Saturday, 31 March 2018

Money Making Nostalgia

Overheard while writing the shopping list:

Hay: "We've run out of English mustard, but we've got plenty of Dijon."

Chairman: "I don't use English mustard - much prefer Dijon. English mustard tastes too Brexity for my liking."

Colman's is owned by Unilever, which is relocating its HQ to the Netherlands.

Had a great idea; what with the government considering starting a plastic bottle redemption fee, I'm going to start saving all our plastic bottles now - and raid the neighbours' recycling each week.

Makes me quite nostalgic - I remember collecting jars and bottles as a kid to make a few bob in additional pocket money.

I feel so nostalgic I may start to wear flares again...

Friday, 30 March 2018

The Pitts of Toryism

Yesterday I was talking about freedom and the aim of liberal democracy being the freedom of the individual. I've recently finished a biography of Charles James Fox, the famous, radical and progressive, Georgian, Whig politician who campaigned for political reform, among other burning issues, and wanted to curtail the power George III wielded over parliament.

This got me interested in the Pitts - the Elder and the Younger - who were his and his father's  opponents. Pitt the Younger was Fox's prime opponent and the founder of what was termed High Toryism, the legacy of which was Thatcherism. William Hague has written a bio of Pitt the Younger and he's admired to this day by most Tory politicians.

Pitt the Younger was a Prime Minister who presided over one of the most authoritarian and repressive regimes since Charles I. During Pitt's tenure we came very close to an absolute monarchy under George III, who wanted total control over parliament, and Pitt's policies facilitated this.

Pitt suspended habeas corpus to tackle parliamentary reformists such as Fox: the 1795 Treasonable Practices Act was a vicious attack on personal liberties, extending the definition of 'treason' to include speaking and writing, even if no action followed, attacking public meetings, clubs, and the publication of pamphlets; the 1795 Seditious Meetings Act said that any public meeting of more than 50 persons had to be authorised by a magistrate; the 1799 and 1800 Combination Acts were passed which forbade societies or amalgamations of persons for the purpose of political reform and his infamous Poor Law Bill proposed that children should be set to work at the age of five. In Pitt's defence, this was due to the fear of a revolution along the lines of the French Revolution.

In the days before political parties really got going, there was little difference between Tories and Whigs - they both included the aristocracy and landed gentry. The way a nonentity got into a position of power was to somehow secure the patronage of a rich landowner and get him to buy him a parliamentary seat in a pocket or rotten bourough. Once there, he'd purposely go into opposition and become such a pain in the arse until the ministry of the day invited him to join the government, at which time he'd start to support the very policies he'd been railing against in opposition, sometimes risking the wrath of his patron, who was usually in on the ruse. Fox didn't succumb to that temptation and stayed in opposition for over 25 years. He was a man of principle and feted as a man of the people.

Pitt the Elder started out in opposition as a pain in the arse, until he was invited to join the ministry of the day, where he rose to prominence and eventually became PM and the Earl of Chatham. His family purchased the rotten borough of Old Sarum which contained only 3 houses and 7 voters, who nonetheless had the right to vote for 2 MPs.

It's sobering to realise that the electorate of the UK comprised only 5% of the population in 1831, and most of those were bribed by rich patrons to vote for their candidate.

Unlike today, boroughs sent 2 MPs to Westminster - those getting highest and 2nd highest number of votes.

Thursday, 29 March 2018

Free Speech

A familiar hobby-horse of mine, so don't bother reading further if you know me too well.

Heard something about free speech in universities and some decrying the no-platforming of certain speakers. The example mentioned in what I heard (probably on the radio) was pro-lifers.

Free speech is about freedoms. Pro-lifers want to restrict freedoms for others, so if liberal democracy is a tool to guarantee personal freedoms, their free speech is, by definition, anti-democratic. It's no different to facilitating free speech to Nazis, homophobes or racists, who are also intent on restricting freedom of the individual. No-one is preventing pro-lifers from practising what they preach, but they shouldn't seek to impose their beliefs on others if it restricts their freedoms, and that is precisely the aim of pro-lifers.

However, is merely speaking about pro-life issues harming the freedoms of others?

There are legal limits to free speech though, so why is this? Is it intolerant to deny free speech to white (or black) supremacists purely for their beliefs? It is illegal in the UK to use threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour intending or likely to cause harassment, alarm or distress or cause a breach of the peace. Are these criteria arbitrary? They're certainly subjective.

Then there are libel and slander laws, which curtail free speech.

So long as truly free free speech facilitates the right of reply to the same audience at the same time, honour is satisfied. It's when the right of reply is denied that we get problems. It's internet bubbles of like-minded individuals separated by great distance where the danger lies and where disinformation and hate spread at the speed of light. Falsehood will fly, as it were, on the wings of the wind, and carry its tales to every corner of the earth; whilst truth lags behind; her steps, though sure, are slow and solem

Analyse and discuss.

Wednesday, 28 March 2018

The Philosophy of Food

We were watching Country File on Sunday evening and some chef was featured who only uses produce from Shropshire and will not countenance anything that's 'foreign', for want of another word. My first thought was; "Good on him," but then I pondered the fact that he must go to enormous effort, for which he must charge an enormous price for the food. Is this just a 'middle-class' fad?

