Little App Ideas

Lots Of Little Ideas – Part 2: Apps

Last month I introduced my series on ‘little ideas’, that is all my big ideas but in bite size form. I continue that theme here in this article where I provide a number of other little ideas but this time all with a similar theme. In this case, all my digital app ideas. So now they are in print and no longer hidden out of sight on my hard drive.

The usual caveats of copyright apply and I note that I believe each to be original in their concept having not seen any like these before. However I would note that on the iOS app store alone there are millions of app variations and I have no intention of checking through each one to check this. Let me know if you have seen or are using anything the same and I’ll correct as required. Then feel proud that the concept I invented as well was indeed sound.

The App Ideas

  • Let’s start with something silly. A toaster app for iPhone. It will be pointless and of course not work but your friends with Google Android phones won’t know that when you turn it’s dials to make the setting and watch as the bars glow ‘hotter and hotter’. For the full fun effect ask them to get some bread and try it out. Variants will include the hot-plate, the ceramic hob and the five bar electric fire. Now what about getting sponsorship from a company like Dualit? If you think this is just too out there remember an early app on the iPhone was the larger drinking simulator. No beer but it was sponsored. And extremely popular
  • ValueMyStuff. A valuation site with sections for houses, automotive, furniture, tech, paintings, antiques, clothing, animals etc. Each item for valuation has a photo, condition percentages and links to sponsored 3rd party sellers and buyers sites. Ideal to get a value on that old watch in the cupboard or the rare toy car from childhood. Interactive ability to have viewers’ stuff valued by the community
  • Short Films. Pitched between the might and mess of YouTube but with the quality and seriousness of Netflix. It would only have short films of up to 15 minutes, both professionally produced and amateur made providing they are of sufficient quality. Sections to include showcasing of new film producers, directors and talent. It would be a subscription model, say £2 per month with unlimited viewings
  • Mirror Drawing, a tablet app where you can draw one side of an object and the other side appears at the same time. Ideal for plans such as car, boat shapes etc.
  • Live Podcast Finder. An app showing when live worldwide podcasts are happening. Able to filter for favourite podcasts. Podcasters encouraged to input data. Possibly also other livestreaming events as well from YouTube, Instagram and Peppar as well
  • Car decorating. Photos or drawings of plain coloured cars provided with paint colouring tools to allow the user to customise at will. Would include options for two-tone, shading, metallic paints, graphics and crazy decals, which could be purchased, earned or sponsored for a race car look. The app would feature best user section where people rate their peers’ efforts
  • Twitter grammar correction. Type in a Tweet and the app changes it to become more gramatically correct or even hip. Incorporating a range slider from Professor, through business like, cool, hip to phat. Plus in app purchases for cockney, Yoda, Data conversions as well
  • Collections. A photo collection service, e.g. Cars, trains, celebrities, sports stars. Collect photos into pre-set albums. Can purchase and trade content
  • Colourshift. Convert your own photos into component RGB with sliders to reconstruct or move around. Additional sliders for contrast, light etc
  • Clone camera. Make the display on your smartphone resemble the [top and] back of a serious DSLR camera. Not so useful if the clone you are copying doesn’t have an LCD display
  • Averages. Before you check into a restaurant see the lowest, highest and average prices of the main meals. Would also convert nicely into an app that does other comparison items, such as cars
  • Gigging App. For bands and comics. The app can show where talent is performing on a particular date with links to booking websites etc. Perhaps a subscription model to include travel arrangements so car sharing can be accommodated

And finally a few Navigation or Map based Apps

  • En-route app which specifically highlights things en-route. Using a route selected from the your favourite Maps app. Find food, fuel, attractions etc. Better than the normal radius based systems
  • Retrace route function on Sat Navs
  • Petrol prices by location incorporating a calculator using your own vehicles mpg to assess whether it’s worth diverting to get a better place to fill up
  • Train Sat-Nav. Not for the drivers, they know where they are going and cannot deviate off those parallel steel lines anyway. My idea is a map showing where you are on the network because normal maps aren’t good at this. Would also clearly show key rail features such as stations, crossings, junctions and odd interesting information, perhaps also the speed you are going. Could be integrated with rail planner and train finder services perhaps?
  • Attractions, a list of places to go in an area, such as National Trust etc. Plus an element of gamification by getting a score based on the percentage of an area, country, or the world explored

These are just the ideas I have come up with so far for apps. In part one I had already listed a bunch of miscellaneous ideas and have yet to set out my other themed ideas sets covering Games, Technology and Transport. If you have a particular desire to see one of these subjects next let me know.

Vince Poynter

Originally posted on my website on 28 Jun 2020 
If you want me to expound on any of the above ideas just let me know 
As usual if you know of any of these ideas actually existing in the real world please let me know so I can update my page. If not and you wish to exploit these concepts and commercially pass them off as your own just consider this, you have accessed this webpage so I may be able to trace and claim ©. If you want peace of mind just let me know beforehand and we can probably come together and agree on a mutually acceptable arrangement

Cosmic Symbol

My Camera History Part 2 – The Cosmic Symbol – 1980s

In part one I told the story of my first introduction to photography with a Kodak Instamatic. It was now time for a change.

Around the late seventies I wanted a better camera and yearned for something more than the toy like Instamatic. My budget wouldn’t stretch to a full SLR but I wanted something as close as possible to that type of machine.

I remember discussing all this with my father. I’m not sure where he had come across the Cosmic Symbol, a UK adapted Russian Smena Symbol first launched in 1973, but he suggested the simplicity of the operation would suit someone like me graduating from a snap camera. I can’t recall anything of the purchasing process, the price or where I got it. Or even if it was a part present. Or what I first used it for but I think I got it around the very beginning of the eighties.

The camera was a boxy shaped device that looked semi-serious with it’s black plastic corrugated panels on front and rear. It had a matching black plastic fixed lens featuring focus adjustment as well as another ring to set the exposure. To add further complication around the lens itself was another fiddly fingernail operated adjustment for the film speed.

Taking a picture involved pressing a plastic horizontal lever to the right of the lens, which moved with an initial gentle movement but then clicked on as it fired. On the top left was a lifting film loading wheel spline which incorporated a swing out metal crank handle and in the centre a hot shoe accessory mount for flash units.

On the back of the camera was a centrally mounted image counter, a large cocking lever to quickly move the film stock on one frame in a single action plus a small moveable dial mounted in the centre to remind you what film you had installed.

The worst feature was the same as experienced on the Instamatic, a lack of SLR functionality, again relying on an offset viewfinder meaning the picture taken was never quite the one seen, particularly for close shots. The second worse feature was the reason it was named.

The Symbol moniker was included because this camera not only featured focus gradations on the lens in metres and feet but also added little pictograms to help indicate which settings to use. Icons of heads, full bodies, buildings and mountains were included making the camera look like it was designed for a child. These simple representations were also on the settings ring showing various weather conditions. I suppose they helped the user get a good photo without being able to see via a focus screen but it made the thing look amateurish. Unlike the gorgeous, two piece, protective brown leather case it came in.

Loading a film in those days involved a process of opening the back of the camera, lifting the crank, dropping in a 135mm film roll cartridge, commonly called 35mm film, lowering the crank, feeding the film strip out of the roll and onto some splines on the right hand side, cranking the handle to feed a few turns securely on the shaft, closing the door, winding the film a couple more times all ready for the first shot.

On completion of all shots the crank handle would again be deployed to wind the film back into the roll ready to be removed in the opposite sequence from above.

Film rolls commonly came with a capacity of 36 frames but with judicious use you could get about 38 or even 39 pictures which was pleasing as the price was based on a per roll basis, not per image. Also in those days the price paid for a film included postage and processing which ensured you paid up front. Not only that but with the returned photos you received a money off voucher and freepost envelopes to keep you returning to the same supplier.

You could also select film roll cartridges with 12, 20 or 24 frames which were naturally much cheaper. You also had to choose the film speed, measured in ISO. If you were going to capture shots on a sunny day you would select an ISO 100 film but if you wanted to take pictures in dull lighting or indoors an ISO 400 would be better. ISO 400 would also work best for fast moving subjects as well, such as moving animals or racing cars. Particularly useful if the Grands Prix circuit passed through your bedroom at dusk.

The problem with all this was you couldn’t chop and change meaning if you had an ISO 100 film in the camera all the darker scenes would look dark and blurry and if the film was ISO 400 any bright scenes would be grainy. So to counter the problem many usually used a mid point ISO 200 general film meaning sunny shots were not fully crisp and darker scenes had a modicum of grain. But at least you didn’t have to use a crystal ball to foresee what you might be photographing in six months time.

The other decision to make was whether to use film roll and processing that returned actual physical photographs or the much cheaper slides. Either way you would also get your originally exposed negative film roll returned as well. Having slides in those days wasn’t an issue as many homes had slide viewers or projectors.

I tended to opt for an ISO 200 film stock in a 24 roll format with about two thirds of the time using slides. All decisions made based on my budget limitations, which also restricted the number of times it was used.

I owned the camera for about a decade and remember it fairly fondly. It was rugged, durable and mechanically reliable, particularly in the fitted protective case which aged wonderfully. I always yearned for a true SLR and should have painted out the childish pictorial icons to make it look more mature. Furthermore the brand and name left any enquirer non the wiser so I was lucky to be able to move on.

Author: Vince Poynter
Originally published on the vinceunlimited.co.uk website on 25 Jun 2020
The image shows me holding the Cosmic Symbol in a photograph taken by my new best friend Lynda around 1983 on her Canon AE-1 Program SLR camera. The Cosmic Symbol was produced by LOMO in Leningrad [now St. Petersburg], Russia and has a LOMO T-43 40mm f/4 coated triplet lens. It was produced between 1973 and 1993. Camera data source: Camera Wiki

Kodak Instamatic

My Camera History – Part 1 – The Kodak Instamatic – 1970s

The first camera I owned was a basic Kodak Instamatic. I have no record of the actual model but upon image searching the internet I figured it was probably a Kodak Instamatic 133 as these were very popular at the time and the look seemed familiar.

I recall it was lightweight to hold and simple to operate with few settings to tax my skills, including a tacky bent metal shutter release which needed too much force to use so shook the camera with a noisy mechanical clunk whenever pressed. The automatic functioning of the camera was overwhelming so it soon gave up all joy as it lacked creative possibilities. The only decision to make wheen shooting involved making one of two choice settings in the twist action of the lens dependant on whether the shoot was in sunlight or inside

The simplicity did allow the novice camera operator to concentrate on composition however as the lens offered no zoom facility composure involved moving towards or away from the subject. Also as it did not have a direct view single lens reflex [SLR] function whenever you got too close the captured image was not the same as viewed through the edge mounted viewfinder, causing many early photographs to look offset.

Flashcube connection was available for night shots, although this destructive flash photography method was so expensive and yielded such poor results I rarely used this function.

At the time lining up film roll was a complex process, which I shall cover in greater detail in another article, so the Instamatic range used a 126 film cartridge system meaning loading film stock was a simple case of opening the back, lifting out the cartridge and dropping in a new one. Then wind the film on to start. Then a couple more winds before every other shot. Finally after about 20 odd shots the cartridge was removed and posted off to be returned as a set of negative strips and printed photos. All at great expense. Plus a film processing wait time of a couple of weeks.

This expense meant that shots were considered semi-precious so were limited. It was common to put the camera away with a half used film cartridge then to get it out again several weeks or even months later. So you had to have a system of remembering to roll to the next film image after shooting, to safely secure the picture just taken.

The film selector wheel mechanism was designed to prevent double images being taken. The process was to gently rotate the wheel until a click was felt, which released the shutter for the next shot, then another wind or two until a clunk to signify you had correctly aligned the next image placement whereupon the film counter in the small back rear window advanced the frame counter by one.

With such a design, using a careful rolling of the wheel you could engage the click in readiness to reshoot without moving the film on, meaning a double exposed photograph of two or more separate images. This occured once by accident when I got a picture of both my siblings superimposed onto an image of me. Naturally I tried this technique again in a creative way to get a picture of my sister fleeing an enormous guinea pig [a close up of my pet, Squeeky]. I have posted the pictures as the featured image in this article.

You will see the monster guinea pig picture didn’t really work as well as I had hoped. Composition was fine but the exposure between the two frames was mismatched and the pet would not be obvious without explanation.

