Sunday, December 27, 2015

Why the 25th

The festivals associated with celebrating the winter solstice in the more northern places were easily adapted by the Christian philosophers. But the essence of something like Christmas remains essentially Pre-Christian and the thing of it is why isn't the day of Christmas on December 21st?

There could well have been some kind of calendar issue, an error in translation following a calendar upgrade, easily done, but more likely it was a deliberate contrivance on the part of the faithful to isolate the birth of the Christian Prophet from the multitude. It was The Puritans who had it right, they tried to ban Christmas and had they succeeded more likely we would be celebrating Christmas on December 21st.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Plum Pudding Truce

Following a dispute between our hero and your writer of pulp a cooling off period has been declared. Call it a Plum Pudding Truce. The essence of the problem is Colin D Crabtree, a fellow inmate at Afon-Bedd who may or may not be deserving of his place in a very respectable Tri-County-Lunatic-Asylum. Our hero who himself is apparently 'perfectly sane' and who insists he won his own place at Afon-Bedd by good old fashioned guile and cunning is of the opinion that Crabtree is basically an undeserving scoundrel from Shropshire who should really just pay his speeding ticket, get on with his life, buy his own toothbrush.

In the rugged world of pulp there are certain standards that need to be maintained other wise the narrative descends into the world of farce and we might as well all become Pantomime Dames. The crux of the problem is the distinction between a Tri-County-Lunatic-Asylum and something like a University or college of further education, Oxford or Cambridge, Yale or Harvard.  And here, our hero is reluctant to mark a distinction so long as Crabtree remains undeserving of his place in Afon-Bedd. It's a problem yet there are a couple of possibilities that might smooth the passage of the narrative. Trouble is I've grown fond of Crabtree.

Friday, December 25, 2015

0-6-0 and Grades

 An 0-6-0 Switcher with a sloped tender, and the point is that long engines do not take tight curves with the grace of a smaller engine. The same with carriages. As well an incline with a curve is harder still for a train to manage which means the winding road that goes up hill might lead to tears for the masters of giant steam trains.

An 8 inch rise at 4% requires around 144 inches of track and another 144 inches of track to get all the way back down again. That's something like 8 yards of railway line. So it's all very exciting to think of 8 inches as something like 100 feet. At the same time adding up and subtracting, the multiplication tables, division are none of them strong points in your correspondent. 

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Creative License

The Palisades which is the name of a river gorge near here. High Bridge which is the name of a railway bridge near here. The White Horse at Uffington which is a figure carved into a chalk down many miles east of here on the other side of the Atlantic and not far from Stonehenge. There has to be a Public House called the Duck and Whistle.

Then there's the problem of Giraffe who require Acacia Trees to be truly happy. They can run for brief periods at around forty miles an hour and the bigger males can be twenty foot high. In N scale a mile is thirty three feet, a Giraffe is about two inches high, the High Bridge near the Palisades would be about seven foot long. All of which means The Artist is calling for a Creative License.

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Lady Bird Activity

A person has to worry a little about the Lady Birds. The warmth has made them active. There's pottering around, there's a little bit of flying around. Far too much activity in my view, they'll use up their stores of energy and when time comes to leave the domicile they might not have the strength to find that first meal of Spring.

For our own first meal of Spring it's difficult to tell. If it doesn't get too cold there could be Turnips through February, but Turnips don't really count. We are looking at the possibility of a stalk of two of Chard reawakening at the end of March, maybe early April, and there's a possibility of Asparagus to look forward to. With Spinach we'll have to wait until something like end of April, that's if we're lucky.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Impossible Dreams

"Alright Guys!" Tables for n scale don't actually have to be that big, and at the same time when an enthusiast is considering the role of the steam engine in empire building it's difficult not to get carried away. Better to look a long way down the track at something like the Hedjaz Railway and try to remember what happened to the Ottoman Empire. Curse TE Laurence if you want to, but if it had been up to him the Sykes-Picot lines would never have been drawn.

 So it might be the case that a more modern day empire builder should consider a less tyrannical concept, such as a train service between Columbia, Greensburg and Campbellsville. This does mean if there's to be a Stonehenge, Graffiti, a herd of Elephant and basking Crocodiles, a few liberties will have to be taken in the areas of geography, history and climate. But your correspondent is a firm believer in the idea of Empire as belonging to the impossible dream.

