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You might notice the colour change...

For a decade, my b.log has had an Acorn-green inspired theme.

As of the night of the 31st of January, it now carries an EU theme.

It was hastily thrown together, literally using heavy-handed flood-fill to change the green icons and imagery to blue/yellow. If I can remember where I put the original template files, I'll do it properly. I still have to change the image watermarks to show the correct domain. ☺

The dark blue and the not-quite-yellow theming are the actual colours of the EU flag (Dark Powder Blue, &003399; and Tangerine Yellow, &FFCC00), with the lighter versions being derived and lightened because, well, black on dark blue just wouldn't work.

I am now no longer a European politically but I am a European emotionally, spiritually, and by residence. Brexit cannot take that away from me.
Oh, and notice the Oxford comma above. <sticks tongue out>



Today, 2020/02/02 (or 20200202 which reads the same from either direction) the sun rises at 8h31 CET and sets at 18h05 CET. That's 9h34m34s of sun (well, in theory, it is cloudy...). Far better than my birthday which offered 8h25m8s with a sunrise at 8h47 and sunset at 17h13. We have pretty much 70 minutes extra already.
That said, it's weird that there's only 16 minutes extra in the morning and 52 in the evening. How does that work? Why doesn't the day lengthen equally in the morning and evening?

Oh, and for Europeans and Americans... 02/02/2020 (02022020), it's properly palindromic. ☺


Sabrina the "witch"

I had picked up opening the advent calendars on the 16th of January (because illness etc pretty much stopped it on the 16th of December). I wasn't sure what I was counting down to (so long as it isn't Brexit, I'm not fussed).
David Pilling commented on one of the videos that the final day (24th) is the Chinese New Year. Not that many Chinese people had a jovial spirit given what's going on right now.

It's also the day that Netflix released the third series of the Chilling Adventures of Sabrina. If you haven't heard of this before, try to imagine Sabrina The Teenage Witch played as a drama (not a comedy) and aimed at a (much) more mature audience. It's like the Sabrina I've waited half a lifetime for.

Plus, she wears a very prominent Alice band. Like, all the time. Even in bed! I would imagine Sabrina is now probably the second most iconic character to wear one, after Alice herself. (Alice? Who the ---- is Alice?)

If I could throw one criticism at the series, it's how painfully hard they go to subvert Catholic iconography. We have the "anti-pope", "unholy rites", and a character takes it up to eleven by exclaiming "unholy shit!".

Funny thing is, I've known various girls who thought they were witches, and might well have been, though I'm not convinced that the right blend of herbs and candle colours is any different to lighting a candle in a church. They certainly weren't "Willow". Probably just as well or I'd be a snail about to be plucked off the wall by a large crow...

Anyway, one thing they all had in common was that they'd have been amused if they were told to "go to hell". They'd have informed you that hell is a Christian construct, and that it's not possible to "go" to a place that they simply don't believe exists.

So maybe the series ought to be called "Chilling Adventures of Satanic Sabrina"?


Hmm, Satanic Sabrina... sounds like an operatic symphonic goth metal group...


Quality of life at work

We had a questionnaire at work, via Google Forms. It asked if we liked our jobs, if we thought the management were good (very ambiguous!), what did we like/dislike.

One of the questions was "If you were the boss, what would you do in the next six months?".

I was sorely tempted to reply "Take all the money and book a one-way flight to the Seychelles". Then I remembered that Frenchies have difficulty with British sarcasm, so many of them take things extremely literally.

But, for God's sake, what a dumb question. The sorts of things that the bosses have to worry about are way beyond what I am paid to even think about. I would imagine that those who bothered to reply to this question would pick up on the general theme of the questionnaire and reply something like "make further improvements to staff happiness" or the like.

They're all wrong.

You see, there have been times when I wished that my French was good enough to remind certain people (who don't appear to work for the company any more) who have a stick shoved up their asses that their high falutin' position in human resources, quality control, procurement, accounting, blah blah blah would not exist if not for us péons. You see, everybody is a part of the company. We might be generic nobodies paid basically minimum wage but without us there would be no jobs for the pencil pushers.
In a similar line of thought, when it comes to management given a choice of making the staff happy or making the customers/clients happy, it is the customers. Always and without exception.
Because without those contracts and those orders, none of us would have employment.

