Thursday, 31 December 2020

Exemption Idiocy

Call me stupid or call me old fashioned, but I still can't understand why so many people are given a dispensation for wearing a face covering of some description. I have COPD and asthma, but I have no problem wearing a mask. I agree that if you're on oxygen then wearing a mask would be difficult, but if you are on oxygen then the chances are you'd be in a bloody wheelchair and not striding confidently around a supermarket as if you owned the place.

If you do have a valid reason for not wearing a mask, then why cant you at least wear a bloody visor, which doesn't interfere with one's breathing in the slightest.


According to the government website, if you have an age, health or disability reason for not wearing a face covering, you do not routinely need to show any written evidence of this, nor do you need show an exemption card. You don't even need to seek advice or request a letter from a medical professional about your reason for not wearing a face covering, so virtually anyone can claim they can't wear a mask.

The website even provides a bloody template for you make your own exemption card (see the image above). It's a licence to do whatever the hell you want. Pure idiocy!


Wednesday, 30 December 2020

Evolution

Here's a thought: the chances of a virus mutating - or evolving - increase proportionally to the rate of transmission. The reason for this is that it can only mutate when it reproduces itself, and the higher the number of cases, the higher the chance of a mutation occurring are. We've already seen this, which reiterates the importance of early and hard action to mitigate transmission.


Now, if that's the case, then surely human evolution, which depends on beneficial mutations, should be moving along faster with population growth, but the rate of mutations, or genetic drift, seems to be remaining constant.

However, here's the rub - a virus produces an identical replica of itself, except when it mutates and an error occurs in the replication. However, that mutation then goes of to produce identical replicas of itself. Humans, however, use sexual reproduction and don't replicate identical versions of themselves - they're a genetic mixture of two individuals - so there's a lower chance of any mutations being passed on. Additionally, as the human population increases, the mutation risks becoming swamped, making it far more difficult for mutations to become fixed in the population. Human genetics become diluted with larger populations, whereas viruses' genetics do not, except by more mutations.

It's being mooted that Neanderthal genes provide some protection against Covid, as does the O blood group. That may explain why I haven't had it yet...


Tuesday, 29 December 2020

Jumping Jehosaphat

Had occasion to attempt to start the bike up yesterday, which has been in dry storage at work for the last 4 months. However, the battery was labouring. 

I decided to recharge it, but it always pisses me off enormously that I have to remove the rear cowling cover and seat to get to the battery, added to which the battery terminals are tiny, meaning it's bloody difficult to attach normal sized charger clips.


I wish bikes had external jump start terminals, like some cars do, whereby you don't have to dig into the guts to effect a jump start. That said, I dare say more modern bikes have that feature - the Triumph Daytona is 22 years old, but you wouldn't know it to look at it - it almost looks as new as the day it was built and the design has aged incredibly well.


Monday, 28 December 2020

Design Flaws

Ever tried to open the bonnet of a Porsche when the battery is flat? The bonnet lock is electronic, which must be one of the worst design flaws ever on a car.

My brother-in-law has an old Porsche Cayman which suffered a flat battery. There was a way to open the bonnet, but it required getting behind the front inner wheel arch, which proved impossible without removing the wheel.


At work we have a more modern Porsche 911 which suffered the same problem, but in the case of this model you have to jump start the bonnet catch from a compartment of electronics under the dashboard.


Some Renaults have a design fault in the location of the bonnet catch. Rather than being under the dashboard somewhere on the driver side, it's hidden by the passenger door and you can spend ages searching for it. Open the passenger door and it suddenly becomes visible between the door hinges. Why place a bonnet release on the passenger side anyway? 


Sunday, 27 December 2020

National Pride

Why do some people feel intensely threatened by the realities of history and instead seek comfort in, and venerate intensely, a sanitised, mythologised, folklore version, while simultaneously attacking those who feel no such threat? Why is it they are generally to the right, if not the far right? 


I can only interpret it as being so bound up in their national identity that they assume personal responsibility for historic acts over which they had no control and could never have conceivably been involved in anyway, like a halo effect, and that view has be be seen through the distorting prism of perfection in order to absolve themselves of, and delete the painful reminders of, the nastier episodes of the history to which they feel personally connected. 

A pertinent analogy is lying on one's cv. The cv is the collective, national history and one cannot tarnish it with questionable activities when it's both a mirror and descriptive of how you want others to see you. Nefarious activity has to be deleted from the record and those who shine a light on it are to be attacked mercilessly. Out damned spot! 

It's corollary is people saying; "We defeated the Nazis," when they played no part whatsoever in that struggle and fail to recognise that the defeat of the Nazis was a collaborative effort on the part of many nations acting in concert. It's the collective and yet personalised 'we' of the national soul or Volk. 

The history sanitiser defines him or herself by an accident of birth, rather than a shared participation in humanity; it's a version of the French concept of laïcité, where everything that identifies a person is demanded to be subservient to a shared motion of French citizenship. It's a deep and somewhat ugly nationalism and a precursor to Nazism itself. It's no wonder that France is a nation greatly threatened by the aggressive nationalism of the Front National. 

Placing national pride above truth is a dangerous path.

Saturday, 26 December 2020

I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas

We tend to think of white Christmases as a phenomenon of the past and there are few of us who don't remember frolicking in the snow at Christmas as kids. The truth is that most of these memories are false.


As you can see from the chart above (click to enlarge), white Christmases have been a rarity in our lifetimes, except perhaps in Scotland.


Friday, 25 December 2020

Brexit and the Quality Street Conundrum

As I predicted a while ago, Boris has rolled over in desperation for a deal. With the ink on the 2,000 page Brexit deal still being damp, it's not possible to comment on the detail. However, in respect of the broad brush, the fact services, which comprise 80% of our economy, are left out doesn't bode well, nor the additional red tape for exporters (weren't we promised a bonfire of red tape), which will add to costs. 

Because of that, the economy is predicted to be hit by 4%, which is more than the hit from Covid, and cannot possibly grow as fast as it would have done had we remained in the EU. The UK also remains subject to EU rules on exports to the EU and, as expected, fishing has been thrown under a bus in desperation for a deal. It is, however, much more more welcome than a No Deal. 

Boris will, in his usual manner and in the face of all evidence to the contrary, portray this Pyrrhic victory, as something under which the UK 'will prosper mightily'. The phrase 'what lies ahead?' has a double meaning when applied to Boris.

I will repeat the question I have asked continually, but not received an answer to from a single Brexiteer; "What single, quantifiable benefit will Brexit bring to your daily life?" Given it can't be answered, it must be posited that we're about to suffer a 4% hit to the economy for no benefit. Essentially, this has been an exercise in damage limitation and no more.

The civil war in the Conservative Party will continue and I don't see Boris remaining as PM for very much longer.

