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Monthly Archives: January 2014

Edinburgh buses.

If you’ve been to Edinburgh you may have noticed that we have a lot of buses and I mean a lot. Their routes criss-cross the city and the outlying areas pretty significantly.  If you’ve been you may also have noticed that they take up a huge amount of the road with their bus lanes, prioritised traffic lights and other road restrictions, which car users have to abide by.

The buses used to belong to the old City Council and the current bus service is a separate legal entity although it is still really run by the council. The buses are very new and shiny, no rickety old crap for Edinburgh. We have some that are very environmentally friendly apparently, but more of that later.

We have various services which run every 5 minutes at certain times of the day and sometimes you see these buses running in a convoy of three. If you look along Princes Street you will see many, many buses. A riot of white, maroon and gold, which are the colours that the buses are painted in.

At some junctions it’s gets very interesting. A bus wants to come out and a bus is waiting to turn in, they juggle about, sometimes its more than two buses, and let each other out and in and so on. Meanwhile the rest of us in cars sit there with places to go using up our time, we the very and the majority second-class citizen car drivers paying through the nose for the privilege of driving our cars etc. The joys.

Don’t get me wrong the bus drivers are really good and they are considerate mostly. They are also the most patient drivers in the world. During the tourist season and the Festival in particular, a LOT of tourists use the buses. That doesn’t mean that they actually pay a fare and take a seat on an actual bus. The bus drivers are used to people getting on the buss and then asking for directions etc. The drivers go out of their way to help them get to where they are going.

I’ve also seen tourists get on a bus and give the driver the money to pay for their tickets. The trouble is that they don’t have the exact fare and the driver can’t give them change. The bus passengers then provide the correct money for the fares. Job done. Keep the tourists happy although it would be a good deal easier if they just stayed at home and sent us the money the would have spent if they’d come to Edinburgh.

Almost everyone who gets on a bus in Edinburgh thanks the driver when they get off. It’s all very polite. I often wonder if the jakeys who mug people that then and offer their apologies for taking up their time.

It’s just such a pity that the buses are given so much priority in traffic. They slow things down and cause jams and the bus lanes further reduce traffic flow and lengthen journeys.

Of course the recent report, which measured the pollution from vehicles in traffic, pointed to the greatest blame being that of diesel vehicle fumes. Given that some of the buses in Edinburgh have claims of operating at very low emissions levels and even claim to be carbon neutral (as if anything could be carbon neutral) it’s somewhat ironic that they are amongst the worst polluters.

Integrity? Hmmmmmmmmmm

Last thing. The bus fare has gone up from £1:20 to £1:50 in a very short timescale. Why? Well just one reason really. The extra money is being used to help pay for the trams, which were a complete steal at just £1 BILLION.

 

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear…

 
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Posted by on January 31, 2014 in Cycling, Edinburgh, Health

 

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Sugar and spice and all things nice…

You may, or may not have watched a programme last night on the BBC, which dealt with the tricky question of which, between sugar and fat, was good or bad for you.

You’ll maybe also be aware of the recent “sugar” condemnation by a group calling themselves Action on Sugar. They have produced all sorts of stuff some of which may be factual and it’s worth bearing in mind that the people involved are all anti sugar, salt and other things, which THEY think, aren’t good for you.

The programme featured twin brothers, who were also doctors, being asked to have one stick to a fatty diet and the other a sugar diet. They did various things and were tested at the start and at various points during the programme.

I’ll cut to the chase.

At the end of the programme who did best? Well the one having the sugar diet. Since sugar provides energy for the body without it having to resort to turning muscle into energy which is a very bad thing apparently.

In both cases the results were exactly the opposite of what they believed was true. Remember they are doctors although not GPs.

They were also told that the combination of sugar and fat in equal amounts in cheesecake for example were the worst possible thing to eat. They didn’t go quite as far as to say that we could be addicted to this dreadful combination it was not good for us, but it was implied that it may not be good for us.

