Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Thought for the day

“Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need.”

- Tyler Durden (played by Brad Pitt) in Fight Club (1999)


Tuesday, October 11, 2016

It may be chilly and autumnal, the news from the world may be grim (and likely to get grimmer), but at The Coven the colours are fighting back:

Final score for Days of Summer, by the BW Definition (ie days with blue skies, hot and sunny, and above 26°C/80°F): 26 and a quarter.

A record-breaking year, for years of late, although most of it was in August and September.


Friday, October 7, 2016

Darkening days need creativity

I've been making a sheep cushion for our Northumbrian farmer friend, who we'll be seeing again in a few weeks, as is normal for us at this time of year.

The brownish colour is from a special (to him) sheep's fleece. I've processed the fibre from raw, including washing, carding, spinning, and knitting, and I designed it on (special, knitters') graph paper first, using specific stitches to generate texture to represent the environs of the farm.

It's a bad photo, but, top left is fir trees, top right is a huge old oak tree; middle ground left is drystone wall and then running across the centre to the right is a wooden posted fence; the near-ground is scrubland and reedy grass.

It probably took around 50 hours from fleece to product. He won't know or appreciate it, and I fully expect one of the sheep dogs to destroy it within minutes after he puts it in his mobile home 'office'.

I don't care, it's all about the process, and the meanings, for me.

I may make another for me, with a dark blue background (I've been processing some beautiful Jacob shearling that was given to me, on the lawn in the wonderful golden autumnal sun this week, and now just need to dye, card and spin it). Have I ever mentioned how much I hate brown?


Monday, October 3, 2016

Did you know?

If a company such as your electricity supplier, or your local council, pass your telephone number to a registered market research company, there is nothing you can do to get it off the Market Research Society's main database?

Once on there, it can (I am told by the MRS) only be removed by the organisation that asked the company to conduct the research, and there is no guarantee that the MRS-registered company to whom it was given to conduct a 'customer experience survey' hasn't already passed it on to all and sundry, provided that they too are registered with the MRS.

The fact that you have never agreed for your details to be passed on for such use, and are ex-directory and registered with the Telephone Preference Service apparently does not protect you from such calls.

I currently have formal complaints in with my ex-electricity supplier, and with my district council, relating to calls made to me within the last week on their behalf (and I've checked out, they really were acting on behalf of who they claimed). A new 'cheap' form of market research perhaps? Above all, I am disgusted that my local council is spending scant/declining resources in such ways, while also cutting many services.

I just got another call, at after 9pm (a time when I would normally be asleep, and at which I would not ring a friend or family member, unless it was an emergency) from a young woman from a market research company purporting to be from 'my bank' (not specified unless I confirmed I was the person to whom they wished to speak).

Bored with my usual repertoire of tactics for nusiance callers, I employed a new one, as suggested by one of Mr BW's (slightly eccentric) friends. Viz:

Me: "Oooh, you sound nice!"

Them: "Sorry?"

Me: "You sound really nice. Lovely in fact! Y'know, all lovely and sexy!""

Them: "What?"

Me: "You sound lovely. I'm a bit lonely. Would you like to be my new girlfriend?"

Them: "WHAT?"

Me: "You know, be my new girlfriend, kiss me, cuddle me, send me rude text messages, have sex with me, and well, y'know, other stuff..."

Them: "BLOODY HELL, WEIRDO...." *line goes dead*

I can see that there will be a lot more fun to be had from that tactic... ;)

Are others of you getting this new type of nuisance call?

I am unconvinced that utility companies and local councils are allowed to pass on one's personal details for such purposes without consent, and fully intend to take this issue to the Information Commissioner (once I have gone through the normal complaints procedure of the organisations in question, as required by the ICO) as I believe that such disclosure of data contravenes the Data Protection Act, but, who knows, these days?


Friday, September 30, 2016


Ketchup, catch up, but we can't make ketchup because the tomatoes are still ripening slowly after the early potato and tomato blight wiped the lot out. Smith periods, who's heard of them? We hadn't until this year. If you are disinclined to click the link, Smith Periods are when blight is likey to strike:

"A ‘Full Smith Period’ occurs when the following criteria are met on 2 consecutive days:-

Minimum air temperatures are at least 10°C
Relative Humidity is 90% or above for at least 11 hours

A ‘Half Smith Period’ occurs when the Full Smith Period criteria are met for 1 day.

A ‘Near Miss’ occurs when minimum air temperatures are at least 10°C for 2 consecutive days but the number of hours with a relative humidity of greater than 90% only totals 10 hours on one or both days."

