344 - May snippets | Scoins.net | DJS

344 - May snippets

Covid update.

Graphs and charts from Our World in Data copied into essay 339.

Left, vaccination goes at pace in some places. One might ask questions about uptake, about reasons for not being vaccinated, incentives that states think are effective (and reasons for these). One might ask about levels of herd immunity, about global immunity possibilities. One might ask about variants, which is directly related to the volume and density of cases - where case density is very high, variants will be created and, because of the local medical pressure, all the more likely to escape into the wider community.

Cases per million on a log scale above shows the UK's green list countries (no need to quarantine on return), with the gap at 50-100 cases per million, such that Portugal and Malta are OK but the US is amber. Several of these had large peaks recently with the period since December shown here.


Government, having caused us to comply with restriction by passing laws throughout 2020, now wants to change this position to us taking responsibility for ourselves. While one might laud that (I've been asking for it for ages), the media call this 'creating confusion'. E.g. We have red, amber and green lists of countries, indicating the rules that apply to whether or not you must quarantine on return. That has no connection with whether one can enter that country or must quarantine on arrival overseas. But at the very same time ministers are making it quite clear that while you could go on holiday abroad, they collectively feel that you should not. Of course, being politicians, you generally feel they're saying the words but thinking something completely different. The ones I believe are the ones that point out where they are intending to holiday (in Britain) this year. But, because we've been taught to react to restriction and to push the boundaries absolutely as hard as we can get away with [more Cummings' Effect], that is going to be largely ignored and so the coloured list is seen as a green light for jolly hollys, especially in Portugal, which is on the green list and welcoming visitors from here.

Those of us able to make up our own minds will being having staycations, which means staying within the UK, not staying at home in town. The even more sensible will be still maintaining distance from strangers, but it is all a matter of perceived risk. Repeating, there are two risks to consider; that where you contract the virus and that where you spread the virus. We are gaining better understanding of the protection levels that the vaccines give us but we are frequently told that this figure is not 100%, even though it is 'very good'. There are people in hospital with covid who have had both jabs. We have new variants rushing around displacing other virus variants and we seem to have accepted a long time ago that a level of prevalence is acceptable, even when that level is high. Yet we still have a lot of the 19-40 cohort completely unvaccinated and these are the very same people most shown clamouring for 'freedom'. That might just be media bias or perception and not true at all, but it is the shouters that are heard in this society.


I noticed, not for the first time, several lists of short groups of words that people confuse in English. Many, even most, of these are homophones and to a large extent are spelling errors as a consequence. A lot and allot, to which is added the non-word alot, for example. Some are wrong in one form of english and okay in another, such as practise (verb) and practice (noun) which is only practice in US English. Then there are grammar errors such as with the apostrophe and a good example is its and it's. Homophones that could be fixed are exemplified by oral and aural, such that I'd say aural as owral to provide distinction; language teachers quite often need to use both words quite close together. Then there are words that are distinguishable if you listen with care; allusion and illusion for example. There are those where we ought to have learned the difference such as disinterested and uninterested, disinformation and misinformation [clue; the dis-form generally involves dissing].

The confusable that set me off occurred several times on a few pages in a book I was reading this week (and still bothers me) is nutriment and nutrient: both are nouns and nutrient is also an adjective. Several sources I looked at said that the nouns are synonyms – which suggests that one of them is redundant, and that therefore we should act in one of these three alternative ways: ditch nutriment; use nutrient as adjective only; perceive and emphasise some distinction between the two nouns.

These two linked pages give you the odd 250 examples with some quizzes at the end. I saw these as mostly a test of vocabulary, but still worthwhile.

http://guidetogrammar.org/grammar/notorious.htm          http://guidetogrammar.org/grammar/notorious2.htm


I discovered that yet again Time Machine —the backup system on Apple OSX—has stopped working, such that I have backups for April 22-27 but not subsequently. Applying the First Aid disk utility to the backup drives (there's paranoia, plural drives) shows that the disks are mounted and unmounted, causing error 65 and a First Aid fail. Reformatting a disk (Catalina, so APFS plain) allows a backup to occur (hours). But the following day I'm, back to the error message saying that a backup failed to complete. Extensive hunting causes me to discover all sorts of systems like terminal (scary) and console (brilliant; process logs of all sorts) and a suggestion that Growl, which sits on my system making little reports that I ignore, might be the problem. The benefits of having loads of nerds with time spent hunting and more time spent sharing what they find.... So I've deleted Growl, hopefully thoroughly enough, and have a 'first' backup running on the other, now reformatted, drive. The time predictor for the backup is like Eddie Izzard's description of sending a file; a mere 40 minutes ago it was predicting 14 hours to do the backup and now it says 8 hours. I expect it to take three. Oh, twenty typed lines later it's seven hours left.

