Saturday, 19 August 2017

Project X, Part VI, Adding the sound from compact disc

In August of 2015 I started a mini series of posts around a rather novel small inexpensive amplifier that tied into my love of experimenting and building things that had been sadly curtailed due to industrial injuries and severe disabilities.
It was called Project X, the standing for mystery as I put together a mini system based around it looking at what a person on say a limited income might be able to do and just how good these units actually are. 
We covered topics like how to add input selection, the issue of dealing with its high sensitivity input and how we might ration it, the sort of speakers best suited to a small low power amplifier and in the last entry on March First, 2016 I looked at reproduction from cassette tapes.

There recently has been some rationalization of equipment  such as outmoded VHS video tape players and also upgrades on my main stereo system and I felt like adding cd replay so I repurposed the Rotel RCD 965 LE Discrete from the main system to this because in the intervening two years, I have found the amplifier to be capable of high quality reproduction and certainly shows the benefit of good quality sources.
While its replacement is better, non the less for regular cd this remains a lovely sounding player and so an ideal candidate for  adding cd replay using a high quality lead and using another Rothwell attenuator to bring its 2 volt maximum output down to that it can handle without distortion. 

On Tuesday I listened to a program of American Classics from composers such as Copland, Bernstein and Barber that I grew up on through it and it sounded really impressive, clear capturing both the tonality and also the vibrancy of the music well.


Previous Project X Posts:
Part one - The SA 36a pro ampifier
Part two - Adding multiple inputs
Part three - Adding the loudspeaker
Part four - Attenuating inputs
Part five - Adding tape replay

Saturday, 12 August 2017

Supporting the cause and its limits

Having more or less caught up, I thought I'd talk around an aspect of last weekend's kerfuffle around the National Trust, its volunteers and supporting LGBTQIA rights.
I think the best start point is to look at the relationship between a volunteer who isn't paid and the body that offers up that opportunity of which in Great Britain we have a good number of.
You're not, having worked for two organizations as one seen as an employee with a formal contract that relates to employee rights although good organizations do set in a document its terms when it comes to supporting you and what you are expected to do sometimes with a formal review between a supervisor and yourself.
In general you are expected to follow the policies of the organization and this includes to offer a service to all regardless of ethnicity, religion, gender and sexual orientation, not imposing upon others your own feelings. 
Equally they should respect yours.
You are expected to wear something that identifies you as a volunteer and to take part in promoting what you do.
What I feel was at issue was the idea that a person not under formal contract  should be told to wear something that was not ordinarily a part of your work attire and to mark an event - the 50th anniversary of 1967 Sexual Offences Act - which of itself has nothing to with their work role.
It was the case the trust building itself was part of exhibition whatever one may think of its own relevance to the general charitable role of the Trust, to whom publicity material etc was issued.
Requiring a volunteer to wear a symbol of LGBTQIA pride was not necessary for them to act as guides during the course of this exhibit and was directly imposing a cause onto an individual to be seen to support.
It's common place today to see public servants at Pride events but for instance a police officer isn't ordered to wear a badge or are they required to attend in support and that is not not seen as a breach of a commitment to equal opportunities.
One aspect of life as someone who supports LGBTQIA rights for personal and ethical reasons I find most annoying is the tendency of some to infer an objection to having to wear badges for a variety of very worthy causes means really you are prejudiced or in some way not fully committed to the struggle for full equality.
Rest assured I and others are but we don't feel like being festooned day after with badges or having to this or that campaigns T shirt by order.

Saturday, 5 August 2017

Natural return

First post in the great blogisphere since arriving back from my vacation late last week and most of this one that I'll write about elsewhere later on however one I thing I won't be touch much on is the what the heck the more wobble than a blancmange governance in the White House and Trump's throwing transgendered service personal under the bus the keep the right-wingers happy cos that ship past its sailing time to blog on.
You could say in so far as what this blog is mainly around, the period away was the necessary break from brexit, post grenfell towers building control issues, trump tweets and all that which just winds me up for being internet free and spending less time watching tv news.
I spent some enjoyable time just being out doors, switched off from that, going on walks around the grounds where we stayed, admiring the trees, watching the bees and as you can see even spotted a Red Admiral butterfly out and took its picture!
Insects of a less welcome kind that did hang around were flies black with a couple of dull stripes running along their frame that tried to get everywhere!!!
A friend took some pictures of the sky at night as the sky was clear and the area doesn't suffer from the light pollution that afflicts chunks of our densly populated country fro domestic and highway related electric lighting.
That time away I feel was what I needed.

Friday, 28 July 2017

Caro's topical round up

Hello and welcome. This weeks entry coming from the patented Blogger scheduler because as those of you who have followed this blog and possibly may belong to 'Angels' know I do have a 'littles' side and that side of me is on a very much child-like vacation this week which being twenty-seventeen I can just come out and say that to you all.
There are couple of things I do want to talk a little about of which the first is I do welcome the consultation over the 2004 Gender Recognition Act and the noises coming from government making the process less intrusive because while that Act was a breakthrough at the time non the less it was still centred around a diagnosis of gender dysphoria, the sense in which you feel distress that your sex (aka your physical body) does not match your sense of Gender such as gender identity and gender role.
This was common associated with the process of transition -usually medical involving hormones and often surgery too to give you the legal identity of the gender you 'belonged' to and legal recourse during the process of transition in areas of civil and employment law.
I do feel moves that allow more for those who may not wish to go down the route (or perhaps cannot for variety of reasons) of medical transition should be able to get certification of being and wishing to be regarded in law as the gender they are with full legal rights.
The other thing is Periscope the Twitter app used by teens. 
I don't wish to sound like a boring groan up but I do question the idea of allowing a thirteen year old the ability to in effect broadcast 'anything' online with no transmission delay and patently limited by nature moderation especially when coupled to GPS information on exactly where they are. It's practically impossible to monitor in real time every user and there is worrying evidence of it being for inappropriate sexual contact and grooming by pedophiles who know exactly where to find them.
Let's face it. Would any of us be allowed to run a radio or tv channel as a young teen with person to pull the plug if either we did something wrong or a person we were interviewing got out of hand? No, we wouldn't - we wouldn't be allowed unsupervised airspace so just what are doing allowing this??? 