They also stayed away from the ludicrous attempts made in the past, including Action on Sugars attempts, which claimed that sugary foods had the same effect as cocaine on the pleasure centres of the human brain. There is no link. No one has ever found any evidence of this being the case and scientific knowledge at present does not have the slightest clue on how food affects the human brain.

This sort of makes a complete mockery of Action on Sugar. They had failed with salt and they moved onto sugar. They have failed with sugar. They are parasites fed by the government for it’s own reasons. Their funding should be removed with immediate effect.

The best diet is that set by “Scottish Grannies”.

Eat a varied diet and keep the portions sizes reasonable and get a bit of exercise.

 
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Posted by on January 30, 2014 in BBC, Food and nutrition, Health

 

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The truth about money.

I read blogs as well as write them. I’ve kind of stopped doing the “issues of the moment” type of blogs but if you are a regular reader of my drivel you’ll have noticed that.

I tend to visit a number of blogs each day including Captain Ranty. He had post about voting NO in the Scottish Independence Referendum, mainly because the SNP want to stay in the EU. It’s very, very likely that the SNP may not be able to make such decisions, which will include keeping the pound, the queen, NATO, windmills etc., but I digress.

Anyway, within a few days he had another post, which was about banks and money. One of the comments provided a link to a video website and specifically to videos which laid out how the money system actually works.

The link is http://hiddensecretsofmoney.com.

I would encourage you to visit the site and to watch each of the 4-5 episodes.

Captain Ranty and others have tried very hard to bring how the money system works into the public domain. At face value that doesn’t seem to be an interesting thing to do or to read about.

If I were to tell you that banks create the numbers on their computer screens for the amounts you borrow would that be a surprise or would it shock you? The banks charge interest on money that they brought into existence meaning that you haven’t actually borrowed any money (because it wasn’t there in the first place) but they make you pay interest on it.

The videos are pretty clear and informative. I have no reason to believe they are anything other than legitimate.

At some point however, the present system will crash because it’s a ponzi or a pyramid con.

When it does it won’t be pleasant.

Maybe Dave from Dave’s Bank should do a programme on it?

 

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The plight of the High Street.

 

Remember Xmas? You rushed about like a loony, bought a large amount of stuff, food and presents. You may also have had decorating and other stuff going on in your house. All in all it’s a busy time.

How much money did you spend on petrol and parking fees? A fair bit? Or did you use the bus or train?

At chez moi things were fairly calm. The work on the outside of the house finished early December and the Xmas decorations went up in about 15 minutes. Without being aware of it we did almost all our Xmas shopping on-line. It was just so much easier to sit at the Mac and press keys.

We went to Costco for foodstuff and I went to Hopetoun House Farm Shop for some goodies. It was a cold day but I braved it on the Harley. Our meat and such like came frozen solid via a butchers in Aberdeen or thereabouts.

I feel sure that a lot of you would have done similar.

You’ll also be aware of the drop on profits from a lot of the High Street stores. Debenhams seemed to suffer more than most and blamed it on not having as good an on-line service as their competitors. M&S grew but, as it has been recently, it was their food part that carried the rest.

A few years ago it was HMV who were suffering. A week or so ago I was in HMV and their music part was closing down. It wasn’t a good experience; it felt like I was raking over the bones. I felt for the staff that wouldn’t be employed by HMV for very much longer.

With the demise of HMV there isn’t a lot of choice as far buying music is concerned.  The number of independent record shops has fallen dramatically although a bit of a comeback has been unfolding as vinyl makes a fashionable return.

Now we download music either on a renting basis or we have it in a digital format and it’s the same for movies. Apple, Amazon and others have been making a very nice living out of selling bits rather than atoms.

Then there are books. I used to have a strategy, which I used when buying books. I’d go to a bookshop and peruse the latest offerings usually laid out on tables. I’d look at the covers and then read the synopsis before buying three books. That would keep me going for a while before I repeated it. Now I rarely go into bookshops and if I do I don’t buy any I download them onto my mini ipad.

