Allan Mason's activity

Questions Asked

In Another Place, someone recently asked for advice about buying an above-ground swimming pool. I suggested that, if he'd never owned a pool before, he might get a better idea of the work involved in maintaining a swimming pool as well as the posi

Fri, 07/03/2009 - 04:17

Comments posted

Wed, 03/20/2013 - 06:38

I'm off. I'll check back again in a couple of months to see if anything interesting or informative is going on.

Wed, 03/20/2013 - 03:48

I am certain that Pope Francis will try his best.

How precisely can you be so certain about his intentions on anything? But I know that, for some people, wanting to believe something is true is enough to make it so (in their universe, anyway). The link to the New York Post article was amusing, although I didn't bother to read the piece since the NYP is News Corporation rag with possibly a little less credibility than The Sun in Britain. If it's defending the Pope, it's probably safe to assume that Murdoch either wants to gain share in the NYC Catholic demographic, or he's hopeful there might be business to be done with the new boss in the Vatican. Oh, and Rikardo, it's probably not wise to hold your breath waiting. I suspect you may well be on the Holy Lady's Index Prohibetur Personis (or something like that).

Wed, 03/20/2013 - 03:46

Come on Al, just how did you get that part of Santa Maria's post to "quote" (almost) correctly on this God forsaken forum?

It is pretty pathetic (and not pretty at all), isn't it? What I just did with yours is: 1) highlight and Ctrl-C copy text in your post, 2) click the quotation mark button in the row of icons immediately above the comment text box, 3) Ctrl-V paste, 4) carriage return, 5) click the quote button again to turn off italics and tab indent.

Tue, 03/19/2013 - 05:03

Steve, I'm sure I'm no more pure of spirit and intention than your average priest or pope, but I don't see why you thought my first post in this thread was "bad". Reading it again now, I still think it was quite reasonable and rational. It's not like I made wild, baseless accusations about the new Pope, I just questioned some of his history and motivations. I understand how it is highly perilous for a True Believer to question for a moment His Holiness, but I don't see why those who think he's no more sanctified than the CEO of Haliburton or the Prime Minister of Liechtenstein should be prevented from raising these issues.  If you think that was me being nasty, you should hear how I respond if people start going on about, for example, the healing vibrations of rocks, how the Bible (or any holy book) is literally true in every detail or - and this is one of my big hobby-horses - the wonders of Scientology. In my youth, I thought that one should be respectful of all belief systems. As the decades have passed, I've grown confident enough about my understanding of how the world and people work to be certain that some people are astonishingly stupid, a lot of unfortunate people are locked into a highly distorted world-view thanks to life-long indoctrination, some people are fiendishly manipulative and most religions are a con game run by hypocrites in order to exploit the gullible. I say "most" religions are like this because, cynic though I am, I still cling to the hope that there might be one I've not yet encountered which lives up to its own PR.

Mon, 03/18/2013 - 19:45

I recall hearing some time ago that ENEL compiled the first national database of Italian addresses some years ago, and that it had become a sort of default standard used by other utilities. No idea how true that is, but it makes a sort of sense. Does your ENEL bill - assuming you have one - have a number?

Mon, 03/18/2013 - 19:25

Sorry, but I can't enlist in your gang, Esme. The main issue is that I'm unable to comply with the directive you issued to your troops at 11:45pm on 16 March and I have a pretty good idea how you deal with insubordination. angle

Mon, 03/18/2013 - 16:01

I hardly ever check this forum these days, but I much enjoyed this hilarious thread. Such a thrill knowing that I was in the virtual presence of someone who knows someone who knows someone who knows the Holy Father's personal phone number and can therefore speak on his behalf. As for the new Pope's age, I don't see that as a problem. He's two and a half months younger than Silvio Berlusconi and Berlo is obviously still at the peak of his game. I am, however, much amused by the official line that Bergoglio is such a humble chap. Surely, if he was all that humble, he would still be a priest serving a little flock somewhere in the Buenos Aires slums. Heaven knows there's no shortage of people there who need all the spiritual and physical help they can get just to make it through today. I'm pretty sure that, just as nobody is ever forced to become a President, Prime Minister or CEO of a multinational company, so the Catholic Church doesn't force priests to become archbishops, cardinals or the Pope. Therefore, it seems evident that this man is anything but humble; he has clearly felt for some time confident that his proper role is a much larger one than that of a mere priest. Ministers of religion who enjoy a lifestyle like that of a business executive or medieval prince thanks to the widow's mite are disgusting, but I find ostentatious humility and self-denial just as disturbing. It leaves me wondering if what's really going on might not be penance for secret sins. Apologists have sprung to the defence of Francis when questions have been raised about his actions (or inaction, rather) during the military dictatorship in Argentina. I'm not sure that, had I lived in such times, I would have willingly stuck my head in a noose on a matter of principle, but then I've never professed to be a Man of God. It's clear that there were those in the Church in Chile who were actively involved in opposing the military dictatorship in that country at around the same time and there were admirable souls who did the same in Hitler's Germany and Stalin's Russia, so it's not like he was without role models if he wanted them. I am left wondering why there isn't more definite evidence of Bergoglio having worked for the good of the common people, rather than tacitly supporting the military which was "disappearing" those whose main interest was assisting the poor and downtrodden. Finally, I look forward to seeing how this humble man manages to square his loudly proclaimed belief in the human rights of ordinary people with his support for Argentina evicting a couple thousand ordinary people from homes and farms their families have occupied for generations.

