Thursday, 5 May 2016

Overheard in the Chemist

Chairman: "Hello, I can't remember whether I ordered a repeat prescription last week. Could you just check for me?"

Chemist's Assistant: "I'm afraid I can find nothing in the box for you."

Chairman: "Damn - well it was my Alzheimer's medication."

Funny look from Chemist's Assistant...

Got the train to London yesterday for a couple of days of meetings and spotted a chap on the platform at Bristol in shorts with two prosthetic legs. I was intrigued by the artificial legs, which seemed to be powered, and struck up a conversation with him. He told me they had microprocessors and pistons, which provided shock absorbency and aided stability, but they didn't provide full mobility, as evidenced when he had to lever himself up into the train. When I asked him how he came to lose his legs he said Afghanistan. It was good to see how technology is keeping people such as him out of wheelchairs.

One of the chaps I was meeting yesterday was an Israeli (I never seem to shake them off) and following the meeting, my colleague and I offered to take him to dinner, but as an observant Jew, it had to be a kosher restaurant. Not a problem in London, you'd think. The first one was closed for some reason, so we had to head into West Hampstead from near the IoD in Pal Mall. There was security on the door of the restaurant and it was like going through airport security. The food was delicious, but with the exception of halibut and red snapper, there was no meat on the menu - lots of salads and dippy things. I left feeling as hungry as when I entered and today is the 2nd of my 5/2 skinny days.

The visit to London reminded me why I left London to live in the country. I thought the Congestion Charge was meant to reduce traffic in London - it's much busier that I remember it from 20 years ago. The Congestion Charge has resulted in precisely nothing - it's just another tax, although I suppose it has reduced the number of poor people driving into the city. Traffic is usually self-limiting anyway, as, if it takes yo forever to reach your destination, you simply won't use a car in the first place.

Voting in council elections and for the PCC today. I have no idea about any of the candidates in either, with the exception of Sue Mountjoy, the current PCC for our area, and that's only because she's on TV quite a lot. I have no idea at all whether she has produced any positive benefits for the area. We need a PCCC to give us some statistics.

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

Farming Propaganda

Spotted a Facebook post maintaining 58% of farmers are voting OUT. The poll was conducted by Farmer's Weekly and comprised 577 farmers who responded.

If you look up how many farmers there are in the UK you'll find this:

"Despite the relatively large number of farms in the UK, the majority of the agricultural area is farmed by a much smaller number of farmers. Some 41,000 farms (~14% of the total) are larger than 100 hectares and account for over 65% of the agricultural area."

Now on that basis there are roughly 292k farms in the UK - and that's just farms and not farmers. But assuming it's farmers then Farmer's Weekly's claim that the overwhelming number of farmers are voting OUT is based on a self-selecting group, not a scientific representation, comprising 0.02% of possible farmers (and not all readers of Farming Weekly are necessarily farmers - they could be people who sell things to farmers and hence have a vested interest in knocking out the EU competition), That's not a poll, it's propaganda.

It's also exactly the opposite of what the NFU maintains.

Be careful of misleading headlines and spin, on both sides.

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Sharia Law in the UK

I  saw a Facebook post the other day calling for the closing down of all sharia courts in the UK. The comments comprised the usual array of foam flecked, rabid, Daily Mail invective about Christians not being allowed to build churches in Saudi and sharia law having no place here. For a start I doubt any of the commentators are Christian, and secondly they show an alarming ignorance of the function of sharia courts in the UK.

The Muslim Arbitration Tribunal (the first sharia count to function in the UK) is a form of alternative dispute resolution which operates under the Arbitration Act 1996, which is available in England. It is one of two services (Islamic Sharia Council is the other) for Muslims who wish to resolve disputes without recourse to the courts system. In that manner it's the same as any other arbitration service, and calling for its closure is the same as calling for the closure of any arbitration service, such as ACAS, and heaping everything on a court system already at breaking point.

I think the people calling for UK sharia courts to be closed are under the impression they are meting out hand amputations and beheadings. Nothing could be further from the truth - they're merely a much cheaper alternative than the UK court system. Anyone can disagree with their rulings and still go to the UK courts, if they have tonnes of money.

Monday, 2 May 2016

SL Kitty Igloo on the BBC

Made it to Wrexham and back in under 7 hours and bought the 500SL. The previous owner is delivering it next weekend on his way to Devizes. It's not as pristine as my 300SL, but it won't take much to get it up to scratch. Looks like the 300SL will be going on eBay shortly. Anyone want to  buy a spotless 1994 Merc 300SL for £5k?

The curious thing is that there were 12,000 R129 300SLs made, which, when you consider the 75,000 production run of the R129 500SL, would make you think the 300 is worth more from a rarity perspective, but the 500SL is much more highly sought after. Just shows that rarity is not always the determining factor in value when it comes to classic cars.

The government has told the BBC not to air popular shows at the same time as independent TV's hit shows as it adversely impacts their advertising revenues. One could be tempted to think the government is trying to destroy the BBC, or at the very least some government members have shares in the independent channels. Surely not?

