Shrinkflation

An interesting word, didn’t know it before coming across this. Although I naturally knew the concept: I could hardly not notice when they began selling only 19 fags in a packet while keeping the price. Which however had no doubt more to do with the ever rising tax than with anything else.

 

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Top BBC salaries

The Guardian had a pleasant surprise for me. I expected the usual whining of extremely well paid females that they wanted to be paid even more, as much as their yet more extremely well paid male counterparts. But the article did mention the real problem:

“Quite a lot of people are pissed off because of the gender gap, but there are lots of people who are pissed off that this is a big swerve taking the focus off the real story, which is the gap in pay between ordinary producers et cetera and management on six-figure sums. […] All this means is that women on those programmes identified as gender pay gap will get more money. Men won’t be taking pay cuts, so it will just mean even less money to go round on the troops.”

 

Les amis meilleurs que les membres de la famille

D’après une recherche de l’université d’État du Michigan, nos amis nous font plus heureux et de meilleure santé que nos parents. Bien sûr, je savais toujours que mes amis « fournissent un exutoire » , que je peux « leur dire des choses et ils sont moins critiques » , qu’il y a « une distance qui fournit un niveau de l’honnêteté » . Mais je ne m’apercevais que c’est vrai pour les gens en général.

 

Shorts

Some English schoolboys protested against having to wear long trousers during the latest heatwave by wearing skirts instead, and apparently won their fight.

Good on them, but interestingly the photos show them in buttoned-up shirts and ties, which reminds me of all those guys wearing shorts, even sandals – and zipped-up fleece tops. I could never understand this. Maybe it’s down to my blood circulation, but as far as I’m concerned, the chest and neck get unpleasantly hot long before the legs. I’m more likely to feel comfortable naked to the waist, while below it wearing heavy-duty denims, thick socks and boots.

So I find it much more understandable when John Bercow accepts tie-less MPs in the House of Commons.

 

Surpopulation

Il y a huit ans, quand la population du monde était en dessous de sept milliards, j’ai cité Christopher Isherwood, ou plutôt Mr Lancaster.

Aujourd’hui, l’ONU dit qu’il va y avoir dans six ans plus de huit milliards.

Voici la citation pleine: “They breed like vermin. That’s the real menace of the future, Christopher. Not war. Not disease. Starvation. They’ll spawn themselves to death.”

Et même si la planète pourrait continuer à nourrir les nombres en hausse, il reste le problème mentionné par Kurt Vonnegut en Abattoir 5 ou la Croisade des enfants:

O’Hare had a little notebook with him, and […] he came across this, which he gave me to read:

On an average, 324,000 new babies are born into the world every day. During that same day, 10,000 persons, in an average, will have starved to death or died from malnutrition. So it goes. In addition, 123,000 persons will die for other reasons. So it goes. This leaves a net gain of about 191,000 each day in the world. The Population Reference Bureau predicts that the world’s total population will double to 7,000,000,000 before the year 2000.

“I suppose they will all want dignity,” I said.

“I suppose,” said O’Hare.

Je ne suppose pas qu’ils vont l’obtenir.

 

ARLA

The most astonishing aspect of the latest Queen’s Speech was the reported reaction of the Association of Residential Letting Agents:

“A ban on letting agent fees will cost the sector jobs […]” – so far, so good, nobody wants to see jobs in his line of work go;

“[…] make buy-to-let investment even less attractive […]” – which actually promises pushing down the costs for common people needing a roof, rather than increasing the income of those already filthy rich;

” […] and ultimately result in the costs being passed on to tenants.” – and this is simply disingenuous: the middleman as a guardian of lower prices? Come off it …

 

Claon-bhreith nàdarrach

Leugh mi aiste car neònach mu “implicit bias” an latha roimhe. Bha an t-ùghdar air IAT test a ghabhail agus chuir e iongnadh air gum b’ e an toradh “slight automatic preference for white people over black people”. Air dè bha e an dùil? An robh beachd romansach aige gun robh e gun chlaon-bhreith buileach?

