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.

Monday, 25 April 2016

Births Marriages & Death

Working fathers get a 21% wage bonus over men with no children, a TUC study finds. The reasons aren't clear though, Perhaps they simply can't face going home, or have to work all the hours God sends just to feed them.

Saw an amusing post on Facebook last week. Someone had written; "My  daughter's boyfriend asked her to marry him. We're so happy......she refused".

Sunday, 24 April 2016

Litter for St George

A quick comment for anyone with synaesthesia:

I'll bet you enjoyed that!

St George's Day yesterday. Ironic that our patron saint should be from Turkey (or some say Roman Palestine). This is probably lost on those who sport the cross of St George in an ultra-patriotic, extreme right wing, Little Englander manner and keep moaning about immigrants.

Talking of Little Englanders, I can't really believe Boris wants the UK out of the EU - he used to be such an ardent Europhile. He's just cynically capitalising on his belief that the majority want out (as perhaps was the case a while ago), and this is a perfect way of riding on the back of popular sentiment to become PM if the vote goes in favour of leaving. However, I think he's seriously misjudged the situation, especially as he can't seem to articulate a valid reason for leaving and keeps shouting; "Bollocks, Project Fear, Bollocks, St George!" and keeps attacking the pro Europe messengers, rather than the message. Boris has only one, sole political aim - to lead the Conservative party and be PM. He will sacrifice anything to achieve that aim, even his own integrity.

Christ! A vote for out is in effect a vote for Boris as PM.

Following our village litter pick a couple of weeks ago, passing motorists have once more turned the main road into a dump with discarded fag packets, cans, crisp packets and fast food detritus. I'm going to start a village vigilante group to lynch outlanders caught littering the place. There's a large cross in the church graveyard left over from Easter - that'll make a handy gibbet. May get a stinger too.

Was at Heathrow T2 on Tuesday and got a coffee from a place called Capuccino. Huge, plastic spoons the size of soup spoons and nowhere to recycle them - everything goes into the same bin. A bit criminal these days, ain't it?

Kim Kardashian or Prince - which has the greater talent? Close call, I  know. It was a bit unfortunate for Percy Sledge that he happened to kick the bucket on the same day as Prince, as the news of his death was somewhat overshadowed. 

Saturday, 23 April 2016

Deprivation Index

What with us reaching peak celebrity deaths I would imagine William Hill and others will start a book on who is the next to go. It will become the new betting craze.

Ref the Knowsley Academy school that was in the news earlier in the week regarding its decision to no longer offer A levels. Knowsley is one of the most deprived areas in England and the government needs to give the local kids there whatever opportunity it can, not allow the profit motive to rule.

I compared it with where I live on a Liverpool Echo comparator.

A big difference - however we suffer more from crime (naturally, being more affluent and hence a target - along with all the Range Rover Defender thefts from farms) and have a worse record on environment, although it doesn't explain how this manifests.

Friday, 22 April 2016

Purple Toilet Humor

Prince has passed on (Percy Sledge too), yet the fabled Vault will ensure he keeps us entertained for decades to come. I don't believe he ever collaborated with Bowie, but he can now at the Great Gig in the Sky with the other Baby Boomers. Following this, never let it be said that Man Flu is not dangerous - it's a killer.

Been having a discussion with an old school friend who decamped to the USA many years ago and has become a staunch gun totin' Republican and all that implies to the neo-liberal, commie, red-under-the-bed English mind.  The subject was gender-neutral toilets and the furore that's causing in the more antediluvian circles of the American right wing.

American Republicans seem to be stuck in the 19th century when it comes to bodily functions, not realising it was the Victorians who invented segregated toilets (and crotched undergarments) in the first place, thus they are a relatively new concept. Even today no self-respecting Scotsman would blush at the prospect of displaying his meant and two veg to all and sundry in his kilt.

In Oslo there's no issue about a bloke sitting in a cubicle next to a woman while sending a log downriver, and here's the evidence from one of my customer's facilities. 

Given there is still a distinction of sorts, I asked why. I was told only one has tampon disposal facilities and nothing more sinister than that. Fair enough!

Thursday, 21 April 2016

School Sheds and Hotel Rooms

A dilapidated shed in Abersoch has sold for £153,000. You can buy a new one on eBay for under £900!

The only school in Knowsley to offer A levels has closed down its 6th form offering - and it's an Academy. 155 A level students don't provide the Academy system with enough profit. Education should not be about profit. This is the dark side of the Academy system that Cameron is determined to foist on the UK. It's blatant privatisation of our education system and lets the youngsters of Knowsley down. Academy status makes no difference to a school's performance. Dressing a poorly performing school up with a fancy name changes nothing, as independent anaylses have shown.

The bed headboard in my hotel room in Oslo had what must be about the most useless gizmo I've ever seen - a little control panel to change the hue of the fluorescent light surrounding it:

It's a hotel room, not a bloody disco! And I swear the only reason I played with it was so I can post it here...

Was at the Edinburgh Airport Hilton last night and wasn't in the mood for jokes. Got served this, which was listed as a main course at £12 - Portobello mushrooms with added verbiage that made it sound appetizing and filling (you'd expect a main course to be a meal on its own).

It's obviously a starter portion worth about £6 max, and a zig-zag squirt of brown sauce can't change that. After I complained they thought discretion was the better part of valour and didn't charge me for it. Instead I was charged an exorbitant £6.99 for a glass of mediocre red wine. It's strange, but I've never had good experiences with hotel food in Scotland. I still shudder at the thought of the food at the airport hotel in Aberdeen some 4 years ago.

The Hilton here in Edinburgh had what must be the slowest internet on the planet and a breach of human rights legislation - 1.9Mbps download. No idea what the upload speed is as I got fed up waiting for Ookla to perform the download measurement.

When I got to my room I was confronted by a TV schedule comprising a load of bastards just doing their job - it's pitiful what passes for entertainment these days. The TVs are getting more difficult to control too - they're all Smart TVs that are too smart for their own good. It's OK having one at home where you have the time to learn its operation and are confronted with the same TV day in and day out, but to have a different model every day when travelling is a bit taxing on your patience.