As you can understand now, the concerns of the bosses are very different to the concerns of us little people, so it's not a question that one can hope to be able to reasonably provide a reply to.


Production differences

Just before Christmas, news broke on the rubbish red top newspapers that somebody bought a salad at Waitrose and underneath the Waitrose sticker was one for Aldi (I think it was Aldi).
Accordingly all the drooling Brexit-voting morons that read those sorts of papers went into overdrive slagging Waitrose and vowing to never shop there again (not that I can imagine they did so in the first place, they'd be flummoxed by quinoa and goji berries).

Got news to you. We do that too.

Got reality for you. IT'S NOT THE SAME THING!


Let's just imagine that we're making a Jammie Dodger. We are making three different versions. We're making a cheap version for certain supermarkets with four-letter names. We're making a premium version for people who expect a a quality product, and we're making a generic version for everybody else.

Behold the sorts of differences that you can expect to see:

Cheap version Normal version Premium version
The pastry
Vegetable oil (palm oil?) Butter Accredited butter
Corn syrup Sugar (from sugar beet) Cane sugar
(nothing added) Vanillin (note: is not vanilla!) Vanilla powder
The jam
Glucose syrup Sugar and animal-based gelling agent Sugar and apple pectin
Raspberry flavouring Raspberry essence Puréed raspberries
Crushed bug red colourant (E120) Crushed bug red colourant (E120) (not necessary)

Or as a simple résumé - the cheap product is basically the worst stuff you can manage to make a product out of. Oil, corn syrup, and flour to make a rubbish biscuit. And the jam dot? Glucose syrup and flavouring to make a "jam" that has never seen a raspberry in it's life. The only previously-living thing in that jam is the bugs that were crushed up to make the red dye. And I'm not joking - look up additive "E120". But, then, you might prefer the crushed bugs because the common synthetic version (E124) is a distillate of coal tar sludge carrying the formula Trisodium (8Z)-7-oxo-8-[(4-sulfonatonaphthalen-1-yl)hydrazinylidene]napthalene-1,3-disulfonate. Along with the related E122 and E129, a person ought to live by a very simple rule - don't eat anything that sounds like a component of rocket fuel.

The premium version? That'll be butter and cane sugar for a much superior biscuit, and proper vanilla powder to add some extra pizzazz. The jam? Proper jam made from sugar, apple pectin, and actual real raspberries. No need to stick in weird colourings to gloss over the fakeness, because it's real and doesn't need to try too hard to look like what people think raspberries look like (as opposed to what they actually look like. You'll often find proper raspberry jam is nowhere near as cartoony-vivid as fake jam, because real raspberries just aren't that colour!

So, yes, this company screwed up by having both labels on the product, however usually one doesn't just dump the same product into a container with the different label and ship it out to cost twice the price. Usually there are actual differences.

Yes, even in a salad - one could imagine there will be differences in how the vegetables are grown, prepared, and processed. Expect your cheap salad to contain enough weedkiller residue to ensure your body will receive a plentiful dose. Note also that some parts may be grown on faraway countries where the likes of glyphosate may be used with abandon and, well, let's just say that the illegal immigrant slave labour hygiene isn't going to be the best. Why is this an issue? Well, how does one sterilise a leaf of lettuce? You can't exactly drop it into boiling water...


Moving violations

Because French privacy laws trump "you dumb asshole", I have made blatant modifications to blank out potentially identifying aspects that might be within these photos.

On the way to work, it's a 30kph zone with a little mini roundabout. I was doing about 32 (according to my speedometer). This white van went tearing by, he must have been doing an easy sixty.

And since we know he's a bit of a dick, it should come as no surprise that he completely ignores the round dot painted on the road. Either that or he thought he'd do it dans le sens anglais...

Of course, about a hundred metres down the road he slammed on the brakes and turned into the first business there, to deliver something.

On the way home. Note where this twat is, note where the centre line is, note how far over I am. Jeez...

In Châteaubriant a few Saturdays ago, another driver taking the roundabout in the English sense:

And when I get to the roundabout, somebody who thinks that "priorité à droite" trumps the fact that I'm already on the roundabout. I've left his face (not that you can make out who it is) just so you can see he's looking right at me as he's driving forwards. That wasn't necessary, I know you're all rubbish drivers.

