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Sunday, 30 January 2011

Arab World in Revolt?

It could be the start of something much bigger. Tunisia went up in flames first, Libya, the next door neighbour is probably coming to a slow boil and could erupt if Gadafi slips, Egypt has erupted, the Palestinians blame Israel for their woes, but can't get their own act together and the Iranian Regime is said to be fomenting rebellion in Yehmen, Oman, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq and aiming at Saudi Arabia ...

While it is commonly believed in the West that all these places are filled with fanatical Muslims, the truth is probably a little different. Almost all of them are governed by one form of Autocracy or another. In nearly every case, corruption is rampant, and the Mullahs and fanatics exploit the frustrations, hopes and ambitions of those who aren't benefitting from the gravy train. So these eruptions of civil unrest may be the first glimmer of an indication of something bigger in prospect, a collapse of the current "Arab Hegemony" of the Muslim world.

I suspect it will happen in two parts, first, the current crop of autocrats will be swept aside and replaced by a new crop of Theocratic Dictators like Iran's. Eventually the religious restrictions on freedom of expression, choice and belief will come under attack as it has in the West - and then Islam will find itself being rolled aside and perhaps even rejected by its natural followers. But before then, we are in for a very explosive, dangerous and bitter transition.

And sadly, faiths of all sorts will be blamed...

Saturday, 29 January 2011

The trouble with Microsoft ...

There can be no doubt that Microsoft Word, Excel, Powerpoint and so on are the dominant tools in the world of commerce and government at present. They're everywhere and anything sent electronically probably has to have some of their code in it somewhere. But I wonder how many people have the same sort of trouble I'm currently encountering with it.

I use a Mac. In order to make the things I do available for those unfortunates who don't or who are stuck, thanks to employer choices or government policy, with the PC and all its Microsoft problems, I have Office for Mac installed and I have to say that 99% of the time it runs just fine. In fact, on my machines, it runs 100% of the time exactly as I want it to. The problem is there is a difference in the coding between Word 2008 for a Mac and Word 2007 on a PC. As long as you are working Mac to Mac it doesn't matter, but the moment you open a Word 2008 document from a Mac on a PC with any version of Word after 2003, the formatting starts to do some odd things. In fact, I've noticed that this happens on PCs as well when you open an older version of a Word File in a new version.

What it does, is randomly removes the little gaps in lines of words. So, randomly it will close the gap after a fullstop and the start of the next sentence, or simply remove the gap between two words. As long as you are aware of this, it needn't be a problem, but it rapidly becomes one when you send a Word Document to a publisher or to someone not using the same version of Word as yourself.

Why am I bothered by this? Simple, I recently submitted a manuscript to a publisher. Two days ago I got the Galley back. On every page of the 300+ pages there are at least four of these little spaces missing and which will now have to be inserted by the publisher at no little expenditure of time and effort. Effort on my part to find all of them and time on theirs to fix it. Why has this happened? Refer to the beginning of this and you will guess that their Word 2007 and my Office for Mac Word 2008 are not playing from the same song sheet.

They simply copy and paste my document into their Page Maker for Word 2007. In the process the Word "Different Versions Don't Talk the Same Language" Gremlin strikes. Yesterday I rang the Publisher and didn't get a lot of help. The only suggestion was try saving it in an older version - I did that on a previous occasion and guess what? It doesn't make any difference, in fact, it seems to make it worse. I can turn it into a PDF without this happening and that works at their end as well - but then they can't edit it or turn it into Page Maker...

So now it's back to marking up and editing. I just hope I find all the Gremlins...

Friday, 28 January 2011

Salvage underway

The Mammoet Salvage team have got themselves started and judging by the photos appearing in the local press, this is going to be one fascinating job. The first stage is to alleviate the risk of a spill of the 2,400 tons of concentrated Sulphuric Acid by getting it out of the tanks. This has to be done one tank at a time and each tank must then have the remnant neutralised and then ballasted before the next one can be drained.

For those who don't know, shoving water into a tank full of concentrated Sulphuric Acid is one of the messiest ways to create an explosion. The water and the acid react, generating steam and the result is a steam burst, the water gets so hot, so fast, it converts to steam - and the steam bursts the tank. The passenger rail services along the edge of the river to St Goarhausen and the neighbouring towns has been suspended while this operation is in progress and so has road traffic - the road runs between the river and the rail line.

Once the barge can safely be lifted, it will be brought into the small harbour right next to it and then righted and refloated properly. After that it will be towed away to be either scrapped or repaired. Apparently no decision has yet been made on it and it seems very likely that at some point the body of one or both the missing crewmen will be found inside it.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Democracy

This post was prompted by an item on the Blog "Witterings from Witney" entitled "Voting Systems." As far as I can see, Democracy works fine, as long as you don't allow politicians to become a "class" on their own. Then you don't have Democracy, you have what Plato called an Oligarchy. Add in a permanent "government" of bureaucrats who are never challenged, never dismissed and form the single biggest employment and political bloc in the electorate and you no longer have a democracy but something between an Oligarchy and the dreaded "Authoritarian" level Plato abhorred. I actually posted most of this as a 'comment' to the post linked above, but then felt it needed to be expressed here as well.

