Sunday, 28 February 2021

Kono VII - The Finale (well, almost)

 Not having much to do yesterday, I made a start on the firebrick Kono.

I first applied the fire rope glue to the surfaces to be joined and then stapled across the joins. .

It appeared to hold together reasonably well. I then started cutting the 2" aluminium angle to create the base of the cage.

The problem was that I didn't have a mitre saw and was using my electric sabre saw, which is meant more for cutting oil drums up. Angles were very squonk and didn't meet at all well. Note to self - look out for a mitre saw at Lidl.

The brazing was a total failure, as the brazing rods were far too thin to adequately fill in the gaps. 

I decided instead to drill holes into the firebrick panel ends and use screws to hold the joints together. It worked.

Flushed with success, I then screwed the handles into the firebrick end boards and was quite pleased with the result - till I picked it up - the handles promptly fell off. Luckily there was no damage to the box as it dropped (I told Hay it was a drop test) but, whereas screws are OK for holding the box together, the material is just too fragile to screw the handles into it, especially just a single, 1" thickness.

I was struck with a bolt of an idea for the retaining cage - pop rivets. I have thousands - and a pop rivet gun. I even have a pneumatic one, if required, for heavy duty stuff. Don't know why I didn't think of it earlier.

Given I wasn't using mitre joints, there was going to be a bit of a gap here and there with overlaps, but it worked to my advantage in terms of inserting the pop rivets. Even managed to pop rivet the handles on to the aluminium angle around the top of the ends and the slight air gap between the cage and firebrick means the handles should remain relatively cool.

Eventually ran out of the 2" angle (because of the faffing with the mitre joints, although I did manage to recycle most of it) and used the 1/2" stuff, of which there was plenty, for the last two struts of the cage along the two long surfaces on top.

Dodging the screws with the pop rivets was a bit of a pain and I only hit one, but managed to recover the situation.

For added heat protection I decided to add a double thickness of fire brick over the bottom and at the ends. It required a thin sliver of firebrick to completely fill the 2nd layer on the bottom and I then applied some fire cement to the join..

All that's now required to complete the project is the air damper, which has yet to arrive from 'Merica.

I'm rather proud of it. Just need to put it through its paces now, tot up the cost and then start taking orders...

Saturday, 27 February 2021

Van Tales

 The van is now fully de-winterised and ready to roll.


A slight flooding incident in the shower room on commissioning the water system and new pump when a pipe popped off, but quickly identified and fixed. 

I've installed the three mini-heaters I bought from Lidl. That's 3 x 600W of heat - only for use on hookup, naturally.

At least we're Covid-free, unless you count this little bugger lurking around the van...

Can't wait till the order comes from above that we can travel once more - this is easily the most Covid-safe form of holidaying.

I've noticed that the price of vans has gone through the roof since we bought this one last year. You can now get something like a 25% premium on these things because of the demand and lack of supply. Glad we bought it when we did.

Friday, 26 February 2021

Kono VI.V

Yes, yes, more Kono, but I couldn't pass up on this one - Hay's sister has decorated the MkI perlcrete Kono. She was given free rein and chose the perfect images for a Neanderthal BBQ.

Prehistoric cave art! Me man - me fire god....

The handles for the MkII have arrived - just waiting for the fire rope glue, which could arrive today or tomorrow. I know they look like bog roll holders, but they're really nice.

The MkII Kono is shaping up to be light enough to take with us on trips, but with a fully functioning cooker and a steel firepit, it's doubtful we'll actually need it.

Thursday, 25 February 2021

Kono VI

Here we go again, you might say. However, before I go on about the kono grill, a thought has struck me. The government is considering summer schools to allow kids who have fallen behind to catch up a bit on their school work. I know it's only for 2 weeks, but that's going to impact their parents' summer holiday plans and I wonder how many of those who complained about schools being closed will now complain that their holiday plans will be affected by summer school, which is far more important, as a couple of weeks in Benidorm is an education. It's bound to happen with a small section of the population.

This is rapidly turning into an exercise in spending vast amounts of money with which I could have bought a pukka kono / yakitori grill from Japan and had it shipped over. It's a learning exercise though, however expensive it turns out to be, and I'm enjoying the process immensely, even if Hay isn't.

Took delivery of the various pre-cut lengths of firebrick (which resembles slabs of fibreboard both in texture and weight), but realised the base would be too narrow, so I ordered another piece to form the base. That piece was slightly too large, so I had to cut it down slightly with my rotary saw, which was just like slicing plywood. This left me with a couple of thin strips of what looks like wood, which I thought I'd use to play a trick on Hay's dad, who is notorious for scrounging any old bits of off-cut for his wood burner. I left the strips lying around outside, with the intention of him finding them and snaffling them, only to find they don't burn, which will perplex him somewhat and cause some head scratching.

Anyhow, I was left with far more firebrick than I needed - twelve  9" x 4" slabs, to be precise, as shown in the loosely assembled photo above. It wasn't too expensive, so no matter as I'm sure I can use it somewhere else.

Then it came to the vent hole, which needs a sliding damper of some description. I looked all over e-Bay and Amazon, finding all manner of circular ones and the sliding, louvred types that were simple too large. I finally found exactly what I was looking for, but it's made in America - the land of the BBQ, naturally. Given I want it to look good, I but the bullet and ordered one, with the postage costing almost a much as the damper itself. All told, £68; however, there's bound to be some additional customs charge. No point in spoiling the ship for a ha'porth of tar. 

They're not too difficult to fabricate, by the look of them, and if I make more grills then I may try my hand at making a few Heath-Robinson ones. The intention will be to staple it on with an industrial sized staple gun I have.

I then wanted some drop-down handles - the same type as on the original with a handle grip that resembles a spring, as that ensures the heat it dissipated efficiently.

I found loads of spring hand grips, but no handle for them to go on. I decided in the end to go for case handles, like you find on music equipment cases - next best thing. £10 for two, so they won't break the bank.

These will be screwed or brazed (probably the latter) to the aluminium retaining cage. I may change the rubber grips for the spring type at a later stage.

Then it came to the aluminium for the retaining cage. Now I thought 1/2" angle aluminium would be fine, but I hadn't factored in that the firebrick board is 1" thick, requiring something more like a 2" angle to bracket the joins. Back to e-Bay and another £57 was spent and I await its delivery.

