For a wider audience and instant distribution most of my thoughts go straight to Facebook. But for extending those thoughts, and to reach people who understand where I'm going, those thoughts may also appear here.

Unlike every other weblog you ever saw, this one is in correct chronological order so you can read it the right way round. But it always shows you the latest entry first so scroll up for earlier stuff.

The 2020 index will appear here in a mo ...


I remember long ago getting a clockwork train set for Christmas. On Boxing Day I was playing with it alone in the front room. One of the wagons would not stay on the track and kept derailing the whole lot. I couldn't find the cause and eventually lost my rag. I uncoupled the wagon and trod on it.

I had discovered my secret SuperPower...


I was immediately deeply ashamed of my ingratitude, an emotion reinforced by a strong wiggin' from my dad. It's only a SuperPower if you can control it.

Move forwards 20 years and I was working for a company manufactuing parts that depended on friction produced by tightening a bolt to stop a bush turning. Except in certain conditions they were failing. Those were the -40° conditions in Canada. It was a serious problem that could have brought down hundreds of miles of transmission lines and put power out in major Canadian cities. Not what you want at -40° !

I looked at all the variables; dimensions, tolerances, materials, methods. If the bolts were tightened with a torque wrench they were OK. If they were assembed with a pneumatic nut-runner to exactly the same torque they failed.

Solved it. The bolts were locked in place using Loctite. Wonderful stuff that has saved many a British Bike rider's sanity and maybe life. Tightening by hand was no problem but running the bolts in quickly during manufacture was causing friction heat and curing the Loctite before the thread was fully run down.

I took the solution to my design manager. He didn't want to know. The problem was no longer technical - it had become a political issue between Quality Control and Production.

It's a wonder there wasn't a smoking crater there and then. I put on my coat and walked out. After an hour or so the frustration pressure was back under controllable levels and we were spared a nuclear winter.

Move forward another 20 years. I had one of the early inkjet printers. Worked fine for nearly a year then it thought up problems as though it had Artificial Stupidity. It was costing a fortune in wasted ink, scrap paper and cleaning materials.

Eventually I bought a new one.

Normally when I junk a piece of electrical equipment I disassemble it for the screws and any thistles. You know, things you think "Thistle come in handy". Not this printer.

When no-one was around I carried it into the back yard, put it on a slab and smashed it to smithereens with a sledge hammer.

What did it achieve?Nothing.
What did it feel like?Bloody marvellous

That's when I lost my SuperPower. Since then frustration has been replace by my New SuperPower...


Money or your life

I transcribed all the old club magazines I could find onto this website. They are there to be read in our Megaphone section, for what it's worth.

It doesn't get a lot of attention except for a few waifs and strays who find it after Googling something that has been indexed by search engines. If you look at our Statistics you'll see it makes up about 10% of the number of pages but just 2% of the pages visited. It's a bit of a backwater.

But I know the considerable work that went into producing it. Members, who worked hard all day and were not naturally inclined to put pen to paper, made a special effort to express their thoughts and ideas for the amusement of their friends. The editor and his team spent hours slogging at the unfamiliar task of beating an ancient manual typewriter into the delicate waxy membrane of a duplicator skin, wrap it round the inky black drum of a Gestetner printer that had seen better days, and then crank its handle while trying to get the paper through in the right page order.

It was a Herculean effort by a good proportion of members. At its height we would go through that three or four times a year. The copies were then freely distributed to eager members on a club night.

At the end of the evening our club room was littered with discarded Megaphones. What else would you do with something that you have read? It's a throw away society, after all. But it just didn't seem appropriate after such hard work.
(Luckily some folk did hoard them for posterity and

We tried to get the members to pass them on to other riders to encourage recruitment; maybe leave one at their local dealer or at the barbers. Not a lot of uptake.

So we put a price on the cover to give Megaphone an appearent monetary value.

We find it difficult to estimate the worth of anything except in terms of money.

When I worked in accident prevention I was miffed that my pal who worked for finance was on a much higher pay scale. He said it was because he could save or cost the company millions to which I responded that my work could save or cost lives. His answer was simple: Life is Cheap!

Cheap, but we still put a price on it. To estimate what remedial work would give a fair economic return for its investment we would evaluate the cost of the injuries and deaths that we could save over a three year period based on a table produced by the Department for Transport.

