Archive for the 'Rants' Category

‘Proportional’ force, and all that crap

Apologies for the lack of anything related to, you know, gardening. At this time of year, there’s not much to relate.

So I’ll rant, instead, about this recent UK court case. If you’ve not heard of it, do take two mins to read the linked article. It’s one of those rank, reflux-inducing stories that make you ashamed to live in these islands.

In no rational, decent society would Mr Woodhouse have faced criminal charges for his actions. I cannot imagine any US state, for instance, deciding to prosecute in these circumstances. In America, it’s likely Mr Woodhouse would have shot, maybe killed, the robbers. And even (especially?) then, no federal prosecutor would dare to press charges.

Yet in Britain, our ridiculous CPS persists in bringing these bloody offensive charges against people who are simply trying to protect their property and the lives of their families.

I have never cared about the pettyfogging legalistic arguments about whether force used against thieves and muggers is ‘proportional’. They are beyond preposterous. Anybody who’s ever been persistently bullied and victimised, or physically assaulted, knows that in such circumstances nobody – not even Socrates himself – carefully weighs the pros and cons, the ‘nice’ rights and wrongs, and emerges from an hour’s internal argument to take a deliberate, careful, ‘safe’ action.

In the heat of the moment, you act on instinct – fight or flight. Your brain is utterly addled with adrenaline and fear/rage. Rational thought isn’t possible. If you perceive that your loved ones are at risk, the adrenaline-addlement is roughly trebled.

It is unreasonable and unrealistic to hold human beings to the standards that British law demands. There is only one rational way to legislate for such circumstances, and it’s a very clear and simple axiom:

If you trespass on other people’s property, with the intention to steal from them or harm them, you abandon your right to life and safety.

In other words: You started it, you take the fucking consequences. No right of appeal.

Posted on 25th January 2014
Under: Rants | 3 Comments »

Shamefaced entry back into blogland


Yes, it has been a while. No, I’m not proud.

So I’m just going to gloss over the whole where-the-fuck-have-you-been thing and carry on as if nothing happened. In brief: I’ve had some health issues.

A new year’s on the horizon, and as ever I’m shockingly behind at the plot. I’m thinking – gasp – of paying a guy to dig it over for me. I know this is the ultimate allotment sin. You may throw rotten tomatoes. But here’s the thing: I don’t think I’ll get back on track unless I do. The plot’s a jungle.

Work is the problem, as I know it is for many folks reading this. The Great Depression has forced us all to work longer and harder as colleagues are lost and budgets are cut. I seem to do little but work – and when I’m not at work, I’m thinking about work. This last is really the bit I resent. It’s bad enough having so few hours uncommitted to work without filling them, too, with work-related thoughts.

Mostly I just shrug and get on with it. That’s life.

But now and then, I’m jolted into moments of purest rage by things I find out about other people’s lives. Take this, for instance: today’s news that European Union civil servants take an average of 15 days off sick. That’s three full weeks off work… to add to their 24 days of official holiday AND (in most EU countries) seven days of official public holidays.

That’s not all. Many EU Commission staff enjoy a flexitime scheme that lets them take 24 days off work every year if they work an extra 45 minutes a day (ie the minimum ‘standard’ overtime everyone in the private sector works for bugger-all money). In other words, some are entitled to take 66 days a year off work – THREE MONTHS – even before they’ve taken a single day sick.

I’m paying for all of this in my taxes. If you’re European, so are you. Not only that, if you’re a private sector employee or self-employed you’re getting a shit pension (if you’ve got one at all). EU bureaucrats get a magnificent one.

These are the moments when I feel I should devote the rest of my life to politics – to fighting the disgusting outrages I see all around me. But you know what? I’m too fucking exhausted from working all the time. And so are you.

Therefore the kind of people who end up doing politics – ie running our lives, and creating the disgusting outrages – are weaselly cunts like this (and only appropriate that he was Minister for Europe under Tony Blair).

Posted on 30th December 2013
Under: Rants | 2 Comments »

Looking for backlinks? Look elsewhere

Deluged with SEO marketers trying to get me to put links to their e-commerce sites on this blog. None of them are offering much individually, but added together it would be a fair-ish sum were I to say ‘yes’ to them all.

