pixelated

(no subject)

Last week I poured the cremated remains of my father into a river. From there, that material will flow through the town he lived in, into the sea, and mix with the world ocean. The atoms that make up that matter began in the heart of a star, for a short time they were part of my father, next they will be sand, in time some may be taken up by plants and algae, some may go on to become part of some other creatures, some may be locked into rock.

In relatively few years, on the scale of history, the last living memories of my father will be lost as his grandchildren age and die. He won't be known for anything, his name won't live on in story or legend. However, his thoughts, his influence and his personality have flowed on into me and all others who knew him, and will be distributed, diluted to an undetectable, infinitesimal degree, for the indefinite future through humanity, for as long as that lasts.

It's not even a simulacrum of a mythical everlasting life; he's dead, his life has ended and conciousness ceased, there isn't a soul to live on. However, as the physical remains will distribute through the world, so will traces of who he was, even if nobody will ever know or be able to tell.

That's enough.

Bill Mobbs 1944-2015
pixelated

Moving house!

We're moving house soon… details to follow in a less public post, or email me.

However, we're getting rid of some bits and pieces of furniture that we hope not to have to take with us. Some of it isn't needed in the new house, some of it is still kicking around as duplicates since we moved in together 5 years ago.

Specifically:
Two assembled flat-pack pine wardrobes both in decent condition; one three-door fairly budget Argos, one reasonably-good-quality Ikea two door.
Ironing board.
Russell Hobbes cyclonic 2200W Vacuum cleaner.
Twoone used but serviceable electric lawn mowers. (One B&Q with a grass collection bucket, one low-end Flymo hover mower with plastic blades… it's small and light at least.)
Computer desk - assembled flatpack, multiple shelves, on wheels.
Black office chair.
White melamine bedroom flat-pack (several wardrobes, chest of drawers) - wardrobes disassembled, "fitted" sized wardrobes with a single chest of drawers.

All free, or next best offer.

If you want more details, ask.

If anybody can suggest a charity that'll take flatpack, that'd be great too.
pixelated

Married

I suppose I should say something in this largely neglected Livejournal. Alison and I got married last weekend, and it was a fantastic day. Thanks to all of you who came and helped us celebrate. We're currently sitting basking in the sun in the South-West of France (in the Corbières).

The day went mostly to plan, with only the slight glitch with coaches in the wrong place, dresses too long to do the first dance we practiced, coffee slightly hidden, and a wild over-estimation of the amount of beer that would be drunk. However, mostly it was great, the meal and venue were everything we hoped for, the cake was stunning, the rain held off for the reception at least, and I've ended up with a beautiful and clever wife (though to counter that, she is stuck with me).

Given we've been living together for the past four years, and are both keeping our names, it won't really mark a major change in day-to-day life. It does feel like it marks some sort of moment in a grander scale though.

Photos sets from
Tom:
http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151047742607429.486179.783247428&type=1&l=2827d886aa
Richard:
http://www.flickr.com/photos/32798409@N02/sets/72157630268276026/with/7434115824/
James:
https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10150859815091846.395100.587106845&type=3&l=19b5cf76dc
pixelated

(no subject)

This post will probably come across to SNP supporters as an attack on the party; it's not really intended as such, it's a reality check for non-Scottish idealists. I'm getting increasingly irritated by the frequency of comments that seem to view the SNP as a party who do no wrong. More often than not, these aren't from pro-SNP Scots, but from English disaffected by the discovery that the Lib Dems aren't going to deliver a Social Democratic utopia overnight.

There's a trend on the net of using the term "LibLabCon". If you think those three parties are the same, you may as well add SNP to that list. They're as much part of the Social Liberal consensus of British politics as any of the main UK parties, and that's not a bad thing. The SNP favour a regulated free market with social security, healthcare and education provided by the state, just like the Lib Dems, Tories and Labour ¹.

