Anorak » Money Pop culture, news, sport, media and an off-beat take on the mainstream Thu, 21 Aug 2014 08:34:54 +0000 en-US hourly 1 News Vines: Scots Lassie Explains How We Feel About Rail Fare Rises Wed, 20 Aug 2014 10:47:09 +0000 THIS lassie on STV News being told about the 2.5% rise on train ticket fares…



Rail fares are now the most expensive in Europe.


Screen shot 2014 08 20 at 11.44.33 News Vines: Scots Lassie Explains How We Feel About Rail Fare Rises

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Fail: Reuters Logo Is A Venn Diagram Of Horror Mon, 18 Aug 2014 06:28:35 +0000 LOVE this from @Reuters. I don’t *think* they meant it to be interpreted as a Venn diagram

Screen shot 2014 08 18 at 07.26.19 Fail: Reuters Logo Is A Venn Diagram Of Horror


Spotter: @millyshaw



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Of Course Scotland Could Use The Pound After Independence Tue, 12 Aug 2014 20:22:59 +0000 It’s a bit off my having to agree with hte Wee Eck here but it is true all the same that Alex Salmond is correct about a newly independent Scotland being able to continue using the pound sterling.

Alex Salmond …

It’s a bit off my having to agree with hte Wee Eck here but it is true all the same that Alex Salmond is correct about a newly independent Scotland being able to continue using the pound sterling.

Alex Salmond has given his clearest indication yet that he would want an independent Scotland to keep the pound, even without a formal currency pact, after stating “we are keeping it, come what may”.

The first minister insisted, in an article for the Sunday Herald, that “there is literally nothing anyone can do to stop an independent Scotland using sterling, which is an international tradeable currency”.

Writing five days after a bruising encounter with Alistair Darling in STV’s live debate on independence, Salmond insisted that the UK parties were bluffing when they repeatedly ruled out a currency pact after independence.

Salmond argued there was clear economic and political logic for a formal agreement to share sterling and the Bank of England, as he tried to persuade voters in Scotland that he was correct to keep fighting for a deal. It would avoid UK businesses paying extra transaction costs to trade in Scotland, mean Scotland would pay its share of the national debt and allow UK politicians to honour the democratic will of Scottish voters who had backed independence, he wrote.

Whether it’s actually a good idea or not is another matter entirely. A newly independent Scotland (and I say as a proud Englishman, goodbye and don’t bother to write) has three choices. Their own currency, the euro or the pound. and the point is that while all of them have their own plusses and minuses they are all actually possible.

With respect to the pound it doesn’t matter a toss what the Wallahs in London think about it. You can’t actually stop other people from using your currency. As the US has found out when Ecuador and Panama ( and innumerable drug dealers) decided to use the dollar as their legal currency.

If Salmond wants Scotland to use the pound he’ll be able to make that happen.

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Labour MP Gloria De Piero Is Clueless Or Just Conniving About The Gender Pay Gap Mon, 11 Aug 2014 06:19:24 +0000 PA 8574499 Labour MP Gloria De Piero Is Clueless Or Just Conniving About The Gender Pay Gap


OUR latest little excitement on the political front is that a Labour MP has decided to try to massage the facts about the gender pay gap. You’ll see it all over the papers today, the gender pay gap is 20% or so, that this is appalling and only the Labour party is going to do anything about it. Here’s the Mail as an example:

It will take another 60 years before women earn the same as men at the current pace of change, Labour warned today.

Women still earn just 80p for every pound men take home and the pay gap widened last year.

Shadow women’s minister Gloria De Piero accused the Tories of the ‘turning the clock back’ for female workers by failing to do more to reduce unfairness in the workplace.

Latest figures show that in April 2013, men earned £12.86 per hour and women £10.33, a gap of 19.7 per cent.

It marked an increase on 2012, when the gap was 19.6 per cent, with women paid £10.05 to men’s £12.50.

Since 2010 the pay gap has closed at a rate of only 0.3 per cent per year on average, according to the House of Commons library.

There’s a problem with this. Which is that Harriet Harman tried using the same set of statistics 5 years ago. Looking at male and female full time wages men do earn more. Looking at female and male part time wages women earn more. But the one thing you shouldn’t do is try to add part time and full time wages together in order to get to a total pay gap. Which is what Harman did and what De Piero is doing. This is such a no no that the chairman of the Statistics Authority, Sir Michael Scholar, wrote to Harman and said that she shouldn’t do this. The letter is here:

In the meantime, I enclose a copy of a note that the Statistics Authority will shortly publish on its website. This clarifies why figures as different as 12.8 per cent and 23 per cent have been used and explores different options for presenting the gender pay gap in an impartial and objective way.

The note explains that the figure of 23 per cent quoted in the GEO press release relates to the median hourly earnings of all employees (full-time and part-time combined) whereas ONS’s figure of 12.8 per cent is based on the difference in the median hourly earnings of full-time employees only. Neither measure is entirely satisfactory as an impartial and objective headline estimate. The former rolls together the quite different levels of hourly earnings for part-time and full-time employees; while the latter excludes the earnings of around one quarter of all employees.
These considerations suggest the need for a more extensive set of measures to present the differences between the earnings of men and women. Indeed, it is the Statistics Authority’s view that use of the 23% on its own, without qualification, risks giving a misleading quantification of the gender pay gap.

I trust that you will find this note of value pending the further work that ONS is planning on this issue later this year.

