Monday 28 February 2011

Dave admits he wants to stay in the EU

Conservativehome have an interview that Cameron gave to Al Jazeera

 The video is here on Conservativehome, and an extract from their bullet points is below.

  • rejected the idea that an in/out referendum would resolve the question of EU membership and said he wanted to change the EU but remain a full member;
  • defended the right of Wales and Scotland to continue to offer free tuition at
What's to add, we knew it anyhow.

Oh yes, he also prattled on about the challenge of climate change, what did we do to deserve such idiots?

Sunday 27 February 2011

Hats Off to Larry

What a complete joke of a government. The boss goes off on a sales jag to sell a few guns and bombs and stuff leaving the deputy in charge. Then, in the middle of a serious world emergency he forgets his responsibilities and wanders off on holiday with his family. Even when I was working in a small office support team three of us managed for some 30 years to always overlap so someone was on the premises.
What is it with Clegg, has he really no conception whatsoever of the responsibilities of a job? Oh, that’s right, he’s never done one. But what cosmic crime did we all commit to have such a careless and na├»ve schoolboy left in charge of the nation?
So the Blackberry, will solve the problem, amazing logic. Do they not understand that one of the least robust systems in the country is the mobile phone? Marvellously useful though mobiles are most of the time when you have a signal they are easily overloaded in a real emergency, and they tend to get hacked now and again when used by high profile people. Still I suppose they can stay in touch on Facebook if there is a phone problem.
If they can’t organise a holiday rota it’s no wonder this administration can’t seem to get their heads around real concepts like spending cuts that actually involve parting with less money and that they occupy the news dribbling on about reducing EU powers while giving them away hand over fist.
At least No 10 has a resident cat, so someone at the place has a brain and isn’t off on holiday.

Saturday 26 February 2011

iSpy With My Little iYe

This sort of follows up from the Alan Touring papers I noted yesterday, allbeit with rather less pleasure and a more more sinister flavour.
Up in Yorkshire, near Harrogate, is what is reported as the largest electronic monitoring station in the world . Nominally it is an RAF base , but in reality it was long ago leased to the Americans and is run by the NSA, the American National Security agency. A body set up in by secret presidential decree in 1952, even now classified as secret so the Americans know little about it, and even less about what goes on in Yorkshire.
Anyone passing the site can see the huge domes, security fencing, razor wire and cameras. Someone I know, with a genuine interest in military history decided to drive round the site perimeter on the local roads and before getting half way said a large vehicle with 4 very large, dark uniformed, men pulled out and closely shadowed him until he left the area, security is tight!
Official information, what little there is, says this is a signals intelligence operation, monitoring foreign radio, satellite observation, providing nuclear warning provision, and generally doing its bit to protect us. In 2000 it apparently employed 1800 personnel, some from US defence contractors, Lockheed Martin being one name that’s mentioned.
Way back in the 1960s it was connected directly to the PO communication network tower with a capability of 32,000 telephone lines. That was upgraded until in 1975 (from a BT report) and it was connected directly to the UK/US undersea cable. Since then millions of dollars has been spent and 35 years worth of data path expansion will have taken place. Reputedly it now has the best and biggest Internet capability in the UK, and data is fed direct to Fort Meade in Maryland. The local CND site is quite chilling reading.
To quote one paragraph from the CND page:
“All telecommunications traffic to and from Europe and passing through Britain can be intercepted at the base, including private telephone calls, faxes, emails and other communications. Much of the information is collected, processed and relayed back to the United States automatically.”
Connecting some dots, foil hat time.
The UK has a census coming. Lockheed Martin is the census data collation contractor. Lockheed Martin is a main contractor at Menwith Hill. Menwith Hill feeds data direct to the NSA in Maryland.

Friday 25 February 2011


I read today with great pleasure that notes and papers belonging to Alan Turing have been bought for the nation to be put on display at Bletchley Park, the old wartime code-breaking site and now museum.
Last year they were up for auction but despite $100,000 from Google (sometimes they do nice things, credit where it’s due) enough money couldn’t be raised, but now thanks to continued pressure from an active group of scientists and journalists leading to a donation from the National Heritage Memorial Fund, basically distributing lottery money, the papers have been secured.
For now I’ll just celebrate it worked out and ignore questions of why it took so long when lottery money seemingly funds so much other stupid and trivial nonsense or the morality of papers like this falling into private ownership.
Many people won’t have heard of Turing, yet he was one of the founding fathers of computer design and a leading figure, when working at Bletchley Park during world war II,  in the breaking of German wartime radio codes. Were it not for him, and the people around him, we might not be sitting round now at our keyboards able to foist our opinions on the world, or we might be doing it in German.

Thursday 24 February 2011

That's Looking Better!

 Everything looks better once nature wakes up after the winter!

Tuesday 22 February 2011

Please Sir, may I have my light bulb back?

