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I feel very tired.

Last week I was a SQL programming course. I found it very difficult and very tiring. Not sure if this is the only thing going on or if I’m still recovering from the long journeys, excitement and jetlag of the #ZinkusNavigation.

I’ve begun to tune out the referendum coverage. I made up my mind a long time ago and there is no new information that could reasonably be expected that would change my mind. So, I’m confining myself to noticing deficiencies in the No campaign’s ground campaign and wondering what if anything they could have done differently.

Still, it’s all very exciting and great to see so many people engaged with the campaigns.

I’m off down south to see BB this weekend. I’m looking forward to finding out how A Levels are going. Other than that I expect we’ll just sleep in. it barely registers that come Friday England might be a foreign country.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Washington DC has a particular and peculiar constitutional position in the US.

DC is a federal district, as provided for in the US Constitution, rather than a state. Consequently DC has no senators and can only send an observer status member to the House of Representatives. Were DC a state it would qualify for the two senators and, with a population of some 600,000 one Representative. They would all three be Democrats.

The citizens of DC are therefore under represented at a federal level. They do pay federal taxes though. Worse is to come. At a local (state) level DC has a legislative council but it’s status is only advisory. It can be, and often is over-ruled, by Congress.

Many citizens of DC are unhappy about this and have used what political powers they have to change their licence plates. Specifically, licence plates are issued by states and federal districts with one of one or more mottos on them.

The DC licence plates read “No taxation without representation.”
 
 
 
 
 
 
I’ve picked up Andrew’s challenge to write about boardgames I love which begin with the letter M

Monopoly

I do like Monopoly, and for several reasons.

Firstly, it’s a much more interesting game if you play it by the actual rules and auction any property that anyone lands on.

Secondly, it is a source of great joy that it can be used to wind up my mother (who is not a particularly gracious loser. I recall, one occasion where one of my siblings having decided he’d had enough and wasn’t going to win sold his entire portfolio to me for $€£1 thus altering the entire balance of the game and enfuriating my mother.

Thirdly, on a family holiday to Spain before the Captain was born we picked up a Spanish language travel. We could remember the rules well enough but had some difficulty working out which were the Chance cards and which Community Chest.

Murder Mystery

I love Murder Mystery dinner party games and it’s a great sadness to me that I don’t do this more often. The games themselves are usually quite silly (or I am actually much, much worse at them than I think I am) and it’s fun to see your friends dressed up and taking on roles.

Anything that encourages a little preparation for social dining is a good thing in my book.

Mah Jong

I’ve just bought a Mah Jong set in China Town in Singapore. It is in a small box, classic red Chinese (or Chinoiserie) woodwork with gold decoration. It looks lovely and suits the sitting room where it now lives next to the smallest of my Happy Buddhas.

My grandmother, who lived in Singapore for a while, was a mad Mah Jong player and every time we visited we played. When I was 12 I was moderately competent. I can’t remember anything more than the general scheme at the moment. I’m looking forward to re-learning the rules and how to play.

The rules that came with the set are utterly unreadable. I can’t follow them at all. I’ll need to find a version on the internet.

Anyone visiting my home is going to be pressured to play mah jong.

(If anyone would like a letter, please comment below.)
 
 
 
 
 
 
Yesterday, I was catching up on a bit of Scottish independence referendum chat.*

I came across some talk** of Orkney and Shetland making a counter bid for indepedence.***

It set me thinking about what the minimum size of a practically independent nation-state is. There appear to be lots of institutions that nation-states need one of. Not necessarily a large one of whatever it is but definitely one. Difficult to be a nation-state if you don’t have a diplomatic service. Then there are a bunch of things that a nation-state, or any community needs access to. A police training college, someone to write regulations for hotel health and safety. Someone who knows how to buy fire engines and lifeboats.

I’m not necessarily thinking about the minimum size to have an economy large enough to afford these things or to afford to buy them in. Orkney, for example, is likely to have significant oil and fisheries and renewable energy to sell.

But with a population of 20,000 would Orkney have enough people to do all the things that needed doing? And, if it contracted out a lot of services does being reliant on (foreign) suppliers for a bunch of important stuff undermine the idea of a nation-state.

Two examples. An Orcadian diplomatic service that wanted to set up embassies in the top 50 countries Orkney wanted to influence, with 5 staff in each embassy would require to base abroad more than 1% of the population of Orkney.

If Orkney contracted with, say Scotland for access to the Police Scotland training college for the training of the Orcadian Constabulary how much of the culture of the Orcadian Constabulary is actually the culture of the Scottish Police and therefore determined by the government and people of Scotland?