To today's subject.

Buying those boxes of Quality Street (it should be noted that other products are available) is rather wasteful and poor value, in my experience.


I don't know about you, but I prefer the disc-shaped toffee ones, or the long, chocolate covered toffees (both in gold wrappers), whether its chewy toffee or the softer variety. It's a fact of life that I generally tend to find other people do battle with me for exactly the same sweeties. 

Of course, the corollary of this is that you always end up with a couple of handfuls of spurious choccies, invariably comprising dark chocolate and some hideous filling that no bugger wants to touch and kids will treat as if they were cyanide coated sardines. These usually languish in the empty box for a couple of weeks before the decision it taken to throw them in the bin. They're usually wrapped in green or purple. 

I tried yesterday to buy a couple of boxes - well, it was Christmas Eve; however, not a box was to be found. In fact, there was hardly any Christmas produce available anywhere. Veggies were available in abundance, but they're required throughout the week, right up till the traditional New Year's Day feast when we happily wave goodbye to that bloody turkey. 

You can't blame supermarkets, as they don't want to be stuck with products that won't be sold for another year, but some supermarkets (i.e. Lidl) take it to an extreme and stop stocking Christmas produce weeks before Christmas.

When I was a kid and Christmas trees weren't actually put up till Christmas Eve, or a couple of days before at most, it was possible to do all your Christmas shopping on Christmas Eve. That's no longer possible and Christmas now extends from the end of November to the week before Christmas.

Merry Christmas to all my readers. May your 2021 be less stressful than 2020.

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Thursday, 24 December 2020

Hacks

 The do say the world's greatest discoveries are made by chance.

I was poking at some heavy moss on the showroom forecourt yesterday (the preponderance of wet weather this year has produced an inordinate bloom of moss) and decided to give it a spray with some proprietary moss killer. 

I was suddenly struck by an idea - the wheel cleaner concentrate I use on car alloys, which works like magic, has numerous attributes and there's no moss at all where I valet the cars. I decided to conduct an experiment to see how efficacious it was on a patch of moss. The result was almost instantaneous.

Here's a patch half an hour after spraying with moss killer.


And here's a patch 5 minutes after spraying with wheel cleaner concentrate.


I now just need a volunteer to inject with it to determine its efficacy as a Covid vaccine....

On another tack, ever had your car headlight unit covered in condensation on the inside? Get some tin foil (you probably have a hat made of it) and place it over the offending headlight. If there's a cap on the back of the headlight for changing the bulb, remove it. Now switch on the headlight on full beam and leave it for half an hour or so. The tin foil will get quite hot and force the condensation to vaporise, escaping through the removed cap.

Don't leave it too long, as it can get very, very hot.


Wednesday, 23 December 2020

Simplenote

I use Samsung Notes on my phone for note taking, but it's a bugger to export a note to my laptop, should I want to work on it further - I use it a lot to prepare blog posts.


Recently I came across an App called Simplenote, which easily exports to a variety of services and platforms. You can use the App on your phone and log into Simplenote on your laptop. Brilliant.

It's even possible to create a note and publish it to the web with a link you can share. Quite nifty. 

It's currently free, but there's no such thing as a free lunch.


Tuesday, 22 December 2020

Much Ado About Nothing

I'm getting heartily fed up with those numpties who say Covid survival is 99.7% and it's all a fuss about nothing. Let's look at some facts:

  • The 99.7% figure is an average. Always beware of averages unless you know the standard deviation - the mortality increases dramatically increases dramatically from almost zero for the young, to a much higher figure for the over 80s. 
  • The mortality is greatly reduced by treatment, not forgetting the containment measures and simple preventions many are complaining about. Without those, infection would be much, much higher and deaths would consequently be higher.
  • Of those who recover, a large percentage is left with debilitating conditions, some that could last a lifetime.
  • No, doctors aren't listing Covid as the cause of death for people who don't have it - there's a strict protocol and, unless your name is Harold Shipman, it's adhered to on pain of being struck off. If anything, the protocol underestimates the number of deaths due to Covid.
  • This isn't solely about Covid - it's about swamping the NHS system. If that happens, it effectively means we have no NHS and treatable conditions become untreatable, meaning many more will die needlessly. In many locations hospitals are close to saturation and some are operating at more than 100%. Such deaths, although as a result of not being treated due to a side issue of Covid, are not counted in the stats, but will be reflected in excess deaths. Such deaths have already occured in a number of instances.
  • It's not just about the number of hospital beds - those beds need the staff to man them. The NHS currently is short of over 85,000 staff.
  • Yes, we have Nightingale Hospitals, but no staff to run them (see the point above) - they have to be taken from existing numbers, many of which are self-isolating, as they are at the front line. over 6% of existing staff are self-isolating at any time - and that's an average (beware of averages).
  • Countries with the same population (like Germany), but higher numbers of beds and health service staff per 100,000 people, have fared much better than the UK. It demonstrates the parlous state of our health service when such a small number of hospitalisations can bring the NHS to a grinding halt. 
  • The longer the virus is around in a large number of people, the greater the chance of mutations.
Having sufficient beds and staff is like an insurance system - you plan for the worst. Unfortunately, our system has been underfunded and understaffed for far too long. While beds can be magicked up, qualified staff can't. 


If we've learned anything from the countries which have kept the lid on Covid, it's that early, hard lockdowns work and result in fewer, shorter lockdowns and hence less economic damage. Delayed tinkering results in longer and more economically damaging lockdowns.

People who claimed economic harm was to be actively welcomed and sought in the context of Brexit, seem to be precisely the same people now arguing passionately that we couldn't possible risk economic harm if all we were trying to do was keep people alive and minimise the spread of a lethal virus.

The difference, however, is that with Brexit you can quite accurately predict which companies are going to benefit and which will go to the wall - and invest or buy accordingly. With Covid, and its unpredictability, that's infinitely more difficult for the speculator. Its like the difference between a controlled and uncontrolled explosion. Speculators don't like uncontrolled explosions.



Monday, 21 December 2020

Flying the Nest

Celebrations in the Chairman's household - No.1 Son successfully made a bid to rent a beautiful, 18th century, 2 bedroom cottage in the centre of Chipping Sodbury on Saturday. 

There were 3 people viewing, but we came up with a winning strategy to negate any potential risks to the landlord, such as the fact No.1 Son is only 22, has been in his current job for only 4 months and that someone may offer a higher monthly rent.

The strategy comprised 

  1. Reiterating he's in IT and has been working from home, is therefore completely unaffected by lockdowns and hence there's little risk of redundancy or furlough and, consequently, missed rent payments, and
  2. Offering 6 months rent up-front (borrowed from the Bank of Dad and paid back to me over 6 months, interest-free). A wedge of money has the power to persuade.
It's right in the middle of this aerial photo.

