Thursday, December 17, 2009

French Russian Roulette

I come from a land of bayonet-fitting light bulbs.
Never gave it a thought.

In France, some light fittings are bayonet (called B22) but most are screw-in (small-diameter E14 or large-diameter E27).

With the B22, the 240 volt Live & Neutral connections go via the 2 little solder blobs on the end of the bulb, while the metal casing may be earthed, with luck, or more likely just "floating".

With the screw-ins, the 240v Live is connected to the single solder blob & the Neutral to the metal threaded case.

That means that as you insert the bulb & screw it in, your fingers are almost certainly touching the metal thread, which is in electrical contact with what should be the Neutral line of your home electrical circuit.
At that point, you want to be VERY sure that every
previous owner, electrician, non-electrician & handyman has been careful to make all the wiring connections in your house in the right order.
Otherwise you are holding 240 volts.

If, as is more than likely, your light bulb is in some kind of mobile fitting (table lamp etc) then it will almost certainly have a 2-pin plug.
That means that whether the bulb case is Live or Neutral depends on which way you happen to have put the symmetrical plug in the socket.
That's French Russian Roulette!

Of course, you would never try to change a light bulb without unplugging the appliance, or cutting the power at the fuse-box, would you?
With screw fittings, I certainly wouldn't!

Don't forget that simply switching off is not enough.
Who knows which wire the switch is in?

Parting thot: "Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom." - Phyllis Theroux

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


The long march to California is still in the early-planning phase, or at least in the early-learning & early-setting-up phases.

Another hurdle behind us today - I got our ESTA (Electronic System for Travel Authorisation) clearance from the US Department of Homeland Security.
This is something you still need before you can get near the USA, even if you qualify for the Visa-Waiver Program.
Can't really complain, as it is free & only takes a few minutes.
The application procedure, on-line, didn't seem terribly in-depth somehow.
• Name?
• Birthday?
• Sex?
• e-mail?
• Country where you live?
• Passport number & dates?
• Arriving flight number?
OK – there was a trick question at the end where you had to give the passport number a second time…
I suppose that filters out a few undesirables.

Then there were some really searching questions.
But I didn't have to think very hard before answering, for instance:
• between 1933 and 1945 were you involved, in any way, in persecutions associated with Nazi Germany or its allies?
• are you seeking entry to engage in criminal or immoral activities?
• are you now involved in espionage or sabotage; or in terrorist activities; or genocide?
If you have recently kicked the genocide habit, then presumably you are OK…

They must feel a whole lot more secure in The Homeland now they are protected by cunning questions like those!
Wonder how much they paid somebody to come up with that lot?
And do they pay somebody to read the answers?
Imagine the joy when he gets a "Yes"!

Parting thot: "Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers." - Tony Robbins

Oh, by the way; in case any Homeland Security personnel are reading this – it is meant to be taken tongue-in-cheek ( Thanks, guys!