How big do you need to be in order to be large enough to do in-house enough of the things that shape and project your national character?****


*To be honest I’m not paying that much attention to the substance of the debate. I’ve already made up my mind pretty firmly. I’ve come to terms with the necessary ambiguity and uncertainty. No new information that might reasonably be expected is going to change my mind. I want to avoid getting in to an argument with my wife about it.

** Often this talk is by some agrieved English person and is along the lines of “Ha, ha, just you wait Scotland / Salmond (for the two are interchangable like the Kim family and Korea), just you wait as soon as you leave England, Orkney will declare independence and take all “your” oil with it. Then you’ll be bankrupt like Zimbabwe. Ha, ha, ha.”

To which the only rational response is, “Cheers, cheers for that. Perhaps we’ll manage to not treat Orkney like some second rate provence or the personal fiefdom of second rate Labour politicians and, if we fail, well, we’ve still got a higher GDP per capita than you, so I reckon we’ll be just fine thanks all the same.”

*** Which I think they would be entitled to do and I can see why they might not fancy being run by the Central Belt.

**** If indeed that is a thing you want to do.
 
 
 
 
 
 
My lovely wife and I watched the end of Festival fireworks on Sunday evening with a bottle of fizz.

We can see Edinburgh Castle from our sitting room, through some trees in the Meadows. So when there are fireworks we can sit on our sofa and watch them.

Watching the end of Festival fireworks is a bit of a tradition in our house. We moved into the flat 8 years ago, on the closing night of the Festival. The first thing we did in our new home was eat fish and chips and drink a bottle of bubbly and watch the fireworks.  Everytime I see them I am reminded that is the anniversary of moving into my home, with my lovely wife and that I am very happy and have lots to be happy about.

I’ve lived in my current home for longer than any other place I’ve ever lived. It beats my previous incumbancy record of 6 years by 33%.

I have moved around a lot, but now I don’t so much.
 
 
 
 
 
 
The Boston Massacre was an important event leading up to the American Revolution and War of Indepedence. British government troops had been stationed in Boston to protect Crown officials trying to enforce some unpopular regulations. The soldiers were often subject to verbal abuse and on the day of the massacre quite a large mob had formed outside some government buildings and were hurling abuse and manure at the small guard detail. A fight broke out between one soldier and a local apprentice lad.

A rumour spread that a fire had started and a large crowd gathered. Some of whom joined in the taunting of the soldiers.

After several hours of standing being abuse by the mob the soldiers opened fire, killing five civilians and injuring half a dozen.

The soldiers were tried, (defended by Sam Addams), and most were acquited. Two were convicted of manslaughter and sentence to branding on the hand.

I heard this story three times whilst in Boston. None of the tellers exaggerated the story to paint the colonists in a better light. In each of the tellings the story comes over as one of a small group of tired men reacting badly to a difficult situation rather than a cold blooded act of official murder and tyranny I was most struck by the first telling of the story I heard from Buzz, a former US Navy hand and the driver of the Boston tour bus we were on. He was at pains to emphasise the youthfulness of the soldiers. Indeed the youthfulness of the protagonists on both sides. He was also at pains to ask the audience to put themselves in the place of the government soldiers, surrounded by a baying mob, pelted with excrement, shouted at and abuse for hours and eventually panicking.

I was most taken with the deliberate attempt to understand and portray the humanity of the British soldiers, when it would be very easy to paint them as flint-hearted, arrogant villians.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A post cribbed from Facebook about the first stop on our #Zinkusnavigation, Boston.
Cut for this being quite long.Collapse )
 
 
 
 
 
 
I was on Twitter last night thrilling the world with the occasional wry remark about the World Cup and catching up on Sarah Boyak’s view on localism
when I happened upon someone I follow being abused. She’d trigger some series of twitterbots using hacked accounts with some connection to Operation Men In Charge which were filling her timeline with some foul language, sexual slurs, anti-feminist abuse and what I think are some Men’s Rights Activist / Conservative Christian slogans.

I’m not even sure that it was particularly directed at her politics. Just using her politics as lever to get some jollies out of being rude to someone.

Upsetting but I think ultimately harmless – if you know that it’s not dozens of actual people typing vitriolic hate mail to you and are prepared to wade through hours of profanity. I suspect less harmless if you didn’t know it was just some 12 year old with some script he’d nicked being a dickhead or if you’d had lots of personally targeted abuse in the past or were having a bad day for some other reason. Her view on it appeared to be that it was tedious rather than upsetting.   She’d had enough and was asking for some help reporting the spam.  So I did and tweeted to say I had.

Which then triggered the spambots to target me. Which was tedious rather than upsetting. I think I must have blocked about 40 accounts last night.

