Saturday, 10 December 2016


Overheard in the pub:

Chairman: "I'm quite gregarious, it's just that I don't like people."

Hay: "That statement will be on your Overheard blog segment tomorrow."


Chairman: "Don't you think you mother me?"

Hay: "In what way?"

Chairman: "Well, you sometimes organise what I wear?"

Hay: "That's simply because I don't want to be seen out with a tramp."

Later still:

Waitress: "What 5 cheeses would you like for your cheeseboard?"

Chairman: "Oh, let's see - Dairylea, Philadelphia, Baby Bell, Kraft Cheese Slices and Cheese Strings."

Friday, 9 December 2016

Campaign Media Dinosaurs

You know that little T Rex that appears on your screen when you have no internet access? I only found out by accident the other day that if you click on it it starts a game.

I started a campaign the other day on 38 Degrees to force newspapers to print retractions and apologies on the front page. Seems I'm the sole campaigner. I seem to recall a similar petition several years ago but it got nowhere.

Have you noticed that web pages that used to show you everything you wanted a summary of on just one page now make you scroll down through several pages? I first noticed it with the BBC news website, but now all media outlets are doing the same thing and just filling space with massive pictures that add little, if anything, to the story.

Thursday, 8 December 2016

Scotch Sales Calls & Fork Handles

It's not what it seems - I'm not injecting scotch intravenously but merely injecting the Christmas cake with more scotch. Honestly!

Remember those mail-order IKEA candles I bought, of which 4 of 6 turned up broken? The 4 replacements arrived by courier yesterday - 3 were broken. Here we go  again; I might just get the full complement by Christmas.

A strange thing happened the other day; I got a call from someone who registered as Stuart on the caller ID. My natural thought was that the caller was in my address book and I knew him. I couldn't actually take the call, but listened instead to the voicemail he left. It was a sales call from someone I don't know. Inspecting my address book I discovered I had no contact called just Stuart, which I found somewhat curious.

Somehow he'd managed to insert his forename into the caller ID such that I'd naturally think it was someone who I knew and hence answer the call. The lack of a surname was an obvious sales ploy, as I'm bound to know several Stuarts; however, the inclusion of a surname could feasibly alert me to the fact I didn't know the person and may possibly not answer the call.

I found this on YouTube concerning the ploy, which is quite interesting:

Wednesday, 7 December 2016

I Spy a Turner Bingo Prize Cake

I hear Angela Merkel is calling for a ban on the burqa. She is, however, up for reelection and thus it can only be interpreted as a sop to the hoi polloi as I believe she's too intelligent to actually want a ban herself. What I  find strange is that the country with probably the greatest cause to ban the burqa on security grounds doesn't - I speak of Israel. Just goes to show that there's something else behind the call for a ban, and it isn't attractive.

The annual farce called the Turner Prize - and my annual rant. What is the collective pronoun for a bunch of pretentious pseuds? Time was when almost everyone recognised art when they saw it. Nowadays no-one, even the so-called connoisseurs, know what it is; put a sack of spuds in the Tate and you're bound to get some aesthete waxing lyrical with some bollock-speak that means absolutely nothing. The term 'art' has become so debased by the Serota Tendency as to be, to all intents and purposes, meaningless. Everyone who can position a few items on his desk is an artist. I'm firmly of the Brian Sewell school of art criticism.

Fingerprint recognition technology is making its way into our lives through smartphone and laptop security features. It would seem logical that the next step is its enforcement, such that intelligence departments can collect fingerprints and link them to IP addresses and communication devices, hence being able to better monitor subversives.

Not sure if I'd be happy with this due to the potential for misuse and/or fraud, but it's certainly not beyond contemplation, if not implementation. The discovery of fingerprints at the scene of a crime could no longer be relied upon as evidence, unless containing a trace of DNA, which is rare, due to DNA being unstable and fingerprints containing only miniscule traces of DNA, if any at all.

Time was when women would go down to the local Mecca bingo hall for a night out. Bingo was a side issue and the purpose of the weekly expedition was primarily social. On-line bingo companies are now turning this around so you can play bingo at home, in isolation. A worrying trend that puts the betting element to the fore.

Made the Christmas cake yesterday - a bit of a disaster. For a start I'd left it too late and didn't have time to steep the dried fruit in whisky for 3 days, so I just chucked a quarter of a bottle of scotch into the mix. That's not really a disaster in itself, but in my rush I totally forgot the nutmeg, ginger, cinnamon - in fact everything that makes it a Christmas cake. I'll just call it a Christmas Dundee cake.

