347 - June snippets | Scoins.net | DJS

347 - June snippets 


Covid update 20210608 source high rates in Argentina Colombia (most of S America but for Venezuela). Mongolia, Namibia, Botswana, Brunei. This might well be reporting as much as prevalence. 

On vaccination, Canada has done a lot of catching up, as has quite a bit of Europe, while the UK has slowed down, no doubt because it is so well into second doses. The UK stands 40 million people vaccinated with this 72% split 41:19 on 2:1 doses. Currently we're offering jabs to 30-year olds, but it is quite patchy around the nation. Meanwhile the delta variant (previously called the Indian one) is running amok and accounts for the upturn in the graph above. Worldometers this morning says the UK has12.9 million current cases, of which 86500 are serious or critical. Interactive map found here, showing issues  in the NW centred on Blackburn & Bolton (again), from Glasgow and southwards and around Bedford.

The Guardian's update page is quite an impressive site and well worth visiting. I particularly like (still) the ability to look at change and to zoom in to look at detail. Overall, we're not doing at all well right now and if it was not for the vaccine we'd by looking at another bad wave. As it is, things look pretty bad and the population not vaccinated should be concerned. All of the population needs to be distinctly careful.

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We were building castles in the air and wondering if we could afford a similar sized house with a relatively large amount of land. Which served to rediscover how very bad estate agents are at communication, and how they fail to conform to any common standards, not even a unit of measure. But, as an example, we both separately spotted a horse-lover's house with 21 acres. Which sounds like an awful lot, doesn't it? So suppose it was a square plot enclosing 21 acres; estimate the length of a side. Take a guess first, like choose from {200m, 300m, 400m, 500m, 800m}.

Subsidiary question: if you think half an acre of rectangular house plot is 'large' and your frontage is maybe 20 metres wide, how deep is it?

 I postulate a 'house index' for housing, which is the building footprint expressed as a percentage of the whole plot. This house is then 30-33%. Of the outside two thirds, just less than half is hard surfaces, so I suggest a second, 'gardenable' index which is the area of soft surface (grass, planted spaces, ponds) divided by the area of hard surface (drive, pathways, garden walling, steps, etc). Here, that is just over 90%.  You might prefer me to express the gardenable area as a % of the non-house area, in which case here would be 52%. Explore


21 x 4840 sq yards / 1.0936² is sq metres. 85000 m². Square root this; 291m on a side. So one might easily have a 1km boundary path.

I acre is 4047m² to the nearest integer, so about 100 metres (202m). Yes, that's a long garden. A half acre on a square plot is 45m on a side and it is quite likely that 20-25% of this is buildings and hard surfaces. Our 500m² is about an eighth of an acre.

A cricket field is about 4 acres. A soccer pitch 1.7 ±0.2 acres (yards, 100x50 to 130x100).

One of my neighbours has no soft surface at all, so zero.  My parents' house was around 2.  Our house in Wallsend was around 1. The house in Stockport nearer 2.

The Blackpool house is pretty evenly split into three; the buildings footprint, the hardstandings and the cultivatable land. So my house footprint on plot is 33%. Hard surfaces is 170m², soil (and grass) area 182m², house & sheds footprint 164m² total close to 500m². Total built floor area is a different thing altogether, because that's internal floor area, generally something like 120-180% of footprint. Upstairs generally adds less than you'd think. If you look at living space, the numbers come down again, because you lose the communication areas (halls, corridors, stairs) and 'habitable rooms' means ignore washing areas (bathrooms, toilets, kitchens and utility rooms). Which can result in some oddnesses in design when this becomes a measure (such as one used for taxation purposes), so that communication space becomes part of a room but is still declared to be habitable space. Conversely, you might (rarely) find a corridor-type space with some habitable purposes, such as a bookcase on the stairs.  Reading. Longer reading. That last has good content, though I thought the units and measures needed clear definition that I didn't find. Examples: if your back garden is say 15 metres, is that a length not an area, so that corner plots are excluded; a bedroom has 'usable floor area' defined how? [by subtracting the bed, the wardrobes, the door swing? - that would make many bedrooms 'usable floor' really tiny; my rented room at university had a residual floor area less than a square metre by such a measure. Pp41-43.

