Friday, 28 January 2011
His website is here, with details of the route and sponsorships. He's camping out every night, and the logistics of that, and the arrangements for fresh batteries, seem quite a challenge. He's looking for pledges of money, and also people to provide a bit of land for an overnight camp, and publicity, poster display etc. to spread the word.
The charities he is supporting are Help for Heroes, the Royal British Legion, and his old Regiment. All things I would support, personally. Pop over and have a look, and if you feel able to help, please feel free to do so.
Thursday, 27 January 2011
Commenter Smoking Hot has emailed a link to a BBC technology article, about new moves to make motorbikes safer. I've got a lot to say about it, but it's late and I am up early tomorrow, so a proper post will have to wait.
When my WTF?-meter has returned to nearer the middle of the dial.
Wednesday, 26 January 2011
The street where the shop is located was very crowded with parked cars, but I managed to fit the Mundaneo onto the end of a row, next to a corner. There were double yellow lines, and those markers on the kerb that say you can't unload there. Furthermore, there was a big, easy-to-read sign right next to my driver's door at eye level that said "NO LOADING OR UNLOADING AT ANY TIME". There was very little traffic about, and I decided to risk it for the three or four minutes it would take to drop the bin bags off. The car was literally ten feet from the shop doorway.
Of course, Anna got chatting to the lady running the shop, while I kept glancing nervously outside. Eventually, I thought I would get back in the car. But when I got outside, there were two people in high-viz vests (with Pembrokeshire County Council branding on) looking at it. "Is this your car, Sir?" "Yes, it is. Er ... I'll move it now."
I'm sure you can write the script from there onwards. Except you can't, and neither could I.
"We're not traffic wardens, Sir, we're from the Council. We've been having a lot of trouble with nuisance parking around here, Sir, and from next month we are going to be enforcing it much more strictly. Please take this as a polite reminder that you shouldn't really be parked here. You do know what these markings mean, don't you?"
I admitted I did, and furthermore that I knew I was in the wrong. The man nodded, smiled, and walked away and his sidekick followed.
Hassle and bad feeling - zero.
Future compliance from Richard - 100%.
Tuesday, 25 January 2011
Monday, 24 January 2011
The driver, Matthew Krizsan, was travelling with a female companion when the incident occurred last Friday. He attributed his quick reactions to hours spent video-gaming when he was young ('young' is a relative term here, as in the photo he looks about 15). Several vehicles were involved in the crash, although there were no serious injuries.
The truck was carrying 30 tonnes of sand and apparently had no mechanical faults. A 48-year-old truck driver, Bahadar Bassi, has been charged with careless driving.
(GPA = Grade Point Average)
A young woman was about to finish her first year of college. Like so many others her age, she considered herself to be a very Liberal Democrat, and among other liberal ideals, was very much in favor of higher taxes to support more government programs; in other words, redistribution of wealth.
She was deeply ashamed that her father was a rather staunch Republican, a feeling she openly expressed. Based on the lectures that she had participated in, and the occasional chat with a professor, she felt that her father had for years harbored an evil, selfish desire to keep what he thought should be his.
One day she was challenging her father on his opposition to higher taxes on the rich and the need for more government programs. The self-professed objectivity proclaimed by her professors had to be the truth and she indicated so to her father. He responded by asking how she was doing in school.
Taken aback, she answered rather haughtily that she had a 4.0 GPA, and let him know that it was tough to maintain, insisting that she was taking a very difficult course load and was constantly studying, which left her no time to go out and party like other people she knew. She didn't even have time for a boyfriend, and didn't really have many college friends, because she spent all her time studying.
Her father listened and then asked , 'How is your friend Audrey doing?' She replied, ' Audrey is barely getting by. All she takes are easy classes, she never studies, and she barely has a 2.0 GPA. She is so popular on campus; college for her is a blast. She's always invited to all the parties and lots of times she doesn't even show up for classes because she's too hung over.'
Her wise father asked his daughter, 'Why don't you go to the Dean's office and ask him to deduct 1.0 off your GPA and give it to your friend who only has a 2.0? That way you will both have a 3.0 GPA, and certainly that would be a fair and equal distribution of GPA.' The daughter, visibly shocked by her father's suggestion, angrily fired back, 'That's a crazy idea, how would that be fair! I've worked really hard for my grades! I've invested a lot of time, and a lot of hard work! Audrey has done next to nothing toward her degree. She played while I worked my tail off!'
The father slowly smiled, winked and said gently, 'Welcome to The Republican party.'
"I would have had to get a part-time job if I hadn't had the EMA"Luckily, a commenter captured the text in a quote before the paper removed the original from the article:
If working about 8 hours a week for £30 (even under 18) is too much of a distraction, the 'real' world is going to be a horrible shock.
I wonder why they decided to remove the original wording? Not the right message? There is also this doozy in the comments:
Cameron got EMA, our parents got EMA, Charles Dickens got EMA, but suddenly there's no need for it. What gives ?
Whut? Some history:
- EMA was piloted in 1999 and rolled out UK-wide in 2004
- Charles Dickens died in 1870
- Cameron was the qualifying age for EMA between 1982 and 1985
- Anyone born before 1980 cannot ever have qualified for EMA, so 'our parents got EMA' means that the 'parents' had their offspring at the age of 15 or less, even stretching the dates to their limits.
Some of the comments suggest (shame! evil Tories!) that the 'students' use the EMA for dope, fags, clothes and make-up, rather than attending to their educational needs. Seems they may be right: basic history and current affairs seem to have fallen by the wayside.
