Category Archives: Oddities

Quirky things that caught Grumpy’s eye

How to Improve school standards – cut classes

Improving academic A-Level standards over time has been a constant goal over the last few years, but it would seem that schools have been taking the wrong approach to achieve this.

Schools were closed by COVID from mid-March 2020 to the time of writing in August 2020, meaning that pupils missed a term and half of normal classroom teaching. Efforts were made to close this gap by ‘Zoom’ and similar mechanisms (but only for those with access to communications and equipment, and a place to study quietly at home – tough for kids in a ‘two up, two down’) but it would appear that, far from being disadvantaged by this, pupils’ attainments reached new heights.

In private schools, the more esoteric subjects like Latin and Greek saw a year on year improvement of 10% in the number of A/A* results – an unheard of jump. However, for more run of the mill subjects, the improvements of teacher assessed grades were, in the words of the regulator, Ofqual, ‘Implausibly high’. Based on the assessments, A level results generally improved overall by 12%; those attaining A/A* levels would increase to a new level – a breathtaking improvement in educational standards.

One of Ofquals tasks is to maintain consistency across years to allow (for example) in variability in the difficulty of question papers, and so it tweaks the pass percentages by grade band. However, this year this process was inadvertently more transparent, leading to the downgrading of many of the teacher estimated results. Inevitably, there were howls of protest from education liberals, teachers, Labour and of course, pupils.

Gavin Williamson, Secretary of State for Education, backed down in the face of the howls, and accepted the higher, subjective and inconsistent teacher assessments, learning yet again that if there is one thing worse that getting everything wrong, it’s admitting it and doing a U-turn, as you still get flak even having fixed the problem.

If we follow the logic of these attempts to square a logical circle with regard to results, the strategy next year should be to have classes in the latter half of the year and then let kids study at home (or in the park) and do a few Zoom lessons until spring, and then award results based on ‘implausibly optimistic’ teacher assessment.

In the event that some academically undeserving youngster does get a place on a degree course they have no realistic chance of completing, what happens then ? Make a 2.2 degree the lowest degree level? Fortunately, commerce is not subject to the constraints that politicians are, and ex-pupils – who have been done an immense disservice by these events – will learn the hard way with their P45 that their employer won’t be inflating their performance at work to keep them happy, and will show them the door.

In Grumpy’s eyes,the standout individual in this saga is Angela Rayner, shadow First Secretary Of State. This woman, who left school pregnant at 16 without so much as Girl Guide badge as a qualification said just a few months ago that teacher predicted grades were not accurate and caused injustice. Now, with a U turn which makes Gavin Williamson’s look like a sideways glance, she was recently doing the rounds urging a return to teacher assessments. What changed ? Nothing, but it does illustrate that politicians with no obvious qualification to comment hope the electorate have short memories and that there are no bounds to the extent of their hypocrisy.

Left / right hands

Two headlines from 08.04.2020

Daily Express : “SHOCKING figures have shown the amount of people shopping rose over the weekend despite the government urging people to stay indoors.”

BBC : (Statement from Tesco) “The supermarket giant said it wasn’t able to meet demand as more shoppers stay at home, despite the fact it has increased its online grocery shopping capacity by more than 20%”

As Grumpy noted in recent post the government continues to adopt a wholly inconsistent and conflicted stance on ‘staying home’. The message is completely at odd with reality. The fact is that as of today food deliveries are not available at Morrisons, Tesco, Waitrose, Ocado, or Asda. Either the government are not aware of this reality, or they continue to make the ‘stay at home’ proclamations with cynical disregard for it.

A significant proportion the populace go to the shops because it is the only way to get food. What part of this does the government not understand ? If a household can only get one delivery per month, they have to buy a minimum of a month’s worth of groceries at each order, or go out to the shop, or starve. It’s a simple math fact. That”s why there has been a transient increase. If the government wished more people to observe sheltering, they should deploy the army to assist with deliveries, or pressure the supermarket giants to do better. Gove and co are on a different planet – they probably send their security guards out to shop.

Dave Lewis, the CEO of Tesco, stated today that Middle classes in the south of England were to blame for stockpiling. However, he clearly knows the ins and outs of procurement, since the optimisation of this is essential to Tesco profits. It’s thus particularly galling to be lectured to by him for stockpiling when it is an entirely inevitable consequence of Tesco’s inability to rise the the challenges arising from incarcerating the populace at home; he should be ashamed to describe it as ‘stockpiling’ – and this from a Harvard man.

Tampons (again …)

Grumpy has previously written on this topic, but it is not a matter per se in which he has an interest. Rather, his comments are directed towards the opponents of what they describe as a ‘tampon tax’; Collectively, they seem to have scant or non-existent understanding of statistics, massage data shamelessly to support an otherwise unsupportable assertion, are too idle to research statistics and blindly copy headlines from other sources, and then conflate the data with unrelated matters which nevertheless support their agenda.