Our kitchen was remodelled 25 years ago, with a table at one end. Over the years the table has been the base station for a wide range of family activities. Eating meals, children’s homework, reading a book or the  newspaper, making plastic models, fixing broken stuff, drawing, sewing, you name it. Almost anything that can be mentioned in polite company has happened on the kitchen table at one time or another.
For about 24 of the 25 years the table was illuminated by a light bulb, dangling immediately overhead, and containing a 100watt bulb, simple effective technology for which we have to thank Mr Edison. The dimmer switch meant that it was rarely used at full power, but could be when required.
Then the bulb went, and unlike previous occasions this time I had to fit a low energy ‘bulb’. The dimmer switch had to go of course, so no more choice of subdued lighting for evening meals combined with working light for other activities, and the old shade had to go too because the new ‘bulb’ didn’t fit.
I put up with it for a while then it became noticeably dimmer and dimmer. Taking longer to warm up as the days went by, until I found we were sitting in a sickly discoloured gloom that no longer illuminated but rather oozed across the room. No matter that I used my best reading glasses and polished them, on winter afternoons I couldn’t read small print, couldn’t see properly, I can’t focus properly under these stupid lights, and there wasn’t a hope of judging colours, even simple tasks like matching the socks after washing was hopeless.
So I took myself to Wilkinson and bought a halogen spotlight fitting. No doubt I broke various safety and building laws by fitting it myself in place of the original ceiling rose as nowadays ordinary people like me are considered much too stupid to be trusted to join 3 wires in a kitchen because there is a water tap at the other end of the room, even though I am qualified in electrical and electronic engineering and I rewired the house originally. Fortunately I had kept the dimmer switch so back it went.
So a victory, once again I can read a book, read the newspaper and see what I am eating. But even so it’s a somewhat pyrrhic victory. The new fitting has 4 spotlights, each 35 watt so my new light uses 140 watt in place of the old 100 watt bulb. Each spotlight gets almost as hot as the single old bulb so I’m wasting maybe 4 times more power as heat. These small spotlights are forever blowing, they don’t last long, so at 3 quid a time it’s already cost more than 24 years use of an ordinary bulb and created more waste. And the clincher of course, the EU plan to phase out these bulbs too in the not too distant future.
Basically these so-called low energy bulbs are being forced on us because the large corporations make more profit, and under the guise of ‘carbon reductions’ have persuaded, or bribed, the EU into making them compulsory. The global warming alarmists are also delighted because it’s a nice bullying tactic, a constant reminder in every room of our houses of who is in charge of our lives, and they do so like to rub our noses in their opinionated self-righteousness.
I can only hope that the ‘man in a van’ culture, which already deprives the government of some of their outrageous tobacco duty by supplying duty free to the masses can start sourcing old fashioned, real, working, useable light bulbs. Or maybe we can expect cannabis factories to be replaced by illicit light bulb factories, being able to see after sunset is more important than getting stoned.

Sunday 20 February 2011

The Woodlands of England

Well I'm not especially middle class, and especially not a member of the 'Volvo driving class' as suggested by some idiot politician about protesters recently but I do enjoy woodlands for walking and I think the sell-off plan was an appallingly poor scheme,  potentially extremely damaging, and to make matters worse introduced as a fait accompli with the subtlety of a flying mallet.
So why do I feel that way?
Because the public owned woodland is just that, it may fall under the Forestry Commission but to many people it does not belong to the 'government'.  Rather people see open access woodlands as a part of 'their' country, to enjoy like village greens or common lands, not as commercial assets to be privately developed. The plans failed totally to even consider that aspect. Having 150 year leases is meaningless to people of normal lifespan, unlikely to help me, or even my great grandchildren.
The government also spectacularly failed to take early advice from any of the outside bodies or people who have an interest, only saying afterwards, as their first concession to protests, that charities and public groups would be considered.
Then the, to me, big spectacular public relations mistake, was that they even failed to differentiate between commercial (pine) plantations and older and diverse forests.
Those issues demonstrate for me just how little they had considered people's opinions or thought about the reality. It's not that the plan is necessarily wrong, but given the circumstances of its conception and the prescriptive 'it will be sold' aspect it had to be stopped dead because it precluded other and possibly better alternatives.
Had they started with a discussion then I'm sure sensible alternatives would have been suggested. Maybe overhauling the (mostly useless) forrestry Commission to do the job better. Or just selling, or licensing commercial interests to harvest and replant plantations, for which most people have less emotional affinity.
The news that the scheme has been dropped is excellent. What would have been much better would have been a government that was in touch with the people’s feelings and wishes. This political debacle simply underlines how completely out of touch Westminster has become. Or maybe Dave is seriously frightened by a rural revolt and doesn’t want to waken the sleeping Countryside Alliance?

Friday 18 February 2011

The UK recycling capital?

