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Winter is coming

It had been unseasonably warm. Like, since March. But last night the switch was flipped, the meter ran out, and other lame euphemisms, for this morning it was below zero for the first time in a long time and I was greeted with this.


And this.


The only thing that makes this not a frigid winter scene is that the leaves haven't yet fallen from the trees. Well, not all of them.


Christmas cards

I did my Christmas cards last night. To get into the ambience, I lit the candlabra and a scented candle and did it "ye olde style". Burned away a good two inches of the candles, so I'd better line up some replacements. However, I took my time and enjoyed the ambience.

Christmas cards by candlelight
Christmas cards by candlelight.

Yes, there was tea. There's always tea.

The candlabra itself was surprisingly bright once it had 'warmed up' (and was therefore efficiently burning the wax).

Let there be light
Let there be light.

One of these days I'm going to buy myself a little indoor ladder and take those herbs down. I think mom hung them back around 2002 and... well... it's been a decade. Can we just consider them "expired" now?

Since the idea of licking envelopes is icky, I soaked a piece of paper towel in water and wiped that along the seal-strip to wet it.
Then, I was planning to go to the nearby post orifice today but, alas, it is exceptionally closed (or something). So I cracked open my passport where I keep a few stamps spare and, as luck would have it, I had enough international stamps for all of these.

There are two or three people living in France who I'd like to send a card to, but I don't know your postal address, so if that's you... email me!

Oh, and something that really squicks me out is people who lick their fingers before reaching for something in paper. Ewwwww! Yuck! I don't know why, but I find it stomach churning. And, is it really necessary? I don't think my fingers are any different to anybody elses, it's not like I'm fitted with suckers or slime glands, yet I've never ever felt the need to slobber on bits of paper. Especially bits of paper that will be handed to other people, like, say, me.

Right... just handed them over to the postman... after a brief bit of running up the road yelling "Stop!". It was the young man that drives like a boy racer, so when most other people get here at about half twelve, he's here just before eleven!


Torygraph purchase

Personally, I don't think something like The Telegraph should be flogged off to a Sheikh. Not because I have anything against Sheikhs, muslims, or whatever. But simply because I think that it would be best if a country's media was owned and maintained by citizens of that country, for foreign influence causes a lot of damage. Yes, Murdoch, I'm looking directly at you.
And, also, one can possibly understand a foreigner wanting to own a football team. Is Sheikh Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan owning Manchester City really any different to Ryan Reynolds owning Wrexham?
But newspapers and other media? That carries influence. Even subtle things can have big effects, though one can't exactly say that the Telegraph was ever particularly subtle. They just didn't try as hard as The Daily Mail to manufacture fake outrage, but the stories weren't so different.

Which is why it tickled me when Lucy Frazer, the culture secretary, stepped in to say that the investment fund interested in actually doing the purchase, Redbird IMI, had "links to media organistations that have been critiqued for partisan views".

You don't think there's a reason why people to the left of right often refer to The Telegraph as "The Torygraph"? It's very clearly conservative right wing to the point of being a mouthpiece for the Tories, counting Alexander Boris de Pfeffel Johnson as a former columnist and being fined £30,000 in 2015 for sending an unsolicited email to hundreds of thousands of subscribers urging them to vote Conservative, not to mention publishing Covid and climate change misinformation (that isn't that far from general Tory thinking).

As such, while I would agree that it would be best if a British national newspaper was owned by British people (even if they're tax dodging billionaires), I think to cite the potential for a lack of impartiality is a ridiculous excuse. I'm not aware of any mainstream British newspaper that hasn't nailed it's political affilation to their front pages. From the "tofu-eating Guardian-reading wokerati" to, well, "The Daily Mail".


A foreigner's guide to mainstream British newspapers

There are various British newspapers, but we'll concentrate on the major ones, listed in descending order of estimated readership.