Saturday, 22 July 2017

Toy ad rules - some thoughts

One thing that's been in the news here are new regulations governing gender stereotyping in advertising be it in print, on tv or online which have brought many varied responses from people.
Most of us can agree some of of these stereotypes such as mom at home, dad at work or dad does things for himself, mom cooks and runs the house are out of date, do promote less co-operative ideas about how males and females can get on productively and so shouldn't be pushed to children still forming their own ideas.
There are still some situations though where certain scenes generally won't happen.
That whole necessary conversation between daughter and mom as they play would never be the same even if we had dad playing with dolls with her so should a ad like this from nineteen sixty-five be banned or totally degendered if someone came up with something similar?
Equally is there anything wrong in itself with an ad showing a boy engrossed repairing a bike with dad or an uncle where often there's more going on than fixing the bike, like fixing how to be the best boy and in time being the best adult male he can?
I'm totally for gender neutral play and fighting the tyranny of pink and blue but this kind of relating actual aids kids form relationships and make good connections with adults that help move them on in time toward maturity. 

Friday, 14 July 2017

The Main Ingredient

This week I'm doing an old school post rather like the last bunch were but as was always the case on Daytime Office Girl Crisis around one of other core topics, music and my collection.
Soul music is something I like being very much brought up on that from the nineteen sixties and  seventies and this group from New York were one I've always been partial  to.


As a overall compilation that one on the UK's Kent soul label is a s good as gets for sound quality but when I get deep into something I really mine catalogues especially when they are of such high quality.

This set of two albums originally issued  in 1970 and 1972 respectively was re-issued in two-fer form in 2010 by Superbird, a division of Cherry Red records in the UK featuring the hit single "Everybody Plays The Fool".

Expansion Records who tackle more specialist soul reissues in the UK, released their 1975 and 1976 albums Rolling Down A Mountainside which was ten 10 R&B hit 45 in 1974 and Music Maximus albums on a two-fer

A number of soul albums on RCA's catalogue were issued in the nineteen seventies in discrete four channel (Quadraphonic) tape and CD4 records.
in 2016 the enterprising UK company Vocalion, were able to license both the stereo and quad mixes of the 1974 Euphrates River for a super audio cd (playable on regular  cd equipment in stereo only) which includes their version of Summer Breeze covered also the Isley Bros. The album reached #8 on the R&B chart.

Saturday, 8 July 2017

Our values and defending them

This is being written in bits as I'm feeling very warm at the minute  and to be honest there are couple of things I could of blogged about this week but I'm choosing one that's topical and I think worth mulling over.
As much as I dislike 'soundbites' there was one on Thursday I felt worth looking at and it's from a 'marmite' politician where President Trump of the States said "The future of Western civilization is at stake" before stating the following question: "The fundamental question of our time is whether the West has the will to survive."
What he had in mind when it came to the threat was both political and religiously motivated terrorism and extremism that rejected liberal democratic values, such as free speech, free and fair elections, an independent justice system free from political and religious interference and the use of terrorism to bring those societies that support such principals within its orbit.
The is little denying groups such as Isis do explicitly reject what we call western values believing in a single World-wide Islamic state that is a Theocracy rather than a Democracy that operates to its interpretation of that religion and to which it alone runs justice to its own so-called Sharia Law standards.
The usual and mainly left-wing explanation of their terrorist inspired activities in the west is one of fighting the actions of Western Governments in conflicts that affect them such as in Syria and Iran and in recent past Iraq and Afghanistan by bring death and disruption to our streets. "If only we'd of left them alone" it is at least implied "we'd not of seen the recent incidents in London, Manchester and Paris".
I'm not a fan of such 'interventions' not least as they typical don't have a endplan in place but I do wonder if the aim isn't actually wider wanting to whatever means to transplant its ideology on our soil and us terror was a kind of warfare to remove political and legal obstacles at best giving them the upper hand when it comes to us looking after our own interests around the world?
There is a concern that once a parallel legal system is permitted even in a limited form, you erode the common stock of legal rights that are the birth right  all living and born in our society. We may cherish our diversity but what of it when elements of it such as the rights of women and lgbtqi rights it may in effect be denied to groups within it?
Just how much of our moral, cultural and liberal democratic values as a society should we be be prepared actively to keep from people who either don't share them or even wish to take them away?
This kind of conundrum is the very thing a society like ours, liberal and diverse needs to think about so while I don't hold much with the man, maybe it'll start a debate where we do arrive at a consensus around these questions. 

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Caro's three in one catch up post

Happy Dominion/Canada Day folks! 150 years-way to go,eh?
Following on from last weeks 100% political post which was so old school when it comes to this blogs history, we have made some sort of progress with the Conservatives and the DUP agreeing to the supply agreement so it's likely the Queen's Speech will be carried and a number of actions in it supported although it should be recognized this is no formal coalition so expect a few bumps along the way.
Connected with that the UK Government has set out ideas around how it sees the protection of EU citizens in the UK and UK citizens in the EU human rights to be protected and while there is more common ground than one might think, there are differences around if full EU Rights should remain the UK where it doesn't apply them for its own and who should be the final arbitrator in the case of a dispute, the UK Supreme Court or the European Court of Justice? They may need to be a halfway house.

Moving beyond that which as we addressed last year, for this blog to go forward I need to be able to talk about parts of my life that moved centre stage to it since the blog was started, I do take part in a Little's Chat night and we talked about children's television and in particular how the recent death of Brian Cant who narrated the Camberwick Green,  Trumpton,and Chigley trilogy of cartoons set in Trumptonshire in the nineteen sixties (repeated into the nineteen-seventies) and also was a present on the Play away and Play school programs for young children left us.
These shows were a part of our childhood and many of us felt close to their stars.
Finally and something I hadn't spoken much of on this blog, I have been reading a lot around "Crossdreaming" as that applies to those of us who are transgendered, such as Felix Conrad's publications, the Transcend and Crossdreamers websites CrossDreamers .
I find much of what is said there speaks more to me than mainstream transgender narratives not least the thorny debates between those  who see transsexuality as a totally separate thing and those of us who see it as a part of a wider continuum of gender identity and roles.


