Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category

Happy birthday Helen Szamuely!

June 25, 2017

Happy birthday Helen Szamuely. You got to see both of your life’s works achieved, proving that in your case, “a life in politics is NOT doomed to end in failure” . How typical that you’d contradict Enoch Powell in the process!
The USSR is gone, UK Independence Day was one year and two days ago. Brian Micklethwait once described the job of the Libertarian Alliance in the Cold War as “making it end in victory at least 15 seconds sooner” .
You saved us all a lot of time!
Thanks! I shall toast your life’s work on this beautiful Sunday. Wish you were here.

“OK. Let’s go”

May 30, 2017

It’s been a while.

I’ve had writer’s block for most of the last decade, which was a challenge for a freelance writer and MBA student.

Alcoholics Anonymous has an invitation read out at the beginning of every meeting, which includes this sentence:

“We have learned that the reasons for the illness are unimportant.”

In the original text, it stands alone, to emphasise the point.

A problem of atheistic humanism is that, if one recognises free will, one tends to search for causes to our problems where they cannot be found (determinist theists have the same problem, but with a lazy or wicked God as the culprit). A perfectionist has it worst of all: everything has to be meticulously analysed BEFORE any positive action can begin.

Looking for the cause of a problem is usually a good way to start finding a solution. For instance, an allergy to peanuts explains the swelling of the oesophagus, so stay away from them in future. 

But ignoring a patient thrashing around on the floor who is suffocating whilst looking at allergy test results isn’t medicine (except in the NHS, yes I’ve seen this sort of thing, more than once).

So about a year ago, I decided to write some book reviews, here and/or on Amazon, to get back into writing.

What could possibly go wrong?

What happened was this SUPERB review of David Fischer’s 900-page history of English migration to the USA Albion’s Seed by Scott Alexander.

I may sometimes have problems accurately estimating the quality of my writing (over- and under-estimating my skill). But in this case I know when I’m a Polish torpedo boat up against the Bismarck.

I used to play Alpha Centauri, a computer game about the colonization of its namesake star system. One of the dynamics that made it so interesting was its backstory, where a Puerto Rican survivalist, an African plutocrat, and other colorful characters organized their own colonial expeditions and competed to seize territory and resources. You got to explore not only the settlement of a new world, but the settlement of a new world by societies dominated by extreme founder effects. What kind of weird pathologies and wonderful innovations do you get when a group of overly romantic Scottish environmentalists is allowed to develop on its own trajectory free of all non-overly-romantic-Scottish-environmentalist influences? Albion’s Seed argues that this is basically the process that formed several early US states.

Mr Alexander proceeds to give an exhaustive analysis of four waves of migration, explaining almost everything about American society and politics, including the Donald Trump presidency. Which would be amazing enough, even if it didn’t tip me into predicting a Trump victory.

Whatever. Instead of (over)anlysing, I’m going to give it a go.


April 10, 2015

Just a short posting to record my current estimate of what will happen in the UK general election next month.

This will probably change but the best guess I have (most based on bookie quotes) is the following:
Conservative 285 seats.
Labour 270.
Scottish Nationalist 44.
Liberal Democrat 26.
Democratic Unionist 8.
Sinn Fein 5.
Party of Wales 3.
Social Democratic and Labour 3.
UK Independence 2.
Green 1.
Alliance 1.
Independent Unionist 1.
The Speaker 1.

The most obvious coalition would be Labour, SNP, Liberal Democrat (340 seats, a majority of 31).

But the one that actually works best would be the most devious. A Conservative-SNP coalition would have a 9 seat majority and could only have one agenda: Scottish independence, taking away a dozen Labour and three Tory seats.

Devious because Labour would point out that the SNP promised not to let the Tories back in. To which the answer would be “not in Scotland, we haven’t”. Devious also because the Tory party, which most benefits from Scottish independence, sees itself as defender of the Union.

Who wants the power, and how badly?

How likely would you be to recommend a friend or relative to visit the emergency ward of an NHS hospital?

October 28, 2014

Had to get an X-Ray today for an injured toe at the ***** **** Hospital in London. I wouldn’t have written about it, except I got a call asking for my satisfaction rating.

I scored 4 out of 5. Where “1” was “highly likely to recommend” and “5” was “highly unlikely to recommend” that hospital to friends and family.

BTW, what kind of a rating is that? In the National Health Service we don’t “recommend” a hospital for an emergency, it gets decided for us. Good luck Americans and French people, this is the future you’ve now voted for.

It was not as bad as my last visit (that time the staff tried to give a relative two doses of the same intravenous drug, didn’t want to know when I pointed out the duplication, and don’t seem to have bothered keeping a record of the incident), but shockingly poor organisation, as usual.

One staff (I don’t think health care professional titles are appropriate) was calling out patient names incorrectly: middle names instead of surnames (I’m not sure if she could understand when someone pointed this out to her). Three staff were trying to call the same person. A woman who was bleeding and afraid of losing her baby was essentially told to go in a corner and miscarry quietly, because the computer said “No”.

The “cleaner” would have been sacked by McDonalds. In fact, I’d rather eat of the floor in a McDonalds than walk barefoot in some NHS hospitals I could name.

Two staff had colds or the flu and were coughing on patients in the ER. I thought hospital staff with throat infections were supposed to stay away from patients. Silly me.

With all this in mind, I told the caller that in a life-threatening situation I would look for any alternative hospital if possible.

Anyhow, I was asked what I thought and gave it, with both barrels. I must say, the aftercare HAS improved a lot… I completely forgot all about my toe. Maybe I’m wrong, I should give the place a “1”.

One for Brian Micklethwait

August 15, 2013

I took this in Paris. One of the trio is 3,200 years older than the other two.

trio paris

Baffled by technology

July 4, 2011

The main reason blogging’s been light is that I’m shuttling between France and the UK with pay as you go SIM cards. I’m having trouble working out how to use wifi and my French SIM (SFR) won’t work at all outside France.

Merry Christmas

December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas!

The Phene(ix)

December 23, 2010

Delivering my last Christmas cards by hand tonight, I came across a welcome sight. The Phene, former drinking hole of George Best [video], has reopened after three and a half years.

The place closed down because people moved into the area and then tried to turn this corner of Chelsea into a mausoleum (estate agent-speak for a morgue).

I like the refurbishment. Much better seats quite busy on a Thursday evening. The London Pride’s ok, there is a deli counter and free wifi.

Liveblogging Iowa

January 4, 2008

Over at the Election Watch, I’m covering the Iowa caucus.

I think there’s a market for this

February 7, 2007

The nearly always superb Lifehacker has a health round-up.

Given the delay (and lack of privacy if the government can just take your medical records, sell them to election fund donors legitimate commercial interests, corrupt or lose them) of visits to the doctor’s surgery, is it surprising that there is a demand for this?