I'm still not sure how one cures the firebrick, which seems too delicate to be used in its raw state. I have read various threads maintaining, on the one hand, that it needs to be fired in a kiln before actual use with charcoal, but others that neglect any mention of this. My sister in-law is next door is a ceramicist, so I do have a kiln available. She is, incidentally, busy decorating the perlcrete MkI and giving it an impermeable glaze.

I was going to use fire cement to seal any joints on assembly of the MkII, but it's brittle and I've read good reports about rope seal glue, which is used to fix fireproof, glass-fibre door seals to wood burning stoves and is good to 850 degrees C, so I've ordered a couple of tubs. Actually, thinking about it, I may use the staple gun to staple the box together across the joins after applying the glue and before creating the aluminium cage, which will cover the staples - using the approach of belt, braces and the string favoured by tramps and old-time farmers. I can test whether the staples will hold the firebrick, or split it, on one of the spare slabs.

A few large clamps wouldn't go amiss to hold the box together while gluing and caging - will have to keep a lookout in Lidl for suitable devices. I did wonder if I should make dovetail joints as the firebrick is so easy to cut, but my wood butchery skills are rudimentary, to say the least.

I do like the look of that though, for £48.90..... However, after looking at the video, it does look a bit complex.

Watch this space....

Wednesday, 24 February 2021

Lockdown Gripes

Boris was at pains to point out that he will be led by the science and not dates - and then, inexplicably, proceeded to give us a bunch of dates! One assumes that the science led approach would be based on R number (infection rate), cases, deaths, vaccination levels and whether any new, resistant variants entered the population. There again, it could be whether new, resistant  variants enter the game, the death rate, cases and R number. 

Why could he not simply give us the determinant figures? That goes for Sturgeon too. Are we too thick perhaps? No - he gave us a bunch of dates, which people will now consider to be written in stone, regardless of any data which may come out to suggest the gaps between tranches have to be lengthened. Holidays will be booked and taken - no matter what - and before we know it, we'll be back to square one because he gave us dates.

To be fair, he was probably cornered into doing that by his rebellious back benchers, who don't give a fig about people dying, so long as their business interests are looked after, like capitalists of the 19th century. Yes, people may be made redundant, but it's better than being dead, which is a somewhat more long-term inconvenience.

A close friend, who is a leading member of a local, non-league football club, was inundated by WhatsApp messages yesterday suggesting the members all go for a kick-around on Saturday as training for when the block comes off. That is the kind of attitude that will ensure we don't even progress to that stage. Morons are already demanding June 21st is made a public holiday.

Foreign holiday bookings are up 500%, according to travel agents. That's hordes of people going to countries where they will be totally ignorant of local rules or infections levels and possibly brining new variants into the UK on their return. 

I'm sick and tired of hearing people on the news saying; "If cases are coming down, why can't we open up earlier?" They don't seem to realise that it's predominantly the lockdown that's causing the decline in infections and it won't continue coming down without restrictions being in place. It's as if they haven't learned from the Christmas fiasco. Additionally, cases are still eight and a half times higher than at the first lockdown.

We're about to do what no other country in the world is doing - sending 8.5 million kids back to school on a single day, where they will mix and could potentially convey any virus at home to the unvaccinated parents of other kids. That's a massive risk and could derail the much-wanted 21st June holiday at the first hurdle.

I know someone who only went out of the house to go into the garden, or to get essential shopping once in a while - say 3 times a week, having to carry it all home on the bus as she had no car.

She spent most of every day in the house cleaning - every normal day was like a spring clean for most people - or cooking.

Holidays? Only when her husband, who worked abroad for 9 months of the year, was home - and even then, only while her kids were of school age. After that, neither she nor her husband ever wanted or took a holiday.

The TV was only capable of receiving two channels. 

Socialising with friends? The only friends she had were her mother, brothers and sisters, and she didn't see them that often.

Going out to exercise? Housework and carrying shopping. 

Visiting garden centres? There weren't any; you got a catalogue of seeds and chose from that. 

I'm not talking about someone who has been in lockdown for the last year, but my mother in the early 1960s, for whom what people are moaning about now was very close to normal, everyday life. We weren't poor either.

That's not to say some aren't suffering during lockdown, especially those with lots of kids at home, but most of us don't know we're born these days and have a meltdown because we can't go to the pub with our mates, especially those who are lucky enough to still be working. How times have changed.

If I'm brutally honest, I'll miss lockdown - I've actually enjoyed the slower pace of life and doing without the luxuries I thought nothing about previously having access to.

Talking of garden centres, have you noticed how no-one in them knows the first thing about the plants they sell? Garden centres are shops selling garden related stuff, but detailed knowledge about the plants they sell is limited to the information on the pots.

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Can't Get You Outta My Head

We're half way through watching Adam Curtis' new, 8 part documentary, Can't Get You Outta My Head on iPlayer.

Highly recommended if you're interested in how we're being shaped by our political masters, who are meant to be our political servants.

I'm a great fan of Adam Curtis' documentaries, both from a production perspective and the manner in which he shows historical links that aren't immediately visible to the casual observer. 

That said, I think he doesn't make connections sequentially, but looks at a current situation and tracks back, thus his programmes start with what look like several, totally unconnected events and then follows them to a present conclusion that draws all the strands together.

Monday, 22 February 2021

At Least it was a Painful Death

We've been watching a series of programmes about the Gough Map, the first complete, medieval map of Britain.

One programme contained an item concerning Exeter Cathedral and the medieval attitudes to death. Whereas we would say; "Well, at least it was a painless death," the medieval mourner might say; "Well, at least it was a painful death."

The reason for this is that it was thought that a painful death reduced the deceased's time in purgatory, as he or she suffered before dying.

Sunday, 21 February 2021

Not Our Class, Dear.

Prince Harry and Meghan have managed to get the Frotherati Daily Mail Readers foaming at the mouth again.

It's hard to determine exactly what Meghan has done to cause such ire among the forelock tuggers, but I came across this on the Twitter feed of someone who goes by the name of Royal Suitor, which I think describes the situation perfectly and succinctly.

"Imagine a society founded on a class structure with the (white) British royal family at the top as determined by birth and by blood. A biracial woman enters the top of the pyramid by marriage, negating both the birth and blood requirements society had previously been told were preconditions. Because she lacks those prerequisites, she’s considered unworthy. Because she’s proud of her own heritage and regards herself as equal to others at the top of the pyramid, she’s considered ungrateful.

