Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Infamy!

“Infamy! Infamy! They’ve all got it in for me!” So goes Kenneth Williams’ classic punchline in 1964’s Carry on Cleo, on discovering the dastardly plot to murder his character, Julius Caesar… or was it Biggus Dickus? I forget, but there’s always a plot, isn’t there? According to ‘divers sources’ the word plot can be a noun or a verb and it can mean, variously: ‘the main events of a play, novel or film’; ‘a small piece of ground marked out for a purpose such as building or gardening’; ‘a graph showing the relationship between two variables’; ‘a diagram, chart, or map’; or ‘the making, in secret, by a group of people, a plan to do something illegal or harmful’.

Shakespeare had Hamlet say “the play’s the thing” but of course it’s the plot which is the thing. It’s the plot that makes the money shot, after all. When it comes to global domination of national economies the idea that foolish people naively entered into commitments they could not fulfil is too mundane, too ordinary, too much like real life to ever make it to the silver screen. What we need to satisfy the full-on conspiracy nut-job is a driving logic, a subterranean imperative for extreme prejudice to be levied against the unsuspecting herds of human cattle to compel them to stampede toward a cliff of their own choosing. Oh, it is so clear now, in hindsight, how the evil bankers, in league with the royal heads of Europe and the lizard people manipulated the very laws of the financial universe to create chaos.

But wait a minute; a theory is defined as: ‘a supposition or a system of ideas intended to explain something’; ‘a set of principles on which the practice of an activity is based’; ‘an idea used to account for a situation or justify a course of action’; or ‘a collection of propositions to illustrate the principles of a subject’. If it is to have any validity a theory should not only account for a historical series of events, but it should also be capable of predicting the outcome of future such events. Thus, ‘what goes up must come down’, ‘if it sounds too good to be true, etc.’ and ‘pride comes before a fall’

Forgive me, then, for not having much truck with those really big global conspiracy theories which only surface after the action. Much as with religion, when such ‘theories’ are revealed before the events they purport to explain I may begin to take notice. Ah, but, say the tinfoil hatters, that’s exactly what they want you to say, conveniently deflecting the burden of proof from their own goal line. To which I respond, but what’s the point? Really, what is the point?

I mean, owning all the money in the world is a ludicrously meaningless end game; once you have all the money the game is over, the money becomes worthless and what happens next? Deliberately putting people out of work and into poverty is equally pointless – you’d surely have far more to gain from a billion cheap workers doing your bidding than a billion pissed off workless folk with sharpened sticks heading your way. It absolutely makes no sense, smacking more of a need to have a complex fictional reason rather than accepting a more mundane and simple chain of events. Again, like religion… or left-wing politics.

Bloody Romans!

I don’t doubt that some people conspire to corner markets, to gerrymander elections and to fabricate statistics in their favour. And undoubtedly there are conspiracies among we mere rabble to best our rivals, but in my experience successful people often turn out to be annoyingly normal, frequently quite dull and refreshingly frank about their good fortune; right place right time and all that. Not evil overlords at all. Given the choice of the Greek debacle being engineered from the outset by masters of dark arts or being the result of human frailty and Mr Fuckup, I’ll go with fuck-up every time.

Monday, 6 July 2015

Got your number

Well, well, well, who could have predicted Greece’s response to the bail out referendum? Actually plenty secretly did but were jinxed by the previously indefatigable persistence of the EU commissars, pushing their message of ruin outside the tender choke-hold of ever closer union. I was willing it all along, as may have been apparent, but still pessimistic as to whether or not the ordinary Greek people, most of whom never had much informed say in the whole EU debacle, would detach themselves from the EU teat.

Today, Greece’s economic troubles begin anew; nothing has changed. Nothing except for one little thing – they dared to say no. Now everybody is watching to see if they hold their nerve; to see how and when the EU make their move to terrorise the population into backing down. Even the most hard-euro-hearted must hope they do because this is really about so much more than money, trade or international reputation; it’s about national pride and personal dignity. Like his politics or not – and I’m naturally averse to left-wing experiments – Alex Tsipras has gained a mandate to stand up for the people who elected him. It was a big, bold, maybe reckless move but one that seems, at least for now, to have paid off.

During the day I got into a lengthy discussion about fairness and advantage and the usual guff about how if we were all so much nicer to each other we could live in a happy world; if only rich people stopped ‘exploiting’ poor people and healthy people looked after sick people and governments redistributed wealth so that we were all so much closer to income parity. Yeah, right, like what we need, is a great big melting pot… the only problem with all that is that we neither have such a pot nor the means to stir it. What we’ve got, all we’ve got is the simple reality of human nature.

