Friday, 30 March 2012

The world according to Snafu

A lot of news stories recently have grabbed my attention
Most recently here in the UK is the amazing events surrounding the non-lack of fuel.   The situation was created when the small band of heroes who deliver fuel to the various fuels stations all across the UK proposed a possible strike for more pay.   Being the kind hearted people they were they suggested that the best time for a strike would be at Easter when most people would be setting off either day tripping or visiting relations.  They felt this practice was unnecessary and being in a strong position they could put a stop to it by interrupting the nation’s fuels supplies and so keeping the roads quiet for the holiday period.
Our beloved leader then yet again demonstrated his fitness to run the country by creating a run on fuel by suggesting we all top up our fuel tanks just in case.  As a result of this, all the fuel stations around my commuter town ran out in the first two hours of the following morning.
Another of his deep thinking cabinet member further exacerbated the situation by suggesting something that is actually illegal in this country, namely storing some extra fuel in your home in a ‘jerry can’.  This kind of container holds more than the statuary amount you can legally store, so apart from causing the hasty to rush out and further exhaust the fuel stations, they were creating fire hazards all across the country.  I recall once before, a few years back, when there had been a fuel scare and some bright spark, oops not a good metaphor, filled a wheelie bin with petrol, which dissolved the plastic the bin was made from and the fire service had to evacuate the entire street to prevent accidental ignition whilst they disposed of the petrol sloshing about in the gutter.
So over two days, most fuel stations have sold more fuel than they would sell in a month and the government must be cheering  as the total tax revenue for the month takes a boost just prior to the end of the financial year.  Of course no one will need much fuel next month so sales will slump, but that is in the next fiscal year and so is in the very distant future, since long term planning does not seem to be a very popular idea in modern politics.
Another recent event was something unexpected in the world of politics, namely that the voters did not vote for the opposition in a local by election.  Normally this is always the case since most people by mid-term are pretty well fed up with their present government which has often reneged on many of its campaign promises, and no matter who is in power, voters will regularly vote against them just to show their feelings.  This, for some reason, always comes as a surprise to the party in power.  Probably because they have only ever been to their own party conferences where everyone present is madly enthusiastic about all things of their party, and in this flush of wild enthusiasm, forget that the other twenty odd million people who did not attend may have other opinions.  So it comes as a great surprise there are people who will vote against them.
On this particular occasion, a complete outsider got in and wiped the floor with the safe seat incumbent who had expected to waltz in, and so the outsider managed to poke both major parties in the eye in the process.
The thing I like about these situations is the platitudes that come out, although early on, the losing candidate refused to comment at all to the press, another losing party came out with the predictable phrase, ‘ you have to look at it in context’ which is a standard component of any politician’s speech after failing to win an election.
I have often wondered if I could place a bet in a betting shop on the chances of the failed candidate using that phrase in his defeat speech.  It would be unlikely that I could get very good odds, so it is not really worth trying.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

An untagged version of a tagging.

MorningAJ was sort of tagged by Weaverofgrass and decided to do an untagged version, thereby avoiding tagging others and imposing the obligation of passing it on.  I like the idea of it being voluntary and so here I am untagged aslo.  It is a list of questions which seemed interesting although not all of them easy to answer.  
And here is my offering;

What would I do if I won the lottery? 
My idea of what I would do has changed over the years.  First I thought I would buy and run a second hand book shop, something that has always fascinated me and as a millionaire, it would not matter if it made a profit or not and I could spend all day surrounded by books.  Now I wonder if giving it all away to charity would be wiser because it would bring a lot of problems.  Maybe I could cope with a few hundred thousand but several millions would be too much.

Where would I like to holiday this year?
I love sailing so my ideal holiday is sailing around somewhere like Sweden, sailing up from the Baltic to the Gulf of Bothnia.

Top of bucket list?
I am not sure I understand this question, but it seems to relate to doing something unusual in a bucket.  Perhaps I will pass on that.

Last book read.
It took me a while to recall what it was.  Not because it was a long time ago but because I read a lot quite quickly and usually more than one at a time.  It was not Connie Willis’ Blackout that was before I read the sequel All Clear, so it must have been The Doll Maker and Other Tales of the Uncanny by Sarban.  Somewhere in between these I read Farm Boy by Michael Morpurgo, but that was a short book and only took a single sitting and before that I re read Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys as well as reading The Magic Goes Away by Larry Niven  and Cross Bones by Kathy Reich.   The last two are still in progress, so I have not finished them yet.

