Posts Tagged ‘Blokes’
Yet more rain! It seems unfair that people south of Croydon are being asked to forego baths over Christmas when we don’t even need to go indoors to have one. This morning we resorted to laying planking over the worst of the hen-run bogs and a hundred or so Columbian Blacktails gathered round to gawp. Albert addressed the multitude but it reminded me of mass meetings at Leyland Motors when mad people on the platform harangued a crowd of blokes openly reading The Sun.
An hour later, and by now as wet as Norman Lamont, I headed for Tesco armed with a two-foot long list perpared by she-who-must-be-obeyed who has the unenviable task of preparing meals to feed a hundred people we only see once per year. Arriving at the Tesco car park was somewhat unnerving, I have arrived at Wembley Stadium and encountered less angry motorists. But, with some trepidation, I found a space and followed the crowd of trolley-pushers.
During the course of the year an elderly friend often tells me that she has made her restful daily visit to the superstore. It is, she always says, a lovely place to walk around and to stop in an aisle for a chat. Today she would have been more likely to stop for a fight. There were zillions of people shooting up and down the aisles, pausing only to throw something into trollies already loaded to capacity. Drop a packet of Bisto and you could be sure that someone would crash into you, and be equally sure that no apology would be forthcoming. For everyone seemed very stressed and in a state of high anxiety.
I noticed one rather large lady, who could easily hold her own in the Wigan Rugby League scrum, who was pushing one trolley and towing another. She was clearly in a foul mood and was taking no prisoners. If Tesco award Club Card points for bruises dished out she would be on her way to a free baseball bat.
Having found the majority of what felt like a year’s catering requirement, I eventually reached the check-outs. Because I wanted to be home before nightfall I elected to do my own till work and experienced illogical bouts of gratitude when the computer recognised bar-codes. It did occur to me that stores such as this are on to a very good thing, we select our own goods and oversee our own payment.
It was really like a scene from Orwell’s 1984. Thousands were obediently obeying tannoy announcements and quarrelling only with each other. At one point I joined a jostle for brussels, and we don’t even like the things. From time to time we were told to keep moving, at one point I did so without my feet touching the ground. But, my daughter tells me, one has the advantage of price bargains. I confess that I saw no sign of my fellow clones checking labels and the few that I glimpsed were confusing. A huge stack of boxes of chocolates bore a poster proclaiming that the price was slashed to £5 and two cost only £10.
One man remarked that this was “all about one day”. He is right, for the store reopens on Boxing Day. But it did strike me as sad that what used to be the most magical time of the year has been reduced to this.
In the late 19th century the churches of the time came together and decided to abolish Hell on the grounds that it was adversely affecting recruitment. But today I realised that in the absence of a theological version the people have created one of their own.
I came away reflecting that I would much have preferred being at the Christmas party of the Witney set. But even that may be less joyful this year for the Camron’s are probably nervous about being entertained by Rebeka Brooks, James Maxwell and Jeremy Clarkson since the latter might have a mike concealed about his person.
TOMORROW; A TALE FOR CHRISTMAS EVE
I’m sure that when Burns set in train the fad for seeing ourselves as others see us he little realised just how painful a process it can be. I have never attended one of the zillions of courses aimed at teaching the art for I have no need. When she-who-must-be-obeyed is in full flow a dozen managemnt consultants couldn’t match her. This morning the paper-boy had staged one of his regular one-day strikes, which are always guaranteed to switch attention to me as I rush my cornflakes in readiness for joining my colleagues in the greatest chicken project since Kentucky.
We are, she told me, just a group of dopey old blokes messing around with an even larger group of dopey hens. Can you believe that? Well maybe you can, maybe you believe that Roman Abramovich is richer than Solomon simply because he happens to be a mate of Putin rather than the world’s shrewdest businessman. Oh dear, maybe you are right.
I yield to the possibility, having read yesterday the findings of the psychologist Daniel Kahneman, winner of a Nobel economics prize. What he has to say is devastating to the beliefs that high fliers entertain about themselves. He claims to have discovered that their apparent success is a cognitive illusion. This idea is based on a study that he conducted over eight years of the results of 25 top business ’stars’. He found that the consistency of their performance was zero.
The results, he tells us, resembled “what you would expect from a dice-rolling contest, not a game of skill”. His findings have been widely replicated. They show that, for example, traders and fund managers throughout Wall Street receive their massive remuneration for doing no better than would a chimpanzee flipping a coin. Given the total failure of the financial sector this comes as less of a shock that the various authors may imagine, but what of business at large?
In a study published by the journal Psychology, Crime and Law, Belinda Board and Katarina Fritzon tested 39 senior managers and chief executives from leading FTSE British businesses. They compared the results to the same tests carried out on patients at Broadmoor. On central indicators of psychopathy, the bosses’s scores either matched or exceeeded those of the patients. In fact, on these criteria, they beat even the subset of patients who had been diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders!
