Thursday, 30 August 2007

Real food

I have picking raspberries every day recently. They have a delicious aroma and tang. Not only that but I have just found out they are a great source of vitamin C, minerals, antioxidants and ellagic acid which research indicates is a powerful anti-cancer agent. The plants are also tough - I have seen them growing wild near a fjord in Norway. They also grow like weeds on my allotment. The autumn-fruiting kinds are productive from now until the frosts. It is well worth while to grow some, if you have room.

Wednesday, 29 August 2007

Musings on litter

As part of my ongoing microcampaign against ugliness I turned the first dogwalk of the day into a litterpicking exercise. Yield from what is normally a 30-minute round trip through Colchester Lower Castle Park, crossing Bull Meadow and back skirting the County cricket ground: three carrierbags full of litter plus three full cans of beer (yes really!) and one soiled blanket.
About 25% of the litter was packaging generated by a single business - MacDonalds - a fact which I have added to my already long list of reasons to detest that company. Disgusting food, exploitation of children and hellish cruelty to newborn chicks are among the others. (MacDonalds are welcome to sue - is this the start of MacLibel The Sequel?) The rest was mostly assorted junk food containers, dirty tissues and lots and lots of beer cans.
Most of the empty beer cans were from Fosters lager, as indeed were the three full cans, which were under a hedge, for reasons that can only be guessed at, but the fact gives rise to certain questions, I feel, about the brain state of customers of that brand.
I have a theory that the ratio of those such as myself who are made grumpy by litter to those who don't care is probably at least three to one, so if the grumpies each picked up a few bits of litter on each outing, the uglification of our public spaces by litter would be brought under control. The place looks a lot better afterwards and it makes a change from ineffectually sighing "O Tempora, O Mores". You do have to abandon pride though.
I do sometimes wonder, assuming there are any archaeologists alive at all in a thousand years' time (a big assumption I know), what they will dig up. Layers and layers of expanded polystyrene burger cartons? I hope not. It doesn't bear thinking about, really.

Monday, 27 August 2007

Ethical investment angst

Took time off from my holiday, during which I am trying to leave my brain idling in neutral, to complete a questionnaire (sent annually, I am told, by an investment manager to a random 3,000 investors in its "Ethical" fund) about my investment priorities. The questions were difficult. For example: is the climate change issue my top priority, or only one of my top three, or not even in the top three? (Answer after much angst but, after recalling all I have seen and read about this, especially Al Gore's film, unhesitatingly: my top priority.) Am I against all investment in the generally carbon-guzzling electricity, mining, oil and gas, and water sectors? (Answer: no, but only because I support investment in renewable technologies and the question lumped renewables and non-renewables together, as I explained in the section for further comments.) How important is avoiding investment in the nuclear power industry? (Answer: of highest importance - no available space to explain why.)
It is all futile of course, since the market machine will pour capital into these sectors anyway, and my small preferences will make no difference. So it goes.

Tuesday, 14 August 2007

My new pets

As part of my ongoing sustainable lifestyle experiment I have made a wormery (using the blueprint in Chris Catton and James Gray's masterwork "The Incredible Heap"). It is a sort of luxury hotel for relatives of earthworms that prefer living in compost heaps. The grand plan is that these intriguing little critters will chew through vegetable waste from the kitchen and turn it into crumbly compost which is excellent for plants, instead of it ending up in landfill. Cost only £4.40, which is not bad.

Monday, 6 August 2007


Today is the 62nd anniversary of the annihilation of of the city of Hiroshima by the first nuclear bomb, which was dropped on the city without warning at 0815 local time on the orders of United States President Truman.

Saturday, 4 August 2007

An efficient market, please

Markets work more efficiently if participants are well informed. If the process for selecting a leader of the Parliamentary Party of the Lib Dems was a market, it was inefficient. The decision-maker was the entire membership, relatively few of whom were personally acquainted with the candidates, let alone had worked with them. Election rules restricted the information flow between candidates and members, notably by preventing candidates from getting members' contact details from HQ. In this information deficit a pre-existing high media profile gave a decisive advantage.
From this perspective it is extremely unhelpful and in the long run unwise to reprimand party activists who are in a position to make useful contributions from personal knowledge if they publicly comment on individual parliamentarians' leadership qualities or performance. After all, if military generals were elected by popular vote - not that far fetched an idea, there has been historical precedent - it would hardly be helpful to have a clampdown on informed discussion of whether they were running the war brilliantly, or on the contrary making a complete hash of it.