Thursday, 15 November 2018

Very Bad Value


If baffled by the need to choose Christmas presents likely to delight some fastidious acquaintance, one might be tempted to send them a 'hamper'.

Don't !!!!

The ones I've seen advertised seem to be extremely bad value for money. I've just checked through one I saw advertised on line at a price of £110, and estimate that the ordinary retail price of the contents would be in the region of at most £40.

Fearing liability for a libel action I don't give a link to the site, but I suspect that almost any hamper being offered would be as bad a buy.

Just check if you doubt my word.


Sunday, 11 November 2018

An Extravagent Gift


As we celebrate the end of a war that hardly anyone is old enough to remember, we hear of people 'giving their lives'.

I picture people queuing with little boxes, waiting to give them to some official, and dropping dead when the box is accepted.

Actually many of those who died were compelled to fight by governments, so often the architects of great wrongs.. Their lives were not given, but were stolen from them.



Tuesday, 23 October 2018

Vulgarity in High Places


I've just read a news headline that says:
"Groping suspect says Trump said it was OK to grab women"
That was followed by a link to a video of the President discussing his carnal ambitions in lurid detail.

I can't think of anything more to say !! 


Monday, 22 October 2018

Bogus Arithmetic


What is 95% of a deal?

95% of the text?  95% of the cost?  95% of the time needed to make the deal?

I don't believe that any calculation supports the Prime Minister's claim to have completed 95% of a deal concerning our leaving the European Union. In making the claim she demonstrates little more than her poor understanding of percentages.





Sunday, 21 October 2018

Oppressive Mis-Education.


The most miserable period of my life was three years from age 8 to10 when I attended a junior school which seemed to be designed to suppress original thought and self expression. A ferocious headmistress used to patrol the corridors, cane in hand, to ensure that no-one spoke while proceeding from room to room.

Moving to a grammar school was a great relief. There we could chatter as much as we chose between classes.

I've just been appalled to read that a secondary school in Birmingham is to impose a rule of silence in the corridors.

A school should be a place of learning where ideas are developed and exchanged, not a prison where unimaginative pedagogues suppress thought.



Sunday, 30 September 2018

Soap


For several years I've noticed that it's getting quite hard to find soap. There used to plenty of choice, but now shops that sell soap offer only a few varieties, and tuck them away on a small shelf that's quite hard to find. Where there used to be a wide selection of soaps in different colours with different scents, there are now lots of plastic bottles of dubious and often quite expensive potions, and things called 'wipes' that look as if they'd be hard to recycle.


Saturday, 29 September 2018

Mixed Blessing



A few years ago I was delighted at the prospect of having bills, statements, and similarly boring material delivered electronically. I hadn't thought through the full implications.

I'd imagined it would be like receiving email, which can be skimmed through and then filed very easily.

Of course email is not secure, so I don't receive bills and statements by email. Instead I get emails telling me there's a message on line. I then have to log on to the relevant site, using the password so secure it's hard to remember, navigate through a site to find messages, and then work out which of the vast collection of messages I haven't already read.


Saturday, 22 September 2018

Chilly days Ahead


Yesterday I changed into my tweed jacket, ready for Autumn and Winter.

So far this year weather has been disappointing.

Spring was unusually cold, and when hot weather arrived it was too hot to go out, except for brief visits to the shops early in the morning, and much of the evenings was spent watering thirsty plants.


Monday, 10 September 2018

A Triumph for an Aged Brain


When I went shopping today I left my shopping list behind, but still managed to remember every one of the nine items on it !!!


Wednesday, 29 August 2018

A Relic of the Drought


Although we've had a fair amount of rain in the last few weeks the River Welland is still just a trickle, mainly obscured by nettles growing in the river bed. Most of the rain water must have been soaked up by the parched earth.


Monday, 27 August 2018

Vetting Bishops


Catholic priests often influence the running of schools and have unsupervised and private access to individuals, including children, in the confessional.

That seems to  justify official checks on the appointment of priests, and especially of bishops who create priests. Perhaps episcopal appointments should require ratification by the Department of Education.