Played "find the bedside light switch" for several minutes (have you noticed how the hotels compete to utilise the most esoteric bedside lights that you just can't figure out how to switch on?). Waited five minutes for the bloody eco-bulb to ramp up sufficient lumens to actually read by.

Sometimes I love travelling, at other times it can be the most excruciating experience on earth.

Wednesday, 20 April 2016

Comedy Night Farmers

I'm in Oslo today for a business meeting. Hotel bathrooms are my nemesis - they're quite bright (a lot brighter than the bathroom at home), and on looking in the mirror this morning I noticed festoons of nasal hair and a preponderance of what Hay calls my battle fluff (cheekbone hair that I can't see in our home bathroom mirror). I need to improve our bathroom lighting.

As expected, Michael Gove painted a picture of a UK within a European free trade area but not paying its subs. I spoke of this Disney fantasy yesterday and so won't dwell on it again today. As for Boris, he seems to have verbal Tourettes and just says; "Bollocks," or "Project Fear," to every conceivable thing.

We went to the local Village Hall Comedy Night on Saturday. I say 'we went' but Hay managed to get herself volunteered for helping out in the kitchen and so missed the three course meal and the three comedy acts.

The do was organised by the village hall committee, on which we sit as recently recruited 'new blood'. It was in support of modernising the hall's kitchen facilities and attracted some 13 tables of 8 or 9, so a good turnout at £25 a head. Several of the local ladies were tasked with preparing the food at home, bringing it to the village hall and then heating it up in the kitchen and serving it. Hay's responsibility was the garlic bread while others had pate, lasagne, various salads, boiled new potatoes and cheesecake on their lists. Hay was under the impression that all she had to do was prepare the garlic bread and deliver it, but no, she was in the kitchen for the entire 5 hours. Needless to say, she was refunded her £25.

Now, it's a village event in a rural community and all the food was prepared by volunteers - the leaflets said that. However you always get the professional whingers: "I'm allergic to beef, but I can eat lamb, pork or chicken," "Do you have any potatoes without the butter?" "I'm vegan," "Any garlic bread without the garlic - or bread?" "I have celiac's," "I'm lactose intolerant, got anything other than cheesecake?" "I'm a vegetarian."

For a start you can't be allergic to only beef - if you have a beef allergy you're allergic to all mammalian flesh. And No you're not vegan or vegetarian - you have an eating disorder that's verging on a mental one and you're a pain in the arse! The ladies in the kitchen were fuming. It seems vegetarianism is the latest fad. You can't just be vegetarian, you have to make life as difficult for others as you possibly can and parade your vegetarianism in front of all and sundry, almost like a political dogma, and you have to harangue the normal people about how you're super healthy and saving the planet. Just bring your own food and shut up, for Christ's sake - it's not a restaurant where they can cater for oddballs. Just leave all your vegetarian side issues in your own kitchen, along with your crystals, pyramids and dream catchers! The ladies were on the verge of giving the vegetarians and vegans a bale of hay to gnaw on. I believe one of them opened some tins of fruit for a fruit salad, but the vegetarians still weren't happy (are they ever?).

Our local cafe has a menu which has a key against every  meal listing what allergies and fads they are suited to. There are about 8 symbols in total! I can understand the nut allergies, but it's getting ridiculous what some people believe themselves to be allergic to. It's almost a lifestyle choice for the middle classes; you don't see the poor complaining about beef allergies.

The comedy acts were fantastic and the Scouser compere couldn't believe his luck when he picked on an audience member who is a farmer called Hugo. Manna from heaven to a Scouser. People who have been to these evenings before make sure they're not seated near the stage.

Living in a rural locality we naturally have a lot of farmers in these here parts. They're out in all weathers and yet they don't wear Mountain Warehouse, Mountain Equipment or The North Face heavy weather gear. No matter the severity of the elements you'll always find them in green wellies, a blue overall (green if they're into accessorising), a Barbour and a flat cap. May kit myself out in that the next time we tackle Snowdon,

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

The Risks of Being a Capital Muslim

Heard two politicians on the radio yesterday arguing the toss over Brexit. One was saying it's not in the interests of France and Germany to raise tariffs against the UK in the instance of Brexit, with the other saying we can't logically have all the benefits without the subscription fee. One thing that wasn't said was that giving the UK all the benefits without the subscription would sow the seeds of destruction of the EU itself, as every country would then jump on the bandwagon believing it too could press for the benefits without having to pay a cent. I believe this would be an unacceptable risk to France and Germany, as it would mean the EU reverting to just a free trade area, which is what we joined in the first place.

There is also the inconvenient fact that the saving won't be the headline £55m per day that the Brexits trumpet as the EU costing us (it's actually closer to £35m), as we will still have to prop up areas of the economy which are currently heavy recipients of EU funds, such as farming, grants for research and the poorer regions (Cornwall and Wales) - or simply choose not to. Looked at another way, the government will spend a forecast £772 billion in 2016/17. The net contribution to the EU will be 1.5% of that, according to the Office for Budget Responsibility, or £11.58 billion, so that's the maximum we could save, not allowing for the extra we'd have to shell out to replace the grants and subsidies mentioned above.

Seems rather than using the Office for Budget Responsibility to develop forecasts (and all forecasts are imperfect), the government could save a packet by outsourcing financial forecasts to Mystic Boris' prophesy method of divination. No analysis necessary, just Boris' inspired prediction plucked from thin air (and the billions upon billions of unconscious calculations that take place in his head to reach his conclusions). Boris' forecasts are akin to a salesman's revenue forecast - based on the best of all possible outcomes and in essence an expression of a wish in order to keep the sales director happy). At school we had large boxes at the ends of our beds in which we kept our smelly clothes - were we prescient when we called them Boris boxes?

