Saturday, 26 December 2015

Chronicle of my adventures in 2015

Having greatly neglecting my web site ever since I started house hunting early last year, I have managed to publish an account of my recent activities there.

In the course of composing this message I've managed to add a style sheet to this blog; I thought that the default format made links rather inconspicuous so I've changed them to a brash red.

Thursday, 24 December 2015


In some countries numerous statues are erected to honour the present leaders, and most are removed when new leaders take control.

In Britain we are less profligate. We put up just a few statues and once we have them we usually keep them. They are useful reminders of our history.

That is why Oriel College should not remove its statue of Cecil Rhodes, and why I think those who demand its removal are silly exhibitionists.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Expensive Blotting paper

Recently, when buying Earl Grey tea from a supermarket I noticed that the loose leaf tea I buy cost £1-20 per 100 grams, while 100 grams of tea in tea bags cost £2-24.

The blotting paper from which the tea bags are constructed seems very expensive !!

Saturday, 5 December 2015

December Flowers

I planted by gladioli rather late this year, and the last of them is still in bloom, as are some carnations and a few scabius.

Late flowers make the Winter seem shorter. The snowdrops should be out in six or seven weeks time, and then Spring will be on the way.

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Comradely bombs

The French want us to bomb IS in Syria to show our solidarity.

Were that as simple as it sounds I'd not object, but it isn't at all simple. Various countries are intervening in Syria, and while all want to bomb IS, they cannot agree whom else to bomb, and some want to secure a change of government.

Syria is a country divided between rival factions unwilling to compromise. In such a country the only stable state of affairs is for one group to hold power by force.

Attempts may be made to set up a democratic system, but that will only work where people are good losers. In a country like Syria those out of power will seize any chance to take power by force, so democracy, were it ever established, would not last for long.

Removal of the Assad regime would not produce a stable liberal democracy in Syria.There might be a fleeting attempt at democracy, but in the long run there would be another repressive totalitarian regime taking revenge on those who supported Assad. After a while there'd be calls for us to remove that regime too.

I propose that bombing in Syria should only be undertaken with the consent of the Syrian Government. If our government thinks it essential to bomb, let it reach an agreement with President Assad, instead of conspiring to replace him with someone else at least as bad and probably worse.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Enjoying an Open Fire

This afternoon, for the first time in my life, I sat before an open fire in my own house, and found it very reassuring.

My parents had open fires when I was a child, and since then I've occasionally enjoyed fires in other people's houses, but never before in my own house.

When we moved into this house we found that one fireplace had survived. We found a chimney sweep, who removed enormous quantities of soot and then tested it and judged it to be in working order, and today I'm burning a mixture of logs and smoke reduced coal.

I spent an enjoyably idle afternoon in front of the fire, my attention divided between various magazines, and watching the flickering flames which is extremely relaxing.

Monday, 16 November 2015

A Hopeless Case

Jeremy Corbyn has said he's unhappy about members of the security services shooting to kill terrorists. Whatever does he expect them to do, invite terrorists to come to Downing street for tea and a chat ?

Even when one disagrees with Prime Ministers about many things, one expects them to organise defence against threats to our lives. It appears that we couldn't rely on Corbyn even to fulfil that most basic of government functions.

I'm beginning to wonder if he is capable of thought. Where people usually have ideas of some sort, he seems to have only sentimental slogans. He behaves rather like a not particularly successful experiment in artificial intelligence, programmed by an unimaginative hippy.

Sunday, 15 November 2015

Remembering Where Things Are

There are lots of things that are used only rarely and therefore tucked away in places that are easily forgotten.

I've decided to make regular tours of the house, looking in every cupboard, drawer and box to see what is in it so that when I need to know I shall.

That's easier to do in this house than in the previous one, because there quite a lot of stuff was in an ill lit loft accessible  only by a ladder, whereas here the lofts have been converted to attics with proper staircases.