Should Judge Rinder make the final decision on Brexit? Just a populist thought...

Tuesday, 6 December 2016

The Problem with Populism

People should be very wary of voting for single issue, populist parties. Populism revolves around a single issue - invariably grossly over-simplified, offering solutions having nothing to do with the problems, appealing to the lowest common denominator, utilising a scapegoat and consequently polarising opinion. Those who elect a populist government will have a range of views across the political spectrum on every issue outside of the one issue that unites them and hence 50% will be unhappy with the remaining policies (if any) of the party they voted for - policies that affect them on a day-to-day basis - transport, education, health, taxation, etc. Because of this such a party would effectively be paralysed if it wanted to govern and stay in power. You only have to look at the paradox of people who would naturally vote far left joining forces with right wing UKIP in pursuit of the single aim of Brexit. If that's not a recipe for complete disaster in other policy areas, then I don't know what is. Think NHS, for example - would a right-wing or left wing policy be followed?

The result can merely be a bit of inner city rioting or the political collapse of the government through a vote of no confidence, if there is indeed enough of an opposition in parliament to force a vote. In more extreme situations where there is no opposition, martial law can be imposed to regain some form of order and stability, with the attendant possibility of a dictatorship. 

Think of any popular revolution of consequence and it’s hard, if not impossible, to find an example where either a dictatorship or military rule did not follow. The French Revolution, the Russian Revolution, Cuba, the Iranian Revolution, countless examples in South America and Africa, the Arab Spring, even the English Civil War - none of it went particularly well. Furthermore, when you're in power through a popular revolt there's a tendency to paranoia in case there's another popular revolt against you once the realisation set in that half the people who voted for you don't agree with any of your other policies. Paranoia is the handmaiden of conspiracy theories and conspiracy theories facilitate all manner of human rights abuses in the name of stability and public order.

Like it or not, we need a political class experienced in politics and diplomacy and parties with joined-up policies across all areas of government, not just one-trick-ponies. Who can honestly say what the transport policy of UKIP is, or the education policy of the Greens without looking it up?

Popular uprisings invariably replace an allegedly 'corrupt elite' with another, yet more corrupt elite that becomes corrupted through having no previous experience of wielding power and no cohesive strategy beyond the single issue that got them into power in the first place.

Some pundits in the Brexit camp (particularly in the right wing press) are waxing lyrical about civil war if hard Brexit is not carried through, labelling all dissenters and the impartial judiciary as 'traitors' and trumpeting 'the will of the people' (more like the will of the baying mob that's been seduced by the demagogue). That, of course, is armchair rhetoric, but they're not far off the mark with the potential fallout from the consequences of a single issue party gaining power through cynical manipulation of the mob. For that reason, most referendums involving seismic shifts in policy tend toward the status quo, requiring a large majority of two thirds, or even three quarters, not a simple majority.

Baby and bathwater - caveat emptor!

Monday, 5 December 2016

Brassica Backlash

Was watching Country File last night and apparently a whole new generation of brassicas are being developed by farmers. Not much use your's truly, as, unless cooked with heaps of bacon or some other cured pork derivative, a different colour or shape makes not one iota of difference as all brassicas taste like sewage to me. The strange thing is that I love spring greens, but only if lightly steamed and smothered in butter, salt and pepper. 

That gave me an idea for a brassica weeding device based on a robotic sniffer system; if  it smells of sewage it's a brassica, if not then it's a weed. If the sniffer accidentally does come across some genuine sewage it wouldn't matter for those who like brassicas.

Being a good northern lass, and had she still been alive, my mother would have been putting the sprouts on to boil just around now so they'd be ready for Christmas Day. How on earth did sprouts come to be associated with Christmas dinner, and will there be a backlash against the Brussles sprout this year?

Sunday, 4 December 2016

Overheard in Stroud

Overheard when going to Stroud market:

Chairman: "I think I'll wear the jacket I got from the charity shop last week. It's warm, it's practical and it's stylish."

Hay: "It's not stylish."

Chairman: "OK, it's warm and practical."

Overheard in a cafe in Stroud when a young waitress brings us a cappuccino and a latte:

Chairman: "That cappuccino is dairy-free, isn't it?"

Hay: "And the latte is coffee free, isn't it? I have a coffee allergy."

You know the rings that are left when you remove a phone holder from your car windscreen? They should have a technical name.

