Free at last . . .

The last two days have, for us, been momentous. On Monday we went as far as Dumfries, driving ourselves, not going by taxi, to the Heathhall Garden Centre to meet up with relations travelling north. Two of then live in England, but we have not seen them since before the Covid isolation time began, and we hadn’t seen them for a long while before that either. They brought with them another cousin who came to the UK when Covid began to be with his elderly Mother. He has lived with her ever since and she dies recently at the age of 99. He is now free to return to Oz, but there is much to sort out in the way of putting his Mother’s house on the market and dealing with her affairs. We cannot remember when we last saw him before all that, but the last photo I have was taken at Christmas 2003 !

We ate very well, and I think our conversation probably drowned out conversation at nearby tables. Our relations going north set off afterwards, and dropped off the Cousin at Abington services to catch a long distance Megabus to return ultimately to Plymouth via London.

Then yesterday we went to Gatehouse of Fleet to the Podiatrist, and then ate in the Galloway Lodge which also was excellent. So, in two days we have blown apart 3½ years of hermit like isolation. We are still alive, and feel as though we have been set free.

Quote : “Free at last, Free at last, Thank God almighty we are free at last.” Martin Luther King. 1958.

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The Morgan Three Wheeler

“Back in the day”, in the post war years (which war was that Daddy ?) we used to go to the motoring events attainable from where we lived. Inevitably therefore, these consisted of the Veteran Car run from London to Brighton, and the Veteran Motorcycle run from Tattenham Corner to Brighton. There were probably others too, but I cannot now remember what they were. These events drew many spectators and people turned up in all sorts of vehicles other than the actual entrants and you would see lovely old Bentleys, Rolls-Royces, sports cars of all sorts, Frazer-Nashs, HRG, Aston-Martin and so on – and always there would be some well wrapped up drivers and passengers in Morgan three wheelers.

I had by this time read and bought a good many books as they became available on veteran and vintage cars so I knew about the cycle cars which came into existence after the First World War as a being cheap, and a way for people to get on the road. The Morgan was one of these and always seemed to me to be the most sensible and practical solution, and many times I have wondered why other manufacturers since have not explored the idea more.. There was also the BSA three wheeler but they didn’t seem to catch on or catch the imagination in quite the same way.

BSA Three Wheeler Advert

For me the Morgan was the epitome of desirability and I would dearly have liked one, but of course by that time the only one still in existence were old, and preserved, and changed hands in frequently at prices way beyond the means of a boy, and later the young man. And from a practical point of view they would need to be stored carefully, under cover, and since I proceeded into the fluid life of a Royal Air Force aircrew person that was really an impossibility. So, I made do with more practical transport and worshipped from afar, and continue to do so.

Should you wish, you can still buy a new Morgan Three Wheeler – the Morgan Super 3 – but you will need to be very well off to do so. Like, you will need well over £40,000 sitting in your spending money account.

Morgan Super Three
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The Mastodon Man . . . Eugene Rochko

Eugen Rochko, Le Monde photo

The Man Behind Mastodon Built It for This Moment

People fleeing Twitter have turned to Eugen Rochko’s alternative. He says social networks can support healthy debate—without any one person in control.

EUGEN ROCHKO LOOKS exhausted. The 29-year-old German programmer is the founder of Mastodon, a distributed alternative to Twitter that has exploded in popularity in recent weeks as Elon Musk’s ownership of the platform has rained chaos on its users.

Rochko began developing Mastodon shortly after leaving university in 2016. He was a fan of Twitter but wanted to create a platform not controlled by any single company or person, reasoning that online communication is too important to be at the whim of commercial interests or CEOs. He believed that the lack of profit motive and canny design could discourage harassment and abuse, and provide users more control.

Instead of creating a single unified platform, the the protocol that Mastodon uses, called ActivityPub, allows anyone to use open-source software to boot up a server that hosts a Twitter-style community with its own rules. Together those servers, and other, non-Mastodon ones, form a collective of interlinked communities dubbed the “Fediverse.” People can join a server that matches their interests and community standards, but also connect with users on other servers, or block all content from a particular server completely.