We are clever and cooperative, but also opportunistic and competitive. Wealth is relative after all and one of the fundamental ways in which humans measure achievement. Oh but, what about those selfless individuals who volunteer for charity work, you say, to which I reply, “Camila Batmanghelidjh”. You see power corrupts and even the intentionally benign stewardship of freely given charitable donations can become a thing of ugly venality without restraint and proper controls.

Of course we have to look after the sick and genuinely disadvantaged and yes, we do have to do that on a national, even sometimes an international scale, but when you hear the cry “Gas, gas, gas!” you must immediately pull on your own respirator first. When the overhead compartments open and the oxygen masks descend, the in-flight safety presentation you didn’t bother to watch instructed you to don your own mask before assisting others. You are no use to anybody if you need help yourself. And if more of us were capable and inclined to look after our own needs the truly helpless could be granted an easier passage through life’s travails.

The club foot club hobbles on...
Greek Pride March

Looking after number one is simple, it’s honest and if we all did a bit more of it, rather than expecting somebody else to come to our imagined aid, we’d all be better off. Because it’s only when you let those who can create the wealth do so that there is any surplus to go around. In Greece those who had the wealth have already expatriated it; there is no point in going after them. Greece has voted to start over, possibly from scratch. I hope they all pull their weight and gain some self-reliance; it’s dog eat dog until the new alphas emerge and start to take on slaves again. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have some plates to smash.

Sunday, 5 July 2015

More on Oxi...

The ‘meeja’ has been falling over itself to publish bad puns about the impending ‘Greek tragedy’ and the open hostility displayed by the massed ranks of the EU’s bully boys. They want to punish Greece whichever way the referendum goes. Me? If it isn’t already abundantly clear, I want fair Hellene to stand up for itself and vote no. Not no to further austerity because it really has no choice, but no to forever being in the pocket of a class of bureaucrats who have a lust for power that really must be curtailed. If Greece falls to Brussels it sends the message that Euro-power is omnipotent.

I’ve only been to Greece once; a sailing holiday way back in 1980 and I was charmed by the simple rusticity and dazzling light. Everybody seemed to smile and the pace of life was admirably leisurely. Why would you want to trade that for mere material riches when the price is to sell your descendants into the treadmill existence of trading on the global stage for the enrichment of a very few? The EU project, if it ever had such a mission, has long forgotten its aims of peace in Europe. Instead it is all about power, and controlling a half-billion population is how it exercises that power.

As the hours tick away people are hyping up the hypotheticals; what if, what if? What if Greece just took a holiday from the Euro? Seriously, there are suggestions that people be paid in IOUs, acceptable by business to buy goods and services. They argue that this way, the population can still trade among themselves, sort out their day-to-day needs and then re-enter the Euro when the waters are calmer. Maybe it’s just me but if an IOU can become currency, so can the Drachma. And if this non-Euro money is the way to salvation, what reason would they have to use it for recovery and then return to the ruinous common currency; who wants to be common?

It’s as if the bankers have forgotten that humanity survived before money and it is quite possible that satisfactory lives may be lived without it. In fact Greece could become pioneers for new ways of organising how money is used. And here’s a novel idea; how about everybody starts to live within their means? After all, if you only spend what you earn, you don’t run up debts. If you have no debts the banks become mere safe depositories. And if you teach your kids not to desire what they can’t afford who knows, being thrifty might once again become the new normal.

Much has been said about how true socialism has never been tried. Maybe that’s because it has only ever been tried in populations crushed under the boot of industry and the daily grind, with rich pickings for those who controlled the economy. But how about getting all hippy on the IMF’s ass and going full commune? Seriously, if nobody is getting paid and there is bugger all else to do, why not get the 25% unemployed working for their keep and pay for it by smiling once more at the lovely tourists who will stuff their pockets with cash, if only as a way of sticking two fingers up to the EU?

Mussolini didn't like it up him!
Remember Metaxas - Vote Oxi!

They say money can’t buy you happiness and you can’t take it with you. What are the creditors actually going to do, short of sending in the jackboots and revealing the true ideology behind Euroland? Remember the sayings ‘it’s only money’ and ‘easy come, easy go’? Let’s add to that ‘fuck the EU!’ Come on Greece, show us the way out of this mess. 

Update:

As of 18:30 UK time the voting stands at 60.3% NO!

Saturday, 4 July 2015

Just for you, Roo!

I though I may as well make this quickie DIY blog post permanent so anybody else wanting to do this could refer to it at will.

