Tuesday, 25 November 2008

Not Much Blogging For The Time Being

Today and for the foreseeable future I shall be putting unwanted stuff on Ebay in order to reap the benefit of Darling's desperate plan to (save NuLabour's electoral skin) shock the economy back into life. Taking photos and writing descriptions is rather time consuming. The cash generated will be spent on candles, razor blades, matches, canned and dried food etc which will occupy the newly vacant space in my shed. I reckon that cash will not be the most important thing to have in a post-Brown economy.
I intend to post on the efficacy of such things as the pedal-powered Powerplus Gazelle generator once I've sold enough to buy one. In the meantime, keep well, warm,safe, and unless you are a Nulab politician, your job.

Friday, 21 November 2008

A Brilliant Weblog: Old Holborn

I reckon this is the best, angriest and truest blog I have read for a long while and heartily recommend it to everyone who isn't offended by a teensy bit of justified swearing but is "Mad as Hell and [ ] won't put up with it" it being the ruination of our once great and decent nation and society - the Peter Finch clip is there, just scroll down.
Honestly, if it wasn't for important questions like Yorkshire Puddings, I would stop blogging and just read Old Holborn instead.

Thursday, 20 November 2008

Common Purpose Graduate List Published

Now that would be important information but it's hardly likely until the project is complete and further resistance is futile. Keep the fonefodder quiet with Strictly Come Dancing and the others with the publication of BNP members (two minute group hate, everyone).
Remember the old socialist slogan "Unity Is Strength"? Well "Diversity Is Power" is the new version for those who seek to control society by fragmenting it and removing trust. Totalitarian government prefers regulation, which it enforces from above, to trust, which individuals develop from the grass roots upwards.

England North and South

The key question: do you serve the Yorkshire Pudding as a separate course before the beef or with it?

Please state which county you live in or from which county you derive your culinary style.

More conventional divisions of England place the border between the Humber or Wash and Severn or the real Watford Gap where proper custard on puddings ends. I reckon that North Staffordshire is the southouthernmost county with pudding apartheid but I welcome all comments.

How wonderful and versatile is the humble batter mix - from YP to pancakes to toad-in-the-hole - surely three recipes that can hold their own internationally. And, digressing slightly, what about the Staffordshire oatcake, that perfect accompaniment to a cooked breakfast or the thinking person's wrap when filled with bacon and chaze, duck* - honestly, that overhyped Mexican tortilla rubbish or those dreadfully grey, hard and dour Scotch oatcakes are no comparison.

*duck is the standard term of endearment in the Potteries or Five Towns (why did Arnold Bennett omit Fenton?) or Stoke-on-Trent. Chaze is the local pronunciation of cheese just as watter is water.Many would say the the best tasting oatcakes are from Hanley but the shop owners are apparently Port Vale fans** so I can't give them 10/10 :-).

** Didn't I just write about my dislike of football in the previous post? Well, call me contradictory but I support Stoke City in a let's hope they stay up in the Premier Division, I'm glad when they win sense but never in the actually watching football sense of proper supporters.
And so Port Vale are always second to Stoke City except when they are playing someone else (and as there's a couple of leagues in between them, that's most of the time now). Well, at least Port Vale aren't Manchester United....

Monday, 17 November 2008

An Idea To Help England Through The Recession

I cannot abide soccer so I offer the idea below for the benefit of those that follow the loathsome game.

Cap the ticket price to see a football game at £5.

The salaries of players and managers may need to be reduced as a result.

But it will benefit fans at a time of economic belt tightening.