"The town criers called out from the lower tiers of the pyramid. “I’ve never met her — but I look at her and I think ‘I don’t think I’d like you in real life,’” said one. “We Brits prefer true royalty to fashion royalty,” proclaimed another. Shouts of “she just doesn’t speak our language,” came whistling on the wind. But at the top of the pyramid, the cries were met with silence. Were they too far away to hear it? Were they too disconcerted to know what to reply? Or did they use the cacophony from below to muffle the echo of their own whispers as they murmured the same things? The loudest gossipmonger was impossible to ignore as he oafishly admonished her to “go back to America.”

"After years of being told that she was unworthy and ungrateful, the newlywed took the crier’s advice and returned from whence she came. Despite one tattler’s audacious cautions not to force her husband to “choose between you and us.” He did in fact choose his wife, just as he did the day he married her, much to their chagrin. Ironically, though society spurned her placement at the top of the pyramid, when she leaves with her husband, for some, it calls into question whether the pyramid’s peak is still something to aspire to? Whether those at the top are truly elite? Whether blood and birth really are prerequisites? Their departure is considered a rejection of the pyramid as a construct, thus a rejection of the society itself. For others, it was a necessary repudiation and confirmed that just as they suspected she was NOCD — not our class dear."

We are a result of our experiences, and Harry lost his mother at a very impressionable age. He blames the media and was affected by the Royal Family's reaction to her death. Is it any wonder he wants to escape from the strictures of a dying institution?

I have total sympathy and respect for this young couple. They remain accused of hypocritically seeking publicity, but there's a world of difference between controlling your publicity and being a victim of someone else seeking to profit from it.

Saturday, 20 February 2021


Politicians accuse opposing politicians of politicising issues. Politics invokes the activities associated with the governance of a country or area, especially the debate between parties having power. That's the Oxford Dictionary definition. 

Anything and everything in our collective existence that has to be enabled, prevented or defended by the state is political. Anything that involves the state is, by definition, politics. 

To demand that something should or should not be politicised is to misunderstand politics altogether and a diversionary tactic to either avoid having to defend bad policies or avoid political scrutiny. It's an attempt to shut down an embarrassing conversation.

Friday, 19 February 2021

Kono V (and possibly VI)

The kono grill is just about finished - I've left it for ages to cure, drilled a couple of vent holes in the side and given it a griddle (old oven shelf).

I still have to fathom out how to incorporate handles (although I may simply not bother) and want to put some kind of sealant or glaze on the cement wash on the exterior.

I'll leave flashing it up with some charcoal and curing the fire cement on the interior till the weather improves, leaving it inside in the meantime, just to ensure every bit of moisture has evaporated, The last thing I want is for it to crack on first use through there being any remaining water within the matrix.

OK, it looks like something my Neanderthal ancestors may have cobbled together from river mud, but it was a learning experience.

Looking closer at the really nice, Japanese ones on eBay, they appear to be made from relatively thin firebrick blocks, like the ones below, cemented together and held in place by a skeleton cage. 

If this one doesn't succeed then I'll have a go at constructing one on that basis. Given its Lego brick construction (see the image below), there would be far less risk of it cracking and the perfect rectangles of the firebricks would also lend themselves better to an aluminium retaining cage. Weight would be far less too. I'd probably require a larger one for the base, as it would need to be a single slab.

4 x vermiculite firebricks measuring 4.5" x 9" x 1", can be bought for under £7 on eBay, which seems a bargain. To make something the same size as the perlcrete one I'd need 12 for the sides, plus a large 18" x 9" slab for the base. Total cost, around £48.90, which would work out cheaper than the one I made (although I had bought enough cement and perlite for Trump's Mexican wall).

To avoid the thing falling apart, I'd need to stagger the joins in the same manner as brickwork, requiring some slicing of the smaller blocks. With a cage that holds to entire structure together, it's doubtful whether they'd actually need cement bonding. I'd make the retaining cage of the aluminium angle I bought for the one I made, but couldn't use due to the rounded corners. 

Yes - the more I contemplate this, the more I think it has to be done. Rather than buying the exact number of firebricks, it might be wise to buy 25% more than I need to cater for breakages in construction.

Stop Press: blocks ordered - £54.90 with 4 extra side blocks. I already have the aluminium angle and brazing rods. Watch this space...

Thursday, 18 February 2021

Free Speech Tzar for Jefferies Courts


Hay: "It was Ash Wednesday yesterday."

Chairman: "Isn't that the start of the Christian version of Ramadan, but longer?" 

Remember a while ago I said that the UK / EU vaccine spat hinged on whether the UK contract with AstraZeneca also used the wording 'best efforts', which the UK was unwilling to divulge in the interests of 'national security'? Well, it transpires than not only does the UK contract contain that wording, but the contract with the EU was made only 1 day later than the one with the UK.

I hear the government is setting up Nightingale Courts. I never realised Florence Nightingale was involved in jurisprudence. Should they not be called Judge Jeffreys Courts?

The government is also proposing to employ someone to police free speech at universities.

The problem with unrestricted free speech, besides seeing the effect in the USA, is that free speech is fine only when you agree with the speech it produces. When you disagree with it, it's not fine - regardless of your political persuasion. Appointing someone to make that decision on behalf of the government will, by default, favour the admittance of government values, which many find abhorrent. It's like putting Paul Dacre, the ex editor of the Daily Mail, in change of the Press Complaints Commission - oh, hang on, isn't that's just what Boris recently did!

Those most vocal in calling for unrestricted free speech tend to have an affinity with Trump, Brexit, racism, xenophobia, misogyny, homophobia, a disliking of Meghan Markle, Holocaust denial, climate change denial, fawning admiration for Boris Johnson, a disregard for government corruption, a slavish devotion to markets and rich people, tax evasion, a dislike of Parliamentary scrutiny - all the traits most associated with the rabid right and the values that made Britain great. 

What they really want is free speech without consequences and not to be challenged. There are plenty of places where they can indulge themselves online, but generally it's not within polite society.

There are laws already in place to determine what is and isn't allowed under the umbrella of free speech. Anyone has access to legal redress should such legislation be breached. It seems to me that having someone policing this is unnecessary and bound to backfire, as it will inevitably lead to arbitrary decisions. It can only result in speech, as determined by one person, being admitted, rather than denied, and then possibly to those who don't want to necessarily hear that free speech, which is their democratic right.