This was the other issue with film roll photography, any taken image wasn’t seen instantaneously, editing wasn’t possible and after several months you may receive back many prints of dubious quality. Exposure issues, irregular framing and errant thumbs were commonplace in those days.

In time the days of having a child’s camera ended and I will continue the stories of my cameras in a later article.

Author: Vince Poynter
Originally published on the vinceunlimited.co.uk website on 13 Jun 2020
The image shows two side by side photos taken with the Kodak Instamatic camera, both featuring multiple exposure images. The one on the left includes three similarly positioned shots with Vince in the centre, my sister, Dawn, in the foreground and my brother, Mark, in the background. All taken in the back garden of our family home in Southampton, around 1972. The image was mistakenly grouped and only discovered after printing. The right hand image is an attempt to be creative by utilising a similar technique. The idea was for Dawn to be seen fleeing from a monster sized guinea pig with both shots intently merged. The images were taken by Vince and his family around 1977

Lockdown Return

In March 2020 about seven and a half million people and about a million businesses had a lifeline thrown to them under the UK Government’s Coronavirus Job Retention Scheme.  The scheme allowed companies to furlough their workers with the majority of their wages being funded centrally by the British taxpayer utilising tens of billions of pounds of additional national borrowing and debt.

This short term solution isn’t permanently sustainable so as the COVID-19 crisis gradually eases more businesses are being allowed to reopen and we will soon all be back to work.  Lockdown is ending.

But how easy will it be to return?

Firstly, many managers and supervisors have already started to go back to reset our working environments to set out our new social distancing practices of keeping two metres apart.  Modelled on government and industry recommendations and examples based on the designs worked out and rehearsed by our national supermarkets.  By using notices, taped areas, arrows, perspex screens and reduced traffic we will be entering a slightly strange version of the place we abandoned in a relative hurry just a couple of short months ago.

Some of us, due to our particular jobs and restrictive work places may not be able to do all our work ideally spaced from our colleagues and there will inevitably be a lot of dancing and hopping about as we pass each other and jostle for position at toilets, photocopiers and shared work terminals.  Fun at first but eventually tiring and frustrating when the novelty wears off for different people at different times.

I foresee much frustration and anger between those who maintain the need to isolate for their own sanity or the safety of their families at home and those who care less about the potential reoccurrence of the virus.  The latter presumably from the same pool of people we have witnessed crowding onto beaches and into parks in a desperate last minute ditch to get some sun because slightly recolouring their skin seems worth the risk to them and their families of dying whilst desperately coughing up a sickening disease.

Much the above is pretty much widely known or already considered.  What hasn’t been covered is the fact that our sustained absence from our colleagues may bring some unexpected problems.

I’m not referring to the potential issues of subconscious, petty jealousy or alternatively envy caused by the gradual returning of staff, between those who wanted to return early or those who didn’t, or couldn’t.  There will inevitably some of this going on and we should make allowances.

What I am concerned about is whether this period has actually made us forget about some critical things.

Already there will be a natural variance in speed that some people can reengage with their work but add in learning new practices and processes caused by renewed working arrangements we should be sympathetic to those who cannot get back into the swing as fast as others.

But before all that what about our personal greetings to those we haven’t seen daily for many weeks?  We are all used to going on holiday breaks for a few days or even a couple of weeks and returning to a barrage of ‘hellos’, ‘how are you doings’, ‘tell us about its’ and ‘at last you’re back there’s a pile of work awaiting yous’.  Now we have all shared the break together so these salutations will be even more intense.

There is, however, another thing to factor in.  Particularly if we work in large establishments or haven’t been working there long before all this blew up.  How good are you at remembering names?

This issue has troubled me for ages, long before this pandemic.  Each morning I greet about a dozen people before the novelty of the day has waned and because of the irregular first entry time into my main workplace these dozen people may differ.  For each of those greetings I use a mix of ‘hellos’, ‘good mornings’ and ‘how are you?s’ dependant on the duration of the meet.  And for good measure and politeness I add their name where possible.  It makes the salutation more personal and assists in human camaraderie.

The responses I get vary from enthusiastic greetings through polite acknowledgement to complete ignorance as if I am actually invisible.  This hurts but I have learnt not to be offended if I get no response because I cannot know what is consuming their inner thoughts at the time.  Plus with repeat offenders I think their rudeness is a personal trait burden that they themselves have to carry.

Another consideration here may be another issue that prevents civil response.  Embarrassment.  That is they do know you but at that point, or possibly always, they cannot for the life of them remember your name so turn away or ignore you as this is easier.

It happens to us all.  Just think of all the films and TV you see, recognising thousands of faces, what they do and have been in but you are unable to recall their name.  Just the same in your busy workplace.  You recognise virtually every face but can you name them all?  It is probably a natural human condition, a result of our long having eyesight and less developed period of vocal speech and in particular identity.

In practice at work it may be that you rarely meet, maybe have never spent time working closely together or even you were not there when they were marched round with the supervisor to be introduced.  It seems that there is a window of about two weeks when you get a chance to ask a newby their name, after that the question becomes psychologically difficult.

In theory you should never be embarrassed about making a ‘late’ introduction.  “Hey, we’ve known each other for three years now and do you know what, I don’t know your name.  What is it?”  Would you be offended if someone asked you this?  Even if you knew many small details about them.

Name badges help of course but not everyone wears these and as they are usually pinned on the chest it can feel awkward to attempt to stare at tiny fonts placed in that area on a woman.  And what sort of name is ‘Fruit of the Loom’ anyway?

The theory of name badges could assist though if we are prepared to rip up convention and adapt a novel approach to introductions.

What about the idea that when we offer salutation we should include our own moniker.

I shouldn’t greet you with the words “Hello Karen” but instead say “Hello Vince”.  After all I can always remember my name.  This does at first sound strange but will avoid any faux pas if your name is not Karen but was instead Bill.  Plus time will resolve the issue of strangeness.

The downside is getting universal acceptance of this change.  The upsides are that we are never embarrassed by forgetting a name again and constantly remind each other of our own identity, which can be as formal, informal or extravagant as we choose.

Maybe as we come out of this unprecedented period we could take the chance to make an unprecedented change for the better.

Author: Vince Poynter

This article was adapted from my website entry within the Blog section dated 24 May 2020
With apologies to all those key workers and staff that have had to work throughout this time and never experienced a furloughing.  I thank you all

300

Think of the number three hundred and chances are that your mind jumps to the legend that 300 Spartans fought off tens of thousands of Persians during the Battle of Thermopylae around 480BC.

If only each of those 300 Spartans had instead concentrated on doing just a single page update on their website each then they too could have celebrated about a significant milestone as I do today.

If you notice the version of this article on my website is 5.300 or to put it another way the three hundredth update to Version 5 of the site.

That means I have written or adapted 300 different articles.  And so updated the home page 300 times.  Also considered on 300 occasions where to permanently post those 300 articles.  Plus updated my vSearch page 300 times.  Then up to 300 times checking and if necessary altering my associated Javascript page.

Then done the same 300 times over, only slightly altered, for the mobile version of my website as I do not have facility to auto scale between landscape and the more mobile friendly portrait mode, such as is available in WordPress.

In all probably around 2700 separately hand coded and checked HTML pages and countless other CSS page updates to suit.

Not forgetting the 300 times signing in to an FTP account and 300 times connecting to my web host to upload on average six to ten pages and a couple of photographs or so each time.

And now I’m set ready to start on my webpage Version 5.301.

Because unlike those Spartans my legend will continue.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published in the Web section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website on 9 May 2020 as Version 5.300
The Battle Of Thermopylae consisted the defence of Greece by somewhere between 3000 and 7000 soldiers against an invading Persian force numbering probably between 100,000 and 150,000 men.  Impressive defensive odds but not as romantic a notion as a small force of just 300.  It was probably true that around 300 of the total Greek force were Spartans and they were probably within the last group of defence, numbering around 2000 to 2500, at the final pinch point.  The defence was finally overwhelmed and as a result the Persians captured the capital, Athens.  The romanticised notion of a few brave souls valiantly defending their homeland stuck and has been reinvigorated through Hollywood, firstly in the 1962 film The 300 Spartans then more recently in the 2007 film 300, based on a comic series of the same name by Frank Miller and Lynn Varley and its subsequent sequel 300: Rise of an Empire in 2014
The photograph depicts the author sat on a hired Honda 300 Big Red Quad Bike near Bala, Wales, taken by Lynda Poynter around May 1994

Wealth Equalisation

Our lives, our country, indeed our world has suffered a huge economic impact due to a destructive little flu like virus which shot around the world at the speed of our modern interconnected life.  And there will be huge impacts on everyone from the very richest to the extremely impoverished.  And proportionally the worse off you are the bigger the effect that this disease and the subsequent outcomes will be.

And when it’s all over or genuinely receding an increasing wave of questions will be vocalised about how we could do better to address this inequality.

Inequality is not a new thing.  The world had looked economically skewed for as long as records of society have existed.  We may think our modern lives are terribly unfair to many souls but compared to our pasts we have greater equality than ever.  If in doubt just imagine life as a Victorian Briton.

We need to continue on this path of fairness for all humanity and this situation we find ourselves in should be the catalyst to make thing happen.  But how?  A wealth distribution system?

The problem with wealth distribution systems is that most generally see this is as taking from the very richest and giving to the poorest.  Sounds idealistic but in reality no one is really keen except the very poorest and their needs are never considered as they own a very quiet voice.

The reason for this is the very richest see themselves as unfairly being the only contributor.  The very poorest, because they are also the most numerous would see so little difference, particularly as someone in the distribution chain usually scrapes off too much in ‘admin’.  And the ones in between don’t care enough.

The traditional, simplistic argument that the very richest alone should be singled out to solve the situation is too naive and frankly wouldn’t work anyway.  Naive because mathematically it would not work.  If a dollar billionaire gave away his whole billion to the whole world there would be two problems.  Everyone else would get just 13 cents each.  A one off, once in a lifetime payment.  This would barely make a difference to the world’s poorest, who live on less than a dollar a day plus it would make no difference at all to the rest of the world.  The second problem would be that the billionaire would now be one of the poorest and is that really fair?

It’s a matter of maths.  There are simply not enough billionaires despite what a Saudi high street located in Monaco might suggest.

So what about raiding the bank accounts of the millionaires as well then?  OK, then why not the accounts of those with over 100k, or even those whose assets exceed 10k?  And accordingly strip the world of all the business owners and employees who drive the very economy we are trying to assist.

If you calculate world wealth divided by world population every person on average should have just under $12,000 or less than £10k.  Ask yourself, would you sacrifice your entire owned assets for humankind equality and just ten thousand pounds?  If you say yes your assets are already probably less than ten thousand or you forgot to include your house, your car, your pillowcases, your cupboard of food, the clothes you are wearing and everything else.

So if we can’t rely on just a single group of admittedly rich people plus almost everyone else in the western world what could we do that seems fairer.  I have a solution.

Firstly we sub-divide everyone into just seven wealth sectors.  For simplicity sake, Billionaires, Millionaires, those who are worth over 100k, those with more than 10k, the poor who can only claim to have at least one thousand, the impoverished who nevertheless have over a ton and the very poorest who own no more than a hundred.

On month one all the Billionaires give 10% of their value shared out equally to all the Millionaires.  Hang on stop stressing.  It does get better.

The next month all the Millionaires share 10% of their worth equally with all those worth over 100k.

In subsequent months the pattern continues with those whose assets are greater than 100k passing ten percent of their money equally down to the next group.  And so on etc.  etc.

A couple of years later the whole process starts all over again.

Wealth distribution not from the richest direct to the poorest but cascaded down the line because each sector would be proportionally numerous further down the line.

Every group except the billionaires would benefit.  And the billionaires, who are generally altruistic anyway, would be seen to be assisting everyone else and their reputations would be raised accordingly, helping remove the stigma that they are all money grabbing selfish individuals.

Yes there are things to consider.

I am not actually aware of exactly how each of these simplistic groupings are valued.  Would these sectors unfairly penalise or even benefit a particular group?  For example, would those whose valuations are greater than 100k receive less from the millionaires than they have to give to those with valuations between 10k and 100k?  A pyramidical structure does exist in there somewhere but is it as fairly sub-divided as the sectors listed above imply?