I swear to god, if I had a euro for every time somebody goes around me on a solid white line, I could retire.

And the was in the space of one single minute. There are plenty of others that I couldn't be bothered to take screenshots of.

Except this one. Note the oncoming van. Note the oncoming van flashing its lights. Note the Rick that slowed down so this numpty could get in before being involved in a colision.

I could go on. But life is too short to pop the µSD card from the dashcam into the phone to take snapshots of stupidity. I'll update you if anything especially spectacular happens. Otherwise, just assume some or all of the above represents pretty much every time I drive anywhere.
Oh, okay, one more...

The thing that annoys me the most about this is that these people have licences. They're supposed to know how to drive and what the various signs and markings mean. <sigh>


Vide grenier

Went to my first vide grenier of the year. My bull-filter is more broad-spectrum than mom's was. She'd spend ages looking at everything. I tend to evaluate the vendor first, do they look like they'd be expensive? Do they look like the sort of person that would ask more to somebody with a foreign accent? Yes, it does happen.
I walked around in a little over half an hour and found a replacement video lead for my Playstation 2 and a Playmobil skater. Total outlay - four euros.
I had a little slip from McDo that if I got a Maxi Best Of Big Mac (that means the go-large size) at the drive-through, then I could get a second one free.
So I did.
And ate them both. 🐖🐖🐖


Of course, we'll quietly gloss over the part where I nearly wet myself on the way home because <cough> a litre of Fanta </cough> has.....side effects.


Actually, the return home was great. Blazing sunshine, warm in the car (the engine had warmed up so the heater was blasting it out), the car itself had warmed up so wasn't making so many weird noises, and there was pretty much nobody on the road at half one on a Sunday afternoon, so it was actually an enjoyable journey back home.


This week, a different route

This week, I had Friday off. Not to drown my sorrows over Brexit, but some big inventory thing. It happens once a year. Anyway, I went into Big Town on Friday and did all my shopping and stuff then. I got myself a salad and a sandwich because I didn't feel like going to McDonald's.
It seems pretty much every time I go there, I come out feeling unwell. I suppose that is to be expected given that a lot of the clientèle are, shall we say, the lower end of the class scale that never got the memo about covering their mouths when coughing.
Couple that with noticing (as I was waiting for a tea) that one of the McEmployees was "cleaning" the used trays by haphazardly wiping them with a dirty rag. But she was paying more attention to the person she was chatting to and doing a really poor job of it. Aren't those trays supposed to be washed in some sort of dishwasher gizmo in between serving people? To just wipe them all off with the same damp rag is, frankly, disgusting.
In a sense, it's a shame McDonald's is so secretive with their special McManual. Because I'd rather enjoy reading it to point out to such lazy people what they're doing wrong. Or... maybe that's why the McManual is not publicly available?
Either way, I work in food production and hygiene is really something that needs to be taken seriously.

Anyway, I am getting over a second cold that went into my lungs (them being fragile from the bronchitis during The Virus), so I didn't plan on getting anything else. I'd like to try to build up my immune system for when the Chinese Chicken-Duck-Snake-Bat-Donkey Flu does the rounds, as it surely shall. I'm not overly worried. The last report I read said that it's already killed either 200 or 280 people; to put that into context, the seasonal flu in France last year killed 9,500. And while the reports scream about the number of deaths, they don't mention if it's the young, the old, and the sick that got taken out. If so, this is pretty much to be expected.

So, I went into Big Town on Friday. But was not sure what to do on Saturday. So I got into my Playmobil car and went in a different direction. To Craon. A big Noz (where I got a few DVDs) and a different supermarket. I liked the route as I took country roads and there was practically nobody on the road. Felicity didn't like it so much as that part of La Mayenne is pretty hilly. Going down hills is fine. Going up them? Not so much.



If you like looking up at the night sky, you might be worried about Elon Musk's project to cover the planet with loads of little satellites.
Well, I caught my first sighting of them on a couple of Sunday's ago, 2020/01/19 at 19h18. There are currently 120 of them in orbit, and they make a slow moving line of bright dots (about as bright as Rigel). They were moving from WSW to ENE.

Here's a photo from behind the house looking WSW. The camera is my Samsung S9 with an eight second exposure and two second anti-shake delay:

I moved the camera to the front of the house, to capture Venus (the bright dot on the left):

Then I pointed the camera up, but the resultant picture was rubbish. Shame.