20210521, having successfully made backups from the 14th to the 20th, Time Machine declares it is again on strike. In the same 24 hours the website refuses to accept its password and the power sockets tripped out in a storm [odd that the lights didn't]. I doubt they are connected, but it feels like a piece of the sky has fallen. This tale continues in essay 346, written on 20210525.


The government persuaded the Queen to read the Queen's Speech. What a misnomer; the poor woman has to read a load of stuff you simply know she disagrees with, having very much more experience of parliament than any parliamentarian. These are words forcibly inserted in her mouth and I resent the falsity of this situation.

We have a Queen's Speech at the start of a new session of parliament, which is just about annually. What defines the end of a session is less obvious. The act of prorogation (see essay 284) can easily be looked up but the 'trigger' is having completed the business of government, though some work (Bills) may specifically be carried over to the next session; just once.  article. So it is in effect usually a marker in the spring that the business listed in the last Queen's Speech has all been done (turned from Bill into Act or perhaps failed) and, in effect is merely a marker of the next round of declared intention by the party in power. The down time is brief, usually a week or two (but rarely different from that). An issue I don't understand is the implication that Bills can only be proposed if they have already been included in a Queen's Speech; that does not strike me as a necessary act, even if there is perhaps a need for parliament to approve this list of intentions.

However, within that content—the intentions of the next parliament—is an intent to demand voter ID when going to vote. My namesake in NewYork has been posting a daily rant on FB and one of these was about voting and how awful are the changes proposed in Georgia. So I posted that I'd just been to vote here (local elections day May 2021) and that I needed nothing at all to do that, since I know my own name and address. This is required so that the polling officer can tick off my entry in the electoral roll (I'm voter No 1773 in our ward) and there'll be a fuss only if someone else attempts to use that entry. I am not required to hold a document 'proving' who I am. Dave's response was that no part of my action belonged in his world. Whatever that means. 

We have a negligible number of voting fraud attempts (we're looking at something around four per million votes) so one has to ask why there is a perceived need to change the system, particularly to move our UK system towards the US Republican model, which is evidentially producing incentives to NOT vote. See the Electoral Commission reports. In brief: Year; cases investigated by police; cautions only; convictions:  2017 370 8 1; 2018 266 2 4; 2019 595 2 4; 2020 mostly postponed to 2021. The 2017 figures suggest only a third of offences are to do with voting and fully half were to do with misrepresentation during the campaign (politicians proving untrustworthy?). So voting offences were 165 out of some 40 million votes cast. Looking at the file detail, the 'no further action' outcome falls into categories of 'no offence' and 'no evidence'. About 20% of all cases are resolved locally (which I think means resolved at the polling station).  The summary pages I've linked are themselves quite informative of the sort of thing that occurs. 2019 for example; 64% no further action, 33.6% locally resolved, leaving 1.5% with further action occurring. But most of these are not to do with the voting process; I repeat, more than half of all reported cases are about campaigning offences.

Why do we need to 'fix' something that actually works? One can only conclude that the objective is very different from that stated. We do have issues with postal voting. This occurs where one member of a household—think patriarch—feels that they (should, must, do) have control of all the votes of the adults within that household, and that (he) can do this by causing all votes to be postal votes, which are, as seems obvious, quite easy to control within a household of certain sorts, such as where patriarchy is extant and culturally accepted. Fixing voter ID will do nothiing to solve this problem. 

We have many older people in our population and there is a tradition among party workers to assist these people in getting to vote. Quite a few of these people are easily confused and so the party worker is open to accusations of undue influence (which has nothing to do with identity). The easily confused might well be taken to the polling station more than once and might easily also have a postal vote. The voter immediately in front of me this year had walked to vote (in the rain) only to discover he'd already voted by post. He accepted this in a way that made me wonder if he still had the capacity to understand well enough to be able to confirm, if asked, that he'd exercised his vote without influence. Actually, it would be more precise to say that he'd exercised his choice to vote by post; whether he'd actually voted that way was not obvious from the conversation, but when you opt for a postal vote you cannot then go vote in person.