I notice my local council has been namechecked as one of the areas with most recycling bins and bags. Making the BBC site and local news here. The Beeb even explain what they are all for.

Just for once, and I promise it's a rare occurence, I can't really criticize the council too much. Whether their scheme is effective and well designed or completely over the top they are only doing, in their way, what the EU, and by default our own goverment, have told them to do, and they are attempting in the process to save us council tax payers some EU landfill tax. Also to the council's credit they have asked for co-operation rather than used coercion, and their collections have been reliable, (ours even during the December weather), so credit where due. But week one waste and garden wheelie bins, week two paper, cans, bottles, cardboard with food bins very week means you need the (supplied) calendar to remember which week is which! And a day away for whatever reason means a month's worth of whatever component you missed.

But having lived with this system for a while, and having broad agreement with the concept of recycling rather than making waste, the problems are very clear.

The obvious problem is where do you put this stuff? Having spent some weeks cluttered up with bags and boxes in the kitchen we eventually bought an outdoor plastic storage chest, the sort sold for storing patio cushions and the like with a lift up lid, and put it just outside the back door. That at least holds the blowaway and untidy bags and boxes.  Otherwise a decent windy day will have the bags all round the garden, and they look a mess in any case.  That's fine as we have space, many people don't. After all a waste wheelie, garden wheelie, blue box, green bag, blue bag, red bag, clothes bag and slop buckets take some space. It's no use the council saying the bags fold up if not used, of course, but how does that help if you are filling them over a fortnight? Our houses and gardens are designed as homes, not as storage locations for recycling  materials in transit.

The next problem is how do you get them to the roadside?. I am getting older and the driveway is on a hill, and the tins and bottles box  especially is cumbersome and often heavy, it has no wheels or handles to provide a safe lift. The paper bag can be heavy and is frustratingly slippery, it slides off if piled up and the paper falls out if it's not kept upright. So it's three trips up and down to the road or do as I did and buy a small 'porter' type trolley. But then it too has to be kept somewhere handy.

Then of course there is the problem of pavements full of unsightly, and possibly dangerous piles of bags and boxes one day every fortnight. Travelling through the village is like a tour of a wierd rubbish dump that contains houses and I'm sure if I left my own items where they forced pushchairs into the traffic lanes to get past or caused a blind person to trip I would be prosecuted. In fact the uglification theme is constant as many houses in the area are terraced and consequently store the bins full time outside at the front even if off the actual pavement.

Unfortunately none of the irritations and annoyances above come close to identifying the real serious problem, you know the big grey animal with a trunk in the corner, and which is missing from the BBC stories? That is the question of why we have allowed an unwanted, unelected set of European bureaucrats to pocket a payment from our hard earned money every time we decide that we want to put some of our own non-toxic waste into one of our own holes in our own ground in our own country? Solve that and all sorts of other problems will miraculously evaporate fom our lives.

Monday 14 February 2011

Why am I here?

I wasn’t going to start a blog now, although I almost did last year when I became increasingly disgusted with the way our local council was wasting our money and the wife kept telling me that it was no good complaining to her, find someone else to complain to!
What finally wound me up was one particular road improvement. An ordinary roundabout, feeding two side roads into a rural A road that suffered a bit of congestion at peak times from a large local employer. Instead of a relatively simple, cost effective, non-intrusive change, maybe the addition of an extra queue lane or slip lane, we ended up with 6 months of delays with multi-way traffic lights and closed roads. Now we enjoy a section of what can best be described as a 3 lane motorway doughnut. It must be the only 200 yard stretch of such road in the country that rarely has more than one car on it! The problem, and reason for my frustration, is that there are many dangerous bends and junctions further along the road and the huge amount of cash spent on that one roundabout could have significantly improved safety and convenience at many of them.
Except of course it wouldn’t. Reading other blogs and thinking deeper I began to realise that  local authorities, and indeed government funded bodies in general, don’t do simple cost effective solutions any more. They do schemes. Each of which has to be debated, costed, budgeted, and planned then designed according to methods and guidelines imposed by ‘superior’ authorities. 
Whether the guidelines emanate from our regional Westminster admin centre or the EU bureaucracy, you can be sure many have little relevance or suitability for the work being undertaken. Then of course work has to be carried out by a company who have tendered, ticked all the corporate boxes, demonstrated their diversity, lack of discrimination, conformity with health and safety and have swapped the vehicle fleet for Toyota Prius to reduce carbon usage. As a consequence they have to charge many times the cost had a local Bob the Builder been able to offer a price.
So with the realisation that the problem might not be down to a deficit of intelligence in our local councillors, maybe not the road engineers either, the explanation is a fundamental problem with the way the country is being administered. I shall be exploring this dysfunctionality as an occasional and possibly intermittent topic, although I get grumpy at all sorts of other stuff too.