Friday, January 27, 2023

FRIDAY MUSIC: Robert Burns, by JD

Robert Burns wrote rather a lot of songs, more then 300 as far as I can tell so this is but a very small selection!

As noted in previous posts to celebrate Burns Night, very often a Burns Supper will be held on the Friday before or following the 25th rather than on the actual day itself. It gives everyone the whole weekend to recover from any accidental overindulgence.

So for your Burns Supper this evening here are a few of his songs to set the mood.... 

Thursday, January 26, 2023

Baerbock declares war on Russia

The weakling Scholtz has caved in to God knows what pressure and agreed to let Germany’s Leopard tanks roll across Ukraine, driven by Nazis. Quite like old times!

But here we’re talking about his Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, who yesterday said, "We are fighting a war against Russia.”

Baerbock seems unclear about who is meant by ‘we.’

She can’t be speaking for the EU, which has its own foreign minister, Señor Josep Borrell Fontelles. Nor for Germany, whose founding constitution the Grundgesetz declares (article 26:1):
(1) Acts tending to and undertaken with intent to disturb the peaceful relations between nations, especially to prepare for a war of aggression, shall be unconstitutional. They shall be criminalised.
She does happen to be one of NATO’s thirty Ministers of Foreign Affairs, but surely she cannot be saying that NATO is formally at war with Russia, even though NATO’s actions increasingly resemble a de facto war of aggression, what with supplying the money, the arms, the training and - we may soon learn - the active involvement of some of its personnel (perhaps under the guise of having resigned and joined private military companies.)

Ironically, Baerbock was addressing the Council of Europe, which last February declared that the Minsk agreements remained ‘the only basis for a settlement of the conflict in Donbas’ and which despite its institutional commitment to human rights seemed to have little to say during Ukraine’s eight years of persecution prior to the Russian incursion, and its murder of thousands of Russian speakers there.

But then, Baerbock is a queen of ambiguity. Last September she said she stood with Ukraine ‘no matter what my German voters think.’ The irony is that Germans hadn’t voted for her, as such; she got her seat under the party-political-list part of her country’s hybrid direct-election/proportional representation system, having failed in her own person in 2009 and 2013.

A further twist is that her party is the Greens, who jointly with ‘Alliance 90’ issued a statement of principles that includes ‘democracy’ and ‘human rights and non-violence.’ Crimea has voted overwhelmingly to secede (and it had only become part of Ukraine in 1954), but that democracy clearly doesn’t count.

Baerbock is like many of our modern politicians, who as soon as released from the voters’ hands soar upwards like weather balloons, increasingly disconnected from those below and subject instead to the strong international winds of power and money.

The war emergency that confronts us is part of a wider and deeper crisis of legitimacy. Like the conspiratorial nexus of Common Purpose, they seek to ‘lead beyond authority’ and the inconvenient little people who employ them.

Historically, Britain, and after us the United States, reached up to pull down that balloon of overweening arrogance and get it back into the people’s hands.

We need to deflate it now, before it triggers 98 more:

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

'Burns Nicht' by JD

Republished from 2017... and still guid!

So now you want to try the national dish of Haggis?
This is how to make it-

Haggis Ingredients:

1 sheep's stomach bag
1 sheep's pluck - liver, lungs and heart
3 onions
8 ounces of beef Suet
4 ounces of oatmeal
salt and black pepper
about 10 tablespoons of stock/gravy (quarter of a pint approx)

1. Clean the stomach bag thoroughly and soak overnight. In the morning turn it inside out.
2. Wash the pluck and boil for 1.5 hours, ensuring the windpipe hangs over the pot allowing drainage of the impurities.
3. Mince the heart and lungs and grate half the liver.
4. Chop up the onions and suet.
5. Warm the oatmeal in the oven.
6. Mix all the above together and season with the salt and pepper.
7. Pour over enough of the pluck boiled water to make the mixture watery.
8. Fill the bag with the mixture until it's half full.
9. Press out the air and sew the bag up.
10. Boil for 3 hours (you may need to prick the bag with a wee needle if it looks like blowing up!) without the lid on.
11. Serve with neeps and tatties. (neeps = turnips)

If that has put you off then take refuge in a wee dram. I would recommend Ardbeg or Cardhu among the malt whiskies and the best blended whiskies are The Antiquary or Cream Of The Barley!
Slàinte mhath!

