Friday, 27 February 2009


I might have got this wrong but I thought that there was a limit to the size of a pension fund before tax is applied . The Pensions Advisory Service seem to be saying the same thing here. So does this mean that Sir Fred Goodwin has an arrangement that leaves him with £693,000 after the tax has been paid? In which case the situation is worse than it first appears.

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

Perfect Pancakes

I was going to point out how stupid this formula is and how it demeans science but others have done it better than I could so I urge you to read this.

Tuesday, 24 February 2009

LDV Vans

Ever since the government bailed out Northern Rock I have pondered whether this was a good way to reduce the impact of the banking crisis. When the automotive manufacturers came asking for money, I pondered some more. In both cases my natural free-market inclinations inclined me to believe that letting them fail is the best route. However, I am very aware that I do not have all the facts to hand with which I could make a considered decision. This is more than adequately demonstrated by the story behind LDV vans which I learnt here. Have a read and see what you think.

Friday, 20 February 2009

A small recess opening off a larger room

As I walked to the train station this morning I looked at the large, possibly between-war, houses that line the south side of the Oxford Road. Each house is different but they share some aspects of their design. Clearly, they all have roofs, doors and windows but the also all had a bay window. Which set me wondering why? Why do so many houses have them and why were they created in the first place? The more you look at them the more they defy explanation.
I was going to leave this blog at that but I looked up the definition of bay and was fascinated to discover that define one of the meanings of bay as 'an indentation of a shoreline larger than a cove but smaller than a gulf.' Isn't that just fantastic? I never suspected that cove, bay and gulf could be listed in order of size.

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

People Watching

My normal commute is a drive along the M4 with a mix Radio 4 and Radio Berkshire for company. Human interaction is, therefore, passive. This week I am commuting to Hammersmith and I get to travel on public transport. I love it. I can read whilst someone else worries about getting me to me destination. Not only that I can look at people. This is an activity that is endlessly rewarding, I just don't get an opportunity to do normally. This morning was even more rewarding than usual. A young lady sitting a few seats down on the train had what appeared to be an involuntary, repetitive action for which, I am sure, there must be a proper medical term. Every so often her left hand would stray to her hair and she would twiddle it, then she would pull the strand across her lips then across the skin above her upper lip and then let it go. This was performed twice with hair from the left side and then twice with hair from the right side of her head. How absolutely fascinating. I am afraid I couldn't stop watching this performance.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009


The BBC informs me here that "£165m will be paid out of a profit share scheme to 80,000 front line staff." Now I reckon there must be something missing in this story because I know that the people in question work for a bank that announced a £28 billion loss last month.

Keep Calm and Carry On

It would appear that those of us that worry about our liberties being eroded are not paranoid. No less a person than Dame Stella Riddington, the former head of MI5, has said in an interview with a Spanish newspaper that “It would be better that the Government recognised that there are risks, rather than frightening people in order to be able to pass laws which restrict civil liberties" , see here.
Whilst we wait for the political consensus to swing back to our way of thinking we could do worse than encourage politicians to follow the edict illustrated on this wartime poster. It would seem from the article that even in the second world war politicians did not have the courage of their apparent convictions since they pulped the entire print run although Mr. Manley, the owner of the poster, is more generous because he believes that "It was never distributed because things never got bad enough." Since Mr. Manley has decided to reproduce it on mugs, T-shirts, mouse mats, tea towels, postcards and a facsimile poster, available from here, I suggest we buy copies and encourage others to do the same. At worst it will make us feel better and at best the sentiment might catch on.

Monday, 16 February 2009

Where are the howls of indignation?

A further erosion in our civil liberties takes place today as new counter-terrorism laws come into effect. Under the new Counter-Terrorism Act it is an offence to take pictures of officers "likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism." We all know that that now means that we can never take pictures of the police. Not a big deal you might think but why the hell can we not take pictures of the police? The are our servants. Have you heard of an atrocity that has occurred because pictures of the police were taken? No, neither have I.
I despair of this country.

Friday, 13 February 2009


I went to the Royal Berks yesterday for an ultrasound scan of my liver. Apart from the abysmally designed car parking facilities which resulted in me arriving only ten minutes before my appointment rather than the fifteen that had been requested, it went well. I followed the signs to the X-ray department without any problem as the letter has explained that that was where the ultrasound department resided. I checked in at the reception, I walked down to the smaller waiting room when I was asked to, I waited until I was called and then I obediently exposed my midriff to the nurses probing. Twenty minutes later I was out. Everybody that I had dealt with had been pleasant and courteous. I would have preferred not to have had to wait in a small room with a number of other people but that is my problem not one for the NHS. So nothing remarkable then except when one reads blogs like this. I don't know how they manage.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Turning Wine into Water

The EUs tendrils creep a lot further into our daily life than we imagine. It transpires that there is an official designation for what can be called wine. As is always the case defining something like this is not easy. More often than not it seems to result in an unintended consequences. The need to define what is a cake comes about from the fact that cakes are zero-rated for VAT whilst chocolate covered biscuits are not. This led to a 13 year long dispute between Marks and Spencer and HMRC over the tax status of M&S chocolate teacakes, see here, which was only resolved last week.
Today we have reports of the EU example regarding wine, see here. Is it wine or isn't it? I think it is and I also think that the law, which increasingly means the Eu, is an ass.

Free Speech

I am not sure why this is not splashed across the front pages of all the newspapers but I think it is a clear indication of how this country has lost its way when it comes to standing up for those principles I was bought up to respect such as the right to free speech. Refusing entry to this country to a politician from another EU country is not what I expect my government to be doing.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Fitness to Practise

Reading blogs elsewhere led me to this which is a list of all the hearings at the GMC during February which will be investigating allegations questioning a Doctors fitness to practise. It is not as many people as one first thinks. Closer inspection reveals that the Doctors are 'striped' across the week so, for example, Dr Valentine EDEMA-ROSE is listed every day from 2nd to 13th February. It is still an awful lot more Doctors than I thought there would be. It is a good job that there is not an equivalent council for computer programmers, they would be booked up until the end of the decade.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Who am I?

I am not keen on the proposed ID card so it was with some amusement that I discovered that the identity card scheme seems to have a serious flaw in its implementation. ~As revealed by an FOI request by it transpires that although we have already spent £4,700,000,000 on producing ID cards there are no card readers. Not only that there is no budget for the card readers. Does this make sense to you?

Thursday, 5 February 2009


I have been inconvenienced by the snow on three occasions already this week so I have first hand experience about how this country seems to be incapacitated by a snow fall. There have also been many comments in the newspapers, on the television and on the radio about how we seem to be dis-proportionally affected by it but, for me, the best comment on all this comes from Frank Chalk under the title Let's Grind To a Halt.