Sunday, 26 August 2018

Forgiveness by Proxy



It seems presumptuous for a third person to forgive someone for something they've done to someone else. I think that only the injured person is entitled to forgive.

Today it was reported that the Pope had asked God to forgive the Catholic Church for child abuse committed by members of religious orders. So far as I know it has never been claimed that God was the victim of abuse, so the Pope's appeal was misdirected.


Saturday, 25 August 2018

Speeding Up a Computer



For a while my laptop had run rather slowly, and various investigations failed to reveal the culprit.

Today I checked my virus checker and noticed that, as well as checking for viruses it was 'tuning up' the computer.

I switched off that and the the computer sped up most gratifyingly :-)


Thursday, 23 August 2018

Distracting Gesticulation


Some television programmes have a 'signer' gesticulating in one corner of the screen. I find that makes it hard for me to concentrate.

It is usually possible to select subtitles. I usually do because non-verbal noise in programs sometimes makes is hard to follow speech.

Subtitles are optional, one can switch them on or off according to taste, but the signer is not optional. One gets the signing whether one wants it or not, and however ugly the signer happens to be. Why can't deaf people use the subtitles? Why can't I turn off the signing?


Sunday, 19 August 2018

Intimations of Antiquity


When the death of someone famous is announced they are almost always either younger than me, or of about the same age.

I really am quite ancient!!!



Saturday, 18 August 2018

An American Coup ?


As Mr. Trump removes ever more people critical of himself, I wonder if he's preparing the way for a coup. I don't think that's likely in the near future, but  it might just be possible when his presidency nears its end. That could be at the end of his present term, or if not then, four years later.

His administration seems to be a conspiracy of dishonest rich people to cover up their misdeeds, and such conspiracies are likely to come undone when the conspirators lose power, so they need to stay in power to maintain their concealment. We often learn of Presidents using dubious means to extend term limits. It's become very common in Africa, but we shouldn't ignore the possibility of something of the sort happening in the USA.




Wednesday, 15 August 2018

Afraid of Thought


I recently watched a television interview of a young boy, about 7 years old. He was being interviewed about the availability of some drug he needed but towards the end of the interview the interviewer asked him what is his favourite subject at school.
When he replied that it is Maths she seemed quite taken aback and instead of encouraging him, squealed in astonishment.
It is sad that so many people who claim to be educated are repelled by the subject that above all others embodies precise thought.



Thursday, 2 August 2018

Who Uses a Strawberry Huller



I'm intrigued by kitchen gadgets, and spent several minutes browsing the selection when I went into a kitchen gadget shop to buy a pair of cook's scissors.

Despite my enthusiasm, some of the devices offered did puzzle me a little. I could understand that someone might occasionally use a mango stoner, though I don't need one after watching a televised Agatha Christie mystery in which Poirot stoned a mango using a dessert spoon. My attempt to duplicate his triumph was not as neat as his, but was still successful.

However I can't imagine why anyone might need a strawberry huller. Any reader who have ever used one, please testify here!!


Tuesday, 31 July 2018

Life and Death


The Home Secretary has been criticised for agreeing to provide US authorities with information that will help the prosecution of two captured IS terrorists, without demanding an assurance that they will not be in danger of execution. That incident following other acts of terrorism, and cases of intimidation by groups of criminals has made me rethink my opinion on execution. Former IS fighters are dangerous, and I should feel much safer if they were dead.

I have long had doubts about what is usually called 'capital punishment'. That is partly because I doubt the concept of punishment, partly because I have some sympathy with murderers who for many years were the only people executed in Britain, but mainly because I was worried about the impossibility of making restitution for miscarriages of justice when the victim of the injustice has been executed.

Tha danger of miscarriage of justice is greatest when someone is charged with an isolated offence. Quite a lot of muderers are honest people who just once give in to the temptation to elimininate someone trying. I do not support capital punishment in such cases.