Saturday, 3 December 2016

The Veil of Oppressive M&S Pong

I was listening to something about burqas in Germany on the radio yesterday morning. One person was saying that the burqa has no place in modern society as it's a symbol of male oppression. It occurred to me that telling a woman, who actually feels more comfortable wearing a burqa in public, that she can't, is equally oppressive and the burqa in this case becomes no more than a veil (if you'll pardon the pun) for anti-Islamic sentiment. It's blatant hypocrisy and some people are merely hanging their prejudice on it. Yes, there should be certain exceptions - in a bank, in court, in fact, anywhere where you have to remove, say, a motorcycle helmet. Women in the west have every legal right to not wear the burqa, women equally have the right to extricate themselves from an abusive relationship; if they choose not to, whether Asian or Western, that's their concern. No additional legislation is required. How would women react if someone took it on their head to ban them wearing a miniskirt or having tattoos? There'd be uproar. Islamic countries may well ban the display of acres of female flesh, but such countries are not exactly noted for equality or freedom and we shouldn't be following their lead in setting our boundaries.

Hay is organising the Christmas cheeses, which will be gleaned from a £30 wedding present voucher in favour of Pong Cheeses: Langres unpasteurised, Cropwell Bishop Shropshire Blue, St Maure de Touraine, Lincolnshire Poacher, Wife of Bath. Can't wait.

She went to Marcus et Spartacus yesterday to spend a £70 voucher (another wedding gift) and came away with hardly anything, whereas £70 in Lidl buys an entire week's shopping for 4, including booze. Marks do frozen turkey crowns for £20 and larger ones in Lidl are £11.99. What a rip-off!

Friday, 2 December 2016

LibDem's Midnight Running IP Addresses

Overheard on the telly:

Host of Points West: "Discussing drink / drive initiatives in the area, we have the Head of Road Safety, Avon and Somerset Police, Inspector Kevin Rowlands."

Chairman and Hay, simultaneously: "So that's what he's doing these days."

So the LibDems ousted Zac Goldsmith in Richmond on a platform of remaining in the single market. Can anything be read into that? Richmond contains a high proportion of graduates (who generally voted Remain in the referendum) and the area did indeed vote Remain in the referendum by a long chalk, so I guess not, but to overturn a majority of 23,000 is no mean feat.

Time was when your IP address gave a pretty good indication of where you were logging into something from. These days it's pot luck. Mine regularly shows up 700 miles away from here as some Godforsaken hamlet in deepest, darkest Scotland where it's debatable as to whether they have internet in the first place. The only thing you can guarantee is the country (and even that's no guarantee in England, Scotland and Wales).

Thursday, 1 December 2016

A Goat, Cats' Whiskers and Indian Mutinies

Various groups are petitioning the government to replace the tallow that's used in the production of the new £5 note. One is reminded of the cause of the Indian Mutiny - the pre-greasing of musket cartridges with tallow and/or pork fat, which offended a number of religions - well, basically all of them in India. Vegans are also getting in on the act now. We may laugh, but imagine the uproar in Britain should dog fat be used.

December at  last; finally we can start thinking about Christmas. No.2 Son knows exactly what he's getting for Christmas - the write off of his £52 mobile data bill in exchange for no Christmas money. He racked up £52 in data above his 3Gb monthly data allowance, and that was in addition to the previous month's £82 data bill that he had to pay me. There was a slight gap between the bill for the previous month and me slamming a bar on his data usage on Vodafone, hence the £52. You'd think teenagers were a bit tech savvy, wouldn't you...

Lidl Petit Chebra goat's cheese - one of my staples. Can't get through a week without at least two of these cheese logs. Comes in a dual wrapper; the outside is a sheet of plastic and the inner wrapper is paper, the sole discernible purpose of which seems to be to stick to the cheese.

I always have to remove it. Seems senseless to have it there in the first place as the outer plastic wrapper serves its purpose in full.

Our neighbour's two cats regularly enter our house, much to the chagrin of Kitty, who doesn't really get along with other cats. The black one is pure mischief, whereas the ginger one (is one allowed to say  that these days?) just sleeps all day and when he is awake just sits there looking at you quizzically. I'm never sure whether it's a look of cool detachment or whether he's just simple.

Yesterday Hayley was away in Newcastle, No.1 Son was ill in bed, No.2 Son was in his caravan (with no idea how to connect to the printer) and I was in the kitchen. Suddenly our printer spat out a couple of pages of a More Than pet insurance application form. I have no idea how that happened, unless the cats were communicating with it via some cats' whisker wi-fi method and trying to tell me something.