  • The Sun (readership ~1.8M)
    The Sun is populist, so it flips between centre-left and centre-right depending on current thinking, which means it has endorsed every election winner in the past four decades, and is perhaps the most reliable paper to look at to understand mainstrain public opinion. Tends to capitalise emotive words in headlines, and for a long time... Page Three Girls.
    Top three articles today: EXCLUSIVE: ROYAL RACE ROW; UNDER THREAT Oscar Pistorius 'facing revenge attacks despite plan to become preacher; HOSTILE HANDOVER Moment Hamas thugs hand over terrified hostages after 48-DAY kidnap hell.
    (and, as you'll see, that Meghan story isn't "exclusive")
  • The Daily Mail (the "Daily Fail", "Daily Hiel", etc; readership ~1.6M)
    Right wing tabloid that specialises in sensationalist headlines designed to stir up outrage amongst its readership, who tend to think of themselves as middle class and sensible (but it's more "Little Englanders that can read the big words"). With a massive axe to grind regarding Meghan, and complete inability to tell the difference between "idiotic things so-called celebrities have done" versus actual news. Utterly obsessed with Meghan, house prices, Meghan, immigration, Meghan, and the myriadic things that might cause cancer. Oh, and Meghan.
    Top three articles today: Pistorius' 'Evil Secret'; Silence of the Royal sisters-in-law: Kate and Meghan 'have not spoken in four years'; Neighbours in £325K seafront homes at war over HUGE landslide that destroyed their gardens.
    Yes, yet another in a painfully long list of Meghan articles; and news about Israel/Hamas (rather a thing right now, wouldn't you agree?) is 43 articles down the page after such vitally important stories as "UK Chocolate Bars Ranked" and "Music fans vote on best guitar riff of all time". No, I'm not in the Showbiz section of the mobile site, this is the News part!
  • The Mirror (readership ~800K)
    Sort of like a left wing version of The Express. It has a rather impressive list of controversies and front-page apologies. Was edited by Piers Morgan for nine years, which I think says all that needs said.
    Top three articles today: MIRROR IN CALAIS: 'We let in 750,000 migrants but won't take boy, 6, needing urgent medical help - it MUST change'; BREAKING: Dublin stabbings suspect who 'attacked schoolkids' in court on knife charge 5 months ago; Meghan named two members of the Royal Family who were 'racist about Archie'.
  • The Telegraph (the "Torygraph"; readership ~500K)
    Basically the newspaper that the Tory MPs read. It's everything The Guardian isn't, which means right wing to the point of staunch undying support for the Conservatives.
    Top three articles today: Comic Relief in crisis as chairman quits over Gaza ceasefire call; Huw Edwards expected to leave BBC after being given inquiry findings; Farmer jailed for clearing Herefordshire river insists 'I didn't do anything wrong'.
  • The Express (readship ~400K)
    This is like the Daily Mail but aimed at more working class people, but tends to be somewhat bereft of anything that resembles reality. Their weather predictions are also hilariously bonkers to the point of surely being influenced by Roland Emmerich? Famously Eurosceptic, they regularly predict the demise of the EU and/or the Euro, and will take any concession given as a major win for Blighty. Together with their fervently Eurosceptic readership, they'll rail against anything with "Euro" in the name. European Court? Eurovision? KILL IT WITH FIRE!
    Top three articles today: Russia loses over 1,000 soldiers and 30 tanks in single day as force 'totally depleted'; Meghan Markle 'accused two people of discussing baby's skin colour' bombshell book claims; Financial contagion warning as HSBC is told to brace for 'catastrophic' £6.3billion hit.
    A little ways down the page: New weather map shows 'cyclone of snow' swirling round UK and as far south as London.
  • The Times (readership ~400K)
    Centre-right and one of the oldest newspapers in Britain. The general feeling is that it used to be reliable and politically objective, but in the early 80s was bought by the Murdoch empire and has been moving to the right ever since. Notably uses a paywall to restrict access to the full content of articles.
    Top three articles today: At last, freedom for some after 48 days held hostage; 'I'm not going to talk tough on immigration, I am going to be tough'; Infighting 'wipes out PMs gains' in under 24 hours.
  • The Guardian (the "Grauniad"; readership ~200K)
    Clearly left wing and aimed at liberal middle-class families, who may or may not enjoy tofu. Amusingly referenced by Suella Braverman as it stands for all that she isn't. Like humanity and giving a shit.
    Top three articles today: Israel-Hamas war: more hostages expected to be released as ceasefire continues; Italy: Anger across country as killing of student highlights femicide rate; Brexit: Fivefold rise in number of EU citizens refused entry to UK since vote.
    Notably does not mention "Meghan" once in its entire news page, because despite the low readership, they're more interested in what is actual news.
  • The New European (readership ~20K)
    Popped up as a weekly newspaper in June 2016 (hmmm, wonder why?) it is aimed firmly at Remainers with plenty of stories relating to the issue of Brexit. I think it stands testament to the massive balls-up that was Brexit that this, predominately single issue publication, is still around seven years later. That's why I'm throwing it in at the bottom of this list.
    Top three articles this week: Could an independent Scotland make it inside the EU?; Does Geert Wilders's election mean Nexit is on the horizon?; One year on, Kherson is still bombarded by Russian forces and misses its younger residents.


