11 Aug 2012, 3:05pm
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  • 25 years of bike lighting improvement, but why doesn’t Tesco allow kids to change their batteries now?

    Sometimes it’s the little things that alert us to the slow decline of the West towards a world of Idiocracy. DW needed some bike lights, and I’d bought some from Tesco a while ago so we got another set. Innovation is a marvellous thing in the world of bike lights.

    Nightriders from the 1980s. The good thing about them was the plastic brackets didn’t snap off like the cheap one do now. The bad thing was the contacts and switch were flakey and had a shocking power drain.

    25 years ago I used to have a set of Ever Ready Nightriders, great big things that took D cells. The route back from BBC Television Centre to my crummy shared house in Alperton was 5 miles, taking in the A40 westway and Hanger lane gyratory system. At least the 12r day 3/4 day week BBC AP shift pattern meant it wasn’t in the rush hour, though often returning in the night.

    Bike journey from BBC TV centre to Alperton. Not sure I’d go up the Westway nowadays, the traffic was manageable in the 1980s. Google maps offer a different bike route but I didn’t know about that.

    Everything was wrong about bike lights for this journey. The A40 westway is a major arterial road, and I used rechargeable D cells, which then as now were a little AA cell with a great big wrapper to make them D sized, so their capacity was low, just about enough for the 5 mile journey. Thatcher’s recession meant the roads were potholed so the lights took a lot of vibration.

    Something people underestimate these days is just how damned expensive batteries used to be. The capacity of rechargeable batteries was lower than use once types, but it would have been a serious cost. Rechargeables and chargers were also flakey in the 1980s as well as being dear – the chargers tened to knacker the batteries as there was no attempt to monitor state of charge. So not only have bike lights improved dramatically nowadays, but the batteries are more reliable and have more capacity – an AA battery was about 500mAh then, whereas now Maplin will sell you one of five times that capacity.

    Cateye’s revolutionary 1990s HL-500 light. Why did it take such a long time for humanity to realise that mounting the batteries vertically on a bike light was such a stupendously bad idea, given that’s where all the rattle and shake happens?

    The fantastic insight from the Cateye HL 500 was still over ten years in the future. Like all great innovations, it was both obvious in hindsight and deceptively simple. Basically never, ever, mount the batteries vertically in a bike light. All the road vibration is in this plane, and a bike is unsprung, so it shakes the bejesus out of any spring contacts, which get weak and ratty for the 0.5A that a incandescent bike light runs at. So you end up with an unreliable product. I was always thumping the crap out of Nightriders to get them to come back on again.

    Unlike those lights, needing charging at each end, the Tesco lights would have lasted me a week, all on 6 AAA cells rather than four Ds.

    Tesco’s Chinese manufacturer also achieved an insight that the designers of the expensive Bspoke light I had got earlier failed dismally on.

    Bspoke bike light – FAIL on excessive directionality

    That was so directional you couldn’t see it was on as a cyclist unless you waved your hand in front of it, and sideways visibility was dire too. So enter Tesco’s bike light set, along with minimalist instructions. Nothing wrong with the lights at all – the front light can be seen from above (by the cyclist) and the side (by the cars about to drive into your path) as well as the front. Great functional design, though typically ropey Chinese aesthetics, for an ancient culture with a long artistic history China doesn’t seem to export any of that heritage in its industrial design. The Bspoke was far better aesthetically, even if they didn’t screw it to a bike and try it at night where the design flaw would have been immediately apparent 😉

    Tesco bike light set and manual

    So why the portent of the decline of the West? Well, take a look at the few words on the instructions.

    Batteries should be replaced by an adult? WTF?

    What has happened to British children in the last 30 years? If you’re old enough to ride a bike on the public highway and so need lights, you’re old enough to change your own batteries. It isn’t as if this is a 45 volt valve B+ battery from yesteryear, we are talking AAA 1.5 volt cells. Fair enough to warn against leaving batteries in the way of babies and toddlers who are going to put them in their mouths, but you really should have progressed from the thumb-sucking stage by the time you take your bike on the road, or even (tsk tsk) on the pavement (sidewalk to any American readers wondering what exactly is wrong with riding a bike on the pavement 😉 ).

    There’s no earthly reason for the CYA statement prohibiting non-adult cyclists from changing their batteries and Tesco need a slap roung the chops with a wet fish to get them to wise up and stop infantilising our children by suggesting that swapping batteries is some risky exercise requiring a hazmat team or at least Mum or Dad.