Monday, December 21, 2015

6.40 PM EST

For those of us who live in the northern parts of our planet there's no doubt in my mind that today is the most important day of the year. And in a strange way today is the day to mourn an event that occurred three maybe four billion years ago. The impact that caused the world to wobble must have been a sight to see. Then there's the argument which might suggest us people would be less conflicted if there were no seasons, but as an MRE (Model Railway Enthusiast) I understand a person can't have everything.

And it's true I often wish I'd been called by whoever it is that calls to the Trappist Monk. Quite why I was called by Winter Solstice has got to be some sort of cruel joke. But it's the thought of it that counts. Around 6.40 PM eastern standard time here where I live one of the movements the Earth makes upon her axis will stop. Could just be for milliseconds of course. It's kind of awesome, the idea of a return to lengthening days. The June Event is pathetic in comparison. No doubt the Southerners have their own opinions.

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Happy Endings

Your correspondent will persist with the idea that we all live in stories. The diligent story teller will weave a narrative which despite all evidence to the contrary has a happy ending. Call them Angels. The less diligent will cleave to the idea that the story teller in his or her head should not be listened to. Call them Devils. The eccentric recognize that we're all nuts and without stories there'd be no tomorrow which is why of all living things our cousins The Plants are the wisest.

In these chilly hours before the northern world turns toward the longer days there might be an argument which suggests the warm fall of the year has bamboozled those of our distant cousins who chose to reach toward bloom earlier rather than later. There's a sort of sigh of regret and a worry from Angels, and a kind of satisfied "told you so" from Devils. But if you listen carefully, you might hear the Daffodil say "All our stories have happy endings."

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Alright Guys

"Alright Guys!" A traditional opening statement in the world of electric train set You Tube 'how to' videos. Worth noting that the word "Guys" is gender specific, the obsession of model electric trains remains a male bastion. Also worth noting that electric train You Tube 'how to' video presenters range in age from around eight or nine year olds to the occasional sixty year old. And should you be considering an entry into the world of electric train sets the fourteen or fifteen year presenter of 'how to' videos is your best bet for actually understanding what they're talking about.

 Those remotely interested will be delighted to hear that You Tube 'how to' videos are usually open to 'comments' and there's a 'like' button, which does subject a presenter to a process of what in the more academic world might be called 'peer review.' I'm all for the process myself, and it does offer the novice an opportunity to better understand the more political and sometimes passionate nature of the "Alright Guys" community. The purists, I'd guess you'd call them. Either way, an N Gauge electric train set needs some kind of table devoted entirely to it and there could well be four hundred thousand different ways of making this table.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

Insulting Kings

The King of Thailand's large estate owns the patent on a rain making technology which has the title "Royal Rain Making Technology." It's a cloud seeding technique for warm clouds, cold clouds and a combination of both warm and cold clouds. In the patent there's a great deal of talk about 'attacking' clouds, 'fattening' clouds, 'moving' clouds, 'sandwiching' clouds when the correct aircraft are available and it does go a bit such that eyes can glaze over.

I mention this following the recent spate of individuals who through social media are breaking a law of Thailand that makes it an offense to Insult the King. The law covers a wide range of possible offenses from calling the king names through posting unflattering pictures, to saying horrible things about his dog or his cat. But interestingly a military coup within the king's realm isn't considered an insult to the king unless there is an attempt to overthrow the king.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


Frequently un-asked questions, or FUAQs include "Does the N50598 0-6-0 switcher tender have to be run-in?"  And here the N stands for 9 millimeter track gauge. The 50598 stands for the manufacturer's model number. Switcher, is US for a UK Shunter, except in Pennsylvania where they are sometimes called Shifters. In Australia Shunters are sometimes called Yard Pilots. A Tender is generally speaking a fuel bunker.

Running-in with respect to motors is a period of uninterrupted operation in all gears including reverse at moderate speeds so that bearings and contacts can "seat" or get to know each other better. The point is the moving parts of electric powered locomotives that run on N gauge track are tiny, and this means tolerances between moving parts are also tiny which suggests that running-in is kind of central to smooth running future operation.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

The Great and the Good

The sense of celebration by the negotiators that followed the Paris agreement was shared by a number of organizations engaged in the peripheral activities which included the boys and girls who for security reasons were denied their big demonstration, flag waving, marching and banners, and who rather than run and hide arranged for empty shoes in the Place de la Republique to represent their presence and purpose and their passions at the festival of talk. Al Gore, who seems to have porked up a little, is happy. And other celebrities from screen, stage and political Party kind of regard the moment as a personal victory that will result in monuments to their erudition and learning.

