Friday, May 17, 2013
The Friday Exposé
In the West, we are led to believe that data and other information sources are manipulated in many less democratic (often Eastern and/or developing economy) countries, to suit the purposes of those holding power within these countries.
When one lives within a system/culture/government (that is, within some form of stratified, rule-bound control mechanism) one is less likely to perceive the factual distortions and manipulations being made by those who hold the 'power' within the system.
But, it is happening in this country, and, I believe, in more and more covert terms.
We used to laugh and call it 'spin', but data and semantic manipulation is now an accepted part of our world. After all, if the marketing and PR industry can do it, to suit their business plans, why not official bodies?
Two very reccent examples.
A new report saying "Work Longer Live Healthier" (picked up by the BBC as "Retirement has a detrimental impact on mental and physical health").
If people are drip-fed a diet of information telling them that they will be healthier if they continue working, then that is what many of them will believe and do, and there will be increased benefit to the country in terms of income generation and tax-take.
This nicely fits in with the fact that UK PLC is broke and unlikely to be able to afford to pay state pensions in the future.
That may seem extreme, but the pension age, and level of lifetime contribution needed, keeps being sneakily raised (did you know, for example, that you now have to work 35 years rather than the much-heralded 30 announced just a few months ago, in order to qualify for a full state pension?).
Did you know that the current UK debt is now so huge that if it were to be repaid at £1,000 a second, it would take over 38 years to pay if off? And that doesn't include all the PFI debts, or public sector pension liabilities, and assumes zero future borrowing from today (ha ha). The current debt of £1.2 trillion sounds OK, until you think about it in those terms, because none of us have any real conception of what a trillion pounds is.
The governmint is currently consulting on a new way of classifying the creative industries. I've received several e-requests to sign the petition against their wish to remove all craft industries from the 'creative' definition, and place them into the 'manufacturing' definition. Not believing what I was reading, I found the original source document.
And sure enough, while artists are being left classified as 'creatives' alongside people who work in advertising, people who make beautiful objects, such as potters, weavers, b1acksmiths, woodturners and textile artists, are henceforth to be called 'manufacturers' alongside those who mind machines making widgets or mass-producing cars.
Henceforth (notwithstanding the 'consultation' as we all know the tick-box purpose of those), the 88,000 crafts people (many self-employed or sole traders) making an estimated £3bn annual contribution to the UK economy will be 'manufacturers', but IT business analysts or town planners will be deemed 'creatives'.
Why? My guess is that the UK governmint wants to boost our manufacturing industries. What better way to do it than to inflate the numbers with a bit of artifical reclassifying of what can and can't be considered to be creative?
But, of course, the key question is, does it really matter?
I don't know the answer to this, and I've been unable to find a source that does. I've challenged those who've sent me links to sign the e-petition to tell me why it matters, and have been met with frosty silence. My guess is that different grants and tax breaks are open to differently classified occupations, and this may or may not work in craftspeople's favour.
Creative accounting happens all the time. Creative reclassifying and creative data or semantic manipulation are so much easier than true creativity or truly original thinking.
It's very expensive to employ people for the highest 'official echelons' in this country. It didn't used to be, but in the past 10 or 15 years pen-pushing has become very lucrative. Do you know how many staff in your local authority are paid over £100,000? Only one in mine, but 2,525 across the country. I'd love to know the qualifications and experience of these people. My guess is that many of them wouldn't get 'top jobs' in private companies.
Now, who's still reading? I suspect that I'm probably the only one who cares about this stuff these days.
Sunday, May 12, 2013
On the right track
Mi1dred (spot the Mi1dred) took us out for the day to a railway museum, to meet with some of her (mostly younger) relatives.
Last night, we'd decided not to go, due to the cold, rainy and windy forecast, but at 8.15am this morning we had a change of heart and managed to get out of bed, and out of the house, complete with prepared-from-the-garden lunchboxes, by 9.30am. And that included clearing up, sowing some new mustard seeds (12 hours ahead of where they would otherwise have been), getting showered, and getting Mi1dred ready.
