Metrication petition

If you agree that it’s high time the UK finished the long drawn out process of metrication, you may wish to sign the e-petition here.

A few old people and slow learners may be slightly confused during the final stages of the changeover. However, we did it with decimal currency in 1971 and now who would dream of turning the clock back to the days of pounds, shillings and pence?

The Clearing (2004)

The Clearing film reviewStarring Robert Redford, Helen Mirren and Willem Dafoe, this thriller misfires and confuses the audience. The unconventional editing is partly responsible – we get the same event told from two perspectives sequentially instead of cutting from one drama to the other in real time.

The pace is too slow to develop any sense of tension, and in any case the film ends up pulling in more than one direction by adding an examination of the relationship between Redford’s and Mirren’s characters. Their performances are somewhat flat and unconvincing, too. Disappointing.

The hills are alive …

… with the sound of music. Actually it’s the cellar but anyway, the Big Brave now has chimes! It was easy to bolt the three new coils into the chime unit and add a strip of beerseal underneath them to cushion the strikers as they drop down to rest.

Then I had to add a short length of wire between one solder lug on each coil and attach the four wires from the loom to the coils (one per coil plus one common return connected to the interlinked lugs). Continue reading

Chime coils arrive

Gottlieb A-5195 coils and beersealThe parts I need to complete the chime unit arrived yesterday – all the way from Poughkeepsie in the USA. Strangely, they were wrapped in recent pages from the London Financial Times! Paid the $34.84 invoice by sending cash – which cost £17.76.

As you can see, the coils have removable sleeves in which the armature slides, so in the days when these machines were sited in arcades, cafes and pubs it would have been cheap and simple to replace them as they wore out. A home pinball machine has such light usage that these coil sleeves are never going to need replacing!
Continue reading

Happy holidays!

Okay, this one’s got me confused. I have just received an email from amazon.co.uk which refers to the “holiday season”. This expression is used in the United States to mean “Christmas”. They do actually use the word “Christmas” in the email as well, but it’s the first time I have seen this Americanism used by a UK company at all.

The holiday season for me is summer time. That’s when I go on holiday. Christmas is when people stampede to the shops in the cold rain and endure Noddy Holder blaring out as they hand over the plastic for stuff specially imported from China to exchange with friends and relatives.
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What? No warning?

I drive to the supermarket. The wing mirrors are engraved “objects may be closer than they appear”. I buy a coffee. The cup reads “contents may be hot”.

I buy a bottle of wine. Nowhere on the label does it tell me that after drinking the contents I may experience impaired judgment, reduced inhibitions, slurred speech or nausea, or that I should not operate machinery.

I think we should be told!

Into The Wild (2007)

Into The Wild film reviewI deliberately avoided reading any reviews of director Sean Penn’s film before seeing it, so that I could make up my own mind; a decision which left me unaware that it was based on a true story.

A pity that, because I spent two hours twenty minutes (count 'em – 140 minutes running time!) wondering if this story was sailing on the right side of sentimental. I think the movie just managed it, but not without asking us to accept that the central character is universally liked, admired and indeed loved by eveyone he encounters.

His decision to drop out is puzzling, and at first the audience has to assume he’s just a rebel with a more healthy perspective on life than those of us who choose the rat-race. Continue reading

Beowulf (2007)

Beowulf film reviewAny film with Ray Winstone has to be worth watching, in my opinion. So I had already decided I wanted to see Beowulf before realising that it ticks so many more boxes – it’s a 1000 year old story, in IMAX 3-D, has Anthony Hopkins, Angelina Jolie, John Malkovich and was directed by Robert Zemeckis (Back to the Future, What Lies Beneath, The Polar Express and many more).

I wasn’t disappointed. I was delighted, stunned, surprised, horrified, interested, confused and generally entertained from beginning to end. Continue reading

Is Britain failing the Sugar Test?

Someone once told me that soft drinks companies regularly analyse their competitors’ products. Not so that they can copy the recipes, but in order to monitor the sugar content. Sugar is the most expensive ingredient, and a competitor reducing the amount of sugar in its fizzy drinks is most likely in financial trouble.

I have recently noticed an indicator, like the sugar content in drinks, which is a sure sign that an enterprise is in serious decline. In fact it doesn’t just correlate with the financial performance of businesses, but is a Sugar Test for the very prosperity and integrity of whole countries.

I discovered it on a trip to Spain. There’s a pharmacy near where we stay, and it has always been typical of continental pharmacies – blindingly white, clean, quiet and tidy. The medicines and toiletries are expensive. The staff in white coats are professional, aloof and yet helpful. The green cross sign outside may be a frenetic, dazzling animation more appropriate to Las Vegas than a quiet Spanish street, but inside all is calm and, well, clinical.

This time, however, something had changed. Continue reading