Tuesday, 31 January 2023

Big Wears Out Faster

About a week ago, Andrew Montford published a short but interesting piece in Net Zero Watch about the deterioration of wind turbines. Worth a look.

Big wind turbines wearing out faster

Windfarms deteriorate over their lifetimes, and capacity factors fall.

It’s therefore interesting to look at the analysis below. This divides the offshore fleet into cohorts by turbine size and then looks at how the capacity factor for each cohort changes over time. The pattern is striking. Small turbines – the longer traces – start low, but deteriorate slowly, if at all. Then, for each step up of turbine size, you get a higher starting point, but a faster rate of deterioration.

You have to figure it out for yourself

You have to figure it out for yourself, and if you’re the kind no one pushes off the boat, the whole thing will never come your way and you're safe. Maybe you’re hardly interesting enough ever to be in danger. Most people walk high and safe—all their days.

Sherwood Anderson - Dark Laughter (1925)

Safe spaces - it’s a well known term, frequently ridiculed as woke, but there is much to be gleaned from it. If there are safe spaces then there are unsafe spaces. This gives us a political direction – unsafe spaces to safe spaces. All a matter of perception, but manipulating perception is how the nudge game works.

In which case, we may turn the safe spaces notion around and say the ruling elites are not interested in safe spaces, but they are interested creating a perception of unsafe spaces. They weave unsafe spaces into government narratives to create a pervasive sense of social direction. Unsafe to safe. 

Unsafe spaces within language is a major part of where this is going. Spinning a sense of caution and reticence rather than fear. Nudged towards a version of Newspeak where more and more subjects are turned into swamps of unsafe language where nice people don’t go. Not a new thing of course.

Apart from language, here in the UK, the biggest unsafe space for many decades has been the coronavirus lockdown. An official message suggesting that the range of lockdown measures made everyone safer, but the message was transparently aimed at making everyone feel unsafe except in their own home.

The catastrophic climate narrative is run on similar, if less effective lines. Here, and with monumental absurdity, the entire planet becomes an unsafe space. There is no escape from this one, which was perhaps a strategic error from the start. With no escape route there is no point trying to escape. We may as well adapt and enjoy life while recycling a few yogurt pots to show willing.

We could even suggest that the NHS has a contribution to make to the unsafe spaces strategy. There is nothing safe about needing medical assistance. If that medical assistance is not quite as effective as we might desire, not quite safe when we need it to be particularly safe – what then?

Ruling elites may prefer the NHS to be that way – not quite as safe as other health services. Not in a deliberate sense, but merely one outcome of an underlying, unstated policy where general anxieties are never allowed to fall as far as complacency.

In gender politics we have a wild attempt to make unsafe space within the language of human biology and reproduction. So wild it may backfire, but still a remarkable reminder of how far unsafe language can be pushed. And will be pushed. It won’t stop.

Monday, 30 January 2023

Hiding in the bushes


Tyranny of the two horse race

The engine-man shrugged his shoulders. He felt contempt for fine talkers, fellows who go into politics as one goes to the bar, to get an income out of phrases.

Emile Zola - Germinal (1894)

The Nadhim Zahawi debacle does at least highlight what a dire choice we have when it comes to voting in the next general election. Of course nobody has to vote and it is usually possible to vote for a no-hoper as a protest, but the overall winner is almost certain to be Conservative or Labour.

Neither party is fit to form a government. Instead we need MPs who do more than merely get an income out of phrases. We need them more than we need moribund political parties. Unfortunately it's a two horse race which suits both horses.

Hiding behind a verb

Patrick Duffley has an interesting Mercatornet piece on the invention of politically divisive language and its use by a Canadian public body.

In an article on the website of the Canadian Public Health Agency entitled “Inequalities in Health of Racialized Adults in Canada,” one reads that “populations who are racialized in relation to a ‘white’ or non-racialized social group experience stressors including inter-personal and systemic discrimination throughout the life course,” that “racialized adults are less likely to feel that their health is either good or excellent,” and that “racialized Canadians are disproportionately impacted by inequalities in safe and stable housing.”)

As a linguist, I was struck by the repeated use in this article of a new past participle that I was not familiar with — “racialized”. I began to wonder about the implications underlying the use of this verb form, which implies the existence of a verb “to racialize”.

The whole piece is short but well worth reading as an example of how public bodies can be suckered into using politically divisive language.

Sunday, 29 January 2023

Tyranny of the Intellectuals


The age of this interview is of interest. The current malaise has been developing for a long time. Yet another indication that we send far too many young people to university.


The waiter glanced in with the disgusted look of the man who serves intoxicants for the man who takes too much of them. He nodded his head shortly at the order from each individual, and went.

Stephen Crane - Maggie: A Girl of the Streets (1893)

As we all know, it is sometimes worth taking a look at things from another perspective. I’m willing to have a go at that, but it will have to be fictional. I’ll imagine a fictional member of the civil service named Green who has an important bureaucratic role in formulating and steering Net Zero targets.

In this imaginary scenario, Green stands at his office window sipping coffee while gazing at a demonstration in the street below. A scruffy group of climate activists is pressing for more urgent action to save the planet. Waving poorly made placards too. Green doesn’t think much of poorly made placards - they lower the tone of the entire policy.

“Why can’t they cobble together some decent placards?” mutters Green.

He moves away from the window. There are more important matters demanding his attention, although those activists have undoubtedly achieved their desired media attention. The BBC cameras were there from what Green saw.

Green is neither scientist nor engineer, but he knows there are uncertainties in what he is doing. Yet he chooses to view Net Zero in the rosy light of a noble cause. Apart from anything else, it is politic to do so. The policy is written on the proverbial tablets of stone and Green has told his subordinates many times that obstacles are there to be overcome.

It has become more noisy in the street outside, so Green glances through his window again. The protesters are shouting and a person with purple hair appears to be throwing paint at a shop window. Green supports the cause - of course he does. Yet he wishes the fringes could be more genteel.

He has to prepare another story for the media concerning the latest Net Zero discussions and really cannot afford to linger by the window. In a sense, he is preparing more intoxicants for the protesters outside. Green smiles that that thought, but cannot suppress another frisson of disgust at the ease with which some people allow themselves to become morally intoxicated.

