Revisiting Traditional Permits?

I am writing this close to midnight, a mere ten minutes after petards have stopped blasting this tiny insignificant town out of its lethargy.

It’s hot, it’s muggy, and my ears are still ringing from the onslaught these ‘devout christian traditions’ pour on us to make us happy and remember our lord or madonnas… or some dead ass saint.

Anyway, I need to search for my fillings, and take care of our pets even as the intense smell of cordite fills our corridor.

Penny is still ruffling her feathers at the shock, Sandy is cowering in a corner, while little Tikka is hanging on bravely to a top cupboard.

And all this is happening, presumably, with the benediction of the law makers in this country. WHY is this shambles allowed to go on?

Is it because of traditions? What traditions are there in a country where kid attended school in the 50s and 60s wearing just one shoe? Where is the tradition when hundreds of thousands of Euros are spent in petards… money which would have been unavailable back then.

And correct me if I’m wrong, but as a 52 year old, I can plainly remember ‘festi’ (only dumb people say feast… a festa is a celebration, not a feast!) being far less noisy! And it used to be a weekend celebration, where it was perhaps permitted and acceptable. But festi these days have become huge money spinners, and a 15 celebratory period is an obligation. Add to this another spin-off festa in Tarxien, and suddenly it has become a whole month of these ungodly inconveniences. It is no more, ‘U iva, ta darba f’sena’.

Yes to the spectacle of the churches being decorated, Yes to statues being carried around by non-church going louts, Yes to mid-day marches where scantily clad women are shoulder-borne by hairy-chested youths. Yes to the immensely beautiful colourful aerial displays. Yes to… paganism?.

Because these are not traditions. Because these are not prayers in the name of some long-deceased uncaring saint. This is pure paganism and ‘ghandna flus iktar minnkhom’ (we have more money than you). This is because we need to teach the other band club that our petards are bigger, stronger, smellier, noisier.

I am not going to add the church into the equation. They lost their plot ages ago. Add to this an insanely egocentric Local Council who think it quite ok to put pedestals on pavements (!!!) and you’ll see where this is taking us.

A private message sent to me implied, in a most christian way ‘You moan too fucking much man… who the hell is asleep at midnight on a Saturday evening?’ (Ostja kemm teqred man, min izzobb hu rieqed f’nofs il lejl is Sibt?)

Well, most of Tarxien was. The old, the infirm, the sick, those who worked to bring bread to their table, and those who just maybe, at that time, needed to take their much earned rest.

This is not tradition. This is pique, savagery, ignorance, and law-breaking.

And the majority local population suffers these louts.

Never have the needs of the few prevailed over the wishes of many in such a lawless fashion.

All in the name of religion.

 

 

 

 

To book or not to book?

It is that time of year again when the heat starts to make it’s way up the thermometer, pushing the numbers higher and higher. It is that time of year when leaving home for a trip somewhere, after ten or eleven, is considered as madness.

I must admit. I don’t do too well with the heat. Maybe it is because of this AS and RA I suffer with. But most probably it is up to my increasing weight as I grow older and medications take their toll. The fact is I don’t eat that much to justify this growth, but there you have it.

Anyway, back to our subject. The heat. It makes people do crazy decisions. Some take to the beach, fling off their clothes, flash us their hairy chests or cheeky bums, and soak it all in. Others take to cooler countries for a while.

Those, like me, who have neither hairy chests and bums, nor money to burn, take an easier route.

We stay inside and increase our reading. Now I know that voracious readers do not need the heat to indulge in their fantasies, but it is a dead cert that more books are opened in these months than in winter (or what passes as that season here).

As my friends know, I prefer the Kindle e-reader over printed matter. The reader is light, front-lit, can hold hundreds of books, and of course, for every aging guy with precarious eyesight, re-sizable fonts.

For what use is a dead-tree book for me if I can’t see the words? And Kindle books are, of course cheaper. And on any given day, there are hundreds of free books on Amazon. All for the Kindle of course.

And who doesn’t like free books?

Needless to say, books increase one’s knowledge. And knowledge is power.

