Archive of Postings for March 2013

31-Mar-2013

No Sale

Despite the advantages of oil and gas rights, sunshine holidays and euro-zone banks Russian interests did not jump in to save bankrupt Cyprus.

Cyprus3And the Cyprus government agreed a deal with Brussels far worse than predicted. With the threatened haircut on bank deposits turning into a full-blown decapitation. This deal seems certain to asset-strip investors, kill off the island’s financial services sector - but also serve to encourage the others within the EU not to expect any easy bailouts in future. But despite all this the Cypriot leaders aim to stick with the euro.

So pundits are now reassessing what all this means. Perhaps the Russians already knew that there is no oil and gas under Cyprus - or that they can get it cheaper if they wait. Perhaps Germany is running out of patience - and the funds - for bailing out governments that have deliberately mismanaged their economies. But then Cyprus may well be just one more chapter in a euro-zone disaster story that has no end in sight ...

tags: Cyprus, EU, bank, collapse, bailout, Russia, Germany

 

28-Mar-2013

No More Wednesdays ?

DozonCal2014BNow that the Mayan calendar has expired and faded from the headlines a new one is being promoted. And this one aims to both simplify and strengthen our day / week / month recording methods.

This renewed promotion of an old alternative calendar comes via the Dozons - numerologists favouring the number 12; its factors and multiples. Their spokesperson, Denzil, has issued a statement highlighting the benefits - all 12 months are fixed at 30 days, all months start on Mondays and weeks are just six days long. He also stressed that the length of each day and each year would remain unaffected. Because this calendar only has 360 standard days it has 5 extra days (6 in leap years) at the end of December . These are designated has holidays that can be used according to national practices. For the UK these days are expected to be named - Family Day (Famday), Community Day (Comday), Nations Day (Natday),  Facebook Day (Likeday) and Google Day (G’day) plus, of course, Leapday once every four years. [Two of the UK days being designated as corporate sponsors days in order to adopt a PFI approach]. As a consequence of the reduction of weeks from 7 days to just 6 the unpopular Wednesday would be no more.

How business and government will react to this shorter week is unclear but most trade unions are expected to be in support; especially with the increased number of weekends on offer - 60 instead of 52. However religious leaders are widely expected to oppose it. Denzil said that the numerology community would seek to avoid approval delays in the UK by taking their proposals directly to the EU. If approved in Brussels then the calendar would become mandatory across all EU states anyway - since this is an issue where the UK does not have a veto.

tags: calendar, shorter week, innovation

 

25-Mar-2013

Feedback

Broken Spring - a reader has pointed us to this article in The Independent from March 2000 - Snowfalls are now just a thing of the past - as an illustration of climate predications that were shown to be completely wrong.

We did try to trace more by the article’s author Charles Onians - but The Independent’s advanced search came back with Your search did not match any content. However, as it says in the article, the actual source of the prediction was Dr David Viner, senior research scientist at the University of East Anglia’s Climatic Research Unit - a unit famous for being cleared of fraud and scientific misconduct after being hacked in 2009.

But this did not prevent The Independent’s original article generating the headline Why British Climate Change Prophets Can’t be Trusted - at the Global Warming Policy Foundation in 2010.

tags: Points of View, lies, statistics, weather, predictions, forecasts, warming, cooling, bad

 

23-Mar-2013

Broken Spring

SnowTulipLast week it was the official start of spring and next weekend it’s the start of British Summer Time - yet on the ground it feels like mid-winter.

Not being a trained climatologist I cannot say why we are having such a long drawn out winter or what it might mean longer term. But having heard climate experts warn of an new ice age (in the 1970s) then the BBC telling us that the NHS would need more resources to cope with all the heat stroke victims (in the 1990s) I don’t have much faith in climate predictions.

Just a few years ago the panelists on Gardeners Question Time were advising us to plant exotic species in order to cope with the predicted heat and draughts.  But today Grandad’s tulips were sat under another blanket of snow. And the dead trunk of the neighbour’s cordyline reflects just how far from reality these expert predictions were.

So while we all have to pay more and more for gas, electricity, petrol, travel, food, etc in order to save the planet - the majority of the world just presses on regardless. It’s just not cricket, old boy ...

tags: weather, predictions, forecasts, warming, cooling, bad

 

21-Mar-2013

Questions, Questions

LogicallySpeakingScotland’s First Minister, Alex the First, today announced that 18-Sep-2014 will be the date that eligible residents are asked “Should Scotland be an independent country?”

