Cambridge Blue

Tonight, not for the first time, I find myself in a serviced apartment in anticipation of starting a new position the next morning. It’s always a rather unsettling experience, mainly because everything’s new, you don’t know anybody, and you’re alone. Everything that was familiar in the last place is now gone.

At least this place is nice. The place I stayed in when I moved to Paris had a puddle in the middle of the floor which didn’t go away. Fortunately my six week stay was dissected by the two weeks I spent in Pau on French training. I don’t know what part of Cambridge I’m in because this is the first time I’ve been to this city, or anywhere near it. I was welcomed by the agent who runs the place who showed me how everything worked, and they’d even provided a welcome pack with just enough food to last until I can get to a supermarket. These places are always a touch smaller than is ideal. When you mobilise to a new country you bring as many clothes as you can carry, which doesn’t all fit in the solitary wardrobe they put in one-bed serviced apartments. And then you’ve got to figure out what to do with the suitcases once they’re unpacked. Usually they serve as modern art in the corners of the bedroom until you move out.

Eating is always a rather sad experience when you’re in a serviced apartment. It feels too much like a hotel to get the saucepans out and start cooking properly, so you eat lots of quick and easy stuff, alone and in front of the computer. In Paris I ate a lot of cheese and ham sandwiches; in Seoul it was pot noodles. I’ve just eaten a microwave meal for one and I’ve not felt like such sad, lonely bastard in a long time. I even felt that way buying the damned thing. The initial phase in a serviced apartment is something which must be got through as quickly as possible. Once it’s over, it’s hard to recall it without an effort.

So I start my job in a totally new company tomorrow, almost exactly 9 years since I arrived in Nigeria to do the same thing with my last outfit. I’m optimistic, and it should be fun. As you know, my original plan was to rent an apartment near Kings Cross but I can’t see it being feasible within my budget. So I have two other options: rent in Cambridge, which is only an hour to London on the fast train and they run late into the night. Or I rent at the extreme end of the Northern Line and drive up the M1 to work against the flow each day for about 45 minutes, which is fine in theory. The only trouble is I don’t know what those northern suburbs are like to live in. From what I’m hearing they’re a bit dull, and it takes about an hour to get into London on the tube from there anyway. What does everyone reckon?

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Travelin’ Man

Blogging might be a bit sporadic over the next few days. This morning I’m busy cleaning the apartment in Annecy and packing my bags, and this afternoon I’ll drive to Paris. Tomorrow I’ll meet a couple of people – one of them being this chap, assuming the Metro strike doesn’t interfere with that plan – then Saturday I’ll drive to Calais, take the ferry to Dover, and head up to London. On Sunday I’ll drive to Cambridge, where I’ll be living for the next month so if anyone is around and fancies a beer, let me know. I start my new job on Monday, where I don’t suppose I’ll be loafing around with time to blog. I’ll see what I can do to keep you all entertained.

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Printout

Nobody ever told me this, it’s something I worked out for myself, but there are two kinds of outsourcing:

1) We have no idea how to do this so we need outside help.

2) We know how to do this, and we could, but we don’t have the time right now.

If you run a capable engineering department in an oil company, you find yourself doing a lot of the latter. Back in Nigeria I ran a team of about a dozen engineers, who had the capability to do pretty much any design we’d need. But we didn’t have the capacity, so we’d outsource – what my lead piping engineer would call “hiring pencils”. Ordinarily I’d say my experience outsourcing engineering work in Nigeria was worthy of a post all by itself, but in all honesty I could turn it into a whole book. Or a broadway musical. But I digress.

I deliberately chose to keep my engineering team small and avoid the empire building so beloved of many modern managers, mainly because I could see the work came in fits and starts and I didn’t want to hire someone only to have to lay them off a couple of months later. In a country like Nigeria that is grossly irresponsible, but it happened a lot. So I ensured we had a core competency and then outsourced the leg work to someone else. This ought to be uncontroversial, because you’re not losing expertise, nor relying too heavily on outsiders to execute your core business (although oil companies do this more than they should). But it’s surprising how often even senior managers don’t quite understand when to outsource and when to keep something in house.