Burns wrote many love songs and none finer than 'Ae Fond Kiss'. This is a beautiful version by Eddi Reader. In her introduction she mentions 'Nancy' who was Agnes Craig for whom the song was written-

Tuesday, January 24, 2023

BoJo beats the drum

Today’s Daily Mail splashes with a front page article by the former Prime Minister, calling for arms for Ukraine. Most of that page in the print edition - why not online? - is a sombre, heart-wringing photograph of a woman and child walking through a battle-shattered landscape.

The accompanying text is full of grossly emotional, fustian rhetoric and dangerous assertions, such as that Putin would not dare use a battlefield nuclear weapon. This is Boris at his bullish, bullshitting worst.

Johnson is clever, charming, good-looking in a raffish, well-upholstered way - and amoral. Like many psychopaths he likes himself so much that you are almost forced to like him - he even had the priggish Ian Hislop and the rest of the HIGNFY team laughing when he chaired an episode in 2003. Beware the would-be World King: we had a few of them in the last century.

Like Macduff in ‘Macbeth’, we can tolerate BoJo’s lust and avarice - the scattering of genes like a lawn sprinkler, the need and greed for money to support his louche and intemperate lifestyle - but when Malcolm threatens to
Pour the sweet milk of concord into hell, 
Uproar the universal peace, confound 
All unity on earth 
- Macduff cries out in despair for his country; and we should now, for ours, and for Europe. 

Boris' unscrupulous essay is referenced in another piece dated the same day (23 January) by Marc Nicol, the Mail's 'Defence Editor.' Why the determination to hammer this home? 

 It's because Germany is hesitant to send its tanks to Ukraine. Chancellor Scholz was dubbed a 'cowardly leader' for it by the Mail yesterday, and at the same time Simon Jenkins in The Guardian added his paper's voice to the war-fever chorus. So much for diversity in news reporting. 

Remember that it was Johnson who flew to Zelensky last April to tell him not to strike a deal with Russia; that in 2014 the French and German premiers used the Minsk peace negotations to buy time to arm Ukraine - as Merkel admitted in an interview last December.

Boris believes nothing (I think); he pushed Brexit forward because he could feel which way the wind was blowing and saw the opportunity to seize the Conservative leadership. If he does the right thing, it's for the wrong, selfish reasons. 

Now he rushes in where angels fear to tread, presumably at the bidding of Washington, whose strategists must be convinced either that nuclear war is impossible, or that it will be confined to a geographical area that doesn't matter: ours.

Monday, January 23, 2023

EVs: Blowin' in the wind

All UK sales of petrol and diesel powered vehicles are to end by 2030. Electric (EV) and dual fuel types made up 23 per cent of new purchases last year, but progress may slow down as the promotion approaches the less eco-minded end of the market.

EVs have advantages - helping cleaner air in towns, cheaper energy costs per mile (at point of use.) Their maximum range is improving, too. And it’s such fun quietly creeping up on people at pedestrian crossings or in supermarket car parks!

Nevertheless, try as they may, the drivers cannot entirely ignore the fact that most of the electricity originates from burning coal, gas or imported woodchip - hardly ‘green’ ! As for nukes, ‘Atomkraft? Nein danke!’ (we’ll see quite enough of that in Ukraine if the madness escalates.)

How about renewables? The contribution from them is relatively small, and has its own problems. Tidal energy projects threaten the ecology of shores and wetlands. Sun- and wind-power are unreliable.

What you need is something that works all year round, and most importantly maintains the illusion of ‘saving the planet’ - perception is all.

We have a modest proposal…

What our windmills need is a constant, steady blast of air. So let’s not rely on fickle Nature: let’s provide it ourselves; or rather, arrange for Ireland to provide it. We have in mind a vast range of gigantic fans stretching from Dundalk to Wexford, blowing a ‘fine gale’ across the Irish Sea towards serried ranks of windmills stationed between Blackpool and Cardigan Bay.

The construction on both sides will create much-needed employment for both countries, and foster goodwill in Dublin that may also help smooth over the EU’s obstacles to cross-border trade with Northern Ireland. Meanwhile Westminster can tell Britain’s motorists that their vehicles are being charged ‘sustainably’ (within our borders, which is what matters) and that our nation is advancing rapidly towards Net Zero.

How will the Irish fans be energized? By the usual combination of imported fossil fuels, of course (and surely HMG can come up with a scheme for financial reimbursement.) If the model is of the Dyson bladeless type (scaled up hugely), no birds will be chopped and thanks to the air purifier design, atmospheric pollution particles will be (re)absorbed.

