Wednesday 30 December 2015

Embarrassing video of 2015

Sen. Cruz Questions Sierra Club President Aaron Mair on Climate Change.

Tuesday 29 December 2015

The man in the high caste

While browsing thorium-related issues I came across this piece from India. 10 Areas In Which India Beats Even The Most Powerful Countries In The World.

Journalists are fond of silly lists so nothing new there. I skipped down to the comments and this one jumped out at me. 

Almost all the reasons given to be proud are stupid (and somewhat incorrect) but I still love India, I don't need a reason. I think it's the best place for me to live. But I think if I was of lower middle class from a low caste, my attachment might not have been so unconditional.

The EU came to mind. It isn't difficult to see it separating into castes.

Waste of time

Short walk today. Stopped off at the National Stone Centre. Outside there is a small raised pool where kids can pretend to pan for gold. A grandmother and grandchild approached.

“Oh look, war’aa,” said grandchild, skipping towards the panning pool.

“It’s called water,” said granny, stressing the “t”.

Granny was probably wasting her time.

Monday 28 December 2015

Quote of the year 2015

I've seen this quote from Christiana Figueres all over the place, but it's worth revisiting in case there is anyone left who thinks climate policies rely on science.

At a news conference last week in Brussels, Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of U.N.'s Framework Convention on Climate Change, admitted that the goal of environmental activists is not to save the world from ecological calamity but to destroy capitalism.

"This is the first time in the history of mankind that we are setting ourselves the task of intentionally, within a defined period of time, to change the economic development model that has been reigning for at least 150 years, since the Industrial Revolution," she said.

Sunday 27 December 2015

The Suffragette Wall

Yesterday we visited Shipley Park where I took this photo of the Suffragette Wall. Alfred Edward Miller Mundy, the last squire of Shipley Hall supposedly had it built to keep out marauding suffragettes.

It's a commonly repeated local story, but as for its plausibility I'm not so sure. Anyone reasonably active could scale the wall, especially with a little help or something to stand on. Suffragettes were surely resourceful enough, even if encumbered with those long Edwardian skirts.

Not only that, but the wall isn't particularly long and only protects a small section of the hall grounds. Those fearsome ladies could have strolled round it.

To my mind, a more likely possibility is that the story originated from somebody with suffragette sympathies who visited the hall. Somebody fashionably radical might drawl a simple observation such as "I suppose your wall was built to keep out the suffragettes." It becomes a family joke, the servants hear it and soon enough that's why the wall was built.

Or maybe the local suffragettes were really scary but not very tall or resourceful.

Saturday 26 December 2015

Dork of the Year 2015


The sheer number of candidates has made choosing Dork of the Year (DotY) particularly difficult for 2015. Not that the problem is new because each year there seem to be even more Qualifying Dorks than the year before. Yet in spite of these difficulties and after much analytical deliberation, the DotY committee has come up with a winner – Ed Miliband.

Ed has achieved this accolade partly because he is such an obvious dork but primarily because he has not one, not two, but three Qualifying Dorkworthy Achievements.

Firstly we have the Climate Change Act. On 16 October 2008 Ed Miliband as Secretary of State for Energy and Climate Change, announced that the Act would mandate an 80% cut overall in six greenhouse gases by 2050. Using UK law to change the weather of the entire planet is an act of stupidity beyond adult comprehension. Perhaps that's the clue.

Secondly as leader of the Labour Party, Ed managed to secure a clear general election victory for David Cameron, the leader of a coalition government which never achieved popularity. How Ed managed this feat is a matter for historians of comic politics, but lose it he did.

Thirdly Ed changed the rules for choosing the next Labour party leader. This final masterstroke allowed an infantile party membership plus quite a few mischief makers to elect Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader.

So well played Ed – Dork of the Year 2015.

Wednesday 23 December 2015


All men lead their lives behind a wall of misunderstanding they themselves have built, and most: men die in silence and unnoticed behind the walls. Now and then a man, cut off from his fellows by the peculiarities of his nature, becomes absorbed in doing something that is impersonal, useful, and beautiful.