In my first proper engineering job I remember a bundle of documents had to be taken to a client about half an hour away by car. The project manager got a quote from a taxi firm for about a hundred quid, but the director stepped in and said this was extortionate and instead ordered one of the engineers to drive there and back in his car. It didn’t seem to occur to the dolt in charge that having an engineer drive documents about isn’t the best use of his time, for which he was paying heavily. It’s not like everyone was under-utilised at the time, either.

The most memorable example was again when I was working in an oil company, and we we’d just awarded a giant EPC contract to a major international engineering company. The contract document was like War and Peace, hundreds of pages of technical stuff and legalese. Someone in charge decided quite reasonably that he wanted a copy in his office, and ordered the department secretary to print it out. Then someone else wanted a copy, and asked her the same thing. Pretty soon the entire floor’s printers were either smoking with heat, out of toner, or the buffer so clogged up nobody else could print for days. The poor secretary had to send different parts to different printers and run around between them trying to make sure she had the right parts in the right order: the entire contract was 38 separate files, with the commercial part removed for confidentiality reasons. Everyone in the department was complaining they couldn’t print, and people’s print jobs would get swallowed up somewhere in one of the contract sections. It wouldn’t surprise me if in some future court case a lawyer opens what he thinks is the clause on Marine Warranties and finds a valve datasheet where pages 3-5 ought to be. Or a presentation telling everyone to use less paper.

Now oil companies are not known to be hotbeds of common sense, so they could perhaps be forgiven. Also, outsourcing anything – even something simple like printing – was probably not straighforward where we were at the time. What surprised me more was when I turned up to the offices of the engineering contractor in a western city and found their secretary had received identical instructions from her management, with the same side effects. Now I needed a copy of the contract myself, and on the way into the engineering offices I’d spotted a print shop on the ground floor. I put the files on a memory stick, numbered them so they were in the right order, and went downstairs. An Asian chap greeted me at the counter, and behind him was a printer the size of a car. I gave him the memory stick, nodded, and asked me how many copies. Two, I said. Then he asked if I wanted it bound, because he could do that. Sure, I said. He told me to come back the next morning, which I did. Waiting for me were two perfectly printed and bound copies of the contract. He charged me around $75 for them both, which I slapped on expenses.

I put these on the shelf in my office. One was marked to stay in my office, the other could float around a bit. When my manager flew in to visit me, he immediately spotted it. “Where did you get this?” he asked. I told him I got it printed out downstairs. He asked if I could get him a copy, so I nipped down to the print shop and ordered another. Then a week or so later his boss came out, and I got a copy for him too. Soon word got around in the project headquarters that Tim knew how to get proper copies of the contract printed out, and whenever I got visitors they came with orders to bring back one or two with them.

Occasionally, whenever I wonder exactly what it is I’m paid for, I’m reminded of this episode.

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Supermarket Sweep

One thing I’m looking forward to when going back the UK is the supermarkets. When it comes to supermarkets, the British are up there with the best of ’em, beaten only perhaps by the Americans who sell heavy weaponry just beside the eggs and milk.

British supermarkets used to be appalling, but sometime in the late 1990s Tesco really got their act together and overhauled their stores. They made them bright and welcoming instead of looking like a Soviet warehouse with a couple of tills at the front. They started offering products which went beyond what is required to make standard British stodge, meaning they introduced a foreign food section, exotic fruits and vegetables, and a range of interesting ready-made meals. Tesco soon became the number one supermarket in the UK, displacing Sainsbury’s who had to up their game to compete. I’m not sure when Waitrose became popular – Pembroke and Manchester were hardly hotbeds of upper middle class housewives with excess cash – but these days they’re about as good as you’ll find anywhere. Even Asda, which was where the chavs went, was pretty good by the time I left the UK in 2003.

When I moved to Dubai I used to shop at Spinney’s, which seemed to have some connection with one of the British supermarkets because their branded products would appear on the shelves. This was about as good as a British ASDA, except their pork products were in separate section including the bacon-flavoured crisps which some imaginative fellow had assumed contained something related to a pig. I remember using a lot of Dolmio ready-made sauces when I lived there as, sick of club sandwiches in the local bars, I gingerly started cooking for myself.

