Monday, 25 January 2021

**** The Lockdown - There, I've Said It

My inner ACoA thinks lockdown will be forever. Even though my rational self knows it won't be. I'm worried that by the time it does end, I won't care anymore and there won't be anything worth going back to. But mostly, I'm tired of the denial. I'm tired of telling myself that I have to treat lockdown as if it is normal, just a different normal.

Yeah. Well. Frak that.

This ain't a different normal.

Pretending otherwise would be outright denial.

I'm tired of trying to be nice about this nonsense and the traitors who push it.

Find some other damn way of protecting people over 70 or with chronic bad health, from a nasty virus, should their immune system over-react to it. If someone called a Chief Medical Officer can't do better than this, they should resign. Maybe replace them with a monkey throwing darts at a list of policies.

Ah, the heck with all that. It's not my problem.

You know what? I do not care about reasons. I care that I can't do the things that I enjoy doing. I need Foyles and the Curzon and Fopp and the National and the Tate(s) and London AA meetings and the parks and the restaurants and cafes and Jermyn Street and walking across the Thames and the South Bank and and and. I was hoping to add travelling around the UK this year. Go ahead, call me petty.

I had all the answers in a post on the 28th December. At least in terms of actions. What I didn't have was the answer in terms of attitude. Which is why I've been circling.

So here is my new attitude...

**** everyone who legislates lockdown. **** everyone who enables lockdown. **** everyone who enforces it.

MP's, Ministers, Police, so-called scientists, Chief Health Officers, Chief Scientists, compliant business owners, journalists, doctors, so-called-experts, pro-lockdown activists, the media agencies producing Project Fear propaganda, and everybody who would rather be safe than free.

**** everyone using this to push their dumb ideologies, pitch for funding, save money by closing offices, force social change, and otherwise make hay from a crisis.

**** all of them. When they die they are going to a new circle of hell, dug just for them.

So this is what being authentic and honest about my feelings is like.

Feels good.

Tuesday, 12 January 2021

Plan For Another Four Years of Lockdown. Here's Why...

I used to be a strategic planner. Micro-economic modelling of the company, economic forecasts, translating business policies into numbers, five-year projected P&L's, Balance Sheets and Cash Flows.

We would run at least three different sets of assumptions, which would later be called scenarios. These would be: Do Nothing; do this; do that. Do Nothing was the shocker: what would happen if we just sat on our butts. The answer was always some kind of wasting commercial illness. Scenario planning was a good technique: it made management think about the future and what they might or might not do.

All those scenarios were run against the same background, and we were hardly aware of it. There would be no wars, space invasions, plagues, civic uprisings, collapses of social order, no changes to the overall political, social and economic structure of the country, and no 'this changes everything' new technology. At least not that would involve our home markets.

Some things are just elephants that you have to wait to leave the room. Wars are an obvious example. Turns out that Government-imposed emergency public health measures are another. When something like that happens, there are no if's and maybe's and what else could we do's. There's only the freaking elephant in the room, and it is going to move when it wants to. The plans you make when there's an elephant in the room are not the plans you make when there isn't. Elephant-in-the-room plans are all short-term, because, well, the elephant never stays that long in the room?

Does it?

Typically, most businesses and people fall into a holding pattern: do as much as we can to keep what we can remember of pre-elephant life going, and wait for the elephant to leave. The short-term is a lousy planning horizon, when you don't know how short a term it is. That's how you put on weight, go soft, lose customers, delay maintenance, and don't upgrade.

What if the elephant never leaves the room? At least for another four years?

A never-ending series of erratic lockdowns. But they never repeal the laws. They never make it illegal. They never stop the Lockdown Committee meeting. Public Health professors never stop muttering about a possible lockdown this winter, and the press never stops reporting them. The mask signs are never taken down. Every now and then the Police stop a pensioner getting on a train. Each summer there is less point in going anywhere, because each summer less remains open.

But lockdowns can't last forever? Wouldn't society wither away? And anyway vaccines?

Not the point.

The point is that assuming the lockdowns go on forever forces you to think about what you would do if you weren't twiddling your thumbs waiting for Governments to grow a pair. You know what you're going to do if the restrictions ever end. You don't know what you're going to do if they don't.

The moment I thought of four more years, I knew that I would retire by Autumn 2021 (certain things assumed having happened), because I did not want to see my life vanish three-months-at-a-time. If I'm going to be locked in my house, I'd rather be reading, writing, playing music and watching movies. Bashing away pointlessly on a laptop? No thank you. I've had enough of that.

You will make other decisions. Yours may be tougher than mine, because you could be looking at four more years of home schooling. But suppose you were? Wouldn't you go back to your employer and say Sorry, but I have to give my children four hours uninterrupted a day, then I have to do an hour's lesson prep for tomorrow. You get about four hours tops. And I get full salary, because you won't be able to stop calling me when it's teaching time. Right now, you won't have that conversation because this is an emergency that will be over in three months. But you would if you knew it was going on for four more years.