De Piero should know of this letter in which case she’s feeding us porkies, isn’t she? And if she doesn’t know of this letter then why the hell doesn’t she know of it?

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Does Apple Deliberately Slow Down Its Old iPhones? Fri, 08 Aug 2014 20:33:44 +0000 That’s the question that’s asked over in the New York Times, whether Apple deliberately slows down its old iPhones so that people will go out to buy a new model. And the answer is, well, you might think so, but probably not. For it’s true that there’s evidence that everyone complains about how slow their old phones are when a new one comes out: but that’s a function of technology, not active malevolence:

A new study is backing up long held suspicions that Apple slows down older models of its iPhones to encourage users to buy a new release.

The U.S. study analysed worldwide searches for ‘iPhone slow’ and found that the search term spiked significantly around the time of new iPhone launch.

It then compared those results with similar searches for the term ‘Samsung Galaxy slow’, and discovered the term was unaffected by new releases from Samsung.

That’s how the Mail reports it but that’s not quite what they found. Yes, complaints about “iPhone slow” do rise in Google Trends around and about the time that a new iPhone is released. And there is no such correlation for the same phrase to do with Samsung phones. So, is Apple deliberately making old phones slower when releasing new one?

No, the answer being that Apple usually releases new software at the same time as new phones. And that new iOS tends to be loaded onto those old phones. And just like anyone who used to use Microsoft Windows will know, loading a new version of the OS onto old hardware is likely to make the machine run slower. For the new software is optimised to work on the new hardware, with a faster processor, more memory and so on. It just takes more grunt to make the cogs turn and the older machines have less of said grunt: thus they appear to run more slowly.

The secret to this not happening is of course not to add the new software to the old iPhone.

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Justin Bieber Really Does Scare The Wild Animals Away Wed, 06 Aug 2014 07:53:40 +0000 A report newly in telling us just quite how bad the screechings of Justin Bieber are. So bad that they actually scare away the wild animals. so bad that they’ve just saved a Russian hunter from the maulings of an …

A report newly in telling us just quite how bad the screechings of Justin Bieber are. So bad that they actually scare away the wild animals. so bad that they’ve just saved a Russian hunter from the maulings of an angry bear:

Igor Vorozhbitsyn had his life saved by a Justin Bieber ringtone, when his mobile phone went off during a potentially fatal attack by a brown bear.

The 42-year-old was pounced on as he was walking to a favourite fishing spot in northern Russia’s Yakutia Republic and firmly believed that he was going to be killed.

But as the bear began to claw at him, Igor’s mobile went off. The singer’s hit Baby rang out and the bear turned tail and fled back into the forest.

So now you know what to do. If you’re out in the wilds and a pack of ferocious animals are trying to eat you then start singing Bieber. Assuming you know any of his songs that is. Should work with wild boar in the Forest of Dean, wild bears in Yakutia and lions in Africa, no doubt about it.

Which leaves us with just one important question. What the hell was a mighty Siberian hunter doing with a Justin Bieber ringtone in the first place? Doesn’t, as with Bieber’s singing itself, sound quite right, does it?

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Men Really Are Better At Maths Than Women Wed, 30 Jul 2014 20:16:52 +0000 And no, it’s not just because of what Barbie said, “Math is hard”. We really are seeing evidence in empirical (that is, when people go out and study the real world rather than just theorising in ivory towers) studies that …

And no, it’s not just because of what Barbie said, “Math is hard”. We really are seeing evidence in empirical (that is, when people go out and study the real world rather than just theorising in ivory towers) studies that men are, on average, better at maths than women on average. But do not that this is about averages: plenty of women are better than most to nearly all men at maths. This tells us nothing about any one individual however true it might be of the population:

Men’s and women’s brains really are different.

Researchers say that if both sexes had access to the same levels of education, they’d expect women to do best on tests of memory – and men to excel at maths.

The prediction comes after an analysis of how the sexes’ abilities varied across Europe across time.

More than 31,000 men and women aged 50-plus from 13 countries were put through three tests of brainpower.

They did all the things you should do, controlling for education levels for example (this being very important as it wasn’t all that many decades ago that women in southern Europe were educated to a very different standard than men. Where I live in rural Portugal it’s not unusual to find women in their 60s or 70s who are profoundly, completely, illiterate and innumerate).

And they found that in verbal ability it all looked about the same, in maths men were better and in memory women were. All of which solves one great confusion of modern life, why can women remember anniversaries and birthdays and men not? But which leaves us with another: why can men not calculate these things with their better maths?

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Whatever The Mail Says Google Just Isn’t Avoiding UK Tax Fri, 25 Jul 2014 14:47:59 +0000 Google’s UK accounts have been filed and thus, as sure as eggs is eggs, we’ve got the Waily Mail chuntering on about how appalling it is that the company is dodging all of this tax. Except the truth is that …

Google’s UK accounts have been filed and thus, as sure as eggs is eggs, we’ve got the Waily Mail chuntering on about how appalling it is that the company is dodging all of this tax. Except the truth is that Google simply isn’t dodging, not avoiding and most certainly not evading, tax in the UK. It’s doing exactly what the law in general says it may do, what European law actually encourages it to do:

Google is facing fresh outrage over its meagre contribution to the UK taxman, after revealing it paid just £20million in corporation tax last year.

The California-based internet giant has faced stinging criticism for using a complex corporate structure that allows it to route UK sales through Ireland to slash its tax bill.

And the scheme appears to have again paid off.

