Friday, 22 June 2018

One Thousand and Ten

It was a Windy Day, apparently, ten years ago on this date. Radio 4 gave out weather warnings.  It was a Sunday.  And I began this Blog.  At the time I wrote:-

So anyway, welcome to The trees around Nunhead, for however long it lasts and whatever we discover.
One of the things I think I've discovered is that this site has become only peripherally about trees, and only slightly more about Nunhead.  A cursory look at the labels that have been used to describe the various posts indicates that there hasn't really been just one theme.  Currently the most used labels are:-
- so you might assume it has morphed into a literary and political Blog over time.  Well, maybe to some extent, but the sheer number of different labels suggests its content has been somewhat more diverse overall.

Not only is this the ten year anniversary of the first post (and thanks to our oldest for pointing out this was about to happen a few weeks ago), but also (drum roll)...


That really does scare me.

It's a sunny day today, not windy at all. And there is really only one thing I can sensibly do to mark this event, and that is to post yet another picture of the back garden.   And a Tree.  In Nunhead.

Washing Machine

Why does our new washing machine play tunes?  Our CD players don't attempt to do the laundry...

Trees on Tour: Bakewell

A few weeks back I visited the town of Bakewell for the first time ever. It was a lovely sunny day, and this is what I saw...

This is a bakewell pudding (NOT tart!)  Incredibly sweet, must be eaten with custard.

Getting a Rocket

This is one of the other presents I received for my big birthday. And quite wonderful!  Thank you work people...
The box contains 12 bags of lego - half of which are for building the massive first stage.  There will be more posts on this, I'm sure...

Durham Revelation

This is what I looked like when I first arrived there...

Durham Whistlestop...

I was in Durham for a work meeting, so I took the time to revisit some of the places I remembered from my student days.  Including my old college Collingwood (much changed now).

The view from the train passing over the viaduct.  I remember when I first saw this view. Wonderful. (You rarely see the viaduct and the cathedral in the same photo.  You normally stand by one to take a picture of the other). 

The cathedral still has its head bandaged...


 The collapsed cardboard box which is Dunelm House...

Zoo Too - Insects, Tiger!

So, for the big birthday I had recently, I was given ZSL membership (thanks siblings!).  which means free entry, and other nice things.  And travel on London Transport is now free as well.  So I went back to see one or two creatures I might have missed last time.  I didn't have my DSLR with me, so the pictures (from my phone camera) are a little fuzzy.

Wednesday, 20 June 2018

More recent reading...

Following on from my April post, I've also read...

Factfulness, Hans Rosling (Really very good, I'm recommending it to people).

The Thrilling Adventures of Lovelace and Babbage, Sydney Padua (Good once you get into it, but a lot of words),

Mrs Bradshaw’s Handbook, Terry Pratchett (I keep finding books by Pterry I haven't read - this is of course a spinoff from Raising Steam)

The Massacre of Mankind, Stephen Baxter, (Baxter in sequelspinner mode, this follows on from, and tweaks the tail of, Wells' The War of the Worlds).

Probably, Approximately Correct, Leslie Valiant, (Not great, but useful, about machine learning and evolution).

Letters 3

If I had two letters published by the press last year, I also had one printed quite recently, this year. It was written in the Holiday Inn, Keele:-

UK businesses benefit hugely from the NHS, by having a healthy and well workforce, helping to deliver on their corporate goals. They tell us rightly that they are an integral part of our social fabric. Why then, in all of the discussion of the tax increases required to return NHS funding to its past levels (let alone give it the capacity to cope in the context of the horrendous cuts to social care and other services supporting the vulnerable), has there been no discussion of significant rises in corporation tax?

The idea of hypothecation, whether soft or hard, could also be extended to the taxes paid by business. In that way, a significant and transparent percentage would be clearly seen to be going to pay for our national health and care services.

Such an arrangement would also throw into stark relief the impact of the various tax-avoidance schemes developed by the finance industry and big four accountancy firms. “Saving so many millions of tax charges” would then translate directly into “this is so much revenue we’ve removed from the NHS”.
Just after I sent it in, a friend pointed out that businesses also benefit from the service by having healthy consumers living longer...

Letters 2

If the first letter I had published in the Grauniad was in response to the Wannacry incident, the second, also in May 2017, was a response to the London Bridge terror attack.

Part of me still thinks they were only published because of the decline of print media, and the press in particular, so there is less competition to get on the letters page.

Here it is. Another true story:-

On 7 July, 2005 I was working in central London, at the British Museum. From my office I heard the Tavistock Square bus bomb go off. Much of the rest of the day was eerily quiet. The heart of London was sealed off. No traffic hum. After we’d helped the visitors leave, the museum was closed and we walked away, going home with no public transport.

A day or so later, I came in by train to Victoria, and took the bus across the centre of town to work. Everyone seemed tense. We all had rucksacks, and suspicious, worried looks were shared in silence. Then a grey-haired woman stood up at the front of the bus, and started chatting. She said hello to everyone as she walked down the aisle, asking how people were and sometimes resting her hand gently on people’s shoulders. After a second, we started to smile, and chat back. She was so warm and relaxed. She wanted to put people at ease, and she succeeded. It may have been just my imagination, but I felt the anxiety drain away.

It was Betty Boothroyd. Baroness Boothroyd, ex-Labour MP, ex-Speaker of the House of Commons, and then-chancellor of the Open University (and ex-Tiller girl). She’d just seen the right thing to do, and acted. Calming anxieties, building a sense of common humanity. We need some of that now.

Letters 1

I note that Blog believes I did nothing in 2017 of note. In fact the lack of 2017 posts is more to do with me posting very late, after the event.  Lots happened last year, including getting two letters published by the Guardian.Here is the first ...

In 2010, an agreement between Microsoft and the NHS to provide almost all Microsoft software to the service for one single fee and to keep the software updated with new releases was not renewed by the incoming coalition government (NHS targeted in global cyber-attack, 14 May). It cost a few billion, but the budget for it was there, and it saved many billions more. Microsoft also liked it, of course, as it saved it the hassle of organising multiple sales with the many different parts of the service. As I understood it, the Cabinet Office stopped it dead.

At the time, I was one of a group of NHS users consulted by those preparing the case for the arrangement to be continued. We were all shocked when it wasn’t renewed. Many people argued it was a mistake at the time. This relatively basic IT (Windows, Office, Mail, SQL server, and so forth) cost the NHS far more as a result. Further, the lack of the single agreement effectively moved the cost of upgrades on to individual hospitals, community providers, GPs and commissioners, and no new money was made available by the coalition government to help these individual units close the gap.
Obviously, directors of finance looked sceptically at new requests to upgrade systems that seemed to be working perfectly OK, and with the huge pressures on NHS budgets that we all know about, it is perhaps understandable that other local priorities were addressed first. I suspect this goes some way to explain why the NHS was hit harder than many organisations by the recent malware attack – as a result of that single bad decision, the service contains far more older systems which can’t be or haven’t been updated.
Interestingly, in response to Wannacry, the Tory Government now, finally, appear to have partially reversed their strategy...

Kew Again

I last posted about Kew in November 2010 as the final post in a series based on trip there.  Well, partly due to the newly-opened Temperate House, I've been back.  Here are some of the things I saw...