My grocery shopping experience plummeted when I moved to Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk in 2006. There was what called itself a supermarket next to the first apartment I rented. A quarter of the shelf space was dedicated to alcohol, mostly beer and more brands of vodka than I ever thought could possibly exist. I quickly learned you could drink about four of them safely, while really taking your chances with the rest. They sold eggs in polythene bags, a decision perhaps inspired by the British in the 1980s who for some unfathomable reason thought selling milk in bags was a good idea, leaving them on doorsteps in a nation full of cats. When I looked for meat I found a freezer full of unlabeled dark lumps, butchered with a chainsaw. The first time I went I bought a jar of Heinz spaghetti sauce and some pasta and ate that for two days before I found a better supermarket. In fairness, there were two and they weren’t bad. They were at least clean. The problem was stock. One day you’d have something and the next it would be gone never to return, so if you saw something you liked – HP sauce, for example – you’d buy a year’s supply on the spot. This is why most expat houses on Sakhalin looked as though they were preparing for a nuclear holocaust. I managed to get half-decent mince and chicken if I got there early enough but there were almost no ready-made sauces, so I had to learn to make stuff from scratch. This is probably where I first started cooking properly. Because of the stock problems, I’d often find myself in a version of Ready Steady Cook where I had to make a dinner out of some frozen scallops, an onion, and a lump of rubbery cheese because that’s all they had left. The one thing I never found was proper, fresh milk. I saw some cows on Sakhalin and they looked as though they’d been through the horrors of Auschwitz. Grass grew for about two months between the snow melting and the cold coming back. They did produce milk locally but it was disgusting, sour stuff, so I was on UHT the whole time I was there. The Russians do a good range of concentrated fruit juices though, which becomes less of a surprise when you find out tumblers of juice accompany vodka shots during heavy drinking sessions. To be fair, things improved rapidly over the four years I was there, and just before I left a decent, western-style supermarket opened up near the airport which, this being Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk, wasn’t very far away.

The only big supermarket I used in Patong was Carrefour, which got bought out by Big C shortly after I started going there. There was an excellent Tesco in Phuket town but I had no car and it’s not worth risking your life in a Thai taxi in order to eat Shreddies. And the Carrefour/Big C wasn’t bad, but it did smell a bit, I think because of all the meat they had lying out on the counters. Decent orange juice was surprisingly hard to find, as was cheese. I’ve been told Asians find cheese disgusting, which is understandable. You take some milk and you leave it to go bad for a couple of months, then you eat it. And we recoil at them eating cockroaches.

Then I went to Lagos. Nigerian supermarkets are an experience in themselves. It depends which one you go to, but they generally have several things in common. One is that the baskets and trolleys haven’t been cleaned since the Biafran War. Another is the mass of people outside hassling you for money, offering to help you carry your bags the whole twelve feet to the car, or generally up to no good. You have to fight your way out the door of some Nigerian supermarkets like it’s the last helicopter out of Saigon. You also have to pay in cash – nobody is daft enough to use a credit card in Nigeria – and supermarkets tend to employ people on the checkout with the attention span of a toddler in a toy shop. You hand over a fat wad of naira and stand there patiently as she giggles with her colleague and has to start the counting all over again, and again. That said, the supermarkets in Lagos had pretty much everything you’d want. Lagos is a big, commercial city and importing stuff wasn’t a problem. I remember the potatoes being bad, which is why I only ate pasta and rice, and again there was no fresh milk so I drank UHT for another three years. But you could get a litre of untaxed Wild Turkey for about $12, which more than made up for it. For meat I used to go to a Lebanese butcher who sold beef from those local, long-horned cattle with the big hump on their backs, and there was nothing wrong with it at all.

The supermarkets in Melbourne were excellent, right up to the point you came to pay and realised you need a scalpel and the assistance of someone who can swiftly remove a kidney. Australia is famous for several things: dangerous animals, thrashings at the hands of the All Blacks, and cosy duopolies in which ordinary people get utterly shafted. A mediocre bottle of wine costs around $20-25 in a supermarket (about 12-15 Euros). This is where the Australians all pile in and say no, if you sign up to a special web service and go online at the right time and buy fifteen crates of the stuff it only costs $19 per bottle and gets delivered in under a month, so f*ck off you whinging pom. In any random corner shop in France I can get a decent bottle of wine for 5-6 Euros. The difference is tax.

