Tuesday, 30 April 2019

Religious Music

Wouldn't it be perfect if all the extremists of all religions could be put in one area of the world, which is devoid of anyone else, and they were allowed to go ahead and try to convert each other with whatever tools were available to them - scriptures, bombs, knives, semi-automatic rifles, etc.

Have you noticed how all of a sudden there's a dearth of Michael Jackson music on the radio? There again, I haven't heard many Cyril Smith album tracks being played recently either.

Monday, 29 April 2019

Observing Nazis

Finally made The Change yesterday and dumped the Sunday Times, which I've read for many years, in favour of The Observer. It has been a long time coming, but the Rod Liddle and Dominic Lawson Spectator coterie have done it for me as the paper moves further and further to the right. It has become a paper for those who want to be told what to do, how to think and how to formulate a denialist agenda of pure ideology.

We watched Where Eagles Dare for the umpteenth time over the weekend. I love this film - it has all the usual central casting Germans. I was surprised to find out that the bloke who plays the SS captain von Hapen is actually British - one Derren Nesbitt. I was certain he was German.

I always wondered how in the 50s and 60s film makers managed to get Germans to play Nazis - it must have been humiliating for them.

What always makes me laugh is that you'd think that the British/American commando group led by Richard Burton would have been exposed so easily by the fact they spoke English to the Germans.

There's a scene with a helicopter, but it's certainly not a WWII German helicopter, which had plane fuselages - it's actually an American Bell 47, which wasn't developed till 1946.

Sunday, 28 April 2019

Upacking Packham

Been doing a bit of research on this Chris Packham issue and the claim that crows are responsible for lamb deaths. I found the following, which was a proper analysis of lamb deaths on hill farms in Scotland:

The Effect of Hooded Crows on Hill Sheep Farming in Argyll, Scotland:

Hooded Crow Damage to Hill Sheep:

(1) Crows are blamed by sheep farmers for killing lambs and, to a lesser extent, for attacking the eyes of trapped ewes.

(2) Crow damage to `couped' or trapped ewes caused only slight economic damage.

(3) Crow predation on lambs was evaluated in comparison with other causes of lamb mortality. A survey of the causes of death, excluding crow predation, showed that out of 297 lambs found dead on the hill the major causes of death were starvation (48%), still-birth (22%) and disease (9%).

(4) Crows attacked 48% of lambs found dead on the hill. Examination of the wounds showed that only 17% of these lambs were alive when attacked. The body condition of the latter showed that in most cases the lambs had exhausted their fat reserves and were on the point of starvation before being attacked. Crows did not select healthy lambs, and the range of body condition of lambs attacked was similar to lambs dying without being attacked.

(5) In most cases crows killed only lambs that would die anyway. About one in 850 lambs born were healthy lambs which would-probably have survived had there not been a crow attack. 

That’s a 0.1% mortality to crow predation. Unless you're actually present to see an attack from corvids, it's impossible to attribute the cause of death to them, yet that seems to be exactly what those who report them as corvid deaths do. It's a convenient excuse, especially for the Countryside Alliance. A creature attacking another living creature carries a risk of being hurt in the attack. The risk is mitigated by going for things which are already dead - afterbirths and dead lambs - which is why crows and ravens are called carrion birds rather than birds of prey. The next best thing is to attack something that's on its last legs, is about to die from some other cause and can't fight back.

We live deep in the heart of sheep country and, except for the period of the pheasant season, we don't hear the constant rapport of shotguns during lambing season. Farmers generally are too busy to be shooting crows anyway.

Now Chris Packham’s legal case has not changed the law, as many complainants seem to believe it has – it has merely clarified the existing law. The ruling is that the general licence is illegal. This does not stop farmers applying for an individual licence on proving that there is indeed a problem, which the analysis above would seem to indicate is not as big a problem as is claimed. Granted, the ravaging of crops by, for example, pigeons or Canada geese is more serious and can be directly attributed- simple photographic evidence of this is easy to generate.

If the Countryside Alliance is genuinely aggrieved, what they should be doing is lobbying Parliament for a change to the law, providing evidence to support their case. The NFU is a very powerful farming lobby and using it, rather than resorting to puerile antics that will alienate them from the general public, is the more grown-up strategy.