Word of his activities is carried over the walls. His name is shouted and is carried by the wind into the tiny inclosure in which other men live and in which they are for the most part absorbed in doing some petty task for the furtherance of their own comfort. Men and women stop their complaining about the unfairness and inequality of life and wonder about the man whose name they have heard.
Sherwood Anderson – Poor White (1920)

This was one of Anderson’s themes, our inability to scale the walls of misunderstanding we ourselves have built. He saw it as an ineradicable feature of human nature when faced with the flux of interests and social convention in which we find ourselves so firmly enmeshed. Powerful interests know it well and build more walls by fostering even more misunderstanding.

One might have supposed that Anderson’s view would become dated, that the walls would be at least partly demolished by modern communication, but it doesn’t appear to be so. If anything the situation is worse now that it was almost a century ago because we have more powerful forces intent on building walls designed to suit their interests.

As always the most pernicious walls are those between elite classes and everyone else. David Cameron builds such walls, building them with care from obfuscation, misdirection and endless petty dishonesties.

Rats and mazes come to mind, but who is the master builder?

Monday 21 December 2015

The Ofsted inspection

A delightful story from regular commenter Sam Vega.

About ten years ago we had an Ofsted  inspection at the college where I was working. As these things lead to riches and glory for college principals, no effort had been spared in preparations. As well as all the forged paperwork and the lies drilled into staff, the buildings and equipment had been polished. Litter picked up, clutter removed, graffiti expunged, and new posters and faked student work pinned to noticeboards.

I had been assigned an inspector, and was giving him a preliminary guided tour. I was wearing my best suit and a professionally obsequious manner. We paused in the main reception hall. From out of nowhere, the biggest rat I have ever seen scuttled across the hall behind him, and paused about six feet away. Scaly tail, questing whiskers, and a very glossy coat; clearly well fed and confident.

The inspector picked up my surprise, and obviously wanted to turn round, but didn't, out of politeness. I continued my rehearsed lines about our wonderful new buildings and our stringent Health and Safety, while the bloody thing sat up on its haunches and did ratty things like scratching with its back foot and combing its whiskers with both paws.

It ambled off before he could see it. I sometimes wonder if it had been disgusted by what it saw us doing.

Sunday 20 December 2015

Elite scientists

Sackerson sent this interesting link about elite scientists and their tendency to retard the evolution of new ideas until they peg out.

Max Planck — the Nobel Prize–winning physicist who pioneered quantum theory — once said the following about scientific progress:

A new scientific truth does not triumph by convincing its opponents and making them see the light,     but rather because its opponents eventually die, and a new generation grows up that is familiar with it.

Shorter: Science is not immune to interpersonal bullshit. Scientists can be stubborn. They can use their gravitas to steamroll new ideas. Which means those new ideas often only prevail when older scientists die.

The piece goes on to demonstrate the validity of this claim via patterns in published work. It comes as no surprise of course. Scientists are human; they have families to support, mortgages to pay, status to earn and maintain.

To explain what is going on here we could adapt an idea from Wittgenstein – the distinction between symptoms and criteria. Acolytes may present the opinion of Celebrity Scientist as a criterion of valid science. Celebrity Scientist says X, therefore X must be scientifically valid. Celebrity Scientist has become a criterion of sound scientific opinion.

In reality Celebrity Scientist's opinion may not be a criterion of sound science at all. It may have been once upon a time, but perhaps other possibilities are emerging within Celebrity Scientist's field. Celebrity Scientist's opinion may have become a symptom of hierarchy, personal vanity and the inability to accept new thinking.

Confusing symptoms with criteria is very common. For example, is an Ofsted report a criterion of educational excellence or a symptom of educational malaise? Both perhaps. Symptoms and criteria are often mingled.

Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is another example. Widely known to be a misleading metric, GDP could be seen as a symptom of political mendacity rather than a criterion of economic health.

GDP purports to measure economic activity while largely divorcing itself from the quality, profitability, depth, breadth, improvement, advancement, and rationalization of goods and services provided.

UK general elections seem to have have become a symptom of democratic decline rather than a criterion of healthy democratic government. Which is why useful reform is unlikely.

One could go on and on because elites often confuse symptoms with criteria. Even elite scientists may find it useful once perched atop the greasy pole.

