Sunday, 5 July 2020

Numbers in Dunbar

Hay and I were talking to some friends yesterday about resilient societies and the concept if the ideal societal unit came up, which anthropologists have estimated to be around 150 people. This is known as Dunbar's number and is the maximum number of people an individual can have meaningful relationships with.

Once a community grows above that number, conflicts would develop as factions form, leading to a societal split and former members of that community splitting off to create their own community elsewhere. It's no accident that most medieval villages were no larger than this and, given the lack of arable land available in Scandinavia, that's possibly how the Vikings expanded dramatically from the 8th century onward.

With the advent of industrialisation and the growth of cities, that splitting and migration was no longer possible due to work pressures keeping people confined in large, unhealthy groups, and thus alternative solutions had to be found. Hay and I are convinced that this is when ancillary, non-essential businesses started up, such as nail bars, betting shops, suntan parlours, package tour companies, artisan bakeries, estate agents, coffee shops and scented candle makers.

Saturday, 4 July 2020

Taking the Plunge

The pond/pool is progressing quite nicely and Hay is fast becoming an expert in large pond construction and maintenance.

The plan is to have a very shallow area around the edge, with marginal plants to facilitate filtration of the algae. She's currently creating the edging using gabion baskets, sandbags and gravel, such that the pond can be filled to the top. Filling sandbags is backbreaking work - so she says. I wouldn't know...

She's also working on an air-lift system, using air stones, piping and a compressor, to stimulate some movement of water between the planted and swimming areas.

It's taking a long time, but the planting is crucial and suppliers have run out of stocks of pond plants due to the lockdown. The lack of sun this week has given the few plants we have the chance to do some work and the algae is already starting to clear, but we need at least 3 or 4 times the number of plants we already have to reach homeostasis.

On sunny days, pond skimmers take over the surface of the pond. We need to introduce some daphnia and other zooplankton that feed on algae.

Next on the list is a bathing machine.

Friday, 3 July 2020

A Type of Car

Spotted this yesterday at a local garage I frequent:

This 1963 2+2, with 63k miles on the clock, is one of a reasonably large, personal collection that's going under the hammer in the not too distant future. This E-Type is a project car, being a cross between a Series I and a Series II and has a lot of official Jaguar history. It last had an MOT in 2014.

I'd love to buy it, but Hay thinks £50k could be better spent. I disagree - it's an appreciating asset and would be the perfect impetus to me building a garage.

I remember when I could have bought one of these, admittedly not as rare, nor in as good condition, for £16k. I wish I had. They were and still are considered the poor end of the E-Type spectrum. Roadsters are much more valuable, but I prefer the lines of the 2+2.

Thursday, 2 July 2020

Hong Kong

300,000 Hong Kong nationals have British National (Overseas) passports and 2.9m are eligible for them, out of a total population of 7.5m. Given anyone born after 1997, when Hong Kong was handed back to China, is not eligible for one, many of the 2.9m with BN(O) passports would not accept the British government's offer of extended visas because they have children or grandchildren who are not eligible. Also, those in most need (activists) would fall into this category, hence the actual number who would be willing and able to come to the UK would probably be very small.

I can't help feeling that the situation in Hong Kong will be used as leverage with western governments over the Huawei 5G debacle and that the Chinese government will offer to water down the new sedition law in return for western governments not banning Huawei's 5G technology.

The Chinese government, not being hostage to elections, can and does plan much further ahead than democratic governments, which gives China a huge advantage in negotiations.

Talking of not fearing elections, now that Putin has effectively ensured he can remain in position for life, Russia has become a very dangerous country, as it has now a de facto one party state for a very long time. The difference between China and Russia is that the person at the top of Chinese politics changes every 10 years and has to contend with various internal factions, whereas the person at the top of Russian politics doesn't. Putin is a dictator masquerading under a pretence of democratic legitimacy.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

FDR's Fairy Scooter

Fairy Liquid - why is there a baby on the logo instead of a fairy?

E-scooters are to be legal for use on the road, but limited to 15 MPH and only if hired from a rental company with a licence. Sorry to be pedantic, but the range of some e-scooters is as little as 11 miles, so if it runs out of juice after 44 minutes (11 miles)  and you have to walk for 16 minutes at 2.5 MPH (to achieve the hour implicit in MPH), you're only averaging 11.6 MPH. not 15 MPH.