Packham is an ecologist and is firmly on the side of wildlife, as one would expect. The Countryside Alliance is firmly on the side of allowing the slaughter (a loaded word, but how else can one describe an organisation that supports hunting foxes with dogs for sport and pleasure under the guise of pest control) of wildlife on the flimsiest of evidence. Expecting Packham to be impartial is like asking the Pope to preach atheism. Calling for him to be sacked by the BBC is misguided at best and plain idiocy at worst – there is no other word for it. As a strategy, it's unlikely to endear them to the general public. The Countryside Alliance is fast becoming our version of the NRA.

Corvids can be predated by raptors, but birds of prey are disappearing and under threat as game keepers illegally shoot or poison them to protect their game birds. Thus it can be seen that the argument becomes circulatory. Kill the birds of prey and the corvids will proliferate. Since the RSPB’s audits began in 1990 till 2017, its records have listed 166 individuals convicted of crimes against raptors and more than two-thirds of them were gamekeepers. If malpractice involves only a few rogue elements, as the shooting fraternity contends, then it is a remarkably persistent element in their midst.

I did a Google search on Countryside Alliance + conservation and came up with the following results on the first 2 pages:

It would appear from this that the Countryside Alliance's take on conservation, by its own admission, is remarkably weighted toward breeding animals and birds with the express intent of shooting the hell out of them at every conceivable opportunity, excusing it as culling, and fighting bans on killing certain forms of wildlife.

The last search result maintains shooting generates some £2bn a year. At one time slavery produced more than that in today's terms and helped create some of our National Trust properties. Is that an argument for keeping slavery?

That said Natural England's 3 day notice to the change in their rules is somewhat short and bound to cause tensions and a backlog.

Saturday, 27 April 2019

Hyperreal, Council Estate, Bunny Marketing

I think Flipboard and eBay need to rethink their marketing strategies. I keep seeing eBay adverts on Flipboard for things I've already bought, and they persist for weeks after I've bought them. Talk about shutting the stable door after the horse has bolted.

A couple of weeks ago Hay found the head of a toy bunny in the garden while doing some digging. She washed it and then put it away, believing it must have been from some relative in the 60s, or possibly hers or her sisters when they were kids. Earlier this week she found the body. She cleaned and washed that too, carefully sewing the head to the body.


Last night we went into Bath to see a George Shaw exhibition. Shaw paints scenes from the Tile Hill Estate near Coventry with Humbrol acrylic paints, which makes his paintings look like photographs. The subject matter, however, is utterly banal - but hyperreal, as the example below shows.

Yes, that's actually a painting.

The gallery was selling postcards of his works, but they just don't work as postcards, as they simply look like photos of uninspiring dumps.

His technique is amazing, but if you owned one of these you'd have to be continually telling people they are paintings and not somewhat pedestrian photographs of a council estate near Coventry.

Here are some more examples.

Friday, 26 April 2019

BP Vaxxer

Went to the doctor's the other day for my blood pressure medication blood levels. I also had to provide a blood pressure reading. Fortuitously there's a BP monitor in the waiting room at my surgery so, being 5 minutes early for my appointment, I took advantage of the machine, which is a huge affair. I placed my arm into the hole and, as the cuff was inflating, I saw my name flashed across the display board to go to room 13. However, I was trapped and could't move. The cuff kept inflating and had clamped my arm in a vice-like grip from which is was impossible to escape. My name flashed across the board again as the nurse grew impatient. Finally the pressure started to subside, the printout was ejected and I dashed to room 13. I apologised to the nurse and explained I was trapped in a blood pressure monitor. She laughed.

114/77 by the way - slightly lower than text book perfect. Meds are obviously working fine.

Talking of things medical, the anti-vaxxers are on the march again. I can understand why some people are worried - in their world no government source or scientist can be trusted to provide a truthful answer yet, paradoxically, conspiracy sites and Facebook can. Yet another example of counterfactual thinking. What they do is tantamount to child abuse - not only of their children, but those of other people who are too young to be vaccinated, as herd immunity is compromised.

All it will take is for someone's child to die of cross infection from a non-vaccinated child and it won't be long before a charge of manslaughter is brought against said anti-vaxxer parent. The poo will hit the proverbial fan and it will more likely happen in the USA.