Asad Shah, who was killed in Glasgow by a Muslim a few weeks ago, was a member of a Muslim sect called the Ahmadis. The Ahmadis believe Mohammed was followed by another Prophet in the 1800s, which is heresy to orthodox Muslims, as Mohammed said he was the last Prophet. However, the Bible and the Koran are littered with instances of God changing his mind and he's just as capricious as humans.

Just noticed that while 'koran' shows up as a spelling mistake in Blogger (you have to use Koran with a capital K), you can use 'bible' with no capitalisation issues.

Monday, 18 April 2016

The Hoover Cycle

Been reading about the similarities between Trump and Herbert Hoover; they are such that if the USA votes Trump in as President then they should probably expect to see the same disastrous results.

I detest these Lycra-clad competitive cyclists you see infesting our roads these days. I was stuck behind two of them yesterday, riding their bikes as if they were the width of cars and firmly sticking to the middle of the carriageway. A whole queue of traffic was reduced to 25 mph. At other times you see them riding two abreast and chatting away, oblivious to the mayhem they cause.

Not content with using the dream team of Beefy Botham and Arsene Wenger to persuade us to vote NO to Europe, the Brexits are now castigating Jeremy Corbyn for changing his mind. Even Winston Churchill crossed the floor of the commons more times than the proverbial chicken crossed the road. There's nothing wrong with changing your mind, at least it shows you have analysed the pros and cosn. If people didn't change their minds we'd still be saddled with medieval laws on such things as slavery, women's votes and gay rights.

Here's a list of just a few people who changed their minds:
  • George Orwell,
  • Mikhail Gorbachev,
  • F.W. De Klerk,
  • Buddha,
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson,
  • Mahatma Gandhi.
John Redwood is casting aspersions on the latest Treasury forecasts for Brexit using the fact that the Treasury got it wrong in the 1990s over the Exchange Rate Mechanism. Using a rear view mirror and selectively choosing the data points is not always the best argument, For a start it suggests no advancement in forecasting techniques in 25 years and it's like saying the last time we left Europe politically (or rather, it left us) we ended up with the Dark Ages. It's tantamount to stating no Treasury forecast is worth the paper it's written on, which is nonsense: the reason ERM was disastrous for the UK is that sterling became the subject of currency speculators, particularly one person, George Soros, which was not possible to forecast. So there's your choice; UK Treasury or the opinions of Beefy and Wenger, who of course have never been wrong.

Sunday, 17 April 2016

Sartorial Matters in School

I used to find Boris Johnson mildly amusing in a slightly irritating way, but I'm beginning to quite detest him. His comments about Barack Obama and that Americans wouldn't cede sovereignty are palpably stupid - America was created by formerly independent states ceding sovereignty within a federal context. They even made a fist of having the same currency. The clue is in the expression United States of America.

While talking about scruffy individuals, I was reading some stuff about school uniform the other day. There's no denying that school uniform simply doesn't exist in many European countries, with little adverse effect on the pupils. However, European kids do seem to have a much better sense of dress than ours - or is that more a reflection on their parents and the fact Europeans in general dress better than Brits. 

No.1 Son wore school uniform in lower school, but now he's in 6th form he wears what he likes, which seems to comprise a motley selection of hoodies, T shirts, jeans and trainers. There's great anxiety about being seen wearing the right hoodie, T shirts, jeans or trainers though - great store is put on wearing the most expensive tat, such as SuperDry or VANS, the absence of which puts the pupil in a different in group and ripe for ridicule. This in turn puts pressure on parents to buy said tat (I refuse outright, as No.1 Son has a weekend job and can pay £58 for a SuperDry shirt himself) so the pupil can feel accepted within his or her peer group (note: SuperDry flipflops are £15 - I can get a suit for less than that at the local charity shop!).

Surely kids have enough anxieties about parents, spots, puberty and exams without loading them with yet another set of anxieties about making sure they wear the latest fashion?

One of the arguments against school uniform is that it inhibits self-expression and creativity, yet that self-expression and creativity seems to manifest itself, ironically enough, in all of them dressing in the same culturally approved hoodies, T shirts, jeans and trainers, which makes a nonsense of the argument. It seems to me that so-called self-expression and creativity come from external branding, not from any genuine creativity within, and even if it does show itself it's a once-in-a-generation phenomenon that spawns a copycat industry - flower power, punk, goth, grunge, etc.. There's also the risk of overstepping the bounds of socially acceptable flesh exposure for girls, especially now we have pedophiles behind every bike shed. When all is said and done, the fashion industry - at least at the youth end - is all about conformity.

So, what's wrong with uniforms? At least you can spot the skivers in the local shopping centre during school hours if they're in uniform.

A friend who is a clothes designer was bemoaning the rise of the Sleb designer - a person who has no formal training in design or indeed materials - when highly trained and genuinely creative designers can't get jobs. The choices are that either these Sleb designers are talentless frauds who trade on their celebrity status (and their army of conformist slaves) to sell a lifestyle, or training in design isn't worth a monkey's fart. I tend to lean toward the former.

Saturday, 16 April 2016

Taking All Our Plundered Jobs

Overheard on TV last night - a 13 year-old skiffle player is being interviewed by Huw Weldon on a BBC1 talent programme in 1957.

Huw Weldon: "What are you going to do when you leave school - play skiffle?"

Jimmy Page: "No - biological research."

Was talking to a Spanish friend of mine the other day who lives in the village. In the instance of a Brexit vote we are worried about all the Brits who will be queueing up to take the jobs we took from them when we came here from mainland Europe.

The reparations issue is raising its head again - particularly reparations for slavery and colonialism. It's like this generation in the UK holding the current German generation responsible for WWII, and particularly the Jews holding them responsible for the Holocaust, which is patently absurd. Responsibility sits with those who committed the act, not their descendants, else there would be calls for reparations from the Romans, the Vikings and the Mongols - where would it stop? There is, however, a question mark over loot and plunder, but surely that belongs to the descendants of those from whom it was plundered - like artworks plundered by the Nazis - and not a general, amorphous blob called 'the nation',

I guess an exception could be made for specific cultural treasures that were not owned by individuals at the time of being looted, such as the Elgin Marbles or items looted from museums. I'm not suggesting the Elgin Marbles were plundered, but they were bought from a corrupt, occupying power, which somewhat delegitimises the purchase.

