Saturday, 24 December 2011

Happy Christmas to you all

It's been an odd year, plenty of ups and downs.

It started with the collapse of my attempt to restructure my firm, followed by a few difficult months when it became increasingly apparent that my "difficult" partners had no intention of changing their ways.  It improved a lot in the summer, when I faced facts and handed in my notice so that the conflict could stop and we could all just get on with life.

That didn't exactly work, as they used that as an opportunity to rip off me, the partner who had already handed in her notice, and the one remaining sane partner.  We've been fighting that for the last 5 months, which has been hard work - and expensive.  There seems to be an end in sight for me, though, if not my partners (or maybe I'm just being optimistic?).  One thing is certain for 2012, though, I will be leaving the firm at some point during the year, and will able to put the two of them behind me and focus on setting up my own firm instead.

That has obviously distracted me, and the blog has suffered correspondingly.  I'm sorry about that, I've always enjoyed blogging but just haven't had the spare energy latterly - or the ability to look upwards and outwards enough to have a bloggable opinion on anything.

Building the Caterham has been a joy, and a welcome interruption to the lying, squabbling and, frankly, plain greed that Tweedledum and Tweedledee (my soon-to-be-erstwhile partners) have displayed.  I love making things, building things, and hope to divert that into my new business next year.  If I have learnt anything from Tweedledum and Tweedledummer, it is how much easier it is to destroy than to build.  Ho hum.

Anyway, thank you all for visiting on the few occasions I've posted something, and thank you especially for replying.  It's really appreciated, it's nice to know there are other sane people out there when you're trying to deal with the Tweedles.  I wish you all the best for Christmas, and hope you all have a fantastic celebration. (Except Measured of course - don't go getting arrested!)

I'll leave you with two warnings, though.  First, take care while everyone is visiting, you don't want any upsets:


Second, think carefully when asking for something, in case you are given it.  Such as asking your child to "sing up":

Saturday, 10 December 2011

How to Collect your Christmas Tree in Style!

As demonstrated by one of my co-competitors in next year's Caterham Academy:


Nice one Alex.  We bought our tree today, wish I'd thought of that :-D

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Would you make decisions on the basis of these models?

We have been told for years now that Climate Change models predict the future of our climate and that we must act in order to prevent the calamity that is coming.  Eeerily accurate, in a way that weather predictions are not, these climate predictions say that the global average temperature rise will be this much, and the increase in rainfall will be that much, and that these will cause various human disasters.

Of course, you can hide a lot in an average.  So it is interesting to see what exactly these figures are an average of.  As reported (or should I say "admitted") by the BBC, the Met Office has published a study plotting the likely climate impacts on 24 countries around the world.  They're not exactly convincing.

It seems that 21 different computer models of climate were used to assess various locations as to their vulnerability to floods, rainfall changes and suitability for growing crops.  You would think that, if the "science is settled", then the answers would be fairly consistent.  However, the proportion of UK farmland likely to become more fertile, is apparently somewhere between 60% and 99%.  Aside from being good news rather than bad, that is quite a wide range indicating that the models underlying this prediction are exercises in guesswork at best.  Worse still is the prediction of flooding risk, with estimates ranging from a 180% increase in flood risk to a 56% reduction.

Looking into other countries, where they do not have our history of meticulously recording the weather, it is even worse.  Bangladesh's change in flood risk is somewhere between -59% (that's minus 59%to +557%.  Egypt could be anywhere between 100% better off, or 206% worse off.

When 21 "state-of-the-art" models reach such divergent conclusions, only one conclusion can be reached.  They're all rubbish.

I'll leave the last word to the BBC:
As a policymaker, as a business leader, as a citizen, would you make decisions on the basis of these models?
No. I wouldn't.

(Hat Tip to the Filthy Engineer, again...)

Classic Clarksonisms

With many thanks to the Filthy Engineer, here are a selection of previous utterings from the Yorkshire buffoon.  Enjoy...

1. “I’d like to consider Ferrari as a scaled down version of God.”


2. [On the Porsche Boxster] “It couldn’t pull a greased stick out of a pig’s bottom.”


3. [When driving the Mercedes SLR McLaren through a tunnel] “When they debate as to what the sound of the SLR engine was akin to, the British engineers from McLaren said it sounded like a Spitfire. But the German engineers from Mercedes said ‘Nein! Nein! Sounds like a Messerschmitt!’ They were both wrong. It sounds like the God of Thunder, gargling with nails.”


4. “I’m sorry, but having an Aston Martin DB9 on the drive and not driving it is a bit like having Keira Knightley in your bed and sleeping on the couch. If you’ve got even half a scrotum it’s not going to happen.”


5. “Speed has never killed anyone, suddenly becoming stationary… that’s what gets you.”


6. “Koenigsegg are saying that the CCX is more comfortable. More comfortable than what… being stabbed?”


7. [On Detroit] “God may have created the world in six days, but while he was resting on the seventh, Beelzebub popped up and did this place.”


8. “Owning a TVR in the past was like owning a bear. I mean it was great, until it pulled your head off, which it would.”


9. [On the Renault Clio V6] “I think the problem is that it’s French. It’s a surrendermonkey.”


10. [On the Enzo Ferrari] “I rang up Jay Kay, who’s got one, and said: “Can we borrow yours?” and he said, “Yeah, if I can borrow your daughter, because it amounts to the same thing.”


11. [On the Porsche Cayenne] “I’ve seen gangrenous wounds better looking than this!”


12. “The air conditioning in Lamborghinis used to be an asthmatic sitting in the dashboard blowing at you through a straw.”


13. “Whenever I’m suffering from insomnia, I just look at a picture of a Toyota Camry and I’m straight off.”


14. “If you were to buy a BMW 6-series, I recommend you select reverse when leaving friends’ houses so they don’t see its backside.”


15. “That [Pagani] Zonda, really! It’s like a lion in orange dungarees. Kind of fierce, but ridiculous all at the same time.”


16. [On a Chevrolet Corvette] “The Americans lecture the world on democracy and then won’t let me turn the traction control off!”


17. [On the Alfa Romeo Brera] “Think of it as Angelina Jolie. You’ve heard she’s mad and eats nothing but wallpaper paste. But you would, wouldn’t you?”


18. “A turbo: exhaust gasses go into the turbocharger and spin it, witchcraft happens and you go faster.”


19. “This is a Renault Espace, probably the best of the people carriers. Not that that’s much to shout about. That’s like saying ‘Oh good, I’ve got syphilis, the best of the sexually transmitted diseases!’”


20. “In the olden days I always got the impression that TVR built a car, put it on sale, and then found out how it handled – usually when one of their customers wrote to the factory complaining about how dead he was.”


21. [On the Mercedes CLS55 AMG] “It sounds like Barry White eating wasps.”


22. “I’d rather go to work on my hands and knees than drive there in a Ford Galaxy. Whoever designed the Ford Galaxy upholstery had a cauliflower fixation. I would rather have a vasectomy than buy a Ford Galaxy.”


23. “Usually, a Range Rover would be beaten away from the lights by a diesel powered wheelbarrow.”


24. “Racing cars which have been converted for road use never really work. It’s like making a hardcore adult film, and then editing it so that it can be shown in British hotels. You’d just end up with a sort of half hour close up of some bloke’s sweaty face.”


25. “I don’t understand bus lanes. Why do poor people have to get to places quicker than I do?”


No. 10 definitely applies to my 911, and I know a distressing number of people who think 18 is true...