Saturday, 24 June 2017

Weekly political round up

Politically this week we do not appear to have gotten any further along the path of stable government with anything being signed between the Conservatives and the Democratic Unionist Party with somewhat onerous "Don't take us for granted" messages coming forth on Tuesday. Perhaps they haven't been given quite what they wanted or want to explore other deals?
Almost bizarrely on Wednesday, we had the Queen's Speech delivered in a very much lacking in pomp and splendour way with what was a hastily chopped down program shewn of anything particularly controversial majoring with the legislation required for leaving the EU and the troublesome Social Care and extension of Grammar Schools measures featured in the manifesto dropped.
On the other hand the changes in school funding in England and HS2 phase 2a Birmingham to Crewe rail bill to give legal powers such as compensating where the line goes through land and buildings was.
Fifty-six million pounds to remove eighteen minutes off the journey time does to be honest seem rather excessive even if it does add more mainline capacity and I can't help thinking there are cheaper was of just doing it such as restoring four track working taken out in the past to save repair costs adjacent to existing track.
To some extent the more troubling development was Sunday's midnight attack by a hired van mowing down a group of Muslim worshippers taking a pause from Eid prayers at London's Finsbury Park mosque by a middle aged man from Cardiff, Wales who chanted anti muslim slogans and two others that resulted in one fatality and a good number of injuries.
Worrying because while the attitude of right wing, anti immigration and anti muslim groups such as the English Defence League is often aggressive and sometimes thuggish, the one thing they haven't done nor has any lone group of the like minded is target groups for terrorist actions in the way so-called Islamic extremists call for and 'inspire' independently people to commit such acts.
As a society we simply cannot accept tic for tac acts between these groups not just for the loss of life to those involved but because of that plus the impact on everyday life would be very severe. 
Finally the impact of the Grenfell Tower fire is working its way through with eleven tower blocks cladding failing fire safety tests for flammability and three Premier Inn hotels with a five block estate in Camden, central London being evacuated for emergency cladding removal.
It also transpires what started the fire was a Hotpoint Fridge Freezer that has a highly flammable plastic back which when the polyurethane insulation melts is the equivalent of   four gallons of petrol melting completely after exactly fifty-five seconds, setting kitchens well alight. In the US they have to have metal backs.
Ever felt our well-being is being ignored for cheapness.   

Saturday, 17 June 2017

The winner is...Nobody

In what is shaping up to be an eventful week for other more tragic reasons, I'm getting around to typing out my thoughts on the General Bore of 2017 and  where that leaves us which isn't exactly being helped by the time taken by those directly involved to actually forge agreements to settle it.
There are as I think I mentioned last time 650 divisions known as constituencies and for any one party to gain a majority in the House of Commons you need 326 or more and the problem with the outcome is...no one party has it!
Take Theresa May's Conservative and Unionist Party for instance and you'll see they got just 318 which make them the largest single party and yet they cannot do it by themselves.
Then there is Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party which did better in a late surge with 262 votes and the Liberal Democrats with 12 which in both parties is an improvement on the 2015 result.
Scotland's Scottish standing only Scottish National Party won 35 out of 57 Scottish constituencies which was a 21 seat drop on 2015 and Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party got 10
Let's quickly do some math here as Labour saying they were ready to form an alternative 'progressive' government and add 262 labour votes to 12 liberal democrats we have 274 seats plus the SNP's 35 we get 309 plus 4 Plaid Cymru votes equals...313.
Thus put plainly the math doesn't stack up for that argument.
To me in truth nobody won this election.
The two main Great Britain wide parties did not carry the trust needed by the electorate even if Ruth Davison run a really successful campaign for the Scottish Conservatives and Jeremy Corbyn's Labour  team did connect to a lot of young voters who amongst a good number of people are fed up with 'austerity', funding crisis in health, social care, education, declining 'working class' pay relative to expenditure and issues of both housing supply and unaffordable mortgages and rents.
In Scotland it was clear many Scottish voters were more concerned about similar issues such as educational standards that they wanted their representatives to be more engaged with than the second referendum on independence the SNP were pushing since last Junes Brexit result (Indyref2).
Brexit is in a way few of us on the leave side anticipated at the core of this problem with Labour and Conservative remainers voting for remain candidates in constituencies such as Warwick and mainly Labour leave people voting Conservative as in Walsall North and Stoke on Trent South.
It was also an election where rather than in that referendum we voted for parties despite concerns, I know I voted for who I did with concerns over social welfare issues and others voted the way they did even if financial literacy and clear signs of exactly where the money was to be found were lacking.
And that Brexit clock as we were reminded over the weekend last is ticking.
Other consequences included the standing down of Ukip leader Paul Nuttall and Wednesday decision for Tim Farron, leader of the Liberal Democrats who cited the constant attention on his own personal religious beliefs by some lesbian and gay activists even though his voting record clearly supported their rights. I have some sympathy for this as some liberals seem to be...ill-liberal both in terms of denying the space for opposing views and even accepting of while disagreeing personally, the need to allow others the space to be themselves and so backing legislation.
At the moment there is an attempt to put together an agreement by the Conservatives and the DUP so a Queen's speech (a summary of the parliamentary program put forward by Her Majesties Government) can be passed and major legislation not least relating to Brexit can be passed without a formal coalition which we had for the 2010-15 Parliament.
This is possible but has its own risks not least in resolving the deadlock at the Northern Irish Assembly a part of the devolution outside of England enacted from 1995 onward in our system of Government between the DUP and   Sinn Féin, the Nationalist, Republican party whose links to terrorism at the highest levels are hotly contested.
Neither side trust each other much and in trying to resolve this, any UK Government as former prime minister Major said on Monday risks  being seen more as a Unionist stitch up than an impartial advisor with thepossibility if it fails of Northern Ireland being run directly from London, something that would have a major impact on cross-community and Irish and UK Government relations.