The Koh-i-Noor diamond sitting in the Queen's crown has been itself plundered so many times before it came into the hands of the British that it's impossible to determine rightful ownership - Afghanistan, Pakistan and India all claim ownership. In any case, the last owner ceded it to the British as part of the Last Treaty of Lahore, which was a bit one-sided given the British had just annexed the Punjab and a will mentioning it hadn't been executed by the East India Company prior to the annexation.

Talking of amorphous blobs, finally got the cooking temperature, size and spacing for the amaretti to absolute perfection. Crispy and golden on the outside and chewy inside.

Friday, 15 April 2016

Boaty McBoatface II & BP

Ref Boaty McBoatface; I was having a look at some of the nominations and there's actually an entry with nearly 400 votes for the name RRS Ernest Shackleton - the voters for that name being unaware there already is an RRS Ernest Shackleton. The votes for David Attenborough were wasted as he appears twice - once as David Attenborough and once as Sir David Attenborough. Seven people actually voted for Sir Richard Attenborough.

If there were a vote for Queen (although strange women lying in ponds distributing swords is no basis for a system of government - supreme executive power derives from a mandate from the masses, not from some farcical aquatic ceremony), Katie Price would probably come tops.

The bloke who suggested Boaty McBoatface actually apologised - he only did it for a laugh and didn't realise it would go this far. Thankfully, NERC will select the name themselves, or so I am reliably informed by someone in the know at Cammell Laird.

BP's CEO's 20% salary increase to £14m was in the news yesterday. BP is in the red due to a series of unfortunate events. The new CEO instituted cost-saving programmes and laid off a lot of people to save money. I would contend that that is not a particularly hard job to do - anyone in the same position could and would have done exactly the same - saving on costs it's a no-brainer. In no way can I see this as such a 'brilliant and creative solution' that it justifies a 20% salary increase - he'd have been sacked it he hadn't cut costs, The 20% pay rise should be reserved for the CEO who has a strategy that actually makes money in the face of adversity and increases share prices. Such a CEO is worth his or her weight in gold (which probably still wouldn't be worth £14m).

On a positive note, the BP chairman has said BP will learn from the reaction - probably to keep things like this away from the public gaze, They are so far from reality it's not true and wonder why people get pissed off at such enormous salaries and pay rises.

Thursday, 14 April 2016

Black or White Tax Havens

Hay told me of a disturbing case yesterday. She sets up drug trials for patients with dementia disgnoses (she thinks I have symptoms, but if I do, then I've had them as long as I can't remember). One of her patients who has early signs of dementia, yet is only in her early 50s, has had to give up full-time work due to the symptoms. That entitles her to free medication, along with any number of other disability benefits. However, as any form of mental stimulation is good for dementia, she has resumed working for a couple of days a week, but not in any mentally taxing job and certainly not one that pays well. The fact she works at all means her right to the free trial medication has been withdrawn. 

So, the options are; give up work completely (as she is entitled to do), and claim all manner of disability benefits at great expense to the tax payer, but hopefully delay the progress of the dementia, or do a few hours' work in an attempt to negate the dementia in some small way, yet be penalised by having to pay for the trial medication. As far as government legislation goes, it's a black or white scenario as this eventuality was not foreseen.

The same can be said for many of the allowances on inheritance tax - they were designed by parliament for one specific purpose, but naturally, and because all eventualities can't be foreseen, there are loopholes which allow them to be used for purposes other than those for which they were intended. That raises the morality issue. Faced with the opportunity to save some tax or get the state to pay for something you'd morally pay for yourself, the temptation is huge. As someone once said; ethics are what you have when you're under surveillance; morals are what you have when you aren't.

Many are calling for tax havens to be closed, but what defines a tax haven? Any country that charges a lower rate of corporation tax than the UK is, in effect, a tax haven as far as UK investors are concerned and they leave more money available for dividends and can be nominated in currencies more stable than sterling. All earnings on those investments are liable for UK income tax anyway, so it's not as if they are used for tax evasion or avoidance - for the investor, that is (for the corporation it's very definitely a tax issue). As far as the investor is concerned, they produce greater profit, which is still taxed (invariably at the top tax rate). Unless I'm mistaken, it seems to me that a tax haven converts what would have been corporation tax into income tax for the individual investor, but at a higher rate than the lost corporation tax, which perversely nets the UK government more in receipts. I'm not sure about the situation for institutional investors like pension funds.

The vast majority of the 82 recognised tax havens that charge no (or nominal) corporation tax have nothing at all to do with the UK or indeed the EU. Not only that, but some of them have no other form of income, not being endowed with natural resources or manufacturing industry. From what I can see they  will always exist so long as there's a differential in the corporation tax between countries and a call for their abolition is somewhat naive. Where tax havens are used purely for financial secrecy and to hide true ownersihp of money is morally questionable, but again, how does one legislate against them when they're outside your jurisdiction and the chances of being caught are very small and entirely dependent on hackers.

Archdruid Eileen over at Cyber Cenobites had an amusing take on it a few days ago.

Perversely, the Daily Mail is using Guernsey as an example of a place that survives outside of the EU as an argument for Brexit. Someone obviously doesn't realise it survives as a tax haven, the very thing they're clamouring to have put down.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Rescued Boys' Toys

I must be becoming a fossil. Apparently the death of a chap by the name of David Gest has caused sleb grief meltdown and is the number one news story on Twitter and the 2nd most popular on the BBC site, yet I've never heard of him, On looking him up it transpires he's famous for being a sleb himself, which probably explains my lack of knowledge about him. I vaguely remember his permanently startled face (but not the name) in association with one of Lisa Minnelli's many divorces, and that's about it. There's whole other world going on with reality TV of which Hay and I are blissfully unaware.