The need for UK electoral reform at all is discussed hereIndividuals are responsible for applying to register to vote individually, and must supply identifying information (namely date of birth and National Insurance number) as part of their application. Personally I found the electoral commission website fragmented, as if designed to fit a phone screen. However, it makes sense that we move toward registration being achieved online. To do that we need ways of identifying an individual with precision and ways of confirming that the person registering is the same as the person being registered. Do read the feasibility studies. I see gateway issues and, as with the current system, we have problems with the easily confused, those of no fixed abode and those with other incapacity to access an online system.

One might also look at this report on intimidation in public life. I am bothered about the abuse of postal voting. I think this should be deliberately reduced, perhaps to a point where an electoral officer can go to collect a vote in person. Here's an academic report on cultural issues that shows that voting by post is intrinsically unsafe and some had additional concerns around the ease with which personation could take place, through an informal approach to voting for others instead applying for a proxy vote.  [missing word?]

We do need a way of exercising a vote for those that are in some way absent. That is a proxy vote or a postal vote.  This HoC report refers to 'proxy farming' and 'granny farming', in which voters are specifically targeted in ways that permit the exerciser of the proxy vote undue influence. Imagine the situation in a care home; while the concern is real, there is very scanty evidence of such fraud occurring, but it might well be worthwhile research into how these processes could be improved  Again, changes in handling voter ID will not affect this. Personation—someone claiming to be you and casting your vote—is, in my opinion, badly handled but the perception is that this is very low; Para 102 for the HoC report says We broadly agree that there is at present no great problem with impersonation in British elections outside Northern Ireland, and we do not see a need to introduce any additional requirements to prove identity before being given a ballot paper. One of the issues attached to this is that, if we were to be able to trace a vote, we could also track how an individual had voted. That runs entirely counter to the concept of this being a secret ballot. There may be wriggle room in permitting tracing to occur only under specific conditions and limiting this to a very small number, those where concern is expressed that a vote was done properly. But if, for example, those who 'spoiled their ballot paper' where followed up in any form, we have lost the concept of secret ballot and thus in large part the democratic process. Particularly, trust in the system, which is an essential element. See para 104, which explains how this is done. So, if I turn up to vote and my vote has somehow already been cast, the situation can be sorted out such that my vote is correctly applied. That falls within the 'locally resolved'. the full vote tracing procedure has not been exercised since 1911, though for local elections this occurs occasionally, though the expense attached (going to an election court) is significant.

Here is Liberty's view. Quoting Sam Grant of `Liberty:  ‘If you’re young, if you’re a person of colour, if you’re disabled, trans or you don’t have a fixed address, you’re much less likely to have valid photo ID and could therefore be shut off from voting. Research by the Electoral Commission found in 2015 about 3.5 million citizens or 7.5 per cent of the electorate did not have access to any approved photo ID.'  'Voter ID is a solution in search of a problem.’

That last quote nails it: Voter ID is a solution in search of a problem.


Another element of the Queen's Speech was the Online Safety Bill. This could so easily go wrong and will require some care to produce something worthwhile. One of the very bad things about a large party majority is that it is relatively easy to push legislation through despite sensible objections. Relevant concern here. Taken from there: well-meaning but poorly drafted measures could prove detrimental to individuals and society for years to come. I encourage you to read this and, while there is little point in getting upset before reading proposals, it is as well to be prepared. What bothered me before I read any other comment was the possibility—and to me a significant likelihood—of unintended consequences. Our parliament has no good reputation for fixing these with any speed.

Personally, I'd like a parallel action to sort out how the very large internet companies get to pay corporation tax. For that matter, I'd like sorted out the overseas companies that successfully avoid all taxes. Several points concern me on that: the impossible competition position for UK-based businesses; that those same businesses should be paying tax, when they're quite possibly working from home undeclared; that buying online is so very easy and that comparing prices is so very easy, we rather naturally drift to the cheaper supplier, who will tend to be overseas. It is as if we're going to need an import tax applied to physical non-paper mail. 


