Friday, 16 November 2018


An interesting infographic from the BBC (click to enlarge):

I believe the blue route is fraught with problems and the only realistic red route options are a General Election or a 2nd referendum. I pin my hopes on a 2nd referendum and that the electorate has seen through the Leave camp attempts to prey on people's fears.

I was reading an item from a psychology tract that maintains that people who lean to the right (especially the far right) have a heightened sense of fear of 'the other', which makes them more susceptible to scare stories. The Leave campaign capitalised on this by generating more and bigger scares than the Remain camp, almost all of which were fabricated. It's not necessarily that those on the right have more fear, but people with more fear are drawn to the right.

Thursday, 15 November 2018

My Way or No Way

So, Theresa May has succeeded in gaining cabinet approval for her form of Brexit, which is neither fish nor fowl. It seems the options are her Brexit, no Brexit or a hard Brexit. Once Parliament rejects her Brexit, where will be a clear choice - hard Brexit or no Brexit - I see a 2nd referendum on the horizon, as I predicted many months ago. It's all in the timing.

There's an irony in the Conservative Brexiteer MPs, who are firmly against a 2nd referendum, wanting shot of her, despite a referendum among the Conservative party on her leadership, which has lasted a shorter period than the time elapsed since the 2016 referendum. Another leadership election is a in itself a 2nd  referendum in anyone's lexicon. Hypocrites!

I can understand Corbyn's  refusal to endorse a 2nd referendum - he's a self-avowed Democratic Socialist, after all. Democratic Socialism is communism by the ballot box, and once you choose Democratic Socialism there can be no reconsideration - democracy is done away with in favour of a one party state. Endorsing a 2nd referendum would trash his principles and leave a Democratic Socialist government open to being done away with via subsequent elections. Think about it.

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Allen Scythe Project

Managed to snaffle myself a bargain on eBay - an Oxford Allen Scythe for the princely sum of £102 - an absolute bargain. They usually sell for a couple of hundred or more.

It will be used to tackle the long grass next autumn, resulting from us leaving patches of the lawn to go to seed in an effort to encourage biodiversity. Manually scything it this year was a task I don't care to repeat next year.

I want to give it a new lease of life and will attempt to make it look like this beautiful number.

However, I don't think I'll use purple. Triumph Strontium Yellow, perhaps?

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Wireless Surveillance

I bought a new, solar powered, Wi-Fi, CCTV camera from China a couple of weeks ago to replace the wired one I'd previously bought - it finally arrived on Saturday. A wired system simply isn't a practical proposition.

The first problem was fitting the rechargeable Lithium batteries - they were a smidgen too long for the battery case and, try as I might, they just wouldn't go in. I looked up the problem on YouTube and discovered that most Lithium batteries have a small printed circuit fitted to one end with a metal strip that runs to the other end, which has to be removed to make them fit. How daft is that?

Once I'd overcome that problem it was time to tackle the Chinglish instruction manual and the phone app that controls the camera - that was a nightmare. Some three hours and a lot of head scratching later I had success and managed to receive a transmission in Mission Control in full colour and HD.

OK, the image above is in black and white, but that's because it's using IR night vision trained on my back door at half past midnight. A distinct advantage - besides the lack of cables - is that there's no need for a central black box, as there is with a wired system, so it's less expensive to set up. Additional cameras can be easily added at will - all you have to do is login to the camera's own Wi-Fi, set it up to access the house Wi-Fi and then login to the camera via the house router. I can login from anywhere in the world using a local Wi-Fi Hotspot or my phone's native data service. Data usage isn't anywhere near as high as I thought it would be.

All I now need to automatically record activity using the PIR sensor as a trigger is an SD card, although I can make recordings manually on my phone without an SD card or a cloud account and get notifications of any PIR sensor activity. I'm now constantly alerted to cat activity at the cat-flap, which is very informative.

I can talk from anywhere on my phone to anyone near the camera, as well as hear any activity near the camera, which would be handy for deliveries when not home.

On the strength of this purchase I've bought 2 more cameras from the same source in China at £52 each, which will probably take another 3 weeks to arrive, despite the eBay listing showing 3 days, although it's worth it to get 50% off. Kitty won't know what hit her. We could set up an Autumn Watch layout to monitor animal activity around the house.

I have yet to test the performance of the solar cell in recharging the Lithium battery pack. The camera seems to go into hibernation mode when not being used, consuming minimal power to monitor PIR activity, and then begins to drain power when activated - so it's not recording continually, like most wired systems.

Monday, 12 November 2018


An excerpt from Niall Ferguson's regular Sunday Times column yesterday, an historian for whom I have a lot of respect, writing about WWI.


1) The war was not “for civilisation”, as Claimed in John Ferguson’s Victory Medal (John Ferguson was a relative). It was a war for preeminence between the six great European empires - the British, the French and the Russian against the German, the Austrian and the Ottoman that broke out because all their leaders miscalculated that the costs of inaction would exceed the costs of war.

2) It was not fought mainly by infantrymen going over the top. It was fought mainly with artillery. Shellfire caused 75% of casualties. The war-winning weapons were not poison gas or tanks so much as improvements in artillery tactics (the creeping barrage, aerial reconnaissance).

 3) The Germans were not doomed to lose. If the French had collapsed in the first six months of the war when 528,000 French soldiers were permanently incapacitated : it could have been 1870 or 1940. French resilience was one of the surprises of the war. Even so, by mid-1917 the French were finished as an attacking force. German submarines were sinking frightening numbers of the ships supplying Britain. With Russia consumed by the revolution, American investors saw a German victory as possible as late as the spring of 1918.

 4) True, the Germans were handicapped in many ways. Their allies were weak: Austria-Hungary, Turkey, Bulgaria. Their generals used methods submarine warfare, in particular that made American intervention likely, if not inevitable.