And finally we get to France. The French were pioneers in supermarkets back in the 1970s, and that’s where they’ve remained. True, they sell an array of cheese that could keep a mouse convention occupied for months and as I’ve said, their wine is good and cheap. The quality of meat in a French butcher is unparalleled, but even their low-end supermarket stuff is pretty good. And if you want to make something French, you’re in luck. However, the French only eat French food (and occasionally Italian). If you want something foreign other than soy sauce, you need to go to one of the giant supermarkets and even then you might come out empty-handed. But what’s worse is the overall state of the shops. Labour laws in France don’t allow shelves to be stacked at night, so they do it when the shop is open. This means that when you’re shopping you often come across an aisle blocked by a pallet and cardboard boxes strewn everywhere. Sometimes there’s even a member of staff nearby. And the places aren’t clean. Monoprix is about the best of them, but going into Auchun or Intermarche is a bit like going into an airplane toilet. You know you have no choice and you’d rather be using the nice porcelain on offer in the lobby of a Grand Hyatt, so you try your best not to touch anything or think of who else might have been there before you. And you try to avoid stepping in whatever the hell that is on the floor.

French supermarkets also have stock problems. My local Intermarche is huge, yet it regularly runs out of milk for a few days. They used to have a decent fridge full of meat, but they decided to fill it with a job-lot of cheese nobody wants to buy. As in Sakhalin, you get the impression they’re trying to shift whatever they’ve been able to lay their hands on as opposed to what the customer actually wants. The service on the tills isn’t much better, and I reckon the cashiers undergo basic training in Lagos. They seem to be split between haggard old women who look as though they wished they’d married someone else and young men who, were it not for the filthy, wrinkled supermarket waistcoat, you’d assume were about to sell you a stolen car radio rather than scan your fruit juice. The young men seem don’t seem to last long, possibly because their court date arrived curtailing their liberty. The women, on the other hand, are likely to be scowling at customers until the earth is swallowed by the sun. Understaffing (another product of high labour costs) is chronic in French supermarkets, which is why long lines at the counters are common. The look of total uninterest on a supervisor’s face when, loafing at her special desk, she spots a twelve-person queue at the solitary open checkout, is so perfect it must have taken years to master. And nobody knows despair like the desperate souls behind the person in the queue who not only uses chèque déjeuner to partly pay for his items, but whips out a chequebook to pay the remaining balance. In 2019.

So yes, I’m looking forward to once again shopping in the cathedrals which are British supermarkets.

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Polyockers

Once again I find my Sunday full of joy and happiness at being able to juxtapose two posts each addressing this blog’s favourite subjects. We’ve had the one on carrier bags and now, via William of Ockham who lacks the expertise to address the topic, we have one on polyamory in my old stomping ground of Melbourne:

Married couple Peter*, 46, and Liz*, 50, are sitting in their Melbourne home cuddling up with their long-term partners and laughing over a board game with their children and partners’ children on a Sunday morning.

Ah yes, polyamory and children. They go together about as well as alcohol and firearms.

“He came to me and said, ‘Darling, I still love you and still want to have sex with you, but I have this overwhelming urge to have sex with other people and I’d like you to do it, too,” Liz says.

As I’m fond of pointing out, men – and probably women too – always have a desire to sleep with someone else. What stops them acting on it is the damage it will do to their relationship which, for most people, is worth preserving if only for the sake of any children.

“I was devastated. I felt really hurt. I had been taking care of him and it had changed our relationship dynamic. I was very angry. He was suggesting something crazy and mad and it would end badly.”

Well yes, and this is entirely predictable. You therefore have to question the degree of concern this man had for his wife.

Peter spent months seeing a psychiatrist…

Do you think we’re ever going to find an article featuring a polyamorist who doesn’t have mental problems?

…and Liz did a lot of internal questioning.

Such as “Why the fuck am I with this asshole?”

