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Friday, 29 May 2015

Just Kidding

What a let down. Captain Kidd the pirates fabled treasure, the one that inspired the book 'Treasure Island' and the character 'Long John Silver' turns out to be one measly silver bar weighing 50kg. It was recovered from the wreck of his pirate ship, off the shores of Sainte Marie island in Madagascar territory.

No caskets of rubies, no millions in doubloons, no ingots of Spanish gold .... just a rather tatty, inscribed silver bar.

Kidds Silver ....

History Soon Forgets

This picture is from an advertising campaign run by a Chinese Smart-phone manufacturer, LeTV ..... Obviously it features Adolf Hitler, with Apple's logo in the place of a swastika on his armband. 

LeTV Hitler Advert ....

Nothing New Under The Sun

Rajendra Singh, is dubbed "the Water Man of India" because of his campaigns to try and 'convert the war on water, into peace' .... and none too soon. It's expected that by 2030 AD, 50% of the worlds population could be in water stressed areas (and that by the way includes citizens of the US, Europe and Australia). Although there is over a billion trillion litres of water on the globe, over 97% of the water on Earth is salt water ... so a much slimmer 3% of the potable stuff about.

In order to lead his war he's adopted what's described as an 'old Indian technique' of ploughing in ridges and furrows, which are cut on the perpendicular to the flow of water such as flash floods, rain run-off and temporary streams .... these furrows prevent the water just simply running away, but rather cause the water to pool and then sink into the ground, where it replenishes the ground water supplies which fills wells. The results of this is the returns of forests, wildlife, and fertility to areas that had long been semi-arid, or even deserts.

Now he has won a 'water Oscar' award from Stockholm International Water Institute for his work .... and good on him. However for the sake of factuality it should be pointed out that much the same water management techniques have been used since time immemorial, in all those areas around the world where water has been in limited supply. The ancient Sabeans built the Marib Dam in their land in modern day Yemen (the old Sheba of Queen of Sheba fame).

The Incas Practised Water Management In The Mountains

Two Bald Men Fighting Over A Comb

What a vaguely ridiculous old man the Labour MP Dennis Skinner has threatened to become. When he entered politics he was a left wing firebrand, who after working in the coal mines, rose to become a NUM leader (compare and contrast with the backgrounds of the current contenders for the Labour party leadership). When he became an Member of Parlament in 1970, he demanded that MP's get paid only what a working man got paid.

Nicknamed 'The Beast of Bolsover', I half admired his convictions (he often donated his MP wages to union causes), if not his left wing politics, which even his colleagues in a much more socialist Labour party, would ignore. Nowadays though, the fig leaf of being a leading figure on the 'loony left' has been stripped away, and now he's just a leading loo ... err, anyway, he wanted the other Milliband to become Leader, and may be a bit of a hypocrite.

I say that because, he is 83 years old, and still grimly hanging on to his Westminster seat. This after years of telling everyone that he would retire aged 65 like a worker would do. He once said that upon reaching the age of retirement, 65, he would retire so as to “not take another man’s job”, however he stood again in 1997 and has carried on doing so, including this year .... so he's now taken half another man's career.

No doubt he has convinced himself that his experience as an 'elder statesman', would be gravely missed by a distraught nation if he should leave his spot. Or perhaps he just can't bear the idea that if he retired, he would no long be at the centre of the nation's political heart. In any case he is still there, nearly 20 years later. Only now he no longer worries about the Tory content of the Queens Speech ... no, now he has "bigger fish to fry".

The Beast In His Usual Seat ... And Usual Form.

Friday, 22 May 2015

Lost and Found

In a way that neatly illustrates that we are not as clever by half as we think we are .. a couple of statues have now been re-attributed as being the only surviving bronzes by Michelangelo.

I say re-attributed, because art experts in the in the 19th century has been happily convinced that that was exactly what they were, but 20th century art scholars, with that intellectual arrogance and historical revisionism that they have so often portrayed, dismissed this idea, and instead attributed them to an almost unknown Dutch sculptor Willem Danielsz Van Tetrode .... on what grounds its hard to say.

One glance suggests that these are not run of the mill statues by a lesser sculptor, but hey that's what the expert scholars thought, so who was to argue.

Michelangelo's Statues or Dutch Nobodies?

Wacko In Waco (part 2)

In another one of those strange coincidences which we have discussed before, the news in the UK was full of tales of the latest results of a bloody biker battle in ..... Waco Texas. This barely a week after I had discussed strange political goings on surrounding that location.

The reports were that nine people were killed, 18 injured and at least another 170 arrested (bail being set bail set at $1 million), and over 300 weapons retrieved, after a shoot-out between rival biker gangs, the Bandidos and the Cossacks in Waco, Texas, in a sort of territory war ... it was apparently provoked over parking spaces in the bar car park. The fight started with punches and then escalated to chains, clubs, knives and finally firearms, with over 100 rounds of ammunition fired off. One officer on the radio reports said that it was the worst incident of its kind that he had seen in over 34 years of Texas law enforcement.

