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Technical Madman
6th-Apr-2012 06:57 pm - Railway Thoughts.....
A few (or more) may know of my interest in railways. I've been interested in the things for years. The UK has a lot of railway history and Derby has always been a big railway city. Currently, the UK railways are in an 'improving' state but they have a long way to go. The prices are too much unless you go at the ever decreasing 'cheap rate' times.

Now, the problem a lot of people say was that the problem was the privatisation of 'British Railways' in the 1990's by the Conservative Party. I don't agree - I will agree that it was done badly. Instead of separating the 'trains' and the 'tracks' each 'area' should have been put together. The problem didn't originate there.

Let's go back - How about the 'Beeching' cuts in the 1960's. Now, this was where the UK lost a lot of railways and really created a mess. For example - the 'Great Central' route, which was the 'third' route from southern England to Scotland was lost along with a lot of other routes. A lot of the problem here was that 'roads' were the way ahead - the car was becoming cheap. Another issue was the cost of moving from Steam to Diesel. This again was started under a Conservative government - Labour said they would discontinue them if elected (they were and continued closures). This is where a big mistake was made I think - but still, I don't think this is where the biggest mistake was made. This was the start of major underinvestment into the railways - which only since the privisation in the 90's started to make good (but there is a long way to go).

Let's rewind further. How about my original thoughts of what messed up the UK railway system. 1947 - the Labour government nationalised the railways (along with other things). The 'big 4' companies were in a big mess. A discussion and some research has made me realise that this wasn't the big problem. It shouldn't have been nationalised - the railways were in a mess as the government had run them over World War 2 and there was such a backlog of maintenance and repairs (from war damage etc) that they needed a lot of time to recover. Meanwhile cars, buses and lorries were taking over.

Lets go back again, to where I believe the mistake started - 1923. When all the disparate companies were 'merged' into the 'big 4 grouping'. The problem was that during World War 1 the government took over running the railways and again left a nice pile of maintenance and repairs/renewals to be done (how nice of them). I agree that something needed to be done but they 'grouped' them badly. The way they were nationalised created very little competition - they needed to be grouped so they would compete with each other and force each other to improve and fight against the increasing use of lorry transport, buses etc. How would you react to being given control of your annoying rival - yep, marginalise them and make sure 'your side' got the best stuff (and that happened).

Why do I say this - the United Kingdom had the best railway transport system in the world - and after repeated messing by government and allowing one set of rivals to control the other. Yep this is all history and what is done cannot be undone. It's a shame - some lines would have closed but a lot others wouldn't have.


A lot of the fabulous walking I've done is based on a lot of these old trackways. The railways were ripped up and removed (to ensure they couldn't be reopened). A lot of walks - High Peak Trail, Tissington trail and numerous others are only there because the railways have gone.

Annoying really - what could have been a brilliant 21st century system is not available. A lot of fantastic and lovely walking is......
25th-Dec-2011 11:22 am - Happy Heavens Day
Happy Heavens Day, Christmas or whatever you celebrate (or not).

Have a fun time at the very least.
When we were in England we had booked a hire car for the 4 of us to travel in. Due to the amount of suitcases etc my sister met us at the airport with my parents to assist getting everyone home.

babyghia's dad went with my parents and some of the luggage. The rest of us got the courtesy bus to the hire car compound. Myself and babyghia had decided to get a bigger car (see what they offered). We had booked an 'Mondeo' (Ford) sized car and were offered a VW Passatt as well as a BMW or Mercedes. I choose the Passatt as VW's are nicer to drive than a BMW or Mercedes (I've driven various types from all three companies). Also, I didn't want the insulting label you get when driving a BMW or Mercedes.

Anyway, the Passatt was a top of the range model. Six speed manual with a big turbo diesel engine. The hire person gave me the once over of the car - it didn't have a key. The 'key' was a module that you inserted into the dash. To start the engine you held down the clutch and depressed the module for a couple of seconds - which was weird enough (I like a key). The module also locked/unlocked the car and boot/trunk. Even more weirdly was the handbrake, which was a switch. You could release the handbrake by pressing the brake pedal down and depressing the switch. The boot/trunk was huge - ideal for a rep and their demo stuff. The dash was nice and the display was useful enough. We didn't really like the built in sat nav (Emily was used more). The in-car sat-nav may have been more useful if we'd worked it out but even then - the ease of use of my old battered sat-nav beat it.

The handbrake was an issue for me the entire time. As with manual transmission the handbrake gives you a lot of help. I'm sure there was a hill assist somewhere but I could find it - I just hoped no-one stopped too close to me on an uphill as it caused issues.

Anyway, the car itself was nice to drive, clutch and gearshift was very nice and the engine worked very nicely and the turbo didn't have major lag. Disconcertingly, the car would tell me when to change up and down gears. Weird but useful and after I'd gotten used to it - handy. Being a diesel we got fantastic mpg (in fact the 'range' was higher after driving to Derby from Heathrow). We did a lot of driving in that car but I only filled it up twice - in a petrol car I would have filled it at least 4 time (probably more).

It took a while for me to get used to the car, the brakes were very good and I braked too hard quite a bit until I got used to it.