As I understand it, and I'm usually wrong, the nations of our world have agreed to do their best to limit our contribution to harm such that by the end of this century anticipated increase in our planets temperatures will be, depending upon the sources, somewhere between 2.7 centigrade and 3.7 centigrade, I'll call it around 5 Fahrenheit. This apparently allows for the balance necessary to maintain the levels of manufacture and profits which apparently are the central features of harmonious society. Bye-bye Seychelles, and who knows what else, but the argument is the agreement marks a turning point that will provide the incentives for money to move away from fossil fuels. Often wondered whether the Invisible Hand of Capital has Leprosy. 

Saturday, December 12, 2015


There's Happy Holidays, there's Happy Christmas, there's a couple of Merry something or others, there's a whole thing with blowup creatures some of them with antlers, there's illuminations that twinkle, there's a host of decorative accents which for some reason or other include red bows and what could be some kind of poisonous fruit hiding in Spanish Moss. It's a rampant expression, a celebration of plenty or greed and it's contagious.

A person can get lost in the riot. Ribbons, flashing lights, red faced children, the festival of what's loosely referred to as Christmas Music and the meat counter at the Grocery Store. Then as the dusk arrives, the homeward bound might pass a house, it's usually rather grand, anally manicured and my own reaction to the rather sinister single white lights in their windows is to better understand the expression "Meh."

Friday, December 11, 2015

Pillories and Shaming

Those who might have lived a while develop the idea that speech is easy, action isn't so easy and as a result we learn to judge each other not by what a person says, rather by what a person does. At Agincourt it was the archers that defeated chivalry. It was Chaka Zulu's stabbing weapon that led to his victories. I recall a time when snipers were the scum of the earth and more recently there are missiles and a device which shares its name with a lay-about Boy Bee.

More interesting perhaps is the idea of a Cardinal Sin. It's the big one, the kind of action that should lead to guilt and shaming. Sadly a well paid lawyer is able to reinterpret the agreements that define sins, a process that's all done through flower and words. I guess it's us old farts that yearn for the town square pillory. The last person to be pilloried in England was a man called James Bossy, it was 1830, his offense was 'willful and corrupt perjury.'

Thursday, December 10, 2015


The discussion in the Paris Talks is all about the relationship between two kinds of harm. The future harm from an increase in the planet's temperature and the harm from attempting to reduce our contribution to that increase. The men and women sitting at the table have to agree on a mutually acceptable number. The balance of harms is such that by the end of this century an increase in the Earth's average temperature of 1.5 Centigrade, which is a little over 2.5 Fahrenheit, is about as low as they can even begin to contemplate. Estimate is that our contribution so far to the problem is 0.8 Centigrade, which is a little over 1.25 Fahrenheit.

The harm associated with reducing our contribution is fundamentally about the social unrest that could result when the promise of the political class to their people that standards of living will ever increase, a fridge and a television in every living room, an IPod in every school bag fails to materialize. More likely at the Paris Talks 1.5 Centigrade might be too ambitious a number. Something like 2 Centigrade or even 3 Centigrade might be easier for the contestants to agree upon. The mechanism for enforcement of any agreement that might be reached is currently called "Shaming."

Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Kafka, Hesse, The Psalms and I.

Some have their conclusions, and necessarily so, otherwise time spent in study is consigned to the subjective, where the polite agree to disagree. The less polite stamp their feet and the next thing you know it's being called war. I surrendered some years ago when I read a letter Kafka wrote to a friend. He explained how he struggled to write and how he found little joy in it except when the words engrossed him, when time passed quickly without his having to think too much about what came next and soon enough it was three o'clock in the morning and he felt happy, fulfilled by his long night's work. The Psalms I suggest. It was rhythm he enjoyed, some deep place in us that searches for meaning rather than offering meaning. It's a place so deep it predates words and language, I'd argue. Others have dismissively called this place posy, a sort of sentimental trash can. Which I guess is better than going crazy and calling it God. But as an understanding of say organizations, not sure the study of them through Kafka's writing is much more than some kind of reach for a fashionable provenance that touches the ennui in all of us. 

