Weekly read 176
Monday 3rd November 2014 Week 176. Portugal.
Losing my bearings.
I stand corrected. I've made it plain over the last 176 weeks, I'm not a fan of cities. This for two very good reasons. Firstly, the second you step into one you become a tourist and they're not universally welcomed, normally only by those taking your money. Secondly, thanks to tourists, the old historical city centres have become museums, preserved parodies of what they once were. It's because of these reasons, and the fact I can't queue which is a major prerequisite of being a tourist, I only ever really to want to pop in, take a quick look and then skedaddle.
However, hats off to Seville. We visited it two days running. A first for us. The city is more attractive than Madrid and knocks the socks off Granada. It has some quite phenomenal architecture. Chief amongst these is the Cathedral, built on an Olympian scale. It's a Cathedral that out-Cathedrals all others. When this was built, way back when the city was in its embryonic state, (He's forgot the date Ed) the local peasants must have been awestruck watching this monolith rise from the ground like some man made mountain. It still has the same effect today, even on a reluctant tourist such as myself.
If you can only ever visit one Spanish city make it Seville.
Just one corner of this biblically sized Cathedral
We've said hasta la vista to Spain for a few weeks and headed east, 177 miles to Lagos in Portugal. On route we stopped at a gas station. At this point Hazel took the helm. While she was adjusting the seat, mirrors, controls, sunglasses, and her make up, I had time enough to walk around and check all was tickety-boo. Turns out it wasn't. The trailer tyre looked a little flat so I gave it a kick, I'm not sure what’s achieved by kicking tyres it's just something I've seen other chaps do. However it clonked and that's not normal. I grasped the top and bottom of the tyre and shook it. It moved on its axle. Clearly it shouldn't have. I reasoned, with the aid of a Dutch chap who wandered over either being friendly or just nosy, the wheel bearings were failing. There was nothing we could do but plough on.
“What would happen if it failed?” Hazel asked, as she pulled onto the motorway.
“Not a lot, I said lying. 'We'd have to pull over, take the trailer apart, (it's bolted together) stow it in the van and I'd follow behind on the scooter'. Once she knew I was a man-with-a-plan she was okay. However I couldn't help wincing every time she drove over a pot hole or deep rut in the road.
“You worried about the wheel?” she asked, seeing my contorted expressions.
“More concerned than worried” I replied, as coolly as I could. Knowing, as I do, it never pays to put the wind up the help. (You wanna eat? Then tread carefully. Ed)
We stopped at the electronic pay station, just over the border into Portugal, so I could check it again. It felt worse. But that was probably due to my paranoia. As I gawked at the wheel two young German back-packers strolled over. They very politely asked for a lift to Faro, about sixty kilometres further on. I was happy to oblige, besides it meant having two more bods should we need to resort to dismantling the trailer by the side of the motorway. They were from Berlin, Martin and Andy.
“Not very Germanic sounding names, shouldn't you be called Fritz and Hans” I said.
“Ah yes! very traditional Germans names” they laughed. See, I'm internationally witty
They chatted to Hazel on the drive while I kept my eye on the rear view mirror half expecting the trailer tyre, by to overtake us. Thankfully it didn't.
We arrived in Lagos safely. The bearing will have to be replaced before we can move on.
Tuesday 4th November 2014 Week 176. Portugal
We all need protecting.
I've no time for experts as some of my regulars readers might have gathered by now. And by the time you’ve finished reading this nor will you if I make my point well.
Lets start with two early examples of 'experts' getting it wrong, to demonstrate that the phenomena I'm about to expose is nothing new. In 1912 the Titanic was said, by experts, to be unsinkable. It then hit an iceberg and sank on its maiden voyage. In 1918 this expert medical advice was printed in the News of The World during the Spanish flu pandemic which swept across Europe killing millions
Wash the inside of your nose with soap and water each night and morning. Force yourself to sneeze at night and in the morning, then breath deeply. Take brisk walks. Do not wear a muffler and eat plenty of porridge.
Sage advice back then, totally daft today
Take a more modern example, the shooting of JFK. Now you'd think with all the people that are gunned down per annum in the USA (8,798 in 2012) they would have ballistic experts coming out their kisters, and you'd be right, they do. So why then couldn't they say, with certainty, whether or not there was a second gunman on the grassy knoll? Several ballistics experts studied the evidence and each arrived at a different version of that days events. Eventually the 'Magic bullet theory' which, if you're not familiar with, states that a bullet entered the back of JFK's head and then exited via his knee cap, was settled on. An explanation which requires an element of mysticism along with two changes in the direction of the bullet to support the facts
Call experts to give evidence in a murder case and they won't agree. One hired by the prosecution will state the murder victim was killed by a blow to the head. While the other, hired by the defence, will say the injuries are consistent with falling down the stairs. You get what you pay for, even with expert evidence.