Mastodon grew slowly after the first code was released in 2017, appealing mostly to free software enthusiasts. Then Elon Musk took control of Twitter for $44 billion. His promises to weaken moderation, deep staff cuts, and chaotic changes to the platform turned many dedicated Twitter users off the platform. In the past few weeks, Rochko says, some 800,000 new Mastodon accounts have been created, overwhelming popular servers and flooding existing users’ timelines with introductions, questions, and complaints from newbies. Last year, donations to the nonprofit that runs Mastodon and where Rochko is CEO totaled 55,000 euros; it spent only 23,000 euros.

Since Musk took over Twitter, Rochko has been working long hours to keep his own server, Mastodon.Social, running, while also preparing a major upgrade to Mastodon, but he took time to videochat with WIRED from his home in Germany. The conversation has been edited for length and clarity.

Will Knight: What have the past couple of weeks been like?

Eugen Rochko: People probably want to hear that it’s been great—all this growth and success—but I would prefer to be watching from the sidelines. There is more work, there are more fires to put out. It’s incredibly stressful. I’m pulling 14-hour workdays, sleeping very little, and eating very little.

The whole story coincides with the process of releasing a new version of the Mastodon software. You have to put a lot of focus into that. And then suddenly, you also have to deal with responding to press inquiries and running social media accounts to take advantage of the opportunity.

Despite the challenges, is it gratifying to see that Mastodon is where people turning away from Twitter have headed?

Yeah, it was good and gratifying at an objective level. I would love to just lean back and just enjoy the fact that so many new people are using Mastodon, like Stephen Fry. Unfortunately, I don’t have time to lean back and enjoy that. There has been an increase in funds due to all the new Patreon donations in the past 10 days, it’s been unprecedented. fun of Mastodon in a recent tweet?

Honestly, it was really a good thing for us. It’s free advertising, and he’s just making a fool of himself. I could barely see the screenshot because the screen was so dirty, but I think he was making fun of somebody having trouble posting after signing up. The thing is, the massive influx of new users obviously puts a lot of strain on this volunteer network. So you should not be surprised that people are struggling with the load. It is just a question of scale. With more Mastodon servers springing up than ever, there are more and more options for people to join.

Although Mastodon has a lot of new users, many are finding it doesn’t have the features they were used to on Twitter. Are you listening to the complaints?

I am listening, but I am not eager to jump on new feature requests. We have our own plans and strategies and our conception of what Mastodon is. All the new feedback is definitely flowing into our impression of what Mastodon is, what it needs, and where it’s going to go. Just not necessarily in an instant way, and maybe not in exactly the same way that somebody would ask for.

Is there anything in particular that you’ve heard that seems like a good idea?

A lot of requests don’t make sense, because people have not yet learned about the platform. Like “Why isn’t Mastodon a single server?” We’re not going to jump on the opportunity to undo all of the decentralization.

By signing up you agree to our User Agreement (including the class action waiver and arbitration provisions), our Privacy Policy & Cookie Statement and to receive marketing and account-related emails from WIRED. You can unsubscribe at any time.

Another feature requested by users is quote tweets. It has been debated for years, and when Twitter introduced them, around the time I left the platform, I wasn’t a fan. Even if it’s not always toxic, it can definitely tempt you to do what people call dunks. That being said, I don’t feel as strongly about that now, as I used to back then, and I’m definitely taking into account how often people ask for this feature. It’s not all set in stone.

Corporate social networks have struggled most when their communities got really large, into the hundreds of millions. Have you seen more toxicity or other problems as more people have joined Mastodon?

There’s a kind of self-selection going on where the people who join Mastodon are maybe more civil. But it should not be discounted that all the different servers, with their rules about hate speech and against harassment, are doing moderation work and acting as gatekeepers against bad actors. When you sign up on a server that has rules against, let’s say, racism, or transphobia, and then somebody else signs up on the server and starts posting something transphobic, then your moderator bans the person, and you don’t have to see them.

As more people join the platform, will it be more difficult for it to remain decentralized?

