Monday, 18 December 2017

Christmas Shoes


We went to a 2nd hand shop yesterday (not a charity shop) and I spotted a pair of these:


I was immediately transported back to 1972 - mine were grey and maroon and hand made for me by a bloke Hong Kong in some back street.

We decided on a fake Christmas tree in the end - the local DIY emporium was doing rather good ones for £30, which was a £40 discount. Told Hay we could use the microwave for a good display - just thrown some cutlery in it and whack it on full power- you won't get a better display of lights.

It's funny how shops promote Christmas for months and then in the week before Christmas everything to do with it disappears overnight. Lidl is the worst - can't get Christmas stuff there for love nor money now.


Sunday, 17 December 2017

Christmas Tree


Time to start thinking about the Christmas tree. Once this weekend is over prices should start to drop as stockists rush to clear their inventory of trees and we should be able to just make an offer, as we did last year. Got an 8 foot Nordman for £30.

We were thinking of an 'installation', like we did a few years ago, instead of a tree; I suggested we get a drinks chiller cabinet and put an ice sculpture of a tree in it, but that didn't go down too well with Hayley.


Saturday, 16 December 2017

The Delivery Guy


Hay got talking to a delivery chap last night. He said he has a strict schedule for his deliveries and physically can't scan an item before the scheduled delivery time. If that's not bad enough, he's fined if he delivers late.


Welcome to the gig economy.


Thursday, 14 December 2017

Democracy


Roy Moore, the losing Republican candidate for Alabama, has said he wants a recount and that God is in control. How can God being in control be democratic?

Brexiteers and the Daily Heil are incandescent that parliament has established the fact of Parliamentary Sovereignty (not that we ever lost it) with the vote in the Commons last night. Stephen Hammond, one of the Tory rebels even got sacked for putting Parliament before party, which shows the depths to which the Tories have sunk. That's not to say that Labour don't have a large number of party apparatchiks who put party before country.


Doubtless there will be Brexiteers calling for blood. They're already talking about getting Tory MPs deselected (which is even more self-defeating than Brexit), but there's no accounting for intelligence and the consequences of actions features low on Daily Mail Readers' list of priorities. I expect the word traitor to be used quite frequently over the next few days.

The government is between a rock and a hard place; to decimate the economy through Brexit, or suffer the wrath of their Brexiteer supporters. Not an enviable choice, as both lead to the destruction of the Tory Party. The only way out of this impasse is to pass the buck back to the electorate and hope sense will prevail next time. When the facts change (or what were sold as facts by Boris, Farage, et al), most people change their minds - I'm not sure what Brexiteers do.

Someone needs to bring a balance to The Force.


Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Cromwell's Car


Not yet having received my latest read from Amazon, I'm re-reading (for the umpteenth time) Antonia Fraser's excellent biography of one of my heroes, Oliver Cromwell.

I was intrigued to note that his house in Ely is still standing and a local attraction. I looked it up on Google Maps and found there were some photographs. 


I was delighted to discover Cromwell owned a Mercedes 500SL, exactly like mine!


Tuesday, 12 December 2017

A Bit of Snow


As it transpired, my meeting in Glasgow had to be called off - my colleague who was flying into Heathrow from Antigua had her connecting flight to Glasgow cancelled due to the snow at LHR. On top of that, had I actually gone to Bristol airport I'd have discovered that my flight had been delayed to the extent that I'd never have made the meeting in time anyway. Everything now rescheduled for January.

Went out first thing this morning and, using the laser thermometer thingy, I got an outside temperature of between -13 and -16 degrees, depending on what I aimed the gun at. OK, not the same as air temperature, but indicative of how cold it was.

We never cleared up our apple windfalls this year, and after seeing how the birds have been feeding on them during this cold snap, I don't think we'll ever clear them up again. You can't really see them on this photo, but there are many tens of birds feeding on them. 


Had a few avalanches around the house too - from the solar PV and solar thermal panels.