Sunday, 4 December 2011

21 Shopping Days left

Mrs P found this book, which we're working through this year.  It has some interesting quips and insights.

I'v always loved, for instance, the story of the MP who took a call from the local newspaper editor asking what he would like for Christmas.  Somewhat flattered, but not wanting to seem too greedy, he commented that John Lewis has some excellent hampers in stock this year. And so the article ran: "We asked leading figures what they wanted for Christmas.  The Archbishop of Canterbury said he wanted an end to the violence in Iraq.  The Dalai Lama said he wanted peace in the Middle East.  The Pope said he wanted an end to poverty.  Your local MP said he would like a hamper from John Lewis".

Today's page, however, points to the real story of Christmas.  It has reminded me that what actually happened was that a teenage Mum, pregnant outside marriage, almost abandoned but wonderfully supported by her fiancĂ©, is forced to travel a huge distance (by the standards of the time) in order to conform to the tax regulations of an occupying foreign power.  When she arrives, there is nowhere for the child to be born so she ends up giving birth in a cowshed behind a pub, with no midwife, no gas & air, no clean sheets, and no epidural.

There is a message there.  Christmas is not about getting everything right.  It's not about getting the decorations just perfect.  It's not about getting every last present spot on so as to provoke squeals of delight.  It's about coping with whatever circumstance happens to have thrown at you that year, fitting around that, and remembering what is important - keeping the family together.  Do that, and you can allow something wonderful to come out of it, not make something wonderful happen.

So if the roast parsnips don't turn out quite right, don't worry about it!

Mind you, that hamper does look nice...

Thursday, 1 December 2011

I Couldn't Agree More


I agree wholeheartedly.  We all deserve a decent pension.  Where we differ, is that I think the term "everyone" includes people in the private sector, too.

Now, the reason I don't have a decent pension is that the taxman takes 2/3 of my income, partly to fund the kind of pension for public sector workers that is way beyond anything I can afford..  Sort that out, and I'll be more sympathetic to changes to your pensions.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Cruel but funny

Today's sport chez Patently Towers is playing this video and watching Shadow, our 5 year old greyhound, chase around the house looking for the cats and the squeaky toy that he can hear:

Monday, 14 November 2011

Don't be Grumpy

As we all know, political correctness is everywhere. So if you've suffered from an excess today, I offer you this antidote courtesy of Billy Connolly:

Friday, 11 November 2011

Europain

There is only one aspect of the current fuss in Euroland that confuses me, and it is this.

Why is this a surprise?

The Eurosceptics among us predicted this as soon as the Euro was proposed. We even pointed the finger at Greece and Italy as the likely culprits. We said that the two of them would spend money like water and go cap in hand to Germany.

Now Germany is flinching, pointing out that this was not what they signed up for. Sorry, but it was.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

Bible 2.0

With thanks to Blue Eyes, re-posted here in the hope he won't mind because I know someone who should see it ;-)

Friday, 21 October 2011

A petition worth signing

Someone has put up a petition calling for a British version of the Nurburgring.  I've signed it, and I think you all should too.

As the petition says,
The Nurburgring in Germany has been a roaring success for the region. Tourists come from far and wide to do a lap or two of the famous public racetrack. We propose that a similar road be opened in a deprived area in need of rejuvenation. This would be a good idea because it would be a centre for the public to explore speed in a safe environment, instead of on public roads causing harm to themselves and others. It would also bring automotive tourism to the area, and potentially would make money for the department through a toll system.
Anyone who has been to the Ring can tell you that it is a huge money-spinner for the locality and provides huge support for the local economy.  Even the tree-hugging watermelons should like it, as it would mean there would be excuse for high-speed antics on public roads.

Do go and sign.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

I admit it

OK, OK, you were all right. Cameron is not the messiah. He's just an ordinary politician.



But he's still better than Brown was, would have been, and (indeed) ever could have been.

But yes, I'm disappointed. Anyone want to help form a new party? Like UKIP, only sane. And popular.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Caterham Page

There's a link over to your right to my Caterham page, linking to all the significant Caterham-related articles.

Just saying..

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Building the Caterham

In case you're wondering why there's not been much on here about my Caterham build, there are two reasons.

First, I've been quite busy with the actual process of building it!

Second, and probably more important, I've taken the opportunity to set up a specific Caterham blog at:


which will deal with the day-by-day construction of the car, and my experiences driving and racing it.  That is now up-to-date (save for some image upload snags which should be resolved later today) and will be the repository for anything Caterham-related.

Do take a peek, and let me know in its comments box what you think.

Sunday, 2 October 2011

My kit has arrived!

The Caterham Academy kit has arrived, temporarily displacing pretty well everything from the garage. Here it is being delivered, in time lapse:



I've made some progress so far, which I'll post up or link to shortly.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

Delingpole

Reposted from The Filthy Engineer. Do watch this.



Remember; AGW enthusiasts suggested that I should be executed for my scepticism. Who's the reasonable one, then?

Sunday, 11 September 2011

Sunday, 28 August 2011

I thought "The Science Is Settled"?

...yet someone thinks that:
"it 
is 
clear
 that 
the 
treatment
 of 
aerosol 
formation 
in climate 
models
 will 
need 
to 
be 
substantially revised"
Who is this maverick? Are they an errant blogger, clutching at straws they do not properly understand? Are they a "denier", flatly refusing to believe that the earth is round and that anthropogenic global warming is real?  No, this is CERN, the multinational research agency known for being fairly rigorous in their science.

But surely this is a minor point, a trivial side issue?  No, this is an important aspect of our understanding of climate. More from CERN:
Atmospheric aerosols play an important role in the climate. Aerosols reflect sunlight and produce cloud droplets. Additional aerosols would therefore brighten clouds and extend their lifetime. By current estimates, about half of all cloud droplets begin with the clustering of molecules that are present in the atmosphere only in minute amounts. Some of these embryonic clusters eventually grow large enough to become the seeds for cloud droplets. Trace sulphuric acid and ammonia vapours are thought to be important, and are used in all atmospheric models, but the mechanism and rate by which they form clusters together with water molecules have remained poorly understood until now.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Climate science is not "settled", much of what is officially promulgated about global warming is just opinion, and that the opinions you are fed are not even very solidly based.

Thank Heavens

Global governments 'must get tough on obesity', it seems.
Tougher action - including taxing junk food - is needed by all governments if the obesity crisis is going to be tackled, experts say.

The international group of researchers, who have published a series of articles in The Lancet, said no country had yet got to grips with the problem.
I must say, it is such a relief to hear that all the truly global problems have now been solved. No more wars, famine, genocide, dictatorial regimes, natural disasters, and so on.  All sorted.  All that "global governments" need worry about now is obesity.  There are parts of Africa that are going to be so pleased to hear that.

(H/T to Mummylonglegs)

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Memories

I re-discovered a video this week, which thought I had lost. Back in 1987, I was a teenager stranded for the summer at a remote Aero club, there on an RAF flying scholarship to learn how to fly single-engined Cessnas.

Now, flying training involves long periods of waiting interspersed with short periods of activity. There is plenty of book learning to do in the downtime, but you can only keep that up for so long. So the solitary TV in the corner would be on quite a lot (no Internet, remember...).

This video had just been released, and was surreal enough that it caused quite a fuss. The result was that it was on rather a lot:



All I had remembered of the video were the visuals (for obvious reasons). I quite liked the song, but didn't recall who it was or what it was called. Then, this week, the iPod came across the track for me at random, and suddenly I was back at the flying club, 17 again, looking out the window to see if the weather had lifted.

