Disclaimer

BEFORE YOU START: Please note that although I currently volunteer for both the Stroke Association and Age UK, the views expressed in this blog are strictly my own. I am not a spokesperson for either (or, indeed, for any) organisation, and I accept complete responsibility for the views expressed herein. As indicated by the domain name, I am based in the UK and the blog therefore has a UK bias - I've tried to use the Glossary to explain any ambiguous terms, but if you think there is anything I've missed, please message me.

Sunday, 21 July 2019

Russians

A shout-out this morning to me Iranian friends, who are most likely fed exactly the same propaganda by their government, their media, as I am, and who probably have as little idea of truth as I do.


Clarity

I don't actually do as much these days, but I think about things a whole lot more.

Somebody the other day asked me about my views on religion. I gave my stock response - that if somebody decided to embrace a religion, then that was fine. Would likely be very positive for them, in fact. But they need to understand that they're only really qualified to make the decision for themselves, not anybody else. So I have no time for somebody who tries to convince somebody else to adopt their beliefs. The fundamental premise, that what I believe is better than what you believe, is wrong.

To me, anyway. This is a view I've held for decades, so I'm perfectly comfortable with it.So, I'm perfectly comfortable with the principle that, what somebody decides is good for them, is nobody else's business.

However, there I leave my comfort zone. Because of one specific issue - the environment. I'm happy to do what I can - less meat, no flying etc. But, actually, I want you to do your bit too. When you pollute the environment, I have a problem with it. Because ultimately, your actions will affect me.

In the same vein, I see a conflict with, say, the Extinction Rebellion protesters. My gut feel is that they should not be disrupting people or businesses, but in their defence, those businesses are actively harming the environment. It might not be obvious now, because from day-to-day, we don't see it with our eyes, but science is detecting it in many areas. One might hope that companies would understand that their very existence would depend upon having a benign environment in which to work, but making a buck as quickly as possible always wins the day.

I suppose you can't blame a business for thinking in this way - their goal is to deliver growth for their shareholders, it doesn't surprise me that they are interested in the next two years, rather than the next hundred - but it does highlight to me that governments should be doing more, by constructing the framework in which businesses exist. It should be governments who are forcing businesses to behave in the best interests of their electorate. I leave it to you to decide whether my government, or yours, is doing this.

It's funny, I sometimes start writing these posts, sometimes to tease out my own ideas, without any particular known result. I find it easier, to set things out in print. Certainly on this one, I feel I can support the Extinction Rebellion, because businesses are not just making a buck, they are harming something in which we all have a vested interest.

More tea, vicar?

Only last week (but a few posts ago now) I wrote the post Connected, My experiments with home technology. A brief recao: I got one of these home hubs on offer (£25), thought "How far can I take this?" and found a smart ligbt bulb on Ebay (£10), got it working (i.e. controlled by my voice). Then I thought "How much further can I take this?" and botght a smart electric switch on eBay (another £10).

The switch arrived yesterday. It plugs into your normal, unadulterated, electrical wall socket, that you've been using these last forty or fifty years. This smart switch is itself a socket. Into it, you plug your very unsmart kettle, which you've been using these last forty or fifty years. The purpose of a smart socket? It acts as a switch between the wall and the kettle, but controlled over wi-fi. You tap an app on your phone, the switch turns on, the kettle boils. Tap it again, everything switches off.

The only real "smart" on my part was: when the light bulb arrived, it came with instructions to download an app to my phone (called Smart Life). This was part of the setting-up process. With only one device, it didn't much matter what that app was, other than the end result was that it could be connected to my Google account, controlled by my new Google Home Mini device, and my voice. It was clear, though, that this app could control many (hundreds, I think) devices if I set them up, so when I got the switch, I looked for one which could be controlled by the same app. I didn't want to have one app for my bedroom light, another for the switch, a third for some other light, and so on. So I looked on the web. This wasn't trivial, in that it took two or three hours, but hey, it was only looking at web pages. Eventually I found some switches (eBay again) which mentioned that they were controlled by this particular app.

They duly arrived yesterday, and because they were controlled by an app I had already set up, it took less than a minute. I set the switch up in the bedroom, where the wi-fi is signal nice and strong, and was duly able to turn the switch on and off from my phone. Because Smart Life was already linked to Google, with my voice too. I then moved the switch into the kitchen, where the wi-fi signal from that network is much weaker (I set up different wi-fi networks so that the whole house is covered, the kitchen it covered by a different network. I know I could improve this now, but at the time I set up the wireless networks, it was the best option).

Anyway, I plugged the kettle into the switch, and....hey presto!

So, this morning I was able to kick-start my first cup of tea by speaking to my hub, from in my bed. 'Course, I still had to pour the hot water into the cup myself.

With the light bulb, there is an element of it stopping me from banging into things in the dark, so I can argue a case for that. But with the switch, this is pure decadence, and really was an experiment, to see how far I could go. I am impressed that I've come this far, having not spent £50!

