Friday, 14 May 2021

Tea Conundrum

When making tea and there's water already in the kettle from the last time you made a cup, do you re-boil the old water or use fresh water?


I may be guilty of spreading fake news here, but I'm convinced that re-boiled water leaches the tea out of a teabag far quicker than using fresh water. 

It could be that re-boiled water has a slightly higher calcium content (we live in a hard water area), which sucks the tannins out quicker.


Thursday, 13 May 2021

Queen's Speech II

No wonder Boris needed a donor to fund his flat redecoration - the bugger has an outstanding County Court Judgement. His credit record must be trashed.

Terrible situation in Palestine. Do you seriously think Boris is 'deeply concerned' about the violence, as he maintains? I think he feels he just has to say that and is more concerned about squirming out of the multiple inquiries into his questionable conduct. 

What would be a laugh would be for him to offer his undoubted international statesmanship, vast diplomatic skills gained as a sacked Foreign Secretary and natural gravitas as a mediator between the Palestinians and Israelis. He'd probably suggest it would be resolved with a bout of the Eton Wall Game and dinner at the Bullingdon Club.



OK, so at least we now know there's going to be an inquiry into the handling of the Covid debacle - but next spring? Say it lasts 3 years, which he'll ensure it does (if not longer), then he'll be in the clear. Leaving it till next year also gives the government time to bury any damning evidence. It can't be now, he maintains, because 'we're still in the middle of the crisis, which doesn't quite chime with his ebullient relaxing of lockdown restrictions. Can't help feeling that his push to be able to call elections whenever he wants is also aligned to this. Can't wait till the 21st May, when Dom Cummings appears before Committee.

I hear there's to be a reduction in university funding for the arts, but who needs people like historians? Simply get a list together of some people who did horrible things in the past, focus only on their positive attributes and build loads of statues to them. That should be enough for a history degree, surely?

Compulsory chipping for cats? Why? Never heard of anyone being killed by a cat. It would be curtains for any stray, including Railway, if he were ever caught. It's allegedly to assist lost cats being reunited with their owners, but cats tend to leave their owners for a reason. They're masters at finding better accommodation.


Wednesday, 12 May 2021

Queen's Speech

Universities are to be made to promote free speech, or be fined, while social media platforms are to police it, according to legislation contained within the Queen's Speech. The government's fake Culture War, which diverts attention from government failings by inventing enemies, continues.


Meanwhile, the government will engage in a bit of voter suppression in order to tackle a problem that doesn't actually exist - voter fraud. At the last General Election, there was one prosecution for voter fraud and two cautions, while it's estimated that 7.5% of the population has no access to approved photo ID. This piece of legislation is a naked attempt to disenfranchise a vulnerable section of the population and therefore deeply anti-democratic.


Tuesday, 11 May 2021

Cold Comfort

We went away to Bewdley in Worcs on Friday afternoon to meet up with an old friend of ours and do a bit of walking along the Severn over the weekend.

On Saturday I had one of the worst hay fever attacks I've ever had, which lasted all afternoon and evening - it was like powdered glass had been thrown into my eyes. I then awoke on Sunday with a voice like Barry White and a terrible cough, which obviously wasn't anything to do with hay fever.


On Monday morning I was worse, so I took my temperature, but it was normal. I had half a dozen lateral flow Covid test kits spare at home from a trial I was participating in and decided to use one to see whether I'd somehow managed, despite both jabs, to contract Covid - but no, it came up negative.

After over a year of successfully managing to dodge the highly contagious Covid virus, I'd ironically managed to contract a rather nasty, but far less contagious, rhinovirus (common cold) from a work colleague, who in turn got it from his kids (via school), which I had kindly passed on to Hay by Monday afternoon.


Monday, 10 May 2021

What Went Wrong?

Many are simply incapable of joining the dots on Curtaingate and are unable to make the obvious link between anonymous donations, bribery and corruption. So long as it's not public money that paid for Boris' flat refurb, they're not concerned. It's a genuine misconception about how corruption works. However, they're wilfully neglecting the PPE scandal. 

Many couldn't care less about the corruption, even if it's under their noses - their priorities are making ends meet, jobs and regeneration. If Boris promises cash for their area then that's enough for them, even if it's a tissue of lies and a temporary sop to garner votes - it's enough to swing them away from Labour.


The dedicated Boris sycophants aren't in the least bothered by corruption anyway - they'd be just as crooked in a similar situation. They're simply ecstatic that Boris delivered that crock of shit, Brexit. Their irrational hatred of foreigners clouds their judgement and they are willing to cut their collective noses off to spite their collective faces. They worship at the altar of the Daily Express, which these days makes even the Daily Mail, Telegraph and Spectator look decidedly left wing. For them, Boris can do no wrong and they wouldn't vote Labour if their lives depended on it. They vote according to the colour of their scarves and their perceived tribe, not policy.

 
For others, what sticks in the memory is how the Covid crisis ends, not the multiple cockups leading up to it and compounding the misery. 127.5k have died from Covid, half of them (according to estimates) avoidable, but at least it wasn't them and the vaccine rollout is therefore a resounding success. That's enough for them. They're only interested in themselves.