Rosetta is dead. Long live Rosetta (and the data on Comet 67P they have will take decades to fully analyse, so god squaddies can continue to believe for a while longer). I'm particularly sad because the company MrBW used to work for made the imaging sensors (that have performed even beyond best expectations).

I'm amused by the Deutsche Bank Debacle (Germany's largest financial institution). Particularly given that there was talk of the European Financial Capital moving to Germany when the UK leaves the EU. Well, not that amused, actually, as if it goes under it is likely to be worse than Lehman: the world's financial system is once again under threat. How has it come to this yet again? Ah yes, greed.

I'm now the font of all knowledge for all my crafty group ladies as to where to put cash investments that are maturing. Given that the Bank of England only reduced the base rate by 0.25%, most savings accounts have gone down by a lot more than that. You can still get 2% on 5-year fixed bonds, but not in many places (and I see that several rates are going down agian tomorrow, the 1st of October). The most widely available on 5 year fixed ISAs is now 1.75% (and that is only for transfers in, although you can get round this by opening an instant access ISA anywhere, then applying immediately to transfer it). But, local building societies (who often restrict new accounts to postcodes neighbouring their areas) do sometimes have some better offers. I note that HSBC has reduced the interest on its current-account linked 12 month regular savers from 6% to 5% from this week (this affects First Direct, M&S bank and HSBC accounts). If you need some ''BW Wisdom" on the subject of cash investments with guaranteed rates, just drop me a line with a few details *nods to email address in the sidebar* (disclaimer: I am not an IFA; my advice is - arguably - better than theirs, and free ;))

My head is exploding trying to keep up with 20 current accounts, most requiring 2 direct debits and a certain amount paid in during every calendar month, and just over half that number of (comparatively) high-rate linked savings accounts. Why must it be so complicated to secure 'reasonable' guaranteed returns for one's hard-earnt and hard-saved pennies?

I finally found an article that perfectly explains what I've been telling people about why poor interest rates will eventually cause economies to crash. It's a fascinating article: "Non-rich people tend to spend 100 percent of their income, or close to it. Rich people don't. They spend, say, 50 percent of their income and save the rest. This difference is called the "marginal propensity to consume," and it seems like it might be a problem if income inequality is rising. The problem is that as rich people get a larger share of total income, total consumption goes down." I don't consider us 'rich', I consider us 'prudent', and as our income from investment falls, we will trim our spending, as we can't risk depleting our capital yet. I know of many other non-rich, but financially astute, retired people who feel exactly the same way.

I'm amused by the Labour Leadership Debacle. Whilst I'd never vote for Corbyn, his belief in his beliefs, and his refusal to get into political mud-slinging is commendable.

I'm amused by the number of countries and major companies that now have women at the helm. When all else fails, let women clean up the mess men have made. And there are plenty of them around the world.

Oh, and, sorry that the comments box below auto-closed just as I was inviting submissions for offices in the BW Party. Given that the code this site relies on is now 13 years old, I daren't play with anything to attempt to change the auto-close rules. Mr BW keeps threatening to make me a new dress (he's now quite adept at creating websites), but I'm future-averse.


Sunday, September 11, 2016

The autumn of the world?

15 years today since 'terrorism' really reared its ugly head and all our lives were changed irrevocably and forever.

In terms of political happenings, I can't currently decide if the US or the UK is worse. Perhaps it's a symptom of the same thing.

I'm still reeling from the Vox revelation earlier this week that in the US bankers don't pay tax on their bonuses.

What can you do when you see children being abused?

And, apparently, the world can cope with 7 or even 10 billion people. But only if we stop eating meat. Erm... or stop producing quite so many children? Or stop people 'buying to let' and foreigners buying investment properties, which are both hugely and artificially restricting the housing market. We need to stop the population explosion or every corner of our countryside will be built upon. Most people are totally unaware of the Local Plan process (housing etc growth plans) in their area and what it will mean for them, and the infrastructure that supports their lives. Think it's hard to get a GP appointment or to cross town in the rush hour now? Just wait... (or, better still, search "Local Plan [your local council]" and get informed/involved).

The NHS needs to change. The education system needs to change (particularly with the 'education leaving age' now being 18 in England).

But how things are happening isn't the right way.

And, for probably the first time ever, I don't have (even a suggestion about) the answer.