Several months later, Peter decided to take action and booked them into a course with Curious Creatures, which runs workshops in sex, communication and opening up relationships.

This woman must have self-esteem lower than Anna Soubry’s chances of re-election.

Liz says she was surprised to find the majority of people in polyamorous relationships were couples in their 40s. Once they’d completed the workshop, they went to the Curiosity party.

“It was like, whoa,” recalls Liz. “There was lots of S&M and people having sex all around us.”

And once again, the narrative that polyamory is about more than sex falls apart completely. If polyamory was really just about quietly sharing love, it wouldn’t involve S&M orgies, would it?

Peter says he learnt things about Liz he hadn’t known in the 16 years they’d been together because “I hadn’t asked the questions”.

Liz was hooked and the couple became regular attendees at the monthly parties. By the third, they were playing with other people.

So he’s managed to get his wife into sleeping with random strangers at orgies. This is presented as progress.

It was at a polyamorous meet-up 3½ years ago that Liz met her boyfriend. At about the same time, Peter met the woman he also shares his life with and her child.

Because having an uncommitted sexual partner drifting in and out of a mother’s life does wonders for a child’s development.

Both Liz and Peter say they feel no jealousy towards each other, but rather a genuine pleasure that each has found someone else they deeply love.

It’s often said that couples turn to polyamory because they lack the courage to get divorced. It seems that way, doesn’t it?

They have also been open with their three children, aged 15, 13 and 10. “We came out to our kids early because we didn’t want to feel like we were sleeping around,” says Liz. “The eldest said, ‘Thank god! I thought you guys were cheating.’ ”

Well yes, kids in these articles are always fully supportive of their parents’ polyamory just as cats always seem happy with their vegan diets. But can we hear from them in ten year’s time, do you think?

Liz likens polyamory to parents loving more than one child. “I love and adore Peter,” she says. “Loving someone else doesn’t mean I don’t love him. You don’t have a finite amount of love to share.”

Only an idiot thinks you can only love one person. But there is an abundance of evidence to show that having sex with only one person in a committed relationship brings advantages, particularly in the context of providing a stable environment in which to raise children. Once again, it’s really all about sex with these people.

Having multiple relationships as well as three children makes life very busy and requires them to maintain schedules and diaries.

Which miraculously never seems to impose an additional mental burden on polyamorists, despite their being rather fragile to begin with.

They have all even taken a holiday together.

Which was only slightly less detrimental to the kids than the McCanns’ trip to Portugal.

Peter feels his relationship with Liz has significantly improved since opening up their lives to other people.

“In long relationships there is often a lot of taking each other for granted or assuming,” he says. “That simply doesn’t happen any more with us.

I expect this is because you don’t give a damn any more.

“It has helped us become less co-dependent, to be our own sovereign people, loving ourselves and being comfortable with our own company

Get a divorce already!

The couple, both 32, have been married for nine years. They are deeply in love with each other as well as other people. “I’m definitely in love with my partner,” says Claire. “We’ve been together since August last year, but were best friends for two years before that.”

If you started sleeping with your best friend while you were still married, he wasn’t your best friend. Can you imagine how the husband felt when his wife announced she was now shagging the thirsty weirdo who’d been sniffing around her the past two years? No wonder men don’t like their partners having male friends.

She says she experiences everything anyone would want in a relationship from her other partner: “Joy and fulfilment and someone to share your life with. It’s definitely a long-term.”

When asked why she stays with her husband, Claire explains: “Because I’m in love with my husband as well. I can’t imagine life without him and the home we have built together.

Translation: my rich husband has bought us a nice flat in a swanky part of Melbourne, whereas my jobless boyfriend lives in a squat out near the airport.

John says he initially instigated the idea of an open marriage several years earlier, however, at the time their marriage was in trouble and they were both looking to escape through seeing other people.

Did they not consider daytime drinking?

After two years of therapy…

Normal people folks, normal people.

…and focusing on each other their marriage was back on track and Claire brought up the idea of exploring different styles again.

Now our marriage is back on track, how about I sleep with my “friend”?

“I wanted the freedom to explore without the feeling of guilt or telling John he wasn’t good enough. I wanted to stretch my wings and see what that felt like.”