A quick and pithy message to them all: Fuck Off.

Apols if you’re sick of this topic (I’ve written about it before). I’m coming back to it because it’s a daily reminder, for me (yes, I’m getting these offers almost daily), of just how bonkers and corrupted the web has become.

The demands of SEO make every link suspect. Really doesn’t matter what you’re reading online, or where. Somebody, somewhere has probably paid for at least some – maybe all – of the links on the page. That’s rarely flagged, if ever.

To my ageing and increasingly irrelevant eye, this is dangerous. We used to educate kids to spot the difference between advertising and ‘real’ programmes on the TV and in other media (or at least, they tried to teach my generation. How about yours?). Nobody’s teaching anybody how to spot affiliate marketing and paid-for backlinks masquerading as ‘real’ content and ‘real’ click recommendations. Most parents haven’t got a sodding clue, so they could never teach their kids.

Does this matter? Do you care? Does anybody care?

Posted on 18th September 2013
Under: Rants, Uncategorized, Web nerdery | 6 Comments »

Making wine ‘just like the Romans’. Yeah, right

Unseemly, I know, to come back from a long absence with a rant… but I can’t help myself.

Typical of the shite journalism I read endlessly these days is this offering from today’s Guardian.

I don’t even know where to begin with this piece, which is shot through with enormous, gaping holes. Written by a young metropolitan reporter, it betrays total ignorance of, well, almost everything to do with the topic.

First off, the biggest sources for Roman viticulture are Varro, Cato and Pliny. Virgil, though he mentions the topic, is a very third-rate source. Probably dominates the piece because he’s the only Roman author the writer has heard of.

Then there’s the shocking ignorance of viticulture in general. Quite how, in the post-Phylloxera world, these Sicilian historians expect to grow vines and make wine “exactly as the ancient Romans did” is a mystery unenlightened by the Guardian writer’s questioning.

It is impossible, in 2013, either to grow the same varieties of grape the Romans did, or to do it in the same way(s). For starters, when you grow vinifera vines on American rootstocks (as you have to do nowadays), the vines need considerable fertiliser input to achieve anything like the yields of vineyards pre-Phylloxera. Presumably using any fertiliser at all (bar cow shit) was impossible for the Romans.

I could go on. Luckily for you (as I’m fond of saying), I won’t. I’ll just add this: Don’t believe a fucking word of what you read, anywhere.

It’s all shite.

Posted on 23rd August 2013
Under: Rants | 2 Comments »

Of cabbages and Autumn Kings

young carrotsHad a fabulous day on Tuesday. A full six hours at my allotment without interruptions, additions, chores, tasks or interference. AND the sun was shining.

I realised later that this was the first time in more than four years that I’ve been able to enjoy my vegetable gardening at leisure: no clock-watching, no frantic weed tugging in a tightly-defined 10-min window between other pressing engagements. It was bliss.

The bad news, of course, is that it got me thinking about my life in general. The most appropriate question arising: What life?

All I do, essentially, is work. When I’m not working (unusual) I’m trying to fit into the few pathetic remaining hours of the week all the tedious chores and domestic tasks I can’t do at work. Gardening is forced into a very lowly position on my list of priorities.

young beetroot plantsI know whingeing is unattractive. I also know lots of you reading this will be recognising your own lives in this rant and thinking “Get over it, Soilman. Grow a pair.”

I have no answer to that. But I promise you: If I figure out a way to work less and garden more, I’ll be sharing it with you here.

Posted on 28th June 2013
Under: Rants, Roots | 4 Comments »

The iceman cometh?

I’ve been thinking about sunspots.

Now, cool your jets. I’m not going to start banging on about Maunder Minima and little ice ages versus global warming, CO2 and all the rest of it.

Reasons: a) I’m bored by all the arguments that generate more heat than light, and b) I’m not qualified (you might reasonably ask: on the basis of a piffling few hundred years of unreliable weather data… who really is?).

No, this blog entry merely asks a hypothetical and rather narrow question, viz:

If solar activity does hugely affect climate, and if we are the verge of a new ‘Maunder Minimum’ period that will bring much colder winters (all theoretical and unproven)… what would that be like on my vegetable plot?