I've played the video a few times this week, and all the memories of my flying scholarship have come back, clear as day.  It's been nice.  And all it took was a single hook - this video.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Caterham update

I have a delivery date for the kit.... 30 September. Expect my posts to become a bit single-tracked after that date!

Monday, 22 August 2011

Where are the parents?

Wiggy has posted a thoughtful piece by @TooManyBlueys explaining the effect of process by which foster parents must discipline those in their care.

Essentially, they can't. Even minor stuff has to go via the Courts, the result of which is usually that the child is removed and placed somewhere else, such as a Young Offenders Institution or a prison. Whether this is due to the child's human rights or what, I do not know, but it is clearly insane. It interrupts any good work that might be being done with the child, and (arguably) infringes those very human rights by inflicting a disproportionate punishment.

So that's one to add to my list of prescriptions. Allow parents to, err, parent those in their care.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Is feminism patronising to women?

My interest was caught this morning by this tweet by Marie J, retweeted with approval by Elaine Chalus:
Why any woman in the UK would ever vote Conservative is completely beyond me.
I replied smugly, wondering if Mrs P (who I know votes in this way) could perhaps see something that they could not?

I was told, in reply, that clearly Mrs P has concerns other than the dire impact of incoherent policy making on women. That made me wonder. Does Mrs P have to see all issues purely from a woman's perspective? It would seem, according to Marie J and Elaine Chalus, that the answer to this is a resounding "yes":
Any woman who considers herself a person in her own right, should then also be able to understand the impact of policies on her own life, and thus be able to judge appropriately. That necessitates evaluating policies in terms of gender.
(Elaine Chalus)
Snap. I'd argue the same for any group unfairly affected by policy. Emphasis on *unfairly*.
(Marie J)

What this is saying to me is that, given that she is a woman, my wife must see all policies purely in terms of their effect on women.  All policies must be evaluated in terms of gender.  She must therefore identify herself as a woman only.  She may not (or should not?) look at a party's policies in the round, to identify whether, in her opinion, they would be beneficial to the country as a whole.  She must look at the effect of a party's policies on women only.

I think this is sexist.  I think this belittles women.

I think this says, in effect, that women should not worry themselves over complex stuff like international finance, national debts, deficit financing, the proper level of government intervention in the economy, and so on.  It is dangerously close to saying that women shouldn't worry about such things, they should leave them to the men - after all, men will at least understand them.  Just vote on the basis of which parties will offer childcare vouchers.  Don't fret your pretty little heads over the complex stuff.

Now, be absolutely clear; I reject that view entirely.  Simple experience has taught me that men can be utterly hopeless at such issues while women can be instinctively good at them, and I have seen it often enough in my day-to-day life.  In my opinion:

  • women are just as capable of understanding and holding a considered opinion on issues that are non-gender-related
  • women are not inclined to take a paranoid approach that regards every issue as intrinsically gender-biassed
  • women are perfectly capable of seeing the wider picture, seeing the effect of a set of policies on the country as a whole - not just from their own narrow perspective.

I am surprised to find myself (seemingly) being contradicted in this view by two apparently intelligent women.   Now, it is important for me to acknowledge that I may have misunderstood the views expressed - if so then I invite Marie and Elaine to set me right, which they can do here free from the constraints of 140 characters. If I have misunderstood, however, then Marie and Elaine may wish to reflect on how they communicate their views!

Mind you, if I understood correctly, and if this view is widely held, then it does at least explain how Labour managed to gain and keep so much support.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Irony


Although simple in form, this poster is of course a cutting comment on the declining intellectual standards over the years - pointing out to us via the simplest of metrics how in a few short decades there has been a marked decline in the level of basic skills that can be expected of juveniles, even in Western democracies characterised by free universal education. Its message calls for action, pleads with us to instil those most fundamental of life skills into our youngsters.

Yes, I'm talking about the apostrophe, of course. But the cartoon is quite funny, too.

Friday, 19 August 2011

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Real lawyers don’t jerk knees

This post, by Legal Bizzle, is worth a read.  Too often, a knee jerks, a straw man is attacked, and the debate advances not one jot.  In a clever allusion between contract negotiations and law & order debate, Bizzle warns us against such lazy thinking.

Off you go, have a read, let me know what you think.

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Give this chap a medal

This deserves a wider audience.



OK, I understand that the criminal justice system is a bit busy at the moment, but let's try and find time to prosecute these drivers. His point about ambulances is spot on, but it's not the only reason.

The same thing happened next to me once, and when I did finally get to a junction that I could use, I couldn't get off the motorway because of all the people pushing past along the hard shoulder on my inside. Eventually, just I had to put on the horn and the indicator at the same time and go for it.

Just when you thought it couldn't get worse...


Also, it seems that all communities are involved. Paddy Murphy was heard to mention to his mate "my brother was among the looters who ransacked Argos in Manchester last night... he's got 500 catalogues if you want one".

There are some things money can't buy...

Borrowing needed to cover our deficit - £148.9 billion.

National debt that will one day need to be paid off - £1105.8 billion.

Watching France stare a downgrade in the face - Priceless.

Tuesday, 9 August 2011

A simple question

I filled Mrs P's car with diesel this evening. The bloke on the cashdesk was Middle Eastern in appearance, with a strong accent. We chatted while I fiddled with my PIN number. He had a question he wanted answering.

Why are they doing this? In Middle East, we have no Opposition party. We gave no rights. You have good society here. We come to England, to safest country in the world, and you have riots? Why? There is nothing to riot about here!
I couldn't really answer that.

I'm not making this up, either.

Lessons will be learnt...

Yes, it's the standard phrase, waiting in the wings, just itching to be used as soon as the fires die down and the yobs stop throwing stuff.  But will there be any truth in it?  Or will things just carry on as before?

What has happened is, without argument, completely out of proportion to any possible cause that may be cited.  Even if the man who was shot turns out to have been totally innocent of all charges and mercilessly executed by the Police (which I doubt, but...)  then how does looting a JJB Sports shop help that?  Did JJB provide SO19 with free trainers so that they could run into their firing positions more quickly?  No, I didn't think so.  These riots are pure opportunistic criminality, and nothing more.  The rioters are looting and burning because they have realised they can, they have realised that nothing will happen to them, they have realised that the rule of law has retreated.

So the lessons that need to be learnt are quite simple.  Reverse the soft-left bleeding-heart policies of decades.  Take a few decisive steps to re-assert the rule of law:

  • Tell the Courts to rip up the sentencing guidelines and keep the "community sentences" for crimes that caused no injury, loss or fear to other members of the community.  Stuff like TV licence evasion, not stuff like mugging or burglary.
  • Tell the Courts that if a previous sentence didn't stop the offending behaviour, that means it didn't work.  Therefore, the next one needs to be harsher.  A lot harsher.  
  • Locate a supply of rigid steel backbones, lubricate them well, and insert one into each serving Police officer above the rank of Chief Inspector.  Explain to them that their job is to police their areas, that the Officers beneath them need their support, and that if The Guardian phones up asking why force was used, they should (a) tell them the real truth, (b) do so immediately, and (c) offer to take the journalist along next time there is a mob, at the front of the police pack (naturally).  
  • Close the CPS and replace it with some kind of organisation which might actually prosecute people once in a while.  Explain to them that their job is to make life difficult and unpleasant for the criminal classes.  Make sure that the lawyers it hires include at least some of the sort who look for reasons why they can proceed, not reasons why they can't.  Speaking from experience, I can say that both sorts of lawyers exist, both are (in fact) equally useful, but that the latter need to be kept very firmly in check.
  • Add a new subsection to the Human Rights Act, to the effect that a Court shall have a sense of perspective in all its judgements, and shall take into account any behaviour by the Claimant that contributed to the alleged infringement of his or her human rights.
  • Pass a law establishing that teachers are indeed in loco parentis and that a punishment inflicted by a teacher is acceptable regardless of the opinion of the parent or guardian, provided that it is not grossly disproportionate.  
  • When a prisoner complains that his treatment is unfairly harsh, measure the harshness of his or her treatment against the harshness of his or her offence.  If the prisoner is whinging about something that pales into insignificance against the impact of their own crime, tell them to shut up and take it.  
Any other suggestions?

