Thursday, 11 June 2020

Coronavirus Trump

Trump initially dismissed the coronavirus problem as a little flu that would quickly blow over. Then it was something that he had full control of. Then it was something created by China. Then it was something that would be cleared up by a miracle. Then he started listening to the experts. Then he forwarded his own ideas on how to cure an infection (swallow disinfectant!). Then he stopped listening to the experts.

He still doesn't listen to them.

He messed up everything from ensuring sufficient protective clothing, ensuring sufficient testing, setting up emergency hospitals… the man even failed to present an example of responsible action during his few public appearances during the past several months. 

Because of his ineptitude, 113,000 Americans (and counting) have died up to the time of this post.

Now Trump wants the USA to return to full normality.

According to the experts (yes, he's still ignoring them), this will mean that at least 100,000 more Americans will die as a resutl of the coronavirus by September.

Now, listen carefully, Donald. Here's a bit of arithmetic:

113,000 + 100,000 =213,000

Got it?

That's more than TWO HUNDRED THOUSAND deaths that you would have on your conscience, were you to possess such a thing.

Some weeks ago, I wrote a little song documenting Trump's pathetic response to the crisis. Don't expect greatness—it's the first song I've ever written. Anyway, it's called The Coronavirus Boogie:

[C]You know I just can't sing
I must have that thing 
That they [G7]call the coronavirus [C]boogie 


[C]I've an ache in my head
I should stay in bed 
This could [G7]be the coronavirus [C]boogie 


[C7]I went to visit President Trump
[F]To ask him what to do
[Dm]He told me not to [D7]worry, son,
You've [G7]only got the flu![G7]

[C]My temperture's high
Right up to the sky
Must [G7]have the coronavirus [C]boogie 


[C]Well I'm feeling bad 
And it's kind of sad
Sure to be [G7]the coronavirus [C]boogie 


[C7]I went to visit President Trump
[F]To ask him what to do
[Dm]He told me not to [D7]worry, son,
We've got [G7]disinfectant for you![G7]

[C]My throat is all sore

I can't swallow no more
I don't [G7]dig the coronavirus [C]boogie 


[C]Now I've started to cough
Think I'll order a coffin—
You can [G7]dance the coronavirus [C]boogie


[C7]So don't you visit President Trump
[F]To ask him what to do
[Dm]He'll only tell you [D7]loads of lies,
And that'[G7]ll be the end of you! [G7]


(If you're wondering about a tune, I've put a short version of the song on YouTube: you can find it here.)

The illustration at the beginning of this post shows a mural showing President Donald Trump morphing into a COVID-19 virus. It appeared in Balmy Alley, San Francisco, in early March.

Monday, 1 June 2020

Dangerous Trump

It is difficult to decide which of the two figures is worse.

More than 100,000 dead through the coronavirus.

One man killed by four policemen.

Both figures originate, of course, from the United States of America.

Both figures are a direct result of Donald Trump's signal failure to act as a President.

Trump has demonstrated little but megalomania, xenophobia, misogynism, antipathy, crudity, vulgarity… during his time as President of the USA. (Anyone who thought that these typical pre-president-Trump characteristics would be better controlled when he became President must feel greatly disillusioned.)

Trump has made the USA a pariah in the world.

Trump blames everyone but himself for what is happening in the USA.

The truth is, the 100,000 deaths and the death of George Floyd are direct results of Trump's bumbling non-leadership.

Trump chooses not to listen to the many experts that surround him and provide him with the information he requires to make fact-based decisions. Instead, he blabbers out his own crazy theories: the coronavirus is no more than a flu; the coronavirus problem will be cleared up by a miracle; drink disinfectant to clear the coronavirus from your insides; it's all the fault of the WHO; it's all the fault of the Chinese; it's all the fault (as is everything else) of Obama.

No, Trump, it's all your fault, with your childish, petulant Tweets, which are little more than veiled attempts to divert attention from your own errors and to target minority groups, women, foreigners, and anyone who disagrees with you.