I wonder why the scheme applies only to scooters rented from licenced companies? The blurb suggests it's to stop a flood of poor quality scooters flooding the market, but that doesn't make sense, as that means one will never be able to own and use one on the road. Perhaps one of Boris' mates owns an e-scooter emporium. Nothing would surprise me when it comes to Boris.

Did we learn anything from Boris Johnson's speech yesterday? Yes - he's ditched the Churchill tribute act in favour of a low-budget FDR tribute act, with most of the money coming from commitments he already promised in his election manifesto and with just over half a percent of the annual GDP percentage FDR spent on his New Deal. More Old Deal to hoodwink the Red Wall than New Deal, but par for the course for Johnson.

In another story, Boris appoints someone with no expertise whatsoever in security to the position of National Security Adviser. When you sacrifice competence and talent on the altar of ideology and dogma, incompetence is the only logical consequence. Once more, par for the course for Boris the Blagger.

Tuesday, 30 June 2020

Hoist the Signal

The phrase Virtue Signalling has had its day. While it's meant to convey hypocrisy, in the manner in which it's most often used it's nothing more than an aggressive attempt to stigmatise empathy, usually by those having a lack of empathy with the cause they wish to stigmatise.

It's not unusual for people to say something that makes them look good - we all do it at some time or other. It's a natural part of social interaction - you certainly don't want to make yourself look bad. Even purposely not saying something can be a form of 'virtue signalling' in order to be accepted by a group. Even saying something which, in polite society, would be considered totally derogatory about yourself can be a valid tactic to ingratiate yourself with specific groups, such as terrorists or racists.

The cv is a veritable treasure trove of virtue signalling.

VS, as I shall now term it, is seen by accusers as a vanity project and that it tells others how morally superior the signaller is, but it's - allegedly - a fake superiority. The accusation of being a VS, however, does not detract from the argument about the virtue of the action or cause in question, whether it be combating climate change or any other moral imperative. There have been many instances of people agreeing a certain course of action is morally correct, like eliminating child poverty, but there being no will to change things at government level, where the ability actually sits and where the calls are most frequently heard.

A favourite target for accusations of VS is those calling on the government to house refugees or asylum seekers, with comments such as; "Well, how many refugees do you have in your home?" To many people it’s obvious that letting Syrian refugees in to Britain is a bad idea, because if even a few of them are terrorists then we’re endangering our own people's lives. Thus people who maintain this view are themselves engaged in VS about how much how much more they care about British lives and what good citizens they are.

The problem is that the vast majority of people with such beliefs would avoid having to pay more taxes to support the very fellow Brits they seem enamoured with. The sum total of their interest in British culture, which they're always banging on about, can be best summarised as Wetherspoons, football, protecting statues of people they've never heard of and killing wild animals.

Greta Thunberg - always a favourite for the accusation of VS. Those who refuse to engage with the fact that the planet is on the verge of cooking itself to death are desperate to identify some tiny chink in her armour and will not be happy unless she's living in a cave - and likely not even then. They whine about not wanting to be lectured to by VS hypocrites, when what they actually want is not to be reminded of their own Vice Signalling. Like All Lives Matter, accusing someone of VS is a disingenuous and cack-handed attempt to shut down debate over a genuine issue and deflect criticism of the accuser.

As well as being rude and stupid, accusing someone of VS encourages you to not interrogate your own beliefs and gives you a mental shortcut to dogmatism. What some see as VS is merely others having empathy and compassion. All great religious figures of the past are open to accusations of VS - Jesus was a superb exponent of VS in the eyes of those who bandy the term about.

Monday, 29 June 2020

Round 2

Overheard watching Muse on Glasto reruns:

Chairman: "Matthew Bellamy's dad was a drummer with the Tornadoes. Telstar."

Hay: "Joe Meek produced Telstar - difficult man to live with, apparently."

Chairman: "A bit like me then."

Hay: "He was a perfectionist."

Chairman: "Not like me then..."

I polished the bell I got with some car bodywork rubbing compound and it came up a treat.