I've concluded that it's not a symptom of me ageing (I have wondered about that; particularly as most of those I associate with are somewhat older than me and most don't seem to care about (perceive) such meta-issues). It's a symptom of things being beyond fathomable. There are so many 'systems' in place that are now working to limit the application of common sense. There are still lots of willing people, but many not-so-willing 'systems'.

Inequality increases and the abilty of the evolved 'systems' to do anything about it (irrespective of how much money is thrown at the perceived 'problems') declines.

How did it come to this? And don't say 'politics' because that is, I am increasingly convinced, just a symptom of a wider malaise.

In case you haven't clicked on any of the links, this one is especailly worthy of a perusal, if, in the current climate, you are in need of explanations (if not answers).


Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Sunset last night

But, today could be the last day of summer:

Since my last report (nods down to August 12th), we've had another few days that meet my definition of summer, and today is Day 15 above 26°C. Apologies to anyone in the north, or in the southern hemisphere.

It was so warm and golden yesterday that MrBW even got my paddling pool out.

Yes, I have a paddling pool. Actually, two, as Mr BW informs me that there is also a spare (and that there were originally three, but the previously deployed one had disintegrated). Must have been a good offer at some point in the past: I can't remember now, we have summer so rarely in this country.

In this heat, and with the golden light making the garden look fabulous at this time of year, at home, nothing beats sitting in a comfy seat, dangling your legs in a paddling pool, with a book and a pint of Pimm's (actually, Aldi's Austin's, a third of the price, and in tests ten out of ten Witch Testees preferred it, as I've undoubtedly mentioned before). I do try to not start the Pimm's until after noon, but it's quite hard sometimes...

How's the weather where you are?


Thursday, August 18, 2016

A guest post by Mr BW

Last Sunday, Mi1dred reached a mileage milestone.

It might only be 5000 miles, but, trust me, every mile driven in an Austin Seven is worth 50 in driving experience in a modern car. As you can also see, we were ‘cruising’ at 20mph at the time.

We had a lovely day out. Starting at a local gallery's private view of a modern sculptor's latest work, and moving on to one of our favourites, the Fry Gallery in Saffron Walden (where they currently have an exhibition of Edward Bawden's early watercolours: BW wants to know how he managed to get such clear colours with such a filthy watercolour paint box) . We finished up at Audley End for a quick visit.

On the way Mildred reached 5000 miles with us. That’s over 9 years, so we haven’t exactly been piling on the miles.

I once read an article saying that all learners should have a lesson in an Austin Seven, and I get the point.

Drivers today are isolated from the dangers out there. Most have never heard of aquaplaning and will happily drive 10m from the bumper of the car in front at 70 mph in torrential rain. They have little understanding of the fragility of life and the fact that they are trusting theirs to four small patches of rubber, the only thing attaching them to the road.

If they had to drive a car with limited brakes, low power, requiring planning to get up the slightest of hills, no air bags, power steering, air conditioning, ABS or seatbelts, then they might just be better and safer drivers.


Tuesday, August 16, 2016

It can't last, but...

Day 10 of summer here yesterday (summer days, by my definition, are days of wonderful light and temperatures above 26°C (80°F). Mind you, there's a very autumnal nip in the air in the early morning and late evening of late).

Here's a sight that I suspect you won't see again (end of Day 9 of the Rio Olympics)... excellent work Team GB, keep it up.

Some interresting graphs here.

But, I can't help wondering why it's OK to select and coach sporty youngsters, but it's not OK to select and coach intelligent ones?

Why is it OK for parents to be allowed to send their children to a faith school that pushes their religion, but not OK for parents to want to send their children to a school that nurtures and stretches their academic abilities?

A new incarnation of grammar schools is now, I believe, the only way of ensuring social mobility in our country.

The question should not be, 'Should we have more grammar schools?' but rather, 'How can we devise a selection procedure that is fair to everyone, and has children appreciating their individual strengths, rather than any weaknesses?'


Sunday, August 14, 2016

A cat-nap

It amuses me that white cats think they are invisible.

It amazes me that they can sleep in the edges of the field in this position. Very Meryl Streep-ish.

A more useful white thing might be this spray of water and milk:

I'd not heard before that it is effective against powdery mildew, which attacks members of the cucumber and squash family at this time of year (when the foliage is dry and the weather is warm).

I heard it recommended on GQT on R4 on Friday afternoon (repeated this afternoon at 2pm), but they didn't say why it works.