A mate who shall remain nameless - how you doin' Andrew? - wants to wire up some lights. This is really very easy and you have options.

Option 1 is the easiest and works fine for a single switch.

  1. Take your cable to the switch box and install a second cable from the switch to the light position.
  2. Join the protective conductors (green and yellow stripey ones) together - if there is an earth terminal in the mounting box use that, otherwise a connector block is fine. 
  3. Join the blues (neutrals) together in a connector block (the neutral is not switched) 
  4. Then, left with two browns, one goes into either end of your switch. 
  5. You now have a permanent neutral and a switched line conductor at the light end. (line and neutral are, by definition, both live conductors - I don't want to hear any sloppy talk of 'live and neutral'!)
  6. If your lamps are screw-in, join the neutral to the screw thread connection and the line to the centre pin. If any other type it really makes no difference which way round they go.

(Swap red for brown, black for blue)

If you want to add a second light fed from the same switch you wire that light in parallel with the first. In other words, like this:


As for your abortion of a lash up, the blues together should be neutrals - but who knows, over there? - and the blacks are probably brown!


So, get a voltage indicator - one like this: 


And then you can identify which is which. That unit does two things: it will indicate the actual voltage between two points (should be around 230 V between earth and line, 0v between earth and neutral) AND it also beeps if you touch the tips together, so you can use to identify one conductor from another when dead.

If you link two conductors at one end of a cable you can also verify the continuity - or identify one cable from several - at the other end, using the method illustrated below:



Option 2 - call in an electrician! :o) 

Red to red, black to black... blew to bits!


Friday, 3 July 2015

Working Relationship

Ah, the trials of work, what with summer holidays, staff throwing sickies and this weather making everybody down tools at the stroke of end o’clock, buggering off to spend a few hours with their kids in the few long evenings before we feel the approaching shadows and mists of autumn's mellow fruitfulness. It wouldn’t be so bad but I’m struggling to maintain progress with a major new project while the new fella, Mike, who is supposed to be sharing some of the load, calls in every other day with an increasingly inventive reason for not turning to.

Monday, he had the temerity to claim some sort of non-specific winter vomiting bug. When I queried the ‘winter’ part he gave me a lengthy string of medical vernacular designed to obfuscate and confuse, but I wasn’t having any of it. I told him he’d better be there on Tuesday or disciplinary proceedings may follow. Sure enough he dragged his sorry arse into work on Tuesday and we got to work. I say ‘we’, but a fat lot of good he was, burping and farting his way through a long and arduous day. By the end I was almost tempted to tell him not to come in on Wednesday; the moaning and groaning was distracting in the extreme.

I’m glad I didn’t; it would have been a waste of breath as Wednesday, what a surprise, I took a call about his continued stomach ache, swollen legs and all-over malaise. I had a word with HR and they said he had some sort of medical condition that manifested itself in such symptoms but they couldn’t tell me what it was, for confidentiality reasons. But in their view my request for a written warning was excessive and I should cut him some slack. I admit to feeling just a tiny bit guilty, so when he called in sick again yesterday, instead of ripping him a new one I offered some advice.

Mike, I said, you need to maybe get de-stressed. All that pent-up guilt at not coming in, the anxiety of wondering what we’re saying about you when you’re not here. The worry of whether or not you will still have a job at the end of the month – it’s got to be preying on your mind. Maybe you just need to relax, unwind, get it out of your system. He agreed that yes, he had been feeling the pressure and asked if I had any suggestions. Well, I said, I’m away on business tonight, else I’d invite you to my local and we could share a pint or two; get to know each other better and find a way forge a good working relationship.

Even on the phone I could sense his shoulders sag, hear his disappointment. I didn’t want to end the call on a low note so I pressed on. Hey, I said, you know what I do when I feel really down? When I feel the whole world is against me I tell my wife. She comforts me, tells me everything is going to be all right and then we have sex. It never fails; you could try that. He seemed to cheer up a little so I bade him goodnight and said, as much as I didn’t believe it, that I’d see him in the morning.


Oh me of little faith! Bright and early the next morning Mike arrived looking energetic and happy. Wow, I said, you look great; how do you feel? Mike shook my hand and grinned, “I feel marvellous!” he said, “all thanks to you.” He continued, “I thought about what you said, about how you talk to your wife and then you have sex and it’s all good again and I decided to take your advice. And now look at me, I feel fine!” I felt good too, it was nice to see him looking positive again. “Yep” Mike continued “it was just what I needed. And may I just say what a lovely house you have...”