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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.
These remarks were thought about before Farage decided that discretion was the better part of valour. I’m mainly posting them up here because they are too long for a Facebook comment typed on a touchscreen on a smartphone and because Patrick Hadfield asked me to expand on a shorter comment I’d made.

At the time of thinking (mid to late last night) there were suggestions that both Nigel Farage and Boris Johnson would stand in the Newark by-election. My initial thoughts were that this would be a hilarious contest to watch from another country and that I couldn’t decide which would put the wind up the Cameron government more, Nigel Farage MP, or Boris Johnson MP redux.

Then I got to thinking that a bit of crude game theory suggested that whilst both men were in the state of  probably-going-to-stand neither man would. It’s a sort of version of the Prisoners’ Dilemma This unpacks thus…

Both Johnson and Farage would like very much to be MP’s . Both gain considerable advantage from the threat they pose as potential MP’s. Johnson because he is seen as a likely and strong challenger to Cameron as Tory leader and Farage, well for much the same reason but in a more roundabout way. However, neither needs to be an MP *now* in order to translate that advantage into a stronger position and / or the ultimate achievement of their goals later. The advantage they have *now* is that they are perceived as being likely to win later. There will be another chance, a better chance, later.

Clearly losing a by-election in a secure centre-right seat would significantly damage the perception that they are likely to win later. Perhaps to the point where it destroys both their current threat and the chance of them securing their ultimate ambition. Johnson would have to return to the mayoral challenge of stealing Ken Livingston’s policies and Farage would return to being the sort of person I avoid in the pub whilst muttering the words Dunning-Kruger to myself.

The pay-off to winning Newark now is not much greater than the pay for winning another seat later. The cost of losing Newark now is considerable, perhaps making it impossible to win another seat later. Newark is a tricky seat for both men *if* the other one is standing.

The thing most likely to prevent each man winning the Newark by-election is if the other man is standing against him – and thus splitting the “honest, plain speaking, hail fellow well met, man-of-the-people iconoclast” vote. So, whilst Johnson might stand if Farage wasn’t and Farage might stand if Johnson wasn’t the threat that losing poses to both men’s ambition is such that neither can risk standing against the other. Absent some coordinating cartel or signalling mechanism and a way of rewarding the other chap for doing the decent thing, a protracted will they won’t they dance is likely to end up with both men giving Newark the swerve and continuing to keep their powder dry and their fleet in being.

I’m not sure how the very quick Farage stand down affects Johnson’s decision to run or not.  Problematically for him, he’s on record as saying he wouldn’t cut short his term as Mayor of London to seek re-election and the Conservative candidate in Newark has been selected for some time. I expect he’ll also keep his powder dry and his promises kept.
I had arranged to take some empty bottles of whisky to EasterCon in Glasgow to form part of the Banks Memorial.

I was actually feeling quite chuffed with myself as I’d found three apparently obscure bottles.

I’d arranged to travel to Glasgow with my family on Friday to have a look round Glasgow Uni with Bluebird and then meet the Captain and MLW at the Glasgow Science Centre for the rest of the day.

The hotel in which the convention was being held was on the other side of the river from the Science Centre, on the footpath from the university.

A seemingly perfect plan.

Until I forgot to take the bottles with me. Despite putting them next to the door so I would remember.


I am very contrite but mainly really irritated with myself.
I woke this morning to reports of unusually high levels of air pollution across England. A combination of domestic air pollution, filthy EU air blown over the Channel (1) and sand from the Sahara blown over Spain has caused a spike in airborne pollution. Asthma suffers are advised to stay indoors.

On the far side of Europe, Russian troops complete their annexation of the Crimea and the EU seems somewhat reticent about objecting too strenuously.  Perhaps it is the thought that a goodly proportion of our gas comes from Russia and we’d have a hard and expensive time replacing it if we engaged in an escalating series of sanctions and the Russians switched the pipeline off.

We could, if we wanted to give ourselves a bit more room to object to Russia’s foreign policy, lower our current usage of gas. A thing we could do would be to extend the final deadlines for the Large Combustion Plant Directive which limits the running time of old, more heavily polluting power stations and requires them to close by the end of 2015. Then we might be more likely to be more able to burn our own coal instead of Russian gas in the short term. We could use the coal to tide us over whilst we built some more nuclear and renewable power stations and permanently reduced our vulnerability to being cut off from Russian gas.

If we did that we’d not gain the main benefits of the LCPD for a few years, reducing the amount of air pollution emitted by older, dirtier coal and oil-fired power stations. Our air quality would not improve.  A few additional people would die of respiratory illness.
Here follows a brief report on my weekend.

Thursday – parents’ evening at the Captain’s nursery. He is performing will with some areas for development.  We took home the nursery mascot, Mickey Monkey, for the weekend. So we laid on lots of entertainments for him. Mainly so we could complete the Mickey Monkey diary and keep up with all the other parents.

Friday – went for “a beer” with an old uni mate of mine. “A beer” turned into “many beers” and then became “too many beers and a whisky”. I actually lost count by about one or two.  This is rare for me. Usually, I’m the person in the group reaching for another round when everyone else has given up.

Some nice beer in Cloisters. Billabong Aussie Pale Ale made in Wales. Why not?  Went for Thai in Bruntsfield. More beer in Bennets in Tollcross.  Home.

Saturday morning, perhaps a little off the pace. See above.

Took the Captain to Rugbytots.  He was joining in lots until one of the smaller boys made friends with MLW. At which point the Captain decided he needed to be coached by MLW.

Saturday afternoon we went to the Big Rugby with my dad, my youngest brother, my dad’s best mate.  Arrived very early to a) get a parking space b) avoid the scrum when getting in.  Really enjoyed the match. Very close. We actually played well. Frankly, we were robbed.

The Captain got a bit bored near the end of the second half and wanted to go home. He cheered up when, at half time, I bought him a packet of sweets and a lace from the vintage sweet shop in the ground.  Very happy then.

Saturday night involved a curry out with dad, dad’s mate and my brother. Very nice curry restaurant in Newington called Patakas.  Very nice food, bit upmarket. Mackintosh vibe to the décor. Definitely the nicest and best posh curry restaurant within walking distance of my house.

On Sunday, my dad’s mate took us to Jamie’s Italian.  MLW and the Captain had a birthday party for one of the Captain’s friends. They went to Pizza Express instead. So in the end it was just me joining dad, my dad’s girlfriend, dad’s mate and his niece (who works there).  Lovely food, superb service, delicious digestif Tuaca – mmh the scent of vanilla and lemons.

Basically we spent the weekend eating delicious food and watching rugby.

When I picked the Captain up from nursery on Tuesday I found out he’d been running his own RugbyTots session during their PE lesson that afternoon. Showing people who to kick the ball from a tee. Wish he’d been teaching the current Scotland team.