I've already made several interesting discoveries. I now know where the chop sticks, napkin rings, and sugar mice are.

Sunday, 8 November 2015

A seasonal thought

In eight weeks time Christmas and New Year will both be over, the days will have started to get longer, and we'll be waiting for the snowdrops to bloom.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Papal Thought in the mid Twentieth Century

Looking through old papers I found an intriguing press cutting. I'm not sure of the date, but other cuttings found with it suggest some time around 1958. I copy the text below.

The excommunication of the three Florence judges who on Saturday found the Bishop of Prato, Mgr Fiordeili, guilty of defamation was announced by the Vatican today. A communique issued quoted several Articles of Canon Law.

It said that "those who dare to call before a lay judge" a bishop and "those who hinder directly or indirectly ecclesiastical jurisdictions" automatically incur excommunication, specially reserved to the Holy See.

The Vatican also announced that the Pope had cancelled all celebrations for the anniversary of his ascent to the Papacy. The festivities where to have taken place on March 12.

The statement said "In the present condition of bitterness, grief, and outrage of the Church in Italy, of the Sacred College, the Bishops, the clergy, and the Catholic faithful, the Pope deems it necessary to suspend the customary celebrations for the anniversary of his coronation."

Excommunications of the Florence judges, who imposed a suspended fine on Mgr. Fiordeili for having described a couple married outside the Church as "public sinners" is viewed here as a serious development. It is interpreted as an affront to the entire Italian judiciary.

The couple who sued the Bishop for defamation, Signor and Signora Bellandi, have also been excommunicated. Their civil marriage was described in a pastoral letter as "the commencement of a scandalous concubinage".

The |Italian Government is a Christian Democratic one, and as such is closely linked with the Roman Catholic Church. Yesterday the party's secretary, Signor Fanfani, said the trial proved how false were allegations that the party was attempting to establish a clerical regime.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

A Selective Witch Hunt

Police officers seem very eager to solicit accusations of sexual misconduct against prominent people, but not against all prominent people.

So far no police officer has invited people to accuse any other police officer, even though the rumours of evil doings in high places often mention police involvement, and several former police officers have told us that their investigations into the late Cyril Smith were stopped by senior police officers.

Thursday, 8 October 2015

More Trouble with Numbers

Many people seem still not to have completely adjusted to our change to metric measurements, so  recipes often give both metric and imperial quantities.

An ounce is about 28.35g, but decimal notation seems to induce involuntary bowel motions in many folk, and that would be most unhealthy in a kitchen, so the writers of recipes try to simplify the arithmetic.

30 grams per ounce is fairly near to the correct value, and its adoption would have been the generous choice, but menu writers often prefer the much meaner 25g per ounce. On the other hand a pound is 453.6 grams, which even the meanest of chefs are reluctant to round down to 400g, so they usually choose 450g. Thus is is possible to have recipes that convert 15 ounces to 375g, and convert a pound to 450g, making the sixteenth ounce worth 75g.

The National Trust recently published a recipe for Apple Raisin and Cider Tea Bread that used four different conversion ratios all in the same recipe, and all of them incorrect.

9 ounces of flour were converted to 225 grams (25g per ounce)
5 ounces of butter were converted to 120 grams (24g per ounce)
4 ounces of sugar were converted to 90 grams (22.5g per ounce)
2 ounces of sugar for the glaze were converted to 60 grams (30g per ounce)

 Note that the conversion of 9 oz to 225g treats 9 oz as slightly less than half a pound, while it is actually a full ounce more than that.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Catching Up

Today, for the first time in many months, I added some material to my web site, which I'd neglected during my protracted house move.

I've only brought the books page up to date, but that reflects the fact that I've actually managed to read some books, so I'm feeling quite pleased with myself.