Before and after photos.

I've determined that Hay is genetically incapable of sawing a slice off a loaf of bread without making the top edge thick and the bottom thin. Is this a female thing? I despair of the condition I'll find the loaf in after she's hacked off a slice.


Monday, 11 December 2017

Federalism


I was reading Rod Liddle's column in the Sunday Times yesterday and he was railing against a federal EU superstate but, crucially, neglected to provide a single reason why he was against it. He simply maintained that it was worth any price to not be a member. To form such an opinion, one must be able to argue the case and give reasons - but he doesn't. 

Those countries marked in green below are federal states and include some of the most vigorous economies in the world, such as the USA and Germany.


Some are across ethnicities and languages, such as India and Malaysia. I just can't see what people have against a federal system of government - it's the next stage of political civilization. A federation is even the idealised system of government in most science fiction novels. The secret of a successful federation is giving it just the right amount of centralised power to prevent sovereign states within it doing harm to other members, economically or politically - a light touch.

Nationalism is the enemy of peace and has been the primary cause of wars in the last 2-300 years. Here is an excerpt of George Orwell on Nationalism.

"Nationalism is not to be confused with patriotism. Both words are normally used in so vague a way that any definition is liable to be challenged, but one must draw a distinction between them, since two different and even opposing ideas are involved. By ‘patriotism’ I mean devotion to a particular place and a particular way of life, which one believes to be the best in the world but has no wish to force on other people. Patriotism is of its nature defensive, both militarily and culturally. Nationalism, on the other hand, is inseparable from the desire for power. The abiding purpose of every nationalist is to secure more power and more prestige, not for himself but for the nation or other unit in which he has chosen to sink his own individuality."

Isn't it about time we grew up? Here is Friedrich Hayek again on federalism, writing toward the close of WWII, and it's well worth reading in full, rather than me doing a precis.

"Those who are so ready to ride roughshod over the rights of small states are, of course, right in one thing: we cannot hope for order or lasting peace after this war if states, large or small, regain unfettered sovereignty in the economic sphere. But this does not mean that a new superstate must be given powers which we have not learned to use intelligently even on a national scale, that an international authority ought to be given power to direct individual nations how to use their resources. It means merely that there must be a power which can restrain the different nations from action harmful to their neighbours, a set of rules which defines what a state may do, and an authority capable of enforcing these rules. The powers which such an authority would need are mainly of a negative kind; it must, above all, be able to say “No” to all sorts of restrictive measures. Far from its being true that, as is now widely believed, we need an international economic authority while the states can at the same time retain their unrestricted political sovereignty, almost the exact opposite is true. What we need an international economic authority while the States can at the same time retain their unrestricted political sovereignty, almost exactly the opposite is true.

"What we need and can hope to achieve is not more power in the hands of irresponsible international economic authorities but, on the contrary, a superior political power which can hold the economic interests in check, and in the conflict between them can truly hold the scales, because it is itself not mixed up in the economic game. The need is for an international political authority which, without power to direct the different people what they must do, must be able to restrain them from action which will damage others.

"The powers which must devolve on an international authority are not the new powers assumed by the states in recent times but that minimum of powers without which it is impossible to preserve peaceful relationships, i.e., essentially the powers of the ultra-liberal “laissez faire” state. And, even more than in the national sphere, it is essential that these powers of the international authority should be strictly circumscribed by the Rule of Law. The need for such a supernational authority becomes indeed greater as the individual states more and more become units of economic administration, the actors rather than merely the supervisors of the economic scene, and as therefore any friction is likely to arise not between individuals but between states as such.