Dh’fheuch mi aon dhe na deuchainnean cuideachd; b’ e an toradh “strong automatic preference for Gay people over Straight people”. Chan eil sin buileach ceart: tha e gu math follaiseach gu b’ fheàrr leam, ceteris paribus, fireannaich gèidh na fireannaich dìreach, ach ’s ann eile-sheòrsach a tha na càirdean as fheàrr agam uile, agus cha chreid mi idir gum b’ fheàrr leam boireannaich gèidh na fireannaich dìreach.

Ach b’ e an seantans a bu chraicte na leanas: ” In popular culture, it is hard to think of a female equivalent to Sherlock Holmes, for example, a detective whose astonishing deductions were a product of his singular genius.” Nach do chuala an sgrìobhadair a-riamh mu dheidhinn Bana-Mhaighstir Marple?

 

Coupe de cheveux

Après plusieurs mois (neuf, moins un jour), j’ai osé aller à la coiffeuse. Et même si, vers la fin, mon nez (qui voulait couler) et mon cou (qui voulait tousser) m’ont plutôt ennuyé, j’ai survécu. Comme toujours, après un temps tellement long il est agréable d’avoir soudainement les cheveux courts qui … rétrécit ? je pense une coiffure comme celle-ci, au lieu des cheveux qui atteignent les épaules.

 

Sweden to reintroduce conscription

The Swedish government has decided that as from 1 January 2018, conscription into the country’s armed forces would be reactivated.
BBC: Sweden brings back military conscription amid Baltic tensions
The Local: Why Sweden is bringing back the draft
Government Offices of Sweden: Sweden re-activates conscription
It’s interesting to consider how one’s perception of conscription is influenced by one’s country of origin. The Local suggests that to Brits it may “sound archaic”, but support amongst Swedes themselves is said to be strong. Having been drafted myself in the then Soviet Bloc, I’m used to the sentiment of young men there and then: “two wasted years of one’s life”. Then again, we never expected to ever actually have to fight: we reckoned there were but two possibilities for an Iron Curtain country, peace and total nuclear destruction.

 

Suffragettes

One tends to think that the feminist focus on already well-off females getting paid as much as their already well-off male colleagues (while ignoring the overall societal inequality) is comparatively new. It was with some surprise that I read, in TM Devine’s The Scottish Nation: A Modern History, that Helen Crawford, a prominent Scottish suffragette, had herself remarked about the movement at the beginning of the 20th century, “The women who became most prominent in the WSPU were middle-class women to whom the best paid professions were closed because of their sex”.

One likewise tends to think that first came universal male franchise, followed by gradually widening female one. Here again I was disabused by the book, learning that while single women and widows could already vote in local elections in 1882, as late as 1911 only slightly more than a half of Glasgow males had been enfranchised, giving grounds for fears that “to give the vote to women from the propertied classes would both strengthen the electoral advantage of the Conservative Party and […] do nothing for the majority of women in the country who belonged to the working classes”.

Ecclesiastes was right again. Nihil sub sole novum.

 

35 millions de Canadiens

Apparemment, le recensement canadien n’a pas été fait en 2011, mais l’année dernière, et les résultats clés ont été publiés ce mois: il y avait 35 151 728 habitants. Je me suis étonné que le tiers des trente-cinq millions vivent aux trois villes les plus grands (Toronto, Montréal et Vancouver) et les deux tiers à 100 kilomètres (62 milles) de la frontière sud. C’est bien plus fou que l’Écosse avec sa Central Belt . . .

 

December ’16 news

December news in February, hmm . . . anyway, here goes:

There were some minor surprises in politics. The Icelandic Pirate Party was asked to try and form a new government (but would later fail to become part of it). Donald Trump sort of broke decades lasting pretence that the US doesn’t recognise Taiwan (more publicity stunts would follow). The European Court of Justice ruled against the Snooper’s Charter (giving the UK government another bad reason respect the referendum result and leave the EU). And the SNP disclosed that despite the comtinuing devolution of powers from London to Edinburgh, the Scotland Office’s budget rose over the last five years by 20% (although a much more interesting question was how much would Derek Mackay have to compromise to have his first budget voted through Holyrood).

