Friday, 28 November 2014

Aptly Named Film Of The Week

IMDB's plot summary of The Imitation Game:

At Cambridge University, young Alan Turing quickly establishes himself as a groundbreaking thinker with his theories about the potential of computing machines. When war between Britain and Germany is declared, these theories are put into active practice.

Turing easily passes a test to become a member of a top-secret group assigned to decode critical German naval communications. Much to the surprise of the commanding officers, so does a woman, Joan Clarke, Turing and Clarke become fast friends, and are soon engaged to be married. But Turing is gay, struggling with his identity at a time when it is illegal and subject to terrible punishment.

Ho hum, that reminds me of a film that came out a decade ago...

IMDB's plot summary of Enigma:

During the heart of World War II, in March of 1943, cryptoanalysts at Britain's code-breaking center have discovered to their horror that Nazi U-boats have changed their Enigma Code. Authorities enlist the help of a brilliant young man named Tom Jericho to help them break the code again.

The possibility of a spy within the British code-breakers' ranks looms and Tom's love, Claire, has disappeared. To solve the mysteries, Tom recruits Claire's best friend, Hester Wallace. In investigating Claire's personal life, the pair discovers personal and international betrayals.

OK, The Imitation Game is a bit more true to life in that Turing really was gay but Jericho (the quasi-Turing character) is avowedly straight; however in Enigma it is sort of hinted that Hester is a lesbian but she and Jericho end up getting married anyway, depite having bickered with each other constantly for the first three-quarters of the film. So Enigma is the mirror image of The Imitation Game and vice versa.

Drinking driving statistics

Moneysupermarket compiled statistics on how prevalent drink driving is around the UK.

The results are reassuringly unsurprising. As you'd expect, the prevalence is much lower in large towns with good public transport and/or high muslim populations.

Thursday, 27 November 2014

"Nigel Farage laughs off local Ukip branch mistaking Westminster cathedral for mosque"


A few notes about Champagne

From the Daily Mail

A Champagne price war has been triggered with Tesco slashing the price of one award winning brand to just £8.

Britain’s biggest grocer and drinks retailer has reduced its Louis Delaunay champagne by some 70per cent from the official list figure of £25.99.

The champagne is now cheaper than many supposedly inferior sparkling wines such as Prosecco from Italy and Cava from Spain.

Champagne is a sparkling wine. It's produced with something called the "Traditional Method", and used to be called the méthode champenoise. So is most sparkling wine that you can buy like Australian fizz and Cava. Prosecco isn't, it uses another approach.

The key difference between Champagne and Cava, or Australian fizz is that only wines from a specific area of France can stick that on the label. It's not necessarily any better than those wines, and is often worse because that wine producer is having to pay higher rent to have the piece of land in the region so that he can print "Champagne" on the bottle than someone just over the border who is selling a sparkling wine who isn't. Sure, there's certain soil properties of the region (in general), but Wairau Valley in New Zealand also has many of the same conditions.

If you've got serious money, top-end Champagne really doesn't have any rivals. I've not tasted anything as good as Krug Grande Cuvee (and only once). But if you're looking more in the under-£30 market, I wouldn't normally go for Champagne. I'd go for Lindaeur Special Reserve (at about £12) or Cloudy Bay Pelorus (about £16), both from New Zealand. And I know people talk about British sparkling wine, but having tasted it, there's better value elsewhere.

In this case, £8 for a bottle of Champagne that won an IWSC award seems like it's worth a try. But Champagne isn't intrinsically better than other sparkling wines.

"European Union should be broken up, says Google"

From the BBC:

The board of directors of Google has voted in favour of breaking up the European Union, as a solution to complaints that it favours its own services. Executives have no power to enforce a break-up, but the landmark vote sends a clear message to European regulators.

European Parliament politicians have voiced their dismay at the vote. The ultimate decision will rest with lobbyists for other large international corporations such as Apple and Fiat. They are currently being investigated for anti-competitive practices and sweetheart tax deals entered into with Luxembourg, the Netherlands and Ireland.

Homeys in a panic

H/t MBK, a series of increasingly panic stricken Homey propaganda pieces:

Sunday Times, 23 November 2014: Early 50s is ‘too old’ to switch mortgage.