Last night it revealed in accounts filed to Companies House that it paid £20.4million in taxes last year – despite admitting earlier this year that it pulls in £3.3billion of revenues in Britain, largely from advertising.

But in accounts filed last night Google UK said it made a profit of £70.8million before tax on sales of £642million.

But it doesn’t “route” those sales through Ireland: it actually makes those sales from Ireland. Which is exactly what this whole Single Market malarkey is all about. The EU wants corporations to treat the EU as that one single market: this means that they are not just allowed but encouraged to sell to all 29 countries from one single base in just one of them. Which is exactly what Google does. And as to whether this is tax avoidance, here is our own dear HMRC on the subject:

Non-resident trading companies which do not have a branch in the UK, but have UK customers, will therefore pay tax on the profits arising from those customers in the country where the company is resident, according to the tax law in that country. The profits will not be taxed in the UK. This is not tax avoidance: it is simply the way that corporation tax works.

Most major economies operate corporation tax in the same way as the UK, so UK-resident companies are treated in a similar way in other countries. In other words, UK companies do not pay corporation tax to another country on the profits from sales in that country, unless they trade through a branch based there. Instead, they pay corporation tax in the UK.

Note that: the bleedin’ taxman says it isn’t tax avoidance. So, therefore, it ain’t tax avoidance, is it?

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Australian Politician Jacqui Lambie Wants ‘A Well Hung Man With Heaps Of Cash’ Fri, 25 Jul 2014 05:13:21 +0000 THESE might well be the sexual preferences of many of us, not just politicians. It’s just that we tend not to expect a politician to say so quite so publicly. But fair dinkum to the Ozzies, they have managed to elect one who actually tells it like it is:

Jacqui Lambie, an Australian MP who shares the balance of power in the upper house, has apologised after declaring in a radio interview that she is looking for a partner who is “well-hung” and loaded with cash.

“They don’t even need to speak,” said Ms Lambie, a 43-year-old single mother of two.

Sending all the criminals and the whores down there 200 years ago seems to have done wonders for their honesty, eh? She went on:

Asked about her bikini line, she said: “Right now the state I’m in, you’d want to bring out that whipper snipper [garden lawn trimmer] first. It’s a very scary area to talk about this morning.”

While it’s fun to hear this sort of stuff it should be said that we’re grateful that it doesn’t happen here. Do we really want Harriet Harman telling us of the state of her Brazilian? Or even Peter Mandelson come to that.

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Pyramid Teabags Are Better Than Round: Scientific Proof That Is Thu, 24 Jul 2014 02:38:21 +0000 The late and dearly beloved (to those of a certain age that is) Bernard Levin once wrote an entire column in The Times in praise of the Advertising Standards Authority’s existence. I do not have the great man’s eloquence but …

The late and dearly beloved (to those of a certain age that is) Bernard Levin once wrote an entire column in The Times in praise of the Advertising Standards Authority’s existence. I do not have the great man’s eloquence but I would like to repeat that praise as a result of this decision over whether pyramid teabags are actually better than round ones. For it does make exactly the same point that he noted about the earlier adjudication over whose crisps were the crunchiest:

It is a debate that splits tea lovers – which tea bag makes the better cuppa. But now the Advertising Standard’s Authority has ruled that pyramid shaped bags are more effective than the more traditional flat, round tea bags when making a brew. The advertising watchdog has said that PG Tips has successfully shown the infusion of tea leaves in its pyramid shaped bags was more efficient than in round tea bag as used by rivals Tetley. It made the ruling after Tata Global Beverages, the makers of Tetley, complained to the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) about a PG Tips TV advert starring Johnny Vegas and his sock puppet monkey. Tetley said the ad, which showed the difference in ‘brewing power’ between a pyramid and a round tea bag, was exaggerated and misleading to viewers.

How Glorious for out Happy little isle, that we have a department, an organisation, who can devote the time to deciding on these important matters. This must mean that we’ve solved all of the important problems, yes? We’ve dealt with housing for the poor, clothing for the naked, food for the starving, so that we can devote those precious scarce resources of society to deciding which shape of teabag infuses more quickly (do note, this decision is a matter of law now) or which crisp is crispier? And Levin’s point, which I largely repeat today, is that yes, by and large we have solved those big problems. Absent drugs or addiction everyone does have a roof (perhaps not a perfect one, perhaps not where they’d like to be, but they do have a roof over their heads), a meal and a shirt to put on their back. And thus we can discuss the mer5its of the origami of teabags. Aren’t we, by historical standards, the lucky ones?

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The 10,000 Hours Rule Doesn’t Actually Work: The Tabula Rasa Fallacy Wed, 16 Jul 2014 20:33:01 +0000 IT’S a common enough idea, that you need to practice at something for 10,000 hours to actually be any good at it. And that might well be true, too. However, the idea does sometimes (ie, in almost all of he UK education system) get mixed up with the idea that if you do 10,000 hours practice then you will be good at something. And that just ain’t true.

The idea that all children can be anything they want to be has deep roots in the UK educational system. If only people were educated in just the right manner then anyone at all could become a doctor, a pilot, a politician. Looking around of course that last has happened bu the other two not so much. And we’re constantly told that it really is only inherited privilege that stops everyone from having prices. This is known as the “tabula rasa” argument and it’s complete bollocks of course.

Quite apart from anything else if skills, aptitudes and intelligence were not inheritable then we’d have a hell of a time explaining how evolution happened.

