Friday, January 25, 2013

Further Adventures with a Braun Shaver

A couple of posts back, I mentioned a Braun 3615 shaver which had never seemed to work from new.

After several more attempts, I decided it really didn't work at all & I had nothing to lose by opening it.

Inside, the electric motor drives a tiny crank, which drives a tiny connecting rod, which makes the various shaving blades oscillate.
At least it does if the connecting rod is connected to the crank, which it wasn't & apparently never had been!

Connecting it & reassembling (fiddly job, glad I have an illuminated magnifying glass) - I now have a shaver which shaves.
And trims.

Black mark for Braun quality control!

Parting thot: "Am I not destroying my enemies when I make friends of them?" - Abraham Lincoln

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Station with Veranda

Strasbourg had a striking railway station, dating from 1883 - one of the 'German' periods.
In fact it still has & although we know it well as occasional users, we were surprised on a recent open day to discover, amongst other exotic details well worth seeing, the lavish 'Emperor's Salon', built to receive Emperor Wilhelm I but which he never used...

Today though, the 1883 stone facade is covered by an enormous glass veranda.

At the planning stage, the usual whiners complained that this veranda might detract from the classical elegance of the listed building.
Of course, they were soon silenced when it was scathingly pointed out that the veranda was going to be all glass & that glass is, well, you know, transparent - you can see through it, so no problem.
Well - score one for the usual whiners, as the facade is now quite invisible behind the tinted, sloping, reflective glass.
The result looks like a big blob of mercury.
Like you used to play with in the good old days before Minamata.

The veranda does do quite a decent job of providing much-needed extra space & weather protection for milling travellers, not only for the main-line station, but for the communicating tram station & car park, built just underneath.

Not a perfect job though.
From the start, there were problems with rain driving in, at the junction between the veranda & the facade and also between the many glass panels.
I think that has now been improved, if not actually solved.

Then there was all-pervading grit, which seemingly originated when the trams in the underground station dumped sand on the lines to improve braking performance.
Now, as each tram enters the station, it switches on a wheel-level fog-bank which settles the sand & iron filings near the rails, instead of allowing them to billow up into the veranda.

OK now then?
Well - no.
Having got rid of the grit, the shopkeepers now see a thick, black, sooty deposit all over their tables, chairs & sandwiches.
Not to mention in their handkerchiefs.
So yet another investigation is underway.
It's early days yet.
The veranda was opened in 2007.

Parting thot: "Intellectuals solve problems, geniuses prevent them." - Albert Einstein

Sunday, January 20, 2013


One bit of weather I don't remember from Britain, but we see here occasionally, is Black Ice (verglas).

Formed instantly when rain falls on hard-frozen ground, it can develop into a skin up to maybe 1cm thick and is VERY slippery, especially while rain is still falling.
No amount of skill can make driving reasonable on black ice, unless you have spiked tyres, which are rare outside mountain areas.
Even walking is extremely risky & best avoided, especially for brittle crumblies.
Don't even think of cycling!

Well today, as forecast, we woke up to black ice & were thankful that we didn't have to go to work.
The only immediate inconvenience was that the morning paper had not been delivered at it's usual 05:30, for the first time in 25 years.
Trusty Marcel turned up with it later, wearing neat strap-on studs under his boots!

Black ice usually occurs when a warm front moves in after a very cold spell, so that the ice gets melted again after an hour or 2 by the new warm air.
But today it managed to rain while the ground-level air temperature has not gone above -1°C & is now falling again for the night.
So the ice has not melted all day & the forecast is for snow to fall on it.
Should be chaos on the roads tomorrow...

Parting thot: "You never really know your friends from your enemies until the ice breaks" - Eskimo proverb

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Shave Sir - or a Rip-Off?

Decades ago, I had a simple Braun electric shaver which worked OK for many years & for which I occasionally replaced the necessarily-fragile foils without noticing the cost.

More recently I have been using Gillette GII wet-shaver blades for a better, quicker & quieter shave at home.
Soon followed by "compatible" equivalents for a quarter of the price.