The psychopathic traits on which the bosses scored so highly closely resemble the characteristics that companies look for. Those who have these traits often possess great skill in flattering and manipulating powerful people. Egocentricity, a strong senes of entitlement, a readiness to exploit others and a lack of empathy and conscience are also unlikely to damage their prospects in many corporations.
In their book Snakes in Suits, Paul Babiak and Robert Hare point out that as the old corporate bureaucracies have been replaced by flexible, ever-changing structures, and as team players are deemed less valuable than competitive risk-takers, psychopathic tendencies are more likely to be selected and rewarded. If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a poor family, you’re likely to go to prison, If you have psychopathic tendencies and are born to a rich family you’re likely to go to business school. If doing down others by any means is your thing, you are likely to end up in a very highly paid job or even become Prime Minister.
It is certainly true that the chief exceutives of today behave like dukes of old extracting from their estates. What they extract is out of all proportion to what they do or the value they generate, sums that sometimes exhaust the business they parasite. They are no more deserving of their wealth than oil sheikhs. The rest of us gape on the sidelines and usually assume that, say, Bob Diamond takes more pay from Barclays than the sum total paid to one hundred of his employees simply because he is one hundred times cleverer that one hundred of them. But is he really?
In the UK, the money earned by the poorest tenth fell by 12% between 1999 and 2009, while the money made by the richest 10th rose by 37%. The Gini coefficient, which measures income inequality, climbed in this country by 26 in 1979 to 40 in 2009.
Someone has to be in charge of everything but what has changed is the amount of reward. Clearly that is all that has changed, for the shrinks suggest that those at the top are no different to the old autocratic duffers of my youth. They both cashed in on who they knew, rather than what. They both were, or are, happy to climb at the expense of others.
Think about it. Is you ultimate boss really a hundred times smarter than you? Would he or she really win Mastermind? When I apply all this in retrospect I have to confess that I most certainly was not as clever as many of the managers who really ran the ship, mind you the pay differential was not the ludicrous thing it now is!
Anyway I must stop now, it is time to head off for a team-building session with Albert and my other chicken consultants.
TEST YOUR GENERAL KNOWLEDGE WITH THE MIDWEEK QUIZ!
1. Who won the Best British Group award at the 2007 Brits? 2. Where did golfer Padraig Harrington win his first major, the Open Championship? 3. To which mammal family does the dingo belong? 4. Who preceded David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party? 5. Which tobacco company sponsored the ‘Football Yearbook’ from 1970 to 2001? 6. What is the study of rocks and rock formation? 7. Who was short-listed for the Turner prize for “Shark in Formaldehyde? 8. Is the penguin native to the North Pole or the South Pole? 9. Which building, built on an island in San Francisco Bay, is now a tourist attraction? 10. On which two countries’ borders is Mount Everest?
The question has to be faced. To a group of blokes for whom cricket has been a big feature of their lives, it is an unthinkable question. But it has to be faced, and quickly!
When Mr Justice Cooke was passing sentence on the Pakistan players found guilty of cheating in the Lords Test, he remarked that the very name of cricket used to be associated with fair dealing both on and off the field. ‘It’s not cricket’ became an adage used by vast numbers of people, many of whom had no interest in the game. When I was a youngster, and a very poor player, cricket was an example for life. In those days you walked from the wicket the moment you felt the slightest nick as the ball travelled in the air to keeper or slips. It was a matter of honour. And if you fielded near to the boundary and knew that the ball had touched it before you grabbed it, you signalled a boundary to the umpire.
It all sounds old fashioned and goody-goody now doesn’t it? But that is how it was . I once shared a dressing room with someone known to be light-fingered, but even he dare not risk the contempt of his peers by cheating at cricket. Someone once described the game as religion in action, it was apt.
Over the years those standards have dropped. Even England’s leading batsmen wait for the umpire’s finger even though they know that they are out. Even England’s fielders claim catches that they know have touched the turf. But, as far as we know, our national team is guilty of nothing worse than lower standards of sportsmanship.
The fixing practiced by Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammaid Asif was appalling, and represents a huge threat to the future of a complicated game that is clearly vulnerable to so many ways of cheating. In this specific case, the aim was not so much to cheat their opponents but the bookmakers, for whom cricket is a massive industry in Asia. Their agent, Mazhar Majeed, took huge sums of cash in exchange for providing details of three balls which would be bowled as no-balls (front foot over the line). His promise was kept.