We had a couple of big issues with the car. The front seats weren't exactly comfortable. I have driven a few hundred miles in a car and not had any issue. From my nice Vauxhall Nova to my battered, underpowered but plucky Peugeot 106. The front seats in the Passatt made me want to get out and move within 40 minutes are getting in. For saying that this car is a 'rep' car I found that to be annoying. Maybe it was due to the 'seat heating' or something else - it just wasn't as comfortable as it should have been. The other issue was that the front of the car didn't seem to have as much space as it should have. Maybe the engine caused that issue but it just was missing there.

All in all, the car did a good job - it survived a lot of driving and was pretty good at working giving me the extra power when I needed it. It was just missing something in the comfort stakes. I could only describe it using a Clarkson line from Top Gear. "If someone gave me the car I'd love it, but would I buy one.... No".

One last thing - I couldn't resist it (not many could have). I spotted my dad looking at the back of the car when we were walking to their house after going out for dinner. Being me, I remotely opened the boot/trunk and made him jump. Mean, but not many could have resisted that :-D
30th-Oct-2011 12:55 am - Meme time
Swiped from madrona_8

What Is Your Battle Cry?

Who is that, stalking along the mountains! It is Madclarinet, hands clutching a piece of chainlink fence! And with a low grunt, his voice cometh:

"I'm going to punch you until I am off parole, and plunge you into financial ruin!"

Find out!
Enter username:
Are you a girl, or a guy ?

created by beatings : powered by monkeys

20th-Oct-2011 09:40 am - Double Birthday time
A most excellent set of birthday cheers to the scary duo of lilly_rose and rembrandt13

May you both have a most excellent day.
14th-Oct-2011 12:36 pm - Clarinet Musings
As I haven't yet found a music group here (for a variety of reasons and I'm not really looking too hard at the moment) I've been able to play my clarinets and flute (I must get my 'main' flute repaired) for 'myself' rather than working towards something. That may seem strange but it's nice to do what I want to do instead of having to practice. I found a rather nice song from the anime Kobato which babyghia was watching (and I ended up watching most of it) and found a midi file of it. The song seemed to sound like it would be nice on a clarinet so I loaded the midi into my music scoring software (Sibelius) and went from there.

Thankfully, the midi transcribed decently enough and I continued along by adding a clarinet into the score and copying the main tune over. When I saw the key signatures that I would have to play in I saw lots of problems, so I looked to see what it would be like for one of my other clarinets - not so bad so that's the clarinet I choose. This is when this post gets complicated so I'll put the rest under a cut.

My arsenal of clarinetsCollapse )

Attack of the transposing instrumentsCollapse )

Anyway, that's a small thought set on clarinets. I'm going to stick with the 'A' on the song from Kobato I think. Transposing instructions and the reasoning behind them is such a can of worms (but an interesting one).

Now.... I wonder if I can save up for a bass clarinet (and if babyghia would allow it). Mind you, I also want to get a piccolo to complement my flutes too..... oh well.....

Oh, and a nice list of the Clarinet Family
3rd-Oct-2011 06:15 pm - I'm still here
Yeah, I haven't posted for a while - bad me. It's not like I don't have the time, more like trying to think up what to post.

I need to do a Ghia post - that's for certain, done more stuff on it but everytime something goes right, a few more things that cause problems appear. Oh well, such is life.

A week or so back myself and babyghia went to Sacramento for the weekend as we were escaping the Pacifica Fog Fest. Nothing wrong with it - except that it's on the road outside the apartment and is very noisy.... from Friday to Sunday (sleep is not easy). Also completely forget using the car too. Anyway, we went to the Railroad Museum there (you may remember that it is one of my interests). Anyone who follows me on Farcebook may want to lookout for the photo's. While there we managed to meetup with rembrandt13 who I know from twitter (by a very weird route). Anyway, we all had a laugh and found out that we also have some other crossover interests (apart from the classic Dr Who side). By the time we got back home they had cleared up outside the apartment but were still finishing clearing up nearby.

Found a few more anime's that I seem to like. Some because of the 'strangely cute but entertaining show' (Kobato) and a few others that seem decent enough - doesn't help that babyghia watches a fair few of them on her computer which is near to mine so I often end up watching them more than concentrating on the weird stuff I do. One other worth mentioning is 'Galaxy Railways' which I thoroughly enjoyed. I mean, how can't you like 'trains in space' - it does have a very decent story line and characters. You can also watch the entire series on youtube as funimation has put them up. The second series, wasn't dubbed commercially but thankfully has been fansubbed - we managed to get hold of it too and will watch it sooner or later.

Getting more used to driving on the other side of the road. Not got it fully yet (as I turned onto the wrong side when driving back from Sac anime and had to be corrected by babyghia - I had no visual clues so that wasn't a massive surprise).

I won't go too much into the 'fun' we've had organising the England trip. Needless to say, I will have a wonderful 8 hour+ drive on one day. Some more information from my family etc has come down about the planned party. One of my relatives (I think the correct relationship is 'First cousin, once removed'), was married last week and apparently a fair few of my relatives are planning to come. Add that to my old work, badminton and music group the last 'rough' count was 120. I have a lot of relatives.......

Anyway, I should get a Ghia post done soon - I have some more reading to do on the fuel system. Not sure when as we have a few days of rain forecast - not sure when I'll next have a go at it, could be Thursday or Friday depending on the reading/research.

I think it's time for another cuppa tea so I'm off to deal with that.
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