Thursday, 8 February 2018

New Bins for Organic Waste in Arganzuela District

the brown-lidded wheelie bin on the pavement

At last we have been given the new brown-lidded wheelie bins for organic, compostable waste. The Madrid city council has been rolling out the collection service and the bins for the past six months (if I remember correctly). The waste goes in plastic bags (in some places it has to be in compostable, biodegradable bags, but not here in town).

In England, my family have always had a compost bin to collect raw vegetable waste, which then enriches the soil, and I think accounts in part for the abundant crops of flowers and vegetables we've often had. Living here in Madrid in a flat, there's not much option but to simply throw it away with all the other rubbish. This has always pained me, to see all the organic matter like vegetable peelings that could go into the ground to enrich the soil, so badly needed in a place like Madrid, dumped in landfill. So I'm very happy about the new brown-lid bins.

Maidstone Borough council collects food waste in a very small bin, and garden waste in another, optional bin, perhaps because people there are more likely to have their own compost heaps. But in Madrid the bins can contain not only food waste, but kitchen paper towels, bottle corks, cooked meat and vegetable food (but no raw meat or fish), and even mussel shells.

So now I have expanded the collection of waste bins in the kitchen to four:
    four Ikea waste bins with lids, in two pull-out drawers, in a kitchen cupboard
  • Packaging for recycling
  • Food and other organic waste
  • Everything else not recyclable
  • Paper and cardboard (kept in a box file, not shown)
We also separate Nespresso capsules and take them to the public recycling plant.

In Madrid the no-recycle and now the organic bins are put out every night except New Year's eve. The yellow bin for packaging is put out (collected) on Sunday, Monday, Wednesday and Friday (in this district). Although the new bin has been put out for a month now, at the recent annual resident's meeting, most confessed they had no idea what it was for, even though there's a label on it.

Wednesday, 7 February 2018

Mystery Song Book

Updated: I think I solved the mystery, the day after I wrote the post. So I'm updating it.

My friend John Nelson is restoring the binding of a 1904 edition of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass." While stripping off the glue from the spine of the book, a printed text was revealed, after over a century unseen by human eyes. The type is large, but faded and broken ,but I was able to discern some of it: "Curwets Action Song Book ... Kindergarten Songs, Games, P..." The last word I can only guess at, it seems to begin with a letter "P," could be "pianoforte" or "pastimes."

Text printed on the spine of the book
The reason for writing this post is that my online search (Google, DuckDuckGo, British Library, ABE Books, Amazon, LibraryThing) revealed no reference at all. Perhaps one day, someome who has the whole book, will search online and find this piece and enlighten me about it.


Having published the post, my intuition went to work. I wondered why the printer would have used the paper like this. Perhaps the book was printed but never published? Then I consulted "The Concise Baker's Biographical Dictionary of Composers and Musicians." There's no mention of "Curwet," but I did learn about the Reverend John Curwen (with an "n") and his son John Spencer Curwen. They were both musical education reformers and Curwen senior founded the publishing company John Curwen & Sons. This reminded me that I had seen the name in the British Library catalogue. There are three books, "Kindergarten Action Songs", "Gems for the Kindergarten ... Consisting of kindergarten games, action songs and recitations with actions…" and "Songs of Fact and Fancy, for Kindergartens and Infants' Schools. The words and actions…" all published by Curwen & Sons. According to the Wikipedia article on the Curwen Press, the firm continued until 1977. So my hypothesis is that this title is from a print run with an erroneous title, a misprint, that was recycled, and used for the binding of other books.

Tuesday, 6 February 2018

Reading "A Perfectly Good Man" by Patrick Gale

I just read this novel. In my ignorant exile from the English-speaking literary world, I didn't know about the author, Patrick Gale, until I watched "Man in an Orange Shirt" on the BBC last Summer. I so much enjoyed that series that I began to explore his novels, first with "Rough Music" and then "A Place Called Winter." The latter left me quite profoundly moved in a way that I've never felt before on reading fiction, and I was almost in tears at the end of it (which doesn't happen easily with me, even in private). This one ("A Perfectly Good Man") it seems to me is very good, but I didn't find it as engaging as the other two. I was bewildered by the way it jumps around between characters and moments in their lives, although I grew accustomed to that by the last third of the book. It's an interesting and enlightening essay on what it means to be a good person, and also the role religious faith plays in that.

Saturday, 3 February 2018

Filofax Archive Binder Home-Made

I have two Filofax storage (archive) binders for personal size pages, mostly diaries, but they filled up years ago and spread over into regular binders. At £10 a time, they seem to me to be very over-priced.

I had often thought about making one for myself, as they seem very simple. One problem was the metal fixing posts, as I couldn't find out what they were called.
The posts in the Filofax binder
Eventually I was able to find some on eBay. They are called Chicago Studs or posts, even "Sex bolts." There is a wide variety of styles and sizes, once you know how to find them. The posts I bought are different in that they screw together rather than having a pop fastener, which entails using a screwdriver to close the binder, but have the advantage that they don't  pop open unexpectedly. And with diaries from ten years ago, I'm unlikely to want to rearrange them often.