Could the valuation of wealth, particularly assets, be accurately calculated?  Generally the richer you are the more non-cash assets you have.  A technical billionaire is likely to have less than ten percent of their value in greenbacks so would have to ‘realise’ something to make up their contribution.  Offering of Ferraris or small businesses into the mix may not be that easy to redistribute.

Despite this, a good thing is that if it is calculated to make every group richer, other than the top group obviously, then more wealth will naturally flow back into the economy.  The natural effect of such a system is that this would probably disproportionally re-increase the wealth of the richest again.  A win win system?

Other issues must also be considered though.  That not everyone would be honest in their valuations, that some losses from the system would occur due to the inevitable administration and generally the further down the line the money goes the more chance of corruption and bribery.

So maybe the groups should be easier to control.  Perhaps an alternate split may be to instead of grouping by individual wealth and asset maybe classify whole countries into wealth groups based on their GDP, whilst in consideration of population levels, then do the same dribble down solution from the richest to the poorest countries using national tax systems.  Because as we all know every country has a fair tax system and country level corruption doesn’t exist.  Hmmm.

But we really must do something.  Can you think of the solution?  If you can’t let’s just use mine.

Author: Vince Poynter

First published in the Blog section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website on 4 May 2020

Lockdown

Three weeks ago I searched the definition of ‘lockdown’ on Google.  The meaning was clear.

Lockdown: (noun) Confinement of prisoners into their cells

Look up the same word now and a new definition is appearing at the head of the search terms.

Lockdown: (noun) Institutional isolation or restriction as a security measure

The three week period is significant because for just over three weeks the UK has been in a state of lockdown due to the 2020 COVID-19, Coronavirus pandemic that has quickly spread across the world infecting just about every country and in particular those that had heavy international trade associations with each other.

But like other countries the necessarily imposed lockdown in the UK is starting to show signs of effectiveness and thoughts are turning toward getting back to normality for the sake of the country’s economy, people’s livelihoods and their mental sanity.  The latter apparently because some seem unable to cope with being asked to stay inside and watch a bit of TV for a few weeks to help stop the spread of the deadly virus and so keep the effects at bay.

The question is how the lockdown can be released.

It must be remembered that the lockdown was essentially put into place for a few main reasons.  That the restrictions on public interaction would lessen contact spread, the National Health Service would not be overwhelmed with casualties of the crises potentially also destroying large sections of the health workers themselves and also to create time to procure, produce and effectively distribute the protective equipment and machinery required to fight the disease whilst trying to find a lasting cure either by limiting the effect or inoculation against getting it.  These considerations were considered when enacting the lockdown and should be considered when lifting it too.

There are five major ways that reversal can be achieved, as below:

  • A sudden abrupt return to normality
  • A controlled reversal of the procedures that lead to the lockdown
  • A controlled release of certain groups of people and business restrictions
  • A controlled release of certain groups of people and business restrictions based on geographical location
  • Testing based release

1 – Abrupt Cancellation

The main advantage of an abrupt return to normality would be the possible immediate salvation of many businesses and therefore the best part of the economy.  It could be enacted once the health services are better prepared with more suitable treatment and recovery spaces made available, the staff strengths rested and returned to near pre-pandemic levels and plans made to cope with the inevitable next flare up of cases.

The relatively short intermission from normality which we have undertaken would allow our collective psyche to get back to exactly what we were previously doing just a few short weeks ago.  No resetting and re-evaluation of matters to contend with and few long term mental issues to deal with.  Not forgetting, of course, the sad losses for the thousands of families who have already suffered personal bereavements during this initial wave of pandemic.

The major disadvantage is that the disease will almost certainly reappear.  It may also flare up quite quickly.

We would have collectively learnt the best practices to deal with the health care and be quickly ready to respond plus we would also be prepared to get straight back into lockdown again to ease things if required.

However this pattern of lockdown and release is highly likely to have to be enacted many times, with each time many people suffering loss and further disrupting the security of commerce.  Plus in time there would be some sectors of society who would tire of the lockdowns and start to ignore the practices.

Furthermore in all likelihood the end point will only come when a cure or vaccine is found or all the vulnerable people have died.

It is the least desirable outcome as it favours trade and the economy over life and humanity and such a blunt tool should not be used.

2. Simple Reversal

When this disease started to get a grip on the UK, like in other countries, the government and to some level some foresighted businesses started to close down, gradually at first and then near totally to control the spread, lessen the burden on health services and protect lives.  Lockdown as we understand it had been enacted.

The measures taken were commensurate with scientific advice and best calculation at the time.  This mostly happened within period of just one month.  The first recorded UK death being on 5th March 2020 and the lockdown imposed on 23 March 2020.  A relatively short period.

It is unlikely that a reversal of the lockdown would follow the timetable of initial lockdown but the pattern of locking things down could be copied, in reverse.  In essence, the very first restrictions, essentially travel and tourism, could be the last to be rekindled.

The pattern would broadly follow resurrection of ‘non-essential’ businesses and educational buildings, then the opening of shops, next the re-establishment of social gatherings such as pubs, clubs and entertainment venues and finally travel and tourism.

The theory behind this gradual return to a normality would be that it should have scientific basis as it retraces the pattern of lockdown, it would get the economy working as soon as is practical and the inevitable stress on the health sector could be controlled, if not eliminated.

This is the process that appears to be being enacted in the first European countries to attempt reversal of their lockdowns.

The disadvantage could come in three forms.  The potential for the process to be so withdrawn as to seem ineffective and thus encourage some to attempt to bypass it endangering the control measures.  Plus the potential for many of the finally released industries to take so long to get to their point of recovery that they are largely unrecoverable.

However the main issue is that unless a cure or vaccine is discovered the final death toll could still be unacceptably high, particularly amongst the most vulnerable, because future breakouts could still occur.

3. By Groups

To protect the most lives it is considered that the best way to do this is to protect the most vulnerable.

A return from lockdown could follow a similar pattern to that described just above but be tempered with strict controls on the most likely to suffer the worst effects, such as elongated hospital stays or even death.

People who fall into this category include the very elderly, those with pre-existing medical conditions such as those with weakened lung or heart capacity, those in the midst of treatment such as cancer that include immunosuppression drugs and heavily pregnant women and their children.

In this scenario these groups would need special and long term protection and isolation.  Care facilities would need to be established with strict access control for carers utilising the safest protection equipment.  In fact effective testing of carers would be required to ensure these people are not subjected to unnecessary risk.

This is all possible but would take some time to enact.  Particularly the separation of affected and non-affected elderly people already holed up in care homes throughout the country.

The other aspect of releasing lockdown based on groups of peoples or businesses would be addressing specific business needs and considering individual economic needs against associated health risks.  Examples may be the true necessity for selling certain goods and the ability for businesses to conduct social distancing within their operating environments.

Another group separation could be by age, particularly as statistics suggest the younger the person the lesser the chance of falling very ill.  Could businesses employing predominantly younger staff be allowed to operate before those that employ people that are older?

The principle behind group consideration is that those that are least likely to contract bad cases of the disease would be allowed to roam more freely, more frequently than older people which would be the fastest route to group herd immunity, thus saving the most lives.

The difficulty would be being able to separate by age and the need for constant testing to establish those with asymptomatic tendencies.

4. By Geography

The final scenario is a mix of previous suggestions but tempered with consideration of geography and was considered because a week or so ago a fairly unreported note during one of the daily government briefings mentioned the setting up of regional administration areas.

In all likelihood this was more an early consideration in case the pandemic took a more deadly path, where lockdown was ineffective and deaths started to reach numbers likely to panic the general population and so requiring civil control measures.

But a consideration of geography may be a wise move.  After all the effects have not been geographically evenly spread and has had greater effect in certain areas, generally those of more population density such as large cities.

Maybe a system could be set up to completely isolate geographic areas.  Possibly by county, or even by city.  With travel between strictly controlled.  That way when lockdown is eased and business starts to re-establish itself and in the event of a fresh outbreak that area alone could be locked down again, leaving others to thrive.

Maybe the countryside would feel relief first, a place where social distancing can be most easily maintained and importantly food production is largely carried out.  Then inter-city areas and hamlets, followed by bigger and bigger towns and cities until the required herd immunity is established.

An alternative to county or city segregation could be by health authority or hospital catchment area.  In this way the capacity of the medical care facilities could determine the speed in which their community could be returned to normality, with transference of staff to the most affected areas from places that are safer.

The main disadvantages of this method would be the administrative burden of the inter-area travelling permits, the required police and army resources to effectively confine such areas and the fact that some of our most economically valuable businesses operate in the largest cites where the longest lockdowns are likely to occur.

5. Accurate Testing

Finally, there is the testing method. In this case, in essence, a reliable test needs to be established to show if COVI-19 has been with each person. Data is suggesting that many have caught the virus but shown no ill effect. Is the herd immunity already taking place?

If a reliable, scalable test can be developed then maybe those who have already had the disease could return to work first, providing they are no longer carriers.

In time more people could be ‘given’ the disease in a safe, controlled, health monitored way, until only those that are too unhealthy to accept such a risk are left.

A good proportion of the population would be be back in work and the few left would have to await a safe vaccination. Which may take many months.

The major disadvantages to this are the need for scalable, reliable tests, the guarantee that previously recovered souls are not subject to a mutated variant of the disease, the speed that the health authorities could control a positive infection programme plus the risks that deliberately infecting otherwise healthy people could bring.

Summary

You can see that getting out of lockdown will be far more taxing than getting into it.  However it is a necessity and hopefully governments such as ours in the UK are tracing out many scenarios based around all the above plus other ideas, all in our best interests.

And it will be in our best interests to follow whatever their strict guidance is.  For we should all collectively be considering everybody, selflessly at this historic moment.

Let’s hope that in the near future we can search the definition of ‘lockdown’ on Google and it will just note:

Lockdown: (noun) Confinement of prisoners into their cells;  Also: Institutional isolation or restriction as a security measure, such as once occurred briefly in 2020

Author: Vince Poynter

From the Political section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk web site dated 14 Apr 2020
The theory of Herd Immunity is where many individuals in a group have immunity to a disease and so the few that are susceptible are less likely to come across the disease and if they do the outbreak will be both limited and traceable
Asymptomatic means having a disease and being able to spread it without outwardly showing signs
 

Friends Reunited

Friends Reunited was a Social Media site launched in the UK in June 2000 aiming to reunite old school friends.  I joined at a fairly early stage and soon became bored with the short descriptions that people were posting.  I thought that I could do better and wanted to encourage others to follow suit.  My entry, unedited and copied below dates from around 2002.


Hi everyone.  Having checked out a few of the other messages and been bored by their simplicity I figured that there needs to be an antidote to all the brevity around.  After all that’s what this site is all about.  We all love to find out who’s doing what.  And to whom.

I considered making up some story of how I’m a leading figure in the financial world, or a big Hollywood player or a tramp but in the end figured reality was what we all want.  So here goes.  Warts and all.

I can’t remember a lot about the Infants School and noticed that no-one else could.  It’s not listed.  The part now known as Shirley Warren Primary used to be the Junior school when we were there.  I recall many things from here and visited the place during a weekend a couple of years back.  Seeing the weeds growing up through the boy’s playground seemed rather sad.  Is it used now, I wondered?  I remember the place being quite noisy and vibrant.  Usually with massive games of football using a tiny tennis ball.  I was always the last to be picked, all say ahh!, sport not being my speciality.

I preferred playing with the girls.  Not considered to be the correct thing in those days.  I was always ahead of my time!  I particularly recall a fondness for Jean Brewer and will embarrass her now by reminding her of that.  How sweet.  I noticed that she’s still around.  Not that her message gives much away.  Like so many others.  Mind you she had to share her affections from me with Miss Osman, our teacher.  I can almost hear the nods of approval from the other guys on reading the name.

