Thursday, 22 March 2018

Burning Internet

Overheard in the living room as Hay related her disastrous journey to London this week:

Hay: "When I stood...."

Chairman: "On the burning deck, your legs were all aquiver, you gave a cough, your leg fell off and floated down the river?"

Hay: "No."

For the third time in a row she had a bit of a problem travelling to and from London by train - this time it was being sat for 2 hours outside Didcot on the return leg.

Blue Brexit passports to be made by a Franco-Dutch firm - you couldn't make it up, could you?

Boris Johnson has called Russia a brutal and corrupt regime. Obviously he's making a play for selling arms to Putin, just like we sell them to other brutal and corrupt regimes. Must be part of his Brexit export drive.

The Chairman's 63rd birthday today. I don't feel any different to my 21st birthday. The mirror tells a different story though.

The Vodafone internet seems to have settled at a reasonable speed, but I do need another router, rather than the locked-down and very basic model than Vodafone provide.

I understand from various forums that this is a common complaint.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Communist Vodafone Connect

I was doing my usual ennui thing yesterday of baiting Uber-Brexiteers with facts (they don't like 'em) and was amazed to see a Ukip supporter accusing Corbyn of loving Russia because it's a communist country. I don't know where these Brexteers have been since the cold war, but near a news outlet hasn't been one of the locations. Russia couldn't be more fascist if it tried, for God's sake. Perfect country for Farage followers though, if only they realised how close the country's political system is to their political ideal.

So, the Vodafone Connect router is a heap of crap. Very basic with no facilities for doing a bit of work on your LAN, such as blocking certain IP addresses between set times. However, I did manage to get the username and password for my specific account (I was correct yesterday in assuming the router has the account details hard coded into it before shipping, which was why the device that was mailed to be for the cancelled order didn't work). That means I can use a 3rd party router with more facilities which facilitate much more in the way of finger-poking. Can't, however, use the old BT router - I tried this morning.

I know speeds can vary for a while when you switch ISP, but this is ridiculous:

Obviously, making the router a simple, unhackable device saves on tech support issues and allows a lower level of skill at the Vodafone help desk.

I'll give it a few days, but if the speed doesn't improve, I'll revert to BT.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Plenty of Internet Dough

Had no internet all day yesterday and so used my phone's 50gb data allowance. What else could I have expected? I've never, ever had a smooth transition from one ISP to another. Given I received two routers from Vodafone (one being from the initial, cancelled order), I had a thought this morning that perhaps the routers are somehow automatically registered on the network with a hardware dongle that's linked to a particular order number, and so switched to the last delivered one. Bingo!

No faster service though, despite the headline speed advertised being higher. That's probably a function of the line to the house and can't be changed without the tail circuit being fibre too. The main advantage though is no line rental. One challenge is to find out how to block No.2 Son's access after certain times in the evening - there doesn't seem to be a blocking facility on the DSL.

Have read that Vodafone degrades once there are more than 5 to 8 simultaneous connections, which will be an issue here with some 14 odd connections, at least. Will get No.1 Son to put the system through its paces today and make a decision based on that.

When we went to the Oxfam shop in Stroud over the weekend I noticed some bread mix for sale.

You simply add beer to it and bung it on the oven for a lovely beer bread. However, once you clock the price you realise it's designed for the profligate.

Add something like £1.50 (minimum) for a beer to the £4.99 price, you end up with what must be the most expensive bread on the planet.

This, however, is a neat idea for keeping the garage tidy:

Monday, 19 March 2018

Circular Mascara Internet Conundrum

Overheard while Hay was reading the Sunday Times Style supplement:

Hay: "Here we go, a mascara for £28. What was I doing buying one for £6?"

Hay finds the whole mascara thing baffling. She maintains it shouldn't be so complicated - mascara does one thing only, but the same product made by the same manufacturer is broken out into a myriad different 'lines' that are described differently yet, when the verbiage is analysed, do exactly the same thing.

I only learned yesterday that the clockwise Circle Line in London is no longer a circle. Hay is off to London today and needs to get to Belsize Park, which is near to where I used to live in Hampstead, so I gave her the benefit of my extensive knowledge of the London Underground, which is, apparently, lamentably out of date. I'm going to need a new map.

Today is the switch-over from BT to Vodafone for my internet service. I may be some time...

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Gateway Harpy Food

Overhead in the Stroud Oxfam shop:

Chairman: "Shouldn't be shopping here according to many, what with all this kerfuffle about Oxfam and sexual harassment."

Hay: "Yes, but this is nice - it's pure cotton."

