Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Potatoes Sown and Idea # 110 is Democracy

Asparagus popping out.
Some good news, having reported that my previous plantings of Asparagus had not amounted to anything on closer inspection I see that at least two of them are doing just fine, perhaps others will spring to life too.
Yesterday I also decided was a good day for sowing the main crop potatoes they're Maris Pipers (as last year) a nice potato that can be Chipped, Roasted or Mashed.

Idea 110 Democracy

Democracy is all about  government   in which all eligible citizens have a supposedly equal say in the decisions that affect their lives.
It is defined as

  Government by the people, exercised either directly or through elected representatives.
 A political or social unit that has such a government.
The common people, considered as the primary source of political power.
 it enables majority rule.
 and in it are the principles of social equality and respect for the individual within a community
Mr C
The first practical example of democracy emerged in 6th Century BC Athens and although this was considered a  Democracy women and slaves did not actively participate as they were not eligible. Rome too had a democracy of a kind (509-27 BC) and in this form even a Plebeian voice was heard. After these two democracies Monarchs were generally running things and when they consulted it was with the church or the wealthy and powerful.
It was not until the 20th Century that Democracy as we know it began to spread and suffrage (the vote) became universal including lower orders and women. Now are democracies are representative with elected MPs (in the UK) who reflect their constituents desires.
As Churchill is quoted as saying...
democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.

The BBC has some interesting perspective on the  history of early democracy at this site

Monday, April 29, 2013

More sowing and Idea 109 is Totalitarianism

More sowing

I have sown the herbs Thyme and Oregano in small pots and hope they will provide a useful addition to the flavouring needs at home.
Spaced around 182 apart holes for Asparagus Crowns
Thyme (as oil of thyme ) was  in past times  used to medicate bandages and Hippocrates is known to have used oregano as an antiseptic and a cure for stomach and respiratory ailments.

Yesterday I took the small Tomato plants to the 'lean to' greenhouse   and  also planted 3 bargain Asparagus plants -  I'm not sure how well those I planted last year are doing.
Tomatoes are known to help strengthen the immune system   and are thought to help battle cancer and some say that Asparagus is useful in the battle against aging.  

Idea 109 Totalitarianism

Not much left
Totalitarianism is a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator and is not restricted by a constitution or laws or an opposition. There are many examples of Totalitarian governments the government of North Korea is a particularly fine and current example with the young despotic Kim Jong Il following the style of his father making this Totalitarian dynasty.
Totalitarianism supresses the 'civil society' and its use  of Mass Communication means  that is a product of the 20th century.
Here's a link to a  Philosophy Bites podcast  featuring  Melissa Lane linking Plato's The republic  to the concept of Totalitarianism.

Sunday, April 28, 2013

UK Banking & investment and Idea # 108 is Absolutism

The UK economy continues to 'bump along the bottom' (as Ed Balls would say) and was pretty much saved from going into the much talked about triple dip recession by the service sectors continued strength.
One of the challenges remains around the investment in growth and although the banking sector now has a large portion of UK taxpayers money it remains wary of releasing funds  to where they are most needed.
The Co-Op bank with its strong ethical record was someway in to negotiations to purchase a reconstituted TSB from Lloyds group (mandated by the EU) but has now stepped back saying that the deal is not worthwhile at this time.
Not a casino - Ealing Co Op bank moves next door
Now I'm in a mixed mind about the failure to reach a deal I've been with the Co-Op bank for many years (having left Lloyds because I wasn't happy with it), We also had a TSB account (now part of Lloyds bank) so potentially (perhaps) we could have moved what is now a Lloyds account back to what it had been a TSB account (as part of a bigger Co Op bank).

Other entrants to the high street banking sector are now beginning to emerge the Metro Bank is one example and Bank of Dave is also waving a flag for a more dynamic community based service in Bradford.

Perhaps there's a disjoint between the expectations of casino capitalism and the benefits of growth and full employment  that a more radical solution could bring- my feelings are that energy saving investments and new housing deserve focus these could help people's quality of life as well as triggering greater high street spending.