Eerie Indiana Is Rivalled By Waco Texas For Strangeness

What gave this its Eerie in Indiana element was that the battle took place in the Twin Peaks Sports Bar and Grill .... I understand from its Wiki page, that the attraction of this particular chain of sports bars may hold to bikers is that it is known for having its waitresses dress in revealing uniforms that consist of cleavage- and midriff-revealing red plaid tops, as well as khaki short shorts ... the 'Twin Peaks' are presumably in the cleavage. But of course to those of us less inclined towards 'Hogs and Ho's', Twin Peaks conjures up a different image.

The Passing of A Great Kuan

Even in democracies, there are often politicians who are greater than the normal run of the mill. Some such as Winston Churchill are recalled for one specific moment in time, on which their colossus status is secured. Others such as Margaret Thatcher and Indira Ghandi, are recalled for their sheer ability to win elections, and provoked as much controversy after they died, as they did when they were alive.

One politician managed to span both role of national icon and controversial elected leader .... The great Kuan .... well actually Lee Kuan Yew of Singapore, the passing of whom on the 23rd  of March this year provoked the same sort of responses as Mrs Thatcher did in the UK .... but of course he was also the nations founder and great helmsman, so had a measure of sainthood that Mrs Thatcher never had. Though, like all these politicians mentioned they both got similar funerals.

Mr Lee's State Funeral With Vast Crowds

Thursday, 21 May 2015

School For Scoundrels

Teachers cheating to get better results for their pupils is probably nothing new ... after all early in the Western tradition, teachers were often paid only on results.

In ancient Greek and Roman times, a teacher would often stand in a market or open area, and discourse on a subject, hoping to get a meagre payment from a collection at the end of the lesson. In many respects this was little different from story telling, from which it undoubtedly derived. If he could attract enough followers or pupils, he might open his own school of teaching, ranging from mathematics, oratory and public speaking, through to law, geography or philosophy. This new school may well have still be in the open air, but under a tree or shelter (lighting and summer heat being a big factor).
 
During the early middle ages in Europe, non religious teaching lost so much prestige as a profession, that travelling teachers would flock around centres of learning such as Paris and Oxford, looking for paying pupils .... it wasn't completely unknown for the paying pupil to chastise and beat the teacher if unhappy with their performance (although normally it was the other way around, with 'teachers' often stereotyped as a sadistic tyrants). The arrival of 'grammar schools' (such as those attended by a certain Mr Shakespeare) for craftsmen's children e.g. boys nicknamed "Carpenter's Children", set the teacher back on the road to respectability.

Gradually, in the West, teaching regained its role and prestige and by the high Victorian era teachers were respected and comparatively well paid members of society. It was a male role for male students in most 'public' (meaning private fee) schools, but with the factories needing literate workers for the machines, state schooling started to develop for workers children up until basic level (aged 14 at maximum), and this opened up the profession to women as well.

This led us into modern times, when certainly after 1945, schooling up until age 16 for both sexes was a legal requirement in most of North America, and Western and Central Europe, and this spread to all the colonies as well, certainly for the white settlers, and then for many of the natives as well. So that in modern times, again in the Western tradition, teacher probity around examinations was considered to be the absolute minimum standard required.

Schools For Scoundrels Are Not A New Concept

Saturday, 16 May 2015

Gagging Windbags

In Kenya a recent dispute between the major TV companies and the Government  over moving TC broadcasting from analogue to digital transmissions (the companies want more time), led to the proceedings in the Kenyan parliament not being broadcast on public TV (just on radio).

Apart from the blessing of not having hours of TV showing a bunch of ill mannered and overpaid politicians physically fighting ....

Kenyan MP's Fighting Is A Common Sight On TV ....

Bald's Eye Salve And Other Ointments

Anglo Saxons were not as ignorant as we once thought. While the later Middle Ages doctors moved into quackery, the early Middle Ages, under the Anglo-Saxons saw a far different approach. The latest studies suggest that the Anglo-Saxon healers (usually monks or friars ... think Cadfeal) were using observational experimentation to determine the effectiveness of their cures.

'Bald's Leechbook'

Patent Fraud

In China corruption doesn't stop when you are imprisoned ..... For reasons that seem strange to our eyes, the Chinese have an 'innovations scheme', which guarantees criminal prisoners, consideration for instant prison term commuting, if they are the inventor of an important technical innovation.

Some intellectual property agents openly advertise their services to prisoners, and to match a specific prisoner to an appropriate innovation, which is most likely to get them released early if they claim to have invented and then patented the innovation.