Saturday, 10 June 2017

Simple Minds Glittering Prize revisited

While the political business is being worked through which I'll post about next week, I thought I'd post about an album I recently rebought.

Simple Mind's Glittering Prize 81/92 album is a compilation originally released in 1992 that only covers the commercially successful period from 1981's Love Song to 1991's Real Life album.
I did buy this on tape but the tape became worn plus I needed to make a copy for my portable digital music players.
While other more complete double compilations exist, the strength of this is that it hasn't been made artificially louder than it needs to be which is common problem on newer compilations and as the 1985 45 Don't You (Forget About Me) which was featured in The Breakfast Club movie and originally slated for Billy Idol to sing is on her in really good quality.
This is as well as the track was not issued on 1985's Once Upon a Time album sandwiched between such hits as Promised You a Miracle, Up On the Catwalk, Alive and Kicking and Belfast Child.

Digital copying 
I use dbPoweramp a paid for program from Illustrate as it is very effective, has a wide variety of databases to add song titles etc and is easy to correct any odd mistakes that may creep in before making your digital file.
File formats:
If you have a device that will play lossless files, I'd recommend using Flac as it will give you full cd quality with nothing removed.
If what you are using that doesn't do or isn't intended for super critical listening on high quality headphones, using so-called lossy encoder will make a small file that will sound 'good enough'.
I have gone back and forth between the Mp3 and Aac lossy file formats and feel on balance a Mp3 file made at 320 kbps using the LAME encoder is the best option providing high quality and universal compatibility. 
I find the Aac files I've created myself either in iTunes which isn't a good 'ripper' by the way or using the fdkaac Aac encoder in dbPoweramp tend to squash the soundstage leaving it flatter and less involving compared to the same disc ripped in the LAME mp3 encoder at 320. Louder passages tend to sound bleached for want of a better expression.

Tuesday, 6 June 2017

Nancy And The New Girl

This week while other things will be happening, I thought I'd post about a book I read recently.

The Nancy and St.Brides series of school based stories  by Dorita Fairlie Bruce is one I've been slowly making through since being presented  with one book and buying the others in a series of contemporary  high quality reprints.
We last left Nancy at Maudsley Grammar after a disastrous term at St. Brides, working on the resolving the feud between themselves and Larkistone through the Guildery movement and its ethos of moral  education and personal responsibility and the inter-school competitions.
This new term a heiress, Barbara Stephen, arrives and Nancy is involved in settling her in although the expression "two's company, three's a crowd" comes to mind as it place strains on her previous friendship with with Desda.
Things would of been so much the better if Barbara had not been so encouraged to see her role as that heiress, home taught by a Governess who very much indulged that very self centred, revolving all around her way of thinking who just wanted everything to be as it was so when she was spirited away from people who only wanted to be her parents for who she was for the Stephen's, she could not even see she had so much to be grateful for even for going to a lesser school.
An example of that defiant streak is her refusal to consider changing how she has her hair fixed as it is long and very wavy in a more grown up way while at school it would of been  a bit shorter and in pigtails or in a bob even though the signs from the other girls and even staff could not of been plainer. Nancy takes a principal stand of not ganging up on her but carefully steering her toward the values of the other girls, seeing  past all that attitude she possesses, that there was a lot of potential good and she joins the Guildery where that hair creates problems for the unit inspection although to Nancy's surprise given the problems she had in Section 6  as "Maid of Merit" with unit discipline and even fighting, Barbara does emerge with some credit for her conduct.
That three's a crowd side rears its head when Desda decides to study for a Scholarship (what I understand to be a funded place based on ability) with an examination when Barbara decides to spit her in a battle for affections to apply too even though she really has no need to  given her financial security which indeed brings an attempted kidnapping and would crush Desda's ambitions.
During this period Barbara's relationship with school, the village she moved to and her new parents come under strain as her mind battles with the emotions her past way of life and that she now is in and expected to adjust to. Indeed she even begs her Aunt to have her back and home schooled but the kidnapping puts that very much on hold as finding Nancy in who spent hours looking for her and her new friends tending to her injuries sustained from escaping the kidnapping,  she finds herself torn between her original aim and wanting to play for Maudsley in the inter school cricket match.
She finds even though she prepared for the scholarship exam revising, she struggles recalling information and understanding what the question is really requiring so she fails it. Pride isn't enough to get you through that.
Having recovered from her injuries, she plays excelling leading her team to victory, gaining acceptance from not just the other girls in the team but the whole school and soon she decides she really wants that school life as just a everyday girl part of a group than that exalted on display older girl as doll-child with all her refinery.
Indeed the end is quite moving that she decides to give away her fancy dresses for her plain girls wear and her uniform and lets Nancy cut her hair in a bob using a pudding bowl: she has given up the past, literally discarding it accepting being molded anew apologizing to Nancy for how she treated her and the others.
Reading the story really made an impression on me, seeing family fortunes aside some similarities between myself and Barbara and where we were lost in self serving bubble that did us no good.