Now it's a case of seeking furnishings and ensuring the broadband is operational on the day he moves in. All a steep learning curve for No.1 Son, but old hat to me. Given the horror stories I've read about IKEA click and collect, as well as my own experience of collecting our Christmas candle order, I think he'd be better using Argos for a new bed and mattress. 

The rest can be garnered at low cost from Facebook Market or WotNot - a local emporium where people bring household goods they want to sell. We've bought a good number of items from WotNot and very reasonable prices. WotNot is more expensive than Facebook Market, but everything is under one roof and you don't have to travel all over the place for collections. They deliver locally too.

That leaves just one out of four kids left to fly the nest, and he's off to Uni in September anyway. However, he's now solely responsible for cleaning the bathroom and is also solely to blame for cutlery and crockery that goes walkabout.


Sunday, 20 December 2020

Winter Mozzies

Overheard during a TV programme on Covid:

Hay: "A virus hijacks the DNA of the host it infects to get it to make replicas of itself."

Chairman: "You mean it's a bit like a bloke?"

Hay: "Perfect analogy."

So, we have London stations being reported to look like battlegrounds as people, very possibly infected with the mutated virus, spread along the British rail network in overcrowded trains. Give it a couple of weeks and we'll all be in a full, nationwide lockdown again. Why are people so bloody stupid and self-centred?

If you're facing a mutated virus, which is currently confined to the Southeast, you don't give people a warning a few days before the busiest travel time of the year. The full lockdown on the Southeast should have been with immediate effect as Boris went on-air and all trains out of the Southeast cancelled.

On the plus side, we have a base vaccine to modify and an established distribution network for it - now we can only wait. However, that's not to say that yet another mutation won't occur. 

I've finally hit on the perfect formula for a hand sanitiser that is kind to skin.

I've had a spray bottle of Skin So Soft for ages, having discovered its efficacy in repelling biting insects, which plague me in summer - especially horse flies, which delight in treating me as their lunch.

While looking for a spray bottle for our homemade hand sanitiser - 70% isopropyl alcohol and 30% water - Hay alighted on the Skin So Soft spray bottle. It being mid winter and mozzies not exactly being prevalent, she decanted the Skin So Soft into another container and put the hand sanitiser into the Skin So Soft spray bottle. 


The residue of Skin So Soft on the inside of the bottle was just sufficient to result in a mix that both sanitises the hands and provides a thin, lubricating layer to the skin, preventing chaps and dryness. It also keeps the winter mozzies away from me.


Saturday, 19 December 2020

Should She Stay or Should She Go?

Shamima Begum - should she be allowed to return to the UK?

I'm certain that the majority would say she should have her British nationality revoked and never be allowed to darken our shores ever again.


There are two arguments that favour allowing her to return; the first is one from compassion. She was 15 and easily influenced. We all make mistakes in our youth and the rest of our lives should not be determined by youthful and, possibly, ideological mistakes. There's a certain validity to this, but I favour the much stronger 2nd argument.

This is that is that no-one with a British passport should be denied access to British justice; a cornerstone of the British legal system is the presumption of innocence. Begum has been tried, sentenced  and executed by the press. If we allow the government to arbitrarily bar those holding British citizenship from the country without a trial, then we're heading down a very dangerous and slippery path to arbitrary justice determined by the whim of whoever happens to be in government.

The law is there to protect everyone, including you and I. Should Begum be stripped of her citizenship without a trial, a precedent would be set and, precedent forms much of our legal system. There would be nothing to stop, say Boris Johnson, declaring Keir Starmer a security risk while he's away on his next foreign holiday, and barring him from returning - or indeed the other way round if Starmer were PM.

Begum should be returned to the UK and any accusations should be laid before her in court. She should have the right of legal representation - just as any murderer, thief or rapist is. I'm not even sure what she could be accused of, if anything. Whatever she may have done was not committed on British soil, for a start, and it is all filtered through the media, which can be extremely biased. 

Also, the UK's involvement in the Syrian conflict is legally questionable and served no purpose except to exacerbate the refugee crisis, which the UK refuses to bear the consequences of. Even then. the UK's target was Assad, not ISIS - the pretext being the use of chemical weapons. The only case the government has raised is the potential for her to be a security risk if she returns. Well, so are a lot of people - Boris Johnson's access to sensitive information was restricted under the May premiership due to him being considered a security risk. Does that mean he should be barred from the UK the next time he scoots off on a holiday?

The problem the government faces is proving she's a security risk - and they don't want to have to prove it, because it can only boil down to an opinion and not evidence or fact. You can't jail someone for what you believe they may do, only for what they have done. Actually, conspiracy to commit can be a just cause, but proof is again fraught with difficulties. It's easier to simply go down the illegal path of revoking her passport. That's a denial of justice and hence arbitrary. Trial in the court of public opinion is not true and impartial justice - it's rough and ready, pitchfork justice.

If there's one thing we know (although, ironically, we don't), it's that the public is invariably wrong about almost everything.


Friday, 18 December 2020

Where's My Faith?

I had thought Johnson was a complete charlatan who only joined the Leave campaign to further this own tawdry, political ambitions and that he was a frontman for a group of ruthless, profiteering, Eton-educated, elitist, oafish, immoral fanatics who care only about enriching themselves at the expense of others, but now I see from the comments of the dwindling number of fanatical Brexiteers that it was in fact, as a Remainer, my fault, all along for not getting behind Brexit. What have I done? I’m so sorry. The next time a drunk driver smashes into my car, I'll blame myself. 

I've obviously strayed from the pure ideology of Brexit by not believing enough in the hideously misinformed bullshit purveyed by those who value fanatical loyalty and appeals to emotion over science, data, veracity and intellectual rigour. True faith in utter bollocks, which some willingly accept with the zeal of a religious radical, has eluded me for some reason, probably because I have a predilection and appetite for checking facts and can perform complex, analytical and heretical calculations that are beyond the capability of the Brexit Ultras, like 1 + 1 = 2.

However, we all know that faith is a euphemism for gullibility. Many are so strangled and blinded by their blue scarves that they'll posit white is black, if Boris mandates it thus and not blink at defending the indefensible.



I am accused by some Brexiteers of 'throwing my toys out of the pram'. They are, however, blissfully unaware of the irony contained within their comment due to the throwing of toys out of a pram being a metaphor for petulant, self-destructive action - precisely what they voted for. 

I hear Brexiteers incessantly rant against EU elites, while being blind to the aforementioned Eton-educated, elitist oafs who run and plunder our country with their dodgy PPE contracts.  

