Archive of Postings for February 2016


A Great Leap Forward?

Being that day in the calendar that only comes around every four years did raise the question - how will things have changed for Grandads in Britain by 29 Feb 2020?

DBR_MerkelHere is one correspondent’s view. In politics the 2016 EU Referendum will be long since passed and Britain will have been a regional province of Europa for over a year. However the target of complete financial union of all the former countries will have slipped out to 2028. But at least the German Europa Projekt will, by 2020, have achieved some of its objectives. Certainly the expansion further east will have progressed to include Albania, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and, the big one, Turkey. Thus completing another cultural objective by incorporating the former Constantinople within the EU; thus recreating its position within the Roman Empire. However this will be tragically ironic as it will be in Turkey that President Merkel is assassinated. An act carried out by refugees from the on-going fighting in Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine. And one which will lead to a tense face-off between the EU Army and Russia on the Eastern Front. It also means that the EU Army does not respond to a second Argentine invasion of the Falklands. An attack which is followed by all the surviving islanders being removed to camps in Argentina and two thousand Argentine nationals being shipped in to take over. Just three months later a referendum is called on the islands with the predictable result. A move that will gain UN approval since Britain’s place on the Security Council will have been assigned to Europa.

Grandadz_OldMan2Domestically Prime Minister Corbyn will be setting out his government’s plans to terminate the reign of the House of Windsor before the next coronation. However the 94 year old Queen Elizabeth is showing no signs of ill-health and has already won her case in the European Supreme Court for protection against unfair dismissal. Also the Palace of Westminster will be no longer be the home of Parliament. The building being in the middle of conversion into a tourist attraction funded by China. Instead the English regional parliament meetings will be held at the Great Dragon Building; constructed by the Shanghai Development Corp on what was Victoria Tower Gardens.

But the big issues affecting Grandads will be the massive failures in infrastructure - as everything from power supplies to health care become overloaded by the population boom. The pressure on housing becoming so acute that all retirees will, by 2022, have to either sell their homes and move to state-funded dormitories or loose their pensions. Domestic gas will have become unaffordable for most as the provincial government struggles to meet its carbon targets. And electricity tariffs that vary hour by hour will mean that pensioners have resorted to cooking and washing over night to save money. However the newly created Europarl Ministry of Plenty will declare that all provinces will achieve the desired standards of living within just four years - in 2024.

In sport the big event of the year will be Olympic Games in Tokyo where Europa will field a combined team for the first time. And even though Europa will have extra places in many events the total number of athletes will be much reduced compared to Rio. The merger of over thirty countries into just one meaning that many former nations have no representatives which in turn leads to a big drop in public interest and cutbacks by advertisers in Europe. Only the continued growth of China saves the day for the organisers.

But that’s enough of 2020 when we still have to get through the rest of 2016. And with the Daily Express predicting terrible weather for Easter, then summer, then autumn, etc it’s going to be an uninspiring year.

tags: future, predictions, wild, guess, no going back, Orwellian



A New Broom At FIFA?

Today has been presented as the beginning of a new era at FIFA -the top level controllers of football and one of the wordls’ largest sporting federations. The Congress in Switzerland, where so many federations are based, was called to adopt a wide range of reforms and elect a new president to replace the suspended Sepp Blatter.

Man3The reforms went through with a large majority but the credibility of the vote for the president took a blow before it even started with the last-minute suspension of Kuwait and Indonesia. Then the South African candidate, Tokyo Sexwale, withdrew his nomination straight after completing his presentation. The four remaining candidates failed to reach the necessary target to win - so a second round of voting was required. A vote that still included Jérôme Champagne despite the fact he only manged seven votes (out of 200+) in the first round. However the next vote did produce a clear winner - the Swiss / Italian Gianni Infantino. So that’s another FIFA issue resolved.

But will the new president really lead FIFA into a open and honest future? Certainly the fact that 41 people and entities connected with FIFA were indicted by the US justice department on corruption charges last year must have reduced the numbers that remain. And if the Swiss authorities are equally committed then some more will also go.