More sowing

Yesterday I managed to put up a little cover for fledgling plants(right) and also sowed Radishes and Beetroot - it's really amazing to have so many seedlings around the place!

Idea 108 Absolutism

 Absolutism means that the ultimate authority in the state is rested in the hands of a King (or Queen) who claims to rule by divine right. It is a form of government in which the ruler is an absolute dictator and has complete and unrestricted power in government. Since the Kings (or Queens) received their power from God, their authority was absolute. Under absolutism the King (or Queen) has the power to make laws, administer justice, control the state's administrative system, and determine foreign policy.
King James I of England considered that ...

'the divine rights of Kings was about the belief that the King (or Queen) had a royal absolutism on their people and believed that  his (or her) right to rule came directly form the will of god and anybody who oppose it shall be a traitor to god.

(King James I was succeeded by his son Charles I  who battled with Oliver Cromwell in the English Civil war so a good lesson perhaps) - nice video of the times of Absolutism below

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Views from Hammersmith and #107 Pacifism

Yesterday I took a short trip to The Riverside Studios in Hammersmith, some time since I've been there but saw that they had an exhibition of work by Tony Philips of London landmarks, in fact the show ends on Tuesday ands I reckon that it's worth a look - This exhibition is related to graphic work for an illustrated booklet based on Tony's 10-year survey of London it's a great view onto contemporary London life and has (for me) a Hogarthian quality. Could be that the publication is worth getting.

One of Tony's vignettes


Idea 107 Pacifism

One of the (many) good things about Crofton's Big Ideas book is how the ideas link and build on each other, so I don't think having had war and violence pacifism will be such a surprise.
Many religions espouse Pacifism (Buddhism and the Quaker faith spring to mind) but it is not unusual for soldiers to ask God for help before battle considering that the war they are to fight is a just one.
India's struggle against colonialism was aided by Gandhi's principled Pacifism and Martin Luther King took the moral high ground in forwarding the cause of Civil rights in the USA.


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The joys of sleepers, up all night to get lucky.. and Idea #106 War

I have been kindly given a load of railway sleepers which I plan to use to assemble a raised bed probably for Strawberries and herbs. There is some concern about the effect of creosote and it might be worth me lining the inner of the beds with some barrier.
I didn't realise how heavy sleepers are but another plot holder very kindly helped me to start moving them.
The last few days have been very busy with starting seeds off (melons today in propagating tray) also Parsnips and Carrots sown into the ground.
 Hopefully it'll look like this in the future (left).

Got Lucky (but deservedly)

How good is it to see Nile Rogers (with Daft Punk) back at the top of the charts (where he belongs.).
It's interesting because it has that Chic vibe and is the Sound of Summer 2013 (quite something to be saying that about a track  that's made by a French music duo).
This groove is an example of fantastic feel good music no doubt about it and if you've read Nile's autobiography I think you'll probably recognise that he's one of the good guys with an mazing talent and humanity - great stuff..

Big Idea 106 is War

Is all war wrong? Can the ends justify the means?
Many people would say that there were just wars (perhaps the war against Nazi-sm)
Even if you agree that war can be acceptable, what are the conditions that must be met (there are still debates about the war against Iraq and 'the war on terror').
If war is fought there is expectation that the Geneva convention will be adhered to - but was what happened in Coventry, Dresden and Hiroshima justifiable?
Here's a clip from the Hutton enquiry into the 2nd Iraq war.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Do TV channels have a future? and idea #105 is deterrence

On the day that Discovery's TLC arrives a women-centric TV channel on Sky's UK platform I went to a rather good (and timely) London centre Royal Television Society (RTS)  meeting which asked the question Do TV channels have a future? (by the way TLC used to be The Learning Channel - but that was some time back).

Anyway back to the panel discussion on TV, panel was made up of:                 

Heather Killen, Chair & CEO, Horse and Country TV (broadly believing that linear TV channels have a future even those like hers which are somewhat niche and are at the mercy of the mighty SKY).

