Monday, 31 July 2017

Sad Mooch

Imagine someone offers you a very senior job in a your government. With huge delight, you resign from your previous job, you delete all your old tweets that denigrate your new boss (nothing on the internet is ever really deleted), you miss the birth of your son because you're so keen to get started, your wife divorces you ...

And ten days later, which is 15 days before his starting date, "You're fired!"

A) you have to feel at least a little bit sorry for him, and

B) if you ever get offered a job at the White House, remember what has happened to several of your predecessors.

Antisemitism lives

Since 1945 and the revelation of the Holocaust, antisemitism has been deeply unfashionable. But it hasn't gone away. Antisemitism is, of course, a particular form of racism. But it's a particular form that isn't as unfashionable as, for example, the racism against dark-skinned people.

Kevin Myers has previous form on this area, having written a Holocaust denial piece saying "There was no holocaust (or Holocaust, as my computer software insists) and six million Jews were not murdered by the Third Reich. These two statements of mine are irrefutable truths."

So in the Irish edition of the Sunday Times (and on the web site of the mainstream Sunday Times (ST)), Kevin Myers, recently said "Jews are not generally noted for their insistence on selling their talent for the lowest possible price".

This was written by Myers, but presumably it was read by an editor, or sub-editor, or legal team, before publication. If a newspaper doesn't get anyone to check what it's printing, it could find itself repeated sued for libel.

Frank Fitzgibbon, editor of the Sunday Times Ireland (STI) has said that he took "full responsibility". Myers, we're told, will not write again for STI (he had a weekly column, for which he was paid). Well, that's good, but that's not actually taking full responsibility, that's taking partial responsibility. If you were fully responsible, you would also be fired. Still we mustn't expect newspaper editors to have a full command of the English language.

Martin Ivens, editor of the ST, has apologised to the two women named in the article. But no-one has apologised to me. I'm an atheist, but I do like Ashkenazi jewish food, so I'm included in this calumny.

I expect antisemitism in the far left and the labour party, on account of their confusion and conflation between "Jews" and "the government of Israel". I expect antisemitism from organisations with names like "Britain Now" (I'm British) or "White Power" (I'm as white as they are). But I don't expect it from respectable newspapers like the Sunday Times.

So that's another newspaper that we won't be buying. And I've made a formal complaint to IPSO. If you want to complain to IPSO, go here.

Firework politics

Trump seems to have invented a new way of being president - firework politics.

At irregular intervals, Trump lights a roman candle, which shoots out an explosion of sound and fury, signifying nothing.

A good example of this, was the tweet about trans people serving in the military. It isn't going to happen, all the generals seem to agree on this, except that of course it has led to an explosion of sound and fury from people reacting to the tweet. It's like Trump lights the blue touchpaper, then waits for the light show.

And he keeps doing this.

His whole campaign was like this, starting with the statements about Mexicans.

You might think that he's doing this on purpose, to get media attention and distract from more important things. The traditional way for a leader to distract from something embarrassing, is to start a war. This is vastly safer, of course, and much preferable. But I don't think it's deliberate policy.

When offered a choice of explanation between "malevolence" and "incompetence", Hanlon's Razor says "Never attribute to malice that which is adequately explained by stupidity". I agree. It's incompetence.

In Britain, we've coined a great word for this. Omnishambles.

Saturday, 29 July 2017


I see people talking about a transition period after Brexit. The idea is, I think, that after Brexit which will be in March 2019 (that's set in stone), there will be a period of two or three years during which we'll still be in the single market, free movement of people and the customs union. Or maybe just two of those. Maybe partially. Or not.


I can well believe that some people in the UK want this (but I'd guess that plenty of others don't). However, they should remember that after March 2019, the EU doesn't owe us anything. If we want this transitory period, we'll have to negotiate for it.

And, as in everything else we're trying to negotiate for, there's not much that we have to offer in exchange.

Brexit has become a sitcom, with us as the recipients of the custard pies that are being thrown by various members of the Conservative Party. There appears to be no plan, no objective, no timetable, no start date for negotiations and, altogether no idea. We're in a twisty maze of little passages, all alike, and our lantern has a dead battery.

It's a sitcom that's nearly as funny as Trumps "Terrible Treble Threat"

You're fired!

Can the US president fire the vice-president?