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During lockdown I attended a zoom course on Band Safety. I found this severely depressing. As reaction to the perception of a wealth of child abuse we have a growing amount of regulation regarding the inclusion of children—which means under-19s not under 15s—in any sort of public performance. A similar but reduced set of circumstances apply to any rehearsals prior to such performance. This means that all sorts of clubs have to have policies and certificates and permissions, while performances must have licences; with those licences comes inspection and failing to meet the standards of inspection results in closing the activity. Now, in terms of protection of our young, this is fine – if necessary, which the media must have us believe is the case. We have a society in which all sorts of bad things occur out of sight, so we must act to reduce this. Whether such action drives the unwanted activities underground or eliminates them is something we don't ask too closely. 

But—and you knew a 'but' was coming—the predominant feature of leisure activities is that they be FUN. Regulation and compliance with those regulations is most definitely not fun. while participation in fun activities means that somebody else is chasing around after the regulatory approval, fine. But that guarantees that many participants in any leisure activity are tacitly relying upon those few dedicated individuals who get enjoyment out of working through the bureaucracy. This is my idea of the complete antithesis of fun; in effect it is a tax upon fun. Worse, I do not think it is even a little bit fair that the mass of participants presume upon the regulatory action having occurred. Further, then, one cannot expect people in general to do this without reward; it is what in other circumstances would be called work, which generally receives remuneration. So, we have a situation where, so as to protect each other, we must all contribute (usually by payment`) to cover the costs of the regulatory work. Or we simply don't do it because somehow it has been deemed Not Safe.

I discover that I would very much rather find activities that exclude children.

In consequence I do not think the band for which I play will survive. Partly this is because such as myself are soon going to cry "Enough!' and move to something else. I am not prepared to do the work attached to getting permissions so that a youth can play; I am not interested in having to accept that we are not trustworthy as adults nor am I prepared in consequence to take actions that present the facade that says we are trustworthy  Which evidence is really only that none of us has been caught transgressing — multiple negatives do not make a positive. So I'm not prepared to be part of the solution that brings under18s into the band and I'm easier with ignoring them than spending effort 'looking out for them' which to me is very little different from the perception I have of whatever 'grooming' is, short of the offensive acts themselves. Avoidance of risk here amounts to avoidance of youth. Add to this that far too many collisions of youth and older adult result in the older adult feeling degraded, insulted  disrespected and my perception is that children are in several senses dangerous. The regulations specifically do not permit a parental presence to be sufficient protection. In turn that means that it is not action by a parent that results in their child being permitted to participate, for the onus of the work attached to this inclusion is moved to the club, the leisure activity organisers. I see this as tantamount to encouragement of activities by the very sort of people the regulations are there to prevent. My risk avoidance is therefore obvious; avoid children. The consequence of a load of regulation for the inclusion of children in performance is, simply, the exclusion of children.


Among the consequences of covid is a realisation that we should spend effort (develop better habits) for biosecurity. This means more frequent washing etc but also taking care to keep distant. Crowding is something then for those I would like to deem as stupid, but in fairness they are only making other open-ended decisions. Already I don't like crowds and the self-care that covid has underlined merely adds to good reasons to avoid crowds.


Behaviour at a national level demonstrates a recognised truth, that we deal with our own situation before we deal with others, even those perceived as equal. Look at the co-operation in development of vaccines and then where those vaccines went. I'm not criticising at all; I was surprised at each suggestion that implied we would, for example, be sending vaccines off to somewhere like East Africa before we vaccinated ourselves. Don't be stupid, of course we're not going to do that. But, if we were being sensible, we'd be recognising that a holiday overseas is not 'on' again except to places of equivalent vaccine position. That is an individual choice, of course magnified by all the vested interests in the overseas holiday and travel businesses, but those of us that don't do overseas travel don't want to add to our risks by having neighbours bringing in new virus.

Quite obviously this reduces to a matter of risk and perceived risk. We already accept to a large extent that perception is more important than truth. At the level of the individual, we make hopefully informed choices about the relative risks of possible activities. Above some undefined perception level probably governed by the fear that the media perpetuates we have a number of concerns, let's say fear of sexual harassment and fear of contracting a disease. The best way to deal with risks is to avoid them and second to that is to take mitigating actions to reduce the recognised risk. That is clear and I hope not to be argued with.

So then we find that there is some sort of cost-benefit analysis to apply to a activity, balancing the gains made against the losses if a risk turns into a regrettable event. At the level of leisure activities, the element of fun is at risk. For some, even being caused to think about a balance of risks is a massive reduction in fun level; for others it is the mitigation of risk that adds to the excitement. 

Take jumping off a cliff as an example: possible routes to doing this include (i) no parachute (ii) parachute but no training (iii) with some training (iv) with a second chute (v) doing it in tandem with an expert (vi) refusing to entertain this at all. Somewhere in that spectrum offered is a choice that you deem exciting—just risky enough to count as fun—bracketed quite possibly by choices you reject as completely mad. 