The Times, 25 November 2014: Strict mortgage rules shut out over-40s

Telegraph, 24 November 2014: In your 30s? Why you could be too old to get a mortgage

No doubt by next week they'll be writing that people in their late 20s are "shut out of the mortgage market" or some such nonsense.

Wednesday, 26 November 2014

"London university bans lecturer who calls Islam a 'filthy' disease"

From the Evening Standard:

A lecturer has been banned from a London university after likening being a Muslim to having a “disease” and dismissed the entire religion as "an inferiority complex".

Prof. Dave Smith, 34, also known as the self-styled Knowledge Man who helps people be academic “superheroes”, was today banned from appearing at the University of East London.

He has blamed “wannabe Arabs” for impulses which should be “suppressed”, such as claiming that homosexuality comes “under the category of obscene and shameless” and their irritating habit of blowing things up and killing and mutilating people.

The university also banned his lecture this week, advertised on Facebook by the faculty, over fears — denied by organisers — that religious segregation could be enforced, after “sane people” and “Arabs” were given separate contact points for tickets.

Economic Myths: "VAT is a tax on luxuries"

You have to remember that VAT is not a tax on "consumption" (whatever that means). It is a tax on gross profits-plus-wages, the clue is in the name "Value Added Tax". There is then also a tax on net profits, known as corporation tax (which is not a tax on "capital", whatever that means, it is a tax on income). So if this myth were true, then producers of more basic goods would pay a lower tax rate than producers of luxuries.

(VAT's fig-leaf is that taxes on "necessities" like food and rent are exempt. Is it a coincidence that both of those are land-based sources of income? Interest payments are not liable to VAT either. But that is just a fig-leaf.)

Remember also that "luxuries" are status goods, people will pay extra to have such-and-such a label on their car, clothing, musical instrument, whatever, so producers who have attained this reputation can charge larger mark-ups*. So let's put VAT and corporation tax together and do some numbers.

1. A luxury/status item costs £500 to make and retails for £1,000. The overall profit before any taxes is £500.

The VAT is £167, leaving £333 liable to 20% corporation tax = £67. Total tax = £233.

£233 out of the original £500 = 47% overall tax rate.

2. A more basic item costs £50 to make and retails for £75. The overall profit is £25.

The VAT is £12, leaving £13 liable to 20% corporation tax = £3. Total tax = £15.

£15 out of the overall profit of £25 = 60% overall tax rate.

Here endeth.

* From Robert Benchley's "Jaws":

The young man was tall and slim. He wore sandals and a bathing suit and a short-sleeved shirt with an alligator emblem stitched to the left breast, which caused Brody to take an instant dislike to the man.

In his adolescence Brody had thought of those shirts as badges of wealth and position. All the summer people wore them. Brody badgered his mother until she bought him one - 'a two-dollar shirt with a six-dollar lizard on it', she said - and when he didn't find himself suddenly wooed by a gaggle of summer people, he was humiliated.

Short lists.

Here's a list of celebrities who are well past their sell by date:

Bill Oddie
Michael Caine
Griff Rhys Jones
Myleene Klass
Sol Campbell

Here's a list of celebrities who are still at the top of their game:

Angelina Jolie

Tuesday, 25 November 2014

You must remember this...

From the New York Times

The letters of transit — “signed by General de Gaulle, cannot be rescinded, not even questioned” — were hidden under its unusual hinged lid. It is golden yellow with touches of green and gold, a surprise to people who know it only from its black-and-white adolescence. It has a wad of chewing gum in a place where a wad of chewing gum really should not be.

It is the stuff that dreams are made of.

It is one of the most famous pianos in the world, the piano Ingrid Bergman was close to when she delivered one of Hollywood’s unforgettable lines: “Play it, Sam. Play ‘As Time Goes By.’ ” It is the short little upright from Rick’s Café Américain in the movie “Casablanca.”

Signed by General de Gaulle? A Vichy France official would let someone through with papers signed by the leader of Free French Forces?

The line is "signed by General Weygand", who was a collaborator in the Vichy government, Took me about 1 minute on Google to find the clip of Peter Lorre saying it.