Monthly Archives: August 2020

Food Wasteland

The hummus in my fridge smells bad.  There’s visible mould on the remaining custard-like sauce, that was so good on various fruit, particularly the apricots I had to stew because they were rock-hard (not a hardship, but I rarely cook desserts and intended to eat the apricots raw).  Last week, three food items had to be thrown out, including fresh blueberries.

This is disturbing.  I occasionally hear stories of food waste, and shake my head in disbelief.  How and why do people waste so much?  OK, some inevitably goes astray when you’re feeding an infant, and cooking accidents happen once in a while.  But just going off through inadequate inventory management?  Inexcusable!

I’ve never been a particularly organised shopper: I’ve spent a lifetime (successfully) relying on memory of what I have and what I need, and pick much of my food on spec.  What’s available?  What looks good today (would you choose which tomatoes to pick up without seeing them?)  What’s on at an attractive price?  What simply takes my fancy?  It’s always worked well for me.

Until now.  The new rules about wearing a muzzle means I’m no longer alert or capable of thought when shopping.  And online shopping takes planning: if I have to order fresh food for a delivery slot several days away (hoping for the best – not the rock-hard apricots I had to stew, let alone the irredeemably tasteless and tough-skinned tomatoes) I can no longer do that in the context of what’s left now in the fridge.  And can I change my diet to make do with a single weekly shop?  That means half the week deprived of short-shelf-life food like green salad items 😮

I expect I’ll get the hang of it.  Others who stopped physical shopping back in March/April are doubtless ahead of me on the delivery-juggling learning curve, though only those who like me eat fresh and don’t plan to the level of shopping lists will be starting from a similar point.  But it’s a bleak prospect 😦  On the upside, I guess I’ll be marginally less helpless facing brexit-chaos in four months.


For reasons too arcane to explain (aka “you have to have been there”), I recently wanted to post an upside-down photo in a forum I frequent.  I found a rather good subject in a couple of snaps I recently got of our canal in the early evening sunlight.


(Click photo for a better version of the image – wordpress’s editor loses something by scaling it down further than I had done).

The reflection in the water gives the illusion of a photo the right way up, with something just slightly unnatural about it – impressionist art comes to mind.  Also reminded me slightly of playing with xv’s filters – like the “oil painting” option – back in the early days of colour displays for ‘puters, before “photoshop” became a generic term for that and other kinds of manipulation.  But this photo is completely natural: the only filter applied is reflection in dark water.

Here’s a more conventional (right way up) snap that shows the general scene:


Lies, damn lies, and misinformation

What do you do if you’re the powers-that-be, you’ve bungled something badly, and you judge that trying to lie your way out of it will only make things worse?

Why of course, you muddy the waters: cast doubt on everything the public know about it.  That way you don’t have to tell any porkies, you just let your natural supporters infer it for themselves and argue the case for you.  Turn the whole subject into an argument noone can win in the court of public opinion – at least, not until you (or your successor) can say that things are different now.

Hence the abrupt change in England’s covid death count.  It serves to highlight the (true) fact that all statistical measures of that have problems – there are obvious issues with both the old and the new measures – and hence cast doubt on covid statistics in general.  Including the (also true) fact that the UK in general, and England in particular, has an exceptionally poor track record compared to our peers.  The most reliable measure – overall deaths in excess of average, encompassing both the disease itself and ill-considered responses to it – shows our track record as (to date) the worst of anywhere.  Turns out even Belgium’s higher headline count was no more than an artifact of different counting methodology.

But now we have doubt, and scope for argument, not just over the genuine shortcomings of our data, but equally over clear and stark facts.  And of course, people have a natural suspicion of statistics to reinforce the doubt.

Talking of which, I should clarify my prediction.  My end-of-August timescale was for death count, being much more reliable than case count, but which is of course a trailing statistic and subject to the artifacts we’ve seen highlighted by the change in methodology.

And on another troubling story in the news ….

The bizarre (and rather tragic) story of how our powers-that-be have awarded results to young people in A-level and other exams is surely a travesty on every level.   The statistical exercise used went to elaborate lengths to be more-or-less fair to schools (though even that is in some doubt), but is unquestionably monstrously unfair to individual students!  Those responsible – everywhere that’s done this – should be unceremoniously fired.

It’s been many years since I sat any such exams (and I expect I’d have got the same results either way) but I’d still have been mightily p***ed off to be lumped with such meaningless results[1]!  For those who have lost a university (or other) place they believe (rightly or wrongly) they deserve, and will now either lose a year of their young lives or go through life labelled as mediocre, it seems to me about as devastating as a wrongful criminal conviction!  My suggested solution: give every candidate an A-level, but ungraded.  All the legitimate inputs to an assessed grade – such as GCSE and mock exam results – are there to be assessed by whomsoever it may concern.

[1] To be honest, I was mightily p***ed off when I learned that top grades were devalued by being awarded for marks so low as to be utterly unthinkable!  Then as now, A-levels were hopelessly inadequate to distinguish the sheep from the goats.

Time to install Uber?

My musical life has been nonexistent since cancellations – and that in what should have been a big and exciting season with lots of Mayflower 400 celebrations.  Not least, both my big Plymouth-based choirs have commissioned major new works for the event!  My social life (a large element of which is the music) has been woefully absent too.  Meeting by Zoom isn’t the same!

So it was a lifeline when Jane, the driving force and first-among-equals of a small singing ensemble (usually six of us), organised us to get together in their garden.  A little sing, a cuppa, a good natter.  I should be there now.

It’s maybe 10km from here to Jane and Robert, with a lot of uphill (they’re properly within the Dartmoor national park), so I set off on the bike in good time.  Only to find my back tyre utterly flat, and remaining flat when I tried to pump it.  I was out on the bike only yesterday and it was fine.  Clearly I’m jinxed. 😦

OK, not to worry.  Put the bike away, change to my most comfortable walking sandals.  No, I wasn’t about to walk there: I’d’ve needed to set out maybe an hour and a half earlier for that.  But time to wander down to town, to the taxi rank.  The walking was for the return home: a pleasant walk when there’s no time pressure.

At the taxi rank, there are zero taxis.  I wait there 15 minutes, still none.  I phone Jane, who mentions she was in town this morning and saw one at the bus station (there’s no bus route to Jane – though it’ll get me to just a half-hour walk).  Wander down to the bus station on the off-chance: there is indeed a taxi, but it’s parked with no driver in sight.  Not useful.

On the way home, I pass the taxi rank, now there’s a taxi (by now I’ll be 20 minutes late, but better than nothing)!  I ask if he accepts card payments: surprisingly he doesn’t.  So I go to the cash machine for the first time since (I think) February.  By the time I get back, he’s picked up another passenger and is setting off.

I guess it’s time to install Uber if I ever want to travel …