Archive for May, 2013

Socialism is dead, All Hail Big Brother.

May 30, 2013

Watching the 1943 film “Millions like us”, it hit home how we’ve lost the ability to handle people.
In the film, women factory workers were trained to evacuate the factory during an air raid and to return to work promptly.
No bellowing of orders, just a switch in the Tannoy music. “Post Horn Gallop” for evacuate and “Colonel Bogey” for all clear. The last was neat in that it was effectively a two finger salute to the attack.
Everything was subtle and low key, like the use of Beethoven’s fifth, a sort national in-joke, registering the inclusivity of all classes.

The Nation was at war and the workforce was the most compliant and flexibe workforce, existing on the most meagre rations, that even the most avaricious Capitalist could have wished for.

With the War over, the workforce expected a reprieve from these conditions and  couldn’t be denied it; especially with soldiers returning from bloody conflict and in no mood for a return to the Depression of the Pre-war years.

Although Class distinctions were still blatant and even obtrusive into the Sixties, we began to see the political classes looking at the Plebs in a new way. Their Pre-war existence had relied on a servant class, who new their place but now many considered themselves as equals and demanded equal respect.

It was 1955 that the patent for battery cages was taken out and the principle began to expand to other area’s of farming.
I’ve no evidence that battery farming affected the attitude of the powerful towards the plebs, or just reflected it, but Ghandi did propose that:
‘The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the ways its animals are treated”

The Seventies brought Flower Power and Full employment. The plebs had opinions and expected to be allowed to voice them.. In America they objected to the VietNam War. Everywhere they objected to nuclear proliferation and Unions were demanding a bigger share of the National Wealth.

The rich backed off and concentrated on countries where despots held power and the Communist supply lines were long i.e. S.America.(S.E. Asia was a lost cause, because of China  and the Middle East was problematic because of Israel and because of Russia)

Then the Communist states began to crumble, as their populaces lost the ability to provide wealth.

Their people were encumbered in red tape, their lives totally circumscribed, or they were micro-managed to death. Whichever idiom you choose, the result is the same; people give up striving to improve their circumstances and that of those around them. Not only is innovation killed but low quality becomes the norm.

Russia and China realised this and allowed unfettered Capitalism in to exploit the demoralised Society. State assets were seized and sold off at bargain basement prices. Former Communist bureaucrats and politicians became oligarch’s overnight, while the people remained just as poor but free to sink or swim in the new capitalist economy.
To my mind the situation was akin to the Dark ages, in Europe, when Royal houses grew out of bandit leaders.

(For me the most perplexing situation is that in N.Korea, which still survives despite the lack of plebian soul. The answer may lie in the deification of the ruler, which matches their Japanese cousins, who being prepared to live and die for their god-emperor, substituted self-interest by religion, as their primary motivation)

The collapse of the Communist countries meant that the danger of domestic Western populations resorting to revolution was reduced.
A new generation had lost the folk memory of pre-communist capitalism and had only experienced benevolent paternalism.
Those, more politically minded had either joined the ruling classes, or were marginalised socially. The political elite of all parties retorted to any mention of Socialism with a knowing smile and the comment that Socialism was dead.

Finance from The Communist states had ceased and any insurrection would now rely on domestic self-financing.

As part of the attempt to stem Communism in South East Asia, the steel and cotton industries had been shipped to the Far East but there was still coal-mining and various light industries such as shoe manufacture, the rag trade and electronics, which provided wealth for the working classes and the Unions, meaning that they still had to be treated carefully.

Maggie Thatcher, with the connivance of the miner’s union leader, killed off the Coal Industry

Women’s Lib helped, allowing the replacement of higher earning, more politically motivated males to be substituted by a cheaper, more flexible female workforce.

The key to reducing the financial power of the masses was Information Technology, which would render most  heavy Labour remnants obsolete.
Encouragement of I.T. and women’s Lib. meant that a smaller, cheaper and more amenable work force would emasculate the union’s and the domestic financing of plebian power.

To allay unrest caused by mass unemployment, the solution was “Education,Education,Education” and the expansion of disability allowances.

We are now at a stage, where the fear of insurrection has almost vanished.