    The evidence of the dead hand of Tesco Group Legal Services is also evident on the other side. Who the hell is going to call up the local council and say “I have some BIKE LIGHTS I need to dispose of in a SAFE way”. It ain’t gonna happen. Yes, if you still have some NiCad batteries you should really go out of your way to take them to a recycling facility because Cadmium is nasty shit that pollutes water as it leaches out of the landfill sites. But bike lights? Heck, my council tells us to put used paint tins in the household waste in the bin ratherthan taking it to the city dump. The dump used to have a special facility to take old paint tins, but now they outsourced it to Viridor actually dealing with the sort of household rubbish households generate would cost more so they don’t take some categories. Electrical waste probably falls into the ‘too hard category as well’.

    10 Jun 2012, 6:31pm
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  • Tesco – enthusiastically and tackily football mad

    Despite the recent rain and the prognosis for more today, we wandered out this fine summer’s day in search of the finest cod roe. Round these parts that’s to be had from Richardson’s Smokehouse. DW knew about this before Johnny-come-latelys like Nigel Slater, but truth be told he probably did more to put it on the map.

    Richardson's Smokehouse, Orford. I really must learn to avoid shooting into the sun 🙂

    This part of Suffolk seems to be a magnet for London types in search of fine living on the weekend, some of the weekenders from The Smoke in Southwold seem to know the area better than us 😉 There’s competition round these parts with Pinney’s which has a shop in a much more tourist-friendly place on the quay.

    Pinney's shop on Orford Quay

    One of the things that made today even better was that the madding crowds seemed absent, indeed the roads were quiet and the village was quiet. I’d noticed the dearth of people yesterday when cycling in Ipswich, and wondered if it had something to do with all those Ingerland flags about the place.

    Now the Ermine has detested sport, particularly team sports, ever since school. However, I do love it when sport is on the TV, because a) I hardly watch TV and b) it keeps everybody off the streets. So I’m all for Euro 2012, and indeed other sporting events, I hope people have a really great time while they’re leaving the real world to me!

    Tesco loves Football too – as a way of parting the Punters from their cash

    So one the way back we wander into Tesco. Mindful of the recently trumpeted researchthat supermarkets lead shoppers to buy 35% more with artful packaging (original report)I thought I’d take a look.

    One of the obvious conclusions I had on entering the store was that Tesco really, really, loves football.

    Tesco really loves football. Look at all the things Euro 2012 related you can buy

    Look at all that lovely Stuff you can buy! Is it a wonder nobody has any money left in the UK? Heck, you can buy your lardy kids an Official England Product of a £5 plastic football, in the vain hope that they lift their eyes from the screen they’re currently engrossed in long enough to consider a kickabout outside. I suppose it might happen, in the same way as It Could Be You in the Lottery but It Almost Definitely Won’t Be You. Presumably these footballs  no longer stitched by kids in Pakistan but perhaps stitched by kids somewhere we don’t know about yet. What is an Official England product anyway? Where’s the office that makes it Official? Is there only one of them? Can I get a peaked hat and a red rubber stamp and make merchandise official? Why does it make something sound more desirable to slap the meaningless adjective Official on it?

    Hey, you can buy Official crates of wife-beater, any 3 for £22 on the left. Don’t like Stella? Tesco can do you industrial quantities of Carling to swill with your mates on the Big Day. And good luck to you if you’re prepared to sling that sort of ropey liquor down the hatch. Presumably the spirit of Euro 2012 doesn’t go as far as getting some of the rather fine lagers that Europe has to offer us, or indeed the ales of England. No, ropey, gassy and made by InBev seems to be de rigeur, but heck, something has to be done to turn the fortunes of Tesco around!

    Mindful of the All Seeing Eye top dead centre I went to the other end and took a look back down, to secure the picture before some burly chaps with thick necks decide to take an interest in my research into Tesco’s sudden enthusiasm for the footy.

    97p for a Euro cushion. Classy

    You can get a Euro 2012 mug or cushion for 97p. I can’t quite work out what they were selling us in the foreground for £2, but they were obviously expecting to sell an awful lot of it.

    Then I had a disturbing epiphany. All of this ephemeral crap was an insult to the resources of the world, shite created explicitly to become persistent landfill for hundreds of years to come. Tesco don’t give a tinker’s toss about football, but they see us as mugs to sell a transient feelgood factor and a few gallons of cheap and nasty metallic tasting lager.

    So I passed on the opportunity to destroy a little bit more of the world’s resources to make Mr Tesco richer. Each to their own, clearly somewhere in Ipswich there’s a desperate need for plastic footballs and limp silvery doo-hickeys at £2 a pop. though if you’re really going to drink £22 worth of wife-beater I do suggest you might want to have a word with your insides first to gauge their take on it all 😉

    Oh and in 3012 the equivalent of Time Team will be excavating the local rubbish tip. Some hypervision presenter will be standing beside a pile of this garbage and wondering to their audience why the good people of Ipswich had such execrable taste in the old days.