The story doesn't seem to have infiltrated Facebook yet, which adds to the theory that Facebook is now populated mostly by mature people (aka old) discussing Brexit, letting everyone know which airport they're at, posting pictures of their grandchildren, local nature and their dinners, informing all and sundry about which fish doesn't have the letter A in it, or posting nostalgic, YouTube pop or comedy videos from the 70s. No.1 Son hardly goes near Facebook anymore and sees it as an old person's medium.

Rescued a bunch of roses from Lidl's car park yesterday. Someone must have dropped them while loading their car. One or two flower heads had been severed by cars going over them, but I got them home and put them in a vase for Hay, who on returning from work enquired whether I'd attended the DP Gumby School of Flower Arranging and didn't seem very grateful.

Upgraded one of my toys with an eBay replacement - 500cc instead of 190cc and a foot longer cutting deck. Should take a fraction of the time to mow the ever growing lawn. No.1 Son showed some slight interest in it, but not enough to make me think he might show any interest in mowing the lawn of his own volition this side of the 2nd coming.

Will come in handy while building the 2nd cabin to haul the materials up into the end of the field too - at least that's how I justified it to Hay. It was either that, or a DJI Phantom 3 drone with a 3,280 foot range, 25 minute flying time and GoPro camera. I thought the mower would produce less grief as I can eBay the old LawnFlite to help defray the cost.

Talking of boys' toys, a boy in the southwest is campaigning to have the NERC research vessel, that the public has voted to name Boaty McBoatface, renamed after Henry Worsley, the Antarctic explorer who died of organ failure a few months back trying to cross Antarctica solo. The fact Boaty Mc Boatface is ahead in the poll just goes to show how social media has turned us all into toddlers. The two existing vessels are called the James Clark Ross and the Ernest Shackleton, although few probably bothered to look that up. Topping off those names with Boaty McBoatface just seems puerile. Sign of the times, I suppose, and another nail in the coffin of democracy. Here's the link to vote for Henry Worsley, if you're that way inclined.

Tuesday, 12 April 2016

Electric LGBT Rights

Regarding yesterday's post about a range of builders' clothing, I forgot to mention the black bin liner with holes for head and arms (it was raining yesterday, but the neighbour's roofers overcame it in their usual and innovative manner).

Got my copy yesterday. Makes persuasive reading, but I'm still uneasy about the use of public funds for just one side of the argument.

Spotted my first UK registered Tesla on our Sunday walk - in the village, of all places. Talking of silent cars, I had to admonish Hay the other day as she did that old person thing of walking across the High Street slantywise without looking behind her to check for traffic. Normally it wouldn't be a problem as you can hear the oncoming car, but in this case a silent, hybrid car (not a Tesla) was coming up behind her. A salutary lesson about crossing the road with modern cars comprising the traffic. Once these electric jobbies become the norm, traffic noise will be a thing of the past and even major towns and cities will sound like villages.

Bryan Adams has cancelled a concert in Mississippi in protest against a new law allowing businesses to once more discriminate against LGBT people. I'm generally in favour of anti-discrimination law, but it has achieved its aim and perhaps it's time to relax it to allow the reactionaries who are stuck in a pre-medieval worldview to do their own thing. When all's said and done, they're now a small minority (even within their own communities, although not perhaps in the Land of the Free) and are harming no-one but themselves and their own businesses, although they will doubtless perceive it as martyrdom. We need to avoid the oppressed becoming the oppressors, as so often becomes the case.

Monday, 11 April 2016

Builder HAL's Amaretti

The batteries on Kitty's electronic cat-flap (which Hay calls HAL) expired last week. Replacing them is always fraught, as you have to arm it and then wait for the first chipped cat to pass through before it recogises said cat and locks the flap against all others. Of course, we have two of our neighbour's cats wandering into out house with abandon, and hence there's only a one in three chance that the flap will be programmed to Kitty.

That said, the neighbouring cats have learned that the flap is barred to them, so it was funny seeing one of them sat patiently outside of the cat-flap, waiting for either Hay or myself to let him in, when he could have simply walked in at any time while the flap was in learn mode.

Given it's the end of winter I bought a Mountain Equipment waterproof down jacket off eBay for a very reasonable price. This made me wonder why there's not a range of equipment called Builder, as they're out in all weathers. Then, watching the roofers busy on a neighbour's house, I thought nah - the range would comprise scratty hoodies and a couple of tatty jumpers. They're just a different breed and are naturally hardy.

Been trying to fine tune my amaretti over the last few weeks. I first used spoons to form the balls and then rolled the dough in my hands. I finally bought a silicone piping bag from Amazon and achieved the best results.

I'll make someone a good wife one day...

Sunday, 10 April 2016

Get Duchess Carter in Whitby

So Justin Welby's father wasn't who Justin thought he was. Sounds like a familiar biblical story.

The Duchess of Cambridge is coming in for some stick from the tabloids for looking frumpy - it had to happen at some stage, they turn on everyone and are just animals. She's not a celeb who has to dress up like some of the trollops who attend Ascot, Aintree or Cheltenham - she's a member of the royal family, for God's sake. I don't think she looks in the least bit frumpy, but the great British public, with its penchant for allowing itself to be led by the nose by the tabloids, will probably think otherwise.

Hay has taken it into her head to visit Whitby for a few days with her dad and his girlfriend later in the year and asked if I  want to go; however, the prospect of a total of 10 hours in a car, the presence of a Goth festival during that weekend and a mental scene from Great Expectations or Get Carter made the choice easy - wild horses wouldn't drag me to Whitby, although it looks quite nice (for Yorkshire).

I don't really know why, but anywhere on the east coast, with the possible exception of Norfolk and Suffolk, fills me with gloom and doom and the expectation of scenes of miserable, grey desolation. I think it must be the North Sea, which I have never seen clad in any other hue than that of mud. For me, a few days by the sea must comprise the west coast.

It might also be something to do with my preference for a blushing and crepuscular sun setting over the sea in the evening along with having something alcoholic and red in my paw, rather than seeing it rising over a muddy, east coast sea on a chilly morning with coffee.