A long media piece I read this morning, 20210514, describes some of the attitudes within the Home Office, what it is like to work there and the legacy problems that successive regimes have perpetrated. I do not see why we are so unable to clean house, but perhaps the reasoning centres around the cost of admitting to major errors. Issues one might explore: John Reid's 2006 quote 'not fit for purpose' (and he was Home Secretary at the time); that the HO is a residual department, where the unclear jobs are placed – which mean inevitably that anything bad will roost there eventually. It was Reid who moved the triple-p of prisons, probation and prevention (of reoffending) to the newly created Ministry of Justice; he too who created the UK Border Agency. These two moves were, I think, smart, but as the article says, Now that responsibility for prison reform and criminal justice had passed to the Ministry of Justice, the department had lost two of the areas in which it could implement progressive policies. Which creates a whole new problem, because what is left is prevention, stopping things from occurring. So this almost immediately means that every output is a negative. Take the hostile environment for immigrants (Theresa May as Home Sec, David Cameron as PM, though this also happened while Labour was in power).

I was struck by In many instances, the only time an individual will come face to face with a representative of the Home Office is if they take them to court. We did the taking to court bit, but no-one turned up to argue the state position. Around 50% of appeals are successful and what we experienced is a common event [article], that the HO knowingly pursues hopeless cases. This is more of that negativity, that hostile environment. I wonder at the effects: my spouse has a very solid suspicion of all things to do with the state (any state); the experiences of the last ten years leave me agreeing with her that Britain is not a trustworthy state administration, which is something that runs counter to the previous fifty years of trusting the system. I say it is one thing to not trust politicians, but quite another to find oneself not trusting the state institutions. That way lies anarchy, demands for Robin Hood, superheroes and other flouting of the rule of law, mostly because the rule of law is failing in its objectives. Worst, the role of the state institutions is to keep its people safe and I think this path of intimidation and prevention removes so many freedoms (including the freedom to be wrong, a demand of compliance) that we soon reach a state that one does not want to live in.

How could we change this? The issue of immigration is significant and, while there are many we clearly (argue, please) don't want migrating (here, anywhere), there are many we quite clearly do, those with skills and abilities from which we can benefit. Which is cherry-picking, so one might say it was wrong. So we could quite easily turn around, or at least make some balancing moves, the immigration by making it clear that there is a rapid acceptance programme for those we want, and some very clear terms and conditions. But that doesn't solve the whole of the problem: suppose there is an acceptably qualified doctor; how much of his or her family is acceptable as connected consequence? Parents with no intention of becoming British? Their other children? The whole clan? Where do we draw the line between wanted and not wanted? We could do a lot that is positive, such as providing encouragement to improve English (and I'd make that sufficiently wide to include indigenes) and making that largely free. But the 'hostile environment' somehow precludes looking for ways to make initiatives that could be viewed as positive. Yet at the very same time, it seems to me clear that this is exactly what we need. Yes, it should be clear what we expect of new citizens and that can be set as a high standard to achieve, but the situation doesn't have to be perceived as only negative. Illegal immigration is a separate matter; asylum seekers are separate again and one of the false perception pushed by the right wing press (that's a perception itself) is that somehow all immigrants must be painted as illegal, unwanted and tainted. That is not right: it is not fair to them and it's not fair to ourselves, though that second is a far lesser position.


Podcasts I think I've listened to one. I have been encouraged by several people who think they are brilliant, but I don't agree. Trying to find out what others think the benefits are, I came across this, which suggests good reasons are;-

(i) they're mostly free.  So? I don't spend anything on music or radio already. I cannot have bought a tape or disc of music for at least 20 years. I bought CDs only because they replaced the other previous media and now I don't do that at all.

(ii) you can listen to them anywhere. I don't listen to anything much but in the car, and then only after the first 100 miles. So having a podcast available takes forethought; more, it assumes that I'm not going to be satisfied by the radio. I (rarely) put music on at home; usually it gets turned off because I miss other sounds I'm being expected to hear, like "Husband!"

(iii) you'll get less bored with your music library I don't use my music library. I don't listen to music even as often as once  a month. Again, the result each time is that I miss some form of summons.

(iv) they're usually conversation not stories.  I doubt this. I expect they're mostly like radio, far too often at a content rate low enough to annoy. Oh, did you mean something different from what I think of as conversation? When do I get a word in, then?