    Tesco ain’t all bad. They do some things well

    We managed to escape the blandishments of the football section, oddly enough, to get what we came for.  Anything as big as Tesco can’t be all bad, and they are one bulwark against the creeping malaise of Scaredypants that pervades life more and more. Tesco happens to be one of the few places in the area that sells Camembert from unpasteurised milk.

    A Tesco Camembert. You owe it to yorself to make sure it's AOC

    Camembert is meant to be made from unpasteurised milk. The trouble with that is that industrialised producers are shit-scared (literally 🙂 ) of E coli propagating through their processes, so they’d like to use pasteurised milk, and therefore can’t label their product AOC (Appellation Origine Controllee). Rather than accepting the fact that they are making a substandard product cheaply and taking the hit in the marketplace of being seen as an also-ran cheese, they lobbied to change the AOC definition. Which is a bit like me saying I can’t hit the goal at Euro 2012, could they please change the rules of football to make the goal the whole width of the field, please? It all sounds tremendously French, but it looks like the bureaucrats held firm and at least the Isigny co-operative wound their necks in, and continued to use unpasteurised milk.

    The trouble is that when people of a nervous disposition read the label.

    Warning - eat this and you might DIE

    They then go Waaaaahh, I might DIE. Nooooooo. It might be BAD for CHILDREN. Eeeeoooowwww. Well, yes, if you go around this old world being frightened of anything with any taste to it and avoid the great outdoors then you might compromise your resistance to infection. That sort of thing still didn’t help Howard Hughes.

    As MMM opined recently, safety is an expensive illusion – and it buggers your life up. Use your head. People have been eating this stuff for years. Sadly the increasingly frightened people will start shunning any out-of the ordinary experiences because ‘better to be safe then sorry’ and ‘think of the children’. There are lots of things that could go wrong. For a start, what idiotic jerk thought up of the idea of roads? People driving FAST in OPPOSITE DIRECTIONS with no SAFETY BARRIER? Where are the little yellow stickers there? Who let that happen round here, sack the buggers.

    Anyway, we got out of Tesco with our Camembert cheese, and without any disposable Euro2012 paraphernalia despite Tesco’s best efforts to persuade us otherwise. And so far, fingers crossed, I’ve managed to survive the hazards of the cheese without noticing the awesome dangers I’ve dodged, yet again.

    9 Aug 2011, 5:02pm
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  • A long, hot summer of rage and bad temper

    Along with the mayhem in the markets there’s aggro on the streets of London. It’s apparent that there is a lot of weak parenting about in the UK.

    We’ve seen rioting in the UK before, Brixton in the 1980s and the like. Though the methods were repugnant, there were real issues then. Whereas now, the chavs are rioting for iPhones and branded trainers, FFS. I mean, what the hell are they going to tell their grandchildren in 20 years? “Well, son, yes, I remember the summer of rage in 2011. We were so pissed off and hard we stormed the Sony Warehouse for some TVs and then looted the iStore to big up the ‘hood with some badass flat screen TVs and gadget bling“?

    This old lady puts it pretty well, though if you’re easily offended by bad language it’s probably not for you. She gives it straight, and curiously enough it seemed to work, at least for a few seconds.

    On to more cheerful subjects, well, there’s been a lot of bad temper in the markets of late, with the FTSE diving to 4800 at one point. Shorting my company Sharesave shares has worked well for me. Yesterday I think I had the pleasure of seeing a loss on every single stock in my ISA apart from Merchant’s Trust who are still a comfortable way over par. The ISA as a whole is a shade under 5% down. So I added Tesco, apparently for less than Warren Buffett paid for it. If 3.61 is good enough for him it’s good enough for me, and at that price they almost scrape my minimum dividend target fo 4%.

    I added another couple of shares in areas I didn’t have before, indeed this crash has done my diversification no end of good. It’s hard not to succumb to the temptation to add to some of what I have already, which have so far paid out reliably. I am seriously thinking of moving my cash ISA into my S&S ISA to get some more firepower in this hot summer. Buying income has got a lot cheaper all of a sudden.

    Now of course this crash isn’t without reason, there’s an awful lot twisted badly out of shape with Western economies, the prospects of slow or no growth, the horrendous sovereign debt, the appalling mess that is the Euro, where they must either go forward in the United States of Europe or back into individual currency blocs.  There’s a hell of a lot to be scared of.

    And for all the resurgence of today, I figure this bear market has still got a fair way to go down yet. Which is jsut as well, because I have some way to go. I aim to be fully invested into my ISA by the end of October, and the bears could give me the chance to save up enough to be able to do that by then 😉

    I’m all for a long hot summer of rage in the stock markets. In real life, however, I think we could do without any more. Hopefully the chavs have got their iPhones and running shoes and the Met will reclaim the streets.

     

     
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