Saturday 19 December 2015


One of the great changes over my lifetime has been the spread of flippancy into every corner of life. There is hardly any subject which cannot be treated flippantly and hardly any person who lacks the capability to be flippant. It isn’t new but along with being conspicuously offended it seems to be one of the great social trends of our age. Fortunately one cannot be flippantly offended although many poseurs seem willing to give it a go.

I am often too flippant and almost all of my generation are capable of being flippant in virtually any social situation. To my mind television must shoulder most of the blame with its endless diet of comedy, light entertainment and general dumbing down of everything it soils with its attention. So what is the point in encouraging an entire population to be flippant?

A clue seems to be the obvious link between flippant and infantile behaviour. Acceptable flippancy has created a pervasive superficial miasma, a semi-serious public domain where the infantile viewpoint is barely distinguished from serious commentary. In other words it facilitates a superficial take on even the weightiest matters because it is easy and acceptable.

I’m certainly conscious of the problem with flippancy as a double edged sword. On the one hand it allows one to dismiss hordes of poseurs, political worms, celebrities and other assorted trash.

On the other hand it is not easy to take seriously those genuinely malign trends which take away our freedoms brick by brick, stone by stone.

Coming full circle one might also say that flippancy is an enabler. It saves time and allows full rein to the bon mot, the flippant dismissal which too often is all an issue deserves. So where does that leave us in the maze? The same place as usual – nowhere - he mused flippantly.

Thursday 17 December 2015


I've been looking for a new watch, but these are out of my league. I don't think I'd buy one even if I had the money. Impressive as a feat of micro-engineering, but so are the silicon chips inside a cheap quartz watch.

For example, I recently bought a new camera plus a 30Gb SD card. The SD card was just over a tenner and to my mind that's a much more amazing feat of engineering. 

Wednesday 16 December 2015

That’s a rat that is

I’ve been ill for a couple of weeks now, but I'm just about over it. Nothing serious, but an apparently endless cough tends to depress the vital forces somewhat. So what has this to do with rats?

It goes like this. Not so long ago while out walking we saw a great big rat scuttle across the Cromford Canal towpath. Not an unusual sight but unmistakable and that’s the point – rats are unambiguously ratty. That’s a rat that is.

Being mildly ill made me think of that rat because when a chap muses away the day, certain things tend to pop through the mental haze with enormous clarity. The more gloomy aspects of life can become stark and wonderfully clear. Not so much a case of enhanced consciousness as having the time and inclination to dwell on these things. There is no need to trawl around for suitable words because things are as they seem to be - that’s a rat that is.

The sheer wanton crappiness of the BBC for instance. The humongous unbridgeable gulf dividing what the Beeb is from what it ought to be. Considering the vast sums of moolah it has to spend, the iron grip it had for decades on UK mass media and the resources at its disposal, the BBC falls far short of where it ought to be. As with rats, BBC deficiencies are unmistakable.

Cameron’s untrustworthy tactics on the EU referendum are the obvious wriggling of a political spiv faced with the oafish intransigence of an EU which doesn’t give a rat’s arse about the reform hole he managed to dig for himself. He’ll get what he’s given and knows it. We know it too because the whole unedifying game is as obvious as a big fat rat scuttling along the political gutter.

It’s no mystery. Rats look like rats. As yet we haven’t been conditioned to mistake their ratty nature by calling them something less uncompromisingly ratty. 'Sewer pixies' for example. No doubt if we’d been conditioned by politically correct pressures to refer to rats as 'sewer pixies' we’d become horrified by the word 'rat'. Calling someone a rat could even become a hate crime to be tut tutted over by the BBC, the Guardian and unattractive intellectuals with soft hands and softer heads.

It probably is a hate crime already, but until I see a flashing blue light through the curtains, Cameron is a rat, the BBC is full of them and the EU is where they build their nests.

Tuesday 15 December 2015

Kim's pants

No not that Kim, this one.

For those few hardy souls who wish to continue, DailyNK tells us about the fastidious habits of North Korean despot Kim Jong Un.