Artificially induced austerity measures have created a means of rapidly reducing any financial power left to the populace, whilst computerisation has, with the aid of DNA technology, advanced to the stage where it is possible to monitor each individual in greater detail than anything dreamt of by Orwell.

We do not have the Thought Police yet but we do have means of remotely sensing people’s emotions, recognising a face in a crowd, recognising out of character behaviour etc., etc.

It’ll be decades before the masses react to the new regime. Decades before the new regime becomes overly oppressive and decades more before it becomes sufficiently  complacent for a new idea to unite the masses and seize back power.
If it ever does happen the leaders need to take measures to identify Sociopaths and bar them from any position of authority: It’s not Capitalism that’s a problem, it’s the people it empowers.

Number of operating theatres to be cut? #NHS @daily_politics

May 29, 2013

The announcement that operation death rates rose from 5% on Mondays to 8% on Friday’s was interesting.

It became annoying, when it was announced that the death rates from operations rose by 44% during the week,.

It became annoying,  because I then knew it was being put out by the Ministry of Propaganda.

Sure enough, the follow up announcement was that the solution was to close down smaller units and concentrate facilities

I.e. the same dubious argument used for closing down A&E’s and forcing patients to undertake life threatening journey’s in order to secure treatment.

Presumably the smaller units, which will be closed, will then be sold off to privateers, whilst the larger units, which will unlikely to be expanded, will be scheduled for NHS patients Wednesday, Thursday and Friday.

At bottom of all this, it’s still a bit scary that 1 in 20 operations result in fatalities.

(I’d like to see the demographics for those fatalities.)


@UnlockDemocracy political funding should be based on MP’s not parties

May 24, 2013

I received an email from Unlockdemocracy

(We reported on our website last week, a cross party group comprising of Conservative MP Andrew Tyrie, Labour MP Alan Whitehead and Lib Dem Peer Paul Tyler has published a draft parliamentary bill designed to break the current deadlock in the debate on reforming party funding.)

This invited me to fill in a questionnaire.

I hate questionnaire’s for their inbuilt bias.

This is inevitable, because the moment you sit down to compose it, you immediately impose your own preconceptions on it, through asking yourself what do I want to know and what responses would I give.

I was onto the third question before I woke up to the fact that this questionnaire was assuming that I must agree to the whole principle of party funding and Parliamentary Democracy.

As I say at the top of my Blog, I oppose Parliamentary Democracy as a fraud.   It is elected dictatorship.

I replied to the email with the following piece:

Why does funding have to be in terms of political parties?

This is putting power into the hands of selected cliques.
Funding should be for individual MP’s.
They can decide how much that they wish to place in a central fund, for advertising purposes.

Return MP’s the power to represent their constituencies, rather than the paymaster’s of the party machines, sponsoring them.

Enable the likes of Nadine Dorries to stand on a Tory/UKIP platform, Enable Labour MP’s to stand on a “referendum on Europe” ticket.

Stop political parties claiming that they have a mandate to trample over the wishes of those who voted them into power through their ability to control the financial strings attached to our MP’s

At present, if I wish to stand for Parliament, I am at an obscene disadvantage to any candidate nominated by a heavily funded political party. This is undemocratic, as it creates a huge barrier to any new dissenting view from gaining ground.
I will not be completing any questionnaire about party funding, because that immediately distorts every respondent’s views.


Europe Faces a Crisis in Energy Costs

May 22, 2013

I don’t remember how old this piece from Fullermoney is but it still has a valid message (I.e. time for Joined up Government):

Europe Faces a Crisis in Energy Costs – Here is the opening from this relevant summary by Stanley Reed for the NYT and IHT:

LONDON – The signs are everywhere. Britain has been unable to reach a deal for its first new nuclear power station since the 1990s. Spain, once a clean-energy enthusiast, has slashed its backing for wind and solar power.

Even the European Union’s flagship environmental achievement of recent years, its Emissions Trading System for carbon dioxide, is beset by existential doubts. On Tuesday, the European Parliament batted away an effort to bolster anemic carbon prices on the E.T.S.