Alan Griffiths, CEO, World Media Rights who rather worryingly works with the abrasive Andrew Neil and seems to have got some similar traits to him (his view that it doesn't matter as WMG have a model which will succeed whatever the TV environment).

Nigel Walley, MD of media consultancy Decipher a new Media pundit who has got into TV and gone native and reckons that linear TV still has a lot going for it.

and the session was chaired by Chair: Neil Midgley of ye olde Daily Telegraph.

There were (as you'd expect) some thoughts around what should be considered a TV channel - most thought that Google calling YouTube channels was pretty inaccurate.

General consensus was that standard TV still has quite a bit of mileage in it  ands this had been demonstrated (to many peoples surprise) by the rebirth of ITV with such fair as Downtown, Mr Selfridge Broadchurch and of course the ratings juggernaut that is The X factor.

Loads of people watch Live TV (even the adverts) and we shouldn't judge 'normal' people as being like the atypical and strange RTS crowd.

Although most households have only enough brain-space for a subset of what's available this tends to include  the main 5 along with several of the spin off channels and perhaps an esoteric one or two.
Vince Cerf (web visionary apparently) may have got it a bit wrong when he said TV was dead (in 2007)  but it might be (perhaps) in terminal decline (although if it continues to adapt it could take a long time to actually die).

EPGs are significant and with the arrival of HTML5 on some platforms (Freesat anyway) it could be that the layout and appearance might start evolving a bit more quickly.

Big Idea 105 is deterrence

Deterrence follows on nicely from violence (or perhaps should go before?) and means more or less (on a small scale that approach is that people will be deterred from the commission of crimes by the awareness that they will be apprehended and punished, the world also took on a meaning at nation level.

During the cold war we  saw extremes of Deterrence on both sides of the ideological battle, the world held steady as MAD (great abbreviation for Mutually assured destruction) was in place.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

British Gas and London Energy Auction with idea #104 Violence (is it ever the answer?)

British Gas Services?
Last week major catastrophe as our boiler went on an early spring holiday, now I don't know if you've been hearing the British Gss service advert  (see BBC on the service)on the radio implying that there's very little more important than their commitment to keep your system in tip-top condition?
If you have my advice sprinkle a load of salt on that impression and then top it up with an ever larger sprinkle.
When I called them they seemed to think that that I was being unreasonable expecting some one to come round and fix it despite them taking a monthly sum for just such an eventuality we finally agreed on a time the next afternoon (the man on the call irritatingly kept saying 'happy days') the good news was that someone did come at the appointed hour and fixed it - so the service was okay- ish.

Big London Energy Switch
Now alongside the cost of keeping the heating and hot water going is the cost of the energy we're currently signed up for 'dual fuel' but London councils have an energy initiative called Big London Switch it's meant to  get customers a better deal - the deal we're offered is from Sainsbury's and although the headline figure is higher than our existing provider (British Gas) there's meant to be a £210 refund after a year - so having to consider this and seeing if it impacts service agreements.

Insulating Ealing
And number 3 on the energy list is another initiative this one  Called Insulating Ealing, this comprises of a Green Deal Survey and demo of the install - will see what it amounts to and report back.

As a bit of a change the Big Idea is Violence

Abortion and Euthanasia excepted most societies are pretty much against murder -Thomas Hobbes was of the view that one of the State's main responsibilities. Without the state Hobbes reckoned  that life would be
 a “state of nature” that closely resembles civil war – a situation of universal insecurity, where all have reason to fear violent death and where rewarding human cooperation is all but impossible so he said the state's job was to uphold 'thou shalt not kill'
(although the state might do this in some cases).

Having said that there have been politicians and philosophers who have held that violence can sometimes be justified ( Karl Marx wanting to overthrow capitalism is a prime example)

Monday, April 22, 2013

Gunfire in Green Park and #103 Civil Society

Happy Birthday your Majesty
Somewhat alarmed to hear loud 'explosions' as I surfaced at Green Park station adjacent to Mrs. T's Ritz hotel as I was slightly early for my lunch appointment decided to check out the source of the noise. The guns being fired were a part of a military scene but at 'these times' such noises can be misinterpreted and I am sure I was not alone in feeling some alarm (seems the reason was that
Queen's birthday fell on a Sunday so 41 gun salute delayed until today).