These Boys Need To Get Their Thinking Caps On

Super Rich Feasting On Us All

Every few years of so, there is a declaration by one organisation or another (Oxfam, or the Credit Suisse bank for example), that all the worlds wealth is falling in to the hands of the few, at the expense of the many. And while this is certainly true in a literal sense, its also compounded by factors that make it seem harsher than reality.  

This year, Oxfam have updated their report of last year that the 85 richest people on the planet have the same wealth as the poorest 50% (3.5 billion people). Now the figure has risen (or fallen depending upon your point of view), to the 80 richest people, having the same wealth as the poorest 50%.

According to their calculations, pretty soon the wealthiest 1% will also soon own more than the rest of the world's population combined, with their research indicating that the total share of the world's wealth owned by the richest 1%, increased from 44% in 2009,  to 48% last year, and that its expected that the wealthiest 1% will own more than 50% of the world's wealth by 2016.

Even outside the top 1%, global inequalities indicate that of the wealth not owned by the richest 1%,  52% is owned by those in the richest 20%. So the remaining 80% of the worlds population, accounts for just 5.5% of global wealth, and their average wealth was $3,851 (£2,544) per adult in 2014. That compares to an average wealth of $2.7m per adult for the elite 1%.

These figures are obtained by the simple method of totalling up the total wealth that was attributed to the poorer half of the world's population - less than 1% of the world's wealth, about $1.7tn (£1tn) via GDP reports etc. The by using the 'Forbes Rich List', and adding up all the wealth of the top billionaires until the figure of 1.7 trillion US dollars was achieved .... this was reached when adding the assets of the 85th richest person in the world (according to Forbes). Using a similar method for the UK (Forbes and The Times Rich List), you get the figure that the five richest families, have more wealth than the poorest 20%.

The idea that these super-rich individuals have so much wealth that it's making half the world poor is actually nonsense, as their wealth is not sitting in money piles in banks, its actually shared in physical factories, mines, agriculture, banking, shipping, stocks and shares etc, and its what employs people. In other words the idea of the rich just taking is a very simplistic world view .....

Even within these reports, its not all gloom and doom, as although this latest report echoes earlier reports, such as that by the Credit Suisse bank, there are also differences (perhaps reflecting the political nature of the Oxfam report).

Where The Top 1% Live

Friday, 8 May 2015

Gone To The Dark Side

In a story that illustrates exactly what going to the Dark Side of the force really means (and that's not just breathing through a snorkel and saying 'The Force is strong with this one'), a man (or woman), dressed as Darth Vader held up the State Employees Credit Union in Pineville in North Carolina USA, this was in March 2015 ..... of course this was a serious matter, but no one was hurt in the incident, as the bank tellers wisely complied with his demands ... he or she got away in a grey Chevy Suburban.
 
Gone To The Dark Side

Strangely these Jedi gone bad stories are quite rare, and in fact there does seem to be a correlation between people in costume often acting in accordance with the attributes of characters they are dressed as .... or the complete opposite.

I just have a terrible soft spot for them, so they get immortalised in this blog whenever I come across them.

Skeletons Out Of The Cupboard

When the Police at the La Paz County Sheriff’s office received a report of human remains being spotted on a river bed, by a snorkeller in the area of Cienega Springs, Arizona, they had to investigate. So they duly despatched the Buckskin Fire Department dive team, who checked what was considered to be a credible report.

But they were not expecting what they actually found .... which was that there were two fake skeletons, apparently having a tea party underwater. The County Sheriff’s office posted a video from a member of the dive team, with the two fake skeletons sitting in lawn chairs at the bottom of the river.

“Although the call itself was genuine, the skeletons weren't" said the Sheriff’s office.


...... and the only clue ......

Night Of The Long Knives

With David Cameron's out of the blue election win, the crushing of Scottish Labour, and the immediate resignation of Ed Milliband, Nigel Farage, and Nick Clegg as leaders of their respective parties, it could be that we have seen the nearest we have ever had to a Night Of The Long Knives in domestic politics. And talking of 'respect' .... another leader was also lost when George Galloway of the 'Respect Party' had his ass kicked by an Asian female Labour candidate Naz Shah, who said she was glad to see him gone. She thanked all her opponents  ... "with the exception of one" ... "To Mr Galloway I say that your campaign demeaned our democracy but personal attacks on me have not worked. The people of Bradford West have seen through this and you have been sent on your way.” 

Whether it was his ex 'wives', or Naz Shah and her friends, George was taking no chances!

Wacko Waco

I am not saying that the inhabitants of the great state of Texas are just little bit to the right of Attila the Hun, but, when the Republican state governor Greg Abbott issued a directive instructing the Texas State Guard to monitor forthcoming Federal military exercises, operation name 'Jade Helm 15', which are scheduled to begin in Texas in July, it brought a new meaning to the 'Watch the Feds' paranoia of the 'T Party' ideology.

