Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Quick thought

Saw this on the BBC and had a thought.

The plans include a Child Poverty Bill, which Ms Sturgeon said was arguably the government's most important legislation.
The bill would establish Scotland as the only part of the UK with statutory income targets on child poverty, and see a "baby box" given to every newborn.

As we know, the concept of poverty in the UK in a historical fashion is basically meaningless. Even the poorest have food to eat and a roof over their heads, and I seem to recall reading that just being on the dole puts you in the top 2% globally as far as incomes go. Hence, no real poverty. What we do have is some level of inequality. Personally, I think this is less of an issue than poverty, but some seem to disagree.

So, if all of the recent talk of child poverty is actually measuring inequality then there's a good chance that Scotland becoming independent would at a stroke reduce child poverty more than any amount of government spending. We know that London is economically over indexed within the UK - everything costs more there and wages are higher to compensate. As a result, comparing two people (one in London, one not) with the same spending power after rent, bills, etc could still look as if their was a big discrepancy (as the Londoner will have higher salary, higher rent, higher bills). Thus there will always be a problem with relative poverty as long as we measure total income and not disposable income.

Hence, remove London from the equation and things look better for everyone. Removing the rest of the UK as well may be a slightly extreme way to do it, but I'm sure it would have a big impact on the child poverty measure being used, hence the child poverty bill could reasonably call for a new referendum.

Friday, 2 September 2016

Maybe we should have another referendum

Saw this on the BBC

Nicola Sturgeon has launched a "new debate" on independence as she urged Scotland to "control its own destiny".
Because the rest of the UK is imposing all sorts of terrible burdens on them?

She said there was a "democratic deficit" at the heart of the Westminster system, and the fundamental question was whether Scotland should control its own destiny as a country, or "will we always be at the mercy of decisions taken elsewhere".
And yet, they wanted to remain part of the EU. So they still want to be at the mercy of decisions taken elsewhere, they just want it to be more remote.

I think that if a majority of the Scottish want to leave then we should of course let them. I'd be tempted to go a step further - if they keep going on about it, perhaps the rest of the UK can have a vote to see if we want to kick them out. They're running a deficit of £15bn or so now, aren't they? I'm sure we can find better things to do with that money.

Thursday, 1 September 2016

Translation services available for a fee

Saw this on the BBC website today.

The EU referendum campaign was dogged by "glaring democratic deficiencies" with voters turned off by big name politicians and negative campaigning, a report says.
The vote didn't go the way we wanted

The government's controversial mail-shot to every household in the UK had "little effect on people's levels of informedness", it said...
It was a waste of money

... towards the end of the campaign nearly half of voters thought politicians were "mostly telling lies".
They've cottoned on to us!

The society said the EU debate was in "stark contrast" to the 2014 referendum on Scottish independence, which it said had featured a "vibrant, well-informed, grassroots conversation that left a lasting legacy of on-going public participation in politics and public life".
People voted the way we wanted in the Scottish Referendum

Ms Ghose added: "Now that the dust is starting to settle after the EU referendum, we need a complete rethink about the role of referendums in the UK. They are becoming more common, but the piecemeal nature of the how, when and why they're done means we could simply end up jumping from referendum to referendum at the whim of politicians."
Letting the people have a say. Why would we want to do that?

Monday, 23 November 2015


We had to have our 6 month old kitten - Odin - put down yesterday morning. We'd just started letting him go outside a few weeks ago and he loved it, he was so eager to get out - literally hanging off the window until we opened it. That morning was no exception.

We let him out at around 9am and I walked the dog about 10 minutes later. When I got back and was near the house, I could hear this loud meowing. I looked for the source and found him sprawled under a bush. He wasn't laying right - his back legs looked funny - so I called my wife right away. She came out and had a look and I took the dog in. We got into the car and took him straight to the vets where he had three X-rays, and they revealed that his spine had been crushed and his pelvis was broken. He was in a lot of pain, would never be able to walk again and wouldn't be able to have any quality of life. They recommended that he be put down.

He was such a lovely little kitten. He was already heavier than our other cat (who is 4 and a half years old) and always seemed so happy and energetic. My Dad called him a "smashing little fellow." He had a wonderful life, and I wish he hadn't had to go so soon, but I don't think there's anything we could have done to make him happier.