Saturday, 3 June 2017

The E-lect-shuns

It's seven days to go as I start to work on this and like most post devolution politics it's messy because the parties unique to the devolved parts of the United Kingdom include all the parties that stand in Northern Ireland, Plaid Cymru ("The Party of Wales"), the Scottish National Party (aka S.N.P.) and have no representatives outside that part, country, region whatever the constitutional dogs dinner has left calling the bits of the UK leaving only three and three-quarters of the parties being in proper sense Nationally organized, having national statements of policies (Manifesto's) and Candidates standing nearly all the Parliamentary divisions called Constituencies. 
I say three and three-quarters because the Conservative (Tory) Party don't organize and stand in Northern Ireland although they are for the Union and have links to the two Unionist parties there.
The biggest single issue of the moment is leaving the European Union on which my thoughts can be found in other entries but I'll try to be fair.
The party most pro Europe is the Centre Left (and not what I'd recognize as Liberal) Democrats who came about from a small proportion of ex Labour people and nearly all the former Liberals and the difference between the two sides are still there.
The party was 100% behind remaining in the EU because it believes this has brought peace, economic growth and liberty to Europe and that much of the UK's trade is linked to it.
In its manifesto it has said it doesn't wish the UK to leave the Single Market for goods and services including people and the European Court of Justice.
It goes on step further and says whatever is decided at talks with the EU should go to separate referendum that include a "Remain in the EU" voting option.
The Further to the left Socialist party, The Labour party kind of agree much of that apart from the referendum but keep altering the emphasis because Labour supporters don't generally favour EU membership   and think they can talk the EU even in the last hours into some reforms.
The Conservatives and the United Kingdom Independence Party are for leaving the EU although some local branches and candidates of the former are not and generally favour what could be called a clean break.
This is because they feel the terms of keeping the Single Market which include not being able to set year on year migration targets, consider skills based applications will not be agreed to because the EU sees them as non-negotiable and all that has been able to been agreed are very short-term temporary restrictions for 'new' member states in Eastern Europe or the offer of a use one only every four year temporary limits.
Leaving the EU-"Brexit"- is like marmite: it splits people down the middle and personally is a huge issue with me and Midlands voters. One day I'll write the book "Staffordshire and how we broke the Post war settlement", lol.
Another increasingly important issue is care for the elderly in later life such as the provision of carers in peoples homes and how that especially it is they need to move into a care home where this is provided (we hope!) is to be met as that post war to mid sixties "Baby Boom" is entering the autumn of their lives in large numbers and will run on for at least fifteen or so years at a similar rate.
Presently some find it is necessary to sell off their home (if they own one) to part pay for it whereas those who are not and don't have savings have theirs paid by the state. That amount many care home providers maintain is insufficient to provide the quality of care not just expected but legally required and some scandals around this have emerged.
To pay for more of this, the Conservatives had proposed a increase in the amount you didn't need to pay before claiming back anything over £100,000 from the sale to pay for this on a deferred basis.
One problems with this is a good number of people buy a property expecting to pass it or its value on in death to immediate family (their children) and in a good number of places any property exceeds this value, not merely the better offs.
The resulting who-haa with it being called a "dementia tax" has left this quietly dropped to be re-tuned later.
Labour and the Liberal Democrats favour more state money aka taxes to pay for this but the problem with taxation is the tax yield from substantial increases is often lower and often leads to unintended consequences such as "brain drains" as the brightest and most well paid leave the UK.
My own view is you need to look at tackling tax evasion by multinational companies ("Hi Alexia, Google me Googles tax returns!" and growing the cake through greater productivity and furthering international trade.
Policing and security is an issue and while the Conservatives have talked about putting more on the ground, it also is the case the reductions in funding in their budgets since Twenty-ten had decimated them which in my personal opinion  was very short-sighted as you tend to get more significantly crime in a recession and with last weeks's awful event still in my mind here, it is obvious we are facing severe threats not just from overseas but from home grown terrorists who are not going to reduce their activities all because we're one an 'austerity' drive. 
The other parties are talking about it but as with much in this campaign we have seen little real information on exactly it has been costed and that as we get into the last days of campaigning is the one thing that really annoys me: The lack of forethought in how the policies are going to be funded together with the detail.





Saturday, 27 May 2017

Never mind the election, just deal with it

There was going to be a political entry but there's  not really been any politics although I feel the maxim war is just the continuation of politics by any other means is quite true as "The War" struck here Monday and regular politics got shut down in the aftermath although frankly I'd have no stomach for it in the circumstances, feeling that decision makes sense.
We're three weeks near enough to go to the Great Bore of 2017, there a few manifestos where the parties promise you everything have yet to be launched which is when the press are invited and someone picks a few ideas, sells them and takes questions before answering with another of their own such as UKip's who decided to break from the fray and launch theirs on Thursday. *Cough*
I'll no doubt return to my thoughts about the manifestos before June 8th but I'll talk more around some topical issues more in fitting for the Third Form school debating society.
Something since the Manchester atrocity people have been talking about is "people known to the authorities" who regardless of view are seen as threat because either what they exalt others to do or what they may do themselves such as incitement to riot or as we saw this week, to bomb civilians.
Apparently there are thousands on lists, said to be watched, sometimes because of things they made plain publicly, sometimes through reports by concerned citizens including their own families and yet with each tragedy we hear that phrase "Was known to...".
Just how much resource is into this? Seemingly only 7 out over 1,000 people are followed, less than 1 percent. Not that I'd cast any doubts at all about those who are trying to do it but is there enough people to actively monitor and let's be blunt spy on these people for our own protection?
The man responsible for Monday's action, the one President Trump called a "loser" came back into the UK from Libya seemingly unchallenged although he was "known to", that the French had concerns he was involved in something. 
Just how come he can just leave the airport when he left the UK to fight for so-called Radical Islamic Groups whose activities we know only too well?
There is a large part of me that would send anyone who went to fight for such an organization straight back and if you leave this country to join any such conflict in effect you'd void your British Citizenship. We don't need you and your warped notion of World-wide so-called Islamic state being fought here, slaughtering our children whose only crime was having fun.
I say so-called Islamic State cos it's a sick perversion of Islam to even link it as angered and upset Muslim leaders here have said over the last few days who do not deserve the suspicions cast on them by these sick individuals actions but no doubt sadly will. Whatever our religious differences our common humanity and belief in the rule of law override them as it should.

Saturday, 20 May 2017

Nancy and the New Girl

As seasoned readers of this blog know I do read a fair bit for pleasure although with my learning and developmental disabilities, they need to use more the language and reading abilities nearer to that of a child around ten to twelve than even junior adult fiction having the right mix of a good story and something that stretches me just enough.