I remember a few other names from my time at Shirley Warren but more are missing than are listed.  I guess they never learnt to write!  Some could barely communicate.  It would be fun to find out what happened to everyone though.  The two I would be most interested to hear about would be Kevin Jukes and Debra Wyatt . Many may not recall Kevin because he wasn’t there for long.  He left to go to Leicester, I believe, after about a year in the Junior school.  I can’t blame him for that.  His parents moved and he was only about nine at the time.  I am interested because he and I were ‘best friends’ for a short time.  I mentioned Debra because I had a good deal of respect for her.  If I were American I would have voted her as ‘the kid most likely to achieve.’  But I’m not.  So I didn’t.

Being a bit of a school swot meant that I gained a place in King Edward VI Grammar School.  Either that or the fact that my father was a labour councillor at the time and they wanted to stop the state funding of grammar schools.  I wasn’t the only one in my year.  I recall at least three others in this category!  I changed a bit and concentrated on being a layabout and drifted gradually to the back row of the class.  Until my eyesight started changing and I drifted to the front again, not realising that I needed glasses.

Not that being one of the lads made up for still being a kid at school.  The best thing about the Junior school wasn’t at King Edwards.  Girls.  And no Miss Osman either, although I vaguely recall an attractive Biology teacher.  The female one you numbnut.  To this day I advocate that single sex schools with too much homework should be outlawed.  Freud would have a heyday with the misconceptions I grew up with at the time.  Women were either my sister, my mum or Valerie Singleton.  I didn’t even have a chance to meet my mates’ girlfriends as they were also my sister, Hi Dawn.  Why didn’t they have sisters?  Or mums?

The other main trouble was location.  I lived a few miles away from the school, which in turn was a few miles away from the guys I considered my friends at the time.  But I had no push-bike, too little bus fare and hours of homework.  So Ady and Mick, that’s why I never got to join the band.  And the fact I couldn’t sing or play an instrument of course.

This new found slightly yobbo role meant not trying very hard at school so inevitably the mock exams suffered.  I spent too much time dreaming about my girlfriends at the time.  My first – Ruth Lugton, yes, I’ve still got the letters you sent, and Debbie Picano to whom I send deep apologies for Christmas, because I was an arse.  So my dreams of becoming a vet had dissipated.  Ady was right.  I would never be a ‘ten thousand a year’ vet.  Mind you, after six extensive weeks of knuckling down I nabbed ninety percent of my qualifications.  And after all, who needs French?

But by then the future was forever changed.  I figured I never had a chance to go to university and left school at sixteen.  That’s why I’m listed in 1978 as opposed to most of my school mates in 1980.  Best move I ever made.  Except that in 1979 they allowed girls in.

Generally my time at King Edwards was tolerable rather than exceptional but I would be happy to join any reunion that was organised.

Anyway time had moved on and I was forced to make a career choice which would shape the work for the rest of my life.  Not easy when your first 16 year’s dreams are smashed.  I opted to do work involved with drawing and somehow ended up with an apprenticeship with a heating company.  Three years out of the five later I resigned.  You may remember the week.  The government announced unemployment to be a million for the first time.  Top move.  But I had missed out on the gap year all my old school mates were having.  And partying with my biker friends.  Jeff Bull on his Yamaha Fizzy with sexy girlfriend Jackie.  Dave Bareham on his Honda SS50, who was sadly killed later in his early twenties.  Mark with his Strange Heath Robinson Machine.  John Crook on another Honda SS50.  Dave ‘Spike’ Reeves, strangely in his Dad’s big Vauxhall VX490.  And me, on Mark’s Gilera.  Brother Mark.  No not a monk.  My Brother.  Not forgetting the girlfriends of course.  Hi to Theresa, Sue, Inger, Fiona, Susan, Karen and Yvette.  Busy days indeed.

I preferred anything to work and wanted to be a writer.  So I left for Hollywood.  Unfortunately I got to Boyatt Wood.  I had met my wife, Lynda.  Well, obviously she wasn’t my wife at the time, but you know what I mean.  Before that we spent some good and bad times at Arthur Road, in Shirley.  Outdoor fireworks indoors anyone?  The place was a bit like the house in the young ones.  A few guys from King Edwards were there.  Keith Gunston was one.  Tim was another new friend.  He claimed to be prospecting for the Angels so we had a few colourful guests.  Not to mention the rat.  Which ate the mice.  I also recall Lee, who I ask to say hello to Marion and Jackie for me, plus Heather.  And burning the furniture.  And servicing the bikes indoors.  And the telly repossession.  And the electrics, which started the fire which nearly poached Tim’s fish.

Anyway, Lynda steered me back on the straight and narrow.  Technically, I still owe her fifty quid!  I started work again.  Temporary work led to a builder’s merchants which led back to the same heating company.  Eight years seemed to pass quickly.  Although we did move to our present house in Bishops Waltham.  But eight years is a long time in one job, unless you are my wife when nothing short of 30 is a career.  So I resigned.  You may recall the week.  Unemployment was announced again.  Three million.  Great move.  Seriously.  They went bust shortly afterwards.  So I worked for a small time with a national services company then joined a Southampton plumbing outfit.  One of the Directors invited me to start a Mechanical Services division.  Things were going well at first but the other Director was scared by the changes.  We parted company in 1997.  They went bust in 1998.

I moved to a company in Fareham then resigned two years later, my timing slightly amiss.  They were just going bust.  Pattern of the industry I’m afraid.  I became self employed.

Now I work mainly for a London based company, working all over the South, in London and wherever the work takes me.  It’s a good life, always moving around with no time to get bored and contemplate resigning.  My earliest school reports, and most of the subsequent ones, read me well.  Can do anything – if only he bothered to concentrate.  8 out of 10 must try harder.

So what of the future?  I guess when people read this there could be changes.  In your own poor submissions if nothing else.  Perhaps Debra will contact me then introduce me to Jean, with whom I’ll fulfil a life long ambition.  Lynda will find out and kick me out.  Thankfully Kevin will have contacted me and I’ll move to Leicester.  Only he’ll be a drug dealer.  And a woman since the change.  In a landmark European Court rights case we’ll marry and have children.  But it won’t work out because without Lynda I will have stopped working again.  And I’ll end up on the streets.  A tramp.  With warts.  C’est la vie.

Author: Vince Poynter

Originally posted on my Friends Reunited page around 2002 then republished recently within the Social Media section of my web site, vinceunlimited.co.uk/socialmedia.htm, as Version 5.288 on 5 Mar 2020
Friends Reunited was a UK based social media site launched in June 2000 aiming to reunite old school friends.  FaceBook, a similar Social Media site was launched globally in 2004 and proved very popular which squeezed the more focussed and geographically independent nature of Friends Reunited which closed in February 2016

Solar Panel Innovations

We live in a fast moving world.  Fast both in development and motion.  And traditionally we have powered all this with fossil fuels.  We have long known that this energy supply will come to a natural end and now global warming and climate changes have accelerated to a point where we must act much more quickly to avoid further, costly environmental damage.

A sea change in finding alternative solutions for this has been the rapid recent development of electric power.  Although some of this is generated by traditional fossil fuel sources a growing amount is being powered by cleaner and greener options such as wind, wave and solar power.

For transportation to embrace this power source there is a reliance on batteries, from early developments in heavy lead acid technology, through modern Lithium Ion versions which provide greater storage and even new ideas still on drawing boards and in the test tubes of many industrial chemical institutions.

Presently getting the electric power to the transport medium is a bit of a faff.  High power electrical charging networks have only recently been planned and built also recharging batteries takes either massive amounts of time or massive amounts of power along with super cooled refrigeration mechanics.  This is because fast charging generates huge amounts of heat as a by-product which can seriously damage or impair the equipment of the charging process.

For this reason a good compromise is solar powered battery recharge.  Often readily available this is generally a fairly low powered constant supply, providing the daylight is present.

However, providing sufficient electric output for a high powered transport device such as a car is currently almost impossible to achieve other than for extremely lightweight prototype concepts.  This is why no attempt is made to cover the roofs or panels of fully electric vehicles with solar panels and why all these vehicles are creeping quietly around the country looking for a fixed high amp electric charge point which they can sidle up to.

And providing sufficient panels for more energy intensive vehicles such as trucks, lorries, boats or even massive ships is even less likely.

Unless you are an ideas man like me and can see a way to beat this problem.  And I present here a number of innovative concepts that may assist.

Solar Powered Cars

Let’s start with cars.

A couple of extremely light weight, prototype, hyper mileage, single seat, pram wheeled, ultra low drag vehicles with a streamlined plastic covering have been produced.  These concepts were built to prove solar power concepts or challenge for self invented high mileage travel records, usually carried out in perfect solar producing conditions.

However, as discussed above our standard, fully equipped five seater electric cars need too much power storage and are used far too often in too many differing conditions to benefit from a charge source via just a few square metres of solar panel on their roof, even if you did add in the bonnet and side doors.  There is just no more space to mount the panels.

This is why they are charged from a static point, either a mains public charger, from a parked charging space at home or something similar at a destination.  This system works fine, providing the owner remembers to plug the car in to the mains and isn’t going on an extended journey.  If such an undertaking is attempted a time consuming electrical fuel stop or two would be needed to be factored in.

So, the problem is the square meterage available of solar panels.  So why not just tow a solar panel array?  The increased surface area may just keep a car going for the number of miles needed for a longer trip.  Imagine a trailer being towed behind the car, stretching back as far as an articulated lorry, quietly sucking up solar rays and sending the charge back into the cars battery via an attached coiled wire.

This is obviously all well and good on main, open, multiple lane roads and shouldn’t be too much of an issue but that’s not the only place cars need to go.  On smaller, twistier, single carriageway roads, local suburban areas and cities a long trailer may be unruly and difficult to handle by the average driver so further innovation is required.

In these instances it is clear that the trailed array of panels needs to be shortened.  So why not have an unfurling array?  A twin axle trolley which automatically stretches out and also retracts to suit the road conditions.

The arrays will either have to be flexible enough to retract into a large roll or perhaps be designed to stack over and under each other in order to suit the trailer wheelbase length.

Maybe the ultimate version of this system would be a roll out trailer actually incorporated into the boot or within the rear bumper area of the car, which automatically deploys, dropping out and extending dependant on road suitability.  Neat and tucked away for parking in congested cities and adjustable enough to suck up some sunshine dependant on the situation.  With the advantage that the most effect will occur on longer runs on main roads, which is the weak point of electric propulsion systems.

Is it possible that this idea is so innovative and indeed needed that current, existing cars may be modified to remove the oily, noisy fossil fuel sucking engine with an electric powered transmission system and fitted out with an inboard, deployable towed power station?

Another associated thought may be that a future roadside recovery vehicle would be equipped with a trailer load of deployable, pre-charged, arrays ready to hitch to cars that have inadvertently run out of sun juice and are stranded on the edge of the carriageways?  ‘Eh, eh’, I hear you mutter.

But enough of cars for now, what about other means of vehicular transport?

Vans, Trucks and Lorries

A similar system could be adopted for vans and trucks.  But with these larger vehicles there is additional unused roof space for fixed panels and more space for incorporating a slide out additional array.  Already many vans and lorries incorporate rear mounted equipment such as fold out load lifting platforms and even especially designed slimline forklift trucks.

For larger lorries already incorporating articulated designs an additional fixed or roll out trailer would be too unwieldy however their roof space is even more generous in the first place so should be utilised.

And in the case of the many articulated lorries which are just independent truck and trailer models with the cab owner hitching up the trailers of others the two parties would need to work to a commonly agreed system to ensure compatibility.  Which makes me think that maybe the universal container design needs remodelling to incorporate solar arrays?  And to avoid having to bolt on ill fitting solar panels to the corrugated roofs why not ‘paint’ a solar panel direct onto the corrugations?  Surely this must be possible using laser etching?

But what if we consider other means of transportation?

Rail

The idea of roof mounted solar panels on trains is not required on much of the already electrified network.  However the rail network system certainly lends itself to miles of fixed solar panel arrays alongside or between the rails for use of the rail network or to feed other non-rail infrastructure, homes and businesses nearby.

Notwithstanding the above, much of the network is not yet electrified and to convert it may be very expensive and require a lot of disruptive construction often in remote and environmentally sensitive areas.  In these cases adopting roof panel mounted arrays on the long trains could be a good option and the towing of multiple, long, linked additional arrays is certainly a feasible thought.

And why isn’t wind power harnessed as the trains pass by?  If you are unfortunate enough to be close to a passing high speed train you would feel the rush of wind created.  Put up vertical fans near to the edge of the train which would spin up when a train passes and convert this mechanical energy back into electrical energy to help power the network points, lights and other infrastructure.