The comments as a whole demonstrate entitlement-whinging at exhibition level. As many of the commenters in The Guardian say, the EMA is a ruse to keep the jobless figures down, and a bribe to keep young people voting Labour.
I can accept that help with travel and meal costs for the disadvantaged might be a good idea, but £30 cash in your hand looks too much like an inducement.
Sunday, 23 January 2011
I like to believe that all (or almost all, barring acts of God) accidents are avoidable, if the rider/driver acts correctly and observes correctly. Whether it's your fault or not, you should have seen it coming, or at least the possibility. But I cannot see how anyone could have foreseen this one without 101% forward observation and a healthy dollop of luck. The driver's reaction was pretty instant, too. Lucky, lucky people.
Watch it, and then go and change your underwear.
Saturday, 22 January 2011
Unlike my last visit on Christmas Day, there were no poignant messages in the sand. However, the Black Dog did find a ring of stones carefully laid out on the beach and did some championship target shitting.
All on target, and great grouping. You have to admit he has talent.
(And yes, I did make sure it was cleared up.)
I always liked Peter Sissons as a newsreader. Hee seemed to have gravitas as well as a sly sense of humour, and whatever he said sounded like the truth, and not just his opinion. He's now written a blinder of an article for the Daily Mail, in which he describes what he calls the 'mindset' of the BBC hierarchy. A taster:
By far the most popular and widely read newspapers at the BBC are The Guardian and The Independent. Producers refer to them routinely for the line to take on running stories, and for inspiration on which items to cover. In the later stages of my career, I lost count of the number of times I asked a producer for a brief on a story, only to be handed a copy of The Guardian and told ‘it’s all in there’.Or:
All green and environmental groups are very good things. Al Gore is a saint. George Bush was a bad thing, and thick into the bargain. Obama was not just the Democratic Party’s candidate for the White House, he was the BBC’s. Blair was good, Brown bad, but the BBC has now lost interest in both.
Trade unions are mostly good things, especially when they are fighting BBC managers. Quangos are also mostly good, and the reports they produce are usually handled uncritically. The Royal Family is a bore. Islam must not be offended at any price, although Christians are fair game because they do nothing about it if they are offended.
It's quite a long article, but worth reading in its entirety.
Friday, 21 January 2011
This is from a note written by Tony Blair to Jonathan Powell, his chief of staff, in April 2002, immediately before his visit to George Bush's ranch in Texas.
"Saddam's regime is a brutal, oppressive military dictatorship. He kills his opponents, has wrecked his country's economy and is a source of instability and danger in the region," he wrote.
"I can understand a right-wing Tory opposed to 'nation-building' being opposed to it on grounds it hasn't any direct bearing on our national interest.
"But in fact a political philosophy that does care about other nations - eg Kosovo, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone - and is prepared to change regimes on the merits, should be gung-ho on Saddam."
Paraphrase: the reasons for dealing with Saddam are that he is nasty to his people and a danger to the region. Right-wing Tories would be opposed to an invasion because it wouldn't benefit the UK. We care about other nations (unlike those nasty Tories) and are prepared to change their governments if we think it would be beneficial.
The comment about the 'right-wing Tories' is revealing. He is trying to argue that the invasion was purely to help those poor Iraqis under Saddam's regime, even though there was no benefit to Britain's national interest.
That's not what he said at the time.
Answer to Parliamentary question, Sept 2002:
Regime change in Iraq would be a wonderful thing. That is not the purpose of our action; our purpose is to disarm Iraq of weapons of mass destruction…Radio interview (on No 10 website, page deleted):
So far as our objective, it is disarmament, not regime change - that is our objective. Now I happen to believe the regime of Saddam is a very brutal and repressive regime, I think it does enormous damage to the Iraqi people... so I have got no doubt Saddam is very bad for Iraq, but on the other hand I have got no doubt either that the purpose of our challenge from the United Nations is disarmament of weapons of mass destruction, it is not regime change.There's a clear implication in all of this, that while Saddam was a brutal dictator, the reason for toppling him was that he had weapons of mass destruction, i.e. that he posed a threat to our national security. Bush always said that the purpose of invading Iraq was regime change. Blair consistently said that the UK's reason was not regime change. Now it seems it was regime change after all, and that Iraq was never a threat to the UK. It had "no bearing on our national interest", in his own words.
An interesting line from the New Labour Book of Disingenuous Political Phrases:
"A political philosophy that does care about other nations" = helping people by bombing them back to the Stone Age.
Incidentally, an excellent summary of the questions, Blair's answers and the evidence around it in the Independent today. According to Subrosa, Blair had to consult lawyers before returning to the UK, to be sure he was not about to be arrested. A little discomfort, then. It's a start.
Monday, 17 January 2011
Cat summoned for jury duty at Boston courtCan't speak or understand English, and yet is considered suitable to sit in judgement over his fellow Americans, when the whole case may turn on a single word or nuance of interpretation? That's worrying. I wonder why that isn't a disqualification to jury service?
A cat has received a jury duty summons after his owner put his name on the pets section of a census form.
Tabby Sal has been called to sit in judgement at a US court, even though owner Anna Esposito filed for his disqualification on the grounds he was ‘unable to speak and understand English’.
Bizarrely, officials denied the request, meaning Sal and Mrs Esposito may have to attend a Boston court on March 23.
A U.S judicial branch website states that 'jurors are not expected to speak perfect English'.Ah. They don't want to discriminate. That makes it all OK, then. As long as no-one is offended ...