I don’t think that this change is going to come to an end anytime soon. Amazon delivers food and all sorts now and they are very competitive. How will Debenhams get back on course? Who will be next to miss their profitability targets? What is the secret of the universe? 42!!!!!

 

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East is East

Councils eh… what would you do with them… we all know what we’d do but we aren’t letting on just yet.

East Lothian Council is near Edinburgh, it’s sort of where Muirfield is for all you golfers out there, it’s east from Edinburgh just along the River Forth on the south side. Anyway. The council has decided and has actually implemented a closed roads implementation beside three of their schools in Haddington.

Sounds a bit odd unless you live beside a school and you see the antics of the parents who drive to the school to deposit and collect their children. They park on the zig zag lines, they double park and sometimes triple park, they do three point turns, they block drives, they almost drive over other peoples children and they drive too fast to name but a selection. Bad driving? See it outside a school.

No more though. East Lothian have acted.

On the news today parents were being interviewed. They said stuff like “my child was almost hit with a car” and “cycling to school would be a good thing” and “children walking to school will be a good thing”. Well I just about won the lottery at the weekend, I almost discovered where “we” come from and “I also nearly bought a house costing £1.2 million quid”.  There is no “almost” when decisions are taken. There are only the actual recorded facts and it’s obvious that it is no immediate threats to children it’s just perceived.

Anyway cars are out as far as ferrying children back and forward to school is concerned. At three schools. In East Lothian. Haddington in particular.

I’m kind of hoping that Edinburgh Council do this on too. Soon, I’ll be able to drive all around the city at 20mph, a speed normally used by those drivers who are too small to see out the windscreen or they learned to drive in a 1953 Morris or they are female, blonde in a huge Range Rover whilst holding a mobile phone to their ear as they finish putting their make-up on. How’s that for multi-tasking? Pretty damn dangerous.

I’ll also be able to drive along the street I live in at anytime without fear of the dreadful driving righteous with the gleam in their eye, which allows them to do what they want because they have “cheeeeldren”. No, keeping cars away from schools is a good thing. Obviously people will still take their kids to school they’ll just park a bit outside the exclusion zone. And so it will go on and on.

I worry about rainy days. The children will get wet. They may well start to dissolve. Kids aren’t as sturdy as they used to be. If they walk to school they’ll be exhausted by the time they get there which will interfere with their school work. They’ll also have to avoid the perverts that hang around on all street corners nowadays. There’s also the temptation for the children to nip into one of the shops that is always beside schools and partake of a small something containing… SUGAR!!!!!!!! Heaven forbid.

I jest. It’s a 15 month trial in one town. It could get messy. Fisticuffs between a granddad and the polis! It could happen. I’ll keep my mobile phone handy in case it does happen and I’ll record and publish the results for your entertainment.

 
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Posted by on January 28, 2014 in Children, Schools, Traffic

 

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Panic.

Panic. It’s such a nice little word. Panic attacks. Panic on the streets of London. It says a lot.

Apparently the meaning of panic is – “sudden uncontrollable fear or anxiety, often causing wildly unthinking behaviour”. Very apt really.

I think it may be a useful word, which could replace another word. It should perhaps replace “left”. I don’t mean as in “right” and “ left” being changed to “right” and ‘panic”. That would be silly. I mean “left” as in “lefties” being changed to panic is what I had in mind.

You can see why this might work, the left panic all the time: tediously so.

The global warming scam. It started in the 1970s although it was called global cooling at that point, followed by the population explosion, followed by smoking, followed by the loss of the rain forests, followed by acid rain, followed by the hole in the ozone layer, followed by recycling, followed by global warming, followed by climate change, followed by severe weather, followed by obesity epidemic, followed by salt, followed by cycling, followed by sugar and no doubt sooner rather than later breathing.

In all of these scares the reaction has been the same – “if we don’t do something about it in the next 15-20 minutes” the whole planet is doomed I tell you, doomed.

The reality is different.