It's the Green supporters that particularly confuse me by considering the SNP to be on their side in a way that LD/Labour/Conservative aren't. The SNP favour strong economic growth, low levels of business regulation, investment in road infrastructure, investment in the oil industry, and the EU. The Greens er… don't in all cases. About their only common ground is investment in renewable energy, which is not all that radical considering Scotland's potential there.

The Social Democrat faction are also somewhat naive in their view of the SNP. They focus on the lack of student fees² and prescription charges. However, they tend to ignore the SNP's proposals for lowering corporation tax, reducing business rates and reduce business regulation; which are really not that different to the Conservative's. Until 2008 Alex Salmond was pushing Scotland's future as a low tax, low regulation finance center in Edinburgh, looking to Iceland and Ireland and strongly supporting RBS's disastrous take over of ABN Amro.

All that said, the SNP aren't particularly bad, but like other parties they exist in a real world of compromise, dodgy lobbying, and past cock-ups. Other than their clearly distinctive policy on Scottish Independence, they're very similar to the general UK political consensus. Like the other parties they have their own distinctive set of emphases, but they're not fundamentally all that different to the others.

¹ Yes, I am saying that all major parties believe this, even the Conservatives. The Coalition haven't privatised the NHS, higher education is still available to all subject to exam grades rather than wealth, social security spending is currently at an all-time high and forecast cuts will take it down to 2009 levels, not eliminate it. That's all also annoying me, but not the real point of this post.

² The credit for that one is shared; in 2000 the Lib Dems in coalition with Labour initially replaced student fees with an endowment to be paid after graduation. The SNP abolished the endowment in 2008.
pixelated

(no subject)

I've been reflecting on Scottish independence, and decided that my experiences relating to prejudiced nationalism in Scotland have been instrumental in shaping some core political views.

In general, I oppose nationalism and dislike the concept of the Nation-State. If there was a federal European state for Scotland to join as an semi-autonomous region, I'd almost certainly be in favour of it doing so. However, the alignment of the state with the nation is a poisonous anachronism that has no place in a modern globalised society ¹, and virtually any move toward that in a free state seems regressive. By all means hold onto whatever regional history and customs inform your identity, but don't make that part of your governance.

For the avoidance of doubt; my internationalism is firmly based on democratic free association. People living in a reasonably definable region² have every right to choose their association and governance, it shouldn't be enforced on them. I'm entirely happy with the idea of a Scottish independence referendum being held. I just think the vote should be "No".

¹ Where the larger state doesn't offer a good degree of freedom, it is probably better to be a free nation-state than part of an unfree federation. Free Tibet! (with every hackneyed joke).

² …obviously, that's the detail containing many of the devils.

(If anybody feels like playing a game of asking me what I think about many other national independence situations around the world and in history in the hope of catching me in an inconsistency with the above position, please don't. You probably will succeed but it'll be dull and take more time than I want to spend in the argument.)
pixelated

(no subject)

My previous post was, quite obviously, born out of irritation at the way political discourse still hasn't managed to get to grips with the idea of coalition.

The Lib Dems, after years of having no say at all in government, are making changes to policy. If anybody on the left of the spectrum doubts that, just go and read the screams of rage from the Conservative press and blogs, from both activists and MPs, about the Lib Dems. To get any policy though, they're voting for a lot of largely Conservative policies. That doesn't make them liars, traitors or stooges; it simply means they're working legislators who are trying to do what they can.

On the other side, the Conservatives didn't win the election, and really need to learn to live with that. They're not going to get everything they want, and have to compromise to get anything at all through or it won't happen. That means accepting Lib Dem influence in every bit of legislation they want to pass. In particular, it means living with the fact that the Right of the party doesn't have as much sway as they would in a narrow majority government.

On both sides, I suspect there's a fair degree of the grass roots keeping pressure up to ensure their side fights their corner hard.

I can appreciate the emotional view that would prefer the Lib Dems to just say "no" to everything they didn't like. However, that would likely have disastrous consequences for the Lib Dems in the long term, especially if they started doing it now after they've managed to get themselves blamed for the whole of the higher education funding changes. (Despite managing to reshape them into something close to the graduate tax that was policy all along. Shame it's a tax with a lifetime cap, but that's the compromise.)