The cat is currently searching for a get-out 'claws'.Ouch.
The IAM view is that we shouldn't flash our lights at all, as it is not mentioned in the Highway Code and any 'message' could be misinterpreted. This is a reasonable point, although it ignores the fact that in the real world there is already lots of flashing going on, and we have developed a fairly sophisticated code - long/short, single/repeated and so on. I can't describe the code here, but I would say that I have rarely, if ever, misunderstood when someone has flashed me. 9 times out of 10 it is a polite 'after you, Cecil' - the other one time, there is usually no misunderstanding of the guy's hostile intent.
The IAM are interested in getting as many views as possible, so get over there and spend two minutes helping them out. There are some text boxes so you can make your meaning perfectly clear. To be fair, the options cover all shades of opinion. You don't have to be a member to take part.
Click here to join the fun.
Now there's this:
The Dundee United and Scotland footballer David Goodwillie has been charged with raping a woman at a new year house party in West Lothian.Exactly how good was not reported.
From the BBC.
Leao is the dog of Cristina Santana, who was killed in the Brazil floods. She was buried two days ago, and the dog has kept vigil by the graveside ever since.
What to say? What can you say, that isn't either trite or pompous? The image speaks for itself.
Like The Grim Reaper (to whom a hat-tip for the image), I have had dogs most of my life, and like him I was moved enormously by this.
I'm watching it, mesmerised. Very soon it will turn over to one trillion pounds.
One thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand pounds.
One million million pounds.
Thirty-five grand for every person in this country who actually works.
We're in debt, our children are in debt, and our grandchildren will still be paying this off when we are pushing up daisies.
All for the sake of Labour's dream of a client state. No retribution for this state of affairs would be just. It's horrifying.
For the purposes of this exercise, a fake charity is one that receives more than £1m, or more than 10% of its income, from the Government. I have banged on enough about this in recent posts, so I will just say that a charity - by the definition of charity - gets its income from voluntary contributions. An organisation that is funded by money taken involuntarily from taxpayers and passed out by the government of the day to further its aims cannot be a charity in my book. The more that can be done to expose these arm's-length government agencies for what they are, the better.
The Devil explains the objection with greater lucidity here.
Sunday, 16 January 2011
It seems that a professor has studied the alignment of Earth and the stars and has concluded that the entire zodiac system is 2000 years out of date and bascially - well, wrong.
A Minneapolis astronomy professor has suggested that the zodiac system, based on "2,000-year-old information", is all wrong.
Parke Kunkle said the Earth's wobbly orbit means it is no longer aligned to the stars in the same way as when the signs of the zodiac were first conceived.
Professor Kunkle's explanation has become an internet sensation with people panicking on social network sites about what the changes mean for their star sign.
Oh noes! You mean I will have to stop being intense, passionate and secretive, and start being timid, lacklustre, and open about my feelings with total strangers? Stop being exciting and magnetic, and start being dull and repulsive? Not sure I can do that. We Scorpios are notoriously obstinate.
Shelley Ackerman, spokeswoman for American Federation of Astrologers, has been inundated with emails from concerned clients, but she advises them not to over-react.
Saturday, 15 January 2011
|Male, outside||27||68 %|
|Male, inside||6||15 %|
|Female, outside||5||13 %|
|Female, inside||0||0 %|
|Don't care||2||5 %|
Well, I didn't get the results I was expecting, which I suppose means that I am following best practice by freely publishing experimental data that doesn't support my thesis, despite the inevitable damage to my professional reputation that will ensue.
Gratifyingly, despite this being a bikey, blokey sort of place, five ladies felt able to participate, and I welcome and salute their bravery in 'coming out of the bathroom'. What surprised me was that all of them said that they preferred their tissues to be mounted in the easy-to-use-if-a-little-less-aesthetic manner, which directly contradicts my original theory that ladies always want the free sheet to hang on the inside. I admit my error.
For the chaps, a whacking 82% were outsiders, which is what I would have expected to see. Way to go, lads. In a limited way, the 'male' results prove the theory that 'most men' prefer an outside deployment. The small number of female respondents who destroy the theory completely may be because the theory was wrong in respect of male/female preferences, or it may be the result of a small and unrepresentative sample. Further research is needed, but since my grant has run out I will have to leave that to others. I don't have the patience or computing power.
SCIENTIFIC ADVICE: don't go spending serious money on Brian's suggestion (see comments on original post) of an automatic, articulated toilet roll dispenser. Nothing is proven.
So, in summary:
Richard's blog: small data set, contrary results accepted, errors admitted, theory modified.
IPCC: small data set, contrary results ignored, errors obfuscated and denied, theory restated with added vehemence. Spend money on dealing with the problem now. Preferably to us and our friends. Oh, and anyone who disagrees vilified as planet-raping psycho nutjobs in the pay of Big Oil. So nerr.
Thanks to everyone who bothered to click.
Friday, 14 January 2011
Thursday, 13 January 2011
Rain and wind, rather than snow and ice. That'll do me.
A government commissioned report into teaching standards in Scotland has recommended trainee applicants undergo basic literacy and numeracy tests ...It goes on:
... the BBC understands it suggests prospective teachers should face reading and writing tests when they apply for training places.
It comes amid concern that incompetent staff are entering the profession.
Lindsay Paterson, professor of educational policy at the University of Edinburgh, said that as things stood, teacher training courses were "simply not intellectually challenging enough".