The doctor could be anywhere

NHS to treat 50,000 elderly and vulnerable patients in 'virtual wards' at home

"Up to 20% of emergency hospital admissions (are) avoidable with the right care in place," NHS England says, as it tries to improve ambulance response times and cut pressures on A&E.

In December, about 10,000 people were being cared for in that way in England, and ministers want to increase the monthly figure five-fold.

Clinical teams may visit them at home or use video to "monitor and check how they are recovering".

It sounds like an idea worth trying, although the media are bound to root out horror stories linked to it and the underfunding claims won't stop. Presumably phone and video contact could be done by any doctor or nurse anywhere in the country with access to the right medical computer systems.

In a similar vein - over the past few months, Mrs H has been treated by a local doctor via phone consultations and prescriptions collected from the local pharmacy. Mrs H has never actually seen the doctor treating her - she could be any doctor anywhere in the world with access to the right systems.

Saturday, 28 January 2023

Internal Compliance


We underestimate this at our peril

The Last of Us: Could a fungal pandemic turn us all into zombies?

"I think we underestimate fungal infections at our peril," Dr Neil Stone, leading fungal expert at the Hospital for Tropical Diseases in London, tells me.

Scary stuff, but it raises the crucial question - how will we know if our brains have been turned to mush?

Friday, 27 January 2023


Very busy today, probably won't get much time on the laptop until later tomorrow afternoon. Not work or chores or anything dull like that though, we've just decided to whizz off for a walk and put everything else to one side.

Meanwhile - let's go from dreadful to even worse says "Sir" Rod.

Thursday, 26 January 2023

Simply traffic cameras that can read number plates


And they record dates and times against the number plates, but it's all quite innocent, honest.

Strange choice of words

NHS crisis: 'Over my dead body' - Proposals to make some patients pay for care spark backlash

Strikes, pay, and an ageing population are just some of the challenges the NHS has to address if it is going to continue to provide life long, free healthcare

There are those - like former health secretary Sajid Javid - who think the way forward for the free cradle-to-grave service is to start charging the patients who can afford it.

Shadow health secretary Wes Streeting's reply to this proposal was: "Over my dead body."

A strange choice of words when speaking about the future of the NHS.

Wednesday, 25 January 2023

The dilution of trauma

This Critic piece by Samuel Mace is worth reading.

The dilution of trauma

Exaggerating emotional struggles weakens our resilience

Trauma is an emotional response to an event worse than merely upsetting. In previous times, the word “traumatic” would have been applied to a variety of events so devastating they follow us not just after the event but throughout our lives. Layered on top of the event itself is the concept of being “traumatised”. When we are traumatised, such events affect us deeply enough that we struggle to “move on” from said events to a process of healing.

Today, though, trauma is increasingly being used to describe things that are merely upsetting. As Jonathan Haidt has argued, the word “trauma” is being applied to areas where it was never meant to apply. Diluting this powerful word is dangerous.

Yes it is dangerous to dilute powerful words. How do we talk ourselves out of corrupted language when all we have is more corrupted language? 

By reducing trauma to an everyday occurrence, we leave people unable to express their emotions in a normal way. The result is a deformed society where trauma is all around and unavoidable events are presented as damaging. It is how teachers get fired, authors’ names get erased, and being bad at a class is categorised as a tragedy that will stalk you for life. It may be seen as a kind, empathetic thing to not diminish someone’s feelings, but we are harming people more than we are helping them. Trauma is a complicated, horrible and necessary part of existence. It is its rarity that provides its power, and that cannot be reduced to mere frustration, sadness and discomfort. That would do the suffering a disservice.

Exploitable fears

Verbal behavior is, of course, frequently punished. The community which has hitherto reinforced a response may change its practices. A different community is more likely to punish—possibly with all the manifestations of “zenoglottophobia.”

B. F. Skinner - Verbal Behavior

A word similar to Skinner's zenoglottophobia is xenoglossophobia with a related meaning.

Foreign language anxiety, also known as xenoglossophobia, is the feeling of unease, worry, nervousness and apprehension experienced in learning or using a second or foreign language.

Skinner's zenoglottophobia is a word he may have invented, but it has a familiar meaning - fear of language from another verbal community with an associated possibility of punishment.

Zenoglottophobia pretty well describes woke culture, cancel culture, internet censorship and the language games driving modern politics. Activists corrupting almost every debate by corrupting the language and promoting a kind of free speech phobia. It's something we observe - many people are afraid of free speech and the associated possibility of punishment. 

It seems to be one reason why mainstream political parties are so unwilling to tackle even the most deranged and divisive language games. They are attracted to politically exploitable fears – it’s what they do. There are no exploitable fears in free speech.

Wrong year, wrong result

There is no need to watch this chess video for the purposes of the post, or even understand chess. Suren who made the video, asked AI system ChatGPT to find him a nice chess game involving a queen sacrifice. It offered him an old game between Spassky and Bronstein which did contain a queen sacrifice.

However, ChatGPT made two factual errors. Firstly it gave the year of the game as 1960 when it was 1956. Secondly it reported that Bronstein won the game when Spassky won it. Suren knows his chess, makes excellent chess videos and is bound to be right, but to be sure I checked via another online source.

I've come across factual errors made by this system before and it could be said that it's early days so we should accept a few errors however odd. Yet a chap is bound to wonder how factual errors are corrected and who corrects them. Wikipedia springs to mind. Meanwhile -

ChatGPT: Microsoft to invest billions in chatbot maker OpenAI

Microsoft has announced a multi-year, multibillion dollar investment in artificial intelligence (AI) as it extends its partnership with OpenAI.

OpenAI is the creator of popular image generation tool Dall-E and the chatbot ChatGPT.

In 2019 Microsoft invested $1bn (£808m) in the company, founded by Elon Musk and tech investor Sam Altman.

Tuesday, 24 January 2023

Good News

UK's first vertical rocket launch could take place this summer

The first attempt to launch an orbital rocket into space ended in failure this month. While Spaceport Cornwall didn't go the distance, bosses at SaxaVord on the island of Unst hope they can be the ones to make history.

Good news - we wouldn't want it to be a horizontal launch. Not good for tourism.