 
We're living in a time of infantilism of the electorate - cheap loans allow profligacy without thought of the consequences. Consequences of actions are meaning less and less. It's the 'now' that's important - being able to buy that big telly you don't have or go on a holiday, the price of which you stand little or no chance of paying back. We're in a time of rampant consumerism and a generation that wants it all - NOW! If Boris gives it them now, then he's the boy for them.

 
Despite Starmer being a poster boy for working class aspiration, most of the working class probably aren't actually aspirational. They're living hand to mouth, so Starmer, in his comfortable position, is identified by Corbynistas as a class traitor and too Metropolitan. Quite why that would make a Labour voter choose an elitist Conservative though, is a paradox (revenge can be a powerful emotion that drives people to do counterintuitive things), unless the Corbynistas simply wanted to give Starmer a good kicking - they are capable of a bit of self-flagellation at times. They need to give their heads a wobble and accept that Corbyn is history; too many distrust him and he's unelectable, regardless of how they feel about him.

 
Does Labour need someone like an Andy Burnham, with impeccable working class credentials and a working class accent? Well, the evidence says not - Blair wasn't exactly working class and delivered three stunning victories, despite Iraq.

 
There's a Westminster wisdom that says elections are usually not won by opposition parties and vote winning policies, but by governing parties losing through internecine backstabbing, civil war and destroying themselves from the inside, as happened in the Major and Brown administrations. Labour still hasn't exorcised the ghost of the unelectable Corbyn and it's the Labour Party that's currently engaged in a low-level civil war. Until that war is ended, they stand no chance and, even then, not until the Conservatives are turning on themselves in a feeding frenzy of monstrous egos and ambition, as they surely will due to Boris' embarrassing incompetence and tenuous relationship with truth.

 
What brought all this about was the fact that Labour chose the wrong Miliband brother.


Sunday, 9 May 2021

Formidable

It's curious how while many things about us remain plastic throughout our lives, our accents are fixed relatively young in life and rarely change.

We were listening to Raymond Blanc on Radio 4 yesterday morning who, despite having lived in the UK for 40 of his 71 years, he still retains the comedy French accent that endears him to so many. 

Similarly, my father lived in the UK for over 40 of his 86 years and said; "Dis, dat and der udder," with a pronounced Dutch accent, when he meant; "This, that and the other." The dental fricative, 'th', was impossible for him to pronounce without strenuous effort involving lots of spitting.

When I came to the UK in 1961, aged 6, I couldn't speak a word of English. I was thrown into a primary school class in Southport where not a single individual had an inkling of what I was saying, but within 6 months I was fluent, including a West Lancashire accent which I have never lost, despite having moved to London, Reading and Bristol.

It demonstrates how our early childhood experiences, good or bad, influence us throughout our lives.


Another interesting thing that cropped up in the Raymond Blanc interview was the manner in which some words in English that have a French root have a different meaning in the original French. Any word in English that ends in 'able' comes from French and generally has the same meaning. However, while the English word formidable conjures up images of battle-axe housewives who inspire fear, in French it means amazing.


Saturday, 8 May 2021

Exceptionalism

Our household has been struggling to determine what's causing this shift to supporting a morally and ethically corrupt government and this nation's current predilection for self-flagellation.

The only reason we can arrive at is this newfound concept of nationalism. It has worked for every right-wing dictator - for a while. It's quite easy to convince the downtrodden that the reason for their plight is Johnny Foreigner, rather than government policy on minimum pay, tax, jobs, housing and everything that domestic central government is responsible for. It's what's driving English Conservatism, Scottish Nationalism and Welsh Nationalism - a visceral question of identity that is deeply rooted and yet defies any logic.


It invariably raises its head when a country is already in crisis but, rather than resulting in said country rising above others, it usually results in an even further descent into decline as the country concerned becomes internationally isolated and is pillaged by the wealthy.

To consider oneself to be exceptional, there has to be a scapegoat - exceptionalism doesn't arise in a vacuum. That scapegoat is foreigners, as it was for all nationalists of the past.

Boris Johnson has broken every promise he's ever made. Yes. he did promise to take the UK out of the EU and accomplished that, but rather than it leading to a promised, bureaucracy-free Utopia of sunlit uplands, it's turning into an explosion of additional red tape and industrial decimation in fishing, agriculture, manufacturing, finance, etc. Sending Royal Navy vessels to Jersey to confront irate French fishermen, while simultaneously ignoring the catastrophic damage you have done to the British fishing industry, beggars belief. 

Starmer is seen as a class traitor by many on the left, yet he's the epitome of aspiration, having risen from the working class. How do the left respond to this? They vote for a party that is totally elitist, which is illogical in the extreme. However, where the Conservatives have the upper hand is around the question of national identity, a deeply rooted construct that's based on primitive tribalism, which is antithetical to an advanced civilization.

It seems you can lie through your teeth while plundering the public purse, pay someone poverty wages, put them on a zero hours contract and take food from their children's mouths, but as long as you tell them they're exceptional and have won life's lottery by being born in a certain country, while being exceptionally vague about those exceptional attributes, you can do virtually anything. 