In my view we actually need to rethink what "Democracy" actually means. For far to long we have suffered a rule by a ruling elite who only consult us for forms sake. Perhaps it is time to introduce a wieghted ballot and certainly one where each voter has to express a preference for the "manifesto" their party of choice wishes to impose. The final straw for me was the last government's continual parroting of "we don't need a referendum, it was in our manifesto." A document unread by 95% of their own voters and probably even fewer outside of it. Considering they were elected by less than 30% of the total electorate they could hardly claim to be representing a "majority."

Democracy as it was understood until the Politically Correct and the terminally incompetent entrenched themselves in Parliament and the Civil Service, was about the Rule of the Majority for the benefit of all, including the minority members of our society. They have turned that on its head so we are now ruled by Minority Interests and any suggestion that the Majority should be heard is immediately labelled as "oppression" or "Institutional ****-ism (of your choice)."

So, for my money, here are my suggestions -

1. Scrap First Past the Post and replace it with a double transferable vote. First Vote for a LOCAL candidate of choice, Second vote for a Party of Choice.

2. Include a Yes/No list of Manifesto "Desires" for each candidate and Party. Failure to indicate a preference for any item on these lists to be an automatic registration of NO to the unregistered item.

3. Limit the term of office for both elected Members and Senior Civil Servants to a maximum of three terms (3) without exception and the term to be fixed at 5 years each. (Senior Civil Servant - all posts above Grade 7. Fixed Term contracts of maximum of 12 years and NO knighthoods, peerages or any other accolade unless there has been demonstrably outstanding performance while in office.)

4. Abolish the Whips. Every vote in the House to be secret and FREE.

5. Give us an elected Upper House, subject to the same rule of a maximum of Three Terms.

6. Give the Upper House the power to veto bad legislation and to oversee the promulgation of Regulations by "Ministers" - in reality the Mandarin using the Minister as a smokescreen...

7. Revise the Constituencies. 10,000 in Scotland = 1 MP in Westminster; 100,000 in England = 1 MP. While this is not uniform it illustrates the problem. Some Welsh and Scottish cnstiuencies return MPs on a disproportionately small electorate, yet have the same influence as the larger majority in England who are ignored. (Think Jack Straw = There's no such thing as an "English" identity...)

8. If Scotland can have a "Parliament" and Wales an "Assembly" both funded by English tax, why can't the English have their own Parliament? Why should Scottish and Welsh MPs have a say in the running of England?

The EU could be good for a Britain now reduced to a twentieth rank player by years of socialist handouts, Union destruction of commerce and industry and our economic base (Our shipping, the life blood of the nation, is now all foreign crewed, owned and flagged thanks to the RMT!) if we could just make up our minds about whether we want to be part of a major power or continue to pretend we can be a major power when the reality is that the Civil Service has reduced us to the status of a "developing nation" with its strangling bureaucracy and creative use of gilded directives. Much of the "Over Regulation" the Media in the UK blame on Brussels is actually the result of the creative 're-interpretation' by the UK Civil Service to fir their agenda - which is frequently in opposition to what the relevant Minister thinks his/her Department is doing.

The truth is that Whitehall is autonomous. It is run by Civil Servants for the benefit of Civil Servants. Departments are often attempting to duplicate efforts and services already provided by another department and frequently contradict one another. No rationalisation is ever possible because the size of the Permanent Under Secretary's pay and perks depends on how large a Fiefdom he/she can hold onto. The bigger you can make your Deaprtment, the greater your status and prestige in this elite within a ruling elite. At times deliberate sabotage of another Department is resorted to in order to maintain the status quo for your own. Anyone who thinks the Civil Service is about actually serving the nation, or indeed, the electorate and their elected government, should be compelled to spend a year working in this environment. They'd soon learn the error of their ways...

Come to think of it, first step in restoring democracy - abolish the Civil Service!

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Tanker Recovery

The sunken chemical tanker at St Goarshausen, the Loreley bend in the Rhine, is now under recovery. The three huge salvage cranes are now on site and being placed in position to do the lift. Approptiately they are named Atlas, Grizzly and Amsterdam, they are operated by the company Mammoet, a Dutch Salvage company that also recovered the remains of the Russian submarine Kursk. The local newspapers have videos on their websites and these can be found by following the links to the most recent.

An earlier video from the day of the accident can be found by following this link. The commentary is all in German, but the pictures speak for themselves.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

The Loreley


The weather on Sunday at the Loreley matched the scene. The river is still running high and turbulent, the sky was leaden and misty, full of snow higher up, and the wind was biting cold - the kind that doesn't bother going round you.

As can be seen in these pictures, the sunken barge lies right at the foot of the Loreley Statue, it touched an outcrop of shingle bar, and veered out of control, rolling onto its side where it is now pinned by the force of the water. The three heavy cranes have now arrived and it is proposed to lift the wreck slowly and carefully over the next three weeks, currents and weather permitting. It appears that the tanks holding 2,400 tons of concentrated Sulphuric Acid are still intact and haven't leaked, so the object of the exercise is to recover the ship and cargo before they do.

There are still two men 'missing' following the accident, the river has not yet surrendered them, though they may be still trapped inside the hull. With the strength of the current it is hugely difficult and dangerous for divers to enter the wreck.

An idea of how powerful the currents are here can be seen in the first photograph where a tug is actually pulling a barge's bow around the turn. In the final picture the wake of this fully laden barge betrays the way the helmsman is having to work her head into the next bend and not be pushed into the rock embankment.