The Nancy and St.Brides series of school based stories  by Dorita Fairlie Bruce is one I've been slowly making through since being presented  with one book and buying the others in a series of contemporary  high quality reprints.
Her writing style and use of language are a good fit for some one like me as are some of the works of Enid Blyton and Jacqueline Wilson being more for intermediate junior readers and the topics just a bit more mature.
When I wrote the last entry about this series earlier in the year, we left Nancy at Maudsley Grammar after a disastrous term at St. Brides, working on the resolving the feud between themselves and Larkistone through the Guildery movement and its ethos of moral  education and personal responsibility and the inter-school competitions.
This new term a heiress, Barbara Stephen, arrives and Nancy is involved in settling her in although the expression "two's company, three's a crowd" comes to mind as it place strains on her previous friendship with with Desda.
Things would of been so much the better if Barbara had not been so encouraged to see her role as that heiress, home taught by a Governess who very much indulged that very self centred, revolving all around her way of thinking who just wanted everything to be as it was. This meant when she was spirited away from those people who only wanted to be her parents for who she was with the inheritance for the Stephen's who cared more for her development as a child, she could not even see she had so much to be grateful for even for going to a lesser school.
An example of that defiant streak is her refusal to consider changing how she has her hair fixed as it is long and very wavy in a more grown up way while at school it would of been  a bit shorter and in pigtails or in a bob even though the signs from the other girls and even staff could not of been plainer. Nancy takes a principal stand of not ganging up on her but carefully steering her toward the values of the other girls, seeing  past all that attitude she possesses, that there was a lot of potential good and she joins the Guildry where that hair creates problems for the unit inspection although to Nancy's surprise given the problems she had in Section 6  as "Maid of Merit" with unit discipline and even fighting, Barbara does emerge with some credit for her conduct.
That three's a crowd side rears its head when Desda decides to study for a Scholarship (what I understand to be a funded place based on ability) with an examination when Barbara decides to spite her in a battle for affections to apply too even though she really has no need to  given her financial security which indeed brings her attempted kidnapping and would crush Desda's ambitions which she was fully able to realize.
During this period Barbara's relationship with school, the village she moved to and her new parents come under strain as her mind battles with the emotions her past way of life and that she now is in and expected to adjust to. Indeed she even begs her Aunt to have her back and home schooled but the kidnapping puts that very much on hold while finding Nancy, who spent hours looking for her and her new friends tending to her injuries sustained from escaping the kidnapping,  she finds herself torn between her original aim of leaving them all and wanting to play for Maudsley in the inter school cricket match.
Barbara finds even though she prepared for the scholarship exam revising, she struggles recalling information and understanding what the question is really requiring, something a person undertaking it is taught, so she fails it. 
Passing an examination requires mastering your nerves in addition to learning examination skills rather more than her sense of pride.
Having recovered from her injuries, she plays in the Cricket competition excelling, leading her team to victory, gaining acceptance from not just the other girls in the team but the whole school and soon she decides she really wants that school life as just a everyday girl part of a group than that exalted on display older girl as doll-child with all her refinery on.
Indeed the end is quite moving that she decides to give away her fancy dresses for her plain girls wear and her uniform and lets Nancy cut her hair in a bob using a pudding bowl: she has given up the past, literally discarding it accepting being molded anew apologizing to Nancy for how she treated her and the others.
Reading the story really made an impression on me, seeing family fortunes aside some similarities between myself and Barbara and where we were lost in self serving bubble that did us no good. Equally we shared a stubborn streak, refusing to accept change, deliberately ignoring the messages our peers and 'grown ups' especially were giving us even though it was very much for our own good.
Accepting change, moving on is very much the sign of a more mature attitude to life making that transition toward greater independence and personal responsibility.

Saturday, 13 May 2017

The Great Bore tm pre-event analysis aka Local Elections

Last week saw the British local government elections held on Thursday covering local authorities and a number of so-called Elected Mayors of devolving regions such as that of the nearby West Midlands  as well as those for Merseyside and Greater Manchester.
Some of the importance around them is misplaced because people in local elections often vote as much, if not more for the person as the party and it is rare for national Party Political concerns to play a big part in voting habits although from the for the last ten years removed from the core position I have it did seem very much that this time that was very much in danger of drowning out  local issues and concerns with national parties less supporting candidates engaged in local affairs as campaigning locally for national politics.
To a large extent this time round, they could be seen as a dress rehearsal for June's General Election across the whole of the UK.
In looking at the results, it seems obvious there was a swing of around 8% toward the Tories and a bigger swing against Labour with smaller swings against the Liberal Democrats although they did win a number of new seats.
The United Kingdom Independence Party (aka UKip), lost all the seats it was defending  and only won one in East Lancashire.
That did not surprise me as the party has had a very turbulent year with two leaders who left, a big falling out with accusations of physical assault of an MEP with a few others and the failure to make any coherent policies outside of leaving the European Union which we had voted for  anyway. It needs to find who it is for and develop policies that meet those of its supporters.
To many they appear a 'spent force' but don't rule them out.
Labour's problems are not to be fair just the belief in eyes of many that its leader Jeremy Corbyn is weak, ineffective, more interested his own ideas than the well-being of the party, best characterized by the expression "couldn't fight their way through the skin of a rice pudding" but simply the party itself lacks what its core voters are looking for. The average Labour voter is interested in people who believe in fighting for this country's interests first, who see defence as important and wants them to support everyday workers working conditions through the law rather than some great socialist utopia come the revolution and feels strikes are a last resort not a tool of revolutionary change. They also support the Monarchy and expect a competent person to be a Shadow Home Secretary, not someone who had not a beeping clue about their own policing policies and its costs. 
As someone who supported them when I was younger it was an embarrassing shambles of a campaign.
Every time a commentator stopped to ask former supporters about the leader it was obvious he and his leadership were the issue. It will not end well.
The Liberal Democrats problems are two-fold: some won't forgive them for being in coalition in 2010 and especially policies like changes in University Tuition Fees policies and being seen as a pro EU party when many do not support that as good as a leader Tim Farron is on the whole. Do we want a referendum on the leaving deal with not leaving as an option? I don't think people however they voted at the time, do. 
The clear winners were Theresa May and the Tories with a simple message: It's all about leadership and stability in an unstable world.
People from all parts of the UK voted for them even in areas where previously people didn't and critically they emerged as 'the' pro-union' party for Scots who have grave concerns about the popular SNP and the so-called 'Indy2' referendum they want to run asap feeling Scotland alone cannot be made to work as an independent country and collectively we're better together.