However the organisation has a central and fundamental weakness - each member association gets one vote, as well as an equal slice of the FIFA revenue pie regardless of its size and footballing might. This provides a veneer of democracy but in practice it gives smaller countries disproportionate influence. A vote from San Marino or the Faroe Islands carries as much weight as a vote from Germany, Italy, Russia or Brazil. This makes it easy for significant numbers of votes to be promised in support of individuals and schemes that the countries with the biggest memberships would not even consider.

So unless and until FIFA adopts a voting system that has some form of proportional representation the opportunities for corruption will still be there. And the amounts of cash involved will be too great to resist ...

tags: sport, administration, vote, soccer, clean up



A Message From Europe

Stop moaning and keep paying. There is no way out.

EuroVote1_300Irrespective of which song you pick in next week’s song selection contest and irrespective on how you vote in a future referendum the result will still be the same. The British choice will count for nothing against the combined views of the rest of Europe.

At Eurovision the BBC will still pay in the most but get no more out than the smallest contributor. At the Europarl UK politicians will be told what to do and, in turn, how much we must pay - by bodies that we, the people, have no control over.

And in the same way that the BBC is stuck in the Eurovision club, the UK is stuck in a political union that, in practice, forbids countries from leaving or taking back their own sovereignty.

So a master plan for Europe that will last a thousand years? Now where have we heard that before? Let’s hope that they don’t decide to invade Russia ... again.

tags: EU, UK, Germany, Europa, referendum, vote, Russia, fourth, reich



Pancake Tuesday

According to British tradition today is Shrove Tuesday - the last day to use up any food that would be unsuitable for eating during Lent; represented now by just pancakes. Lent was - or still is - a period of fasting leading up to Easter and starting tomorrow - the day known by many as Ash Wednesday.

PancakeTuesdayHowever the British approach to shrovetide has been typically restrained - possibly by our nature but also, no doubt, by the restrictions on public enjoyment enforced long ago. For example under the strict Puritan Christian rule of Oliver Cromwell. But his beliefs reflect just one of many splits between Christian churches over hundreds years. Splits where many reformers dropped Lent from their calendars. However more traditional parts of the Christian world have stuck with public celebrations before the start of Lent; the most obvious modern versions being the Mardi Gras parades in Rio and New Orleans.

But, even without the splits in the church, having parades in early February would not have had much going for them here in Britain. Keeping warm with a pancake race is about the limit for our surviving celebrations. And in modern times fasting and abstinence for forty days has little appeal. So now the pre-reformation form of Lent has all but disappeared from British life leaving just the humble pancake behind ... often to be found on supermarket shelves groaning under tons of chocolate bunnies and Easter eggs. But that’s another story ..

tags: tradition, faded, Lent, Easter



Eurovision: You Decide?

After some notable failures in recent years the BBC has decided to go back to selecting the entry for the Eurovision Song Contest [ESC] through a public vote. As it was in the days of A Song For Europe etc - and still is in many other countries. So this year you will be able to head to London’s O2 Forum in Kentish Town on Friday 26 February and be in the audience - for just £40. Six acts will be competing but who they are will not be announced until the week of the contest.

ESC2016With the demise of BBC3 the UK contest - and the two semi-finals from Sweden in May - are moving to BBC4. A choice that disappointed fans hoping for a BBC1 or 2 slot. However the channel should make little difference how that all the digital services are fully operational nationwide (so they tell me).

The Swedish hosts have adopted the slogan Come Together for this year’s contest. And the executive producer is quoted as saying "We believe that the idea of unity is as important today as it was in the 1950s when the Eurovision Song Contest started. The Eurovision Song Contest is never about borders, politics or ideologies. It is about reaching across all the boundaries that separates us human beings from each other". An ideal that still seems far from reality when looking back at partisan voting in previous contests.

Hopefully the shortlisted UK songs and singers will be able to at least be competitive - and get a fair hearing - in the final in three months time. But that will be hard when the UK is seen as a nation reluctant to embrace the European unity doctrine. So despite most of the songs not yet being announced the bookmakers have already picked Russia, Sweden, Germany, Norway and Australia as the 2016 favourites.

tags: Eurovision, song, contest, BBC, UK, losers, Sweden, winners



True Stories?

For the benefit of those Grandads who are living overseas - or have their curtains permanently closed this message is simply to confirm that the British media is still publishing wild weather predictions disguised as news.