Out & About, some good news....

Popping out during my lunch break, what should I see in an Oxfordshire lay-by?

A low-loader.

A very large low-loader.

A very large low-loader being loaded.

A very large low-loader being loaded with an equally large, red,... water cannon.


From the look of the low-loader and the straps being used to tie it down, I'd say it is off on a journey somewhere.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Solve the Riots with More Spending....

Perhaps the recent riots are indeed caused by insufficient public spending. Blue Eyes has the prescription:
the only additional public funding which should result from this latest example of Britain’s total lack of institutional organisation should be channelled towards building prisons, beefing up the courts and getting the police out of their offices and onto the streets. Anything else is just a sop to the criminals.
Yep, that should do it.

Face Facts

Courtesy of The Filthy Engineer:



In a US context, but the principle applies equally well to us.

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Going fast, getting nowhere: Neat Disabled Sign

Richard at Going fast, getting nowhere likes B3ta's suggestion of a better disabled sign:


I have to agree, that is very good.  However, I think the best suggestion is this guide to parking at the airport:

Thursday, 4 August 2011

We're all in this together

So Blue Eyes has been banned from Inspector Gadget's blog. Can't say I'm surprised, given the usual style of comments there. Blue committed the mortal, unforgiveable sin of criticising a policeman! Worse, he suggested that their pension scheme should bear some resemblance to that available to others! For this, he is apparently a troll and a banker (which is worse, I wonder?), and if he persists in arguing that police pensions should be like everyone else's then he shouldn't expect officers to turn up if he gets burgled.

Now, that last comment provoked the same reaction on my part as it did for Blue. Told in the comments that
my colleagues and I keep you safe at night. we [sic] investigate when you’ve been robbed, me [sic] maintain your way of life, we ensure the bad guys are always chased, so yes, you can pay our pension after a [sic] we retire.
I couldn't help but point out that:
I can honestly say that we do appreciate that. We really do. When you actually do it. However, what tends to happen is that when we call, it’s “not a priority”, or “no-one is available”, and when we have to sort it out ourselves because you’re not there, it suddenly is a priority to arrest one of us.
Blue Eyes even has a solid example (mine only come from family & friends...):
I tried to get my local Safer Neighbourhoods team to intervene with the people in the flat below me who smoke cannabis most evenings. As far as I can work out they simply don't work evenings or nights. The argument for the good pay and pensions is that it is an anti-social work pattern, but apparently not if you are on my local team!
That comment from Special Dibble is not the only example. PC Lightyear thinks that:
the emergency services are different due to the role they perform- you want the ambulance service to be cut back when you’re waiting to be cut out of a wrecked car? Or the fire brigade when you’re trapped in a burning building, or the old bill when youre [sic] house is being burgled.
This is the usual Police argument.  "We're special", they say.  "You need us, you'll miss us if we're gone".  True enough, we would indeed miss them.  In what way (exactly) does it make the Police special, though?  How long would the average Policeman cope if the water companies stopped supplying him with potable water?  Or if the supermarkets stopped supplying him with essentials such as bread, milk, (donuts...?) and so on?

And what about me?  I'm a patent attorney.  They don't need me, surely?  Except, maybe they do.  A good proportion of my work is for a company that leads the world in radiotherapy treatment; I secure them the protection they need for their inventions, allowing them to justify the research and development work that they do.  That development work has, over just a few decades, made radiotherapy treatment far safer, and far more effective.  Just as I want the Old Bill to turn up when my house is being burgled, I suspect Special Dibble will want my client to have found it worthwhile making that investment when he (or someone close to him) is diagnosed with a tumour.

The simple fact is, we all depend on each other.  Such is the nature of a market economy. The Police, however, seem to think they are in some way blessed.  Sorry to break the news boys and girls, but you're not.  That doesn't mean you're not appreciated (when you actually do your job), it just means you can drop the holier than thou attitude when you're dealing with the law-abiding public.

Just as I am a servant to my clients, so the Police are servants to all of us.

Monday, 1 August 2011

Plodding on

I've whinged about the police often enough. I think my views must be pretty well "on record" by now - i.e. that a police force operating on behalf of the law abiding populace to protect them from criminals is a very good idea and it would be nice if we had one.

As ever, it is a pleasure to see that I am not alone. Oscar India has noticed that a third of crimes reported to the police are not investigated. I find that surprising - I would have put the figure much higher, as my experience is that 100% of non-motoring matters were not investigated to any extent.

Anyway, he makes the point that I have tried to make:
The reason millions of us are increasingly angry about endless speed cameras, fines for "incorrect recycling" and so on isn't that we think we should be able to drive everywhere at 100mph or throw rubbish in the streets, it's because we feel that we're a walking cash machine for the police and State, that authorities are quick to rush in and fine us for such things because it's easy, yet when we need them as victims of far more serious crime, it's just too difficult to bother.
Hear hear.

Sunday, 31 July 2011

Reasons for not using Condor Ferries...

We are, as is well known, an island race with a strong maritime history.  It is no surprise, therefore, that even now that cheap flights and fast Eurostar trains are available, there are still a wide range of ferry services available to let us cross the Channel and visit our nearest neighbour.

We just did exactly that - the (extended) Patently family crossed from Poole to Cherbourg and back in order to spend a week in Normandy (before you ask, yes, the tapestry is worth visiting).  We booked a ferry crossing simply because the detour to Folkestone and Calais would have meant that driving via the Tunnel would have taken just as long; with no real difference in the total journey time, we reasoned that it was better to sit on the ferry and relax than have to drive all that way.  We booked the crossings simply on the basis of what was available at what time, so that we could choose a convenient crossing time.  There were, after all, four children in the party so convenience scored highly.

Without really realising, therefore, I ended up with a very good comparison between the three ways of crossing the Channel.  I have used the Tunnel several times before, and am a definite fan provided it fits the intended route well enough.  Our trip out (Poole to Cherbourg) was via a traditional roll-on-roll-off ferry, the Barfleur (operated by Brittany Ferries):


Our return was via a different ship, the Normandie Vitesse, operated by Condor Ferries but bookable via Brittany Ferries:


As the name suggests, the Normandie Vitesse is seriously quick - 40mph was quoted to me.  Unlike the Barfleur, it is a fast catamaran built to go quickly, at the price of carrying a smaller number of passengers and cars.  The reasoning, presumably, is that we will pay more to get across the Channel in two and a half hours than we will to cross in four and a half.  All other things being equal, I would say that is right.

All other things are very definitely not equal, however.  You see, there are ways in which Newton's third law applies to all things.  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  You have to spend longer on the Barfleur, so they make the accommodation much nicer.  Comfier seats, more room to walk around, a nicer restaurant, more to do on board.  The Normandie Vitesse, suffering from the design compromises inherent in the catamaran style of hull that allow its speed, has only a small cabin which is busy, noisy, and somewhat cramped.  There is no deck to walk on, only two small viewing platforms directly above the engines.  But all of that is ok, because it is so quick, right?