There are always certain centralization forces at play. It is more cost-efficient to have more users on one server. And people tend to gravitate to servers that are seen as more trustworthy. The choice of the server is often difficult for people—this is the one big difference between something like Twitter and something like Mastodon. How do people choose an email provider? They often go to Gmail because it’s the biggest one out there. But I’m not using Gmail, and I can still use email just fine. It is not an irredeemable situation. And there’s no single Mastodon server with the proportions of Gmail.

Won’t the cost go up significantly for those hosting Mastodon instances as the service gets more popular?

Yeah, the bigger a server grows, the more it costs to host, obviously. And when you are not interested in monetization or profit extraction, growing is actually, like, a negative thing. Now I’m gonna have to scale up and pay more for servers and stuff like that. But Mastodon and the Fediverse provide this ability to just spread the load over multiple different actors. I can just close registrations on my server, and the other servers and network will pick up the people who are trying to sign up right now.

What happens if someone wants to set up a Mastodon server that spews hate?

The administrator of a server can decide “no, I’m not going to receive these messages anymore” and create a block against another server. It usually happens in cases of spam or abuse or harassment.

Do you foresee managing the community becoming more difficult when you have more people joining, all with different opinions? Or is being host to a very wide range of views part of the original vision?

That’s the idea. There is no consensus, there is no single idea of what to moderate and what not to moderate. Some people are going to have different expectations of what they want to see or how strict they want to be about who talks to whom. The Fediverse provides different places where you can go and experience social media the way that you want to experience it. You can have a super safe space with very strict moderation; nobody has required you to compromise on anything whatsoever.

What can people do to help Mastodon if they like your ideas?

I would say contribute to the Patreon for the server that your account is on. These people who are running servers, they’re making it happen, and it’s them who should be receiving people’s support.

What if someone—say an impulsive billionaire—wanted to buy Mastodon or take control of it somehow?

The network is protected from something like that. The code is free, open-source software, and nobody can change the license or take it back retroactively, and all of the different servers are owned by other people. Somebody could buy Mastodon gGmbH [the German nonprofit that maintains the software] and with it the trademark and the servers we run— and—but it wouldn’t affect the Fediverse in any significant way.


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The Elderly Elephant . . . ‘Local’ page for Mnemosyne.

Now that the ‘birdie site’ has lost its glamour at the hands of Elon Musk, the poor little rich boy with too much many but very little sense, people are looking around for alternatives. Me ? I have chosen Mastodon, and the server, or ‘instance’ of . . . . – for Scots

It was a little strange at first, but by checking and exploring all the many menu options dotted around it soon began to make sense. Many, many, people have joined it recently and there is no doubt that from being a (possibly) sleepy little backwater site it has become a busy global village with all the opinions that brings. However, it is still a bit different from Twitter, and Mastodon Local -which confines you to postings made on, contains all sorts of posts, comments, opinions and photos of Scotland and its affairs so it is free from endless American postings about their elections and that horrible Trump.

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Go Comics has gone . . .

For many years I have cheered myself up by using the Go Comics web site to see all sorts of comics – many now just history – and have appreciated it very much. Now, without any warning it has become unavailable, showing only the novice at the head of this post.

However, all is not lost, some of them, and more I have nor seen before, are get-attable at The comics appear small on my laptop screen, but we beggars can’t be choosers can we ?

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Sailed on the “Uganda” back in the 70s as the cruise Chaplain. Lovely trip with a ship full of school children plus a few adult passengers. Sailed from Tilbury and went north to Bergen, Oslo and Copenhagen. Celebrated Holy Communion in a small lounge where the altar folded out from a beautifully made veered wall. The Uganda’s sister ship was the Kenya and they were unsurprisingly built for the East African trade. There was a lounge made to resemble a typical European farmer’s lounge up towards the Aberdare mountains. Big fireplace, leather armchairs and (controversially) elephant tusks. We were drilled in emergency procedures which would be announced by “a series of short blasts on the ship’s siren”. When this happened, one morning I grabbed my life jacket as briefed, got it on and speedily went up on deck. The children and teachers, all housed far below me, were neatly lined up in ranks in the “stand at ease” position – all calm and collected. I made may way to the adult passenger lounge and there was utter commotion with people struggling to put on their life jackets which they had obviously never looked at in advance.