A quick bit of online research discovered that it is based in science: in 1999, Brazilian scientist Wagner Bettiol reported excellent control of the fungus on greenhouse-grown zucchini using fresh cow’s milk diluted with water to a 10% solution.

Since then, practice has found that a 50:50 solution using skimmed milk has been found to be the most effective. As well as helping with the powdery mildew, it also acts as a foliar feed.

I've also read that powdery mildew spores can’t germinate or grow when foliage is wet, so overhead watering is also recommended as a preventative on highly susceptible crops.

So, that's don't water potatoes tomatoes overhead (as it encourages blight), but do water cucumber and squash leaves.

How did I not know this?

Posted at 10:30 AM | Comments (4)

Saturday, August 13, 2016

New Banks

There used to be readers interested in my "beyond most people's money saving" tips. The comments box below the last post shows that some of them are still be around, so with interest rates dropping like stones - any excuse for banks, Brexit was the perfect one - I thought I'd share some of my recent findings.

The three day marathon of "re-sorting to cope with new demands to get the best rates from the banks in the current financial climate" I described in the last post led me to research the new banks to the market.

That's because I'm very fussy about where I will invest... I won't touch Santander, T£Sco, Yorkshire Bank or Post Office (Bank of Ireland). The first two because of their dirty tricks and appalling customer regard and customer service, the latter two because of appalling service in the past (so appalling that it is unforgiveable forever).

I also won't put money into anything Indian, anything Middle Eastern, anything that pays interest but pretends it doesn't so that it complies with Sharia Law (even if the banks have UK banking licences), and anything where the money invested is largely used to fund things I disapprove of (don't start me on Buy-to-Let mortgages, which have led to a much bigger negative effect on the housing market than anyone official is currently acknowledging).

As many of the best rates are with the 'new banks', I was interested to see what they did with money they are lent by savers (and never forget, if you are a saver, that is exactly what you are doing, lending the banks money to enable them to lend it to other people at a much higher rate than they are giving you): this article and this one gave me the answers I was seeking.

Posted at 11:31 AM | Comments (0)

Friday, August 12, 2016

It's the ninth day of summer today

There were 7.5 consecutive days in mid July, half a day last Saturday, and, today. So far, that's been it.

Summer, by my definition, is not a day which is cloudy and grey, or below 26°C (80°F).

As friends who came to lunch last weekend said to me, I clearly live in the wrong country.

The field of wheat behind us this year is more than ready to harvest, as this 180° panorama (taken at lunch-time today) shows, but the shared local combines are working elsewhere (we can hear them droning in the distance: Mr BW says the sound reminds him of Saving Private Ryan; I thought I remembered that film, but it turned out I was remembering Private Benjamin. Films and me have a very poor relationship).

The light in the Mediterranean Garden was perfect this afternoon.

In fact, the light everywhere in the garden was perfect:

This is our new-this-year bean and squash tunnel (b1acksmithed by Mr BW following an idea gleaned from a South African vineyard garden):

And this is Mr BW's b1acksmithing vice. It doubles as a plant stand:

I've spent the last three days engaging in higher order finance and financial negotiations. Not an activity I like, but one essential to us, as, both retired by 50, we're currently living mostly on my small ill-health pension, and interest on the savings from our low-cost and as self-sufficient and sustainable as possible living practices over the years.

With a new round of quantative easing just announced by the Bank of England, and more government money available to banks at ridiculously low interest, financial institutions don't need the attract in the public's money, so interest rates for investments are lower than ever.

I refuse to accept less than 2% interest from anyone (basically because we would then be eating into capital for day-to-day expenses, which will create problems for us in the longer-term), and it's getting harder and harder to find homes for maturing funds that have been in 5 year fixed rate bonds earning nearly 5%, but now need re-investing.

As I've mentioned before, I'm currently using 18 current accounts, and their linked regular savings accounts, to get between 3% and 6% interest.

Unfortunately, Bank of Scotland, who allow three current accounts per person, each giving 3% on amounts between £3K and £5K, have just added a new condition requiring two direct debits to be paid out of each account in each calendar month, from September. Hence I've had to find 12 direct debits to relocate.

We don't have many things on direct debit as we don't have subscriptions to things like Sky or Netflix, or mobile phones on expensive contracts (I've recommended giffgaff, which runs on the O2 network, before - get a free sim-card sent to you from this link and you'll get £5 credit, and so will I):
Get a free giffgaff Sim

Finding 12 direct debits has taken some doing: moving direct debits that were going out of our main bank account, finding things that could be paid in instalments without incurring huge fees (I've discovered that car tax can now be paid in 12 instalments, for a 38p a month premium, which grieved me, but is a reasonable trade-off for a £12.76 interest gain per month). After much fiddling, I was still one short, so had to apply for a new credit card, on which I will make one small transaction every month, so ensuring the twelfth direct debit.

