Car Ownership Guide

An idea which might appeal to owners of cars out there if you have a car which you are interested in and are knowledgeable about then I am happy to write an article about it and post it on this blog.

The work for you is that (unless you are located very close to me) I will need you to answer a questionnaire (and possibly some follow-on questions) and I will need you to have reasonable ability with a digital camera – the blog is going to need pictures as well.

Although I compiled the following article from an interview in the old fashioned – turn up ask questions – manner. It seems feasible that I could compile a questionnaire from this which I could despatch to whoever was interested.

I am hoping that the idea has appeal and will encourage people to submit cars. If you are reading this blog and you’re aware of someone else who will fit the bill by all means pass along details so that they can profit from it.

A considerable number of years ago, when it was easier to dream, I had in mind that I would like to write for a classic car magazine. At that time one of the magazines was featuring a “Best of the Web” article. I was working in IT and loved old cars and so this suited me well.

For a short while I researched and wrote these articles and fitted it in around the day job.

Sadly there was a change at the magazine and it was determined (probably correctly) that the “Best of the Web” article was as boring as a lengthy parliamentary speech. So it was pulled.

A person less given to dreaming would probably have seen the writing on the wall. I hadn’t yet let go of that writing dream however and so I tried to come up with some ideas of articles that I could do.

I was approaching the very limits of expertise. I had no background in engineering or in journalism but I wasn’t going to let this stop me.

I realised that once in a while a very knowledgeable person drawn from a classic car club would lay out what it was like to own a specific kind of car. Such accounts were no doubt rose-tinted and that suited my somewhat romantically idealised view of ancient machines.

So I set about contacting owners clubs but I was aware that I could not use the cachet of any magazine’s name as strictly speaking I didn’t work for any of them.

Unsurprisingly for a very long time I didn’t get any takers.

Eventually however I had a response from Tom Lucas who was the owner of a Lomax. For those uninitiated to this car it is a vehicle that you could assemble yourself based upon a 2CV.

It turns out that I had been very lucky to find Tom. Not only was he knowledgeable and keen, he was also willing to help someone who quite obviously was no journalist.

I have subsequently discovered that Tom Lucas (surely the same man) published a book called “Lomax the First Ten Years” bookfinder.

The car YSU191 has also been the recipient of prizes.

It is also apparently still taxed and MOTd to this date according to the DVLA.

Tom, if you are reading this, thank-you for your help.

I returned to the magazine in the hope of a new venture but it turned out I was not as good at this writing business as I had hoped. There was certainly no suggestion of the article being used.

As a result I am free to use the article on this blog all these years later and hopefully Tom will get to see it here.

This was the article:

 

Ownership Guide

Engine

This is usually removed from a 2CV, the engine can be taken from an Ami 8, Dyane or from the rarer Ami Super.

Most Lomax are built with a standard 602cc 2CV, Dyane or Ami 8 engine (these are essentially the same being an air-cooled flat twin of 30 BHP).

The older 435cc engine (not found in donor cars after the 1970s) will fit but is rarely used.

Useful power improvements can be obtained by fitting the Ami Super engine (1015cc). This is a flat-four air-cooled engine and requires the 4-speed gearbox from the same car.

Alternatively the later Citroen GS (1299cc) unit is a simple exchange.

The Citroen Visa power plant (652cc) provides a more complex challenge. This 38 BHP motor had electronic ignition requiring sensors on the gearbox bell housing which do not easily fit the 2CV. One method in use is to utilise motorcycle electronic ignition from a BMW on the front of the engine.

Officially any 2CV engine from 1985 will run on unleaded; however engines from the 1960s are currently running on unleaded without detrimental effects.

The exception is the Visa 9 ½:1 compression engine, which requires super-unleaded.

The standard engine is “bullet proof,” even modified engines tend to have a standard bottom-end, as it is very tough.

Valve and seats are very hard and recession tends not to be a problem. Valve clearances are checked then checked again after the first 6000 miles. If no recession is detectable no further checks are necessary.

Oil Changes

It is worthwhile doing regular oil changes at 3000 miles – maintaining this interval gives increased engine life expectancy of 150,000 miles with 300,000 miles a possibility.

10/40 oil is recommended for the 2CV but the Lomax has different requirements due to the absence of the cooling fan from the front of the engine. This means that the engine runs hotter than in the 2CV a 20/50 oil should therefore be used.

Use of synthetic (or semi-synthetic) oil is not required.

The oil filter should be changed at the same time as the oil. This is easily accessible as the bonnet can be removed in one piece. It is therefore considerably easier to access than in the 2CV donor.

Parts are available from ECAS (Eastwood Continental AutoSpares) of Stafford (01785) 282882.

Carburettor

The standard 2CV is fitted with a single carburettor positioned in the middle of the engine over the crankcase (a downdraft Solex).

This requires a long manifold to each cylinder.

Post 1982 2CVs, Dyanes and Amis were fitted with a twin choke version – this yields 2-3 BHP extra.

A common modification is to fit 2 motorbike carbs on short manifolds (for example the flat slide Dellortos from a Moto Guzzi). This modification yields significant performance advantages.

Ignition

There is no standard distributor; instead there is a points box rather like that on a motorcycle engine.

This has a 2-lobe cam producing a spark to both cylinders at every engine revolution via a double-ended coil.

The cylinder that is on the compression stroke is able to use the spark to fire. The cylinder on the exhaust stroke gets a ‘wasted spark’.

Modifications include electronic ignition kits from Lumenition – this replaces the points and box lid with a sensor (£115). An alternative “123” Dutch-made kit is available through ECAS. This replaces the point’s box and the advance/retard mechanism (£112).

