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Reader comments are becoming the bane of the internet. For every interesting article you may read online you can usually find a shitshow of stupidity and bigotry posted underneath. I am amazed intelligent sources of news and information still allow reader comments, it’s like producing a fine art painting and allowing any fool to scribble underneath it in crayon. Don’t read the comments.

And so I should really put my money where my mouth is. So from today I’m disabling comments on my own site. I’ve been lucky in that most interaction has been positive. But on the whole we don’t really need website comments anymore, that’s what social media can be used for and I also believe it’s a better way.

So by all means comment on anything you read here, you’ll be able to reach me on Twitter right here – @Grumpyrocker rather than a little box below the fold on this site.

Bring a Bottle?

I’ve just watched the first episode of Emma Kennedy’s entertaining new sitcom about family life in the late 1970s called The Kennedys. While the titular Kennedys were certainly classier than our northern working class family it was definitely all too familiar. The family’s first ever dinner party reminded me of a story about my parents from the early 1980s.

They had been invited to a dinner party. This was unheard of among our family and friends. Children might go round to their mates for tea, but grown ups didn’t. But dad must have been moving in some unusually lofty circles in the Catholic charity he was involved in and so mum and dad were invited to a dinner party.

“Bring a bottle,” they were told.
And I remember mum and dad agonising over what this could possibly mean. A bottle of what? Should it be empty? What kind of bottle, large or small? Why weren’t the hosts providing liquids? It was frankly baffling.

Now it should be said at this point that both my sister and I did have an idea of what sort of bottle they should take, but dad was having none of it, thinking we were going mad talking about buying “that” wine “stuff”. And of course he was always right.

And so on the day in question they got dolled up and headed out for their first classy dinner party with middle class folks. My dad armed with his pint bottle of Newcastle Brown Ale, my mum with her very small bottle of Babycham.

God I would have loved to have been a fly on the wall at that dinner party.

Incidentally it was probably around this time we also tried pasta (not from a can) for the first time. Mum bought some real dried spaghetti and cooked it following the instructions on the packet. My sister and I found it very bland. “Maybe people have some sort of sauce with it,” mum suggested. We thought she was probably right and said that if we had this kind of spaghetti – not from a can – again, we could put some ketchup on it.

The Quest for the Alrightish Burger

Many years ago my late/first wife and I had a pet called George. We loved George, he was yellow and perky, ever ready to join us in our adventures. With his tail behind him he’d open up his jaws and hiss with delight every time we’d decide to eat with him. He wasn’t a snake though, he was a lean mean fat reducing machine aka a two sided grill. I’m not sure what happened to that George, his fate is lost in the mists of time that for me remains hazy – and not just because of the fat-coated steam that filled the kitchen.

Many years later I’ve returned to a similar adventure. Yes I bought a new George Foreman grill. Once again I can enjoy the delights of arguing who gets to clean the bloody thing and wondering how something can be so charred on the inside and yet so “never mind that’ll do” in the middle. I’m not sure how much fat he keeps from us, but George has proved handy for a variety of our regular meals. I think his contribution will likely be measured more in a slightly lower electricity bill than reducing waistbands.

Continue reading The Quest for the Alrightish Burger

Yeovilton Air Day 2015

Queen of the Sky

Another July, another Yeovilton Air Day and this year I took the family along. As ever it was a tricky day for spectators and photographers as the flight line has everyone looking up into the sun. It was lovely to see the Vulcan fly one last time before her retirement at the end of the 2015 airshow season. The highlight of this year’s show for me was the Sea Vixen, it’s such an amazing looking fighter – fast jets tend not to be that pretty anymore.

Continue reading Yeovilton Air Day 2015

SMSL 793II DAC/Headphone Amp – Quick Review

You can pay an absolute fortune for a good headphone amp but much of this money goes into snake oil. A decent DAC chip is not expensive and amplification is not rocket science. SMSL is a Chinese company that’s making waves with good quality audio gear that means you don’t have to break the bank to get good sound. This DAC/Amp receives optical/coax digital PCM and sends it out of the headphone output at the front and via RCA line-out at the rear. The volume controls the headphone only – as it should – leaving the line-out to be a fixed volume. I’ve got this DAC set up on my desk where I feed it an optical signal from my motherboard, the line-out then goes to a hi-fi amp and speakers. The sound quality is excellent both in the phones and via the line-out. I’ve used the line-out to feed an SMSL SA-50 amp and a Marantz MR-603 hifi and in both cases the results were superb. Be aware like most headphone amps there is a little channel imbalance through headphones at the quiet end of the volume taper but this is gone at normal listening volumes.

Also as is often the case with excellent but inexpensive Chinese audio gear the power supply lets the side down with cheapness and potential electric death. My 793ii came with a two-prong switching power supply and a travel adapter. While the power supply seems fine – I didn’t like using it with the travel adapter and bought a 9v switching power supply from Maplin with a proper UK plug.