In moving the direct debits that pay off our cashback credit cards in full every month, I discovered that Barclaycard now offer a free 'Experian what is your credit score?' service, via their online portal. I've never been able to check this before (I get free updates on my credit file with my Capital One credit card, but not a free credit scoring service, and there is no need to pay for it as there is no need to know - not least because each lender uses their own acceptance criteria anyway). I was very surprised that, despite having limited income, both Mr BW and I have absolutely prefect credit ratings:

From what I've read in the financial media, I didn't believe this was possible. Particularly considering the amount of stoozing I did to pay off our mortgage ten years ago. But, I think this should provide encouragement to everyone - manage whatever money you have really carefully and you will be rewarded.

Unfortunately, August is the month where our house buildings and house contents insurances, and two car insurances fall due, requiring much online research and then hard negotiating, as I have a deep aversion to being ripped off. 23 minutes on the phone to the car insurance company and the two premiums dropped from a total of £443 (a huge increase on last year when I moved us both back to a new multi-car policy), to a total of £303. Both fully comprehensive, with business use, and just a £60 excess. If they can rip you off at renewal, they will.

Looking at the renewal documents, I realised that we were paying over £80 a year in motor legal protection on our three car policies. Given the stories I've heard from friends recently about the very limited use of these policies (they will only take on a case if they think it has at least a 51% chance of success, and will give up at any opportunity and either give no, or very spurious, reasons for their opting out), I had become quite cynical about them. We always take out free-standing damage excess cover when we hire cars abroad (and save huge amounts of money), and I idly wondered if similar free-standing policies were available for motor legal cover.

I've never seen this mentioned anywhere, including on money-saving websites. But... a quick bit of Googling and we found that DriverGuardian offer a year's motor legal cover for a driver driving any car, for £15 for one person, £20 for two, or £25 for four. We compared the cover side-by-sde with our existing policies, and the cover is slightly better, and gives wider coverage. Another saving of £60. They seem to have good feedback too.

Yeah, it's hard work beating financial institutions at their own games, and you need a good diary system, and to be absolutely forensic about checking the T&Cs, and printing everything out and filing it away carefully for future reference, but it's amazingly satisfying. Beats going to work anyway.

We are thoroughly enjoying the Rio Olympics, although I am a little sad about all the empty seats at many events. As someone of very short attention span, the flitting about of the coverage suits me - and aren't the BBC presenters working hard? Very impressive. It's great to see our sportspeople doing so well (currently 4th in the medal table): amazing what can be achieved in sports once they receive proper funding.

I really don't understand all the whipped-up by social media hoo-ha about sexist commentary. Celebrate the differences people, celebrate the differences. Men and women are not the same, and it's time we stopped pretending. Although, I do think the women athletes should be allowed to wear rather more clothing - and I don't like the design on the GB kit this time - it took me 3 days to work out what the dark silhouette was. To add my own little bit to this debate - it amazes me how much make-up the girlies wear. Most of them look like they're going to a party! In my county-level athletics days we wouldn't have dreamed of wearing make-up.

I've never managed to see the Perseids. It's clear here, so tonight could be the night...


Tuesday, August 9, 2016

21 today

On this day in 1995, we moved here.

Since then, stranger and stranger things have happened, day by day, month by month, and year by year. But, this summer, the strangest things ever:

Blue fields (not borage) have appeared in the distance:

A bit closer up:

The colour of pollen these flowers yield (and have the b33s learnt to read what we write about them?):

An empty hive, left out overnight after one of Mr BW's b33 talks to Nice Ladies, magically filled with a stray swarm (not from our ap1ary):

A leaf-cutter b33 mistook a folded newspaper in a basket in the utility for a place to build a nest:

The nest, contained within a surrounding folded rectangle of newspaper, had to be cut out, and relocated to a teapot hanging in a tree (I'm calling the offspring, when she emerges, Alice).

The Debster lily (which must now be eight or nine?) has been more amazing than ever, for weeks:

Mi1dred did a wedding:

And a hen is laying green eggs:

It's strange to think that we'd only been here seven and a half years when I started writing this blog.