For those that don't know the legend, it was said that the Loreley, a beautiful, but malevolent, water spirit used to stand on the rocks beneath the headland and sing, distracting the sailors navigating the river and luring them to their doom on the rocks beneath the water here. The legend says that her 'charms' included a stunning figure which she used to full effect. Even the efforts in the 19th and 20th Centuries to make this rather dangerous set of bends safer for navigation haven't completely overcome the lady's legendary reputation.

Monday, 24 January 2011

The Haircut

One day a florist went to a barber for a haircut. After the cut, he asked about his bill, and the barber replied, 'I cannot accept money from you, I'm doing community service this week.' The florist was pleased and left the shop. When the barber went to open his shop the next morning, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen roses waiting for him at his door.

Later, a police officer comes in for a haircut, and when he tries to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I cannot accept money from you , I'm doing community service this week.' The cop was happy and left the shop. The next morning when the barber went to open up, there was a 'thank you' card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.

Then a Member of Parliament came in for a haircut, and when he went to pay his bill, the barber again replied, 'I can not accept money from you. I'm doing community service this week.' The Member of Parliament was very happy and left the shop. The next morning, when the barber went to open up, there were a dozen other Members of Parliament lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the politicians who run it.

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Salvage on the Rhine

The chemical tanker barge which sank at the Lorelei last week is due to be recovered over the next three weeks. In the meantime there is a lot happening and traffic is moving past the hazard under strict escort and control. The river is running strongly round the point and will probably not make the recovery any easier as the three huge floating cranes are manoeuvered into place.

Unsurprisingly the roads along the banks are also being closed to traffic at certain times to allow the heavy plant and equipment that is needed for the recovery to move into place. Mausi and I plan to visit a popular lookout point today to see if we can get some pictures of the scene. Watch this space, if we can, there will be some pictures to see.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

8,000th Visitor

I happened to notice earlier that the visit count reached 8,000 today. As I'm not one of the "wonder" blogs, I think that's pretty good for the last 8 months...

Return of Winter

Hardly, though it is snowing again. A couple of warm days - above 0*C that is - sort of softened us up. But today its snowing again, the big flakes though, the ones that don't settle for long.

Still, it's nice to be indoors and to watch it through the window.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Big Boy's Toys...


Turntable Ladders - Aerial Ladders in the US - are wonderful bits of kit. The ladders are extended by means of an hydraulic ram that pushes the first extension out and then a system of fixed wires and pulleys draw out the upper extensions. Safety 'cut outs' prevent you from pushing the ladder into a dangerous extension at the wrong elevation and other sensors sound off alarms if you try to push it into a building or other obstruction.

The ladder itself is mounted on a 'turret' and can rotate through a full 360° using a small motor and geared 'training ring.' Elevation is done using hefty hydraulic rams mounted in the 'turret' and attached to the 'swinging frame' and the ladder at maximum elevation is angled upwards at 85° to the vertical. At can also be lowered to around 15° below the horizontal, but the full extension can really only be safely achieved at angles above 60° elevation. The reason is that dratted Greek fellow - Archimedes, and his Law of Levers. A 30 metre long lever has a lot of leverage... So the system has a number of safety features which are designed to prevent the operator from pushing the ladder out too far at too low an elevation. And if he chooses to ignore the first warning klaxon - it will lock his controls and not allow him to go any further. Any reader familiar with a naval gun turret would recognise the mechanisms instantly, but the irony is that Turntable Ladders were invented first and the technology then found a use at sea ...

Naturally you can't play around with a thing like this on an unstable surface or on a normal vehicle suspension - so the chassis is fitted with jacks and axle locks that prevent it moving while the ladder is in use. In fact the system won't allow you to put power to the turret until the jacks are down and the axles locked. As you can see from the photograph, the jacks extend outwards some distance and now you run into the fact that you are going to be standing 15 tons of vehicle on four steel plates each about 750 mm square... That's a lot of pressure on the road surface or ground it's standing on.

If you put the jacks down on a manhole cover, or a buried drain, or a soft patch of ground, the crashing noises as the whole appliance falls over can be very expensive and fatal for the men in the cage at the top of the ladder. So it's a tricky task operating one of these, it carries a lot of responsibility and no one actually notices if you get it right!

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Excitement in the Village

Our Freiwilliger Feuerwehr got called out yesterday and I got a chance to see them in action and to see the German 'back up' system at work. The fire was a comparatively minor one - a chimney on fire, though these can get nasty, especially if it penetrates into a roof space - but we had our own small pump and crew, plus two more, one from Wehen, one from Bleidenstadt and the Turntable Ladder from Freiwilliger Hahn.







You can get an idea of the steepness of Bornerstra├če from the last photo!

I have to admit that I was impressed by the skill of the Volunteer operating the Turntable Ladder. These pieces of kit are quite complex and even though they have a lot of safety features built in it still takes a lot of skill to operate one safely and smoothly. This operator did it like a pro - and I have some experience on this as I was, at one time, a TTL and HP operator!

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Rhine Traffic Stopped...

The Rhine has been closed to shipping for the last seven days due to an accident at the infamous Lorelei, near St Goarhausen. A fully laden chemical tanker coming down from the BASF works at the Bodensee end (The Rhine runs roughly South to North through Germany), was pushed onto a rock ledge just opposite the Lorelei statue. In the strong currents running at present, the ship broached too and then the current took charge with the result that she capsized and is now lying on her side, overlooked by the Lorelei statue. Pictures showing this can be seen by following this link.