So Grandad’s Vulcan analyst was again asked to comment. “Well, Jim, the date of the referendum seems immaterial considering the lack of logical completeness of the actual question - as I pointed out before. However I am aware that I must make allowances for human weaknesses. And since the issue of governance by the European Union will require a further question a second referendum question should be asked on the same day. I say this because it would bring the complexity of the issues nearer to the level that can be handled by human logic. I would also recommend that all outlying regions put their own questions on regional independence at the same time - for the same reason.”

“However I must point out that my recommendations are based on your continued use of the democratic system. This is a risk-prone system - since humans have only limited logic processing powers and few have the knowledge to make informed decisions. The majority are, therefore, unaware of the consequences of their demands being met. So the responses to these referendum questions may prove to be less than ideal.”

tags: Scotland, vote, independence, logic, extra terrestrial, EU

 

20-Mar-2013

Property for Sale - Holiday Island In Prime Location

While the UK Budget was being announced, amidst the juvenile cat-calling that passes for debate these days, Cyprus was reported to be in discussions with Russia about a possible bailout.

Cyprus1These reports suggest that Gazprom, Russia’s state gas and oil giant, would refinance the insolvent Cyprus banks in exchange for the nation’s gas and oil rights. Since Gazprom can be considered a proxy for the Russian government you can see why this could dent the plans of the EU. Cyprus could become a new version of Cuba - under Russian influence yet sitting in the Med and within the eurozone. Cyprus would not be in debt to Brussels - or Berlin - but to Moscow. Also the Russian billions stashed in the island’s banks would be protected from any EU “haircuts”.

By using Gazprom Russia would have an indirect, commercial influence - so avoiding any military issues with Greece, Turkey and the UK troops based there. They would also avoid direct political contact with Brussels - even though the EU would be far from happy. As others have already commented - Russia would get the oil and gas rights, a sunny place for holidays and gain control of some euro-based banks. Nice one!

Meanwhile back at the Westminster village the yokels are still discussing the boost to the economy of no-change to petrol duty and 1p off a pint of beer ...

tags: Cyprus, EU, bank, collapse, bailout, Russia

 

13-Mar-2013

Still Powerless

It’s nearly two months since the previous energy generation posting - and it’s still snowing here - so our consumption of gas and electricity is unabated. And even though the government seems prepared to spend 34,000 million on high-speed railway lines - there are still no firm plans to build the power stations needed to keep the nation’s lights on; or even power the proposed high-speed trains.

Nearertozero_200Back down at Grandad level the idea of a community wind generator has been shot-down by a combination of cost, risk and a lack of belief. So with wind, water and solar all dismissed what’s left? The only remaining option seems to be - use less energy. And for the average home this, most likely, leaves just the option of improving insulation and using lower energy appliances.

Moving to a more efficient home is the alternative. And, ideally, all new homes now on the market should have a low, or even zero, carbon footprint. Back in 2006 the UK Government  announced plans to make all new homes zero carbon by 2016. The plans aimed to encourage property developers to improve the energy efficiency of buildings as well as providing designs that minimised energy consumption. And Gordon Brown stated that it would eventually become compulsory for new buildings to be zero carbon and that the UK would be leading the way in the take-up of green homes.

But six years into this ten year plan and a trip around any new housing development will show little sign of homes being any nearer to zero than in 2006. In fact developers seem obsessed by reducing the physical footprint of our homes rather than taking steps to improve their carbon footprint. Instead they have directed their energies into lobbying the government for watered down targets.

We are not, it seems, waiting for any new technology to make low-energy homes available to the mass market - but it does seem that developers consider energy-efficiency not to be a good enough selling point. So it’s likely that the government’s lofty ideals will get no further than to a few more regional conferences - and lots more hot air.

tags: solar, wind, power, electricity, generation, turbine, cost

 

8-Mar-2013

More BBC Grumbles

First it’s the choice of Bonnie Tyler as the UK’s representative for the finals of the Eurovision Song Contest in May. Good luck Bonnie - you’ll need it.

EurovisionSong2013_160It's a heartache
Nothing but a heartache
Hits you when it's too late
Hits you when you're down

It's a fool's game
Nothing but a fool's game
Standing in the cold rain
Feeling like a clown

Then it’s the final two parts of the current Top Gear series - which offer yet another variation on a tired and often repeated script (episodes 6 and 7 of series 14). The final part is not due until Sunday but already anybody who has seen any of the 13 earlier series will know what is going to happen.