What I like most about polyamorists is their inimitable unselfishness.

John says he saw it as a growth opportunity. “I had been quite controlling in our relationship and demanding of her time and attention.”

Yeah, this guy’s definitely been to marriage therapy. I bet the poor sap paid for the sessions, too.

Now Claire sees her partner twice a week, often spending the weekend at his house. John’s partner is also married and seeing another man.

I bet John is deeply unhappy.

“We care for each other very much,” John explains. “It’s no different from any other boyfriend and girlfriend relationship. I feel very happy and excited for Claire that she has found someone that she loves and is able to express that love. Love is not a finite resource, but we treat it as though it is.”

I’ve got to hand it to whoever is handing out the hymn sheets, they’re consistent.

Adds Claire, “There is a lot of stigma about having sex with more than one person.”

Now why might that be?

Roger Butler is principal facilitator at Curious Creatures. Its workshop, Opening Up to Opening Up, sold out within a couple of days.

He warns opening up a bad relationship is not the answer to solving it and generally makes it worse.

I’m thinking I should open up a workshop on polyamory in which I get paid to state the obvious. I could call it Fucking Out, Fucking Up. It would be a fine use of my MBA.

Sarah*, 34, and Patrick*, 30, from Sydney, have been together for seven years and married for three. About seven months ago they decided to dabble in non-monogamy.

Hmmm. This is the second couple in this article in which the woman is older than the man. I think I need a research grant to explore this phenomenon. It sounds easier than engineering.

Sarah is particularly excited because Patrick’s girlfriend, Veronica*, has just joined them in bed for a cuddle before the three got up to enjoy Sunday brunch.

I think Patrick’s time in this relationship is limited.

Patrick now has a relationship with Veronica that is extremely close without them being in love.

See?

Sarah is dating men and trying to find a boyfriend.

Well, no: she has Veronica.

They are not polyamorous but have recently been spending a lot of time as a threesome with Veronica.

For now.

She says Patrick loves the fun and excitement but feels he is not capable of giving emotional support to more than one woman, which would be required in a polyamorous relationship.

You’re at a rugby match and you’ve just turned up in cricket gear, pal.

She hopes that when she finds a boyfriend he will join her and Patrick as a threesome too. “He finds me dating other men a real turn-on.”

Odd that he never thought to mention it, then. Well, that’s the end of the article. Remember folks: polyamorists are all perfectly normal.

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Devil in the Retail

Via a reader on Twitter, an academic paper on one of this blog’s favourite subjects, the effectiveness of banning single-use plastic bags. Here’s the abstract:

Leakage occurs when partial regulation of consumer products results in increased consumption of these products in unregulated domains. This article quantifies plastic leakage from the banning of plastic carryout bags. Using quasi-random policy variation in California, I find the elimination of 40 million pounds of plastic carryout bags is offset by a 12 million pound increase in trash bag purchases—with small, medium, and tall trash bag sales increasing by 120%, 64%, and 6%, respectively. The results further reveal 12–22% of plastic carryout bags were reused as trash bags pre-regulation and show bag bans shift consumers towards fewer but heavier bags. With a substantial proportion of carryout bags already reused in a way that avoided the manufacture and purchase of another plastic bag, policy evaluations that ignore leakage effects overstate the regulation’s welfare gains.

Oh. It might have been useful to analyse second-order effects before imposing sweeping legislation, no?

The trouble is, despite environmentalists’ claims to be believers in “science”, what we’re dealing with here are religious fanatics. They’ve decided plastic is the devil’s material and therefore any move which appears to reduce its use sets mankind along the path of righteousness. All the academic research in the world isn’t going to make a dent in the propaganda pumped out by the United Church of Modern Environmentalism; you might as well go to Mecca during the hajj and start picking holes in bits of the Koran.

That’s not to say this paper and others like it aren’t useful; they are vital in demonstrating that people’s views on the environment are in large part spiritual, not rational. This is important because those who advocate these policies generally consider themselves atheists whose beliefs are based on scientific data (albeit that which they’d not have the foggiest idea how to interpret without the “guidance” of the contemporary equivalent of a religious hierarchy). The evidence suggests it’s rather pointless to tell a man who claims to be pious that his behaviour suggests otherwise. But I’ve found there is considerable traction in admiring the spiritual commitment of so-called atheists and remarking that they’d be quite at home in a busy-bodying church.