Prices for permits to emit greenhouse gases, which have fallen as low as €3 per metric ton, are just a fraction of what they were a few years ago, meaning that they are no longer doing their intended job of inducing utilities and manufacturers to invest in new technology and switch to cleaner fuels.

Evidently, members of the European Parliament were more concerned about any further raising of energy costs that some European companies already say are putting them at a competitive disadvantage.

Europe is lurching through an energy crisis that in many respects parallels its seemingly unending economic crisis. Across Europe, consumer groups, governments and manufacturers are asking how their future energy needs can be met affordably and responsibly.

It is a question that is far more acute than in the United States, where the shale gas revolution has done wonders to ease energy angst. “Europeans are getting increasingly concerned about energy,” said Corin Taylor, an analyst at the Institute of Directors, a British business group. “Manufacturers are looking at U.S. energy prices with envy, and if they can, they are making investments in North America.”

European countries have yet to demonstrate that they can or in some cases even want to exploit their own potential shale gas troves. At the same time, most of Europe’s indigenous sources of oil and natural gas are in decline, making increased dependence on imports almost inevitable.

My view – Most economic wounds are self-inflected, and this is certainly true of Europe, including the UK. So called green energy was popular with voters, at least in the planning stages, but unproven and economically irresponsible because it could not deliver reliable and competitive energy. Today, it is a massive and increasing drain on individual and governmental resources.

This is a sad situation, not least because shale gas is cheaper, abundant and cleaner than any other fossil fuel. Unfortunately, Europe is not yet developing its game changing shale reserves because many countries rushed ahead with inefficient windmills. These are increasingly unpopular, being towering eyesores and often noisy within two kilometres

Fullermoney often says: Governance Is Everything – not least economic governance which is sorely lacking in Europe. Consequently, this will remain a slow growth and often poorer region relative to many other parts of the world, for many years.

Are contactless credit cards safe? see constablechaos blog

May 22, 2013

I’m a little worried by these contactless cards.

I recently got told that my new credit card had been  “improved” and could now be used for small purchases of less than £20, without having to type in my pin number.

I was informed that they no longer provided the “unimproved” type of card. I then saw an advert for a card wallet with a metal casing, so presumably others share my disquiet.

I, of course, went on line and bought a cheaper one. I also bought spares for my family members. They aren’t quite so paranoid as I am, so their wallets are still in their boxes.

The information is that these new cards have to be placed within 5cm of the till sensor to be activated.

Then, recently, there was a News story that M&S customers were being upset because  M&S had their sensors set at 30 cm and people were having the money taken from a card different to the one that they wished to use. The concern was that if mony was taken from the wrong card the customer could end up overdrawn and facing “fines”.

To me, they seemed to have missed the point and this was a repeat of the Passport and the Euro bank note idiocies.

The technology relies on R F I D (Radio Frequency IDentity) chips.

Eurocrats had intended to place them inside high value Euro banknotes (that’s how small and cheap they are), until it was pointed out that this gave thieves an excellent means of not only detecting where ones’ wallet/moneybelt was located but how much you were carrying.

British passports have them in. When they were first introduced, the airport sensors were set to read them at several metres, so flight passengers could stroll through customs without hindrance. It was pointed out that this gave an excellent means for terrorists to quickly identify British citizens on planes and in insecure locales. It was alleged that RFID’s were desensitised and the reception reduced to less than a metre.

I always doubted this, because the RFID’s are, I believe, like mirror’s that reflect the brightness of the light shone on them.

In the case of the Credit Cards being activated by M&S sensors, that 6 fold sensitivity could possibly have been made 60 fold, i.e. the width of most High Street pavements.

Would it be possible to fit a receiver to a mobility scooter and pick up a cheery £20 donation from every card you pass?

Presumably not, as you’d have to be an accredited shop. However, the device presumably reads the cards details, including the Pin number, which is obviously recorded on the chip.

What a way to harvest details for cloning cards!

And the banks will insist that customers, who have been robbed this way, are trying to defraud them, because their system’s are foolproof.

Once again, I say the law needs to be changed to put the onus on the Banks to prove that the customer is at fault, when money is taken from their accounts, without them present.