Take something on all our minds today, Global warming. Not an inconsequential issue I think you'll agree. There are two expert schools of thought as to its outcome. It's either going to get a tad warmer, or colder depending where you live, so you'll need more, or less woollies. Or CO2 levels will rise even faster than they are now and cause cataclysmic climate changes which will wipe out mankind. And let me remind you, that’s expert opinion! not the views of scary people at bus stops.
Last week I made the point that US military experts claimed the war in Afghanistan would last eighteen months and cost $200 billion. It lasted 13 years and cost 4 Trillion.
In the mid sixties experts advised the UK government that by the turn of the century Britain’s population would double. This would spell economic disaster. Britain couldn't cope with a population of 100 million. We didn't have the land, the housing nor the social infrastructure to support such a number. What happened? Fuck all. By 2000 it had risen by 12 million. Around the same time four blokes were being told by an expert record producer not to give up their day jobs. The Beatles then went on to make global musical history. Here’s a final one. In the mid seventies the stock market was in free fall. The FT Index was trashed. Experts were being dragged before news cameras. One said: “If the FT index fell below 200 it would signify a fundamental lack of confidence in banking, in British financial institutions, in capitalism and spell ruination for the economy.” I went to bed that night clutching my wallet. Two days later it dropped to 170. What happen? Fuck all again. It rallied the next week.
Now hopefully I've adequately demonstrated to you why expert opinion should be taken with a pinch of salt. The reason why I needed to make this point will be revealed tomorrow.
Wednesday 5th November 2014. Week 176. Portugal
Continued from yesterday (Thursday)
As I was saying. The above examples, and I've more believe you me, have taught me that expert opinion amounts to little more than a hunch, and rarely can they agree amongst themselves. Lay every expert end to end and I guarantee they'll not reach a conclusion. It's for this reason I take little notice of them and advise others to do the same.
Okay, the actual point.
I had a casual conversation with this chap. Like nearly everyone around here he's elderly and retired so pensions, hospital procedures, turns and dizzy spells and denture fixative are regular topics of conversation. He'd been listening to government experts (The least reliable breed of experts in my opinion) who predicted that Britain is financially hamstrung because we're living too long......... blah! blah! blah!. Christ! not this again? I switched off. I couldn't be arsed. I waited till he'd finished.
When he did I pointed out that a healthy default position for any rational person should be: 'not to believe a word this, or any government tells them'. The reason? simple, they have an agenda, you don't! I pointed out that predicted increases in life expectancy are only applicable to people being born now, not him, or his kids, probably not even his grandchildren. I reminded him that two thousand years ago biblical scholars put life expectancy at three score and ten and that's really not changed, regardless of what expert statisticians tell us.
Luz, Amazing and quite natural colours
I then pointed out that according to the The Office of Fiscal Studies there are more people in work today than at any other time in British history. If that trend continues, and if the 4 million unemployed find work, there will be plenty of working people contributing to the pensions of those that are not.
This Government has managed to convince quite rational and intelligent people that life expectancy and pensions are inexorable linked, they're not.
And let's not lose sight of the fact that we are what? the fourth largest economy? and yet Britain has one of the lowest retirement pension rates in Europe.* Spanish and German pensioners get three times what Brits do. The Dutch and French get more, and Germany is actually lowering the pensionable age to sixty three not raising it to sixty eight.
Interestingly the Dutch study mortality rates to calculate future pension requirements. This has proven far more scientific and reliable than the crystal-ball gazing our idiotic politicians indulge in thanks to expert advice. In short, our government finds it easier to make us work longer and for less than actually manage our bloody economy which is what they're all paid very handsomely to do.
So please, when listening to so called experts findings, take it with a pinch of salt. And never listen to government rhetoric, for it's about the only thing governmental experts are actually expert in.
*Source: Which magazine Euro pension report 2012.
Thursday 6th November 2014. Week 176 Portugal.
I've little time for this.
It's official, I'm an old fart. Let me tell you why.
It started last week while in Spain. The clocks went back. Five became four and so on, actually 3am became 2am, but who is up at that time of night to fanny about with clocks? Anyway you're familiar with the concept. A couple days ago we entered Portugal and had to put the clocks back another hour, so five became four once again. Not eight days ago five in the evening was actually three in the afternoon, brunch was breakfast, dinner was tea and I didn't feel jet-lagged like I do now. My whole internal body clock, sleep cycle, digestive functions and biorhythms have been put outta whack by daylight savings and for what exactly?
In all probability, like you, my life was once controlled by my adherence to time. I did little without checking the clock. I got up when the alarm went off. I left home the same time each morning to get to work for eight thirty. At one I stopped for lunch and at five, left the office for home. By seven I'd had dinner and between then and bedtime the time was my own. So for maybe three/four hours I'd probably sit in front of the box, scan through channels looking for something that wasn't a repeat, and then at least that would have made that day just a tad different from yesterday or the next day. Of course the next day I'd just repeat the whole process again. Like most, I seemed to be stuck in a perpetual ground hog day which lasted almost forty years.