"The form of international government under which certain strictly defined powers are transferred to an international authority, while in all other respects the individual countries remain responsible for their internal affairs, is, of course, that of federation. We must not allow the numerous ill-considered and often extremely silly claims made on behalf of a federal organization of the whole world during the height of the propaganda for “Federal Union” to obscure the fact that the principle of federation is the only form of association of different peoples which will create an international order without putting an undue strain on their legitimate desire for independence. Federalism is, of course, nothing but the application to international affairs of democracy, the only method of peaceful change man has yet invented. But it is a democracy with definitely limited powers. Apart from the more impracticable ideal of fusing different countries into a single centralized state (the desirability of which is far from obvious), it is the only way in which the ideal of international law can be made a reality. We must not deceive ourselves that, in the past, in calling the rules of international behavior international law, we were doing more than expressing a pious wish. When we want to prevent people from killing each other, we are not content to issue a declaration that killing is undesirable, but we give an authority power to prevent it. In the same way there can be no international law without a power to enforce it. The obstacle to the creation of such an international power was very largely the idea that it need command all the practically unlimited powers which the modern state possesses. But with the division of power under the federal system this is by no means necessary.

"This division of power would inevitably act at the same time also as a limitation of the power of the whole as well as of the individual state. Indeed, many of the kinds of planning which are now fashionable would probably become altogether impossible. But it would by no means constitute an obstacle to all planning. It is, in fact, one of the main advantages of federation that it can be so devised as to make most of the harmful planning difficult while leaving the way free for all desirable planning. It prevents, or can be made to prevent, most forms of restrictionism. And it confines international planning to the fields where true agreement can be reached - not only between the “interests” immediately concerned but among all those affected. The desirable forms of planning which can be effected locally and without the need of restrictive measures are left free and in the hands of those best qualified to undertake it. It is even to be hoped that within a federation, where there will no longer exist the same reasons for making the individual states as strong as possible, the process of centralization of the past may in some measure be reversed and some devolution of powers from the state to the local authorities become possible.

"It is worth recalling that the idea of the world at last finding peace through the absorption of the separate states in large federated groups and ultimately perhaps in one single federation, far from being new, was indeed the ideal of almost all the liberal thinkers of the nineteenth century. From Tennyson, whose much-quoted vision of the “battle of the air” is followed by a vision of the federation of the people which will follow their last great fight, right down to the end of the century the final achievement of a federal organization remained the ever-recurring hope of a next great step in the advance of civilization."

Analyse and discuss.


Sunday, 10 December 2017

The Shroud of Old Sodbury


I've been suffering from Man Flu for the last couple of days, being confined to bed by Hay. I've suddenly realised that the Shroud of Turin is not some magical resurrection artefact, it's the bottom bed sheet of some poor bloke who had Man Flu.


Today is my last chance to shake it off, as I have to fly to Glasgow tomorrow for a meeting.


Saturday, 9 December 2017

The Utrecht Palm


Overheard while watching Time Team:

Chairman: "The're conducting a dig in Utrecht."

Hay: "Is that Utrecht son of Utrecht?"

I thought that was quite witty of Hay.

Years ago, not sure how many, but it must be 4. I bought a small coconut palm from Lidl, not expecting it to survive for more than a few months and certainly not into the winter. Well, against all odds it thrived and grew into a huge palm with some 7 or 8 fronds.

A few weeks ago I decided to replant it due to it becoming constricted; however, I accidentally ripped one of the roots while trying to prise it loose. Since then it has been gradually dying, one frond after another shrivelling up.


I'm currently down to one not-too-healthy looking frond and a shoot. It may just survive.


Friday, 8 December 2017

The Dark Wall


Kitty's dislike of foreign cats has led to demands for a Cat Wall on our bed. Strangely enough, the request came not from Kitty, but from Blackie, who is constantly being attacked by Kitty.


We've been watching a Neftlix series called Dark, an extremely good German production, but Netflix has gone and dubbed it in American English. The story is so good that we can just about overcome the sight of what are obviously Germans in German settings speaking American. Personally, I'd prefer it in the original German with English subtitles.

The series centres around a town where teenage children keep disappearing, but I tend to get rather confused about which character is which, as all teenagers look the same to me - the only differentiator is that some are male and some female.