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Jobcentre Plus Procedures

I read this article by Harry Blackwood in today's Mail on Sunday about the dehumanizing procedures in Jobcentres and realised that I was right to take redundancy when I did because things have worsened.
Mr Blackwood complains that the interviews were information gathering exercises without time taken to sympathise with him. That is how it is meant to be. Claim processers and Advisers have to obtain specific information on a person in a time set by senior management and they are penalised if the procedures (ie boxes are not ticked) are not completed in time or the target number of interviews per week are not met. Don't bother to argue that the customer was late or unprepared or hostile, the performance indicators must be met so that good statistics can be fed up the line to senior management.
Mr Blackwood would have liked more time spent helping him with his job search. Update: no he wouldn't. So in return for Jobseeker's Allowance the taxpayer should accept his word that he was looking for work without the adviser checking. Some people claim JSA and live off their savings or spouse's earnings while indulging in their hobbies. Well, as he can string words together into a sentence and doesn't fall off his chair, the policy is that he cannot receive additional (outsourced) help until he has been claiming for six months. Unless he is disabled, ex-services or non-English speakers or out of prison or a drug addict in which case immediate referral is available. I would bend the rules as often as possible for clients like Mr Blackwood by referring them under one or other of the first two categories - it helped them and helped me because I scored more points if they got jobs.
One unsavoury aspect of the procedures and performance driven culture was the belief that a certain number of claims were fraudulent because the claimant was working. Suspected fraudsters were called in for random mandatory interviews to disrupt their lives and induce them to sign off. Because say, 4% of claimants in a sample had been discovered to be working and claiming (easily done because of the complexity)and inefficiency of the benefits and tax credit system) then at least 4% of claimants had to be made to sign off through more frequent attendance interviews. If that target wasn't met, then the adviser assigned this additional and difficult task (because additional interviews had to be shoehorned into an already full diary pre-filled by others) had failed to meet a performance target which affected the annual appraisal and pay increase.
So to any customers of Jobcentre Plus who feel they aren't carried the extra mile in their difficult job of finding a job, please understand that better service costs more and that the staff want to help but can't. Blame James Purnell instead of shouting at the equally stressed and demoralised person across the desk whose biro you take.

Friday, 14 November 2008

DWP Awards Benefits Card Account To Post Office

This is good news and is belated recognition that post offices are part of the fabric of society, like public libraries and the NHS.
However, I'm puzzled how the DWP were able to terminate the procurement process midstream, albeit with significant bidding compensation to Paypoint (just like the £5million Virgin got in the failed Northern Rock privatisation), and hand the contract to 2015 to the Post Office. I thought that the EU Procurement Directive banned practices like this. As always where the EU is concerned, please go to EUReferendum to get the definitive answer. Forelock tug to Dr North. It would appear that governments can ignore EU law at will.
On a personal note, I remember the time spent in the Job Centre by everyone encouraging customers to open a basic bank account or a Post Office Card Account in the months before giros were phased out. I'm glad that effort hasn't been wasted.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

Olympics 2012: If only We'd Known Then What We Know Now

Tessa Jowell makes this startling if depressing admission in today's Daily Telegraph.

Forelock touch to The Englishman for this story.

Please take this opportunity to sign the 10 Downing Street OlympicPrudence Petition in the right hand column which asks for Mrs Jowell and Lords Coe and Moynihan to be jointly and severally liable for any budget overruns.

Prime Minister's Questions

What would you do if you saw a tortoise on its back in the baking sun, Gordon? Set up an inquiry, read the executive summary of the Report on The Care of Mobility-Impaired Testudinidae in a BWh* Climate Environment and , following consultation with stakeholders, promulgate best practice guidelines and protocols to ensure that no more tortoises would experience similar adverse lifepaths ? Or would you think "oh I can't bear to see that poor turtle in pain, struggling to get back on his feet, I must help him immediately" ?

So, let's see Leon's VK Scene from Bladerunner (available in a range of versions from all good dvd and video suppliers, or you could download or rent a copy). It's a great film and one of my favourites.

*Koppen Climate Classification hot desert.

The Weather In Coventry

If you read EUReferendum you may have seen a photo of Gallimaufry Park under an unseasonal light coating of snow. We have family in Canada so it's not actually snow (this is what Canadian snow is like):

Actually, it's much deeper.
Anyway if you are worried about the weather in the Midlands' premier city please check with the excellent Bablake School Weather Station for urban weather or Coventry Airport EGBE for that rural weather.

Monday, 10 November 2008

I Like Religions Because -

- they tell me that as I don't believe in an invisible magic friend I have no moral compass and cannot distinguish between right and wrong. Unlike these worthy chaps who are fully trained staff members of their religions. Bless them.

Read this five page story by Herman Melville and this Emo Phillips joke with an open mind:

Once I saw this guy on a bridge about to jump. I said, "Don't do it!" He said, "Nobody loves me." I said, "God loves you. Do you believe in God?"
He said, "Yes." I said, "Are you a Christian or a Jew?" He said, "A Christian." I said, "Me, too! Protestant or Catholic?" He said, "Protestant." I said, "Me, too! What franchise?" He said, "Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Baptist or Southern Baptist?" He said, "Northern Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist or Northern Liberal Baptist?"
He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist." I said, "Me, too! Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region, or Northern Conservative Baptist Eastern Region?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region." I said, "Me, too!"
Northern Conservative†Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1879, or Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912?" He said, "Northern Conservative Baptist Great Lakes Region Council of 1912." I said, "Die, heretic!" And I pushed him over