Thursday, 25 April 2019

Pascal's Impartial Wager on Inconvenience

Huawei has been in the news rather a lot recently. Must admit I thought it was a Geordie company with a name like that.

Hay and I have decided to join the London climate protesters and engage in some direct activity - we're going to block our drive at the weekend and give ourselves some mild inconvenience.

I was thinking about the applicability of Pascal's Wager to climate change yesterday. While the wager fails the logic test for Christianity on many levels, it doesn't for anthropogenic climate change as the subject.

I hear the Countryside Alliance has started a petition calling for Chris Packham to be sacked from the BBC because he isn't impartial. Next they'll be calling for Sir David Attenborough to be sacked because he's not impartial. The mentality of some people is incredibly low. What ever happened to truth? Impartiality without enquiry, and especially balance, gives the breath of publicity to absolute nutters.

I signed a petition calling for not sacking Packham, which has more signatures than the Countryside Alliance one. There's even one for giving him a K.

Wednesday, 24 April 2019

The Rise of Political Lying

I'm currently reading The Rise of Political Lying by Peter Oborne, who writes for the Daily Mail. The book starts with Thatcher's cult of personality (lightly, as Oborne is a Tory), moves quickly through Honest John Major and then wades into the Blair administration, which he accuses of turning political lying into an art with spin doctors,

The book was written well before the Tories came back into power and thus misses out the Cameron and May years, including Brexit, which turned the art of political lying into a science.

Oborne is a Brexiteer, as befits a Daily Mail writer, and is considered by many to be the media High Priest of Brexit; however, even he thinks we need to step back and have another referendum as the electorate was plainly ignorant of the EU in 2016.

Here is an extract from the book that's quite pertinent today:

As the Iraq tragedy demonstrates, when politicians lie they change their relationship with the electorate from one of equals to one of master and servant. This applies even from the point of view of has made from virtuous motives. A politician who deceives in order to obtain a higher good is expanding his role beyond its normal and proper sphere. He is stealing the moral autonomy, and the right to choose, of the voter. He is deciding on his own, without a wider consultation, what voters may or may not be told. This means that he is making exceptional demands not merely on others but also on himself. In the long run this can cause as much damage to the lying politician as to those he lies to. The philosopher Sissela Bok writes: "Some come to believe that any lie can be told so long as they can convince themselves that people will be better off in the long run. From there, it is a short step to the conclusion that even if people will not be better off from a particular lie, they will benefit by all manoeuvres to keep the right people in office. Once public servants lose their bearings in this way, all the shabby deceits of Watergate the fake telegrams, the erased tapes, the elaborate cover-ups, the bribing of witnesses to make them lie, the televised pleas for trust become possible."

There's a well known saying - the end justifies the means. It's not always true though, even if the end is noble. The means must also be justified in terms of the end - or at least the aim, as the end is not necessarily guaranteed.

I wonder when we're going to hear of the Dodgy Brexit Dossier.

Tuesday, 23 April 2019

Game of News

I subscribe to the news aggregation service Flipboard, which takes English language news feeds from around the world. I like it because you get multiple viewpoints, not only from a political spectrum (which slants news), but from different cultures.

When I initially subscribed to Flipboard, the previous series of Game of Thrones was still running and just about every 3rd page was some fan theory about plot twists. Then came a respite and it was back to real news. 

For the last couple of weeks Flipboard has once more become dominated by GoT and has even managed to relegate Brexit to 2nd position, which thus far has been in the top slot.

I wonder, when all the Brexit stuff has become history, whether the story of Brexit will be serialised in the manner of GoT as Game of Brexit. The plot is very similar...

One thing I have noticed with some Flipboard news feed stories is that the headline can be enticing, but click on the story and there is an acre of irrelevant waffle before you get to the actual meat, by which time you've scrolled past at least half a dozen adverts.

Monday, 22 April 2019

The Banana Bunch

I don't usually eat breakfast, which isn't the most healthy way to start the day, but I have taken to starting the morning with a shake comprising a banana, 3 large tablespoons of thick yoghurt and a little milk to thin it out sufficiently for the NutriBullet zuzzer to have an effect.

I used to add some honey, but trials without honey proved it was sweet enough without the added honey, so I dropped that.