I really miss him - the house seems quiet without him (even though Dusty and Thor are still here), and I miss his little purr and the way he'd stand up to get cuddles, and the way he would sit on my shoulders and purr. I hope we did the right thing for him - and we will never forget him.

Rest in peace, little one.

Friday, 8 May 2015


I'm sure I've gone into this before, so I won't belabor the point but this election is a great demonstration of the flaws with First Past the Post, when combined with single member constituencies.

The latest data I have shows 643 seats declared Table updated to show final result (and I'll try to update these numbers as more data comes in). It shows that 30.7m votes have been cast, which would equate to 47,223 votes per seat in a perfect democracy.

Looking at any party that got at least 47,223 votes, we see:

PartySeatsvotesvotes per seatseats under PR
Alliance Party061,556-1
Green Party11,157,6131,157,61325
Liberal Democrat82,415,888301,98652
Plaid Cymru3181,69460,5654
Ulster Unionist Party2114,93557,4682
Sinn Fein4176,23244,0584
Social Democratic & Labour Party399,80933,2702
Scottish National Party561,454,43625,97231
Democratic Unionist Party8184,26023,0334

(updated to reflect final score - the single "other" seat is left off of this list)

Doesn't look so good for UKIP, at 3.8m+ votes per seat, does it. That should come down a bit when Thanet South is declared. Greens are also in a bad place with over 1m votes per seat. Interesting to see the Lib Dem position - under PR they'd have got a lot more seats.

The system does seem to be set up to ensure that the bigger parties cannot be challenged.

For the record, the PR figures above assume that anyone getting less than enough votes for one seat would be ignored, and the seats split among the remaining parties according to vote share.

Interestingly, these PR figures would still leave Conservatives and UKIP 1 seat short of a majority if they worked together.

Someone at Tim's place mentioned that UKIP have more votes than Lib Dems and SNP put together - something to think about!

Numbers taken from the BBC page at http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/election/2015/results

Sunday, 6 October 2013


My cat was hit by a car last week. I was at work and my wife called me to let me know. It was one of the scariest calls I've ever taken.

I rushed out and met them at the vet's. Luckily it seems like he's not too badly hurt. His ear is a bit mangled and a couple of teeth chipped, but the rest of it will all heal.

Today we let him out for the first time since it happened. It's scary sometimes, having pets...

Friday, 4 October 2013

Health care

I had an interesting discussion with my mum earlier today about the NHS.

For background, my mum had an aneurysm at Christmas and was admitted to hospital. She was stuck in there for a few weeks while they did scans and decided what to do, then once they'd decided on an operation there were more than a few delays but she eventually had her op and all went well.

We were discussing the changes coming up to the national lottery, and one of her reservations was around the "good causes" that lottery money is sent to. She suggested that it could instead be funnelled to the NHS. I had to disagree.

My mum was quite surprised to hear how much we all currently pay for the NHS (last time I did the maths it was around £2,000 per taxpayer per year -  a little over £150 per month).

My problem with the NHS is not that it's not a good thing, but that it's not efficient and has no need to be. This is one reason I'm all for the idea of competition within the NHS. I'd rather go further though.

The best system I've heard of is the Singaporean one. Everyone pays their NI equivalent into a special account.   If you need serious treatment (such as for cancer, etc) then the government pays, and most other medical costs are taken from your special account. If there's anything left in it when you reach retirement age, you can use the money to buy a pension. This way people who need something can get it, but it discourages frivolous uses of the health service (by making people aware of the cost) while driving efficiency (through competition - if a new clinic will charge less, people will use it).

Saturday, 14 September 2013

Sleepy Sunday

The dog, cat and I are having a snooze. The best way to spend a Sunday!

Friday, 13 September 2013

Doctor Who

I just found this thread on RPG.Net a couple of days ago and have very much enjoyed reading it. It's great to see how people perceive Doctor Who, and reading about someone watching it for the first time reminds me of when I first watched it.

My own take on it was that 9 was suffering some kind of PTSD - he could have done with another season or two to work through his issues, but I guess a regeneration works as well. 10 was ok - he was a little too human for me, and a bit too much of a hypocrite for me to get behind 100%.