But back to our 10,000 hours argument. That much practice is a necessary condition for being really good at something but not a sufficient one:

More than 20 years ago, researchers proposed that individual differences in performance in such domains as music, sports, and games largely reflect individual differences in amount of deliberate practice, which was defined as engagement in structured activities created specifically to improve performance in a domain. This view is a frequent topic of popular science writing–but is it supported by empirical evidence? To answer this question, we conducted a meta-analysis covering all major domains in which deliberate practice has been investigated. We found that deliberate practice explained 26% of the variance in performance for games, 21% for music, 18% for sports, 4% for education, and less than 1% for professions. We conclude that deliberate practice is important, but not as important as has been argued.

It is necessary to have the initial talent, the aptitude, as well as the practice. It just isn’t true that every unique little snowflake can be whatever they want to be.

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Woman Fails Driving Test 110 Times Mon, 14 Jul 2014 20:52:26 +0000 12030969 Woman Fails Driving Test 110 Times


…AND she’s not even got to the practical part yet, where what she’s been told is 6 inches causes problems. This is really quite amazing, this lady has managed to fail the driving theory test 110 times:

A 28-year-old woman has failed her driving theory test a record 110 times, new figures today revealed.

The unnamed learner, from Southwark, south-east London, spent a staggering £3,410 in a bid to show she knows the rules and dangers of the road.

But despite her determination to pass the test, she is yet to do so – and still has her practical driving test to overcome.

The driving theory test, costing £31 a time, comprises multiple-choice questions and a hazard perception exam.

So, the driving test, this theory part of it at least, is 50 questions, all multiple choice. They vary a bit, some ask for more than one answer but you’ve got to get 43 right in order to pass the test. And near 65% of people who take it do pass it. I just doddled through a practice one myself, just to check it, and I passed in 10 minutes and I’ve not even driven a car in England for a decade.

So there’s got to be something pretty seriously wrong if she can’t get through it in 110 tries. And I’m really not sure if we’d want her on the roads if she managed to pass on go 111 either.

But there’s more to it than that. Because after 110 tries you’d actually have expected her to have passed it on a purely random basis. The likelihood (OK, it’s a little more complex, as there are some multiple answer ones) of getting any one answer correct is 0.25 (or getting one wrong, 0.75) and with 50 questions in a row it’s therefore very unlikely that you will pass just by random guessing.

However, you would begin to expect that one in one hundred chance (or whatever it is) to come up after 110 attempts at doing the test. That is, it’s likely that she should have passed the test by now just from random guessing.

Which is pretty scary really. Most of the test you can see immediately what are the wrong answers (you pass an accident, you should immediately accelerate into the wreckage?) and thus raise the success rate of guessing. And to end up doing worse than random chance would lead us to expect means some pretty serious issues with the understanding of what’s happening out there.

Scary stuff if she ever does pass.

Photo:  Ada R. Gibson, 81-year-old retired school teacher, makes an “okay” sign and proudly waves her new driver’s license, March 13, 1958, making her one of the oldest persons ever to take and pass a District of Columbia examination. Unwilling to “sit and rock”, Mrs. Gibson explained she got a job operating a candy stand in a motion picture theater 10 blocks from her home and needed an automobile to get to work. She bought a car, took the driving lesson and passed her tests. Mrs. Gibson, who retired from teaching 22 years ago, explained she did a bit of auto driving many years ago. (AP Photo/Byron Rollins)

Ref #: PA.12030969

Date: 13/03/1958

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Now Berkeley Offers Free Cannabis To The Poor Fri, 11 Jul 2014 11:51:12 +0000 YOU may have heard about the slow legalisation of cannabis in certain US states. First came medical marijuana, treatments for things like the nausea produced by chemotherapy, to reduce certain eye conditions and so on. Sadly, just desiring to get a buzz isn’t worthy of such medical treatment.

Then, in the face of deep opposition from the Feds, came a couple of States (Colorado and Washington) that have simply legal cannabis for all on sale.

Of course, someone was always going to go further and wouldn’t you know it that it’s the ultimate liberal gulag, Berkeley in California, that has done it. Now there’s free pot for the poor:

Dispensaries will have to give away free cannabis to very low-income folks, per the new regulations. The amount of free cannabis must equal 2 percent of a dispensary’s gross weight sold. The council specified Tuesday evening that first in line for the free pot would be Berkeley residents and collective members.

This isn’t quite as mad as it sounds. It’s not that you can just shuffle up as a homeless person and get a joint to while away the afternoon with. California only has medical marijuana as yet and that means that your doctor as to prescribe it to you. Then you’ve got to join the collective than hands it out. And then, only then, if you’re poor, do they have to give you some.

One thing they seem to have missed though. This will now make dope 2% more expensive for everyone who is not poor. For by definition these dispensaries must be non-profit. So that 2% being given away for free must be paid for by charging everyone else more money. There’s nowhere else for the cash to come from.

Still, free doobies for the poor eh? Wonder how long it will be before you can use food stamps?

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The Daily Mail and Human Sexuality: Explaining Nymphomania Fri, 11 Jul 2014 06:09:57 +0000 Another in our series on sex research and wondering how in buggery we can get to join the research teams. For yes, there’s more of that research that we’d very much like to take part in.

The researchers were interested …

Another in our series on sex research and wondering how in buggery we can get to join the research teams. For yes, there’s more of that research that we’d very much like to take part in.

The researchers were interested in studying nymphomania: or in more modern parlance, hypersexuality. How many women have, or try to have, enough sex that it actually impacts on other areas of their life. And the researchers don’t mean how many women have a dreamy smile a couple of times a week. As they say:

They called for more research into the issue – and recommended those who suffer to get therapy.