Having had my fears allayed on to Oxford and Cambridge club where Nick kindly bought me lunch, learnt that Portrait of Clem Atlee was moved (after intervention of a Tory MP)from being near to the toilets to a more prominent and tasteful place above the bar.

Also learnt to my surprise that both Jeremy Thorpe (former liberal party leader who was involved in one hell of a political scandal) and Cliff Michelmore (former 2-way family favourites presenter who has had la life without scandal ) are both still with us, Jeremy being 83 and Cliff  93.

And Big Idea 103 is Civil Society

Civil Society is those bodies that form part of the state but are independent of government, this includes Sports Clubs, Church and voluntary organisations. Civil society does not flourish in totalitarian states and there in an on-going  debate around where government should impinge on 'Civil Society'.
Civil society implies free association and there are signs of its emergence in China.

Here's all you need to get you started (from youtube)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Spring time and Idea 102 is The Social Contract

At long last we're getting some very welcome warm weather and blossom is appearing and seeds are
For those who wander
sprouting, saw these lovely daffodils the other day in Ealing near Northfields underground station and on the photo of my plot you might just about see peas, garlic and broad-beans showing signs of life. Along with other people on the site and the new fence it feels a bit optimistic.

Big Idea 102 - The Social Contract.

I'm not sure if you've heard of Leviathan by Thomas Hobbes (1651) - probably not the greatest chat up line ever), the thing is it's important in terms of 'The Social Contract' and managing to live in a somewhat civilised manner albeit under a system of monarchy.
Fast forward (as they say) to 1690 and enlightenment thinker John Locke had another crack at the question of how we can live in 'society' he came up with his Second Treatise on Government which was a view on a more balanced system between the people and the King (at this time William III). Locke's treatise influenced the US revolution of 1776 - take a listen to the summary below -sounds fair?
Part 3 of this Social Contract development is triggered by the French revolution and the work of Jean Jacques Rousseau who came along with the Social Contract.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Growing time and idea #101 is Constitutionalism

Growing time

Fence contractors
Lots of horticultural  stuff going on, at the allotment contractors are replacing fencing, I've been digging, working in farmyard materials and removing weeds.
I have also been busy planting seeds, potatoes and fruit bushes over the last week or so.

Early potatoes that had been 'chitting' away (unknown to me) are in and are of the Arran pilot variety.

New Fence
I have put in various seeds indoors in propagating trays these include: Artichoke,  Aubergine Courgette and Broccoli

Outdoors I've put in seed trays for  Cabbages, Cauliflower French Beans and Kale.

and I also planted  a couple of bargain (£1.00 shop) fruit bushes) they're Gooseberry Ribes uva crispa and BlackcurrantRibes Nigrum Ojebyn.

Big idea number 101 is Constitutionalism

Typically a  countries' Constitution summarises the rights and responsibilities of the citizens in a nation.  The constitution is intended to address Political liberty and represent the will of the people.
Constitutions can be written documents (like that of the USA) which was written in the 1870s) or an unwritten one like that of the UK's 'social contract.
Here's a good resource if you want to find out more

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

What happened in Boston and 'Half way house' Idea #100 is the Law


The explosions in Boston during the Marathon Run there is sadly not unprecedented. Efforts to understand the cause of the actions by the person or persons behind the action are likely to show a troubled individual facilitator acting in a small group or alone.
If we look back to another crime committed on Patriots' Day we see the person convicted the Oklahoma Bomber Timothy McVeigh (who it was thought initially was acting alone -although it appears this was not in fact the case).
Innocent victim

What is so tragic to see in this Boston incident  (and is also the case in other similar terrorist atrocities) is that the people who are killed, those who suffer along with their families and friends are 'civilian victims' and merely collateral damage not actually being targeted, the act is it seems about publicity for a perceived crime by the 'state'.