The clapper is steel and a tad corroded, so I thought I'd remove it and give it a wire brushing. Looking into the bell, it's not immediately obvious how the clapper is removed, so I looked on YouTube to see if there were any hints. I was most surprised at the result.

All I got was testicular torsion. Not me personally, you understand, it was simply that all the results of a search on "removing bell clapper" produced that result.

Further research produced this; "Bell Clapper Deformity of Scrotum. Failure of normal posterior anchoring of the gubernaculum, epididymis and testis is called a bell clapper deformity because it leaves the testis free to swing and rotate within the tunica vaginalis of the scrotum much like the gong (clapper) inside of a bell."

I guess you know you have it when you go BONG when you walk...

Sunday, 28 June 2020

Round One

Our dear friends Pete and Jo called round yesterday and gave me this.

It's a bell from a speed skating club, but exactly why it was destined for the tip is beyond me - it's worth a small fortune in scrap brass alone.

It's obviously an old ship's bell, and a very nice one too. Later today I'll put my polisher to it with some rubbing compound. It has a small, professional repair mark on it, but that merely adds to its looks.

There is an inscription on it, as follows:

I have just the right position for it on the house.

Saturday, 27 June 2020

Non-Workout Workout.

I want to conduct an experiment.

When you do a workout, your body expresses what's called MiRNA, or micro-RNA. Now MiRNA is linked with skeletal muscle growth. When breathing while exercising, you will breathe out some of this MiRNA.

So far, no problem - it's standard science. Now here comes the good bit. If you stand in a gym, surrounded by sweaty bodies doing high intensity workouts, you're breathing in their exhaled MiRNA which, when you breathe it in, makes your body think it's also doing a workout - or so the theory goes.

The experiment would be to join a gym, but on a reduced subscription - as I wouldn't be using any of the equipment - and simply stand there for an hour at a time. Theoretically I should start putting on muscle.

Friday, 26 June 2020

Two-Up Battles

I'm currently reading a book on the 50 greatest battles that shaped the world and, being very interested in military hostory, a thought struck me the other day that might have been a game changer in many ancient battles.

Cavalry have been used for millennia but, as warfare evolved, it became a rule that cavalry should never be used without supporting infantry, as it is infantry that takes ground. Many a battle has been lost because the cavalry set off and were incapable of regrouping after the initial charge and invariably ended behind the enemy lines to plunder the baggage train. This left them stranded and ineffective and they were hence considered a once-only tactic and not reusable.

Cromwell realised this and instilled greater discipline in his cavalry, ensuring they could regroup and be used again and again, leading to him becoming the best cavalry commander of the English Civil Wars.

Cavalry have also been used as mounted infantry, with the horse merely being a delivery mechanism to get infantry where they're needed quickly, whereupon they dismount and fight on foot - rather like the Saxon housecarls in the Battle of Hastings. Dragoons were originally mounted infantry who fought in the same manner.

Cavalry's primary use is to roll up enemy infantry in a flanking attack, which is why they were always put on the wings of an army. However, the tactic of the infantry forming squares bristling with spears or bayonets when cavalry attack was a very good foil to a cavalry charge, as horses aren't suicidal and will not jump a hedge of bayonets, leaving the enemy infantry to puck off the cavalry with rifle volleys. This was used very effectively at Waterloo by Wellington, where not a single infantry square was breached by repeated French cavalry charges (see the image below from the film, Waterloo).

Now, if cavalry should be used with infantry support (as they weren't at Waterloo), having a dual saddle would facilitate the cavalry with the ability to quickly bring supporting infantry with them, with the infantry dismounting just prior to the cavalry proceeding with a charge. 

I wondered whether there was indeed a double saddle, and there is, but its use is mainly for allowing kids to ride with their parents.

Granted, the horse might be a tad tired on arriving at the infantry dismount area, and the number of infantry would be limited to the number of cavalry (infantry normally far outweigh cavalry numbers), but the tactic could have been a game changer in some historic battles and, to my knowledge, has never been used. There's probably a good reason for this, but I'm not aware of it.

It's interesting to note that mounted artillery, in the form of mounted archers, were a game-changer when they were introduced by the Mongols.