I have a deep suspicion that this policy has the intent of facilitating the promulgation of whacky, far right views within universities - another arm to the culture war the right is intent on waging to split us.

What does the Free Speech Tzar do, for example, if Andrew Wakefield wants to talk about MMR? Or David Irving wants to talk about the Holocaust being a hoax? Or the BNP want a platform? There again, I doubt they would be invited in the first place.

It's interesting that Gavin Williamson portrays this as an exercise in democracy - it looks more like dictatorship than democracy. Democracy is surely allowing universities themselves decide what they want to hear or not? Who should decide on the withdrawal of invitations to speak - those who wrote the invitations in the first place or a government wonk? If you believe it should be a government wonk, then you perhaps have problems. There again, if you don't want to hear someone's view, don't invite them in the first place.

The problem with free speech is the word free. Freedom is a trigger word that generates an emotive response, rather than a rational and intellectual one, as we have seen in the Brexit debate. Freedom was used to justify both the Russian and Chinese revolutions. That's not to say they were bad - you just have to compare them with what they were a reaction against to see that - they simply didn't move on with post-communism and became stultified with one form of oppression being replaced by another..

I doubt someone would be no platformed if they had a new theory of particle physics that went against the orthodoxy, provided they had proof. It's more a danger in the liberal arts and, specifically, with anything concerned with identity, which is very personal.

No platforming of someone may be unrelated to the content of a speech,  but views held by that person that come to light after the invitation is issued, which may be unrelated to the subject they're talking about. Giving them a platform can give the impression that the organisers are aligned with the views of the speaker.

No - this is an attempt by government to prevent democracy and to foist its values on universities by a dog-whistle call to the right. They do say all the world's Covid virus particles can fit into a Coke can - I think the same goes for the combined brains of our government...

Wednesday, 17 February 2021


I'm seeing and hearing loads of averts encouraging people who had certain makes of diesel cars, whether bought or leased, to lodge compensation claims.

I'm not sure what these claims are for. It's not exactly as if the purchasers were inconvenienced - their cars passed the MoTs due to the 'defeat devices', after all, their cars were rectified and the manufacturers were fined heavily by regulators and paid the price.

I suppose it was a form of misselling, and thus the law on misselling must surely apply. US purchasers of said cars did indeed receive compensation payments and this is engendering lawyers in the UK to demand the same criteria to be applied here. The USA, however, has a massive compensation culture. 

Is it yet another example of rapacious lawyers and the compensation culture, or is there a genuine grievance? It could be argued that residual prices of 2nd hand cars so affected was lower because of the scandal, but prices have rebounded, although they dipped again when governments came out with their bans on new diesel cars and demand went down. Perversely, the dip in prices led to a resurgence in demand and prices went up again.

It's interesting to note that VW cars, which started off the scandal, are not alone. Lawyers are listing Japanese and French diesel cars in their claims.

Tuesday, 16 February 2021

Blowing Smoke Up Your Arse

I believe I've found out where the saying to 'blow smoke up your arse', which is commonly used to tell someone that they're being fooled, originated.

We were watching Tony Robinson on one of his walks on TV where he was doing the Thames. He'd called in at the Guild of Apothecaries where he was shown several historical implements, one of which was a smoke enema. It was used to administer enemas of tobacco smoke in a time when tobacco was considered beneficial.

And here it is in all its glory. "Oooer," says I  to Hay; "obviously its use became known as byword for quackery and thus was born the saying." At least that's my theory and it makes sense.

Given the latest news on the airport hotel isolation policy, it would seem Boris' government is back to its usual, incompetent form after the single and unique success of the vaccine rollout, demonstrating it probably placed an order for hundreds of thousands of these smoke enemas to administer to the public a while ago, probably placing the contract with Jacob Rees-Mogg.

Monday, 15 February 2021

Historical Accuracy

A black actress, Jodie Turner-Smith, is to play Anne Boleyn in a new drama series to be aired later this year on Channel 5. Quite predictably, the Daily Mail Readers, who are noted for their reverence toward historical accuracy, are triggered.

The same level of historical accuracy is, however, reviled by the very same people when it apples to Edward Colston's statue and the historical fact he was a slaver and that this should have been noted on his statue. 

The common theme is that Anne Boleyn was white, and therefore a white actress should be used in the production. She was also a Catholic - I don't think they'd be as vocal in calling for the actress to be both white and Catholic. Lord Olivier famously played Othello, but Olivier wasn't black. He did black up though, so that's fine for the DM Reader. There again, Othello was not an historical character.

Anne Boleyn's whiteness was not central to her story or how events unfolded - it's incidental. It's immaterial, therefore, whether she's played by a white woman, a black woman, or even an Asian woman, so long as she's recognisable as a woman and can act convincingly. Martin Luther King being a black man was, however, central to his story.

Should Shylock be played only by a Jew? Not that I think many Jews would relish playing Shylock. There were no Jews in Shakespeare's England - they had been expelled 300 years previously and, despite many productions being sympathetic to Shylock, Elizabethan England was anti-Semitic and it's inconceivable that an Elizabethan audience would have been sympathetic toward him.

However, back to the argument of historical accuracy. Cleopatra was an Egyptian of Greek stock - famously played by Liz Taylor who, as far as I know, was neither Egyptian or Greek. How about Yul Brynner playing the King of Siam? To bring it more up-to-date, how about Angelina Jolie playing dark skinned, Afro-Cuban Mariane Pearl, Ben Kingsley playing Gandhi or Johnny Depp as Tonto? OK, Tonto wasn't an historical character - I'll let you off that one.

Should it matter as to the colour of the actor or actress in an historical drama? Historical dramas aren't exactly noted for their accuracy anyway - they're embroidered for dramatic effect. I somehow suspect that the DM Tendency would have similar reservations about literary characters too, but only when it came to other races portraying white Brits. Their selective espousal of historical accuracy appears to be merely a cloak.

Sunday, 14 February 2021

To Rebuild, You First Need Ruins

Those who made our country powerful did so by ruthlessly exploiting others, and kept the vast majority of the wealth to themselves. Cecil Rhodes said; "Remember that you are an Englishman, and have consequently won first prize in the lottery of life." For a while that was true, but the evidence of the loss of that power, starting with the loss of Empire, and continuing as countries caught up, has caused anxiety and fear among many.