Seems I’m a little behind the situation. I’ve had a twitter link to another blog which gives more detail on this issue.

Arcane: Quicklime, slaked lime and whitewash

May 22, 2013

On an episode of Sharpe, he used Lime to fight off a French column. The effect seemed to be no worse than if they’d got talcum powder in their eyes.

Nowadays, with H&S issues, pupils are unlikely to meet these, once commonplace chemicals, so let’s go through the basics.

Chalk comes in various forms such as marble, limestone, seashells, eggshells etc. Chemically, it is Calcium Carbonate (not Blackboard chalk, Gypsum, alabaster or talc, which are forms or calcium sulphate).

When heated, the Carbon Dioxide is driven off, leaving Calcium Oxide.

Mostly obtained from Limestone, (In the early days of gas lighting, pieces of limestone were placed in cages to be heated in gas flames. The result was the stones glowed very brightly and could be used in theatre to provide the stage footlights, or Limelight.)

Derived this way, gave it its common name of Quicklime.

The Quick deriving from it being “alive”. I.e. it was very reactive and, when poured over French soldiers, would have reacted first with the water in their flesh, then with the fat and then by searing what’s left.

It’s effect is so severe that it has been used at mass burials to help reduce the possibility of disease from the rotting flesh.

As a lad, I was called on to whitewas our backyard walls, to do which, we placed quicklime in a metal bucket and carefully added water. The reaction is very exothermic and the water could be seen to boil as the water was added. (adding the quicklime to the water would have been as bad as trying to put out a fire in a chip pan by throwing water on it).

The quitened mix would be stirred with a disposable piece of wood and then left to cool.

The slaked lime (Calcium Hydroxide) was still dangerous as it is a strong alkali and a small speck in the eye could blind one. (alkali’s combine with fats in the flesh to form soaps).

The slaked lime couldn’t be left as it would pull carbon dioxide out of the air and turn back to chalk, so it had to be applied to the walls the same day.

The whitewash, applied to the walls with an old yardbrush (but without goggles !) , had a threefold effect. It killed crawlies and moulds that thrived in the brickwork, sealed the brickwork with a weather resistant coating and “painted” it a bright white, to reflect the Sun into the patch of garden.



Arcane: bunsen driven fridge

May 22, 2013

Esssentially a fridge is a very simple device that moves heat from inside an insulated box and dumps it in the room outside.

Modern fridges are electric and rely on only two devices; the compressor and the thermostat, which switches the compressor on and off.

When either of these fail, it’s usually cheaper to just buy a new fridge.

I recall, as a student, in the early ’70’s renting a furnished flat, which had a gas oven cum fridge. the system relied entirely on convected flow operated by a simple pilot light.

It had no thermostat but apart from freezing the eggs solid, on one occasion, this was never a big problem and to defrost, you simply turned the pilot light off.

The principle of the fridge is so simple that you could build your own. the only hard part is finding a suitable volatile liquid.

Originally this was Ammonia, which is a pretty nasty alkali. Just a whiff will make you jerk your head away. interesting points are that this reaction is strong that it is allegedly 100% effective at curing hiccups and will revive ladies, who have swooned (smelling salts consist of ammonium carbonate ( )).

Later fridges used Freon, a chemically inert, non-corrosive fluid but damaging to the Ozone layer, when not properly disposed of.

You could also use lighter fuel but that could be dangerous in terms of leaks and naked flames (

Having chosen your refrigerant, you construct a closed loop system of copper tubing, with the following components:

a non-return valve to ensure one-way flow (possibly not essential)

a vertical section of pipe, which is heated by a candle , or equivalent.

an expansion box. This has a fine jet on the inlet pipe, so the liquid is forced to evaporate, as it is driven through by the convection current.

a radiator. this needs only be a piece of metal attached to the tubing and painted black.

The only part inside the insulated box is the expansion chamber, which grabs heat from the surroundings, as the liquid evaporates. The radiator is outside the insulated box and radiates the heat, collected from the food, out into the surroundings. The condensed liquid falls to the bottom of the tubing which returns through the valve to be reheated, on the other sidefridge

The fact that I refer to Wiki shows that the information is freely available, It’s just not put in simple terms. It would probably only be useful to an eco-freak or a post apocalypse nut but it’s the sort of thing that I’d find interesting, if I was surfing the web.