As the bend in the river at the Lorelei is very sharp, with a very powerful current running through it, the accident has meant that it is unsafe for anything else to attempt the transit. The sides and the bottom here are very rocky, making the danger to anything else that happens to touch ground a serious risk, so the authorities have closed the waterway.

Needless to say this is causing massive disruption to some industries which move almost all their freight along this route. I am told that the Rhine carries more freight in any single month than is carried on all the HGVs clogging the Autobahns. This I can believe, the usual steady stream of huge barges up and down the Rhine, each one carrying the equivalent freight load of around five hundred 40 ton trucks and some even more than that, is a sight to behold. Yet, despite the massive amount of traffic, the number of accidents are fairly low and the Rhine itself, remarkably clean.

This accident claimed two lives of the tanker crew of four men. As I write one body has been recovered, a hundred kilometres downstream, the other is though to be trapped inside the hull. Now we await the arrival of a pair of huge salvage cranes. It is hoped they will be able to lift the barge and right it without spilling any of the cargo - 2,400 tons of concentrated Sulphuric Acid.

This will be an interesting and delicate operation I'm thinking!

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Politically correct?

I came across this "definition," purportedly the 'winner' in an annual contest for defining a set term or phrase. I haven't "Snopesed" it and I don't intend to. It is, whatever its origins, the finest definition I have ever seen for the term defined.

"Political Correctness: a doctrine, fostered by a delusional, illogical minority, and rabidly promoted by an unscrupulous mainstream media, which holds forth the proposition that it is entirely possible to pick up a piece of sh*t by the clean end."


Sums it up exactly.

E-Publishing ...

Seems to be getting harder to get into. I filled in the enquiry and agreement forms to get my books onto Amazon's Kindle some while ago, but have had no response from them at all - except from their 'in house' self publishing service, offering to 'publish' my books already in print.

Sometimes you do wonder about these organisations, but I expect they're swamped with frustrated authors trying to get published as well. Recently I learned that major agencies and publishers based in New York are not accepting anything new or anyone new, again, they're swamped and the economics of traditional publishing means that it isn't a foregone conclusion that a book will recover the cost of printing it. I'm sure there are many reasons for this, but it does seem to me that one reason so few of the men I talk to bother reading these days is because there is so little published they actually want to read.

Ah well, I'll keep pushing and hope Amazon get to me eventually.

Monday, 17 January 2011

A new offering from Darryl Ashton ...

Today's offering from Darryl is a tribute to the "King of Rock 'n Roll" - the late Elvis Presley...

I confess I was never one of his "Fans" and I will add that the manner in which he was manipulated, exploited, and ultimately destroyed by the people around him during his life says a great deal about human greed...

It started in Tupelo,
in deep Mississippi
Were twins where born
to the loving Presleys.
One twin was stillborn,
the other survived,
And the start of a Legend,
was soon to contrive.

For it was written,
and it was meant
That a shy young man,
would be sent.
To change the face
of music forever,
And so was born -
a magical endeavour.

That man was (ELVIS),
from God was sent
And blessed truly,
with a remarkable talent.
Who would sing,
and angels would dance,
To a song - sung,
which would entrance.

The man, Elvis,
was so born to sing,
And soon he would gather
the true role of KING.
He sang so sweetly
and moved so wickedly,
That all the girls
would faint so quickedly.

Elvis, he took
the world by storm,
And achieved a career,
that was the norm.
Yes, he had everything,
from a voice to good looks,
But more evidently -
he loved his good cooks.

To be in movies
he wanted so,
To be like Curtis,
and also Brando.
He went to Hollywood,
were he acted so
But really, his movies
didn't all that glow.

But to Vegas he went,
and he conquered supreme,
Dressed in white jumpsuit
he looked like a dream.
He sang like an angel
to an audience of encors,
And held the place spellbound -
and took great applause.

He was sadly taken,
from us, too soon,
He now sings in heaven
dressed to enthrown,
And sings to the the ones
he worshipped so much,
His mother - Glady's,
and the Lord, he touched.

I would like to finish
with this specisl say:
Thank you, Elvis,
as today is your day,
Enjoy it well,
as we fans will still sing,
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Elvis,
the one true KING.

BY

DARRYL ASHTON

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Words of Wisdom

The following article is reproduced here by permission of the author, whose pen name is mshugh. The author is a consultant who works internationally in the field of finance. He has extensive knowledge of financial markets and is extremey well versed in the field of military strategy and international affairs. I asked his permission to post this here, since it is an extremely thought provoking article, one we should all consider carefully, and one our political classes would do very well to study very carefully!

Words have the power to appease - but words can also cause wars...

Words are powerful things.

They can do great good – and they can do great evil – and they have consequences.

In my fifty odd years of living and learning, I have built up a loathing for the misuse of words.

At the same time, I recognize that the dastardly deed of misuse is not limited to the writer or the speaker, but that this misuse is usually freely licensed by the reader or listener without any threat of punishment or censure.

In many instances, the misuse is based on ignorance and not on any overriding evil intent.

In others, it is more sinister – and very deliberate.

My American readers will assume that this had to do with recent events in Tucson, Arizona. It does not.

My more international friends may assume it has to do with events in Pakistan, Britain or France. Again, it does not.

Instead, it has to do with the collective, combined, deliberate misuse of words to inflame the ignorant, gullible and pliable in this world.

That’s why I dislike the willy-nilly use of inflammatory adjectives and adverbs.

