Friday, October 16, 2009


I can remember definitely one, possibly two girls at Bromsgrove High School having babies (and leaving).

US blogger Sandra Rose on the US high school where 115 out of 800 girls are pregnant. Lordy. Their Prom must be really something.

The school is the Paul Robeson High School. I don't think the great man would be impressed.

I suppose this Robeson song would be most appropriate for the story. But lets have this, which my mother - a great Robeson fan like so many in 1930s South Wales - often sang to her little ones.

(via Booker Rising)

Friday Night Is Boogaloo Night

No, no, no - Pedro Gutierrez aka Pete Terrace aka the King of the Boogaloo (also featured here and here).

Pete could play in a more jazzy Latin style too. This is pretty cool.

Thursday, October 15, 2009

What's Been Happening, Then ?

Three biggish things struck me over the last fortnight.

The BBC and their - not exactly an about-turn, but certainly a halt - on global warming :

What happened to global warming?

By Paul Hudson
Climate correspondent, BBC News

This headline may come as a bit of a surprise, so too might that fact that the warmest year recorded globally was not in 2008 or 2007, but in 1998.

But it is true. For the last 11 years we have not observed any increase in global temperatures.

And our climate models did not forecast it, even though man-made carbon dioxide, the gas thought to be responsible for warming our planet, has continued to rise.

So what on Earth is going on?

That doesn't mean the BBC (or I) have abandoned the principle that chucking large amounts of CO2 into the air is not a wise thing to do without knowing the possible consequences. But once again the existing climate change models seem to have failed - as so often before. Doubtless they will be tweaked until once more they match the latest data, but this is, in the words of the late Sir Fred Hoyle :

“Bloody bad science,” growled Alexandrov. “Correlations obtained after experiments done is bloody bad. Only prediction in science.”

“I don't follow.”

“What Alexis means is that only predictions really count in science,” explained Weichart. “That's the way Kingsley downed me an hour or two ago. It's no good doing a lot of experiments first and then discovering a lot of correlations afterwards, not unless the correlations can be used for making new predictions. Otherwise it's like betting on a race after it's been run.”

On a related issue, it seems we're not going to run out of fossil energy quite yet - a good thing too, given our nuclear shambles and our green dreamworld.

Energy crisis is postponed as new gas rescues the world

Engineers have performed their magic once again. The world is not going to run short of energy as soon as feared. America is not going to bleed its wealth importing fuel. Russia's grip on Europe's gas will weaken. Improvident Britain may avoid paralysing blackouts by mid-decade after all.

The World Gas Conference in Buenos Aires last week was one of those events that shatter assumptions. Advances in technology for extracting gas from shale and methane beds have quickened dramatically, altering the global balance of energy faster than almost anybody expected.

Tony Hayward, BP's chief executive, said proven natural gas reserves around the world have risen to 1.2 trillion barrels of oil equivalent, enough for 60 years' supply – and rising fast. "There has been a revolution in the gas fields of North America. Reserve estimates are rising sharply as technology unlocks unconventional resources," he said.

This is almost unknown to the public, despite the efforts of Nick Grealy at "No Hot Air" who has been arguing for some time that Britain's shale reserves could replace declining North Sea output.
The advances involve shattering rocks deep underground, freeing the gases they contain. We might even see a self-sufficient United States once more.

Last but by no means least, the Government are actually rattled enough about the decline of their white working class vote (and the rise of the BNP vote) to try and do something about it.

Wrapping himself in the Union Flag doesn't seem to have worked for Gordon. We have moved into a new phase of the Canute-like struggle against demographic reality and human nature.

A £12m programme to connect with resentful white working-class communities in 130 wards across England and undercut rightwing extremism was launched today by the communities secretary, John Denham.

He insisted it was not the role of the state to combat the BNP. But he said the Connecting Communities programme would address legitimate fears and concerns that if neglected could prove fertile territory for extremism.

The first 27 areas named in the scheme included parts of Bromley and Barking and Dagenham, in London, parts of Birmingham, Stoke and Nottingham, as well as Milton Keynes, north Somerset and Poole, in Dorset. They were identified under criteria including cohesion, crime and deprivation, perceived unfairness in the allocation of resources and feedback from local people.