The source also conveyed to Daily NK the interesting tidbit that Kim Jong Un allegedly only "uses items once before throwing them in the trash and acquiring new ones." This includes everyday necessities such as towels, toothbrushes, and even underwear. Handling the items that have touched the leader’s skin directly is considered to be work of "the utmost delicacy."

“Mishandling such treasured items can result in being labeled a reactionary until the end of your days, which is why each item is incinerated immediately upon completed use,” he concluded.

Must be pretty grim... no I don't care to speculate further. I need a coffee with a tot of rum.

Monday 14 December 2015

A bold mouse

Modern men and women who live in industrial cities are like mice that have come out of the fields to live in houses that do not belong to them.

Now and then a bold mouse stands upon his hind legs and addresses the others. He declares he will force his way through the walls and conquer the gods who have built the house. "I will kill them," he declares. "The mice shall rule. You shall live in the light and the warmth. There shall be food for all and no one shall go hungry."

Sherwood Anderson – Poor White (1920)

Sunday 13 December 2015

Seasonal sentiments


In a disorderly haphazard world hatred is as effective an impulse to drive men forward to success as love and high hope. It is a world-old impulse sleeping in the heart of man since the day of Cain. In a way it rings true and strong above the hideous jangle of modern life. Inspiring fear it usurps power.
 Sherwood Anderson - Marching Men (1917)

As the season of goodwill is in the offing perhaps it is time to dwell on the thorny issue of enemies. Who are they and do we loathe them with sufficient venom?

I don’t think we do. Politics is all about identifying enemies and inventing laws, regulations and excuses to shaft them. It’s an unedifying spectacle, but when it comes to our own governments shafting the ordinary citizen we have to wonder why we keep ending up in the crosshairs. Are we the enemy?

Yes we are. Harming people is probably a survival trait, especially if it can be done safely from behind a well fortified principle or political class. Those who harm potential enemies reduce their ability to inflict harm even if there is in reality no such intention. A key difference between democracies and totalitarian regimes is how they treat their internal enemies - or citizens as they often call us.

Totalitarian - citizens can’t vote so they are shafted by the elite.
Democracy - citizens can vote so they are shafted by the elite.

However, there is an important difference. Democratic elites realise they can shaft more deeply if their citizens are more prosperous. Totalitarian elites are stupid and fail to realise the full shafting potential of their citizens. So their elites have to be smaller and therefore more precarious. North Korean elites probably have armed guards while they tuck into a succulent dish of roast dog in case the delicious aroma sends the outside rabble wild.

Elites generally see citizens as potential enemies, always ready and willing to make elite lives less comfortable if allowed to do so - which they very rarely are. So it no surprise if we find ourselves responding in kind by hating the elite classes even when we pretend to be indulging in civilised debate about the pros and cons of yet another ludicrously restrictive measure.

Come on! Christmas is almost upon us. Let us dwell for a moment on the elite classes, the movers and shakers of this world. Let us take this festive opportunity to admit how much we loathe the sight and sound of the lying bastards.

Saturday 12 December 2015

The Paris agreement

The Paris COP21 draft agreement about which there will be endless disagreement is here. Read it if you have the stomach for it. After a preliminary scan I didn't bother although a reference to holding future global temperature increases to 1.5 °C is interesting.

Emphasizing with serious concern the urgent need to address the significant gap between the aggregate effect of Parties’ mitigation pledges in terms of global annual emissions of greenhouse gases by 2020 and aggregate emission pathways consistent with holding the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2 °C above preindustrial levels and pursuing efforts to limit the temperature increase to 1.5 °C.

You know what? I don't think they expect to see a dramatic and possibly not even a significant global temperature increase at all. They know the science is bollocks.

Thursday 10 December 2015

More on thorium

Lars Jorgensen gives a presentation on how thorium technology company ThorCon sees the future of nuclear power and its inevitable battle with coal. How anyone came up with the name ThorCon I can't imagine but the video explains what their project is all about. While remembering that the presentation is a sales pitch, here are a few bullet points.

The ThorCon system is a modular off the shelf system which can be built by existing shipyards using automated ship-building technology.