When you think about it, 150 years ago few people had a choice and had to source their food from within a very small area comprising the distance one can travel to and from a market town by horse and cart. Since then we've improved transport to an extent where we can source produce from anywhere within the UK - and indeed the world - and have it on our plate within 24 hours, thereby vastly improving the variety of foods in our diet. The question is, at what cost to the environment? 

If everyone were to source their food from within a very small area, then producers would have very small markets and benefits of scale afforded by 'exporting' beyond one's locale would become obsolete. Not sure what effect this would have on some rural economies. Perhaps a balance is needed.

Yesterday I was listening to The Public Philosopher on Radio 4, which focused on the concept of citizenship in relation to benefits accruing from citizenship (charity starts at home is an argument usually made by those who never give to charity in the first place).

Someone made the obvious statement that the state exists primarily to protect its citizens, but no-one seemed to twig that, for the vast majority of the time we've lived in civilisations and states, the protection is mainly from another state - it's the state itself that is the problem and the attendant concept that people who live in a particular area are somehow superior to another.

When all's said and done, one's citizenship is a matter of pure chance. A state - or, rather, the leader of a state - is a threat to people who are not members of that state, which is why states have fought wars with other states since time immemorial. 

There again, the state is a useful mechanism for bringing people together in order to achieve more than individuals can achieve on their own. It can also protect the citizen from other, possibly rapacious, citizens through regulation of working practices, contracts and other issues that grease the wheels of industry, although that's only a relatively recent invention. The state is a two edged sword.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018


Thought of an idea for improving the NHS and the economy:

  1. Link the Health Secretary's salary to NHS performance, and
  2. Link all the cabinet's salaries to the country's economic performance.
I believe we'd see immediate funding for the NHS as well as a 2nd referendum on Brexit, with all cabinet ministers exhorting us to remain in the EU.

One thing is certain; we'd have a lot less unproven ideology and a lot more evidence-based government.

Farage, of course, would still be calling the for an ideological destruction of the UK, but you'd expect that from a bloke who only attended one of 40 odd EU fishing meetings and yet moans about the lot of our fishermen who, incidentally, seem to be their own worst enemy.

An academic study has come to the conclusion that grammar schools perform better than non-selective schools precisely because they're selective. Oooh - now that's a surprise. I'd have thought it was obvious in the name, selective school. So, grammars are a bit like university - selective; a bit like jobs - selective; in fact, like most areas of life where ability gives you an advantage - except, perhaps, politics.

Pupils' ability, according to the study, is a predictor of success. Of course, the corollary of that is that pupils' inability is a predictor of failure. Taking a maritime metaphor, does teaching take into account the slowest ship in the convoy? The answer is no; the curriculum is followed according to a timetable, because there are only so many days in a school year.

Given the study concludes that grammar schools perform no better than non-selective state schools, once their pupils' higher ability and wealth is taken into account, my question is how does one negate the effect of higher ability in order to reach that conclusion? It doesn't make logical sense when you're testing for ability in the first place - you can't arbitrarily knock a grade off someone with higher ability and reach any meaningful conclusion; nor can you arbitrarily add a grade to a pupil lacking in ability. You simply can't measure ability by fudging what you're measuring in the first place, which is ability. It's like saying once you take into account the higher value of gold against silver, they're both worth the same.

The DfE says that research has shown that pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds make better progress across core subjects in selective schools, and attain better results. So how does that square with the study?

Monday, 26 March 2018

New Gloves

Hayley bought me some new gloves for my birthday.

All I need now is for her to string them together with elastic so they can be threaded through the arms of my coat.

Sunday, 25 March 2018

Hamster Ice Cream

Good name for an ice cream shop in Fowey:

Found this plaque in memory of a hamster in Looe. That's one very long-lived hamster.

Hay took exception to me filling our water bottles with wine before our long walk yesterday. Can't think why.

Well, back home today. Fowey is changing fast - it has reached peak plantation shutters and is maxed out on Farrow and Ball Elephant's Breath Grey. Half the shops on Fore St are now chains too and the independent traders are slowly being forced out. It's well on the way to becoming another Salcombe, which is unfortunate. Looe, on the other hand, is still almost untouched by the outside world and retains a lot of independence from the high street chains. It's unfortunate when the chains move in as every high street starts to look exactly the same and the charm that initially attracted people fades.

Can't recommend the Old Ferry Inn at Bodinnick highly enough; excellent, fine-dining food at reasonable prices, peace and quiet and on the doorstep of the River Fowey and its pleasant walks.

Saturday, 24 March 2018

Things to Ponder

Overheard in The Old Ferry Inn, Fowey, where we're staying for a couple of nights:

Chairman: "You don't like sauternes, do you?"

Hay: "No, but I do like a muscat."

Chairman: "That's a small, furry animal, ain't it?"

I'm getting the distinct impression that Trump is having the scrape the nutter barrel in order to find people prepared to work in his administration. All the sane ones have been purged and his choice is now extremely limited. He's drained the swamp and built a lunatic asylum on it. Why does he appoint people who are eminently unsuited and then fire them a couple of months down the line. It really calls his judgement into question.

Confused the hell out of someone at a motorway service station coffee outlet yesterday when I asked for a flat black. We ordered a latte for me and a black coffee with hot milk for Hay in the restaurant last night and, once Hay had added the milk to hers, I couldn't see any difference.