Can such crimes where the initiators are expressly aiming to kill and maim and where a young child of eight loses his life be justified and how should society act to avoid other atrocities in the future?

Idea 100 - The LAW

So I am half way through the Big Idea book and today the  topic number 100  is The Law..

Crofton reckons that a system of law is one of the most important things for a State to have, citing the law as being part of the process of the widening of democracy in ancient Greece.

There is no guarantee that all Laws will be just or the that all courts will carry out their duties without favour but the principles should be followed and the practice of the law should be transparent and applied to all equally.

On the continent they tend to use a system derived from Roman Law whereas  the UK and USA use a system of common law with its emphasis on precedent.

The Roman Legal framework is inquisitorial while the UK/USA (and some other commonwealth countries) favour an adversarial system where Prosecution and Defence representatives battle the case out.

Juries often deliver a verdict having watched the case being put the fact that it is normal people (like you and me, well me anyway) provides another crucial safeguard.

It is illuminating to see how the law is tied in with democracy and human rights (dictatorships rarely have  legitimate courts as they are unduly influenced by politicians).

It is important to keep the law in proportion ands not for it to affect all areas of life (particularly stuff between consenting adults)

So the half way point on ideas The Law is truly an important and relevant topic to consider- some things to further reflect on here .

Monday, April 15, 2013

Arts in Ealing and # 99 Soveriegnty

Arts in Ealing

The Pitzhanger Manor Gallery  is showing a couple of exhibitions at the moment, one of which is called  Walk On: 40 Years of Art Walking it has a rather retro looking continuous  computer animation from Julian Opie (called Summer 2012 - more retro than 9 months!) and an actually retro Hamish Fulton photographic piece of a group walking together, I particularly liked the James Hugonin Binary rhythm which looked like a mosaic but not sure how this related to walking.

Binary Walking?

The other exhibition at the gallery is by David Royle and  is exciting and dynamic with a new perspective view (to me anyway)  The works  are influenced by the artists' visit to New York and London- take a look here at what is showing.

In other Ealing Arts News the OPEN arts project is creating a pop up shop in West Ealing.

Big Idea 99 (nearly half way through the Crofton book) is  Sovereignty

Tied to Government and the state Ian Crofton postulates  Sovereignty as a 'big idea'. online the Stanford Encyclopaedia has some detail on the concept it says -
"Sovereignty, though its meanings have varied across history, also has a core meaning, supreme authority within a territory. It is a modern notion of political authority. Historical variants can be understood along three dimensions —"

1) The holder of sovereignty, (For example in the UK the Queen)
2) The absoluteness of sovereignty, (this can be affected by membership of other entities like the EC)
3) The internal and external dimensions of sovereignty.(defined by borders and marine agreements)

The state is the political institution in which sovereignty is embodied. An assemblage of states forms a sovereign states system.
The history of sovereignty can be understood through two broad movements, manifested in both practical institutions and political thought. The first is the development of a system of sovereign Peace of Westphalia in 1648.
states, culminating at the
Contemporaneously, sovereignty became prominent in political thought through the writings of Machiavelli, Hobbes  Luther and Bodin,.
The second movement is the circumscription of the sovereign state, which began in practice after World War II and has since continued through European integration and the growth and strengthening of laws and practices to protect human rights.
The most prominent corresponding political thought occurs in the writings of critics of sovereignty like Bertrand de Jouvenel and Jacques Maritain.
In the UK sovereignty is said to reside (at present) in the Queen in Parliament.
In The USA internal sovereignty resides in the constitution.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