£ (2018 prices)
Accident/casualty typeCost per casualtyCost per accident
Average for all severities70,79198,232
Damage only-2,344

So now you know. If you want a hitman to wipe out your bothersome neighbour, the going rate is about £2 million.

OK, Blamer

If you inhabit Facebug you may have come across shared posts about climate change that claim the innocence of older folk and blame the kids for our problem.

Most of my Facebug friends can see it for what it is: Someone latching onto a meme that reinforces their prejudice and bolsters their self esteem.

The right and proper response is "OK Boomer".

Nothing is achieved by stating the facts and logic of the situation.

  • Old folk behaved reasonably because they never had choice;
  • Kids are not in control (unless their parents abdicate)

We learned from Brexit that facts and logic cannot overturn deeply held beliefs.

That is something that is well known to politicians, advertisers and the media who really caused the mess. And something else they know very well...

Divide and Rule

Climate change (and other problems) aren't a matter of blame, it needs something doing about it. Arguing avoids the issue.

The kids aren't blaming old folk, they are calling the authorities and leaders to account to all of us. If older folk take it personally, maybe they have a guilty conscience.

Spanish flu

My father told me of his experience of the Spanish flu epidemic.

He was working as ships cook and steward on a steamer out of Cape Town. They picked up a German lady and her children from Luderitz in German South West Africa, who were travelling further up the coast to take passage on a ship for Europe. The lady contracted Spanish Flu and became very ill.

Two or three times a day my father disinfected her cabin and did what he could for the poor woman. This received criticism from the ship's officers, particularly the Belgian mate who said she should be left to die. My father's bitter response was "If you get it, you will die!"

His words proved to be prophetic. The German lady eventually recovered but the Belgian mate came down with flu and it killed him.

A corollary of this was that the grateful lady gave my father all the German money that she possessed although inflation had devalued it following the German capitulation. As soon as their ship docked at the lady's onward port my father took the money to exchange at the local bank. To his surprise he was given the original value because he had arrived before news of devaluation. He ran to the port to give the money back, but found that the family had already embarked for Germany.

Hyper vexed

What is the World Wide Web all about? It gets its name from the fact that it weaves threads connecting subjects together. It is written in HTML and that is short for Hyper Text Markup Language. The Hyper Text is what the Web is all about. It means links, the underlined words that usually change colour and have a little hand when you hover over them. Clicking it will whisk you off to another page that has more details about that particular subject. The idea is that no-one needs to copy-and-paste what is already available; someone else has the task of updating that page; credit is given where it is due.

On we try to weave information into our pages with suitable links to let readers find more about something or somewhere. It also acknowledges that we value the linked organisation, such as a pub or café. Incidentally, the more links into a website from external pages, the higher that page ranks in Google searches.

So it is really frustrating when links cease to work. It damages our credibility and takes a lot of resources (ie time) to find bad links and correct or remove them. I spent all of Sunday doing just a few of our sections. There were almost a hundred duff links to be fixed.

Sometimes the link fails because the website has been abandoned. Usually it is when an establishment changes management and the new gaffer doesn't have the where-with-all to continue the site. Lack of time/money/know how for something with a low priority. Sometimes the organisation decides that it is easier to have a page or group on Facebug - OK for customers who are also on Facebug but further limiting access.

We try to make links as relevant as possible. That means researching for an appropriate page deep within a website. Otherwise we would link to their Home Page and leave you to wonder why we plonked you there. But some 'better' websites are updated frequently and the webmaster doing it will often change the name or location of the relevant page. The information is still there but not where it was. Broken link.

Some of the worst culprits, with scant respect for bookmarks and links, are big companies and local authorities. They have experts churning out large quantities of fresh and exciting material who should know better. It is so simple to leave a 'redirect' from an old and unused page to the new version. We do it on all the time (when we remember). For example, many National Road Rally riders bookmark our Matrix page and some websites are kind enough to link to it. In the weeks approaching the event we redirect from last year's Matrix to the new version. Otherwise some poor blighter will be travelling to all the wrong places!

Sometimes we take steps to automatically delete bad links. We try to load a graphic from the target page and if it fails we hide our link to it. This week we added Fanfan's tribute to Rodney Taylor. Francois included a history of the Antelope MCC so we linked to that content on another website. If (and when) that ceases to be available we hide the link and show Francois' research.

Belt and braces.