He said: "We know from research evidence that the numeracy of trainee primary school teachers leaves a great deal to be desired.
"This has to be addressed rather urgently."
"At the moment that is not being done adequately or systematically. A lot is left to chance and is left to the education that these students themselves got at school.That's a significant statement. Again: "A lot is left to chance and is left to the education that these students themselves got at school. That's not satisfactory."
"That's not satisfactory."
No-one (except those with a vested interest) seriously thinks that educational standards have risen in the last 15 years. Young people, even 'graduates', coming into the world of work have embarrassingly low levels of literacy - by which I mean the ability to express themselves in line with the usual conventions of spelling and grammar. As an ex-teacher, I sit and read some of the things that my company sends out to customers or potential customers, and I cringe at some of the basic errors that I see. And if you point this out, two things become clear: one, that they can't see anything wrong with it; and two, they don't see it as a problem. And these are not technical staff - these are bright young people with degrees in Marketing and the like. The cream of the crop.
Of course, if we stop teaching this stuff, it is only a matter of time before this trickles down to the next generation of educators. Fifteen years ago, the kids weren't being taught the basics. Now, those kids are the teachers, and they can't teach the basics, even if they wanted to. They simply don't have the knowledge or skills. Where this will end is anyone's guess.
I can't honestly blame 13 years of Labour government for this. The rot started many years ago. I started in secondary school (a Northern boys' grammar, with pretentions to great tradition) in the mid-60s, and I was in the year where they decided to abandon the teaching of grammar and concentrate on the creative side. What I know of grammar, therefore, I have learned from the study of foreign languages and a spot of Latin. When I was a teacher myself, I was often concerned by the lack of accurate English from people in my own (English) department. Some were sticklers for correctness; but many weren't all that bothered. And any criticism I, as head of department, made was held to be close to heresy by the local authority advisers.
So now we are going to have to test prospective teachers to see if they can read, write and add up well enough to be let loose on 7-year-olds. Where will this end? The one real chance of putting it right - an intensive course in basic English within the teacher training establishments - has been lost because the role of the training colleges has been downgraded in favour of the trendier (and cheaper) method of mentoring within schools: getting the existing teachers to train up the new ones.
It can't end well.
The suspected gunman from Saturday's deadly shooting in Arizona was stopped for running a red light hours before the attack, police say.Perhaps it was that verbal warning that trigered the dreadful events of 8 January in Tucson. Perhaps the officer wasn't sufficiently polite or sensitive to Mr Loughner's needs. Perhaps that's what triggered the attack. I hope the officer concerned is duly investigated for 'insufficient sensitivity' and vilified in the press. If something Sarah Palin says thousands of miles away can be held to have contributed to this tragedy, surely a callous remark (such as the inflammatory "May I see your license, Sir?") by a police officer on the morning of the killings is a much more likely factor?
Jared Loughner, 22, was given a verbal warning by an Arizona police officer, the Associated Press reported.
Or perhaps we could stop looking for bogeymen and accept that only one person pulled the trigger that day, and only one person bears responsibility?
"If they bring a knife to the fight, we bring a gun." - Barack Obama, 14 June 2008.
Monday, 10 January 2011
Sunday, 9 January 2011
No, not one of mine. I just posted this photo to help me feel better. "Things could be worse."
Yesterday I had a look at the Triumph and saw how badly it has fared in the last few weeks. It has stood outside through all the snow and the cold, and it has suffered. I have only used it a few times, and it shows. Today, I have spent most of the day on it, and it is looking better, but I am very disappointed by the way the finish has coped (or not) with the weather.
When I last gave it a bit of attention, it was still looking pretty good. That was back at the beginning of December, I think. This morning, on close inspection, there were telltale signs of rust everywhere. The wheel rims have broken out in a rash, and the fork legs have pitted. The footrest brackets have a rusty glow shining through the thin layer of matt-black paint. The axle nuts and adjusters look decidedly second-hand, all the fasteners have gone furry, and likewise the cooling fins. The lacquer on the engine cases (which had already started to lift at the edges) now looks as if it is ready to part company with the metal in a big way. The chain and rear sprocket, despite being lubed religiously every week and the later addition of a chain oiler, are orange throughout, and there is a big rusty stain on the rear tyre where the water has dripped. The bike looks as if it has aged five years in as many weeks.
I must have spent three or four hours on it today. It is now surgically clean, and all the rust has been polished out (although once the finish is breached, it will keep coming back, I know). All the shiny bits are covered in clean engine oil, likewise the chain, and the whole thing has been treated to a coat of protective spray. It looks good again, but I know that I am fighting a losing battle. For this reason I have done what I should have done two months ago - cleared the crap out of the garage and put it away under cover. It can stay there until the Spring.
Triumph - you aren't going to like this, but the Bonnie is the worst bike I have ever had for corrosion. Thin chrome, thin paint, badly-plated fasteners, poor lacquering. Yamahas are not known for the robustness of their finish, but the XT looks no worse than it did before Christmas, and it has had the same, or less, attention than the Bonnie. And that's a 15-year-old bike that has had a hard life.
Hondas are famed for their build quality, so it's no surprise that the Pan survived a severe winter outside with only a couple of rust spots on the brake pedal where my boots had worn the finish away. But my Suzuki Bandit (another bike famous for its cheap and cheerful finish) survived the winters well and looked the same when as sold it as the day I bought it. Likewise the Ducati: Italian bikes are well-known for falling over at the first sign of rain, but the bike lost nothing over the winter before last. All my bikes get the same treatment: they live outside, they are used in all weathers, and every week they get a good wash, the important bits get sprayed with WD40 or similar, and all the moving bits get a meeting with Mr Oilcan. For every other bike I have owned recently, this has been enough to keep them up to scratch. Not the Triumph.