Wrong.  Take a close look at the picture above.  Tell me where, on that hull, there is an exit for vehicles at the front as there is on the Barfleur.

If you're having difficulty finding it, that's because there isn't one.  There can't be; the hull shape dictates this.  The only entrances for vehicles are at the back.  This means that cars have to drive in via the same exits that they will use in order to leave at the end of the journey.

Also, look at the shape of the hull.  Deep gashes on the underside define the catamaran shape, and eliminate most of the interior space.  The car deck is therefore in the style of a multi-storey carpark.  You drive in, you are guided by staff into a space, and at the end of the trip they guide you out of your space and off the ferry.  In theory.

In practice, our experience was a little different.  The ferry arrived at the port half an hour late, by which time the staff were obviously under pressure to turn the ship round quickly, and a bit stressed as a result.  It then took an inordinately long time to unload the cars, for reasons we could not understand (but soon would).  Then, loading started with the taller vehicles first.  My 5-series was left until later, being of only normal height.  When we were called, the lower deck was full on one side, leaving the other side as a route through to the ramps leading to the upper decks.  With tight clearances, I had to reverse back and forth in order to get round the corners demanded of me in order to spiral up through what I can only describe as the multi-storey carpark from hell - until at the top of the last ramp, we met a solid bulkhead.  Here, we were guided into spaces marginally larger than the car itself, and asked to leave the car deck for the cabin.  All around us, cars were still being guided into equally small spaces.  Our children are old enough to be sensible, but I noticed many stressed parents trying to prevent their children from being squished.  One parent was evidently saved that concern, albeit by having a car parked so close to hers that it was physically impossible to remove the infant from its seat via the door.  I don't know how that one was solved.

Walking to exit, I noticed that there were no markers as to where in the car deck we were.  No sign explained what level we were on, or which zone we were in - standard practice in pretty well every other ferry and every large car park that I have visited.

We settled down into our reserved seats for the journey.  That turned out to have been a waste of money; there were enough seats for everyone (despite the car deck being at capacity), and the non-reserved seats were actually cleaner and more comfortable than the reserved seats.  However, I had the advantage of a seat at the very rear, from which I could see the remaining cars being loaded.  An increasingly stressed member of staff was guiding the last few cars onto the ship in reverse, along a ramp that had a bend in the middle, into the cramped car deck.  Now, I am a pretty confident driver but that gave me the heebie-jeebies, partly because of the sheer challenge involved and partly because the over-stressed "guide" in a high-vis vest was shouting at the driver, banging on his bonnet, and generally distracting the driver so as to make it even harder.

Nor had our relatives (with whom we had been holidaying) fared any better.  My mother-in-law was shouted at because she ignored the instruction to get out of the car so that her husband could park it sufficiently close to the bulkhead.  This upset her a little, not least because the initial request had been utterly drowned out by the noise within the cardeck of the marine engines, air-conditioning, and 199 other cars being driven past into their inch-tight spaces.  The first she knew of the need to get out was Mr Irritable and his shouting.

Anyway, the journey across the Channel was uneventful, and as Poole approached we were asked to return to our cars.  This proved a challenge; with many other families trying to find their cars in the unmarked decks, a full search of all the (unmarked) levels proved harder than expected.  However, eventually we found ours and I helped the children and Mrs P into their seats.  I walked round to my door, to find this:


I had indeed lost some weight while on holiday (despite the French food), mainly due to the extra activity as compared to office life.  However, much as I appreciate the implicit compliment offered by the ferry staff, I am in fact still incapable of passing through a door that cannot open more that about an inch.  Nor could the passengers trying to get into the car next to me; at least I could ask Mrs P to get out to allow me in via the nearside.  Recent practice in the art of in-car gymnastics enabled me to get to the driver's seat without injury.  No such luck for those hoping to get into the other car, they had to wait until others had been moved.

Staff turned up to help us reverse out back to the ramps so that we could leave.  Mr Stressy was there; I thank my lucky stars that I was helped out by a colleague of his, as I watched him shout, gesticulate, and generally do his best to unsettle and distract the driver who was evidently (and sensibly) ignoring him.  Given the time needed to find cars, the packed state of the cardeck, the tight tolerances involved, the need to wait until people could actually get into their cars to move them, the complex route required, and the many tight turns involved, this took a long time.  We realised why unloading had been so slow when the ship first arrived.

As we left, we passed two cars being photographed by ship staff to evidence the damage done to them while on board.  I don't know how common that is, but I have not seen it happen on any other ferry.

Overall, then, the selling point of a Condor ferry is speed - about two hours faster than the Barfleur.  However, we were an hour late by the time we arrived at Poole, and took a further long period of time to disembark.  By the time you add in the stress involved in loading and unloading, and the very obvious risk of damage, it is not worth it.  And worse, these delays meant the kennel had closed by the time we arrived home, so we had to spend an extra night without Shadow:

Sad dog is missing you

My advice?  If you want a fast crossing, use the Tunnel.  If you need to go by sea, relax and take your time.  Don't use a "high speed" ferry.

Note: this post is based purely on my experience yesterday, and may not be representative.  I will not be using a Condor ferry again, but if you are a foot passenger, driving a tall vehicle (which will be first on, first off, and on the lower deck), or on a pushbike or motorbike then you may find that it suits you better than it did me.  If Brittany Ferries or Condor Ferries would like to respond to this post then they can email me at the address in the sidebar and I will be more than happy to print their response.


Update: @AlJahom has had better experiences on Condor Ferries, but Hugh Miller  had a similar one on the Stranraer to Belfast catamaran...

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Caterham build - time lapse

I'm very much liking this video at the moment, sadly one that does not allow embedding.  The reasons will be obvious, I imagine...

Tuesday, 19 July 2011

A Spartan Weekend

Last Sunday, Mr Clarkson gave us his thoughts on the new 2011-model Nissan GTR. It is loaded with every bit of technology available to sport-cars manufacturers, built to the finest level of precision that is currently possible, and the result is a car which comprehensively outperforms supercars that are two to three times the price. Clarkson loved it. He loved its ability to produce stupendous performance, enough to drag his (albeit somewhat flabby) features off to one side of his face as it drove him round corners and impossible speeds, inflicting impossible levels of g-force, faithfully monitored by the on-board g-trace screen.

I would hate it. OK, if you offer me a test drive, I'll gladly take it and I'll have fun for a few hours. But there's no way I'll buy one.  There's no way I'll want one for keeps.

Why? The hint is in my first paragraph. The GTR drove Clarkson round the corners. Not the other way round. Now, Clarkson is a skilled driver (whatever you think of him), and so he should be - he's had enough practice by now. But he didn't need that skill. He just needed to turn the wheel and the car did it for him. Then the car produced a wiggly line on a computer monitor for him, so that he could see how well the car was doing.

But, it strikes me that if you're really concentrating on driving a car to its limit, you won't have time to look at a monitor on the dashboard. So if there is a monitor to tell you your g-trace, that tells you that you're not the one doing the work. You weren't the one with the skill. You aren't the one that should be proud of a lap-time. If I may be crude and Clarksonian for a moment, it would be like being proud that your wife is satisfied because you were the one that bought the massive vibrator and held it there for her.

