Glorious invention

Perhaps the most pointless, and most successful, of Poynter’s products was “the little black box”. There were various iterations, but essentially the user activates it by flipping a switch. A small hand then emerges to pull the switch back. That was all: the toy existed solely to turn itself off.

Just a little story

Attempts to store the last Soviet space shuttle in a Russian museum have caused an international row.

The Buran, or Snowstorm, was a response to the American shuttle programme but was shelved after a single unmanned test flight in 1988.

The Americans used aluminium lithium (sorry, aluminum lithium) alloys in the Shuttle. Indeed, much of the development of those alloys stemmed from that program.

As I understand it – I am no engineer – this is about grain refinement. Other alloys use zirconium to do this – again, as I understand it, trying to get the atoms into a more ordered state, even if not into a crystal type order which gains strength etc – and the Al Li use both Li and Zr.


The Russians, facing the same technical problems, went after Al scandium alloys. Or, in fact, Al Zr Sc ones. This being better from the engineering point of view. Also a disaster from the cost one. Sc was an interesting and trivially important rare earth. No one used it for nowt. So, the entire supply chain had to be built for the one shuttle program.

This is the result of the Soviet misconception of economics. They assumed that since all value was created by labour then if people were set to labour then value was being created. They really did think this way too. Factories would be set up 2,000 km away from each other, one supplying parts to the other. Since people had to labour to transport components then value was being created, right?

So, uranium being extracted by the Caspian had some Sc in it (not unusual), a plant was built to extract it, 20 tonnes of Sc2O3 a year could be produced.

At market prices today the Li is maybe $20 a lb (as metal, what is used to make Al Li) and the Sc $1500 (metal content of oxide, what is used to make Al Sc) and there are a few applications where Sc is worth that cost. Building space shuttles ain’t one of ’em. The bits that went wrong on the US one weren’t about these alloys – not at all in fact. It was the bits that didn’t use them that did go wrong. To the point that I’ve had discussions with NASA about the next generation – the one that came to a screeching halt when the second bang happened. Seriously, on the Friday they were telling me they’d have a purchase order on the Monday for some test material, on Sunday the bang, program cancelled – about those tiles being made of these sorts of alloys instead.

As and when Berlin Wall etc this left the Soviets well ahead in the supply and understanding of Sc. Thus the lighting industry buying from there, Elon Musk asking me about Sc in Al (still the only email I’ve ever had from him) and Airbus building a wing out of Russian material and so on and on.

The world’s Sc industry was Russian because of this Buran shuttle. Fun, eh?

Dear God Almighty, are these people insane?

HS2 has lost vast amounts of a potentially highly polluting substance in an aquifer during the construction of the high-speed rail link, it has emerged.

Environmental campaigners have raised concerns about the impact of this on the water supply.

The company lost 1,600 cubic metres of clay slurry known as bentonite, which is used in construction work, in the last few months of last year.

A Network Rail environmental guide to bentonite says that as a liquid it is highly polluting. “If it enters watercourses or drains it can cause damage to plants and animals,” the guidance says.

HS2’s development partner Align has produced a report analysing the impact of this loss on the aquifer on the site where works are being carried out, north of Chalfont St Peter in Buckinghamshire.

The lost bentonite is thought to be sitting in the fractures and fissures around the sides of the aquifer.

It’s clay for fuck’s sake. You know, clay, weathered rock, entirely and wholly natural stuff that abounds in the environment.

One type is oft known as Fuller’s Earth and used in finishing cloth. The other is used in drilling muds – or, perhaps, as the sealant layer on the bottom of landfill. That is, when we do bother to dig it up we use it to be stuck down in the ground again because that’s what it’s useful for.

The effect upon an aquifer will be to seal the edges of it.

“We went digging, found some clay” is the latest thing the enviros are screaming about?

Clearly I’m behind the curve here

So, a mobile phone, battery won’t hold a charge. So, this happens to Li batteries.

It’s a Vodafone own brand one.

