Archive of Postings to June 2018


Bee Aware

After a run of days blessed by fine, warm weather the gardens of Britain are in full-bloom. But something is wrong. Something is missing. Grandads report that bee numbers are down. And they are not just seeing a few less than 2017 but experiencing numbers that have declined from twenty or more on a single flower bed last year to having none at all on the same flowers this year.

MK7A1871wThe government announced an urgent and comprehensive review into the decline in bee numbers - but that was in June 2013. Five years later Grandad is unable to spot any meaningful improvements. In fact anecdotal evidence suggests that the rate of decline is now worse than ever.

In order to help quantify the scale of the problem Friends of the Earth have been running the Great British Bee Count but if you want to contribute there are only a few days left ..

However the alternative view is that the bees are copying the dolphins in A Hitchhikers Guide To The Galaxy and are leaving Planet Earth before disaster strikes ...

tags: pollination, bees, agriculture, decline




It’s More Than A Game - Two games into the FIFA World Cup and England have already scored eight, yes eight, goals. Even though this is already old news for millions, Grandads supporting England just had to register it here. It might never happen again in a life time!

Model Solution - After our posting about hydrogen powered trains comes the news that Cadent have speculative plans to build a hydrogen gas plant somewhere on Merseyside. Cadent have floated the 900m HyNet project - with claims it could reduce environmentally-harmful emissions and could create or secure thousands of jobs over 30 years.

However this scheme does not produce hydrogen cleanly from water and electricity but rather through breaking down natural gas into, mainly, carbon dioxide (CO2) and hydrogen. Essentially producing much the same quantity of harmful CO2 as would burning gas in the conventional way. It is a scheme totally dependent on a method of safely storing all the CO2 produced. Cadent claim that this can be done by pumping it into the gas fields under the Irish Sea that are due to be decommissioned soon.

Many doubt that this scheme will get tax-payer funding since domestic gas heating is scheduled to be culled by 2030 - and that’s just twelve years away. However Merseyside industry may see this as a way to get around their own restrictions on burning natural gas - especially if funded by the tax-payer.

tags: football, sport, 52 years, good start, green agenda, climate change



Seeing Clearly

Today the Grandads Technology Centre (GTC) received its latest upgrade. A DVD player with the ability to play Ultra High Definition (UHD) blu-ray discs and Super-Audio CDs via its sole UHD television.

This technological advance at the GTC comes at the same time as the BBC are streaming UHD versions of some FIFA football matches from Russia. And have just announced that much of this year’s Wimbledon tennis championships will be shot in UHD (2160 pixels high) with access via iPlayer.

UHDAdventure1However this technological advance only serves to show the weaknesses rather than the strengths of the world’s largest broadcaster. Most UK broadcast channels are transmitted as standard definition (576 pixels high) and even though the BBC’s (and ITV’s) main channels are available in HD (up to 1080 pixels high) the vast majority of the channels on Freeview are not; including those part owned by the BBC. Worse still some of the programmes, for example the never-ending repeats of Dad’s Army, are so old that they are in the square format used in the days of analogue television.

The problem for the BBC is its scale and scope. At one extreme it is using the latest technology - for a very limited audience - while at the other extreme it is providing most tax-payers with broadcasts using standards that are long past their best. Low-tech may be justified for transmissions to distant countries - but not within the UK.

For example, to enjoy the optimum experience of Wimbledon in UHD the BBC says audiences need a 40 megabit per second Internet connection. A speed much beyond what is actually available for most UK viewers at present. And sadly the UK seems extremely unlikely to have a powerful enough broadband network able to provide the capacity needed for everyone to watch Eastenders or Corrie in UHD at 40mps in the foreseeable future.

So for now getting something new and appealing, that will test our 4K TV, will have to be sourced via UHD blu-ray discs - despite them retailing for around 20 each. At least then we can repeat some new material rather than shows that have already been repeated ad nauseam on TV.

tags: progress, media, terrestrial, TV, digital, broadcast



It’s More Than A Game

RoyalMail1966OPAs the 2018 football world cup competition starts in Russia many Grandads must be experiencing a mixture of hope and resignation. Coming from a generation that saw England’s only victory the intervening twelve competitions seem a long series of anti-climaxes much worse than even the annual Eurovision Song Contest put-downs.

Despite this the World Cup does provide the prospect of a national event that even extreme activists will not be able to link to Brexit or climate change. So let’s hope for a degree of success for the England team since many of us just need a break from a growing frustration with our weak and ineffective politicians. Many other sports have made big strides on the world stage - can this year be the time for British football to get back to the top?

Beers and TV remotes at the ready for 4pm today and then through the other games that build-up to England v Tunisia at 7pm on Monday.

No more mentions of Brexit here as long as England are still in with a chance! And if they win - who will be worried about a EU-free future?

tags: football, sport, 52 years, good luck



Meme of the Day


tags: democracy, populism, Brexit, manipulation, comedy, tragedy, fool



Meme of the Day


tags: democracy, populism, EU, political warfare



Fix It Again Tony

There is often a feeling of Groundhog Day when it comes to politics in Italy. Even Grandads with just a passing interest in matters European will be aware of the staggering number of times the Italian government has changed during their lifetime.

MilleLira1And this week has seen yet another round political manoeuvres as the Italian President, elected politicians, the media - and now the Eurocrats - try to score points or get their supporters into positions of power. At one stage it seemed likely that the Italian populists would take control and implement a strong anti-Brussels agenda.

But it soon became clear that the EU will try anything to stop this happening - to the extent that one German MEP today suggested that the EU Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund could 'March into Rome' and take control of Italy's finances. In effect a repeat of what happened to Greece. A country still being asset-stripped to meet the demands of its ongoing bailout funding.