Canal Boats

Canals have some similarity to the rail networks.  Some of the bends may be a little tighter but it is still essentially a system that suits elongated design.  And much like the rail system many miles of it are very open to daylight.

Already many canal boats, usually those that house live aboard residents, take advantage of a few solar panels along with the necessary electronic systems and batteries to power their onboard electrical needs.  However, their roofs are often too congested with guy ropes, poles, brightly decorated watering cans and other useless ephemera to be fully equipped with major arrays.

This is because few canal craft rely on full electric propulsion.  Most instead rely on fossil fuel powered engines.  But if one considers that these engines are usually very low powered they could simply be replaced with a similar power output electric system.

It is doubtful that with current technology that a single boat, even one that extends a full 72 feet in length, would be able to site enough panels on its own roof, even if we utilise my earlier idea of spray painted arrays.  So instead, why not tow an additional hull packed with a full set of solar arrays?

I would add a couple of other extras onto this big fuel cell to make the system more easily manageable down the cut.  I would add a small seating area at the rear and a deployable electric outboard type motor, powered from the array, to make the craft individually controllable when needed.  This would be required when the towed power source is detached from the main boat in order to pass through the standard locks on the canal system.

Finally why not incorporate onboard the hull array a mechanical or electrically automated pivoting system to steer the individual array panels towards any light source to increase efficiency of the system?

The ideas are just flowing out now so let’s scale this up.

River Boats and Ocean Yachts

Already there are fully electric powered catamarans on the market taking full advantage of their generous roof and deck spaces being covered with solar panels which feed battery systems and electric propulsion.  At present their power is limited compared to other more powerful, faster boats and yachts but they can apparently sail continuously in the right conditions at a modest cruising speed.

The trouble with non catamaran design is the lack of roof and deck space.  Plus many yachts are designed with open flybridge cockpits and many, many more are already built already incorporating big, heavy, fuel sucking engines.  So I need to find a solution for these craft as well.

The natural energy source can be the same as the model suggested for the canal boats.  Towed solar panel arrays, powering an onboard battery storage, electric propulsion motor system.

Yes, I can hear you already picking up on a couple of key points.  Calm down I have already thought of these and have them covered.

Firstly, yes some modifications have to be made to the original watercraft.  The current diesel or petrol engines will need replacing with electric units.  But these will be much more compact and whilst being fitted likely to incorporate updated innovation such as steerable pod propulsion to increase low speed manoeuvring around the harbours and marinas.

The balance of the boat design caused by the reduction in engine weight from big heavy fossil fuel engines and gearboxes with huge fuel storage tanks to more compact electrical motors can be offset by judicious positioning of the necessary battery and charging equipment.

Alternatively just build new boats with design incorporated, electric motors and battery storage systems.

But, you exclaim, what about having to tow a massive solar panel array craft behind us whilst trying to pose around the Mediterranean beaches and tearing about in pointless but addictive high speed turns?  My answer is don’t.  The power source doesn’t have to go everywhere with you.  Just tow it to a convenient bit of empty sea, anchor it from tidal movements, disconnect and go off to have some fun whilst it sucks up some sun, only to return at the end of play to recharge from your own self sufficient ‘fuel’ station.

And if you wish to harness even more power why not incorporate some wave energy technology into your floating power station as well?  I’ll explain how when we really scale this up.

Ocean Going Ships

You may think that this article has developed from my ideas on road vehicles, adapting some of these basic ideas onto small water craft and now I’m going all in in an attempt to exaggerate and scale up a basic concept.  In truth it was the energy efficient powering of ocean going liners that made me come up with these ideas in the first place.

I have been on a few cruise trips, including ocean crossings on some magnificent vessels and enjoy it too much to want to give it up for the sake of the environment.  But I have a conscience and want my actions to impact the world in which I live in the most sustainable way.  I heard that cruise ships have an enormously disproportionate effect on natural resources and they are getting ever more popular so I wanted to come up with a solution to save the industry.  I know, it’s all me, me, me.

But how do you electrify a huge cruise ship without if being tethered to a large cable attached to shore?  The answer lies in utilising wave and solar power whilst out and about.  And much like smaller boats and craft the onboard surface area is not sufficient to meet the needs of the many decks of energy hungry occupants below.

I therefore envisaged an idea that the vast surface area of a massive solar array could be towed behind to power the ship, all fitted out with steerable panels to zero in on the source of light power.  Overall size and space taken up need not be a consideration due to the environment in which these vessels operate.  Why not tow massive panel sets over a mile in length?  If size requires it to be unhooked and anchored temporarily whilst the ship puts into ports then shore power can be used whilst the ship is there.

Yes, the towed power source will need some battery storage for harvesting power whilst unhooked, it would be best served with independent motors for manoeuvring and probably incorporate a small manned onboard control tower [and lifeboat for emergency], particularly if it is a mile long!

Finally add in some wave energy harnessing technology as well into this power station, possibly by articulation of sections of the craft and hey, I may just have had an idea that could help save the industry and our planet.  And more importantly, my future cruise desires.

And finally, as a call back to the section above entitled Vans, Trucks and Lorries, remember my idea that all standardised containers incorporate solar panels.  These adapted containers can all be linked whilst transported on massive container ships to provide more self sufficiency and even more planet saving.  I’m starting to wonder whether I could actually be saving the equivalent of two planets by now.

You’re welcome.

Oh, and as for powering all the oil tankers chugging around the world.  No need, they will all become redundant.

Summary Of Ideas

Wow, what a lot to think about.  Just in case you have been overwhelmed by the number of innovative ideas in this one single article let me summarise them below.

  • Towed solar panel arrays for vehicles
  • Adjustable length towed arrays – Retractable roll out and stackable
  • Adjustable towed arrays stored within the rear of vehicles
  • Roadside recovery vehicles carrying spare, pre-charged roll out towed arrays
  • Redesign of the universal container system to incorporate solar panels, adaptable enough to be joined up to help power a container ship
  • Spray painted on solar panel arrays with laser etching
  • Fixed solar panels within or without the parallel rail lines to power electrified trains and infrastructure on electrified and non electrified routes
  • Harnessing wind created by high speed passing trains to power the network infrastructure
  • Floating, towed solar panel arrays for canal craft, boats and even big ships
  • Floating, towed solar panel arrays incorporating wave energy harnessing technology

Author: Vince Poynter

From the Ideas section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk web site Version 5.284 dated 15 Jan 2020 [First Publication]

These are conceptual ideas, untested and made without engineering calculations.  For instance I have no idea how many more miles a towed array would make to an electrically propelled vehicle or craft.  I do however surmise that it would be more with than without

I have not overly emphasised the additional components of solar panel and battery systems.  I do understand that there would be other components such as solar charge controllers, inverters, wiring and isolation to consider.  I also understand that all these things would add both weight and cost and be needed to be incorporated in either the vehicle or towed array or both.  An unaccompanied, towed array left to soak up some sun whilst drifting quietly at sea would do no good to its owner when it returns if an onboard battery etc is not included

At the time of publication I had not fact checked whether any of the ideas listed above have already been produced, developed, patented or are in the process of development.  All I claim is that I have not come across them naturally.  If you know of such innovation already out there let me know and I’ll amend and credit accordingly

I place these concepts into the wild as I feel it wrong to keep them to myself and I also hope to inspire others and generate interesting discussion

As ever, my many ideas are never commercially exploited nor formally patented by me but I would like to see them used.  I presume if you are the sort who takes up the ideas of others and passes them off as your own you would not be the sort who credits the original inventor or chucks them a bit of financial thanks.  If however you are not such a dreadful monster my name is shown above.  Find me, thank me, credit me, reward me.  You’ll feel a much better human

These innovations have not been fully developed, tested, proven via prototype, safety tested, manufactured or fully engineered and are just conceptual ideas therefore the author cannot accept any liability for loss or damage in the testing, use or manufacture of any of these conceptual ideas

Computer Tech 2019

Computer Tech 2019
Most of my computer stuff now fitting easily on one small desk.  The smartphone is heavily involved in taking the picture so couldn’t attend this tech party

When I designed my first web site way back before 2003 to be launched that year I envisioned four primary elements would form the layout – Ideas, Opinions, Personal and Writing.  Within the personal section I wanted to tell all a bit about myself and also to include details of my computer set up.  I wanted this because at the time I imagined a fair percentage who were surfing at the time may share similar interests to me and would appreciate information on how I operated my technology.  As a result since October 2003 I have included details of my computer hardware, software and web use.  You can see these unaltered articles posted by me in this WordPress site on 19 October 2017.

I created an update to my computer story in March 2010, which is now nearly a decade ago so I thought it timely to provide another round up of my tech.  You can see my 2010 update in this WordPress site on 3 August 2018.

When I left off in 2010 I had just started to work myself into the Applesphere.  My main computer was a Mac Mini viewed on an Apple Cinema Display.  I also had an Apple MacBook whilst I waited patiently for the rumoured iPad which hadn’t materialised but sneakily came out just a month after I posted my article.

I also had a couple of Windows based laptops.  My ageing, noisy, overclocked Novatech lap top and a tiny new Dell Mini netbook primarily for servicing my HiFi processor.

Apple’s iPhones were becoming more common and I noted in 2010 that I was on my third one and I have listed a full schedule of those I owned below.

Other accessories included an Iomega MiniMax MMHD 500Gb USB/Firewire 400 back up drive running Time Machine, a Logitech QuickCam Fusion web camera, a Hewlett Packard HP Photosmart C6180 All-in-one WiFi full colour printer/photocopier/facsimile machine, a 2009 BT HomeHub 2 WiFi N router, a Bose Companion 5 Series 2 sound system with stereo speakers and Subwoofer, a first edition 2008, 160Gb Apple TV plus an iPod Classic.

Since these heady days of multiple devices I have greatly simplified my set up which is now fully suited to remote working and have subsequently sold off or given away everything I had previously listed.  Now it is just one lap top with a few accessories, an all-in-one device, a smartphone and router.

Hardware

My current laptop is again an Apple product.  I have not deserted the brand but did upgrade.  As advised in March 2010 I was considering an iMac but never went down this route.  I really liked my white, unibody MacBook and appreciated the simplicity of using just a single, portable working device which suited my changing lifestyle.  I did try a couple of iPads along the way, a 64Gb black WiFi, 3G enabled iPad 2 in November 2011 and a 128Gb space grey WiFi, 3G enabled iPad Air 2 in November 2014 but none could be considered a true laptop replacement.  Data and software back up to anywhere but the cloud was too difficult, my old file system comprising sometimes deprecated file extensions couldn’t be handled, I wasn’t able to natively title and sort my growing photograph collection and web coding was awkward to do in the way I wanted too, which is simply.  So in the absence of suiting these critical criteria I purchased a proper, full power, old style lap top in November 2014.

I choose a new MacBook Pro, a late 2014 Retina 15″ model with a 2.8GHz Intel Core i7, 16Gb 1600MHz DDR3 RAM, an Intel Iris Pro 1536Mb video graphics card and a 1Tb Flash hard drive.  This was a standard selectable Apple configuration and I haven’t modified it in any way.  And as you are dying to know it cost me £3.60. Short of £2,400.

MacBook and Pro on desk
My trusty old MacBook hooked up to the new MacBook Pro.  Some time later the Pro was fully impregnated with the guts from the willing donor

The alleged lack of connections didn’t concern me as the world was moving in a WiFi interconnected way but I was concerned about reliance on huge operating system updates over the air and the ability to play and record to disk media such as CD and DVD so I also purchased an Apple DVD Rewriter, a USB Super Drive, for £65, which has since rarely been connected.

I intended to use the laptop in a place where it could suffer potential loss so needed a way to secure it to some infrastructure in a room.  The MacBook Pro didn’t have a Kensington Lock slot, the standard in computer security, so I had to find a way to provide this kind of protection myself.  I discovered the solution in a LandingZone Dock Express, model LZ3015AL, similar models of which are currently on sale, new for $99.  This MacBook Pro accessory clamps into opposing connectors either side of the laptop edge and locks into place, protecting the removable base plate whilst providing substitute connectors and crucially a Kensington Lock slot.