Oh, and Johnnie Walker, having ignored all previous requests from me for a request when Mr BW was 50, and again when he retired (16 months ago now), finally played one for us, at Mr BW's behest, this week. But not for being 21. As Mr BW said, "Punk still rules, even if now accompanied by a glass of sherry."


Monday, July 25, 2016

Thing I've learnt in the last week

1. Make shop-bought cucumbers last much longer by removing the polythene wrapper immediately you get them home.

2. Make hands made rough by gardening soft enough to work with silk (or anything else that would stick to the rough bits) by putting half a teaspoon of sugar and a few drops of olive oil in one palm then vigorously rubbing them together.

What have you learnt in the past week?


Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Galloping On

So, Non-Mother Theresa is enthroned, and moved in to Number 10, but she's already upset her neighbour at Number 11, and he's moved out.

Smart move, to make sure the new next door neighbour has the same first name as your husband.

And very very smart move to appoint David Davis to the new cabinet position of Secretary of State for Brexit. A veteran Eurosceptic, and one-time wannabe PM, he has previously held the positions of Conservative Party Chairman and Shadow Deputy Prime Minister, as well as Shadow Home Secretary under both Michael Howard and David Cameron. Lots of relevant experience, and the mellow wisdom of age. Smart move. Mr BW reckons that Chris Patten should also be drafted in pronto to the exit process - he has lots of experience negotiating over Hong Kong with China, after all.

It all happened rather faster than They'd planned though. *Nods down* Good spell BW, good spell (although I obviously omitted some vital titbit, as Boris was due to be left on the back benches, if not shown the back door, by my reckoning).

I'm intrigued by what Queenie may have said to Mrs May, in her rather waspish (yellow and black) outfit, this afternoon, though.


- "Make sure you don't wear the same colours as One at events you and One are both attending!"

- "You can always use One's Throne Room to shoot-up should it become necessary."

- "It's so nice to have someone of the age of One's children's generation rather One's grandchildren's in charge again. Those young bucks have been so needy and so tiresome."

I guess the tax-payers' contribution to Clothing the Leader has just increased significantly though... let's hope she only buys British (or, given how the Scots are acting, only buys English).

I do hope the Staff at Number 10 have removed all those kiddy hand-prints from the walls and checked down the backs of all the sofas for lost soft toys.

And I'm looking forward to Dead Ringers on R4 on Friday evening. From what I heard earlier, they've perfected her voice already.

Things appear to be looking up. They'd look up further if Parliament's summer recess were to be cancelled, in the exceptional circumstances... there's lots to do, after all.


Monday, July 11, 2016

No joke

Man goes into an empty bar.

There are bartenders behind the bar.

Man says to one bartender, "I'd like a beer please."

Bartender gestures to a bank of iPads positioned along the bar.

Man says to bartender, "I'd like a beer please."

Bartender says gruffly, gesturing pointedly at the iPads, "You have to order on there sir!"

Man says, "But I only want a beer served!"

Bartender says, "You have to enter your order, pay with your card, then I can get you your beer!"

Man attempts to use the terminal. Is disgusted that he has to add a 20% tip in order to get his order taken by the self-service machine so that the bartender can get a beer out of the fridge and plonk it in front of him.

True story.

Just happened to the Old Friends BW in Newark airport.

Still, what do you expect in the country where they cling fervently to their 'constitutional right' to have guns, where there is unaddressed institutional racism in the police, and where this will continue to happen as no US government will ever be brave enough to try to change the status quo.

Guns have no place in a civilised society. And nor do self-service, but still need to pay 20% tip, bars.

As supermarkets in this country continue to increase the numbers of self-service checkouts, it's coming to somewhere near you soon, for sure.


Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Out Soon

The Chilcot Report.
7 years.
2,600,000 words.
Precis in 3: "It was wrong."

With journalists now, but due out sometime around 11am. 11:11 would be appropriate, I think.

Despite all the current media-fuelled disquiet about more 1.3M more Britons choosing to Leave Europe than to Remain, the effect of that decision, on the world, over time, will, I am sure, be much less than that of one Prime Minister's (war criminal's) decision, on the flimsiest of evidence, to follow America into an illegal war.


Friday, July 1, 2016


History tells us that in times of political unrest, new parties form.

In 1981 it was the Social Democratic Party.

In 1988 it was the Liberal Democrats.

Reading those links (other sources are available) shows just how history constantly repeats itself. The lessons are just never learnt.

Who will be the new Gang of Four in 2016? (other numbers of founder members are allowed)

And what will the new Party call themselves (I nearly put 'be called' there, but that would be too tempting...)