Asking for a friend.

Remi Gaillard

RĂ©mi Gaillard is brilliant.

I came across him accidentally on Youtube, and I then spent several hours watching his pranks. You can find them by searching Youtube, or you can go to his web site.

He's French, and il ne donne une baise. He pranks anyone and everyone. He put on football strip and pretended to be part of the winning side, shaking hands with the president of France.

My favourite prank is very short and simple - the pigeon. I've watched this one minute clip several times, and I laugh out loud each time. Also especially look out for the snail, and volleyball (singing the Marsellaise; he seemed to be the only one on the team that knew the words, so the news camera focussed on him).

Friday, 28 July 2017

Slower information

I've noticed a disturbing trend.

Once upon a time, if someone had something to say, they put it into words. You would  write an essay, perhaps published a pamphlet, or wrote a blog post. But that changed a few years ago.

It's become very common now for people to create "memes" (a completely wrong use of the word coined by Richard Dawkins, but hey, language evolves). A meme is now a picture of a statement of opinion (rarely of fact) as words overlaying a picture (which is sometimes relevant). Usually, it's pointless to include the picture; sometimes it's a bit amusing.

But I've just started to see something really bad; a video of a meme. This is a static picture, but displayed as a video! So whereas it would normally take a fraction of a second to read, now we are tricked into wasting several seconds before we realise that this "video" is just a static picture.

I don't understand why people do this.

While I'm on this topic, I'd also like to explain that in the 15 minutes that it might take me to watch a video of a person speaking a script, I could read the same thing in text in about one minute. Maybe I'm in a minority of people who can read faster than they can hear speech, but I don't think so. And often, a few seonds in to the video, I lose patience at the slow rate of information transfer, and read something else.

By the way, I've just signed up to the Facebook group "Christians against Nasa". It's a flat-earth group.

Thursday, 27 July 2017


The elastic arrived, and it's very nice. One long reel, 25 meters.

So I took the trousers with the failed elastic, and tied the new elastic to one end of the cord that runs around inside it. After considerable tugging, I found that the cord is attached halfway round, to the trousers. So I cut a small hole halfway round to get access to the cord, and cut the cord. And the same on the other side. That meant that I was able to remove the two pieces of cord and, at the same time, thread the elastic.

The outcome is that my £3 trousers are repaired.

It's not just that £3 is such a huge sum that it's worth repairing the trousers, it's more that I get a lot of satisfaction from repairing things.

So now I have about 23 meters of good elastic. Because I have more such trousers, and I'll be able to fix those too.

Or I could make a catapult.

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

The Civil War

When I was at school, we covered the Civil War. But I didn't really understand what it was about. Oh, I knew that it was Cavaliers against Roundheads, the Royalists against the Parliamentarians. I was told about the Long Parliament, Pride's Purge, the Rump Parliament and Oliver Cromwell. And the battle of Marston Moor, and the battle of Naseby. I'd heard of the Levellers, the Diggers and the Sealed Knot. But I didn't really follow what happened and why.

That's all changed, because I read "Rebels and Traitors" by Lindsey Davis. She usually writes about life in the Roman Empire, from the point of view of a "private informer"; we'd call that a private detective. But her book about the Civil War brings the whole thing to life, from the point of view of the people who lived through it. And it's a rattling good story, too!

Monday, 24 July 2017

A visit to the dentist.

Two visits, actually, with two more to come.

The first was a visit to the hygenist. Victoria is the daughter of Mr Jones, who used to be my dentist, and who has now retired. First she had a good look, and told me that it was all looking very good; I've been brushing properly! I use an electric toothbrush with a rounded head, and then another one with a pointy brush head. Actually, I have two electric toothbrushes, which each run off AA batteries. Having two means I don't need to change the brushes, and running from AA batteries gives me a much longer battery life that the kind that has an internal battery. Plus, when the batteries no longer recharge (after a few hundred recharges) I can just put in new rechargables.

Then I use an interdental brush on each of the gaps, except I can't really reach the ones at the extreme rear. Apparently, this is all good. Then she poked at my gums with a sharp thing, quite unpleasant and when I washed out, the water was a bit pink from a slight bleed, but that soon stopped. Then she scraped the surfaces with her scraper, which wasn't so bad, but lasted longer. Then she had another good look, and found more work for the dentist. The pick and scrape cost £50.