The system uses thorium and uranium and is designed to be  “walk-away safe”. If it goes wrong the liquid fuel falls harmlessly into a containment vessel. Nobody needs to shut it down, the laws of physics take care of things.

The system is designed to be cheaper than coal.

Indonesia is already interested, but as ever we'll have to wait and see if ThorCon sinks or swims. There is no way we can usefully guess what new technologies will emerge over the next few decades but thorium seems promising. When will the world run out of thorium? These things are as much guesswork as anything, but 1000 years may be conservative.

Meanwhile here in high tech Britain we build windmills and convert power stations to burn wood. Presumably dried dung is our next big energy idea.

Wednesday 9 December 2015

New camera

As mentioned in the previous post I have a new camera, a Nikon S7000. It had to fit into my pocket while out walking and have a reasonable optical zoom without costing too much. 

I haven't done much with it yet, but the above photo is a teal seen at Carsington Water taken on maximum zoom - 20x. Without the zoom it would have been a tiny brownish blob out on the mud. Not David Attenborough standard but I'm pleased with it. Here's a squirrel on the lawn, also at maximum zoom.

Submerged in little things

We go each of us through the treadmill of our lives caught and caged like little animals in some vast menagerie. In turn we love, marry, breed children, have our moments of blind futile passion and then something happens. All unconsciously a change creeps over us. Youth passes. We become shrewd, careful, submerged in little things.
 Sherwood Anderson - Marching Men (1917)

I intended to write something about Anderson’s words, but I have to nip off to Sainsbury’s to recycle some batteries and pick up a few bits and pieces. There are Christmas cards to write, a Mastercard statement to check, info from our gas and electricity supplier, our Ramblers membership renewal and I need some time to fiddle with my new camera to see what I can do with it...

Tuesday 8 December 2015

Spell-check for hate

The BBC reports

Technology companies should work on tools to disrupt terrorism - such as creating a hate speech "spell-checker" - Google's chairman Eric Schmidt has said.

Hardly a surprise, these things evolve in small steps. The form they eventually take is a matter of conjecture, but not particularly difficult conjecture. Terrorists today, grumpy old cynics tomorrow. If you have anything to say then say it now seems to be the message.

Monday 7 December 2015

The EU and low-energy voters

We all seem to have a collection of comfort zones where experiences are aligned not with the real world but with one of our comfort zones. A comfort zone is where we go for our opinions, our world view and our personal philosophy. It is much easier than brain work, just ask a Cabinet Minister.

There are political zones, religious zones, family zones, comedy zones, sport zones, pub zones, employment zones, book zones, environment zones, music zones, art zones, blog zones and so on and so on. There are even imaginary comfort zones reserved for other people such as enemy zones, often populated with imaginary people.

All these zones offer the subtle and strongly addictive comforts of low-energy thinking. In return we give our allegiance to the zone together with its myths, stories, truths, lies, language, social benefits and important ambiguities. In real life nobody actually has to do much brain work – it isn’t compulsory. We all have the low-energy option of comfort zones.

If answers have already been supplied and accepted into a comfort zone then not thinking is more efficient than thinking. This is how we would expect our brains to work, efficiently. Brain work is work, the energy has to come from somewhere. From a survival point of view we would expect our brains to use as little energy as possible consistent with survival. This is how the natural world works, through the path of least energy.

A great deal of human thought may be drivel, but if it is low energy drivel, does not threaten survival and attracts a socially significant consensus then the net survival effect may be strongly positive. Consensus promotes social cohesion which in turn promotes survival.

So we may worship the most ludicrous gods, but if doing so promotes social cohesion then the overall survival effect may be positive. In which case it pays to worship the gods and explain the natural world through their supposed actions. Even the most abject drivel can be socially effective by creating and maintaining social bonds. 

Our leaders have always understood the value of low-energy drivel designed to appeal to low-energy voters. The pro-EU campaign for the UK’s forthcoming referendum will rely on herding low-energy voters into what the EU has become, a low-energy comfort zone. There is no real defence against it either. The low-energy voter was bound to be the Achilles' heel of democracy.