What you are, what you feel and what you fear comes from your position in the power structure. The consequence of you, or your country, becoming less relevant is authoritarianism, populism, nationalism, nostalgia for a past which is largely mythical - Trumpism and (in the case of the UK) Brexit. It's a form of nihilism as you struggle to retain your position in the power structure against the inexorable onslaught of co-operation on equal terms. 

Retreating into the past, despite being a powerful and emotive force for cohesion that makes you feel secure, is a mirage that creates imaginary enemies and scapegoats everywhere while spawning conspiracy theories to justify your fear and anger. 

Make America Great Again and Take Back Control are the perfect emotional antidote to actual loss of one's previous position in the any hierarchy, global or otherwise - they hark back to that largely mythical past when everything was rosy in the garden. 

However, to rebuild something you first need ruins, as the prevailing power structures will conspire to prevent systemic change that threatens their position. Cummings knew this - you first have to destroy what you want to rebuild, but the humanitarian cost of that is immense, no matter how Utopian the vision may be, and despite it being under the cloak of a return to a mythical past.

Just as an aside, I don't think Cummings actually realised that his demolition job didn't need to be orchestrated, as he'd inadvertently latched on to the most incompetent and corrupt government in recent British history which was, and remains, quite capable of destroying the country through its own bumbling without the need for any éminence grise behind the scenes.

Those who seek to change the world invariably fail, either through the existing power structures conspiring against them, or the populace realising that the cost is too high. To rebuild with an attendant huge cost requires the vast majority of the populace being behind the plan based on a wide vision - and a detailed plan with an roadmap and outcome that's communicated to the populace, not just slogans. A narrow majority will not suffice to engender the necessary sacrifices, especially as we've become more attuned to individualism.

To change subject just slightly; horse power once ruled the world. This was replaced by coal and then oil. Now it's digital technology. However, there's one common thread behind coal, oil and the digital economy - the banks. And who gives the banks the money to control the world? We all do - hardly anyone doesn't have a bank account. 

The problem now is, however, that the technology companies are more powerful than the banks themselves to the extent that they promise countries countless, low paid jobs to keep the masses employed and docile in return for not being taxed. They subtly shape policy and become transnational governments. The very Illuminati of conspiracy theories. 

Similarly, while politicians were once the servants of the people, they have been seduced by the banks, markets and transnational technology companies and are now the representatives of those banks, markets and technology companies. To politicians, voters are stupid and no more than a means to an end - vacuous promises and obvious lies being the bribes politicians use to gain power and access to money.

Saturday, 13 February 2021

Double Barrelled British

We seem to have strange nomenclature for some British people whose heritage isn't British.

For example, those in the UK of African heritage are predominantly from the Caribbean (although that's changing), despite them originally being from Africa, yet we call them Afro-Caribbean with no mention of the British part - why? They even self-identify as Afro-Caribbean. African-Americans are indeed originally from Africa and Americans. 

However, we don't refer to those in the UK of Scandinavian-Viking origin as Scandinavian-British, those of Saxon heritage as Saxon-British, those of Norman-French heritage as Norman-British, those of French Huguenot heritage as French-British, those of German heritage as German-British (except for the Royal Family when having a go at them) or those of Polish heritage as Polish-British. As soon as they learn to speak English they are considered assimilated.

When it comes to Asians we have Pakistani-British and Indian-British (although many white Brits refer to them solely as Pakistani or Indian, leaving out the British part completely), yet strangely those of Chinese heritage are still referred to as Chinese by almost everyone, despite - in many cases - having been in the UK for generations.

With the exception of those of Chinese heritage, it would seem we only have these double names for people who look different to the 'indigenous' population.

How long will it be before they're simply British? Probably never, as there's an obsession with visible difference. We could be kind and say the differences are due to continental separation of heritage, but let's not fool ourselves - it's visible difference that counts to the average person.

Friday, 12 February 2021

Jews Don't Count

I've been reading David Baddiel's new book, "Jews Don't Count", which is quite enlightening. 

A series of phrases sprung out of the book. Consider the following descriptions:

  1. A Christian banker,
  2. A Muslim banker,
  3. A Jew banker.
All three use the noun for the adherent of a particular religion, but only one of them is considered a racial slur. Jew banker is usually changed to the adjective Jewish to take the edge off it. Ask yourself why this is.

Baddiel's central thesis is that there is a hierarchy of racism, with anti-semitism sitting somewhere near the bottom for those who consider themselves left wing - or 'progressive'. This is despite the Holocaust and the Jews having a far longer history of prejudice against them than practically any other minority.

He posits that this is because progressives consider Jews as whites, and therefore privileged. The far right certainly doesn't consider them white and look upon Jews as subhuman.

There is also a dichotomy in racist portrayals of Jews - they are simultaneously the Fagin character (as portrayed in Nazi propaganda) and a group of wealthy plutocrats who seek to control the world through banking interests and ownership of the media. Black people are never portrayed by racists as wealthy.

Moneylending and banking provided a natural gravity to Jews, who because of their history of persecution, needed to have portable wealth, rather than assets that couldn't be moved. Also, there were biblical prohibitions against Christians getting involved in usury. However, the move into banking proved a double-edged sword, as the aristocracy and monarchs in the Middle Ages ended up owing a lot of money to Jews and the obvious way to get rid of the debt was to expel them, as Edward I did in 1290.

It is because Jews are considered white and wealthy by the left (although the vast majority aren't), they are not considered anywhere near the top of the prejudice hierarchy and their association with banking and capitalism automatically transforms them into Public Enemy No.1 for the far left. The left is consequently blind to anti-semitism, as Jeremy Corbyn found to his cost. It gets in the way of what the left see as the 'real' racism.

Baddiel additionally has issue with both the left and the right constantly trumpeting their appointments of 'the first BAME' whatever - Chancellor, Foreign Secretary, etc. When one considers that the ME part of BAME stands for Minority Ethnic, that actually includes Jews, who have held high office for a long time. There are over 2m Muslims in the UK, but only a shade under 300k Jews - that certainly qualifies them as an ethnic minority when you consider there were none till Oliver Cromwell invited them back.