(v) they're perfect for mindless chores. I do many chores without need for distraction that would make them take longer

(vi) you can learn about something. No argument; but that assumes that I've identified a something I want to learn about and somehow not acted upon that.

I conclude that whatever it is about listening that appeals, it doesn't reach me. It might be different if I had a lengthy commute. I enjoy making music and I can enjoy sorts of music; I am aware that my driving, for example, is at less than 100% if I'm listening to music and I'll have it on to help me return concentration to what I think of as acceptable and active when it's drifted into passive motoring. If passive driving is caused by the traffic, so that in some sense I know there is spare capacity, I'll turn on the radio. But ordinary non-urban non-motorway driving requires full attention unless stuck in an endless chain. I have enjoyed having classical music playing while reading or doing puzzles, but the reading etc slows down due to the split attention and either I bin the book, the puzzle or the music. I refuse to have earplugs while outside as that is denying what one is outside for and reduces safety in not hearing clues. I use earbuds when the missus and I are in the same room but watching different television (or equivalent`) – but neither of us is doing anything else at the same time. It has become clear from you.gov surveys that many people do several things at the same time as 'watching' television. Sorry, if the tv can't hold my attention it goes off. I am quite able to do several things at once, but generally it takes less time to do them exclusively and with full attention. In my experience it is largely true that serial processing is faster than parallel.


How do you organise for a podcast to play faster? It's in the app, apparently, probably under Controls. But then you'd have to concentrate more on the content, which means attention is removed from whatever else you're doing.

So I can see a use for radio that I like, which amounts to the same time-shifting that I do with tv. But I see opportunity to do this as so rare that I can't be arsed to bother sort this out in advance. Nor can I see this happening except as a favour to immediate family that asks me to do it. Nicely.


To add to what I've written about EVs (electric cars, ninny! Keep up!). This. Root question: How do you organise a large number of charging points in the same place? A fast charger wants 250kW, so 30 would require 7.5MW and suddenly you need a substation. Checking content, a home charger might be 3.6kW (slow), 7kW (fast), 22kW running on single phase or three-phase AC. A standard charge point works at 50kW (rapid, more than 43kW), while an 'ultra-rapid' works in the range 100-350kW. Source. A 22W charger means 1-2 hours; a 50kW charger might mean an 80% charge in 20-40 minutes, once you've reached the front of the queue. We have half a million EVs on the UK roads in 2021, of 32 million in total, increasing at about 50% per year, which implies that the 1.2% now would be 9% in five years' time, already 7-8 times more and that in turn implies that many more charging points, many of them in much the same places as they are already, since a 20-40 minute stop implies there is some opportunity to persuade the driver to spend on more than the charge, like a coffee (and it's the extras that make the sale worthwhile). So there will be demand for many more charge points and in some places, many more in proximity to each other. This is then an infrastructure problem. There are (2020) 35000 charge points in the UK, though I struggled to prove that these were actually available (i.e. not private, like at your house). As an infrastructure problem, this largely falls on the DNOs (distribution network operators), since they are the bodies connecting chargers to the network. As this source shows, 'rapid' charging demands 3-phase at 100A per phase and 'supercharger', 130kW 200A per phase. Conversion of AC (supply) to DC (battery) generates harmonics, meaning that the substation meeds to be 50-200m away, which we might read as close but not too close. This much information implies quite a bit of additional infrastructure in terms of additional substations and upgrades to existing substations. For example p5 suggests 20 rapid chargers would require 1000kVA (which would also serve 135 fast chargers) (1000kVA = 1MVA) so that's £100k or so, plus the street works and the cost of the land involved including the new substation. 

No-one is saying it can't be done. At the same time, I'd like to read about progress towards making this happen. Site. It occurs to me that the longer stop implies that car security may be an issue, physical, electrical and data-driven (what the gov't calls digital). I assume that EV lorries are to be charged at a different sort of place. How does one charge at home if you don't have off-street parking? Do read the linked website, though it poses more than it answers, as do I. You might investigate the 18-point charging hub in Dundee. The updated report is due about now, 20210514. Look here.


4 screenfuls moved to the June page, because....A week into June and I don't feel like writing or reading much. But then the sun is out at last and no-so-much is wrong with the world.

  Email: David@Scoins.net      © David Scoins 2020