However there are cases where guilt is manifest. The two captured IS fighters videoed their atrocities and posted the evidence on the Internet. We need not appeal to the rather dubious notion of punishment in such cases. Executing gangsters is the only way of stopping their criminal carreers and making the rest of us safe. Imprisonment offers little security to the general public as architects of crime seem able to organise further misdeeds even while imprisoned.

Discussion of crime and punishment often neglects something very important: restitution. It seems to be rare for criminals to compensate their victims, or to compensate the taxpayer for the cost of apprehending them. One form of compensation has been possible only in recent decades. When criminals are executed their organs could be used for transplant surgery. It is unlikely that such surgery would often help the victims of the criminal concerned, but it would benefit many people my reducing the waiting lists for transplant surgery.

This possibility is rarely discussed, and when it is people often express a horror that is not supported by any reasoning. There seems to be a primitive taboo. We should  try to overcome it.




Saturday, 28 July 2018

Fuss About Fur



There was recently a strange news item about real fur being sold as fake. Reality is usually regarded as an advantage!

In the course of the discussion it was mentioned that it is now illegal to produce fur in Britain. I hadn't realised that. I vaguely remember that quite a while ago hooligans used to attack people wearing fur, but I hadn't noticed that their hooliganism had been adopted as government policy.

I would understand a prohibition of using the fur, or any body parts, of endangered species. However that would not prevent the use of the fur of mink, rabbits or foxes. Mink were often farmed, and animals that have escaped from mink farms seem to have survived and bred successfully in the wild.  Foxes are often shot as pests, and we often eat rabbits. I can see no objection to using the fur after eating its contents.

My maternal grandmother used to have a fox fur. I was intrigued by the way it was fastened, so that it looked as if it were biting its tail.


Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Embarassed or Ungrateful?


The British cave divers who helped to rescue a group of Thai schoolboys from flooded caves were recently shown being congratulated outside 10 Downing Street by the Prime Minister. I was surprised that no representative of the Thai government was involved. Perhaps Thailand's military rulers were embarrassed by the involvement of foreigners.

The Thai lads have now been concealed from public view in a monastery. I wonder how they will fare there. A Vietnamese refugee, an orphan who was brought up in a Buddhist monastery, told me that when he and his contemporaries were supposed to be meditating, they were supervised by young monks armed with canes to discipline anyone whose meditation seemed insufficiently tranquil. I hope the young footballers are better treated.


Sunday, 22 July 2018

Unreasonable Severity


Two fifteen year old boys were recently sentenced to long periods of detention, 12 years and 10 years, for planning a terrorist act.

Their actions seemed to amount to no more than gathering information, and discussing how such an act might be carried out, without actually making preparations to do anything.

I doubt whether severe punishment was called for. It might have sufficed to talk things over with them, and find out what aspects of their experiences at school made wholesale slaughter of their contemporaries seem attractive to them. At the most incarceration for just one year without Internet access should have sufficed to break the habit of morbid speculation.

Long imprisonment, the latter years of which will be spent in adult prisons, is likely to leave them under educated and ill suited to honest work, while introducing them to many dishonest ways of making a living.



Wednesday, 18 July 2018

The BBC



Sir Cliff Richard has just been awarded considerable damages against the BBC. The damages, and the much larger sums in legal costs will be met by taxpayers, not by the BBC employees whose incompetence and irresponsibility created the liability.

I think that the Governors of the BBC, who are at present nominated by some arm of the Government, should instead be directly elected, bringing the Corporation under public control.


Wednesday, 4 July 2018

Noxious Nick


I'm pleased that the man referred to as 'Nick' is at last to be charged for making false accusations of abuse, but puzzled that his identity is still keep secret.

Those he unjustly accused were named even though they had not been charged. Naming an accuser could prompt other people who have been falsely accused by the same individual, or have other evidence of that person's unreliability to come forward to discredit them. Secret testimony is unreliable testimony.


Tuesday, 3 July 2018

There's still some life in an antique brain


Without referring to any text book I recently constructed the deduction of Snell's Law for refraction from the assumption that light traveling between two points follows the path that minimizes the time taken.

It is reassuring to note that my brain still works, to some extent.