They rage against an EU Superstate and EU Army, without once articulating what's so wrong with either, despite the first being impossible without legal tax raising powers and the latter requiring unanimous agreement (never mind about the UK having had a veto). Its like saying; "But climate action leads to clean air, which surely all agree is obviously a bad idea." No we don't - the argument is a straw man. Despite that, both ideas have many advantages and could additionally have provided Britain with a top-table, leadership position within a 2 speed EU. 

Brexit has paralysed the system, it has turned Britain into a laughing stock (you just have to read any international media to realise this, and not just European media) and it is certain to make us poorer and to lead to lower incomes and lost jobs - not a single forecast shows otherwise. Only a true believer in bullshit who is totally immune to reason, fact and logic would deny that.  

Rishi Sunak has even extended the Covid support mechanism to a No Deal Brexit scenario. Why? 

  1. We are still being promised by Boris that No Deal is not a problem after all and that we'll prosper enormously under what the buffoon jokingly calls an Australian Deal - which is No Deal.
  2. It's a short term loan to resolve what will be a long term problem - tariffs and their consequences aren't temporary (unless there's a substantive deal).
  3. As a loan, how will it be repaid when the effect of a No Deal Brexit is so obviously catastrophic to exporters and importers, who indeed may not even be in business to pay it back?  

Yes, there was a democratic vote in 2016, but events have shown many were egregiously and mendaciously misled in their expectations and have since reconsidered. If you can't reconsider your route when your road ahead plunges over a precipice, you cease to be deserving of a driving licence, especially when the most recent polls show, well within any margin of error, that public opinion has changed to the extent that only 38% now support driving over the cliff edge.

As Carl Sagan so presciently put it:  

“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”  

Government, in this country, has become a euphemism for legalised theft.

Boris is following the Trump strategy of spouting so many lies that fact checkers have a problem keeping up, meaning that by the time the truth emerges, it has been swamped by yet another deluge of lies. He drowns out the truth with an avalanche of lies.

This site kept track of Boris' lies, but the updates stopped in 2020, presumably because the task became too onerous. Boris is a master of avoiding answering questions at PMQs - he either sidesteps them completely, or answers questions that weren't asked in the first place. Unfortunately, the current Speaker is as ineffectual as the proverbial, chocolate fireguard at bringing Boris to heel and has succeeded in making Parliament boring.


Thursday, 17 December 2020

Christmas Mixers

I thought that the government's relaxation of the mixing rules over Christmas was a mistake - and I still do. However, after the experience we have collectively had since March, only complete idiots don't know or  don't understand the risks.



So, in the final analysis:

  • Those with an ounce of common sense will weigh the risks and do what's necessary, limiting contact as much as possible.
  • The Covidiots will do what they want, regardless of any rules, regulations or advice - they're irredeemably callous and don't care about anyone but themselves.
  • Whatever rules are put in place, they're almost impossible to police.
  • It doesn't take a genius to realise that there will indubitably be a spike in infections over the Christmas period, and even more when people return to work. By the end of January, we will probably go into yet another strict lockdown. February is the peak month for flu hospitalisations and Covid will be no different.
One of my neighbours was off work for a month, and very ill, all because one idiot went to work knowing he had Covid and infected his co-workers. You can't legislate against idiocy.


Wednesday, 16 December 2020

'Mericans.

How long does it take before an African American, an Irish American, an Italian American, a Hispanic American becomes just an American?

Americans of English heritage simply describe themselves as American - you never hear the term Anglo-American, except in the instance of someone with one British and one American parent. The irony is that none are true Americans, that being reserved for Native Americans.

The term African American is an outlier, as it describes a heritage from an entire continent, rather than a single country. That, however, isn't surprising given that at the time the African slaves were first brought to the Americas in 1619, Africa didn't comprise countries as such, but fluid, tribal areas. Slaves from several different tribes were alternately split up and lumped together again in smaller ethnic groups, having little opportunity to consolidate their indigenous cultures within their new country of residence, unlike the Irish and Italians in New York. Even their names were changed.



Only some 30m of the 300m Americans can trace their ancestry to the 16th and 17th century Founding Fathers, and even the vast majority of those can only do it through one side of their family, not both. It's a cottage industry in the USA to trace your ancestry, by whatever tenuous means, to these Founding Fathers. More often than not, it's usually based solely on have the same surname as one of the early migrants - a name that was common on this side of the Atlantic and could easily have arrived much later. Just because you have the same surname as an early migrant, it doesn't necessarily mean to say you're descended from him.

We in the UK have terms for foreign immigrants who came to live here, intermarried and enriched the culture - Romano-British, Anglo-Saxon, Anglo-Norman and Anglo-Scandinavian, British-African-Caribbean, Asian British, but we don't use them in daily discourse, except for the more recent migrants, which have not yet assumed the Anglo precursor, but probably will with time. The word foreigner has now become a dirty word in some quarters.


Tuesday, 15 December 2020

Children's Wellbeing

Government minsters seem determined to keep schools open, come hell or high water, despite a pending and ill-advised relaxation of the tier regulations over the Christmas period, a rise in infections in many areas and the discovery of a new strain of Covid. The question is why?

We are being told that a relatively new phenomenon in the history of human civilisation is essential to children's wellbeing - that phenomenon is compulsory, universal education. This begs the question of what happened to children's well being before the 1880s, when education became compulsory?


Granted, many children lived in rural villages where they could mix with friends (city living being a rarity), but their social circle was much smaller than many class sizes of today, and children of American pioneers on remote farms saw no-one but their parents for weeks or months on end, having no-one to play with except their mothers and siblings. Families are, however, much smaller these days.

Many children in the Australian outback were and taught remotely for much of their education by the School of the Air system, and it was a proven system that received many awards.

Is this simply another cynical case of putting the economy ahead of people and ensuring parents are released from childcare in order to go to work?


Monday, 14 December 2020

The Extended vs The Unextended II

We extended the new dinning table yesterday, ready for Christmas. It's a one person operation and very easy to do. 4 legs drop down from the carcass to support the weight of the extended halves. It easily seats 8 and, at a push, 10.


There's slight damage to the surface of one of the leaves, which is easily repaired by French polishing.


I learned how to French polish in my 20s, but that was a long time ago and doing an entire table top of this size could be a tad daunting, so I think it's worth spending a bit on a professional. I've asked for a quote from a guy in Yate who does French polishing and furniture restoration - watch this space; I may yet be tackling it myself, depending on the quote.

Given French polish is somewhat unstable, being particularly susceptible to heat and moisture, I may ask the restorer to lacquer the top with something a bit more durable, but not till after Christmas.


Sunday, 13 December 2020

Taking Flight

I have a recurring dream that comes in two varieties and they both involve me having the power of flight. I'm not concerned with the interpretation of these dreams, which is a bit woo-woo for me, but the physics, if physics can be said to apply in dreams.

