Monday 30 September 2013

Getting Back To Work

Job Application.

Saw your thing in the job page when something went wrong on the internet and it failed to deliver on the Big Babes At It site.  I think it was because I wanted the Barbie Goes Ed to Ed feature, and I got Barclay's instead. 

Never mind, I thought that this might be just the work for me.  I know nothing about banking or trading, but from what I hear, Barclay's is my style of living.

First off, I have met a few head cases as bosses in the past, and have succeeded without fail in giving them a bad time.  You have some prize specimens and they and I are made for each other. 

I have high recommendations for being insubordinate, obscene, lazy, bad tempered, and destructive. For this reason my own subordinates have loved me leading to good relations with junior staff. 

Perhaps this might be because I just tell them to get on with it, and go home early when they think they have done enough.

In marketing positions I have always managed to increase sales by a huge amount, although this has sometimes had the effect of reducing a company to bankruptcy. 

It is dead easy, all you do is get the punter to take a much lower price, adjust all the paper work and he and I split the takings. 

It keeps me in Mercedes, but I am now at the point when I need a new one.  I understand that imaginative sales practices are the usual at Barclay's.

From what I read it is all something to do with gearing.  I spend at lot of time on the web looking at gear, especially the more extreme types.  I could liven up your customer’s lives a lot.

By the way I enjoy a long liquid lunch and like to be home in good time for the football.  Because of my commitments first I need time off for the very personal and confidential treatment and second for getting the problems to begin with.

So I am just the man to understand how your bank works.  Double the offer and I’m yours.  By the way since I left the Army after a misunderstanding over a bullet up the Sergeant’s backside, unofficially of course, but I think there has been an amnesty for deserters,

I have not actually managed to stay with a firm for more than a month or so, or maybe often, a week or so.  The result is that I’m a bit short on paper references and that sort of thing. 

The local fuzz can give you some form, and tell you I’m a good man for kicking all the stuffing out of others, but luckily, and its cost me a packet down the years, there is nothing on record, at least so far.

So you see I am just the man for Barclay's, just give me a ring, and I’ll polish up my Doc Martens, get a new crop and be on my way.

Up yours,


Sunday 29 September 2013

A Bedtime Story But Not For The Children

Time again to tell a tale, at 1600 words.

The Time Before

Slogg and Slogga had come to the edge of the plain, but were wary of returning to the forest.  Things had been heard bumping about.  Large things, with big teeth and predatory habits, better avoided.  The Hunter Gatherers knew better than to enter an unknown where the noises were loud and random, go in and there was a good chance the only way you would come out was in the dung of your consumer.  Three children, Slagg, Sligg, and Slugg, fought noisily and randomly, and scared away the few small fresh choices of meat available for capture. 

There was no scavenging to be found.  Dogs had got there first, Slogga had wondered about trying to use them in one way or another, but had not succeeded, and had scars to prove the futility of the attempt.  The family had been pulling a crude sled on which a few dirty balls of flesh, green with mould and covered with dust and flies rested.  They were the supplies for the oncoming winter, and there were not enough.  Slogg pointed to the children, but Slogga shook her head violently; there was not enough substance on them yet. 

Slogg yelped with hunger, “Wors mi tee, lass,” and threw a few pebbles at Slogga.  She picked up and threw a large lump of rock, “Gerroff thee pig.”  The time she had spent working out at The Clubbing Cave in female rites of passage had been helpful.  Slogg, the veteran himself of especially vicious rites, of many blood-lettings, and much violence, ducked and genially spat at her.  She smiled, it meant he still lusted after her parts

There was a loud crash and a dazed mammoth staggered out of the forest and made for them.  Slogga had got it in one, but the creature was angry.  The family would have to be quick, but they had hunted together many times and did not need telling.  They spread out quickly, confusing the mammoth, and as it slowed, Slogg moved quickly behind its forequarters, and as a foot came to ground, gave the tendons on the heel a vicious slash with his long club, its flint inserts cutting easily through the skin and muscle. 

Slogga did the same as the rear foot hit the ground, and the mammoth toppled.  The children grabbed the ears, and in the few seconds they were able to restrain it.  Slogg struck at the jugular, and the life of the mammoth began to ebb away.  There was food for a month, perhaps two or more.  And there was something else.  Slogg grabbed a stick, urging the children towards the great corpse, shouting “Gerronwivit issen.” 

It was their job to skin it, to create one large piece, and then to extract the tusks and major bones in such a way that the family would have a large shelter in which to tear the flesh apart, and either eat or roll the remainder in dung and dirt for it to keep.  When this had been done it was time for the ritual.  Firstly the erection of the frame and cover, or as they called it in their uttering, “t’ entry”, and then carrying it in ceremony about the territory they were to mark as their camp, holding it from the inside.  A moving and shaking dead mammoth was an instrument of dread and fear to all who witnessed it.