Go to Voda to ask how much is a new battery and am told that just isn’t done. Now, I knew Apple glued batteries into some stuff. But didn’t realise it was industry wide.

Is there a battery replacement market? Or is it upgrade to a new phone with more memory etcetc because when the battery fails it’s about time to do that anyway?

Jeez, what is the damn complaint here?

Pfizer has been accused of holding Brazil “to ransom” over demands to shield itself from possible vaccine side-effect lawsuits in its contract to supply the country with 100m Covid jabs.

In its $1bn (£700m) deal with Pfizer Export BV, signed in March, despite its prior complaints, the Brazilian government agreed that “a liability waiver be signed for any possible side-effects of the vaccine, exempting Pfizer from any civil liability for serious side-effects arising from the use of the vaccine, indefinitely”.

Indemnity from compensation claims has been common in contracts between many countries and big pharma companies since the late 1980s.

It’s been standard in vaccine contracts because we know that vaccines will kill some people. Doing anything to the entire population simply will kill some people. Ask the entire population to walk up the stairs and some will die.

We also have state, government, compensation schemes. Because we know vaccines will kill some people. But the public good is such that we’ll all chip in to pay the compo to those who do.

This is nowt to do with ‘rona, it’s just the basics of the whole damn field.

Echoing AstraZeneca’s acrimonious row with the EU, the Brazilian government had previously complained about Pfizer’s stipulation “that if there is a delay in delivery, there is no penalty”. But it agreed in the contract that while Pfizer would “use commercially reasonable efforts to meet the delivery schedule” it would ultimately, “under no circumstances be subject to or liable for any late delivery penalties”.

“All efforts” and “all reasonable efforts”, entirely standard commercial contract language. What in buggery is it that these people are whining about?

All efforts means we sell the CEOs teenage daughter if that’s what it takes to get the vaccines delivered on time. Reasonable means we limit ourselves to what we’d expect a reasonable business to do in order to meet timescales. Like deprive the teenage daughter’s father of his job perhaps, but nor her of her freedom.

Come on people this is just longstanding and well understood commercial law.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported in February that Pfizer had demanded Brazil and Argentina put up sovereign assets as collateral to guarantee indemnity, as well as create a guarantee fund with money deposited in a foreign bank account.

We should probably read that as “you do actually have a real vaccine compensation fund, don’t you?”

Ah, this explains it:

Alena Ivanova, campaigns officer at Global Justice Now, said: “Pfizer is all too happy to cash in on publicly funded coronavirus vaccines, but doesn’t want to take on any of the risk. It’s an all too familiar move from pharmaceutical companies that seem more interested in protecting their profits than protecting the public.

“We can’t keep putting our faith in private companies to provide lifesaving medicines, only to see them hold countries to ransom.”

These cunts are at the root of it. Any stupid argument is acceptable as long as it leads to the overthrow of capitalism.

This isn’t how it works, Matey

Customers will permanently face less choice in British restaurants and supermarkets because of a crippling shortage in lorry drivers which has hammered companies across Europe, the boss of the country’s biggest food trade body has warned.

Ian Wright, head of the Food and Drink Federation, said that a combination of the pandemic and post-Brexit disruption means that consumers must get used to the end of an era when “just about every product they want” was easily available.

Mr Wright said: “That’s over. And I don’t think it’s coming back.”

Do consumers desire such choice? Are hey willing to pay for it – the true definition of really desire? Then prices will adjust so that lorry driver wages rise to where there are sufficient lorry drivers to produce that variety.

Further, if prices don’t so adjust then this is proof that consumers don’t in fact want that choice.

That is, it’s not that consumers will have to get used to not getting what they want. The entire joy of a market economy is that consumers get what they really do want, the definition of really do being are willing to pay for.