There's Romanian bloke who sells The Big Issue on our High Street - we usually give him a quid without taking the magazine (he always looks startled when we see him, as if he doesn't recognise us, which makes me think he has mild cognitive issues). Anyway, when talking to him once it transpired he's from Transylvania in Romania, but when Hay told him she was going to Whitby to see the abbey the reference was completely lost on him.

Saturday, 9 April 2016

Brexit XXII, Shares and Trumpism

YES, SORTED! I can cross my legs, sit down on the floor and get up again with my legs still crossed, not using my arms to assist. Hay can't, but she does have pretty long levers in her legs. You guessed it - we watched Chris van Tulleken and Angela Rippon on TV reporting on ageing.

Cameron and his shares: he was left shares in an offshore company (or bought them, depending on where you get your information) which is not subject to UK tax. Now that's the same as investing in a foreign company. Nothing wrong with that - you wouldn't expect say a Dutch company to pay UK taxes unless it was based here. The benefit of the offshore company is it pays very little tax, if any, and that's a matter between it and the country the company is located in (could equally be the Isle of Man, Guernsey, Bahrain, Monaco or any one  of the 82 tax havens around the world). Once any dividends are repatriated to the UK they then become liable for UK tax, quite naturally, and Cameron paid his tax. As for not declaring the earnings on his MPs' interests, it's not UK sourced and I believe only UK sourced income needs to be declared. Seems the people calling him a hypocrite don't understand foreign investment and think it's all a scam. It's not - it's all above-board and totally legal and your pension company is probably doing it. It's no different from investing in a foreign company paying 19% corporate tax, as opposed to 20% - the only difference is that these places charge very little (or no) tax, but they receive other benefits as a consequence. With 82 of them, it's an impossible job to close them all down. Labour's posturing smacks of a populist, point-scoring opportunity.

We were watching a Dan Snow documentary about Viking expansion the other evening. History has taught us that nations that trade become relatively wealthy. The Viking settlements in America and Greenland didn't prosper and fizzled out due to them not having anything to trade - the market for Arctic cruises hadn't quite evolved yet, the people back home had more cod than you could shake a war axe at and the concept of a tax haven was not yet formulated. Similarly the wealth of the British Empire was based on trade - well, that, the odd Maharaja's treasure chest and slavery. Anything that promotes trade and makes it easier (or cheaper) is good for wealth, ergo a free trade bloc is good. It's all the other stuff that surrounds it that's the subject of debate and we must consider whether we throw out the baby with the bathwater.

Friendly Viking traders - probably from a tax haven.

The Duke of Wellington and the Roman elite had a rational fear of the mob, or ochlocracy, the rule of democracy spoiled by demagoguery, The modern term is mobocracy and is usually defined as the rule of passion over reason. It is typified by the unhindered rule of the majority and a loss of the protection of minorities. This is what we are about to see in the USA, where Trump will say anything to appeal to the mob to gain power.

An old school friend of mine who became an American citizen described it to me thus: The choices are,
  1. A septuagenarian, millionaire congressman who started life as a civil rights rabble rouser and has been a congressman ever since, never worked a day in his life, offering a socialist paradise where everything is free, gets the votes of mainly 18 year-olds. 
  2. A sexagenarian female liar, murderer and abortionist who has worked the system from being a poor lawyer to becoming a multi-millionairess and will be whatever you will vote for. 
  3. An evangelist senator who thinks the system is OK and can be changed from within by talking it to death, or 
  4. A businessman who started with 1 million from dad and has parlayed it into billions, albeit in net worth, but through 4 bankruptcies and 3 marriages and who doesn't understand, or want to understand the system, he just wants to change it. General intelligence level probably average, political correctness NIL.
So, from that analysis (and leaving aside the scurrilous comments about Hilary Clinton) it's basically a protest vote against career politicians and the system; however, in their desire to give politicians a kick up the arse, Americans must beware of the law of unintended consequences. Is it better to have someone who knows the world stage and is an expert in diplomacy and international politics (by dint of being a career politician), or a maverick, demagogue loudmouth who would make America a laughing stock and possibly bankrupt the country as a consequence (as Trump did with several of his companies)?

What is nefarious is that you can only enter American politics if you are very rich or have the backing of the plutocrats, and that's the irony of choosing Trump over the other candidates - it's perpetuating the Roman system.

No.1 Son is 18 today (No.2 Daughter was 29 the day before yesterday and No.2 Son is 16 next Tuesday - April is a busy month for me. No.1 Daughter is the odd one out being 39 in October). I was at sea on my 18th and so didn't have the traditional enjoyments. Rather than a drug and alcohol fueled party he's opting for a more sedate dinner at a local hostelry with the other members of the kampong.

Friday, 8 April 2016

Superinjunction App

Famous mobster, Putin, denies any involvement with Mossack Fonseca. I'll take that statement that with a large Russian salt mine.

The Twittersphere is full of a story about a superinjunction taken out by a British celebrity entertainer to prevent the tabloids naming him for partaking in a sex threesome. Said taboids are, predictably, on one of their usual crusades against this legal instrument, calling it a privilege of the rich. The celebrity in question has used the protection of his children as the reason for taking out the superinjunction (not an unreasonable cause). Despite the legal step, it didn't prevent an unnamed American publication disclosing his name.

Now obtaining a superinjunction through a legal firm might well cost a minimum of £20k, and more likely £100~£150k as a war chest (although, in theory, you could do it yourself for under £500), but what are the chances of your or my sexual indiscretions hitting the tabloids? What this chap did is not illegal, so despite being of interest to the prurient, it's certainly not in the public interest, and it's of interest to the great unwashed solely by virtue of the chap being a rich celebrity and in the public eye - the rest of us don't need it. I have no sympathy for the tabloids and their tawdry desire to sell copy in this case. If this were to happen in France the tabloids would not be allowed to 'out' him, as the French, quite sensibly, have privacy laws.