Then all the fun and joy was spoiled.  A grain growing settler emerged from the long grass.  There seemed to be a lot of them about lately.  An intrusive and bossy lot, they bred easily and fenced off land without consideration for others. The sounds they made were disturbing, an endless twitter which was incomprehensible. 

Slogg and Slogga had noticed that already that they and their children were the only ones of their own kind left in the area, the others had gone, thanks to the earth scraping and planting people.  Even the few remaining Neanderthals, a quiet and gentle people, always cheerful and helpful, apparently had moved away to avoid the scrapers who were unsatisfactory, loud, and demanding immigrants.

The farmer pointed to the remains of the mammoth.  "Are you other persons of uncertain origins aware that this is an endangered species, protected by the formal regulations of my tribe, in due consultation with a wider groups of interests, and with the full authorisation and indeed sanctions of our all powerful and wonderful gods?" 

Slogg did not really know what he was talking about so responded in his normal friendly way, "Lissen sunshine, any more and you’re an endangered species yoursen."  Slogga gave her usual greeting, in the way of her people, to the farmer by hitting his right buttock with her spear.  The children threw the unwanted parts of the mammoth over him in welcome.  They liked to make strangers happy.

"We know your types, this area is now under our supervision, a protectorate, to ensure economic growth, and the productive use of available resources.  All this indiscriminate hunting of beasts and taking things from wherever you please will have to end.  Further occurrences of this nature and you will be brought before our leader.  There could be severe penalties, including loss of dung rights.  Now I want the mammoth." 

"Tough" said Slogg.  The farmer sniffed, "Well I dare say the meat is on the robust side, but a little gentle simmering will release the essential nutrients, as well as giving a delightful tender flavour, especially when augmented by a careful choice of herbs.  Served on base of baked grain products with a dressing of oils, it can make a family meal something of a dinner party in its atmosphere.”    Slogg gave the farmer a crack over the head with a shoulder blade of the deceased mammoth, his normal way of conducting a discussion.

The farmer ran screaming into the bush, bleeding heavily, and then fell into the large pit that the Hunter Gatherers had prepared earlier to trap some prey.  The spiked timbers at the bottom held him fast and his shrieking intensified as his life ebbed away.  Slogga shook her head, Slogg still had not learned that the skull formation of the farmer tribes was much less strong than their own.  There had been a lot of this happening lately and it had all ended in tears.  And the meat that the people of the farmers provided wasn't up to much either. 

They were a strange lot, when Slogg and Slogga had taken only a couple of their smaller children for a light lunch one day, the parents had been quite emotional and excited, she wondered what they thought children were for.  Worse still, was that they did not fight bravely man to man, woman to woman, child to child.  The men formed groups to give each other shelter, and used weapons of mass destruction.  It was cowardly and shameful but they gloried in this form of war, and all too often they were the victors.

Slogga marched up to Slogg,  "Trouble at t' pit, get shifting, lad."  Slogg was inclined to agree, the hunting and gathering on this part of the plain was getting to be a bore. It was strange, when he was a lad it was colder, there were large beasts about with good meat and plenty of hide.  It was the fault of the farmers, all the burning and felling of trees they were doing.  "Aye lass."  There was always food in the forests, despite the risks, so they could let the children grow and perhaps breed in turn. 

Slogg, Sligg, and Slugg folded up the skin of the mammoth and bore it slowly into the trees.  Slogga followed once more pulling the sled.  At the edge before they disappeared from the sight of the people of the plains, Slogg stopped rapt in thought.  After a while he began to rub two sticks together in the way of the farmers and to blow gently on the smouldering that had begun. 

Soon he had made a fire from the strands of grass.  Slogg kept blowing, and the flames grew.  Slogga stared in wonder.  This was new, the farmers would have to take notice of them now, learning some of their tricks, and applying them in positive management of the environment. 

The fire began to spread, the wind taking it towards where the farmer families had set themselves down.  The fire became bigger and spread rapidly.  From the shelters of the farmers came a delicious smell, that of flesh roasting.  Slogga had always wanted to try it.  When the ground cooled they would go to find the meat of the roasted farmers and see if was as good as it smelt when lightly burned. 

It would not have the richness of dung and urine cured animal and bird meat, but might be easier to chew with worn teeth. They could use fire again.  Tomorrow they would set light to the forest as well.  “Eh up,” she shouted, “Tee’s ‘ere.”  Slogg jumped up and down, there was hope for them yet. 

And, perhaps, a future, soon, before winter, they would walk towards the setting sun and the great water.  Perhaps they might venture into the lands at the edge of the ice where those that remained of the old peoples still challenged the laws of Nature and showed respect for their ancestors.  “Thee niver gnaw thy luck,” said Slogga, a phrase picked up from the farmers. 