So will the Italian people get what they voted for? Will they have to vote again soon? Will their elected politicians deliver? Or will the Greater Europe Project take control of another state that does to comply? Either way it will all be too late to help our Prime Minister out of the hole she is digging for Brexit.

However being Italy it could be that there is a lot of noise and drama but nothing really changes - and that old slogan of Fix It Again Tony still applies.

tags: Italy, democracy, populism, EU, euro, political warfare



Stuck In Customs

As our scoreboard clocks up the passing of another hundred days the prospect of a clean, efficient break with the EU next March continues to slip further away.

Scoreboard7_300Only yesterday we were told by the chief executive of HMRC that setting up new systems to handle either of the customs options being promoted by our politicians would take three to five years to put in place. That’s three to five years on from when a choice is actually made. And with total costs estimated at 17,000 million to 20,000 million per year - it would cost more than EU membership! Clearly neither of the two options proposed is a practical or pragmatic solution for our needs with a 2019 target rapidly approaching.

And having heard so many scare stories over recent years many Grandads must be asking the rather obvious question - how come we can already handle all the customs requirements of the many millions of items arriving each year from China, North & South America, south-east Asia, etc? Just one container ship from Asia can - and does - deliver far more goods than all the trucks on a cross channel ferry or Euro Tunnel train - without requiring an expensive new system. A system that coincidently costs more than staying in the EU.

Meanwhile the EU Withdrawal Bill still has not got through to the statute book and mischief makers are at work pushing out rumors of another general election in the Autumn. Two examples of how vested interests are working to block the referendum result. At this rate Brexit will be an issue dumped on our children - or even our grandchildren ..

tags: Brexit, EU, progress, hard, soft, weak, strong, 700 days



Meme of the Day


tags: Deal, No Deal, political game, UK, EU, translated




Never Heard Again - Rather than being a simple case of I told you so - the Eurovision Song Contest result could make the staging of next year’s contest in Israel more politically charged than the organisers would have liked. If the venue chosen is Jerusalem then it will be difficult to maintain the event’s ethos of being a camp, foolish spectacle. However the basic problem for the organisers remains the fact that the results rarely represent the best in European music.

Model Solution - Despite Grandad’s reservations it seems that at least one company already has plans to fit hydrogen power plants instead of diesel engines - so meeting the Government’s green target and avoiding further electrification work. It has been announced that Alstom plan to modify the existing Class 321 design to take hydrogen tanks and fuel cells - because their new hydrogen train prototype being tested in Germany is too large for the restricted UK clearances. I guess it will be up to existing operators of Class 321’s to decide if they want to convert. And it is reported that Eversholt Rail are going to do just that. However Grandad must be missing some parts of the jigsaw here since the existing Class 321’s are already electric powered - via overhead cabling. No diesel engines will be replaced by fitting hydrogen power to Class 321’s. One possible explanation for incurring the significant (?) costs involved would be if Eversholt are hoping to extend their existing routes to towns that lack overhead power.

Monster Mash - Yesterday the EU Ombudsman opened an investigation into the controversial promotion of European Commission chief Jean-Claude Juncker’s right-hand man, Martin Selmayr. This follows complaints lodged by Dutch and French members of the European Parliament about his method of appointment. However Selmayr seems unconcerned and Juncker has threatened to resign if the appointments are reversed. So a combination of thick skin and political whitewashing will win the day ... possibly!

tags: Eurovision, political, divisive, EU, corruption, green agenda



Never Heard Again

Tomorrow sees the first part of seven and half hours of live TV coverage this week marking the culmination of the Eurovision Song Contest for 2018. As usual Britain hopes that its entry will attract enough votes to avoid the final being another night of national embarrassment in front of a huge audience.

EuroNorton1If you think that this introduction looks familiar - that may be because it is a direct copy of what was posted here two years ago. Grandad could have also said much the same for 2017 - but didn’t bother.

Everything has become so predictable. The British entry is attracting long odds in the betting (150 to 1) meaning that it is positioned somewhere in the mid-20s in the field - again. Graham Norton will be providing the UK commentary - again. And trying to sound as positive as possible about the British entry even though he must know that there is no way that they can win - again. Meanwhile the BBC are putting out free Eurovision party packs again - despite not being able to support St George’s Day; or it seems any of the national days around Britain.

So a safe bet that we face another year of national embarrassment - but at least the BBC can be consoled by the knowledge that no heads will roll and they will not need to find a venue for the 2019 edition. To quote Mr Norton OK… That’s three minutes we’ll never get back, but look at it this way: We’ll never have to hear that song again.

tags; song, contest, BBC, UK, Eurovision, political, divisive



Mayday! or May Day?


The latest round of petulance from the Lords Temporal has poured figurative fuel on the smoldering fire in the cellars below the House of Lords. A combination of self-importance and allegiances to foreign powers - especially through payments that are conditional on life-time support of the European Union - has caused many to question whether their dubious benefits outweigh the many problems they cause.

It cannot be right that a major arm of UK government has its policies controlled by unelected appointees; some of whom have rather obvious conflicts of interest. And in the case of how best to leave the EU, many of whom seem to be preferring their EU pension more than honoring their commitment to Queen and country. So while some British Lords enjoy awards from the French Government for their loyalty and service, the other place has our elected politicians fighting a losing battle over a clean break with Brussels.

No wonder Grandad is not the only one looking back to Oliver Cromwell and this attributed quote - It is high time for me to put an end to your sitting in this place, which you have dishonored by your contempt of all virtue, and defiled by your practice of every vice; ye are a factious crew, and enemies to all good government; ye are a pack of mercenary wretches, and would like Esau sell your country for a mess of pottage, and like Judas betray your God for a few pieces of money.

tags: Deal, No Deal, political game, UK, EU, treason, lords, Westminster


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