Pyjamas - what's the point? They're restrictive in bed, for a start. I can understand their purpose in pre-central heating and pre-duvet days, but not since.

Why does the place in which a dog has a crap have to smell right, and what's the difference between the odour of a wrong place and a right place? There must be some essential difference.

When tarmac is subject to potholes and cobbles aren't, because they move rather than crack, why don't we have more cobbled roads like they do on the continent? The short term laying cost of tarmac is probably a lot cheaper, but long term maintenance of just has to be more expensive, by a long chalk. Additionally, with the advent of silent electric cars, cobbles at least provide an audible warning. Anyone for cobbled motorways?

Spotted this on the Bodinnick to Fowey ferry yesterday:

I wondered whether it was Cornish tarmac...

Did Leatherman, the company that make those folding pocket tools, ever regret using that name?

Friday, 23 March 2018

Over The Top

Economists for Brexit suggest unilaterally eliminating import tariffs will reduce prices in the UK - for items such as blue passports - yet Brexiteers are up in arms about this and demand they're made in the UK. You can't have unrestricted tariff elimination and protectionism to ensure UK employment at the same time. The irony!

Classical economics teaches us that free exchange works to produce the best results for all, whether the exchange takes place within one nation or across national boundaries. But this concept works only when the exchange is an equal one that occurs within a common framework of laws, customs, rules, and regulations. A bit like the EU...

Something struck me yesterday - what is Stephen Hawking known for? Name any other great scientist and the man in the street can reel off their greatest accomplishment; Einstein = relativity and E=mc2; Darwin = evolution; Copernicus = heliocentrism; Newton = calculus and Newtonian mechanics; Niels Bohr = the Bohr model of the atom; Heisenberg = the uncertainty principle, etc.

However, when it comes to Stephen Hawking the only thing most people can come up with is A Brief History of Time, which was no more than a layman's guide to the evolution of the universe. Yes, a few may mention Hawking radiation and quantum thermodynamics, where he made impressive gains, but in general he's lauded as one of our greatest scientific minds on the back of being a scientist in a wheelchair who wrote a bestseller, and little more. A cult developed around him because of his disability and his determination to overcome it, which was no mean feat, but even among physicists he's not ranked that highly, being lucky to make it into the top 100, let alone top 10 of all time. Yet we eulogise him and his ashes have been placed in the hallowed precincts of Westminster Abbey. Hawking himself, in a 1993 interview, denounced as media hype around the suggestion that he was one of the greatest scientists of all time.

Is this a sign of our times?

It's the same with commemorations - plaques being set up to things that wouldn't have warranted a plaque say 50 years ago. Sadiq Khan wants a memorial for those who died in the 2017 terrorist incidents and said; "Londoners will never forget the tragedy." One thing I can guarantee is that they will - it's human nature and history is the evidence that supports this.

Are we as a society going over the top in eulogising the mediocre and the unexceptional (and no, I'm not calling Hawking mediocre) simply because we've had an unprecedented period of peace and no great national tragedies in which we've all shared for such a long time? Is it part of modern celebrity culture?

Thursday, 22 March 2018

Burning Internet

Overheard in the living room as Hay related her disastrous journey to London this week:

Hay: "When I stood...."

Chairman: "On the burning deck, your legs were all aquiver, you gave a cough, your leg fell off and floated down the river?"

Hay: "No."

For the third time in a row she had a bit of a problem travelling to and from London by train - this time it was being sat for 2 hours outside Didcot on the return leg.

Blue Brexit passports to be made by a Franco-Dutch firm - you couldn't make it up, could you?

Boris Johnson has called Russia a brutal and corrupt regime. Obviously he's making a play for selling arms to Putin, just like we sell them to other brutal and corrupt regimes. Must be part of his Brexit export drive.

The Chairman's 63rd birthday today. I don't feel any different to my 21st birthday. The mirror tells a different story though.

The Vodafone internet seems to have settled at a reasonable speed, but I do need another router, rather than the locked-down and very basic model than Vodafone provide.

I understand from various forums that this is a common complaint.

Wednesday, 21 March 2018

Communist Vodafone Connect

I was doing my usual ennui thing yesterday of baiting Uber-Brexiteers with facts (they don't like 'em) and was amazed to see a Ukip supporter accusing Corbyn of loving Russia because it's a communist country. I don't know where these Brexteers have been since the cold war, but near a news outlet hasn't been one of the locations. Russia couldn't be more fascist if it tried, for God's sake. Perfect country for Farage followers though, if only they realised how close the country's political system is to their political ideal.

So, the Vodafone Connect router is a heap of crap. Very basic with no facilities for doing a bit of work on your LAN, such as blocking certain IP addresses between set times. However, I did manage to get the username and password for my specific account (I was correct yesterday in assuming the router has the account details hard coded into it before shipping, which was why the device that was mailed to be for the cancelled order didn't work). That means I can use a 3rd party router with more facilities which facilitate much more in the way of finger-poking. Can't, however, use the old BT router - I tried this morning.

I know speeds can vary for a while when you switch ISP, but this is ridiculous:

Obviously, making the router a simple, unhackable device saves on tech support issues and allows a lower level of skill at the Vodafone help desk.

I'll give it a few days, but if the speed doesn't improve, I'll revert to BT.