More speed, less haste

It's some time since I checked the speed of different browsers. Most of them, and the computers they run on, are easily fast enough for to perform adequately. The only time that browser performance becomes an issue is when I am impatiently waiting for an administration page to complete a complex JavaScript routine.

Even those tasks ceased being a bottle-neck once I mastered using "Web Workers" to run as a team in the background. With those nifty helpers I can tell them to go off and do their business and come back with a result I can use. Ever so handy.

However, a year ago there was a change to how I get monthly statistics from the server logs. They now come as raw data and have to be analysed at this end. It is a huge file. Although the processing is fairly simple, the very size of it is daunting. So I wondered if browsers made any significant difference. Time for a test run.

I have stuck to Mozilla Firefox so far because it seemed marginally quicker than anything else and was more forgiving of certain things that were important for me. Things like not needing to be run from a server. Recently that flexibility disappeared. I now need to run "local" pages from a server because of various security issues that Firefox patched. So I'm no longer cornered into using it. Testing it on our 214k March log file gave a result in 46 seconds, but it prompted three times to ask if I wanted to abandon the process. It's annoying to set it running, go and put the kettle on and return to find the browser sitting on its arse waiting for me to say "carry on".

Next I put Google Chrome to the same test. Chrome did the job in 40 seconds and didn't pause to ask if I wanted to carry on.

Then I turned to Microsoft Edge, successor to Internet Explorer. This is now based on the Chrome engine and is touted as the best browser. How did it do? It ran without any need to encourage it to continue. But it took 4 minutes 14 seconds! That is ten times slower than Chrome and long enough for me to brew a strong pot of tea and be half-way through my chocolate digestives.

So, Chrome is at the top and works without grumbling. I will need to clean out my old bookmarks and transfer in the essential ones from Firefox.

I don't have anything better to do just now. It will be today's task for me and my "Web Workers".


Last week I committed myself to clearing and transferring bookmarks from Firefox into Google.

Browsers make it very easy to export from one browser and import into another. Not far into Bookmarks and Setting there are Import and Export options. The interesting thing is that they are exported as an HTML file. That means you can click the file and it will open in a browser and show your links and their structure complete with icons. That was useful.

Opening the file in a text editor I see the line "do not edit this file". If I hope to import it back into another (or the same) browser then, yes, don't muck with it. My purpose was different. I wanted to delete all the duff links and stuff I never use. So...

First I put a proper HTML head and tail on the file. Then I put in some JavaScript that showed the links and added a set of three radio buttons to each one. Green for keep, Amber for save (somewhere) and Red for delete. I worked through the list clicking links, looking at the page and choosing what to do with every link. There's a few hours of social isolation usefully employed.

The page then created a list of links that I could put into my new browser after I deleted all the old links and messy structure.

The most important and useful website is my browser's start page - what I see when I start Google/Edge/Firefox.

To set this up in Firefox click the hamburger  and choose Options. Click Home and, if you are on the page you always want at startup, Homepage and new windows find Custom URLs... and then click Use Current Page - you can have more than one if you have several tabs open. You will probably choose a search provider such as Google or DuckDuckGo as one page and maybe in another tab. Thanks.

On Chrome you start with the triple colon symbol, click the line Settings and then the On startup option. Click the Open a specific pageor set of pages radio button and then, if you have already opened the required pages, click Use current pages.

In Edge the symbol you need is ... (a spaced out ellipsis) followed by the gearwheel  Settings. Click the V in the box under Open Microsoft Edge with and choose A specific page or pages. You will then have to copy and paste the URL from the address line into the box underneath that says Enter a URL. Click the floppy disc  icon to the right of this box to save it. You will need to add any more pages you want to start with one at a time by clicking + Add new page. Microsoft do not permit any slacking!

The next most important and frequently needed websites are set on the Bookmark Bar. You may need to go into settings to make it visible. My first choice for this is a link to my Internet Hub/Router so I can check status, change settings and do an occasional soft restart if it is giving problems. Create this bookmark the hard way.

Find the address of your router that is very likely printed on the back. Tip: Take a digital snap of the label because it is usually high up and fixed close to a wall where you can't see it without pulling cables out.

The address may be something like http://ispname_hub or alternatively - both go to the same place. You will also need to note your username (often "admin") and password. Recent hubs each have a random default password (don't confuse it with your wifi password). Older hubs used to have a simple "00000" type password that you must change as soon as you get it. Otherwise any passing villain in range of your wifi will be away with your darkest secrets and bank account.