A Taste of Philosophy and # 98 Government

Yesterday I went on a one day 'Taste of Philosophy' course at London's City Lit college and was incredibly satisfied with the experience.
The course ran from 10:30 to 16:30 which seemed to be a good length for the contents and was really well managed. As well as considering some of the big topics we had a chance to very briefly think about some of the big modern figures, those we were introduced to were Noam Chomsky (Language), René Descartes (Mind- Body Problem) Jeremy Bentham (Utilitarianism) and Friedrich Nietzsche (of Superman  fame).
Venue for 'Taste of Philosophy'
For me a highlight was coming to see what (some of) the fuss about Nietzsche was, seems the 'God is dead Man' is lionised by philosophers to a certain extent because he exemplifies how many philosophers see their ideal self. The  facilitator of the course (a most excellent Scott Biagi) postulated Mary Bale (the cat in the bin woman) as a possible 'Superman/Oberman' and the idea of Mick Philpotts as an alternative proposed by one of the group  somewhat deflated many  'Superman' desires.

Also was very interested to see the talking parrot (Alex experiment of the delightfully named Dr. Irene Pepperberg) and reflect on the mind that this might indicate (does he 'speak'?)
(The field work with Chimpanzees is pretty amazing too -see Washoe).

All in all I'd thoroughly recommend this day, good value at £38, and gives the opportunity to throw around terms like Metaphysics existentialism etc.   and a chance to meet interesting people who are interested in the big ideas too.

Public Art Square the Block

Block Caption
Near the course venue just in Kingsway was a feature of a building that slightly fascinated me. This example of public art was commissioned by the LSE and subverts things (of course).

Big Idea 98 is Government

Progressing along from State and Politics we unsurprisingly encounter idea 98 as Government.
Crofton describes this as a mechanism to control individuals and society often but not exclusively by laws that are enforced (by the state).
There have been (and are) several forms of government these include:

Monarchy - Kings and Queens run things
Tyranny - bad people lead here
Democracy - Some say the UK has this with our voting and suchlike
Oligarchy - as applied to rich Russians living in London
Aristocracy - the toffs are in charge but it actually refers to 'Rule by the best' and was whatc Aristotle thought should happen - and in his case would be Philosophers.

Perhaps worse of all is the concept of Theocracy where religious zealots run the show - Iran might be considered an example of this

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Great TV and #97 The state

TV shows I like (a lot)

At the moment there are two TV programmes that I like (apart from nearly every quiz show from The Chase to Only Connect).

The first of these two programmes is The Inbetweeners a Channel 4 comedy which is one of those programmes that makes me laugh out loud, I admit I've been a bit slow on getting across this one as it10 moments from the show - difficult to resist.
ended in 2010 - here are what are described as the top

The other show is an American  (fairly conventional) drama that's showing, rather surprisingly  on UK comedy(ish) channel Dave, it's a Legal Drama (not sounding good is it?) and it's called Suits. What I like about this (and some other US dramas) is the moral questions which it asks as the programme continues it is clear that (as in life) situations and characters carry with them inconsistencies and ambiguities. Along with the writing and characterisations as in so many US series the gloss and production values show care and skill -really like this too - here's a promo clip.

Big Idea 97 is the State

Following the Politics of yesterday (not a commentary) the big idea is The State. The State is a construct which in many ways as an entity mirrors the individual in terms of being responsible for actions and having legal standing.
Africa Carve uo
Many of the states that now exist in Africa (and Asia to a lesser extent) are a result of European colonial adventures and have artificial  boundaries and  have problematic histories with dissimilar peoples and tribes forced to co exist.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Whitechapel Gallery and Idea 96 is Politics

 I continue to check out a few of the very many London cultural highlights and today I add the Whitechapel Gallery to those I have had the pleasure to have visited.
Whitechapel Gallery
The Whitechapel Gallery founded in 1901 is actually directly above one of the entrances to the Aldgate East underground station and  was extended (the extension opened in April 2009 )  to take in the former Bethnal
Outside is a blue plaque commemorating the First world War poet Isaac Rosenberg.
The roll call of influential artists who have shown at the Whitechapel is one that many larger galleries would envy and includes Picasso, Rothko and Pollock.
The gallery that I particularly enjoyed today was the return of the Barbara Jones curated works that make up  Black Eyes and Lemonade (from the Thomas More Poem relating to  a Persian heaven I understand)  - The use of found everyday objects is refreshing (certainly in 1951)  and was influential on British Pop Art including (Sir) Peter Blake.
Also liked the Cerith Wyn Evans conceptual work showing.