Erm, this is known already

The obliging couples were trained with a device to measure their nasal airflow before sex, immediately after sexual climax and at regular time points thereafter. According to the team’s report, sex was as effective at clearing blocked noses, for an hour at least, as commercial decongestants, though Bulut concedes he did not get firm data from everyone. “I think some people couldn’t focus on the device,” he said. How sex might unblock the nose is not entirely clear, but Bulut sees a number of factors in play. “I think it’s a mixture of excitement, physical exercise, and hormonal changes that come with orgasm,” he said.

The tissue inside the sinus (sinii?) is erectile, not that that’s the right word. But blood supply to it increases with sexual excitement and it thus expands, as with willy and wimmins bits. Which acts as a decongestant.

Which is why, when caring for the ill a bed partner, there’s a task before the making a sammich bit.

Work, Peasants!

Isn’t this a convenient finding?

Everything, it is said, is good in moderation, and a new study has found that the adage is seemingly true for how much “me” time we give ourselves.

Analysis of lifestyle patterns of more than 21,000 Americans found that having more free time is linked to increased feelings of wellbeing – but only up to a point. In fact, when a person exceeds more than five hours of free time a day, their state of mind declines.

Dr Marissa Sharif, the study’s lead author, of the University of Pennsylvania, said: “People often complain about being too busy and express wanting more time. But is more time actually linked to greater happiness?

“We found that having a dearth of discretionary hours in one’s day results in greater stress and lower subjective wellbeing.

“However, while too little time is bad, having more time is not always better.”

You should be – for your mental health! – working for The Man. And that retirement idea? Right out of it.

The Greens have a plan for this of course. You’ll recycle and dig veggies for the sake of your mental health of course.

Frexit on the cards

Not that it’ll happen, this is posturing:

Michel Barnier said that France had to regain the sovereignty it has lost to European courts on Thursday and called for a referendum on a ban on non-EU immigration.

He seems to miss the point of that EU thing in the first place.

The former Brexit negotiator and EU commissioner was accused of hypocrisy because his comments appeared to contradict many of the positions he took when he was helming talks with the UK.

Of course he’s a hypocrite. He’s a politician. He’s also French which is sufficient.

But wouldn’t it be fun if France did leave?

A thought on this men and women are the same idea

Tennis. Not that I know much about the game. And three are confounders to this idea – the Williams, Boris winning Wimbledon etc.

So this is a question, not a statement. Do female tennis players peak at younger ages than male? From my very limited knowledge we seem to get teenagers winning in the female section in a manner that we just don’t – regularly – in hte male.

Is this, maybe, something to do with earlier maturity? Men aren’t, usually, at their physically strongest until early 20s at earliest.

Anyone actually know on this?


The comment is, of course, misleading. There is no chance of the US running out of cash, or defaulting, unless that is what the Republicans choose that it should. The US can in reality create as much money as it wants, subject (if it is prudent) to inflation constraints and, of course, politics.

The Republicans could try to crash the dollar. But let’s be quite clear, that is not necessary. And the impression given that the US is running out of money is false. It can’t do that unless some deeply misguided politicians choose otherwise.

Sigh, if only he knew anything.

The US has a legal debt limit. Congress has passed a law – you know, democracy and all that – which says that the national debt can only become “yea big”.

Every few years they realise how much this is constraining their spendthrift ways and vote again to make the new debt limit “yea plus big”.

The Federal Reserve does not print dollars and send them to Treasury. Instead, financing is done by the Fed buying Treasury bonds (bills, notes) meaning that the debt size is, given the debt cap, a constraint of the number of dollars available to the government.

Congress has, in the past, refused to raise the debt cap. And government has started to close down for lack of money. They do, generally, quickly then raise the debt cap.

The US is one of those places where the national government can actually run out of its own cash.


Why not build expensive stuff on expensive land, collect all the vast piles of moolah and build low value housing on low value land? You’ll be able to build more low value housing that way….

How Soviet

This brings back memories:

The accounting and consulting firm KPMG has become the first big business in Britain to set a target for the number of working-class staff.

