Monday, 20 February 2017

If you take yourself off to Hall Place, you will see this unusual visitor that has been hanging around along the river for a couple of weeks now. It's called a Barnacle Goose and while not a rare bird by any means, you wouldn't normally expect to see one in South-east London. 

They usually live in the Arctic, especially Greenland where they nest in large numbers. In the Winter, they head further South but usually only as far as the North-west corner of Scotland and the West of Ireland.

Similar in colour to the much more common Canada Goose, you might easily mistake it for one if you don't look carefully but it's a much smaller bird than the Canada Goose and has a distinctive black front.








Sunday, 19 February 2017

This latest blog has been a while coming. I have been busy with other things in the last month not least, dealing with the death of my Father, aged 97 just before Christmas.

It's safe to say, I am now ready to re-enter the fray and offer you all the benefit of my wisdom and knowledge.

This is an old story left over from last year but I will post it anyway.


Bill Gates has announced that he is "crossing his fingers" that a deadly flu epidemic doesn't strike in the next ten years because "the world is a bit vulnerable right now".

I'm wondering why this statement is news. While his foundation does invest a lot of money into global healthcare, he himself is not a specialist in micro-biology, epidemiology, medicine or any relevant subject that would give him any special insight into current risks. In other words, his view is exactly as valid as any other unqualified person; so why report it?

The reality is that the world has been at risk from viral or bacterial diseases ever since life first evolved on the planet around 4 billion years ago and nothing much has changed in that time other than the fact that we now have a pretty good idea what causes them and, more importantly, how to prevent or contain them.

The recent Ebola and Zika virus outbreaks he refers to are caused by a number of factors, none of which could have been predicted before the event and the subsequent spread of those diseases were the result also of a number of factors, one of which being the delay in realising the seriousness of the problem early enough.

Anti-science mumbo-jumbo is responsible for a large part of the problem. Historically, whenever an epidemic of anything has broken out, there have been plenty of people eager to take advantage of the situation to pursue their own agenda. Whether it's a simple desire to make money out of the crisis by selling unproven and unlikely cures to an uneducated and gullible public; an opportunity to advance a religious agenda, or a chance to gain undeserved status as a saviour of the moment for political ends, the result is always the same: confusion and muddle.

Ebola Virus
During the Ebola crisis in West Africa, there were actually a bunch of whackos who flew to the area in order to provide the victims with "homoeopathic cures". This meant the authorities having to divert resources away from treating the epedemic in order to keep these idiots out of the containment area and to reassure the families of those people already infected that bottles of magic water and sugar pills were no cure for viral infections.

The Zika outbreak brought every nutter in creation out of the woodwork with claims that "the disease was a hoax": you get a lot of that. Or, the disease was being spread by genetically modified insects let lose by Big Pharma, The Illuminati, The Government, etc., etc., etc.

Natural News (always a good read), the World's foremost publication of barmpottery published a story about how the Zika virus didn't exist and was all part of a secret plan by whoever to fool the public into believing whatever. In an act of supreme irony, on the same page as the article claiming that the Zika virus didn't exist, they ran an advert for a "natural" insect spray that would act as a repellent to the mosquito infecting people with the Zika virus; that's the virus that doesn't exist by the way, just in case you're losing the plot.

Anyway, if you really want to help in the prevention and cure of diseases, you could do much worse than to install the World Community Grid app on your device. You can read all about it by clicking on the link.





Facebook often provides me with inspiration for subjects to write about and today is no exception.

This is a story sent to me about a campaign by Friends of the Earth to get supermarkets to stop using the current type of plastic trays that you often see food packaged in. It seems that recycling centre sorting machinery can't recognise the shiny black surface of the container and diverts it to the landfill bin. 

There is an alternative product that has been tested by various supermarkets but they are still using the original ones which results in billions of the going to the dump every year. I'm not a huge fan of FoE for various reasons but this looks like a worthwhile campaign. Please click on the link and do your bit.



This dropped through my letterbox yesterday. I picked it up off the floor, stripped off the plastic cover, collected up all the leaflets that fell out and dumped the whole lot into the recycling bin.

I wonder how much it costs to pay for this futile exercise. How many trees have to die so that we can have this largely unloved and unused throwback to an earlier time? BT reckon that 92% of people still use the telephone directory and its Yellow Pages partner. A figure that surprises me.