Cheap Flute


Yes - it is possible that we take the globalist buffoons too seriously.

Losing looks like this

As we know, politicians are professional cynics, some more so than others. Yet it could be said that a functioning democracy requires voters to play what Disraeli called the Great Game and play it as well as the political classes. 

In which case, the cynicism of voters must match the cynicism of the political classes. Voters must match cynicism for cynicism or we lose the Great Game. 

We inevitably lose if we play the game badly, and unfortunately we play it very badly indeed. This is the consequence – this is what voters losing the Great Game looks like here in the UK.

The Conservative Party, the Labour Party, the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party, the SNP, Covid lockdown, inflation, Net Zero, wind turbines, Levelling Up, the NHS, HS2, mass immigration, high taxes, state education, the BBC, the Guardian, gender politics, race politics…

Monday, 23 January 2023

ChatGPT passes MBA exam

Deena Theresa has an interesting Interesting Engineering piece on AI system ChatGPT and its ability to pass an MBA exam. 

ChatGPT passes Wharton Business School's MBA exam, gets a B

Sometimes, ChatGPT made "surprising" mistakes in school-level math.

Christian Terwiesch, a professor at the Wharton School School of Business, University of Pennsylvania, tested the performance of ChatGPT in an MBA exam. He questioned the chatbot on Operations Management, a core MBA subject.

The paper, titled 'Would Chat GPT3 Get a Wharton MBA? A Prediction Based on Its Performance in the Operations Management Course', delved into the implications of ChatGPT's 'academic performance'...

Terwiesch concluded by stating in his study that ChatGPT has "remarkable skills in handling problems as used extensively in the training and testing of our MBA students. Combining the results of the questions, I would grade this performance as a B to B-".

Electron Shortage

People will be paid to use less electricity on Monday

Up to a million households in England, Scotland and Wales will be paid to use less electricity on Monday evening as part of a scheme to avoid blackouts.

National Grid said the scheme, which has only been used in tests so far, would run between 17:00 and 18:00 GMT.

A benefit of Net Zero and Levelling Up I suppose. Both seem to imply a third world electricity supply. The following sentence is further down the article. Sceptics and cynics might refer to it as an "explanation", but it is not up there with the headline for some reason. 

This week's cold snap is expected to lead to high power demand, while wind power is forecast to be lower than usual.

Sunday, 22 January 2023

Climate Sliding

Climate crisis 'sliding down agenda', warns global energy watchdog

The mood in Davos seemed to lack the urgency needed to keep global warming to 1.5C, says Fatih Birol, executive director of the International Energy Agency, which has said if the world is to reach net zero it must refrain from any new oil and gas exploration projects...

While it was less well-attended than in previous years, it nonetheless drew in political leaders from around the world.

A notable exception was the UK, which did not send either its prime minister or chancellor for the first time in nearly two decades.

Perhaps some political leaders are now more alert to the negative impact of being seen at private jet jamborees, hobnobbing with loons, grifters and totalitarian schemers. It should not have taken nearly two decades, but small gains are still gains. 




From Bill R

A new record

This morning we donned warm jackets, woolly hats and gloves so we could buzz off for a coffee in the MX5 with the top down. Haven't been out in it for a while and although cold, to begin with it was bright and sunny with blue skies.

An enjoyable run it was too, tootling along quiet roads, some stretches lined with heavily frosted trees. All very picturesque even though the car thermometer had the outside temperature as -4C. For us that's a record low when driving with the top down. It had shot up to -3C for the return journey. Global warming I suppose.

One for Joe


From Bill R

Saturday, 21 January 2023

Imagine a cult

A cult called the Thraldomites has been growing rapidly for a number of years. Cult members believe that the Earth has already been invaded by aliens, but unlike many science fiction invaders, these aliens are benign and only mean to help us. 

According to Thraldomite beliefs, the aliens are called Thraldomians, having arrived here some decades ago from a distant planet called Thraldom. This is a planet very similar to ours, orbiting a star much like our sun in dimensions and solar activity.

Thraldomians look and behave exactly like humans, living among us quite inconspicuously while working hard for our ultimate good. These human-like aliens are intent on educating us about what they call the Joy of the Winds and the Joy of the Sun which give us life and energy.

Although the aliens are able to pass themselves off as human, their disguise is not absolutely complete. Thraldomites refuse to discuss this issue and do not even have a name for it, but a considerable amount of covert research suggests that it has something to do with language.

When Thraldomians speak of the Joy of the Winds and the Joy of the Sun, it is remarkably difficult for humans to make sense of the language they use. Even cult members struggle, and usually get over the problem by merely repeating Thraldomian phrases and mantras without understanding them.

Sometimes, Thraldomian language appears to make no sense at all. Thraldomites cannot admit the reality of this issue but it does appear to genuine. Researchers outside the cult have suggested that the Joy of the Winds and the Joy of the Sun are intentional gibberish, being designed by Thraldomians to test the loyalty of cult members.

Story Time with Kamala


It would be suspicious if they didn't

NHS England boss: Repeated strikes make workload more challenging

Strikes by health staff are making workloads "more challenging" to handle, NHS England's chief executive has acknowledged.

Amanda Pritchard told the BBC that the ongoing industrial action is "clearly having an impact".

Friday, 20 January 2023

Political lies


Secrecy Is for Losers

Jacob Siegel has a timely Tablet piece on secrecy and how it benefits bureaucracies. 

Secrecy Is for Losers

What Biden’s classified document scandal reveals about power in America

What were President Biden’s lawyers doing digging around in storage boxes a few days before the midterm elections last November? The official story—that they stumbled on secret documents at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement while they were “packing files”—is improbable on its face. Who sends high-level lawyers to pack boxes unless they’re worried about what’s going to turn up? Even if the initial files were discovered by accident, there is no plausible, non-political explanation for why the White House waited two months, until well after the midterm elections, to acknowledge the discovery. The one certainty so far is that the pertinent information necessary to form a reasonably informed judgment about the severity of the infraction is being withheld from the public. Rather than provide American citizens with a working knowledge of their own government, the White House and Justice Department drip half facts out to the public, in a method similar to water torture.