Sunday 6 December 2015

1916 Detroit Electric car

A century ago we already had practical electric commuter cars. From Wikipedia

The cars were advertised as reliably getting 80 miles (130 km) between battery recharging, although in one test a Detroit Electric ran 211.3 miles (340.1 km) on a single charge. Top speed was only about 20 mph (32 km/h), but this was considered adequate for driving within city or town limits at the time.

I like this little car, it reminds me of an Amish buggy and a simpler, more rational life which was always within our grasp but we never grasped it.

Imagine a similar car made from modern materials used purely for shopping or commuting. For twenty years I commuted across Nottingham and only on a Sunday morning would I ever do better than an average speed of 20 mph. Usually it was well below.

Saturday 5 December 2015

Christmas, pumpkins and climate

Much has been written about COP21, the latest climate circus, but there is one aspect pointing to a less than desirable future as global processes bite into our freedoms.

COP21 will fail – China and India are not interested.
Everyone has known this for years.
Ditto COP22.
Ditto COP23.
Ditto COP999.
The science is garbage.
The negotiations are political fantasies.
Few people care anyway.
The whole thing is a process.

That’s the point and the scary aspect of climate change. COP21 is merely a global process. Nobody is in charge, nobody is responsible, there are no achievable goals, nobody cares.

Christmas is a process too. Christmas involves lying to children about Santa Claus and no doubt many parents aren’t so keen on that, but the lies are part of the process so they are widely told. Halloween is another process. Many of us in the UK saw it start from nothing but one started the job is done, possibly for decades, possibly centuries. Think of that – trick or treat for centuries.

Once established a large-scale process tends to go on and on because the number of beneficiaries is correspondingly large. Lies, evasions and misinformation trigger few moral sensitivities if they are part of the process. Everyone does it so it can’t be wrong, that’s the unspoken formula.

Achievements, failures and moral ambiguities are not necessarily relevant, the only relevance is gain. Do beneficiaries gain? Christmas and Halloween are funded by punters. Government-sponsored processes such as COP21 are also funded by punters but without consent. Inevitably they tend to be funded until a scandal or two render them politically whiffy.

Obvious lying, general silliness and an absence of global warming do not constitute a scandal for COP21 and won’t for COP22, COP23 or COP999 unless people within the process suddenly become significantly more moral. Sadly evolution doesn’t work that quickly.

There’s the rub. Government-sponsored processes such as COP21 don’t have to be honest, truthful or make sense. They don’t have to confer benefits on anyone outside the process. As long as they confer benefits on those inside the process, which may be as trivial uncritical peer review, as cut and paste reporting or an annual jamboree, then reasons will be found for business as usual. Unless something big such as another ice age diverts our attention of course but then it may be too late. 

That’s the scary part. It doesn’t really matter whether we see global warming, cooling or neither. Hardly anyone inside the process actually cares. Prince Charles possibly, but he is a figure of fun these days.

Friday 4 December 2015

I told 'em - Oldham

Actually I didn't. Anyone who can't remember the source of the title, it's explained here.  As for yesterday's Labour by-election victory, it is unwise to base much on a single result, but anyone is bound to wonder, at least momentarily, if Jeremy Corbyn has a point.:

Jeremy Corbyn has said Labour’s decisive byelection victory in Oldham is proof that his party is a broad church with deep-rooted support across the country.

Certainly Labour support is very deep-rooted, we already know that. Whether an oddball political poseur such as Jeremy can mobilise and benefit from it remains to be seen, but I doubt it. We also have this reaction from politicalbetting.

The default assumption when parties talk about “internal polling” should be that they are lying

A cynic might add that it's the default position when parties say anything at all about any subject under the sun but that's another issue. The main issue is whether or not Jeremy is rather more popular with voters than he is with the media or his MPs.

Too early to tell but probably not in spite of the Oldham result. For example, recent polling does not suggest that he is seen as economically competent. Perhaps Oldham had a good candidate in Jim McMahon who comes across as personable and capable, in which case the result may not be so good for Jeremy after all. Personable and capable are not really what he wants on the benches behind his back.

Thursday 3 December 2015

Bloody war

Isn’t Middle East policy going well? Nobody really wanted to start from where we are now, not after a long series of wrong moves. Was the world a better place for us with Saddam, Gaddafi and Bashar Al-Assad keeping the lid on things? These conjectures are beyond analysis but it is very tempting to think so.