Gearbox

All gearboxes fitted since the start of production are the same in that they are all 4 speed.

The internal ratios differ slightly, the Dyane having a slightly higher ratio in top gear.

The gearbox is behind the engine and drive is transmitted via drive shafts incorporating disc or drum brakes.

The low weight of the Lomax and its relatively small frontal area (compared to the 2CV) make the gearing a handicap.

Top gear limits performance to around 80mph, as higher speeds would cause the engine to rev excessively (no taller final-drive ratios are available).

Gearbox rebuilds are very rarely required, as they are very durable. For instance large, quality, bearings were used in the gearbox manufacture. Regular gearbox oil changes at 12,000-mile intervals are recommended to prolong gearbox life. Reconditioned gearboxes are available from ECAS (£220).

Brakes

The brakes are inboard – either drums or discs dependent upon the age of the donor (cars prior to 1982 having drum brakes). Changing pads is easy; changing shoes requires removal of the driveshaft first.

Drum braked cars tend to have a more effective hand brake as the disk-braked cars have separate (small) pads for the handbrake. The lightweight of the Lomax however, means that this handbrake system is still adequate in disk-braked cars.

No flexible brake pipes are employed. The solid brake pipes are coiled to take up any suspension movement. Despite this unusual arrangement no brake pipe fractures take place.

The gearbox from a Citroen GS comes with 11” disc brakes which would seem a useful modification. However, the Lomax is already significantly lighter than the donor car so no changes to the brakes are necessary.

Later Citroens with disc brakes do not use standard brake fluid but LHM mineral oil. The seals on these cars are a different material to those on drum-braked models (which use standard brake fluid). This means that the correct fluid must be used. In addition when replacing the rear-wheel brake cylinder it is critical to select the right one (the LHM version is painted green).

Rust

The body of the Lomax is GRP and hence does not suffer from rust problems; however the chassis is of steel and from the donor car.

Earlier cars had better chassis (those built in the late 1960s) particularly the Ami – these are therefore better donors.

The chassis from an Ami Super is a good choice as it is made from 1.2mm steel. The 2CV chassis is made from 0.8mm steel.

Cars manufactured between 1987 and 1990 tend to be more prone to rust and should be avoided.

Alternatives include a galvanised square section tubular steel chassis produced by The Lomax Motor Company.

Alternatively ECAS sell a galvanised replacement 2CV chassis for £430.

Preservation of the chassis when constructing the car is recommended. To do this, prop the framework against a wall so that it is close to vertical. Pour in Waxoyl from the top and allow it to drain through.

The exhausts rot out regularly due to the small engine and long exhaust, the rear of which remains relatively cool even with prolonged use. This means that acids tend to condense causing deterioration of the back box.

It is common to use a motorcycle silencer on the Lomax, but in this application a stainless one is recommended.

Body

The body is all GRP and the floor is of plywood.

The GRP gelcoat is a popular finish to leave the car in when first assembled.

The colours available include British Racing Green, Pillar-Box Red and Anchusia Blue.

However the finish tends to fade in UV light (i.e. in the sun) dark shades particularly becoming unattractive after a number of years. The car can then be sprayed conventionally to disguise this.

Crazing of the GRP can occur at stress points over extended periods of time. Replacement panels are available or if the body tub is affected it is cheaper to grind away the gelcoat and fill with fibreglass resin.

Suspension

Most Lomax cars are assembled using the 3-wheeler format– this entails removal of one of the rear suspension arms. The remaining arm is modified at the Lomax factory allowing it to be turned through 1800 to be inboard of the rear chassis arm (which is removed).

The suspension is totally derived from the 2CV with horizontal canisters containing the road springs.

The kingpins tend to wear if they are not greased at 500-mile intervals. To replace these, the driveshafts have to be removed and the bushes replaced with a press or a sledgehammer and a drift can be employed for similar results. After 2 or 3 sets of kingpins have been fitted the arm is too worn to accept another set and must be replaced (£95).

The suspension arms turn on taper-roller bearings which can show signs of wear at 100,000 miles (£24.50 each – 2 of per unit) – they are sealed for life so once fitted need no maintenance.

Genuine Citroen telescopic shock absorbers are required (£65) as they are designed to work on their side – conventional shock absorbers would wear out very swiftly if employed.

The Lomax suspension is lowered when compared with the donor 2CV. The suspension arms have tie rods, which are threaded. Releasing these rods a few threads lowers the suspension. This increases the kingpin castor angle improving the self-centring of the steering with a slight increase in kingpin wear as a penalty.

The lowered suspension can “bottom-out” and so modifications have been developed to use both suspension canisters.

Lomax has chosen to use a “rear anti-roll bar.” An alternative is to use the arrangement originally designed for a competing kit car (the Falcon). A front anti-roll bar on the three-wheeler is a requirement to prevent the car banking hard into corners.

The anti-roll bar from a Citroen Ami 8 or Ami Super can be used to make cornering safer (these are now scarce). The Lomax Motor Company now manufactures its own version. Alternatives are available from other kit-car manufacturers e.g. Black Jack in Helston.

Performance Improvements

The air filter is a bulky item which can be improved with a low restriction type, such as that manufactured by K&N.

Removing the front cooling fan and ducting is good for 2 BHP.

Carburettor improvements include use of the later twin-choke version (2-3 BHP over the standard item) or use of twin motorcycle carbs.

Performance cams are now available due to the popularity of 2CV racing.