Will lockdowns really go on for another four years or more? I don't know. I do know that this one is going on until Easter, and it will be followed by a period of lighter restrictions over summer, to be followed by another winter when old people will start dying again. Vaccines? Are developed six months after the latest super-spreader / super-killer variation of the original Virus, and we will need to be locked up for those six months. It's a flu virus, so it will always mutate. And every year there is another bunch of vulnerable old people.

What part of that sounds like a process with an end?

Monday, 4 January 2021

What Do Plumbers Have In Common With Girls?

You got their number from a web site.

They never answer the phone. But they might answer a text.

If they do answer, they might sound quite enthusiastic about what you have in mind.

You send them over a couple of photographs and your address.

Then....

(crickets)

They never call back.

It feels like stalking if you chase them.

They never say why they don't want to do what they sounded so enthusiastic about back then.

Yep.

Tradesmen.

And you thought I meant girls on dates.

I would rather spend my time on some BS work-related phone call than call a tradesman. I swear the moment they realise I live in a postcode that they know only has small houses, they lose interest. They are all after the three sixes:

Six-bedroom house

Six-day job

Six-grand payment

Gardeners seem okay. They stand to make a decent amount on any garden.

Carpenters, plumbers, handymen, gas fitters, roofers, and electricians are awful. They are always busy. They have families in terrible health that require a last-minute cancellation. I can tell they would rather be working on a nice detached house in Woking than my modest mid-terrace.

Calling tradesmen is an endless stream of rejection. Nothing is ever worth them returning the call with a quote.

I shave. I wash. My house is clean. It has electricity and running water and gas.

Tradesmen these days just don't want ordinary decent customers who want to pay them a fair price for a fair job. Now. They want glamour, big money, fancy postcodes. All so they can take impressive photographs for their social media.

Huh!

Friday, 1 January 2021

Happy New Year - Yeah Right

Who am I kidding? 

While there's the virus it's not a New Year, it's just more of the Long Year of The Virus (2020 - 2023?).  The Long Year of The Virus will take in all of 2021. 

If you thought 2020 was bad, just wait until 2021 gets going.

All flu viruses mutate. So there is an endless stream of new versions of The Virus for the public health people to pretend might overwhelm us. 

This only stops when the Government tells them that there's no more money to pay for the party.

There is a lot of ruin in a great nation. 

So the money will hold up for this year and a lot of 2022.


Monday, 28 December 2020

Thoughts on 2020 and 2021

Wash your hands.

Don't touch your face.

Stay away from other people.

Wear a mask.

Stay two metres away from everyone.

Open the windows.

One hundred years of research since the Spanish flu, thousands of PhD's and untold millions in research grants, and that's it? That's all they got? Your grandmother's advice? When a real, Spanish Flu killer-pandemic comes along, that's what the public health officials are going to tell us to do, as we watch others dying in front of us?

It's a good thing this virus is not serious. (Look at the excess death rate. That's all that matters. Infections without symptoms are meaningless.)

The virus is not a medical problem. It's a flu. It's going to mutate, it's going to stay with us. There will be another one along later. Get over it.

The virus is a political problem. The politicians, punch-drunk from the continuing fall-out of 2008, and the shocking events of 2016, were faced with a public health lobby that was looking for its next panic, a media that was looking for something to beat the politicians with, and a sense that they were losing control over their countries. One by one, terrified by the prospect of being wrong and having the press hounding them, they looked around for something to do.

They were desperate. Desperate people do things that barely make sense to them. And make no sense to anyone else.

Lock healthy people inside their homes.

Shut businesses and shops. Make them spend thousands on virus paraphernalia.

If anyone is found to be infected, lock them up with their families for a fortnight.

Policies that are ridiculous on their face, and required fear-based propaganda to spread.

They did not do it to save lives. None of those measures will save lives.

They did it to stop the papers, television and social media showing photographs of patients lying on trolleys in corridors.

Public relations, not public health.

Never try to understand what desperate people do. By definition, it has no justification.

Never underestimate what weak, mean-spirited, small-souled people can do if they get into a position of influence. We are seeing it now.

Never underestimate how unscrupulous people will try to benefit from a crisis. See the "experts" lining up for their fifteen minutes of fame.

Never underestimate how much people who believe they are right will force their views on the rest of us.

There is nothing to understand here. To record, to document, to cost - yes. To understand - NO.

And never try to understand why your fellow citizens scuttled so willingly into their homes on 23 March 2020, and continue to go along with mendacious Government propaganda, and follow ridiculous advice. (Some do it, like me, to access what we need. But who wears a mask on the street?)

I will try in 2021 to focus on what I can do to maintain and improve the quality of my life, and of the few people left who mean something to me.

I will...

... exercise

... read

... continue at the day job until this s**t-show is over.

... listen to music

... try to eat well (but remember that chocolate is medicinal)

... keep myself and my digs clean

... experiment with all sorts of little things

... keep my head away from the crazy

One day at a time.