If a good sized cave was free by a river, with all the life they needed around then their days might become easy again, and Slogg could once again draw and paint on the walls as his father and his father had done.

Saturday 28 September 2013

Communications, Contact And Control

Turning on the TV instead of the expected picture of David Attenborough stalking innocent insects and the like there was a terse, indeed peevish, note telling me that the Skybox was not connected to my broadband router.

It is permanently connected to the landline telephone as instructed to receive all the benefits and updates, and I expect for them to keep a running check on my use.  But I am reluctant to let Sky into my broadband.  Mr. Murdoch will just have to pay an expert hacker like anybody else.

The Calvin cartoon above is from 1993.  This is not a long time ago by ordinary historical standards, but in terms of computers, communications and the rest is the equivalent of the Bronze Age to archaeologists.

There were many who felt and said, "Garn, it will never happen" believing that the organisational, political and financial obstacles would be too great, or that it might be far beyond what ordinary people could afford or be capable of handling.

Yet as I wander about, take trains and the rest all about me are people in continuing communication with others, looking for information and using the media.  Whenever I photo-bomb an unwary tourist with my Appalachian Flat Foot dancing I know that it might go world wide in an instant.

Yet once to be the first to get the football results meant an anxious wait outside the corner newsagents for the Saturday Sports Special local newspaper to hit the pavement.  The BBC then did not stoop to football results, you had to make do with the latest Board of Trade Export figures.

What is clear is that hardly anyone in government or politics in 1993 or even now had or have any real understanding of what there is and how it might be used for the benefit of all.  The catastrophic losses on IT provision, use and access by the UK government testify to that.

We have had a revolution in knowledge, contact, communication and understanding yet our governors and top managers seem oblivious to the implications.  Quite what this may lead to is anybody's guess.

But as in 1993 most of those guessing, especially those doing the planning for the future, unlike Calvin, will get it hopelessly wrong.

Friday 27 September 2013

Data Rules But Not OK

So much of our government, work, lives and the rest is now driven by data sources and the nature of data that we have lost sight of how we used to function.  That is by instinct, experience, long acquired knowledge and joint effort.

Bruce Schneier in his expert and ever interesting blog on security has quoted this to give us some perspective.  The data, as this blog often argues, may not be as reliable as we think.


Interesting paper: "Three Paradoxes of Big Data," by Neil M. Richards and Jonathan H. King, Stanford Law Review Online, 2013


Big data is all the rage. Its proponents tout the use of sophisticated analytics to mine large data sets for insight as the solution to many of our society's problems. These big data evangelists insist that data-driven decision making can now give us better predictions in areas ranging from college admissions to dating to hiring to medicine to national security and crime prevention.

But much of the rhetoric of big data contains no meaningful analysis of its potential perils, only the promise. We don't deny that big data holds substantial potential for the future, and that large dataset analysis has important uses today. But we would like to sound a cautionary note and pause to consider big data's potential more critically.

In particular, we want to highlight three paradoxes in the current rhetoric about big data to help move us toward a more complete understanding of the big data picture.

First, while big data pervasively collects all manner of private information, the operations of big data itself are almost entirely shrouded in legal and commercial secrecy. We call this the Transparency Paradox.

Second, though big data evangelists talk in terms of miraculous outcomes, this rhetoric ignores the fact that big data seeks to identify at the expense of individual and collective identity. We call this the Identity Paradox.

And third, the rhetoric of big data is characterized by its power to transform society, but big data has power effects of its own, which privilege large government and corporate at the expense of ordinary individuals. We call this the Power Paradox.

Recognizing the paradoxes of big data, which show its perils alongside its potential, will help us to better understand this revolution. It may also allow us to craft solutions to produce a revolution that will be as good as its evangelists predict.


On the ancillary matter of personal security a very brief piece of advice says that Metadata Equals Surveillance which we may not like at all.

If you use any or all of these appliances then when you buy them this is what you get.

Perhaps we could do with a lot less data and rather more sense and sensibility.

Thursday 26 September 2013

Bodies Beds And Bottlenecks

This item was written twelve years ago and reflects the situation then.  It was because then the question arose if we had a bad winter.  This year the summer has been worm and prolonged due to where the Gulf Stream has gone and a series of "blocking highs".

If this continues for any time then such a weather pattern could mean some long very cold spells with all the problems that could arise.  It is a long item but the question is are things any better now?


Two years ago Local Authorities were chartering commercial freezer facilities to cope with the backlog of the deceased awaiting burial or cremation.  Part of the problem was the extra long holiday imposed for the Millennium, the more serious was the increased number of deaths arising from a widespread epidemic of influenza. 