Friday, 2 October 2015

A revealing Gesture

While watching a television report of the recent Labour Party conference I noticed that during the singing of The Red Flag one of the platform party - I suspect it was John Macdonald - gave a clenched fist salute, the Communist salute. Yet I haven't noticed any reference to that in the media. On the other hand there was a lot of excitement about an amateur film stolen from Buckingham Palace that showed the Queen giving a Fascist salute as a child.

The public gesture of an adult who hopes to become a minster is much more newsworthy than the private frolics of a child.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Convoluted Arithmetic

The legal limit for alcohol in a driver's blood is usually stated as 80 milligrams per 100 millilitres.

That means 80/1000 grams in 100/1000 litres

We can simplify by removing the denominators giving:
 80 grams per 100 litres

That is equivalent to 8 grams in 10 litres, or 0.8 grams per litre.

As the specific gravity of alcohol is just under 0.8, 8 grams is about a dessertspoonfull, and 10 litres is just a bit more than the capacity of a normal sized watering can - interpreting 'normal' as the mode.

Thus the alcohol limit is one very full dessertspoon of alcohol in a watering can full of blood.

Stated like that it seems to make more sense.

Wednesday, 16 September 2015

Singing the National Anthem

I never join in public singing. That is partly because I can't sing in tune, but also because I don't like having words put into my mouth. If I'm to say something, or if I could sing, sing it, I want to choose the words myself, rather than be a passive channel for other people's thoughts, or lack of thought.

The words of the National Anthem are particularly absurd. The very first word invokes a being that doesn't exist, and some of the later verses are so embarrassing that even keen singers no longer sing them.

I have grave doubts about the opinions and intellectual powers of present Leader of the Opposition, but that does not justify wholesale criticism of everything he says and does. I find some of his eccentricities quite endearing.

At the service commemorating the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain he had made one big concession to convention by wearing a tie. In the photograph I saw he looked charmingly owlish. He was the only person in the photograph who looked as if he were thinking about anything.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Lack of Confidence ?

I notice that a so called 'robot ethicist', Dr Kathleen Richardson, has called for a ban on robots constructed to satisfy the sexual urges of their owners.

Is she afraid she wouldn't be able to match their robotic charms ?

Thursday, 3 September 2015

An Ancient Brain Stimulated by Ancient Electronics

A few days ago I found the instruction book for a programmable graphics calculator that I bought about 20 years ago, and succeeded in programming it to factorise natural numbers giving all prime factors with the exponent of each. I was quite pleased, both with myself and with the calculator, and have felt much livelier since.

What shall my next program be?

Tuesday, 1 September 2015

I gather that in the EU referendum campaign there are to be 'official' 'yes' and 'no'groups, which will be financed partly by the government.

That annoys me intensely. I wish to make my own decision which groups I support and which I oppose, and support and opposition includes either making donations or withholding them. I strongly object to the government taking money from me in taxes in order to give it to groups I may not support.

Sunday, 30 August 2015

Solar Power in England

I notice solar panels appearing on rooftops, and read of plans for whole farms of them in this part of Leicestershire. I welcome the saving of other fuels, but have two reservations.

First about solar power in England. Electricity consumption in England is highest in the Winter when sunshine is at its feeblest, and the peak demand is in the early evening, when it will be dark in Winter so that solar panels will yield nothing at all. Therefore, while solar panels will save fuel, they will not make it possible to close other power stations, We'll need just as many non-solar power generators as we should need if there were no solar power; we'll just use those other stations less frequently and so less economically.

Second I doubt whether large arrays of photoelectric panels are the best way to gather solar power. An alternative is to use mirrors to direct sunlight to a heat engine. Such a device can absorb all the energy in solar radiation, whereas a photovoltaic cell which uses a quantum effect can only use a fraction of the energy it receives. Also a heat engine can store enough heat to keep it working for a hour or two after dusk.

Friday, 21 August 2015

Lucrative Procrastination

Reports on the delays in the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq war inspired me to investigate the costs.
I found that the Chairman is paid £790 per day and  Committee members get £565 per day.