As we went along lectures were given about the next port of call. They were very good, the result of many years of practice and we went ashore able to find our way around and appreciate what we were seeing.

I remember being up on the viewing area above the bridge as we went south along the Kattegat towards Copenhagen. The ship was travelling very slowly on a warm evening, the sea was millpond calm, and we could hear the voice of the Pilot issuing occasional requests to the crew, very politely, always ending with “please”.

The Uganda went to the Falklands as a hospital ship and then came home and was eventually laid up at Falmouth and then finally to be broken up. A sad end for a fine vessel.

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A Kingly looking King . . .

The King at the Centotaph, 13 Nov 2022, Remembrance Sunday.
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Alfred Dobson, Surveyor, Civil Engineer (1824 – 1887) . . .

I have posted this here so that I can direct interested people to it, as it seems to be difficult to attach the text to things like Mastodon posts etc.

Alfred Dobson married Lucy Lough (1838 – 1916) who was the twin sister of my Great Grandmother, Alice Lough (1838 – 1874).

Transcription of extract from “Early New Zealand Engineers” by F.W.Furkert.

DOBSON, Alfred (1824-1887), was born in London, England, and educated at Old London University and also in France. He trained as a Civil Engineer on the Lynn and Ely Railway and on the Great Northern Railway works under Sir William Cubitt, past President of the I.C.E., by whom he was sent to Germany to report on the electric-telegraph. He went to New Zealand for health reasons in 1851 and commenced a surveying and engineering practice in Canterbury and later in Nelson. In June, 1853, he was living in Nelson at Washington Valley when his nephew, later Sir Arthur Dudley Dobson visited him. He was appointed Commissioner of Public Works on the 1st February 1854, to the Nelson Provincial Government. He recommended carrying out the Nelson wharf into eight feet of water and providing a sloping wharf at Motueka which would permit of boats unloading at all stages of the tide. He said conditions were unsuitable there for a ship wharf. In the same year he mentioned that F.Clark was exploring for a road live between Riwaka and Takaka and recommended then offering of a bonus for anyone finding a good route. In 1854 the Provincial Government decided to appoint a Provincial Engineer but this was not done as Dobson continued to be styled Commissioner of Public Works for two or three years longer. At the end of 1856 he was forming the streets of Nelson as well as the country roads, He reported Motueka wharf finished. In that year after a tour of the whole province a kind of early “five year plan” was drawn up for the roads as follows: (1) Nelson to Foxhill: (2) a branch from Appleby Ford to the foot of the Moutere Hills; (3) the beach road towards Wakapuaka; (4) at Motueka from the Port through the village to the ford on the Motueka River; (5) from the bridge at White’s Corner to the mill and thence to the Green tree at Riwaka River; (6) from Waitohi (now Picton) to the Wairau Plain crossing the Wairau River at the head of navigation and proceeding up the valley to Tophouse; (7) a branch off (6) near Mr. Gouland’s across the plains to Awatere and on to Flaxbourne; (8) a branch of (7) near Atkinson’s and going up the Awatere River to Tinlines Ford; (9) a main line to Massacre Bay as yet undefined. It was considered that all work under the schedule above, plus schools and public buildings, would cost £32,050. As this was beyond the revenue capacity he recommended that £25,000 be borrowed which assuming interest to be 10% could all be repaid in ten years [self reliance with a vengeance]. In 1858 the Dun Mountain Railway Act was passed. This was a private railway, and no doubt Dobson would be called to advise on the terms of the enabling Act. In the same year he laid out the town of Blenheim as a private speculation of Messrs. Seymour, Ferrar and Fell. One record says Brunner was appointed Chief Surveyor and Commissioner of Public Works on 1st July, 1856, but this is apparently premature as Dobson continued in office and Brunner’s appointment was gazetted in 1858. In the Nelson electoral roll of 11th December, 1857, Dobson is given as Commissioner of Works and Brunner as Surveyor. In 1869 he was busy surveying Marlborough though there was not yet any province by that name. In 1861 he reported on a water supply for Nelson and also endeavoured to stop the Opawa overflow from the Wairau. In 1857 the Goldfieds of Golden Bay were being worked and the General Government offered to send 200 soldiers to keep order, the Province to find accommodation (which must be to the satisfaction of Colonel Mould) at Collingwood. In the same year a lighthouse on the Boulder Bank was decided on and quotations were obtained, presumably to Dobson’s plans, from Chance Bros. The work did not proceed promptly as the light was not exhibited until 1962. When Marlborough was constituted a separate province, Dobson followed its fortunes and became Provincial Surveyor and Engineer. In addition to ordinary Provincial Engineer’s work he prepared complete plans and estimates for a railway from Picton to Blenheim including rolling stock. He also had to contend with the Opawa overflow from the Wairau River. He was appointed Resident Engineer P.W.D. on the Picton-Blenheim Railway on 16th September, 1871, and was still there in June, 1875, leaving in 1876. Later he was in private Practice and carried out the land plan surveys in connection with the Picton-Blenheim Railway. In 1886 he was still in private practice. He died at Blenheim on the 6th September, 1887. The fact that he left England with a weak heart and settled in a district of limited opportunities must be considered the reason why he did not rise to such eminence as his brother Edward.