The whole piece is well worth reading as a reason to sidestep what may be behind the secrets. It is worth shifting the focus to secrets as tools of bureaucratic obfuscation, techniques by which bureaucrats preserve their niches. 

Wherever the truth lies in the Biden case, it’s obvious that administrative secrecy is routinely used as a veto on democracy and the rule of law. The same opaque network of bureaucrats and security officials who still have not explained to the public why they raided Trump’s compound can’t be expected to play it straight now. Being transparent with the public might put them out of business...

One begins to suspect that behind the bureaucrat’s fanaticism is the knowledge that the country simply doesn’t need him. If the whole structure crumbled tomorrow, America would be just fine.

Thursday, 19 January 2023

Mobile Phone Refund


The value of things we shall never find

We must make it our business to search for the things that we shall never find. After the full summing-up something always remains. It is only that that is of value.

Hugh Walpole - Wintersmoon (1928)

The search is where the value is to be found, the search for what remains to be found. The search never ends of course, but politically there is no longer any desire to search. To search in this probing, analytical, investigational sense is no longer fashionable. It is not even allowed into the political arena.

Disraeli’s Great Game has become too old to search for anything better. It is reduced to recalling the simple, failed nostrums of the past. The Great Game has become senile, an endless dribble of elaborations tottering round the old familiar nostrum of equality. Levelling Up is a senile political nostrum. Net Zero is senile political nostrum. We see little else in a senile political age.

Diversity, gender politics, race politics, all reflect this weirdly senile game which once meant so much. Even recycling reflects it. Garbage must go round in circles, as if junk must have an egalitarian destiny equal to anything not yet junk.

As for climate change – even the climate has to become strictly egalitarian. Nobody must ever feel disadvantaged by unexpected changes in climate. Storms, floods, heatwaves and droughts, banish them all in the name of equal treatment.

Even opinions, lived experiences, emotional needs, the magical and the mystical have to be placed on an equal footing with established facts, scientific knowledge and the most obvious, most basic facts of life. More than equal in many cases.

Oddly enough, egalitarian nostrums are allowed to be superior to every other mode of thought. Which seems inconsistent - but senility is inconsistent.



I like the YouTube comment by Jeremy Winks - 

A great politician, one of humanity’s greatest swindlers, ever.

And here he is at the World Economic Forum. I wonder if he arrived by private jet?

Wednesday, 18 January 2023

Merely an evolved practice

Verbal behavior in which the reinforcement is thoroughly generalized, and the control of which therefore rests almost exclusively with the environment, is developed by the methods of science. The reinforcing practices of the scientific community thoroughly suppress the special interests of the speaker. This is not necessarily a sign of superior ethics in scientists; it is merely an evolved practice which has proved to be particularly valuable.

B. F. Skinner - Verbal Behavior (1957)

Suppose we go back a few decades. If we look around, we may be lucky enough to spot a small scientific community producing work of interesting but limited scientific value. A dusty little backwater where long-term climate changes are studiously analysed, reams of data are collected, obscure papers written, published and read by other obscure practitioners.

Moving on, suppose there is a move to supplant the limited scientific value of this little backwater by vastly greater political value. Nothing more is required to evolve our dusty little backwater into something else, something with far greater overall value. On that it thrives as it never did before.

Our once dusty little backwater attracts more students, more scientists and more money because of its enhanced value as a pseudoscientific political activity. That’s it. No longer an obscure scientific endeavour, but a high-status political endeavour. And then? Then it attracts people with a political disposition. 

Soon enough, the dusty old backwater is extinct, its niche gone, scientifically dead. Politically it thrives, but there is a reason why it now prospers - it is merely an evolved practice which has now proved to be particularly valuable.

Cake Tsar On Passive Caking

Keep cake away from office, suggests food watchdog head

If you work in an office, you know the drill. It's someone's birthday and the unwritten rules mean they or a generous boss supplies cake (or cakes) for all.

But is it time to kick the cupcakes, to get the gateaux away? A food adviser says workers should not bring in sweet treats - to avoid tempting colleagues.

Food Standards Agency chairwoman Prof Susan Jebb compared being around cake in the office to passive smoking.

She said: "If nobody brought cakes into the office, I would not eat cakes."

Hardly a food standards issue, but what about people who promote crispsMaybe we should follow similar reasoning here and say "if nobody advertised crisps, I would not eat crisps."

Tuesday, 17 January 2023



Tootled off for a walk in the hills near Bakewell today. A proper winter walk for a change - seems ages since we had one of those.

Temperature round about freezing, blue skies, ground still frozen and some very thin patches of light snow - just enough to add a touch of wintery picturesque to the hills. Slippery underfoot in places of course, but vastly more enjoyable than slogging through mud. Quiet too - not many people around.

As an aside, the icicles pictured above had formed under a road bridge which passes under the Monsal Trail. Mrs H and I both have vague childhood memories of kids who would break off icicles and taste them - rather like ice lollies without the flavour. We never indulged, but we both have the idea that some kids tried them.

Levelling Down

Britishvolt: UK battery start-up collapses into administration

UK battery start-up Britishvolt has collapsed into administration, with the majority of its 232 staff made redundant with immediate effect.

Employees were told the news at an all-staff meeting on Tuesday morning.

The firm had planned to build a giant factory to make electric car batteries in Blyth, Northumberland.

Ministers had hailed it as a "levelling up" opportunity that would boost the region's economy and support the future of UK car making.

Here's an alternative commercial possibility. Like a sustainable phoenix rising from the ashes, British Clockwork could forge a new direction in sustainable transport.

Monday, 16 January 2023

Fishy Gifts

N. Korea delivered gifts celebrating Kim Jong Un’s birthday to the elite of the elite

Military trucks and a fleet of buses delivered the goods between midnight and 2 AM each morning from Jan. 4 to Jan. 7

North Korea rushed to deliver holiday gifts to the families of high-ranking members of the party, government and military on the birthday of leader Kim Jong Un on Jan. 8. The gifts were reportedly delivered secretly in the wee hours of the morning to avoid provoking envy among the general population.

A rum story to begin with, but look at the gifts -

“The gift packages include some 20 items, including 10 kilograms of pork, 10-14 frozen chickens, 10 kilograms of frozen pollack, 10 kilograms of frozen Pacific saury, 10 kilograms of frozen flounder, apples, tangerines, dried fruit, cooking oil, vinegar, sugar and artificial seasoning,” the source said.