You are supposed to be a President. You are supposed to be the President for all Americans. You are supposed to lead by example. Instead, you strut around without a mask, you go to Florida to visit a rocket launch, you use demeaning language to describe protesters against the killing of George Floyd, yet you use praise in Tweets regarding ultra right-wing protestors and those calling for the relaxation of lockdown rules.

Indeed, Trump's failure to denounce white supremacists in the USA has now led to the killing in broad daylight, in full public view, of an African American, who pleaded for his life, whilst offering no resistance. This was not just a killing, rather it was a lynching by no less than four police officers.

Trump's rise to power and his misuse of power remind me frighteningly of Hitler's rise. Hitler had the crazy idea that the Arian race was in some way superior to others. He gradually built up hatred of other races, especially the Jews, amongst his followers. He banned books and other publications that spoke against his own ideas, he surrounded himself with yes-men whose only interest was self-aggrandisement… And now we see Trump attempting to manipulate the press, belittling certain reporters, especially female ones, especially non-white ones; we see him surrounding himself with his own yes-men and one by one removing those that dare to contradict him or speak against him.

America, do you not see what this fool is doing to your country?

Tuesday, 24 March 2020

15561: mean anything?

Elvis Presley during 68 TV Special

Mean anything to you?

Actually, it's 15561 days.

Where were you 15561 days ago?

Well, if you're more than about 45 years old, you probably know, without actually being aware of it.

Elvis Presley died on 16 August, 1977 and that just happens to be 15561 days ago today, 24 March, 2020.

So what?

You might well ask. Indeed, yesterday he died 15560 days ago and tomorrow it will be 15562. What's so special?

Well, Elvis was born on 5 January, 1935.

He lived 15561 days.

Today, 24 March, 2020, Elvis has been dead for just as long as he lived.

Hard to believe, isn't it?

Monday, 29 October 2018

Little Brexit

Much of the Brexit debate in the media is concerned with future relationships between the UK and the EU—the Norwegian model, the Canadian solution, and so on. The complete absence of any agreement between the UK and the EU equally presents much material for commentators. But the impact of these theoretical concepts on everyday life remains vague to the ordinary public, those most affected by the nonsense that is Brexit.

In an attempt to demonstrate the impact on the ordinary UK citizen and their day-to-day activities, Richard Corbett, an MEP, has created an ongoing blog post that contains a Long List of Little Things. And Little Things really do mean a lot: the practical problems thrown up by Brexit that will affect the lives of UK citizens in the following areas:

  • Health
  • Holidays and Travel
  • International Haulage
  • Agriculture and Food
  • Entertainment
  • Sport
  • Education
  • Technology
  • Miscellaneous Little Things
  • Many things that already cost more
As one commenter wrote, "Overwhelming. Depressing. The detailed small print doesn’t fit on the side of a big red bus so no one hears it."

Really, it is time for the ordinary folk to stand up against this Brexit foolishness. It's like a mass suicide, a sort of Jonestown on a national scale. For heaven's sake stop it before it is too late!

The link again, should you have missed it above: Long List of Little Things.

Thursday, 18 October 2018

Spanish bankers

Spanish bank Bankia logoThe Spanish bank world is one full of mysteries. The nicest thing that can be said about Spanish banks is that they do not function in the same ways as banks in countries to the north of the Pyrenees.

I have an account with Bankia.

I did not ask for an account with Bankia.

I used to have an account with Caja Murcia. That was taken over in a more or less orderly fashion by Banco Mare Nostrum.

The one day I went to the bank and it had turned into Bankia. No warning had been given. No information as to why or when the change would take place. No option.

The thing is, nothing worked. I was unable to pay for thing with my debit card and the bank itself was absolutely full of other customers in similar situations. There was no organisation of customers into queues, no attempt to provide extra staff, and the manager stayed carefully in her office behind closed doors.

