The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:
Odd-one out round
Tunny - 23%
Tommy Flowers - 23%
Alan Turing - 21%
Ralph Tester - 17%
Bill Tutte - 9%
John Tiltman - 7%
Tunny was correct, as everybody else on the list was a human being who worked at Bletchley Park in the Second World War. Whose name started with "T".
Tunny was their name for a particularly spiteful German code, although that also began with "T".
Votes for Turing on the basis that he was the only one you'd ever heard of don't count.
This week's Fun Online Poll: "How many Xmas cards will you send this year?"
'Fess up here or use the widget in the sidebar.
While you ponder that one, relax and enjoyr Petula Clark's "Christmas Cards", obligatory gear change at 1 m 55 s:
Monday, 9 December 2013
The results to last week's Fun Online Poll were as follows:
From the BBC:
Once again it is that time of year - when we remember Joseph's selection process for the original Nativity line-up.
Some wise men took matters into their own hands in a bid to be immortalised as one of the first to see God's Chosen Son.
New father Joseph later told scribes: "A lesser known wise man did come and offer me 'to see me right' if he could join the other three."
He added, "As I'd just become a father for the first time, I didn't know how to handle it - but Mary and I had decided that three well-wishers was quite enough for the time being.
"It was already getting a bit crowded, what with the animals, angels, shepherds and whatnot."
From City AM:
REAL wages are still falling, on average, and nobody seems to know what to do about it…
There is a growing body of evidence – including an excellent new report from Towers Watson – that shows that rising non-wage employment costs are crowding out wages and are the primary structural cause of depressed wages.
Employers are paying more to employ people – but the staff aren't noticing because hidden taxes and especially employer pension contributions are crowding out wage hikes…
As the Towers Watson paper shows, this represents a transfer from those without pensions or with defined contribution pensions – typically low income or younger workers – to those with final salary pensions – older workers and pensioners.
I don't believe in generational warfare, but young people struggling to afford housing are also taking a pay cut to finance generous pensions of a sort that will never be accessible to them.
It's grim. Auto-enrolment will cut pay packets further in the years ahead.
As per usual, as long as Heath sticks to facts, figures and micro-economics, he makes good sense. He glosses over the fact that price-inflation is a deliberately engineered by governments to help transfer wealth from savers to landowners, and to act as a handy ex post justification for Home-Owner-Ism ("It's the only asset which beats inflation"), but hey.
One thing which is not clear, and probably not to him either, is his throwaway remark "I don't believe in generational warfare".
Does he mean he doesn't believe it exists (as in "I don't believe in God") or does he accept that it exists (having just provided plenty of evidence for it) but that he thinks it is A Bad Thing (as in "I don't believe in capital punishment")?
Sunday, 8 December 2013
£482 million a year, almost a fifth of the £2.6 billion NHS budget for maternity services and an estimated £700 for every birth, is being spent on medical negligence cover. The most common reasons for compensation claims are management mistakes, problems after a caesarean section and errors resulting in cerebral palsy.
There is no point in the NHS paying medical insurance premiums to anybody, as they can self-insure. There's is some marginal point in paying for insurance against unusual but catastrophic losses, but there is no point insuring against frequent, small-scale losses.
The NHS knows that out of 700,000 births a year, they are going to mess up a few hundred and will have to pay out few hundred thousand each time, but the total amount is probably fairly stable and only a tiny percentage of the NHS' overall budget, so they might as well just pay the compensation directly. The premiums the NHS pays to the insurance companies will of necessity include the insurance companies' guaranteed profit element, and that is money which could easily be saved.
The government will further support Right to Buy by introducing Right to Buy Agents to help buyers complete their home purchase, and provide £100 million to establish a fund to increase Right to Buy sales, by improving applicants’ access to mortgage finance.
There is absolutely no need for "access to mortgage finance" when somebody does Right To Buy.
Let us assume that at present, Council Tenant A is paying £5,000 a year rent.
The council now decides that he can buy his house at a massive discount for (say) £60,000. If that proud new Homey took out a mortgage for £100,000, the repayments would cost him (say) £3,000 (at current interest rates).
The council can act as the bank and "lend" him the £100,000 out of thin air. They just have to right it down at the top of a sheet of paper, then every year they add on the interest charge and deduct the amount he has paid until he has paid off the loan.
Bonus points to the first idiot who says: "The local council needs to get that money in so that it can build another council house." Firstly that is not true, the amount of council housing to be built (or indeed sold off) is purely a political decision, there are no financial constraints on the amount that can be built and it needs very little in the way of finance.
And even if they did need the cash up-front, the council can easily sell its loan book.