There are activities where lots of training goes before the event (training with a parachute, any sports training / practices) such that in a sense the event becomes an excuse for the training. As I heard Daley Thompson said more than once, if you didn't enjoy the training, you wouldn't do the sport. I failed to find evidence of this quote, but to do well in a competitive sport there is a disproportionate amount of training, quite akin to the learning and revision before an exam. If you expressed this as overhead or as a ration of time spent in preparation compared to time tested, then you come up with conclusions that say the training really must be enjoyed to justify that time spent. And, quite possibly there is huge remuneration attached to being suitably good. Even if you reference the test as a whole day (your event at the Olympics) then the previous years of carefully directed and dedicated effort suggest that the ration of prep:test is of the order of 1000:1.  No wonder so many of us settle for relative ineptitude.

Personally, I don't need to be the best I can possibly be, I'lll settle instead for suitably adequate. I set my running target as 75% on age-grading, because that is where I have historically reached in most years when I take running seriously – it makes a decent target. In terms of music, I'm happy at Third Section band level but uncomfortable at Second and Fourth, where the challenge is too much or too little (for the me/instrument combination). But what I get out of music doesn't have to be band, it could be a choir or playing keyboard at home. I prefer the people associated with band and the social side of banding, but I really do not like the contesting, which moves the activity away from fun to stress. At least in running any lack of success is my problem and no-one else's.


So right now I'm pretty close to writing 'band' off. The test here is the balance between gains from doing it and the disbenefits of continuing; in particular, that the not-fun elements cause a change in the whole such that not-band would be more pleasant.


https://theconversation.com/covid-19-could-be-the-end-of-global-health-as-we-know-it-161119?utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20May%2019%202021%20-%201950819106&utm_content=Latest%20from%20The%20Conversation%20for%20May%2019%202021%20-%201950819106+CID_ab840f4fafb1a9eb4212db848735187f&utm_source=campaign_monitor_uk&utm_term=this%20isnt%20how%20countries%20choose%20to%20operate

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https://www.techrepublic.com/article/the-great-resignation-of-2021-are-30-of-workers-really-going-to-quit/?ftag=TRE684d531&bhid=22648560892833932754088385906681&mid=13379693&cid=713350891

The linked article generally agrees with the reports on teaching, that a dramatic number of people say they want to change. Change what, quite, varies. I wonder what the churn level was before we had  the pandemic. Leaving a job often requires some combination of finding a new job and overcoming the inertia of staying with the old one. But I think we are at an inflection point at which many people are reconsidering the particulars of their lives and of work-life balance." I point out that an inflection point is where the second differential changes sign, so this is a far weaker statement than I guess the editor recognises. It's inflexion in British English, actually, though we're not terribly fussy.

There is a good argument that says we've discovered the extent to which working form home can be made to work and on the way we had quite a bit of opportunity to discover what is god about home and good about the office, so we could quite easily choose to keep what is good about both aspects of location. There's another argument that says this is all too hard (which I read as 'this doesn't suit me personally and I don't want to put the effort in, so screw you and I'll exert the power I have to reject what all you people want').

As for actually quitting, that is very different from talking about it. The inertia that causes people to stay put is huge, not least because of the allied effort, stress and costs involved in actually bothering to move. Which of course is magnified if 'move' includes house and employer. To an extent, this can be reflected on the ability of some jobs to succeed under what I might call Zoom conditions, leading to the prospect of (US) 'zoom towns' where the rural life can be embraced fully, while relying on the internet for the city-type office employment,  fully remote in a more rural area, permanently.

Personally I think that many jobs can support an element of home working. No doubt on this spectrum there are some which are at one or the other end of a spectrum, where one end is work that simply cannot be done from home such as street-based outside jobs, and at the other end jobs which are already done from home, which would include quite a few of the self-employed. But even those jobs often have elements that are elsewhere.

I continue to maintain that the objection to home working centres around the level of trust between employer and employee. As I noted this week, that which cannot be measured cannot be managed; which reads really well until you find it listed among the great lies of business. Which in turn, I think, merely confirms that it is the measure itself that is at fault and all too often leads to a gaming of the system.

Th US labour market referred to in the link says the 'quit rate' is around 2.4% per month, while those talking about leaving ranges from 26% to 40%.

A survey of NEU members (a teachers' union in the UK) found 80% of 8000 had considered leaving the profession in 2018. Which, you will realise, was before the pandemic.

