The Anonymous Widower

Dubai’s Annoying Adverts on Channel 4 Racing

The title says it all.  They are so annoying and fully justify my rule of not watching any programme with adverts unless it’s absolutely necessary.

I’ve just created this poll to see how they work.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Sport | , , | Leave a comment

Worst Spam Yet?

I got this spam message from IRISH LOTTERY[]

Ha ganado 801,613 euros. enviar sus datos personales completos para procesar su reclamo.
Irlandés Lotería

Hmm!  I can’t understand a word of it!

By worst, I mean least intelligent!  If anybody falls for this one, they deserve to be conned.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Computing | , | Leave a comment

The Mosquito

The Times today has the obituary of John Smith-Carington, who was a Mosquito pilot in the Second World War.

I think that unusually, The Times may have the account in the obituary about the raid on The Hague slightly wrong, as they mention releasing prisoners.  Wikipedia, which again is not sometimes the best of sources says.

On 11 April 1944, after a request by Dutch resistance workers, six Mosquito FB VIs of No. 613 (City of Manchester) Squadron made a pinpoint daylight attack at rooftop height on the Kunstzaal Kleizkamp Art Gallery in The Hague, Netherlands, which was being used by the Gestapo to store the Dutch Central Population Registry. The first two aircraft dropped high explosive bombs, to “open up” the building, their bombs going in through the doors and windows. The other crews then dropped incendiary bombs, and the records were destroyed. Only persons in the building were killed – nearby civilians in a bread queue were unharmed.

This type of raid though was typical of the Mosquito.

One of my friends learned to fly on them just after the war and he said that getting them into the air was sometimes rather dangerous, but once they were at a safe height, they were a superb aeroplane. In the latter part of the war, they could strike with the precision of a surgeon’s scalpel.

The Mosquito was summed up by Goring.

The British, who can afford aluminium better than we can, knock together a beautiful wooden aircraft that every piano factory over there is building, and they give it a speed which they have now increased yet again. What do you make of that?

But the real tragedy of the Mosquito is that we never built enough of them.  They were fast and could outrun every German fighter for most of the war and because of this, they could actually bomb Germany twice in one day.  They also delivered over half the weight of bombs as a Liberator or Flying Fortess for just a crew of two, with a much higher safe return rate.  Remember too, that the Allied Air Forces lost hundreds of thousands of aircrew bombing Europe with a rather dubious accuracy and a somewhat vengeful strategy.

Mosquitos could and should have very accurately bombed the places that really hurt the Nazis, day in and day out.  But the powers that be, felt that you don’t go to war in an unarmed wooden bomber.

They were wrong!

At least it was realised after the way.  Wikipedia again.

Despite an initially high loss rate, the Mosquito ended the war with the lowest losses of any aircraft in RAF Bomber Command service. Post war, the RAF found that when finally applied to bombing, in terms of useful damage done, the Mosquito had proved 4.95 times cheaper than the Lancaster; and they never specified a defensive gun on a bomber thereafter.

I have been to the de Havilland Museum just off the M25, where the prototype sits in splendour where it was built.

Go and see one of the finest aircraft ever built!

July 30, 2009 Posted by | News | , , , | 17 Comments

The Corby Scandal

The word scandal is rather mild for the issues surrounding the cleaning up of the steelworks in Corby.

With echoes of Thalidomide and the toxin problems in California exposed by Erin Brockovich, the Borough Council has fought every inch of the way and they have now lost a battle in the Court of Appeal.  Incidentally, the News page on the Corby web site is blank.  Could this be because they are still in denial over their role in the scandal.

I’ll now put my statistical hat on.

The geographic cluster of the birth defects would appear to be obvious.  So why did the council try and find what the problem is, rather than bring up a whole battery of legal defences?

If I lived in the town, I’d make sure that all the councillors responsible would be voted out.

I’ve also worked on chemical works for a company, ICI, that cared a lot about health and safety.  From what I’ve read, the precautions taken as the works was dismantled were not of the highest standard.  Why?  And have the workers suffered any ill effects? 

I suspect that we will hear a lot more in all sorts of directions about this scandal.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Health, News | , | Leave a comment

Organic Food?

There has been a report that says that organic food is no better than non-organic.  I probably agree, but then I use it in most of my cooking.

So why?

Take my chilli con carne, that I cooked last night.  I use lean organic beef as that is better for me because of its leanness.  I also feel strongly that animals should be kept well and that some sort of mark like Organic, means that higher levels of husbandry are used.  In fact, I think that near-organic beef is better, as farmers who grow quality beef say that the organic rules are not always to the animals best health and make the product too expensive.