Saturday, 8 November 2008

I Think Barack Obama Will Be An Excellent President

I was most impressed by his performance at today's press conference. He has bottom or gravitas, he thinks before he answers, can nail words together fluently into a sentence and, most importantly, has a good sense of self deprecating humour. I may not agree with all his policies but he has time to change.
I wish him, his family and the American people the best of luck for the future.
I wish we in England had someone of his calibre instead of the sixth-form debating society of Cameron, Clegg and Brown and so on down the ranks who vie with each other to outdo their condemnation of Ross and Brand while ignoring the important questions they have no influence over nor genuine interest in. As Sir Winston Churchill might have described them, "mice in hobnail boots". How's that Hazel?

Friday, 7 November 2008

Why Doesn't The BBC Use The D-Word?

Disgraced New York Governor Eliot Spitzer will not face charges over his part in a prostitution scandal. Out of interest, which party did he represent? Oh, here it is, tucked away on the profile link. But why use such vague words like : "His governorship marked a prize win for the Democrats, as the office had been in Republican hands since 1994" and "As a politician, Mr Spitzer was seen as a rising star of the Democratic Party" ? Oh he is a Democrat. I thought only Republicans could be involved in scandals. This is what the BBC wrote in its Sarah Palin profile updated on 5 November:

"Mrs Palin was also revealed to be under investigation by state lawmakers over alleged abuse of power.
She was accused of violating ethics rules when she fired the state's top law enforcement official, allegedly because he refused to sack her former brother-in-law. Mrs Palin denies any wrongdoing."

And this is what the New York Times wrote on 3 November:

"ANCHORAGE — A report released on Monday by a state board found that Gov. Sarah Palin did not apply improper pressure to try to dismiss a state trooper who was her former brother-in-law and did not violate state ethics laws in the firing of her public safety commissioner."

I couldn't find a similar report on the BBC News website. Why?

It makes me wonder what the 175 extra BBC journalists were actually doing in the USA* - it would appear they were certainly not reading the online editions of the major newspapers. At least Adam Smith or Steve Zackaranda, formerly of the Birmingham Post group, was honest about his journalistic endeavours/ cutting and pasting from the BBC in his tired and emotional Youtube resignation video. With thanks to The Daily Pundit.

*very nicely, thank you.

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Next Mandelson Will Tell Bears Not To Shit In Woods

Look, in big letters, BANKS ARE MACHINES TO MAKE MONEY FOR THEMSELVES. They are not stuck in the High Street to help small businesses, hard-pressed homeowners or greedy hedgefund directors. If they happen to do good for others, that is a side effect of their prime function which is to make money for themselves. So, please don't imagine that banks are interested in UK plc any more than mosquitos are interested in your toe that inadvertantly sticks out of the mozzie net.
What is needed is a public inquiry into the whole sordid financial sector from Treasury, Bank of England and FSA downwards, followed by some exemplary prison sentences for the guilty men. Returns for shareholders and rewards for senior managers should be bread and water rations until the taxpayer is repaid every last penny. And then a properly staffed and paid* regulator should watch it like a hawk.
Finally, England should be proud to earn her living by making and selling things other than magic beans.

*ie bonuses for convictions.

The Question All England Should Ask About The US Election

Will Jeremy Vine dress up like a cowboy again to "explain" the results?

Monday, 3 November 2008

Another Victory For Ignorance

Latin words have been banned by Bournemouth Council, among others, because they might not be understood by some people. If someone mistakes eg for egg they should be gaffer taped to the nearest floor for safety's sake. Some sixty per cent of English words are derived from Latin. Are Council employees to be restricted to grunts and swear words in their conversations with their employers?
I remember a scouse Principal noting on a minute that since the amount of money involved was very small no futher action would be taken because of "de minimus". So, dear reader, I corrected it to read de minimis (de takes the ablative case [plural in the phrase de minimis non curat lex] and not the subjective or vocative) and unfortunately the cock discovered my correction. As a result, Latin was forbidden on minutes originating within his bailiwick. Ironically, henceforward I was persona non grata .
But Latin is a beautiful language whose study, in addition to the pure intellectual joy one gains by mastering it, offers insights into other European languages. If money is wasted on translation services ( if someone wishes to live in England they must learn English) and if even the most Prescottian chav can text abbreviated nonsense on mobile phones (I didn't know that the majority of their users had opposable thumbs) then time should be found to teach Latin in all schools. Or why don't people turn their tellies off when a soap or a phone-in talent/ donkey parade is on and read a book, learn a skill and think for themselves.