Saturday, 20 July 2019

No Tomorrow

Whenever we need some "proper" shopping, we head about 20 miles away to Southampton. It's a far better for shopping than nearby Salisbury.

My wife was looking for some new earphones today, so off we headed. A mediocre shopping list - return some clothing, look for the earphones, then go to the Decathlon for some tee-shirts to wear at the gym (her, not me!).

We went mid-morning, and by lunchtime we were done. Seeing as we were out, my wife suggested getting some lunch. Me being me, I agreed.

Most of our shopping had been done in a mall called West Quay, so we decided to lunch there. We found an American-styled burger place called Five Guys. I'd never heard of the place before, although from its web site, it looks like a US chain which has opened up in the UK. They had a decent-looking menu, and I decided to eat meat for the meal.

The order was a burger (wife) and a hot dog (me). We shared a portion of fries, and I had a milk shake and wife a fizzy drink.

Going through this one-by-one, both the burger and the dog came wrapped in foil. The fries came in a polystyrene cup. Wife's drink came in one of those paper-impregnated-with-plastic cups, and my drink came in a pure plastic cup, complete with plastic straw and lid. The drinks came immediately, but the food came all together, in a paper bag.

I suppose these guys deserve a round of applause for using paper bags, not plastic. But the goodness stops just about there. Foil is indeed recyclable (let's forget for a minute that re-using is preferable to re-cycling), except I saw people eat their burger, scrunch their foil wrappers into a ball, place back in the bag, then the bag scrunched up and put in their bin. So I wonder just how much of that foil gets recycled? A polystyrene cup, used once then also put into their trash. My drink - three pieces of plastic, used once then thrown away. Lastly, my wife's drink. In exactly the same kind of single-use cup that ethical coffee chains have refused to use.

The only area in which I have questions here is in how we encourage people to use resources more wisely. I don't like to run towards taxing everything to force people to change their habits, but taxing plastic bags certainly had the right effect. Maybe if cafes are forced to charge £50 for their foil-wrapped burgers, they'll think twice?

Thursday, 18 July 2019

Flexy Lexy

No, not a new position I just invented. I've been told that I am a flexitarian! A new word to me.

From Google: A semi-vegetarian diet (SVD), also called a flexitarian diet, is one that is plant-based or with the occasional inclusion of meat. In 2003, the American Dialect Society voted flexitarian as the year's most useful word.

I still eat meat a little. I had cod last night and a few nights ago, delicious ultra-thin pizza thing called a Flammenkuerche, something I first tried in Alsace and stocked by Lidl from time-to-time. Topped with cheese and ham. But you'd be surprised, a lot of things I eat are pure vegan.Tonight was tofu and vegetable rice. My aim when I became a "flexitarian" was no more than being conscious about how much meat I was eating, vith a view to eating less of it.

Vision

I want to give an indication of my eyesight. When I was first coming back afer my reboot, I got myself into an online Sudoku game, just to kickstart the sharpening process. I still play it from time-to-time, mostly when I'm lying in bed with my tablet.

I'm still good with numbers, but my eyes mean I have to look at them that tad longer, to see them properly. I guess this is a slowness I'm stuck with.


Wednesday, 17 July 2019

Have I Got News For You

Well, no, actually, because I've stopped watching the UK political satire show Have I Got News For You.

It happened a few weeks ago, I wanted to let the dust settle, but still feel as strongly now.



The incident which precipitated my decision happened online, rather than on tv. They posted a photograph of the Tory leadership debate. At the time, Sajid Javid was one of the contenders. The photograph showed him sitting awkwardly on his stool. The caption read along the lines, "And you trust him to run the country?"

Here, I make the leap that running the country requires a degree of intelligence. It is a leap of faith, I know. But the point of the joke was to imply that somebody with this physical "foible" (beforehand, I never even knew there was a proper way to sit on a stool) he was unfit to do this intellectual task.

I'm afraid I thought of all the disabled people who have been told they are not fit to do a job because of their disability. Of all the black people who've been discriminated against, simply because of the colour of their skin. That they are disqualified from something, for reasons totally unrelated. That it is dressed up as satire does not make it right. This is real life, not satire. Past and present tense. These words harm real people.

So, I said something.

You should have seen the hatefulness of the responses! Because Javid wasn't disabled, attacking his physical characteristics was ok. Even if they were unrelated. (I have no idea whether Javid has some kind of disability or not, if he does, he certainly doesn't disclose it, but he might quite reasonably hold the view that it is nobody else's business).

Even that for finding this not-at-all-funny, I was an example of everything that was wrong with the country. I wonder how much charity work that guy did? how many people he helped each week? (Actually, I knw the answers to these without even asking, since nobody who does voluntary work would describe someone in such a way.) The comments reminded me, I'm afraid to say, of people who joyfully laughed at nig-nogs on Seventies UK TV, until society told them it was wrong. Wrong is wrong, something might be commonly acceptable, but that doesn't make it right.

There is another point, here. At what point does fun (satire, say. Sport is also a good example, I'm old enough to remember when we'd never play with the South Africans) stop, and you take the matter more seriously? I leave that one for you to ponder.