It might not seem like a big deal, until you learn that the actual proposal is to put up a mesh of 12,000 of them (with a far-future idea of having some 30,000 of them). To put that into context, there are about 1,200 satellites (and bits of space junk large enough to see as if it were a satellite) in orbit right now. So this proposal will not only muck up the enjoyment of the night sky, it'll also blanket the planet in orbiting things an order of magnitude more than are currently up there.

Why, for the love of god, couldn't they have painted these things black so they don't reflect light? So they aren't so obviously visible from the ground?

I mean, I've seen satellites before. If you're in the right place and the sun is just right, you can see a little dot zipping by faster than an aircraft could manage. There's actually quite a lot of stuff up there, but much of it isn't quite so obvious. One day I sat outside with my phone and an app to show satellites. Looking up... uh... no. Didn't manage to see a damned thing. I think the sun and satellite have to be in the right positions relative to each other to make the satellite visible.

Here's a screenshot from the app. And that row passing over the southern United Kingdom? Yup, that's Starlink... which would later be reported in the rubbish red tops as people fearing an alien invasion.

Here's a 3D visualisation of all of them currently up there. Because the globe seems to include clouds and a lot of white, I can't really locate, suffice to say that I think we're over the Pacific looking towards the west coast of the United States.



Well, my free month has come to an end. Netflix took €7,99 from my account. I have been watching it some evenings, and it looks like they are offering something akin to 720p(ish)? I can't take screenshots of Netflix when playing videos to examine what sort of resolution it actually is, however it appears thus far to be better than I was expecting given that it is supposed to be "SD".
Or maybe Netflix's "basic" restriction is not so much the quality (SD is silly in 2020!) but that you can only watch it on one device at a time. I'm cool with that, there's only the one of me.

I watched Crazyhead which is delightfully weird in a British way. It's also very short (six episodes) in a British way. But it told its story well and offered a number of interesting characters.

I'm currently marathoning my way through Ragnarok (I think that's how it is spelt?). The story is "okay" even though it seems to be a bit predictable. The characters are interesting (often verging into outright camp), but most of all - damn - that scenery. And, yeah, I don't think one can mention Ragnarok (a modern day Thor-origin story) without mentioning that the equally modern wokeness of climatic destruction is one of the major themes of the show.
While "Edda" is a fictional town, one of the characters was shown using something that was supposed to be Google Maps. The name of the river and general geography was visible, so it wasn't hard to use the real Google Maps to track down a town in southern Norway called "Odda" (yeah, they only changed one letter to make it fictional!). So a place to look around on StreetView...cute sign.

I may watch Omniscient next. There's a fair number of things on "My List" now. It's a shame you can't categorise things in your list (like "TV series", "Movies", and "Watched This").

Actually, thinking about it, what would possibly be a more useful idea is to be able to flag movies as "Watched this" (just like you can flag them as liked/disliked). This could then appear with a little icon on it so that you can recognise that it's something you've already seen; plus it will no longer appear as a suggestion but instead be taken into consideration when making future suggestions. Because there are movies (Last Train from Busan, Bleach, most of the Ghibli films, Total Recall, etc...).

Suffice to say, so far the only problem I have encountered with Netflix is that I'm spending plenty of time on the video equivalent of a Wiki Walk. There's so many things that look interesting, and not enough time in the day.

The OA. I dunno, I made it halfway through the first episode but... just wasn't overly taken.
I am not in the mood for Sabrina's third season right now. But when I am, I would imagine I'll probably marathon it.
I'm enjoying Black (Korean), but watch it erratically. It's better in small doses.
I'm not sure about Between. I've watched the first episode, and also the first of Under The Dome and I can see quite a number of similarities; though it's worth noting that Under The Dome has vanished from Netflix (or was it on Prime Video? it's not there either).
No big. It was only "okay". Which is about what I think of Between. Add to that The 100.

One that I finished and will miss is Daybreak. I guess Ferris Bueller meets Mad Max in a zombie apocalypse with some quirky-as-hell storytelling ('80s sitcom!) is probably an acquired taste, but it was one that I liked. The protagonist was annoying, but the Crumble/Angelica combo was good, and that were setting up Sam(aira) to be the standard evil Brit, only a female version.
It's a shame Netflix cancelled it. On my birthday no less. But, then, it seems Netflix is starting to get a reputation for cancelling things. Maybe they live next door to Google and are picking up bad habits?