Live Long and Prosper! \\//

To go electric?

For many years now, the constant rise of the road-tax (or license as we call it here), has made me wonder many times why I put up with it?

As somebody who is not a real car fan (unless it is Formula1 racing!), I am at great pains to really work out why a 3-metre tiny car with a Euro5 emission rated engine should pay nearly three hundred euros for a road-tax, which, added to the approximately two hundred euro insurance, brings the total amount to nearly five hundred Euros.

I have no doubt that it is a deterrent so that people will no longer buy imported cars from second hand dealers, but obviously enough, fill the already rich local new-car importers with more money.

Be that as it may, a car is always good for emergencies, and seeing that the local bus service is nothing to write home about, it is indispensable. (Catching a bus from Tarxien is like fishing. You KNOW the buses are there, or will snare you at some time, but planning is nigh in impossible.

I don’t want to hear excuses on how things are better now (untrue), or how they have improved greatly (another lie). When a bus sign at a stop says that the bus will be there at 5.07, I EXPECT the bus to be there at seven minutes past the hour. Other countries can do it. Then again, this is Malta.

OK, so in substitution of a car, or the bus, what else can I do? I love cycling. The minor altercation with a Qash-Qai last year left me shaken for many months. The sight of my bedraggled bike in the corner of the garage did not inspire that much confidence to get into the saddle once again.

I repaired the damage, and although the bicycle looked pristine once again, I still had problems in addressing the not unsubstantial step of once again venturing into the roads.

The past month has seen me looking around, thus, for alternate transport. Not because I need to, but because I want to. And going electric has intrigued me for many years now. Sure, I understand that with electric, the waste is going to be generated at a different source, in effect, minimizing somewhat the carbon footprint saving. (I am already doing much of that with electricity generation and solar water heating.)

To me, however, the pure pleasure of cycling, boosted with electrical power when required is unrivaled. Let’s not go into the financial aspect. My daily commute is mercifully very short, so apart from my weekend jaunts, fuel consumption is not something I am overly worried about. I perhaps use up twenty euros of fuel every fortnight, if even that much.

It is the knowledge rather that we are moving on from burning fossil fuel at secondary source.

I have thus taken a decision that in the future months, I will build an electric vehicle. It might not take the form of a bicycle, as indeed, I have a scooter which takes me places very efficiently, but perhaps not the best option for hills.

Malta is, after all, a quite hilly country which does not lend itself exactly brilliantly to car-less commuting.

So yeah, I am researching on how to put together an electric machine for personal use. The scooter is the first step as it is light, portable, fold-able, and easily adaptable to what I have in mind.

Plans have been thought up and drawn. Let’s see how it goes.