These days you can pretty much forget about what goes on in the box. But take a look round to familiarise yourself with where things are. Don't worry about busting anything. There is usually a pin-hole in the back that you poke to do a factory reset if things really go pear-shaped. Now you are there, bookmark it.

Here are all my Bookmark Bar links.

 Bookmark Bar 

These days computers link to the cloud and synchronise local folders with on-line storage. Being old-school I like to be able to access those cloud files through a browser. Because free cloud storage is limited I have as many as I can carry. (I'm not greedy, I just like a lot.)

These go into their own bookmark folder.

 Cloud Storage 

The World Wide Web has to be fun or no-one would play. There is astounding data available in very accessible forms. Here are some of my favourites, starting from very high up and finishing in the gutter. (The Crime system isn't being supported due to coronavirus.)


Done playing and it's time to knuckle down to some work. Reference material is abundant on the web but it may take some time to sort the sweet from the chavs. When you find something that is concise and trustworthy it needs to be bookmarked. I have a lot of pages stashed away in this folder but here are just two that you may find useful.


I always miss the best TV programmes. When my friends tell me about them, I can catch up with most by streaming from the appropriate channels.

There is a good listing site in this folder in the hope of catching some shows live.


For leisure there is reading and listening. Here are my top sites in that extensive category.

 Media Resources 

It's interesting to see the dates when I bookmarked the above sites. That data is also exported from the browser along with the icons. I wonder how long it will be before my browser is cluttered up with more broken links and pages of little value. In the meantime, there is room for me to add any special pages that you recommend.

Rest for the Wicked is an archive of photos and stories. They are presented in a structure based on context, time, place, and most importantly, people.

To control the structure, all pages are self-documenting. You can see that by looking in your Contact Centre or by pressing Alt+W.

Before the content in its HTML wrapper (ie web page) reaches the web server, it may need some development. That work is drafted and recorded in my Journals, real paper books with jumbled pencil notes.

This Blog is a record of how I record my recording of your photos and stories. Ripples.

Previous Journal began in August 2018 and ended early in April this year. In the last two weeks I've filled over half of the new Journal with notes.

There were ten "legacy tasks" that were carried-over that still needed thought and action.

  1. one abandoned after initial assessment due to a poor return for a lot of effort
  2. four abandoned after testing showed they were unworkable
  3. four tried and applied
  4. one major improvement completed

One thing leads to another.

Minor changes often need applying to many individual pages, sometimes all 2000 on the website. One example is how information is passed to a page in the URL.

Sometimes a person's name is passed thus
(the "%20" is an 'escaped' space). Script on the page recognises the key/value pair, "person" and "Joe Bloggs", and looks for where that name occurs in the content so it can be high-lighted and scrolled into view.

Problem is there are many possible key/value pairs to look out for. Some passed data is only the value without any key or key without value. So 1½ pages of my Journal record what is being passed and what pages they occur on; not much space but a helluva lot of research. My final note at the bottom of that entry is...
"this has opened a can of worms"

Turning over a page or two I began to develop a better Stop Press system.

  1. Enable scheduled alerts
  2. Appears at appropriate date and time
  3. Only appears once and only on relevant pages
  4. Can contain HTML links
  5. Indicates presence when closed

Not a lot to ask. Some interesting work involved in this including passing functions in arrays (don't ask - don't do it) This is now in service but there is still work to be done to automatically check the schedule for expired and overlapping alerts.

It needed a check (and record) of localStorage items. These are the modern equivalent of Cookies. Little bits of data saved on your computer by this site in this browser. So it can recall if you have already seen the page, the Stop Press, star rated the page, written any Notes in your Contact Centre and more. How much more? Not a lot but I need to keep tabs on what I'm naming them to avoid confusion.

You'd be surprised at the errors that this kind of delving exposes. (Maybe more shocked than surprised) At some points it introduces new and entertaining errors that cause my Web-Workers to go on strike.

Most of the work to this point has been counting worms and trying to get them back into their cans. My "one major improvement" took half a page and half a day. It simply extends the information on the rally report alphabetic index pages.