The Yam has had a health check and some air in its tyres, and this is now the Official Winter Bike again. The Bonnie can stay in the garage until the weather improves. I expected a British bike to be capable of withstanding a British winter, but it looks like I was wrong. The XT has been a faithful buddy for a long time now, and it looks as though I have plenty of use for it yet.
I'm a big fan of William Empson, a marvellous paradox of a man. The foremost literary critic of his generation (Seven Types of Ambiguity being only the first of his output), and yet an inveterate boozer; a Buddhist and yet (apparently) a sex maniac who dined on both sides of the buffet; a man of the most heightened literary sensitivity, and yet who lived in personal squalor. And that beard!
Unusually for a critic, he also wrote poetry, and it is difficult and intellectual stuff for the most part. He drifted unbidden into my mind at about 3 am today, in the middle of my latest nuit blanche (the alternating day and night shifts are playing havoc with my body clock). And what drifted in was this poem, a villanelle of exquisite structure and chilling philosophy. Just right for those lonely and troubling hours before the dawn.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
It is not the effort nor the failure tires.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.
It is not your system or clear sight that mills
Down small to the consequence a life requires;
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
They bled an old dog dry yet the exchange rills
Of young dog blood gave but a month's desires.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.
It is the Chinese tombs and the slag hills
Usurp the soil, and not the soil retires.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
Not to have fire is to be a skin that shrills.
The complete fire is death. From partial fires
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.
It is the poems you have lost, the ills
From missing dates, at which the heart expires.
Slowly the poison the whole blood stream fills.
The waste remains, the waste remains and kills.
I used to have a big thing about those curious and formal verse patterns so beloved of the Victorians - villanelles, triolets and the like - and this is my favourite villanelle. (Dylan Thomas's Do Not Go Gentle is second.)
Saturday, 8 January 2011
- She's a Democrat, although used to be registered as a Republican
- She supports citizenship for illegal immigrants
- She's in favour of alternative energy
- She's a gun owner
- She's fiscally conservative
- She's married to an astronaut, for God's sake
- She loves trucks and motorcycles (and was co-chair of the motorcycle caucus on Capitol Hill)
What's a normal, red-blooded, gun-totin' biker male to think?
Sarah Palin with brains, that's what she is.
I wish her well.
This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Americans were shot in Tucson, Arizona, at a constituent meeting with Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.Can you imagine David Cameron saying, in similar circumstances:
This morning, in an unspeakable tragedy, a number of Britons were shot in ... ?No, thought not.
Whatever their race, creed, colour, religion, or whatever, you will always find that Americans are proud to be American. We lost that, some time in the 60s, and it's a pity.
I have theory, based on two marriages, two daughters and a lot of careful observation of the lavatorial arrangements of female friends, done purely iin the interests of scientifiec research.
Women will almost always hang a new roll of toilet paper with the free end on the inside, as in the first picture above. Men will almost always hang it with the free end on the outside, as in the second. Furthermore, a woman finding the roll installed the 'wrong' way will frequently change it before she leaves the room. Men, of course, couldn't be arsed and will leave it as they find it. (This applies to one's own home, of course. Anyone who starts rearranging their friends' and neighbours' toilet paper is suffering from CDO* or desperately needs a life.)
I suspect that the reason for the phenomenon (if it is a phenomenon, and not a product of my disordered 'brain') is the old one of form and function. A roll mounted 'inside' is neater; a roll mounted 'outside' is easier to grab. Pretty appearance, versus useability. The Ford Ka versus the Caterham Seven. Cats versus dogs. Do you see where I am going with this?
Anyway, we can't get anywhere until we have some facts. So, I am putting a poll on the right-hand side of this page to see if it's just me, or if other folk have found the same thing. Studies will then proceed on the basis of empirical evidence.
(Off work, lousy weather, bored, kay?)
* That's OCD with the letters in alphabetical order, as they should be.
Friday, 7 January 2011
So David Chaytor has been found guilty and sentenced to 18 months. So that's 9 months, less time spent on remand, less a bit because he is a decent chap of previously good character (heh, obviously not) and he pleaded guilty, so that will be about 10 minutes, then. In, no doubt, an 'open' prison. Hardly the twenty years banged up with Big Tony and the pot of Vaseline that we would have hoped for, but pleasing, nonetheless.
Let's not be too sympathetic here. He claimed more than £20,000 in expenses that he wasn't entitled to. He forged documents; he claimed for rent which had been paid to a family member (specifically against the rules) and covered it by altering his daughter's name; he printed invoices to indicate he had paid for services which he was not in fact charged for. None of this was accidental: it was premeditated thievery. Anyone caught doing this level of expenses cheating in the private sector would have been sacked immediately and in the slammer before you knew it.
He thought he was above the law, and the good news from today is that it is quite clear he was not. I never expected him to serve a serious sentence, and for the amount he dishonestly claimed 18 months seems about right. I was not sure he would have been convicted at all, seeing how Blair managed to massage the judicial process in all sorts of ways to keep him and his cronies squeaky clean. So today's news is good. He's been expelled from Labour, sent to prison, is a 'broken man' and has a career ruined. The sum he cheated is paltry, in the great scheme of things, but a dishonest man has been publicly shown to be a dishonest man, and shamed. A good day's work.