Hay suggested using water instead of milk to make it less calorific, which works fine, but then yesterday I added my own twist - the addition of the banana skin. 

It worked a treat. It is a more efficient use of the banana (price), lessens the amount of vegetable waste (neutral, as we compost our veg waste), and gives you plenty of fibre (good for your digestive tract and fills you).

I wouldn't recommend using green banana skins, but fully yellow or ones with brown spots that are starting to go 'over' are ideal - just cut off the 2 ends. Adds a nice colour to the concoction too.

Sunday, 21 April 2019

Climate Change Denial

Do you find it strange that Lord Lawson's climate denying Global Warming Policy Foundation headquarters is in the same building as Brexit campaign groups 'Business for Britain' and 'Vote Leave', along with a slew of other right wing organisations including the TaxPayers' Alliance?

John Redwood, Owen Paterson and Douglas Carswell are all climate change deniers. Leave Means Leave was also supported by some of the UK’s most prominent climate science deniers, such as Peter Lilley, and DUP MP, Sammy Wilson. It was also supported by libertarian Tories calling for deregulation who have previously pushed disinformation on climate change, including Jacob Rees-Mogg John, Redwood, Christopher Chope and Ian Paisley to name a few. The harder the Brexit wanted, the closer the correlation with climate change denial, or at the very least, disinformation, which seems to be a common currency within both movements.

When you think about it, deregulation goes hand-in-hand with hard Brexit and climate denial; both reject experts and involve counterfactual thinking. The assumption is that political reality is not something that exists 'out there’, checkable and subject to independent verification. On the contrary, it has suddenly become something that can be shaped and used as part of the battle for power and anything goes, including obfuscation, misinformation and downright lies, providing they serve the ideological narrative and contribute to the perceived, but totally erroneous, 'greater good'. In other circles it usually goes by the name propaganda.

The usual tactic of climate change deniers against protesters is the sneering charge of hypocrisy, which is usually a tactic to justify doing nothing in the face of an existential problem.

This Jonathan Pie (aka comedian Tom Walker) piece is brilliant and sums up the situation.

CO2 is a greenhouse gas - as is any molecule of gas with more than 3 atoms. The molecule becomes the size of the wavelength of infra red light and therefore absorbs heat. This is not a debatable issue - it's an indisputable scientific fact.

Releasing CO2, that took hundreds of millions of years to be leeched from the atmosphere, back into the atmosphere over a period of 200 to 300 years is bound to have a rather marked effect on the amount of greenhouse gas in the atmosphere unless it's somehow removed. That's just simple logic.

Climate change is a fact and anthropogenic warming is accepted by the vast majority of the world's climate scientists. Depending on exactly how you measure the expert consensus, it’s somewhere between 90% and 100% that agree humans are responsible for climate change, with most studies finding 97% consensus among publishing climate scientists. The greater the climate expertise among those surveyed, the higher the consensus on human-caused global warming.

You can argue that way back in history there was a consensus that the sun revolved around the earth, but that was not a scientifically established fact - it was a belief.

Those who oppose taking action to curb climate change have engaged in a misinformation campaign to deny the existence of the expert consensus. They’ve been largely successful, as the public badly underestimate the expert consensus. Nigel Lawson is not a climate scientist, by the way.

This is an existential problem requiring dramatic action at government level internationally. The increase of extreme weather events points to just how much of a problem this is. If you're worried about immigration, then this should be a top issue for you, as dry areas are becoming dryer and populations will eventually migrate.

Denigrating people who are protesting for trying to make this a top issue for governments is stupid - it's denialism, pure and simple. It's the action of large toddlers who want to ignore the problem because they don't want to be inconvenienced.

Some people are already making changes to their lives, but only a few. It would take a great effort by a small number of people, or several small changes by a lot of people to solve the problem. The issue about the climate change is that the mountain is so high that we pretend it's not there; it's too huge to fix so let's just pretend it's not there and carry on.

If you want to criticise them, then come up with a better idea. They are achieving their aim of getting people talking about the issue - it's all over the news - the chaos is the point; they are trying to force systemic change. We are past the point where it's sufficient for a few people to plant trees.

The concept of denial itself is well understood. Psychologists consider denial - the refusal to accept facts in order to protect us from uncomfortable truths - to be a primitive defence mechanism.

