Monday, 26 June 2017

Prints, Moths, May's Settled Status and Trump's win

Held a progress meeting with Jane to catch up with work and then set off to pick up our pictures for Cambridge Open Studios. As ever, Streamline imaging had done an excellent job of producing our museum grade prints.

Despite the lift of seeing the prints, we were feeling a bit lacklustre, so headed over to Horningsea to the garden centre to have a light lunch in the cafe there. Using the facilities, I was struck by the number of moths that always seem to be attracted to the white walls of any such facility with an open window. Sadly, I was only able to photograph four properly. As ever, anyone coming in seeing me photographing the moths retained the typical British nonchalance at encountering my activity.

Brexit news today is Prime Minister Theresa May's clarification of the offer to EU residents to right of 'Settled status' in the UK post Brexit. No EU national currently living in the UK would have to leave at the point of Brexit. People will be treated the same irrespective of their nationality. Settled status will be available for those who have lived in the UK for five years, though they will have to apply for it and some form of ID documents (which may be virtual) will be required. Apparently this would be made a simple as possible, avoiding the 85 five page document currently needed. The application procedure will be launched before Brexit - possibly in summer of 2018. However, EU citizens in the UK are still not sure what the offer means and the EU negotiators have said that they do not think it has gone far enough. Labour and London's Mayor Sadiq Khan also feel it is not up to the mark.

The Prime Minister has finally bought the DUP into coalition, apologies, working together, with a £1bn bung. The other devolved nations in the UK are naturally outraged/annnoyed.

President Trump has something to celebrate. The Supreme Court has given partial permission to the implementation of his travel ban - until they come to a final decision in the Autumn. It prevents persons from several primarily Muslim countries coming to the UK with the exception of "foreign nationals who have a credible claim of a bona fide relationship with a person or entity in the United States". Though it is not clear who decides whether the incomers have a bona-fide relationship on arrival.


Sunday, 25 June 2017

Mint lamb, panel fire testing and Turkish regression



Woke up late. Family Skype call to Germany for over nearly an hour. Cooked lamb chops for lunch and enjoyed them with mint sauce. Pottered on the computer to tidy up the iNaturalist Quekett SWD page. Had an ice cream. Watched, enjoyed and occasionally cringed at bum notes on Glastonbury marathon on TV.

Now 60 tower blocks in 25 councils have had their cladding panels fire tested - and all failed. Brexit Secretary David Davis is "pretty sure", but not "certain", that he will be able to get a free trade deal with the EU.Ha Ha Bonk! (Laughing my head off !).

If you want to shape your country's future, manipulate the children's education. News from a couple of days ago that Turkish schools are to stop teaching evolution, as the Board of education chairman says the subject is "debatable, controversial and too complicated for students". President Erdogan inexorably shifting the country away from its secular constitution.

Saturday, 24 June 2017

Cambridge For EU Rally, Trump Damned by Video



Dr Cahir O'Kane alerted me yesterday on Facebook to today's 'Cambridge still stands by EU!' demonstration. Fortunately timed for 12:30, I was able to have a lie-in and still get there by bus by 12:15. There was already a handful of cheerful protesters when I arrived, hidden somewhat inconspicuously at the right corner of the Guild hall. At the time we were still outnumbered by the Cambridge Open Studios stand ( where I had a good chat with fellow photographer Ben Dobson, who is also exhibiting pictures through the microscope this year), Greenpeace gathering signatures against Coca Cola's polluting the oceans with waste plastic, a busker and and A. N Other stand which I cannot remember.

However, others arrived in dribs and drabs till there was a crowd of 100 - 200. The local press photographers appeared and started organising a group shot. I was also wandering around with my camera, protesting, taking pictures and just chatting to people. I spoke to scientists, people supporting science, families, dog lovers, people wearing hats and also a number of people originally from the Netherlands, Poland, Australia and even America, who were either worried about their future residence in the UK (after 20 years living and working here). Other worries were whether we would be impoverished by the drain of researchers from the UK that has already begun, or simply laments on how a former open UK seems to be cutting itself off from the world. I was interested in Ibrahim Rahman setting up his smartphone for a Facebook live broadcast of the event.

