Sunday 26 January 2014

Low tech is good tech

I always felt that the Luddites had a bad press. Naturally - after all I ride a Harley. 

But seriously, the Luddites weren't just fighting the introduction of new technology (and a horrific new factory system) simply because it was new - but because they saw that  the changes in their industry were going to make machines more important than people. But this isn't a post about radical movements in the nineteenth century - it's about the triumph of unnecessary gadgetry over common sense on modern motorcycles. 

One of my bikes has been running rough for some time. Spitting, spluttering and back-firing even more frequently that Harleys are prone to do. Then I started getting scary looking warning lights flashing at me for no apparent reason. 

So I replaced switches, checked and re-checked everything. Took it to a mate with a bike shop who did much the same. All to no avail. Then riding home the other day it finally spluttered and died - and I couldn't start it again.

Resisting the urge to launch a Basil Fawlty-like assault on the all too-inanimate object - I tried to work logically through the possibilities: The engine was turning over and there was a spark - so the electrics seemed ok. Next I checked the fuel. I pulled off the hose from the fuel tap (or 'pet-cock' as the yanks call it) and sure enough, petrol splashed everywhere. So all the ingredients for a running engine seemed to be in place.

Then I saw that a much smaller rubber tube going into the fuel tap looked perished and split. I remembered that this must be the vacuum line that connects to the carb and effectively  keep the petrol automatically flowing whilst the engine is running - thereby avoiding the need to turn the fuel tap on and off when you park up the bike. 

A light bulb moment: I connected everything back up and with a bit of contortionism, contrived to squeeze the little rubber tube whilst trying to start the engine - which promptly burst into life - only for it to die again as soon as I let go of the tube.

With the help of a pocket knife I trimmed-off the perished  rubber and replaced it. The bike is now running sweetly and no more scary warning lights that presumably had come on because the bike was momentarily cutting out whilst I was riding.

Weeks of worrying, replacing parts  and needlessly fucking about in the garage - all because  the manufacturer deemed it  beyond the wit of owners to manage to turn the petrol tap on and off. As we have managed to do for generations. 

Now don't even get me started on electronic instruments and diagnostic codes....

Saturday 18 January 2014

History battles.

It's been a bit of a struggle recently to keep up with the blogging. But I do have a piece in The Socialist on Michael Gove and the ideological battle over the history of the Great War. In this centenary year I suspect that there is an awful  lot more of this bollocks to come ...

Saturday 4 January 2014

Vindicated by 1984 papers.

My first reaction on hearing about the government papers released under the thirty year rule was a surprising regret that Thatcher hadn't managed to live another year.

Since 1984, the ideas that there was a political master plan to destroy the mining industry regardless of the economic viability of individual pits; that the police were being politically directed;  or that there were plans to use emergency powers to bring in the army, have all been depicted as the product of left wing conspiro-loons. In fact the papers reveal that these things were all true. Scargill and the NUM were right - and Thatcher and the Tories lied.

And then only a few weeks ago we saw some of Thatcher's surviving colleagues jumping on the Mandela bandwagon and claiming that she had tried to use her influence to secure his release. But we now know the minutes of her meeting at Chequers with PW Botha reveal that no such conversations ever took place.

Of course none of these revelations will make any impression on the unreconstructed Thatcherites. But it is all too easy for those of us who lived and campaigned through the years to underestimate the paradigm shift that has shaped a generation of Thatcher's children. 

We saw a taste of this last year with her (almost) state funeral and her elevation 'above politics' into an iconic statesman-like  figure. Let's hope now that  just a few of those Thatcher's children have their eyes opened by these revelations and see her, and the next generation who defend her, for what they are - vicious class warriors without scruples.