Modifications include boring out a standard 2CV engine to fit a Citroen Visa piston – this raises capacity to 650cc whilst retaining the same stroke as the 602cc. The downside is that the cylinder side wall is made very thin by this modification and the engine can seize whilst running in.

Swapping the 602cc engine for the 650cc engine from the Citroen Visa is workable (the camshaft in the Visa engine is “hotter” than standard) but this is not an easy modification.

Driving

3 wheeled driving is a very different experience. The car has a sports car stance being close to the ground and alighting requires climbing down into the seats.

The suspension retains the donor’s ability to soak up potholes – only finding difficulty with the taller “sleeping policemen”. If the rear wheel hits a diesel patch or wet manhole cover then the rear can step out, but will swiftly regain traction.

The insurance is very low due to the small engine size.

There is lots of capacity in the boot for shopping or even continental touring.

The car is relatively safe in accidents due to built-in weak points in the Citroen chassis– a built in “crumple-zone”. These fold in the event of accident protecting the cockpit from serious damage.

The performance is better than the 2CV donor with good acceleration and 80mph normal. It will cruise at 70mph easily.

It is equally manoeuvrable handling twisty back roads faster than a number of conventional vehicles.

The controls are conventional apart from the gear change pattern where 1st is opposite reverse. The handbrake is an umbrella version (from 2CV donor) although some builders have opted for a more conventional handbrake layout.

 

 

With thanks to Tom Lucas for advice and information. Tom is the author of “Lomax the First Ten Years” (£10 from most bookstores).

 

 

 

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The Art of Procrastination

With a blog entitled “The Procrastination Pen” I suppose it is reasonable to expect that at some stage there would be something on procrastination.

To be honest the naming was something that came to light after several days of brain stretching. It was only fixed after I discovered that all my other great name ideas were already taken.

(This is fairly familiar, see my discoveries about the use of the term “Wreck of the Week”).

It was all going swimmingly until Amazon launched a product which is actually called a  “Procrastination Pen”. This consigns my little blog to low down in the Google search results.

Anyway enough of this – suffice to say that the title “Procrastination Pen” was in the search for a unique blog title rather than some manifesto of intent.

However it is not a title without aptness. Throughout my life I have struggled with procrastination. At times I would rather clean the toilet than embark on the task that I regard as the most important. During revision for the various exams I have undertaken in my life I have dusted, hoovered and tended the garden to avoid picking up a single book.

And so it was with great embrace that I greeted the book that is the subject of this post.

If like me you have symptoms of procrastination in your life I recommend that you buy this before any other book on the subject.

Procrastination 1

Bookfinder

My copy is now very precious to me.

John turns out to have been a lifelong procrastinator of the advanced order. This puts him in a uniquely sympathetic position to other sufferers. He is the most positive person I have encountered when it comes to the treatment of procrastination.

If you want a flavour for the author’s style then visit his website here.

He raises the idea of akrasia (apparently originally from Aristotle). This describes why people will do anything other than the thing they are supposed to be doing.

He proposes that procrastinators far from being inefficient wastrels actually get a great deal of work done. However they get that work done whilst avoiding some other task.

Perversely they may be seen to be very hard-working and efficient as a result.

The major outcome of which is that being a procrastinator is quite positive and nothing whatsoever to be ashamed of.

Although he is perhaps the first to propose the term “structured procrastination” to cover this behaviour the first to write about it apparently was Robert Benchley in the Chicago Tribune in 1930. The article “How to Get Things Done” is now the subject of a blog posting.

Structured Procrastination

The benefits of structured procrastination (as opposed I suppose to doing absolutely nothing) is that it is feasible to get procrastination to work in your favour. A great deal of work can be accomplished whilst avoiding the task you really do not want to engage with.

The issue is that mentally (or physically if we can bring ourselves to be that organised) we have a list of tasks which we must accomplish.

Habitually a procrastinator will have the most important task glaring him or her in the face. He or she is quite prepared to exercise his or her self in the performance of tasks lower down that list to avoid that most important task.

The wrong thing to do when you have this mindset is to address the task directly. Worse still is to attempt to minimise the distracting tasks to focus fully on the main one. If you succeed then the only way to avoid the main task is to do something which is not constructive – watch the television, cut your toenails, pick your nose and so on.

One approach is to try to find another yet more important task and to mentally (or physically if it helps) add this task to the top of the list. Now you will be spending all of your efforts to avoid that task. Your previous most important task is now second on the list and is likely to receive attention to avoid the new most important task.

Alternatively, if no likely task presents itself, promote one of the less important tasks to be the most important one.

This means you have to fool yourself that this task is more important. As John points out we fool ourselves all the time anyway in the pursuit of procrastination so we’re already experts at this.

Perfectionist Moi?

Procrastinators are fantasists, unable to complete the task perfectly but nonetheless imagining that they are able to do so.

Finding themselves unable to complete a task to this imagined standard of perfection means the task does not get done.

That is unless the task has a deadline, in which case as the deadline passes guilt kicks in. The procrastinator attains a mad scramble to complete the task. In the process he or she gives his or herself permission to do a less than perfect job.

John states that we would be better using a task triage in this situation. Decide which tasks you can forget altogether, which you can forget until later, and which to start work on.

In the process decide whether a half-arsed job is sufficient or if a perfect job really is needed.

Lists

Surely the bane of any procrastinator and the subject of way too much time-management reading I’ve performed over the years.

Procrastinators keep lists – either mentally or, for the more disciplined, physically.

The lists are pretty pointless. The only reason they are created is to get the buzz from crossing things off the list. Hence the list grows with items that did not need to be on the list simply for the feedback of all those ticks.