What we’d like to know here at Anorak Towers, is how do we sign up for doing more of that research: or, if that’s not possible, how do we become therapists for this condition? Assuming, as we do, that the therapy is providing what the women desire?

Biggest ever study of hypersexual women found they tended to be bisexual

Do we just monitor hot girl on girl action or are we supposed, as therapists, to take part?

But as ever the Mail manages to slightly get the wrong end of the stick:

German researchers found problems may be linked to high rates of masturbation and pornography use.

Err, no, that’s rather more of a symptom than a problem really.

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Steve Jobs Was Right: Apple’s iPhone 6 Is To Be Made By Robots Tue, 08 Jul 2014 12:49:43 +0000 PA 12990396 Steve Jobs Was Right: Apples iPhone 6 Is To Be Made By Robots

Workers are seen inside a Foxconn factory in the township of Longhua in the southern Guangdong province May 26, 2010. A spate of nine employee deaths at global contract electronics manufacturer Foxconn, Apple’s main supplier of iPhones, has cast a spotlight on some of the harsher aspects of blue-collar life on the Chinese factory floor.


THIS rather proves Steve Jobs’ point that “those jobs are never coming back”. For Apple’s iPhone 6 is to be assembled by robots rather than by hand as has been done with all previous generations of iPhone.

iPhone maker Foxconn has revealed Apple’s new iPhone 6 could be the first to be made using its ‘robot army’.

The firm has pledged to have a million robot workers by the end of the year – and CEO Terry Gou has revealed the robots, dubbed ‘Foxbots’, are in the final stages of testing.

It is believed Foxconn will install 10,000 robots as a test.

Jobs made the comment originally to President Obama. He was asking, well, all those jobs that are now in China, all those manufacturing jobs, when are they going to come back to America? The answer being “those jobs are never coming back”.

And there’s good reason for this. The actual cost of assembling (rather than designing or making all of the components) an iPhone is in the region of $7 or $8 each. In the US, when you include the costs of health care and so on, this means you get about 15 minutes of labour for this price. But it takes more than 15 minutes of labour to do the assembly. Thus that work just isn’t going to get done in hte US.

Ah, but what if Apple were willing to take a smaller profit? Or charge a bit more? Could they then afford US labour? Sure, they could: but they wouldn’t. For using robots in the US would be cheaper than using US labour to do the work. And we can prove that too. Chinese labour makes around one quarter of what US labour makes (and this is much, much, higher than Chinese labour got only a decade ago). But even that Chinese labour is now being replaced by robots.

So, the assembly, that could come back to America, sure. But the jobs wouldn’t: for if the assembly cam back then it would be done by robots, not people. Just as in China it is now being done by robots, not people who are markedly cheaper than US labour.

Assembly jobs in manufacturing are simply gone, destroyed, they’ll never return.

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Beer, Oh Happy Produce Of Our Isle – And Good For Us Too! Tue, 08 Jul 2014 09:43:36 +0000 PA 9508554 Beer, Oh Happy Produce Of Our Isle   And Good For Us Too!

Inn Keeper Brown, right, 47-year-old ex-service man of an unidentified English village, used the toy gun he is holding to help capture the crew of a German bomber forced down, July 12, 1940. Brown sold a two-weeks supply of beer and all to those who came to listen to the. (AP Photo)


THE Mail brings us the glorious news that beer is actually good for us:

Mine’s a pint: Full of vitamins, high in fibre, low on sugar and good for your hair – the benefits of beer
Beer is being hailed for its health benefits and vitamin levels
Research suggests drinking beer might help prevent Alzheimer’s
Hops have ‘aphrodisiac-like qualities’ and could balance hormones
Contains minerals including phosphorus, iodine, magnesium and potassium

Well, yes, aphrodisiac qualities: who has not suffered from beer goggles at one time or another? But those health effects are quite true and some of us have the bellies to prove that we’ve known this for decades.

The thing is that the Mail isn’t the first to point this out to use. We all know Hogarth’s “Gin Lane”, drunk for a penny, dead drunk for tuppence. But many fewer know that this was one of two engravings, the other being Beer Street. Full of manly Englishmen doing manly things in the company of fair English maidens, all who had been raised upon copious amounts of beer. And here’s the doggerel to go with it:

Beer, happy Produce of our Isle

Can sinewy Strength impart,

And wearied with Fatigue and Toil

Can cheer each manly Heart.

Labour and Art upheld by Thee

Successfully advance,

We quaff Thy balmy Juice with Glee

And Water leave to France.

Genius of Health, thy grateful Taste

Rivals the Cup of Jove,

And warms each English generous Breast

With Liberty and Love!

I’ve always rather liked that “and water leave to France” line myself.

Sadly all do insist that moderation is a virtue. It’s just that moderation to Hogarth would have been perhaps a gallon a day. 8 pints seems about right, doesn’t it?

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Well Of Course British Homes Are The Smallest In Europe Mon, 07 Jul 2014 12:23:57 +0000 PA 1803654 Well Of Course British Homes Are The Smallest In Europe


WHY are British homes the smallest in Europe? Because we’re the only country in Europe stupid enough to insist that they must be small.

This really isn’t a surprising finding from Cambridge University:

British families are living in some of the most cramped conditions in Europe with more than half of homes falling short of minimum modern space standards, new research has found.