Well, I guess it would mean more years like the last three.

Which, I gotta say, is bad news. Because 2011-2013 have brought average vegetable yields at least 20% lower than before – even worse in certain crops (potatoes are more like 40% down). Lots of rain and no sun, allied with longer winters, has been fairly crappy for me. Yet more rain and/snow plus even longer winters would presumably be disastrous.

And I’m just a humble one-man vegetable grower. Extrapolate these figures to northern hemisphere farming, as a whole, and they add up to a hell of a lot less food.

I don’t pretend to know how this would play out. Especially if lasted – like the 17th century ‘little ice age’ – for 70 years.

But I’m doubting humanity would feel it was an improvement on what’s gone before.

Posted on 7th June 2013
Under: Rants, Winter | 4 Comments »

How to unsubscribe to The Times… you hope

I yesterday took out a sub to the UK Times newspaper ( to read something I needed. I was looking to see how easy it would be to unsubscribe (I don’t have any plans to – or rather I didn’t have any plans to – but I wanted to see how easy it would be should the need arise).

Couldn’t find anything, so contacted their live customer service. This was the exchange:

Customer Services: [Private Message to Guest]  Hi, To cancel your subscription (subject to contract) you must call freephone 0800 018 5177 and select option 3 (for overseas customers call 0044 20 7711 1527). Opening hours: 0800 – 2000 Mon-Thur 0800 – 1900 Fri – Sun Regards name redacted

Soilman: [Private Message to Customer Services]  Sad that a simple ‘unsubscribe’ option is one you’re too afraid to give. Already I have that nagging, nasty feeling that the day I DO try to unsubscribe I will find it incredibly difficult. Or worse, that I’ll find you stealing money from my credit card long, long after you’ve officially ‘unsubscribed’ me. That’s the message one infers, you see, from your current set-up.

Customer Services: [Private Message to Soilman]  I apologise Soilman if that’s how you feel, however we are not thieves and we don’t like to be accused of being one. The reason that there is no tab there is because of the security involved allowing account access to members of the public. We hope to incorporate this as a feature at some point. If in the meantime you have any difficulty in cancelling your subscription or you find you have been overcharged please call 0800 018 5177 and press option 2 to report it. Regards name redacted

Soilman: [Private Message to Customer Services]  Thanks name redacted. Appreciate your reply, but your bridling at my perfectly reasonable point – made in good faith – makes me even more worried than I was already. I’ve not been a customer for a day and I’m already being reprimanded by you. Wow.

If this is customer service, I wonder what customer abrasion looks like. The Times has had THREE YEARS to get used to the rigours of dealing with customers in the digital era of instant feedback and instant response.

What have they learned? Not much, on this evidence.

[Oh, and BTW: What exactly is ‘the security involved allowing account access to members of the public’? Isn’t that the same security protocol needed to access every other aspect of your account (which the Times otherwise provides)? How does one need more ‘security’ to cancel an account than to set one up and upgrade it… both of which, naturally, the Times allows?

I do so love having my intelligence insulted.]

Posted on 31st May 2013
Under: Rants | 3 Comments »

No posts, because no gardening

No activity on this blog because there’s been so little movement on the allotment.

It’s still so very cold. My roses, blooming at the end of May in a good year, are barely out of winter dormancy. Chestnut trees, usually in full flower on May 1st, have only just produced their first white candles.

I had to re-sow my cauliflowers last night. The first batch, sown in early April, were stunted and hopeless. It’s just too bloody cold for anything to grow properly.

The worst of it is that the weather pattern is beginning to look depressingly like last year’s: A low jetstream ‘trapped’ over the UK bringing endless low pressure weather systems from the northern Atlantic.

I really don’t think I can face a fourth CRAP summer in a row.

Posted on 17th May 2013
Under: Rants | 7 Comments »

Pumpkins and Pompeii

I watched that crap TV show about the end of Pompeii last night.

Jeez, it was shit.