As my grandfather always reminded me, “If you have nothing nice to say, try not to say anything.” However, I must make one of my rare exceptions to this rule.

A simple, benign misuse

Let me use a simple, non-political, non nationalistic illustration to expand my point

“Michael, we need to make our FX trading systems faster!”

I smiled patiently as I tried to determine my client’s true needs. After all, this is one of the world’s Top 20 banks. “How fast? 500 transactions per second? 5,000? 50,000?”

“100,000!” was the thunderous response. “Per second.”

I smiled, nodded, and puzzled how to politely explain to this senior officer that if he ever saw 100,000 transactions per second on the FX trading (non-retail) desk, he would be looking at Armageddon. It would be the day that China and India ceased propping up the US Dollar to its present artificial level – and he nor his seven hundred traders would have no clue what to do on that day because they would be a part of the herd of a hundred thousand lemmings trotting off the proverbial cliff.

That single word – faster – had been misused and this officer knew his daily volume, but he did not know his high water mark for trades executed per second (the number is closer to 800 per second and that occurred only ONCE in ten years).

Adjectives and adverbs – and labels

I now see this misuse playing on a multinational level and not as benign as that senior officer requesting (and spending) more than his requirements because of his inability to grasp a few basic facts.

Today, I laugh when I hear it at the Governmental level.

In France, I observe with horror the rising power of the La Pen clan and the right wing. But, I usually have no use for right wings because of their historical record of misdeeds and their subsequent use of propaganda to cover up those misdeeds – whether it was the European Right Wing Parties joining the Waffen SS in World War II or the Spanish Civil War or the recent problems in Centra America or the American Bund prior to that war. Of course, there are dozens of more current events – the now infamous 1998 letter by the American Right Wing announcing the new American Empire and Century in all major publications, etc.

In Britain, I hope that the rise of the BNP (British National Party) has been halted with the new Coalitions’ recent successes.

In China, it is no longer whispered diatribes against the United States.

In the United States, it’s the usual assortment of labels – Socialism, Chinese currency manipulation, Muslim Extremists, etc.

Quite frankly, unless the rhetoric is toned down – and until more logical negotiations commence, I think we will all be in big trouble over the next fifteen years.

A typical example is the rhetoric about currency manipulation.

The Americans accuse the Chinese of keeping their currency artificially low. Note the use of the word artificially.

The Chinese accuse the Americans of actively manipulating their currency to inflate their way out of debt. Note the use of the word actively.

Guess what?

Both are accurate!

If you were living in Brazil or Chile right now, you observe the rise of your currency against the US dollar with alarm. Brazilians have watched their currency rise 40%! Chileans close to 20%! What caused this? Simple. The QE2 Fed Policy. Both The Brazilian and Chilean Finance Ministers have warned of a currency war with the USA.

The Developing World is petrified that capital will flee the US and enters their markets to subsequently cause hyper inflation – which has already commenced in many of these countries. Instead of financial organizations lending to businesses in America – they are rushing to invest in India, Indonesia, Viet Nam (yes, Viet Nam – that bastion of communism), Brazil and Chile where they can receive a return greater than 8%.

Do I blame the banks? No. They are capitalists and would be sued by their shareholders if they did not seek the maximum return.

Strangely, there is no mention of this in political or national media.

Just the constant speechifying about the Chinese currency manipulation. Know what happens when you sell US dollars to buy Brazilian Real? Dollar drops – Real rises. That may help US Exporters, but there’s not that much that the world wants to buy from the USA.

Secondly, all the commodities priced in US Dollars fall in real value.

If you were the Saudi King, you would raise the price of a barrel of oil to recover the lost value. And the cycle continues.

Before I forget, let me elaborate about the comment about China propping the American Dollar is accurate. If the Chinese were to dump their FX reserves with a resulting drop in the US Dollar value, you and I would not want to be around when that happens. All of the right wing speeches will not help you to buy a loaf of bread with a wheel barrow of Greenbacks. Shades of the Weimar Republic would be a fantasy compared to the nightmare we would have to live through.

Will China dump the greenback? Chances are they will not. They will quietly do so over ten years so as not to disadvantage their nation.

And American politicians know that fact and will rail against the Chinese in order to gain votes, but with no long term solution.

So it becomes a game of chicken. Words, vitriol and hyperbole seem to be the order of the day.

Subsequently, consequences will follow as it inevitably happens.

Cause, Effect and Consequences

I used currency to illustrate the point.

I could pick one of over twenty current topics. There is no shortage of inflammatory subjects.

There is one thing that is constant and certain - words cannot be retracted once used.

They become a part of the historical (and in some cases, hysterical) record.

There are those who deliberately inflame. I can name two or three leaders who do so in Pakistan.

At the same time, I can name several in responsible positions in the Developed World who do so. The difference between the two cultures is the methods used to deliver messages. In the Developed World, it is a coded message. In the Developing World, it is more direct.

In the end, what happens?

Regardless of the media source, the facts are twisted to appeal to a gullible audience, the interpretation flawed and the resulting opinions bombastic and inaccurate – or one sided.

Is the desire to inflame? I do not know.

But I do know this.

Until we think about our use of words, the impact that they cause in the audience, our motive for the use of inflammatory words – and their subsequent consequences, the chasm will grow between differing parties.

This is no longer a polite discourse or debate.

This is not even a war of words.