Still, it could be worse I suppose. I remember a time when the phone book came in about six volumes and you needed a whole bookshelf to store them on.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

HUFFING AND PUFFING


Along with many other local authorities in the country, Bexley Council has started trying to recover some of the £850 million spent every year by the UK taxpayer on litter and fly tipping removal by issuing fixed penalties for offenders in the borough and now has a dedicated litter patrol operating in Bexleyheath Broadway and elsewhere. 

Councils already have legislation enabling them to bring offenders to court, with fines of up to £50,000 or up to 12 months imprisonment but, as with most other councils, Bexley are going down the fixed penalty notice option first, at least for the less serious offences.

Littering will now attract a penalty of £80, with a penalty of £50 for dog fouling and a maximum of £400 for fly tipping.

According to the Bexley Council website, they are currently spending £38,000 a year clearing up after fly tippers so they will need to issue a lot of tickets to recover the cost of that. Given that there were 852,000 reported incidents of fly tipping in the UK during 2014 it shouldn't be too difficult.

According to the Keep Britain Tidy website, there are 8 million dogs in the UK which between them produce more than 1000 tons of mess every day and Bexley has joined the other 90% of councils that operate dog wardens. Penalties for fouling vary between authorities but the cost in Bexley is £50. It's just a shame that they intend to remove all the dog mess litter bins in the borough. Personally, I wouldn't want to carry the stuff home in my pocket.

Reaction to the litter wardens is interesting. Pretty much everyone you talk to will agree that something should be done about the dirty pigs who spit their chewing gum out onto the street/shop floor/wherever they like. 

"According to the INCPEN survey, chewing gum constitutes 26% of all litter. The LGA estimates that clearing chewing gum costs the average town centre £60,000 per year. On the basis of 936 towns in England this could add up to £56 million per year. Staining from the gum is particularly difficult to remove as it requires high pressure hoses. As a result of these costs some councils do not remove gum at all." (House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee "Litter and Fly Tipping in England" )

Also, apart from the people actually responsible for it, we are all happy with the idea that the cost of clearing up cans, bottles and fast food containers should be met by the people who dump it.

This is what the top of Linton Mead in 
Thamesmead looks like. Staff from the
nearby primary school spend their break
time standing there, puffing away like
Thomas the Tank Engine and his Friends

then throw the fag ends into the street. 
These then have to be cleared up at 
Greenwich council tax payers expense or, 
more likely, left to wash into the nearby 
drain the next time it rains. Assuming they
 don't then block the sewer, they will finish 
up in the river, then the sea.
There is one exception to all this support however and it comes from one specific group of people.

You guessed it; the most anti-social group of the lot. I'm talking about smokers. Not only do they think that they can foul up the air with a noxious concoction of carcinogenic fumes, they also think they should be allowed to dump the resulting litter in the street. It wouldn't be so bad if it weren't for the fact that they are responsible for by far the largest amount of litter by volume.

"According to the LEQSE, smokers’ materials—butts, packaging, matches— are the most commonly occurring items of litter. The INCPEN survey finds that smokers’ litter comprises 35.2% of total litter." (House of Commons Communities and Local Government Committee "Litter and Fly Tipping in England" )

A couple of weeks ago, someone posted on a Facebook group that I belong to that he had been caught dropping one of the 4.5 trillion cigarette ends discarded worldwide on the street by smokers every year and been given a fixed £80 penalty. He admitted what he had done was wrong and that he was willing to pay up. A hysterical response then followed, all of which came from smokers who seem to think that the world is their ashtray and that it was all a plot by the council to "penalise" smokers for their habit.

All of the protests were about cigarette ends. You didn't get anyone saying that they should be able to spit their chewing gum out where they like or, "my dog can crap wherever he wants", but as soon as we ask smokers to behave in a civilised way, suddenly they are a poor persecuted minority.

Just so everyone is clear about this, here are some interesting facts. Don't think that people drop cigarette ends because there is no other way to dispose of them. A survey carried out by an American anti-litter group "Keep America Beautiful", providing cigarette waste receptacles only reduced littering by 9%; the rest were just dropped anyway.