Tuesday, 20 March 2018

Plenty of Internet Dough

Had no internet all day yesterday and so used my phone's 50gb data allowance. What else could I have expected? I've never, ever had a smooth transition from one ISP to another. Given I received two routers from Vodafone (one being from the initial, cancelled order), I had a thought this morning that perhaps the routers are somehow automatically registered on the network with a hardware dongle that's linked to a particular order number, and so switched to the last delivered one. Bingo!

No faster service though, despite the headline speed advertised being higher. That's probably a function of the line to the house and can't be changed without the tail circuit being fibre too. The main advantage though is no line rental. One challenge is to find out how to block No.2 Son's access after certain times in the evening - there doesn't seem to be a blocking facility on the DSL.

Have read that Vodafone degrades once there are more than 5 to 8 simultaneous connections, which will be an issue here with some 14 odd connections, at least. Will get No.1 Son to put the system through its paces today and make a decision based on that.

When we went to the Oxfam shop in Stroud over the weekend I noticed some bread mix for sale.

You simply add beer to it and bung it on the oven for a lovely beer bread. However, once you clock the price you realise it's designed for the profligate.

Add something like £1.50 (minimum) for a beer to the £4.99 price, you end up with what must be the most expensive bread on the planet.

This, however, is a neat idea for keeping the garage tidy:

Monday, 19 March 2018

Circular Mascara Internet Conundrum

Overheard while Hay was reading the Sunday Times Style supplement:

Hay: "Here we go, a mascara for £28. What was I doing buying one for £6?"

Hay finds the whole mascara thing baffling. She maintains it shouldn't be so complicated - mascara does one thing only, but the same product made by the same manufacturer is broken out into a myriad different 'lines' that are described differently yet, when the verbiage is analysed, do exactly the same thing.

I only learned yesterday that the clockwise Circle Line in London is no longer a circle. Hay is off to London today and needs to get to Belsize Park, which is near to where I used to live in Hampstead, so I gave her the benefit of my extensive knowledge of the London Underground, which is, apparently, lamentably out of date. I'm going to need a new map.

Today is the switch-over from BT to Vodafone for my internet service. I may be some time...

Sunday, 18 March 2018

Gateway Harpy Food

Overhead in the Stroud Oxfam shop:

Chairman: "Shouldn't be shopping here according to many, what with all this kerfuffle about Oxfam and sexual harassment."

Hay: "Yes, but this is nice - it's pure cotton."

I'm down to 82kg with my exercise and calorie restriction regime - that's 6kg lost in just over a month with 2 to go. The calorie restriction has comprised the normal 5-2 diet, but on the normal 5 days I only have an evening meal and satisfy any hunger pangs during the day with the odd tangerine.

Yesterday we went to Stroud market and when there we usually call in at a local cafe - J.Rools - for brunch. I was tempted to have a toasted bacon sandwich but, for the first time in my life, I considered this treat a gateway bacon butty - it could have led me astray and into the realms of cheese sandwiches or (heaven forbid) a sausage and egg butty and had to resist. I settled instead for a poached egg and rejected the gateway to perdition.

Spotted this family family outside the cafe playing what looked like homemade harps. Mother and daughter, plus son (out of shot, but must have been all of 9 years old). The kids took it in turn to play with mum.

They were raising money for their donkey sanctuary. It was bitterly cold and must have frozen their fingers to the bone.

Saturday, 17 March 2018

Blockchain Lawnmower

Blockchain - going to have to learn something about this technology; it's running everything, if news reports are to be believed.

Think I'll look into getting blockchain to mow the lawn...

Friday, 16 March 2018

Skripal Bottle First

I see that the security services are now allegedly working on the hypothesis that the nreve agent used on Skripal was put in his daughter's suitcase before she left Russia. If that's the case, then the accusation against Russia can only ever be circumstantial and any action against Russia will be outside of international law. This may all blow up in May's face, with Corbyn's position being justified and vindicated.

Someone in Bristol is proposing that recycled plastic is used to fill potholes in the roads. I've got a corollary to that; use tarmac to make bottles from - it degrades almost the minute it's laid on roads.

Result of the latest YouGov daily poll:

Draw your own conclusions, but I don't believe  for one minute that the Ukip voting cohort is interested in the intellectual argument in support of free speech.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Putin's Obesity Olympics

Putin is facing an election (admittedly the choice is Putin vs Putin), but what better way to galvanise Russian public opinion; topping a traitor who divulged Russian secrets appeals to the patriots and claiming you're a scapegoat of the West will get the rest on your side. A veritable masterclass in public manipulation. Of course, it also plays into Mrs May's hands, but there's very little she can actually do and if she's tricked into a precipitative response she may come off looking weak and wobbly. It's rather obvious that while she's embattled by Brexit she needs some popular opinion on her side for a change and so her reaction is entirely predictable - and Putin knows that too.

Tory, and some Labour voices, are rounding on Corbyn for demanding positive proof and for any response to adhere to protocol. Corbyn is right, whatever you think of him - history is on his side. As for calling him a Russian puppet, as some of the right-wing press are doing, Russia is as near to a fascist dictatorship as one can get and I don't believe Corbyn is in love with fascism - he is, however, in love with due process and dialogue, rather than belligerent posturing, and has consistently been of that opinion throughout his career. Even France has said it will not respond until it receives proof, no matter the circumstantial evidence.