As the hard drive on the MacBook Pro was 1Tb and my Iomega MiniMax was only 500Gb I also had to upgrade my local back up drive.  I wanted greater portability and the option to have two solid state drives so one could be stored away remotely and each could be swapped regularly to ensure the most reliance in case of major theft or failure.  I chose the bright orange, rubber encased LaCie Rugged 3.0 Thunderbolt 2Tb flash drive and purchased two at a price of just under £200 each.  I also bought a lightweight My Passport Ultra 500Gb back up drive, for about £60 and used this to make a further copy of my photographs and videos which hold the greatest digital sentimentality.

The only mouse I now have is my Logitech V450 Laser Cordless Mouse which I purchased in 2007 but failed miserably to mention in 2010.  I purchased this mouse to be a portable input device, small enough to pack into a rucksack with the laptops I took to work but I don’t tend to bother with it as I find the MacBook Pro’s large trackpad sufficient for most of my needs.

HP Envy 110 Printer
The remarkably beautiful HP Envy 110 all in one printer, copier etc., etc., just before it was sold

My Hewlett Packard Photosmart printer/copier/scanner/etc device was getting old and I wanted a WiFi model so in May 2012 upgraded to a very smart looking HP Envy 110 D411a printer/copier/scanner/etc/etc which cost a whopping £175.  Although sleek and beautiful it eventually needed new inks so naturally I bought a new printer/copier/scanner/etc/etc/etc.  Sadly these days buying a whole new printer/copier/scanner/etc/etc/etc/etc is now a cheaper option than ink replacement.  It is an Epson Expression Photo XP-760 printer/copier/scanner/etc/etc/etc/etc/etc which I got for £98 [new obvs], in October 2017.

And to complete my hardware set up my Wifi source also had to be addressed.  For a while I was reliant on using a commercial over the air source which at first only provided about 0.1-0.5 Mbps.  Over a couple of years it increased to a more reasonable 5-6 Mbps but I changed tack, invested in my own mobile router, a Huawei HomeFi B311s-220 and now get around 10-12 Mbps from a 3 SIM, just shy of 4K streaming.

I no longer own any Windows equipment nor use any emulator.

Software and Web

8 cores and GPU running
The MacBook Pro running at near full speed during a video conversion process.  Note the near full capacity of the 8 cores [4 core hyper-threaded] and GPU

As I am now solely reliant on Apple devices I naturally err toward Apple software, the latest operating system being MacOS Catalina version 10.15.2.  My pattern is to always update to the latest formally issued, non Beta version of any OS X since I purchased my first MacMini and have never had a problem.

I also always favour Apple supplied software applications and programs such as Books, iMovie, Music, Mail, Maps, Notes, Numbers, Pages, Photos and Safari, all in their latest guise.

Web site coding is now handled within Apple’s Xcode with uploading to the cloud via FTP within a non Apple product, Filezilla [ver 3.46 currently] up to my web hosting service provided by UK2.

Mobile Smartphones

When I reported in 2010 I mentioned that I had been through a slew of Apple iPhones and this trend has continued until this day.

Prior to 2010 they were an 8Gb [original] iPhone in February 2008, a 16Gb 2.5G iPhone in July 2008 and a [replacement] 16Gb iPhone 3G the next month.

In 2010 I upgraded to a 32Gb iPhone 4, in October 2011 I chose a 64Gb iPhone 4S, in October 2014 I went for a 128Gb iPhone 6 Plus and my latest choice, from November 2017 is a 256Gb iPhone X.

You can see a pattern of purchasing the largest capacity version available, which I did to attempt to chase a dream of fully storing high quality versions of my photographs.  You can see that my ‘phone updates originally occurred around once a year but slowed to replacements every three years as the technical abilities of these smartphones matured.  So I expect my next one to be the iPhone 12S with around 500Gb.  Not that such a large storage is needed as I currently use around 200Gb of my 256Gb capacity including now being able to store all my photos and filmed videos at full resolution on the device.

For mobile sound I used the out of the box wired EarPods for most of the last decade but am now using the wireless Apple AirPods, which are great for sound and safety in operation as a hands free device whilst driving.  I have tried the latest, wirelessly charging, noise cancelling AirPods Pro but remain unconvinced that their performance is worth the very high price of upgrading.

Binning The Tech

But what about my superseded, now no longer required tech.

As you will be aware from reading my Computers 2010 update [I presume you did] I take digital security seriously.  This is why I destroyed my Mac Mini and its hard drive.  However I felt guilty about doing the same to my MacBook, which still retained considerable value.  I twice cleaned the hard drive with a security wipe but did not want to sell the thing to an unknown source on an auction site.  Whilst most likely to be purchased by a grateful teenager who wanted to spend more time on their ass watching YouTube I couldn’t risk it being bought by a clever dick, Black Hat, cyberpunk who could unmask my security cleansing.  So I chose to donate it to a family member.

I had done something similar with my original Packard Bell desktop system which went to my brother-in-law.  He did eventually pass it on to his own father but I have no idea where it went after he died.  Maybe to that Black Hat?

My mother was given my old Dell lap top, which she didn’t get on with on the grounds she only played Solitaire so my father eventually used this.  Occasionally.  Over the years he had collected a number of lap tops and enjoyed the variety despite being unable to consistently remember his passwords and not really utilising any of his machines.  He also owned a ChromeBook and a separate netbook along with his ancient desktop system which he liked messing around with in both Windows and Linux.

All this confusion led to much requested tech support from me so I figured that I could offer him my MacBook, watch him get to love its powerful simplicity and consequently tech support from me would be greatly eased.  However an illogical opposition to Apple products meant he was determined to dislike it and so never used it.  I took it back.

I offered the MacBook to my brother who really needed an update to his old desktop system but sadly shares my father’s same illogical opposition to Apple products so turned it down.  It seemed I couldn’t get rid of my valued old friend.  But then I heard my nephew was struggling with an old Windows laptop he shared with his partner and needed a device to assist in his studies to become a Fireman.  He willingly accepted my offer of a free, high end Apple MacBook and has gratefully kept it since.

The Novatech was too old to be touted around like the MacBook and so I decided to risk selling it on the open market.  Any secure data on it had already been well superseded and it was primarily used for business work for most of its life.  I once again cleaned up the hard drives and sold it for £62 in November 2017.  Furthermore, it would not have looked so interesting to Mr Black Hat due to its age, specification and low value.

The Dell Mini 10 was also sold, in April 2012, for £121.  No major security wiping was necessary as it had only ever been used to put processor updates on my HiFi and if that software was interesting to anyone or a security risk to me I’ll eat my hat, which for the record is not Black.  I do intend to tell the full story of my HiFi system in a future blog update and will include details of why I needed this netbook and why it is now gone.  Contact me if you need this story sooner rather than later.

The Apple Cinema Display was no longer needed when I sold the Mac Minis so this had to go to a new home as well.  Due to its quality and being just three years old I got £350 for it in November 2010.  It was perfect and well worth the money to the lucky buyer.

Other accessories were also sold, for instance the Logitech webcam around the same time for just £16 and the stunning HP Envy 110 D411a for a pitiful £25 seven years later.

One item I could not sell was the Iomega MiniMax MMHD 500Gb back up drive.  Not that it wouldn’t find a market or fetch too little but that I was concerned that it had held too much personal data.  Although fully encrypted as a Time Machine back up I couldn’t guarantee that some smarty pants couldn’t unlock these bits and bytes so decided to destroy it instead.  I duly picked the case apart to get at the internals.

The case and mother-board proved low resistance to my assembled tools and were suitably destroyed allowing me to concentrate on the internal disk platters.  They were held together in some sort of clear glass moulding, the destruction of which I considered to be effortlessly simple.  However this glass like substance proved to be actually made out of unbreakabilium.  It successfully survived dropping onto hard surfaces, frenzied attacks with screwdrivers and a crow bar and even blows from a full size metal mallet with a three foot handle being swung against it whist it was precariously supported at a forty-five degree angle across two bricks.  I was fully impressed despite being exhausted from my efforts and furious at my predicament.

I had to find a way to hide this perfectly undamaged drive from future prying eyes and concocted a plan to drop it in a deep river crossing.  I imagine it is now roaming the seas balanced precariously on the back of an enormous crab and I am relying on that crab to be the final protector of my data.

A neat thought that my 2019 set up is now truly mobile.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Computers section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 18 Dec 2019
Version 5.281 17 Dec 2019 [First Publication]
The first photograph shows my computer tech set up in one place, taken in December 2019.  The image includes the MacBook Pro, a USB Superdrive, orange clad portable drive, a smaller red external drive, a Joby Gorillapod adjustable tripod, a Logitech mouse and a small external USB drive in front of the laptop.  On the desk to the left is the Epson XP-760 printer and Huawei router
The second image shows my unibodied MacBook linked to my new MacBook Pro Retina 15″ during the process of transferring data from one machine to the other on 26 November 14, as taken by the me
The image of the printer is my HP Envy 110 all-in-one WiFi device, shown in a standby state.  The photograph implies the panels are mismatched but this wasn’t so apparent in real life.  The photograph was taken by me on 8 October 17
The final image shows a screenshot from my MacBook Pro during an intense workout for the CPU processor cores.  The Activity Monitor indicates 8 cores in operation but in reality the computer has four cores each hyper-threaded.  Note also that the NVIDIA graphics card is also in full use for the intense mathematical computations required.  The screenshot was grabbed on 5 October 2018 by the author
The LandingZone dock can be found at https://landingzone.net/products/macbook-docks/for-the-macbook-pro/#products-macbook-pro-description

Bog Standard

So, I needed to use the toilet because I was in Britain.  If it were the USA I would have opened this piece with I needed to use the bathroom, despite not actually needing a bath.  Anyway I was headed for the loo and confronted with the first of many choices.

Three doors.  One marked with a stick figure of a human, stood face on despite not having an actual face.  A figurine defiantly splaying open both arms and legs.  Or there was another near matching faceless individual but this time with only one fat leg and apparently partially hiding behind a triangle.  Plus another poor soul with a tiny pin head but no arms and seemingly sat down on an exercise ball.

At least the one on the exercise ball gave some clue as to what was in there.  It said accessible toilet.  Presumably indicating that the other two doors were totally inaccessible and therefore not really doors at all.

But I’m educated so was aware that the term accessible is a more delicate and inclusive term for disabled because, presumably, anyone who may need a little mobility assistance is clearly far too mentally sensitive to deal with long held terminology.  Unlike the pointlessly ‘inclusive’ word accessible, which because of its careful curation will obviously never be considered the same way.

But right now I had a pressing need and I decided to throw caution to the wind and attempt to enter one of the rooms to carry out my business.  And I choose to attempt to enter one of the presumably inaccessible rooms.

I chose to venture into the one marked with a twin legged human shaped figure as I wasn’t hiding behind a triangle at the time and it appears that I may have chosen wisely as there were a row of other men doing exactly what I needed to.

They were all standing in a bit of a row, closely facing a wall of steel, steadfastly staring intently at the wall whilst nodding glimpses to the task in hand in a way that implied any sideways diversion may start a contretemps, or nuclear war or something.

For my purposes I had to join them, but deciding which two to slot in between created an anxious moment.  Previous decisions had led to various unsettling outcomes.  From barely concealed harrumphing to enforced banter with complete strangers.  Or unintended splash back from either or both sides or the Niagra scale watering during the automated flush cycle.  Or the awkwardness of suddenly being unable to enact and having to slope away without having ‘performed’ implying that the visitation was nothing more than sightseeing.

Then there is the issue of the order of completion.  Pick badly and you may be left with a decision to be made if nearly all the others complete apart from the guy right next to you, thus presenting a choice on whether to remain standing shoulder to shoulder with a complete stranger whilst the rest of the wall had cleared, or to shuffle sideways as if to suggest the neighbour is in some way undeserved of your proximity.  I tend to just ‘style it out’ and have even been known to shuffle ever closer just to see the effect.  The effect being that they finish before actually finishing and beat a hasty retreat.

And I still had the unenviable task of closely staring at an out of focus wall from short distance interrupted by casual glances downwards to monitor operations whilst noticing the channel below is freshly running past with a dirty orange liquid which nasally is anything but fresh and seemingly sluicing various and peculiar detritus which clearly never emanated from a human appendage.  All whist wondering if someone will arrive on the scene and push you facewards into the steel trough.