It is aiming for 29 per cent of its partners and directors to come from the social group by 2030. It defined working class as having parents with “routine and manual” jobs, such as plumbers, electricians, butchers and van drivers.

Folks should be drawn from the socially responsible classes……

Advertising system does what advertising system is supposed to do – people are outraged!

It takes a little time to work out what is happening here:

Facebook has been accused of breaching equality laws after its technology was found to favour men when targeting job adverts for male-dominated roles such as mechanics and pilots.

The campaign group Global Witness has filed complaints with the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) and Information Commissioner, claiming a Facebook algorithm designed to show jobs to the most interested candidates is discriminatory.

In one case, 96pc of those who viewed an advert for a mechanic were men, while 95pc of those who saw a nursery nurse posting were women. Adverts for pilot positions were disproportionately seen by men, while those for psychologists were far more likely to be seen by women.

Facebook has now said that it is preparing to update its job advert system within weeks. Global Witness alleges that the company may have breached laws preventing discrimination against women in the workplace.

In the Global Witness tests, the advertiser had not specified that job adverts should be directed at a particular gender. The targeting was instead the results of a Facebook algorithm that aims to push adverts into the feeds of users likely to be most receptive.

So, Global Witness mocks up some ads which look for psychologists, pilots and so on. Mechanics and pilots are largely male dominated fields of work, psychology female. OK.

So the ad placing mechanism shows more of the mechanic and pilot ads to men, more of the psychology to women. That’s what you want the ad placing mechanism to do, that’s the whole point of the idea in the first place. Advertise to the people likely to be interested thereby lowering the cost of the advertising. You don’t advertise tampons on porn sites and you do advertise fast food delivery around dinner time. That’s just the way it all works.

At which point Global Witness (BTW, a charity supposedly dedicated to ending third world poverty, presumably they’re changing tack now that third world poverty is being dealt with by the capitalism they despise) gets outraged.

Their demand is that advertising must be directed at people who have no interest in the thing being advertised. Ho Hum.

Edmund Burke comes back into fashion

Slung Low’s food bank was, like its theatre performances, a large-scale production. But it was by no means the only initiative of its kind to emerge during the pandemic. Over the past 18 months, 4,000 mutual aid groups formed across the country, staffed by millions of volunteers, who patched together safety nets for those in need. Whether delivering food, helping elderly people or supporting those with deteriorating mental health, many mutual aiders fast realised that help is a two-way street. For some, it provided an immediate way to practise political values. Other volunteers I spoke with said it offered them meaning and purpose in a way that actual, paid work did not.

Could this flourishing of mutual aid and volunteering have a sustainable effect on the way we do politics, or will it simply evaporate as the pandemic recedes from view? Regular contact with Holbeck’s community, many of whom live in deprivation, has been an altering experience for Slung Low volunteers, one they can neither forget nor untie themselves from. Food banking is an exchange of much more than groceries: care, connection and trust passes between people, too. “We are part of the community and beholden to each other now,” Alan Lane, the theatre’s artistic director, told me when I visited the food bank in June.

The only pity here is that The Guardian doesn’t realise it’s echoing Burke and all that stuff about the little platoons. They’re just too ignorant to see the connection.

Well, yes, could be right here

the one unexpected element, which was an increase in the dividend tax rate by 1.25%.

Dealing with the latter first, this should be seen for what it is. It is a sop to criticism. It supposedly addresses the issue of national insurance avoidance by those who pay themselves using dividends from limited companies. I have no particular problem with tackling that issue, but there is a flaw. The implication is that genuine investment income – the dividends received in ISAs and by savings institutions, interest and rents – should all remain exempt from this charge. Implicit in this move was another attack on working people as a consequence, with the very obvious intention being that genuine wealth should be untouched by the demand that it contribute to society. The bias could not be clearer.

Genuine wealth contributing to society by being, umm, invested in it perhaps? That capital stock does have to come from somewhere, after all. Whatever is to be said about MMT and money printing it’s still true that for there to be a capital stock someone, somewhere, has had to delay their consumption….