Thing is, living like that isn't good for you. Of course no one in authority tells you this because they're scared that if they did, chaos would ensue. We'd all turn up for work when it suited us, have our lunches whenever we felt like it, and leave work when we'd had enough. The whole industrial capitalist system needs punctual workers. What would the country be like if shops, industry and offices didn't all start work at predictable times?.......... well probably a lot like France but that’s another story.
Lagos old town
Personally I don’t think the world would grind to a halt if we followed our body clocks. Nature hot wired our brains 70,000 years ago. We went to bed when it got dark and got up when it wasn't. We were sync with nature. This made sense, besides back then stumbling around in the dark was apt to get you eaten. But today our obsession with clock watching overrides that pre-programming and that’s a danger simply because it's not natural. For example: those working for long periods on nights can soon find themselves living in some kind of other dimension, brought about by their anti social nocturnal habits. Several lone gunman have all been night workers.
Today I don't clock watch. I don't pay much attention to what the time is and I stopped faffing around with daylight saving. Besides, as I've explained before, we have over a dozen ways of telling the time and I really can't be arsed to go around turning them backwards and forwards to fit in with, again what exactly?. The only downside is that our various time pieces pretty much all say something different. Obviously at some point in the year, and dependent what country we are in, one or two are actually right, we're just not sure which. But I don't care because, and this is the point of today's diary entry, the last couple of weeks I've found myself tucked up in bed with a good book by nine. I seem to have slipped back into some pre-civilisation state of mind. I go to bed when it's dark get up when it's not.
Now if that’s not the definition of being an old fart what is?
Friday 7th November 201. week 176. Portugal.
What's on my mind today
Let start with a question. What country would you say is the most dangerous? By dangerous I mean the most risky to live in and the most destabilising in terms of world peace. China?, North Korea?, Iraq?, Iran? Russia maybe? Well in my book it's none of those, the good old US of A heads my list.
Take for example the huge $640 billion they spend on defence. A figure that represents 40% of the total world spending on arms. US troops are stationed in 163 countries around the globe. You'd have to question why? I mean, they seem incapable of providing funding for even a basic healthcare system and yet have no problems financing the biggest military machine the world's ever seen.
They will tell you it's simply to defend their interests around the world which would be more believable had they an empire to protect. But they don't. So the implication is far more worrying as their interests can be anything The White house or The Pentagon wants them to be.
Historically, they've always meddled in the politics of South America. They have helped train and finance rebels in several countries within SA in the hope of ousting various left wing governments. In Iran, with our help in the late sixties, they overthrew the duly elected Iranian government, and installed the Shah of Iran as their preferred leader. They helped train, finance and arm the Taliban when they were fighting the Russians. -Back then the yanks described the Taliban as brave freedom fighters, fighting off the yoke of Russian oppression. (How times have changed) And because of their completely irrational hated of communism, and to further their own political ideology, they joined South Vietnam in a bloody and futile war using some of the most horrendous weapons ever used.
Now, just because they suck at international diplomacy and wouldn't know a decent foreign policy if it hit them in the face, that’s not why they are at the top of my list. Oh No!, it's this...
Be interested in the logic of that argument.
Since 2000, some 126,000 Americans have been shot dead. If you include the wounded in attempted murders the figure borders on the unbelievable. However these are not war casualties, these are regular friendly Americans killing each other. If you include non firearm murders i.e. strangulation, hanging and stabbing etc. you can add a further 47,000 to that figure. During that same period there have been 103 school shootings. The worse being the massacre of thirty pupils in 2012.
These numbers, many Americans argue, are the result of their liberal gun culture. What they fail to recognise is that it takes a human to pull a trigger. Guns don’t kill people, people do. The Canadians prove that. They have as many guns, per head of the population, as the yanks, and yet have a tiny murder rate by comparison.
Their problem is one of attitude, not availability nor convenience of weapons. Murder has become a justifiable option. It's becoming a way to get instant justice. A way to settle a score. A way of overcoming an obstacle. A way of registering a complaint. A way of gaining power and control. A method of dealing with someone who's upset you. A way of getting your own way. A way of getting rid of an annoying wife or husband. A way of cashing in on the family inheritance early, and it's always been seen as a means to take instead of earn.
News of yet another killing barely registers on the American psyche. Their reaction to the horrors of murder have been dulled by the sheer numbers involved. It washes over them. Murder has become part of the fabric of their society. It's like hanging a new picture on your living room wall.... after a while you stop noticing it's there.
Well if that doesn’t ensure I never get a US visa I don’t know what will
Y’all have a nice weekend.
Sources: Wikipedia. Crime Today. The New York Times. National piorities spendng project.