  • Cooling didn’t cool;
  • The population did grow but not as it was predicted;
  • It’s looking more likely every day now that smoking doesn’t cause nearly as many cancers as was claimed and so much of the evidence used has been lies;
  • The rain forests have been growing bigger except in areas where they’ve been torn down to grow environmental biofuels;
  • Acid rain isn’t mentioned at all now;
  • The hole in the ozone layer is still huge and gets bigger and smaller as it likes;
  • The recycling cult continues a pace but has become a rip off and a local council scam;
  • Global warming was based on a few years of hot weather then it stopped;
  • Climate change was used to include various other weather events which weren’t directly connected to warmth;
  • Severe weather is currently still in vogue although even the MET is clear that it’s not that severe and it is well within known parameters.
  • Obesity isn’t an epidemic, it’s mainly based on changes within our society away from manual work to much less manual work.
  • Salt intake doesn’t matter that much, our bodies just get rid of the salt which isn’t need;
  • Cycling isn’t a panacea, if people want to do it them fine but they should stick to the rules and pay up for the privilege like everyone else;
  • Sugar is present in a lot of foods and in a number of growing cases it’s there to make the food palatable since the fat has been removed;
  • Breathing? The amount of CO2 in the atmosphere is around 400 parts per million. When a human breaths out the carbon dioxide count is 16000 parts per million. Pollution!!!! Especially if the person breathing out is doing any sort of exercise like cycling for example.

There will be more scares and phoney claims of doom and gloom all coming from the same sort of people. Someone writes a paper, which says there is a problem. Others then point out that there is indeed a problem and we’ll better do something in the next 15-20 minutes to stop it from being a world ending problem.

They tell their mates. It becomes fashionable to be doing something about it, chatting about it in a café is perfect. Then someone debunks it. Then the believers shriek about it being true. Then they move onto the next thing.

Panic, Panic, panic.

Dare I mention fracking?

Here we go again.

 

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A new shiny Scotland – Part 3

As the title would suggest this is a utopian view of how a new Scotland following a successful YES vote in the independence referendum “could” develop. If you haven’t read Part 1 it’s here and Part 2 is here.

So carrying on our tale.

The A9 was made dual carriage way in record time also and potholes were attacked and dealt with all over the country. Road Tax no longer carried any sort of VAT or “environmental tax” and the duty on petrol was slashed by 60% with no VAT. There was a general drive to adopt a taxation system, which only taxed people once and at source of their salary or drawing etc. Again this was a great benefit to localism since most of the tax collected stayed in the area with a small amount sent on to the central government departments.

Obviously , Scotland needed a Navy/Army and Air Force albeit based on the stuff, which was deemed necessary by Westminster at the time of independence. Since then Scottish Governmenr has worked with other smaller countries to put together the ships, planes and equipment needed whilst also ensuring shipbuilding capability to sell and refit both naval and merchant ships etc.

Honesty was also brought to the tobacco and health debates. We now have a lot more pubs and hotels than we did during the attempt on smoking prohibition. Pubs, clubs, hotels etc. can now decide if they want to be smoking establishments. People are so more tolerant of others since they took more responsibility for themselves and are far more aware of the phoney science which was being pushed in the past.

The lies, which had been used by the stop smoking campaigners, were shown for what they were very soon after independence. The fact that there was not one single scientific study or paper, which could conclusively prove a link between lung cancer and smoking, surprised many.

The health system also jettisoned all the preaching, nannying and hectoring when it came to nutrition and alcohol.  Whilst there are still a ways to go things have also greatly improved and the much hyped obesity issue is being researched with a hope that gene therapy should be a significant positive solution. The fact that people have better jobs and have more money in their pockets automatically helps their health and again gene therapy is being considered for heart and cancer issues also. There is hope too that housing all over Scotland will be brought up to a much higher standard than ever before.

It all seems to good to be true does it not?