There has been a campaign this year to persuade the old and vulnerable to have their flu’ jabs in good time to reduce the risk, and this has had a measure of success.  But what if there is a particularly nasty or unexpected influenza virus about later this winter, and occurs at the same time as a longer than usual cold spell of weather? 

The increase in the illness and casualty rate and the numbers needing urgent treatment may mean that in the hospitals there could be corpses in the corridors, and bed blocking on an unprecedented scale. 

Along with this will be care establishments in trouble, and people dying in their beds at home waiting for the doctor or the ambulance, or a caring agency that never comes. 

The spin will be probably that the casualties were old and demographics meant that an upward shift in the mortality rates was predictable statistically and only to be expected.  There may be an enquiry, but don’t bet on it.

One of the roots of the problem is the naivety of the British public in believing what they are told.  The engaging persuasiveness of the Ministry of Information propaganda films of the late 1940’s on behalf of the Attlee government on the one hand; and the bullying neurotic tantrums of Nye Bevan on the other; resulted in too many hopes being placed on a National Health Service created on the basis of a fundamental error. 

A local clinic arrangement that had suited a valley in South Wales, Tredegar, which was Bevan’s own patch, was made the template of a single structure service for the whole nation, irrespective of the variety of practice, organisation, and the complex needs of the rest of the country.

As a flexible, responsive, developing service the NHS was doomed from day one.  It began as a static model from the pre-antibiotic age, when a fester could be fatal.  It was not designed to cope with the pace of research, the new drugs, new surgical techniques, methods, radical changes in the rate of survival of serious cases, and the ageing of the population. 

General Practitioners in the early 1950’s complained that they were conceived of as a kind of shunter, despatching patients to what tracks were available in the local hospital.  For them the practice of medicine was organised like the railway marshalling yard, but much worse, and in ignorance of the destinations of the trains. 

The rush to impose the Tredegar Model also meant the creation of unwieldy and impenetrable bureaucracies from the outset, the characteristic feature of a Labour reform or reorganisation of any kind. 

It was the professionalism of the nurses and doctors, and the dedication of so many other staff and voluntary workers, that kept the show on the road.

The belief that the NHS was the best in the world, like our athletes and football teams, made us reluctant to enquire too deeply about what we were getting for our money for too long. A good deal of the governments finance available went on other things. 

When you see Concorde up in the sky, tell yourself that is where the money for NHS hospitals went in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Concorde was a prestige project designed for the personal benefit of the elite; NHS hospitals were for the peasants, that telling word heard from the lips of our political and commercial masters in private so often during that age. 

Governments of many hues and people came and went, only to add to the misery.  It is difficult to decide which of the many reshuffles have been the worst.  Possibly the one induced by Heath The Horrible in 1973-1974 takes the prize, inspired by the ideas on hospital organisation of John Garlick Llewellyn Poulson; but Puffer Clarke, the man who chucked it all in the air, runs him a close second.

There is awareness that all is not right in the hospitals, and the NHS is bracing itself for another upheaval.  One of the key problems is the bottlenecks in, out, and within, and this is directly related to the elimination of effective spare capacity under narrowly conceived costing procedures. 

The shambles of the Accident and Emergency arrangements and the admission systems of so many hospitals is the direct consequence of pretty paper exercises and massaging the figures to fit the sums laid down at the centre that have taken no account of the realities. 

We hear about the problem of many people being sent home before their time, but there is another.  Once in, it can be extraordinarily difficult to get out.  You have to wait for the system to function, and because of the strain on the hospitals it rarely does. 

How many bed-days are lost because people are sitting around waiting for a doctor to tap them on the head as they walk past to say go, or the bit of paper needed cannot be found or has not been signed by the duty wizard or whoever?  

If the basic model, and the essential constitution of the NHS has been badly flawed from the beginning how do we begin again?  Can any government inspired review ever bring round a system that cannot work? 

Is it any longer possible for Britain to have health provision that matches its needs soon, and is able to keep pace with change?  Will the present NHS ever create enough operational capacity and flexibility to manage the ups and downs of demand during each day, never mind each year?

Beyond the hospitals, there is little appreciation of the disaster enfolding in the provision for the very old and sick.  New laws and regulations, uncoordinated, and brought in without thought for the long-term effects have severely reduced the provision in Residential and Nursing Homes at a time when the population in this category is rising. 

This is impacting into Care in the Community now to a level when many services are at breakdown point.  A welter of restrictions arising from Health and Safety and other limitations has had all sorts of side effects.  When old Mrs. Smith falls over, wherever it is, if there is no one trained or qualified to hand to pick her up then she has to stay there until an ambulance crew arrives. 