The study found the UK has the smallest homes by floor space area of any European country with the average new build property covered just 76sq m compared with almost double that amount of 137sq m in Denmark.

The reason for this is that the government of the country has been taken over by morons. They’re in the grip of a delusion that we’re short of land to put houses on these days. When in fact only 3% of England is actually houses: we could therefore build another 33%, or make all housing 33% larger, just by using 1% of the country.

We just don’t have a land shortage. Heck, in Surrey, there’s more land under golf courses than there is land under houses. And quite a lot of people would like to live in Surrey too.

It’s actually so bad, this delusion, that if you do get planning permission to build on a bit of land then you’ve got to crowd them in. 14 houses to a hectare is the minimum that anyone will ever let you get away with. All of which is very different indeed from the old demand that any and every house (from post WWI, “Homes for Heroes” and all that) must have at least a quarter acre garden (you can only get 8 of those to a hectare, including some room for the houses themselves) so that people can grow their own veg.

The reason that new British houses are titchy is because the law currently insists that they must be titchy. It’s crazed lunacy. And it’s a problem that we can solve really easily. Loosen up the planning permission system and two things will happen. First, building land will become cheaper meaning that houses don’t need to be squeezed in. Second, that the law won’t insist that houses have to be crammed in.

This is all, absolutely, the fault of the law, nothing else. Except, perhaps, the cretins who make that law.

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Feast And Famine: Marilyn Monroe Was Not Some Porky Lardbucket, She Was Tiny Fri, 04 Jul 2014 16:25:13 +0000 monroe skinny Feast And Famine: Marilyn Monroe Was Not Some Porky Lardbucket, She Was Tiny


HALF the time we’re told that the entire country is becoming obese, waddling around with dripping rolls of fat hanging from our frames, the other half the time we’re being screamed at for our unhealthy obsession with being thin. And in that latter conversation we’re also always being told that being thin is very unusual and women of the past were never like that. I mean, look at Marilyn Monroe! Hips and tits on ‘er and she was even an actress!

Today it’s Hannah Betts in the Torygraph whining about it:

Chillingly, a US size 000 measures up to a UK size 0, five sizes smaller than a UK size 10, itself on the smallish side in a culture in which the average British woman is a size 16, and the public’s ideal physique a size 12 (according to YouGov). A US size zero measures 25 inches around the waist; a triple zero, a meagre 23 inches.

It can be difficult to visualise the bodies behind such unvital statistics. My eight-year-old nephew, so lean that he can fit into his baby pyjamas, has a waist of 23.5 inches; his lithe nine-year-old sister, measures 24 inches. The girths of these adult women are smaller, despite their being significantly taller, in a way that seems hardly possible. The average triple zero poster girl stands at 5ft 7in. To be so narrow-framed at this scale is to be emaciated.

A petite therapist friend puts matters into perspective. “I am the smallest person in the world and my childlike waist is about 28 inches,” she says. “I have bought UK size 6 clothes from Topshop’s petite range, which is horrifyingly too small, making me wonder if they require ribs to be removed, or whether it is actual children who wear them. I am truly shocked.”

Whine, moan, yawn.

No, let’s get this into perspective. By measuring the clothes that Monroe wore (and your correspondent here has actually seen these clothes live and in real life and can attest that he has checked this out) we can tell what her measurements were:

In fact, the average waist measurement of the four Monroe dresses was a mere 22 inches, according to Lisa Urban, the Hollywood consultant who dressed the mannequins and took measurements for me. Even Monroe’s bust was a modest 34 inches.

That’s not an anecdote. That’s data.

The other actresses’ costumes provided further context. “It’s like half a person,” marveled a visitor at the sight of Claudette Colbert’s gold-lame “Cleopatra” gown (waist 18 inches). “That waist is the size of my thigh,” said a tall, slim man, looking at Carole Lombard’s dress from “No Man of Her Own” (a slight exaggeration — it was 21 inches). Approaching Katharine Hepburn’s “Mary of Scotland” costumes, a plump woman declared with a mixture of envy and disgust, “Another skinny one.”

The pattern she noticed was real. At my request, Urban took waist measurements on garments worn by 16 different stars, from Mary Pickford in 1929 (20 inches) to Barbra Streisand in 1969 (24 inches). The thickest waist she found was Mae West’s 26 inches in “Myra Breckinridge,” when the actress was 77 years old.

Models and actresses being skinny simply isn’t anything new. They’ve always been that shape.

Get used to it.

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Surprise! Union Think Tank Says Unions Should Have More Power! Thu, 03 Jul 2014 11:07:13 +0000 THIS really is a turn up for the books. A union funded and financed think tank has decided to reveal to the world that the cure for all that ails us is that unions should have more industrial and political power. Just allow the shades of the recently departed Bob Crow to have their way and everything would be peachy.

No, really, I’m not joking either:

This paper argues that we must now recreate a movement with the political and social influence that enabled the former labour movement to achieve the major reductions in inequality during the middle decades of the 20th Century. A fairer and more sustainable future is possible.

Well, OK, mebbe that makes sense and mebbe it doesn’t. It would depend upon the evidence that is used to make the argument in the end. And perhaps why that argument is being made.

Which brings us to the people who are making the argument: Class, a newish think tank called the Centre for Labour and Social Studies. They’re not exactly impartial on this point and to prove that here’s the list of the people that finance them:

The Centre for Labour and Social Studies is currently funded by the following trade unions:

Musicians’ Union
Unite the Union

Yeah: you can see how they’d not be advising that the unions are the root of all evil really, can’t you?