In the first variety I am in the open and lean into the wind, which carries me aloft to a maximum of 40 or 50 feet but, strangely, I remain in the same geographical location, as if I'm flying like a kite, but without any physical tether to keep me in that place. It's almost as if I'm hovering; but it's the wind that keeps me aloft and not some mysterious power I may have.


In the second variety I actually overcome gravity and levitate through the exercise of intense willpower, which takes some considerable effort. This is the more intriguing dream, as I can't be making myself massless, as I am still subject to push and pull in the normal manner and my body retains inertia in the horizontal direction. It's a bit like Iron Man's suit, but with any mechanical contrivance being replaced by a mental force that negates and opposes the earth's gravity.

If I were massless in the 2nd dream variety, I would shoot off at the speed of light, as that's the attribute of massless particles and objects, not that I'm aware of any physical objects that are massless - only elemental particles, such as photons.

In my 20s or 30s I read a short story by Isaac Azimov where a scientist had invented a beam than made objects massless. He was ridiculed by a friend and the scientist decided to teach his 'friend' a lesson. He invited him to a demonstration at his home, the demonstration taking place after a meal with several other people and taking place on a billiard table. The scientist lined up a few billiard balls on the table, switched on the beam that created masslessness, which was shining down on to the table from above, and invited one of his guests to knock a selected ball into the path of the beam via a 3 ball shot - white on one colour, which then ricochets off another ball and sends the 3rd ball into the masslessness beam. 

The angles had been arranged in a precise manner such that the 3rd ball would pass into the beam on a trajectory that was directly in line with the friend who had ridiculed the scientist, who was stood at a certain position around the table. The shot was duly taken and the ball chosen to enter the beam did so, whereupon it immediately shot off at the speed of light - because that's what massless objects do - instantly leaving the scientist's friend dead, with a billiard ball shaped hole in his body.

The problem with this story is, if massless objects zoom off instantaneously at the speed of light, how would anyone know they became massless? All they'd see is the object instantaneously disappearing. Yes, should the object be able to retain its shape on its instant translation to luminal speed, there would be a tell tale hole somewhere as the object smashed through any containment, but the chances are that it would instantaneously shatter into elemental particles that would travel through anything without a trace.

When it comes to Superman and his ability to fly, I found this interesting explanation:

Negative mass would also explain Superman's power of flight – though not in the obvious way. Negative mass and positive mass are supposed to fall towards each other, so he feels gravity the same way everyone else does. However, he also feels air molecules all over his body. If he turned them to negative mass, they would push his body upwards. By contrast, if he turned the outer skin of his body to negative mass (or his aura), the air pressing back against it would cause it to push him forward. So Superman uses air pressure and negative mass to fly around planets with atmosphere. This shouldn't work in space, except for the fact that tiny particles are constantly popping in and out of existence throughout the vacuum. Superman could use these particles the same way he used air molecules. It's also possible that Superman exerts some kind of energy which encourages the production of these particles in space, helping him fly faster.

In one Superman film, Christopher Reeve flies around Earth at supra-luminal speed to reverse time, but that would only work (hypothetically) for him and not the Earth.


Saturday, 12 December 2020

Deck the Halls in the Wrong Place

 We succumbed to the fashion this year for putting the Christmas tree up inordinately early.


It's about a week too early for us, but what the hell...

This year it's a repeat of the last couple of years' themes - a branch from the hedge. Easy to obtain; costs nothing; simple to dispose of when the season has finished; it doesn't block the light anywhere near as much as a fir tree; you can see the lights on both sides simultaneously and no needles dropping all over the place either.



Whereas we normally put the tree in front of the patio doors in the living room area, this year we have been forced by circumstances to place the tree in the dining area. The reason for this is because "Railway", the feral cat we feed a couple of times a day, who habitually comes to the living room patio doors and peers in to let us know he's ready for either his breakfast or dinner, is a creature of habit. A tree in front of the living room patio doors would have made opening the doors to feed him a somewhat fraught affair. 


Friday, 11 December 2020

Misinformation, Bubbles and Cards

The government is determined to counter misinformation that's circulating about the Covid vaccine. That's rather ironic, given the government has been the largest spreader of misinformation since 2016, with a certain Mr Johnson having been the worst offender. He has consistently and flagrantly squandered any trust anyone could ever have in his integrity - he's totally, congenitally, genetically, irrevocably and irredeemably untrustworthy, as evidenced by almost everything he's ever done, written, promised or said.


Even though he negotiated the Withdrawal Agreement, persuaded Parliament to vote for it and won an election promising to deliver it (and, laughably, the easiest, best and quickest trade deal in history), he's now determined to renege on it, breaking international law if he does. If that's what Boris wants to do with the WA, is it any wonder the EU don't believe a word he says when it comes to a trade deal?

Why are do so many people believe Bill Gates is trying to control them with the vaccines he's funding? Surely it would be a welcome change from being controlled by their wives?...

I heard that Welsh people will be able to mix quite freely over Christmas in their 3 household bubbles. The Williams family will form a bubble with the Evans and Jones families. That's half of Wales sorted.. 

Managed to get the Christmas cards out of the way earlier in the week but, given some of the recipients are on the continent and NZ, I had to visit the Post Office to get the right postage. Our local Post Office in Chipping Sodbury disappeared this year and we now have to queue for hours at the main Post Office in Yate - something I'm not prepared to do. Luckily we have a few small post offices scattered around the area in the outlying villages and I made use of one of those, but still had to queue for 20 minutes. I couldn't believe the number of stamps the post mistress put on the cards going to Europe - they almost obliterated the address.



Thursday, 10 December 2020

Scams

 A friend of mine received the following letter yesterday (click to enlarge):


At first glance it looks plausible; a demand for back tax owed to HMRC, who have contracted with a debt collector - that is, until you realise that HMRC doesn't contract 3rd parties to collect back tax. If you owe HMRC money, you hear from them direct, not through a debt collection agency.

I looked Moorcroft Debt Recovery Ltd up on the internet and this is a well known scam, but why the company hasn't been shut down yet is a mystery. I can imagine a lot of people falling for this scam, especially as the sums involved are not large.

Talking of scams, have you seen the adverts for the Ocean credit card - a whopping 39.9% APR interest rate? This is unbelievable. OK, major credit card companies also have eye-watering interest rates in the region of between 20% and 34%, but 39,9% is usurous. 


Wednesday, 9 December 2020

Ideology

Ideology is a dangerous thing and, in the political sphere, has produced some of the worst regimes in history. The idea that a fixed system is suitable for all purposes is anathema to common sense and against the scientific principle. Ideologies possess people and give them a kind of tunnel vision that excludes nuance and admits only rigid theory, rather than practice, experience and objective truth. 

Ideology is often defined as a 'coherent system of ideas' that rely on a few basic assumptions about reality that may or may not have any factual basis - it relies, in great part, on faith, and faith is often a euphemism for gullibility.


