My trip to Madison

I have written before about some strange dreams I have had over the years. They often fascinate me, at least when I wake up remembering them in such detail. Sometimes, the reasons behind them are obvious, but on occasion, they are completely baffling.

When I woke up this morning, I was aware that I had been dreaming. It was probably one of those ‘just before you wake’ dreams, because the details were fixed in my mind, and seemed very real to me. Not like a dream at all, more like being in another place, then transported back to my bed in Beetley, awakened by the yapping of a neighbour’s dog. This one is worth examining.

I was walking by a huge lake. There was a well-constructed path, affording scenic views over what might have been a coastal area, with a large modern city behind me. I was walking with another man, and I can still see his features clearly, though I have no idea who he was or is. We were heading for a kind of food stall, perhaps a van converted to sell food. The man and I discussed what we might buy to eat, and he recommended the German Sausage, in a roll. He told me that it was the “Best in Madison”. I was speaking in my normal voice, and looked just as I do now, at the same age. He was undoubtedly American, and though around the same age as me, was much fitter-looking, with a full head of hair. When we got to the vendor, I ordered the sausage in the roll, and he handed me the food, declaring “You won’t get better anywhere in Wisconsin, my English friend.”
Then the dog started yapping, and I woke up.

I have never been to America. I have heard of Wisconsin, but only in the context of Schlitz Beer, the brand that ‘made Milwaukee famous’. I am also aware that it is close to the Great Lakes, and the Canadian border, but that’s about it. So, I looked up Madison, and this is what I found.

“Madison, the capital city of Wisconsin, lies west of Milwaukee. It’s known for the domed Wisconsin State Capitol, which sits on an isthmus between lakes Mendota and Monona. The Wisconsin Historical Museum documents the state’s immigrant and farming history. The city’s paved Capital City State Trail runs past Monona Terrace, a lakefront convention center designed by Frank Lloyd Wright.”

That have me a few chills up the spine. It has a lakeside path that runs along a waterfront, and the large city behind boasts a population of around 250,000. More research tells me that the area is famous for the production of German food, especially sausage, and that there are a lot of German restaurants in the area too.

I have no explanation for this dream. No idea why I should have been in that city that I had never heard of, walking with a man I don’t recognise, alongside a lake that I can still see in my mind. But I was surely there, as it felt as real as sitting here now, typing this. And how else would I have been aware of the small details?

Another of those wonderful mysteries of the mind.

Holiday at ours in Cley, Norfolk

A wonderful place to stay, in one of the nicest parts of Norfolk, and the East of England. A blogging offer from Klausbernd and Dina that I wholeheartedly recommend. Check out the lovely photos too.

The World according to Dina

I woke up this morning to a voice next to me saying, “I’m not blogging any longer!!
Eyes still closed, I thought, ok, that’s a possibility. And all the things that I could do – if I were not spending so much time on blogging – came to my mind. Not bad at all … So I said, “that’s fine with me, let’s quit blogging“.
After breakfast and some grounding work in the garden, Klausbernd, Siri and Selma and myself went for a walk and discussed the reasons for and against blogging. On one hand, we love blogging for many reasons, but on the other hand, blogging is so ungrounded. All the time and dedicated work invested doesn’t bring a penny. That’s the point.

Eine Stimme weckte mich heute: “Ich blogge nie mehr!” Mit noch geschlossenen Augen dachte ich, naja, hören wir eben auf…

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Getting excited about astronomy

I like the night sky as much as anyone. Nothing beats living in a place where clean air and lack of light pollution can give you some wonderful views of the stars. I don’t know much about the subject, but I can recognise the more familiar groups. Orion’s Belt, The Big Dipper, all those usual suspects that most of us have been shown, or taught about, at some time in our lives.

As I got older, the makers of television programmes latched onto the growing interest in the Universe. More entertaining less technical shows on the subject started to appear. From one of these, I learned that the light we see from a star is actually caused by the fact that it has exploded, countless centuries ago. That light from the explosion takes so long to reach our part of the galaxy, that it remains shining constantly, so we can see it when conditions are right. I confess that really taxed my levels of understanding. These stars have been viewed for thousands of years, and have fascinated mankind since he first stood on two legs, and gazed upward. Yet in 2017, I can look out of my window this evening, and see that same light as the caveman from thousands of years ago.

That gave me quite a headache, I can tell you, trying to work out how that could happen. The space-time continuum, the theory of relativity, light speed, and many other technical terms were thrown at me from the TV. Most were (and still are) completely beyond the comprehension of this mere mortal. I just like the twinkling lights in the sky over Norfolk. I should never have tried to discover why they were there. But I stuck with the subject, finally getting the most basic grasp of what they were on about.

More recently, there was a great deal of excitement in the halls of astronomy. Not only has a new planet been discovered, presumably using some remarkable telescope, they were sure that the planet was ‘Earth-like’, and might well contain water. They came to this assumption by studying the images of the surface, and when interviewed on TV, the experts were literally beside themselves with joy. Imagine the kerfuffle when they went on to discover some seven more ‘Earth-like’ planets orbiting a star that they named Trappist-1. I was swept up in the enthusiasm. Could this be the answer to mankind’s problems? New worlds to inhabit, science fiction becoming fact?