Cigarette filters are made from a plastic called cellulose acetate, it takes up to 10 years to degrade and as with all other plastics, never really goes away, it just gets broken down into smaller pieces. The filters themselves when discarded will be contaminated with poisonous chemicals including tar, nicotine and all of the other chemicals produced by the burning of tobacco, many of which are known to cause cancer in humans.

These cigarette ends which are dumped and not removed by litter patrols will eventually find their way into drains, sometimes in such quantities as to block sewage systems. They then make their way into rivers, lakes and eventually, the sea. This highly toxic soup of chemicals then gets absorbed by small animals and into the food chain; assuming that it hasn't already killed whatever it has come into contact with. Water fleas, a vital part of the lower food chain can be killed by just one used filter in 2 gallons of water. (CleanVirginiaWaterways.edu).

It's not surprising that someone with an addiction problem will develop paranoid delusions of persecution when their lifestyle comes under any type of threat. I realise that if you are a smoker, you have a addiction problem but it is your problem and shouldn't be my problem as well. If you are unable to stop smoking then please try and consider others and take your litter home with you or dispose of it responsibly.

Information for this article cam from the following sources:-

Advice and information about help with stopping smoking can be found here:-


SHAKE, RATTLE & ROLL


I just read an article on the BBC website about a really interesting new Android global network app produced by the Berkley University of California. It's called MyShake, it uses the accelerator in your smartphone, running in the background while your phone is stationary and detects earthquakes. Don't ask me how it does this but they assure us that they can tell the difference between a genuine earth tremor and the normal movement of the phone. 

The idea is so new that they still don't have a full understanding of how they are going to use all the information they retrieve. Remember, there are thousands of earth tremor detectors around the world but this will increase the number by an order of magnitude. It could eventually change our whole understanding of earthquake science and even possibly result in an effective early warning of events sufficiently in advance to give people time to take action to protect themselves. Current systems give only minutes, if that.

Berkley University is no stranger to innovative cloud science. They created the Berkley Open Infrastructure for Network Computing (BOINC) program which is used by hundreds of science and other projects, allowing access to virtual supercomputer processing power without the associated expense.

I already run World Community Grid on all my devices and even run the SETI@Home project from time to time. Haven't found ET yet.

They don't have an app to run on Apple devices yet but are promising something at some time in the future.

If you want to run a project on your device or computer, you can download the program from here.



Friday, 9 December 2016

JOSHUA BONEHILL-PAINE

Persecuted British Hero


"In Yeovil, we shall ignite the fire 
and then watch as it spreads across 
these lands 
in full and awesome glory" 
(J Bonehill-Paine 2016)
Following my report in the 19th August edition of my blog, my poor old chum Joshua Bonehill-Paine has been sentenced to two years in prison following an online campaign of racist abuse of MP Luciana Berger. He is already in prison after being sentenced to three years and four months for inciting racial hatred by promoting an anti-Semitic demonstration in Golders Green last year.

This is something of a departure from his usual tactic which was to publish fake inflammatory stories in his news blog and then just rely on the stupidity of others to spread it about on social media. This new strategy of taking direct action has landed him in jail.

I first reported the activities of Joshua Bonehill-Paine back in October 2013. I didn't mention him by name then, just the fake news site he ran. I was mostly critical of the people who copied articles from this site and published them on social media as if they were true.

This particular story was about the supposed kidnapping of a child from a shopping centre in Croydon by an Asian grooming gang. Despite the obvious fact that no such incident could have happened without it being reported extensively in the news, many people still fell for it and shared it, along with an assortment of racist comments.

I didn't mention him again till March 2014 when he had found himself in trouble with the law after posting a story about how a pub in Leicester had banned armed forces personnel in case it offended immigrants. Once again, the story was too absurd to be true yet once again, hundreds of people read the story and believed it. This resulted in the pub and it's staff receiving death threats from idiots too stupid to check the facts before reacting. His profound apology for the trouble he had caused didn't last long however.

In April 2014, I mentioned him again along with a similar Facebook story (don't know the author of this one) but closer to home where a mother was wanting information following the kidnapping of her child in Thamesmead. Shared by 1500 people was this one.

Since then, he has provided me with plenty of subject matter and I had to admit that since his eventual arrest and imprisonment, I have had a lot less to write about. The last time I had a lot to say about him was in August 2014, after that, most of it was repeating what I had already reported with a desperate appeal for people to please check whether a story is a hoax before sharing or commenting on it.