Perhaps Starmer needs to focus on vilifying foreigners and building more statues while waving a flag. 

What exactly are the British or, rather, the English, exceptional at? Food? No - the French and Italians beat us hands down on that (how many British restaurants do you see on the continent?). Work ethic? Again, no. The Germans regularly top the list for productivity and hard work. Countryside? Again no, as the Brits head off in their droves to France, Spain and Italy for that every year. Perhaps it's statue building... Ah, I have it - we drive on the left (however, I'm surprised the right allow us to drive on the left). Again, no - 76 countries drive on the left, although they're mainly ex British colonies. Is it our funny electrical plugs, perhaps?

A couple of things we are certainly good at are health and pop music, despite successive Conservative governments' attempts at selling off the former and Boris' best efforts to let the bodies pile high. 

I continually hear Brexiteers say; "Well, if you hate the UK so much, why don't you go to your beloved EU." The paucity of this argument is self-evident. It's precisely because I love my country that I will fight to prevent it descending into a mire of ineptitude and corruption by people who wholeheartedly believe  lies and collude with a morally bankrupt government. One only has to look at what happened across the Pond to see the result when an inveterate liar is voted into power, and to Putin's Russia to see what happens when a government can plunder the public purse with impunity.


Friday, 7 May 2021

Freeports

The UK government is proposing to create a number of Freeports in Britain, maintaining this is only possible because we're out of the EU. This is patently false and yet another lie, as there are 80 Freeports within the EU, mainly in the poorer and more corrupt countries - and there's a reason for this.


One of the largest investors in Freeports is a Swiss art dealer called Yves Bouvier, who has interests in the Freeports of Geneva, Singapore and Luxembourg. He is also under investigation for owing over 100 million Euros in taxes.

Freeports are perfect vehicles for tax evasion when dealing with high value luxury items and for money laundering. It's more likely that they result in merely drawing investment from surrounding areas than adding to the total economy, so one wonders whet's behind the government's love affair with them, if not for assisting wealthy individuals to avoid tax.


Thursday, 6 May 2021

The Agony and the Ecstacy

Ever had one of those itches where you're willing to virtually lacerate your skin to stop the itching, and the pain endured while scratching the itch is almost welcome? You don't know which is more pleasurable.

I have several lesions on my back. They're the result of a reaction to a mineral oil I had on a boiler suit as a cadet in my youth. As a result, boils erupted on my back which formed into scar tissue lumps within which the nerves got mangled. These left me with areas on my back that occasionally itch like hell.


If one area starts to itch and I scratch it, the itch then moves around my back from lesion to lesion, like a nuclear chain reaction which goes critical, and the only way to satisfy the itch is to find a convenient doorpost to rub my entire back up against, like a bull elephant against a tree. The feeling is so, so, so good!

Scratching the itch produces a wonderful ecstasy, but I can sometimes scratch so violently that I risk ripping open the skin on my back, if I'm not careful. It makes you understand how some people get pleasure from running, hot massages, tattoos, eating hot curries, piercings, BDSM and even - yes - Brexit and support for Boris Johnson.

Apparently it's deeply routed in our biology and is a result of endorphins and anandamine, or 'the bliss chemical'.


Wednesday, 5 May 2021

Growing Pains and Percentages

We're seeing a lot of column inches telling us that Britain's economy is growing faster than virtually any other economy, but this is a relative increase and one has to consider that the UK has been one of the hardest hit economies in the world due to Covid because of longer lockdowns.


The UK getting back to equilibrium produces a far greater rate of increase than an economy which has been hit in only a minor way. It's good news, but not an indicator of growth following getting back to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity and nothing to necessarily crow about. When everyone has been locked down for a long time, the bounce back will occur over a short time at a very fast rate and then level off. All things being equal, any economy which has been hard hit by Covid will have a faster growth rate than one that hasn't been hit at all. 

Imagine the economy is a spring and the effect of Covid is pressure on the spring compressing it; when the pressure is released, a highly compressed spring - or an economy that's been highly affected - will spring back to its pre-compressed size at a rate of knots compared to one that's been only slightly compressed; however, the rate of bounce back will decrease as the pressure releases due to parts of the economy having been demolished and businesses having gone bust, as many have.

In the absence of any additional stimulus, the rate of growth is an indication of just how severely the economy was hit and nothing more. It certainly no guarantee that the economy will bounce back stronger than before Covid.

Similarly, when newspapers report that eating a particular food increases the risk of a certain disease by x%, that particular snippet it meaningless without knowing the base risk. If the base risk is low, then even a doubling of the risk is still low, but the media prefers spectacular numbers, regardless of what they actually mean.

We occasionally see reference to a particular political party or religion being the fastest growing in whatever country. If that party starts with half a dozen members and that increases to 18 over the period of a year, then that's a roaring rate of increase, but still a smaller absolute increase than a party with hundreds of thousands of members that increases its membership by a few hundred.

The media's misuse of statistics is woeful and nowhere more misleading than when reporting on science or economics but, as I said, percentages attract attention, and that's the reason they love to quote them without reference to the starting point.