I decided to use one of the cubicles instead.

But which one?  There is usually a handy guide to which are vacant.  A green for go or red for wait based on the attitude of the door lock.  In this case too many were apparently occupied, displaying their ‘keep away’ red warning flash.  One was red but the door wasn’t closed fully, hmm?  And one was a bit indecisive, mostly green but a bit of red showing.  Thankfully one was pure unadulterated green.  It became my cubicle of choice.

However, the door was not fully opened so I nudged it carefully to see if there was already an occupant, albeit one who cared less about the intricacies of public cubicle door fastening.

But it swung open.  No one inside but due to the hinge arrangement immediately swung back three quarters shut again.  I made a quick mental note that the green/red cubicle that I had previously discarded may have been a possible venue after all.  But I was here now and once more pushed open the door to reveal my newfound personal peeing point.

I closed, and locked, the door behind me and stared at the ominously closed lid.  It’s at this point I’m always minded to think of the generally accepted polite notion that one should always ‘put down the seat’.  Apparently for the ladies.  Not that any were likely to be passing by this place of gentlemen of course, but nonetheless some well-meaning soul had decided to adopt formality and fully drop the seat and additionally close the lid.  I wish he hadn’t.

The trouble with seats in combined male/female facilities and particularly men only establishments is that those who are prone to overshare their wastage all over the pan, seat and surrounding county are exactly the sort who do not think of others and raise the seat first.  The polite aiming sort, who make attempts to keep splash back to a minimum are the ones who are most likely to raise the plastic ring.  The accepted practice of lowering the seat to assist a future female visitor should be reversed to everyone raising the seat afterwards in case an inconsiderate oaf is the next to arrive.

For there is nothing worse than picking up the edge of a closed pan only to be confronted with a dripping under belly.  You will not be able feel you have fully rinsed that off your fingers for about a month of intent scrubbing.  However, you will have learned a lesson and in future always tear off a wad of toilet paper in order to raise the lid. I am an expert so dutifully spent six minutes trying to extract a bit of tissue paper that didn’t tear off into a fingertip sized sample from the wall mounted dispenser which must have had a bit of a cob on because it steadfastly refused to give up its contents without a battle.

The raising of the seat cover then presented the next issue.  A blocked but still well used bowl of sewage.  No previous indication of such a surprise treasure find.  The loose fitting seat cover, with broken hinge and only two of the four rubber feet still in operation managed to suppress all notion of this hidden swamp and amazingly all associated aroma with the integrity of a spacesuit.

I thought of flushing this horror that had now hit me hard in the nose but reasoned that adding more liquid to this may actually result in a tsunami of effluent all over my trainers.  And I didn’t want that.

I remembered the half-caste green/red cubicle and exited my current position to head off in search of this Eden.

However because of the epic struggle I had with the tissue dispenser I had been in there for a few minutes and now the joint had become more crowded.  The line of reprobates had grown to a full complement and I could hear the harrumphing and muttering had increased exponentially.  The trouble was the ones waiting for a gap in this queue and one immediately shot into my vacated cubicle as I exited.  Before I could even explain why he shouldn’t.  He was turning around and undoing his trousers as he entered and I heard the squish as he crashed down onto the seat without pause.

“Aww, shit!” he audibly exclaimed presumably accurately describing what he sat on.  He then flushed, accompanied this time by the expletive ‘bollocks’ presumably to describe what had just been unintendedly washed.  The seepage slewed gently out past the door.

I washed my hands and left the premises.  After all, actually having a pee didn’t seem all that necessary now.

 


 

Public toilets are a disgrace.  Not always where they are needed, too often closed, unhygienic, badly treated, poorly maintained and seemingly unsafe.  It’s time I took a good look at the loo and sorted something out.

Despite all the above these establishments provide a service we all need at some time.  For some of us many times.  We seem to be getting it all wrong so I wish to propose that we give the industry a big shake and get it to clean up up it’s act.

The first requirement is that they should be there, where you need them.  Too often one cannot find the facilities in a city centre.  We know that they are often within large shopping malls or at rail stations but these obvious places aren’t always available throughout the wide conurbations of our large cities.

Furthermore the smaller the city, or town or village the less likely there is a guarantee of a place to spend the penny.  Legislation should be there dictating the siting of loos where councils or communities are failing to provide these places.

The next requirement of public toilets are that they should be open.  Always.  All the time, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 52 weeks a year.  And twice on Thursdays.  Whatever we do to improve our toilets will be pointless if one is stood outside a locked door with a bladder based imminent pressing need.

Next up on my bullet list is a redesign of our toilets. At present the buildings are often dark, dank intimidating places.  Security can be suspect and the basic Victorian architecture and styles seem to contribute to this.  As a society we still seem to be too culturally sensitive to a basic human need.  We all pee and poo.  Absolutely without exception.

So why are we hiding this function away in dingy facilities?  Let’s build modern, open, light buildings.  I agree the actual place of discharging should have some personal privacy but why is the waiting area hidden from view?  A glass fronted building would provide a greater sense of safety to those who feel vulnerable entering the building.

To achieve a good balance between privacy and security every cubicle should be fully equipped with everything needed when in there.  In other words each should be like a disabled facility, large, spacious, fitted with a pan, sink, mirror, waste disposal bin and hand rails.  An extra advantage of this way would be that there is no need to discriminate between the non able bodied and the not yet non able bodied.

Furthermore the facilities should be entirely gender neutral.  A common place for male, female or any other way folks choose to see themselves, because we are all people.  The advantage of gender neutrality would mean that couples or groups can visit together with the ability to wait for each other in the open glazed frontage area, possibly on provided comfortable seating.

One issue with this new design would be that some may complain that this would be more expensive to construct.  I agree this would be the case but we do not live in a land of such struggling poverty that this couldn’t be done if the will was there.  I agree that lining up men, shoulder to shoulder staring intently down into a common trough is an efficient use of space but it is also de-humanising, subject to splash back from every angle, therefore un-hygienic and frankly embarrassing, particularly for those with abnormal biology or a need to wait patiently for nature to take its course.

Also too many males clearly see the rapid, casual nature of peeing an excuse to speed through the process and therefore skip the important bit of washing their hands afterwards.  This all too common, disgusting habit is one reason many may not wish to share their facilities.  But I have a solution.

The doors to these individual cubicles should only operate once the hand washing equipment is used, or make the toilet door exits only openable by the use of an adjacent hand sanitiser.

On a similar note the toilet flush mechanism should be automated or foot operated, to minimise cross transference of germs.

And we should all ‘leave the lid up’.  In fact it should ‘spring up’ after seating.  Not in an ejector seat kind of approach but a slow elegant rise.

And the hand washing facilities should be controllable, sensor operated affairs and not timed to dispense soap when no water is available, or end up with an inadequate breathless cold air dry that leaves hands still wet afterwards.  I have dry skin and damp hands exacerbate this condition, particularly in winter.

Yes there are now some ‘unisex’ facilities being built and welcome they are too, albeit a bit cramped for my liking but overall we can do better.  And we should.

Let’s improve the loo.

Author: Vince Poynter

Originally posted in my Blog Section within my web site on 13 September 2019

MashTop

In April of this year I posted an article proposing the concept of a novel range of mashed potato based take away outlets, arguing that it was more healthy and offered greater choice than traditional burger, curry and fish & chips franchises.

I even attempted to differentiate my idea by suggested a slight change in the packaging of the take away product by proposing a circular polystyrene container.  However this change is not radical enough.  It still has the unpopular use of a one time wasteful box.  So I set about attempting to find a solution to appease environmentally minded people.

I found a solution to this by merging two traditional take away ideas – Fast food and ice cream.

I propose the uniquely novel idea of a brand new food product which I have called The MashTop.

The Mashtop complete
The original concept for a MashTop showing the edible cone cut away revealing a tasty sweet internal treat

The basic concept is a scoop of mashed potato atop an edible wafer cone.

With the mashed potato top additional elements can be added to complete a tasty meal such as the use of frankfurters shown in the adjacent close up photograph.

Other toppings could include slices of various cooked or processed meats or even fish fingers.  Samples are shown within the banner photograph above.

Carrots, baked beans or sprinklings of peas could be vegetarian options or even be included with the meats.

Toppings could include peppers, gravy or selected sauces.

The other novel concept, which really sets this idea apart from what is already available, is the hidden sweet treat internally held within the cone.

The large photograph shows a filling of red jelly with chunks of dark chocolate and a Malteser plug.  But many other mixes could be added such as illustrated by the banner photograph.

Other sweets could be utilised such as Smarties, Jelly Babies, chocolate raisins or maybe healthier options like apple, orange segments or grapes.

The major benefit of The MashTop is the complete lack of environmental waste because the toppings, internal contents and the ‘container’, the wafer cone itself, are all edible.

Additional benefits include ease of use, convenience, the ability for customers to select their own choice of fillings and being quick enough to prepare to be called fast food.

As the original designer and so first user of this concept I am uniquely qualified to report on the success or otherwise of this concept.

For the purpose of this article I simply used products that are easily available at large supermarkets and I used no more ‘cooking’ than boiling a kettle.

I used a freeze dried potato mash option and warmed the frankfurters by emptying the water from a tin and adding boiled water.

With more effort in a full kitchen fresh potatoes could be peeled, boiled and mashed but the end result would look little different.

Because I like the way I prepared the food I was personally satisfied with the taste and texture of the mash based topping.

It was as easy to eat as a classic ice cream and didn’t spill anywhere.

The interaction between the mash, frankfurters and the room temperature cone was admittedly a bit unusual because this is not the normal way of consuming food.  However it was perfectly acceptable.

The only change I would make is a thicker wafer cone as the moisture from the mashed potato was easily absorbed around the cone perimeter.  This would be less likely the quicker the product was consumed.  Alternate thicker, stronger cones were not available in the supermarket that I used.

The internal treats were lovely as expected and no such differentiation between the cone and sweet filling was experienced.

When reselecting a different more substantial cone I would also seek a larger size.  The standard small cone wasn’t able to accommodate much filling and the mashed potato based topping was only a small meal.  Ideal for a snack between meals or for children but probably not enough for a main lunchtime meal.  Maybe cone size options could be offered at the retail outlet.

Overall I feel the product has serious potential as a new fast food option.

A complete meal in a take away cone.  Two courses, no waste

Do you like this idea?  Perhaps you have some comments.  The idea is not patented and therefore free to use.  Try it.  Enjoy it.  Sell it.  Sell millions.  Make millions.  Thank me later.

And finally if you think I haven’t also thought of serving other fast food meals such as burgers in a wafer box then you really don’t understand the breadth of my inventiveness.  Another great idea, just dropped in as an afterthought?  You’re welcome.

Author: Vince Poynter

The header image is a compilation of eleven photographs showing the concept of the MashTop product, along with the author holding one of the cones, taken by the author and his wife on 23 Sep 2017
The additional image is a close up of a cutaway MashTop, taken by the author on 23 Sep 2017
I had the idea of mashed potato based fast food outlets a few years ago but only publicly posted this as an idea in April 2019
The idea of the MashTop was fully developed by me by 2017, as can be seen from the date of the photographs. This article is the first WordPress airing of the idea, it was initially published on my web site under http://vinceunlimited.co.uk/mashtop.htm on 11 July 2019. Had I created the article immediately and not spent ages updating my web site as a vehicle for such thoughts I suspect that by now there would have been a sea change of fast food container use and as a result there would be no plastics found in our environment, Polar Bears would have been brought back from near extinction and David Attenborough would be having a nice quiet retirement. For this delay Mr Attenborough and all Polar Bears I am sorry

What If… I Was The Next PM?

What If…I was the next Prime Minister?

Let’s first clear up a few perhaps obvious points.  Firstly I am unlikely to be.  It’s not completely impossible of course but highly unlikely.  The greater likelihood being that following Prime Minister Theresa May’s resignation today the next British PM will be a Conservative member of Parliament, chosen by the national registered Conservative Party Membership from a whittled down list of two candidates who emerge following a public bun flinging contest on Newsnight.  Apologies if I haven’t quite got the grip of the contest rules exactly accurately.