Anyway, the chilli con carne was great!

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Food, Health | , | Leave a comment

Economics of Home Cooking

I cooked a pan load of chilli con carne last night using the recipe on this blog.

The kilo of organic lean beef mince from Waitrose cost just under £10, the organic beans and tomatoes another three and if you add in the herbs, wine and spices then the total is under £20.  Obviously, using cheaper ingredients could cut this cost.  In fact when I made the previous batch a few weeks ago, I used some of the same organic mince, which was just about to go past its sell-by date.  It cost just £6.  So I always look for more of this, as lean meat is good for my cholesterol.

I make the chilli con carne in one large saucepan, so it really isn’t a great problem for washing up either!

I reckon that for my £20 or less, I get eight portions of about 400 grams each.  Last night we ate three large portions with microwaveable rice and the rest I froze in one double and two single ones.

So each organic chilli con carne, with lean beef, lots of spices and included wine cost me £2.50.  That’s about £6.25 a kilo.

Perhaps this is expensive, but it is very simple to do and I could cut the cost to about £1.50 (£4.25 a kilo), by using less expensive beef, cheap plonk and ordinary kidney beans and tomatoes.

A look on Waitrose‘s web site shows that they have a prepared chilli con carne at £5.98 a kilo.

Is mine better?  Don’t know!  But I suspect it has more meat in it and being a coeliac I know that it is totally gluten-free.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Food | , , | 1 Comment

Is Publishing Statistics a Good Idea?

Statistics published today about heart operations show a very strong increase in success. This is despite warnings from the medical profession, that publishing statistics on success rates, would lead to conservative procedures.

This is a real result for openness.

I believe strongly that publishing information responsibly is always for the better.  I think too that politicians are finally getting round to this belief, with David Cameron wanting all government and political expenses to be published on the Internet.  He’s right, but he doesn’t go far enough.

What would I do?

The Health and Safety Executive has set a small precedent by publishing reasonably detailed lists of fatal incidents on their web site. But they don’t go far enough and the data is not published in a form that can easily be downloaded from the web site. This would enable analyses to be made to see if there are ways of increasing safety.

Obviously, databases of this type should be desensitised before they are put on line. For instance, I might be described as male, white, between 55 and 65 and living in St. Edmundsbury.

But suppose the following databases were available on-line and in a form such as Excel that was easily downloaded.

  • Births by sex, post code, multiple birth etc.
  • Deaths by sex, age, cause, smoker etc.
  • Serious road accident by vehicle involved, post code, road type etc.
  • Crime by type, post code, victim, clear up, sentence etc.
  • Prisoner by sex, offence, age, prison etc.
  • Illegal immigrant by country, sex etc.

This would remove much of the speculation beloved of the tabloid newspapers, who publish a statistic that proves their bigoted point of view.

The government and industry might like to try to keep hold of this data. They will cite confidentiality, security and other spurious reasons. However, as precedents are set, it will be extremely difficult to keep things confidential.

We will all benefit through access to these databases.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Health, News | , | 1 Comment

Cat Without a Ticket

This story about a cat is almost unbelievable.

But then truth is always stranger than fiction.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | News | | Leave a comment

Is it Usury?

I was rather surprised that Provident Financial, who reported good results this week, charge some of its customers an interest rate of up to 545% on loans.  Martin Narey of Barnardos is not amused.  And neither am I!

But to criticise the company is wrong, as they are merely filling a gap in the financial services market, that should be catered for by micro-finance companies and credit unions.  As to the latter it has always puzzled me why they have such a low profile in this country, compared to the United States.  They seem to be ideal for the times and also for lending small amounts of money in more stretched communities.  Especially, as any profits stay in that community.

Could it be that the regulations are framed to protect the banks?  After all, no credit union has ever taken the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the British Grand Prix or other major sporting event.  And they probably don’t pay anything to the government, except perhaps VAT and Income Tax for employees.

At least though, the spam I used to get from doorstep lenders like Providential has stopped. (They didn’t send any incidentally! Or not to me at any rate!) This offered me loans at high rate and it came from spam companies in the United States.  However, a letter to my MP, who talked to the government, stopped the process in days. 

There’s another moral in that tale.  Don’t underestimate the power of your MP! If you have a problem write to them!

July 30, 2009 Posted by | Finance, News | , , | Leave a comment

Russell Crowe Spoils His Image

Russell Crowe likes to give the impression he is a hard man.  But does this episode in a charity shop show he has a softer side?

It’s actually not the first time he’s donated to charity and you could even argue this one is small by his standards.  That’s not to denigrate what he did.

July 30, 2009 Posted by | News | , , | Leave a comment