Where lists do come into their own is when the procrastinator is faced with a task that he or she cannot face. Something so daunting that nominating some other task as the most important will surely fail.

Here the task needs salami slicing. Each component of the task listed out so that the procrastinator can approach it piecemeal.

The safest time to make such a list is just before sleep – that way you’re less inclined to be distracted.

Music

Motivational music is well worth having.

Personally I think that you can’t go far wrong with this:

You will have your own preferences.

Distractions

These are bread and butter for the procrastinator, email and web surfing for example. Avoiding these is not realistic. Set something that will interrupt you. At least you will stop emailing/surfing the web (or alternative distraction of choice) and do some work before the sun sets.

Desktop

A lot of procrastinators work by spreading papers across the desk. Do not resist this if it is you.

Putting papers into filing cabinets is an almost certain way of never dealing with those papers again. If you are not bound by a clear desk policy feel free to leave the papers exactly where they are when you stop working. That way you can instantly pick up where you left off.

Non-Procrastinators

Procrastinators drive such people mad. Non-Procrastinators are useful to have around. They will insist that you work in a non-procrastinating way. This can be very motivational (if hard on any relationship that you have with them).

Obsessively productive people may choose to do the tasks for you. Make sure that you contribute equally if so.

Positives

A surprisingly large number of tasks don’t need doing at all. By not working on them you gain time that non-procrastinators lose.

Some tasks find better qualified people to work on them and they also disappear from your mental (or physical) to do list.

There are many ways to spend time and many opinions about the best way to spend time. Spending time daydreaming may in the long run be more productive than writing that essay.

Procrastinators may ultimately find better ways to enjoy life.

Unpleasant News

Whilst John is positive throughout about the impact of procrastinators he does reference some material which is likely to bite a bit harder.

Procrastination: Ten Things to Know. (Read this if you’re a procrastinator in a really upbeat mood or a non-procrastinator who needs validation).

For those determined to beat their procrastination into submission John recommends this book:

Procrastination 2

Bookfinder

However as John concludes, procrastination is not the problem. You will only attempt drastic action against procrastination if you are unhappy.

It would be far better to work on the unhappiness rather than the procrastination.

 

 

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Narrative Vs Dialogue

Two stories both on the same subject to show the effects of Narrative vs. Dialogue.

From a course I did so long ago now that I can’t remember the context.

They’re here purely for your enjoyment and with no other explanation.

I hope that you like them.

Narrative

Elizabeth was a fool Jane knew it. They hadn’t been friends for twenty years without the realisation that Elizabeth was a weak-headed, softhearted, naïve fool.

Didn’t she, the mother have the greater insight into the workings of her daughters?

There were the startling, the mediocre and the downright alarming. Rebecca, the eldest – she had always been the exceptional one. Always knowing what she wanted to do. She planned her wedding for the best weekend of the year, a marvellous dress, a fantastic husband.

Then there was Ruth. Jane could feel the anger like a tiny pricking sensation already starting, just thinking about her.

Ruth, yes – she’d warned her – with every one of the dropout wasters she’d hung around with (and taken to bed) she’d warned her.

Now she was pregnant,, of course she hadn’t taken the time to tell her own mother, oh no.

A hasty wedding in October – at a registry office, a rush job at minimal expense – well this guy Richard was hardly the high-flyer, not like Rebecca’s husband.

Ruth had made a bad choice and it was obvious why. It was just to spite her mother. They’d never seen eye to eye and now she had chosen the one thing that she knew would really hurt.

Jane took pride in her family – liked to think that she’d instilled in them some old-fashioned values.

Rebecca had never hung around town late at night picking up boys – and what boys. The latest one had a tongue piercing – and a dotted line tattooed across his neck with a small pair of scissors labelled “cut here”.

What kind of guy was he this Richard? She doubted very much that Ruth even knew him very well. She knew he had a motorbike and was the sort of guy that Jane would despise. Jane would never welcome him into the family.

How better to hurt her mother than to marry him? Well it worked; all the years of spite and angst could not equal what she was doing this time.

If only Ruth wasn’t such a stubborn, wilful girl, she wouldn’t be dragging the family down in this way. Jane wished, not for the first time that she could disown her.

It was bad enough that she’d found them “at it” in her own bathroom but then to go and marry him? It was too much.

So what was Elizabeth going on about? The loose-minded woman. No doubt, she saw Ruth as another hard-luck case like an abandoned puppy or something.

No, Ruth had a lot of learning left and she, Jane was not going to shield her from any of it.

Dialogue

“Isn’t it the most perfect day Jane” Elizabeth gushed, her brow furrowed in concern.

“It’s October Elizabeth, who ever heard of a wedding in October? I may as well look around for thermal underwear” Jane was at her most caustic today. “Now, Rebecca, Rebecca; there’s a girl with sense, a June wedding, very sensible”

“As I recall Jane, you moaned all day that it was too hot and you were suffering from sunburn,” said Elizabeth archly.

“Hmmph well at least I didn’t have to go there looking like an Eskimo – it’s so unattractive.”

Elizabeth sighed inwardly and tried again “The weather is unseasonably warm Jane. Anyway I’m told the registry office is centrally heated”

“Office, yes office, why not a church?”

Elizabeth decided on a change of tack “Did you see the dress though Jane? She will look beautiful”

“I didn’t want to see it, it’s not as though it’s a wedding dress or anything. There won’t be a train or walking up the aisle will there?”