To summarise, in 1986 an episode of Yes, Prime Minister described the papers as follows:

Don't tell me about the press. I know exactly who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by people who think they run the country; The Guardian is read by people who think they ought to run the country; The Times is read by the people who actually do run the country; the Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country; the Financial Times is read by people who own the country; the Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by another country, and the Daily Telegraph is read by people who think it is.
Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
Sun readers don't care who runs the country, as long as she's got big tits.


Me? I have both The Guardian and the Daily Mail bookmarked. The Guardian for actual news, and the Fail to see what 'the other side' are whinging about (once you've mentally erased all the hate thrown at Meghan for daring to be a non-white American that married a Prince).


Redmi Note 12 Pro low light photos

I took a photo of the front last night as it was quite a bright moony night.

Moonlight photo
Moonlight photo.

That was taken with my Mi 10T using the automatic "Photo" mode and the built-in AI doodah to optimise the camera settings for the conditions.
Then I remembered that I had my newer phone, the Redmi Note 12 Pro in my pocket, so I whipped it out and took the same picture with the same (automatic) settings.

Moonlight photo
A better moonlight photo.

This has larger (1µm?) pixels for enhanced low light behaviour, and as you'll see this has actually made quite a difference. This is not long exposure, nor is it on a tripod, and it is purely lit by moonlight. Just tap the VolDown button twice to wake up the camera, point, and prod the icon to take a photo.

Walking around out front triggered the security camera.


This, the light from the camera, showed up quite a difference in the capabilities of the two cameras.
Here is the 64mpx Mi 10T.

Front with LED floodlight
Front with LED floodlight.

And here's what the 50mpx Note 12 Pro made of the exact same scene at the exact same time.

As above, but better
As above, but better.

Again, let me repeat, this is not a tripod mounted long exposure. This is point'n'click.

In terms of image size, the Mi 10T offers images that are 4480×2016 (I use full-wide mode, it can do 4:3 photos that are 4624×3472). The above (floodlight) photo was f/1.89, 1/13s, ISO9418, 5.43mm (25mm equiv.).
Meanwhile the Note 12 Pro photo is 4096×1840 (so a little lower resolution; again the camera can do 4:3 at 4096×3072 but I use full wide mode). The settings were f/1.88, 1/8s, ISO7415, 5.59mm (24mm equiv.).
It's interesting to note that the N12P did a much better image faster. Speed is important, as one eigth of a second will have less shake-blur risk than one thirteenth of a second.

All in all, I think it's definitely worth having a slightly smaller photo size in return for vastly improved low light capabilities.