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Seven Days On

Theresa May and Angela Eagle in charge of their respective parties? You'd get two heads for the price of one with the Eagles, after all (but let's hope they don't Do A Miliband).

Now there's a thought.

Now, all we need is to get loose cannon Nicola Sturgeon on side, and accepting that her own personal agenda isn't what should be occupying her mind/obvious talents right now, and there may be hope. Three women mopping up after the men, just for a change.

We're hearing very little about what happens if our new PM refuses to trade single market access for free movement of people.

The average tax imposed would be 3% I heard from an informed source on R4 yesterday (CBATG for links - well, OK, I did, but it's complicated). Given that we'd get 3% back on similar import duties (tit for tat), and accepting a few extra documents might need completing, what's the problem? The rest of the world is a much bigger (and faster-growing) market than those markets currently in the EU anyway. Yeah, I know a lot of bankers will miss their BMWs, and wide boys their Audi TTs, but, hey ho, perhaps we could even resurrect our automotive industry (we have the skills, even if they are currently being directed by non-British based companies). Mi1dred can be the BW's Party representative in charge of that. She's a proud product of The Midlands and still going strong 83 years on.

Let's face it, if the EU hadn't prevented the UK from imposing tariffs on the Chinese dumping cheap/subsidised steel on us, then South Wales would be a happier place right now.

Already our stock market is back above its levels of 8 days ago, and looking strong:

"Markets recap: FTSE 100 erases post-Brexit losses as buying bonanza fuels rebound

A buying bonanza fuelled the FTSE 100’s remarkable rebound, erasing all of its post-Brexit losses in just two days.

London’s benchmark index enjoyed its best day in almost five years, soaring 219.67 points, or 3.58pc, to a two-month high of 6,360.06.

The rebound follows an 8.7pc plunge in the immediate aftermath of the Brexit vote. The blue chip index now trading up 0.5pc since the referendum outcome was announced."

We don't need the single market. Call the men in Brussels bluff say I.


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Thought for the day

Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive, and go do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.

- Howard Thurman


Tuesday, June 28, 2016

State of The Nation

This morning the other half of the country who weren't already despairing are in despair (the 1970s Cod Wars come to mind for some reason).

Oh no, wait, it's a Venn diagram, isn't it? As ever, I find myself outside the circles.

It's good to finally see some informed and sensible debate on TV around the real issues that now need sorting out. As I said yesterday, I think that current events have fast-forwarded us to a place that would otherwise have taken 50 years. History will tell, but I'm hopeful it will make for a better future.

We have a long and proud history in creative-based industries, manufacturing and engineering. It's not too late to get it back. No-one wants to have to work in a call centre. There can be little more soul-destroying than having no hope, nothing to do that has a tangible product at the end of the day, being unappreciated, and on a zero hours contract. And that was what was on offer, ad infinitum, to a large proportion of the population.

The next person who says, "Oh but look at the stock exchange, look at the pound!" within my hearing will be incisively questioned about their knowledge and understanding of both.


Monday, June 27, 2016

When all is uncertain...

... ask those who have concerns what they are.

Often the concerns stem from misinformation, or lack of information, or a feeling of powerlessness.

There is always something different that can be done in any situation.

If you don't like what's happening - then get involved, in the real world. Shouting at people on the internet is like pissing in the wind (probably worse, actually, as at least with pissing in the wind you get wet trousers for your efforts).

Posted at 12:20 PM | Comments (0)

Thought for the day

"One way to think about the vote is that it has forced a slightly more equitable distribution of anxiety and alienation upon the country."

- Ian Leslie

Posted at 12:10 PM | Comments (1)

Friday, June 24, 2016

Brave New World?

Who else thinks Jeremy Corbyn secretly voted Leave?

Posted at 12:27 PM | Comments (42)

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

On absence

It seems that I have fallen out of love with the internet.

I could write a thousand (maybe ten thousand) words on why, but I won't; the 'Boaty McBoatface' saga, and surrounding coverage / attendant publicity, goes some way towards illustrating the point.

One thing niggles at my mind though - I know that that name is not original - something about it (or maybe it's something quite similar, or similar in the [Name McNameface] construction) rings a bell... not sure if it is from a (probably children's) book, or TV or film, or somewhere else entirely. I've searched and searched, and talked to people, face-to-face, about my suspicions, but nowhere and no-one has been able to shed any light on the subject.

No, it's not important, it's just my innate curiosity, that isn't satisfied by the internet.


Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Thought for the day

Every time you spend money, you're casting a vote for the kind of world you want.

- Anna Lappé

(see also "You can buy a cheap chicken today, but we all pay for it in the long run.")


Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Thought for our times

Extremism can flourish only in an environment where basic governmental social responsibility for the welfare of the people is neglected. Political dictatorship and social hopelessness create the desperation that fuels religious extremism.

- Benazir Bhutto


Thursday, February 25, 2016

Thought for our times

Time is the coin of your life. It is the only coin you have, and only you can determine how it will be spent. Be careful lest you let other people spend it for you.

- Carl Sandburg


Wednesday, February 24, 2016

The Truth is about to be Out There

While we were away...

Terry Wogan died, Stephen Fry left Twitter (again) "...let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended - worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know."

All this could, of course, get worse if rumours about Twitter raising its character limit prove to be true.

But, it's worse than that.

One-fifth of the world’s adult population already has its thoughts controlled.

"Every time you open Facebook, one of the world’s most influential, controversial, and misunderstood algorithms springs into action. It scans and collects everything posted in the past week by each of your friends, everyone you follow, each group you belong to, and every Facebook page you’ve liked. For the average Facebook user, that’s more than 1,500 posts. If you have several hundred friends, it could be as many as 10,000. Then, according to a closely guarded and constantly shifting formula, Facebook’s news feed algorithm ranks them all, in what it believes to be the precise order of how likely you are to find each post worthwhile. Most users will only ever see the top few hundred.

No one outside Facebook knows for sure how it does this, and no one inside the company will tell you. And yet the results of this automated ranking process shape the social lives and reading habits of more than 1 billion daily active users - one-fifth of the world’s adult population. The algorithm’s viral power has turned the media industry upside down, propelling startups like BuzzFeed and Vox to national prominence while 100-year-old newspapers wither and die. It fueled the stratospheric rise of billion-dollar companies like Zynga and LivingSocial—only to suck the helium from them a year or two later with a few adjustments to its code, leaving behind empty-pocketed investors and laid-off workers. Facebook’s news feed algorithm can be tweaked to make us happy or sad; it can expose us to new and challenging ideas or insulate us in ideological bubbles."

But, all that is as nothing compared to what is about to happen (has already started happening in Somerset, West Hampshire, Blackburn, and Leeds) to your NHS medical records.

You may remember a couple of years ago there was a lot of publicity about the 'Summary Care Record' database. There were many concerns about its use and the potential for abuse, and many people chose to write to their GP surgery to opt out.

Perhaps because of this, there has been much less publicity about the new '' database (AFAIK - but then I've just spent a month out of the country, so do please correct me if I'm wrong). We certainly haven't had a leaflet about it, as we did when Summary Care was about to be introduced.

'' is not about sharing your medical information with doctors, nurses and other health professionals outside of your GP surgery. It's not about enabling the sharing of patient medical records between hospitals and GP surgeries. It's not about the ways in which your GP shares information about you as part of providing essential medical care. It's not about ensuring that hospital specialists have the information that they need when you are referred to see them. It's not about creating a single electronic record that can be viewed by healthcare professionals in any clinical setting. And it's not about submitting information so that GP surgeries and hospitals are paid appropriately for the care that they provide.

It is about data extraction, linkage and analysis: in other words, data mining. Once your personal medical data is uploaded you can never get it removed from the HSCIC databases.

Once your personal medical data is uploaded, it will be released or sold for commercial purposes. Some of it will identify you personally. Who knows where the data will end up?

Add to it the data about you that is already freely available (some of it because you choose to put it out there), and...

It will happen.

Perhaps it doesn't bother you.

But, if you're already frustrated by the 'relevance' of the Amazon ads that pop up after you've been researching something online, just imagine where this could lead.

You can write to your GP surgery requesting that they add certain codes (eg 9Nu4) to your medical record to prevent the HSCIC from releasing or selling any information that it holds, and that clearly identifies you. There is lots of information (perhaps too much - it's very complicated, and the project keeps being delayed) on a website put together by a GP. Of particular interest are links from it: this, this, this.

But, if you act quickly, and write to your GP, you can opt out. There are suggested letters within the information here (none of which, I think, are great, so I'm not directly linking). There are also a lot of links to other sources of information right at the bottom.

One thing I do not understand is how doctors have gone along with this. Surely it is in direct contravention of the Hippocratic Oath that they all take?

On a related note, isn't the new series of the X-Files great?