Which is mostly what I do every year. Because I've pretty much had this living thing down for a while now.

Friday, 25 December 2020

Happy Christmas - and a Sovereign New Year

I will never entirely trust Boris again. Not after Tier 4. How difficult is it to say NO to a bunch of professors whose grants, by way of another Cabinet Minister, you control? Perhaps he had other things on his mind? What could that have been? On Brexit the lad came through. Leaving Ursula von Leyden-Jar to mutter the most incomprehensible things about sovereignty ever spoken, and which would result in her failing any course of political philosophy. How much of the negociations was theatre we may never know. And why it wasn't done three years ago? Well, because and bluntly, the EU is not staffed with the first class of politician or administrator. It is where the second-rate go when their career stalls in their home countries. I was suprised at how emotional Remainers were at the time. As if what the UK did mattered. We're a bunch of rougues, bankers, eccentrics, and ineffectual twats who can't even deport a murderer. We're the slightly loud, coarse guest at your party who made a pass at your friend's undergraduate daughter. Who could possibly get upset if that person left? I have no idea, aside from the loss of all that money, why the EU might have got so upset. Ah. ****ocks. Of course I do. It was the money. It was losing the sixth largest economy on the planet. It was knowing that the Germans would be paying for everything. It was losing the aura of economic, moral and political respectability that the UK gave the whole project. (I know, how the UK manages to retain an aura of respectability, I have no idea. But it does.) Anyway. That's the first fight. Now we have to get out lives back from those frauds on SAGE, NERVTAG, the Guardian and all those other Believers in the One True Virus, bringer of death and furlough, of fame to the justly obscure and power to the properly ignored. Happy Christmas.

Monday, 21 December 2020

That Audiophile Sound

Listen or read enough audiophile reviews and you will notice something missing.

Classical music.

In the non-technical sense of the phrase. With a small 'c'.

Neither Bruckner nor Corelli, nor Beamish nor Cage; not a mention of Debussy, Handel, Palestrina or John Taverner; not one wag of the stick from von Karajan, Simon Rattle, or Joanne Falletta. As for finding that a piece of gear reveals even more of Solti's Ring Cycle? Not going to happen.

This may be because a lot of them don't listen classical music. A lot of people don't. Even though Tidal and Spotify has all sorts of it.

It may also be because big orchestras just don't provide that audiophile sound, and one of the things the audiophile guys want is, well, that audiophile sound.

Audiophile-sounding music is made by a small number of people whose instruments can be individually recorded, recorded in a reasonably dry studio through very good mics and with top-notch digital transfer to the final media. It will be carefully constructed to have easily-separated parts that can be placed on a stereo soundstage with precision. Jazz from any era except big-band; any music made on a Mac (dance, ambient, rap, electronica etc); most classical music before about 1780, and period performances of anything up to about 1830; plainchant, but not four-part masses by Palestrina and others of that ilk; contemporary classical music, especially the minimalists and their disciples; and some pop, rock and soul.

That kind of music creates a well-defined soundstage, has lots of details that good gear can pick out, and also has a narrower dynamic range than Wagner at his best. There is enough going on to be interesting and engaging, but not more than you can handle at once.

Whereas I defy anyone to tell the difference between Shostakovich's 12th on CD or Naxos 192kps streaming. There's so much sheer volume of sound the idea of 'details' is just silly. You're not supposed to be able to pick out the horns from the oboes and the violins: it's supposed to be one glorious uplifting <>sound. It was written to sound good in concert halls that were not designed by acoustics engineers. Rather like chart music today is mixed to sound good on headphones via a mobile phone.

Orchestral music does not provide the same opportunity for talking about, or even identifying in the first place, the very subtle differences between one bit of hi-fi kit and another. Those would simply get lost in the horns. There are even piano-cello pieces that are so thumpy and loud that they would browbeat any piece of kit into sounding like a boombox.

If you don't believe me, reflect on the fact that nobody has ever tested hi-fi using Canadian post-rockers Broken Social Scene. Get the eponymous Broken Social Scene album. Any track will do, but Shoreline (7/4) is worth hearing because it is the only piece of music in 7/4 that swings. Play it over whatever set-up you like, it is never going to sound tight, spacious, and well-defined. It sounds messier on CD through speakers than it does on AAC over headphones for heaven's sake.

What I think I'm suggesting is that a) audiophiles listen to a certain kind of music for the same reason that people with racing cars like to drive on closed circuits: it brings out the best in their equipment; b) a lot of orchestral music simply is not recorded well enough to benefit from higher-end gear; and maybe c) a system that plays orchestral music well may not bring out the best in a Nils Frahm piece.

And it may mean that the Solti recording with the Chicago Symphony of Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra, which is an audiophile dream, is a rebuke to a lot of lazily-recorded or badly sound-designed (and sound-design is part of composing) orchestral music. (Edit 5/1/21: Hans Beekhuysen lists some hefty orchestral music amongst his test tracks. So he's one.)