Sunday, 20 August 2017

The Multicultural Battle Flag

Regarding the Charlottesville statue of Robert E Lee - it'd be interesting to see how many Americans actually had ancestors who went to America before the Civil War. It's safe to say that if your name is British, Irish or German, then there's a good chance your ancestors were there at the time (although not definite), but if your name is Italian, Russian, Hungarian, Hispanic or Asian, they were not, as those waves of immigration were post 1860s. Intermarriage, naturally, will skew the figures.

Was listening to Any Questions on Radio 4 yesterday afternoon and something came up that involved the question of multiculturalism, which is anathema to certain sections of the population, mainly the right.

When the East India Company ruled India as its personal fiefdom, it was not unusual for British officers and administrators to have native wives, siring many Eurasian children with them and dress in the Indian manner - going native was the term used; a more modern term is integration. However, once the British government stepped in and ran India as a colony, this practise was frowned upon and the British started forming their clubs, separating themselves from the natives and isolating their culture from that of the indigenous population while living alongside it. That was an exercise in multiculturalism - the two cultures retaining their own, distinct identities.

Fast forward to the present time - in fact, every period from the mid 1800s - and the British are renowned the world over for taking their culture with them when being posted abroad, or even merely holidaying abroad. The irony is that the British are arch proponents of multiculturalism themselves, but, perversely, detest it taking place on their own soil and demand integration. It's an irony that's completely lost on Brexiteers, for whom immigration is the key reason for their vote last year, are always banging on about immigrants not integrating and insist on exporting their Little Englander attitudes when abroad.

Weather forecasters are predicting Monday to be the hottest day of the month. That won't be hard.

Saturday, 19 August 2017

Cottage Cheese Secrets at the Pure Online Pub

OK, so I want to be let into the secret of cottage cheese. Obviously you have to do something with it, or add something to it to make it even remotely edible - so what is it?

Thought of a good idea - the online pub. You just go out to the supermarket, buy your booze of choice, go home and then login to a group experience at your local. No parking problems, no drink drive limit - you can even have a legal lock-in. Would it appeal to the younger generations?

I wonder if it has ever occurred to white supremacists that theories of racial purity based on in-breeding from a small gene pool do not produce a good result.

Friday, 18 August 2017

A Level Statues

Overheard at the Lidl checkout:

Customer talking to his wife, behind The Chairman: "It's getting to the stage where he can't be left on his own."

Chairman (turns round): "Have you been talking to my wife?"

What with all this Robert E Lee statue removal, perhaps we need to ensure the bust of William the Bastard, the usurper and persecutor of Saxons,which was commissioned to commemorate the Battle of Hastings, is never given a place of prominence. While we're at it, the statue of Canute at Winchester needs taking down - bloody foreigner, imposing his pan-Scandinavian empire on us.

Revisionism is a mistake - our history and its artefacts give us chance to look back and contemplate how we got here - the good, the bad and the ugly - how we learned from our mistakes. You can't just whitewash inconvenient or embarrassing history. Just look at how the Nazi concentration camps have been preserved as a very pertinent reminder of folly.

No.1 Son got his 4 A level results yesterday and have managed to get into his first choice university to study economics, although he's considering swapping to maths. One down, one to go. In 2 years we'll be FREE!

Thursday, 17 August 2017


Spotted these yesterday:

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

Freedom of Speech Conundrum

Following from the Charlottesville clashes, Freedom of Speech is once more in the news. This raises the question of whether Freedom of Speech, which is highly valued in western democracy, is absolute.

Is it valid to grant the Freedom of Speech as a defence to those who would deny Freedom of Speech to others if they came to power via democratic means - or indeed violent means?