My dentist appointment was immediately after that. She had a good look inside, and decided that there was too much to deal with on one appointment. So she polyfilla'd the front teeth, top left and the one next to it. For a while now, my tongue has been reporting that they're getting hollow, and a week or so ago, I lost a small chip off the front, which is annoying. So she filled up the hollows, and my tongue now reports that all is well. This work was free, because she'd filled it before and it was within the guarantee period.

Now the bad news. On the right side, I need two fillings at the back, one top and one bottom. She's going to do that next week. I really don't like work at the back, because I have a strong gag reflex, and it's hard for me to suppress it. And it's going to need local anasthetic to do it, which means some pain, probably. This will, I think, cost about £56, or maybe £112 if I pay per tooth.

On the left side, I have two more problem teeth. One of them is a previous root canal filling on the left. That's not doing its job properly, but since it's been done once on the NHS, the only NHS alternative is an extraction - no thanks. So I'm being referred to a specialist, and I'll be looking at £1000, because that isn't NHS. If we didn't have shedloads of money, it'd be an extraction. And that's another reason why the NHS is wonderful.

The other problem tooth on the left, is the one that broke several months ago. She says that's not worth saving because there's so little of it left. The alternatives are - extraction, or do nothing (because it's not causing a problem). I'll get the specialist to give me an opinion on that, while he's doing the one that needs the replacement root canal.

I don't actually hate going to the dentist, but it's never a bundle of laughs.

Sunday, 23 July 2017

Elastic and a kneeling stool

I have a pair of trousers (Sports Direct sale bargain, cost £3) and the waistband elastic is no longer elastic. I suspect this is a laundry issue. I was going to throw them away (that's the advantage of a Sports Direct sale bargain, cost £3, and then I had a thought.

So I went on Ebay, and bought 25 meters of elastic (my waist isn't that big, but I foresee needing to do this again with other trousers).

Ladysolly was complaining; she has trouble kneeling down. She complained when we were out caching in Cork. She was wearing jeans, I was wearing shorts, and I didn't like the thought of kneeling on pavement, it's painful to the knee. But she couldn't kneel, she said, so I put my book down and knelt on that. Cache found. Today, she complained about the same issue; kneeling down to fill the dishwasher with rinseaid, which needs to be done now and then. Instead of kneeling, she squatted, and that's not good for her knees either. As we get older, it becomes more difficult to do the things we used to do easily.

So I went on Ebay, and ordered a garden kneeling stool, which gives you something soft to kneel on that's a few inches above the ground, and also something to hold on to to help you get up.

Ebay eases the adversities of age.

Saturday, 22 July 2017


I was walking along Victoria Street after buying my lunch, on my way to visit daughter.1 and grandson.1 (and bump.1), when I was accosted by a lady offering me a pamphlet.

I took her pamphlet (it was advertising some sort of Christian sect), and said to her "There is no god." She looked a bit startled, and said "So where did you come from?"


A snappy answer to a silly question.

A follow-up on the whynotclaim call

A couple of years ago, I got cold-called on "You've had an accident ...". What followed, led me to a firm of solicitors, and some interesting discoveries.

I was wondering what the outcome of this was.

1) Mobeen Hussain no longer works for Renaissance Solicitors (according to their web site).
2) Although according to the Internet Archive, she did work for them on 16 November 2015 (look under "who we are")
3) Renaissance Solicitors no longer advertises services for accident compensation claims
4) According to The Law Society web site, Mobeen Hussain now is a consultant at Sky Solicitors
5) The Sky Solicitors web site doesn't list her on their "Our team" page.
6) The web site no longer exists, nor is the domain name listed
7) However, you can still see it on the Internet Archive.
8) The Why.not.claim company, number 09305705 was dissolved on December 8, 2015, a couple of months after my blog postings.
9) Mobeen Hussain is still listed at Companies House under Why.not.claim, company, number 09305705

The internet never really forgets anything.

Friday, 21 July 2017

Homeopathy out, out, out.

The NHS is going to stop wasting money on homeopathic "medicines". This is, of course, a direct result of my blog on the subject, in which I suggested dilutine the money spent on homeopathy with a 6c formulation; this means, divide it by 100 to the power 6. This will, in accordance with homeopathic principles, make it more effective. It's homeopathic funding.