Why do humungously overweight people insist on wearing tracksuits emblazoned with words like 'ATHLETIC'? I understand that for people who are morbidly obese a tracksuit is probably very forgiving and comfortable, but they just don't seem to understand the irony of having sporty words plastered all over them when they are obviously the least athletic people on the planet.

I suppose there is the remote possibility they're trying to shed weight and have just returned from or are on the way to a gym. No, I didn't think so either. Saw one in the local Vodafone shop yesterday - simply gargantuan.

Wednesday, 14 March 2018

Hawking Persiflages Colonialism

Stephen Hawking has died - a brilliant man. It's amazing he lived as long as he did.

Colonialism is in the public eye quite frequently in these post-colonial days. Apologists for colonialism often say; "Yes, but look what we left behind in India." What they forget is that the legal system, the railways, the communication system were not implemented for the benefit of the Indian population, but to better aid trading contracts, the transport of goods and communication with troops - they were for the benefit of the colonial masters, not the indigenous population. The Indians benefited from them only after the colonialists disappeared - they were an unintended benefit.

The English, or rather the Britons, following the departure of the Romans from this land (what did the Romans ever do for us?), decided to destroy everything Roman and revert to a form of barbarism for the next few hundred years. I do hope that's not a portent for a post-Brexit UK.

We were watching a drama called Rough Justice the other night and Hay was taking note of the adverts in the breaks. She was convinced that the advertisers carefully research the audiences for their products and that the typical viewer of this particular programme is a post-menopausal woman with incontinence, or a man who wants to buy a new car.

Learned a new word yesterday - one I've never heard or seen in print before. It was in a biography of Charles James Fox. The word is 'persiflage', which is light and slightly contemptuous mockery or banter.

Tuesday, 13 March 2018


“There was a scientific study that showed vaccines cause autism.”

“Actually, the researcher in that study lost his medical license, and overwhelming research since then has shown no link between vaccines and autism.”

“Well, regardless, it's still my personal right as a parent to make decisions for my child.”

A familiar argument. A debate that starts with testable statements, but then, when the truth becomes inconvenient, the person takes a flight from facts.

In our time of unrivalled access to information, it has become easy to test and establish facts—whether in physics, psychology or policy—but many have wondered why bias and polarization have not been defeated. When people are confronted with facts, such as the well-established safety of immunization, why do these facts seem to have so little effect and fake news takes over?

Let’s look at another familiar trope that's relevant today: “The EU caused the decline of the UK’s fishing fleet.” A modicum of research will establish that

  1. Over-fishing by UK trawlers caused the decimation of the fish stocks many, many decades ago – it was the cause of the Iceland Cod Wars before we even joined the EU. Short term interests trumped sustainability at every turn. Any mention of 'conservation' was met with angry denouncements by fishermen. Yes, they were sawing off the branch they were sitting on, but they were persuaded that conservationists were the enemy. They didn't care. 
  2. The UK never stopped the Dutch and Spanish quota hoppers by stipulating the %age catch they had to land in the UK, which could easily have been done within EU rules. 
  3. 23% of UK quota is caught by one Dutch vessel the Cornelius Vrolijk. 44% of the UK quota is owned by Dutch and Spanish companies. 61% of UK quota is owned by just three companies - Dutch, Spanish and British. Why is this the case? It was down to each fishing nation in the EU as to how to manage its quota, not for the EU to make the rules. Unlike most EU fishing nations we took a Thatcherite approach to fishing quotas, that they were a commodity that can be bought and sold, tied to a fishing vessel. If a UK fisherman sold his vessel, the quota was sold with it. Other nations tied quotas to ports or made other sensible arrangements. No other nation has anything but a small part of its quota owned by others, and no other nation has so much of its quota concentrated in the hands of a few companies and not in the hands of small fishermen, for whom it is not a matter for the balance sheet but for their livelihood. 
All of the above are testable facts, but they are ignored by many and they remain convinced that the EU destroyed our fishing fleets. No amount of presenting facts will change their minds - they're immune to factual information that goes against their belief. It's like religion.

Ideology has come into play, where fake news is accepted as incontrovertible fact in order to support a preconceived ideology, and ideology is not a good basis for decision making, as it’s invariably untested in any meaningful way.

The graphic above is American, but it can apply anywhere.

At its core, an ideology is something you believe because you believe it, not because it's based on testable fact or evidence. It is a moral and intellectual anchor, as well as a lens through which the world is viewed. We come to our ideologies through different paths, some more valid than others - our family, our society, and our culture. We seem to be predisposed to certain political ideologies based upon which values speak to us most loudly. We then take those values as if they were the truth and proceed from there. They become bound with our personality and define us, which is why they're hard to combat.

Ideology also leads to motivated reasoning, to the marshalling of our cognitive abilities not to find the truth but to defend the answer that the most primitive and emotional parts of our brain have latched onto - we seek out evidence that tends to fit our ideology and, once found, we are not motivated to question it. That's called confirmation bias - when evidence challenges our ideology, we are very good at finding fault with it.

The far right and the far left are motivated by ideology, mostly of the wrong kind - the kind that limits freedom of the individual, which, perversely, is the ultimate aim of democracy. Democracy is a tool, not an aim in and of itself. If democracy leads to one extreme or the other, its purpose has been defeated.