I know this because last weekend I borrowed a proper sports car.  One that is not provided with electronickery to do all the work for you.  One that just has what it needs - a chassis, an engine, steering, and brakes.  There you go, say its makers, now get on with driving it.  What was it?  Well, it was a Caterham:


I know Caterham don't have many models, but let's be specific and say that it is a 7:


In particular, a Caterham 7 Roadsport:


No, not the SV, I may be middle-aged but I can still fit in a standard 7, thank you.  That is, of course, the first line of thought that strikes you when you first encounter a 7 - isn't it tiny! Will I fit in?  And if I do fit in, how exactly am I going to get into it?  (Only later do you start to wonder how you are going to get out.)

But that is the 7's hidden advantage.  It is tiny, therefore it is light, therefore it is fantastic to drive.  Also, that is the one way in which it is practical - it could (for example) be squeezed into a garage that already had one proper car and the garage-clutter of a family of four:

Who are you looking at?


Just squeeze into this half-space, here...

To illustrate my point about the equipment levels, this 7 was fully loaded with all the options.  Yes, this one had a roof!  In its own bag - look:


The interior is spartan, bereft of fripperies.  But there is nothing that you really, really need in order to drive the car that is absent:


The interior is, err, snug:


but has all it needs to keep you there:



BMW would call this interior "Piano Black", and they would hide the rivets.  But that would just make it pretentious and slower.  And why do you need anything more secure for the door than a leather strap with a popper?  After all, it's not as if there's any room in there to leave anything valuable behind...


Yet I loved it, and I loved the aesthetics.



and, joy of joys, it has a big red button which you press to start it:


Who could fail to love a machine with a big red starter button?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Orwell would be proud.

Public spending is rising, but the BBC news tells us about the Tory Cuts.

I'll say that again.  Public spending is rising, but the discussion is about the awful awful nasty "cuts" that the nasty Tories are forcing on us.

Presumably, to "cut" is now defined as "to not increase an amount by as much as someone would like you to".  In which case, I shall advertise far and wide to potential clients of the cuts I am making to my charging rates.

Appearances can be deceptive

An excellent post here by OscarIndia.  Do go and read it.

It struck me as a poignant tale.  Bill is a retired RAF veteran, and took great care to manipulate his superficial appearance after being shot down.   This was successful in ensuring that the right assumptions were made about him, enabling him to avoid capture after being shot down.  Now., though, he is suffering from assumptions being made about him... as a result of his current superficial appearance.

Friday, 8 July 2011

With apologies to my readers in France...

...but this is too good not to post:

A U.S. Navy Admiral was attending a naval conference that included Admirals from the US, British, Canadian, Australian and French Navies. At a cocktail reception, he found himself standing with a large group of officers that included personnel from most of those countries. Everyone was chatting away in English as they sipped their drinks, but a French admiral suddenly complained that, whereas Europeans learn many languages, Americans learn only English. He then asked, 'Why is it that we always have to speak English in these conferences rather than speaking French?'

Without hesitating, the American Admiral replied, 'Maybe it's because the Brits, Canadians, Aussies and Americans arranged it so you wouldn't have to speak German.'

You could have heard a pin drop.

Sunday, 3 July 2011

Compare and Contrast

First, let's look at this article.
Freedom of information laws are being misused to harass scientists and should be re-examined by the government, according to the president of the Royal Society.

Nobel laureate Sir Paul Nurse told the Guardian that some climate scientists were being targeted by organised campaigns of requests for data and other research materials, aimed at intimidating them and slowing down research. He said the behaviour was turning freedom of information laws into a way to intimidate some scientists.
A clear message; the climate scientists do not like FOI requests, and see them as an unwarranted intrusion into their affairs; one that should be limited.  That caught my eye immediately, in a scientific context.

At first sight, this seems a reasonable request by them.  They have work to do, and they are being held up in that work by a torrent of incoming demands that they catalogue and release their information - worse, they need to release the information to bodies that are obviously critical of them and wish to use the information to pick their work apart.  Surely this is wrong?  Surely this is a waste, a diversion of scientific effort?

Well, let's see the contrary view, amusingly enough courtesy of exactly the same media organisation:
An Oxford academic has won the right to read previously secret data on climate change held by the University of East Anglia (UEA). The decision, by the government's information commissioner, Christopher Graham, is being hailed as a landmark ruling that will mean that thousands of British researchers are required to share their data with the public.
Why is this a landmark?
Critics of the UEA's scientists say an independent analysis of the temperature data may reveal that Phil Jones and his colleagues have misinterpreted the evidence of global warming. They may have failed to allow for local temperature influences, such as the growth of cities close to many of the thermometers.
And there, in a nutshell, is the basic point of science.  You don't just publish your findings, your conclusions, your recommendations for policy. You publish your data.  All of it.  All the data that you relied on in reaching your conclusions, and (in fact) all of the data that you discarded or disregarded because you thought it was flawed, false or irrelevant.  You do it for one, simple, reason.  There might be someone else out there who knows better than you.  Someone who spots something you didn't.

That is how science works.  The climate scientists at UEA don't understand that.  They don't understand how science works.  Their view is that a basic scientific norm should not apply to them.

Remember that.

Confused

I hear that there is an impending famine in the Horn of Africa.  Again.

Now, this has been happening on a regular basis for about as long as I can remember.  One of my earliest memories in the field of international affairs was the 1984 famine in Ethiopia, and the resulting outcry that gave us Band Aid, Live Aid, Comic Relief, and the general trend for singers to become humanitarian emblems.

Given the regularity of these events, and their appalling effects in terms of both human life and social impact, are we not better to try and deal with the underlying problem, rather than the symptom?

(Note: this is a subject that I genuinely know virtually nothing about.  Hence, the question is of enquiring in nature, not a rhetorical)

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Explain that one to me again?

Sound the alarms! Man the barricades! It's a disaster! The UK is not meeting its climate change targets!

Quite the opposite, in fact - things are getting worse:
Emissions rose by 3% during 2010, says the Committee on Climate Change (CCC).
Oh no!  How awful - surely the temperature will now run away ever upwards, leaving us sweltering.  How could this have happened?
This was due to extra energy demand in cold weather
Arrgggh! All those heaters being turned on, using energy to keep people warm despite the awful winter...?

Hang on a minute... let me read that again:
This was due to extra energy demand in cold weather
Cold weather?

Sympathy

Can I just express sympathy for the public sector workers who will have to work longer for a smaller pension. I know how you feel. Literally.

There is just one small (but crucial) difference. I'm not demanding that money be taken from public sector workers in order to maintain my pension at the level I expected. I'm not demanding, in effect, that public sector workers should be made doubly worse off so that I in the private sector do not have to accept any pain.

So stop whining, and get back to work.

Tuesday, 28 June 2011

The ordeal suffered by Millie Dowler's family was, without a shadow of a doubt, appalling. I would not wish it on anyone.  They have my sympathy.

That does not mean, however, that I think we should be changing our system of justice.  It is easy to blame the defence lawyer who asked the questions.  It is easy to blame the Judge who did not stop him.  Very easy.  Too easy, in fact.  I have had a lingering feeling that the public discussion of this case was somehow very wrong, but the Beneath the Wig blog put it into words better than I have managed so far.  Go and read it; it is worth the time.

