Archive for January 2013

Dog bites Man

Scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute and the US Fish and Wildlife Service compiled nationwide data from a number of local surveys and pilot studies, to conclude that cats are responsible for the deaths of up to 3.7bn birds and 20.7bn small mammals every 12 months, including mice, voles, rabbits and shrews.

Predators kill. Red in tooth and claw n’ all that.

Sugar baby love…

The website Seeking Arrangement, which boasts of being ‘The Elite Sugar Daddy Dating Site for those Seeking Mutually Beneficial Relationships® & Mutually Beneficial Arrangements™’, has come under fire from that august body of men and women otherwise known as MSPs.

The site’s premise is simple enough: bringing together wealthy, usually older benefactors and cash-strapped younger adults on whom they can show their money. Think any aging celebrity with a young, attractive woman on their arm and you are there.

Why are the MSPs so interested?

The website revealed yesterday that the University of Edinburgh is the latest Scottish university to make it on to their annual “Top 20 Fastest Growing Sugar Baby Schools” in the UK.

It said there had been a 222 per cent increase in female student sign-ups from the university since April 2012, putting it in 8th place with 148 new members in the UK league table.

The university is one of three north of the Border on the list. The others are Glasgow Caledonian which is ranked fifth and St Andrews ninth.

Students finding ways other than taxpayer backed loans to cover the cost of their tuition? Excellent. Initiative isn’t completely dead yet then.

But, as mentioned, the politicians – a group always suspicious of voluntary arrangements between consenting adults – are going for the scare tactic:

Liz Smith, MSP, Scottish Conservative education spokeswoman said that such sites could put female students at risk.

“I do not think I will be alone in having deep-seated concerns about this. I am sure there will be many parents, members of staff and indeed many students themselves who will rightly be very wary of the approach of this type of website,” she said.

“Sadly, there have been other circumstances where the police have been called in to investigate similar website activity and there is clearly a matter of concern about the reported growth-rate of female students wanting to make use of these social networking sites.”

Labour MSP Neil Findlay, a member of the education committee, said: “The company may like to spin this as students ‘being proactive in pursuing a higher education but I am very concerned that this may take are more sinister turn.

“Young people may be vulnerable to older men who may have less than altruistic motives behind their apparent generosity. The reality is Mr Wade’s company is making money out of a system that could be putting young students in danger.”

Yes, something might go wrong for a small percentage of the students – but that is how life works. Your job, you useless fools, isn’t to protect people every single waking second of the day – regardless of how much you may think otherwise. The only role of the state has to play in this (given its current monopoly on law and order) is to get involved when harm is done.

Besides, I suspect the people more likely to get fleeced out of these arrangements are those putting up the readies.

h/t @Jock_Bastard

An Attenwibble round-up

I was going to write something about the deluded Malthusian fool otherwise known as David Attenborough and his latest piece of twaddle but others managed to eviscerate his drivel before I got a chance to:

Globalisation: A life saver

One of the goals of the anti-capitalist morons who occasionally fill the streets of developed world is an end to globalisation. Heck, the loonies in Green Party think that an end to globalisation is the route to prosperity for all. No, I don’t understand their logic either.

The silliness of the localisation idea was, at least to my mind, proven when I saw a piece in the FT during the week about the bread manufacturer Hovis:

Hovis, one of the UK’s top-selling breads, is to abandon its pledge to use only British wheat in its loaves following rain-blighted harvests.

Hovis will start using EU grain from this weekend. The move is another blow for UK farmers, who are already reeling from the relentless rains that made 2012 the second-wettest year on record and cost £1.3bn in agricultural damage and its aftermath.


The UK’s wheat yield fell by 14 per cent last year, according to the National Farmers Union. As a result, the country’s wheat imports are forecast to more than double to 2m tonnes. Since 2011 the price of bread has risen by 4.3 per cent, ahead of the 3.7 per cent rate for general food inflation.

That’s right, because last summer was so awful that the wheat harvest was almost one seventh down on 2011 the company has had to look elsewhere or reduce its output.

Now imagine a similar shortage across everything produced by UK farmers and no option to import any food stuffs from abroad…

Long live globalisation.

Fare’s fair?

For many of us the first working day of the year has arrived and, like the inevitability of rain following a drought order, rail fares have increased.

As a rail commuter myself I am well aware of how depressing it is to see the cost of getting to somewhere (London in my case) go up year after year for no discernible benefit in terms of better, less crowded trains, nicer stations and shorter journey times.*

When I next renew my annual season ticket the cost to me will be £3,136 – an increase of just under 4.2%. On the face of it this seems a lot of money for what is approximately an 80 mile round trip to London five days a week.