Incidentally, talking of far right ideology, I don't think this Russian poisoning issue and the fact Putin is facing an election are entirely unrelated. Uniting Russians to support him under the guise of adversity is a good tactic - 'The West is scapegoating us'. The Russian propaganda machine is already in full flood. Power corrupts but absolute power corrupts absolutely. The principle of cui bono applies. Novichok sounds more like military grade chocolate.

Sometimes freedoms have to be traded; the American Constitution allows Americans the right to bear arms. However. the citizen has the right not to be shot at and killed. How do you reconcile these basic freedoms when they have the ability, in certain circumstances, to clash? Surely proscribing the right to bear arms is an inconvenience at best, whereas not being shot to death is a fundamental right - the right to life. The NRA would see the right to bear arms as supporting the right to life - this is where it becomes difficult and ideology kicks in. Most Europeans and some Americans can see the manifest sense in the elimination of weapons as being a good thing, yet many Americans don't. It's cultural, not logical, and any straw is grasped by the ideologue who doesn't want to give up his or her weapons.

It's a pity that the American right doesn't pay as much attention to the 2nd paragraph of the Constitution as they do to the 2nd Amendment. "We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." I'm referring not only to the bit about the right to life, but that all men are created equal (not women, of course).

Very few people stop to analyse their core beliefs and question them - it's too traumatic to think that many things you've believed through your entire life could be wrong when analysed in the cold, hard light of reason.

Monday, 12 March 2018

Buckets of Names

Magdalen College Oxford and Magdalen College Cambridge - both traditionally pronounced Mawdlin. Perhaps some other establishments should introduce a new tradition along similar lines; perhaps Filton College should be pronounced as King's College Cambridge..

Looking at Facebook of late I'm amazed at the number of people who are just plain nasty. Facebook, and social media in general, has given them a platform for their nastiness that never spilled beyond their immediate social circle in pre-social media days, but being able to see comments from all and sundry is an eye-opener. That said, it's almost exclusively limited to news feeds - probably because of the anonymity - so there's an argument for not having news feeds on Facebook at all.

We saw some collapsible, silicone bowls in a kitchen shop a couple of weeks ago. Didn't really think them much use in a kitchen environment; however, yesterday I had occasion to nip over to road the our local caravan emporium to get a clip and saw a collapsible, silicone bucket. It dawned on me that a caravan is an ideal home for collapsible equipment due to the space-saving element.

Sunday, 11 March 2018


I have arranged to change my broadband provider from BT to Vodafone, primarily because Vodafone don't levy a line charge. Vodafone made all the arrangements but then, for reasons known only to themselves, cancelled the deal, but only after having instructed BT to cancel the existing contract. Vodafone apologised for this and added 50gb on the family's phone contracts as recompense, but there will now be a 2 day delay between the BT service switching off and the Vodafone service starting.

BT tried to get me back by highlighting all the wonderful services I'd be missing out on - services I don't actually use, need, nor ever would. Sorry, that doesn't make up for the additional £208 they want to charge me in line rental.

However, given we provide internet to our business tenants in one of the cabins, I had to find a solution to their problem for 2 days. Having asked a techie at work, I'm going to use my phone's additional 50gb of data. I'll need to use my laptop to hook on to my phone's data hotspot and then plug the laptop into the house LAN (the electricity ring main with powernet adaptors). I then change the laptop network adaptor settings to bridge the LAN and Wi-Fi adaptors and, hey presto, anyone on the LAN can access my phone's data, even the boys in the cabin 80m down the garden.

I tested it yesterday and it works a treat - I'll just have to keep an eye on the data volume.

Saturday, 10 March 2018

Opt-Out - Opt-In on Facebook Market

Trump's team are claiming Trump's stance on Kim Jong-Un has been vindicated. I'd imagine Kim Jong-Un is claiming his stance on Trump has been vindicated, along with claiming the moral high ground for having offered a meeting. What's the betting it will be on Kim Jong-Un's ground?

A while ago, Luxembourg's Prime Minister, Xavier Bettel, accurately summed up the ridiculous status of Brexit - the UK was in the EU, but had a lot of opt-outs; now the UK want to be out of the EU, but is demanding a lot of opt-ins. The irony is that the opt-ins were never on the table in the first place and make a mockery of leave means leave.

Ever tried to buy something on Facebook Market? It's tortuous. You express an interest and whoever is doing the selling gets back to you 2 days later and say it's still available. You then immediately ask them for an address and pick-up time and they respond with nothing more than a postcode. You ask them for the house number and a pickup time and, if you're lucky, they get back in 48 hours with a house number but no time. This goes on and on till a week later you have meaningful data on which to base a collection.

Friday, 9 March 2018

Amazon Dash Toy

Hay showed me something incredible yesterday - an Amazon button - called a Dash Button - for ordering more crap when you are about to run out of existing stocks of that crap.

Pressing the button links to Amazon through your house internet connection and automatically places the order.

Kid are going to love that - just keep pressing every button you see on the new toy and wait for a massive bulk order that will last several years to arrive, surprising and delighting your parents! 

Whatever happened to just adding a line item to your shopping list and getting whatever you want from a supermarket, rather than paying an exorbitant price that includes a delivery charge on a single item?