@bbcwritersroom Brighten up the portrayal’s of the Tudor’s.

May 22, 2013

I once read a piece which asserted that Tudor Englishmen were somewhat foppish; that a Spanish commentator had remarked on how during the most serious discussions, they’d break off and try the latest dance step.

Where is the truth?

In every dramatisation of Tudor life, including those from the BBC, that I have ever seen, the Tudor’s have always been presented as very serious, deep thinkers.

The historians advising the shows seem to be consulted on the chronological facts but not the human aspects.

Although the drama’s pay tribute to the libidinous natures (attracts more viewers, I suppose), the Tudors are always presented as I imagine the Victorian’s to be. i.e. dour, serious and funereal.

This aspect does not sit well with the introductory passages to Waldman’s “Elizabeth and Leicester” where in setting the “Elizabethan Panorama”, he refers to a comment by a “Dutch Voyager”, whose description of the English portrays a very unsophisticated people – changeable and capricious.

I also find it difficult to reconcile such portrayal’s with the mindset that would enjoy “Greensleeves” or “A Mid-Summer night’s Tale”.

It should be possible to weaken tornado’s

May 22, 2013

The Moscow Olympics, of 1980, were allegedly protected from rain, by a perimeter of radio transmitters.

The principle was that the radio waves were reflected off the ionosphere, setting up standing waves. These would cause the polarisation of water molecules encouraging them to collect together and fall as rain.

The situation in America’s tornado alley is that you have a huge mass of cold air, from the North, meeting with a huge mass of warm, moisture laden air, from the South. The warm air rises and cools as it gains altitude. The water vapour condenses and falls as rain.

The Earth’s rotation causes the masses of air to swirl forming eddies. The problem in tornado alley is that these air masses are huge and, so, unrestricted by topography, the eddies are huge i.e. tornado’s.

It may be that the air masses are too big to affect but, if the radio standing waves were placed along the Southern front, to reduce the moisture content and the energy available to the storm, then they might go some way to easing the tornado problem.

This is pure conjecture but, if the climatologists could take time off from moaning about carbon footprints, and run the numbers, they could maybe figure out if such a procedure might work.

The downside would be that the Southern States would get more rain and the Northern States would get less.


Arcane: Platinum gas lighter’s

May 20, 2013

This isn’t exactly arcane knowledge, so much as neglected knowledge.

That it’s neglected is even more bemusing with the advent of catalytic converter’s in cars.

(I was intrigued by Stephen Fry’s assertion, on QI, that the dust on our streets contain platinum at commercially recoverable quantities).

Many know that platinum wire will catalytically combine gas molecules but don’t bother to check out the details.

Basically gas molecules stick to the surface of the Platinum. Because of the distortion of their electron field and their close proximity. The combined molecule then breaks free.  So this is a catalytic (the Platinum remains unchanged)) process that depends on the surface area available.

By making the platinum into a thin coiled wire, you maximise the surface area available for the reaction.

Being in the form of a thin coiled wire has a secondary benefit in the following context.

The combination of Gas (i.e. the fuel) with Oxygen is exothermic, meaning that a thin coiled wire, having very low heat capacity, will quickly heat up to a temperature at which it will ignite the Gas from a Bunsen Burner. This was demonstrated to be very efficient by our Chemistry teacher, using a prepared wand.

I wonder why it’s not used on gas cookers, avoiding the need for push buttons and wiring. They would never fail unless damaged in some way and could be easily replaced by some sort of screw on spares.

An interesting, although not entirely relevant, footnote, here, is that I spent six month’s at Mullard’s Semiconductor Labs, where one of the sections in my department was making YIG and YAG crystals, using Platinum crucibles. These crucibles had to be hammered to get the crystals out and became badly misshapen. The point is that, as with Gold, the price of Platiunum rises and falls considerably, so by selling the mishapen crucibles, when the price was high, they could buy new crucibles at no cost.