Finally the speakers arrived, including Rally organiser Paul Browne, Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner, Liberal Lucy Nethsingha, Conservative Lord Richard Balfe and the Green Party representative Jeremy Caddick.

The overall atmosphere was faint optimism that the tide was turning, certainly against a hard Brexit.
There is a full photo album here: https://goo.gl/photos/RpAsiKDyur9b6xx3A.

Getting home was not as easy as getting in, the Midsummer Fair was on and Victoria Avenue limited traffic wise, adversely affecting bus timetables. I finally caught the new N service to Longstanton, and got off at Cambridge North Station, where Jane rescued me.

Finally got around to ordering our postcards for Cambridge Open Studios, using MOO to order 50 cards with 5 different designs featuring my and Jane's work.

Looking at the polls summarised at http://whatukthinks.org/eu/opinion-polls/uk-poll-results/, the delict balance between remainers and leavers has switched , with the remainers at 50% v leavers at 48%. Not sure how significant this is statistically yet. Furthermore, nearly 50% think the negotiations are being handled badly or very badly, twice as many compare to those who think they are still going well.

This currently pales into significance compared to the uproar about fire safety in tower blocks, with all 34 cladding samples sent in from different sources screened so far failing fire tests. The Government plans to screen 600 blocks. More people are likely to be evacuated till their blocks are repaired. On top of this, the government is scrapping plans to relax safety standards in schools.

There was a reminder today via Quartz, that the US Senate Health Bill only mentions women in relation to abortion - and with a definite pro-life, anti-abortion bias - and will also reintroduce healthcare cost inequality again, where women pay 52% to 69% more compared to men. Quartz says "Specifically, it [the Bill] strips out hundreds of billions of dollars from Medicaid, the insurance for the poor, which now covers over 50% of all births in many US states, and allows states to opt out of covering “essential” healthcare that includes maternity and newborn care."

President Trump has gone on the attack against Obama, as the CIA was apparently aware of the Russian hacking before the election and took (in his opinion ) limited or no action. Trump tweeted:
"Since the Obama Administration was told way before the 2016 Election that the Russians were meddling, why no action? Focus on them, not T!"

However, a much more serious misdemeanor by the President. Critics and golfers gasped in horror as video appeared online of a smiling President driving a golf buggy on the green! https://youtu.be/o6IrmHI5j94A truly heinous crime in the eyes of the golfing fraternity. No doubt this is the cause of his most recent 3% drop in approval ratings in the Gallop poll/a 1% drop in the Rasmussen poll (delete whichever you regard as fake news).

Friday, 23 June 2017

Leonora, honeycomb and 800 evacuated homes


Despite delaying getting up till 7:25, an ungodly hour, 5h was less sleep than I wanted, but I made the bus in time. The young child who travels on the same journey to St Ives is now into stickers in books. On arrival, I bumped into another regular traveler Pete returning from the market who'd got an earlier bus and exchanged a few friendly words before heading for breakfast at the Taproom. Brown bread toast with jam this time. Why was today a day for haircuts? Three came freshly trimmed, or in Victor's case, with practically a shave. Then after an hours waking up in conversation with the A14 Network regulars and newbies, left with Clelia, who had to dash off for a fringe trim.

I resisted the call of the coiffeur, having a more important appointment with author Gloria Loring. We had set aside a couple of hours to check out the Kindle version of her very first children's book 'Shiny Star Leonora', which we'd published in print 2015, create a Kindle Direct Publishing account and then upload the book and go live on Amazon. Hats off to Gloria who kept a lively interest in the process. We finished off also putting up a print version up for sale. You can access the Kindle version by clicking on the link 'Shiny Star Leonora'. I'm still waiting for Amazon to automatically link the Kindle and Print versions.

By then it was time for lunch, a delicious mixed salad prepared by our host Clelia and another couple of hours conversaiton on family histories, tribulations and achievements, Brexit, immigration, and cacao butter.

Encountered two incidents of sheer stupidity on the guided bus ride home. In both instances people were walking either very close to the track or even on it, deliberately causing the bus to have to brake sharply.