A sadder surprise was the death of George Michael at the age of 53 (making me look up what was it he sang at all, the biggest surprise being Freedom! 90). On the other hand, air an làimh eile, bha deagh naidheachd ann gun do chomharraich Tormod MacGilleathain an t-ochdadamh cho-là-breith aige (’s dòcha gum bu chòir dhomh The Leper’s Bell a cheannach mar faidhle Khindle is a leughadh a-rithist).

More good news were the opening of a new Edinburgh railway station and the reopening of Kelvingrove Museum’s Life Gallery (pity I may never see it again).

The sporting surprise, for me at least, was how close to each other the teams at the bottom of the Scottish Premiership were: Partick Thistle, last (ie 12th) three matches before the end of the month, got by just two wins to the 6th place and after a Hogmanay draw ended the year as 7th. Another sports-related news was Andy Murray’s knighthood; but to be honest, I admired more Lynn Faulds for rejecting her MBE – or rather, for her reasons to do so.

 

Step by step

Tomorrow it’ll be a fortnight since they discharged me from the hospital. And man, was I in bad shape. Unable to swallow even liquids and croaking rather than speaking, sleep-deprived and generally weak, with tinnitus, a nose both blocked and runny, and too many skin problems to list here …

I’d been warned the radiotherapy would keep kicking in for another week – that is to say, it would last a week before the side effects even started going away. Which proved to be true. There was very little improvement my body made during that first week.

This week was better. While the changes appeared imperceptible from a day-to-day perspective, they seem almost impressive in retrospect. My neck no longer looks like I was badly sunburnt yesterday. I laid off the painkiller and the expectorant. I don’t tire as quickly/easily. Bit by bit I tidied the flat and nearly caught up on my languages- and internet-related backlog. And so on. I’m even blogging now.

Most tellingly, while last Thursday I only managed one swallow of tea, today I’m into my third cup, in addition to a cup of coffee, three bread rolls (soaked in tea or bouillon before being put into the mouth), and a baby food jar – and I’m not done yet. I can’t have haggis, but I do mean to have tattie mash this Burns Nicht.

Sure, many troubles persist. I salivate too much to leave house without a pack of paper tissue; I can’t gargle; morning hypotension remains an everyday occurence; my voice seems to get, if anything, worse; there’s more. (And it will be some time yet before I can enjoy a bona fide dinner worth its name. I never enjoyed eating much; I’m sure I’ll turn into an epicure for a while now.)

Still, I feel I’m through the worst. Patience, that’s the order of the day now.

 

November ’16 news

Quite a lot happened during the 30 days. The bad news first.

The High Court decided triggering Article 50 must be first approved by the Parliament, and different lawyers later figured they could make some dough out of challenging whether leaving the EU means automatically leaving the EEA as well.

Even so, Brexit still has a chance; across the Pond, Trump has become US president, while Republicans still dominate the Congress. Surprisingly, he began by claiming the US would quit the TPP trade deal, which may mean the axe for the TTIP too; let’s hope the presidency won’t likewise mean the axe for the Aberdeen Bay Wind Farm.

One side effect was that the de facto final approval of the Snooper’s Charter went by almost unnoticed by the media.

Also, eight military bases in Scotland, including Fort George, were chosen for closure; CLÌ Gàidhlig did fold at last; T in the Park is to skip 2017; but the saddest day was probably the one on which we learned that Leonard Cohen had died. (This even made me post specifically about that, while the article about Fidel Castro’s death I didn’t even read.)

And of course, the first storm of the winter and the consequent floods came to the South; nevertheless, the North experienced the sunniest November on record. Which brings us to the good news.

Holyrood voted to finally put an end to the tax freeze, at least for the top four bands. Andy Murray became world number one. Kelvin Hall reopened after the first phase of its refurbishment. All three Quensferry Crossing towers are now connected. Beavers were allowed to stay in Scotland.

Across the Pond, marihuana for recreational use was legalised in the 5th and 6th US states (California and Massachusetts); and globally, the Paris climate deal came into force.

