, all the remaining work for us to do is essentially opening doors for each other; doing each other’s hair, or nails; or teaching or entertaining each other.

So a whole bunch of people employed on a fascinating and enriching project for a large number of years is brilliant.

Thinking about things a bit before making this post, all I could come up as to real costs of the Rosetta-Philae mission was the polution as the rocket lifted it against our gravity. So the sooner a few thousand people more get to work and start to research and then build a space elevator, the better.

life, politics , , , , ,

Amazon Logistics

October 27th, 2014 at 2:00pm

Arrggghhhh …

Over the course of a couple of hours this morning, according to Amazon’s Track-Your-Package: “In transit“, delivery tomorrow; “In transit“, delivery tomorrow; “In transit“, delivery tomorrow; …

Right I’ll pop to the shop …

An attempt was made to deliver your package

And the Amazon Logistics card that was put through the door has nothing written on it. There are vague scratch marks as though the driver had no pen and used a finger nail but that’s all. As Amazon Logistics (in the UK at least) is said by Bezos to be “… our own fast, last-mile delivery networks in the U.K., where commercial carriers couldn’t support our peak volumes …”, i.e. Yodel and Hermes’ model of “housewives in an Astra”, the “tracking” is a waste of time.


I’ve got an idea. Amazon is feasting on the reduced need for retailers. With easy payment options, fancy online catalogues, with most people with disposable income having broadband, with the cost of motoring and the impossibility of parking on the increase, retail outlets for all but the most perishable and most must-see-first items are filling a need that isn’t there any more. Unfortunately Amazon was not born of the west coast ethos of let’s try to make a buck but let’s try to be reasonably nice over it, it was born out of the rapacious Wall Street “ethos” of the ’80s. OK – it was started in the ’90s, but Bezos acknowledges he was slow. It is said, for example (THE MORNING CALL), that Amazon finds it cheaper to hire medics for its warehouse staff than to air condition. It is thought by some that “Buy n Large”, laying waste to the Earth in the film WALL-E might be an Amazon.

Is there anyway that manufacturers and their trade associations could get smarter and sell direct to us, using the same easy means, and cut out Amazon?

life, politics , ,

Meridians and Midnights

October 25th, 2014 at 9:24am

Grrr. Pedant time again. I’ve just been ordering some stuff from Screwfix. Now, they are very handy and I’m very glad I have a branch only 5 minutes away, but I can’t help gnashing my  teeth at their description of when my Click And Collect will actually be collectable. Apparently it will be “after 12 pm”.

OK, not everyone obsesses over this kind of thing, but you’d think such a big outfit could afford someone knowledgable or capable of a bit of research. “12 pm” is pretty meaningless, as is “12 am”, but taken at face value it’s 12 hours after the meridian and is therefore midnight and almost certainly not what they meant (or is it?).

If you’re not going to use the twenty-four hour clock then you have to say midday or midnight; you can’t say 12 pm or 12 am. “pm” means post meridian, i.e. after midday; and “am” means ante meridian or before midday. So you can’t describe midday with either of them; you have to say midday. Grrr.

If, as a webmaster, you can’t be bothered to figure this out, then use the 24-hour clock (or military time as they seem to call it in North America). And to be clear it’s a 24-hour clock being used, please use leading zeroes (written and speech) and please leave out the colon. So midday become 1200 (twelve hundred hours) and midnight can either be referred to as 2400 – when your perception is that it’s the end of one day – or 0000 when your perception is the start of the next day.

And I’m not quite sure if it’s a joke or not, but it sounds odd saying, for example, 0030 as zero hundred thirty, so I quite like the alledged military phrase: “zero dark thirty” – night time you see – dark.

life , , ,

Retirement And Narcissism

October 13th, 2014 at 3:44pm

Although I’m nearly retired, I’m not quite there yet. I can’t afford to be fully retired yet. Not unless I’m prepared to give up food and beer; well, OK, beer and food. As of about ten years ago, I haven’t found it necessary to have any advertising other than a web site. However, Google seems to be getting meaner with the local traders’ sites and more generous with the National Register Of Hugely Marked-Up Botchers R Us ers. Staying in the search results gets tougher and tougher.

As you might have seen from previous posts, I’ve taken a greater interest in workshop projects of late. Whilst I can’t bring myself to have a Google+ page (Grrr, talk about Me Too and Wannabe), maybe I’ll satisfy Google’s requirement that I take its shilling before I get a good page rank, if I put some videos up on YouTube.

There are thousands of workshop channels; and hundreds of good ones. So I’m not going to contribute the fifieth video on a cross cut sled (usually the second thing that someone makes for their table saw). There are one or two things however, that are a little more out of the ordinary. So I’ll try putting a few of those up. Here we go.