Saturday, 20 April 2019

Design Pheasant Icons

When we were 'oop north' we took a diversionary trip to my old hometown of Southport and visited a junk shop, where I spotted this gorgeous cantilever lamp, which was ideal for allowing me to read comfortably in the living room. Favouring subdued lighting around the edges of the room means I find it hard to read at night.

Not only was it the perfect shape and a design icon, it came with exactly the shade to match the others in the living room. I was so in love with it that I didn't even bother haggling, as is my usual wont. Luckily it collapses and could be fitted in the car. It just needed a torpedo switch and a length of black cable.

Southport used to be a lovely town, but it's really not worth visiting anymore - loads of closed shops (and the ones being left being on the cheap and nasty side of quality), rubbish on the streets, etc. Birkdale, however, as become a little oasis of independent shops and pavement cafes.

Had dinner with some neighbours the other night and they have a tame pheasant that comes into the garden to be hand fed every evening. If they're not outside, he taps on the back door.

On the strength of this chap, they've ordered half a dozen pheasant chicks; however, I fear they've actually ordered some light snacks for the foxes in the neighbourhood, of which there are plenty.

Friday, 19 April 2019

Castle Coins

The bloke who made the cabin we stayed in on Wednesday night makes coin balls and pillboxes as a hobby, which brings him some additional revenue. You can see his work at this website.

The balls are £25 and interesting little bronze curios, so I bought one. Hay got a pillbox (£12) and a key fob (£2) made from a coin from her year of birth, which she will not allow me to divulge.

While in west Wales we visited a couple of castles. This one was constructed by William Marshall the Younger and the photo below shows an effigy of him in wicker, holding a large broadsword.

The following photo shows what can only be a high diving platform. Either that, or it's where malcontents were thrown into the River Tefi.

The construction of these fortified homes was atrocious - they simply had no concept of cavity wall insulation or thermal efficiency of any sort. As for wheelchair access - forget it. It's a wonder they ever managed to get planning permission from whatever passed for the local planning committee in the 12th and 13th centuries.

Thursday, 18 April 2019

Caardiganshire Cabin Fever

Spent last night in an AirBnB, off-grid cabin in Cardiganshire. It's called The Love Shack.

They even had some willow-weave fencing, like the arbour Hay and her sister created in our garden. Seems to be the "in" thing.

The interior was much like a pioneer cabin from the American West - bijou yet comfortable. I had my banjo at the ready....

A composting loo too.

Capped off by a somewhat innovative DIY hot-tub. The old gas cylinder on the right is the source of the furnace, which heats an old cast iron bath and the exhaust goes up the chimney.

Hay managed to get a wild swim in too on the River Tefi.

Interesting house in the background - it's derelict, but work has been done on the outside and the gables to protect is and it has been like that for 3 years. However, there was some flooding of the river a few years ago and the level rose such that the water lapped around the base of the house. The owner is probably wondering what to do about flood defence before putting a full roof on and making it habitable.

Wednesday, 17 April 2019

Notre Dame Ferritin Groups

Overheard in the car:

Hay: "What with my menopause I'm worried about my ferretin levels.!

Chairman: "I think you ferreting days are well behind you now."

This Notre Dame Cathedral fire - I wonder if there will be an investigation into the cladding used; 12th century fire regulations aren't all they're cracked up to be/ All these ancient buildings are bloody fire hazards and need demolishing. if you ask me.

We went to Liverpool yesterday for a reunion meal of old shipmates I was a cadet with in 1971 on leaving school. We congregated in the Philharmonic pub, which has one of the finest examples of Victorian toilets in the country.

There were 3 groups represented:

Firstly, those who attended what was Riversdale Tech, as it was then known, as navigating cadets:

Secondly, those who joined the MV Onitsha for their first and second trips to sea:

And finally a select subgoup who had gone to sea from HMS Conway School:

The Chairman was in all three groups.

Off to Cardiganshire this morning for Hay to have another wild swim and to recover from last night...

Tuesday, 16 April 2019

International, Arbitrary Homelessness

The government wants to make changes to give tenants more protection. In effect, they are shifting the problem of homelessness on to landlords, many of which use their properties as a pension. Why should a landlord subsidise tenants who can't pay? Perhaps government should underwrite the rents of those who can't pay and where eviction would lead to homelessness. Better still, councils, who have an obligation to house people who become homeless - it would probably be cheaper to underwrite rents than to provide bed and breakfast accommodation.