The creeping tentacles

It is nice to see that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a ceasefire, even if it's just a temporary thing (as, sadly, both sides have political capital to gain by wiping out the other side).

However something that concerns me more right now is the degree of influence that Israel appears to have over mainstream discourse, particularly in the US, to the point where even seeming to stand up for Palestinians is treated as a cancellable, potentially career-ending, event.

I fully agree that Israel has full rights to go after Hamas, and if they wipe them off the face of the earth then maybe the world will be just a percentage point of a fraction better off because of it.
But what I don't understand is that one of the world's most highly funded and technologically capable armies, supported by another country that ploughs ridiculous amounts of tax money into military expenditure, seems to think that razing Gaza is the best way to attack Hamas. This isn't some clever targetted CIA spook stuff, this is genocide. This is destroying Gaza and murdering thousands of civilians under the pretext of going after Hamas.

It should never be considered antisemetic (or antimuslim) to call a murderous bastard a murderous bastard. Two wrongs don't make a right, and the only right I've seen in weeks is this ceasefire. I just hope some marginally more murderous bastard doesn't start shooting early and break the ceasefire.


Domestic stuff

At Lidl the other day, couldn't resist...

Entry mat
Entry mat.

And at the U yesterday, I saw this for €11.

Tabletop ironing board
Tabletop ironing board.

It's a simple little ironing board. There is one around here someplace, but it's old and rusty and kind of naff. The last time I needed to iron something I just make a stack of newspapers and ironed on that.
A proper ironing board was €45ish, which is expensive for a padded piece of metal on legs. This, being a squeak over a tenner, will suffice for all that I need to iron.

Underside it is simple. A metal frame and a mesh grid for the top (mesh likely not just because it's cheaper but also to disperse heat). Two snap-out stands at each end. On top of the mesh is a piece of plastic foam, and on top of that is the cotton top. It is removable so it can be washed.

Tabletop ironing board - underside
Tabletop ironing board - underside.



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jgh, 26th November 2023, 08:36
The Guardian used to be a decent paper, but the inmates have taken over the asylum. I've described it as similar to those staid northern industrial towns built up by Labour municipal socialism in the decades before and after WW2. And then in the '70s the young whipper snappers turned up and took over and took everything their predecessors had carefully built up and splurged it all in narcissistic self-indulgent political spats. 
Gavin Wraith, 26th November 2023, 10:23
My wife likes to do the big crossword in the Sunday Times. It is a horrible paper, that leaves your fingers dirty and your mind disgusted. Today their columnist Rod Liddle, usually a snide joker, pointed out the obvious, that if Quiz shows are anything to go by, the UK is dumbing down fast. He gives two reasons why but fails to spot the elephant in the room: journalists like himself, who, knowingly or not, assist in the infantilization of the public.
David Pilling, 26th November 2023, 13:08
The Express and Mirror are owned by the same company, probly got the same journalists in some situations. Telegraph has opinions different to those of its previous owners. Mr Murdoch famously changed nationality so he could own a US TV network. 
Things have moved on, biggest threat to elections now is foreign actors on social media. 
Here in Blackpool, the local library service gives one free web access to 'Press Reader' and that has full versions of many of the real paper based papers. 
I stopped paper deliveries for Covid and did not restart them. Although I have free access, I don't bother. 
Instead I get my news online - and online is the world of the tease - clickbait. Online editions are not the same thing as paper. 
Online I should (and do) read Reuters, but mostly I read regional papers (via Google news) "Strictly star recommends this supermarket" - ooh must find out. 
About the herbs, it wasn't by any chance a bloke with pronounced teeth and a black cape, who came to the village encouraging the people to replace the traditional garlic hanging from the ceiling with plastic flowers... check the security cam. footage, he is mysteriously not visible. 
Will the Israeli offensive make more Hamas supporters in the next generation, probably. But that is from a soft modern day point of view. Like Putin affairs can be conducted in the old fashioned way. No one said in WW2, lets go easy we don't want another generation of Nazis. 

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