Might the report appear faster if further payments were delayed until its publication ?

Sunday, 16 August 2015

Don't Forget Ramsay MacDonald

The BBC website is displaying what it calls 'A Montage of Labour Leaders in 2 minutes' but one is missing, Ramsay MacDonald, the very first Labour Prime Minister?

As MacDonald eventually formed a coalition with the Conservatives, it is understandable that many members of the Labour Party would like to forget him, but he nevertheless headed the first two Labour governments.

Wednesday, 5 August 2015

The Joys of odd Numbers.

I've just discovered another advantage of my recent house move. I moved from an odd  numbered house to an even numbered one.

Today I learned that the Leicestershire Police force only investigates attempted break-ins if the house concerned is even numbered.

I was about to say what odd folk police are, but perhaps they'd rather I called them even !

Friday, 31 July 2015

Repelling Invaders

One of the most important functions of government, perhaps the most important of all, is to protect the country from attack, and that function is usually performed by the armed services, yet there has been no military action to prevent unruly crowds of youths from forcing entry into Britain through the Channel Tunnel.

My guess is that it would suffice for troops to open fire once. If they killed a few dozen; the survivors would then think of somewhere else to go.

Should ministers be unwilling to do that, an alternative deterrent would be an electrified fence maintained at a thousand volts or so, and sited inside the present fence so no one would come upon it unawares. Anyone electrocuted would clearly be the architect of his own doom, so there would be no risk of anyone feeling guilty, as some sensitive souls might after a shooting.


Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Sand Casting Lead

Last month our U3A Science Group watched the sand casting of lead, a process in which molten lead is poured into a tray of carefully smoothed down sand. It was quite exciting to watch.

One of our members made a video recording, which is now on my web site:


Sunday, 26 July 2015

Settled In.

I'm surprised how quickly I've settled into Market Harborough. I haven't been outside the town at a any time during the last week , in fact not since I went to a U3A meeting in Leicester on 14th, and I haven't missed the rest of the world at all.

Before the move I expected I'd be back in Leicester at least once a week, but my visits there have all been for U3A meetings, so see the dentist or, before I sold it, to deal with the old house. I've never visited Leicester for its own sake. I'm quite sure I was right to  move.

Wednesday, 15 July 2015

An Anomaly in Ballot Rules

The Government has proposed that a trade union may only call a strike if at least half the workers involved in the dispute vote in a ballot.

Consider two possibilities:

(1) Out of 1000 union members, 501 vote in a ballot and 251 of those voting vote for a strike.

(2) Out of 100 union members only 400 vote in the ballot, and 399 of those voting vote in favour of a strike.

In case (1) 251 people out of 100o vote for a strike, and there would be a strike, but in case (2) the votes of 399 people would not be sufficient to prevail.

The BBC's Astronomy

For several days now the BBC website has displayed a diagram of the Solar System in the distance of Jupiter from the sun is shown as 100 million kilometres. The figure is actually much larger, about 778 million km. The value given, 100 million km, is actually quite near to the orbit of Venus ( 108 million km), and considerably less than the earth's orbit (150 million km)

I rarely blog twice in the same day, but this is an emergency; we can't afford to let Jupiter move inside the earth's orbit. Having it so near to Venus might risk a collision !!

Governments that Can't Pay their Debts

The smooth running of government requires that governments can borrow. There are times when they need to run a deficit to stimulate the economy, they need to finance capital projects, and even if a government's finances are in balance over the year, the collection of taxes may not precisely match expenditure. Governments also often act as guarantors for banks. So governments need to borrow cheaply. They can only do so if they are trusted, so it is extremely serious if a government defaults.

Yet if debts are unsustainable, a default may be unavoidable. Companies that default are usually liquidated, their shareholders dispossessed, and assets sold for the benefit of creditors.

It would be hard to treat a country in the same way, though in the past some countries, such as Egypt in the late nineteenth century, have had their finances managed by nominees of creditor nations. On the other hand we need to impose some penalty to make the repudiation of debts unpalatable to the debtor.