I'm inundated with App updates. Kindle must have updated it's App every day this week and SwiftKey twice in one day - why, for Christ's sake? Surely the damned thing can't be so bugged that it requires twice daily updates? I wouldn't mind, but the Gmail App has been working badly for over a month and Google haven't even attempted to rectify the bug yet!

Thursday, 7 April 2016

The Son of the Father of Geldof

There was a TV series last weekend about Jesus Bar Abbas - the bloke the Jews chose to be released from Roman captivity in preference to the the Christian icon (and Jewish iconoclast), Jesus of Nazareth.

I have a bit of a problem with this story. Bar Abbas was a convicted terrorist and revolutionary who had been fomenting revolt, whereas Pontius Pilate found no guilt in Jesus of Nazareth. The idea that Pilate would even consider releasing Bar Abbas is unbelievable in the extreme - he was Pilate's Osama Bin Laden, for heaven's sake.

There's also the fact Bar Abbas means Son of the Father in Hebrew. Could it be the wrong man crucified?

Watched Bob Geldof on iPlayer last night presenting a programme on WB Yeats. Something to do with the 100th anniversary of the Easter Uprising. "BBC, Bob Geldof, after the watershed - recipe for disaster," thinks I. To give the man his credit, it was a full 40 minutes before he burst into the much anticipated expletives - and we smiled. They then came thick and fast. He must be mellowing in his old age. I feel rather uneasy with this kind of language on TV - standards at the BBC have dropped and I can't see how they justify it - I'm sure if would draw much comment if a newscaster, for example, started effing and blinding after the watershed.

Wednesday, 6 April 2016

Steel Yourself

Been seeing a lot of comments saying that if we baled out the bankers then we surely must bale out the Port Talbot steel plant. The problem is that the comparison with the bankers is not warranted. Had the banks failed, then almost every person in the UK would have suffered some hardship (not that the bale-out didn't hit everyone in some manner). Not only that, but in order for the banks to lend too much the corollary is that there must have been people prepared to borrow too much, ergo all those living beyond their means share the blame for the banking fiasco. The analogy with the steel industry doesn't hold water. In part, the problem with the UK steel industry is the price of energy, which is a result of self-imposed CO2 quotas. Government has to take a share of the blame for that (i.e. the voter).

The choice then is nationalisation or the demise of UK steel. Can't say I'm in favour of the former, as we who lived through nationalisation know that a nationalised industry becomes bloated and inefficient and we end up with even higher priced steel of dubious quality (aka Leyland Cars, et al). Steel is not strategic enough to warrant nationalisation either, it's not as if there isn't enough of the stuff freely available from the free world. Investment in retraining the workforce, and possibly getting them to move, can be the only long term solution.

I see some are calling for the public sector to be encouraged to buy British steel. I can just see a severely cash-strapped NHS preferring to buy expensive British steel to support the workers in Port Talbot. Now if the encouragement includes subsidies, then that's a different matter, but it still all comes from the government coffers and someone is going to have to pay. Close more libraries? Put up tax?

Tuesday, 5 April 2016

It's All in the Language of Tax

Some rich people use tax havens to avoid paying tax, it has emerged, just like a some self-employed people offer to be paid in cash if no receipts are given. The scale is different though and the aims are different. In the one case it's greed, in the other it's to make a few bob on the side. Both are illegal, however, yet on the one side are dangerous despots and on the other are dangerous builders.

There was an item on the news about children for whom English is not their first language doing better at school than monolingual British children. Someone from the think-tank producing this report was heard to speculate that this may be due to better parenting support.

Just a few weeks ago there was a news item stating that bilingual children benefit cognitively from having two languages and two viewpoints. Nothing to do with parenting. You'd think the think-tank people would 'think' to have read the other scientific research before jumping to conclusions.

Am I the only person who, when he or she sees Facebook posts challenging you to try and name a dog, country, vegetable or fruit not having an A  (or B, or C, etc.) in it, who thinks; "Are the people who respond to this stuff morons?"

Monday, 4 April 2016

Money Laundering Breakfast Message

Apropos of yesterday's post about Brexit. Saw someone using football as the reason to leave the EU! The imagebite on Facebook stated our eligibility for the Euro competition would be in doubt, which is absolute garbage seeing as there are teams from non EU nations already in the tournament. Delving deeper you discover one Sol Campbell was actually going on about nurturing native talent in preference to European talent, but that's down to team owners and nothing to do with leaving the EU. I know both sides are desperate to get our votes, but are we so intellectually bereft that Sol Campbell and football could be the deciding factor?

Saw an advert on TV for a QEII £5 coin commemorating Mrs Queen's 90th - not sure if it was the Royal Mint that was selling them, but I guess it must be. The advert  put great store on the fact the advertiser was only charging the face value of £5. At the end there was a small rider in text saying the coin would be legal tender only in Jersey. That has to be a money laundering operation!

While having a slice of toast for breakfast yesterday I pondered the the Great British Breakfast. When we eat our slice of organic, stone-ground, gluten-free wholemeal and praise ourselves for being healthy, we forget that we invariably load it with jam, a sugary confection that miraculously turns our healthy toast into what is effectively a slice of cake. I'm sure a couple of rashers of bacon and an egg or two, possibly with some fried tomatoes or mushrooms is infinitely more healthy than our slice of toast laden with sugar.

On another matter; the problem with communication today is that because we've lost the ability to focus and analyse, everything has to be reduced to a soundbite (or imagebite), meaning even the most facile arguments can, at first glance, pass muster for those unable or not willing to dig a bit deeper. Saw a prime example of this yesterday on Facebook - someone had posted an image with a headline saying a 50 year old bloke had cured his inoperable lung cancer with cannabis oil. It's only on delving deeper and read the small-print that you find he'd also been having chemotherapy, which is a bit of a give-away. Now cannabis oil is believed to have mild curative effects in cancer patients, but it can also make cancer worse and it's only in combination with standard treatments that it MAY have a beneficial effect. The headline didn't say that though, and that's just share-bait for the alternative therapies market and those with a vested interest in selling cannabis oil.