The BBC's take was predictable, of course. On the BBC News channel (why can't they just call it News24 like they used to?), the Chaytor story was the lead item. And after Chaytor's sins had been enumerated and the entrails inspected, who did they bring on but - Jonathan Aitken! Of course, a famous Tory who has also done time. Aitken was a one-off, and his conviction was 12 years ago, but the BBC deemed him a relevant commentator to bring on and muddy the waters.
For 'balance', I suppose.
I haven''t got the figures to hand, but the vast majority of the cheats were from the Labour Party. At a guess, I would say that, overall, there was one cheat from the other parties for every six from Labour. It seemed to be endemic to their political culture. And yet, to an alien watching the BBC from his green spaceship, it was pretty much 50/50, Labour and Tory, all in it together, no-one's to blame, best have a sherry and talk about the cricket, what?
Nice work, BBC. The day of your disestablishment comes closer.
Click for bigger.
A friend of mine is an academic, specialising in cold things (glaciers, tundra, kind of thing - can't be too specific as he's quite important) and occasionally gets bizarre letters from members of the public asking questions about various topics that he is supposed - at least in the popular mind - to know about. Recently, he received a letter from a gentleman in India, enclosing a photograph (above), and asking what could possibly have caused these amazing ice formations.
My friend thinks he has a clue, but I wondered what you thought.
What is the point of the Police? That's not a rhetorical question. Most people would probably agree that their purpose is twofold: firstly to deter and prevent crime from happening, and secondly to detect offenders and bring them before a court. I would hazard a guess that most people would regard evidence of successful policing as a low crime rate, however that may be achieved. But of the two approaches, which is the most important? Is it better that the Police act in such a way as to prevent crime from happening in the first place, or should they devote their energies to chasing the bad guys and bringing them to justice?
To take an example: if a policeman were walking down a busy street and met a gang of armed bank robbers, which would be preferable: that he spoke to them, advised them that the area was bristling with coppers and that they were bound to be arrested, and sent them home to think again; or that he allowed the robbery to take place, and then pursued and caught them, and turned them over to the CPS for prosecution, with all the risks to the general public that this would entail? There is an argument to be made for both. Prevention and deterrence is surely the ideal; but if there are repeat offenders, ones who do not seem to be amenable to deterrence, it may be necessary to catch them and then bang them up for a long time. But would the police ever be justified in allowing a crime to take place, purely so that they could get the evidence to do this? That is a step on the road to deploying agents provocateurs, which would be abhorrent to most people.
I am thinking of the recent case of Michael Thompson of Grimsby. He flashed his headlights to warn oncoming motorists of a mobile speed camera. He was pulled over by the police, taken to court, and found guilty of "obstructing a police officer in the course of her duties". He was fined £175, with £250 costs, and the iniquitous £15 'victim surcharge'. This is an outrageous decision, and one that must be overturned. If it isn't, it calls into question the principles of policing that I mentioned above.
The mobile speed cameras are part of a strategy to improve road safety by reducing speeds. That's a whole debate in itself, but let's accept for the moment the notion that reduced speeds mean fewer accidents, which is something we would all welcome. So what were the Police doing there? Were they deterring motorists from speeding, or where they trying to catch offenders? The fact that mobile camera sites are all well-signposted with those camera signs suggests that deterrence is the main aim. In that sense, someone warning other drivers of a camera is actually doing the Police's work for them. He is acting to slow down drivers who are approaching a hazardous area (it is a hazardous area, isn't it? I mean, that's why the cameras are there, aren't they?). Why would the Police advertise camera locations with those signs otherwise?
Unless ... unless the Police actually want people to speed so that they can catch and fine them. Here we come to the crux of the matter. Mr Thompson has angered the Police, and by extension the courts, by alerting people so they conform to the law, rather than blunder into a trap. He's shot their fox. And that reinforces our deep suspicion that these cameras are all about punishment, and by extension revenue, and nothing about safety and compliance.
Of course, the people he warned were probably only a few mph over the limit. If a lunatic in a big 4x4 doing 120 had been approaching and by his actions he had slowed it down to a safe speed, would the Police not have commended him for his public-spirited actions in preventing a possible tragedy? We'll never know. If speeding is as dangerous as they say it is, then any action to moderate other people's speed should be commended, surely?
To go back to my original example: here we have the Police, knowing that an armed bank robbery is about to take place, allowing the gang to go down the road, into the bank, waving their guns around, but ready to collar them when they emerge and then boast about their detection rates.
It's simple, really. He was "obstructing a police officer in the course of her duties", and now we know that those duties consist of allowing a crime to happen, and then catching the criminal red-handed. Anything preventing the crime is 'obstruction'.
It stinks. And if this judgement isn't overturned on appeal, then the cat is out of the bag. Speed cameras are money-machines, and nothing to do with safety.
* I hate that phrase.
Update: the link to the Halfords item is to a 2D torch, whereas this is a 2C, taking smaller batteries and therefore smaller altogether. That would explain Halfords' curious generosity when I reached the till.