As far as I can see there are still lessons to be learned, especially since the Russian intervention. Oddly enough Putin seems to have highlighted our failure to look to our own culture, value it and energetically preserve what was in our national interests to preserve. 

For too long we have been told that the world is multicultural and to see it in any other way is reactionary and xenophobic. Sadly that wasn’t a good move when playing the game of real life. These things have to evolve at their own pace. If indeed they ever do evolve,

Putin has also highlighted our failure to look to our national interests and pursue them with deviously unyielding rigour. The same degree of rigour imposed by the laws of evolution - survival of the fittest. We have allowed ourselves to be less than fit.

As for the latest bombing campaign, it seems foolish to assume that our leaders know what they are doing, know what their goals are and how to achieve them. It even seems foolish to assume the intelligence they rely on is indeed reliable.

Closer to home it has allowed Hilary Benn to make what appears to be a move on Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour party leadership.

Wednesday 2 December 2015

Crappy furniture

A stock of clothes may last several years; a stock of furniture half a century or a century;
Adam Smith - The Wealth of Nations

Half a century? Not if you buy it from one of the big retailers matey. We recently wasted quite a few hours looking for a pair of armchairs which are both comfortable and likely to be reasonably durable. What an experience that was.

Most modern armchairs and sofas are crap displayed in vast soulless sheds. Ergonomically they are so poorly designed that most are not even worth trying. No head support, no lumbar support, no attempt to fit the human form, no attempt to inform potential customers about materials, springing or durability. Only glaring lies about amazing special offers which aren't amazing and aren't special.

As for quality, Adam Smith’s half a century is long gone. We even tried DFS as we found ourselves driving past the horrible place. Why anyone would go twice is a mystery. We won’t. If too many customers accept rubbish then rubbish is what we’ll get from the faceless corporate bean-counters. When it comes to furniture we certainly do accept rubbish, mountains and mountains of rubbish. It’s the same with politics but we never learn.

In the end we found some locally made furniture which looks promising. Lots of info on the materials and no hard sell. Expensive but not much more expensive than the crap so I think we’ll give the crap a miss. It isn’t simply a desire for a modicum of quality, but an equally strong desire to stick two fingers up at corporate indifference.

Tuesday 1 December 2015

An energy myth

With the climate faithful assembled in Paris perhaps it is time to think about saving energy. A few years ago we replaced our old central heating boiler with a new efficient energy saving model. We also added another layer of loft insulation to take it up to whatever is the approved depth these days.

As far as I can tell and admitting that these issues are inherently uncertain, we are saving significant amounts of gas. Consequently we tweak up the heat to enjoy a slightly warmer house and I don’t think we are alone in doing so. So no energy saving, but suppose we decide to be more disciplined and end up making a genuine energy saving of say £200 per year. Does that work?

I’m sure many others have pointed this out and it is no more than common sense anyway, but we are almost certain to spend that saved £200 on something produced using energy. We could spend it on extra fuel for the car because we choose to go out more often. We could put it towards new walking boots but they require energy for manufacture, distribution and ultimate disposal. We could spend it on trips to the theatre but they represent energy too.

Money and energy may not be exactly commensurate, but it is impossible to consume without consuming energy, impossible to spend without spending on energy in some form or another. So is it possible to save energy? Certainly it is possible to store energy via hot water, batteries or hydroelectric systems, but as ordinary consumers do we really save energy when we follow the energy mantras being hammered out in Paris?

One paragon of energy saving is cycling which is why we have all those cycle tracks. Cycling saves a large amount of energy compared with a car but saved energy ends up as saved money which has to be shoved under the mattress or spent on other forms of energy. Bicycles, cycle tracks and Lycra for a start. Not necessarily equal amounts of energy but for most people saving energy is just another way of consuming energy because money is always involved.

Perhaps masses of complex energy calculations would show genuine savings but I’m not so sure. As far as I can see the only practical way to preserve the energy represent by my original £200 worth of gas saving is to walk to the nearest ATM, draw out £200 and burn it.