Monday, 19 August 2013


Well, here we are again, in the middle of August.   I heard someone on the radio calling the year, the year two thirteen.   Maybe that’s the zeitgeist, but we have been saying the year twenty thirteen for a while.   However, we must move with the times, and what times they are.   I feel like Victor Meldrew in the famous sit-com, “One Foot in the Grave”.   His catchphrase, you’ll remember was  “I don’t believe it!”   This was his well-known response to the happenings of the modern world occurring in his expected quiet retirement.

“I do not believe it” was my response to several pieces of gleaned information from the media recently.   Among these was the story from scientific research about experiments to make beefburgers without beef .   These are too sickening and horrendous to narrate here, enough to say that a “fetal bovine serum” produced from the blood of bovine foetuses is used to grow human stem cells into “burgers”.    And they are talking about in future using human umbilical cord blood plasma in place of the blood from bovine foetuses, OMG!   If you want to be horrified read the Science column by Michael Brooks on page 19 of the New Statesman of 16-22 August, 2013.   Maybe you can get it online.

Another puzzle to me was what is meant by the word “algorithm”.   I have long wondered about this, and now thanks to Wikipedia I have an answer.  It says: “In mathematical computer science, an algorithm is a step-by-step procedure for calculating, data-processing and automatic reasoning.”   I wanted to understand this word due to the fact that much of the amazing activity of stockbrokers and market traders makes use of algorithms in computers.   Some transactions take fractions of a second to perform.    In the crash of 2008 on one day, a total of $900 BILLION was wiped off the US Stock Exchange.    If you have enough money to invest then, even for a penny of difference in commodities’ prices between, say, London and Stockholm, you can buy or sell in under 8 seconds.   The trouble is that there are many other people out there who will jump on your bandwagon, and try to make their own fortunes.   So the bonanza doesn’t last.   It’s called High Frequency Trading and aficionados talk about Market Equity Volatility.   Sad to consider that many of the players have no inkling of what type of goods they are buying and selling, that’s not the game.   Worse than that is to consider that, in future, because of the power of the latest computer algorithms, the computers can do it themselves for you.   It’s another, “Oh My God!” situation.

I will mention only two other disturbing events of the present day.   First the deadly fighting going on in Egypt between the Military Government and the Muslim Brotherhood.   It seems to me like a microcosm of the world situation – the opposing philosophies of the West Christian/Judaeo/Atheist and the followers of Mohammed. The two sides have differing ideas about political systems such as democracy, and about the treatment of women, their dress and their right to good education.  Who can foresee the future of this conflict?  

Secondly, it seems that two allied countries, both members of the European Union should be threatening each other around the Straits of Gibraltar.   At present there is a British warship cruising there .    Each government is standing up for their rights, that is Spain and Britain, to establish to whom belongs the fish in the sea around Gibraltar.   Let’s hope a solution is found soon for the Gibraltarians, and for the Spanish fishermen, and we must not forget the poor tourists held up at the customs post.

What has cheered me up is that the British Film Institute in London is planning to show some of Vivien Leigh’s old films.   Also there is to be an exhibition of her seven and half thousand letters and other things at the Victoria & Albert Museum from 5th - 22nd November.   I first fell in love with Vivien when she appeared in “Gone with the Wind”.    Who can forget the beautiful young actress as Scarlet O’Hara?   They don’t make them like that anymore.   She along with Marilyn Monroe and Lady Diana Spencer are my most notable heroines.

Lastly, I was cheered to read of the Pink Gang of Uttar Pradesh in India.   This almost lawless region is infamous for cruel rapes of women, and these vigilante women have grouped together to defend one another, and to seize their human rights.   They are now 30,000 thousand strong.   Their leader, Sampat Pal Devi, was the first to speak out, and she suggested that her followers should wear pink saris (she bought the material) so that they would be able to recognise each other in the street.   They carry sticks and go after abusers of women and cruel husbands.   The book, “Pink Sari Revolution” by Amana Fontanella was read in an abridged version on BBC Radio 4, and the Indian reader made it sound very amusing.

Finally, this amused me.   It is a quote from Winston Churchill.   On being told that an arrest had been made in Hyde Park involving a semi-naked Member of  Parliament who had been making advances to another in sub-zero temperatures, his reaction was: ‘Naked and below zero!   Makes you proud to be British.’