The final thing I learned, and agree with, is that racism is in the eye of the person at the receiving end of the racist statement. Only the recipient can determine whether what is said to them is offensive and / or racist. You have to walk in their shoes and lived their life, so to speak. They are the ones feeling the effects of offence because of their lived experience, no-one else.


Thursday, 11 February 2021

Wintering the Van

Wintering the motorhome was high on the agenda last weekend before the current cold snap.

Given it's almost impossible to determine whether there's any water left in a motorhome's plumbing, I thought about alternatives to simply draining down. These were the ideas I came up with.

  • Filling the system with propylene glycol - the same stuff I use in my vape, which is food grade. It has a freezing point of -59 degrees C and can be easily flushed out after the cold weather as it's miscible with water.
  • Filling the system with alcohol - that would be handy after winter as a bar. Whisky's freezing point is -17 C, but that would be a bit expensive.
  • Attaching a barrel of beer - but beer is low alcohol and freezes at only -2 C. However, again a good idea for summer, with the addition of a cooler unit.
The propylene glycol (not ethylene glycol, which is poisonous) idea was best, but I would need about 10-20 litres of the stuff (the water heater alone takes 9 litres) and I was up against the clock. Also I had to replace the water pump, as it had managed to blow itself up. Filling the system with PG would additionally require me to extend the hose on the pump in the water tank, so I could pull the pump out of the tank in order to place the pump in a container of PG to flood the system. It's definitely an idea I will use next year.

It's not the cheapest solution, as PG costs about £30 for a 5L container, so I'd first need to determine the exact capacity of the plumbing system. However, I can mix the PG with water, which will make it go further, raising its freezing point. Apparently a 25% PG concentration will increase the freezing point from -59 to -10, so a little will go a long way. I can also recycle it for use in subsequent years by using an air pump to force it out after the cold weather. Putting some dye in the PG might be a good idea too. More work is required on this solution. - primarily determining the plumbing system's exact capacity, but I can't see it being much more than 20L.

I decided in the end to simply drain the system down, emptying the last of the water in the tank with a hand operated bilge pump and hope for the best.

Wednesday, 10 February 2021

Winter Warmer


Hay; "I dread to hear you utter the words 'I'm going to make.....', as it usually heralds a couple of weeks of clearing up after you."

I think Hay's current bugbear is the hibachi grill, which is inexplicably tending to leave lots of cement stains wherever I happen to be working. The cold has precluded me doing any work on it for a while, and she's quite happy about that.

Just for a change, despite the underfloor heating - and for the first time in probably 5 years - we decided to light the wood burner last night.

The problem with lighting the fire is that once it gets up to speed it knocks out the thermostat for the underfloor heating, allowing the floor to cool. Do it too long and it takes forever to heat the floor up again, so we retain the wood burner for emergency purposes only - which thus far has meant never.

Tuesday, 9 February 2021

Herd Immunity vs Herd Mentality

A lot of people believe that the stock index is an accurate reflection of the health of an economy.

If stocks were immobile and remained in the metric, then there would be a better justification for the assertion, but companies enter the FTSE 100 or 250 for the simple reason that they're doing well, are heavily capitalised and have access to multiple funding strands - things that are unavailable to the majority of smaller businesses. They leave the 100 or 250 because they're doing poorly. The fact the 100 and 250 comprise a fluctuating cohort of the best performing and most heavily capitalised companies that are best equipped to survive means it's a skewed measure. It's a small, unrepresentative sample and not the economy; you can't gauge the state of English football overall on the basis of the England team, which is the cream of the crop.

Then there's the factor of the herd mentality. A group of investors pile money into a certain share, for whatever spurious reason, and suddenly there's a flurry of activity that's not underpinned by any real-world performance, resulting in the price going up and that company possibly entering the 100 or 250. The GamSstop debacle is evidence of this, where Wall St is betting on GameStop failing, and hence initiating a short sell, but hundreds of thousands of home investors are stymying that by buying the shares and pushing them up to astronomical, and totally unrealistic values.

It's entirely feasible that the FTSE 100 or 250 could comprise solely companies in one sector that's performing particularly well and heavily capitalised, while the bulk of the economy is tanking.

This is borne out by the fact that stocks are rising while underlying economic indicators are showing poor performance in many world economies, such as employment figures, factory orders, GDP, consumer confidence, prices, etc.

Currency can be a better indicator of economic health, but not always, as Black Friday demonstrated so well. Currencies are also subject to speculative predation.

How about GDP. Well, yes - better than either stock markets or currencies, but GDP can count disasters as bonuses. A devastating catastrophe, for example, can result in massive government spending, resulting in GDP increasing on borrowing. Nor does GDP alone reflect the spread of wealth - a better indication is GDPPP, or GDP per person, but that is only useful as a comparison with other countries and still doesn't show how much wealth is owned by by what percentage - or the level of inequality

There again, despite the national wealth being owned by a small minority, wage inequality can be relatively low, so once more we run across problems in measurement.

Monday, 8 February 2021

Moore's Law

I'm constantly amazed at the rate at which the size and price of computer storage storage decreases. Moore's Law is alive and well.

I bought this little jobbie last week. It's a 1 Terabyte flash drive with USB connections for a laptop, an iPhone and two types of Android phones. Cost? £29. 

This tiny device contains virtually everything I've done digitally since around 1997. 

I use Dropbox to keep my laptop and phone synched with all my data, but I have a problem with my Galaxy Note 9, in that the SD card can't be formatted as internal memory, which precludes it from being used for the Dropbox data. That means I have to use the phone's onboard memory, which is at 98% usage. A severe and limiting design fault.

I could possibly overcome this by rooting the phone and flashing it with another operating system that facilitates SD card memory being used, but I've resisted this to date, as my phone contract is nearing its end and the phone itself is showing signs of instability with its 4G connection. It occasionally disconnects (probably due to a fault in the aerial circuitry) and I have to flex the phone to re-establish the connection. Sometimes it can be a week between the problem showing and at other times it can happen half a dozen times or more in a single day.

Sunday, 7 February 2021


Elections are won by gaining the centre ground, is the mantra of political scientists. They have a point, to an extent.

It's pointless trying to change the mind of a tribal voter - the type of voter who has an ideological fixation on one or the other end of a political spectrum and has voted that way for their entire life. They are wedded to their tribe and will argue black is white to defend it, leading to entirely valid claims of hypocrisy and intellectual inconsistency as a consequence. It is a constant struggle to see what is in front of your own nose; making other people see what’s right in front of theirs is harder, and you won’t be thanked.