But sadly this is the way that politics is actually done these days. Pressure group (of any stripe, business does this as well, although perhaps rather less than the usual lefties) gets someone, anyone, to issue a report that agrees that the pressure group is very important and must be listened to. Politicians listen and laws get made. All without anyone at all actually considering the point of it all.

It’s just not a great way to run a country.

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Even The Labour Party Is Beginning To Understand The Housing Market Tue, 01 Jul 2014 11:35:26 +0000 IT’S taken its time but the basic problem with the UK housing market seems to be seeping into even Labour Party minds. That problem being that there’s not enough housing so it’s too bloody expansive. We should therefore try to build more. As the Labour Party’s head of their investigation into the housing market says:

Sir Michael Lyons told the Guardian he had identified protracted delays in the release of land as the single biggest cause of Britain’s housing crisis.

This is all really very simple. There’s no shortage of land in the UK. Only about 3% of it is houses at the moment: in some counties we have more than that in use as golf courses than we do houses.

It’s also true that houses are gargantuanly expensive: but it’s not actually the houses that are. It’s the land underneath them that is expensive. And more than that, it’s the permission to build a house on a particular piece of land that is. Farmland goes for £10,000 a hectare. Land with planning permission goes for £1,000,000 a hectare in the South, on which you’re allowed to put 14 or 15 houses.

It’s the little piece of paper, the planning chitty, that costs the money. So, obviously, the answer is simply to issue more little pieces of paper, more of those planning chitties, so as to bring down their scarcity value.

Which is, of course, what the Coalition has been trying to do with all that talk of loosening and my God haven’t people been screaming about it.

Now that we’ve got the Labour Party onboard with this obvious truth then, given that it’s going to be either the Tories or Labour as the next government, we might actually see some serious movement on this.

Houses are expensive because we don’t issue enough planning permissions. Issue more, more quickly, and house prices will fall. It’s so simple that even the Labour Party is now getting it.


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Poverty Hasn’t Doubled In The Past 30 Years But Inequality Has Risen Mon, 30 Jun 2014 17:09:23 +0000 PA 4494469 Poverty Hasnt Doubled In The Past 30 Years But Inequality Has Risen

London Scene – Children’s Homes – 1931
Canning Town, poor children having soup.


DESPITE what The Guardian would love to be able to tell us it simply isn’t true that poverty has doubled in the past 30 years. Inequality has increased, that’s true, but poverty and inequality are not the same thing:

Poverty hits twice as many British households as 30 years ago

The UK economy has doubled in size since the early 1980s – yet the number of those suffering below-minimum living standards has grown by more than twice, a study claims

That’s what the paper would like us to believe. But it hasn’t actually happened that way.

What has happened is that researchers went out to ask people, well, what should you be able to afford? How much of the house should you be able to heat, how many pairs of shoes should the kids have each, how often can you take the Missuss out for a couple of bevvies? And these are actually the questions they asked.

Then they went round and asked people whether they could afford all of these things.

And twice as many people cannot afford today’s list as could not afford 1980s list. But note that the 1980 numbers are comparing what you should have been able to do in 1980 with the people who could do those things in 1980. And today’s with today. They are not the same list at all.

For example, back in 1980 (I know, I was there!) you would be very posh indeed if you could afford to keep the whole house warm all winter. People really did still use hot water bottles, bedrooms often had ice on the inside of the windows in the morning. Today you’re poor if that happens.

What has actually happened is that living standards in general have risen but not all of us have been climbing up at the same rate. Inequality has risen but poverty hasn’t. And don’t let them tell you different.

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Sting Ditches Own Children From Will As He Plans To Spend His Vast Fortune On…. Mon, 30 Jun 2014 15:11:36 +0000 PA 3828162 Sting Ditches Own Children From Will As He Plans To Spend His Vast Fortune On....


STING, as we know, is an incredibly smug man. Not surprising really, given that he’s got shedloads of money, a talented and “occasional aviation-fuel” using wife and everyone thinks he’s really good at the sex. It’d be nigh-on impossible not to think highly of yourself if you take all that into consideration.

However, his kids might not think much of him as he’s showing them the meaning of money and achievement by cutting them out of his will.

Sting’s sat on £180m and he doesn’t want his children to have it.

He’s said that he wants to encourage his children “to succeed on their own merit” which they say they’re happy to do. He said: “I told them there won’t be much money left because we are spending it. We have a lot of commitments. What comes in we spend, and there isn’t much left. I certainly don’t want to leave them trust funds that are albatrosses round their necks. They have to work. All my kids know that and they rarely ask me for anything, which I really respect and appreciate.”

In fairness, Sting’s children are old enough to be looking after themselves.

There’s Joseph, 37, and Kate, 32, Brigitte Michael, 30, Jake, 28, Eliot Pauline, 23, and Giacomo Luke, 18. If they’re not earning their own coin, they’re mental. Or stoners.

“People make assumptions that they were born with a silver spoon in their mouth, but they have not been given a lot.”

“Obviously, if they were in trouble I would help them, but I’ve never really had to do that. They have the work ethic that makes them want to succeed on their own merit,” the Police man added.

They’re agreeing now, probably thinking dad’s doing a double bluff and that, by playing along, they’ll get a load of money when he dies.

Thing is, Sting’s really smug. He probably thinks he’s the best dad in the world, so he’s probably going through with this idea – they better get down the job centre, sharpish.