Apparently these impending exercises drew concerns from certain political groups in the Republican Party, namely that the Federal government could be about to implement martial law, or confiscate citizens guns, both 'no no's' in the far right groups world. These fantastical ideas swept social media and apparently spooked the governor .... although why the Feds should be thought to be contemplating these unconstitutional actions I don't know.

Well Founded Fears or Right Wing Paranoia?

Now I am all for rugged conservative individualism, and also for keeping the dead hand of Federal intervention at arms length. But the idea that the US army is actually the long arm of communism, is rather taking the idea of a state conspiracy, to a level that we have not formerly seen, even on the far edges of what passes for normal politics elsewhere.

State Versus Federal Forces Not A New Story In South

The Shape Of Elections To Come

Post Election postscript .... one story that captured my attention, and which I saw little reporting on in the non right-leaning press, was that in the area of Cardiff called 'Grangetown', ISIS supporters put up posters warning Muslims not to vote in the UK general elections (it was alleged that on election day, similar posters appeared in Tower Hamlets .... wonder who could be responsible for that?).


Friday, 1 May 2015

Pond Life

I have set myself a bank holiday project for May, which is to build a small pond in my back garden.

My Pond For Frogs

This is not some sort of Coy Carp or Goldfish vanity project you understand, but rather to create a 'natural' pond for the frogs that inhabit my garden in increasing numbers. This sudden increase from nearly zero, to a dozen or so, is I believe, due to the ever increasing habitat pressure, as gardens get built over and more people get dogs.

So in something of a measure of atonement for my childhood, when I was responsible for numerous froggy deaths out of a fatal (for the frogs and newts), attraction by the younger me, for amphibious life, I have bent my back, and opened my wallet.

I Woke Up From A Nightmare, Only To Find 'The Frog King' Really Was The Final Judge .....

Maybe now, the 'King Of The Frogs' will not be standing next to Saint Peter, waiting to judge me at the pearly gates.

Funny Lingo

The reason why the English (well native British, and descendent Yanks, Aussies, and Kiwis), struggle to get their brains and lips, around a foreign language (particularly a Latin based one such as French, Spanish or Italian), has long baffled linguists.

They often have subscribed to the idea that native English speakers are too lazy, and that having the rest of the world learning English as their second language, either by force in colonies, or for economic reasons such as trading with the British Empire and US economies, has created the idea that they need not bother themselves to learn another language.

But having recently brushed up my French (rather unsuccessfully I might add), then turning my attention to Spanish as a change, I have my own theory now.

Around 800 years ago, when our Norman overlords were strutting about, and spouting their 'courtly' Norman /French at each other, the native English were left largely to their own unlettered ways.

Two Worlds, Two Languages And Two Outcomes .....

Mission To The Stars

There is a lot of activity in space at the moment ....

Around the planet Mercury, the resilient probe of the Messenger mission, that has circled that planet since 2011, has crashed into Mercury at a very great speed (8,750mph or 14,000km/h - covering 2.4 miles (3.9km) every second), sometime yesterday. I say resilient, as it was never expected to last more than a couple of years, but somehow, through clever use of fuel (despite orbiting on the ecliptic, which means it has to use fuel to keep in that orbit), it has managed to orbit over 3,000 times, and in the process, thrown much of what we thought we knew about this planet into the garbage bin .... perhaps the most surprising fact is that it found water ice in the dark polar craters (which perhaps suggests that Mercury started life much further out from the Sun).

Meanwhile, much closer to home, in fact in near Earth orbit, the Russians have lost control of an unmanned ferry for the International Space Station ..... its expected to crash back to Earth also in the next few days. When we say 'crash', there's no need to duck as it predicted to burn up when it hits the atmosphere .... well mostly.

Mercury Rising

Scotland's Only Choice

The very latest polls suggest that the Scottish National Party will win all 51 Westminster Parliamentary Seats in the General Election. This could well be the final proof, that the decision by the Labour Party under Tony Blair, to needlessly open up the Scottish Devolution question in the 1997 general election, was probably the most catastrophic political miscalculation of all time!

So as we ignored them in an earlier post, we at PC Towers have cast our beady eyes over the Scottish runners and riders, only to find that although Alex Salmond, fresh from his failure on the Scottish Independence referendum, is the leader of the SNP Westminster bid, he has been totally eclipsed (to the point of oblivion), by the new leader of the SNP in Holyrood, Nicola Sturgeon, who has dominated the electoral discussions, and even took part in the 'massdebate' (minus David Cameron), even though she is not actually standing for a Westminster seat.

One Of These Rules Scotland ... But All Are Not Standing For A Westminster Seat

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A middle aged orange male ... So 'un' PC it's not true....