This will soon become the reaping of consequences – and more violence.

The type of violence which will escalate to the point that we cannot control.

Think about that before you shout some slogan you just heard on the radio or TV in the future.

Saturday, 15 January 2011

New releases by a new author...

Two new books on Amazon are by a friend of mine. Based in South Africa, Jada Penn sometimes battles to get her work noticed and the publication of these two romances represent a massive achievement. It has taken no small amount of effort and a lot of commitment on her part to get them into print. I hope that at least some of my readers will give them a try.

Grave Injustice - a wonderful tale involving a ghostly couple who wish to return to the way they lived - but to do so must take over the lives of a modern couple ....

Cunning Challenge - when the very wealthy matriarch of a family sets her grand daughters the challenge of becoming engaged and getting married within the year, she sets off an emotional and somewhat difficult train of events for the two young women ...

They're well written and a good read. Even though I seldom read 'romance' these are certainly entertaining...

Give them a try!

Thursday, 13 January 2011

Visiting the UK

The Gray Monk is in the UK for a couple of days, lecturing at one of the smaller universities. He'll be back to Mausi and Madam Paddy Cat on Friday evening.

Wednesday, 12 January 2011

And they wonder why the electorate hate them ...

Two of the MPs so far charged with fiddling their expenses have so far been sentenced, bringing disgrace and shame on that House that claims to be 'our representation.' The majority of MPs however simply don't see why they aren't able to convince us that they are -

(1) Doing a good job with our interests at heart,
(2) In touch with the realities most of us face, and
(3) At heart, decent folk who really do believe they can make a Utopian society for everyone.

Unfortunately, they then blow all the goodwill by increasing taxes, passing laws that restrict enterprise and curtail business, destroy the Armed Forces and give themselves a massive pay rise. Then their Civil Service chums get on the bandwagon and get even more worthless parasites into cushy ministry jobs and nice inflation busting increases for the top Civil Servants as well ... Oh dear, we'll need to put up the taxes again to pay for it.

Where did all the industrial jobs go? Into Whitehall Bureaucracy and Union Headquarters.
Where did all the commercial jobs go? Similar route, but now all owned by offshore investors.

Our parliamentarians think we are blind, stupid and gullible, so its nice to see them get their fingers burned occasionally. Let's hope a few more get to see the inside of one of HM's Holiday Camps.

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

The Red Flag Revised ...

Darryl Ashton has done another brilliant spoof of that well known Socialist/Marxist Anthem known as The Red Flag or The Internationale. Niel Kinnock and his buddies were so sure they had won the 1992 election before the ballot they actually sang it and danced to it in the House of Commons. That came back to bite them hard - they were rejected by an outraged electorate and it took Blair and his spin doctors the whole of the next parliament to repair the damage - though they were helpped by a bunch of arrogant Tories who managed to make John Majors government look corrupt when it was merely incompetent. It took Blair and Liebor to show us real corruption and even greater incompetence. Speaking of which, Jonathan has captured precisely the lies that lie at the very heart of Socialist Labour...

LORD......TWO JAGS!

IN

((THE CHAMPAGNE SOCIALIST))



"WARNING"
(Some strong language in the following poem, may cause offence. Any complaints should be sent to the....PC Brigade!).

(To the tune of The Red Flag).


The working class can kiss his a***
He's in the House of Lords at last.
Though critics jeer and colleagues sneer
You won't find Prezza sheds a tear!

CHORUS:

He'll quaff champagne from dusk till dawn,
He'll play croquet on his front lawn,
He's in the place he's longed to be
Among the aristocracy.

Although he once worked on a boat
He's now got ermine round his throat,
The oik from Hull is now a toff
His snout wedged firmly in the trough!

CHORUS:

He'll quaff champagne from dusk till dawn,
He'll play croquet on his front lawn,
He'll help himself to more and more
And sod the needy and the poor!

He's sworn the Hypocritic oath
To be a two - faced pompous oaf,
And though it's made Old Labour cross
You won't find Prezza gives a toss!

CHORUS:

He'll quaff champagne from dusk till dawn,
He'll play croquet on his front lawn,
Ennobled now and oh so grand
He's joined the gentry of the land.

He says it won't affect his life
He's only done it for his wife.
Though she'll be known as Lady Muck
You won't find Prezza' don't give a ****!

CHORUS:

He'll quaff champagne from dusk till dawn,
He'll play croquet on his front lawn,
And now that he's a proper swell
His principles can go to hell!

He'll man the barricades once more
To keep the riff - raff from his door.
For fairer shares he'll fight the cause
As long as his share's more than yours!

CHORUS:

He'll quaff champagne from dusk till dawn,
He'll play croquet on his front lawn,
He'll claim he won't betray his roots
Then make the workers lick his boots!

So raise a glass to John the Nob,
At last he's found the perfect job.
He'll sit all day on his fat a***
Hobnobbing with the Ruling Class.

CHORUS:

He'll quaff champagne from dusk till dawn,
He'll play croquet on his front lawn,
And though the world cries hypocrite,
He's happy as a pig in ****!

BY

DARRYL ASHTON


For those who may not know, John Prescott was Blair's Deputy Prime Minister. He was a deckhand/steward briefly on the Cunard Lines famous original Queens, but spent most of his time fomenting mutiny and on "union business" and the company were delighted when he left - to take up a position as a Trade Union Organiser with the then Seaman's Union. The same Union that went on strike for several months in the 1960's and destroyed British Shipping forever. This buffoon then went on to get elected to various Labour "Safe" positions in Town, City and County Halls before finally getting into Parliament on another "safe" ticket.