Wiggy's summary hit the nail on the head, I feel:
By all means, put reporting restrictions on trial. Put the press on trial; but don’t put justice on trial. Those details could have stayed inside that court room, where, it could be said, they belonged. But the very press who are calling for the barrister’s head on a platter and a noose around the justice system’s neck, are the very press who disseminated that information in all its gory detail for public consumption. There is such a thing as restraint. But restraint should never be forced on the team responsible for ensuring a proper, robust defence is run. Justice demands that. (my emphasis)
(Hat Tip to Tom Paine)

Friday, 17 June 2011

Another nail in the coffin of journalism

The single realisation that, when it dawned on me, spelt the end of any faith that I ever had in the mainstream media, arrived after I had been in the patent profession for a decade or so.  I was reading an article that mentioned an intellectual property subject, and which made a howling error that showed the writer to have no knowledge or understanding of IP at all.  I dismissed it, thinking something along the lines of "typical...".

Then I had a second thought.  I realised that I had dismissed the article without surprise because every single article I had read had been the same.  Not once had I read an MSM article that mentioned IP without there being a serious error or misunderstanding of some sort.  Now, IP is my specialist subject.  I have postgraduate and professional qualifications in it, and I deal with it every day.  Without being immodest, I can say that I am pretty expert in it.  Others are more expert in certain specific areas of IP, I will admit, but IP is a subject that I can honestly claim to know about and whenever I read a MSM article about it, it is wrong.

So, I realised, what about all the other articles?  The ones about subjects that I'm not an expert in?  Logically speaking, there are two classes of article, being those on a subject I know about and those on a subject I don't know about.  For the articles in the first class, I know that they all contain horrific errors and oversimplifications.  For the articles in the second class, I do not know that they do not contain horrific errors and oversimplifications because I am not qualified to assess this.

Logically, though, unless there is some link between me understanding a subject, and journalists tending to misunderstand a subject, we should infer that all articles on all subjects are sloppily written from an uninformed perspective.  That is the basis on which I have operated since that realisation.  So far, it was worked distressingly well.

Which brings me to the latest Telegraph article on the subject of the European Patent.  As ever, I approached this article with the primary aim of finding the glaring error.  This is good scientific practice, of course; if my hypothesis is that every such article will contain a serious error, then I should look for an error in each one so that I can, if possible, disprove the hypothesis by finding an article that discusses IP in an accurate and balanced manner.   Well, it didn't take long:
Currently, member states have their own patent offices. These work together as members of a non-EU body, the European Patent Organisation, which helps companies gain patents across 40 countries.
Ooops. No, the EPO and the national offices are operationally independent.  The EPO has its own offices, examiners, rules, fee structure, representatives, code of conduct, and so on.  It consists of the European Patent Office, which is controlled by the European Patent Organisation.  Yes, the Organisation has an Administrative Council that includes representatives from the national offices, but that is a policy-setting board that acts as a general oversight.  It is misleading to say that the offices "work together as members of a non-EU body [ to help ] companies gain patents across 40 countries".  They do no such thing.  The national offices do not work together to help companies obtain patents in other countries.

The European Patent Office acts as a competitor to the national patent offices.  It takes work off them by streamlining the process and allowing companies to patent their ideas across Europe at much lower cost.  That cost could be lowered still further by making savings in the utterly pointless translation scheme that was imposed on the EPO by national governments.  We (i.e. the UK) have been trying to lift this burden off the EPO since before I joined the profession 20 years ago.  This is not an EU sovereignty issue, it is a simple issue of bureaucratic efficiency.

Which leads to the other huge glaring error by the Telegraph.  In their desire to paint Cameron as a closet Euro-federalist, they have jumped on the latest UK effort to get the Community Patent off the ground to prove that he loves the EU and all its manifestations.  Which is, frankly, pathetic.

So as far as I'm concerned, the Telegraph can return to what it is good at - printing a large-format backing paper for photos of whichever female member of the Middleton family was looking prettiest the day before.

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Capping Benefits

A brief exchange in the House caught my eye, on the subject of the proposed cap on State benefits:
Steven Baker (Wycombe, Conservative)
[...]In 2011-12, the pay-as-you-earn tax threshold will be just £7,475 a year. [...] the people paying tax—that is, paying tax to pay the benefits that others are in receipt of—are actually poorly paid and that a year’s pay on the national minimum wage is just £12,300? Will he join me in recognising that it is an issue of social justice that we should introduce the benefits cap?
which prompted the reply:
Iain Duncan Smith (Secretary of State, Work and Pensions, Conservative)
I agree with my hon. Friend. That point is also powerfully made by the fact that nearly half of all those who are working and paying taxes fall below the level of the cap. It is important to achieve a balance of fairness. I recognise that there are issues, and we have looked at ways in which the process of change in housing benefit can be done more carefully, for example. This is not about punishing people; it is about establishing a principle that fairness runs through the whole of the benefit system.
Note that: nearly half of those working fall below the benefits cap.  To put that differently, the benefits cap is set close to the median income for this country.  This means that at present (without the cap), it is probably possible to be on benefits, and be better off than average.  


Remember that when a leftie tells you about evil Tories who punish the poor.

Monday, 13 June 2011

Obo has a good idea...

...as to how to tell whether a political speech has any content. And it's a cunning one.

As explained here, what you need to do is imagine the speech being delivered by one of the characters from "The Thick Of It". If you can't tell the difference, it is a spin-rich content-free zone.  Or, as we have now learnt to call it, "normal politics".

There is a message here for politicians, which Obo points out
And then politicians moan about the lack of "democratic engagement". Hint: how about you [bunch] give us something to engage with? Honestly, if you take out Ed's half-[hearted] "attack" on the Big Society, is there anything in his speech that would sound odd if it were delivered by Cameron or Clegg?
We're in a bind; Cameron won't say anything remotely interesting because he's in government, Clegg is incapable of having a sensible idea of his own (even if he wasn't in government, as he sometimes seems to think), and the Millillillibababble is, well, just incapable.

So three cheers for the Libertarian Party, who stand at the vanguard of a new... errr, oh.

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Well, those of us that survived, anyway....

I do love the "we were brought up without health & safety" piece in whatever form it arrives, this time from the Filthy Engineer.  Always a good read:

CONGRATULATIONS TO ALL WHO WERE BORN IN THE 1930's 1940's, 50's, 60's and even early 70's

First, we survived being born to mothers who smoked and/or drank while they carried us and lived in houses made of asbestos.

They took aspirin, ate blue cheese, raw egg products, loads of bacon and processed meat, tuna from a can, and didn't get tested for diabetes or cervical cancer.

Then after that trauma, our baby cots were covered with bright coloured lead-based paints.

We had no childproof lids on medicine bottles, doors or cabinets and when we rode our bikes, we had no helmets or shoes, not to mention, the risks we took hitchhiking.

As children, we would ride in cars with no seat belts or air bags.
We drank water from the garden hose and NOT from a bottle.

Take away food was limited to fish and chips, no pizza shops, McDonalds , KFC, Subway or Burger King.
Even though all the shops closed at 6.00pm and didn't open on the weekends, somehow we didn't starve to death!

We shared one soft drink with four friends, from one bottle and NO ONE actually died from this.

We could collect old drink bottles and cash them in at the corner shop and buy Toffees, Gob stoppers, Bubble Gum and some bangers to blow up frogs with.

We ate biscuits, white bread and real butter and drank soft drinks with sugar in it, but we weren't overweight because......

WE WERE ALWAYS OUTSIDE PLAYING!!
We would leave home in the morning and play all day, as long as we were back when the street lights came on.
No one was able to reach us all day. And we were O.K.
We would spend hours building our go-carts out of old prams and then ride down the hill, only to find out we forgot the brakes. We built tree houses and dens and played in river beds with matchbox cars.