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The Real Problem With Inheritance Tax Is That The Rich Don’t Pay It Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:59:54 +0000 PA 20110022 The Real Problem With Inheritance Tax Is That The Rich Dont Pay It


THERE’S another report out detailing what’s wrong with the current system of inheritance tax in the UK. And this report gets right to the heart of what’s actually wrong with this current system. Which is that the rich bastards don’t actually pay it while anyone who owns a house in London does. It’s not actually a tax upon the rich: it’s a tax upon the middle class:

 People with estates worth many millions are able to avoid the brunt of inheritance tax through complex schemes, including moving the cash offshore or investing in agricultural land and small business shares. Those avenues are closed to “moderately well–off” people whose only assets are their home and pension, Mr Johnson said.

Oh yes, everyone thinks that if you have a lot of dosh when you pop your clogs then the State gets 40% of it5. But that’s not actually how it works. Farmland for example: no inheritance tax upon that. So multi-millionaires make sure they buy a large farm or two which the kiddies then get tax free: and, of course, sell after a year or two and make off with their bundle. Small company shares also do not pay inheritance tax. So owning a company worth a few millions pays no tax. There’s endless other ones like this. If you’re rich enough to hand over the estate 7 years before you die then there’s no tax to pay either. And those are all entirely legal. Without even mentioning the idea of buggering off abroad so that the British taxman can be told to go take a hike.

The people who do end up paying inheritance tax are those who are well off but not rich. Assets might be their pension (which disappears on their death of course) and a reasonable enough house in London that they bought 30 years ago. The taxman then takes 40% of that but those larger fortunes, the ones that can afford the lawyers and the tricks, get off it all.

If we are even going to have an inheritance tax then it really ought to be one the screws the rich not the middle. So, we definitely want to change all of this at some point.

And just to make it clear, no, I’m not going to inherit anything worth taxing so it’s not about me.

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Breaking News For Fools: Investigation Finds That Perrier Water Is A Rip Off Mon, 30 Jun 2014 12:21:29 +0000 perrier Breaking News For Fools: Investigation Finds That Perrier Water Is A Rip OffTHE Dispatches team over at Channel 4 has uncovered shocking evidence of the way that Perrier is woefully overpriced, actually being more expensive than honest to goodness beer and cider. Clearly the Frenchies are simply ripping us all off:

An investigation by Channel 4′s Dispatches found three supermarket chains selling lager cheaper than sparkling Perrier water.

Tesco sold multipacks of Fosters, Carlsberg and Carling lager at 69p a pint and Strongbow cider for 65p a pint. This compared with Perrier mineral water costing 73p a pint.

In Asda, the same beers could be bought for 72p a pint, compared with 76p a pint for Perrier.

And at Sainsbury’s, 20 cans of Fosters lager was 72p a pint while 15 cans of Strongbow cost £8, equating to 69p a pint, 7p less than a pint of sparkling water.

Alternatively of course the Dispatches team are simply being dipsticks. Perrier is a luxury good: a Veblen Good even. It is in fact just water with bubbles put into it: it’s not naturally bubbly at all. And they deliberately make it and advertise it as being expensive. The point being that no one actually likes the stuff it’s just there to be expensive. So that when you buy it people can see that you’re the sort of person who buys expensive bottled water. That’s how it differentiates itself from the supermarket bottled water which is 19p for two litres in the same aisle.

So to compare the price of this luxury good, one that people only buy because it is expensive, with the cheap beers made for the masses is simply ridiculous.

But, if that’s what they want to do then fair enough, that’s what they want to do. But the obvious reaction to the finding is not that beer and cider are too cheap: rather that Perrier is grossly over-priced.

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The Government’s Smith Lawson and Company Student Loan Scam: Who’s Wonga Now? Mon, 30 Jun 2014 08:44:47 +0000 PA 19706819 1 The Governments Smith Lawson and Company Student Loan Scam: Whos Wonga Now?


YOU’LL recall that Wonga just got into very hot water over sending threatening letters to people who had not repaid their loans. The problem was that they made the letters look like they came from solicitors of debt collectors: but they were in fact just run off on the company’s own printers using a few names cobbled together.

They didn’t actually say they were from solicitors: it just looked very like it. So, Wonga’s had to pay a couple of million in fines and agree that they’ve been very naughty. The problem is we now find out that the government itself has been doing exactly the same thing:

Warnings sent by ‘Smith Lawson and Company’ to graduates for the last nine years carry a banner in red stating ‘Do Not Ignore This Letter’, with a demand for payment within seven days and a threat of legal action.

They gave the impression of a separate company with the line: ‘We are instructed by our client, in connection with the sum outstanding shown above.’

But the supposed firm does not exist and is little more than a masthead designed to intimidate.

The Student Loans Company (SLC) is a subsidiary of the Government and reports to Vince Cable’s Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.

The firm said it introduced Smith Lawson as a ‘cost-saving exercise’ because the use of conventional debt collection agencies required payment of commission.

Last week City watchdog the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) revealed Wonga would have to pay £2.6million compensation to 45,000 people sent letters from two invented debt recovery firms.

Now it’s true that sometimes the government gets to do things that we’re not allowed to do. You know the sort of thing: the government is allowed to give us a gun and tell us to go off and kill foreigners. We’d be in pretty hot water if we tried that privately.

But this isn’t one of the things that they can do and we cannot do. Either Wonga needs to be let off those fines or the government itself must be prosecuted for doing exactly the same thing.

You#d have to have a heart of stone not to laugh about this.

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