All of my favourite episodes in the early seasons were Moffat ones. I've disliked just about all of the end-of-season finishes under RTD. Take season 1 for example - great setup, fantastic situation. Daleks poised to destroy mankind, and the only way the Doctor can stop it is by wiping out Earth. Great stuff! But then he doesn't go through with it, and instead Rose gets super-powers and saves the day. There's a line in there about how a time lord can't look into the heart of the Tardis as he'd get the powers of a god (kinda like Rose just did?). Then how the hell did they lose the time war?

When the Master stole the Tardis and left the Doctor and co marooned at the end of time, I thought it was so he could look into it's heart and become a God. But no, instead he wants to use it to build a really fragile Paradox Machine device, the breaking of which will undo all the stuff he's done. Great plan...

The other big thing that annoys me about RTDs endings is that there's no build up until the last minute. People have already talked about the Bad Wolf thing. It was meaningless - at best it gives a little cue that lets you place the episode within series 1 when re-watching. In Season 1, the first time we learn that the "Heart of the Tardis" is special is in Boom Town, the episode immediately before the season ending two-parter (and it solves all their problems by magic there as well).

This problem is endemic throughout the season-endings. The resolution is always something of a deus ex. Season 2, great situation with Daleks and Cybermen attacking. How do we solve it? Pull a lever... Season 3, a whole lot of people chanting your name give you magical powers? Really? And the whole fobwatch thing that indicates hidden time lords? Only introduced a couple of episodes before, and all because the Doctor didn't want to hurt the poor bad people, instead getting a bunch of innocents killed.

Season 4 gave us the Doctor-Donna fiasco. Never mind that dodging a regeneration shouldn't be as easy as having a spare body part around (and where are the limits? can I shunt regeneration energy into a finger? How about a toenail clipping?) The whole thing where Donna gets all the knowledge and power of the Doctor by touching this energy imbued hand is dodgy as anything (and not just that, but (a) she's apparently better than the Doctor at it and (b) she still only saves the day with essentially meaningless technobabble) but also creating a human clone of the Doctor? I never liked biology, but the repressed biologist inside me is crying out in agony. Still, anything for a happy ending, right? (A happy ending for Rose and the clone Doc, anyway. Kinda sucks for Donna).

I will confess I've not actually watched The End of Time - I fear my heart may give out given what I've heard.

Don't get me wrong - I love the situations and most of the season ending episodes, I've just always been disappointed by the resolution. New things are introduced (such as Heart of Tardis giving Godlike powers) which are then ignored forever-more.

I'd love to say that things got better under Moffat, and they kinda did. The first season under Moffat was genius, and I loved every minute. The next looked promising but then had a crappy ending - how exactly a wedding ceremony is meant to fix the universe I don't really know, and the resolution where River killed the robot seemed a little contrived - it would have been less of a stretch and a better nod to continuity within the series to have the 'Ganger Doc come back. The latest season hasn't really ended yet - but I'm not overly thrilled with the explanation for the Impossible Girl - seems a bit too similar to Rose getting God powers in the first RTD season and spreading messages through the time-stream. GI's motivation seemed a little OTT as well - screwing one person over at the cost of your life seems like too high a cost - better to send a minion to do it, surely?

Have to see what the 50th Anniversary special is like.

Monday, 12 August 2013

Journalists and numeracy

Just spotted this - it's a fairly minor thing, but bugs me.
"...a maximum "lifetime allowance" applies to pensions, limiting the total size of a fund to £1,500m for this tax year (ending April 2014) and down further to £1.25m in the next (2014-2015). "
Seems like a hell of a cut, from £1.5bn to £1.25m...

from http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/personalfinance/pensions/10233522/Todays-children-will-need-2.4m-pension-pot.html

The whole article is a bit crap to be honest - £2.4m would buy you around (very approximate) £120k of pension, which seems like a hell of a lot more than most people live on while working, let alone in retirement. I suspect they're taking inflation into account, at which point they may be trying to draw attention to the fact that the allowance is decreasing rather than increasing, but they really need to say what assumptions they are making and what that means in today's money. It's just scaremongering