At some point, my fellow local blogger Hugh Neal picked up on the story and reported him on his much more widely read blog "Arthur Pewty's Maggot Sandwich". Unlike my not so well read blog, his efforts came to the attention of Bonehead himself who then sent Arthur Pewty a threatening email. I'm a bit peeved about this. I had been being extremely rude about him for some time but he didn't threaten me, even when I expressly asked him to. (That's Bonehill-Paine, not Arthur Pewty).

Anyway, the upshot of all this is that the people of Yeovil are going to have to wait even longer to elect him as their MP. The current incumbent, Marcus Fysh can breath a little easier today.


Godspeed, John Glenn! 

18 July 1921 - 8 December 2016

Nothing else to say really





Saturday, 3 December 2016

BACK TO BASICS


I did an article a while back about the new £5 note, little realising the controversy that was about to surround it's release. We have now learned that small traces of animal fat are used in the manufacture of the new note. According to the Bank of England "there is a trace of tallow in the polymer pellets used in the base substrate of the polymer £5 notes".

Like you, I have no idea what that actually means although I do understand that animal fat, or substances derived from animal parts are used in many everyday items as diverse as plastic carrier bags, bicycle tyres, toothpaste and soap. I'm not aware of there having been any particular objection to this although, unlike the £5 note, you can always choose not to use them.

I have no particular sympathy for vegetarians or any other type of food faddist. I see it as a way for certain people to demonstrate their sense of smug moral superiority in a wealthy society where we can all be sure we know exactly where our next meal is coming from. And as for religionists..............

Still, the Bank of England is looking at ways to replace the offending material for something less controversial and make everyone happy again.

On a lighter note, using animal parts as currency does hark back to an earlier age when hard currency was hardly used and barter was the preferred method of exchange. Then, swapping your pig for a couple of chickens was considered quite normal and a leg of lamb could be exchanged for a dozen eggs without resulting in a debate about animal rights. Adding animal derivatives to our present currency is just an acknowledgement of those simpler times.

My South African Wife was once told by her Father that she was worth two cows. I don't know how many £5 notes you need to make up two whole cows, probably quite a lot.

I better start saving.


MAHARAJAH JAMMU & KASHMIR


In my Guide to the London Mayoral Elections back in May, I rather carelessly neglected to mention one of the candidates, self appointed Maharajah of Jammu and Kashmir, Ankit Love of the One Love Party. I rather feel that this was the main reason for his poor showing on polling day and I've been trying to make up for it ever since. I did publish an apology in my next edition but by then of course, the damage had been done.

As in the London Mayoral election, Ankit Love once again went head to head with his arch nemesis, Zak Goldsmith in the Richmond Park by-election. Once again, both candidates were inevitably going to lose a Brexit vote in a constituency where the majority of voters don't need to move their lips when reading the ballot sheet.

Ankit did particularly poorly this time, being soundly thrashed in the popular vote by Howling Laud Hope of the Monster Raving Loony Party who also went on to defeat the homophobic, misogynistic Christian People's Alliance candidate Dominic Stockford. Even changing his name to Maharajah Jammu & Kashmir didn't seem to help  and "the world's foremost emergency policy maker on tackling the air pollution pandemic" only managed to poll 67 votes.
Guess who

The Monster raving Loony Party position on Brexit probably helped their cause, supporting as they do, an Al dente, as opposed to a hard or soft Brexit currently being debated by the other loonies.

The turnout for the election was surprisingly low considering all the publicity that had surrounded it, only 53.6%. I suspect this was the result of large numbers of Tory voters who were not going to support some anti EU loony whatever his political colour but couldn't bring themselves to vote for a Liberal Democrat.




LOCAL HISTORY

A couple of days ago I had a request from Steve Peterson to use one of my pictures in his excellent site about the history of the Royal Woolwich Arsenal, imaginatively entitled "Royal Arsenal History". To be honest I hadn't come across it before and have been spending some time catching up on it. 

Anyone with an interest in local history should really do the same as it is packed full of fascinating information about the Arsenal itself plus pages of stuff showing the development of the area following it's closure.

Oh, yes! it's also got one of my brilliant pictures in it. There may be a prize if you can guess which one.