ExpressWeatherJokeFeb2016That long standing specialist in this style of reporting - Nathan Rao of the Daily Express - is today again forecasting freezing blizzards. This time for the rest of February. Considered that in October 2015 he published - Heavy Snow Warning .. UK faces Winter White-out .. a record cold winter - when we actually got above average temperates makes the whole of the newspaper seem a parody of itself.

Looking out of our real world window today there are white cherry blossoms against the blue skies. True; it could all change within hours. But the chances of getting that record cold winter are diminishing rapidly.

So - if the popular UK press can be seen by everyone to be hyping weather guesses as facts - can they ever be trusted to give us true stories?

Today’s example can be dismissed as just a weak joke. But it happens to appear on the same day as claims from Germany that the media there has been self-censoring stories to fit Frau Merkel‘s political objectives. Hiding bad news or spinning it to fit the required state line. Something straight out of the Nazi - and Communist - era history books. Not much of a joke - more sinister propaganda. But at least today there are plenty of sources of news - even if many of them also have little regard for the truth. Finding true stories amongst all the dross is one of today’s many challenges ..

tags: spin, incompetence, crying wolf, sloppy journalism



The Year of the Smart Meter?

The government expects that smart meter installations will rise sharply in 2016, when all the final common standards come into force, and that 20 million meters being fitted between 2016 and 2018. So goes the prediction on the official promotional website for the planned gas and electricity monitoring network. A project to scrap all conventional meters for an estimated £11,000 million by 2020. One promoted as a free service but where the costs are being actually added to your gas and electricity charges. See our earlier post ..

Man1Now organisations like British Gas have been promoting the switch to smart meters for three years or more - and have had some takers. However the smaller energy suppliers have not been so active. And a quick check around the UK suppliers shows that most have installed very few. Some saying that they are waiting for some new technology promised for later this year. Which seems to tie in with the Government statement about final common standards. So clearly something is pending in the world of smart metering technology - but none of energy suppliers spell out exactly what that will be. So time for Grandad to do some checking.

As any careful electricity user will know, monitors showing current consumption and even costs have been around for years. One is sitting next to this PC. But what more is possible?

Take just one system - the Loop Energy Saver. This is a subscription service made up of an electricity and gas monitoring kit and access to your personal energy data through your own online account. Now this is not the only product on the market but Loop has been awarded a best in class by Which? Magazine and has got some good feedback from Amazon purchasers.

LoopEnergy1The system consists of two tiny Loop readers that are easily installed - no tools or batteries are required. The Electricity Monitor simply clips around your meter cable and the Gas Monitor sticks on to your meter. [Grandad’s current electricity monitor needs a total of six batteries that have to swapped out for recharging all too frequently].

Once the readers are in place the system makes use of your existing broadband connection. It can then show the energy you use straight to your PC, tablet and smartphone. It can also show you how much your actual electricity and gas consumption costs since it knows your current supplier’s tariffs. It can also send you details of any better deals from your current supplier or competitors; using your usage stats. So how does all of this cost? Well the dual fuel option costs either £50 one-off or a £3 per month direct debit. With a 45 day free trial as part of a current promotion.

LoopEnergy2So is the Loop offer worth taking up - when the energy suppliers are planning a big smart meter push in 2016? Yes it probably is. Why? Because Government IT projects rarely come in on time (or on budget) and the official smart meters need a new, untested infrastructure before they can work. And even if this grand plan comes together then its aims are very different. The Government’s objectives include enabling the energy companies to monitor and control your energy usage. This means the smart meters need to be much more than clever meter readers. They need to be permanent, tamper-proof units that the supplier can use to both bill you and, if required, turn off your power remotely - for any reason from national emergency to late payment of a bill.

Clearly the Government scheme is going to be much more expensive - since systems like Loop are self-fitted, make use of your existing Internet connection and your tablet, smartphone or PC. Plus they don’t need expensive replacements for your existing meters. However the information provided by the Loop service is just as helpful as a smart meter for saving energy - and money. In fact you could find that its comparison service enables you to switch suppliers when and if there are savings to be made. An option and a source of savings that meters fitted by suppliers are unlikely to offer ..

So be warned - just doing nothing and letting your energy supplier give you a free smart meter might turn out to be a very costly mistake.

tags: smart, eco, green, carbon, reduction, waste, disaster, expensive


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