Sunday, 3 April 2016

Gut Reaction

Seeing some really dodgy arguments doing the rounds in support of Brexit.
  1. Regain control of our borders in the wake of the refugee crisis. A pure fallacy, as we already have as much control as we would if we left. How we treat refugees is subject to our signature of a UN declaration anyway. The fact the EU says a refugee must declare him or herself at the first EU country actually works in our favour. What part of being an island and not part of the Schengen area don't these people understand?
  2. All these EU regulations. The EU regulations on banking, working time, etc, etc, are actually designed to protect the consumer. Without them we'd have the robber barons back, especially with a Conservative government. As for the export regulations, we'd still have to adhere to them if we wanted any trade with the EU.
  3. 60% of our laws in the UK emanate from the EU. A bland statement with no context and Daily Mail Reader fodder. The vast  majority of these are regulations on EU trading and not Statutory Instruments, for which see 2 above.
  4. The Common Fisheries Policy has been a disaster. Plain wrong - most of the UK fish stock depletion in the last 118 years occurred before EU intervention, since when stocks have improved to the extent that most species are now sustainable.
  5. We should look to the Commonwealth. Have these people looked at the membership of the commonwealth - half of them are taking jobs from the UK (need I remind people of Indian call centres, Tata Steel or New Zealand lamb?).
  6. It will lead to the destruction of the NHS. What? Where on earth this came from is beyond me. The indigenous Conservatives are doing their level best to destroy the NHS with no assistance from the EU. Added to that, the NHS is held together by immigrants.
  7. The economy would do better. Pure speculation. In any case, we have the same level of personal debt as just before the last crash, meaning people are living well beyond their means again on a debt mountain. That debt mountain depends on inward investment to sustain it, and uncertainly over the result of Brexit will dry that investment will dry up. Not only that, but we have more flexible labour laws, which is why companies like to invest in the UK while it is part of the EU. Exit, and we become useless to these investing companies with consequent job losses.
  8. The Democratic Deficit. The EU is not a country or a single nation and its institutions are more akin to regulatory bodies (Ofcom, Ofwat, etc.). To argue that the EU suffers a Democratic Deficit is in fact to argue for closer political union. Perversely, the Democratic Deficit exists precisely because it's not a close political union. I recommend reading this academic analysis.
Seems to me that most Brexit supporters are basing their decision on a gut reaction or superficial statements lacking context, rather than any logical analysis of the facts. That and a massive hope and gamble that things (and they're at a total loss to enumerate exactly which things) will be better if we're out.

Was having an argument with a friend of a friend (in fact two of them) on Facebook about it earlier in the week and systematically demolished every one of the 'arguments' simply by doing some basic research on them when made. It ended with the comment; "Well, I have my opinion and you have yours." Not exactly a ringing endorsement of the analytical capabilities of the electorate. More like the thinking (or lack of it) of a Daily Mail Reader and a poor rationalisation of xenophobia.

I wouldn't give any credence to business leaders' opinions (whether for or against), as they are just interested in their shareholders and not their staff (ergo the working time directive). Large corporations have an annoying habit of acting like supranational psychopaths that are states within states (ergo the need for banking regulation).

I'm quite willing to be converted: there must be some valid arguments, but no-one is articulating them - my only reservation is allowing Turkey to join the EU, and that's based more on human rights issues than the fear of 75 million Turks streaming into Old Sodbury. However, that now seems unlikely in the near future.

Saturday, 2 April 2016

Things People Hate

According to an article I was reading yesterday, these things allegedly annoy people most on Facebook:

  1. Too many 'selfies',
  2. Too many photos of your beautiful and super-intelligent children,
  3. Click-bait shares - the share-farming scam posts exhorting you to pray or say Amen for some poor bastard who doesn't know his photo has been hijacked or has been Photoshopped into a monstrosity.
  4. Too many photos of your friends,
  5. People touting pseudo-scientific cures, usually emanating from America where this kind of crap is unregulated (a personal hate of mine),
  6. Having thousands of 'friends' - apparently 300 is the upper limit for respectability (seems I have 270 so I need to have a small cull to become more respectable).

Friday, 1 April 2016

Woo-Woo, Mrs Tishell

Ronnie Corbett - a natural comedic foil for Ronnie Barker's comedy writing genius. The two of them together were the finest - better even than Morecambe and Wise. He was a dead ringer for my 1st father-in-law too.

Take heed - don't go for alternative therapies before you've had your condition checked out by the NHS. You could end up paralysed.

Hay had been having neck problems and thought she'd visit the local chiropractor - or woo-woo artist, as I prefer to call her - as her is her wont occasionally (and despite being a scientist). Following some magic passes, slapping of her own arms (I'm buggered if I know what that's all about) and some manipulation the condition got worse and she started to get pins and needles in her hands, along with a few other symptoms which are too delicate to mention. Being naturally concerned I persuaded her to see her GP who, on recognising it could be something serious, referred her for an MRI.

It transpires she has cervical spinal stenosis - a narrowing of the spinal nerve caused by a degenerative bone condition in one of the vertibrae in her neck. Requires expert physio based on knowledge of what's being treated and, quite possibly, surgical intervention if the physio doesn't work. The chances are that the chiropractor made the condition worse and could quite feasibly have crippled her from the neck down for life had she continued with the woo-woo. 

The image above shows typically what happens with CSS (it's not Hay's actual scan). A nodule of bone is jutting into the spinal cord.

Chiropractors treat (if they can be said to treat anything) the symptoms, not the underlying condition. They simply don't have access to, or the money for, MRI scans to first check there's nothing seriously wrong with clients and so are working blind. If surgery is the only recourse then I'll have no option but to get in contact with Fitzpatrick Referrals - he's always playing around with spinal conditions if his TV programme is to be believed. If he can operate then she's going to look like Mrs Tishell from Doc Martin for a few weeks... or will have wear one of those plastic cones over her head.