“I guess as long as she’s happy though?” Elizabeth’s voice squeaked with the effort of maintaining diplomacy.

“Happy, happy, what kind of selfish attitude is that? I give it six months, that’s all, six months”

“Richard seems a very nice lad” Elizabeth was tiring of the fight.

“If you don’t count the tongue piercing and the tattoos of course.”

“They all have those now I think”

“Well he isn’t tolerant enough for Ruth that’s for sure. I don’t think he’s had half enough time to realize what a vicious little wildcat she can be”

“What makes you think that, Jane? What evidence do you have?” Elizabeth, by now beaten decided to go with the flow.

“I’ll tell you why – she’s been going round like some old slapper. Mike last year, Derek six months ago and now Richard. Is it any surprise that she’s pregnant?”

Elizabeth gasped, “That’s a vicious thing to say, you’ve no evidence at all for that statement”

“Oh, come on, don’t be so naïve, she’s been hanging around him like a bitch in heat” Jane snapped.

“How can you say that about your own daughter?”

“You just have to look at her for God’s sake, how many brides do you know actually put on weight for their wedding?”

“I think you’ll find the dress size is exactly the same now as when she ordered it Jane.” Elizabeth was sounding exasperated. “You can’t just treat your daughter in this way Jane, you can’t. It will come back to haunt you if you do.”

Jane glared at her stubbornly “I have five daughters, Elizabeth, five and have any been so awful to me as this one? I don’t think so.”

“Ruth is a lovely girl, Jane, surely you see that” said Elizabeth, tears by now gleaming in her soft brown eyes.

Jane’s gaze was grey and piercing “I tell you, for all the pain this one has brought me, I wish I only had four daughters.”
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Photo by Scott Webb from Pexels https://www.pexels.com/photo/wood-sign-arrow-blur-137596/

Privacy – A How-To Guide

There can be few people alive now who have not heard about Edward Snowden. 

He is a marmite character hailed as a hero by some and a pariah requiring execution by others.

I realised that in my Gravatar profile I state: “Keen on privacy and IT Security. A volunteer counsellor. I use blogging to improve my writing.” There has been a few blog items on writing and the odd one related to counselling but except for the EXIF article precious little in support of privacy.

Snowden showed us that if you decide to put something on the Internet it is not private anymore. (No matter how much security you imagine protects it).

Security services have techniques that can read information, often when we believed that information was protected.

Information that you put on the Internet today, believing it to be secure, is exposed in a security breach tomorrow.

Some people believe that this is fair enough, if you decide to put a nude selfie online for example then on your head be it.

This article is not for them.

Still reading? Ok, well there are some basic steps that you can take which will protect you. Some more advanced steps you can take if you are very keen on privacy. There are also steps you should take if your life depends on privacy (which is sadly not unfamiliar to some activists in the world today).

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/entry/improve-internet-privacy_n_6902622

https://www.theregister.co.uk/2015/11/12/snowden_guide_to_practical_privacy/

  • Mobile Phones Mobile Phones – transmit a great deal of information about you. they are used by shops to track your purchasing preferences. They still transmit information even when you have turned location services off.

    If you are in the group that really needs to protect your privacy faraday bags for phones do work.If you like your privacy but your life isn’t likely to be in danger over it – turn on location services only when you need it.

    Similarly turn off Bluetooth and wireless when they are not in use.Better still if you do not want to be tracked leave the phone at home.

  • Encrypt Encryption uses mathematics to render the information inaccessible to anyone other than the people you want to have access.However encryption does not solve all problems.There is some evidence that some encryption has been circumvented. .However encryption will defeat prying eyes in the majority of cases.

    You can encrypt your phone .You can encrypt the hard drive on your laptop.

    You can use encrypted file storage online .

  • Encrypted Apps – Use encrypted alternatives to text messages. The recommended system here is an app called Signal which is as easy to use as any text message system.
  • Unique Passwords – Make certain that every website you log into has a unique password.

    Breaches in passwords happen every day.

    A breach is when a company loses the usernames and passwords of its customers onto the Internet. Criminals then get hold of these details and attempt to log into as many websites as they can. It takes criminals minutes to do this it can take many years before a company is aware of the leak.

  • Password Managers – maintaining a different password for each login (for every website) is a discipline that is sometimes beyond the memory of the average individual. This means that you really must use a password manager.

    Password Managers store all your passwords in one place and you only need to remember the one password – the one to access the password manager.

    I use KeePass . It is a standalone password manager (in that it is not integrated with your browser).This reduces functionality a little but increases security a lot. (With all your passwords in one place you do want the solution to be secure).

  • Use two-factor authentication. Remember I said that passwords are leaked onto the internet every day? How do you stop a criminal logging in when you don’t know that your password is already out there?

    Make certain logging on to your account takes more than a password.

    A number of sites permit use of two-factor authentication. Usually this means that after you add your username and password you get a text on your mobile phone giving you a code that you also need to enter.This small amount of extra effort can have a big effect on your security.

  • Use a VPN service that cloaks your location.Every ISP has a list of addresses that they hand out to their clients. This means that when you browse the Internet others on the Internet can determine which ISP you use. In many cases this gives a good approximation of where you are accessing the Internet from.In addition every piece of browsing behaviour goes through a link provided by your ISP who has a log of your activity. The only way to disguise your activity from your ISP is to have a tool that uses an encrypted tunnel to hide what you’re are doing.

    This can be a VPN , use of ToR browser or using ToR browser over a VPN .

    A VPN creates a tunnel between you and a VPN Provider.

    The problem with this is that it moves the keeping track of your actions from your ISP to your VPN provider.