Steve Allen, American comedian, TV and radio host, said; "Once the untrained mind has made a formal commitment to a philosophy, and it doesn't matter whether that philosophy is generally reasonable and high-minded or utterly bizarre and irrational, the powers of reason are surprisingly ineffective in changing the believer's mind." 

Indisputable facts have become subject to doubt when they conflict with tribal, political ideology. Factual statements tend to be trumped by arguments based on identity and emotion. This is a dangerous path and admits demagogues to the realm of politics with their 'alternative facts'.

The middle ground, however, isn't necessarily a group of undecided voters who make rational decisions after weighing up the evidence. They can be swayed by the charismatic demagogue who focuses of emotion, rather than rationality. Effective slogans, which may mean nothing when analysed, but can stir emotive responses, are very powerful tools. Make America Great Again; Get Brexit Done; Take Back Control; Labour Isn't Working; Britain Deserves Better; Strong And Stable; For the Many, Not the Few, etc. These slogans lack any intellectual currency, unless they're explained in terms of policy, which they rarely are, as that requires intellectual engagement, which can be dangerous ground for the demagogue and is thus to be avoided at all costs by going off at a tangent. They are designed to appeal to our passions - the part of our brains that control emotions. They're also very dangerous.

Dominic Cummings knew this and used emotive slogans superbly, despite it being obvious to the rational observer that Brexit would not be in the best interests of the UK, as is becoming manifestly apparent. When faced with either an array of facts and figures that require the brain to be engaged, or a catchy slogan, the reaction of the undecided middle is to latch on to the emotive mantra, despite it meaning the negation of their rational, analytical selves. 

Economic arguments tend to be trumped nowadays by arguments based on identity, prejudice and emotion. A Sunday Times poll in January showed that most Scots now favour independence, even though 42% thought they would be worse off and just 36% better off. Take Back Control is the phrase that will come to haunt Boris Johnson, as it speaks to the unthinking and passionate tribe - of which there are many comprising the regions of the UK.

To paraphrase Plato, when rationality and passion come into conflict, passion should take a back seat. It doesn't though, in most people. That's why Hitler rose to power; why Mussolini rose to power; why Peron rose to power; why Trump rose to power - the list is long and littered with failure in the final analysis as reality catches up.

Saturday, 6 February 2021

El Presidente

Unless I'm missing something, our government is making a cock-up of things yet again.

Not only have they taken an inordinately long time to get this inbound traveller plan up and running, but of the countries from which travellers have to isolate in an airport hotel (at least I presume it will be an airport hotel), only one of those countries is listed in the top 10 countries for Covid cases (with populations of >20m), and therefore those at greatest risk of bringing in mutations. That country is Brazil.

Not only that, but it's quite easy to fly from Brazil to the UK via Frankfurt, evading any need to isolate by simply stating on the required form that you're flying from Germany.

Simply closing the borders to all travellers, as many countries have done very effectively, would eliminate any chance of working the system and, if there's a way of working the system, people have already demonstrated that they will do just that.

Naturally, closing the borders would mean Boris annoying the Conservative Party's donors in the airline industry - so we can pretty well guarantee that won't happen.

I said it yesterday, but I'll say it again - the more I hear about the calamity of cockups this government is responsible for, the more I'm convinced the vaccine purchase was nothing more than a fluke. They're genetically and ideologically incapable of making a decision based on reason and have to be forced into it by circumstances.

I was making a fish pie yesterday using Emmental cheese for the topping. The brand is President - which made me think that an apt nickname for Boris is 'El Presidente', redolent of a corrupt dictator of a failed South American state. It has the ring of truth to it.

Friday, 5 February 2021

Across the Border

Brandon Lewis and Boris Johnson both promised last year there would be no border down the Irish Sea and no extra paperwork would be necessary. Michael Gove is now going cap-in-hand to the EU for an extension which, when suggested by the EU in summer, Boris expressly rejected. Why is Gove requesting an extension? Because there is indeed a border down the Irish Sea and extra paperwork is causing problems due to unpreparedness. 

Boris is now threatening to invoke Article 16, something he and the right wing press were incandescent about when the EU nearly did it a week ago, - yet not a murmur from that same press when Boris threatens it. In fact, the DUP and Nigel Farage are egging him on.

The irony is that Theresa May's backstop was a solution, but Boris and the DUP voted against it. Daniel Hannan, who said it was in conceivable that we'd leave the Single Market and the Customs Union, has meanwhile been booted upstairs into the House of Lords for some inexplicable reason.

People supporting our government of incompetents appear to relish being lied to and let them get away with it. They're using all manner of logical contortions to blame the EU, when the UK helped write the rules on 3rd countries and Boris himself signed off on the deal. Did he not scrutinise it? Probably not - the government has 'previous' on this.

I'm rapidly coming to the conclusion that the vaccine pre-purchase, rather than being a strategic masterstroke, was nothing more than a very fortuitous fluke. Given the government's (and Boris') catalogue of disastrous decisions, it's rather far-fetched to believe it had a moment of lucidity - even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

The fact vast swathes of the electorate turn a blind eye to industrial scale lying and incompetence shows, without a shred of doubt, that emotions are governing their opinions, rather than rational thought. Emotions sway elections - this is a proven fact in political science - and can lead to catastrophic consequences and people voting against their best interests. Charismatic demagogues are skilled in oratory, flattery and invective, evasive in discussing vital issues, promising everything to everybody, appealing to the passions rather than the reason of the public and arousing racial, religious, and class prejudices in a battle against a fictitious 'elite'. They are people whose lust for power, without recourse to principle or scruple, leads them to seek to become masters of the masses.

Thursday, 4 February 2021

Racist Border Statues

Yesterday, when questioned as to why the borders are still open, Boris Johnson stated that it would totally isolate the UK economy. Totally? The vast majority of businesses in the UK that are being affected by the lockdown don't rely on international travel one iota. Pubs, hairdressers, gyms, card shops, car dealerships, restaurants, caravan parks - none of them rely 100% on international travellers. These are the people that are being hit hardest and can least afford it. The only section of the economy that relies on international travel is the travel industry itself and big business. At the start of 2020 there were 5.94 million small businesses (with 0 to 49 employees), 99.3% of the total business. SMEs account for 99.9% of the business population (6.0 million businesses). SMEs account for three fifths of the employment and around half of turnover in the UK private sector.