Big Idea 96 Politics

After the big news regarding former British Premier Margaret Thatcher's death this week seems right that Politics should be on our lips as an idea.
Some say it's a science others that its an art, one thing for sure is that Aristotle spent some time thinking about it (so it's important) he reckoned it was an art ... The art of the possible
Political science is a subject studied widely it concerns the study of governments, public policies and political processes, systems, and political behaviour.
Often single issue politics can create a political party but these do not always sustain - e.g. UKIP (perhaps).

Here's a rather familiar political joke (Not Nick Clegg)

Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Post Thatcher and idea 95 is Nature Vs Nurture Plus giveaways

So Margaret Thatcher has died at the age of 87 after a stroke.

Now some historians are of the view that history is not all about leaders and politicians but when you have lived through a leader such as Thatcher it is difficult to disentangle one's own life from the events that are shaped to an extent by the political forces of the time.

Mrs T
It's interesting to look at how the UK media and British people have reacted.
Thatcher when premier was very much a Marmite character, Elvis Costello a popular songwriter and singer at the time (your honour) famously composed a song for her in 1988. It is good to see that the tea loving Morrisey (presumably with something to promote) is spouting/tweeting on about Lady Thatcher with his usual considered approach.

On reflection some see the Thatcher period as a necessary adjustment - for me it is hard to believe some of the obstacles put in place by 'state-ist' bodies like the nationalised Telephone industry but as has been pointed out the power that many working people had in their workplaces has been traded for influence as a consumer. And many, many people had their lives and communities deeply affected by the changes seen in the 1980s.
So as we'd expect it is not a devil or a saint but something of a mixture of the two that we mourn and for people of a certain age it is significant as it was their time that they were making their ways. For those in their 20s she's a little old lady and Posh boy Cameron as the only politician that they're aware of.
So perhaps the passing of Mrs T is just a chance for those who are now in the vanguard of the chattering classes to reflect on their influences.

It will be fascinating to see in 20 years time if the state has further rolled back its influence on our lives and if 'people' have taken greater ownership and control of their own lives and communities.

Anyone want this?

Free Stuff

I've got back the urge to get rid of things I don't need/want that might be of use (less landfill)
Anyone want a SHARP CE-133T level converter?
email me and  we'll arrange.

Big Idea 95 Nature or Nurture?

Although Darwin and Alfred Russel Wallace worked out a theory to explain evolution the mechanism was not nailed down until Watson and Crick did the work on DNA showing how genes carried traits forward. Gregor Mendel a hidden away Austrian Monk should not
be overlooked as well for his pioneering work on hereditary traits.
This was all very good stuff for determinists (they probably saw it coming) but surely learning and culture where factors along the with what was delivered in the DNA?

Here's a (short)video about the debate

Monday, April 08, 2013

National Gardening Week coming and # 94 Evolution

National Gardening Week is coming 15th to 21st April

Soon a blanket of colour
Now that we've had a few days of reasonable weather I feel that I should be making the most of  the opportunity it gives to be outside.
At the weekend we scattered a couple of packets  in the front garden to give what we hope will turn into a blanket of colour (both free packets) one was Love-in -a mist (Shredded Wheat) the other Mr Fothergill's mixture (courtesy of RHS) it's to promote the National Gardening week (which runs 15th to 21st April).
On the allotment today I've planted Blueberries (Vaccinium  Corymbosum -Patriot) so fruit as well as flowers to look forward to.

Stop throwing plastic bags away

On other green issues I learnt that in Northern  Ireland retailers providing disposable plastic bags will  be required to make a 5p charge- similar rules apply in Wales and perhaps the UK should follow suit?

When you consider how many there are out there and that they take up to around  1,000 years to breakdown at landfill sites perhaps it's overdue?

Big Idea 94 is Evolution (perhaps we should start  to evolve?)