I had to change my gym regime last week - I'd overextended myself on the wheelie rolls and torn something just under my sternum, which was agonising. Left off from the wheelie rolls completely for 7 days to give me some recovery time and replaced them with pushing the 10kg weights up over my head 10 times per session. I increased the number of sessions to at least 6. so that was 20 arm lifts 20 side curls and 10 vertical pushes with the dumbbells 6 times aday. I've now started the rolls again, but being careful not to roll out too far, retaining the vertical pushes, but aiming to increase these to 20, which will be tough, but achievable.

There's new research that proves older people who do regular exercise have much better immune systems.

I'm on 84kg on a non-skinny day and 83.5 at the end of a skinny day, and I've dropped 2 belt notches. My shirts and T shirts are starting to become tight around the shoulders and arms, so some positive body shape things are happening. May start an Old Sodbury Over 60s Gentleman's Gym in the Village Hall 3 nights a week. Hay says I'm not qualified, but I am, as I'm 62, 63 in a couple of weeks...

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Speed Awareness

Did my Speed Awareness Course yesterday and learned a few things.

  • Cyclists CAN ride 2 abreast and are, in fact, encouraged to do so as they are more easily spotted that way.
  • The gauge of speed restrictions is no longer governed by the distance between lamp posts, but their number - 3 in a row on a single carriageway denotes 30mph, but lamp posts on their own are not a guarantor of a speed change as speed signs take precedence.
  • 20mph zones are not only to do with speed restriction, but pollution reduction.
  • 2 lanes one way and 2 in the opposite direction is not necessarily a dual carriageway, unless there is an actual barrier, such as Armco, a grassed section or a paved section.
  • You can cross an unbroken white line is getting past a road sweeper or similar slow-moving vehicle.
  • Leave 2 seconds between yourself and the vehicle ahead; 4 seconds in rain and 10 in icy conditions.
  • If overtaking a stationary bus and someone steps out from in front of it, even at 30mph, that person is hit before it has even registered on your consciousness. 
Given I haven't touched a copy of the Highway Code since passing my test in 1970, it's hardly surprising I haven't kept up with the latest information.

Those are not the only useful things I learned. Overall I would say it was a worthwhile experience. Strangely, you can't volunteer to go on one of these courses - it would be brilliant for new drivers.

Most of the people attending were all zapped in exactly the same spot in Bristol at the end of the M32, where new speed restrictions have come into force.

I'm going to enjoy criticising every minor speed infringement on the part of the driver when I'm next a passenger in a car...

Wednesday, 7 March 2018


Overheard while Hay was cleaning out the shoe box:

Hay: "Do you want to keep your Christopher Biggins daps?"

Chairman: "They're not my Christopher Bigginses - they're my Timmy Mallets."

We went to Frome on Sunday. Hayley lived there in her 20s and the place was a dump - high unemployment, high drug usage, etc.

In the last 10 years, since we first started going there on day trips, we've noticed that the place is being transformed and becoming gentrified. Lots of artisan shops selling weird (in a good way) items, restaurants specialising in good food at reasonable prices, independent, designer furniture, that kind of thing.

This is the passage where Hay had a house - No.10 on the left at the top. She bought it for about £15k and lost it when interest rates went to 15%. They're now selling for £360k plus.

Even the hairdressers' shops are hipster - look at this stuff in one high-end ladies' hairdresser:

Hay thinks we should open a hipster, pop-up, trifle bistro there...

The key is to watch down-and-out places and see when the art community moves in. They tend to start off the process of gentrification, as they can only afford cheap housing. Then the artisans move in, and before you know it, these places become a hive of community activity and spirit with property prices sky-rocketing as the hipsters and yummy-mummy brigade move in.

There are numerous places around Manchester that are similar - like Padiham. The signs are there already.They benefit from rail links to central Manchester for work, but are far enough out to be surrounded by countryside, with property prices anyone can afford. Investors are already snapping up properties for under £60k and converting them to nice flats. Still quite rough at the edges, but these old mill towns are due for some cheering up.

Speed Awareness Course this morning - the one I turned up a month early to in February...

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Snowball Art

Overheard in the kitchen:

Hay: "Who was that you were calling on the phone?"

Chairman: "Sid. Just wanted to check how he's doing."

Hay: "Sid who?"

Chairman: "Sid wossisname. He has a thingie (pointing to my head)."

Hay: "A stroke?"

Chairman: "That it - and consequent wossits."

Hay: "Memory loss?"

One of Hayley's artist friends sent her these photos yesterday:

It's just a tealight covered with snowballs. Very effective - for a while...

Monday, 5 March 2018

Animal Trainers

Overheard in the house:

Chairman: "You know, I do believe we have a house that cleans itself - I never seem to have to do anything to clean it, it just happens."

Hay: "Mmmmmmmmm."

Well, that's an end to photos of snow on Facebook, thank God.

I was reading an article in the paper yesterday about a proposal to reintroduce Cameron's plan to bring ex service personnel into teaching by offering £40k bursaries. Cameron's plan was a deemed a failure due to the low uptake, but offering bursaries of £40k might just do the trick.

When I think back to my schooldays, almost every teacher had served in WWII and lack of classroom discipline was almost unheard of - arguments and fights were relegated to the playground and certainly not the classroom. Cheek was something that was met with a crack around the ears, of an early morning heave-out. Maintaining discipline among a pack of wind animals is not easy if you don't have the training.

