7 O’clock News

I’m sorry this is a bit of a rant and probably a pretty crappy poem, but I just watched one of our our news shows and am now thoroughly pissed off.

I didn’t even include the scenes of Boris Johnson trying to unilaterally change the Brexit terms. And he’s vehemently saying he is “clarifying” it, and nobody believes him.

To cap it all, there are COVID cases in my village, after having been clear for about three months. Daily numbers in the UK were down today, but everybody is saying this is due to waiting for test results, because test facilities are overwhelmed.

I spoke to my clients all through isolation,
Don’t watch too much news during incarceration,
All through Lockdown, myself unaffected,
Nary a hint of depression detected.

Tonight, however, a different story,
The News comes on in all its glory,
My mood began to drop, descend,
The News was bad from start to end.

The main presenter out on site,
To highlight lots of species’ plight,
So many of them in freefall,
Their chances of survival small.

Some Greenland glacier broke away,
42 square miles, I heard them say,
No prizes for guessing what’s in store,
As it raises the sea level a little more.

Of course, the fires in the States,
Intense against the Golden Gate,
Footage of houses burned to ash,
and burned out cars, no time to dash.

In Portland, Oregon, the quality of air,
The worst in the world, say Channel Four,
Then footage from Aus of the bushfire strife,
With a singed Koala crying for life.

If I had any good humour left, it would be shred,
There’s trouble with Greece and Turkey, in the Med.
Two NATO allies squaring up,
Or is this a storm in the famous teacup?

The news tonight was pretty rough,
I’ve had my fill, I’ve seen enough,
Enough of this gone in my head,
Turn off the TV and go to bed.

Fandango’s One Word Challenge (14 September 2020)


Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I’m not sure about the former.

Albert Einstein

for Fandango’s One Word Challenge (FOWC), only.

Blogging Insights #46 (14 September 2020)

This prompt is the brainchild of Dr Tanya over at Salted Caramel. I’ve recently started following Tanya and her questions are really good. This week, she asks:

Do you think that comments add value to a blog post? If so, how?

Before I delve into this question, can I share how I “read” a post?

I usually see a post in my Notifications panel. Most posts have a title. If so, I can open the post in it’s proper site. My browser then has a little button which loads the post into a “reader” (different to WordPress’s Reader). From there, I can usually listen to the post. Given the state of my eyes, it is far easier for me to listen to a post than to read it. Now, I can read the post if I have to, but it is easier to listen to it.

If a post doesn’t have a title, by the way, I can’t do any of this. I skip the post. I know that somebody probably just spent an hour writing it, but what can I do?

The point is that my browser will detect the post, but not any associated comments. So, if I want to digest these, I have no option but to use my eyes.

Now, I will do this, because like Tanya, I think interaction lies at the heart of this site. But certainly, the shorter the comments are, the easier on my eyes.

Okay, so having said that, let’s answer the question. Which was:

Do you think that comments add value to a blog post? If so, how?

Yes, they are immensely important. Because they provide that interaction. In fact, I would go so far as to say that they are the only thing of importance. To reduce the number of notifications, wp-admin allows us to turn off notifications when somebody follows us, or likes a post.

Don’t get me wrong. I want people to like my posts, but that is a one-way communication – there is nothing I can do in response. So, there is not much point in my knowing about them. Same with followers. I tend to follow the blogs I find interesting rather than engaging in a mutual admiration exercise, although as it happens, there is a lot of overlap. But the point is, likes and follows are one-way.

But if somebody wishes to leave a comment, that is starting a two-way interaction. I can, and will try to, respond.

So, that’s why commenting is important. In fact I often feel guilty if I read a post, then can’t think of a sharp, witty comment to tag onto it, but often I can’t.

I have just one more thing to say, about long comments. I mean, I will live with those, but certainly for those of us who write blogs, if a comment is going to turn into an essay, wouldn’t it be better just to write it as a post in its own right? It’s just that we can add graphics, fornmatting etc. if we do that. And people like me can listen to it instead of having to read it.

For that same reason – brevity – I will try to limit a comment to saying just one thing. If I have two things to say, I will pick the most important. Sometimes, here, I even succeed!

Left In the Dark?

First, to international readers, this is an ongoing internal issue in the UK. I wanted to put my thoughts down, but if you are outside the UK, this will probably not be of any interest, so please save your time.


There’s a debate been rumbling on here for a while. It’s funny, I’ve heard the issue raised a few times these last few days, so I just wanted to get my thoughts down on paper.

The UK has a tax called the TV License. It is technically a tax on watching programmes from the BBC, but it dates from the time when BBC programmes were the only programmes out there, so the tax became, effectively, universal. In these days of 100s of channels, the BBC no longer has a monopoly, but they fudge around with this license so that we end up paying it anyway. There are various hoops you can jump through if you don’t want to pay, but most people just pay it.

That’s the general case. There is an exemption. The exemption is if someone is over 75. Your income does not matter, just your age.

There has been a storm in the UK because the BBC, who apply the tax, want to abolish that exemption. Over 75s would now need to pay.

Now, there are a couple of issues here.

The first one is the concern about poverty. Over 75s can be among the poorest in society, although this is not always the case. The most famous over-75, our queen, is worth an estimated £500 million. Even if you don’t understand £, that translates to a helluva lot.

Now, there has already been an attempt to tackle this problem. There is a state benefit, designed to help these poorest people by supplemenmting their income a little. It is arguable whether it hits the spot, and perhaps reform is required as very few people seem to qualify. But basically the rule will become that anybody in receipt of this benefit will continue to be exempt from the license.

The second thing is the isolation. It is common for elderly people to be isolated. It is common to claim that because of this isolation, TV is the only medium through which people can see/hear human beings. I do not doubt that this is true. But the argument continues that the BBC will therefore increase people’s isolation by starting to charge.

I don’t buy that. I don’t think that the BBC are increasing anybody’s isolation. What they are doing is saying that people must start paying for the service. If somebody is isolated and needs the TV for company, they still have it, they just need to pay for it. What if they can’t afford it? Well, people on the lowest incomes will still be exempt.

There is a further issue about whether the BBC is managing its finances properly. I think this is a valid point, but it is a different point to license fee exemptions. We shoulds be discussing both questions, but separately. Possibly the start point should be whether it is appropriate for the public sector (the BBC) to try to compete with the private sector.

Summary
  • If we’re going to have a mechanism with any exemptions (which seems absolutely the right thing to do) then we should base those exemptions on wealth, not on age. This fits into the whole “social security” ethos.
  • If the wrong people qualify as being exempt, then let’s fight that battle, and campaign for a change in the rules.

Lastly, did you notice how I got through the whole of this post without mentioning the cost of this tax? That was because its value is not really important to my argument. But if you are interested, it is about £150/year, which is roughly the same value in EUR and USD. I guess we will all have different views on whether that is a lot of money or not.