Mostly my task is to find ways of presenting existing information in a helpful format. Value Added. Website methods are developing at a rapid pace. The systems used when first saw the light of a CRT Monitor have long become outdated and superseded by whizz-bang technology. I can't keep pace with most of what is happening but there are places where my ancient scripts can be replaced by far more efficient systems. At the moment that involves replacing JavaScript animations and formatting by the latest Cascading Style Sheet (CSS) standards. Imagine moving from a Bantam to a Fireblade - well, this is like moving from a bicycle to a Star Trek transporter! With its challenges.

Time moves on

The next couple of pages of my Journal are where I developed a system that Richard Clark requested about nine moths ago and it's taken that long to gestate. Richard was frustrated that our NRR Riders photographs took ages to scroll through to arrive at photos taken at any particular time during the rally. The data is there; it just needed proper deployment. Pass the can-opener.

It started badly. Photo pages for all years from 2013 onward were busted. As is often the case, it was one tiny bit of misplaced mark-up that threw the whole dogs dinner at the wall.

Lots of fun developing the clock. Adding the transitions that let the hands whizz round as the photo slides flash across the screen. Never mind the latest technology; I'm still using quick-and-dirty when it gets down to it.

Enough fun, my Journal returns to the subject of Stop Press and the Contact Centre. Then thoughts on changing our tooltip system. Initial tests indicate that the lid needs to be kept firmly on that can for the time being.

There isn't much written about the considerable changes that Covid-19 forced upon our Rally Listing. Delving here also brought to light some errors and omissions that required correction. The data that Hans Veenendaal sends makes putting rallies onto the website very simple. I can add 100 new events in about 15 minutes thanks to willing Web-Workers. Marking cancellations is a whole new departure and I've improved the process with another type of script. AutoHotkey. Can't speak highly enough about this gem. When you find yourself endlessly repeating the same key-strokes (and getting them mixed up as your mind wanders) AutoHotkey provides the solution by combining all your complex - "Ctrl+C Alt+tab move-down-one-line Ctrl+V" into a single, faultless key-stroke.

Order of a sort

Then I found an article about how to sort the order of tables by clicking the column heading. Oh boy, I had to try that one! This has found its way onto the rally search page where initial results are in ascending distance order. You can now sort by date or by country (actually postcode) as well.

There is a list of administration duties that rotate on a four-monthly schedule. (I'm often naughty and don't do them). Sit back while I explain this... isn't all for you to read. Some content that is put together by my team of Web-Workers is not meant for human eyes. They are writing for their brother Bots that work for the likes of Google. I have a handful of Web-Workers who have plenty of time off. Google probably has a googol of Bots who work 24/7 to read websites and make notes for their colleagues at Googleplex to present when you Google something. Got that? These bots are good at their job, even when reading pages that aren't there until (JavaScript on) the local computer writes them. Problem is, some of the most important pages on only show a bit of their content when first opened. Specifically our various "people" indices may only show the As until some real person (you) press the letter that you are interested in. The point of is that we are trying to connect people. Maybe they, or their tech-savy grand-children, Google their name. If it doesn't start with an A, Google may not know we mention them. So my industrious Web-Workers are regularly wheeled out to write the full-fat HTML list of names that are visible to Google Bots without the need for daddy to press a button. Back to my narrative Journal.

There are a couple of full-fat lists of people mentioned on, in the hope that it will result in them finding long-lost friends. Adding the latest data was simple enough but, what if a real live human being finds the pages? (I hope you aren't offended by being referred to in such familiar terms) Pages were duly put on a diet and exercise regime. Scrubbed and given a hair-cut and manicure. Spruced up in the latest HTML5 bib and tucker. All for a bunch of Bots. Now you are curious, aren't you? Here is our full-fat Past Members list.

One step forward, two back. That process threw up some pretty raw edges on our human-edible Past Member lists. I thought I sorted those out last year. I spent a good bad half day tracking down an obscure improvement that I made six months ago to our main background file. One line of modernised code had mucked up 80 pages of past member lists. What other improvements have I made that bust stuff?

Then there is a page of thoughts on adding reader comments in a more modern format. That will probably roll over in legacy tasks to my next journal.

... unless you add your comment here!

Cross talk

I was visiting the Patchway Motorcycle Training Scheme in Bristol in the 1980s. In case you can't recall, those were the days when a home computer was a ZX Spectrum or Commodore 64, the Internet and mobile phones were unheard of and training schemes still had free use of supermarket car parks every Sunday.