In a few limited circumstances, I think a rechargeable electric shaver might be more convenient than wet shaving, so I have started to look again at electric shavers.

In fact, we bought a new Braun 3615 rechargeable shaver a few years ago, when my father forgot to bring his own shaver out for a visit, but he never liked it, hardly used it & left it here.
So I thought that was a ready-made solution for me.
Unbelievably, I have tried it several times & although it buzzes away & seems to be working, it has absolutely no effect at all on my beard, whether tested on half-day, one-day or two-day stubble!
I keep wondering if I am doing something wrong, or if it needs cleaning or something, but nothing I have tried makes any difference.
It simply does not shave.

Thinking I would try a new foil, though really not convinced that would make any difference, I found the reference in a manual I downloaded, but:
1. They stopped selling just foils & only sell complete heads.
2. I can't even find heads in France & might have to order from UK.
3. A replacement head costs about £20 plus postage.

So I wondered about getting a new, simple, rechargeable razor instead.
The cheapest "reputable" one I can see is a Panasonic ES-SA40-S503 at 36€.
I can't see any spare foils or heads for that anywhere.
Maybe they expect you to throw it away after a year?

Funny - I would have thought this was a mature market with cheap, satisfactory goods & services by now?
It isn't?

Parting thot: "History is the version of past events that people have decided to agree upon." - Napoleon Bonaparte

Friday, January 18, 2013


The illustration (from Wikipedia) is of the well-known mille-feuille multi-layered pastry.

The same term is often used to describe the  multi-layered French Administration system.

In our case, for instance, we have, at least:
- Village: "X" (400 people, but no actual administration, I think)
- Commune: "X-Y" (800 people, 2 villages, a mayor, local council, looks after planning permission, local roads etc)
- Community of Communes: "Com-com du Kochersberg" (new entity created in 2002, 28 villages, 26 communes, 20,000 people, looks after tourisme, sport, culture, refuse-collection so far, but probably more in future)
- Canton: "Truchtersheim" (24 communes, of which 19 happen to be in our com-com, over 20K people, electoral area choosing one representative at Department level)
- Circonscription: "4th circonscription of Bas-Rhin" (4 cantons, electoral area choosing one national MP)
- Arrondissement: "Strasbourg-Campagne" (8 cantons, including all our circonscription, 280K people, normally should have a sous-préfet, but ours doesn't. Not sure what it does, if anything.)
- Sous-Prefecture: "Strasbourg" (2 arrondissements in our case, main contact between people & administration, driving license, car tax, firearms etc)
- Department: "Bas-Rhin" (11 sous-prefectures, traditionally the first-level division of the state, since Napoleon, looks after main roads, education at college level etc)
- Region: "Alsace" (2-8 departments, 2 in our case, looks after tourism again, education at lycee level, transport, business)
- Metropole: "France" (96 departments [from 01 to 95 including 02 & 2a & 2b but not 20...] continental France + Corsica & nearby islands, looks after everything)
- Republic: "France" (101 departments, including overseas - La Reunion, Guyane etc as well as smaller territories like Wallis & Futuna)

Beyond that, we can look up to (& pay for, but I am not complaining):
- Eurozone: (17 countries)
- EU: (27 countries)
- Council of Europe: (47 countries)
- UN: (193 countries)

But the big news is that we are (maybe) going to get rid of one layer.
Alsace is taking the lead in a move to combine one Region & 2 Departments into one "Territory".
Theoretically, that could lead to big savings.
If all duplicated jobs & offices could be eliminated...
Practically, in the short term it will probably lead to a lot of squabbling.
The first decisions will need to deal with "where will the new entity actually be"?
From likely candidates of Strasbourg, Selestat, Colmar & Mulhouse.
Maybe we will end up with a travelling circus, like the European Parliament!
And negative savings?

In any case, us Alsatians do get a yes/no referendum vote, on 7th April.

Warning: Please don't blindly rely on anything in this post - confirm with other sources!

Parting thot - "In politics stupidity is not a handicap." - Napoleon Bonaparte