Saturday, 6 May 2017

Guilty Secrets - The Moody Blues on Mp3

It's sometimes said things are "guilty secrets" things in which the perceived wisdom around a topic holds them to be so embarrassing to admit to liking them that you'd never admit to in company even though you actual do.
What is called "Progressive Rock" is one as here you can talk about the guitar playing abilities of say Richie Blackmore of Deep Purple fame or Rick Wakeman of Yes's organ playing, no one would put in a good word for the Birmingham  based Moody Blues rich at times orchestrated scores and poetic readings in their recordings.
This was an album I remember clearly buying in March of 1980 with a slightly different cover which was the home of the single (although that was a different mono mix) and Tuesday Afternoon that I liked which was as well as my History teacher Mr Garner loved the Moody's often talking about them.  I did buy the 45 in December 1979 which had the non album track, Cities on it and I bought a few years back the Mp3 download of an expanded re-issue of it that just happens to contain that track.

This was one I borrowed numerous times from the Public Library the home of Ride My See-Saw and bought last year on Mp3 download. The track Om is almost hypnotic.
Seeing this was on offer last weekend on download I treated myself to the Mp3 download of this classic album part inspired by the Nasa spacewalk in 1969 and home to the single Watching and waiting, very much a mediation on space travel and childhood.
It was a favourite of that teacher and having listened to a few times, I can see why.

Saturday, 29 April 2017

Minnie the Mix and Leo Baxendale

On Thursday it was announced that Leo Baxendale, cartoonist at the Beano comic creator of Minnie The Minnie had died.
The Beano was something of institution, a handed down traditional rite of Britishers and for some from British families overseas too for its mixture of comics whose situations were truly only in your imaginations and some such as The Bash Street Kids and my heroine Minnie The Minx based upon our times at school and at home capturing just what it was our lives more more like as school children especially in the pre-internet era.
Minnie was very much the tomboy, not one for endless playing with toys and dolls but at the centre of all physical activities being very much the equal of any boy when it came to her strength, resourcefulness and daring-do being the Tam-o shantered and skirted equivalent of Dennis the Menace and just like him, running rings around Mom and Dad.
Here's a more recent strip, showing just how she plays pranks on girls the equal of what any boy would do.
Of course as in real life her pranks and at times outright naughtiness would catch up with her especially in pre 1990's editions as the authority figures in her life would discipline her.
This was something we'd all empathize with in an era would we'd get the same in our own lives and this interconnection between the lives we led and its portrayal in books, comics and other media was very strong which is why the death of the creator of big chunk of childhood leisure time is so keenly missed.
R.I.P Leo.

Saturday, 22 April 2017

Going to the polls

I had a schedule for publishing  that I like to keep very much with but as ever real life events just have this habit of forcing a change and this one is pretty big.
This if you were to believe the press and many of the politicians was a unexpected announcement, that Great Britain's Prime Minister, Theresa May, was to call for a snap Election June 8th on Tuesday at 11AM British time.
To me it's always been on the cards, something I expected sooner rather than later as much as I and evidently the PM herself would much sooner of had a period of stability prior to the negotiations on the way to leave the European Union.
There a number of reasons, one being to draw a line under the Cameron chummy governance  period she took over from making it very much hers in her own image, all ghosts duly dispatched, with an election held with the policies she supports uppermost on a manifesto.
There is as she said on Tuesday a mismatch between the mood of the people over leaving Europe and that of members of parliament voted on on a manifesto that pledged support to it. Moreover some conservatives saw it as their duty to fight it tooth and nail not just in the Commons but the Unelected lords.
Being able to say people voted her party in with the leading issue  getting on with leaving the E.U clearly signals even to the lords the government has the mandate to act and so their role is therefore to advise and revise not to obstruct it.
It also challenges the Scottish Parliaments assertion it alone has a mandate from that part of the UK and offers the opportunity to campaign against the idea of a second referendum on leave as the leading UK wide Unionist party which there seems rather less of a majority in Scotland for.
It also sends out a clear signal to the E.U itself that the country is behind leaving and the Government can't be bought off even if some compromises may be necessary in the short term.
To me this step simply stacks up and is what I would of taken if in a similar situation.

Friday, 14 April 2017

Talking warfare blues

"In the event of an air attack, the warning will sound and you are to make you way to the air raid shelter underground".
Well after last weeks attack on Syria by the United States  following the use of chemical weapons that killed  and injured children and babies, the sending of ships of the Korean Peninsular and last nights bombing of underground caves in Afghanistan strongly believed by us to be used by those masters of inhumanity, Isis,  you could say the world's very much on the edge.
It isn't that any one of these measures isn't justifiable - I was darn well angry as most of us were over what happened in Syria, that the North Korean leader is a threat to anyone who the Chinese ought to deal with and as far as I'm concerned Isis specialisms in gross inhumanity, approval of child sex abuse and destruction of world cultural artifacts would justify its removal from the planet - it's just the three at once that has me concerned.
This doesn't feel like the 70's and 80's where we lived with the so-called Cold War or even the Prague Spring, it's more reminiscent of the early 60's on the edge of real  warfare with China and Russia and the World-wide gorilla army of Isis rolling out destruction on a street near you as you enter McDonalds.
These times are scary, particularly for the young and we need to talk with them about what's on their minds.