Some thoughts after Bologna…

As usual, when I go on holiday, I walk a lot. It IS a big deal for me considering my conditions. Be that as it may, we usually go to places where the land is typically flat, quite unlike our country.
It is thus quite usual for me to walk ten to fifteen kilometres daily without any hassle. Of course, locally, normally, one would do this in a car…
Let’s face it, who would dare to go to Scan by walk? Of course, it is only 2km away, but one only needs to look at that great big hill to realise that it is akin to torture.
So it is one of the reasons we use a car. With the erratic timetables of buses, it is difficult to plan ahead properly. And if the Italians can do it, why can’t we??? We make jokes about Italian organisation. But I can honestly say something. We are DECADES behind. Not a simple amount of years. But DECADES.
Somebody needs to explain to me how the hell do they manage to get a bus to the city centre every fifteen minutes in the countryside where houses are few and far in between? How is it even possible to EXACTLY plan where you are going by bus and be ASSURED that at that time, the bus WILL be there?
Bus tickets for the entire Emilia-Romagna region cost a miserly €1.30, less if purchased in bulk. Each ticket would have a 105minute time stamp on them. AND you can stamp the ticket at the END of your first journey.
A train ticket to Piacenza costs €3.80… Every train was clearly marked with what station it would stop through and at what time it would leave. This is ITALY for fuck’s sake… they CAN’T be that organized… or can they?
Cars in general were in a smaller number than what I envisaged. Buses galore, scooters abundant, and of course, many many bicycles. In a flat city, what could be better than a bicycle?
Of course, good luck with leaving a bicycle outside here!
The food is incomparable. We THINK we know food. We don’t. The pasta, the milk, butter, and the local produce such as beef, pepperoni, mortadella, vegetables… simply unreachable. With all that greenery I had no doubts. And as for ice-cream… suck me sideways!
The distribution of prices in living is also skewed. Supermarkets (especially CO-OP) are laughably cheap. But a simple hair-cut is not less than €15. Buying shoes or clothes requires taking a loan.
dav
Naturally there are problems everywhere, and if there is something which really made me sad, were the number of homeless. And the beggars. Typically the same number as in London. Not so much in the suburbs and outskirts, but in Bologna city centre, I was astounded to see a good number… Catholics were buying €2 candles to light for their deity, but turning their head away at the plaintive cry of a woman in help… It was heartbreaking.
I also think that the centre of the city requires more respect and graffiti was on practically every wall that had more than a metre of space available. Rush hour is chaotic, but between ten in the morning and four, the city is practically empty of people and traffic. There was nobody there!
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Around 4.30pm, the hordes start to emerge, and it is total panic until eight at night, when, once again, the city is deserted anew…
dav
It was, in all, a beautiful experience, and one which I want to repeat.

Network splicing.

So, this week I have had hectic days pulling all my desks and entertainment system apart, ostensibly to clear up some old cables and create new electrical outlets. It seems that with each passing year, we need more sockets to use.

It’s hardly surprising though.Just looking at my TV unit I seem to have a Telly, 2 XBOX consoles, a blu-ray player, an amplifier, an android box and an iptv box… So that’s already seven plugs, and of course, seven network cables required as well.

On to the nearby speaker on the right, and we have the wifi router from the telecoms company, as well as a network switch and a cordless phone. Moving on, we find the computer system which utilises 5 plugs… the PC itself, the monitor, speakers, printer, and now, the LED lighting system.

Add a couple of mobile phone chargers, and you might soon realize what an amount of power we use. (I forgot to add the AC!!!)

The sad thing is that these things grow ‘organically’, and while starting out initially well sorted out, the sheer amount of cabling simply loses any semblance of elegance as they degenerate into a tangle of spaghetti behind that unit. It simply happens and there’s sod all one can do.

But I decided to tackle it anyway. The first thing was to plan things out. With that sorted, I had to get past the not inconsiderable problem of increasing my outlets from the wall. This would separate my ‘gadgets’ into four distinct layers.

  1. Computer System
  2. Air Conditioning
  3. Communications
  4. Entertainment Unit

There is a reason for these layers and that is to have easy autonomy for each. While not subscribing to the thought of switching everything off just to save a few measly cents per year, I am more concerned about the longevity of the electronics.

So, with just one outlet with one double pole socket, it was obvious I needed to expand on this 3X3. The solution was an elegant one. At Big-Mat in TaQali I saw this 4gang in 1 adapter. Truly excellent, and for twelve Euros, a definite steal. This thingy had the ability to fit OVER a 3X3 hole socket in the wall, with just two screws. Something similar below, yes I know, it is 3-gang, but I got the last 4 switched one.

plug

Re-routing everything took me ages, many hours. But it was finally done. I applied the last bits of LEDs to my monitor and desk and it looks absolutely stonking. At night, it even looks better!

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Inevitably, the hardest part was sorting out the network cables. There are too many cables. No wonder we tend to go to wifi. Anyway, finally getting round to the real reason for writing this.

After re-routing these pesky network cables, I was left with the unenviable task of trimming down my Solar Panel network cable. It was waay too long, and I don’t mean a metre or two extra, noooo… I had about an extra eight metres to get rid of.

And I was down to my last RJ45 plug. AARGH! I connected it, and for some reason, I neglected to check the right page on my solar panel page to see if the data was being received. Since it was night by then, I assumed, obviously wrongly, that the connector was spliced incorrectly.