I reached the training scheme overlooking the M5 from where we watched helplessley as a couple of kids pushed their bicycles across north and southbound lanes and thankfully survived.

The other reason I remember that visit so well was that the scheme's chief instructor invited me to Sunday lunch with his family.

As part of the conversation I asked him what he did for a living.

I've been a bit hard of hearing for some time. When he answered, in a very broad west-country accent, that he was a fireman ... I misheard.

There followed a very surreal conversation in which we discussed his profession with him talking about shift work, training programmes and avenues of promotion and me asking questions about machinery, seasonal changes and chemical treatments.

I gradually became aware that his wife and children had become silent and were listening with open mouths.

Eventually the truth dawned on me. Very carefully not changing my expression I slowly brought the conversation back onto the subject of the fire service, while desperately casting back for gaffs that needed papering over.

Because, when he originally said he was a fireman, I thought he said farmer. We had spent a good quarter of an hour talking about entirely different jobs.

If I ever ask you what you do for a living, please, write it down for me.


The Embers are a cheerful bunch of buffoons. Sometimes their wit is masked by deadpan grumpiness. At those times, anyone who doesn't know us will need to pay close attention to expressions for an accompanying smile or wink.

While our main channel of communication has become social media such as Facebook and WhatsApp, such clues to our real intent could easily be missed - were it not for emojis.

We should have had access to those when we published the Bikers series in Megaphone. Dave Smith was concerned that some members thought we were serious! Luckily speculative litigation was yet to take hold in this country.

Emojis are something else we seem to have imported and been forced to accept. Used sparingly and with thought they can be useful. You won't see many on because HTML doesn't seem to like them. The smiley at the end of the first sentence is an ordinary image file. Counting this page, it is only used five times on the whole website.

Maybe if it was as easy to add them to HTML as it is to social media posts we would have them all over the place. On a Windows 10 PC they can be inserted into documents and emails by pressing Windows key and fullstop (or semicolon).

Like all good things, we can have too much of it. There are always a few folk who become carried away and write their whole message using indecipherable emojis. The main problem is that every phone, email client and operating system seems to have slightly different versions. It can be difficult enough understanding regional accents as I mentioned in May.

I'm in favour of the sparing use of emojis to improve nuanced communications. What is your opinion?

If you really want to send a message to your friends that only they will understand there are much better ways of doing it.

Various systems offer to send your message using end-to-end encryption, to the annoyance of authoritarian governments (such as the UK and USA) who believe they are entitled to know where you are meeting for a pint in the interests of national security.

At either end the message is easily read by anyone who has access directly (or remotely) to your phone or PC. So maybe you need to use an additional cipher.

These can be very complicated and need a quantum computer to crack their codes. Where you are meeting doesn't merit such subterfuge. You just want to keep it out of view of the office nuisance who is known to gatecrash your parties.

But a line of text that is obviously coded invites curiosity at best and is a challenge at worst. What you need is invisible ink.
That's easy enough to do with white text.
Read between the lines by triple clicking or wiping your cursor across the space between this and the above paragraph.

That could leave a big patch of white space in a WhatsApp message, even if you had access to coloured text.

What you need is a way to completely hide your private message inside normal text so that no suspicion is aroused. Steganography is the older brother of cryptography.

Brought to you by, here is your very own spy kit. Use it to hide (and reveal) whatever it is you want to keep under wraps.

(GCHQ will crack it in seconds so it's not for national secrets)

HIDE: Write your private⁤⁤⁣‌⁢‍⁤⁠‌⁢⁠⁤‌⁣⁣‌⁣⁤‌⁣⁢⁢⁠⁤⁤⁠⁤‌⁣⁢‌⁤⁣‌⁤⁣‌⁢‌‌⁢⁣⁤⁠⁤⁢⁠⁤‌⁤⁣⁤⁠‍‌⁣⁢⁢⁠⁤⁣⁣⁤‌⁣⁢⁤‍‍⁤‍‍‌⁣⁣⁤⁠⁤‌⁣⁢⁢⁠‌ message in the top box and innocent text in the bottom box. Press RUN and the top box now contains the bottom text with the private message hidden within it. Copy and paste the full top text to send it to someone who knows how to reveal the content*.