Gloria had previously mentioned in passing that she remembered having chocolate coated honeycomb in Australia and I had not quite got around to trying to make some. I'd made some honeycomb for the first time on Wednesday. It was a simple mixture of sugar and golden syrup, heated to 154 degC (sugar crack), turned into a foaming superhot mix by the addition of sodium bicarbonate and cast in a buttered square dish to set. It does need hammering to crack but small pieces are very light and do melt in the mouth. But it wasn't till today that I got to try making chocolate coated honeycomb. I think I over-crumbed the very brittle honeycomb - but the result was still very palatable.

There was a lacklustre reaction from the EU and EU citizens in the UK, to Prime Minister Theresa May's initial suggestion of guaranteeing EU citizen rights after Brexit if resident for linger than 5 years. For one, it was scant in detail. It also seemed that the benefits to EU citizens could be less than those currently experienced by us all whilst we are still in the EU.

The main UK news erupting this evening was the live evacuation of  more than 800 homes in Camden tower blocks. They had been clad in the same way as the Grenfell Tower. Tests by the police had apparently demonstrated that the cladding was a real fire hazard and that a criminal investigation was underway. Some residents only heard of the evacuation on the TV news. They were now housed in community centres as the blocks were to be renovated.

More smoke and mirrors across the pond. President Trump hints at possible bias or lack of credibility of investigator Robert Mueller, who is heading the Russia enquiry. Apparently Mueller might have been friendly with ex FBI chief Comey. It led to speculation that the president might fire Mueller. This was then denied tonight by Trump. Typical undermining of a potential opponents position and a distraction from the actual investigation.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

Books, Activity Trackers, Solar racing and May in Brussels


Well, the heatwave has passed and we are at a mere 25 degC and decreasing. A bookish day today with two sets of print proofs arriving  and two different books requiring slight design changes after having seen their proofs. Moving margins and balancing proportions by two or three millimetres is quite time consuming. Later in the afternoon also looked at converting one of our children's books to an ebook format using comic book creator.

It was a CETC Talk evening (Cambridge Enterprise and Technology Club). Our chair was justifiably aghast when one of the three speakers suddenly decided it was too far to come and cancelled today. Since their talk was on Drone racing, I found an interesting YouTube video on the Dubai Million Dollar Drone Race, won by a 15 year old drone pilot! The problem was at the talk location, where suddenly the hi-tech equipment was inexplicably unable to provide sound when I arrived early. Fortunately the situation was resolved with two adapters and long cabling to the large screen.

The other two speakers more than made up for the missing speaker. Andrew Kadis of TTP introduced us to the hi-tech world of sports data trackers, apparently with us since 2004. The enterprising Australians began collecting real time data from their sports people, developing the range and complexity of data that could be detected. The reality in sport now is, that any winning team in a form of sport will have been using data monitoring and tracking in its athletes as part of training and also recovery after injury. Elena Rastourgeva, student at Cambridge University, gave a great introduction to the Cambridge University Eco Racer CUER, which was going to race in the trans Australia world solar race. Limited to a 5KWh battery and solar panels delivering no more than 1KWh, vehicles in the solar races had to brave kangaroos, road-trains and heat.

Prime Minister Theresa May went to Brussels today to present her first offe to the EU and the remaining 27 members. She proposed that the three million EU citizens living in the UK would be allowed to stay after Brexit, under a new "UK settled status", that is, if they had lived int eh UK for 5 years. However, the offer is dependent on EU states guaranteeing Britons the same rights. The cynical headline in Der Spiegel roughly translates as the Prime Minister *Giving EU ciizens living in the UK vague promises for the first time".

The news today was running articles in parallel on the worries in agriculture, that there would not be sufficient people working in the fields this year to bring in the fruit and vegetable harvests.

President Trump grudgingly admits on Twitter "With all of the recently reported electronic surveillance, intercepts, unmasking and illegal leaking of information, I have no idea ... whether there are "tapes" or recordings of my conversations with James Comey, but I did not make, and do not have, any such recordings."