Thursday, 6 January 2011
Wednesday, 5 January 2011
Over the course of the year, interest in the blog has strengthened in a very pleasing way. In January, it received an average of 6 visits a day. Five of those were probably me, before I had worked how to get Sitemeter to ignore my IP address. By December, this had increased to 92. The watershed month was October, when I had a bit of luck. I was up early one morning and saw the first reports of the 10:10 climate change film. I was outraged and posted something straight away. I followed this up with further posts, in which I managed to capture quotes and references before they were amended or taken down from their original locations, and I was getting hits from all over the place, and sites I had never heard of. For a day or two, the stats went mental. This led to a number of big-hitter blogs adding me to their blogrolls (thanks to you all, you know who you are) and getting a couple of mentions in the weekly roundups of blogs with a huge readership. The blog has averaged about 90 hits a day since then.
Does any of this matter? In a way, no. I started the blog as a way of getting a few things off my chest and communicating the pleasure and sheer fun of riding a motorbike in the UK. You don't need readers for that. But I wouldn't be honest if I didn't say that it is very gratifying when people visit the blog, read what's there and like it enough to keep coming back. That is a real buzz. And it's great when people take the trouble to comment. There have been some interesting and enlightening discussions below the line, and no-one has ever really lost the plot. I'm ready to moderate anything I think is libellous or gratuitously offensive (normal offensive is fine), but the only posts I have deleted have been commercial spam.
I'm still rather amazed that this little collection of whimsy, comment and biker chat has any interest at all to the world outside Nowhere Towers, but it pleases me that it does. How it has managed to reach over 800 posts and over 2000 comments is a mystery. So to all of you, thank you for visiting, thank you especially for commenting, and here's to more of the same in 2011.
Tuesday, 4 January 2011
Go and read the rest.
1. The Krays extorted money and used violence against people.
2. The Krays also did a lot of good things, or used the PR campaign that they did some good things with the money they extorted.
3. The Krays decided entirely unaccountably what "good things" they would spend the money they extorted on, and also who they would use violence against.
4. Governments extort money and use violence against people.
5. Governments also do a lot of good things, or us the PR campaign that they do some good things with the money they extort.
6. Governments decide entirely unaccountably what "good things" they spend the money they extort on, and also who they use violence against.
The difference between the Krays and the government is the fig leaf of
Derek from Corse Bruises will be here tomorrow to fix the tap.
I was asking all round the building who the bloody hell Corse Bruises were, until it dawned on me.Coors Breweries.
I shall have to have a word.
Monday, 3 January 2011
Pete Postlethwaite has died, aged 64. I used to go the Everyman Theatre in Liverpool often, and I have followed his career (and those of his contemporaries like Alan Bleasdale and Julie Walters) for most of my life. He had some cracking film roles, but I remember him principally as a stage actor. He was a member of the RSC and I saw him in A Midsummer Night's Dream there in the mid-80s. He dominated the stage whenever he was on, and was a brilliant actor.
His was the best Bottom I have ever seen.
Take that the right way.
Charities seek bank bonus tax to ease cutsJesus Christ, where to start?
Bank bonuses should be taxed and the money given directly to local charities to help prevent a 'tsunami' of cuts in services for the vulnerable and sick, charity chiefs say today.
Sir Stephen Bubb, chief executive of Acevo, who represents 2,000 charity leaders in Britain, warns that cuts to local government grants this year could force thousands of charities to close or cut services. He is now calling for a meeting with the Chancellor to urge him to levy an extra tax on bankers' bonuses, which are likely to total more than £7 billion this month.
For one, the naked shroud-waving is so obvious that it must be starting to become ineffective by now. The "vulnerable and sick" are second only to the "cheeldren" in the lexicon of guilt, by which people with a direct and financial interest try to coerce the rest of us into funding their pensions.
And of course by appealing to take money from the greedy bankers, he is attempting to tap into the general distaste we all feel for people who have (with Gordon Brown's connivance and approval) screwed up the economy and appear to be profiting from their misdeeds. It's a separate issue, but for me the mistake was in bailing them out in the first place. If they get their commercial gambles (because that is what they were) wrong, then they should pay the price in bankruptcies and unemployment as any other business would, not get a reward from the Government of other people's money because they are 'too big to fail'. But once these arrangements have been made, then it is no business of any government to interfere with the remuneration of employees. It's the same principle as the windfall taxes so beloved of socialist governments - if someone has something extra, the government should automatically get a share, by retrospective legislation if need be. Diving in and appropriating part of the bankers' bonuses would be morally wrong, even if it were popular.
But the main objection comes from the notion of a 'charity', which has been so perverted from its original meaning as to be meaningless. I've had a go at this in a previous post, and I will say it again. Charity has to be voluntary. If I see someone in need, and I choose to give them something that is mine, that's charity. If someone coerces me into giving something to someone, that's not charity. The parable of the Good Samaritan has echoed through the ages because he volunteered to help the injured traveller of his own free will. If a gang had grabbed him, rifled through his pockets, and then given the cash to the traveller, we wouldn't hold the Samaritan up as an example of goodwill, but as a victim of robbers.
Any organisation, however good and pure its motives, which accepts money from the government cannot call itself a charity. Governments do not have money - only what they extract from their citizens under the threat of imprisonment. As a taxpayer, I get no choice in which charities I support, because the government takes my money and makes the decision for me. That isn't charity. It might be sensible government, it might fulfil laudable aims, but it isn't charity. It's redistribution.
For such a 'charity' to then approach the government of the day to suggest whom they might mug, and by how much, in order to fill their coffers and protect them from the effects of the recession is gold-plated, award-winning, exhibition chutzpah*.