Despite having a quite middle class upbringing and background - including better schooling than most kids get now thanks to his party, he can barely string together a coherent sentence, is a rampant bully and out and out ideologue who still believes that "Public Ownership" of commerce and industry is the only "fair" system. Blair's final insult to the British people and electorate was to give this caricature a Life Peerage...

Their Lordships had better not leave their Pukka Pies unguarded while he's around...

Monday, 10 January 2011

German Course

My German Course recommences this evening, so, after a three week break in learning, it's back to the grindstone...

Getting to grips with the gender of nouns and the associated article as well as verbs that seem to have a life entirely of their own, is a bit of a challenge sometimes, certainly for this old codger anyway. Still, I promised Mausi ...

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Snow free ...

We're more or less snow free, thanks to a warm front and plenty of rain. One thing we haven't got to worry about up here on our mountaintop is the flooding down in the Rhine, Main, Moself and other river valleys. Fulda, not that far from us, is threatened, Zell on the Mosel is underwater - the Mosel is reported to be running at 6 metres (20 feet) above normal. The Rhine is already running high, but as the Main, Mosel and all the other 'tributaries' send their water into it, this could get interesting below Koblenz...

Still, it's nice to enjoy the sight of grass and other vegetation, not covered in the white stuff. Still, it's early days, and there is a cold front heading this way for next week. It remeains to be seen what we get in the next couple of months. Meantime, I'm enjoying the thaw!

Saturday, 8 January 2011

Getting on with writing...

Having been commissioned to write a new textbook for a professional organisation I am a member of, I have been banging away at the keyboard since last year to get it sorted, organised and approved. I can now say, I'm making progress, with about three quarters of the book complete. The content is one thing, probably the easy bit, then you have to source and provide photographs, sketches, diagrams and all the 'explanatory' bits that go with it.

OK, that's enough goofing off for now, time to get back to writing about fatalities in fire scenes. Yeah, I know, too much information....

Friday, 7 January 2011

So this is a White Christmas ...



Is more or less how I felt every time I had to dig my way out to the compost bin. Mind you, the animal and bird tracks in the fresh snow were fascinating, cats, Martens, rabbits and dozens of birds all made free with it. Several tunnels appeared in the snow, all leading under snow draped shrubs, so one gathers that lots of small furry things made the most of these 'snow igloos' in our garden.

Thursday, 6 January 2011

The "Wise Men" have arrived ...

Today is Epiphany, the day on which Christians in the west celebrate the arrival of the "Magi" described in Mathew's Gospel account of the Nativity and the revealing of the Christ Child to the world outside Israel. It is no accident that the revealing of this special child was first to the shepherds and then to the Gentile "kings" - then, as now, faith threatened the authority of the ruling classes and their lucrative businesses. So the Child is revealed, not to the high born and powerful of Israel, but to the lowest caste of all in that society, the shepherds. The visiting "Magi" must have come as a bit of a shock to the Holy Family who had obviously gone to some trouble to keep a low profile.

Those who have taken the trouble to study Jewish custom and culture in this period will have realised that Joseph was not exactly living in "poverty." The fact he owned an ass, could afford to travel and was evidently pretty well connected are all suggestive of someone with a much higher place in his society. The Law required Mary be stoned to death for her "sin" of getting pregnant before marriage - yet Joseph could evidently "buy off" the authorities, hardly the action of a man in poverty. Likewise, his "work," which in English is "carpenter" does not quite convey the 1st Century reality, which would be better described as Property Developer and Builder Inc.

We can also be pretty sure the Hellenic Maccabean rulers - Herod was a usurper - were keen to make use of any "Messiah" child or no - to regain their power. So the visit of the Magi would have worried Joseph, but it was a major part of God's plan precisely because it presaged Christ's being revealed in the Gospels to the rest of the world. Kings they may not have been, sages they may well be, but they represented the rest of humanity when they visited Bethlehem sometime after the birth.

The Orthodox Churches celebrate "Christmas" today as a result. So, to all my Orthodox friends, I wish you a very blessed Epiphany and Christmas.

Wednesday, 5 January 2011

Footprints in the snow...


Evidence we have a Pine Marten scouting - his footprints are all over our roof, now we just have to make sure the little devil doesn't find a way inside...

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Between a rock and a hard place ...

Two new articles got me thinking this morning as I watched the mist frustratingly hiding the partial eclipse I had hoped to observe. The first, at An Englishman's Castle, covers the news that the UK Meteorological Office, privately told the Cabinet that we were in for a severe start to Winter - but at the same time published an item on their website in September suggesting a mild winter. It seems that the Met Office, run by a Greenpeace/Fiends of the Earth activist, is now afraid to make its prediction public because their computer has been wrong for the last three summers and winters... Or, as An Englishman's Castle suggests, they didn't want to upset their friends holding their annual bunfight in Cancun. After all, you can hardly demand that the Western world gives up their cars, their jobs and their central heating, not to mention travel to warmer climates and food imports on the back of screaming "Run-away Global Warming" if they are simultaneously facing blizzards and a big freeze.