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Size Matters

I found this interesting:

The owners of porn streaming site Pornhub are profiting from “revenge porn” and failing to remove videos once reported, BBC News has been told.

One woman, “Sophie”, said she felt “violated” after a video featuring her was viewed hundreds of thousands of times when it was uploaded online.

Campaign group #NotYourPorn said such content allowed Pornhub owners MindGeek to make greater advertising revenues.

And not for the reasons you filthy-minded people are thinking. Tsk!

Back when The Economist was written by experienced adults rather than noodle-armed hipsters called Jeremy, they ran a decent article on the perils of being number one in any industry. They pointed to McDonald’s being the poster child for all complaints about junk food, while Burger King was barely mentioned. Coca-Cola would get bad press about everything from brainwashing kids to murders in Latin America, but few such claims were made against Pepsi. Environmental campaigns in the US tend to focus on ExxonMobil rather than Chevron, just as Shell seems to be the main target for European protesters. When politicians and campaigners are on a supermarket bashing spree in the US, it’s always Wal-Mart which gets singled out, never Publix. The article listed several examples and said that on occasion it pays to be number two.

There are probably at least half a dozen giant porn sites out there, but Pornhub is the biggest and best known, so that’s why it’s been singled out here. I confess I had to do several weeks of selfless research to bring you this information (ahem), but most porn clips are not exclusive to one site. In other words, this particular piece of revenge porn would have been shared across dozens of sites, many of whom would not take the approach of Pornhub:

Pornhub said it “strongly condemns” revenge porn.

It added it had “the most progressive anti-revenge-porn policy in the industry”.

Revenge porn is pretty disgusting, to be honest. I know a young woman who split from some shithead of a boyfriend and he started posting videos of her all over the internet, and contacting people on her social media accounts. She had to go into hiding while her brother-in-law trawled the internet finding where they were hosted and asking for them to be removed. Of course, it is monumentally stupid for a young woman to allow her boyfriend to video her during sex, but young people do daft things, are easily manipulated, and nowadays everyone walks around with an HD video camera in their pocket.

So while Pornhub is coming in for some flack here, at least they appear to be doing what they can to avoid hosting revenge porn; I expect lesser-known sites are quite happy to do so. So why am I sticking up for Pornhub here? Well, as I explained before, one day we’ll all be on Pornhub as it’ll be the only free speech platform left.

“I’m on there for the message boards, honestly!”

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Charity Work

This isn’t an actual post, I’m just helping a pal boost his website in the search rankings.

Meastim will monitor the condition of your machinery online 24×7 with the new generation of vibration monitoring MEMS sensors, carry out the greasing of your machinery online and remotely based on data and run hours, and finally we will supply smart upgraded rotating equipment when a replacement is required to ensure that a high availability is achieved.

I think this qualifies me as an “influencer”. Expect to see bathroom selfies posted on here in due course, and endless plugs for supplements.

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Sinking Funds

Remember this story?

A lifeboatman who served with the RNLI for 15 years was sacked alongside his junior colleague for having mugs with naked women on them in the office.

Whitby crewman Ben Laws and his workmate Joe Winspear were allegedly sacked over the phone on Tuesday.

The pair are reported to have swapped the ‘jokey’ tea mugs for Secret Santa presents.

One featured Mr Winspear’s head superimposed on a naked woman’s body.

And I said:

As an organisation grows and gets more wealthy, parasites in the form of professional “managers” come in and use the excess cash to feather their own nests and set about building their own little empires. In effect, the organisation splits in two. You have a ruling class, sitting in plush air conditioned offices pushing progressive agendas and advancing their careers; and you have everyone else, including those tasked with fulfilling the core function of the organisation.

Well, whaddya know?

The chief executive of the RNLI has said that the lifeboat charity is facing the “perfect storm” of a shortfall in funds at a time when its services are more in demand than ever.