Shamima Begum is to get legal aid. Quite right too. To deny legal aid where it is applicable is to make justice arbitrary and subject to the pitchfork model of justice.

Sajid Javid has admitted he could have ended up in a life of crime instead of becoming home secretary. He's still involved in a life of crime though, but he's gone from breaking national laws to international laws.

Monday, 15 April 2019

Paths of Glory

Fixed Trigger's ride-on mower - it was nothing more than a faulty terminal. All the unmown areas have now been designated with paths cutting through them. A biodiversity thing, according to Hay,but she doesn't have t cut these areas in late summer.

Next job is to overhaul the Allen Scythe.

Hay and her sister have been busy constructing a gazebo from whippy willow wands. You just stick the green wands into the ground, weave them, and they'll self-root. You merely have to maintain the weave as they grow to create a secluded arbour.

Sunday, 14 April 2019


Overheard while walking:

Hay: "What kind of knickers did the 1st Mrs Chairman have?"

Chairman: "Lacy."

Hay: "And the 2nd Mrs Chairman?"

Chairman: "Practical."

Hay: "And the nearly 3rd Mrs Chairman?"

Chairman: "Barely functional."

Hay: "That all makes sense - you can tell a lot about a person from their knickers."

Chairman: "So there's not much to you.....?"

Saturday, 13 April 2019

Porches & Mowers

Well, Colin has finally finished the new porch and we're well satisfied with it.

It has taken so long because he kept being called away to jobs that make him a profit...

I think I now need one on the other side of the house to accommodate the Triumph Daytona, which should be back any day now.

The grass starts to grow and needs regular manicures, but last weekend the mower went totally dead for no accountable reason after hitting a tump. Battery is fine, 20A fuse was blown, but replaced, and still nothing. I suspect it must be the solenoid. My mower is Trigger's ride-on-mower.

Friday, 12 April 2019


There's a theme running here:

Will we see J R-M, Boris and Redwood growing beards in preparation for going into hiding?

I alighted on this interesting story from the Guardian a couple of years ago, linking Trump to Assange through Farage. It must have escaped my attention at the time, as it was quite widely reported and mentioned in the Mueller Report.

On a totally unrelated issue, and something I rarely comment on, I note that a referendum has been voided in Switzerland as voters were given false information.

Mmmm. Seems Brexit failed due diligence...

Thursday, 11 April 2019

Mallory Death Boots

Given the amount of walking Hay and I do (or the amount of walking Hay makes me perform), I've been looking for a while for a pair of waterproof walking boots. Miracle of miracles, I found a pair in a local charity shop that were not only brand new and had never been worn, but were a perfect fit.

I test drove them on Sunday and they were perfect - I could wade in streams with no water ingress whatsoever.

Hay was initially convinced they were leather, but I explained that they couldn't be, as leather isn't waterproof without copious layers of Dubbin and the laces and tongue would always provide leakage points. These were waterproof to the top.

This started a conversation about George Mallory's Death Boots. Mallory would climb mountains in the most inappropriate attire - invariably a Harris Tweed suit and a stout pair of leather boots. Sometimes he would be pictured in shorts, singlet and the stout leather boots, climbing some frozen peak. 

He was not alone in dressing in unsuitable attire - legions of young men would similarly attire themselves in clothing that was only just adequate for a Scottish moor and go off to all corners of the world braving the elements. There's a whole industry now in tweed suits a la Mallory.

This is a picture of the boots he used on his final climb on Everest and were found on his body. They were of the type that resembled old fashioned footballs or rugby balls when I was a teenager - they'd become so waterlogged they'd take you head clean off it they came into contact with it. .Heading the ball was an invitation to concussion and possible mental instability.

The rugby boots got so waterlogged, if one didn't have any Dubbin, that a match played in rain would quickly descend to a pedestrian pace as 30 kids (less the ones in possession of Dubbin) loped around as if their feet were encased in concrete. Not only that, but Sister or Matron would be administering to cases of trench foot till next Saturday. Damned things took a week to dry out and even then resembled those dried pigs' ears you give to dogs to chew.