As ever, we travelled in style. Little did we know when I took this photo from the train, but one of those figures sitting on the platform was waiting for us.
Or rather, for Mr BW, having seen him as we got on the train.
"Mr BW?" called the figure as we got off the train. I thought that M15 had finally caught up with him. But no, turned out it was someone Mr BW was at school, and at work in the early days, with. Someone he'd not seen for 26 years. He and his wife are now living 15 miles from us, on the same path to as near self-sufficiency as possible that we've been travelling. And fans of old vehicles and b33s (although all theirs died over the winter). Also both mostly retired. Odd coincidence.
I've wanted one of these for ages, and then 3 come along at once. For 30p each on the junk stall. Guess the objet? (mind the sink)
Saturday, May 11, 2013
Yesterday we visited a huge tented town in Hatfield House Park...
...that was full of traditional crafts. Almost everything you could think of. Not much we don't already do, mind (but good to get some new ideas - Mr BW will be making forged metal ammonites and metal-knotted keyrings soon no doubt, and see mixed-media work in progress - acryclic painting on canvas being built up with layers of free machine embroidery being of particular interest to me).
An excellent day out, also on today and tomorrow, 10 - 5pm.
Lots of very high quality and reasonably priced work for sale, and almost everyone was demonstrating as well as selling. Of particular note was the glass-blowing tent, where a half-hour free demonstration had the whole audience spellbound. The best presentation and explanation of the process that I've ever seen.
There were also large open-air demonstrations of blacksmithing, green wood working, basketmaking, b33keeping, willow structure weaving, and chairmaking.
Lots of hands-on taster sessions are available (some free of charge, some £1, £2 or £5, most suitable for all ages), from stone carving to printing, including wicker weaving, wood carving, paper making, candle making, origami, acrylic and oil painting, pot throwing, spinning and weaving etc etc.
And exhibitions by Guild and Craft societies, including knitters, feltmakers, quilters and embrioderers. This is a 10p-size button:
It's on every year, if you can't make it this year, and many art and craft publications do 2 for 1 entry coupons.
Disclaimer: this is NOT a sponsored post. I don't do those. I cannot be bought. I've written about it as it's a jolly good day out for anyone who likes arts and crafts (either as a participant after new inspiration, or as a seeker of good value hand-crafted items to purchase).
Thursday, May 9, 2013
Fascinating article in the Washington Post on work by Professor Mark Pagel (Head of Evolutionary Biology) at the University of Reading. Not sure why this doesn't yet seem to have been reported in the UK (maybe his earlier thinking, reported here last year, was perhaps not all he thought...)
Using mathematical modelling, Pagel and his team have identified 23 “ultraconserved words” that have remained largely unchanged for 15,000 years. Words that sound and mean the same thing in different languages are called “cognates”.
There are seven Eurasiatic language families, and about 700 languages emanating from them, spoken in an area extending from the British Isles to western China and from the Arctic to southern India. Only one word, “thou” (the singular form of “you”), has a cognate in all seven families.
All 23 “ultraconserved words” (listed by the number of language families in which they have cognates):
7 - thou
6 - I
5 - not, that, we, to give, who
4 - this, what, man/male, ye, old, mother, to hear, hand, fire, to pull, black, to flow, bark, ashes, to spit, worm
Full academic paper here.
Tuesday, May 7, 2013
This is why I haven't been able to come to the blog
The garden has needed me.
From the gardening book, the season seems to have caught up with itself.
The leaves on the silver birch and the apple blossom came out on exactly the same day as last year. But, the daffodils lasted only a week or so, when usually they go on for a month. Although the snowdrops lasted for 9 weeks.
We've been eating salad greens, and radishes, and purple sprouting, and chard, and rhubarb, and fresh herbs. The light has come back.
But then, I've been cooking up green spells for spring:
And spinning tails of green springs:
And printing fuchsias.
Because we've never before had tulips and fuchsias out in the garden at the same time. So, here's hoping the good weather continues. It was 15°C at 9pm this evening.
I love light and warmth.