0.0004 of a penny per year.

Sunday, 16 July 2017

The trouble with Trump

When you look at what he's done, as distinct from what he's said, nothing much has happened. There's no Wall, there's no Moslem ban and Clinton isn't locked up. The repeal of Obamacare hasn't happened, and if it does happen, it won't be replaced with something cheaper and better. And the coal jobs aren't coming back.

Today, we met some Americans, and got to talking politics, as one does. And, by the way, they were politely startled at the UK decision to leave the EU. But Trump, they say, is a trainwreck and an embarrassment. From here, I explained, it more resembles a sitcom.

And then I thought; let's transpose this. Imagine, if you can, that our own dear queen started acting like Trump. Picking fights with other country's leaders, with the media, with anyone who criticises him. And tweeting to the world about this, so that it can't be watered down or hushed up. How would we feel?


Thursday, 6 July 2017

The spider box

Spiders are a problem. All those legs make them a bit creepy, but that isn't their fault. They eat flies, and that's got to be good. But we don't like them creeping around the house.

So I don't want to kill any intruding spider; I'd rather just tell it to leave. But they don't listen, and I don't like the thought of picking one up, because I'd probably damage it with my fingers, plus ewwwww, spiders.

So 25 years ago, my daughters made me a spider box. It looks like this.

It was made from a box that previously contained 5 1/4 inch floppy disks. You can see it's been nicely decorated with pictures of spiders, and glitter. Here's how it works.

You use the part decorated with spiders, to encourage the spider into the other part, and when it's safely inside, you close the box, trapping the spider inside. Then you open a window, hold the box outside, open it and shake the spider out. Result - spider-free house, undamaged spider.

I used it again last night, on a creature that is three inches across. It still works. Thanks, daughters!

Universal healthcare

Imagine a place where healthcare isn't for everone. A place where 30 million people would have to pay $1000 for a root canal (I've had a few of those, I think it's fairly common). Where a simple visit to a doctor costs $160. Where medical bills are the biggest cause of US bankrupcies. A place where another 20 million will soon face those prices. Where the first thing you ask about a new job is "Does it include healthcare insurance?" And if you buy insurance, it costs you $8000 per year for a family plan, and then if you make any claims, you get to pay part of the cost of treatment.

Poor people simply cannot afford healthcare; that's why they are uninsured, and that's why they cannot visit a doctor or dentist. The choice is stark; put up with the appalling pain of a bad tooth because if you pay to have it fixed, you don't eat this week. And that tooth won't get better without treatment; you'll face the same choice next week.

Now wake up from that nightmare. The NHS offers us universal healthcare, and where you do have to pay for part of the treatment, the payment is small; a prescription costs you £8.60, even if the medicine costs thousands. Root canal costs £53.90.

So which unfortunate country am I describing above? The USA, of course.

First, let's look at the quality of healthcare in developed countries, and I'm going to use three measures; child mortality, maternal mortality and life expectancy. Look here:

Child mortality in the USA is twice that of other developed countries, despite spending 30% more per capita on healthcare. Maternal mortality is the worst. And life expectancy is the lowest.

The USA has the most expensive, and at the same time the worst healthcare of any developed country.

How come?

Maybe they're doing something wrong. The most obvious candidate, is that they dn't have a universal healthcare system.

With a universal healthcare system, free at point of use, people don't think carefully before seeing their doctor. So a minor health problem is diagnosed and treated before it can become major, and there are plenty of conditions that, if left untreated until they become acute, are very difficult and expensive to treat. Or are fatal.

Another benefit is that it's a single payer system, what we economists call a monopsony. You know how in a monopoly, where there's one seller and many buyers, the single seller can force up prices, because the buyers have nowhere else to go? Well, in a monopsony, the single buyer can force down prices because the sellers have nowhere else to go. That's why medicine prices are so much lower in the UK than in the USA. In the UK, the NHS can say "Drop your prices, or no-one in the UK will buy". In the USA, the drug companies can raise their prices as much as they like, the buyers have no union.

And, of coure, the insurance companies are not non-profits. They take a good slice of the healthcare cost.

The USA has, by objective measure, the worst healthcare system in the developed world, and the most expensive. It could have the best, at a cost that's 2/3 of what it#s currently costing.