Earliest memory.
This one is easier.  My earliest memory is standing outside the bomb shelter hearing the all clear going.   I was three when WWII ended so I must have been at least three probably younger.

Favourite film
Like MorningAJ said, only one film?  I do have many favourites, but if I could only have a single movie it would be… Ground Hog Day… no The Wrong Box… no The Third Man.. well maybe not those,  Arsenic and Old Lace, but that reminds me I like Kind Hearts and Coronets..  well maybe it would be  Falling Down… or the Usual Suspects.. no  The Prestige…   Leon………..

Would you like to change your name?

Did I enjoy school?
No -  well quite often but not all the time.

What would you be if you could be anything?
Rich – Oh you mean what thing?  Bacteria, the most successful living thing on the planet, older than dinosaurs and unlikely to be harmed even by a large meteor strike.

Favourite smell?
This one made me think, but I have finally come up with Geraniums

City versus country?
Both have their place.  I don’t think I want to live too far away from a town now I am getting older.  I liked living in the country, proper dark nights, no traffic noise, bird song and all that, although the smells can be a bit much at muck spreading time and it is not a place to live if you don’t drive and one day I will have to give up driving.  So town it is for me.
So there you are another peep into my psyche, strange isn’t it.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Some of my favourite reads No 3

Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keys

I first read Flowers for Algernon as a short story in 1960, about a year after it was originally published and it impressed me no end. A few years later I discovered that Daniel Keyes had expanded it into a novel, which I immediately bought and devoured. It did not put me off, knowing the overall plot, so I hope this review, which contains some minor spoilers, will not prevent you dear reader from reading this wonderful novel.

When I first read the novel I was not disappointed and to use a comparison, it was not like the stretching out of a half hour TV episode into a feather film, the story had been expanded in a masterful way. My original 1968 copy started showing the signs of a much loved book by getting rather dog eared and tatty but this book has never gone out of print for long to my knowledge, so I recently replaced it when it finally fell apart.

This fine book has had a number of TV, radio, stage and film spin-offs and even a musical, although none of them seem to have been a resounding hit. It is a difficult story to bring to life, since it is in the form of a diary and the changes in the writing are an important part of the plot, but it is the humanity in the story that makes it so recyclable. Poor Charlie Gordon, like Mephistopheles, has looked upon the face of God but can never achieve heaven.

Charlie is mentally sub normal. Innocent and child-like he is dimly aware that he is missing something in life and believes that if only he could learn to read and write he would become smart like his friends in the bakery where he works. He enrols in night school and impresses his teacher by his strong desire to try to improve himself.

Meanwhile a group of researchers have created an experimental medical technique to increase intelligence, with notable success on the white laboratory mouse Algernon, and now they want to try it on a human. Charlie’s teacher suggests that they use Charlie Gordon as a guinea pig. Charlie on being told what it may achieve, promptly volunteers and he is given the new treatment.

Throughout the pages of this book, you get to know Charlie as he starts to understand who he is. It is easy to empathise with him because the whole book is written by Charlie himself as he writes up personal progress reports for the experiment. Starting off as a struggling illiterate, with few words he gradually improves until he is writing and expressing himself fluently. As he starts to become smarter, he begins to realises what the people he thought of as friends at the bakery really thought of him. Eventually the experiment, which had started so well, proves to be a failure and Charlie gradually realises what is in store for himself as Algernon the mouse starts to degenerate until eventually you come to the point where you understand why there were flowers for Algernon.
Flowers for Algernon helps understand those less gifted with intelligence than yourself and if you do not already understand, you will see them in a different light after reading this book.
If you do not like sad endings do not read this book, it is compelling and moving but ultimately very sad but I am glad I have read it and will certainly read it again and again.

Since composing the post, I have found several other Blog sites posting this book and some using it as educational literature, so it seems I am not alone with my opinion of this novel.  Also the blurb on the book cover states that five million other readers have bought the book, although it does not say that five million people all liked what they read, I like to think so, but if it is used by schools and colleges, having a book you must read often puts you off.  It certainly put me off Dickens and I only read and enjoyed his books several decades after leaving school.  So if you had to read it as a student, give it another try, it may not be as bad as you think.  

Saturday, 3 March 2012

An update and some changes in behaviour

Remember this?

Now it looks like this.

Spring is coming on.

Our Robin, a ground feeder by nature has decided a few gymnastics are in order to obtain more food.

Bottoms up!