Saturday, 30 June 2018

Revelation


Browsing through the local branch of Waterstones I came upon an intriguing volume called 'Quantum Mechanics The Theoretical Minimum'. Following a reference in that book I discovered a website with a series of lectures on theoretical Physics with various supporting materials.

The object is to explain basic physical ideas as simply as possible, avoiding both the superficiality of the popular books that avoid Mathematics and therefore explain very little, and the obscurity of the texts that use quite abstruse mathematics without making any serious attempt to explain what they are doing. What I have read so far seems to be quite a good attempt. Two things that had been puzzling me are now clear, and I look forward to more enlightenment.



Thursday, 28 June 2018

Stray Hairs


I can't abide feeling hair over my ears. Now and again an obstinate strand drifts over an ear and resists my attempts to push it away.  I reach for the nearest pair of scissors and snip it off.

Most women and many men style their hair so that it completely covers their ears. How can they bear it!


Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Linked Numbers



I've just realised that, to quite a close approximation, the mass of the earth in kilograms is given by

M = pi2*A  where A is Avogadro's Number



Sunday, 17 June 2018

Remembering Mini-Skirts


The current discussion of 'up-skirting' has reminded me of the days of mini-skirts.

In the late 1960's I was teaching a class of FE science students, all boys aged 16 or 17. Their 'General Studies' was taught by one of the teachers of English, a young lady who wore very short skirts and, to the delight of the students used to sit on one of the desks while she taught, so after each class the lads would announce the colour of her knickers, though without mobile phones they had no corroborative photographs.



Monday, 11 June 2018

Exhausted by Idleness.


Often I feel sleepy in the afternoons, but only on days when I'm not doing anything in particular. If I do some gardening, tidy the attic, or cook something elaborate, I stay wide awake and don't feel at all tired.

To summarise, nothing can be rather tiring.



Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Today is Tuesday


I make the announcement for the benefit of anyone else whose temporal bearings are disturbed by bank holiday Mondays.

When Monday is so much like Sunday, it is easy to mistake Tuesday for Monday. Occasionally my disorientation lasts for most of the week. However I'm making a special effort today, and am sure it's Tuesday, and that tomorrow will be Wednesday.





Thursday, 24 May 2018

A Fuss About Information.


I have quite a few interests and have therefore arranged for various organisations to send me information about their activities. Recently I've been irritated to receive numerous messages telling me that 'data protection' legislation requires that the flow of information must be discontinued unless I confirm I still want to receive it. That seems to me impertinence on the part of legislators. If I change my mind about a source of information, I can easily have those emails discontinued, without the intervention of self important politicians.


Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Check Your Insurance Charges


It will soon be time to renew my house insurance, and I noticed the premium had risen a good deal in the last two years.

I rang to question it, and secured a reduction of about £190 in the premium.


Saturday, 19 May 2018

A Happy Coincidence


From time to time the flow of news in the media is disturbed by some event of no great consequence which still attracts unreasonable attention.

Today two such events coincide - the royal wedding and the cup final, so the tranqility of our thoughts is disturbed only once even though there are two distractions.

Happy day!!!



Sunday, 13 May 2018

Learning from Poirot


I recently gave into an impulse to buy a mango, my memories of the last time I wrestled with one having become faint.

As I wondered how to deal with it I remembered a television adaptation of a Poirot mystery, in the course of which the resourceful detective demonstrated the use of a dessert spoon to remove the stone from a mango, which he then turned inside out exposing the flesh.

Although I didn't make as neat a job as Poirot, who probably had support from the television studio's mango evisceration team, I found that mango much easier to eat then others I have dealt with.



Thursday, 10 May 2018

A Devious Television Set


I recently bought a new television set. After using it for a week or two I found that it is sometimes very slow to respond to its remote control.

Using a combination of reading glasses and magnifying glass I was just able to read the instructions, and noted that the set can be connected to the Internet. So far as I know no connection has been made, but it might have detected the WiFi signal in the  house and attempted to connect.

Unplugging the set and leaving it unplugged for several hours seems to have restored correct operation, at least for now.