Given that Trump may yet do his best to sabotage the Paris deal, several big bad news, a few wee heartwarming ones. Seeing where the world’s heading makes one wonder whether there’s really any reason to envy the younger ones …

 

CalMac is Serco

Dar a bhuannaich CalMac an cùmhnant ùr airson aiseagan an iar, cha robh beachd agam am b’ e rud math no dona ann. Ach a-nis, thàinig cha mhòr aig an aon àm dà naidheachd: (1) gu bheil cùmhnantaiche Seatruck aig Serco a dh’fhastaicheas obraichean bhon taobh a-muigh na Rìoghachd agus gam pàigheadh (gu laghail) nas lugha na am bun-tuarastal, agus (2) gu robh CalMac am measg nam buidhnean a fhuair duais Living Wage Foundation am bliadhna. Tha fhios gun do dh’fhuasgail mi gum b’ e co-dhùnadh math an cùmhnant.

 

La visite des parents

Ce n’était pas mauvais, après tout. Il est vrai qu’après hier soir ensemble, ils sont venu chez moi matin aujourd’hui et j’avais à passer plus de temps avec eux. Mais ils ne voulaient pas que les rendez-vous aient duré trop longtemps. Et étrangement, il y avait souvent des moments de silence ; c’est normal que je ne sais pas de quoi parler avec des gens, mais ils (surtout elle) sont généralement plutôt bavards. Peut-être qu’ils étaient fatigués après leur voyage. Cependant, ça signifiait que je devais, au lieu de me méfier de questions indiscrètes, me méfier que mon esprit n’erre pas.

 

October ’16 news

For almost a half of the month I was still boozing and thus offline, but I stopped this in time to learn that Bob Dylan was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature (well deserved, there is no reason why songs’ lyrics should not be perceived as literature) and that Nicola Sturgeon announced the Indyref2 bill (published a week later – it is virtually the same as the first one).

As regards culture, it is also worth mentioning that the Burrell Collection (one of the few really famous Glasgow museums I never found time to visit) closed for a 4-year revamp. As regards politics, it is also worth mentioning that proposals for Westminster constituencies’ boundary changes were published (the Tory government sticking to the idea that there are too many MPs elected by voters and too few Lords chosen by the PM).

Getting a bit more international, the EU-Canada trade deal called CETA was blocked by Wallonia but after some more negotiating signed anyway (I wonder what they promised them). Getting completely international, it was amusing to read that the Icelandic Pirate Party became the joint second in number of seats in the Alþingi (with the Greens, which too tells us how different Icelandic politics is from ours most).

What else? The minimum price saga drags on, while the one of the oil rig grounded on Lewis is over (at least as far as we are concerned), and work to spoil Edinburgh city centre has begun.

 

Well, no

I had some expectations but they were not fulfilled. I got no rest from noise: in spite of the old adage “silence heals” the hospital room was equipped with a telly. I know that people here are addicted to noise, but for me, lying between a guy watching a TV programme and another concurrently watching a film on a laptop was so unbearable it drove me with my Kindle to a corridor armchair.

Which wasn’t the worst. That came when the latter bastard woke up at 2am and began watching another film, waking me up as well and driving me to the corridor armchair for another two hours.

And the cure proper hasn’t begun either. They just made the mask for me (during which procedure I experienced a panic attack, possibly caused in part by sleep deprivation, so that we almost had to stop it and then start all over again) and discharged me for another two and a half weeks. The first bona fide treatment should only happen on the 23rd.

Ah well, at least I may get less irksome roommates then. Not that the chances are great, in this town.
 

ETA, 13/11/16: And it went on: on Thursday they phoned to tell me Monday’s CT scan didn’t come out well because of my fillings, so I should have a PET/CT scan done this week. Neither was that all: once I’m checked in the hospital next week, I’d have a PEG tube inserted, and only the following day the radiotherapy can finally begin . . .

 

September ’16 news

The only really ‘new’ story was that of the first Church of England bishop’s publicly coming out.

The rest were either developments of old stories, mar an co-dhùnadh gun tèid an clàr-ola bho Leòdhas dhan Tuirc, the first charge in the Volswagen fraud, David Cameron’s resignation as an MP, and the approval of Hinkley Point C; or things which were expected, like the TV licences becoming necessary for legal watching of iPlayer programmes and the publication of Scotland’s legislative programme for the next parliamentary session.

Of course, as I said earlier, since the 15th of the month I’d been on a bender, so I have no idea what was happening during the second half of the month.