Greek ministers have cited the writing off of much of Germany's debt in 1953. That precedent may be more helpful than many people have realised. By 1953 those who had led Germany to catastrophe had been tried as war criminals, and either executed or imprisoned.

I propose that unsustainable national debt should be forgiven, but only on condition that the politicians who incurred it are treated as criminals.

Sunday, 12 July 2015

An excess of paper.

I've just sorted through an accumulation of 'special offers' from various shops, offering me discount from any goods not on a long list of exceptions, or discounts or bonus 'points if I spend a prodigious sum. I wish I could resist the temptation to keep such material.

Fortunately such offers are almost always time limited, so I was able to eliminate most of the accumulation.

I suspect that any savings one may make from such offers do not justify the time spend fiddling with the pieces of paper. I wonder if it's worthwhile to the shops that make the offers. Do they even know?

Friday, 10 July 2015

A Word for Everything

While travelling by bus to Leicester this morning I couldn't help overhearing the conversation of a couple apparently planning their morning's shopping.

She said to him "I want to get off at the thing. You need to get your thingie first and then go on to the thing.

Three 'things' in one sentence is quite a score but it was bettered by a neighbour of my great aunt. As they chatted over the garden fence, the neighbour said "Look, there's Mrs Thing's thing on the thing by the thing". To give readers a chance to guess I shall delay interpreting that for a day or two.

The older one gets, the more one is tempted by thing talk, as familiar names hide away just as one wants to use them, but I try to avoid monotony by devising alternatives to 'thing'. 'Whatnot' and 'thingamajig' are already quite common, though the second is rather thingy. I rather like 'grundleplonk' and 'twirtlegrob'. Readers are welcome to make more suggestions.

At one time I had great difficulty remembering 'skimmia' but I was always quite certain that its name did not begin with 'z', so I thought of it as 'the plant with a name that doesn't begin with z'

Sunday, 5 July 2015

Muddled Thinking about Muddy Water

I've just seen a news report on the state of the River Jordan, water from which is to be flown in for the baptism of Princess Charlotte.


The absurdities of the procedure are so obvious and numerous that I leave listing them as an exercise for the reader. It is a pity that attempts to modernize the ways of the monarchy should be spoilt by something so silly.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Uncharitable 'Charities'

Certain organisations are classed as 'charities' and enjoy tax concessions, on the grounds that they operate for the public benefit. I have grave doubts about the whole institution of organised charity, fearing that a great deal of the money they amass is spent on paying their own employees, rather than given to needy the charities are supposed to help.

However the abolition of charitable status would be complicated and could not be done quickly - far too many people have a vested interest in keeping things as they are, but I think some cases of conspicuous abuse need to be dealt with quickly

 Organised religions are usually given charitable status. Yet some religious organisations operate in ways that are clearly not of benefit to the public, encouraging members of their flocks to be self righteous zealots, rather than tolerant and helpful members of society. It is such teaching that makes some young men vulnerable to recruitment by terrorists. In such cases charitable status could be revoked, so that the institutions in question pay full business rates on their land and buildings, and any other taxes that would be due from a non-charity with a similar income.

Monday, 29 June 2015


I'm sorry to have blogged so little lately - I didn't blog for most of May, and until yesterday had said nothing this month.

I've been busy selling a house. In May I was sorting through old bills and guarantees to answer questions from the buyer's solicitor, and for most of this  month, after completing the sale, I've been cancelling services for the old house and claiming rebates, and also shredding large numbers of documents that are now redundant.

The hectic period seems to be over now, so I hope to post more frequently hereafter.

Sunday, 28 June 2015

A lost name

Supermarkets have started to sell a beverage they call "Pear Cider" yet cider is made from apples, and the somewhat similar beverage made from pears is called "perry"

Friday, 8 May 2015

Temptation Resisted

Last night was the first election night for decades when I resisted the temptation to sit up through most of the night to get the results.