Saturday, 1 April 2017

The UK and the EU: Article 50 signed

First off thanks for the increased viewing of posts recently on this blog which is appreciated as with the changing nature of my life it's not always easy to slot in a post here although perhaps inspiration is more at hand in national life.
Wednesday was a very important in the history of our Country here in Great Britain because it was the day a letter was delivered by hand to the President of the European Commission both signalling our intention to leave it and the European Union as well setting out our intentions and expectations regarding negotiation around leaving terms and expectations.
These cover things such as trading arrangements, the rights of each others citizens in the UK and the EU, any monies owed upon leaving or rebates and security which in view of last Wednesdays events are extremely important.
That Associated Press picture  is our Prime Minister signing it at No.10 Downing Street where I did spend and afternoon and evening at by request of a serving Prime Minister so is something I do recognize!
However the negotiations go, we are past the point of the question of leave or stay raised at and shortly after last June's referendum  however some might like to believe otherwise because we are actually leaving.
This does not mean we've ceased to be a member subject to its rules and laws because until a date is agreed for leaving and following any 'implementation period' where old arrangements expire, new ones come into affect and any 'ad hoc' temporary measures introduced as needed, we are still legally in membership.
The 'Great Repeal Bill' so-called is just a rolling up of exclusively EU law formally into British law to avoid a legal black hole whereupon afterwards Parliament (both Houses of) can alter, revise, revoke or replace as a Sovereign body as it can any other Law (and is in part its purpose) but not before leaving.

Friday, 24 March 2017

On the attacks on London

I suppose I might as well start by saying this was not a post I was expecting to make today by both topic and also by virtue of not being in the twice monthly publishing cycle of this blog.
It also is is by grim coincidence almost exactly a year on from one of the pre-paused posts on here where I talked about the Brussels terrorist attacks and the impact on us all.
On Tuesday March 22 at approximately 14:40 hours GMT, two people drove a 4x4 vehicle down Westminster Bridge, London into the sidewalk killing three people and injuries scores of others, some very seriously. 
Having realized they couldn't continue, they crashed into a railing near Parliament, killing one police officer before one dashed toward Parliament itself, stabbing to death a security person before being shot dead by police
That takes us to five persons currently dead from this incident which is clearly terrorist related.
The affected are of many nationalities, not just Britishers, but include French schoolchildren, an American tourist and so on so it has touched many people around the world and we know that the people of Canada, Australia, New Zealand with the reminder of the Commonwealth, the leaders of our European neighbours such as France, Belgium and Germany, our great ally, the United States of America and many others are thinking of us and are together as one at this terrible time.
Five dead and scores injured can never be be justified and are 'too many' but it has to be said we have a lot to thankful of such as the speed the police, emergency services were on the deal keeping people safe and treating those who could.
Parliament wasn't stormed. Politicians, staff and visitors including children were kept safe.
We owe them all a lot including the two who were killed.
Going forward, we have all resolved to carry on our lives even with more vigilance presently than before getting on with our lives,going to work, Parliament doing its job democracy and freedom upheld for all.
Terrorism WILL NOT prevail over Liberty and Freedom.

Saturday, 18 March 2017

Leaving minus part of ones country

Harder, more old school posting today that between the everyday fluff this blog was more noted for that that other one never goes into brought about this weeks Current Affairs.
Getting on for nearly nine months back, we had here in the United Kingdom, a referendum that asked us if we wished to remain in the European Union or if we wished to leave.
Very much a simple tick which of the two boxes you agree with thing although nobody would say the propositions themselves don't have complexities and for some people the final outcome was more a finely balanced judgement than just a straightforward Yes.
Well the one thing we do know know is our Prime Minister will start the formal process of leaving with its discussions by months end having gotten Royal assent Thursday with much arguing around the legality of Government just starting the process and what if any approval by Parliament is required upon the completion of negations by both the United Kingdom's and the European Union's negotiators.
Going back some two and half years ago however Scotland held a referendum of its own about remaining  a member of the United Kingdom or establishing itself as a fully independent state to which the outcome was to remain a part of the United Kingdom by a majority of ten percent.
Nicola Sturgeon, leader of the majority SNP party and First Minister of the Scottish Parliament however has decided  that although it was said to be decided for a generation, the UK exiting the European Union including leaving the Single Market and Customs Union to control migration and make own trading agreements so undermines Scotland that another be held between the Fall of 2018 and Spring 2019 and is pushing a bill through institution to cause it to be considered by the UK House of Commons.
The problem with this is it would be right in the middle of the negotiations for the whole of the UK to leave the EU including any terms that would effect Scottish Interests and these would be helped by the best brains of the Civil Service so not only does this add extra layers on for Scotland, the nature of what may even be agreed under Independence may alter it plus these same 'brains' would not be available for those talks.
Even if all of this were to happen, upon the UK leaving the EU, that would take Scotland out and so it would need to wait in line to apply as itself (there would be no question of 'taking' the UK's place) so for a period Scotland would be outside the EU anyway.
Then, many Scots who do favour independence don't like the EU whose popularity has dropped a lot so mixing the idea of Independence with joining an unliked institution that does usurp some sovereignty may not play out too well.
As well some four-fifths of Scotland's business is with the remainder of the UK and that upon Scotland joining the EU would be effected by the terms  agreed between the remainder of the UK and the EU plus they'd be expected to work toward or adopt outright the Euro as currency that would complicate life for individuals crossing the border and business.
Then the border itself may need fortification being a EU/England+Wales+Northern Ireland one that may require checkpoints, guards and travel documents.
Who is going to pay for that if Scotland votes for independence? The English taxpayer who will be no doubt livid???
 If this question really needs re-examining, on grounds of practicality and giving everyone an informed basis of what life post Brexit would impact everyone including Scots, this really is best left until at least 2020. Maybe as former Prime Minister Brown is suggesting a more overtly federal structure for the whole UK including Scotland is a more realistic option for all of us?
It just smacks of political opportunism rather than a serious attempt to deal with real issues.