    You therefore need a VPN provider that undertakes not to track your actions.

    For the truly privacy conscious use ToR.

    https://lifehacker.com/what-is-tor-and-should-i-use-it-1527891029.

    ToR is not a panacea but it does make it much more difficult to trace any actions back to you. ToR is a technology that sends the messages you use to communicate on the Internet through a very convoluted route, making it very difficult to trace.

Of course it is far easier to keep something private if you do not share it in the first place. If you share something which would have consequences (if it became public) then perhaps sharing it is not wise. Don’t depend for example on Facebook privacy settings. It is known that people use Facebook to monitor and to trap the unwary.

Don’t put your holiday destination into Facebook until after you have returned.

It is really a bad idea to exchange nude photographs. Can you really be certain that the picture won’t turn up later on in a context which you might not like?

Many sites allow recovery of your account if you supply personal details about yourself. This means that they allow you access after you share with them a secret that they know about you. A favourite is Mother’s maiden name for example. If you forget your password – you supply your mother’s maiden name – you get to reset your password.

If that information (your mother’s maiden name) is on the Internet already (say on social media) it is no longer a secret. Criminals can use this information too.

Firstly be careful what you share. Secondly if you are asked for a secret that can be used to reset your account – lie. If your dog is called Fido and the recovery question is “pet’s name” use ”jambalaya” for example (don’t do that – it’s in the Internet now so people know it – make up your own version and keep it secret).

Once you have created a lie make sure you record it somewhere offline (say in the password manager) so if you need to recover the account you can remember what lie it was that you told them.

Make certain that you use the HTTPS version of a website (most sites have a HTTPS version now). The HTTPS-everywhere add-on can do this for you. HTTPS uses secure communication and hence is more secure to use than HTTP.

Adverts on the Internet have been the source of a great many attacks. Wherever possible use an ad-blocker. This also makes it harder for sites to track your behaviour and use it to bombard you with ads.

It is known that search engines like Google mine your information in order to sell it to advertising companies. One way to obviate this is to use an alternative search engine that does not log your behaviour. The best known of these is DuckDuckGo.

If you are one of the people whose life depends on your privacy then this article is not going to be cautious enough for you.

ToR is a good start. There are also guides as to how compartmentalise your life. There are guides about how to communicate with journalists. Encrypted email solutions exist and should be considered. Even operating systems designed to preserve security.

However it would be remiss of me to advise about these given my life has never been at risk because of a lack of privacy. You must gauge the level of risk and apply appropriate precautions.

For everyone else these few steps can make a big difference.

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Character

A good character is key to your book. If you have poor characters there is nothing to rescue the book.

These tips come from a writing course and I’m hopeful will be useful in improving your characters.

“Nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict.”

(The principles of screenwriting by Robert McKee) Bookfinder 

McKee

Character ‘Dimension’

A quote from p.p.  377-8 of the above book:

‘Dimension’  is the least understood concept in character…Some years ago a producer pitched me what he believed to be a ^three-dimensional’ protagonist in these terms:   ‘Jesse just got out of prison, but while he was in the slammer he boned up on finance and investment,  so he’s a expert on stocks, bonds, and securities. He can also break dance. He’s got a black belt in karate and plays a mean jazz saxophone.’ His Vesse’ was a flat as a desktop – a cluster of traits stuck on a name. Decorating a protagonist with quirks does not open his character and draw empathy. Rather, eccentricities may close him off and keep us at a distance.

A favourite academic tenet argues that, instead,  fine characters are marked by one dominant trait. Macbeth’s ambition is frequently cited. Overwhelming ambition, it’s claimed, makes Macbeth great. This theory is dead wrong.  If Macbeth were merely ambitious, there’d be no play. He’d simply defeat the English and rule Scotland. Macbeth is a brilliantly realized character because of the contradiction between his ambition on the one hand and his guilt on the other. From this profound inner contradiction springs his passion, his complexity, his poetry.

Dimension means contradiction:  either within deep character (guilt-ridden ambition) or between characterization and deep character (a charming thief). These contradictions must be consistent.  It doesn’t add dimension to portray a guy as nice throughout the film, then in one scene have him kick a cat…

Dimensions fascinate; contradictions in nature or behaviour rivet the audience’s concentration. Therefore, the protagonist must be the most dimensional character in the cast to focus empathy on the star role.  If not, the Centre of Good decanters; the fictional universe flies apart; the audience loses balance.”

Plot and Character

A Plot led structure

If your story is about the robbing of the bank – you still need to care about why the character is robbing it.

Plot led structures are found in crime, thriller, horror and where there is suspense in action.

A Character led structure

Character led structures are found in romance, family drama and anywhere suspense is found in the character’s internal struggles.

You may not know what structure you’ve got until you’ve written your first draft. (Outlining in sufficient detail may help).

Plot Structure

  • Give your character a huge problem to resolve.
  • In the process throw loads of obstacles at them.
  • Your character needs to come up with a solution and redeem themselves.

What is your characters main dilemma?

What is the most exciting action line or crisis or major discovery?

Does this serve to highlight your character’s dilemma?

Is your character’s dilemma rooted in their personality?

Character

Normally there is one main protagonist.

This is the character whose story you are telling.

Aim to create a struggle within your character. Struggle reminds us that we are human.

Create a dimensional, real, character with their own wants and needs.

The outer goal is what they want recognisably to achieve.

The Inner goal is why they want or need to achieve those goals.

What is at stake if the character fails to achieve their goals?

What is stopping the character from reaching their goal?