I usually potter about on the Internet from about 9:30 pm onwards, going to bed a little after 11. Last night I spent more time than usual on the BBC site getting early election news, but still got myself to bed just after midnight, so this morning I'm wide awake to absorb the final results.

I wonder why my own seat of Market Harborough is taking so much longer to finish its count than did such places as Orkney and Shetland and whichever constituency now includes what used to be The Western Isles.

Saturday, 18 April 2015

Court Dress

Lord Neuberger recently said that we should allow people to appear in court dressed as their beliefs and customs dictate. Would that tolerance attend to a nudist appearing naked ?

Thursday, 9 April 2015

Official Secrets

It appears that police officers fear they will be charged with breaking the Official Secrets Act if they tell us about the suppression of an investigation into child abuse by Cyril Smith and others.

Calls for those officers to be granted immunity have fallen on deaf ears.

I suspect that ministers are reluctant to create a precedent that may later embarrass them if in the future they want to cover up some skulduggery of their own.

Rare Optimisim

I recently watched a television news programme in which various people in a street somewhere or other were asked about their voting intentions. One man said he never votes. He'd like to do away with voting and politicians altogether and have everything decided by a computer!!

Such naive optimism is very rare these days, but 50 or 60 years ago similar hopes may have inspired at least a few of the pioneers of computing.

Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Mr. Blair

As I heard Mr. Blair assert the importance of Britain remaining in the European Union, I reflected that when he entered parliament in 1983 his party's manifesto included a commitment to withdraw from the EU.

Tuesday, 7 April 2015

Pencils that defy sharpening

For some years I've found that all attempts to sharpen a pencil fail. I have various devices called 'pencil sharpeners' They remove the outer layer of wood, but as soon as a little graphite is revealed, they break it off. Today I tried kitchen knives, but none was sharp enough.

As a schoolboy I carried a penknife that sharpened pencils quite well. I wonder if penknives are still available, or have they been banned by self righteous busybodies ?

Sunday, 29 March 2015

Painless Clock Change

Changing the clocks always irritates me, but the prospect of losing sleep irritates me much more. This year I shall lose no sleep. This morning I rose at the usual time, measured by an unaltered clock, and changed numerous clocks after breakfast. Tonight I shall go to bed at my usual time, measured by the altered clocks, so that the lost hour will be taken out of Sunday day time, leaving sleeping time inviolate,

Friday, 30 January 2015

Bullying by Schoolteachers

Sometimes people have their heads shaved to demonstrate solidarity with cancer patients.

A schoolboy, Stan Locke, who did this is being punished by being completely isolated from all his classmates.


Children's hair styles are no business of their schoolteachers, who should confine themselves to teaching their subjects.

While school attendance is compulsory such abuses of authority are likely to be common. I have long inclined to ending compulsion, so that heads will have to show enough respect and consideration for their pupils to persuade them not to leave.

Friday, 16 January 2015

Enlivening a salad

I find conventional salads rather dull, though they may help weight control. Today I tried adding fresh pineapple. The salad was transformed, and a pineapple costs little more than a lettuce, that dullest of salad vegetables.

Sunday, 11 January 2015

Disabling the Safety Valve

From time to time people commit odious crimes in the name of religion, yet most religious people do not feel impelled to behave like that, and many atrocities are committed in the name of non-religious causes

It is therefore often held that religion plays no part, that people who'd be delinquent anyway just use their religion as an excuse.

I think that may let religion off too lightly.

One thing that can hold us back from extreme action is a habit of thinking before we act and scrutinising our motives critically. Many religions, on the other hand, advocate what they call 'faith', which involves making some beliefs immune from criticism. Someone with faith in an impulse to kill is unlikely to reason themselves out of their folly.

Religion may not teach people to murder, but  training people to block reason with faith may disable a useful safety valve.