REVEAL: Paste the whole⁤⁢⁤‌⁣⁣⁤‍⁤‌⁣⁢⁢⁠⁤⁤⁠⁣⁤⁠‌‌⁢⁣⁣⁣⁠⁢⁣‍⁣⁠‍‌⁢‍‌⁢⁣⁢⁠⁠‌⁤⁣⁢⁠⁤‌⁢⁤‌⁣⁢⁢⁠⁤‌⁢⁣‌⁣⁣⁤⁠‌⁤⁠⁤⁤⁠‍‌⁤⁣‌⁣‌⁣⁣⁠ message in the top box and press RUN. Any private content will appear in the bottom box. Copy and paste this example as a test. →         Hello⁤⁢⁠‌⁢‍⁤‍⁠⁢⁠⁤⁤⁠⁢‌⁢‍⁢⁠⁤‌⁣‌‌⁢‍⁤⁠‌⁢⁠⁤‌⁢⁤‌⁣⁢⁣‌⁠‌⁢‌‌⁣⁢⁤‍⁤‌⁣⁢⁢⁠⁤⁣⁣⁤‌⁣⁢⁤‍⁢ World


* This works in WhatsApp and in most emails. Take care when texting because it may be sent as an expensive MMS rather than SMS. Sending SMS as plain text could strip the private content.

You cannot hide emojis
and don't hide text inside an item with an emoji at the front.‌

Clout cast

May has been out for some time now so my clout has been well and truly cast.

Some folk don't know what a clout is. Well, clout is the Old English singular of clothes in the same way that ugly is the Welsh singular of sheep.

I can remember long, long ago at the beginning of each winter, my mum would slather my chest in goose grease and then sew me into a red flannel vest. That stayed on until next May blossomed, when mum would cut me out of it. I can clearly remember the scissors passing next to my skin and begging mum to turn them over so the round end was inside and not the pointed end. It can be very traumatic when you are only 35 years old.

Any-road-up, I survived those years with my skin more or less intact.
Then there was winter motorcycle rallies. All the stuff we tried and tested.

  1. Newspapers on your chest under your Belstaff to reduce wind blasted chills.
  2. Foam rubber over knees to stop overtrousers pulling so tight you lost circulation.
  3. Face mask made from shammy leather that felt like a wet jock strap.
  4. Silk inner gloves and over-mitts to do ten rounds with Henry Cooper.
  5. Carpet cut-out inner soles in wellies 'cos girls-like-tall-men.
  6. Beer towel scarf for absorbancy and aroma.

None of this namby-pamby electrically heated nonsense.
We wuz tough and we have the rheumatism to prove it.

Melt down

Just gone midnight this morning both I and Francois, who were both working on the website and exchanging emails, saw that had gone off-line.

Thankfully not a common thing but it does happen and usually comes back quickly after the server technicians complete their maintenance or spot the problem.

Not today though. It was still off-line several hours later when the night-shift clocked off.

Later this morning it was still off line and by noon I was beginning to panic. Phone calls to technical support were met with advice to contact Billing. Billing could only be reached via email and were totally unresponsive.

This called for drastic action. I checked a few other website hosting companies. After previous problems with the current host, Easily.UK, I had already transferred several domains to 123REG. I called and signed a contract for them to host the website. I also transferred the domain to their management but was advised that a .NET address would take about five days to go through. I therefore also took out as a temporary domain for the website.

Transfer of my backup files to the new server took a few minutes, was installed and I sent emails to dozens of people to alert them to the change. Many friends had already sent me messages asking where our website had gone.

Delightfully the .NET transfer went through in hours rather than days. By this evening I was able to reallocate my website to its original monika.

I had to transfer all the files to the server once more and then send out another set of emails announcing our return to

Altogether a very busy and fraught 23½ hours, but here we are - back on-line.


Last week we changed server. While committing to the new hosting company I decided to grasp the nettle and install SSL certification. That means data sent too and from the server (web pages from, form data to) is encrypted. It is an expensive option but Google ranks pages higher and it seems the way to go.

For you that shouldn't make any difference because you aren't sending any sensitive information. You access the secure version when the website address is https:// rather than http:// (without the s)

First issue (ie problem!) is that your bookmarks and all links to the website are the old http:// "insecure" version. They still work but - BUT - here it comes - to all intents and purposes it is a different website to the secure version.

For you that means any data saved on your computer by the OLD open site is not visible on the NEW secure site. That data may include...