How long would the problem last? No idea! What can be done in the meantime? Get money out and pay in the old fashioned way. Can you give me money? No, that's a different desk…

The problem lasted more than three weeks. The bank remained crowded with unhappy customers.

Now the Bankia website. It's okay. Nothing to write home about, but for checking your balance, fine. Try to add a fiscal residence (a legal obligation), however, and things go terribly wrong.

I speak and read Spanish and have always used the site in its Spanish form. I have never been able to add a fiscal residence.

I have spent far too much time on the phone from Belgium talking to Bankia customer support in Madrid trying to add a fiscal residence. All to no avail. I was pointed to Madrid from my branch office. Madrid finally said to ask my branch office.

No matter what I try, I am told:

  • We have not been able to complete the operation
  • Es obligatorio dar de alta el pais de res. de datos basicos

See the two languages?

That's because I had first tried in the normal Spanish version of the site and kept getting the error (the fully in Spanish). I thought that I was having trouble understanding, so tried the English version of the site. I should have known things weren't going to be any better when, at the start of the procedure, I received this piece of mumbo-jumbo:

You do not have declared no fiscal residence country.
For tax legislation, is necessary that provide fiscal residence your details, although you have as only residence country district attorney Spain. You can add up to a maximum of 5 fiscal residence.
From 01/01/2016, to comply with the standard CRS related to the automatic exchange of information in applicable fiscal matter to Spain, you must provide your/s residence/s district attorney/is via the signature of this Autostatement CRS of way fiscal residence compulsory, although you have as only residence country district attorney Spain. To obtain more information can consult the R.D. 1021/2015 of on 13 November 2015.

Pardon? Really, you'd think that an organisation such as Bankia could get someone to do at least a half-decent translation: this looks like a quick run through Google Translate.

Still, I carried on and ended up with the same error, only now half in one language and half in another.

I have searched and searched, but am unable to find anything about datos basicos (basic information). There's a section on personal information, but there my country of residence is already indicated as Belgium. I have emailed my Bankia branch on several occasions, receiving either no reply or no help at all. Their latest solution is for me to visit the branch when I am next in Spain.

If I had any faith in Spanish banks, I would try elsewhere, but experiences with others do not stimulate confidence. Can anyone suggest a bank that works well and does not require a mobile phone?

And have you been able to declare your fiscal residence online with Bankia?

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Optikit No.1

I was walking with my mother in Woolwich one dark afternoon, when we passed a large store in Powis Street. In the window was a display for a new toy called Optikit. It looked fascinating, promising that all sorts of optical instruments and experiments could be made and carried out with this new "construction kit."

Yes, I'm talking about a long time ago. Perhaps approaching Christmas 1960 or even 1959. Whichever Christmas it was, I soon became the more than proud owner of an Optikit No.1.

It was everything that it had promised to be: its instruction manual provided excellent guides on how to construct, amongst other optical instruments, a microscope, a telescope, a sextant, and its experiments provided a good grounding in basic optics for someone just starting grammar school.

Index page of Instruction Manual

The kit itself included metal sections that, when cunningly connected together, provided surprisingly robust frameworks for the various instruments, lenses of various strengths, lens holders, and other items required for either construction or experimentation. The quality was really quite exceptional: I played with the Optikit a great deal and it still looks good, as these photos show.

And to give some idea of the sort of instrument that could be built with this fascinaiong "toy", here's an illustration from the Instruction Manual showing a cross-section of the projection microscope—Lego and Meccano eat your hearts out!

So what became of Optikit? I have no idea. I only know that there was an Optikit No.0, which, presumably, was the first and less ambitious version of the set, but I know nothing about still more advanced sets—was there ever an Optikit No.2? Optikit was made by the Helio Mirror Company, of Belvedere, Kent. Helio was a defence manufacturing company, making periscopes, which was taken over in 1970 by USI (United Scientific Instruments).