Unfortunately for him the person he gave the cash to was a reporter for the News of the World. Once the promised no-balls appeared as promised it didn’t require Sherlock Holmes to prepare a prosecution. But, as the Judge inferred, one would have to be very naive to imagine that this was other than the tip of an ugly iceberg.
The most worrying aspect of this affair is that it took a tabloid investigator to expose it. The anti-corrution squad of the International Ctricket Council (ICC) was nowhere to be seen. If only half of the boasts made on film by the crooked agent are true the practice of fixing specifics bits of action in top matches is prevalent. The game is, it seems, riddled with the cancer of corruption.
Already cricket lovers are casting their minds back to possibly suspicious actions. The top batsman who made a poor defensive stroke, the three batsmen out to a ‘hat-trick’, the fumble in the field, the crazy run-out, the no-balls..the list of possibilities is a long one. Of course, even international stars make mistakes, but suddenly we ask ourselves if they were mistakes. And remember that the result of the game might not be the fixing target, it could be incidental.
In his column of this morning, former England captain Michael Vaughan looks back and wonders if all the matches he played in were quite what they seemed. He recalls the Test against Pakistan in Karachi in December 2000. Pakistan had the match in the palm of their hands but suddenly collapsed from a strong position to leave England with a tiny target. Vaughan recalls what seemed ” a very surreal atmosphere, a feeling that there was something odd “. Or was it down to a “dodgy wicket”? This sort of speculation will pour forth over the coming months, not least in the New Year when England meet Pakistan again.
Vaughan agonises about the seemingly magnificent 169 scored by Stuart Broad in the now tainted Lords Test. At the time we hailed a new Freddie Flintoff, now we wonder if the bowling was sub-standard as individuals concentrated on what they had to do to fix a whole series of no-balls. One thing is for sure, the mounted trophy will have been moved from the centre of Stuart’s sideboard.
The ICC now faces a massive challenge. I for one have no wish to pay good money to watch international matches that may well be as dishonest as professional wrestling. Already the sense of longing for next season has been replaced by a doubt as to whether what we see will be real or faked. Already we are hearing stories of players from across the world being threatened with appalling retribution should they decide to tell all.
Most first class umpires and referees are former top players and they have to be the first line of defence. Not all matches are televised and their notes must cover all ‘unusual’ happenings. But that is far from enough. The ICC must come up with a watertight method of match reviews. Personal checks of bank balances and the like will not help, if a player can cheat on the field he is hardly likely to have a conventional Barclays account.
Most of that is my guesswork, I simply don’t know how the game can be brought back under control. All I know is that every cricket fan in the world is right now asking his or herself if there is any longer any point in watching or supporting cricket.
This is of course far from the first instance of cheating. But there can be no more whitewash enquiries, this has to be the last scandal, or the game so many love will crumble before our eyes, and quickly.
OOOOO JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR THE WEEKEND QUIZ OOOOO
One of the perks of working on the allotments is the access to every daily rag. I can’t claim to read them all but I always make a beeline for ‘G2′, the daily supplement of The Guardian. I confess that such limited understanding as I have of the modern world is the result of reading the work of people like Charlie Brooker.
Today he has revealed that there now exists a supercomputer capable of predicting the future. It’s called Nautilus and is housed at the University of Illinois. Charlie tells us that Nautilus has ” 1024 Intel nehalem ocres (with) a total processing power of 8.2 teraflops”. I haven’t the faintest idea what that means but it sits there sifting through every news story, analysing them for general “mood” using a process called “automated sentiment mining”. Of course women come fully equipped with that but we blokes have to build computers to work out what our fellow humans are thinking.
Anyway, having eaten 100 million news bulletins, Nautilus predicted the Arab Spring and the rough whereabouts of Osama bin Laden. It does apear that Nautilus only made these predictions retrospectively, ie some time after the fact. Scientists checked over his output and decided various peaks and troughs had represented clear signs of coming trouble. Now, predicting the future after it has happened isn’t much use but they do appear to believe that the potential for forecasting what awaits us is there.
It did occur to me that such a technique is capable of manipulation. If, for example, some evil scientist with a bent for socialism – if such still exists – were to feed only stories concerning David Cameron’s U-turns, our newly found friend Nautilus might be tempted to predict that he will make one turn too many. Then again, he probably will.
Anyway, Charlie’s revelation prompted me to consider what use we could make of this new miracle in the making. Having recently watched a TV programme called “Red and Black” I was on the verge of concluding that we have all gone stark raving mad, or at least those who, like me, that trouble to watch this rubbish have. It was then I wondered why almost none of us, including me, seem to give a moment’s thought to the latest scientific prediction that all life on earth will cease in about 30 to 50 years time. Why not ask Nautilus to give it a few minutes?