The funding will be used to give local people the space to air grievances and ensure that the way housing, education, healthcare, jobs and training are allocated do not cause resentment...

He said the communities involved were the least likely to have prospered when the economy was booming and were the most vulnerable to the recession. "It's not surprising that they may question whether they are being fairly treated and to worry that others are, unfairly, doing better. Not entirely surprising that feeling unfairly treated can lead to resentment or worse."

Denham said it was necessary to make clear that the government was committed to making sure that every community in every corner of the country knew it was on their side. "No favours. No privileges. No special interest groups. Just fairness," he promised.

Trouble is, when you say to a community that you're 'on their side', who are the other side ? If you're on everyone's side then you're not on anyone's side.

I'll be interested to see what the Connecting Communities initiative actually does with the money.

"The funding will be used to give local people the space to air grievances" - and then you'll call them racists. How much space can you get for £12 million ? And as for it not being the role of the state to combat the BNP, look at the initial list of recipients - Blackburn, Barking (4 areas), Stoke, Broxbourne etc. It'll be interesting to compare them with local council election results.

When immigrant communities riot, or let off bombs of Tube trains, the concern of the Government, not necessarily having much clue about what's going on at street level, is to find 'community leaders' or minority organisations to throw money at. Throw enough money and a feisty firebrand can be tamed, although at an organisational level that didn't work too well with the Muslim Council of Britain.

But there are only one set of people who declare themselves to be the voice of white Britons. I don't see any of our £12m heading in that direction. Instead, according to the usually well-briefed 24Dash site "individuals will be encouraged to act as community champions or tenants and have a bigger say in local issues. This will help build up the confidence and self-esteem of residents so that they feel that they can regain control over their estates, their lives and their futures."

The rest of the money will be thrown at the usual suspects :

"There will be investment in councillors and other leaders and frontline staff to support their confidence and skills in addressing these problems and help them shape the strategy for their area."

The 24Dash report looks like a straight paste of a Government handout and is interesting for that reason. The message is that there isn't actually a problem other than a load of dreadful myths that need to be refuted. This one will run and run, with much dark humour to be mined therefrom. It isn't really funny, though.

Not Dead, Just Sleeping

Apologies for the non-existent posts of the last fortnight - a bust computer and a lifestyle change have both played their part. I'm taking a few (two or three inshallah) months out of work to do other things - mostly house and garden stuff, but hopefully some walking and visiting too.

When I gave up being an employee some years back to go freelance I'd intended to take a break then - having been working full-time for some 30-odd years. But someone offered me some work straight away and I thought I'd better take it - then someone else offered more when the first job finished and so on. I've been fortunate - never actually had to send my CV out to anyone or search for work - which I will be doing come December. My latest project finished last month and it seems a good time to take the long-postponed break.

You'd think I'd be blogging more, not less - but it doesn't seem to work like that. After a day bashing a computer or nailing down business requirements blogging time feels like earned time - after the kids have finished homework. It feels a little odd after all these years getting up in the morning and not having some eight hours of task to perform for a third party - be it boss or (latterly) client. Instead I choose my own tasks - admittedly from a monstrous list. An old house and a large garden offer plenty to do. Fences, paths, drive, convert old kitchen into study, paint the external walls, repoint the inglenook and install a woodburner - and Susan would like a walled garden if I have the time.

Anyway, I'm feeling virtuous (and sweaty) enough for a post or two. Current task is putting a damp proof course in the oldest (no foundation, timber-framing) part of the house. Some genius before us had plastered straight up over the (damp) supporting bricks to the timber frame of an internal wall - then hidden it behind skirting. The plaster has acted like a wick and the timber is damp enough to need cutting out in places. A builder friend took a look yesterday and a two-pronged strategy agreed. Where the supporting bricks are crumbly and damp enough they'll be removed and replaced with new brick, new concrete bed and a proper plastic DPC - but you can only do this to one or two at a time, as the bricks hold the timber up which holds the wall up ! Elsewhere a DPC will be injected into the mortar - won't last forever but better than nothing. Injection DPCs used to be a professional job but the latest products are silicone pastes which can be injected with a low-pressure gun.

All good fun. I've just laid a small concrete bed and there's time for a post while it dries and before I head for Screwfix to pick up some DPC plastic.