Thursday, 14 November 2019


In a classic episode of The Simpsons, when arguing against blocking all sunlight from the town, Smithers said "owls will deafen us with their incessant hooting". I laughed at the time, but not now. An owl has taken up residence near to where I live and he spends an enormous amount of time hooting, antisocially loudly, when I'm trying to go to sleep.

One of my friends had a similar but even worse problem when an owl texted him many times at random intervals throughout  the night. He has a parcel of land (the friend, not the owl) and he put up cctv cameras after some suspicious activity there. They're triggered by movement and alert him through his phone any time they see something happen on his land. Including when an owl flaps past.

Richard "smug looking feathery bastards!" B

Tuesday, 5 November 2019


My brother (the pirate, not the oil baron) is seemingly preparing for the fall of civilization and has organised his house such that you burn wood to heat domestic hot water and central heating circulating water. One of the thermostatic valves in the system failed and he's waiting for a replacement. The valve is designed to fail "safe" and while that means that you don't overheat anything and burn the house down you haven't got any heating or hot water. He modified the failed valve to lock it in a moderately dangerous position.

I'm in the opposite situation. All the upstairs radiators in my house have thermostatic radiator valves and the one in the spare room is worn out. I leave it on the "frost protect" setting which should keep the room above 5 degrees C. This valve has failed in the "decadent" mode and whenever I switch the heating on it brings the spare room up to an extravagantly warm temperature. That's my gas bill it's wasting!

Meanwhile my sister has turned fried breakfasts into an impossible palaver. She correctly pointed out that you enjoy a greasy spoon breakfast most when you're both hungry and slightly hungover. Going out to breakfast now requires at least 14 hours of preparation. Let's say you're meeting for breakfast at 8.00AM. You have to be having your evening meal by 18.00 the day before so that you're hungry enough to appreciate it and then you have to go to the pub and drink a carefully calibrated quantity of booze so that you're muddle-headed enough to need and love your breakfast, but not so much that you're not well enough to eat it.

Richard "5 pints, 8 hours sleep, bacon egg and toast please" B

Tuesday, 29 October 2019


In my motorbike mechanic's shop he's displaying, as a museum piece, the engine out of a 1940's Villiers motorised bicycle. I told him how similar it was to the engine in my family's lawn mower (some of the parts are identical) and about how I had recently replaced the carburettor. He objected that I couldn't possibly be cutting the grass with a 40's lawnmower and he's right, that would be ridiculous, it's from the 1950's.

There then followed a long tract of good-natured piss-taking from both the proprietor and another customer about how it's time I bought a new lawnmower, and about how tight my family must be. They ended up saying that my grand children will be wearing hand-me-down clothes and mowing my grave with the same mower.

BUT THE JOKE'S ON THEM: That'll never happen, I'm a weird childless loner who'll probably never get married.

Richard "careful, not tight" B

Sunday, 20 October 2019

Extinction Rebellion

It should be clear that most of XR's activists are "useful idiots". I don't use this term to mean that they are mentally subnormal, but in the sense of propagandizing for a cause without fully comprehending its goals. We know know that the higher ups get paid (although it's not exactly clear by whom), we know that they have sprung from virtually nowhere in a matter of months, and we know that they have no problem with massive hypocrisy - causing massive queues of idling traffic to reduce CO2 emissions, flying across the Atlantic to reduce aviation, etc.

In terms of public policy to reduce emissions we have roughly four options. Option Zero is to do nothing - keep burning fossil fuels and eventually their scarcity will make nuclear and renewable energy economically competitive. This option doesn't get much support.

Option Four is for governments to take direct control of industry and travel and to implement low carbon policies. Planned economies do not work, and you always end up with everybody starving and a bloody revolution.

When anybody with any economic knowledge looks at this problem they come up with Option One. A blanket carbon tax. We've currently got all these lovely cars, aeroplanes, combine harvesters, power grids, roads, etc. It would be stupid/suicide to just throw them away, we need to get every last drop of use out of them while still encouraging the switch to clean energy. You put a little tax on the sale of anything that pollutes and you're done. Over the years inventors will find bigger profits in using fossil fuels more efficiently and in replacing fossil fuels. Consumers will choose low CO2 lives simply on price.

Option Two is something similar to the "Cap and Trade" or "Emissions Trading". This type of scheme had some considerable success in the American coal industry and it's currently going on in the European Union. Government issues quantitative permits to pollute to players in the industry. The quantity of permissible pollution reduces over time. The polluters can buy or sell their allocation, so the invisible hand of the market finds a price for pollution. When the price of pollution is too high for a dirty operation to make a profit, it goes bust, or it retrofits with clean technology.

So we find ourselves in a weird paradox. In Option One, the government gets all the money, but the consumers and the businesses get all the choices. In Option Two, the government grants itself massive new powers, but the trading and the profit is in private hands.

To make big money in a new market you need to invest early, and you need the market to be large and active. It's all very well cornering the market in frozen concentrated orange juice but there's no real money there - at least compared to global energy production. When you find out that the Rothchild's banking empire and some of the big energy companies are heavily invested in C.A.T markets it should become clear that they now very much favour Option Two over Option One.

Extinction Rebellion is just the publicity wing of big investors who need Option Two to happen (the more aggressively the better) rather than Option One.

I heard two different XR protesters asked about a carbon tax and they gave eerily similar answers - as though they'd been drilled in the most convincing counter arguments - What good does a big pile of money do to fight against climate change?

It's a good answer (actually a question) and tricky to refute, but if there were a big pile of money, that would mean two things: a) nobody had changed their behaviour, b) everyone had been able to pay more tax all along and hadn't spent the surplus on nice things.


Richard "Sod Off Swampy" B

Monday, 14 October 2019


In the coming weeks I might share my wild and unsubstantiated theories about the Extinction Rebellion. As background it's important that you understand what it means to corner a market: Imagine that it's a hot summer and your soft drinks factory desperately needs 10 tonnes of frozen-concentrated-orange juice. You haven't got much money so you borrow the juice. The chap that lends it to you (let's call him Shylock) wants 11 tonnes back on Halloween. You're confident that you'll have made plenty of money by then, so you can buy Shylock his juice. You sell plenty of fizzy drinks over the summer, make plenty of money, and go out to buy the 11 tonnes of juice that you need for Shylock. Nobody has any to sell except Shylock, or if they do it's wildly over-priced and you lose all your money again paying back your debt. How did it happen? Shylock knew that you were about to go out buying orange juice for him, so went out first and bought IT ALL. He had cornered the market in frozen concentrated orange juice.

Richard "collusion hypothesist" B

Can I speak to you in my office?

At the weekend I heard a fantastic story about one of my friend's jobs. It was all about a problem employee, annual leave, a professional conduct enquiry and the disciplinary process. I'm not at liberty to share the story, but this was my favourite line: "And so now it sounds like I've got a grudge against her – because I have".

Richard "I'm sure he'll be exonerated" B