In [UK] education, there was a rise in pupils greater than the proportional rise in teachers. The measure used for teacher retention is by the year and across five years; a typical figure is around 68% for a five-year period. Labouring this, that is that 32% of newly qualified teachers leave the profession. Or, to put that another way, we need to train 50% more than we think we need just to provide sufficient supply. In a little more detail, from the 2018 figures:-

 There were 44,600 FTE qualified new entrants in state funded schools in 2018, just over half were newly-qualified teachers, and 16,400 were returning to the sector. However, there were also 42,100 that left. That’s mostly 35,600 qualified teachers who are out of service (which the DfE hopes “may come back as returners in a later year and those leaving the profession”). A total of 6,300 qualified teachers retired, and 130 teachers died during the year. But the overall leaver rate last year was 9.8 per cent – lower than the 10.2 per cent in 2017.  original report. There are 453,400 FTE (full-time equivalent) state-funded teachers, plus 263,900 teaching assistants. So the wastage rate, the proportion leaving in any year, is an astonishing 10%. Just among those trained, we have 100,000 who have never taught. Source. That 68% five-year retention rate is not evenly distributed; it is down at 50% for physics and maths, which suggests that there are other subjects with a much better retention rate. personally, I'd describe both maths and physics as on the lesser-stress list of subjects to teach.


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On other fronts, and perhaps to move to the previous pages on the general topic, this from The Conversation:-

The red/yellow chart shows change in sea level is not at all uniform.


The mostly blue map showing the Arctic Ocean (or would you rather call it a sea?) shows the subsurface temperature at 2 metres and so is a measure of the permafrost, and a place where CO₂ is stored, twice as much as in the whole of the atmosphere. If you look at the link, this chart flips between 97-06 and 07-18, so you can see the recent change.

Other charts not copied here show the deforestation in Brazil, the NO₂ in Europe changing in 2020 lockdown (comparing Easter 2019 with the same time in 2020).

I looked at all of this and decided that none of this says the world is ending. It of course supports any opinion that says we're getting it wrong, but, as we've learned so thoroughly with the pandemic, the detail figures for one aspect or location don't tell the overall picture, and vice versa.

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The Martians have landed. On earth, already.  FullFact felt it necessary to counter-argue  a Facebook post which claims that Covid vaccines give recipients “magnetic” properties, and allows them to be detected by electronic devices via Bluetooth. FactCheck 28/5/2021. 

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There's a world-wide shortage of chips. There is also a very small number of chip manufacturers. Amongst the mess that is reportage I noticed that some idiot got away with using semiconductor as a substitute for chip, when semiconductors are used in volume to make chips. Calling them microprocessors would be accurate enough. Because one did, many sheeple followed so I caught this on the radio yesterday (day out, so radio on in car eventually). There might well be a shortage of semiconductor as a base from which to make chips. The referenced article is very poor echo-chamber material. The Guardian is better and as ever references its own related articles, so one can explore the topic as they understand it. Reasons are not well presented, but it appears to be based on (i) the pandemic limiting production for a while and (ii) increased demand, notably from car manufacture. Or, perhaps, that demand has increased and the big manufacturers are hit by this, putting anticipated models into delay.  Cars in general; Nissan, Ford. Tech in generalSamsung Apple.

What this is not is a shortage of silicon, only silicon chips. Which asks why the adjective at all, since we don't base chips on anything other than silicon, much, yet. The food version means different things in the UK and US (the UK-chips are french fries in the US and US-chips are crisps in the UK). Nor is this a particular shortage of other material from which computer chips are made.

Chip manufacture is itself an interesting thing to investigate. WikipediaThere are two major manufacturers of computer processors, Intel® and AMD®. source. The greatest production is from TSMC in Taiwan (of course, it is the Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company) and GlobalFoundries in the US (mostly, but also Germany and Singapore). Analysis of a sort.  I have to wonder what is missing from the media stories. For example, The European Union (EU) has set a goal for Europe to produce at least 20 percent of the world’s semiconductors by value by 2030. Semiconductor revenue in Europe is lower than in other regions, although Europe does have key strengths which could help it to achieve the ambitious targets. An example is in the production of chips for the automotive industry, with firms such as NXP Semiconductors (Netherlands) and Infineon (Germany) specialising in this field. source.  So wouldn't a world-wide shortage encourage a shift within Europe to local suppliers for the car chips? One understands that results wouldn't be immediate. There is understandable confusion between who designs chips and who actually makes them. Also, chips can be for phones and cars and computers and we easily confuse ourselves that these are the same, or different, when making general statements. 