Anyway...

As suggested by pseudomonas (obviously this is just an arbitrary and subjective quantification, but it might be amusing):

How much influence are the Lib Dems exerting on government (where 0 is none of their policy, 13 is pure Lib Dem policy)

Mean: 3.75 Median: 4 Std. Dev 1.92
0(0.0%)
0
0(0.0%)
1
1(12.5%)
2
1(12.5%)
3
1(12.5%)
4
4(50.0%)
5
0(0.0%)
6
0(0.0%)
7
0(0.0%)
8
1(12.5%)
9
0(0.0%)
10
0(0.0%)
11
0(0.0%)
12
0(0.0%)
13
0(0.0%)

How much influence should the Lib Dems be exerting on government (where 0 is none of their policy, 13 is pure Lib Dem policy)

Mean: 7.56 Median: 7 Std. Dev 3.30
0(0.0%)
0
0(0.0%)
1
0(0.0%)
2
0(0.0%)
3
1(11.1%)
4
0(0.0%)
5
2(22.2%)
6
1(11.1%)
7
2(22.2%)
8
0(0.0%)
9
1(11.1%)
10
0(0.0%)
11
0(0.0%)
12
0(0.0%)
13
2(22.2%)


The Lib Dems have 15.7% of the seats in government, 57 out of 363; and nationally got 39% of the votes cast for the Coalition parties, 6,836,824 out of 17,540,578. That's 2.04 and 5.07 on my scale, which goes to 13 to make those close to round numbers. I was going to make the scale go to 11, but thought that Spinal Tap references were more amusing than helpful.
pixelated

(no subject)

The Lib Dems are

simply enabling Tory policies.
14(73.7%)
exerting a massively disproportionate influence over government policy.
5(26.3%)



Radio buttons because those are the only two options I see in most blog and twitter posts.
pixelated

Lord, grant that Marshal Wade...

"The Jacobite Rising of 1745–6 proved to be the last attempt by the Stewart dynasty to regain the British throne from the Hanoverians. Following Culloden, fought just 8 miles (12km) from Fort George, the government introduced ruthless measures to prevent such a Rising happening again. Fort George was one of them
[…]
Fort George is the only property in the care of Historic Scotland still serving its original purpose."

http://www.historic-scotland.gov.uk/propertyresults/propertyabout.htm?PropID=PL_136&PropName=Fort%20George

(It's a stunning place to visit if you ever find yourself up in those parts.)
pixelated

(no subject)

Rather than a rant that's building and may eventually get posted, I'll post a bread recipe.

So, since getting a breadmaker a while ago, I've been experimenting in how to make good bread with it. Not just the ordinary fresh baked goodness that the recipes produce, but something that really tastes of Bread, with nice chewy middle and crunchy crust. I'm far too lazy to go out of my way with obsessive artisan baking rituals, so the following is a decent compromise being only a little more faff than normal breadmaker bread, but sufficiently tasty to warrant the hassle.

Start 12 hours before you want the bread to be baked (i.e. usually in the evening).

Put 210ml water in the bread pan
Add 1tsp salt
Put 300g of bread flour on top of the water.

In a separate bowl:
Dissolve 1tsp dried yeast in 100ml water
Add 150g flour
mix to a thick dough to form a pre-ferment

Put pre-ferment on top of flour in the bread pan.

Use French Bread programme (5 on the Kenwood). Set timer for 12 hours (± an hour or so doesn't seem to hurt).

That's it, no oil, no sugar. The yeast will work on the pre-ferment for about 8 hours before the kneading/baking programme starts, breaking it down into all those tasty complex sugars, and there will be enough active yeast in the pre-ferment to let the whole loaf rise. The recipe seems fairly sensitive to hydration levels, a 10% error in the amount of water seems to lead to Bad Things.

If anybody with one of the Panasonic bread makers feels like trying it, I'd be interested to know how well it works there.