2013 — 12 February: Tuesday

Moist, but not actually raining at the moment, the moment being shortly after 09:15 — as I was obviously rather more tired than I realised last night. No matter... I'm on fresh crockpot-stuffing duty this morning, followed by... whatever1 comes after that. And preceded (naturally) by a nice hot cuppa.

I fear I missed...

... Polly Toynbee's comprehensive demolition job yesterday on the "funding care for the elderly" smoke and mirrors proposals that what she calls our "omnishambolic" guvmint was busily touting. But since I'd reached the same conclusions anyway, it matters not. Typical fragment:

Look how the Daily Mail describes this small freeze in inheritance tax thresholds: "Thousands more middle-class families every year will be dragged into paying the 40% tax." Why do they call the top 3% "middle class"? That's the trick Conservatives play, deliberately conflating the interests of the very few with the interests of the genuine "middle". What is "middle"? A mere 13% earn enough to reach the 40% tax band starting at £35,000, let alone pay any inheritance tax. Yet every average home owner (price £250,000) is falsely stirred up to fear inheritance tax so that they will support the rich in their neverending fight to avoid it. This paltry2 tax only brings in £3.1bn a year.

Britain is a country profoundly ignorant about the distribution of its wealth, the electorate suffering under a conspiracy to deceive them. The persistent misrepresentation of the true "middle" leaves most voters clueless as to where they stand on the spectrum of incomes. Even the poor imagine they are much nearer the middle than they are, as the rich pretend to themselves that they are only middling.

Polly Toynbee in Grauniad

Well, I know exactly where I "stand" on her spectrum. But, operating as I do on strictly Wilkins Micawber principles, as long as I have that all-important sixpence per year in excess of my annual expenditure of £20 then as they say "what the hell do I care?"

She's coined a new epigram, too:

The wealthy who do pay are either ignorant or else they are scrupulous
citizens who know that tax is the price we pay for civilisation —
and when better to pay than when you're dead?

Crockpot nicely-stuffed, and...

... set to "stun", it turns out that what actually came next (even before the late-lemonses cuppa) was this well-written piece of thinking. Source and snippet:

[Nagel] revives the concept of teleology on the basis of his conviction that the mind-body problem has more serious ramifications for evolutionary science than is ordinarily accepted. How does the electrochemical activity of neurons in the human brain produce subjective, first-person experience? Nobody knows. Nagel says that the appearance of conscious beings such as us can be described as the universe waking up. Yet to him it seems unlikely that life would ever have got started in the first place, somehow springing forth from 'dead matter'; still more unlikely that some forms of life would have developed consciousness; and extremely improbable that one form3 of life would have acquired the 'transcendent' power of reason.

Steven Poole in Aeon magazine

Comforting though it undeniably is to think that life must surely have a purpose, I'm afraid I'm with Richard Feynman when he said that he didn't even know if the question "What is the purpose of Life?" had any meaning. Let alone the slightest idea of how to set about answering it in any 'testable' way. Just go with the flow, and hang on for the fun bits. Funnily enough, the second of last night's films (or, at least, the bits in it that featured the M.I.T. robotics researcher) did some gentle dancing around the fringes of this topic, particularly on the occasions when he expressed himself surprised at some of the things his robotic pets did.

I don't know...

... why I ever set off expecting to find a bargain in "PC World". Or, indeed, almost anything. Safely back from the End of the Hedge, with credit card unscathed. Now I suppose I'd better get some lunch inside me before the crockpot bubbleth over, I guess.

Having just spotted a tiny flurry of snow I checked the porch thermometer. +2C. I can really do without foul weather just now as I'm on taxi-to-hospital duty early tomorrow. Thank you, Universe.

I suppose 15 minutes...

... to download and install 95MB of security patches and fixes isn't too bad. I notice there have now been two Flash-related security patches to IE 10 just four days apart. The first one sneaked on very quietly but then, since I have no need to run IE 10, I pay it little attention. It's a perfectly fine browser — I've just become used to Firefox. Right! Time to break the seal on tonight's crockpot of wonderment and fill my boots (as it were). 'Scuse I, as Bazza McKenzie used to say...


Refreshing the MP3 files on my NAS device now that I've finished cleaning up all the meta-tags is a mighty tedious affair at 15 MB/sec or so. Still, it doesn't stop me doing other things. [Pause] That will do for tonight: letters A to E, 79.1GB or 13,230 tracks. I'm off in search of the lost sleep. G'night.



1  There may even be a tad of breakfast somewhere along the line.
2  Good God! They're taxing chickens now? Next thing you know, it will be horsemeat.
3  I assume he's thinking of dolphins. Or HAL9000 :-)