Speaking of bad, Prime Video (as with Netflix) will recognise a lot more movies than they actually have and try to make suggestions based upon what you were looking for. So, a movie like Ferris Bueller's Day Off?
Yuh-hu. Totally.



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Rick, 2nd February 2020, 17:03
Kevin, on the ROOL forum, points out: 
It is also the 33rd day of the year and their are 333 days left. 
Kind of makes you think something is supposed to happen, right? ;-)
Rick, 2nd February 2020, 17:08
"And the was in the space of one single minute." 
No it wasn't, I put a different photo in there in the end, as the replacement was better and forgot to change the text. 
But, yeah... It happens A LOT.
Zerosquare, 2nd February 2020, 19:32
"Why, for the love of god, couldn't they have painted these things black so they don't reflect light?" 
Thermal management, most likely.
Jeff Doggett, 2nd February 2020, 21:28
I think it was Richard Branson that said that it's most important to keep the staff happy, bacause they will in turn keep the customers happy.
Gavin Wraith, 3rd February 2020, 13:08
My first sojourn in France was in 1955, at Chatou just north of Paris, with a family that used to live close by us in Leicestershire when I was little. The father explained about the different traffic regulations and priority from the right. I asked about roundabouts: who has priority? "That", he explained, "is decided by the judge, after the accident."
David Pilling, 4th February 2020, 13:59
With driving one wonders how people learn tricks like going the wrong way around roundabouts. My teacher said "do as you're told until you pass, then you can make up your own stuff". So taught to grip the steering wheel at 10 to 2, watch folk driving on the TV, they do anything but - one hand at 6 o'clock. 
Beyond the test there's a whole world of practical driving or reality driving - people know they can gain position by using the right hand lane at roundabouts to overtake. 
It is all about position - not being faster - going at anything under the speed limit will invite aggression from those behind. 
If I have a reason for going slow, like being lost, I try to stop and let people pass. Often this is appreciated, sometimes they stop behind me. Those being the ones that are happy to tailgate people but scared of overtaking on a clear road. 
The irritating ones in front go slowly when there is no room to overtake but then speed up a bit on the overtaking places - like trying to get past Nigel Mansel at Lotus. 
If I was the very big boss I would ask people what was wrong. In my experience the people at the "coalface" know what is wrong. Not expecting them to come up with strategic decisions, but they might know what is upsetting the customers, or what people ask for which the company does not supply "You're the 20th person today I've told there's no demand for that", or really happened "we only get one box of those a day because there's no demand - that's why we're always sold out". 
Rob, 6th February 2020, 14:22
We had a questionnaire come though last year from the local housing co-operative. One of the questions was something like "Do you think we are better?" Better than what? The council? Yourselves last year? Another housing group? Then they gloated that most people had ticked yes... 
Salads. My better half worked, in her youth, for a supplier of pre-packed salads to supermarkets. She is adamant that, although they had a range of products, based on different combinations of leaves, the exact same thing would be shipped off to different customers. Marks & Spencer had their own particular packaging, but everyone else just got a different label, but it was the same things inside..
VinceH, 7th February 2020, 11:41
I've had a dashcam for a while now. Whenever I catch something stupid - provided I remember, which depends how long between the event and the opportunity[1] - I copy the video off onto my NAS. 
That way, if and when time permits, I can edit them down to only the 'good' bits, compile them together, and throw them on YouTube. In all probability, though, time will NOT permit - so perhaps I'll follow your lead and just do screen grabs on a blog page. :) 
[1] Which is why (just checked) there are only 62 files. I've definitely seen a lot more things worth keeping than that. (Also, my current cam has a habit of seemingly randomly locking files, which until I look at the card and deal with them, reduces the amount of space available for new footage).
VinceH, 7th February 2020, 11:45
"So, yes, this company screwed up by having both labels on the product, however usually one doesn't just dump the same product into a container with the different label and ship it out to cost twice the price. Usually there are actual differences." 
In the late 1980s I was involved in an audit at a national bakery, who provided product for a number of different brands. They explained to us that in many cases there were differences - but in some cases it really was just different packaging for exactly the same thing. 
Things might be different now. 

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