  • Notes saved in the Contact Centre
  • Marks (internal bookmarks) in the Contact Centre
  • Record of pages you star rated (so you don't get nagged)
  • Rallies that you save from Hans' Rally Listing
  • Badges you collect to your own page
  • Your personal activity on the Statistics page

There are several other items saved that make your life easier - or did. They will need setting up fresh on the secure site.
(Note that NONE of the above data goes off your computer!)

In a week or two I will redirect all http:// requests to https:// - I will put out a warning before that happens!

Until then please change any bookmarks you have to https://
(you can edit links in your browser bookmark manager if you are brave enough)


You may notice there are fewer adverts recently? The secure site should not have any adverts at all because I set them up to only appear on the old http:// version. Less Google nosing about!

Second issue (ie another headache). June Statistics are missing big parts because of the server change. Looking ahead, 123REG does not provide server log files for the cheapo account that I use. I need to get my statistics some other way.

To get some kind of measure of what is happening on the website, in the absence of server logs, I've installed Google Analytics. So Google's nose is back in there with a vengeance.

Google can't see who you are because it is looking over your shoulder. Remember to wash the back of your neck.


Third issue is still to surface. It is bound to be lurking in there waiting to take a big bite. Holler when it nips you.

Over 85%

You will not need to be on this website for very long before you realise that I'm not a perfectionist. In fact I make a precise point of avoiding perfection. Mainly because it is a waste of time. I wouldn't recognise it if I saw it - nor appreciate it.

I work on the principle that the first 85% of a job takes 85% of the time and the last 15% of the work takes another 85% of the time. In other words, perfection is a classic case of diminishing returns.

Quick and dirty. If it works it's good enough and don't fix it.

Pages that show your badges for example. You send a good scan of your precious badge and what happens? I shrink it, compress it and make the background transparent. Then I stick it into the page somewhere. That last step is often the most time-consuming part of the process.

I had an algorithm (read - jumble of JavaScript) that placed the badges in an approximate position, taking into account very wide plaques and enormously long chains of year bars or continental medal ribbons ... or both in the example on the right.

Then I'd adjust individual badges to give a more pleasing arrangement that didn't overlap badges or leave big gaps. Average badges per page is 175, all shapes and sizes, all begging for a nudge left and a tap down.

I have an eye for this kind of thing. It's in a jar next to my teeth and covered by my wig. So 85% is eye-popping excellence as far as I can see.

You may get a grasp of why I've been avoiding adding the 400+ badge backlog. Problem is that the enthusiastic industry of several contributors has inspired me to consider cleaning the Augean stables.

You notice that at this stage I am only considering the task. In fact, this week I've been going the opposite way so I can take a good run-up at the work.

Come Friday I'll post the results of tinkering with the course of the Alpheus. That will give me time to put a warning in this week's News that my efforts have quite likely flooded the website with dung. That's the 15% I never get right.

The Tekkie Bit

The productive 85% has been spent changing how badges are arranged on the page. I have discarded complex algorithms and hand adjustment in favour of the flow of the latest CSS flex arrangement. It's all done by the browser!

There are still a few lumpy bits, but on the whole I have to admit that, left to its own devices, it exceeds my 85% by a fair margin.

Adding badges will be so much easier...

... when I get a round tuit.

Look at the badge pages now and then check again on Friday.


I introduced the thumbnail merry-go-rounds to selected pages, and announced it in my 18 Feb 2010 blog post. Since then the world has revolved 3813 times on its ten journeys around the sun. I've kept count. It made my head spin.

Recently I revisited the merry-go-rounds to bring them up-to-date. They are no longer a set of jerky and temperamental spinning tops. They are now driven by state-of-the-art CSS animations.

The old American carousel rotated anticlockwise. Our new merry-go-round rotates in the British direction. Hurrah!

My first effort at updating them had the thumbnails move with linear motion between defined co-ordinates calculated using a spreadsheet with trigonometry doing the heavy lifting.

The resulting fifty line keyframes definition worked fine, but I never quit when I'm ahead. I swerved into Bézier curves and the whole plot is now driven by a couple of lines and a simple formula:

cubic-bezier(0.364, 0, 0.636, 1)

That's it cut down from a 12 decimal place version that approximates a sine wave.

Now you know how I've spent a few of those 3813 days.

- Ben Crossley