I'm down to 82kg with my exercise and calorie restriction regime - that's 6kg lost in just over a month with 2 to go. The calorie restriction has comprised the normal 5-2 diet, but on the normal 5 days I only have an evening meal and satisfy any hunger pangs during the day with the odd tangerine.

Yesterday we went to Stroud market and when there we usually call in at a local cafe - J.Rools - for brunch. I was tempted to have a toasted bacon sandwich but, for the first time in my life, I considered this treat a gateway bacon butty - it could have led me astray and into the realms of cheese sandwiches or (heaven forbid) a sausage and egg butty and had to resist. I settled instead for a poached egg and rejected the gateway to perdition.

Spotted this family family outside the cafe playing what looked like homemade harps. Mother and daughter, plus son (out of shot, but must have been all of 9 years old). The kids took it in turn to play with mum.

They were raising money for their donkey sanctuary. It was bitterly cold and must have frozen their fingers to the bone.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Blockchain Lawnmower

Blockchain - going to have to learn something about this technology; it's running everything, if news reports are to be believed.

Think I'll look into getting blockchain to mow the lawn...

Friday, 16 March 2018

Skripal Bottle First

I see that the security services are now allegedly working on the hypothesis that the nreve agent used on Skripal was put in his daughter's suitcase before she left Russia. If that's the case, then the accusation against Russia can only ever be circumstantial and any action against Russia will be outside of international law. This may all blow up in May's face, with Corbyn's position being justified and vindicated.

Someone in Bristol is proposing that recycled plastic is used to fill potholes in the roads. I've got a corollary to that; use tarmac to make bottles from - it degrades almost the minute it's laid on roads.

Result of the latest YouGov daily poll:

Draw your own conclusions, but I don't believe  for one minute that the Ukip voting cohort is interested in the intellectual argument in support of free speech.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Putin's Obesity Olympics

Putin is facing an election (admittedly the choice is Putin vs Putin), but what better way to galvanise Russian public opinion; topping a traitor who divulged Russian secrets appeals to the patriots and claiming you're a scapegoat of the West will get the rest on your side. A veritable masterclass in public manipulation. Of course, it also plays into Mrs May's hands, but there's very little she can actually do and if she's tricked into a precipitative response she may come off looking weak and wobbly. It's rather obvious that while she's embattled by Brexit she needs some popular opinion on her side for a change and so her reaction is entirely predictable - and Putin knows that too.

Tory, and some Labour voices, are rounding on Corbyn for demanding positive proof and for any response to adhere to protocol. Corbyn is right, whatever you think of him - history is on his side. As for calling him a Russian puppet, as some of the right-wing press are doing, Russia is as near to a fascist dictatorship as one can get and I don't believe Corbyn is in love with fascism - he is, however, in love with due process and dialogue, rather than belligerent posturing, and has consistently been of that opinion throughout his career. Even France has said it will not respond until it receives proof, no matter the circumstantial evidence.

Why do humungously overweight people insist on wearing tracksuits emblazoned with words like 'ATHLETIC'? I understand that for people who are morbidly obese a tracksuit is probably very forgiving and comfortable, but they just don't seem to understand the irony of having sporty words plastered all over them when they are obviously the least athletic people on the planet.

I suppose there is the remote possibility they're trying to shed weight and have just returned from or are on the way to a gym. No, I didn't think so either. Saw one in the local Vodafone shop yesterday - simply gargantuan.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Hawking Persiflages Colonialism

Stephen Hawking has died - a brilliant man. It's amazing he lived as long as he did.

Colonialism is in the public eye quite frequently in these post-colonial days. Apologists for colonialism often say; "Yes, but look what we left behind in India." What they forget is that the legal system, the railways, the communication system were not implemented for the benefit of the Indian population, but to better aid trading contracts, the transport of goods and communication with troops - they were for the benefit of the colonial masters, not the indigenous population. The Indians benefited from them only after the colonialists disappeared - they were an unintended benefit.

The English, or rather the Britons, following the departure of the Romans from this land (what did the Romans ever do for us?), decided to destroy everything Roman and revert to a form of barbarism for the next few hundred years. I do hope that's not a portent for a post-Brexit UK.

We were watching a drama called Rough Justice the other night and Hay was taking note of the adverts in the breaks. She was convinced that the advertisers carefully research the audiences for their products and that the typical viewer of this particular programme is a post-menopausal woman with incontinence, or a man who wants to buy a new car.

Learned a new word yesterday - one I've never heard or seen in print before. It was in a biography of Charles James Fox. The word is 'persiflage', which is light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018


“There was a scientific study that showed vaccines cause autism.”

“Actually, the researcher in that study lost his medical license, and overwhelming research since then has shown no link between vaccines and autism.”

“Well, regardless, it's still my personal right as a parent to make decisions for my child.”

