Friday, 5th March, 2021

[Day 354]

Another cold day beckoned but we set forth with our usual vim and vigour, not least because walking at a certain speed helps one to keep warm. We collected our newspapers and made straight for the park where there was quite a gathering of the clans. We met up with our Birmingham University friend, another person who is a wheelchair user but who is often in the park with her battery-powered chariot which has fair turn of speed on it, and finally more friends of friends. Our conversation started off with a discussion of lithium-ion batteries such that we surmised would power mobility vehicles. From this we moved onto a discussion of lithium-ion battery technology (inspired by the impressive figure for the wheelchair performance) and came to a kind of consensus from things we had read in various places that it was less stressful to the battery of e.g. a mobile phone to give it two charges from 30%-80% rather than one complete charge from 0-100%. Like many of these issues, there is ‘street knowledge’, ‘informed knowledge’ (depending upon how good your internet sources have proved to be) and a sort of ‘everyday knowledge’ which that strange amalgam we carry round in our heads. On our return, I set to work preparing a risotto which I often prepare and eat on Fridays and prepared for a nice restful afternoon.

As it happened, I got anything but. I thought to myself ‘I’ll just run off an (internet) article before I sit down to a cup of coffee' only to find the printer completely dead. As it was working fine yesterday and he only thing that had happened overnight was an operating system update, I immediately came to the conclusion (wrongly, as it turned out) that the refinements of the operating system could not cope with out-of-date printer drivers so I tried to download some more. When I looked at them, though, the file was 9 years old and I thought it would be a bad idea to replace current drivers with 9-year-old ones so I abandoned that line of investigation. I then wondered what price a new printer would be but the current model I own is out-of-stock at Amazon (superseded?) As I have a supply of toner ready to hand, I thought I would explore a range of comparable printer models who use the same toner cartridges but this too drew a blank. Eventually my son and I solved the problem by getting rid of my little USB extender I was using to extend the number of slots beyond four and this proved to be my salvation. But USB slots quickly run out when you have keyboard in one, a printer in another, a scanner in a third, backup disk in a fourth and none left for memory drives and the like. One has to be careful in whipping USB plugs in and out in the case of external drives in case data is in the process of being written so you have to ensure they are completely quiescent and then (on a MAC) ‘unmount them’ i..e making them invisible at least temporarily to the operating system. Also I have decided to be a ‘good boy’ and not use any hub extenders at all but rather do a bit of judicious swapping (e.g. printer for scanner and vide versa) when required. I DO have powered hub but this adds to the clutter not to say confusion in a table of cables behind the computer so I am going to see if I can make out with the system supplied quota of four. As it happened, this took all afternoon to sort out so restful it certainly was not. At least I am now slightly bettered informed about what happens when you allow USB ports to proliferate and what to do about it.

At the risk of being somewhat trivial, there have been some stunning photos released from Mars as the ‘Perseverance’ trundles its way across the Martian surface. There again, a friend of mine did send me another photo, ostensibly from Mars in which a lot of little creatures who look as through they were dressed in potato sacks are lined up in front of a banner which stated, in bold letters: ‘F***k off’ and then another banner stating ‘Go Home’. I thought that was wonderful and wondered how it had been staged before it was released onto the world.

Finally, there’s good news about the Brazilian variant of COVID-19 as the ‘sixth’ person (who had failed to fill in a record card) has now been located. This, in theory, means that it should be possible to contain the Brazilian variant before it goes rampant but, of course, it might be lurking in lots of other parts of the country as well. One of our church friends caught up with us, very excited, as she was due to be ‘jabbed’ later on in the day. I think most people experience a sense of relief once the vaccine is actually in their arms.