Wed, 01/02/2013 - 07:53

Annec is right about the speed at which things grow here compared to Britain. It seems to me that one of the major differences between gardening in the UK and gardening in Italy is that, in Britain, you spend a lot of your time trying to get things to grow, while here you spend a lot of time hacking back stuff you don't want to grow. I'm a fan of mycorrhizal fungi culture when planting in ground that doesn't have any established trees or shrubs. I haven't risked my money by doing controlled trials and used it on some seedlings and not on others, but I am convinced that it is one factor that has helped around 50 young fruit trees that I planted two years ago on an exposed, south-facing slope to thrive. They've not been watered or received any other care since then, but they've all done very well in spite of some very dry and hot weather. (The saplings were, by the way, mostly apples and brought from England as bare-rooted maidens, mainly because we were looking for a wider range of varieties than are available in our area of Italy.) The other thing I did was put a couple of layers of regular cardboard around the base of each tree and weight it down with boulders. The squares were about 50cm on a side and the idea was to help keep the soil immediately around the trunks as moist as possible, both by preventing weeds from growing there and by helping to keep the hot sun off the soil. The ground under the cardboard still dries out and, after a few weeks with no rain, it looks almost as cracked as the surrrounding area, but I do think it makes a difference. Last summer, lots of our established trees were showing signs of water-stress and dropping leaves, but all of the saplings were looking great, with lots of glossy, green foliage. We haven't lost any of these young trees, either to the bitterly cold weather we had last winter or to the hot and dry weather we had last summer. It may be poncy and trite, but we're planning on planting a lavender hedge along a fence soon. We won't be buying in the plants, though. Our experience is that shoving a simple cutting into the ground will result in a viable plant more often than not. Our experience also is that, once you have a single lavender growing here, you'll have no shortage of springs to use as cuttings. Finally, I agree with Karen that it's unwise to try to do too much, too quickly. That's especially so for someone who isn't here permanently. For most of the year, most plants will grow incredibly well here, but the heat and dry can be devastating for plants that have neither a good root system or someone to give them a good soaking now and then. Al

Sat, 10/27/2012 - 06:35

Tiger mosquitos are really awful. As Sebastiano says, they bite day and night. Also, it seems to us that they are a lot faster than normal mosquitos and that they're much better at dodging. We have wondered if their stripey colouring somehow makes them harder for our eyes to track since it breaks up their outline. It does remind me of the camouflage pattern used on WWI era navy ships. In any case, they're a real pain. I completely agree with Sebastiano's suggestions about built in roller screens. This year, we've finally learned to be very disciplined about having these down at all times and to never - no matter how hot the weather might be - open any door for anything more than the minimum necessary to come or go. It does seem to us that annoying flying things queue up outside doors just waiting for them to be opened. Even so, we've still had to deal with a few flies, shield-bugs and mosquitos. I'm less enthusiastic about Sebastiano's suggestion that you should use insecticide to nuke the area near your house in spring. I don't want to sound all tree-hugger here, but there are a lot of beneficial insects killed by indiscriminate use of insecticide. Also, creating a zone of death once a year may make you feel like you're achieving something, but there's about 300,000 square kilometers of Italy ouside your fence that's full of creeping, flying insects and they'll soon fill up any vacancies you create in your garden. Also, UV bug zappers are good if you can believe that every snap means that a nasty biting insect has bit the dust. However, our experience of using UV traps indicates that what you mainly attract are harmless moths and a few flies. In order to make any sort of dent in the local mosquito population, specialised equipment which attracts, traps and then kills mozzies is required. These machines are not cheap to buy or operate, but they do seem to be very effective and they might be justified if you have, for example, a restauant with an outside terrace. Apart from that, all you can really do is try to ensure that there is absolutely no stagnant water anywhere on your land. I forget the figure, but I'm sure I've read that Tiger Mosquitos can happily breed in something like a tablespoon of water. One small trick we've used is to fill the trays under planters with sand. They still catch excess water, but not even Tiger Mosquito larvae can swim in damp sand. Al

Answer to: Electricity
Wed, 10/17/2012 - 03:22

Joy, you're absolutely right to think that the amount of energy used to boil a certain quantity of water will, all other things being equal, be the same whether it's heated quickly or slowly. So the fraction of a kilowatt hour that's used to boil a cup of water should (in theory) be the same whether it's done in a 500W caravan kettle or a 3kW fast-boil kettle. What will be very different is how much electricity the kettles are using at their point of maximum power consumption, and that's the key issue if the maximum power available to you is limited. If your household power supply is limited to 3kW, you could operate a 500W caravan kettle along with several other appliances, but a 3kW fast-boil kettle would immediately demand all the power available to the whole house. The circuit breaker at the meter which limits consumption at any time to 3kW is, in effect, a resetable 13A fuse. If you draw more current than that at any point, the fuse blows and you need to disconnect or switch off appliances before you can reset the circuitbreaker and get the lights back on. Al