I think it’s stopped now.

In any event I managed to get myself called a feminist enabler (whatever that might be). In my book, not the insult the Men’s Right movement might think it is.
 
 
 
 
 
 
A bit of voting nerding on the Scottish results of the European Elections.

I wanted to see who was the runner up to UKIP for the sixth Scottish seat, using my Scotland d’Hondt Table. Initial guess was that it was going to be a close run thing between the SNP and Greens with the Lib Dems a distant fourth. Initial guess turned out to be right.

UKIP won 140,534 votes. They won the seat on the 1st divisor.

The Greens won 108,305 votes. On their 1st divisor, therefore needing 32,229 votes to overtake UKIP and win the seat.

The SNP won 389,503 votes. Having already won two seats they are competing for the sixth seat on their 3rd divisor, of 129,834 leaving them 32,099 votes short of overtaking UKIP.

Lib Dems polling 95,319 votes puts them 45,215 votes short of UKIP.  Well short.

So the SNP are runners up for the sixth seat, Greens third by 130 votes and Lib Dems a fairly distant fourth. No one got particularly close. The Greens would have had to increase their vote by nearly a third to win the sixth seat and the SNP by a little under a tenth. Even if everyone who voted for one of the fringe parties has voted for either of the two closest contenders UKIP would have won the seat.

So far so good. If there was an anti-UKIP tactical vote going on it was split between the SNP and the Greens and probably not large enough to prevent UKIP winning.

In terms of the theory of victory for each party I think the Greens will be very disappointed and the SNP a bit miffed.  The Euros are an important election for the Greens. PR gives them a decent chance of picking up a seat if they can pick up the votes. A few extra MEP’s would help to secure them a decent platform for the longer term.

The SNP? I think the Euro elections are probably their least most important election at the moment. What do the SNP want?

1) Win the referendum
2) Deliver competent, leftish government. (That’s their job, they are the government.)
3) Win the 2016 Scottish General Election.
4) Pick up a few extra seats at Westminster so that, if not 1) they can negotiate for more devolved powers and if 1) they can negotiate for a better separation deal.


I think their entire focus is on winning the independence referendum. After that, they are focused on delivering competent left-ish government and then winning the 2016 Holyrood election.  Sure, they would have liked to have won the third seat but offer them 30,000 extra votes at the Euros or on the 18th of September and I think they’d take the referendum votes without looking back. If you offered them an extra 30,000 at either the Euros or at Westminster again I think they’d take winning the extra seats at Westminster.

What I think the SNP mainly wanted from the Euro election was to be able to talk about Scotland being different from the rest of the UK in rejected UKIP.  Nearly, mostly got that.  UKIP polled nearly 1 vote in 3 in England and only 1 vote in 10 in Scotland. It would clearly have been better if UKIP hadn’t won the seat but, there you go.  I blame the voters.

As it is, they did okay in the Euros. Total vote up, vote share only a fraction down. Only an extra 2,000 votes would have seen their vote share unchanged. Held two seats.

So I don’t think the SNP will be that upset about not winning the last Euro seat.

The Greens, pretty gutted I’d have thought.

One final point to note.

In 2009 the BNP polled 27,613 votes.  In 2014 the BNP and Britain First combined vote was 23,855.  Down, but not down by a huge amount.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Today is election day in the UK for the European Parliament.

I have already been and voted. I took the Captain up with me.  Partly because MLW is working away in Glasgow and for various logistical reasons it was easier for me to take him with me and vote this morning. Partly because I wanted to introduce him to voting. Partly because the polling station is in the primary school he will be going to in 15 months time and this was a nice opportunity to show him the inside of it.

He was a bit nervous about going in to the building. It is much, much larger than his very small nursery school. The PE hall in which the polling station was located is significantly bigger than his whole nursery.

He helped me pick who I was going to vote for. Surprisingly picking the same party for me as I had actually decided to vote for. Then he posted the ballot into the ballot box.  Vote early vote often.

Then we scooted down the big hill in to the sunrise.

I was a bit worried about the No2EU representative outside the polling station. I’m not sure he was sticking to the letter of the law with his leafleting.

As usual voting allowed me a small opportunity to smirk at the BNP who are promising to make Scotland better.

Picking my candidate (or collection of candidates) was pretty easy this time round. I am usually chosing between 2 or 3 parties, depending on which election it is, which electoral system is being used and which seat I’m voting in. The sixth Euro seat in Scotland looks pretty marginal so I’ve voted tactically amongst my prefered parties in order to keep one particular party out. I’ll find out on Sunday if I’m successful.

All in all a pleasant enough adventure although the Captain was pretty tired after all the voting.