As a schoolteacher, I observed over many years a very unpleasant side of human nature. Parents, with very few exceptions, wanted school uniform and rigid school rules, and wanted them enforced strictly. Apart from when it applied to their own offspring, when suddenly the school was being authoritarian and unreasonable. It seems that everyone accepts the need for cuts if we are to deal with the deficit, and that the cuts can be as tough as Osborne likes - as long as it doesn't apply to me.
The only charities I will voluntarily give money to are ones that accept no government funding. The RNLI is a shining example. The rest I can ignore, as I fund them anyway, whether I like it or not. And 'Sir' Stephen Bubb can take a hike.
*Chutzpah: Yiddish for extreme cheek. Example (from Leo Rosten's The jOYs of Yiddish): a man who murders both his parents and then throws himself on the mercy of the court because he in a poor orphan.
Sunday, 2 January 2011
Four of us shared a house out in the middle of Anglesey, and three of us commuted by motorbike (the fourth guy had a minivan, but was in his final year and attended few lectures, so was no use for lifts). We had a friend, a rather ditzy female called Suzanne (not her real name, but damn close). She lived down in the South of England, and her parents had bought her an old split-screen Morris 1000 to get to college and back.
A bit like this one.
She lived in the centre of Bangor, so didn't need the car during term-time. When she turned up in this rather nice motor (black paint, red leather seats) we were well impressed and asked her how she liked it. "Well," she replied, "it's OK, starts first time, but the fuel consumption is terrible." She told us how much she had put in to get here, we consulted a map for the mileage, and basic arithmetic gave us a figure of about 12 mpg. Now I know that the old Moggies weren't the most efficient vehicles, but that was way out of line. We began musing about the cause (more from bravado than mechanical knowledge) and offered to "have a look" for her.
She immediately agreed, and further proposed that if we could fix it, we could borrow it for the rest of the term, until she needed it to go back home. We didn't need asking twice. North-West Wales is a very wet place.
Between the three of us, we "had a look" and could find nothing wrong. We ran a couple of tankfuls of four-star through it and reckoned it was getting around 30 mpg which was about par for the course. So we made full use of it as a taxi/packhorse/party carriage and in due course returned it to her, with the message that there was now (!) nothing wrong with it.
We got a phone call the next day. It had refused to start. Two of us went along to her house, grabbed the keys, and got in. Key in the ignition, turn on, pull choke, press starter, car started on the button.
"What did you do there?" she said, pointing at the choke.
"That's the choke. You pull that out to get it started."
"Oh I see. I didn't know that went in. I've been pulling it out as far as it will go, because that's the only way I can get my handbag to stay on it."
Suzanne also provided an evening of incredible ribald amusement for me. She and I were on the same course, and one night she decided to invite all her friends round for a meal (it was seen as a very sophisticated thing in those days, along with Habitat coffee jars and those paper globe lampshades). Susan was short, and pretty in a quirky sort of way, with long hair like frizzled straw and a pair of disproportionately huge breasts. I'm not a 'tit man', so this didn't bother me one way or the other, but that night she was wearing a cheesecloth smock (this was 1973, remember) with a band under the bodice part. She had managed to get one breast, braless, of course, over the band, as it should have been, and the other one under it. It made her look curiously lopsided, like that thing Eric Morecambe used to do with his spectacles. She sat opposite me all the way through the meal, and once I had spotted her 'wardrobe malfunction' I couldn't take my eyes off it. I tried to keep a straight face, but it was an effort. Was it deliberate or accidental? I would turn to speak to someone else, but then my eyes would always be drawn back to these unbalanced mountains of flesh. If you've ever heard someone fart at a funeral and tried not to laugh, you'll know how I felt. It's an awful feeling, wanting to roar with laughter but be unable to share it with anyone. By the time I got home, I was close to cardiac arrest.
That car, by the way, was the only car I have ever spun through 360°. That's a proper 360, not the 180 facing backwards stuff. A full turn and carry on. It was at this junction, in the wet, on bald crossplies. It taught me a lot.
The Triumph has stood for about three weeks now, since before Christmas (I have been using the much more winter-friendly XT), and the weather has not been kind to it. The 'new' chrome rack that I got off eBay is peppered with rust spots, and the chain and rear sprocket are orange with corrosion. The sprocket, which was almost new when I got the bike, and looked pristine, has so much surface rust that it has dripped an orange stain onto the rear tyre, and the whole bike is starting to look like a neglected thing. It won't take much to put it right, but it's a pity that Triumph don't make their bikes more resistant to British weather.
When I got going, I realised that I hadn't given it a proper workout since I returned from Newcastle. There is a strange whirring and whining noise from the front wheel, which can only be the new speedo cable I fitted on my return. So tomorrow, regardless of the weather, I am going to give the old bus a good clean and fix the speedo cable problem - whatever it is. The weather is now normal for January (cold and damp, did mention that?) so I will start going to work on the bike again. I suspect it will be the Yam for a while, until I get the Triumph back to a proper state of repair.
Today's ride was cold. (And damp.) Bloody cold. But worth doing. The roads were almost empty, although there were a few holiday dawdlers for me to practise my overtaking skills on, and relatively dry. I did my usual loop of the North of the county, taking in the ferryport at Fishguard and the centre of St Davids, and it took me about an hour. I took some photos, but the light was poor and the iPhone doesn't like low light conditions. It extends the shutter time until all you have is poor colour and a lot of shake. Here's the best: St Bride's Bay from the top of Newgale Hill.
Now, I need to warm my hands somewhere. A glass of Scotch would be a good place to start, methinks.
Post corrected, thanks to an eagle-eyed Joe Public. Smartarse :)