Well some things didn’t go quite as well. The nuclear base at Faslane is still there and negotiations have been stalled for a number of months now. There has been a change however, since there are so many good quality jobs on offer the base is beginning to suffer from manpower loss. The USA and England have been bringing in workers but they don’t have Scottish work permits and the base itself sits on Scottish soil and of course sea. The UN have been looking at the issue and it’s likely that the base will be closed although perhaps not as quickly as we would like.

The fishing fleet is growing rapidly because surprise, surprise the fishing grounds now belong to Scotland once again. A pretty good treaty has been sorted out with the Norwegians, Icelanders and Faroese so that fish stocks are preserved for the longer term.

 
 

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Robert Burns, poetry and enlightenment.

The 25th January is Burns day in Scotland. Those who like his poetry get together at some point during the day or the evening and they have a Burns Supper. A Burns Supper involves people reciting some of his poems, singing some of his songs and eating haggis, mashed turnips mashed potatoes.  There may also be some drinking of alcohol some of which will be whisky.

I’ve never been to a single Burns Supper, not a one. Now that is slightly surprising given that my Dad used to go to between 15-20 every year. He performed for years and did Tam O’Shanter, Holy Willies Prayer, Tae a moose, various and toasts and sang songs as well. He even made it onto Scottish Television one year providing an opinion of tasting various recipes for haggis.

I’m not altogether sure why I didn’t go to any and there was no real pressure from my Dad to go. He enjoyed it and I have a video somewhere of him doing Tam O’Shanter.

How did Robert Burns manage to write his poetry? He wasn’t from a moneyed background and he had no real advantages in his early years. So what sort of education must he have had? Bear in mind that at the time he was going to school very few children had access to books and school.

Robert Burns was a product of the Scottish Enlightement. Enlightenment was happening all over Europe with differing results. The enlightment in Scotland changed the world. If you don’t believe that for a moment you might want to check out read “The Scottish Enlightenment – The Scots invention of the modern world” by Arthur Herman ISBN 1-84115-276-5.  This book should be required reading for everyone living in Scotland, who will be able to vote, ahead of the Scottish Independence Referendum.

Back to Burns though. The Church in Scotland and the Scottish parliament decided that the best way forward for the country was to educate the people. Again at this time it was only people with loadsa money who could get their children really educated. The intent was a good one but how to achieve it. Basically they set up a library in every town and city in Scotland. A library could be set up anywhere there was room so it might have been in the local butchers or any other shop or building. Children were encouraged to read and they were helped in this because at the same time local schools were also formalised and a certified teacher had to be employed by the local population.

The effect of this was pretty incredible. Over a period of years the levels of literacy soared in Scotland. The level of literacy in Scotland (75%) outstripped England (53%) by a huge amount.

So Robert Burns had access to books, he was taught by a real teacher to read, ask questions and along with other the other things happening in Scotland at the time which, widened his horizons. The education system in Scotland was the best in the world. Things have changed now and modern politics or modern politicians have managed to mess it up.

What would Rabbie Burns think about how things are now and how would he view the opportunity to gain Independence for Scotland.

You know what his answer would be.

 
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Posted by on January 25, 2014 in Art, Edinburgh, Education, Equality

 

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Who’s land is it anyway?

It’s been a rough few weeks for people all over the country. The wet and windy weather along with huge tides, has created floods which have been costly for all those unlucky enough to be caught up in them.

Extreme weather? Apparently not. Unpleasant certainly but nothing record breaking. Check for yourself. Even the MET say it’s nothing to do with the fallacy that is global warming/climate change etc.

So what is happening?

Simple. Two things really; firstly rivers are no longer being maintained and dredged and secondly houses are being built on flood plains.

The first is a simple one to fix. Farmers are well aware of the stream and rivers, which run through their land. They’ve known where the flood plain is and how it deals with river concrete banks being built which then cause issues further down stream. They also know that dredging is a key practice, which greatly reduces flooding, but of course it’s not good for the environment according to some.