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Cambridge Lido first on Day of the Queen's Hat (and some Bills)


With the promise of the last day of the current heatwave, Jane helped me find my swimming shorts, discovered falling out of the back of the chest of drawers for lack of use over the past decade. Then it was off to the Jesus Green Lido for the very first time ever, since we arrived in Milton 29 years ago. Being a strong swimmer in the past, I of course started in the fast lane with a front crawl. I made it half way down the 100 yard length before gasping for air and arms aching, I dipped under the barrier into the slow lane to continue very slowly on my back. Taking it a lot easier, I completed a slow 5 full lengths with breaks at each end, before admitting defeat. 

After getting dried, dressed and having a refreshing drink on one of the benches. I sat next to a strapping figure of a man, one who regularly worked out in the gym at Parkside. Turns out that he managed two lengths before getting out exhausted. Psychologically I felt a lot better then but, boy, my arms and legs are aching! Got back for a late lunch and catching up on work.

Much like the Tory party itself, the Queen's Speech for the opening of parliament was cut of much of its pomp and anticipated content. 

The key item of the day was The Queen's Hat - Blue with five flowers sporting gold centres, that were strongly reminiscent of the EU flag

Apart from that, some bills were announced. They were concerned mainly with Brexit, the economy and transport - see BBC explanations here http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-40339564. Most of the media making much of the fact that key conservative policies such as the reintroduction of fox hunting,Grammar Schools, Pensions, etc. were missing. 

List of Bills below:

Brexit

  1. Repeal Bill
  2. Customs Bill
  3. Trade Bill
  4. Immigration Bill
  5. Fisheries Bill
  6. Agriculture Bill
  7. Nuclear Safeguards Bill
  8. International Sanctions Bill

Economy

  1. Automated and Electric Vehicles Bill
  2. Space Industry Bill
  3. High Speed 2 Phase 2A Bill
  4. Smart Meter Bill
  5. National Insurance Contributions Bill
  6. Travel Protection Bill
  7. Draft Domestic Violence and Abuse Bill
  8. Civil Liability Bill
  9. Courts Bill
  10. Financial Guidance and Claims Bill
  11. Data Protection Bill
  12. Draft Patient Protection Bill

Defence

  • Armed Forces Bill

Housing

  • Draft Tenants' Fees Bill
  • Good Mortgages Bill

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

Sunny St ives and Cloudy forecast for Tory-DUP agreement?


Jane and I enjoyed the air conditioning in the car as we drove up to St Ives, Huntingdonshire to meet up with author Gloria Loring. The face recognised from past Skype conversations to Spain welcomed us with a real smile as we met in Wetherspoons. Sadly, we had caught the pub at a bad week, as I asked for two meals to be sent back for improvement. The staff were very apologetic. We did have a good meal in the end. Conversation initially focused on Gloria's books as we had brought along the proof of Sweet Pea, her newest addition to the 'Beautiful Garden' children's book series. 

With the heat continuing in the southern half of the UK, we kept to the shade for a walk through St Ives and then along the river to All Saints church. It was unexpectedly locked but a quick call and the church was opened for us to view. Returning to the heat outside, we stopped off at Thorntons for a well deserved ice-cream and an impromptu inspection of a possible art exhibition space.

Back home, finished off ordering archival quality single prints in preparation for Cambridge Open Studios. I then spent some time polishing off the inaturalist.org "Quekett Spotted Wing Drosophila Survey Experiment", inspired by last Friday's Connecting the Crowd conference.

The most recent terror attacks are still dominating the news, with the focus continuing to shift to consider right wing and anti-Muslim sentiment. I'm somewhat skeptical as politicians had been drifting towards more moderate 'anti-immigration' and 'them and us' rhetoric over the past years. Problems with Brexit for the UK will most likely result in a reversion to foreigner/EU bashing in the press.

The authorities and government finally seem to be getting their act together to help the victims of the Grenfell fire. Sky news reports that the residents had approved a VMZ fire retardant panel cladding for the Grenfell tower renovation a the initial stages of the consulatation. However, a couple of years later the contractors used the more flammable Reynobond PE for the actual work

The DUP is apparently upset by the lack of respect shown by more moderate Tories through their concern/sniping at the NI party's more right wing views on LGBT rights, abortion etcetera. On the one hand it might seem that the deal with the Tories is in doubt, on the other, it is seen as posturing as part of their bargaining process.