A familiar argument. A debate that starts with testable statements, but then, when the truth becomes inconvenient, the person takes a flight from facts.

In our time of unrivalled access to information, it has become easy to test and establish facts—whether in physics, psychology or policy—but many have wondered why bias and polarization have not been defeated. When people are confronted with facts, such as the well-established safety of immunization, why do these facts seem to have so little effect and fake news takes over?

Let’s look at another familiar trope that's relevant today: “The EU caused the decline of the UK’s fishing fleet.” A modicum of research will establish that

  1. Over-fishing by UK trawlers caused the decimation of the fish stocks many, many decades ago – it was the cause of the Iceland Cod Wars before we even joined the EU. Short term interests trumped sustainability at every turn. Any mention of 'conservation' was met with angry denouncements by fishermen. Yes, they were sawing off the branch they were sitting on, but they were persuaded that conservationists were the enemy. They didn't care. 
  2. The UK never stopped the Dutch and Spanish quota hoppers by stipulating the %age catch they had to land in the UK, which could easily have been done within EU rules. 
  3. 23% of UK quota is caught by one Dutch vessel the Cornelius Vrolijk. 44% of the UK quota is owned by Dutch and Spanish companies. 61% of UK quota is owned by just three companies - Dutch, Spanish and British. Why is this the case? It was down to each fishing nation in the EU as to how to manage its quota, not for the EU to make the rules. Unlike most EU fishing nations we took a Thatcherite approach to fishing quotas, that they were a commodity that can be bought and sold, tied to a fishing vessel. If a UK fisherman sold his vessel, the quota was sold with it. Other nations tied quotas to ports or made other sensible arrangements. No other nation has anything but a small part of its quota owned by others, and no other nation has so much of its quota concentrated in the hands of a few companies and not in the hands of small fishermen, for whom it is not a matter for the balance sheet but for their livelihood. 
All of the above are testable facts, but they are ignored by many and they remain convinced that the EU destroyed our fishing fleets. No amount of presenting facts will change their minds - they're immune to factual information that goes against their belief. It's like religion.

Ideology has come into play, where fake news is accepted as incontrovertible fact in order to support a preconceived ideology, and ideology is not a good basis for decision making, as it’s invariably untested in any meaningful way.

The graphic above is American, but it can apply anywhere.

At its core, an ideology is something you believe because you believe it, not because it's based on testable fact or evidence. It is a moral and intellectual anchor, as well as a lens through which the world is viewed. We come to our ideologies through different paths, some more valid than others - our family, our society, and our culture. We seem to be predisposed to certain political ideologies based upon which values speak to us most loudly. We then take those values as if they were the truth and proceed from there. They become bound with our personality and define us, which is why they're hard to combat.

Ideology also leads to motivated reasoning, to the marshalling of our cognitive abilities not to find the truth but to defend the answer that the most primitive and emotional parts of our brain have latched onto - we seek out evidence that tends to fit our ideology and, once found, we are not motivated to question it. That's called confirmation bias - when evidence challenges our ideology, we are very good at finding fault with it.

The far right and the far left are motivated by ideology, mostly of the wrong kind - the kind that limits freedom of the individual, which, perversely, is the ultimate aim of democracy. Democracy is a tool, not an aim in and of itself. If democracy leads to one extreme or the other, its purpose has been defeated.

Incidentally, talking of far right ideology, I don't think this Russian poisoning issue and the fact Putin is facing an election are entirely unrelated. Uniting Russians to support him under the guise of adversity is a good tactic - 'The West is scapegoating us'. The Russian propaganda machine is already in full flood. Power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely. The principle of cui bono applies. Novichok sounds more like military grade chocolate.

Sometimes freedoms have to be traded; the American Constitution allows Americans the right to bear arms. However. the citizen has the right not to be shot at and killed. How do you reconcile these basic freedoms when they have the ability, in certain circumstances, to clash? Surely proscribing the right to bear arms is an inconvenience at best, whereas not being shot to death is a fundamental right - the right to life. The NRA would see the right to bear arms as supporting the right to life - this is where it becomes difficult and ideology kicks in. Most Europeans and some Americans can see the manifest sense in the elimination of weapons as being a good thing, yet many Americans don't. It's cultural, not logical, and any straw is grasped by the ideologue who doesn't want to give up his or her weapons.

It's a pity that the American right doesn't pay as much attention to the 2nd paragraph of the Constitution as they do to the 2nd Amendment. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I'm referring not only to the bit about the right to life, but that all men are created equal (not women, of course).

Very few people stop to analyse their core beliefs and question them - it's too traumatic to think that many things you've believed through your entire life could be wrong when analysed in the cold, hard light of reason.