Britain’s system is working (is it really?)

big ben bridge castle city
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The British constitution is far from perfect—none are. And plenty of written constitutions function well. The British constitution was not flexible enough to stop the country from breaking apart in 1922 when the Republic of Ireland seceded. It may not be adaptable enough—or restrictive enough—to keep either Scotland or Northern Ireland in the Union either. Its electoral system might create a strong government from time to time, but it also creates problems of representation. More recently, the constitution has produced a string of governments that have not been very successful… More here.

This article has left me perplexed. One sentence I think it’s brilliant and in the next I am thinking it’s utter tosh.

Foley Sound Effects

Foley artists have historically worked in pairs. (Certain sounds are so complex that they require the labor of four hands.) Roden and Roesch are two of the masters in their field. David Fincher, the director of movies including “The Social Network,” “Gone Girl,” and “Mank,” told me that Foley is “a very strange calling,” and “a dark art” foundational to filmmaking. “You’re trying to make beautiful sounds that make their point once and get the hell out of Dodge,” Fincher said. “The people who do it really, really well are few and far between.” More here.

A fascinating article.

One feature of iOS 16 changes everything

I have been largely accepting and underwhelmed with the iOS 16 beaters (oops, should be betas- thanks Simon!) so far, but there is one improvement that stands head and shoulders above the rest.

The dictation is phenomenal and above any other system I have used in the past. I am writing this article by simply speaking to my phone and I am doing so at normal pace while the full stops and commas, and everything else are put in for me.

It almost doesn’t feel real as it’s happening, because it goes back to correct itself, the grammar is corrected as I speak, and I am watching the cursor jump back to insert punctuation where it is needed, whilst all the time not one word is misspelt or misheard.

Seriously, you need to try it for yourself to understand what it’s like for everything from text messages to quick emails. I find it hard to believe that the on-screen keyboard could get anywhere close.

Apple makes a big deal about changing everything. This time they actually have. It’s amazing.

Oversharing

I’m part of a generation used to living their life in full view – our collective adolescence measured in a succession of messaging apps and social networks. Each of them encouraged increasing levels of openness and entrenched the message: sharing prompts caring or, better yet, attention… More here.

By this point in time I would have mentioned our new dog, Bailey, on the site, or I would have added a couple of photos of our recent trip to Belgium somewhere, but I decided a few weeks back to stop doing that. Bailey sneaked onto Facebook, but that’s about it.

I muted WhatsApp, every single conversation, I stopped adding anything of my comments to Twitter and decided to leave the website and podcast alone.

I, like so many others, have a habit of oversharing my life, my thoughts and my commentary on politics etc, but it dawned on me that ultimately nobody gives a damn what I think. It adds nothing to the lives of others and it has become a ‘thing’ I do for no real reward apart from taking my mind off my real life.

Maybe it is time for people to live their lives offline and to view what has happened over the past 10 years as a mere digital blip within our more important analogue lives.

What is the purpose of this government?

Just stepping back from the constant crisis a moment. What is the purpose of this government? What is its vision for Britain’s future? For our society? What are its values? What does it believe in? What does it want for our children?

Its just a chaotic, entitled free-for-all… tweeted here.

Such a simple and impressive thought. I have never been so angry and disappointed with a UK government and it just seems to get worse every day.

Our Prime Minister and Chancellor, the 2 highest positions in UK political life, have been found guilty of attending illegal parties at 10 Downing Street during the pandemic. It looks as though Johnson will receive multiple fines, but they both refuse to resign. Any of this paragraph would have been an immediate resigning matter pre-Johnson. And his ministers and many supporters are saying ‘just move on, there are more important things to focus on’. Tell that to parents who could not be with their dying children while they partied.

Johnson has mislead parliament time and time again on this topic over the past few months, all the while claiming not to have done so. If he is allowed to just do that, what is the point of our democracy?

Johnson announced the sending of refugees to Rwanda yesterday, likely as a mere diversion from the above. It will initially cost more than £1 million per person and some will have to stay in Rwanda even if they are successful in their application. It’s horrid and an echo of our history that most did not want to hear again. Whether America, Australia or many other places, we have a history of sending those we do not want elsewhere and this government is no different.

Refugees from Ukraine have had a terrible time being allowed in to the UK, some to the point of returning to Ukraine rather than having to deal with our processes and our government’s rules.

So many people are choosing between heating and eating, but Johnson would rather spend money on the Rwandan policy designed to appeal to his core base of aged racist bigots who are lapping it up with glee. So many people are so scared, so broken and so cold, and yet they the government does not care.

This list could go on and on and on thanks to so many deliberate and self-serving policies that are designed to serve only the government. From giving Covid contracts to their mates to denying any Brexit downsides to…. seriously, it just goes on and on.

And all of the above nastiness only takes us further away from finding what the purpose of this government is. I don’t think it has one as far as the country is concerned. Its purpose is purely to enrich itself at the expense of the rest of us.

How are they still in power?

But could Sunak have done more? Those on Universal Credit are losing 9 per cent of their income until benefits are increased in line with inflation later this year, pushing many into poverty. That poverty is, ultimately, a government choice. We could pay to prevent poverty, through higher taxes, more borrowing or a reallocation of the state’s revenues. Money can always be found. Sunak chose not to find it… More here.

The Spring Statement last week was smoke and mirrors and the most transparent of party tricks that will only fool those who still follow the cult of Boris, the same people who will suffer the most under the current Conservative government.

