Ken Craymer

Two great inventions from WW1

April 15th, 2014 by Ken

We are this year commemorating the outbreak of World War I, the war that was going to end all wars, but didn’t and like most conflicts inventions inevitably come out of them. There were many that evolved during that awful period, 1914 to 1918, but I have picked a couple that are in everyday use today.

I wonder just where we would be in our modern world without the little device that has to be found on most articles of clothing that we wear, the Zip Fastener. I understand that although people had been, since the 19th century, trying to find way to make hooks and eyes work effortlessly it was actually a Swedish gentleman who immigrated to the United States that eventually mastered a way to do it. It was during WW1 that the US military incorporated it into their uniforms and after the war it found its way into civilian use.

One invention that I know came directly from WW1 was stainless steel, used in just about everything now. Our military was asking for better metal for our guns which became distorted from repeated firing. Henry Brearley a Sheffield metallurgist was experimenting with chrome added to the steel and apparently threw some of the scraps he had been working on away and was amazed to find that they did not rust. Eureka our metallurgist had discovered stainless steel and it was used in the production of aero engines of the time. Later of course it was the choice for cutlery and the vital instruments in hospitals.

I naturally am no lover of any kind of conflict, but it has to be said that it is in these times that the ingenuity of man comes to the forefront.

zip

Picture: Isobel T

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A great way to get my bag to Malaga

March 31st, 2014 by Ken

I do an awful lot of travelling in my job and much of it is in Europe and I as I am usually only there for just a few days, hand luggage and my laptop are all I need. But, there are times when I have to stay longer and sometimes I have to take equipment with me which entails taking a larger suitcase, which has to go in the hold and with most airlines, it comes with a pretty hefty price tag.

I always try to use budget airlines when I fly to Europe, they are quick and convenient pretty much hassle free, but the downside is the baggage allowance and the charge of around £36 for the privilege of putting it into the hold! However I have found and used a number of times, a way that you can beat the system and only have to pack and unpack the bag, or in my case equipment!

All I do is to call Send My Bag and they will call at your door, collect the bag and send it on to your forwarding address, now that is hassle free and saves me lugging a heavy suitcase to my destination. Recently they have introduced an app, which I used on my last trip to Malaga using my iPod touch. On this trip I had to bring a piece of equipment back to the UK, so using the app, I could get an instant quotation and subsequently arranged for the piece of equipment to be brought to my door, all for under £30. Now that is hassle free and it helped my back as well!

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Water Fluoridation right or wrong?

March 31st, 2014 by Ken

I see the great debate about adding fluoride to the water supplies has come round again; I do not take a particular stance either way, I think that what worries people is that the state can make a decision to add something to our water supplies which may or may not benefit people. I feel sure that there must be some people who do not believe in fluoride, they consider that it causes discolouration amongst other things. On the other hand our dental profession think it is the finest thing that could possibly happen.

But are our nation’s teeth as bad as many people are saying. I think that with modern toothpaste, electric toothbrushes of many types, that the actual teeth of adults and children are better than it has ever been. Many dentists will point to the addition of fluoride in toothpaste as the reason, more attention to the way we take care of our oral hygiene and regular checkups with the friendly dentist, of course!

Adding fluoride to the water supplies will apparently cost as little as 40 pence per resident per year in the water board area, so it is really cheap. But as I say, are teeth as bad as many would have us believe? No it is the gums that are the reason so many lose teeth, often these teeth are absolutely sound, but gum disease causes them to become lose and eventually drop out. Preventing gum disease has to be the priority and this is where the dentist has to lead. Perhaps school visits and demonstration of how to keep gums healthy should be the priority, but sooner or later the state will add fluoride to water supplies, they have been trying unsuccessfully for about 40 years.

 

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Have we seen the death of the pension?

March 28th, 2014 by Ken

The reason that I am writing this is not about the government’s latest scheme announced in the budget to allow us all to either, take the whole pension pot and have a spending spree, draw some down each year, or buy an annuity. No this is about the fact that the pension is not growing as expected due to a number of factors and is at an all-time low. Money printing by government, life expectancy and inflation are just some.

I do not know if you are aware, but in 1995 a pension could have bought a very nice £11,380 per year, today that same pension pot will only get you £4,920! However the same cannot be said for housing, in thirty years house prices have increased by a massive 590% and if you have had a home for a long time, you have a lot of equity in it.