By tampon tax, they refer to VAT on these items, which has already been reduced to the minimum 5%permitted under current EU regulations. Thus (remoaners note) the government is powerless to change this before Brexit (and maybe not even then).

The topic was brought to prominence by MP Danielle Rowley, who claimed that the average cost to a woman for periods was £500 per year, or £41 per month, and which Grumpy reported on in a prior post. Tesco’s cheapest tampons sell at 24 for £0.95, i.e. 4p each, so £41 could buy 1025 tampons. Assuming the length of a period was at the top end 5 days (Wikipedia quotes 3 to 5 days), and assuming the woman was awake for 16 hours, that would equate to a usage of 205 per day, or over 12 per waking hour – a change every 5 minutes. Even with Grumpy’s limited experience of the fair sex, this would intuitively seem not to tie with observation, and hence would (as any physicist would tell you) ring warning bells.

The topic has again arisen, this time with even more bizarre claims, not unsurprisingly in that liberal journal where the lack of fact checking (or deliberate obfuscation) has been raised to an art form – the Guardian. (Amika George 08.01.2019)

The data in her article came from Plan International UK (PI) where statistics and survey sampling does not appear to be their forte. They claim, or example that “42% of UK girls have had to use makeshift period products because they struggle to afford menstrual products”. As Grumpy has pointed out before, such statistics are immediately suspect because they are inconsistent with far more highly researched and reliable data, such as mobile phone usage. Given the above, the simple fact is that a significant proportion of the girls who struggled to buy menstrual products must own smart phones. Is this anyway credible? That someone who could not afford a 4p tampon could afford a smart phone ? The alternative is that they prioritise having access to Tinder over having to have a sock in their pants.

Grumpy has dug deeper into the various published reports by PI and others to try and find an answer to the contradictions implied, and they have proved interesting. As PI noted, the issue got raised to recent prominence in the media because of a case of a schoolgirl using a sock as a pad because her single mother could not afford to buy sanitary items. This was a girl, then aged 11, who stated this in a radio interview in Leeds in 2017. The fact, that PI presumably is well aware of, is that a sample size of 1 has NO statistical significance, and yet they included it in a survey document. As ever, those wishing to amplify their points always look to exceptions and rarities (‘tails’ of distributions, as a stats person would call them), but this’Black Swan’ has now been elevated to folk law.

The PI document “Because I am a girl”, published in January 2018, does give some information on the data used to compile this report, and feed the ‘period poverty’ story. Appendix 2 lists information about the data sources; they were 64 (yes, sixty four) young people including 56 females. So PI took a highly unrepresentative sample of 56 young women and then scaled their responses up to the 3.7 million or so of that age group in the UK. (remember the unqualified headline “one in ten girls or women aged 14 to 21 in Britain..”) This is worthless as a piece of serious research, and is engineered to give pseudo-quantitative backing to their agenda.

Finally, a little more evidence on the bizarre cost estimates associated with periods came out of a survey of 2134 women published by the Huff Post (who ought to know better), and conducted by VoucherCodes Pro, a discount shopping outfit (Huh??). They estimate the cost at £492 annually, which is maybe where Danielle Rowley got her £500 number from. It throws some light on the bizarre 200 – 350 tampons used a day number derived from this figure.

It tuned out that the actual cost of tampons used was nowhere near this, and was £13 on average. (Even so, with the more expensive Tesco tampons at 10p each, this would still be 26 per day, which seems high). But the headline figure of £492, or £41 per month, had an interesting breakdown; £4,50 went to pain relief; £8 for new underwear (5 pairs with a M&S multipack ) . But, hold the phone – it also included £8.50 extra on chocolate relating to having a period (what ?) and £7 on “DVD’s etc” (for soothing music ??). This a simply outrageous liberty to take with survey data. It is shameless inflating of facts to make a political point, which is then dumbly picked up by the tabloids and MP’s and (in the latter case) used to further their agendas. Can it be believed that someone would rather bleed in their pants than forego a Mars Bar ?

Back to the Guardian. Amika George, their contributor, has a website which includes a page headed “facts”. She states that “40% of girls in the UK have used toilet roll because they couldn’t afford menstrual products” (presumably, they bought too much chocolate).

This is pure unadulterated moonshine with no sound or credible basis and it flies in the face of UK demographics.. The sad thing about all the people involved is that they do have have a perfectly valid point, but which they then cannot resist amplifying and embellishing by amateurish, and Grumpy suspects, deliberate, distortion. It’s a shame, wholly pointless, and destroys the very argument that they wish to promulgate.