If she had a bit of a bump all too often this means that to cover themselves, the crew haul her off to the local A & E Department to help fill up the trolleys.  The assumption made in the calculations of the government that one way or another there would be enough local carers, voluntary or paid, was badly wrong, and the strains in the system are all too evident on the ground. 

The extended family has long gone, the new aged had few children, and many of those are now old themselves or have been though divorce or difficulty that limit the numbers able to support their parents. 

The dumping of the majority of the over fifties from the labour market has seriously impacted on the ability of most of that age group to help fund the support and provision for their parents.  It is a dreadful mess, and in one of the coming winters we will all find out just how bad it is going to be. 

There will be no laws or regulations, and no public authority capable of dealing with the magnitude of the crisis.  The NHS will not be able to, because it is now at the point when it cannot help itself.  So what will Mr. Blair do?  Call in the Army to build the pyres again?


Since then the Army has been much reduced and has had to take on other duties.

Wednesday 25 September 2013

The Father Of The Nation

With the Labour Conference in a fog at Brighton, I wondered whether to simply put up a post about the old folk and cavalry song "Brighton Camp", but it did not work.

So I am forced to consider the meanderings of Ed Miliband and the swathe of media and web comment about his attachment to old style socialism.  Among this has been reference to the intensity of his, and his brother David's, upbringing in a socialist household.

The reason that Ed is leading the Labour Party is because he swung the Union vote and that was because of his believed commitment to Socialism as it ought to be, that is the form that his father Ralph Miliband, above, swore to uphold over the grave of Karl Marx.

But I remember Ralph and from the time before his sons were even a twinkle in his eye.  At the LSE as a young lecturer he was regarded by some as being on the doctrinaire side.  The word among the sporting fraternity was that to be in Ralph's class was drawing the short straw.

At the time there were several schools of economic thought there, although explaining this involves some heavy duty reading.  The Wikipedia pages on Welfare Economics and Pareto Efficiency give a simple introduction that is far from simple to one that had quite a following in the period.

When Ralph went up to Leeds in Yorkshire in the 1970's he was moving around some of the same socialist salons as that rising star of the Left, Arthur Scargill, who tried to start a class war and lost.

Nowadays some of my thinking is on the lines of this comment made on an economics blog, quote,

"If an economy is made up of myriad flows of activity which we attempt, with little success, to measure by money counts, then it is likely to be a constantly changing entity where the future is unlikely to be predictable on the basis of even the recent past.

So which flows matter most and which will be critical in the futures? Given that economists and politicians have been a hapless bunch of chancers even in free market conditions, what hope is there for various forms of command economies?"


What is frightening is the same as what was scary in the 1950's and during the decades after.  It was that the socialism on offer was always one from a earlier generation.  In its perverse way it was an ultimate form of conservatism.

This was certainly the basis of a lot of the problems of the 1960's and 1970's when the Unions were desperately attempting to keep an old and failing economy as it was in order to preserve the jobs and their own status.

The lesson from the Party conferences and especially the Labour one is that none of them understand the world we are in and the kind of world we are headed for.

When Ed and David talk about "planning" they are talking about maintaining the status quo or manipulating it back to some theoretical model of what life ought to have been like for a previous generation

Perhaps they should follow their Dad's example and go up to Highgate Cemetery to swear at the grave of Karl Marx.

He once was seriously in debt because of buying large quantities of cigars on a cheap offer.

Tuesday 24 September 2013

Betting On Banks

Today time is short so this post is a repeat of one from 2010, those happy past days when we thought that it was all going to change.  It didn't and it really is not going to get better.  So here it is:

I have complained about how banks have changed.  Gone are the polite formalities of the past and the careful noting of detail by persons who know they are in a good job with a pension to look forward to. 

Now they are like the amusement arcades of the past with rows of blinking machines happy to take your money but not to give you what you hoped for. 

The staff are pushy people trying to sell me all sorts of stuff I do no want or need.  They are on commission with no pensions or job security.

My parents and regimental sergeant majors used to warn me of other dangers.  To be approached by eager young ladies smelling strongly of cheap perfume offering services you would be well advised to refuse is disconcerting. 

Especially when you know the result could be a nasty red rash at the bottom of the accounts.

The latest communication I have had from the bank was intriguing.  It is almost a metaphor for kind of general national financial problems that Vinnie Cable The Bank Crusher is on about.

It tells me that the balance in my savings account is zero.  I suspect I am not alone in having this problem.  It might be related to the other pieces of information.

One is that the rate of interest on such savings is 0.05%.  I am surprised only by the fact that I am not paying the bank to take care of the zero account. 

The other is that if I went into debit then the rate of interest they would charge would be 19.90%.   Long ago usury of this kind could be rewarded with burning at the stake.  Nowadays it comes with a knighthood or seat in the House of Lords.