See also :

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The Blue Bird loses its glamour . . .

The blue bird is losing its glamour, its income and its users.

See : and

Meanwhile many of us who are looking for an alternative, or perhaps, something similar but if possible better, are trying out Mastodon. Mastodon is a federation of separately run servers, not run by big firms or corporations but by groups of enthusiasts and paid for by voluntary donations. Being resident in Scotland I chose and I am to be found there as

So far it seems good to me. Different from Twitter, friendlier perhaps but possibly in danger of becoming influenced by the large number of ex Twitters used to a more confrontational style. Let us hope that we Newbies don’t spoil it.

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“Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie, . . . “

Alexander Nasmyth, Robert Burns, 1759 – 1796

Robert Burns was a farmer, and one day his plough share turned up the nest of a mouse. He was obviously affected by what he had accidentally done, and also by the reactions of the mouse . . .

On Turning her up in her Nest, with the Plough, November 1785.

Wee, sleeket, cowran, tim’rous beastie,
O, what a panic’s in thy breastie!
Thou need na start awa sae hasty,
Wi’ bickerin brattle!
I wad be laith to rin an’ chase thee
Wi’ murd’ring pattle!

I’m truly sorry Man’s dominion
Has broken Nature’s social union,
An’ justifies that ill opinion,
Which makes thee startle,
At me, thy poor, earth-born companion,
An’ fellow-mortal!

I doubt na, whyles, but thou may thieve;
What then? poor beastie, thou maun live!
A daimen-icker in a thrave
’S a sma’ request:
I’ll get a blessin wi’ the lave,
An’ never miss ’t!

Thy wee-bit housie, too, in ruin!
It’s silly wa’s the win’s are strewin!
An’ naething, now, to big a new ane,
O’ foggage green!
An’ bleak December’s winds ensuin,
Baith snell an’ keen!

Thou saw the fields laid bare an’ waste,
An’ weary Winter comin fast,
An’ cozie here, beneath the blast,
Thou thought to dwell,
Till crash! the cruel coulter past
Out thro’ thy cell.

That wee-bit heap o’ leaves an’ stibble
Has cost thee monie a weary nibble!
Now thou’s turn’d out, for a’ thy trouble,
But house or hald,
To thole the Winter’s sleety dribble,
An’ cranreuch cauld!

But Mousie, thou art no thy-lane,
In proving foresight may be vain:
The best laid schemes o’ Mice an’ Men
Gang aft agley,
An’ lea’e us nought but grief an’ pain,
For promis’d joy!

Still, thou art blest, compar’d wi’ me!
The present only toucheth thee:
But Och! I backward cast my e’e,
On prospects drear!
An’ forward tho’ I canna see,
I guess an’ fear!

    Oft quoted in odd snippets, but seldom seen in its entirety with its reason for being composed.

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