As with most things there are two sides to every story.
  1. Some would say it is right to grant freedom of Speech in all cases, as the only way to expose the inconsistencies and dangers in extremist ideologies is to counter them with public argument. The problem here is that this depends on there actually being a public debate when the silent majority are known for their silence and the extremists don't engage in debate.
  2. Others would say that withdrawing the right to Freedom of Speech from certain organisations, such as fascists or communists, would allow authoritarian governments to arbitrarily declare government opponents as being censored, which is not good in a supposedly free society and could possibly itself lead to a totalitarian state. Who gets to pin the label of fascist or communist on the supposed fascist or communist?  Fascists have a tendency to label all their opponents as communists and communists have a habit of labelling all their opponents as fascists. The spectres of McCarthyism and Stalinism come to mind.
  3. Some forms of Freedom of Speech are indeed illegal already, and rightly so, such as falsely shouting; "Fire," in a crowded theatre, or hate speech, which can be incredibly hard to define in some cases.
Answers on a postcard below.

What I find strange about the Charlottesville affair is how Trump is very quick to condemn Democrats for the most petty of reasons, yet takes days to condemn Neo-Nazis who come to a demonstration tooled up with semi-automatic weapons and brandishing swastikas. The Minute Men come to mind.

Trump gives new meaning to the phrase Trumped Up Charges.

Tuesday, 15 August 2017

Plug N Play Drinking

I'm getting to the stage where I'm starting to hate technology. It's not the technology itself, but the instructions. So much of what we use today is made in China and if the instructions aren't indecipherable in Chinglish, no-one actually checks them to make sure they work. Increasingly I'm finding myself doing just the exact opposite of what the instructions say to get the damned thing working, whatever it may be - and, invariably, with success.

Plug and play was once the panacea to all IT problems, but there doesn't seem to be much focus on that anymore.

Talking of IT, someone needs to take Trump's Twitter away from him. 2nd thoughts, let him be - he's doing himself enough damage with it. It will be his downfall, if it already isn't.

There was an item on the BBC news last night about drunken Brits on holiday flights; it reminded me of a comment made by Laurie Lee in 'As I walked Out One Summer Morning' - he said (and OK, he was talking about 1936) the Spanish considered it the height of bad manners to drink without eating. Certain sections of the British public just like to have a drink with a drink, followed by more drink.

Monday, 14 August 2017

Just Nice People

I'm not fan of athletics and avoid watching it if I can, but it's a shame Usain Bolt and Mo Farah couldn't go out in a blaze of glory. That said, they had a long reign and made their marks on the sport, while also being nice people and role models for those entering it.

This contrasts starkly with Trump and Farage, who have unleashed forces beyond their control and made it acceptable to be a total, self-centred twonk.

Why do we give cats fish-based cat food, or, for that matter, lamb or beef? Bird or rodent - that I can understand...

Sunday, 13 August 2017

As I Walked Out for an Espresso One Midsummer Morning

Bloody coffee pod machine bit the dust earlier in the week - it was over 6 years old, to my knowledge, so it had performed well. Decided to get another on eBay and bought what's called a Krups Dolce Gusto (for the Brexiteers reading this, it's obviously a byproduct of an Axis collaboration) for £25. 

Received it to discover it used different pods to the ones I usually get from Aldi and Lidl, and they're much more expensive. Had a look on Amazon and found some cheapies on Wednesday and ordered them - they finally arrived on Friday, by which time I was suffering from espresso withdrawal.

Not what you'd call aesthetically pleasing, but it does the job and is slightly less of a faff than the old De Longhi. Takes up far less space too. Spent an hour dismantling the vast stash of Aldi and Lidl pods to decant the coffee and put it in a jar for use in the cafetiere - waste not, want not...

Because we visited Slad the other week, I ordered Laurie Lee's book As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning (Lee came from Slad). My God, the man is a descriptive genius. Of course, I'd already read Cider With Rosie and thoroughly enjoyed it, but As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning, which was written 10 years later, far surpasses even that. He doesn't just narrate a story, he paints a picture with perfect similes. Every paragraph contains the word 'like', and the like is so accurate that you don't just imagine the scene, you actually see it. The only other books I've read that are so descriptively perfect are those by Yukio Mishima. Unfortunately, Mishima came to a sticky end.

On the basis of As I Walked Out One Midsummer Morning I've ordered A Moment of War from Amazon, which recounts Lee's experiences in the Spanish Civil War. 