The USA is full of great doctors, great dentists and great hospitals. And the prevailing religion is Christian, with a philosophy of "Help the poor, heal the sick". So what's gone wrong?

When I've suggested a universal healthcare system to some Americans, they respond with "But that's socialism. Why should I pay for someone else's healthcare?"

And here's my answer to those Americans. First on the "socialism" bit. You have a fire service, a police service, a public education system and a military, and all of those are paid for by government. You don't say "Let's privatise the police". You already have many services paid for out of taxation, and the Republic hasn't fallen. I'm suggesting one more.

And why should you pay for someone else's healthcare? Because it's the right thing to do. Look, I'm an atheist, and you're probably (if you're American) a Christian.  How come an atheist has to tell a Christian that the rich should help the poor, and heal the sick?
Matthew 10:8 "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out devils: freely ye have received, freely give."

OK, maybe raising the dead isn't going to happen, but we can, often, heal the sick. 

You live in a democracy, you can make this happen if you want to. You could have the best healthcase system in the world, instead of the worst, and it would cost less than you're currently paying.


Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Rabbi Joseph Dweck

There's a big controversy on Rabbi Dweck's shiur (talk), which you can listen to the talk here.

It's 90 minutes, and worth listening to, but I think I can summarise it thus.

The Torah says, Leviticus 20:13, "If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them."

Dweck points out that this says that a penetrative homosexual act is forbidden. But that's it. You can fall in love, live together, you can hold hands, you can hug, kiss, and so on. All these other things that people disapprove of, have no basis in the Torah. Only the act of "lieth", as the translation puts it.

So, two things.

1) This is a case of cognitive dissonance. When you listen to Dweck, it's clear that he wishes that the act of "lieth" were not forbidden, because he regards it as an act of love. But the Torah forbids it, and that's that. He doesn't take the obvious additional step, that this verse should be ignored.

2) A large portion of the Orthodox Jewish community is in uproar; on the face of it about Dweck's talk, but in reality about the issue of homosexuality in society.

And it's about time.

Here's my suggestion. It is, in fact, mechanically impossible for a man to lieth with a man in the same way as he lieth with a woman. There's a key difference. Which means that homosexuals can indeed lieth with each other without breaching Leviticus 20:13.

There. Fixed that for you.

Monday, 3 July 2017

A call from TalkTalk

I got a call from TalkTalk. The first question was "How are you?" so I explained that I'd "caught the sun slightly yesterday, so my skin is slightly red, but it isn't too bad and doesn't hurt, and I expect that to turn to a light shade of brown soon. And how are you?"

So we had a short discussion about her health, and then she asked me if it had been sunny where I was yesterday, and I said, "Well, yes, that's how come I got slightly sunburned?" And then we got down to business.

"I need to ask you a couple of security questions", she said. So I explained that she'd called me, and I didn't actually know who she is, so whether I'd answer would depend on how sensitive the questions are and whether answering them to a cold caller might lead to problems.

She asked for company name, address and post code. So I told her my company name. And she said "there's a third word". I guessed that she meant "limited", but we spent a very pleasant five minutes with me making lots of wrong guesses about what she might have written down on her screen. I tried "business" and "enterprise", and lots of less likely words. I asked her to tell me what she had, but she said she couldn't do that, "data protection". So I asked her if she could give me a clue, and then we played sound charades for a few minutes.

Eventually, she gave up, but not quite. She'll be calling back tomorrow for another game.

You'll have had your tea.

Sunday, 2 July 2017

Mike Pence

You were hoping that Trump would be impeached?
And always keep a-hold of Nurse

For fear of finding something worse.

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Proving a negative

I sometimes hear some pundit opining "You cannot prove a negative". Well, quite often, you can.

A simple example of proving a negative, is the proof that there is no largest prime number. And it's a very simple proof.

Here's an even simpler proof; in this case, I'll prove that there is no adult elephant in my office. Proof: if there were an adult elephant in my office, I'd see it, smell it, hear it and have difficulty getting in and out. But I don't see, smell or hear an elephant, therefore there is no elephant in my office.

The same principle can be applied to the proof of a great many negatives. In general, it takes the form of:

If X were true, then we would observe A, B and C. But we observe none of A, B or C, therefore X is false.

You can apply this to most claims of the existence of supernatural beings, especially gods.