A jumbo-sized Christmas hamper in other words. Even warlords of the Early Middle Ages gave gifts of gold and jewels to their high-status followers. They didn't do it secretly in the middle of the night either.

Abandoned Olympics Venues



In February 2022, during the Beijing Winter Olympics, James Grebey and Gabbi Shaw published an Insider piece on the fate of Olympics venues illustrated with 34 photos such as the one above. Worth a look.

34 photos that show how some Olympic venues are left abandoned after the Games end

  • The 2022 Winter Olympics are underway in Beijing.
  • Sometimes cities successfully repurpose parts of their Olympic set-ups, like in Montreal.
  • But oftentimes these giant investments are torn down or abandoned, as these photos show.

Reconstructed 1960s Conversation


An interesting attempt at reconstructing a 1960s conversation by two young people who obviously weren’t there, but see it as social history. From about 16:30, there is a commentary about feedback from video comments, which is equally interesting.

For example, one viewer claimed that there was less swearing in the sixties. As I recall it, there certainly was less swearing, but it would depend on where you were. I well remember a carpenter I came across during a summer job on a building site. A little chap who was very keen on gardening, his conversation went something like this –

“I’m growin’ more f**king dahlias this year because they grew f**king well last year. I want to grow more f**king beans too but I don’t ‘ave the f**king space really.

Exaggerated, but only a little.

Sunday, 15 January 2023

Pulling Up The Drawbridge

Robert Colvile has a very interesting CAPX piece on the politics and the morality of economic growth.

The morality of growth

One of the most striking phrases to enter the political lexicon in recent years is ‘degrowth’. This is the idea that capitalism and its obsession with growth are a cancer on the planet.

When you talk to environmental activists, they insist that ‘degrowth’ isn’t about making people poorer. It’s just, according to the movement’s official website, about reducing ‘the material size of the global economy’. We should, they argue, ‘prioritise social and ecological wellbeing instead of corporate profits, over-production and excess consumption’.

This is, to me, one of the most purely wicked ideas that humanity has come up with in recent years. It is a call for others to have less, coming from those who already have so much – and who have mostly never known anything but the extraordinary comforts of our modern world.

The piece is not short but well worth reading, particularly now we have in the UK, a ludicrously named Secretary of State for Levelling Up.

In his excellent book The Complacent Class, the US economist Tyler Cowen makes the argument that the professional classes in the US have pulled the drawbridge up behind them. He shows that Americans are less entrepreneurial, less mobile, less inventive than they once were. America, he argues, has erected a caste system in which some have high-status, high-paid, high-productivity jobs and many do not – with little prospect of moving between the two. In which rich people go to good schools and poor people go to bad ones. In which planning restrictions exclude ambitious workers from the richest and most productive cities, sacrificing almost 10% of America’s GDP in the process.

Much of this will sound extremely familiar to British ears, too. Indeed, these problems are arguably far worse in the UK – at least if our economic performance compared to America’s is anything to go by.

We don't need warning

Drivers are warned to expect surge in potholes 'peppering the road' due to 'perfect recipe' of torrential rain falling either side of sub-zero blast

Drivers have been told to expect more potholes after December's cold weather
The RAC warned the freezing temperatures are the 'perfect recipe' for potholes
Water enters cracks in the road and expands when frozen so surfaces crumble

We already have quite a crop of potholes here in Derbyshire and also encountered some remarkably deep ones during our New Year Devon holiday.

It has reached a stage where driving along an unlit road in the dark is not a good idea as the potholes can be difficult to see. As we found when we left Devon early on the homeward journey and managed to crash through a particularly bad one. No damage fortunately. 

Saturday, 14 January 2023

Incident Incidence

An interesting piece by Prof Norman Fenton was published just after New Year. It concerns official government data on Scottish cardiac ambulance calls. Worth reading if you haven't seen it.

Scottish cardiac ambulance data shows worrying increase in incidents

In early 2021, Professor Martin Neil and I wrote about the stark difference in trends between the ‘official’ UK Government data on Covid case numbers and the number of 999 (emergency) and other ambulance calls for Covid triage:

In our view, the ambulance data was a far more reliable indicator of Covid illness than the ‘case’ numbers and showed that, while there was a genuine peak in March 2020, there were only small seasonal increases thereafter. This contrasted with the official claims that, for example, during the winter of 2020–21, the number of Covid cases was five times higher than the March 2020 peak.

Consequently, I was intrigued this week when David Scott of UK Column alerted me to some very interesting data provided by Public Health Scotland on the number of cardiovascular incidents involving the ambulance service. From this link, the data is viewable by selecting Cardiovascular from the top menu and then Scottish Ambulance Service from the Select the data you want to explore box.

Those who pay no price for being wrong


The video makes a key point - our loss of individual freedom has been and still is an accumulation of small losses imposed by those who pay no price for being wrong.  

Friday, 13 January 2023

Friday - definitely


Friday January 13th about 8:30 pm

I've put the day and date up there because Mrs H and I keep thinking that today is Saturday. Usually we have our routines and tend to know what day it is, but for a number of reasons this week has lacked the usual reminders.

We haven't been doing the school run this week, the grandkids aren't here for their usual Friday to Saturday sleepover and because we watch hardly any TV, the box in the corner doesn't tell us what day it is when the news comes on.

This evening, I found myself wondering what we might do tomorrow, asking myself what the weather forecast is for Sunday. Fortunately I hadn't thought of anything to do before realising that tomorrow is Saturday anyway... pauses posting to check the day again.

I'll be pleased when we're back doing the school run on Monday and the days come and go in an orderly fashion... pauses again to check the day before posting... 

A Tsunami of Hyperbole

Hyperbole is exaggerating for a purpose – it is not meant to be taken literally and it's used to emphasise a point.

The BBC offers us an interesting link between exaggeration and hyperbole. Hyperbole can be used to create an impression that the hyperbole itself is not to be taken seriously, but it makes an underlying serious point. The hyperbole is an airy, casually knowing and perhaps amusing way to refer to that underlying point. 