No Sunday Times inserts at the newsagent this morning - the only reason we buy the Sunday Times. Had to get a copy of the Sunday Telegraph instead (I'm not paying £3 for the Observer), but noticed there was what appears to be a regular column by Daniel Hannan, MEP. Can't even bring myself to read it and am unsure why this proven liar and purveyor of the worst misinformation is even given a column in a national newspaper. I wouldn't mind if the bugger apologised when his lies are exposed, but he won't. His attendance at EU votes is lamentable too - 62.28%. That's fractionally worse than the Ukip delegation, which has the worst attendance record of any European party.

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Event Planning in Aberdeen

I've been taking daily electricity generation and consumption readings for 5 years now and I was thinking of generating a chart showing the average generation per day over those 5 years. That would show the historical chances of it being sunny on any particular day, which data I could make available to people in the area wanting to plan outdoor events.

Went to Aberdeen for a business meeting on Wednesday. Overheard in the taxi:

Colleague: "Aberdeen is rather grey with all the granite, isn't it?"

Taxi Driver: "It's a bit brighter on the outskirts."

Chairman: "Yes, I noticed - concrete - it's a slightly lighter shade of grey."

Friday, 11 August 2017

Slavery to NATO

Apparently slavery is endemic in every city int he UK. I do wish people would stop talking marriage down this way - it's a fine institution.

This North Korea thing between two madmen is rather worrying. I'm astonished that the media isn't blaring out that we would be drawn into this potential war with China as a member of NATO under Article 5's 'causus foederis', whereby an attack on one member is an attack on all - even if purely as a warning to Kim Jong Un.

Thursday, 10 August 2017

Inquisitive Asians

Working for myself, as I now am, I send between 50 and 100 personally addressed emails a day to try and drum up business from shipping companies. The people I'm aiming at are all over the world, so I start emailing those in the far east at the crack of dawn, moving on to Europe in the late morning and finishing off with the Americas in the afternoon.

At the end of the email I include a link to a presentation in my Dropbox and the link is reduced to a Bitly link, so I can track the number of downloads and the country (the latter being only very approximate, as you'd be surprised at how many show as the USA when they're not).

I aim for some 5 presentation downloads a day as a target - sometimes I get 20 or more, at other times I only get 3, but it averages out at around 5 a day. Of those, I may get two or three people responding per week with a valid enquiry that I hope I can convert into a contract - each contract being worth anything from $200k to $3m plus in revenue over 3 years (the profit is very slim).

I've discovered a few interesting things falling out of this email campaign. For a start, the link to the presentation is at the end of the email, meaning the prospective customer has to read the entire email before reaching the link, indicating a certain level of interest. Then clicking on the link exhibits an additional level of interest.

In the last month I've sent out around 1,100 unsolicited emails, but only started tracking presentation downloads since the 18th July, but one thing I started to notice almost immeditely is that people I target in the far east are much more inquisitive. Yesterday, for example, I got 14 downloads from just 50 emails, which is an incredibly high rate. I can be lucky to get just one download from 50 emails sent to European prospects.

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

The New Nationalism

What is a nation? 

I heard something on the radio yesterday morning concerning the death of Martin Roth, the ex Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum. He said that; “The UK just started it now but this new nationalism is everywhere — it’s a Right-wing movement in Germany, it’s in France, in the Netherlands, it’s everywhere, and I think one has to do something.”  He is right - it's even infecting the USA with the rise of Trump.

This got me thinking about the roots of nationalism, which I believe are fixed in fear of the 'other'. A modern nation is, essentially, a political convenience - while we here all consider ourselves British, the old antagonisms between Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and England still exist and occasionally erupt into political arguments and the independence debate.

Germany and Italy took centuries to evolve from petty princedoms and city states into nations and only realised nationhood at the hands of political geniuses like Otto von Bismark and Giuseppe Garibaldi, who were themselves fierce nationalists in the traditional sense, but had the vision to see beyond the limitations of petty nationalism on a local scale.