The brass studs I used, with screw fixing.
The Filofax binders are made from thick black plastic. I bought a large sheet of plastic from Orbiplast, a specialist shop that just happens to a be a five minute walk over the river Manzanares. It cost me just €3.

I used the existing binder as a template and cut out the shape. I punched holes in the plastic with a larding needle and a skewer. I scored the plastic with the back of a scissor blade, and there it was, done.

This cost less than £2, compared to the £10 plus shipping it would have cost to buy.

Now I can make as many as I need and organize my archive properly. The diary pages go back to 1999, and some of the recipes go back to the mid-eighties, before I came to Madrid.

Friday, 2 February 2018

Ubuntu Touch Still not for Me...

I remember the excitement nearly two years ago when I received the new BQ Aquaris M10 Tablet pre-installed with Ubuntu Touch. It's a revolutionary approach for a hand-held device, working as a touch interface, but on detecting a mouse changing to a multi-window desktop-style.

To my disappointment it was not ready for an end-user like me, and I couldn't see any justification for struggling with it, and  after a couple of weeks I gave up and flashed it with Android. I read afterwards that Canonical had abandoned further development of Ubuntu Touch. Since then I've used it mainly for watching videos, and browsing the web, when travelling.

Then the other day I discovered that a consortium of volunteers had formed the UBPorts project and taken it over to continue the development work. I eagerly flashed the tablet back to the original Ubuntu Touch, and then installed the new version. This took me about three days, due to my ignorance of how these things work. I was delighted, and initially overlooked the lack of any full-featured touch applications, confident that I would be able to use those familiar to me from the desktop. It's amazing to see the full LibreOffice suite working on a tablet and use it with an external keyboard and mouse.

However, the applications have to be installed in a container (Libertine) and I can't figure out how to install anything like recent versions of them (Firefox was some ten versions out of date), and VLC media player doesn't work (and the supplied touch app doesn't support captions). The documentation is very scant, as it's evidently produced by developers for developers. For example, the built-in browser can be used from the keyboard, but it's not documented anywhere, and I had to discover the bindings for myself as described in my post yesterday. Unfortunately I don't feel qualified or motivated to contribute to it at the moment.

So I've sadly had to abandon it again and go back to Android.

Thursday, 1 February 2018

Using Ubuntu Touch Browser from the Keyboard

I've started using this browser with Ubuntu Touch from UBPorts. on my BQ Aquaris M10 Tablet. Although I've installed Firefox which is good with the mouse and keyboard, for touch interaction the bundled browser looks a much better proposition. The problem is that it appears to have no documentation whatsoever beyond the description on the Oxide project page. Although it comes installed by default on desktop Ubuntu, there's no indication about how to use it with the keyboard. So I investigated quickly (on the desktop), and here are the results:

History, view Ctrl+H
Bookmark, add Ctrl+D
Find in page Ctrl+F

Address bar
Address autocomplete Alt+D
Refresh Ctrl+R
Tab, new Ctrl+T
Tab, close Ctrl+W
Menu, activate Space bar
I still can't figure out how to navigate to the home page without opening a new tab.

Wednesday, 3 January 2018

Reading "Moonfleet" by JM Falkner

I read this book at primary school, and I wanted to go back to it to understand why it made such an impression on me then. It's a story about smugglers in a village on the south coast of England at the end of the eighteenth century. One of my memories is that the smugglers are the good people, while the forces of law and order are the oppressors. What I was too naive to understand at the time is that the characters are mostly men; the mothers and wives are either dead or not mentioned. Except for the childhood sweetheart, who appears at the beginning and at the end. And John's aunt who is seemingly unloving and overly strict with him, leading him to leave home. The men on the other hand are loving, constant friends and courageous in the face of adversity. Elzivir the owner of the Why-Not tavern, is like the father that John (an orphan) has never known. At the end Elzevir makes the ultimate sacrifice to save John from the shipwreck in the storm.

Reading an online biography of the author is revealing, I think:
The marriage lasted the rest of his life, but seems to have been, on his part at least, a relatively passionless affair, for he appears to have been a natural celibate. There were no children. ... Evelyn was very definitely the junior member of this partnership and he never referred to her opinion on any subject; he seems to have had a very low opinion of female capabilities in general. (
I was bewildered by much of the vocabulary in the book, and was constantly reaching for the dictionary. As I said, the story takes place in the late eighteenth century which might explain this, except that it was published at the end of the nineteenth century. Although the edition I read (Oxford Children's Classics) dates from 2013, there is no glossary. I wonder how children manage. Or how I did at ten years old.

I really enjoyed it, probably more now than when I was a child.

There is a Wikipedia article about Moonfleet.