Lifeboat crews and lifeguards are being called out more often to save lives but the charity is suffering from a shortfall, largely created by the economic climate and a drop in money left to the charity in supporters’ wills.

Of course, the drop-off in donations has nothing to do with the RNLI demonstrating to the public that it is nowadays more a jobs program for middle-class grifters than an organisation devoted to saving lives at sea.

In 2018 the RNLI’s financial resources dropped by £28.6m. Its total expenditure was £192.9m but its net income was £186.6m, leaving an operating loss of £6.3m. A leading factor that contributed was a reduction in legacy income of £8.5m.

And how much of that £192.2m is spent on middle managers whose job is to patrol lifeboat stations in all weathers looking out for offensive coffee mugs?

I notice that the CEO who presided over the debacle last year has moved on to another cushy posting, replaced by one Mark Dowie who is:

a former naval officer who went on to work in the banking industry

Which sounds a lot like the previous chancer, but at least this one does seem to have some relevant experience:

Dowie gave the example of Salcombe lifeboat station in south Devon, where he volunteered before taking on the role of chief executive, as an example of how the pressure on the service was growing.

Right, but:

Dowie, who has been in post for four months, said: “As a people we use the sea in ways that change all the time. We have many more people working on the sea, things that we weren’t doing when we were founded, for example wind farms. But there is also a vast amount more pleasure activity in, on and around the sea.”

Are there really many more people working on the sea than in 1824? I doubt it. The man is talking rot. Four months into the job and the only thing on his mind is how to get more money in, his predecessor having demolished the institute’s reputation in a matter of days.

Dowie said he hoped the decrease in bequests was just about “ebbs and flows”. He said: “We don’t have an easy way of getting statistics on why the amount of money from legacies was reduced.”

Translation: we know damned well why the money is drying up but we don’t want to say anything which will detract attention from our core business of policing the morals of those who volunteer to risk their lives for those at sea.

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Thick’s Turn, Parliament Facked

One of the characteristics of Tony Blair and New Labour was a delusional belief in their own intelligence and abilities. He and his cronies really did think they could open up the bonnet of the United Kingdom and rearrange the engine and gearbox so that it worked better. However, it soon became apparent they had no idea what they were doing. For example:

In 2003, Tony Blair chose his close friend and former flatmate Lord Falconer to be Lord Chancellor and Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs. At the same time, he announced his intention to abolish the office of Lord Chancellor and to make many other constitutional reforms. After much surprise and confusion, it became clear that the ancient office of Lord Chancellor could not be abolished without an Act of Parliament. Thus Lord Falconer duly appeared the following day in the House of Lords to carry out his duties from the Woolsack.

What is lacking in modern politicians is any sense of humility, the notion that perhaps things are that way for a reason and don’t need “improvement” from some grifter of average intelligence.

From 1911 to 2011, a British Prime Minister was allowed to call a general election at any time prior to the 5-year term limit. This meant that a government could, if they wished, go back to the public to confirm their mandate without having to wait in limbo until the 5 years were up. This seemed to work pretty well: early elections weren’t a feature of British political life, and we were mercifully free of constitutional crises.

Then in 2011 those two towering statesmen David Cameron and Nick Clegg introduced the Fixed Term Parliament Act, for reasons which could hardly be described as pressing. This removed the ability of a Prime Minister to call a general election, instead requiring a vote of no confidence or a two-third Commons vote. Fast forward to September 2019, and we have a Prime Minister who controls neither his own party nor parliament unable to move forward with his legislative agenda. The public have made their preferences clear, but parliament is defying both them and the government. Before the Fixed Term Parliament Act Boris Johnson could simply have called a general election, to secure a mandate for delivering Brexit (or not). But now he’s stuck: he can’t secure a two-thirds majority because the last thing these MPs want is to go before an angry public, and nobody is putting forward a vote of no confidence. So unless the antics of Jacob Rees-Mogg goads them into doing so, or Johnson somehow organises a no confidence vote against himself, we’re just stuck in deadlock.

This is the problem with modern politicians. They arrive in a bubble of hubris and set about meddling with things they know nothing about, consequences be damned. Regardless of your views on Brexit, it is revealing how utterly bereft of brains or talent our political classes have been for years.

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