Today I read of the latest satellite sea-ice maps which show that the melt of the Arctic ice is speeding up at an alarming rate. Georg (there is no e, this is not a typo) Heygster, head of the Institute of Environmental Physics at Bremen, says that the speed of melt change is shocking. If the current trend continues there will be a largely ice-free summer Arctic within 30 years. This stunning loss of Arctic sea-ice is, according to Heygster and various other leading scientists, a final wake up call that climate change caused by man is “here now and is having devastating effects”. I could go on since I am cribbing this from the latest scientific press, but I am sure you get the message.
Which is that this is maybe the perfect subject for our new friend Nautilus. It could actually convince us that there are more important things than to watch Red and Black or even Big Brother. It could perhaps persuade Mr Cameron that building houses all over the green belt would be not only harmful but also something of a waste given a time limit of 30 years or whatever number Nautilus comes up with.
But there clearly is a problem. Since Nautilus only provides predictions after the event we wouldn’t still be here to read it. Perhaps Nautilus 11 could be programmed to run the world in our absence?
JOIN ME TOMORROW FOR A VERY SPECIAL MIDWEEK QUIZ ???????????
A hen escaped this morning. It proved elusive to a bunch of old blokes wearing wellies and, after countless attempts to collar it, Bob suggested we leave it to come to its senses. But as it headed for the neighbouring road Albert made the point that being an idiot, it has no sense to come to and was in imminent danger of sharing the fate of a hedgehog which ended up as flat as a cold omelette. So a large net was sent for and capture achieved.
It was the comments about idiots that led to a suggestion that I use the blog to nominate a national idiot of the week. Today’s choice was a close run thing but former Labour minister Michael Meacher made it by a length. He has chosen to publish on his blog a picture appearing to show Chancellor George Osborne with a gaping, six-inch wound across the throat. The headline screams “Labour should go for Osborne’s jugular”.
Just how stupid can anyone get? There are many fanatical and disturbed people out there, and to them the picture is open to literal interpretation. As one commentator on the website said “it is important we don’t unconsciously create an atmosphere of violent hyperbole and the dehumanisation of those we don’t agree with. If a Tory blog had a picture of Ed Balls hanging from a lamp-post we’d be appalled”. Indeed.
Mr Meacher has every right to castigate George Osborne over his financial policy. But to do so in a way that appears to extol violence in its worst form is appalling. As at this moment the article remains online and merits top prize for idiocy.
Not far behind was David Cameron for once again demonstrating his total lack of English history. It is the job of a British prime minister to stand up for his country when abroad. But again the Old Etonian has chosen to denegrate his homeland. When visiting Pakistan he chose to to place the entire blame for the 60-year conflict in Kashmir at our door. Forget the fact that he is supposed to be our defence counsel, he is historically incorrect. At least in mitigation he could have pointed out that we gave Pakistan parliamentary democracy, superb irrigation systems, excellent roads, the rule of law, the English language, and even such valued pastimes as cricket. And serious historians have been quick to point out that many other historical actors have played their part in the recent story of this deeply troubled Indian state. All this apart he could have pointed out that we contribute billions of pounds in aid, and were foremost in leaping to help during last year’s terrible floods.
Readers will doubless recall his speech in the United States when he claimed that in 1940 we were a junior partner in the fight against Hitler and all his works. In fact at that point we stood alone! Sadly our new prime minister matches Tony Blair in his complete lack of historical facts and an eagerness to ingratiate himself with every audience.
So there we have it. The very first Allotmenteer’s Idiocy Awards. It is hard to refrain from adding that with people like Meacher and Cameron involved in the leadership of Britain it is no surprise that we are in an almighty mess!
THOUGHTS FOR TODAY; HONESTY: “There are three kinds of lies; lies, damned lies, and statistics”…….Benjamin Disraeli “There are three kinds of liars; liars, damned liars, and politicians”……Will Rogers “There is one way to find out if a man is honest – ask him. If he says ‘yes’, you know he is crooked”….Groucho Marx ”Everybody has a bit of Watergate in him”…..Billy Grahame “A man had rather have a hundred lies told of him, than one truth which he does not wish to be told”…….Samuel Johnson ”I never know how much of what I say is true”…Bette Midler “Truth is the most valuable commodity – let us economise”……Mark Twain “Honesty is the best policy, but insanity is the best defence”…..Steve Landesburg “Once in a while you will stumble upon the truth but most of us manage to pick ourselves up and hurry along as if nothing had happened”….Winston Churchill “It is always the best policy to speak the truth, unless of course you are an exceptionally good liar”….Jerome K Jerome
ANSWERS TO YESTERDAY’S QUIZ; 1 The Irish Republic 2. It disappeared after local government changes
TODAY’S QUESTIONS; 1 Soccer : Who did Keegan and Toshack play for together? 2. Who bought Warwick Castle in 1978?