Wednesday, 9 May 2018

An Insight into Local Money


I've long been puzzled by so called 'local money' - notes that are bought with orthodox currency, but can only be used in a certain locality "Why Bother?" I used to wonder.

Enlightenment was provided by a discussion of Lake District money on today's television news. Tourists who buy the local currency often don't spend it all. Some apparently keep notes as souvenirs. Although that wasn't mentioned on the program, I suspect some don't notice they have unspent local currency until they've gone home where they can't spend it. Lake District Pounds issued now are valid only for this year, so any not spent this year will become valueless. The local notes that can never be spent represent profit for the organisation issuing them.

I thought there must be a catch of some sort. It's quite satisfying to have found it.




Friday, 27 April 2018

Shivering in April.


Eliot chose his words well when he said April is the cruellest month

A few days ago we were charmed by the warmest April day for many years, but today I changed back into my Winter jacket, put on a scarf and raincoat and struggled through the rain wishing I'd remembered my gloves.


Thursday, 19 April 2018

Managing without Television



The television set in my dining room, which is the set I watch most, recently stopped showing pictures, though it still relays sound, so I can use it to listen to radio broadcasts. I find I can also follow television news programmes quite well even without the picture. However it's no use for detective stories or murders.

An advantage  of this is that I eat rather less. I'd been spending much of the evening watching the television, and eating snacks or sweets. Now I potter around the Internet, and manage without the snacks and sweets, which helps my campaign to lose weight. I'm therefore not in a great hurry to replace the television.


Saturday, 14 April 2018

Three Signs of Spring


Today, for the first time this year, I walked to the shops without an overcoat, I dried washing outside on the washing line, and I sat in the garden drinking a cup of tea and reading The Economist.


Thursday, 12 April 2018

A Misleading Statistic



Half appeals against Home Office decisions to deny people permission to live in Britain are successful. My initial reaction to that news was to wonder what was wrong with the Home Office, but on reflection I think that the proportion may be about right. It is not half of all decisions that are being overturned, but just half those that go to an appeals tribunal.

I should expect those to be cases where both the person appealing, and the Home Office officials consider they have a good case. If both sides exercise good judgement we might expect the result to be a draw, with each side winning about half the time.



Monday, 9 April 2018

Confessions of an Unwashed Ancient.


I'm just recovering from a rather bad cold. When it was at its worst, just over a week ago, I went without a bath for four days. I just couldn't face the prospect of getting wet all over.

I seem to have survived the period of uncleanliness unscathed. In my youth, when there was no heating in the bathroom, a weekly bath sufficed.  I suspect that these days we spend for too much time washing ourselves and our clothes.


Tuesday, 3 April 2018

The End of a Grim Story


When I learned of the death of Winnie Mandela, my only thought was of the 'necklace killings' of which she boasted so proudly.

Tires were fastened around the necks of victims and set on fire, so the victims died slowly and horribly. Sometimes the victims' relatives were encouraged to try to rescue them. As the burning tire welded to the victims neck, attempted rescue just pulled the victim to pieces, doubtless to the amusement of Ms Mandela and her followers.


Saturday, 24 March 2018

The Irish Border



Free movement of people and goods across the border between North and South Ireland is important to all who live in Ireland. Free movement of people has been allowed ever since Southern Ireland became the Irish Republic, and Irish people have always been allowed to settle in Britain and vote in elections here.

I remember going on holiday to the Irish Republic with my parents in the 1950's. No passports were required and I was intrigued to notice that Irish banknotes were guaranteed by the Bank of England.

Understandably people worry about the inconvenience of imposing border controls between North and Sough after Britain leaves the EU.

One solution would be for Ireland to be reunited with Britain, but that would offend the pride of citizens of the Irish Republic. An alternative would be for Britain to join a Greater Ireland, which could then hold another referendum on whether or not to be part of the EU.


Friday, 23 March 2018

Enlivened by the Spring


For the last few weeks I've been distressingly lazy, neglecting both blog and web site, instead messing about reading inconsequential odds and ends on the Internet, and gossiping with the cat - who is deaf and may well not be able to lip read.