Hayley bought Kitty an igloo.

It has been located amongs the oak beams upstairs, which is her favourite vantage point.

Sunday, 1 May 2016

Bank Holiday Traffic for Red Ken

Just for the record, Ken Livingstone is right. Anyone who actually bothers to check the facts of the Haavara Agreement will discover this, but not those who use the knee-jerk reaction of calling everyone and anyone racist at the drop of a hat. Having worked for an Israeli company and having numerous Israeli friends, I am fully aware that there's almost what amounts to an industry in Israel that works toward the end of blackening the name of anyone who criticises Israel in any way,shape or form.

I was made aware of the EUMC working definition of antisemitism yesterday - was never even aware of it before. If you read it carefully, there are a couple of items that should give cause for concern. The ones I'm dubious about are:
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
With regard to the first bullet; Nazism and the invasion of countries with large German speaking populations was predicated on German self determination. Self determination can take many forms, and if it entails denying certain people recourse to law, discrimination in education or ownership of land, then I take issue. The US State Department (amongst others) have leveled such charges against Israel.

On the second bullet - what if someone actually is more loyal to Israel than their country of citizenship? Weren't the Cambridge spy ring guilty of allegiance to a country other than their country of citizenship and accused of being traitors because of that?

When all's said and done, you don't have to be Jewish to support Zionism, and some Jews are anti-Zionist. Being anti-Zionist is not being antisemitic. Antisemitism is also a word I have problems with anyway - just try looking up a definition of Semitic. Arabs are Semites.

Definitions can be such tricky things - one man's terrorist is another's freedom fighter...

By the time this post is published I'll be in Wrexham viewing a nice 1993/4 Mercedes 500SL. Spotted it on eBay last  weekend and thought to upgrade my 300SL after being given a ride in one about a month ago by the bloke I bought my SL300 from. The difference is phenomenal. The only problem is that the 500SL never came in red. The saving grace of this one is that the interior is beige, which is infinitely better than the usual black.

I chose today as it's likely to be the least busy day for traffic during the Bank Holiday. Famous last words.

Watch this space.

Saturday, 30 April 2016

The Visual Meme on Bags

Ref yesterday's post about my travel woes on Thursday; why is it that some inconsiderate people think nothing of taking two cabin sized bags on a plane, and I'm not talking handbags? Women seem to be the worst offenders.

I've been doing a little experiment. Of late I have been including images with the majority of posts. The posts containing images get a far higher hit rate (from Facebook) than those without images. Such is the power of the visual meme and no wonder it's used so much in advertising.

Friday, 29 April 2016

Churchill's Europe & Project Boris

Bloody last leg of my journey from Hamburg to Bristol yesterday (Brussels to Bristol) was cancelled due there not being enough of us to make the flight profitable. 13 of us were shuttled to Heathrow and a coach to Bristol (I had to go to the airport to collect my car, the coach having passed my M4 turnoff 40 minutes prior to arriving at Bristol airport). Problem was a 7 seater minibus turned up initially, which was half the size required - more delay. What was meant to be a 14 hour day turned into a 22 hour one - didn't get home till 2am. At least I managed to stock up on Bols in Brussels airport - the main reason I went via Brussels (as well as it being £200 cheaper than a direct flight).

It was heaven breezing through passport control between Belgium and Germany (Schengen), but we were faced with the usual mile long immigration queue at LHR. The usual farce on the ePassport gates - 3 out of 10 working, and those 3 having issues too. It was like being at a Lidl checkout.

Continuing the Europe theme; it seems to me that those clamouring loudest on social media for the UK to exit the EU know least about it. Their main preoccupation is, understandably, immigration and its effect on jobs. They don't seem to realise that if we exit then tariffs will be imposed on our exports to Europe, resulting in uncompetitiveness against similar European products made and sold within Europe, with cutting costs (i.e. job losses) being virtually the only option to counter this. Immigration is a problem that can be resolved by staying within the EU, whereas tariffs are not addressable when outside and will be permanent.

The following Churchillian quote is currently being bandied about on Facebook; “We have our own dream and our own task. We are with Europe, but not of it. We are linked but not combined. We are interested and associated but not absorbed. If Britain must choose between Europe and the open sea, she must always choose the open sea.”.

Now this quote is actually a mishmash of two separate quotes. The last sentence was spoken four years after the previous four sentences.

Here is a snippet from an actual speech Churchill made about Europe; "The structure of the United States of Europe, if well and truly built, will be such as to make the material strength of a single state less important. Small nations will count as much as large ones and gain their honour by their contribution to the common cause." Here is the full speech. Churchill can be whatever you want him to be - if you cherrypick the quotesn - he was a politician after all and crossed the floor a number of times.