5) Economically, too, the German side was at a massive disadvantage. Britain and her allies had bigger empires (the population ratio was 5.3 to 1), bigger economies (3.6 to l) and bigger budgets (2.4 to 1). Moreover, even before the US entered the war, Britain had ‘access to Wall Street.'

6) However, the Germans were formidably superior at killing (or capturing) the other side. Overall, the Central Powers killed 35% more men than they lost, and their average cost of killing an enemy soldier was roughly a third of the other side’s. The German soldiers were effective enough to win their war against Russia in 1917.

7) The Germans ultimately lost because the British Army proved more resilient than theirs. Men such as John Ferguson simply would not give up, despite all the hardships they had to endure. Was it patriotism? Did they simply believe in the official war aims? Or was it because British propaganda was so effective and British military justice so harsh? Perhaps all of these played a part. But it also mattered that British officers were generally competent; that the average Tommy’s lot was made bearable by plentiful “plonk” and fags; that, despite high casualties, the bonds between “pals” and “mates” endured.

8) The German army finally fell apart in the summer and autumn of 1918, after it became clear that British tenacity and American intervention made a German victory impossible, and after Bolshevik ideas began to spread westwards from the eastern front. Beginning with the Battle of Amiens (August 8-11, 1918), the Germans lost the will to tight and began to surrender in droves.

9) The war was followed not by peace but by pandemonium. The dynasties toppled: Romanovs, Habsburgs, Hohenzollerns, Ottomans all gone. Their great multi-ethnic empires also disintegrated. The Saxe-Coburgs survived by renaming themselves “Windsor”, but still lost the lion’s share of Ireland. Not only in Russia but all over the world, red revolution seemed unstoppable. To cap it all, an influenza pandemic struck, killing roughly four times as many people as the war had.

10) Not until the advent of a new generation of nationalist strongmen starting with Jozef Pilsudsld, Kemal Ataturk and Benito Mussolini was it clear that belligerent nationalism was the best antidote to Leninism. Some called it fascism. However, few of the interwar dictators regarded the peace treaties drawn up by the war's victors as legitimate. Most of the treaties were dead letters long before war resumed in 1939.

Sunday, 11 November 2018

Saturday, 10 November 2018

Thinking About Leftover News


Hay: "It's World Philosophy Day on the 15th."

Chairman: "I'll have a think about that."

Yesterday evening Hay made something from the leftovers of the previous night. Never had lasagne made from leftover homemade Cornish pasties before, but I have to say it was delicious.

I'm an addict for the news; I always listen to the Today Programme, have several news apps and watch the BBC TV news at 6pm without fail. However, I'm increasingly being drawn to listening to Radio 4's Six O'Clock News, as it's more succinct and there's less distraction from images, half of which have bugger all to do with the news itself - on the radio you just get more news.

Talking of news, Trump really is a nasty piece of work, isn't he? Can't determine whether he is a psychopath, a sociopath or just a plain, old fashioned fascist.

Friday, 9 November 2018

New Old Cars

I bought a new car from our local 2nd hand car dealership this week to replace the Jag. Well, I say new, it's one year younger than the Jag. It's a 2008 model VW Passat estate with 86k miles on the clock, versus the Jag's 176k miles.

It's a great pity the Jag has to go, but something is wrong with the clutch - the pedal suddenly is half depressed and I can't put the car in gear on depressing it fully. Talking to motor mechanics I know, it might just be a slave or master cylinder, or indeed the whole clutch - either way, having recently spent £200 on having the ECU cleaned out, £150 on repairing a wing and £35 on a wheel refurbishment, enough is enough for a car with a retail value of £200. It'll probably find a home at a local scrap dealer.

The Jag has been a good workhorse for 3 years, and at £900 it has more than paid for itself; however, the VW is streets ahead in terms of power (both are 2.0 litre turbo estates), looks, carrying capacity, comfort and gadgets. Even my old M reg Volvo gave me more information about fuel consumption and range than the Jag, which had the ability to tell me absolutely nothing through the dashboard instruments. The only thing I dislike about the VW is the black leather interior - it'll be hot as Hades in the summer.

The 'new' VW cost me £3,000 - around the average price I pay for cars. I simply can't understand why people buy brand-spanking new cars which are destined to lose 20% or more of their value the minute they're driven out of the showroom. And as for buying a depreciating asset on a finance deal - utter madness.

Thursday, 8 November 2018

Dr Who Christmas Special

Just thought of a good Dr Who Christmas special:

Dr Who takes the characters from This Country on a time trip...

Wednesday, 7 November 2018

Lead Loo Rolls

For Stir-Up Sunday, Hay is helping the Friends of Old Sodbury Church raise funds for the church fabric by holding a Christmas cracker making event for kids. This follows on from her world famous Kids' Crafts stall at the Village Day in summer. She's a victim of her own success.

To make the crackers she's asked everyone she knows to provide her with toilet rolls and Christmas wrapping paper. However, several ladies of her acquaintance have alerted her to the microbial dangers of toilet rolls, especially in relation to kids.

This was a popular meme several years ago that has never gone away and, being a PhD bio-chemist, Hay decided to research the issue through academic papers. She couldn't find a single academic paper claiming that toilet rolls were a disease vector. The meme was started by some schools being over-zealous in protecting the kids in their charge - the ever-present fear of being sued by parents causing a zero-risk response; the same zero-risk response that sends everyone to Accident and Emergency Departments for the slightest thing.

Unfortunately the church is in dire need of funds as, on the night of Tuesday of last week, some low-lives nicked the lead from the roof. While the thieves stand to make about £7,000 from the lead, the cost of replacement is around £30,000 and the insurance will only cover the cost of materials and not the labour.