There are essentially two opposing philosophies at the ends of the political spectrum: one that says, we are all in this together so let's share everything; and the other that says, I'm alright Jack, you are on your own. One stifles ambition and innovation and the other stifles compassion. Each has its part to play in moderation, but not as a one-size-fits-all to the exclusion of the other. A myopic and exclusive dedication to one or the other leads to oppression - and often devastation. 

There is debate about where the following aphorism originated, but it it often said that under capitalism man oppresses man but under communism it's the other way around. 

Deng Xiaoping once said, in response to the failures of the ideologically driven Great Leap Forward, in which millions died of starvation; "I don't care whether it's a white cat or a black cat, providing it catches mice." That's pragmatism and was considered heresy among the Chinese Politburo in the 60s. He was advocating handing commune land back to individual peasants in order to produce more food after the commune system, for various reasons, proved an abject failure.

Brexit is an example of an ideology completely devoid of logic or reason and focussed on emotion, which is often in error. In four years, no-one has managed to articulate a single benefit of Brexit in their daily lives. It's always portrayed as an abstract jam in some mythical future, and to question this attracts accusations of defeatism and treason without adequately answering the question - a sure marker of ideology.

The far left want a fully planned economy, but communist countries have adequately demonstrated that a 100% planned economy produces the worst possible outcomes and tyrannical rule. The far right want a totally deregulated market but, time after time, corruption and greed derived from deregulation, or lack of regulatory oversight, produce disasters such as Grenfell, Union Carbide, various car emissions scandals, etc, etc. The market has no regard for people and pursues only profit.

Communism is a stage of development, not a permanent solution. The irony is that more often than not, it has been a reaction against rampant and oppressive free market capitalism.

Central planning is beneficial in some cases, just as the free market is in others. It's never an all or nothing game where one or the other is right for every situation, and I wish politicians would be a bit more pragmatic and initiate more trials of the validity of their ideologies, rather than strangling themselves with their ref or blue football scarves.

I'll stop now, as I'm rambling.


Tuesday, 8 December 2020

Sun Bed Porch

I'm thinking of converting our porch into an airlock and rigging it with 222nm wavelength ultra-violet lamps.


Apparently, a study by Hiroshima University has confirmed that a 30 second exposure of UV at this wavelength will kill 99.7% of Covid viruses. Mind you, it might be the 0.3% that do for you.

An added benefit would be that visitors would get a nice tan if their visits are frequent...

I wonder how many people are aware that the government has added the Pfizer vaccine to the Vaccine Damage Payment Scheme, whereby you can claim a maximum of £120,000 should the vaccine give you a debilitating illness for the rest of your life. I doubt many are even aware of the Vaccine Damage Payment Act of 1979, which was brought about to ensure payment if one's child was debilitated by a vaccine. Whether £120,000 is enough to cater for looking after someone for a lifetime these days is a moot point. I'm not certain whether people can still claim against vaccine manufacturers, but press reports indicate that manufacturers pressed the government to add the vaccine to the list so as to limit their liability. Here's a link to a Full Fact article about this.


Monday, 7 December 2020

Factfulness

I've recently finished reading Hans Rosling's book, Factfulness, which shows the reader how wrong we are in a lot of our assumptions. Sadly, Rosling died of cancer in 2017.

At the beginning of the book is a set of questions that test the reader. The test, along with polls conducted by Rosling, show that we generally believe the world is poorer, less healthy, and more dangerous than it actually is. Rosling attributes this not to random chance but to misinformation. Apparently, answering the test questions on the basis of random choice produces more accurate answers than the vast majority of people give on the basis of their faulty assumptions. 

I recently saw an advert on Facebook in support of an initiative to save the honey bee, which most of us assume is on the list of endangered species. This is factually incorrect - the honey bee is not, and never has been, endangered. In fact, numbers are close to an all-time high. There are 8 species of bee that are endangered, but not the honey bee. Check, if you don't believe me - it just takes a few keystrokes and ensuring you verify what you find with real-world data from experts, not alarmist propaganda.


We're also led to believe that if bees disappeared, human civilisation would collapse through lack of food. In fact, many important crops need no insect pollination at all. The ten most important crops, comprising 60% of all human food energy, all fall into this category: Plantains are sterile and propagated by cuttings, as are cassava. potatoes, yams, and sweet potatoes are root vegetables propagated by tubers. Soybeans are self-pollinated. Rice, wheat, sorghum, and maize are all wind pollinated, as are most other grasses. Similarly, no crops originating in the New World depend on the western honey bee, which was brought to the New World by colonisers.

Much of what we believe to be fact isn't. The media is to blame for much of this, as good news doesn't sell, but bad news does and so, bad news is blown out of all proportion or even manufactured.


Sunday, 6 December 2020

Honours

Some people are really getting into a tizzy about the prospect of a knighthood for Lewis Hamilton.

He's won more World Championships than any other British driver and is on level pegging with the record holder, Michael Schumacher. Sir Stirling Moss was, famously, 'the greatest British driver to never win a championship'. Sir Jackie Stewart only won 3 world championships, but he's a Scot and so doesn't count at the present time of the possibility of Scottish independence. Even the great Jack Brabham only won 3 world championships. So, Hamilton's ability is not in question and it's not as if there are no precedents in the world of motorsport.


One of the factors that seems to rankle is his tax status but, if you care to check, he's among the 5,000 highest tax payers in the UK. Sure, he doesn't pay all his tax in the UK - much is paid where he actually earns it. He also helps keep a team of 1,000 people employed and at the top of the sponsorship table. So, Hamilton's tax affairs, which are entirely legal, are not really in question either. Sir Jackie Stewart was a tax exile in Switzerland and used numerous offshore, tax advantageous systems to fund his F1 team.

"But he doesn't live here." is a common refrain. Nor do many recipients and I'm not aware of country of residence being a disqualification for nationality. Lord Lawson is decamping to the warmer climes of France, but hasn't been ordered to surrender his British passport or his peerage.

"Doctors and nurses are more deserving," say some; however, I'm not aware of there being a limit on the lower orders of knighthood such as Knight Batchelor; there's nothing to stop deserving doctors and nurses receiving a K as well - it's not a numbers game. A lot of totally undeserving people get booted into the House of Lords, for heaven's sake, and some tosser thought John Redwood deserved a knighthood - probably for services to lying.

So, what else is it about Hamilton that makes him attract so much ire from certain sections of the population? Is it possibly that he's simply too successful and not the underdog? He's certainly no Eddy the Eagle and has a penchant for making winning look easy, which does not endear him to many. There is the perennial argument that he has the best car and his winning is not 100% down to him, but a multiplicity of factors. There is a degree of validity to this argument and it will be tested in today's race, where he is replaced by George Russell due to Hamilton testing positive for Covid. Russell has managed to secure second place on the starting grid. However, this argument casts aspersions on all past F1 recipients' knighthoods.