Alternatively, Ireland could build a host of nuclear power stations. It would be their turn to dump radioactive waste into what, to make them feel even better about it, we might agree to rename the English Sea.

Either way, no EDF for the building work please, what with their delays and cost overruns. Bring in the Chinese, who know how to get things done. You can’t have too much international goodwill; nor self-delusion, come to that.

Friday, January 20, 2023

FRIDAY MUSIC: Billy Preston, by JD

Billy Preston (September 2, 1946 – June 6, 2006)

More good music, just for us oldies...... from Billy Preston who was something of a child prodigy appearing on TV at the age of ten alongside Nat 'King' Cole as can be seen in one of these videos below.

"Billy Preston is arguably one of the finest session keyboardists the sixties ever saw. His work with The Beatles is renowned but he also worked with some of the finest artists of the decade including the likes of Sam Cooke, Little Richard, the Everly Brothers and Ray Charles. It was a performance with the latter is where Harrison would rekindle their friendship and, for a time at least, induct him as the fifth member of The Beatles."

“It’s interesting to see how nicely people behave when you bring a guest in, because they don’t want everybody to know they’re so bitchy,” Harrison remarks in Anthology. “Suddenly everybody’s on their best behaviour.”

“He got on the electric piano, and straight away there was 100 per cent improvement in the vibe in the room,” wrote the guitarist. It was clear that the atmosphere had changed for the better. “Having this fifth person was just enough to cut the ice that we’d created among ourselves.

Friday, January 13, 2023

FRIDAY MUSIC: Beethoven, by JD

 After Chopin it is only right that we should have some piano music by Beethoven and why not!
"Like much of Beethoven's work, his piano music can vary depending on when it was composed, what he was thinking about and, crucially, how grumpy he was. There's a fantastic range of moods to explore, from the light and humorous stuff to the dark and stormy struggles of a tormented soul… so brace yourself and get ready to experience Beethoven, the pianist."

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

Math: Learning in US is undermined by flawed testing, by Paddington

If I were to single out one thing which holds much of US education back from excellence, it is the structure of tests.

So much of the testing used is multiple-choice, fill in the bubble style, which prevents students from being tested on developments in the Mathematical areas, and from expounding on ideas otherwise.

I think back to the tests that I took in French and German at O-level (age 16), which required translation in both directions, making up a story in the foreign language, reading a passage in the language and answering questions in English, taking dictation, and having a conversation. The English language test was similar, with the translation replaced by having to precis (summarize) a long passage in 150 words or fewer. This latter was a very valuable skill, and one which many people would benefit by learning.

Our Science and Mathematics tests required solving long problems, writing essay descriptions of experiments, and developing theories.

How could multiple-choice tests possibly be that challenging?

To be fair, or possibly reasonable, the tests were set up so that 35% or so was a pass/C and 70% was an A.

And then, when all is said and done, we have students who have had their parents/software/tutors do most of their work throughout high school (and sometimes college as well), yet cannot pass tests. Those students are then claimed to 'not test well', and are given special accommodations. We had cases of assistants provided by of Office of Accessibility simply reading the answers to students, line by line, during tests. When the latter happens, what is the point of testing or grades at all? When those enabled students finally hit a brick wall, the claim is that “tests don't check for learning”, when they most certainly can and do.

Friday, January 06, 2023


Can you remember this very unusual and unique musical talent from the Sixties? The one and only, never to be forgotten, Tiny Tim!

Among his many fans were The Beatles, Bob Dylan with The Band and Jim Morrison of The Doors as can be seen in three of the following videos.

Tiny Tim was born Herbert Buckingham Khaury on April 12, 1932, in New York, New York. His father, Butros Hanna Khaury, was from Lebanon and his mother, Tillie Staff, was a Jewish woman from Poland. Tim was raised in the Washington Heights section of New York City, where he developed a love for American songs and music, mostly from the late 1800s through the early 1900s. An unhappy student, Tim dropped out of high school and learned how to play the guitar and the ukulele.
"I first saw Tiny Tim very early in his career, in Greenwich Village in the winter of 1962–63. There was a convention of college newspaper editors, and a few of us – I remember Jeff Greenfield coming along – went to the Black Pussycat and found ourselves being entertained by a man the likes of whom we'd not seen before. He was already locally popular."
- film critic Roger Ebert,