Yet hyperbole can function as an important distraction. The hyperbole is an obvious exaggeration, but the point it supposedly makes may be an exaggeration too. A less obvious exaggeration, because in a sense, the hyperbole hides it. 

Political hyperbole often presents us with exaggerated stereotypes automatically identified as outsiders – not to be taken seriously. Most modern uses of the term ‘far right’ are good examples. The term is a kind of hyperbole which hides the exaggeration - there are no jackboots to be seen.

The term ‘climate denier’ is similar – nobody denies the existence of the climate. It is another good example of that airy, casually knowing dismissal of an exaggerated stereotype. The term ‘January 6 insurrection’ is another example.

All of this would be less of a problem if mainstream media did not adopt hyperbole as a way to sell their product, maintain good relations with the establishment and disguise their use of exaggeration. Outsiders see it, but insiders do not, because it creates a pernicious sense of ‘knowing’, of social superiority. 

To see it in action, read the Guardian. But you knew that.

Trust and the mainstream media


Short and well worth watching.

 A familiar enough viewpoint perhaps, but implications are still worth revisiting. For example, one implication is that those people who do trust the mainstream media have adopted a political viewpoint, knowingly or not. Their trust is itself a political stance.  

Thursday, 12 January 2023


University department removes the word 'field' over racist 'connotations'

References including "field work" and "going into the field" may have connotations for descendants of slavery and immigrant workers "that are not benign", the school of social work at the University of Southern California wrote in a letter to staff and students.

Under the change, phrases including "field work" and "going into the field" will no longer be used, according to a letter from the school of social work at the University of Southern California (USC).

Explaining the decision, it said: "We have decided to remove the term 'field' from our curriculum and practice and replace it with 'practicum'.

To my mind they need to go further. The word "University" has connotations too. For example, it implies that the whole institution embodies a subtly covert opposition to diversity. The Diversity of Southern California would be an obvious improvement.

Yet this does not go far enough either. It embodies a connotation where only Southern California is permitted to be diverse. Another improvement would be to dispense with the hierarchical arrogance of defined location and simply refer to the institution as the Diversity, allowing students to find it as best they can. Or not.

Classified Markings

Second batch of classified Joe Biden documents discovered at new location

The first batch of documents were reportedly found in a "locked closet" on 2 November at an office the president used from 2017 to 2019. Now, aides have discovered a second batch at a separate location.

Special counsel to the president, Richard Sauber, said "a small number of documents with classified markings" were discovered as Mr Biden's personal lawyers were clearing out the offices of the Penn Biden Center.

In one sense, the media and Justice Department have been tested by this. The comparison to be made is how they treat this revelation compared to the way they would have treated Donald Trump under the same circumstances. People paying attention have already guessed the answer of course. 

Wednesday, 11 January 2023

Imposing it at all costs on every occasion

As we all know, at the moment there is considerable mainstream media obsession with a recently published book. The quote below was taken from a book published less recently, but it still has something to say about maturity and experience.

One effect of growing experience is to render what is unreal uninteresting. Momentous alternatives in life are so numerous and the possibilities they open up so varied that imagination finds enough employment of a historic and practical sort in trying to seize them.

A child plans Towers of Babel; a mature architect, in planning, would lose all interest if he were bidden to disregard gravity and economy. The conditions of existence, after they are known and accepted, become conditions for the only pertinent beauty. In each place, for each situation, the plastic mind finds an appropriate ideal. It need not go afield to import something exotic. It need make no sacrifices to whim and to personal memories.

It rather breeds out of the given problem a new and singular solution, thereby exercising greater invention than would be requisite for framing an arbitrary ideal and imposing it at all costs on every occasion.

George Santayana - The Life of Reason (1905-1906)


The Taliban unveils its SUPERCAR (powered by a Toyota Corolla engine): Afghanistan's rulers declare the vehicle 'an honour' for the nation

The Taliban has unveiled the first ever supercar designed and made in Afghanistan.

The aggressive and sleek-looking Mada 9 prototype sports car is the culmination of five years of design and development led by 30 engineers at manufacturer ENTOP and Kabul's Afghanistan Technical Vocational Institute (ATVI).

Its capabilities on the road remain to be seen - the vehicle is immobile in almost all footage circulating on social media, and ENTOP has not released any performance data whatsoever.

I wonder if they intend to ask Harry to test drive one? As a way to launch his book in Afghanistan perhaps.

Tuesday, 10 January 2023

We have a winner

A third of adults now have degrees or similar - as area with highest proportion with no qualifications revealed

New census data reveals an increase in the proportion of people with degrees or similar - but also highlights major disparities in areas across the country.

Change that headline to area with highest proportion with no relevant qualifications and we have a winner.


The unavoidable conclusion

And they were soon in the midst of one of those immense and formless conversations in which a complex subject is discussed without order interminably, and without apparent result, until there comes a moment when the speakers perceive that all the ground has been many times covered and that it is no longer possible to say anything that has not already been said; and pauses occur, and the unavoidable conclusion emerges and shapes itself and imperiously demands acceptance.

Arnold Bennett - Whom God Hath Joined (1906)

And the unavoidable conclusion is – it’s too late.

It may not be too late for some kind of muddling through. Other forces may be at work forging an unpredictable future, but it certainly feels too late. Conservative or Labour would have to be supplanted completely or change to an impossible degree. 

Yes - it's too late.

There must be an explanation



The Ginger Finger

The Ginger Finger writes; and, having writ,
Moves on: nor all thy piety nor wit
shall lure it back to cancel half a line,
nor all thy ridicule wash out a word of it...

And strange to tell, among that Earthen Lot 
Some could articulate, while others not: 
 And suddenly one more impatient cried— 
 "Who is the Potter, pray, and who the Pot?"

Not quite Omar Khayyam

Monday, 9 January 2023

The inanity of the question

John Ashmore has a CAPX piece about Rishi Sunak's weak reply when asked about his use of private healthcare.

Does it matter whether or not Rishi Sunak uses an NHS GP?

Does Rishi Sunak use a private GP?

I suspect many will share my instinctive eye-rolling at the genre of question posed by the BBC’s Laura Kuennsberg yesterday. ..