I was discussing this with my parents recently and they were becoming increasingly concerned at the value of their company pension dwindling and so I said to them, look get some money from your home; go down the equity release route. Mum of course said no what are we going to leave you? Well I told them that I was doing pretty well and they had to think about themselves from now on, in any event there may still be quite a lump left for me, unless the property markets crash completely!

Equity release is much regulated now and also very flexible, you have the absolute right to remain in your property as well as retain 100% home ownership. Interest rates are fixed for life, and you can move to another property and take the plan with you if you want, or you can pay it off if you decide to sell.

Well I’m happy to say that they took my advice and now have a very tidy sum which is carefully invested and they can draw on it whenever they feel the need. Well done mum and dad.

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The mystery surrounding MH370

March 18th, 2014 by Ken

As many of you may remember I used to fly in Nimrod aircraft during my days with The Royal Air Force and also I know quite a bit about aircraft and how they are handled. It will come as no surprise to you I imagine that I, along with millions of others find the disappearance of the Malay flight MH370 a complete mystery.

I have my own theory based upon my experiences in the R.A.F and also the tightened security of commercial aircraft flights. A number of things spring straight into my mind and the first one is the much talked about disappearance from radar of the aircraft and the theory that the transponder and device that sends data about the aircraft and the engines back to the airline and manufactures.

One thing that I can tell you and that is that no one without training could turn these off, it is not just a case of throwing a switch that is marked “transponder” or the like, several switches on the flight deck panels have to be operated. Well there are two people on the flight deck that know exactly how to do that, they have been doing it for as long as they could fly commercial aircraft!

So what about the passengers who may have this knowledge, I could probably still recall how to do it on a Nimrod. Well they have to get into the cabin and although there has been much talk about the co-pilot and two girls, I find it unbelievable that they would have the door open and believe me, these door are almost impossible to break down and anyone trying it would alert the pilots and they have a “Mayday Skyjack” scrambler button that alerts all ground control and other aircraft anywhere within range of the aircraft.

So without you turning into Sherlock Holmes, it does not take a lot to come to the obvious conclusion does it? Let us pray that they are all safe and sound on the ground somewhere.

 

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Keeping your home and business premises secure

March 16th, 2014 by Ken

Although I understand that house breaking and burglary rates are falling from the time during the 1980’s which saw rapid increases, it can be still worrying when you leave your home or business premises and go away for a period.

Things have changed quite a lot since that days when you could have a set of about twelve keys and could wander about new housing estates and open just about every door lock! It was whilst I was reading a new website which has been developed for Secured by Design that I came across a lot of remarkable facts such as the twelve key saga.

If you are not any wiser about Secured by Design than I was, it is a group of national police projects that were set up in 1989 to focus and work with the industry to test houses to ascertain how secure they are. It is due to them and the locksmith industry that the incidence of house and business crime has been reduced since they were set up in 1989 and anything that reduces this crime or fear of it if you are concerned about leaving your premises can only be welcomed.

I have signed up for newsletters from the organisation to be sent to my email and you can also find a list of accredited suppliers of products such as. Lock, door, and window suppliers that are accredited and are happy to give advice on home security, it certainly makes me feel less anxious about leaving my home or business premises, how do you feel?

door chain

Picture: 0Four

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The joy of being a Maltese Terrier

March 10th, 2014 by Ken

Well it was not a really great experience I suppose for a little Maltese Terrier dog in Melbourne Australia, when apparently he wandered into the garage if its owner and licked up a quantity of  ethylene glycol from the garage floor. As most of us know, this is a product that is used in car anti-freeze and I suppose that it had leaked from the car radiator. Anyway this is not a sensible thing to do as it apparently this is broken down by the liver and turns into a deadly toxin which causes kidney failure.

According to the owner of the dog he appeared drunk and was falling about and vomiting so they sensibly took it to the vet. Now this is the part that I like and no doubt you would too, the vet fed it a full bottle of vodka, yes a whole 70 centilitre bottle of the booze! I didn’t know that dogs liked Vodka, and they don’t really so the kindly vet fed it through a tube directly into the dog’s stomach over a period of two days.

I understand that the Vodka works as an antidote to the antifreeze, which contains ethylene glycol, as it prevents this from breaking down into what is a deadly toxin. The little dog whose name is Charlie was regularly kept fed with vodka until all the antifreeze has passed naturally through his body and able to return to home, no doubt Charlie had the mother and father of all hangovers, but lives to see another day.