We are urged by Keynesians to borrow to spend so that we can earn enough to spend more and to borrow more.  According to my Keynes there was something called savings that came into all the equations. 

Saving meant investment and if wise this created activity that enabled consumptions and savings.  If savings were too much this was a distortion.  If too little and borrowing far too much this was a worse distortion

Just like the mirrors in the old amusement arcades.

Monday 23 September 2013

I Don't Know Where I'm Going

This post taking account of the links is one of if not the  longest since beginning this blog. The intention was another topic but as ever something else took over. 

Essentially, we in the UK and the USA is not much different in having economies now that are so distorted and reliant on money chasing money that we are weakened at least and highly vulnerable at worst.

One of the key features of the UK, and other economies is that a major part of one sector has come to have a size that is a large proportion of the economy and with that comes often power and influence over both government and almost all other sectors.

The dangers of this are real and are discussed in UK terms in a special edition of Tax Justice Focus linked from the Tax Justice Network which deals with the the dominance of finance which has several related articles and is a major read needing time and thought.

We are being told and have been repeatedly for a while now that the financial sector is in the hands of the wise and the wary and the  problems have arisen because of events and other matters. 

Given that our governments etc. have bought into or have been bought to pursue this line of thought and have packed their advisory and related bodies with them they cannot be avoided.

There is another view about this, and a longish article by Frances Coppola claims that bankers and traders are useless and therefore cannot be left in charge of all the major decisions or from the sound of it any decisions.

Just to finish off with is the suggestion by Money Week that the UK is in ever increasing trouble and may be too far gone to  save, in short it says we are all doomed in a long article which may not be to every person's taste.

Especially those at all the party conferences who have begun the bidding war using public expenditure to buy the votes for the coming elections.

Sunday 22 September 2013

Life May Be More Complicated Than We Think

As someone with a long interest in complexity, chaos, uncertainty and with doubts about the absolutist way of most of modern science to look for and concentrate on single causes with single effects the article linked below was of interest.

The great questions of the universe, how it came to be, how our galaxy was formed and how earth and the solar system resulted are one set of things.

In the very narrow and limited perspective of Earth there is the question or questions of how life as we know it originated and took the forms it did.

It was refreshing to come across in Science Daily, this article in which scientists try to explore the nature of the complexity involved.  They suggest a particular phase of time in the life of our followed.

Read it here, the journal's abstract is quite short and readable and worth a few minutes of anybody's time:

It opens a new line of thought and research.

We may only just be beginning to understand.

Friday 20 September 2013

Now For Something Completely Useful

Just for a change a lurch into an invitation in nature study.  Real nature, not what some may think.  This is about a seasonal feature of our environment which probably affects many of us.

The great question that most have either been asked or have made is the urgent one  "What is that on the ceiling " followed by a debate about who is going to deal with it when it has been identified.

I am grateful to the UK Nature Blog for this one, a site which has some great pictures of our lesser known and rarely pictured creatures.

It is a serious matter, in that as our way of living changes so much that of the many and various creatures that either live with us or upon whom we impact will change, often for the worse.

There are no prizes and no fame to be gained from adding your contribution to this study apart from the satisfaction of doing something useful.

If encountered kindly leave the creature at the end of the garden.

Thursday 19 September 2013

What Do You Mean By What You Say?

This is a simple proposition.  What is being called Anglo Saxon Capitalism is neither Anglo Saxon nor is it Capitalism.  Why and how in recent years this label has been stuck on the current British-American, or American-British system of international finance is a mystery.

Probably it is the usual media laziness and scant regard for the facts, research or any of the other troublesome work in getting out a story.  By using it people think they know what it means.  But it just another source of confusion.

To begin with "capitalism", in my time there is more than one phase.  After Word War 2, he collapse of so many nations meant devising a system in which credit and finance systems were one thing.  After that ended in the 1970's there was another.

By the 1990's we had moved into a much more complex and high pressure web of money movement with a number of financial devices that created a wholly new, to a great extent computer driven system.   

Some governments were persuaded that this brought to an end of the boom and bust characteristic of capitalist economies.  This led to a huge expansion of little regulated activity that culminated in a the global financial crash.

But there had been such a crash before, starting in 1929 that brought to an end the type of capitalism that had emerged since around the 1880's triggered by the invention of limited liability coupled with the rapid expansion of industry and new forms of communication.

The capitalism before that had probably emerged in the period following the Napoleonic Wars and was inherently unstable.  This was distinctly different from the forms of the late 17th and 18th Centuries.  What may have been the precursors of these systems goes a long way back into the past.