I immediately wanted to discover more. The first discovery was named Kepler 186f, after the NASA telescope. It is about the size of Earth, but the view we saw on TV was not a photograph, rather an ‘artistic impression’. The speculation about life or water existing there was just that, speculation. All the ‘findings’ appear to be based on rough measurement of the size of the planet, and its position relative to other planets in the Constellation Cygnus. I was still excited. We should start building the Starfleet transports, I thought. After all, it’s got to be worth a try? Then I noticed something I had overlooked. Kepler 186f is located 500 Light Years from Earth. Not local then.

I looked it up.
‘According to Guinness World Records, the Fastest spacecraft speed is 246,960 km/h. A light year is 9.461e+12 km. So, 500 light years would take: 9.461e+12*500/(246,690*24*365) = 2,186,565 years.’
(Let’s face it, not many of us could have worked that out, even with a good calculator)
So, just 2.2 (less change) MILLION years to get there, using the best technology available today.

I’m not excited anymore. Not in the least.

Modern Romance

I rarely re-blog posts, but I could not resist this absolute gem.


Snapchat: how it works

She knew he didn’t love her
’cause his top three Snapchat rates
were all of other girls
and that web cam whore Kate.

And she wanted to hang out
but he said it was too late
then he posted on his Facebook page
all about his evening date

And after all the sexting and innumerable deletes
after all the texting and after all the tweets
after she had lain with him
their Facebook pic together
that evening she unfriended him
murmuring to herself





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Vaping v Smoking: My conclusions

I have been asked to write an update about using electronic smoking products, as opposed to smoking ‘real’ cigarettes. So, Madelyn, this is for you. (And anyone else who is remotely interested.)

In 2012, Julie and I both gave up smoking. That’s not strictly true, as we actually gave up smoking real cigarettes, and switched to the electronic alternatives instead. Less chemicals, no carbon dioxide or carbon monoxide. Few (if any) cancerous by-products, and absolutely no odour on our clothes, or in our house. Our main reason was financial, we make no secret of that. The cost of tobacco cigarettes was getting out of proportion, and exceeding our ability to justify spending such a large part of our income on them.

After a couple of years, we switched from the electronic cigarette ‘lookalikes’ to vaping machines that use separate fluid. The main reason for this was because the smaller batteries were unreliable, and there was a lack of choice in the range of flavours. However, this also brought an unexpected reduction in costs too, making it even cheaper to keep away from ‘real’ smoking.

So just how much do we save? Is it worth switching to vaping, purely in monetary terms? To show just how much you could save, (and without going on about the additional health benefits) I will give an example of one typical year. Of course, you have to allow for the setup costs of buying the vaping devices. But once they are out of the way, daily costs are minimal, compared to the equivalent for cigarettes. Here is one year, broken down purely in financial terms. I am allowing for two of us using vaping devices here. If you are one person, you can halve these figures.

Conventional cigarettes. (UK prices for Marlboro Red/ Lucky Strike.)

Approx £9 per packet. ($11.27 US) This is the lowest estimate, at current prices.

Me. Ten packets weekly.
Julie, Six packets weekly.
Weekly cost. £129 ($161.62 US)
Annual cost. £6,708 ($8,404 US)

Vaping. Prices based on buying online, from Amazon, and other online retailers.

Kangertech Evod Mega devices X 6 units (Three each, so we have spare batteries)

Cost £19-£26 each, depending on retailer. Say £22 ($27.50 US) each for the sake of this post.
Total. £132 ($165.37 US)
Fluid to fill devices at around £1.50 a bottle.
Me. Three bottles weekly.
Julie. two bottles weekly.
Weekly cost. £7.50 ($9.40 US)
Annual cost. £390 ($488.51 US)
Replacement heating coils for vaping devices.
We use around four each week, between us. They cost £1.20 ($1.50 US) each.
Weekly cost. £4.80 ($6 US)
Annual cost. £249.60 ($312.65 US)

Total cost for vaping in one year, for two people. £804.97 ($1009 US)
Divide by two for one user. £403 ($505 US)
Second and subsequent years. Remove the initial cost of vaping devices by deducting the £132, and annual costs come down to an average of £673 ($843 US) for two people. So, the saving is easy to work out.

First year saving. £5,903 ($7,394 US) For two people
Second and subsequent years savings. £6,035 ($7,560 US) for two people.

I think that the sums are right, but feel free to tell me if I have made an error. Even if I am out by a little, you can see that the cost differences are immense. If nothing else, you will have a great deal more money in your pocket. You may still have to face being addicted to nicotine, but you will not be inhaling hundreds of other poisonous cocktails present in the normal cigarette smoke. You will also have something to hold, something to put into your mouth, and a device that fulfills the secondary desires of most smokers, as well as the primary one. That of inhaling nicotine in vapour.

For my wife and I, it has been a success story. We have not had a cigarette since September, 2012, and see no reason why we would ever go back to them. It is not, ‘Not Smoking’, I make no claim for that. But it is without doubt safer smoking, and incredibly cheaper too.
There are hundreds of devices available, in many styles and sizes. I only mention the brand we chose for cost estimation purposes.