We did not have Playstations, Nintendo Wii , X-boxes, no video games at all, no 999 channels on SKY ,
no video/dvd films, no mobile phones, no personal computers, no Internet or Internet chat rooms...........WE HAD FRIENDS and we went outside and found them!

We fell out of trees, got cut, broke bones and teeth and there were no Lawsuits from these accidents.
Only girls had pierced ears!
We ate worms and mud pies made from dirt, and the worms did not live in us forever.
You could only buy Easter Eggs and Hot Cross Buns at Easter time...

We were given air guns and catapults for our 10th birthdays, we rode bikes or walked to a friend's house and knocked on the door or rang the bell, or just yelled for them!

Mum didn't have to go to work to help dad make ends meet!
RUGBY and CRICKET had try outs and not everyone made the team. Those who didn't had to learn to deal with disappointment. Imagine that!! Getting into the team was based on MERIT
Our teachers used to hit us with canes and gym shoes.
The idea of a parent bailing us out if we broke the law was unheard of.
They actually sided with the law!

Our parents didn't invent stupid names for their kids like 'Kiora' and 'Blade' and 'Ridge' and 'Vanilla'

We had freedom, failure, success and responsibility, and we learned HOW TO
DEAL WITH IT ALL !

And YOU are one of them!
CONGRATULATIONS!
I especially love it because there is a lot of truth in it, yet there is a worrying logical inconsistency at its heart. Yes, we all survived the experience.  Of course we did - the "we" that point at our survival are a group defined ex post facto as "the group of people that survived".

Friday, 27 May 2011

Wordsmithing Shoesmith

So Sharon Shoesmith has won her appeal.  Good.

Note, she did not succeed in persuading the Court that the Ofsted report into the department that she ran was in any way, shape or form incorrect.  The report concluded that there was something going seriously wrong under her management, that there were serious failings.  That conclusion stands.  Peter was failed by her department, and died.  Prima facie, the decision to sack her was right.

The conclusion of the Court was that the way in which she was sacked was wrong.  In this regard, the Court was absolutely right.  Balls stood up in a televised interview and announced that she was being removed from her post.  That was the first she heard of the decision.  No-one summoned her to their office to explain herself.  No-one explained that the Ofsted report was distinctly damning, and asked her if she had anything to say.  No-one, in short, gave her a chance to defend herself and her actions.  Balls just made the decision on the spot in order to save his political hide, and we are going to have to pay for that (as per usual).

Balls is unrepentant.  He obviously does not realise that the law does not allow you to act in this way.  What's more, it is Labour's employment laws that prevent this.  No employer can just decide that an employee is not up to the job and explain that their services are no longer needed.  Instead, it is necessary to sit them down, point out that what they did was utterly bloody stupid not in accordance with the way that they had been asked to operate, explain to them how you would like it done, and send them off to cock up another case try again.  Then, when the inevitable happens, you have to initiate a formal review process, asking them what extra training they need, if there is anything they need to do their job properly (note: offering them loan of a brain cell is not permitted) and warning them that failing to improve would not be a good idea.  Then you give them a few more months, and sit them down again to explain that they're not getting any better, etc etc.  then, a few months later, you have to give them a formal final warning, and then, assuming they continue to be utterly useless not up to the required standard, you can finally give them notice.

Fail to follow this elaborate and longwinded procedure to the letter, and they will have a valid claim for unfair dismissal.  You can then expect to be taken to the cleaners an employment tribunal, at which point you have a choice of either giving them £60k in compensation or paying a lawyer £60k to defend the claim in the hope that you win (which you won't).  And no, you don't get those costs back, even if you do actually win.

And I know this to be true, because I've been through it. Thankfully, we avoided the tribunal stage.

So what is disgusting about this affair is not Shoesmith's somewhat hollow victory, but the utter brass neck of Balls to flagrantly break the employment laws that his party imposed on the rest of us, and then waltz off leaving the bill on our laps.  If there is a lesson to learn from this affair, it is that a decision which was clearly right (both at the time and in retrospect) should not be challengeable on procedural grounds.  That one change would help employers across the country - and encourage them to try out more new employees.

But note - it is a change that Parliament needs to make, not the Courts.  The Courts (once again) are taking the flack from politicians for doing exactly what those same politicians ordered them to do.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

At last...

... a simple explanation.



See? No problem. Perfectly straightforward.

(Hat Tip to the Filthy Engineer.)

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Philiosophising Wikipedia

Today's xkcd cartoon has an interesting alt-text.  It claims that:
Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at "Philosophy".
In discussion, it seems that this is mainly true, although there are isolated examples of start pages that lead to an infinite loop.

What surprises me is that people find this surprising.  Thinking about it, if you have a finite set of pages (such as Wikipedia: it is not yet infinite, it just feels that way) which include links to each other, then logically speaking if you keep clicking according to a particular rule then you must eventually start to loop.  OK, it may take a long time - at the time of writing this, Wikipedia has 3,643,714 pages so at 1 click per second that is slightly over 42 days (assuming neither your mouse nor your index finger break during this time) but the claim has no limit of time or clicks.

By then, you will have been to every page, so you must start looping*.  Therefore, every start point must lead to a loop.  So the real question is, which loop will you reach first?  Or, given that the "Philosophy" page is itself in a short loop (Philosophy, Reason, Rationality, Philosophy), why that loop?

The answer to that is quite simple, I think.  Human nature, and the style of Wikipedia articles, is to start an article along the lines of "[Subject] is a type of [genus] in which....".  So the first link will usually be to a more general, less specific subject.  And what could be more general or less specific than philosophy?

(Of course, my example might fail if people are creating new pages at more than 1 per second - in that case a human clicking away might theoretically never reach a loop.  But the rule is absolute, and allows for a period when Wikipedia is static, or for some kind of automated searcher that could click away at a near-infinite speed, so I have discounted this slight problem.  POSTCRIPT: As of 14:49 on 27 May, Wikipedia had added 1,437 pages after 191,880 seconds, i.e. about 133 seconds per new page...)

(*this assumes every page has a link.  In Wikipedia, I think this is a reasonable assumption, at least of the pages that another page links to.  It is also an assumption made by the claim that we are considering)

Monday, 23 May 2011

The Photos are back

I've revived Patently Photographic, the blog where I sent my favourite photos.  It's been too long since I did anything with it, partly because there was too much other stuff going on and partly because the discipline of posting a photo each day gradually turned into a source of stress.  I get plenty of that from other sources, I don't need to create any of my own.

I was also never that happy with the presentational style that Blogger offered.  Its templates just don't seem to suit photoblogs, so I've gone for a hosted site running Wordpress and chosen what I think is a really nice theme.  Please do let me know what you think.

And in answer to Blue Eyes' question from long, long ago, no I didn't lose my camera - which means I do have a few photos to keep me going (although I probably won't put up one photo per day).

Oh - and the address?  Fairly easy to remember:

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Two for today

Do check in on Sunday to let me know who missed the event of the day:



And for the rest of us:

Parish Notice: Comments

Blogger lost some in its crash a few weeks ago; it now seems to have re-instated them.  Also, some were marked incorrectly as spam, which I have now released.

Normal service appears (?) to be returning.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Chase Me!

Oh dear.  Look what my local Plod have acquired:


Apparently they need this in order to "protect future generations from the worst effects of global warming". If the current generation happen to need protecting from a criminal with access to anything faster than a pushbike then that obviously comes second.  At least it might stop them from speeding on the M40... which they still do, regularly.

No, what they really need is this:


Much more like it...