Bluebeard, Pandora, What’s The Parable

August 28th, 2014 at 3:56pm

When taking up a new residence, whether as a buyer or a renter, make sure you’re given a key for every lock, including cupboards, outbuildings and sheds, meter cupboards, boiler cupboards, balcony doors, attic doors – you get the idea.

If you’re buying, see if you can get your solicitor to add this requirement as one of the Questions For Seller.

If you’re renting and the landlord mutters that they have never had a key for x, tell them you’ll have to get a locksmith to open x and to get a key for x; and that you’ll have to bill them for it.

Of course, there are times when renters in particular are competing for a desirable property and don’t feel like being too pushy.

If for whatever reason you do end up with locked cupboards, balcony doors etc., you do need to get them sorted out. It could be, for example, that your only exit in some emergency is via the balcony and a knotted sheet, except you can’t open the balcony door. Or imagine that one day water starts pouring out from under a locked cupboard or attic door. Are you going to expect the plumber to break the door down? (It’s this last example that prompted this post.)

advice, locksmithing , , ,


August 27th, 2014 at 3:54pm

To finance the recently-purchased table saw, I have sold my last (apart from the ones I made myself) safe lock pick. My days of struggling with safes are now pretty much over – semi-retirement.

I happened to wrapping up the pick case for dispatch in the workshop on top of the table saw. As everyone finds, the top of a table saw is just too convenient a flat surface and gets used for assembly work. Anyway, I got to musing on the difference in size – enormous – versus the difference in value – none. The pick is beautifully machined; indeed, I was a bit sad to see it go, but it wasn’t being used. However, the pick comprises less than 500 g of stainless steel. The table saw, which costs the same as the pick – and mind you, the pick was bought second-hand, new it would cost less than the pick – dwarfs it and comprises 160 kg of steel and cast iron.

I suppose it’s production volume. And precision. And charging what the market will bear.

life, locksmithing ,

Table Saw

July 24th, 2014 at 9:21am

Having done a couple of projects on the home-made table saw, and having proved something or other to myself, I’ve now got myself a proper table saw (an Axminster AW10BSB2). It’s pretty impressive. And it was pretty darned heavy at 160kg. It’s going to have to move in and out in the workshop so the next project is lifting castors for it.

The Axminster driver was kind enough to come up one step from the street and up the garden path to the front door. About ten years ago I bought a metalworking lathe from an outfit in Surrey, and not only were a couple of parts from a completely different machine (which they never replaced despite several calls), their driver just dumped the lathe on the street pavement.

Of course, the tablesaw arrived in the fortnight when the kids were both away, so quite a bit of ingenuity with dollies, levers, fulcrums and axle stands was required so that lone, not-going-to-see-sixty-again little old me could get it from the front door to the workshop at the back; and then right side up, it being delivered resting on its top to permit assembly of the lower legs and panels.

life , , , , ,

[Shakes Head Wearily]

June 29th, 2014 at 8:26am

“Can you come to 18 Verylong Road?”

“Which end is that? Is that the District end or the OtherDistrict end?”

“It’s between them.”

“I’ve reached Endofroad roundabout and there’s no sign of number 18.”

“Actually, it’s 18 Blockofflats Building.”

“I see. Whereabout’s in Verylong Road is Blockofflats Building?”

“It’s on Shorter Road.”

[Sigh] “I see. And that road is …?”

“It’s between Verylong Road and the High Street.”

[Shakes head wearily]

entertainment, life

French Cleats Work Really Well

May 22nd, 2014 at 11:25am

Apparently when the French want to hang a cupboard on the wall, they take a length of 2″ x 1″ (sorry, 50mm x 25 mm) and slice it longways down the middle almost into two 1″ x 1″ lengths but sliced at a 45° angle instead of perpendicular. Then one piece is screwed to the wall and the other to the cupboard such that the bevels (chamfers? mitres? never quite know which is which) lock in to each other. Actually, you do it twice: at the top of the cupboard and at the bottom.

Well, you can do the same for tool storage. You screw a few cleat rails to the wall. Then, for each tool or set of tools you make a hanger on a short cleat. For half-a-dozen pliers for example, you make something like a little 6″ towel rail on a cleat and hang your pliers on that. Easier watched than explained, so have a look on YouTube (or Vimeo if, like me, you’re starting to get a bit pissed off with Google’s descent into evil). I like Steve Ramsey’s version.

The move of my workshop from shed to conservatory/cellar is now complete having done all the French cleat tool hangers. The cool thing is that not only is it a neat way to accessibly store tools, but with rails in both the up and the down workshops, I can bring tools up and down as needed.

life ,