Still, you can decry the inanity of the question while also despairing at the way Sunak dealt with. At first he seemed to be answering a different question, replying that ‘my dad was a doctor’, before pivoting to ‘as a general policy I wouldn’t ever talk about me or my family’s healthcare situation’ and then saying his personal arrangements were not ‘relevant’.

Mr Sunak is Prime Minister - he could do rather more than merely decry the inanity of the question. It is worth reading the whole piece, as Ashmore gives Mrs Thatcher's response to a similar question. 

It’s also instructive to compare Sunak’s slightly shifty response to how Margaret Thatcher responded to the same question back in 1987.

‘I, along with something like five million other people, insure to enable me to go into hospital on the day I want; at the time I want, and with a doctor I want. For me, that is absolutely vital. I do that along with five million others. Like most people, I pay my dues to the National Health Service; I do not add to the queue… I exercise my right as a free citizen to spend my own money in my own way, so that I can go in on the day, at the time, with the doctor I choose and get out fast.’

Of course Mr Sunak isn't Mrs Thatcher. He may be Prime Minister, but that hasn't given him Mrs Thatcher's status. The status of Prime Ministers has slipped since 1987.



Sunday, 8 January 2023

Appealing to the clappers

Rishi Sunak refuses to reveal if he uses private GP - as NHS waiting times soar

The prime minister said his personal healthcare situation is "not really relevant" but the head of the nurses' union said he should "come clean" and Labour accused him of being out of touch.

But the head of the Royal College of Nursing (RCN) told him to "come clean" and Labour said Mr Sunak gave the impression of a leader who "not only doesn't use the NHS but doesn't understand the scale of the challenges".

We certainly see some weird arguments in the political world. This one seems to be undisguised moral blackmail designed to appeal to those who clapped the NHS. Suggesting with no subtlety whatsoever that Mr Sunak may not have the highest possible confidence in the NHS and might be wickedly unsympathetic to its endless demands for more of our cash.

The dreary nonsense perpetuates itself as political nonsense tends to. As if a dreary political landscape is intentional, a grey and meaningless world designed to sap our will to live. Come to think of it, that could help the NHS couldn't it? 

But no, perhaps not. It's our cash they want.

The volume of shouting

If a writer has friends connected with the press, it is the plain duty of those friends to do their utmost to help him. What matter if they exaggerate, or even lie? The simple, sober truth has no chance whatever of being listened to, and it’s only by volume of shouting that the ear of the public is held.

George Gissing - New Grub Street (1891)

It’s a sobering thought this one. We've mostly renamed 'the press' as 'the media' now, but we have been subjected to daily non-stop shouting by the press for our entire lives. As our parents were and no doubt our grandparents. On current form, our children and grandchildren are also destined to go through a lifetime of non-stop media shouting.

Yes – it’s a sobering thought.

I’m re-reading some of Aristotle’s work at the moment. Like a breath of cool, mountain air. Not so much a contact with ancient times as a contact with a simple and methodical analysis of the human condition. A striving for clarity without our baggage.

‘Without our baggage’ – now that's a good, modern way of putting these things. We have many more vivid terms and phrases, but unfortunately they tend to be drowned out by the incessant shouting and misused by legions of shouty folk.

It’s one reason why I pass idle moments by reading old detective stories. Many of them manage to capture a flavour of their times without being loaded with all of our baggage. More baggage than Aristotle perhaps, but no shouting. That's a blessing.

Saturday, 7 January 2023

Like the perfume of a mummy

Royal residences have attached to them a peculiar kind of melancholy, due, no doubt, to their dimensions being much too large for the limited number of guests entertained within them, to the silence which one feels astonished to find in them after so many flourishes of trumpets, to the immobility of their luxurious furniture, which attests by the aspect of age and decay it gradually assumes the transitory character of dynasties, the eternal wretchedness of all things; and this exhalation of the centuries, enervating and funereal, like the perfume of a mummy, makes itself felt even in untutored brains.

Gustave Flaubert - Sentimental Education (1869)

Not only royal residences, but many of the National Trust’s stately homes too. They have that peculiar kind of melancholy which seems determined to tell us that gilded excess cannot endure for long.

It can be hard work wandering round a stately home, trying to bring history to the foreground while battling against an enervating and funereal ambience. The impression isn’t something the National Trust manages to dispel with much success.

Its determination to be politically correct merely makes the situation worse, as the National Trust itself gradually assumes the transitory character of dynasties.

Friday, 6 January 2023

Free Green Energy


Below the Salt

A fictional conversation between Dyce Lashmar, a would-be Liberal MP, and his father, an Anglican vicar and political sceptic.

“Yet, Dyce, when I think of the Sermon on the Mount—" He paused again, holding his pipe in his hand, unlit, and looking before him with wide eyes.

"I respect that as much as anyone can," said Dyce, gravely.

"As much as anyone can—who doesn't believe it." His father took him up with gentle irony. "I don't expect the impossible. You cannot believe in it; for you were born a post-Darwinian. Well, your religion is temporal; let us take that for granted. You do not deny yourself; you believe that self-assertion to the uttermost is the prime duty."

“Provided that self-assertion be understood aright. I understand it as meaning the exercise of all my civic faculties.”

“Which, in your case, are faculties of command, faculties which point you to the upper seat, Dyce. Tom Bullock, my gardener, is equally to assert himself, but with the understanding that his faculties point to the bottom of the table, where the bread is a trifle stale, and butter sometimes lacking. Yes, yes: I understand. Of course you will do your very best for Tom; you would like him to have what the sweet language of our day calls a square meal. But still he must eat below the salt; there you can’t help him.”

George Gissing - Our Friend the Charlatan (1901)

The elitist nature of Liberal political games haven’t change much since Gissing’s day. Dyce Lashmar is the ambitious charlatan of the book’s title. 

In our day, modern charlatans push Net Zero as a means to ensure that the vast majority of the population remains below the salt forever.

Thursday, 5 January 2023

Life in the dog's bowl

Harry's book leaked: Prince alleges he was physically attacked by William

After the alleged altercation, the Duke of Sussex claims the Prince of Wales told him there was no need to tell Meghan about what had happened – but he did tell her eventually after she noticed "scrapes and bruises" on his back.