I have checked with Google Maps and the store from which the Optikit was bought is no longer in Powis Street. The building is there, but it seems to have been divided between several new owners (one of the storefronts reads Travelodge). Mind you, looking around Woolwich with street view shows a vastly different town to the one I knew as a boy almost sixty years ago: the Gaumont cinema building is still there, but its function has changed (Gateway House is shown in large letters over the doors of the main entrance) and on opposite is the building that once housed another cinema, the Granada: that, heaven help us all, now seems to be some sort of evangelical church, the Christ Faith Tabernacle. What is the world coming to?

Saturday, 1 July 2017

Wafels van Moniek

On a recent visit to Belgium, I bought a wafel iron (also called, I believe, a waffle iron).

Having lived in Belgium from 1971 to 2006, I am partial to most things Belgian, such as my wife, chocolates, fine patisserie, chips, and wafels (amongst other things). I also enjoy baking, so the purchase of a wafel iron (wafelijzer) was hardly a great step for mankind.

Mind you, finding just the right wafel iron proved to be harder than I had imagined.

When we got married, we were given a wafel iron as a wedding-present, and in those days you had a choice of a Nova or a… well, there really wasn't anything else, at least not in the electrical ones. You could, of course, have the non-electrical ones, but then you also needed a Leuvense stoof with a special wafel-iron-holding lid, so that sort were rapidly becoming nothing more than quaint decorative items (heck we threw out several that we had managed to collect, but which were useless without that Leuvense stoof). Nowadays, however, the choice of electric wafel irons is overwhelming. Well, it's overwhelming in Belgium; here in Spain, we had the choice of a single model, which made only small wafels, with fixed plates and which was not reversible. In Belgium we must have had a couple of hundred candidates: removable plates, non-removable plates; duplicate as a croque monsieur machine; different patterns for the plates; different wattages; reversible or non-reversible; plastic covered or full metal; thermostatically controlled or fixed temperature…

In the end I plonked for a FriFri Wafelijzer WA106A 4x7, which seemed likely to produce a sort of happy-medium waffle of both the Brusselse and the Luikse variety and would allow me to install different shaped plates later on, should the urge arise. Strangely, it closely resembles the Nova we received 46 years ago as a wedding present. Good designs don't disappear…

I prepared the first wafels following a recipe from Laura Vitale. I had already tried this recipe with the Spanish wafel iron and wafels they are, and quite pleasant, too, but Belgian wafels…? No, nothing like either Brusselse or Luikse. They did, however, prove that the new iron worked, and worked well. The mission now, then, was to locate a decent recipe for real Belgian wafels of either the Brusselse or the Luikse variety.

Fortunately, when chatting to a neighbour in Belgium, Moniek, I mentioned the new wafel iron and asked if she knew any decent recipes. Moniek assured me that she had an excellent recipe for Brusselse wafels and that she would email it to me. This she did and, upon arriving back in Spain it was not long before Moniek's recipe was put to the test. I prepared just a half of the amount, and just as well! That was sufficient for no less than 17 wafels and they were as close to the genuine as-sold-in-the-Belgian-patisserie wafels as you can get with a non-professional iron. Of course, we could not eat anywhere near all of them at one sitting, so many were kept for the next day, and the next… Easy to store and re-heated in the wafel iron or toaster they are as good as or even better than freshly baked.

In case you don't know, wafels are eaten covered in butter and brown sugar, or with cream and fruit, or with chocolate sauce and… well, whatever.

Bedankt, Moniek!

Here's Moniek's recipe (I have halved her original quantities):

  • 500g self-raising flour
  • 0.5 litre sparkling water
  • 125ml milk
  • 2 eggs
  • 50g brown sugar
  • 2 packets vanilla sugar
  • 250ml corn oil or groundnut oil (I used sunflower oil)
  • pinch of salt (I did not use any)

Mix the beaten eggs with the flour, sugar, salt, and oil. Gradually add the milk and sparkling water. This results in a liquid dough that can be used immediately.

Now I have to find a really good recipe for Luikse wafels. Anyone?