There is, of course, a much more obvious reason, but I'd like to think that's prevalent in only a very small and dwindling percentage of those objecting to the possibility of him receiving a gong.


Saturday, 5 December 2020

Beard Creep

 I want to talk today about the male grooming problem of beard creep, which afflicts so many men, and from which they suffer in silence.

I've sported a beard since the day I could grow one, although I will, occasionally, denude my face for perhaps a period of a week before getting fed up with it. My original reason for growing a beard was because I used to get shaving rash in the tropics when at sea, which was extremely uncomfortable.


I trim my beard on my neck with a precise line, the result of which, from the front, outlines the bearded profile of my chin against a bare neck. Between beard length trims, which occur about once a week, I use an electric razor on my neck, which is somewhat imprecise when to comes to maintaining the sharp, beard contour. The result is that, when I do come to pay attention to the beard line, I find the beard has crept about half an inch down my neck toward my Adam's apple.

I'm quite lucky to have been genetically endowed, like my brother, with a good beard growth that enables me to wear what in RN parlance is referred to as a full set - it must be the Neanderthal in me. It reaches to my cheekbones and I have occasionally sported just the cheek tufts during my more playful periods - it's an Alpha-male thing and a visual warning to competing males vying for my dominant position at the peak of the hierarchy that I'm full of testosterone and dangerous.

All my wives have preferred me with a beard which, perhaps erroneously, has led me to the conclusion that women generally prefer men with beards - they are, after all, a prime gender differentiator and a sign of prowess. Yes, some women do grow beards but, in general, and unless they're circus performers, they tend to remove any facial hair the minute it appears.

It has crossed my mind that my wives simply thought my natural face somewhat ugly and the beard disguised that. I asked Hay why she preferred me with a beard and she said it made me look like my mother...


Friday, 4 December 2020

Vaccine Nationalism

I see the small and ever-dwindling Brexit Tribe is crowing about Britain being the first nation to authorise a Covid vaccine and using it in its culture war to vindicate Brexit and Britain's superiority. Boris has cottoned on to this and the Churchillian rhetoric is being dusted off once more.



The fact is that the UK is still obeying EU rules, which happen to allow member nations to speed up approval of drugs in an emergency. While other nations have decided to wait till the EU regulator gives approval, the UK has declared such approval early, precisely because it's staring yet another emergency in the face. No, not the fact the UK has the 4th highest deaths per 100k population in Europe and 7th highest in the world, despite the highest spend on Covid among the G7, but due to the fact that the vaccine is made by a German company in Belgium and waiting for the EU regulator would risk shipments getting caught up in the impending and self-imposed chaos at channel ports from the 29th December. 

It's not Brexit that has enabled the UK to approve earlier, but the consequences of Brexit meant it had to approve earlier in order to avoid a disaster. There again, the government could have waited a little longer for the EU regulator to give approval and arranged speeded up logistics using a shipping company with no ships. 

That said, the testing regime has finally produced record, world-beating results, despite a disastrous start earlier in the year and the debacle of Test and Trace. A stopped clock, as they say, is right twice a day...


Thursday, 3 December 2020

Christmas Makeover

I bought Hay a set of golden wings yesterday.


Two, 3 foot, antique, plaster wings for my angel, which have been re-gilded. We thought they'd look nice in the AirBnB extension and add to the overall feeling of opulence Hay created there. I've no idea what they came off, but they might have been from an old church that was being demolished. They look Victorian.

We also decided to get a replacement dining table at the weekend that we obtained from Facebook Market for a steal at a couple of hundred quid. The old one simply takes up too much space that could be devoted to other furniture, so we got an antwacky, circular, yew table with 2 extending leaves that take it to one that more than adequately seats 8. 

Our dining room is part of our living room, the whole being a 10m long and 5m wide open space. We decided on this open plan configuration to give an increased impression of space, which it certainly does. However, half of it is taken up with a huge, 8 seater dining table that's only ever used at Christmas and when we have guests, which isn't that frequent. It does collapse, but only to a 6 seater, which still takes up an inordinate amount of room that could otherwise be utilised.

The yew table, with the leaves removed, takes up a fraction of the space of the old table, but is longer than our old table when fully extended, meaning we can use more of the space for the living room, or simply to increase the walking area. When extended fully, there are 4 hidden legs that drop down to provide extra stability, which is rather neat. There's no maker's mark, but it is certainly a quality piece and redolent of something Heal's would have sold years ago.

The hard decision now is whether to use the chairs that came with the table or a mixture of some of our existing ones with a few of the replacements. Both are nice, but we do like mixing stuff for a more quirky effect. I would probably recover the replacement ones in fabric (they're currently in green leather), given that's what I did to great effect with the old ones.

Another bit of makeover will be getting rid of a large, hideous, triple door cupboard that you can see on the upper left of the photo of the new dining table, and having a bespoke cupboard built in, which will extend from the kitchen, round a corner and into the dining area. The rather nifty idea I came up with is incorporating the leaves from the dining table into a desk that extends from the end of the cupboard and into the the dining area for Hay to sit at for work. It solves two problems simultaneously - where to store the dining table leaves when not in use (which will be the vast majority of the time), and provide Hay with a proper desk (she currently uses the kitchen island as her desk). It will also harmonise the furniture within the dining area. This modification won't be made till after New Year, as our tame furniture maker is busy till then.


Wednesday, 2 December 2020

Bad Badger Attempted Theft

Well, I've had a couple of eventful days following an attempted theft of our motorhome from the front drive.

On Monday, Hay happened to be upstairs and spotted someone with their head buried under the bonnet of the van. She rushed out, calling me, and confronted the chap as he was about to get into his car and leave. He shouted, in a southern Irish accent, that he was sorry and thought the van was for sale, which didn't explain why or how he's managed to lift the bonnet without using the bonnet catch inside the van, which was locked.

As I came out he was speeding down our drive, but Hay had the presence of mind to take a photo of him and his car on her phone. She wishes she'd had a baseball bat too.


I checked the van over and found nothing untoward, but decided to move it round to the car park at the back of the house. However, on starting it, I noticed the immobiliser light was on. I didn't know exactly what was wrong, as the van did start. 

I drove it round the back and turned the ignition off, but the engine kept running. "Strange," thinks I, and so I looked under the bonnet. The chap had broken off the immobiliser chip and run a wire from the battery's positive terminal to the fuel pump solenoid, thus bypassing the immobiliser.


The intention was obviously to leave the van with the immobiliser bypass in place and return during the night to steal it. It was simply pure luck that Hay spotted him from upstairs. Given the van was booked in for a new set of tyres today, the bastard would have been better waiting till Thursday.