"It all happened so fast. So very fast. He grabbed me by the collar, ripping my necklace, and he knocked me to the floor. I landed on the dog's bowl, which cracked under my back, the pieces cutting into me," Harry wrote in the book.

Rather funny that - well done William. To my mind, it raises William's stature as our future king by a couple of notches. As for Harry's stature - flat on his back in the dog's bowl sounds about right.  

BBC remains unlanced

Plans to privatise Channel 4 axed, government confirms

Channel 4 will remain publicly owned, with reforms to help boost its sustainability and commercial freedom, Culture Secretary Michelle Donelan says.

The Department for Digital, Culture, Media and Sport said the broadcaster will remain in public ownership "but with greater commercial flexibility, increased investment in skills and jobs across the UK" as well as "new production arrangements to support its long-term sustainability and growth".

Waffle is so much easier than reform, so clearly the BBC is safe too. Not that there was ever any likelihood of the state broadcaster being lanced. 

You’re not meant to see it


Wednesday, 4 January 2023

Pick and Mix

UAH Global Temperature Update: 2022 was the 7th Warmest of 44-Year Satellite Record
January 3rd, 2023

Interesting, but the satellite record suggests nothing remarkable for 2022. I wonder if the BBC has chosen to reiterate the nothing much going on theme - 

European weather: Winter heat records smashed all over continent

National records have fallen in eight countries - and regional records in another three.

A Splendid Idea

Rishi Sunak wants all pupils to study maths to age 18

The prime minister is looking at plans to ensure all pupils in England study maths in some form until the age of 18.

In his first speech of 2023, Rishi Sunak will also set out the priorities for his premiership, including tackling backlogs in the health service.

A splendid idea. Perhaps this policy will eventually lead to a situation where far more young people consider a career in government epidemiology, government climate science or calculating the costs and benefits of major government projects such as HS2. Why not change the name to "Government Maths"?

Tuesday, 3 January 2023

Anxiety deficit declines

Save the Children survey reveals climate anxiety in youngsters: Teenage climate change campaigner from Chorley discusses his fears

A recent survey has revealed that climate anxiety is rising among children in the UK, and one teenage climate change campaigner from Chorley explains why this may be the case.

Fair enough, if young people are taught to be anxious about climate change then some will be anxious about climate change. In their case, climate anxiety lessons are achieving their objective. What about those who aren't anxious about climate change? 

We should surely initiate an initiative aimed at finding out if a lack of climate anxiety among some young people could lead to anxiety about not suffering from the right kind of anxiety. We may need to teach these youngsters that becoming more anxious about climate change could lessen their anxiety about not suffering from the right kind of anxiety.

Unfortunately, some young people may be natural sceptics with no exploitable anxieties at all, in spite of all the educational resources thrown at them.

Worse than silly

Ben Sixsmith has a useful Critic reminder of the link between the EDI agenda and serious political failure.

The EDI agenda is worse than silly

It divides, obscures and inflames

Even critics of the HRification of everything — the influx of equality, diversity and inclusion initiatives — are liable to see it as just irritating flummery. They roll their eyes at new boxes to tick and training sessions to attend but don’t see it as much more than a silly fad.

This is a mistake. “Wokeness”, the American reporter Aaron Sibarium wrote at the weekend, “Isn’t just stifling free speech or inventing dumb neologisms; it is determining policy that affects millions of people.” Sibarium had the evidence of his own reportage to back that up, raising cases where COVID treatments had been allocated according to race more than diabetes or obesity, and where experts had insisted that 9-year-olds could be put on puberty blockers if they were “trans”.

That is true of the US and it is true of Britain. I can feel as tired as anyone of yet another stupid argument about whether to call someone “he”, “she” or “they”, for example, but then I remember the kids being drugged to irreversibly change their developing bodies and a sense of seriousness returns. I can feel myself nodding off when someone rolls out words like “multiculturalism” but then I recall that witnesses interviewed for the Casey report into child sexual exploitation in Rotherham said the council took deficient measures because they were “terrified of the impact on community cohesion” and I wake up again.

The whole piece is quite short and well worth reading as a reminder of the headline - the EDI agenda certainly is worse than silly. Behind it here in the UK, is a failing political class, a failing bureaucracy and ultimately a failing state.

As well as cultivating complaints, and digging a gigantic hole into which millions of pounds can be poured, the EDI phenomenon allows a failing state to engineer the illusion of improvement. Sure, it can’t do much about chronic societal and institutional dysfunction. But look how hard it’s working to be more equitable and diverse and inclusive. Well done. Do you want a cookie?

Monday, 2 January 2023

Ice Cream


This holiday we've seen lots of long queues for ice cream. Not unusual in a holiday destination with plenty of people around, even in winter, yet Mrs H and I have both been surprised how long the queues are.

I don't dislike ice cream but I haven't tasted one for years. It is certainly not delicious enough to queue for - not for this curmudgeon anyway. Now, with many ice creams from kiosks having brightly coloured syrupy stuff dribbling down the ice cream bit, it looks more artificial than ever.

Maybe the queue is part of the satisfaction, a kind of traditional delayed gratification. Or maybe it just keeps the kids quiet for a few minutes.

Eight Million Rabbits


Rod Liddle with a talk titled "The Feminist Roots of Woke: How The West Went Mad."

Quite long, but a very good start to 2023.

Sunday, 1 January 2023

Cæsar somewhat remote

Two months earlier, in Rome, she had gone to the Palatine Hill to write a letter beginning, “Seated upon a block of marble in the banquet hall of Cæsar,” and necessarily the picture suggested to the mind of her correspondent must have had Claire in the foreground with Cæsar somewhat remote.

Booth Tarkington - Claire Ambler (1928)

We see this all the time with contrived celebrity images. We see it in wildlife TV programmes where a famous presenter in the foreground is clearly the primary subject. The lions in the background are just a few more dusty old lions. We often see something similar with documentary TV programmes.

It becomes particularly noticeable when there is a historical angle and the presenter takes care to locate himself or herself in the here and now while the purported subject of the programme is in the past. Gone, done with, no longer relevant – so just look at me.

Meghan Markle does it by effectively placing herself in the royal foreground where the effect is the same. Gone, done with, no longer relevant – so just look at me.

Sunrise on our way to breakfast