A survey has been performed indicating that the higher one's educational attainment, the more likely one is to vote remain; the less qualified are more likely to vote exit (and unfortunately that's borne out by observation on social media of the spelling, grammar and the bad language used by most of the exit lobby). Here's the link to the survey. It makes perfect sense when the exits are worried about nothing but immigration and its effect on unskilled jobs and they know nothing of the economic consequences - or simply aren't interested. Labour's policy of getting 50% into university would appear to work in favour of a remain vote.

Boris may well call the In vote Project Fear, but the Out vote is definitely Project Boris for PM and I'm certain a large number of his supporters in the Tory ranks are hoping for a position in his potential cabinet, should it go his way. I can  think of no other reason when only 5 cabinet members support out and the rest are total unknowns.

Thursday, 28 April 2016

American Toilet Hun

I'm writing this at Bristol Airport waiting for a flight to Hamburg. The woman ahead of me at the check-in was complaining vociferously that there was no vegetarian meal option on the website check-in and holding up the entire procedure. Give me strength and deliver me from cranks.

Back to the issue of American transgender toilets. Some right wing Americans are complaining that such loos make it possible for perverts, dressed as women, to enter female loos claiming to be transgender when they're not, and attacking women and female children while claiming protection under the law. The fallacy within this argument is that it's an offence to attack anyone, regardless of whether you're dressed as a woman or not - there is no protection under the law, the argument just doesn't stack up.

I note it's mainly men who are doing the complaining and they seem to treat their woman as their personal possessions. It's frighteningly paleolithic.

An interesting survey showing men are more comfortable using a transgender loo and British women are less comfortable at the prospect than American or French women, yet there's not much difference in the percentage that at comfortable with it. Of course (and ironically) there is a percentage that is undecided......

Interesting factiod; I'm currently reading a biography of Atilla the Hun (for about the 5th time - must get  some more books) and we all know how during WWI the Germans were referred to as the Hun. Apparently the soldiers on the front were happy to use the term Fritz or Jerry and it was only the newspapers and those who remained at home who used the term Hun. Those in the field obviously saw the Germans as fellow soldiers just doing what they were told to do in appalling circumstances, whereas those at  home, who never came into contact with a German, were prepared to demonise and dehumanise them.

Strangely enough, all Germans were happy to use just Tommy when referring to British soldiers and saw no need to use dehumanising terms.

Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Stilton Power Doctors

What with being absent on the continent for most of last week, the cheese jar was left unattended. This resulted in the Stilton becoming somewhat liquid in parts, but it was heavenly and I couldn't get enough of it. You know, I'm convinced that my death certificate, when it's written, will list the cause of death as toxic shock and total organ failure from some hideous gastro-intestinal, bacteriological infection occasioned by a surfeit of over-ripe Stilton.

Scottish Power has been fined a record amount for bad service, yet we switched to them a year ago because they were the cheapest. There are only three ways a company can have the cheapest products:
  1. They're a new entrant to a market that has been dominated by monopolistic entities who have kept the price artificially high,
  2. They have developed an innovative manufacturing or product delivery process that cuts their costs, or
  3. They skimp on customer service to facilitate price cuts.
Seems the strategy in power generation is number 3. It's a good short term strategy to generate immediate revenue, but not so good for the long term and retaining customers. Once you've pissed off a customer, you'll never get him or her back.

Jeremy Hunt was going on yesterday about it not being right that the BMA can stop an election promise to have 7 day a week hospital treatment - it's undemocratoc. Funny, it's usually the government that prevents election promises being delivered - as  I believe it to be the case here. The election manifesto does not say how a 7 day a week NHS is to be implemented, all it does say is that the government will ensure adequate staffing. Now, if we currently have a 5 day NHS and they are aiming for 7 days (although it actually works 7 days currently, but not officially), logic dictates they intend either;
  1. to make doctors work longer hours at basic pay, or 
  2. they are going to recruit more doctors. 
Given the manifesto specifically stated adequate staffing, the natural conclusion one can draw is that they would recruit more staff to cover a 7 day working week, and that's what the electorate assumed. Nowhere in the manifesto does it say they will tinker with junior doctors' terms and conditions to provide 7 day service with the current staffing levels and within the current budget. Hunt is playing a dangerous game with the electorate.

Regarding all the slebs who are advising us about whether we should stay in the EU or leave; before making up my mind I want to know David Beckham's take on the situation.

Tuesday, 26 April 2016

Strawberry Fields Forever

Got these the other day from a local greengrocer. 

Pine berries and strasberries, with the pine berries being reversed colour. Both are strawberry cultivars and not some 'Frankenfood'. The pine berries taste a little of pineapple while the strasberries look like a cross between a raspberry and a strawberry. The strasberries have a very intense strawberry flavour. Damned expensive, but I was intrigued.

A bit of a goading story in the Bristol Post last week. The council was being criticised for not celebrating St George's Day, despite having an area called St George's. I believe a council official said that Bristol was now too multicultural to celebrate St George's Day and couldn't afford to celebrate every culture's national day. I think this was a bit of a red herring. I certainly can't remember Bristol (or any other place I've ever lived in England) EVER celebrating St George's Day in any civic manner.