But when you take a closer look it starts to become more reasonable. Thanks to that annual season ticket I get:

  • Unlimited travel between my home station and London 363** days a year
  • The ability to use any station between those two points without worrying if my ticket will cover it (handy for Lakeside, should I wish)
  • One third off of any other rail travel (except Transport for London – but I have my PAYG Oyster for that)

Not convinced? Then let us, as the colonials are want to say, ‘do the math’…

The daily cost to me of this ticket is £8.64. Narrow it down to 5 days a week, 52 weeks a year and the daily rate is £12.06. Take out my holiday allowance and the remaining bank holidays and you are up to £13.40 a day.

Now take a common small car, a Fiesta say. Apparently it does about 50 miles to the gallon of petrol so let us run with that figure even though I suspect it would do a lot less if sat in rush hour traffic for several hours a day.

At 80 miles a day, or 400 miles a week, that is 8 gallons (36.39 litres) of petrol a week. Assuming an unleaded car with petrol at 131.9p/litre (the lowest figure for my area according to I will be spending pretty much £48/week on petrol. Still, it’s less than 5 days on the train.

But wait, I haven’t thought about parking and (if I’m unlucky) the congestion charge. Like most London office blocks we don’t have acres of parking space but unlike most we do have a private side street which I could use if I arrived early enough. It would still however cost me £8/day as it is inside the congestion charge zone. If I didn’t fancy chancing it I could try the NCP on the edge of the zone at £18/day.

At a minimum I’m looking at £88/week or £4,576 a year. If I end up in the NCP every day it’s £7,176 and if I have to pay the congestion charge as well I’m up to £9,256 – almost 3 times my rail fare.

So whilst the taxpayer subsidised (boo, hiss), government regulated fare I have to pay on what we laughingly call our privatised rail network is hardly cheap, unless it triples in price I’ll stick to using it as the alternative is horrendously expensive.

I could, of course, always sell up, move closer to London and cycle in thus saving myself my transport costs – and I will admit to considering the idea – but this is offset by a more expensive property, a higher council tax bill and the depressing thought of having a socialist (of the Labour variety) MP and council.

In end it is, like everything, a choice so whilst I might (and indeed do) grumble about the cost I know that the grass on the other side of the fence isn’t necessarily greener.

* To be fair to the operating company serving the line I use, the trains are relatively modern (only a decade old) and I don’t tend to worry too much about stations as I (usually) spend less than five minutes on them each day. The journey times though, especially to London in the morning, have increased.

** No service Christmas Day or Boxing Day.


The revelry is over, the new year finally under way, the hangovers dealt with and the time to reel in the drinking has arrived (although, obviously not, if you have a public holiday on Jan 2nd to get over the 1st).

But wait, what horror this way comes? Ah, I see it now… it is a cash-strapped fake-charity frantically tying to hitch themselves to the bandwagon of the post-festive drying out period in an attempt to raising money to keep themselves on the hamster-wheel of puritanical lobbying.

For those who are, about now, wondering if I wrote this whilst slowly pickling myself in a large vat of Christmas sherry I shall explain.

In October 2011, Alcohol Concern (the aforementioned fake-charity), lost a lot of their funding after the government decided not to give them any more money stolen from the taxpayer. Whilst for many of us this is a cause for celebration and much merriment, Alcohol Concern weren’t too amused.

Desperate to raise some cash in order to continue to pump out dodgy statistics and lobby ministers and civil serpents in the Department of Health, our penniless puritans came up with what they must have thought was a great wheeze: a sponsored Dry January. What could be more fun than staying off of the sauce and raising money for an organisation which exists simply to hector you about your drinking? That’s a rhetorical question, obviously.

The forces of light are not, thankfully, letting this pass uncontested and by the good offices of Anonymong we have a more useful January idea: Drinkuary.

Drinkuary is a quiet counter argument to Alcohol Concern’s “Dry January”. Alcohol Concern want you to not have a drink for the whole month and raise money for them whilst you do so, I don’t care one way or another if you drink or not. I do care that tax funded charities and health organisations feel compelled to tell us how to live our lives.

Although the whole shebang is now under way there is an “official” launch party this coming Sunday (January 6th) at The Silver Cross, 33 Whitehall, Whitehall, London, SW1A 2BX from 1400.

MG will be in attendance and no doubt a number of fellow bloggers will be there for a lemonade or two.