I suppose that the moral and serious point in this little tale is mop any spilled antifreeze, and do not let your family pet into the garage! Cheers Charlie!

 

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Standard Life a threat to Scottish independence

February 28th, 2014 by Ken

The vote that Scotland is to undertake on September 18th 2014 is drawing nearer and I’m afraid that yet more warnings are being sent out the people of Scotland regarding the problems that it could face should they vote to go down the breakup of the United Kingdom as we all know it.

I personally have no “axe to grind” in this debate, but it does seem to me that they are many inherent dangers should they decide to break away. The First Minister, Alex Salmond is all sweetness and light saying that the people will be far better off without being “shackled” by the English, but let’s be serious shall we?

In the first place there is a huge uncertainty about the currency; the government has made it quite clear, endorsed also by the Bank of England that they cannot use the pound and Europe has also said that they will have to apply to be a member of Europe and apparently that seems pretty remote. So the Euro is out of the question as well. Now I know that some will say that it will be a good thing not to be in Europe, but business certainly does not support that view.

The latest huge corporation to warn Mr Salmond and his cabinet is the insurance and pensions giant Standard Life, who is well on in the process of drawing up contingency plans to move away from their headquarters in Edinburgh and relocate in London.

Another giant is the bank RBS which has warned that should Scotland vote for independence, it would have a serious effect on the Group’s credit ratings. They have also said that the current uncertainty about the referendum is impacting on it now.

From what RBS and Standard Life are saying, it seems that unless Mr Salmond can put a clear, sensible and credible position on the currency situation, Scottish jobs will be put at risk, of that I believe there is no doubt.

Scotland

Picture: Amanda Slater

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Advice and help for a friend

February 27th, 2014 by Ken

It was whilst was I was down at my local a few weeks ago that I got talking to an old friend of mine Bob and during our usual banter he told me about a problem that he was having. He has a small retail unit and it was during the conversation that he told me about the problems he was having with a company that supplies his barcode labels. Now he told me that he was not complaining about the price as he thought they seemed pretty competitive, he was more concerned with the quality of the barcode itself as often the scanner would simply not read the barcode.

As he said he can punch the numbers in manually, but as I said he may as well just put a price on the product. Now there is one thing that I know as a customer and that it is so frustrating standing at a till or check out and having to wait whilst the operator punches in the information. Why we all get het up I not sure, but we all do.

So I told him about my experience with a company that I have used on two occasions this year Data Label who supplied me with some barcode labels and later on a special polypropylene label that I needed for a particularly harsh environment. Now I have experience that the barcodes which were supplied to me by Data Label scanned every time and as I understand it they ensure that every barcode they supply is scanned for its readability prior to dispatch.

Well Bob telephoned me and said how delighted he was with the service and prompt despatch of his self adhesive barcode labels and true to their word, the barcodes supplied by Data Label scanned every time. Nice when you can recommend a product to someone and they call and tell you they’re completely satisfied.

barcode

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We are at war with the French again!

February 26th, 2014 by Ken

No not really, it is just that the French ski instructors are getting a bit miffed because there are an increasing number of fully qualified British Ski Instructors taking classes at the French ski resorts.

War has broken out at Megeve in the French Alps, I know the area quite well having skied there some years ago, I can recall the time quite well because our party was quite blatantly given horse meat disguised as beef, well I think it was supposed to be beef, although I seem to recall that they referred to it a stew. Well as I recall it didn’t taste all that bad, but perhaps if we had known what it was we may have refused it!

The present troubles have arisen, as I understand it, because more and more British instructors who have the full top-level ISTD qualification from the British Association of Snowsports Instructors. What they do not all seem to have is the French equivalent which is not recognised in the skiing world, what’s new there folks?

I know well that the French are very protective of their nationality, language, and it seems jobs, but is it necessary to haul off the ski lift a British instructor, who has worked in the resort is for no less than 30 years, yes that’s right 30, in front of his class and other half term holiday makers.

The gentleman, who is 51 years old, spent the night in the cells and could face imprisonment for three months if convicted of the offence, which the authorities are claiming is because he is not qualified. Well I think it is sheer madness, we all have a right to live work in any European country and as the person pointed out, “the only thing that I am guilty of is not being French” surely sense will prevail, after all the British make a huge contribution and in some resorts are the majority of skiing holiday makers. Perhaps we should all go to Austria, Switzerland, Italy or Spain instead, that might have the desired effect.

megeve ski resort

Picture: Jerome Bon

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