Perhaps wild animal trainers should be encouraged to become teachers too...

Talking of children, Germany has a declining birth rate, as does the UK and most of Europe. Our social provision is based on there being more people in work than retired - vastly more. The options are either to admit immigrants or reform pensions and all manner of social provisions.

There is one solution that's never mentioned - praise the people some normally refered to as 'feckless'; the ones who pop out kids every year. They're doing their bit for Britain and perhaps we should pay them to continue. The issue is the kids they pop out need to be educated and not left to rot. Of course, that would be anathema to Ukip and the Conservatives.

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The Bee's Knees

It seems our ancestors weren't that kind to bees. Everyone will recognise a bee skep, even if they don't know the word.

They're the universal sign for honey and many honeypots are made in this shape.

Having bought some local honey a few weeks ago, I did a bit of research into beekeeping, possibly with a view to having a hive or two in the field.

Skeps are what our ancestors used to keep bees, but because there's no internal structure for the bees to produce honey on, they start on the inside sides of the skep and just add to it. Skeps are much cheaper to produce than the modern hive, but the downside is that because the combs and honey are attached to the inside of the skep, the bee colony has the be destroyed in order to harvest the honey. Not the most ecologically sound method of beekeeping. 

The development of the modern hive, with removable internal panels on which the honey forms, meant the colony didn't have to be destroyed.

Is it me, or are the newspapers (even those with a pro-Brexit slant) starting to show a distinct anti-Brexit flavour?

Rod Liddl in the Sunday Times - he's trying too hard - he's attempting a Clarkson, but without the panache. Massive fail, which is sad, as he used to be quite funny and could occasionally out-Clarkson Clarkson.

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Balancing Act on Facebook

This episode of cold weather has made me reconsider the entire validity of balancing the underfloor heating. 

The original issue was that No.2 Son's bedroom just wasn't getting much heat. My solution was to balance the system such that the return temperature from each loop was the same but, in this very cold weather, I've had to turn up the water temperature to 60 degrees C, and the living room still doesn't get up to the required 21 degrees, hovering around 19.8 and No'2 Son's bedroom not getting above 17.5 degrees. Thus the water is constantly circulating through all the loops, with the living room (being the largest floor area) taking the lion's share of the thermal capacity.

I've now opened all the valves fully (still at 60 degrees), expecting the living room to get up to temperature quickly, with the respective valves then closing automatically and diverting the majority of the heat to No.2 Son's bedroom, which is where it's sorely needed. Once all the rooms (there are only 2) reach their desired temperature, I should be able to reduce the circulating water temperature on this basis. Running the underfloor at 60 degrees is costing over 10 quid a day with the system balanced.

I feel for remote, country pubs at this time - not only can't staff get to them, but even if staff live on site, customers can't risk going there.

Been having issues with Facebook on my phone - every time I open the app, old notifications persist on the bell-shaped notification icon. Finally found a solution; uninstall all the updates and then reinstall them. Problem solved.

The next problem to solve with Facebook is to get the notifications on the phone app to arrange themselves in chronological order, but that's something Facebook themselves have to arrange. Fancy arranging them in the order it thinks I'm interested to have them in. Such hubris.

Friday, 2 March 2018

Weather in The West

Well, Hay went to London yesterday morning but only got as far as Didcot. She did, however, manage to get a train back from there and arrived home safely. I just can't understand how we're so unprepared and it's not as if the temperature is that low. We're in the middle of a red warning area and the snow here isn't even snow; it's ice crystals that just blow around in the wind like powder into small drifts - I suppose that could feasibly be worse for vehicular traction than snow. It's like Brexit being played out in weather terms - no preparation whatsoever.

Had to laugh last night on the local news about the weather when a pensioner was asked whether he had plenty of food in stock - he said his freezer was full. Pretty ironic in this weather.

Some places had 2 feet of snow, apparently...

Been watching a series on Netflix called Robert Redford's The West, which is a drama documentary that puts all the famous Wild West stories into perspective along a timeline. I'm quite addicted to it - all this occurred within a very short space of time and putting the various stories together in this manner makes you realise just how short it was. The series shows Custer's Last Stand, Billy the Kid, the James Gang, Wyatt Earp, etc., all set against the politics of the Grant and Hayes administrations.

The one problem I have with scenes having American Indians (or Native Americans, as we now call them) is that they seem to have nothing that even approaches a normal conversation. Each utterance is delivered in a most stentorian manner with as few words as possible.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

Trump's HELLO! Weather

Trumph is blaming violent video games for desensitising people to the value of human life, to the dignity of women and the dignity of human decency. I was never aware that he watched them - it does explain a lot about his actions and opinions...

Saw John Major on the news last night - I swear he's not ageing.

Hay had her long hair cut into a bob on the spur of a moment the other day. I was with her when the decision was made and had to sit in the waiting area of the hairdresser's and subject myself to a couple of copies of HELLO! magazine. I now know a helluva lot about inconsequential people I've never heard of before, nor am likely to ever hear of again (unless I pick up another copy of HELLO!), but are the doyens of millions, who follow their every move as if their lives depended on it.

Hay went off to London this morning for a couple of days for work. Before she left she looked at me and said; "I'm just going out, I may be some time..."