Richard Thompson's Website

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Chronicle for 2021

The following material formed the major part of my Christmas letter for 2021, sent out on Christmas Eve in the evening, though I have added a little supplemenatry material and corrected some mistakes that I overlooked in my haste to send the amail before Christmas.

Alert readers of this should by now have realised that I am still alive and appear likely to remain in that state for a fair while.

From time to time someone will get in touch to ask how I am - which I take to be a check to see if I'm still alive. Perceptive folk would answer the question for themslves if they looked at my blog; its address appears at the end of almost every email I write, and on the home page of this website.

Some recipients will have noticed that I have recycled material they've alrady seen because I shamelessly recycle material from emails sent earlier in the year.

Even though I go out very little I find I'm very busy these days, so I'm very happily ocupied at home.

As usual Christmas was peaceful, with just Jon and me.

After I'd opened the presents Santa had left for me on the breakfast table I spent a leisurely day prparing our Christmas dinner. For many years we've shared a duck,but this year we tried a turkey crown. The butcher offered me a choice of 1 kg or 2kg. I eventually regretted my choice of 2kg. It fed us both on Christmas day and on Boxing day, and I put three portions in the freezer, and made myself a turkey sandwich on the day after Boxing day, but still had to throw away a hefty chunk of stale bird. I hate wasting food!

I've acquired a new hobby. 'Distributed Proofreaders' (Dp) is a group of people who prepare digital versions of books that are out of copyright. The output eventually appears on websites of which Project Gutenberg is the best known. More than 40 000 volumes have been done so far and the output is around 200 per month.

Relevant links are: Distributed Proofreaders
and Project Gutenberg

Initially books are scanned page by page and the scans submitted to Optical Character Recognition software. Most of the work is checking the OCR output for errors and correcting them. That's what I and nearly 63 000 others are doing. The OCR seems to be pretty good, but does odd things now and again, especially when the original volumes are in a bad state. Occasionally we digiitise handwritten documents where the OCR can't provide anything useful, so we have to type everything in. I recently worked on a late 19 century Chemistry PhD thesis determining the atomic weight of cadmium. Parts of that were very chalenging!

Dp absorbs any time when I'm not doing anything else, so I'm never at a loose end.

I still run the U3A Science and Technology Group, and attend the Philosophy group, both of which meet on line using Zoom.

Zoom has itself become a hobby of sorts. Close examination of its posibilities, especially those appearing in the very long settings menu, reveals many intriguing quirks. I can now give myself a virtual background, bestow on myself a variety of virtual hats, and draw Venn diagrams on the whiteboard. If you haven't discovered those ask me for a hint. What I haven't yet managed to do is to create a video recording of myself for use as virtual background, so I can appear to be there when I'm not; I gather that is possible. If you are frustrated by the Zoom control buttons on the bottom of the scren disappearing from time to time, press the Alt key to make them permanent.

Let me know if you'd like to join a virtual meeting.

I've now grown accustomed to a social life conducted mainly online, and rather like it. Usually I go out only to shop in the town, and I haven't visited the barber for at least 16 months, just snipping off clumps of hair that get in my way.

We still have a share in Sox, the cat that officially lives next door. We were her primary attendants for Christmas, as the other Richard who thinks he owns her was away visiting friends. She virtually moved in with us during his absence, sleeping on Jon's bed.

I've been thinking a lot about cats recently. Although cats are generally thought of as solitary animals Sox has a vibrant social life with a large circle of friends, but none of them are cats. All her friends are humans whom she is in the process of training to do her bidding. Each day she visits her friends. Breakfast with Richard, second breakfast with us, followed by a check on the place in the garden where she caught a mouse several months ago, then off for elevenses somewhere else, and so on.

I think the reason it's hard to train a cat is that their preferred role is trainer rather than trainee. Households sre gradually re-arranged to suit the resident cat.

In the garden I grew heritage varieties of tomato, as usual, and also managed some French beans. The pear tree had quite a good crop, though all but one of my lettuces were deoured by snails.

In the Autumn I travelled outside Market Harborough for the first time since February of last year.

At the weekend following my birthday Jon and Liam took me to Skegness to spend a night in their static caravan. For a caravan it was quite luxurious with two bedrooms as well as a moderately large living room and a separate kitchen. It is connected to water, sewage and electricity so the stay was quite comfortable. They allowed me the best bedroom which has its own en suite facilities.

We went out for socially distanced dinner to a restaurant called 'Elysium' though no Greek gods were in evidence.

I think that was my first visit to Skegness for about 60 years. We used to go for day trips when I was a child, but after Alan's parents moved to Cleethorpes around 1950 that became our seaside day trip destination.

In Skegness one can't see the sea from the town since the entire seafront is taken up with huge 'amusement' parks where daring youths make perilous vertiginous journeys on structures that look alarmingly flimsy. I shouldn't want to spend long in Skegness, but the brief visit was an interesting adventure.

I noticed that the principal shopping street was Lumley Road, which reminded me that Grandfather and Auntie Grace used to stay somewhere on Lumley Road when visiting Skegness in the 1950s.

A fortnight later I made another, shorter, excursion outside the towm when Liam drove me to Corby for my booster covid 19 jab. There's was no reaction. After my first jab in January I was somewhat indisposed for a day or so, but I survived the second, and third unscathed.

The premises seemed to be a derelict shop, of which there were many in Corby, but the people there gave me a cheerful welcome and dealt with me very promptly even though I arrived about 20 minutes before my appointed time.

It was my first visit to Corby. I found it a very odd place. The outskirts contained a boating lake and a wood. Then there were quite agreeable suburban streets mixed with bits of woodland then, suddenly, we were in a large car park adjoining a strange shopping centre in which the concrete architecture suggested military fortifications.

Corby is definitely not a place to visit for a shopping holiday!

The house is now largely under control. The only developments this year were the installation of a new central heating boiler to relace the aging one that was in the house when we bought it, and a chair lift to speed my ascent of the main staircase. Jon spotted that I was struggling to haul myself upstairs, and made all the arrangemnts.

I recently had to investgate the quirks of gmail. Although I have a gmail account I very rarely use it, keeping it as emergency backup. However I recently found that several friends with gmail accounts weren't seeing my mail because gmail had started to class it as spam, so I launched an investigation.

The way to find out how software works is to press every button, and explore every item in every menu, with special attention to the 'settings' menu. Having done most of that I concluded that to prevent mail from a particular address being sent to spam one should proceed as follows:

There are four buttons in the top right corner of the gmail screen. The button that looks like a cogwheel leads to the settings menu.

Press it, then press the button to show all settings.

At the top of the settings menu are a string of options. select "Filters and blocked addresses"

Enter the email address you wish to protect

Tick the box to exclude messages from the spam folder, and then click on 'create filter'

All should be well thereafter.

Filters can do many things as well as avoiding the spam folder, so you may find those useful too.