Once the snow had melted in the Spring sunshine, I've been like a man reborn. I've walked all the way through the park, have planted by tomato seeds and replanted the camellia seedlings, and today I made a batch of lime marmalade, despite a power cut in the middle of the process. Allegedly a nearby substation caught fire.



Thursday, 22 March 2018

A Paucity of Pedestrians.


It recently struck me how few people I encounter walking along the street, and how few people I see walking past my house.

I live in walking distance of the shopping centre and walk there and back almost every day, but I see very few other people similarly occupied.

I fear that many people walk no further than their cars which they use even for quite short journeys.



Thursday, 8 March 2018

An Undiplomatic Diplomat


It was most unwise of our Foreign Secretary to hint in public that the recent use of nerve agents may be the responsibility of the Russian Government.

That possibility may have occurred to many of us, but official pronouncements on the question should await the collection of evidence. If the responsibility eventually turns out to lie elsewhere Mr. Johnson's remarks will be a great embarrassment. If investigations do reveal Russian involvement, the Foreign Secretary's premature comments will make it easier for the Russians to dismiss evidence by saying that we intended to blame them all along and manufactured evidence accordingly.



Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Expensive Tickets


From time to time there are media reports of high prices charged for tickets to sporting events and concerts.

The organisers appear to sell all their tickets rather quickly, but tickets are still offered for sale by secondary suppliers that charge much more than the nominal charge.

That suggests to me that the organisers of the events do not charge enough in the first place. Raise the official prices and the 'tickets touts' and internet re-sellers would no longer flourish.



Wednesday, 28 February 2018

Neglected Lavatories in Newham


A few days ago there were news reports that Newham Council had appealed to shopkeepers not to sell corrosive materials such as lavatory cleaners to anyone younger than 21.

The lower age limit for marriage is 16, so I imagine Newham has married couples both younger than 21, and some of those may have their own accommodation. There may be other households in which someone younger than 21 does the shopping for relatives too dilapidated to shop for themselves.

I do not envy them their unclean lavatories!



Friday, 23 February 2018

Making Education Fun ???



I note that the President of the USA considers arming teachers so that they can defend their pupils against armed attack.

How would the president respond if some teacher, infuriated by a disorderly class, shot them all?

Perhaps children would then be armed so they could protect themselves against berserk teachers.

Schools might then be as exciting as those computer games in which players try to shoot as many individuals as they can, and children could be judged by the number of their kills.



Thursday, 15 February 2018

The Facts of the Matter


Inspired by seeing an Internet posting suggesting that there might be no such things as facts, I wrote a short note on the subject. here it is



Sunday, 11 February 2018

Puritanical Over Reaction


I have reservations about the fuss over Oxfam staff employing prostitutes in Haiti.

The affair is being treated as if it were on a par with child abuse, or senior staff abusing their authority by making advances to subordinates.

The employment of a prostitute may be a straightforward transaction between consenting adults, in which case it is a private matter between the two people concerned.

There may well be other factors, but if there are they have not so far been explained.



Wednesday, 10 January 2018

Sunday, 7 January 2018

The End of Home Chemistry



There are proposals to prevent people younger than 18 from buying corrosive substances.

Such a restriction in my youth it would have been a serious impediment to my intellectual development.

I received a chemistry set when I was about nine years old - I don't remember whether it was a Christmas present or a birthday present. It was made up by a colleague of my father's and contained several substances too poisonous to be permitted in a modern chemistry set.

For a year or two I just performed the experiments recommended in the instructions. When I started at the Grammar school, just before my eleventh birthday, I began to learn some chemistry and started to extend the chemistry set so that I could duplicate what we did at school. Chemistry became my hobby and I read well beyond the school syllabus, and by my fifteenth birthday I was studying Chemistry Physics and Mathematics at A Level, and had converted the small third bedroom to my 'laboratory', in which lethal substances abounded without ever causing me any injury.

Gradually my interest in Mathematics grew at the expense of Chemistry and I eventually became a Maths teacher, but it was Chemistry that led me to Science and Maths in the first place. What would have become of me without that stimulus ?