It is shocking that the government continues to allow 100,000’s of people in the UK to go through a nightmare compared to what should be expected in a first world country. It is appalling.

But analysis by the Office for Budget Responsibility showed that the increased spending will in large part be funded by student loan reforms announced last month. Under the reforms, the salary threshold at which students start paying back their loans will be cut from £27,295 to £25,000 for students enrolling from September 2023. The cut-off point at which unpaid loans are written off will be extended from 30 to 40 years… More here.

So our chancellor publicises a tax reduction which has largely be made moot by previous announcements and now we see that it will be paid for by those who are the future of our country.

Then there were five senior Conservative MPs, who were later forced to apologise or be suspended from the Commons for improperly trying to influence a judge. Natalie Elphicke, Sir Roger Gale, Theresa Villiers, Adam Holloway and Bob Stewart signed a letter pressing Mrs Justice Whipple not to disclose their character statements for Elphicke in his sex assault trial at Southwark crown court. Natalie was later found to have been the ringleader of the campaign. The other four had formed part of Elphicke’s “flock” — the group of MPs he was responsible for — during his time as a whip under David Cameron. The Commons standards committee later described the MPs’ actions as “egregious behaviour” that was “corrosive to the rule of law”… More here.

This is a more specific case, but the way the victim was treated over many years is not something we have seen in the UK before, or at least such things have not become public.

And so to how the day unfolded. On Thursday morning, P&O Ferries recalled its vessels to port with the most ominous words in the shipping forecast – “all-colleague announcement” – promising that “long-term viability” was about to be secured. Sounds good! At which point, the human resources guy delivered a pre-recorded message from some kind of middle-management bunker, as though he were coordinating the resistance of a besieged eastern European country and not just avoiding having to look any of the staff in the eye when he tells them they’re being “restructured” with immediate effect. The former employees were informed their jobs would be promptly taken over by cheaper agency workers. Whether this is even legal is a matter of some debate; suffice to say the implications of the story continue to unfurl themselves like the petals of a stinking corpse lily… More here.

The loss of 800 jobs to foreign works who will earn less than our minimum wage highlights a variety of problems (please read the article above, it is beautifully written). It is true that Brexit is not the reason why the French P&O workers kept their jobs when UK workers lost theirs, but it is also true that one of the main projections of the Leave campaign was UK jobs for UK workers with better pay, while all of the time suggesting that the EU was somehow the cause of our problems.

We know they lied, we have seen literally no upsides from Brexit to date. Rees-Mogg was given the task of finding Brexit opportunities 6 weeks ago and still nothing, he will be looking for a very long time.

Any of the above would have taken down any previous government, but we also have-

+150,000 Covid deaths, many of which could have been avoided by quicker and more competent action.

Parties held in Downing Street throughout the pandemic while we all stayed at home.

The VIP lane for preferred medical suppliers during the pandemic.

The constant Johnson lies in parliament which are never rolled back.

Owen Patterson and the attempt to change the rules to suit one person.

The Russian money flowing through the Conservatives.

The refurbishment scandal of the Downing Street flat and where the money for it came from.

I could go on for some time because the list is long and wide, and perpetuates ever part of this government and ultimately our country. They, however, remain in power which is insanity no matter how you look at it.

The Shape Of Walking

In those early days of the pandemic, classes moved online, and my partner and I no longer spent hours commuting to our respective universities to teach. Instead, we took turns pushing the stroller around our neighborhood. At each intersection we chose our direction based on whichever road seemed more deserted. We zig-zagged down blocks, crossing the street to avoid other people. We sometimes backtracked for the same reason. Our steps created chaotic designs on streets that we once followed in straight lines… More here.

A ‘very’ interesting and well written article. Made me think.

Why Japan returns almost everything

With an inner-city population fast approaching 14 million people, millions of items go missing here each year. But a staggering number of them find their way home. In 2018, over 545,000 ID cards were returned to their owners by Tokyo Metropolitan Police – 73% of the total number of lost IDs. Likewise, 130,000 mobile phones (83%) and 240,000 wallets (65%) found their way back. Often these items were returned the same day… More here.

There are so many thing that only Japan does and many others in a completely unique way. An excellent article.

Living in a Simulation

In other words, yes, and with sincere apologies to Tonelli and most of his fellow physicists, who hate it when anybody suggests this: The only explanation for life, the universe, and everything that makes any sense, in light of quantum mechanics, in light of observation, in light of light and something faster than light, is that we’re living inside a supercomputer. Is that we’re living, all of us, and always, in a simulation… More here.

Fascinating and unnerving at the same time.

Garmin Epix (gen 2) and a bunch of phantom steps

I thought this problem had gone away with the older Fitbit devices, but it appear to not be the case.

My wife and I were driving back from Norfolk today and I noticed something strange happening. When we left I only had 550 steps according to the Epix, but then I noticed a big change, an extra 441 steps.

I kept an eye on things and the following happened-

In the space of 42 minutes the Epix added 154 steps and so I ended up doing almost 500 steps without moving during the 2.5 hour journey, and I wasn’t even driving.

It is hard to understand how an £800 fitness watch cannot fix this- the GPS alone shows that I am travelling at 70 miles per hour, I am obviously not running, and so I would expect software to be able to solve this.

This has been going on for some time (see this Reddit thread from a year ago) and so I suspect that Garmin cannot fix the problem easily.

It may not be a big deal for many people, but what it does do is knock confidence in an expensive system. It should not be happening and I should not have to turn off activity tracking on the Epix every time I drive because the product is not clever enough to work this out.