Darwin's The  Origin of Species  is credited as opening the door on evolution theory  but you can see that similar  work was also  under preparation by Alfred Russel Wallace.

Broadly speaking Darwin reckoned that the world might not have been created by God in 6 days and that perhaps man evolved from Homo antecessor (and the like) over many years this as a result of chance mutations and Survival of the fittest type stuff.
Now to say that this is (and was) a big idea is like saying that the sun is a long way away  (I'm rather clumsily trying to hint that it's an understatement).
Not only is it a big idea it ran counter to orthodoxy and the church's teachings (that used to be important).
So if you hear creationists now as a few dissenting voices imagine what Charles had to put up with.
And even with this (very good theory) there are (if you believe the theory is/could be correct) still a lot of questions as to why.

Saturday, April 06, 2013

National Portrait Gallery and # 93 Germ Theory

Many Politicians are hung here
'Arold by Ruskin Spear
Yesterday I took the underground into the centre of town and got off just round the corner from the National Portrait Gallery at the  Leicester Square station, as it was just round the corner I went and had a look. First of all it is far less impressive than its big brother/sister in Trafalgar Square and (to me) far more of a thrown together gallery. Don't get me wrong (as The pretenders would say) there are some great examples of portraiture and real gems on show but the lighting is not ideal and the works are too close together much to much is on display considering the space available. Having said that I have a list of works that did tickle my fancy -
1) Warhol's Joan Collins (which I didn't even know of) was a great example of classic period Warhol.
2)  The Two royal portraits of Charles (The present Prince of Wales)  and Di (his first wife) by Bryan Organ.
Leicester born
3) A fantastic political portrait of the iconic Labour PM  (James) Harold Wilson by Ruskin Spear.
Quinn by his 'Self'
4) Richard Rogers a fine bust by Sir Eduardo Paolozzi -intriguingly I gather that  they are both  Brits of Italian descent.

I also enjoyed Self by Marc Quinn  which uses the artists own blood, Dyson as a comic book hero (to my eyes) created by Julian Opie and for sheer draughtsmanship the drawing of Skyes is an example beyond compare (artist Andrew Tift).
Amongst the politicians painted was a fine picture of the Labour activist John Burns who I was unaware of.



Idea 93 is Germ Theory

 The Crofton book tells me that before Germ Theory there was a concept of 'bad air' (miasma) which was linked to diseases that caused death.
 The laboratory researches of Louis Pasteur  in the 1860s and Robert Koch provided scientific proof for germ theory. Their work opened the door to research into the identification of disease-causing germs and potential life-saving treatments.
The work of the Hungarian Ignaz Semmelweis (1818- 65) and the Brits    Joseph Lister (1827-1912) and John Snow (1813-58) around hygiene and infection is now acknowledged as working towards germ theory.

Friday, April 05, 2013

New Gizmo (remote camera) and idea 92 Artificial Intelligence

Dinky little camera
After a some research I have purchased a remote controlled web camera, it cost me about £40 and it is complete and ready to go - there's a number of models available (got this one from Ebay) the dealer was Ethshop and I can report that I'm very happy with their  prompt service.
Balding me
This camera is great for security purposes and can do scans up & down as well as Right to Left.
In hindsight I could perhaps have looked for a model with Electronic Zoom - but this has got a whole load of possibilities that I've yet to fully check out including  PPPoE  so, hopefully I'll be able to provide online access giving web browsers to this page the chance to drive it too. With a few of these I can provide a full security service.

Idea 92 is Artificial Intelligence

The big Idea today is Artificial Intelligence which might sound a bit tautological to some (like friendly fire) .
Alan Turing is famed  for his Turing test (as well as his Bletchley Park code breaking work) created to pick out Computers from Humans. I gather from the Crofton 'Bible'  that a Chinese Room test  was used by John Searle to rebut the Turing analysis.

The idea of AI  to me is moot and many would say that we've already got computers that can fool people but I reckon  intelligence  is much more; perhaps involving creativity- those strange links that humans have made through the years - the Shakespeares and Einsteins of this world?