But if I were how would I proceed with the main agendas we face at the moment?

Well firstly, and when I say firstly it means firstly after appointing all the cabinet postings, getting a new key for Number 10, thinking up a secure password for the Nuke buttons and popping over to see The Queen etc.  Firstly, I would need to do something about the most pressing issue of the day.  Brexit.

I would immediately appoint two very senior Ministerial positions.  A Brexit one and another to handle everything else.  With overall responsibility remaining with myself, like all good leaders.

The one handling everything else would have to coordinate the economy, education issues, defence, security, work, pensions, foreign relationships etc just like a normal PM but crucially not concern themselves overtly with Brexit.  That would be the sole job of the other one.  Each having equal rank and status, both reporting to me.

This way Brexit, whilst crucial to our situation, would not dominate everything else but still be ranked as highly important.

On the subject of Brexit the clock is ticking away with the latest date being the end of October when France et all will apparently cut loose the chains that bind us to Europe and we will float off to a Neverland of uncertainty.  Theresa May’s departure shows that getting agreement on a deal to stop all this happening in an uncontrolled way is extremely difficult.

To resolve this issue I would immediately revoke the current deal and start again.  This will need some time so to do this I would revoke Article 50 with a note that it is not over yet backed up by waving a new yet to be signed Withdrawal Notice at the EU saying that this is still the direction to go.

This would give time to freshly recommence the negotiations and they would start on the premise of a simple No Deal.

In truth nobody wants No Deal but the general public understand what this means and delivers on many of the concerns that drove the albeit marginal victory result of the June 2016 Election.

Because neither the EU nor the UK want a sterile No Deal I would be able to add back in the less controversial issues such as retaining cooperation on security issues such as continuing support of defence and international policing, on international ecological and climate issues, on medical and technological research projects, on food and industry standards, and on human rights and minimum wages issues.

There would be no legal precedent issues on any of these, to avoid UK Sovereignty being undermined.  Just good old common sense adoption of common standards and regulations to keep things aligned.

The EU may be minded to set about these fresh negotiations with an agenda of their own choosing, notably once more wanting to agree a ‘divorce bill’ first but this would not be acceptable.  The value of the ‘divorce’ would be considered but it would be a calculation based on fairness when all else is ready to go.  And the threat of a stark No Deal would remain to concentrate their minds if they get all bossy again.

I think the above would be a great way to start as a PM.  And don’t forget the other senior Minister would be immediately free to set to work on the other pressing issues of the day from debt reduction and the economy to Health and Food Banks.

And if you want to know what I would do on the second day as PM you will just have to get me elected.

Author: Vince Poynter

An original post for this site dated 24 May 2019
To be added to the Political Section section of my web site in due course
For more Political and Brexit commentary choose vinceunlimited.co.uk/political or  if you are on a mobile device and want a more suitable reading experience use vinceunlimited.co.uk/politicalm

G&T

Gastroenteritis and Tartrazine – A serious warning about this article.  The subject matter may be considered uncomfortable for those of a weak disposition.  This article contains a graphic description of a bout of food poisoning and I strongly suggest that you think carefully before fully opening and reading this piece.

It is not intended to be sensational and is written with thought and honestly but for reasons of descriptive accuracy does explain the processes and results of the illness.

Blogs are about real life experiences and not all are akin to fluffy bunnies ambling on a hillside in the sunshine.  So proceed only if you are ready for some realism.  No offence will be taken if you do not read this one of my articles.  I would think carefully myself if you were to post something similar yourself.

It started on a Thursday.  My wife, Lynda and I eat out a lot and usually choose a pub offering a good meal deal.  This particular one has been a recent favourite and we have had many reasonable meals there.

We understand that post Christmas January eating out is the rarest time of the year.  It is why establishments make offers during the busy December month to entice punters back into the practice of eating out in the new year.  However, we regulars need no such enticement as the process of eating out is a common habit.

In fact in the December run up to Christmas we share the same thoughts that alcoholics do about seasonal drinkers invading their space at festive times.  With our annoyance focussed on some food based pubs taking away their usual offers in the run up.

All of which is just an explanation of why we had no concerns about visiting this unusually quiet pub on this evening for our main meal of the day.

We ordered a fairly normal menu choice, me the gammon with egg, Lynda with the chicken.  We did comment to each other that it was delivered surprisingly quickly but we had said it was quiet that evening.

The food was as unremarkable as ever and expected for the price but I did note that the Jacket Potatoes were cold to the touch.  Well perhaps not technically cold but certainly far from steaming hot.  But it didn’t ring bells and we ate up and left as usual.

Later that evening I needed to use the toilet.  Again, not normally remarkable but the beginning of a story this time.  It was a standard episode but had to be repeated about an hour later.  It was then that mild stomach cramps became evident.

The third visit in as many half hours included some diarrhoea and increasing tummy tightening.  By the fourth time I was only jettisoning fluid and feeling a good throw up might bring things to a conclusion.

It was now well into the night, I was feeling increasingly weak and weary, freezing cold out of the bed and unable to lie comfortably in it, my torso demanding all my attention.

I announced to Lynda that this was serious and I had to abandon thoughts of working on the Friday.  She wasn’t really convinced until I actually vomited.  The drama of this act enough to convince the most skeptical wife that her husband wasn’t angling for a free pass.  She agreed to make the necessary arrangements leaving me free to wallow in my misery.

Being violently sick is a strange phenomenon.  For most of us a rare occurrence, frightening as a thought during build up but often strangely a sudden and fantastic release when over.

In this case thankfully it wasn’t accompanied by the often body shaking, full-on fast, sweaty, disablement that sees one writhing on the floor, virtually unable to lift oneself to a place of hygienic projection whilst feeling genuine thoughts of considered demise as a pathetic release from the perceived torture.

In my case I just suffered the intense torso trauma necessary for the body to do what it needed, which is to eject the foreign body as efficiently and fast as possible.

The reason for my coldness and feelings of weakness is explained by the total denial of any unnecessary energy allowed to the limbs and head.  All blood circulation and glucose available being required for the central body area.

Then a fantastic and impressive contortion occurs.  My stomach seized suddenly to a fraction of its normal size and caused a quickly repeating wave form heading up to the chest.  Such was the intensity I felt my skin tighten over the hips and ribs.

This was accompanied by the enlargement and straitening of my whole mouth and throat all the way down to my stomach.  It was as if you could put a whole arm down into my stomach without touching the sides.

My face contorted to maximise the final opening with my lips pulled back over the teeth as if I was reenacting the classic scene from An American Werewolf In London.

All of which pathetically resulted in just a tiny few specks of semi-digested food.

A second episode and this time all the drama with sadly none of the result.  The earlier diarrhoea having stolen all the moisture from my system.

But finally a third and more intense session and I ejected partial evidence of the suspected interloping poison.

It is only when this finally occurs that the inbuilt detective in oneself can finally hone in on the suspect.  I’ll save you from the more salacious details [surprisingly considering my attempts at detailing up to now] but I blame the gammon and suspect it had been stupidly reheated.

My misery didn’t finish there.  The body cramps hadn’t finished, the diarrhoea continued the next couple of days and I was pretty well bed bound for 36 hours in a state of uncomfortableness.

A further trio of vomiting occurred the next day, Friday, and my unexpected dieting continued as I had no desire to add anything into the cauldron of gloop festering in my innards.

All I wanted was to sleep but this was distracted by my tummy pains and frequent visits to discharge the small remaining vestiges of fluid in my system.  And flushing through an overheating anus is not ideal.

In fact it was the Saturday before I was persuaded by Lynda to allow anything other than water to pass my lips and I chose first to take on a sugary liquid.

She had kindly purchased a couple of litres of one of my favourite juices, Cranberry and Raspberry.  I considered this quite innocuous so ventured a sip or three.

I attempted to properly rehydrate whilst giving me a sugary boost to aid the feelings of extreme tiredness.  And I guess it worked.

During the day I felt better, less exhausted and only had the remaining tummy cramps to dispel, which I knew wouldn’t go until my body had satisfied itself that all badness was gone and once again offered feelings of hunger to replenish itself.

But it was an 18 hour period of living with just an empty shell filled only with a sticky juice.  And a strange phenomenon started to occur.

It started when I closed my eyes to attempt rest.  Normally on first closing eyes I see temporary visions of the intense light sources I had been seeing.  Such as dark patches where lights had been on or more recently dark square patches where I had been looking at my phone.  These recede over a short time to be replaced by the swirling out of focus cells and miniature hairs naturally floating across the eyeball.  Distinct and highly contrasting, particularly evident when the room light source is lit or daylight as it was during this time.

However, now I was experiencing something new.  Fuzzy grey, indistinct large patches with highly jagged and darker detailed edges.

These sights, through closed eyes, were the first different thing but soon my mind’s thoughts, unusually quiet during my previous sickness, had now turned quite crazy.  Crazy in the sense of all over the place.

Song snippets, earworms, raced repeatedly around.  Thoughts jumped from one subject to another at an unbelievable and frightening speed, perhaps six to ten a second and when I did finally ‘sleep’ for a few minutes vivid dreams featuring regressive situations coupled with modern characters in my life filled my imagination.

I concluded I was suffering the alleged fate of small children with underdeveloped minds reacting to what I understand as an excess of Tartrazine in their diet.  In their case often accompanied by random, uncontrollable, disruptive actions.

Thankfully as I proceeded to rid myself of the sickness and tentatively returned to normal eating the effects wore off, the only permanent result being this scripted article penned in lieu of a good nights sleep.

I hope I haven’t laboured too much on the murky details in my story, having only included what I felt needed to get to the interesting aspects of violent sickness and my personal thoughts on ‘Tartrazine’.  I am aware that the subject matter has been intense and appreciate any reader who has come this far with me.

I include this as blogging stories are nearly always about the good and positive in life and the more realistic aspects are usually less well documented.

Maybe someone someday might be interested in how food sometimes affected us in the early twenty first century.

In stating this I assume it is the year 2743 or something.  By which time I shall have fully recovered.

A few final thoughts.

Firstly, I have no intention of naming or shaming the establishment which I believe caused my distress.  I have eaten there on perhaps dozens of occasions and believe there was no ill intent or lack of hygiene practice to cause this problem on this occasion.  It is part and parcel of regular eating out.  If they made a mistake on this day then this is unfortunate.

I do not plan to ostracise the establishment and whilst won’t immediately rush back will probably be tempted back eventually by the enticing offers which lead us there in the first place.

I do not seek compensation as I have lost nothing really except an unscheduled holiday date.

The cost to me was temporary the pain a fading memory save for this piece but we all got a blog from it, so some positive.

The anxiety and additional work imposed on Lynda was accepted unequivocally as one does for a lifetime partner.  And she did get a virtually uninterrupted day of Netflix out of it.

I have not studied the phenomenon of Tartrazine, have no proof of this chemical in my drink and do not in any way cite myself as an expert in this field with only general circumstantial and hearsay stories leading me to the conclusions above.  Further, I have no particular interest in pursuing knowledge in this field and do have access to Wikipedia should I change my thoughts on this.

I particularly have no interest in children with ‘behavioural difficulties’ and again my thoughts above are as far as I personally wish to explore such matters.

I know there are blogs out there that deal with much more severe trauma, sickness and even death.  Probably with greater humanity, thought and compassion but please don’t assume I need a list of such places to view.  I can use search myself if I wish to go down this route.

Any comments are welcome but if you wish to espouse views on diarrhoea, vomit or children please try to maintain an understanding that not everyone wants to know every tiny detail, particularly about the two most icky subjects.  Obviously one being children.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Blog section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 13 Feb 2019
Originally written but not published  on 15 Jan 2018

Remastered

Yes, I’m calling it.  I have now completed the remastering of my web site.  The foundations of version 5 are done.

It’s taken some major commitment from me over the past 15 months and I’ve managed it all in less time than a Brexit.

From now on it will be all new content never before seen on any previous versions of the site.

Yes, I will still need to spend a little time finally tweaking some pages and entries but perfection always needs a bit of polish so that’s just an ongoing chore.

So, tell your friends, inform your colleagues and update your associates vinceunlimited is in business.  The future can begin.

Author: Vince Poynter
From the Web section of the vinceunlimited.co.uk website dated 11 Dec 2018