Took an hour to say what could have been said in 10 mins. Endless repeats, belaboured non-points, selling ancient news (Pompeiians killed by pyroclastic flow) as ‘new discoveries’ and breathy build-ups to rubbish ‘climaxes’.

Truly the BBC thinks we’re all fucking idiots these days.

pumpkin in pompeiiThe only bit I enjoyed – and I really, really enjoyed this – was one of the reconstruction scenes where a young Roman boy is seen carrying a pumpkin… a vegetable that would not be brought back to Europe from the New World until the early 16th century.

What makes it even juicier and funnier is the obvious care taken by the show researchers to get the right seasonal vegetable into the reconstruction. They knew Vesuvius erupted on August 24th, so they clearly chose something that they thought would be appropriate for an end of summer harvest.

You can imagine the conversation at the production company:

Young metrosexual researcher: “What vegetables get harvested in late August? Anyone know?”

(Slightly) older townee: “Er, dunno. French beans? Potatoes?”

Young metrosexual researcher: “Nah, don’t think so. Arthur off Eastenders dug his up in the autumn. I remember cos it was pissing with rain in the show.”

(Slightly) older townee: “All right, then: Pumpkins. I know that’s right cos they’re always eating them in autumn in America. Had some pumpkin pie on holiday in Boston once.”

Young metrosexual researcher: “Thanks. At least if we use the right vegetable we won’t get tons of pedantic crap about the wrong season from reactionary cocks in Tunbridge Wells.”

[If you have access to BBC iPlayer and want to see it for yourself, it’s at 05:35 mins here]

Posted on 28th March 2013
Under: Cucurbits, Rants | 7 Comments »

Newspaper weather reports: linkbaity bullshit

I am pissed off with reading crap about the weather.

To take but one example, today, from the hundreds I read every year: this shit from the Daily Telegraph (a ‘respectable’ UK newspaper that, like many newspapers these days, is dying on its feet).

Nobody, in fact, is ‘predicting a heatwave’. Here is the UK meteorological office’s 3-month weather outlook (the basis for the DT story) and nowhere does it say anything about a coming heatwave. It only points out that if this weather pattern were replicated later in the year, with the high pressure a little further south, it would bring hot weather. Not that it will bring hot weather – not any time soon, not even ‘at the end of spring’.

The DT’s bollocks got picked up by the Independent today, another tottering UK newspaper. The scientific and meteorological ignorance and/or wilful fact-twisting, by the writers of both pieces, is staggering.

There are several reasons for this:

  • Weather reports are usually written by newbies and youngsters (my US readers would call them ‘cub reporters’). They haven’t a clue about getting facts right, so they just write nonsense without ever realising that they betray their ignorance with every sentence
  • Most are artsy, humanities grads who know fuck all about maths, science or statistics – and it shows
  • “It’s only the weather”. It’s not an important issue, so nobody thinks it matters to be accurate. Editors shamelessly ham up the stories for maximum linkbait appeal
  • Free-to-read online newspapers are increasingly desperate for traffic. It’s all they’ve got to sell ads against. As their readers desert them, and they get more desperate (and many are now very desperate indeed) their attempts to gain eyeballs by any means become more and more unethical and mendacious. Anything will do, if it might get somebody to click (picture galleries with each pic on a separate URL, utterly misleading ‘headlines’ etc etc)

This infuriates me every day. I CARE about weather. As a gardener, it matters very much to me. But I’m fed an endless diet of sensationalist shit and outright lies masquerading as serious weather reporting.

It also saddens me, because it’s a daily reminder of the parlous state of the western world’s news media. There is no money in news publishing any more, so there are fewer and fewer trustworthy folks doing it. Sure, there’s lots of reporting and ‘news’. But more and more of it is tendentious, unprofessional, dishonest, biassed, paid-for or just downright bad. Finding accurate, reliable, unpartisan reporting – even on something as uncontentious as the weather – is getting rather difficult.

Having said that, nobody seems to care. Which is perhaps the scariest part of all.

PS The Guardian’s at it this morning (Tues 26th) – suggesting that the Met Office is predicting that this weather will continue until the end of April. Of course it isn’t, and it won’t.

Posted on 25th March 2013
Under: Rants | 2 Comments »