(Why it is considered better for the local council to have fixed income of £3,000 for a limited period rather than £5,000 a year, rising with inflation, in perpetuity is a mystery to me, bearing in mind it is the taxpayer generally who will have to make up the shortfall, but that's a separate topic.)
Saturday, 7 December 2013
Friday, 6 December 2013
From Beaumont Enterprise:
MIAMI BEACH, Fla. (AP) — Phil Collins, the former Genesis drummer whose earnest ballads made him a star in the 1980s, is penning songs again.
Although he dreads the idea of extended touring because it would take him away from his five children, Collins says he has missed the creativity of music since he retired in 2010.
Collins spoke in Miami Beach on Wednesday. He was in town to promote the expansion of his nonprofit Little Dreams Foundation, which he co-founded with his now ex-wife Orianne Collins to help youth realize their artistic, musical and athletic dreams.
Shouldn't that be "... to help ageing rock stars realize their artistic and musical dreams"?
Thursday, 5 December 2013
From Wiki and Wiki:
Decades after a civil war known as "the Dark Days", the fictional Seven Kingdoms of Westeros (formerly North America) lies in a post-apocalyptic state.
There are violent dynastic struggles among the realm's noble families for control of the wealthy Capitol and twelve (thirteen before the Dark Days) poorer districts all controlled under the Capitol's totalitarian Iron Throne, with each district producing something that sustains the Capitol. Additional threats begin to arise in the icy North and in the eastern continent of Essos.
As punishment for the Dark Days, each district must provide two "tributes" (characters and plot elements from a broad period of the European history) between the ages of 12 and 18 selected by lottery (the "Reaping") once every year to compete in the English Wars of the Roses (1455–85); the tributes must fight to the death in the houses of Lancaster and York, with the sole survivor (the Victor) rewarded with Martin's houses of Lannister and Stark.
In the coal-mining District 12, with its castles and knightly tournaments, when Primrose 'Prim' Everdeen is chosen in her first Reaping, her older sister, the scheming Cersei calls Isabella (1295–1358), an exceptional archer, who volunteers to take her place.
Peeta Mellark, a baker's son, combines such varied inspirations as Hadrian's Wall (which became Martin's great Wall), the fall of Rome and the legend of Atlantis (ancient Valyria). Cersei and Peeta are taken to the Capitol accompanied by the Mongol hordes (the Dothraki), a past District 12 victor and a heavy drinker.
During a TV interview with the games' host, Caesar Flickerman, Peeta reveals his love for elements from the Hundred Years' War (1337–1453).
Cersei is outraged, believing it to be a ploy to gain popularity but discovers Peeta is sincere when talking to him about Icelandic sagas of the Viking Age (the Ironborn) and as well as and the Italian Renaissance (c. 1400–1500).
Asks ViewFromTheSolent, who spotted this story in The News:
POLICE marksmen shot dead a runaway cow as it hurtled towards a school…
The animal managed to run through a field, on to Crookhorn Lane, up Apollo Drive and on to Crookhorn Golf Course. It was found on the 10th fairway... Between 1pm and 3.30pm the animal ran more than five miles...(1)
Police are responsible when an animal runs out of control in a public space and the RSPCA said shooting an animal as big as a cow or bull is the most humane (2), and the safest for public protection, way of killing it.
1) That's barely more than walking pace, isn't it?
2) As opposed to what? Ramming it with a vehicle? Strangling it?
Wednesday, 4 December 2013
From The Evening Standard:
There may be no such thing as a free lunch but free rent is on offer - providing you have an unique skill.
Increasing numbers of householders in the capital are offering free rooms in exchange for services, from Chinese lessons to carpentry.
A leading property website has seen the number of Londoners offering a free room almost double in the last two years.
As I've said, we live in a barter economy.
Clearly, using some common unit of currency, be it gold coins or numbers on computer screens to denominate one half of each transaction makes things much simpler and more efficient, which is why such systems have developed independently thousands of times in various forms all over the world from ancient antiquity onwards, but when it comes down to it, you swap goods and services for goods and services.
But paying your rent in the form of Chinese lessons or carpentry is still payment, and the accommodation is not free.
And strictly speaking, both halves of the transaction are taxable as well; if the Chinese tutor gives £500 of lessons in exchange for £500 of rent, the tutor is supposed to pay tax on the £500 non-cash income (the rent) and the landlord is supposed to pay tax on his £500 non-cash income (the lessons). There is also the quirk that if a man marries his housekeeper, the output/exchange remains the same but the tax base suddenly falls.
Which conveniently illustrates that income tax is double taxation and the only tax which is 'one-sided' is LVT, it is a user charge on the benefits which the owner/occupier gets from society in general and nothing else.