Just in case he returned during the night, I put No.1 Son's car in front of the 5 bar gate to block the car park entrance. I suggested to Hay that we leave the van where it was on the front and slept in it with some weapons and give the bastard a nasty surprise.

Anyway, the police were called and we were told to expect someone to arrive the same day for a statement, but no-one turned up. In the meantime, I posted photos of the bloke and his car (which was untaxed) on a local community Facebook page as a warning. Yesterday, a policeman from an intelligence unit phoned Hay after having seen the Facebook post (which had been shared many hundreds of time) saying the case had mysteriously been closed, despite no-one coming to take her statement, which he found confusing. He told her that the car in question was under investigation in other motorhome theft related enquiries and the chap was probably part of a gang - had he gotten away with it, the Bad Badger would probably have been on the Fishuard ferry to Eire, faster than you can say Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch, and been trundling around Eire on Irish plates by Thursday. He said Fiat Ducatos were favousite, as they're easy to get into. He then said he'd cancel the case cancellation and arrange for someone to call, either yesterday or today. No-one called yesterday.

Hay then contacted the insurance, who told us to contact their approved repair garage. On contacting them, she was asked to bring the van to their premises. She told them this was not possible, as it was immobile (I'd taken the jump wire off and couldn't figure out how to replace it on the mangled bit). They said they'd send a recovery vehicle, but we told them there was no way in hell they'd get a recovery vehicle down our back lane and we simply needed a mechanic or auto-electrician to come round, assess the damage to the immobiliser and replace it. Being geared up for accident damage, this was beyond their level of competence and we were obviously speaking to a 'computer says no' person.

"Bugger it," thinks I, "what's the point of insurance? I'll pay for the damage myself and not risk the no-claims." Duly called a contact in the trade, who came down, replaced the wire (he knew where to connect it again), and drove the van to his garage in Frampton Cotterell. Paul, the owner of the garage, said there would be 2 choices - repair it without the immobiliser or, the more expensive option, install a new immobiliser. 

Now, an immobiliser is usually insisted upon by insurers; however, it transpires Hay never mentioned the van having one when she insured it, which is probably why we found the insurance a tad steep. Dilemma - installing a new immobiliser is expensive, but they obviously can be bypassed, so what's the point? Much better is a visual deterrent, such as a massive Denver boot, a steering wheel lock and one of those devices that lock the pedals together. Even a tracker is only effective after the fact and can be ripped off if discovered. I think we'll go for the cheaper option.

A friend recommended locking the driver's seat into the reverse position with a padlock, which is a neat idea, but it's only the passenger seat that swivels in our van.

We're still waiting for the police to show up.


Monday, 30 November 2020

Black Friday Deal

Much as I detest the hoo-ha around Black Friday, I actually managed to get a deal.

On Saturday, which was not Black Friday, I took the motorhome for an MOT. It passed, but with advisories on the tyres which, on the front were from 2012 and on the back from 2006. Obviously rather old and, despite them not being in too bad a state, would have led to them failing the next MoT due to their age.

Hay and I had already discussed getting some new tyres, as the old ones weren't very good on soft ground at campsites and we'd been caught out a couple of times when parked on wet grass. Looking at discussions on various caravan and motorhome sites, it was apparent that it's worth investing in some motorhome-specific tyres, as they have a higher load capacity than standard van tyres, better tread for getting off wet grass and give improved fuel consumption.


Had a look on the KwikFit website and, low and behold, there was a 15% Black Friday discount. I was rather suspicious but, on investigating alternative prices on t'internet and finding nothing cheaper, I availed myself of it and paid £436 for 4 x Michelin Agilis Camper tyres - fitted - and they come recommended by the cognoscenti of the motorhome world. Booked it in at KwikFit just up the road, where I know all the staff, so they'll be doing the job on Wednesday. 

The other advisory was discolouration of the front indicators, but about £40 spent on eBay will sort that out. No mention, however, of last year's advisories of a couple of wheel bearings, which was rather strange.


Sunday, 29 November 2020

Happy Cronamas

The annual Christmas card mass mailout will have to start soon, only this year, given most people lick the envelope seal, any that are received will have to go into quarantine for a week before opening. 

Crimbo cards have the potential to be a most efficient means of sending the virus speeding around the country to all manner of remote destinations, especially as they're the only letters many send in the entire year. There's no certainty about how long C-19 can survive on card or paper, but it can be as long as 5 days to 10 days.


Here's a summary from a paper in 1965, well before C-19.

"The possible risks of infection associated with the practice of licking envelopes, stamps and labels were investigated. Although pathogenic bacteria and viruses were not isolated from sample envelopes obtained from various sources, the gums used in manufacture were found to exert a protective effect against death from desiccation on the bacteria and viruses which had been introduced into them. Staph. aureu, and Salm. paratyphi B remained viable for several months in dried films of two out of four gums tested. An echovirus could be recovered from similar films for up to 30 days, and an adenovirus for up to 10 days."

It'll be interesting to see if there's a spike in infections just before Christmas, and whether hitherto uninfected areas mysteriously occasion infections. Merely washing your hands after putting the cards on the mantlepiece will partially ameliorate any infection, but other family members are wont, when coming into the house later, to have a look at the cards to see who they're from and washing one's hands while in the safety of the home may not be in the forefront of people's minds.

Here's an interesting chart from an American analysis of the types of people who are most and least compliant with social distancing, wearing masks and generally doing what they're told to minimise the spread of the virus.


As can be seen, those who value caring and fairness are the most compliant, while those who value loyalty and authority are less so. Starkly, those who value sanctity, or religiosity, are least compliant. Now, in America, religiosity is somewhat different to that prevalent in the UK - the American Religious Right are very judgemental, authoritarian and Trumpist, whereas British religious people tend, on the whole, to be more the caring and fair variety - or wishy-washy Anglican, for want of a better word, rather than evangelical and certain.

The chart, for me at least, is a replica of the American political landscape and, to a certain extent, the British one too. Anti-lockdowners tend very much, but not exclusively, to be of the political right (and certainly among those most complaining about it in Parliament and threatening a revolt against Johnson), which may at first seems strange when you consider their unwavering respect for authority, but in this case it's in all likelihood heavily tempered, among the political class at least, by concerns for commercial interests and the hemorrhaging of government money, with the consequent tax implications for both their donors and voters. Those on the Left are less concerned about government borrowing, being either poorly paid in the first place (and thus partially immune from tax increases), or ideologically programmed to willing pay more tax anyway.

The irony is that the more people flout lockdown, the longer the pandemic will last and the greater the economic fallout will be. It's a stark reality that those countries that imposed an early and severe lockdown have been the ones who were able to resume normal life earlier.

As for anti-vaxxers and those refusing the vaccine - put them under house arrest.