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25 February 2009

Death Penalty

It is reported today in the New York Times that some States are considering getting rid of the death penalty as a cost saving measure. Apparently capital punishment cases are considerably more expensive to administer than others. The Governor of Maryland is conveniently also using his religious beliefs to push forward the case for abolition.

To my mind the case against capital punishment is quite simple. It has nothing to do with cost. It could certainly have something to do with religious belief ("Thou shalt not kill") but the overwhelming case against the death penalty is the unfortunate fact that people are all too frequently wrongly convicted. When fresh evidence comes to light, or a case of police corruption is uncovered, it is not within our power to restore life to someone who has been executed.

The sooner all the American States abolish this barbaric and ineffectual punishment the better.

21 February 2009

News just in - Man Uses Vacuum Cleaner

I rashly volunteered to hoover the whole house this morning. Before proceeding any further I should explain for the benefit of the thousands of Americans who read this Blog that by "hoovering" I mean vacuum cleaning. There was a time when anyone who owned a vacuum cleaner owned one made by Mr Hoover, and in the UK at least this became one of those surnames that became both a description of a piece of equipment, and a verb.

By the way, Mr Hoover is frequently credited with the whole idea of vacuum cleaning, but wrongly. The idea came from a certain Mr Spangler. But Mr Hoover was a wily old salesman who knew a good thing to market when he saw one, and talked Mr Spangler into letting him take on that side of things. From that point on Spangler found himself consigned to the dustbin of popular ignorance.

So, strictly speaking, I have this morning been "spangling", and what a job it was. The trouble is, I cannot vacuum clean a room (or indeed a house) superficially. There is nothing that annoys me more than bits of furniture getting in the way of my fevered activity with the howling machine. So it all has to go: chairs, occasional tables, and so on, are gathered up and consigned to another room. I'm not satisfied until I have a clear run at every available inch of carpet. Then, away I go, and as I go I succomb to the usual ridiculous activities of picking up by hand those stubborn bits that cling on to the carpet in spite of the considerable negative pressure being applied to it. I then throw them back on to the floor for the howling machine to fail at its allotted task all over again.

Having completed the push-pull part of the task I then pull out the auxiliary tools and reassemble the machine so that I am armed with the device for digging into those inaccessible corners and sucking them from here to kingdom come. Then, stick that brush device on the end and fly around all things fabric. Come to think of it, while I'm at it I'll use it to "dust" the furniture as well - so much more effective than a duster (and less likely to cause sneezing).

One room done, then repeat the procedure in every other room - pieces of furniture in temporary transit. Why do I do it like this? Do other men do it like this? Is it because we are supposedly unable to multi-task? We are constantly told that women can multi-task. This means they can vacuum the kitchen floor with one hand, ironing the shirts with the other, whilst kicking the dog out of the way with one leg. They are wise enough to know not to use both legs for this, a process that leads to something called falling over.

The male of the species is supposedly a mono-tasker which I suggest is the reason that whatever task they are involved in gets done properly. The trouble is, it takes longer. Of course that was Mr Spangler's problem: had he been a multi-tasker he could have seen to both the invention and the marketing of the vacuum cleaner, instead of consigning the marketing to another mono-tasker Mr Hoover who could only concentrate on one thing .. persuading the population at large to spend money on something that sucks.

I've hurt my back.

07 February 2009

Winter like wot we used to 'ave.

Stone the crows! It's brass monkeys out there! My small fish pond has a layer of ice on it that's an inch thick. We haven't seen a winter like this for many a long year, and the country is ill prepared for it. That is the trouble with a proper winter coming upon you only once every few years - local authorities have no sound economic reason to invest in fleets of snow ploughs and mountains of road salt: it would all be sitting around in depots doing nothing.

Now, with the UK covered in snow and ice, Councils and the Highways Agency are running out of salt and grit, and are being selective in which roads they treat. Motorways and A roads are being looked after, but one wonders whether there is any point if one is unable to reach the major roads in the first place because the minor connecting roads are either impassable or ice rinks.

The other night in south Devon two hundred motorists were stranded in their cars for six hours, and people had to be taken to reception centres for food, warmth and sleep.

Then we come to the problem of accidents that shouldn't occur because they are caused by drivers who have had neither the experience nor the tuition for driving in ice and snow. They seem to expect their cars to behave in exactly the same way as they do under normal conditions.

Quite a winter we are having .. an ice cold economy in an ice cold climate.

On the day that London's buses all came to a halt last week, our capital city's eccentric mayor, Boris Johnson, was interviewed for TV and he said there was no reason why people should not make the effort to get into work, and if they couldn't, well - they could always work from home. So there you are, you lazy layabout teachers, nurses, doctors, surgeons, policemen, electricians, plumbers, utility workers, couriers, van and truck drivers .. you can work at home .. get stuck in!

Meanwhile the Bank of England is leaving those of us with a few quid in savings out in the freezing cold. The interest rate's been cut again - to 1 percent. What is this meant to achieve? Earlier cuts in interest achieved nothing, and I suspect this will achieve nothing. Do we now have to look forward to ZERO percent interest? I was interested to hear the other day that there are six times as many savers in the UK as there are borrowers. Our money is sitting around doing nothing for us, and people who rely on savings interest to live on are having a hard time.

I ventured out into the sub-zero climate this morning with a plastic bin liner, having made the rash promise at the height of summer to be "litter monitor" at the childrens' playground. The playground committee had most months covered by a rota of volunteers, but were lacking someone for the jolly month of February. So that's where yours truly steps into the breach.

I trudge down the frosty road to the playground, half fill my bag with plastic bottles, bits of paper and other assorted bits of rubbish thrown to the ground by half-wits that know no better and within 10 minutes I'm in the middle of another snow storm. So, it's back to the warmth of my house and a cup of coffee. I'll have another trudge down there with a plastic bag next Saturday. Something to look forward to.