Why our capitalism bears little relation to those of the past is that it is fundamentally a system for extracting money rather than creating real wealth.  The "wealth" that we rely on is largely figures in machines.
It is also a high risk gaming system that is critically short term as opposed to the old capitalist principle of investing for the longer terms. This concept of gaming has become integral in many government "investment" and spending policies, the game being to retain power to protect and embrace the financial speculators.

As for Anglo Saxon, there is little Saxon DNA at present in either the City of London or Wall Street.  Also, what is happening there bears no relation to the old Anglo Saxon culture or its way of life and economy of a thousand years ago. 

Our political and financial elite does not have much connection to Saxon origins and in the last few hundred years the financial sectors have had the recruitment of many from other places after major upheavals have seen the destruction of what went before.

It might be as much Dutch as anything if you look at the history of trade and finance.  So we could in truth call the present phase of international finance The Tulip Model it would be as good as any other.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Will It? Won't It?

Tropical Storm Humberto has been stooging around in the South Atlantic for a few days now and is down graded from Hurricane.  After an initial estimate that it might wander off peacefully to dump a lot of rain on the East Coast of the USA there has been a change of mind.

Now the diagram indicates that it might head for Europe.  As we are in the way in the UK it might visit us first.  It might, it might not, it could stay rough, it could moderate, it could just fizzle out.

Our weather women (and men) are not telling.  All we are getting at present is breezy smiles of a warm and promising weekend.  Then when the next shift comes on they will be stuck with the job of giving the bad news, if any.

Having seen so many of these storms that have not lived up to expectations, I am not telling either.  But as I need an easy post today because of domestic duties, it will have to do.

Have a nice day.

Tuesday 17 September 2013

Party Time

There was a time when the annual conference of a major political party was an event where parties with millions of signed up members would at least attempt to mingle with their followers.  Even lesser parties might have a membership of hundreds of thousands.

Now even the major parties cannot summon up enough members to rival the followers of a famous cyclist on his social media link.  Once it was a privilege and honour to be deputised to attend by your local party . Now it is either a tiresome intrusion into a busy life or perhaps the chance for a binge and bonk weekend.

Radio listeners or TV viewers might have been interested but now as soon as the news screen shifts onto a conference in between a fashion show or gruesome murder or natural disaster the populace hits the remote control to go to a sports or other channel. 

The media does the coverage out of duty and to keep the politicians happy and maybe because it is for them the village gossip.  For most of us it is now a strange and other world where people we largely dislike and distrust caper for our attention.

Apart from being seen with or among the great and the good, or rather too often the greedy and the gross and theoretically conferring and consulting these events were usually something of a fiction.  But over time they moved on from being an internal exercise to one that became much more of an external media show, a palace of political varieties.

With it arrived all the agenda and content management, the spin, the stunts and the urgent need to try to command the lead stories in the press and on the TV news,  For a short period it had some sort of sentient life but this is now long past.

The arrival of 24/7 news coverage, the availability of other sources and ready international news all began to impact.  Now the web and the net are assuming greater importance.  The time of the party conference accordingly is over, it is now almost a political heritage item.

So it has now almost retreated into being largely an internal event where the leading elements struggle for coverage and power among a declining, ageing group of followers who in effect are the local government and agency end of the business.

There has always been an element of exclusiveness and air of superiority in the UK political class.  Often this barely covered their contempt for the ordinary voter. 

Now it is becoming all too obvious and the party conference is a time to tell people what their governors want, not for the people to have some sort of minimal influence.

We call ourselves a democracy and are prepared to use this as an excuse for bombing and blasting other states.  Yet the UK is now falling far short of being a democracy and holding party conferences in the way they are run is an all too obvious sign of this.

Just how many people now outside the Westminster Village take this kind of variety show seriously?  The disaster is that the politicians see this capering as real politics.

Most of us see it as low farce.

Monday 16 September 2013

Getting It Wrong

So a couple of days back, there is a post here on Larry Summers to take the job at the Federal Reserve.  Now today he says he is out not liking the prospect of a cat or dog fight or both in Congress to get the nod.

This may mean he does not have full confidence in President Obama's ability to swing it or it may mean that the job is going to be not one to have at this moment in time.  Notably, if you believe some commentators we are heading for more financial trouble with less resources to deal with them. 

Sensibly, Larry may not want to be around to make the excuses and try to persuade politicians of the absolute necessity of some very unpopular decisions. The serious downside to this is that in the past five years there have been a lot of wrong directions taken.

The lesson for any speculative blogger is to check the sources, then double check, then another check.  As if this is not something that has been told a lot of times down the decades.  But when you are in a hurry.......

Today, to keep up the pessimism, there is a link to a Zero Hedge item about nuclear radiation to the effect that we are all doomed unless we can move to the Southern hemisphere.  As it is Japan that is to blame at least there is an excuse.