Swiss libido

I’ve never really thought of the Swiss as a race with a tendency to indulge in the sort of spontaneous naughties one might imagine of the French and Italians, but a sign spotted in Interlaken, Switzerland might give lie to that opinion. The Jungfrau is a mountain which is one of the several located close to the town, and there is a railway which goes to the summit.

It’s hard to envisage someone being caught short of toys, lube  or prophylactics (as the case may be) on the relatively short trip up the 13,000 foot peak, unless some amorous couple saw it as an opportunity to join the 2.5 mile high club in a toilet at the summit. The words ‘Alpine horn’ come to mind here.

CIA picked up its techniques from Medieval times

There is  an interesting museum in Rothenburg ob der Tauber in Bavaria, Germany which Grumpy visited recently, dedicated to the history of ‘Justice’. with its primary focus on methods of torture over the ages.

[Grumpy particularly liked the punishments for ‘nagging wives’, which included several varieties of public humiliation.] The procedure  that caught his eye, however concerned water torture, where the interrogee was tied to a board and had water poured over their face and into their mouth to simulate drowning. Sound familiar,  anyone in Langley ? Plus ca change …


Saudis vs United Airlines

(Originally posted in Hypocrisy Central)

The media predictably picked up on a dress code issued by  in August 2017  by Saudia Airlines mandating a dress code which would not, under their social mores,  cause offence to other passengers, and citing examples of exposing legs or arms. It was held in the liberal West to be an example of a regressive and repressive regime, and in particular dictating to women what they could or couldn’t wear.

Grumpy was torn between whether to comment in the ‘Oddity’ or ‘Hypocrisy’ section here, and in the end chose the latter.

In March 2017, United Airlines ejected two women for covering their legs, but were happy for them to wear dresses, no doubt exposing their legs in so doing; indeed, their dress code includes  the dikat (for such they have, just as the Saudis)  about “unacceptable travel attire includes … leggings”.

The irony is hard to miss; the issue is not that one regime or another seeks to impose some notion of what is sartorially offensive (for both do), but the  extent to which flesh is visible or not. United seemed far more concerned with a display of VPL than of what the Daily Mail displays daily in excess, that of so called ‘side boob’, and would cause apoplexy in Riyadh.

More curiously, Grumpy wonders what the process is for a female traveller from Riyadh switching to a United Airlines Flight to a US domestic destination; without a change of clothes; the choice would be where to be thrown off the plane, as both codes cannot be satisfied without a change of same.

On balance, Grumpy would probably choose to be ejected off an aircraft by the Saudis rather than by United Airlines; his mind goes back to the image in April 2017 of Dr David Dao, beaten, bloodied and glasses askew, being ‘escorted’ – feet first – off a United plane to make way for an employee of the airline.

Redknapp and Hester – who is greediest ?

Dateline 10th February 2012 :

From Harry Redknapp

“I am completely and utterly disorganised. I write like a two-year-old and I can’t spell. I can’t work a computer, I don’t know what an email is, I have never sent a fax and I’ve never even sent a text message.”

Grumpy has never been a fan of football, but freely acknowledges he is probably in a small minority in finding the sport boring. However, it is the non-playing aspects of the game he finds more baffling.

Mr Redknapp is ‘Manager’ of a club called Spurs, it seems. Most people involved in the normal commercial world would associate certain characteristics with the management process, which might include the ability to organise, articulate concepts and communicate with superiors, exercise custodianship of the resources of the organisation and so on. Mr Redknapp’s own description of his suitability to perform these functions would seem in the normal world to rule him out of a management position (or even possibly any position other than shelf stacking at Tesco) , but clearly football is rather different.

Further Mr Redknapp not only flew to Monaco to open a bank account (for no apparent  rational reason, since as an honest UK tax payer there would be  no advantage in so doing), but then promptly forgot that he had some £190,000 in it. If  Harry were on Grumpy’s payroll he would be calling Price Waterhouse to do an audit of the books.

[Imagine the the selection committee : “How about this guy? He says he can’t spell, is disorganised, cannot use any essential management tools, and forgets the has he odd hundred grand or so in foreign bank accounts. No?”]

However, the staggering element of this is that this managerially illiterate incompetent (by his own description) gets paid some £4m per annum for managing 11 ball kickers. Compare and contrast to the vilified Stephan Hester of RBS, rubbing by on a mere £1.2M for managing an organisation with £1.45 trillion of assets, of which £1,160 billion is yours, dear taxpayer.

Any squeak from Labour or the Lib-Dems on ‘fairness’  or ‘rewards’ ?


Princes Charles champions ghastly carbuncle

We all know because of his pronouncements on the subject that Prince Charles is not a fan of brutalist architecture. All the more strange therefore to look at this building on Hong Kong island, by far and away the most grotesque construction in Central

Now have a closer look at the building name

 Yes, named after our good King-to-be. How he came to give his name to this concrete monstrosity is anyone’s guess.