The Fathers of the Jet Engine Sir Frank Whittle and Dr Hans von Ohain

Gloster E28/39

Sir Frank Whittle

Heinkel He 178

Dr Hans von Ohain

I'm republishing this post because I've just bought an excellent DVD from http://www.quantafilms.com/ about the greatest son of Coventry for a miniscule £4.99 downloaded or £17.99 if you buy it on disk. There's an article about the making of the DVD by Nicholas Jones in this November 2008's Aeroplane Monthly and Model Engine News January 2008 has more information. And no, I have not been paid by any of the above.

It's proof that if the Battle of Waterloo was won on the playing fields of Waterloo, the wars of the Twentieth Century were won in the sheds of the Midlands aka infamously as "that area stuck between London and Yorkshire". But the author of that careless slur*, definitely not an aerosceptic in this case, believed this was real. Really, the effects of propellor torque, instant change of cg, roll/yaw coupling, progressive structural failure** leapt out at me immediately shouting CGI***, but then I've seen my balsa and tissue efforts destroyed in a flash many times.

*altered after protest to Paradise.
** So I'm an aeroplane flying jacket? We all have our obsessions.
** *Computer Generated Imagery, ie why Lord Mandelson casts a shadow on telly.

Saturday, 1 November 2008

"Democratic" Republic of Congo Is Not In Our Backyard

And neither is Rwanda. They were Belgian colonies*. But Lord Malloch-Brown, Foreign Office Minister for Africa reckonsthat Britain should send troops if diplomacy fails (ha ha, bless). Apparently Britain is the EU stand-by nation, which actually means that every other country stands by until Britain says "Well someone has to do it" and rolls its sleeves up. In any sane world the EU would squeeze out some dirty money from its unaudited accounts and pay a western-officered brigade of mercenaries to clear the military mess up in a couple of weeks. Surely killing a few hundred terrorists would be better than thousands of raped and murdered women and children even in the looking-glass world of the left media. Waiting for the EU to act would result in a proven success like Dharfur or Congo.

Don't send British Troops to Congo or Rwanda!

Update: I didn't do anything!

*OK, so Rwanda was a German colony mandated to Belgium by the League of Nations after WWI, but there's still no British connection.

Government Waives VAT on Help For Heroes X-Factor Single

According to the Sun.

But the truth is that VAT can't be waived without the agreement of the European Commission and the other 26 EU member states. So Alastair Darling announced announced that the Government will waive VAT on the sale of the X-Factor Help For Heroes single, by making an exceptional one-off charitable donation equivalent to the sum of the VAT receipts collected on sales of the single. "I very much support the Help For Heroes campaign and the efforts of the X-Factor contestants. In recognition of this I am proposing effectively* to waive VAT on the sale of the X-Factor Help For Heroes single, and will do this by making an exceptional one-off charitable donation equivalent to the sum of the VAT receipts collected on sales of the single".

So after doling billions out to the banks without a debate or vote in Parliament, the "government" finds a measly £500,000 of taxpayers' money to offset the tax bill to help the recovery of servicemen and women injured on duty. Wouldn't it have been just as fair to put a swear box in BBC Broadcasting House?

When will the media accept that Britain's independence has been prostituted to the EU by our professional politicians of all parties from Heath onwards? Why isn't Britain offended by the explicit messages on Britannia's Grandfather's answerphone saying that Liberty has been shagged by all and sundry?

* my italics

An Unsolicited Message To The American Electorate

If you haven't voted yet, and can't make up your mind who to vote for in your Presidential Elections on November 4, why not confound the pollsters and write another name on the ballot paper.

Ladies and Gentlemen of The United States of America may I suggest a third candidate:

So what if some of your ancestors rejected King George III way back in 1776? We're both big enough countries to accept that a tiny mistakette was made then and that America would be happier in the Commonwealth with H M The Queen as head of state. Besides, after every election genealogists find a connection between your President and our Royal Family. You'd just need to put u in words like harbor and spell centre correctly. Oh, and could we please borrow a couple of aircraft carriers?

Seriously, please vote for whoever you wish on Tuesday and show the world that the beacon of democracy shines brightest in the USA. It doesn't really matter to me which candidate wins because I place my trust in the innate goodness and sense of the American people that is embodied in and outlasts every President.