Nationalism feeds on common traditions, shared memories and popular symbols of ‘ethnies’, which are reinforced by a closed economic system that provides positive feedback. In the UK there is additional positive feedback from a monarchial system - an anachronism that's lacking in most (not all) republics that have been forged by a union. The Netherlands, after it shook off the Spanish, started as a republic, but evolved into a constitutional monarchy; Italy and Germany eventually did away with monarchs completely, as did France.

The English Channel also helps to foster an insular perspective in mainland Britain - it not only separates us physically, but intellectually and culturally. Then there's the move that made Welsh compulsory in Welsh schools; the North-South divide; the traditional Yorkshire- Lancashire rivalry. It's a fact that great things can be achieved only when people come together in very large numbers and transcend their fear of other cultures. Nationalism fosters the sin of pride, a feeling of unwarranted superiority and can lead to war.

The Brexit debate was framed around many things, but the one, central issue was immigration - the remaining arguments were just window dressing to mask the immigration issue, as has been proven by these other arguments being soundly debunked, yet still fiercely clung to by the Leave camp. They are merely a fig leaf to mask something much more disturbing. The use of words like 'traitors' and 'unpatriotic' by the Leave campaigners (albeit by the extremists), even to the extent of denigrating our judiciary, are evidence enough. The problem is that demagogues channel this and misuse it to gain power.

Tuesday, 8 August 2017

On the News

4th most popular item on the BBC news website yesterday - Pratt and Faris to separate after 8 years. Now I think of myself as being someone who is relatively aware of world topics, but the names Pratt and Faris must have escaped my attention, as I have no idea who on earth these people are, or why their separation is something I should be interested in, less concerned about.

Mind you, they were knocked out of the running by news of Abramovich and his Mrs splitting (seems more a self-fulfilling prophesy for billionaires). Am I correct in thinking the divorce laws in Russia are such that the bloke has to give half his fortune to Putin?

Then there's Tesco selling designer bags with their logo on them for 10p.

There was also an item saying that under new data protection laws we have the right to forget. That will come as a relief to many pensioners, myself included.

Am I alone in thinking that Trump, like Maggie Thatcher and the Falklands, needs a war to create a distraction?

Elsewhere, Corbyn has cycled back from Albania and is 'offering hope'. Not if he maintains his stance on Brexit he's not!

Monday, 7 August 2017

Ethical Cats

I took part in a YouGov poll the other day about the ethics of owning pets. Now a cat is a pet, but there's no way on this earth one can say one owns a cat. Unlike dogs, cats choose to live with you, and it they get fed up, then they simply leave and find another home, so ethics plays no part in cat ownership, unless of course you include the question of neutering and pedigree inbreeding. However, most cats are plain moggies.

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Bare Chested Down South

Hay: "Where's Christopher Ecclestone from?"

Chairman: "Somewhere in Manchester."

Hay: "Up north then."

Chairman: "Manchester? That's down South as far as I'm concerned."

What with Putin's penchant for releasing photos of himself, bare-chested, doing all manner of macho activities, I wonder when we'll see carefully airbrushed photos of Trump appearing showing him playing bare-chested golf?

Regarding the furore over the National Trust insisting that customer-facing staff wear LGBT insignia at one of their venues - I'm glad they climbed down on this issue, as it does the cause of LGBT rights no good if it's seen to be thrust upon people. People should be free to choose and not be dictated to, whatever the cause may be.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Tea for Mrs Chairman in Flashback

Overheard from Hay who is upstairs in bed and has just woken up:

Hay: "How about a cup of tea?"

Chairman: "OK."

The Chairman goes and boils a kettle and returns to his computer to do some work before 7am, promptly forgetting about the tea, as usual.

5 minutes later:

Hay: "I guess the tea is stewed to death!"

The Chairman goes over to the kitchen to inspect, feeling guilty.

Chairman: "No - I not only forgot about the tea, but I also forgot to put the teabag in the cup in the first place, so it's OK!"