GearStooges_270The three ageing idiots (called boys by the BBC!) were given three unsuitable cars and sent out to wreck them by driving through some exotic places. Not only has the story line lost any impact but it has become more and more obvious that the cars (and increasingly their drivers) only make any forward progress through the efforts of the support teams standing just off-camera.

So will a BMW, a Subaru with a chair on the roof and a Volvo make it to the source of the Nile? Who cares? One thing is sure - series 14 will make another profit for BBC Worldwide. And equally surely that profit won’t reduce our TV Tax - since the BBC keep it for themselves. And now the BBC web site (publicly funded of course) even provides direct links to repeats on Dave, the commercial channel 50% owned by the BBC. It all helps the profits ...

The final words go to the Dave TV web site that headlines - “Top Gear was once the programme your dad would force everyone to watch”. Amen and cue Bonnie to sing us out.

tags: BBC, taxation, subsidising, commercial, Eurovision, Top Gear, stooges, repeat, tired

 

5-Mar-2013

Pain in the .. Phone

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All of these messages are unsolicited cold calls sent as sms texts to just one person! All are quite obviously lies since the grandad involved had never taken out any PPI policies. But then the people sending them already know they are lies.

Man1These particular examples are for payment protection insurance (PPI) but there are other frequent cold callers. “Unlock your frozen pension prior to 55” and “.. those with unsecured debts of 5k or more can apply to have 70% legally written off” are two more with high volumes. And it’s not just texts, similar cold calls are going out as recorded messages to land lines and mobiles. These spammers are hitting some victims many times a day - even those registered with the TPS.

The best advice is - do not reply (even with stop) or pick up the call. Instead report them to anybody that will listen ...

tags: nuisance, mobile, phone, call, text, ineffective, controls, who calls me

 

4-Mar-2013

Sat-Nav Obsolescence

It’s years since I was last in Glasgow by car but recently I needed to find my way to a couple of places in the suburbs. No problems - just follow my reliable Garmin sat-nav. But things went badly wrong. A combination of road closures and new roads not shown on the Garmin maps made for a less than smooth journey. So it was time to get a map update to avoid these problems next time.

Connecting my 2010 Garmin sat-nav to the web, via USB, was not a problem - but when a request for 75  appeared (for life time updates) it was clearly time for some second thoughts. Man2Checking on Amazon it was easy to find similar Garmin sat-navs (with current Europe wide maps) selling for 80. But better still - ones with lifetime map updates included were available for 100. These newer models also had the extra feature of traffic alerts.

But plenty of grandads will be reluctant to replace a gadget whose only fault is that its software is not up-to-date. However Garmin’s pricing policies make buying a new sat-nav the most economic solution; even if it’s not the best for the environment. Now if they were canny Garmin would cut their map update price to no more than say 25 - and get their PR team to promote it has a green initiative. But that’s a big if ..

tags: satnav, wrong route, maps, updates, obsolete, planned

 

3-Mar-2013

Best Defence ?

With the March Budget approaching government departments are trying to duck the inevitable cuts. The latest Ministry claiming an exemption is Defence. Taking the position they have already been cut and there are no more savings to be made. Yet there are still some major defence expenses that would seem hard to justify in the eyes of the average tax payer.

One obvious example is the stationing of British troops in Germany. Now this was a good idea straight after the war. And in 1945 the British Rhine Army (BAOR) was established. Then Germany was split first by the occupying powers and later by the Iron Curtain. But this major portion of the British army - along with the RAF - was still there in the 1990’s. At least in 1993-4 the personnel numbers were reduced. The forces were cut by 30,000 and renamed British Forces Germany. Despite this there were still over 20,000 troops serving  in Germany in 2012 (plus another 20,000 civilians and families).

Could ending this remnant of the second world war save us any money - especially if troops were not retired but simply relocated?  According to a 2004 BBC report, having the British Army based in Germany added 1,500 million euros to the local German economy - every year. That’s a heck a lot of money that could have been spent in the UK instead. However now the days of BFG are numbered - despite German businesses wanting the UK military to stay (and spend).

Once our troops finally do come home that will, hopefully, end this remnant of 1940’s occupation - but there are plenty more defence costs that seem equally hard to justify; Afghanistan being just one. But whatever gets agreed by Budget Day it seems likely that it will be a case of too little, too late - as so many Government plans are these days.

tags: budget, defence, spending, efficiency, whitehall

 

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