My own view, if there has to be a conclusion, is Kafka would probably have found greater comfort if instead of letting the world of his work life into his evenings, he'd taken to the process of word making and sentence through some other medium. He was too sickly for belly dancing, the ballet was out, music was a possibility, drawing and painting, crossword puzzles. The objection of course is that none of these posies answer the big question. Why is it suddenly three in the morning, and why am I happy? I think Glass Bead Game, Hermann Hesse's last story is a better romp for those who even attempt to understand organizations. To sum the plot, "futility must be given meaning." And always worth remembering the thing about being truly free is we'd never expect the trains to run on time, but Kafka did until it came time for him to die, that's when he asked his friend to burn his unfinished books. And here, the question isn't so much why did he do that, rather the question is why did his friend fail to oblige him. The answer is all about organization. Obscure! Probably? 

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Undo Buttons

You can call it karma, I guess. Or you can call it revenge. Or justice. But for those of us who look at the keys when we type the "delete" button is far too close to the "insert" button. This means that whole passages can be typed over. Naturally enough the stuff typed over was always good, the work of genius, but it's gone for ever.

 Then after years and years a person realizes there's a time machine called an "undo" button and what with things like cutting and pasting and undoing, it's possible to reveal what was lost. My own advice is to understand the nature of hope by never ever entering this time machine. The results are always very depressing. 

Monday, December 7, 2015

Umpires and Audience

The unwanted consequences of making stuff are an unknown expense. More likely there's an accounting of this expense set in the future. But we people have never been good at prediction which is one of the reasons in something like the game of Cricket there are two umpires, two scorers and a line that marks a boundary. This way the game can be played and the future can be determined within a set of rules. The winner gets the bauble, the loser retires to his kitchen where he makes tea and bursts into tears.

Do away with the umpires, the score board and the boundaries, then all you have left of the rules are the boos and the cheers of the audience. There are some who will argue that the boos and the cheers of the audience is all that really matters. "Everything else" has been tried, they'll say, and "nothing has worked" they'll add. What to do about the unknown expenses of making stuff are currently being discussed by the world's umpires and it seems they've come to the conclusion best just to leave it to the boos and cheers of those who sit and watch. The minced oath "gosh" kind of describes it. 

Sunday, December 6, 2015

Blue Jay

The Blue Jay horde was very present in the early hours. They'd gathered on the speckles of gravel where Creeping Grass is now earth tone brown, it's more of a tanned white, a kind of tope color I guess, but difficult to tell with the frost. Blue Jay's do have a great deal of blue and white in them, and they have the sort of cocked head, it's as though they're always curious, inquisitive, nosey and usually bored unless they are wholly engrossed by nuts and where to bury them, and whether to fly north or south, they never fly east or west, and until around January they just sort of hang around looking at stuff and at each other, and they kind of jangle the imagination of the coffee drinking domesticated.

Then all of a sudden there's a big Blue Jay excitement which requires all Blue Jays in the vicinity to gather, and the noise they make might be music to some ears, but most certainly not to the great majority. It's more of a jagged, winter noise, that creeps into the brain and it's a noise that might well be used by the professionals in the area of psychological warfare to illicit information from the reluctant informer. This morning's excitement in the Blue Jay community had something to do with rabbit pellets in the driveway, and by George it was a Mother of Parliaments out there, until old grumpy came out and clapped his callous hands.  

Saturday, December 5, 2015


There's an argument that suggests that The Caliphate yearns for an End Time. Like Vikings, this End Time will be the final bloody battle between the good guys and the bad guys. And afterwards there'll be peace on earth and mercy mild.

All very well consigning one belief to the trash can of ridiculous yet a person can't help wonder the extent to which trashing one belief trashes all beliefs. Either way it's just so much easier to get with the program and think in terms of good and evil.

Friday, December 4, 2015

Seasonal Traditions

It's always a joy when seasonal visitors to my room finally settle themselves. They have a series of remarkably irritating traditions when they first arrive, the worst of which is the night time foray, and they must lay bets on what kind of noise I'll make. I guess with a warm mammal under its blankets the bed presents a very obvious target, and there are some of us who cannot sleep unless the toes are uncovered, must be the Neanderthal running through the veins.

It's the case too that feet can be sensitive, they might not look sensitive, indeed they might look the very opposite of sensitive, more like something that's just walked across rocky terrain from one tropic to the other, yet the odd bold wintering Ladybird when the lights are out does find entertainment from seeing just how long he or she can nestle amongst a person's toes before the foot twitches. And I guess there must be some kind of Ladybird applause, a little snickering followed by drinks all round when traditional vacuum cleaner oathing is heard.