The inner and outer goal should be linked. This is the basis for the reader’s engagement.

During the story the character “finds themselves” and this is the resolution.

Levels of conflict

Relationships – other characters, family, friends, antagonists

Societal – organisations, murder, rules

Nature – forces of nature, disaster,

Supernatural – monsters, God, aliens, ghosts

Character Building

There is a good questionnaire for this here https://www.helpingwritersbecomeauthors.com/interviewing-your-characters/

  1. Where does your character live?
  2. Where is your character from?
  3. How old is your character?
  4. What is your character called?
  5. What does your character look like?
  6. What kind of childhood did he or she have?
  7. What does your character do for a living?
  8. How does your character deal with conflict and change?
  9. Who else is in your character’s life?
  10. What is your character’s goal or motivation in this story or scene?

You should really know your character.

This is a slow process building up from small details.

Gradually build up the intimacy between them and the reader.

Take time to allow them to get to know one another, time to care about what happens to the character, time to allow the reader to root for them to achieve their goal.

 

I was set a task of exploring a character and came up with the following which I hope you enjoy:

Story

Cigarettes, how he hated getting the cigarettes.  Here he was in the “sad bastards” ten items or less queue at Tesco’s.  Everything in the basket evidence of his vegetarian “live healthier” lifestyle and then Gary has to ask for cigarettes.

Of course he could never say no to him.  One inkling of that cheeky smile and the lights went on inside.  He felt like some school girl giggly and shy.

If only the eczema would give up he might try to know him a bit more – hand cream it was a euphemism really.  Try “whole body cream” and you would be closer to the truth. The red-scaly patches could rage up at any time and cause him wakeful nights; his flagging will-power all he had to stop the damn scratching.

It was easier to stay awake – a bit more coffee, a chunk of Bourneville and a late night weepy.  He hoped the checkout assistant wouldn’t stare again – the patches on his cheeks were bad today – if only he could send out for shopping.

Still it was his only activity outside his self-imposed prison.  Exercise was the rowing machine and work was always by email and by telephone.

Hopefully the Soya would be enough for the lactose intolerance.  The doctor had said IBS – then he had said that in his opinion IBS was “all in the mind”.  Well he’d try the Soya and avoid the bloody doctor.

How could anyone fancy him like this, especially Gary?  He tried not to think of it, best not to cry just as he was handing over his clubcard.

 

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Happy Seed – Worry Seed

I’ve used this technique myself with clients. It is a good creative technique to use with people who worry excessively or are anxious. Sometimes it is good to use techniques other than talking (and listening) in the room. Visual techniques are helpful in that they display to the client where their current thinking style/behaviour is taking them. It also can help them to clearly see changes that they need to make.

Everyone in the world has two seeds. There is a happy seed and a worry seed. You can do what you like with either seed – there is no instruction book. However the way you behave towards these two seeds is not without consequences.

This exercise is to show what happens when you pay attention to one or other seed.

Draw a happy seed and a worry seed at the bottom of a large piece of paper.

Happy Seed 1

The client can pay attention to either seed. They must first nominate one as the happy seed and one as the worry seed. (Draw a label clearly at the base of the paper so that there is no doubt which one is which).

They can pay attention to either seed. Each seed needs feeding and watering so that it can grow.

If the client is prone to worry it is usually easier for them to pay attention to the worry seed. If a worry comes to mind have them draw a shoot from the worry seed. Have them attach a leaf to this shoot labelled with that worry.

Happy Seed 2

At this stage the worry seed is developing into a plant. The happy seed is still just a seed. The client has free rein to add shoots to either seed. Have them add more shoots with whatever comes to mind.

Their predominant thinking style will rise to the surface. Someone who worries draws more worries.

Happy Seed 3

Dependent upon how much the client has to bring up it might be that you will need a very large piece of paper for this. (Plain wallpaper for example is good).

As you watch what the client is doing you can see that they have a tendency to water and feed one particular plant dependent upon their thinking style.

Happy Seed 4

This can continue for as long as you have time designated to this. However a definite pattern will have emerged.

Happy Seed 5

Eventually the client will run out of things to add – or will have added as much as they can within the time you allotted for this activity. There will usually be an asymmetry between the two plants:

Happy Seed 6

At which point you can point out to them that in life there is only one pot of time. They can pay attention to anything that they like but only one thing at a time. If they pay attention to the worry seed – they care for it, water it and it will start to grow.

A first worry leaf develops. With further attention to the worry seed another leaf pops up. If they keep caring for the worry seed in time a tree of worries will fill the page.

Their life will be full of worries and there will be no space left for happy.

They can’t care for the worry seed and at the same time pay attention to the happy seed. With no attention to the happy seed they concentrate all their energy on worry.

The worry tree becomes so huge that it is overwhelming. By comparison the stunted happy tree is undeveloped. In fact the happy tree is completely overshadowed by the worry tree and is not going to grow properly.

Get them then to consider how life would be different if they spent at least some time on the happy seed.

Better still if they watered and cared for the happy seed at the expense of the worry seed. How much different would life be then.

The intention is for them to seek out the parts of their lives that are happy and to minimise the time they spend worrying.

Thanks to my counsellor Rachel http://www.elyhypnotherapy.com/ for suggesting this technique.

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Book Planning

Planning a novel should follow the monomyth.

The character is boring unless they are also wrestling with conflict. The conflict should have a purpose – the character returning to life transformed by it. To maintain interest conflict should start early in the book.

When working out your book plan – planning around 20 chapters is a good average to start with. The plan should include the basic plot which you then use to write the book from.