Following the money usually provides the answer to a lot of conundrums. Who funds the Conservative Party? Big business and a lot of travel companies.

Most of the Isle of Man is now back to normal. Why? Because they closed the borders and they now have no cases. The Manx government strategy was eradication, not living with it. International travel is a vector for additional Covid cases, as well as bringing in mutations - mutations that current vaccines may not provide protection for. By the time they're discovered in the country of origin, they;ve already had a head start, as we're seen.

Other countries that have been least impacted? Australia, Taiwan, New Zealand, Vietnam (more populous than the UK), Iceland - all islands. What did they all do? Closed the borders, except for exceptional cases, and imposed severe isolation policies on anyone coming in.

It beggars belief. Whatever country is used as an example, the government comes up with an excuse why not to close the borders, excuses which just don't wash and appear illogical. Vaccine imports is the latest - so the countries listed above haven't had vaccines imported? Please!

Once more I say, follow the money.

To change subject: there should be a statue to Capt, Sit Tom Moore, not Edward bloody Colston - unless he's found to be a slaver, which is highly unlikely. In fact, melt Colston down and use the metal to make a statue of Sir Tom. I don't think anyone would complain - actually, I suspect some would.

To change subject again: authorities are proposing to fine Facebook and Twitter unless they take down racist comments. Determining whether something is racist is fraught with problem - it can be quite subjective and not that easy to find using trigger words alone. That aside, if I phone someone and make a racist comment, it's not Vodafone that gets into trouble, but me. The racists should be reported and them fined, heavily, not the social media companies. Fining social media companies won't stop it - it will turn into a cat and mouse game - only targeting the racists themselves will put a stop to it.

Wednesday, 3 February 2021

Kono IV

I wasn't intending to do another Kono post this week, but what the hell. Getting tiresome now, for a bodge, ain't it?

Chopped the uneven top off - by God it was hard - the stuff has set like, well, concrete. Hard as nails.

Took me about half an hour with a bloody big angle grinder. I was surprised.

I then put a layer of fire cement in the bottom, using water on my hands to create a slip so as to smooth it - there was no way I was going to use a trowel.

Finally, the same technique for a skim on the sides. OK, so it's buff and not white, but it's not a work of art.

Once dry, which may take a few days, I'll apply a final coat of fire cement and a final (smoother) exterior coat of ordinary white cement, and then set to on gouging out some handles at each end. I did try with a small angle grinder, but it hardly made a dent in the perlcrete.

Sister-in-law, next door, is a ceramicist and has a kiln. I may bake the fire cement on prior to firing the grill up in anger. It will allow me to fill in any cracks that may appear and at a higher temperature than a charcoal fire can produce - and in a controlled manner.

I could easily have made the walls thinner and the whole thing lighter, I reckon by at least half. I haven't weighted it yet, but I will. I'm not yet sure whether this will be the final product, or whether to make another using the knowledge I've gained on this one, which can be relegated to garden BBQ use. If I want to take one with us in the van for use when touring, I'll certainly need one that's much lighter and possibly a tad smaller. Getting the mould box sizes right will be a pain though - might have to resort to using bits of wood for shuttering.

I also need to find a decent cooking grate to place on the top. Something relatively beefy - I can angle grind grooves into the top edges for it to slot into to stop it sliding off. The draught holes need to be drilled too and I haven't yet decided on the mechanism for controlling the draught, although it will have to some form of sliding mechanism.

Tuesday, 2 February 2021

Kono III

Yes, yes, yes - I know I said I'd wait a week before removing the kono grill from its former, but it just felt so solid that I was certain it would withstand being decanted.

I replaced the inside former box, just to add some torsional strength, before tipping it upside down and it slid out perfectly. The clingfilm had done its job, although there was a lot of condensation covering the clingfilm.

As you can see, the top edge is slightly high on one side, but that can be corrected with an angle grinder used judiciously to trim it even. 

I smoothed some of the rough edges off the lip with a mini-grinder and a sanding machine, but I'll leave it a few days more in the engine room before working on it any further. Some clingfilm was trapped in small crevices on the outside, but this was removed easily with the sanding machine.

A week is recommended for curing as the absolute minimum and, the longer you leave it the more it cures and the greater the strength. Maximum strength is achieved, apparently, after 3 to 4 weeks.

What I'll probably do is line the inside with a skim of white fire cement (as mentioned previously - but I'm finding it difficult to obtain white fire cement as it only seems to come in black or buff) and skim the outside with ordinary white cement, as it's quite rough due to the dryness of the perlcrete mix. If I ever have another go at making one, then I'll use a wetter mix to ensure a smoother finish and better gravity levelling of the top edge.

On the basis of the strength it already has, plus the weight, I dare say I could have made the walls a bit thinner, but it's not not bad for a 1st attempt, and the extra thickness may well be needed to retain the heat and prevent cracking. 

I have to say though that it's a lot heaver than I anticipated, unless the perlite is retaining a lot of water, which will evaporate in the next few days now that all the surfaces are exposed to the air. Grinding the top edges to level it out will remove a bit of weight anyway. If I can get away with it, I may even bring it in the house to aid the drying process, although it will have to be sneaked in.

I'm still not sure about using aluminium angle on the edges to give it added strength - any suggestions as to what I can clad it in - purely for aesthetic purposes - are most welcome.

Stop Press: I skimmed the outside yesterday anyway, impatient bastard that I am. Would have been better doing each surface  uppermost, on the flat, and on separate days per surface. It was rather like plastering vertically, which is one of the skills I've never managed to master.

I had to use a sloppy mix, more like double cream, to ensure it got into the crevices, which made a holy mess - as you can see. The problem was that I was using a small pot for the cement and a tiny trowel, rather than a proper, big, skimming trowel. Should have gone to ScrewFix and bought the proper equipment, but I don't want to end up spending a fortune on the damned thing - Hay would kill me. It will sand smooth, so not to worry. What I didn't want was to leave air bubbles in the matrix, which could expand when heated and crack the whole thing - hence the sloppy mix.

If it dries today, I'll have a go at it later with the angle grinder and sander to fair it off.