There was once a time of hope.  At the moment on the radio is Aaron Copland's "Appalachian Spring" written for ballet in 1944, revised for orchestra in 1945, see Wikipedia. Try Youtube if you are interested for half an hour. 
The piece makes use of the old Quaker hymn, "Simple Gifts", but nothing is simple now and nobody wants to give.

Sunday 15 September 2013

National Disservice

There are many items that do not make it into the media about our affairs because of the rush of other attention grabbing matters. 

One is that there is a Bill currently before the House of Commons to bring back National Service, it is the National Service Private Members Bill introduced by Phillip Hollobone, the Conservative MP for Kettering.

The full text, or mind boggle of it is here, National Service Bill In Full and as you can see is after just about everyone between 18 and 26 to put in a free year helping out the state fulfil things that it thinks ought to be done.

We have been here before of course.  As Mr. Hollobone was born in 1964, after National Service had ended in the UK, he may be looking at it with, if not rose, blue tinted spectacles. A succinct outline is given by the National Army Museum but this says little about many of the complexities.

One thing is certain, no such scheme of national service could be brought in without major problems.  What controls and use could be adopted sixty years ago would be impossible to apply and the problems of allocating people and training them would be much greater.

Originally, the old National Service started out as an 18 month period.  But it quickly became apparent that this did not meet military manpower demands.  By the time you had taken them in, applied basic requirements and then trained and transported them, there was not a lot of time left.

So it became extended to two years.  I do not think anyone has fully studied the adverse effects created.  Not just in the attitudes of mind but in the impact on labour markets, social habits and a lot more.  Also, it may have contributed to the souring of industrial and race relations for a number of reasons.

One purpose was to create a standing reserve in the event of a major war or conflict in the future.  But in 1956 when Eden  called up numbers of reservists not for the Suez War itself but to replace troops drawn from other sectors, in the Rhine Army there were actual mutinies and in many units angry reservists caused disciplinary problems.

A great deal has been glossed over in the history of this phase of military policy, For some it was useful and an interesting experience, but for others it was a costly and tiresome intrusion into the living of life.  There were those for whom it was a nightmare and left them damaged.

We are living in a radically changed world with very different expectations and ideas.  Dredging up a long dead scheme to deal with a wide range of awkward and increasing problems is not the answer.  This simply will not and cannot work.

Theoretically, there is little chance of the Bill passing into law as so few private members bills make it.  Some do, but only after special efforts being made.  Worryingly, such a bill can become law if a government looking for a fast answer to a very short term issue decides to take it up.

Like the old National Service it is an inadequate excuse to be seen to be doing something on the cheap.

Saturday 14 September 2013

"Rush" Job

Way back a few decades I was interested in Formula One racing, as it was then, but have dropped off in the last couple as other things have crowded the bit between the ears.

So when the new film "Rush" goes to satellite, picture above, I hope to watch it, if only for old time's sake.  The cinema is out, the decibel levels hurt too much.   The reason is personal.

Back in the mid 1970's camped by the Moselle at Bernkastel-Kues, the chance was taken to visit the old Nurburgring up in the hills.  There I found that for 15 DM, around £3, I could drive the family car round it, with the family, purely of course to take in its scenic qualities.

So I can claim truthfully to have driven the old Nurburgring at least shortly after the "greats" of motor racing had done.  Been there, done that, as the saying goes.  I picked up this item from an interview with Jackie Stewart about the film.


Jackie Stewart has had this to say re the new film "Rush" about James Hunt and Nicki Lauda:

Q: What was the most dangerous racetrack when you were racing?

Nurburgring. There were no barriers and there was no fencing, despite the fact you were racing at more than 200mph through a road in the middle of a forest. I remember racing there in conditions where you couldn't see 50 metres ahead of you.

There were 178 corners per lap and in good weather the car took off 13 times. Racing cars take off well, but they never land well.

In Nurburgring, you knew that you couldn't go off the road because of the trees that lined the course. Those trees were planted by Hitler in the Eifel area, there are forests and valleys and the altitude is significantly higher.

That type of racetrack could never continue and I closed the Nurburgring in 1970 because they wouldn't do one little thing for safety.

Ironically, I won four times at Nurburgring and that was the most challenging racetrack ever but it was also hideously unsafe. 

I have pictures of me leading the race and in the background you can see a saloon car sticking out upside down in the ditch from a previous race.


It was there that I learned to fully respect the Formula One drivers.  Some of the bends and dips were tricky at 50 mph or less in an ordinary car, even one in the higher ranges.  Quite how they managed the course in racing I could only imagine.

One of the family told me that there are some of super rich today who can afford to buy the old racing cars and drive them.  It seems that they take part in the film with their own cars.

He said it seemed ridiculous and of course I fully agreed.

But I did buy more lottery tickets than usual this weekend.