Now, sadly, I am a statistic fan, so having my panels and not having a monitoring system was scandalous… and I thought.. WHY do network cables need to be on a plug perforce?

So I did something I never imagined I would do. I cut two extra cables with crimped ends AFTER I did some experimental speed measurement on them.

I then stripped the twisted pairs, twisted one end to another cable, and finally taped over them.

cat5e

Once again, I tested the ‘lengthened’ cable, and expecting it to fail, was surprised to see that there was no packet data being lost at all. How could that be? All my life I have been taught that nothing worse than a ‘patched’ patch lead could exist in a network.

But it very obviously worked. I was still getting my 30MBPs speed from my provider.

ping

So I thought, why not try it on my longer run of cable from the solar panels to the network switch?

Well, I did, and the damn thing actually worked again. And so, I’m thinking, why all this fuss with balanced plugs, joiners, booties, and expensive crimping tools? It is obviously the way to go, but in a pinch, can be used easily without any significant loss of data.

Don’t get me wrong, being neat, tidy, organized and well connected is the only way I could accept my network to be, but again, on a cold, dark, wet Saturday night, it is not the end of the world either.

The dreaded flu bug visits again…

Well, I have just gone back to work after recovering (partly) from my annual week battling the dreaded flu. It was a bug my daughter picked up from school, and after a week of sniffling and sneezing, there was no doubt I would get it as well. No amount of lemon, honey, ginger, or indeed, single malt whiskey will stop it.

Naturally, owing to my low immunity system, it would mean that it would hit me hard. I actually felt the symptoms on a Monday afternoon, and by evening I was already feeling the heat from an elevated temperature.

On Tuesday I awoke breathless, feverish, and with a searing pain in my throat. Constant hot teas were the norm in a bid to soothe them a bit.

So yeah, I was supposed to go back to work on Friday, but decided that since I was really weak (three days are hardly enough to recover from a flu bug), I decided to take a personal day off…

By Saturday I thought I had recovered a bit, so went for a drive to Dingli Cliffs, beautiful and sunny in this weather. But by evening I was worn through and my back was killing me with all the coughing.

It’s been busy this morning, but hoping that it will calm down a bit in the afternoon as I am, truthfully, blasted.

I had an article to finish, but have left it for later in the week as I need to concentrate well on how to present it.

It is quite difficult for me to present this article when I know that so many employees, with their limited wages, will find it impossible to do… And this is something I cannot understand these days, how the minimum wage is still so low as to be unliveable on.

Anyway, I will try to see how to bring the article in line with expectations.

Live Long and Prosper…

Busy Saturday!

Yeah, I know, Sunday today, but I thought I would pause to let some of yesterday’s many surprises sink in.

First of all we had the Amon Amarth tickets booked. My daughter, being an ardent Metal fan like myself, was over the moon, and I have to admit that I have longed to see the band live.

The fact that the show is in Italy, a few minutes away from the airport is a great bonus, as are the Ryanair flights directly to Bologna.

Following that was the excellent news that our dear friend Franco will be joining us for the show.

A meeting was thus necessary and it was to be that we watched the Juventus – Atalanta match together. An easy 3-1 win and a pleasant chat (some chat – 4 hours!), and it reminded me of how we have bonded so much over the years. A true friend indeed.

Another huge shock was seeing Rachel walk up the stairs in a daze, holding a brand new iPhone7 in her hands… Her boyfriend saw fit to buy her a new phone as the old one’s battery was barely holding up.

At night then, I had the, uh.. unexpected pleasure of having to sleep on the sofa with our two cats who were terrified of the lightning and thunder which hit the islands. I slept all crooked and a number of claw marks decorate my arms and chest. Still, they were like hot water bottles, and I love them… so what can I say really?

The wife seems to be coming down with a tummy bug, and has made the bathroom her dominion for the time being. It means no going out on Sunday, but I can take it. I love my TV room, my computers, YouTube in the background on my splendid XBOX ONE … it will provide ample rest and to continue work on my ‘movie project’ for the time being.

Have a great Sunday!

Live Long and Prosper