Many years ago I lived in a small town and the local council were keen to promote businesses to come in and create jobs. A factory was to be built in an area just outside the town and plans were drawn up and building work carried out. A local farmer who had sold the land to the council told the council and then later the developers and builders that their plans would result in flooding.

Did they listen? Of course not. The result? Flooding and a delay to the factory opening until they got the drains sorted out properly this time.

There always seems to be an on going need for more new housing because of all the immigration over the past few years. That puts pressure on builders and developers who build on the flood plain and wall in rivers.

The bottom line on this is probably that more building should take place away from flood plains and where building does take place it should take into account the implications of river courses down stream and of course what’s already there upstream.

There is plenty of land in the UK suitable for building on. The green belt should be used more, it’s not like we are short of green belt. The trouble is that 90% of the land in the UK is owned by 10% of the population. We are living in small cramped houses, which are squeezed into the available land.

In Scotland, the government is currently carrying out a consultation to try to find a way to reduce the size of the huge estates that run to thousands and thousands of acres of land. Some of these estates are even owned by Scottish institutions so that would be a good place to start. Getting the lords and ladies to divest themselves of some of their land may well be a bit trickier but doable. It all sounds a bit Soviet but again there should be a solution which either hasn’t come up or has come up but it’s still too frightening to talk about.

Meantime the environment will adapt to water courses and the people who need the benefits which water course management will bring will continue to find their environment unpleasant until such times as a solution is implemented.

Perhaps the original builders and developers of buildings which are prone to flooding should have to pick up the cost?

 

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Dave’s Bank with a twist.

Dave was back on TV a few days ago. I watched the programme because I think Dave has identified more than a few points, which could well be important in the greater scheme of things.

Not content with starting a bank, which is a local bank for local people, that provides loans and general banking services Dave is looking at other financial “products”. It looks as if Dave’s Bank is being very successful and it harks back to a time when there were a lot of local savings banks etc. which were more personal and much, much, much less corporate and distant than they are now.

My first real job in the mid to late 1970s was working for a bank. I joined at 18 and did all the usual stuff that new recruits did which was serving the public at the counter and doing various admin jobs. After I’d been there for a while I noticed that the banks customers were probably not taking as much benefits from their banking activities than they could do. I didn’t mention it to anyone but it was apparent that the customers were, for the most part being kept in the dark about what benefits they could get, some of which would be financially beneficial.

Banks services have deteriorated over time and they are now at a pretty low ebb. We are all suffering for the mess the banks made. It wasn’t the fault of the vast majority of the staff; it was of course the more senior managers and their roulette game staff.

Dave has been doing pretty well providing loans for local people and businesses and in due course he has become aware of the activities of the pay day loan companies who have sprung up everywhere. You’ll have seen the ads and the ridiculous interest rates some of which are over 2000%.

It turns out that a lot of these loan companies are owned by very large USA financial organisations. Dave tried to get to meet some of the people running the pay day loan companies and found that he couldn’t. The addresses they provided were forwarding addresses and everything they did was on-line so no chance of speaking to an actual human then.

Some of the pay day loans that some people in his area and beyond had taken out, hadn’t gone well. They had borrowed a small amount, which became a very, very, very big amount. In fact as we all realise that’s the way these people make their money. They are set up to ensure that people don’t pay the amount they are supposed to and get into default with the huge interest amounts making things very serious in a very short time.

It’s very obvious that some of these pay day loan companies perhaps don’t trade as ethics might require. Of course they should be regulated and it would seem that they are in fact operating outwith current lending regulations as things stand.

The Government and the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) are doing something about it but it is happening very slowly. In the meantime peoples lives are being damaged and whilst it’s easy don’t take the loans then it’s not so easy if the people who do are desperate.

Dave set a fund of £25,000 to provide pay day loans to his local community and every penny he lent was repaid. That might not be the case in the future.

His request to those who were borrowing was – “Ill lend you the money and if you don’t pay it back it will mean that I’ll not be able to help someone just like you or your sister/brother/Mum/Dad etc. in the future”.

 

 

 

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