Why are drama writers these days fixated on telling a story in a series of flashbacks? What's so incredibly boring about telling a story sequentially and logically? The minute I see the subtitle; "36 hours earlier," or; "4 days earlier," I just lose interest.

Friday, 4 August 2017

Philip Schleswig-Holstein-Sonderburg-Gl├╝cksburg

The Dubai Torch tower lived up to its name. Shares in skyscrapers are going to be two a penny after this. You wouldn't get me in one of those for all the tea in China (or India).

Say what you like about Prince Philip, but the man is a national treasure.  I read an anthology of his quips yesterday and I just couldn't stop laughing. His wit is incisive and, yes. he may be a throwback to an earlier age, but I hope I'm that active at 96, if I reach that age. He's never even gone out on strike or worked to rule - working to rule is his wife's domain.

I still remain a republican though, however much I admire him. With Philip (and Elizabeth) we got a gem, but that's not assured, as the long list of tyrannical or embarrassing aristocrats throughout history attests.

Looking at comments on various sites a few people are keen to vilify him, but to me he epitomises duty. Yes, he's had a life of luxury, but he has more than compensated for that and given back so much. He's outspoken on some things, but he's had to keep silent on many issues he simply can't talk about, much as I'm sure he would love to. That's self-control.

I love this photo of him from last year.

He may have retired, but he has one more occasion to make an appearance at (albeit we won't actually see him), and I trust that's not too soon.

Thursday, 3 August 2017

Hard Fact vs Fluff

Lots of talk about Brexit. Now I'm no financial expert, but I'm clued up enough to realise there are a few things that are fixed and affect the UK economy and a few things that are mere fluff.

Whereas confidence is a big factor, it's fluff - talking things up can increase confidence and talking them down can reduce confidence. What one minute is a brilliant investment can turn to poo in a nanosecond on the basis of a market rumour. Basing forecasts on confidence is a zero sum game and best left to currency speculators.

Prices and production, however, are different - no amount of talking can change them. The fact is the UK has the lowest productivity of the advanced economies. You can argue this is caused by unions being resistant to productivity increases, but the low and falling GDP is a hard fact that is not easy to address. Investment may address the root cause, but unions have proven time and time again that any gains are invariably wiped out by union negotiated compensation, or outright opposition. Something has to be done, but any programme will be long term and there is no quick fix, certainly not within the Brexit timescale.

Prices for imports from Europe, our prime supplier, are set to increase with the introduction of tariffs. That also is a hard fact. While our prices on the international market are low due to the fall in Sterling, that's a confidence thing and, as we import £10 to £11Bn more than we export. High import costs will outweigh low export costs - and if Sterling recovers (as the Brexit camp maintains - but that's a confidence thing), it will only get worse.

The oft-stated aim of selling more to the rest of the world is an aim. It's by no means certain we can achieve that aim, as FTAs are nothing more than frameworks and not guarantees. Anyone who has been involved in sales, let alone exporting, knows the difficulty of getting new customers and the dangers of losing old customers. This aim relies on confidence, mainly the confidence of people who have never sold anything in their lives - ergo, deep fluff.

A YouGov survey has shown that Brexit voters over 65 say wrecking the British economy or having a member of their family be made redundant is a price worth paying to leave the EU. In this time of remembering Passchendaele, they remind me of WWI generals sacrificing the young for a few imaginary yards that will be lost again.

Never believe something simply because you want to believe it. Opinions don't matter, only evidence is the true arbiter.

Wednesday, 2 August 2017

We're in it to Break it Up

Facebook allegedly shut down two AI bots when they started communicating in code. "Covfefe". I wonder if Trumph's Tweets are code to the Russians...

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

Dogmatic War Crimes at Hogwarts

I'm hearing a lot about young people being impressionable, yet we hear very little about older people being dogmatic, which is equally worrying.

We're hearing about a small, mainly UKIP (according to a recent YouGov poll) section of the population wanting Blair prosecuted in an international court for war crimes, yet the very same people go on about reclaiming our sovereignty and how international courts shouldn't have precedence over UK courts.

I wonder if Jacob Rees-Mogg was schooled at Hogwarts.