In previous blog posts we have considered the seven basic plots https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/01/23/seven-basic-plots/ and the framework of the novel https://magic-phil.co.uk/2018/02/06/the-framework-of-a-novel/. So we have covered the monomyth and the seven basic plots already.

Choose which of the seven basic plots you would like to plan and work out your plot.

“Work out your plot” sounds a bit too easy. So it proves – these are some questions I asked about my attempt from the writing course:

Plot Questions

Start with the premise of someone who will not/cannot adapt to society.

In what way can they not adapt?

(Work, rules, joy, happiness, communication, memory, interest, importance, holiday)

Perhaps they have a sense of isolation –a self-constructed cell that has no walls but which permits no escape.

What kind of a world should it be? Not too different to this one.

It sounds like an illness – what kind of obscure illness should it be?

What are the sanctions to this person? Where/who do the sanctions come from?

Why do they have to hide?

What if people find out about them? (Will they be concerned? Will they betray them?)

What do they do if they still don’t adapt?

What kind of lack of adaptation would cause complete shunning of them by the rest of society?

Where can you run when the whole world is owned? What if the effort to own is too much? Where can you go with that? What if the competition is too much?

As you can see working out the plot causes many questions. I only had time to list some on the course but the longer that you spend the more questions you will have. I also think that having lots of questions will fill better fill out the plot and lead to more interesting characters.

Start of the Plot

Given the above preparation I arrived at this as the start of a plot:

At the age of nine comes selection. Thomas had always regarded himself as different and shuddered now in the line.

He saw the days before as carefree. Days in which games and laughter as much filled the playrooms as the careful instruction to comply, to serve, to address the ills that an unregulated and unconforming world could only bring.

Thomas has been raised like all children (since a time that no one alive would now remember) in a crèche away from interference and distraction. Loved and managed by Nana who’s warm smoothness had sheltered them when babies. At night time she ushered them to sleep as they grew.

Nana was the kindest machine Thomas had so far encountered and he loved her as he loved no one living.

Thomas had never felt the same about the others, those his own age with which he shared a nursery, sleeping, eating, playing. To Thomas they were all different, something he always kept closely to himself. Thomas never wanted to fit, he didn’t want to be selected, but when he told Nana this she had dismissed it. Everyone had to be conditioned – why wasn’t he more like his crèche mates.

He had learned to speak no more of it.

He had wondered if he was special and in darker moments if his parents had been criminals – the few for whom conditioning would not take.

The future – after nine – had sounded so dead, without play, without Nana…

The other children were so happy that they would be allowed 21 days a year to go to the sun, to sit on beaches with other conditioned people. They were happy to fit a normal life, performing their function.

Thomas couldn’t imagine any future could be worse – all of life given to a function, no more games, no more Nana.

With the selection he would be one of many allocated to a discipline for which he was best suited. His brain activity analysed, his aptitudes scanned and evaluated, it would not take long – Nana said it wouldn’t hurt.

So far Thomas had to agree, it was boring, staring at the back of someone’s head. He was wishing in that he would not get taken inside, they’d forget somehow, that he wouldn’t have to serve.

The selection booth seemed quiet, apart from a muted background hum. Thomas didn’t feel happiness, didn’t feel peace. This chamber felt like a threat to him. He felt fear trembling in his legs and thudding with rapid repetition in his chest.

The door behind him closed, there now seemed no way back – only forwards.

He slid to the ground and began to cry, would he have to work? Would he never be able to run around Nana screaming with happiness?

As he sat the helmet levitated from the inner room – the place where he was to arrive – but he had resisted. It passed unseen overhead as he huddled inside the door and descended onto his bowed head. With a puff of anaesthetic the electrodes engaged.

Thomas was conscious of the analysis but felt no need to attempt to dislodge the device. His body now lifted and set in a chair. Electrodes strapped over him reading wishes, desires, aptitudes.

Somewhere behind it all was Thomas. He wanted to avoid allocation, to be without work, to run outside again, free.

The machine reading the purpose for which he was best suited. It engaged the first stage of programming – coercing the mind into a path which was most suitable.

It hadn’t taken long. Thomas emerged now. A technician – training downloaded, programming embedded. He was ready for a contented life in service, keen to embark on a lengthy apprenticeship to fulfil his true purpose.

Machines are not perfect. The design of the programming helmet is to smooth neural pathways. It is to direct the growth of learning and to remove old memories. In fact to remove anything that would hinder the future happiness of those who came within its attention.

Outwardly Thomas was now a keen young technician destined as he was for 10 years of training, acclimatization and conditioning. Life much easier than ever before: regular breaks, true holidays and downtime. He was programmed to meet those which similar machines had designated appropriate. With some of whom Thomas could produce future generations of adapted technicians.

The machine though had missed something. One of the thinking traits was out of the ordinary. Thomas’ great faith that he did not fit had produced a self-fulfilling circuit…

Thomas had the neural seeds of discontent sowed within him.

Outwardly the smiling face of just another happy employee but in fact gradually that seed would grow, and each night emerge in dreaming.

The Thomas not in technician’s uniform. The Thomas not working at all, running along a rainswept shore. The Thomas unlimited by 21 days of annual leave; the designated holiday-destinations in approved-hotels. The hotels where Thomas would meet with those who reaffirmed the importance of a technician’s life.

How vital it was that he put in those 39 hours a week monitoring, maintaining, fabricating.

Hidden to those around him, Thomas’ growing awareness that this life was not for him.

 

 

This is just the intro to the process which might give you a few pointers but as you can see there is quite a bit more to it.

 

 

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