The second article has certainly got me thinking - and it should get everyone thinking. I found it - with the most useful explanatory diagram I have yet seen - on Watt's up With That. Under the title, "An unexpected limit to climate sensitivity," it analyses the mathematical equation used by the IPCC et al, to 'model' the amount of heat gained in the atmosphere due to 'Greenhouse' gas. It is worth knowing that the Blog is run by a scientist, a climate scientist to boot, who does not subscribe to the Anthropomorphic Global Warming "settled science" and with very good reason. This article is by Willis Eschenbach, an amateur scientist with a good grasp of mathematics. He is a Construction Manager by profession, an engineer, so has a very practical approach when analysing something, so it makes a lot of sense. Once again we find that the 'models' used to make all these sweeping statements actually contain 'constants' that seem to produce the desired result by actually suppressing variability and 'smoothing' data so that it shows a particular result.

Having a little experience with some of the early 'smoke control' models myself I have always been all too aware of the pitfalls and pratfalls built into them. As with all such 'models' they have a number of assumptions built in and these are often represented by 'constants' - numbers which 'make the formula work' as one of my mentors put it. While the models I worked with were often quite good at confirming what I thought had happened in an event/incident I was looking at, they were as often adrift from what had physically been observed. In the end I found they were, at best, useful for confirming one or two aspects of an unusual event, but they are generally not good at predicting. That is my experience and my opinion, I know its not shared by many of my colleagues who have invested a lot of time and energy in making them. Mr Eschenbach's graphic is the best representation I have ever seen covering what a model is really trying to predict - and as you can see, there are a lot of interactions and reactions simply 'smoothed' over...

All I can say is that some of the IPCC 'scientists' must have been taking lessons from Whitehall, the only other body I have come across that can write the conclusions to a study and then send out an "Enquiry Team" to find the 'proof' for the conclusions they want.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Australia under water?

Watching the news here, we note that a large chunk of Queensland is under water, the culprit apparently being a combination of the monsoon, La Nina and a tropical storm. This is reportedly the worst such event for fifty years to hit that area and the film footage we are seeing certainly makes that point.

One thing that struck me though, and I'd very much like to see town maps and plans for the area from 1960, is that the affected areas have been built up and over since then. I was also struck by the fact that older properties are built on stilts and they aren't standing in depresssions or next to the river. The newer properties aren't on stilts and they are much closer to the rivers and also in the low-lying areas. From this I would surmise that someone, somewhere, decided that Queensland's known annual flooding wasn't going to happen anymore...

Having been flooded out back in 1968 in the city of Port Elizabeth, I have every sympathy with those hit by this, but now, what needs to happen if it is to be avoided on the next cycle, is a thorough going review of the "environmental" practices that have contributed to this - such as not clearing gullies of encroaching bush, not enforcing the practical regulations for building on stilts which I understand were relaxed in the last ten years, and, finally, not maintaining the large watercourses in a 'navigable' condition. That means dredging them, clearing 'snags' which build sand and shingle banks, and maintaining the clear channels for drainage.

I won't hold my breath for any of that though - it's much easier to blame "Anthropomorphic Gobal Warming" and demand more swinging restrictions on transport (personal of course), travel and energy use. The ecologically minded out there won't be happy until they have everyone 'going walkabout' and living off the land as they imagine the Aboriginal peoples did...

Sunday, 2 January 2011

Snow more snow ....

S'no fun now, it turned to slush, then ice, then slush again, then we got some more snow... Now we have huge banks of the stuff which has compacted and solidified, just in our little corner of the Taunus we could probably rebuild one or two galciers.

I suppose I have an inconvenient memory in many ways. Just three years ago, I recall reading in a supposedly 'learned' journal, that snow in winter was becoming a very rare event and would have vanished from memory with my lifetime. All the fault of Anthropomorphic Global Warming - read "Western Industry and Greedy Capitalists" - and now the same journal is publishing articles telling me that, as a result of AGW, I should expect colder winters, wetter summers and more snow and ice. The reason, they say, is that more warmth means more evaporation and that means more clouds and more precipitation ...

I'm afraid I got cross as I started to read the comments section and came across one which said that more snow would increase the heat trapped in the ground and therefore speed up the melting of the glaciers and Ice Caps ensuring that everyone drowned by the end of this century. From Autralia I hear too that the Greens/AGW mob there are already claiming that the floods and snow on the Snowy Mountains is AGW related... The farmers take a different view of course, but then they are only farmers and have singularly failed to ensure that they infest Canberra to present only their blinkered view.

For me, the ultimate insult to intelligence is to constantly be told that the year just past is the "warmist on record" when for quite a bit of it I was wearing thermals! The revelation that this claim is based on averaging the fifteen HIGHEST temperatures in any given three month period tells you how the AGW mob maintain their illusions. I find myself resigned to the idea that somewhere down the line of 2011 we will again start to hear how the US, Europe and the West must make huge and disasterously expensive and impossibly large cuts in our CO2 emissions as "2011 has become the hottest year on record, surpassing 2010."

Here's my prediction as I watch snow waft slowly past my window yet again, it will be like last summer, a warm period, followed by cooler wetter weather for most of us and another cold wet or snowy winter.

Experiment

I'd appreciate some feedback on this one - I have a web page on Amazon at their Author Central. What I'd like to know is -

- Could you access it?
- Was it useful?
- How can I get more marketting mileage out of it?

Answers will be greatly appreciated!

Saturday, 1 January 2011

The Old Year is Dead; Hello 2011

Happy New Year to everyone, may 2011 bring all you hope for.