I conclude that this is a badly reported tale. For example, Apple used Intel chips (Intel do both design and manufacture) and their newest computers use the M1 chip, which is made by TSMC. A concern in the west is the Chinese attitude to Taiwan, which puts the (perception of) stability of supply in doubt, so, for example, Intel announced an expansion and large volume chip designers such as Apple and Qualcomm (who fairly obviously contract out the manufacture) need to be concerned similarly.

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A consequence of this bad reporting is that one may yet be persuaded to pay (support) better independent reporting. However, what pertains here as ç echo-chamber based on very little real or researched content demonstrates both the need and the current failure for this to occur. As an example, The Conversation sells itself as such a source—"academic rigour, journalistic flair"—but what I read often falls down on one or both counts, perhaps demonstrating that rigour and flair make poor bedfellows.

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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. So I moved a chunk of what I wrote in May onto this page.

Page added to the Maths section about Xⁿ starting with n.

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This old fool managed to fall over while running. One might hope this will teach me to lift my feet (knees) more, but that is unlikely to last. As an indirect result there will be more writing on here.

One long article worthy of share is from The Atlantic, and explains —or purports to—how the US had fractured into four more-or-less separate states of thinking.  I have paraphrased throughout what follows. The author, George Packer, has labelled these; first, Free America, which amounts to 'don't tread on me' and seems to me somehow white, redneck, deliberately not responsible and perhaps mostly Republican. Second, Smart America, who are the very vocal and effective top ten percent (not all of them, but mostly from that sector); think of them as meritocrats. Meritocracy also doesn't do responsibility well; smart Americans work hard all of the time, pursuing their version of success and in general not mixing well with those not like themselves. That may give them, accidentally, common ground with the Free Americans (your problems are your own); generally I see Smart Americans as probably democrats. One difference is that Smart Americans seems not to have much use for patriotism, but that also means that by ceding this entirely they gift it to others. Third we have Real America, to whom Sarah Palin and later Donald Trump appealed; these are white, religious, nationalist, working class, hard-working producers, oddly conservative to the extent of indifference to what occurs outside the borders. I read this as white Christian nationalism even if its members denied such. Trump appalled these folk (which explanation I don't understand; I'd have thought he'd appeal greatly). Fourth of these groupings is Just America: they may mean Unjust America, for it is the lack of equality in justice that characterises them. Mostly this is the failure of social justice, but these are people who feel oppressed on some way. Oppression in this sense is that 'the system is out to get them'. These folk see the system as a fixed hierarchy (that rings true in the UK too), they are anti-supremacist, probably anti-white in turn, but every group that identifies as oppressed belongs (an easy list to write). Yet my understanding of the Just America includes many overeducated, underemployed young whites, who continually misreads or ignores the Black and Latino working classes, though I may be conflating ideas incorrectly.

I found all four categories somewhat hollow, though no doubt the certainty that any stereotypical member of any of the four is very definite that they are Right and that their lives make sense in that their actions are consistent with their beliefs. Each group identifies with a problem that is real enough; each offers a value that the others need and lacks ones that the others have. Free America celebrates the energy of the unencumbered individual. Smart America respects intelligence and welcomes change. Real America commits itself to a place and has a sense of limits. Just America demands a confrontation with what the others want to avoid. 

Not a description of a country I want to visit; though much of the geography appeals, the people strike me as downright dangerous.

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Floundering around looking for something quite different I found a report that says GOV.UK content should be published in HTML and not PDF. Presumably if so, then perhaps many more documents well outside government should follow the same suggestion. The whole point of a pdf file is that it is difficult to mess about with, so it is also more difficult to maintain; but that is the whole point, in effect it works to counter all sorts of behaviour the originator views as theft or other abuse. The benefits of using html is that it will fit whatever screen is in use, it is much easier to find and to track – and so, the argument goes, to use, but then that 'use' is what the pdf-user was to some extent trying to prevent, particularly the copy/paste action. maybe the position is different for HMG, where copying from a site as a quote ought to cause a reader to go view the gov.uk site for the 'latest update', no matter how much what it says it not what the user wants to read. While bits of gov.uk are good (improving, say) at showing date of last update or edit, that does at least recognise that the sort of access most of us want is for the information to be convenient and accessible. Whether those same features apply outside government is a decision for others. Maybe much of the complaint over html would be cured by a sufficient log of edits, which doesn't have to be left publicly available.

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