bookmark_border25 øre

Almost history
Originally uploaded by Funchye

The Danish crown (krone) used to be divided into 100 øre (from Latin aureus). However, when I grew up, the smallest coin was 5 øre, so all amounts had to be rounded up or down to this amount.

Then in the late 80s, 5 and 10 øre were abolished too, leaving 25 øre as the smallest coin.

However, tomorrow that too will cease to be legal tender, and 50 øre (5p) will be the smallest Danish coin.

I think the UK should do the same and get rid of 1p and 2p. A price such as £2.99 would still be allowed, but at the check-out this would be rounded up to £3.00; however, if you had bought three items, they would come to £8.97, which would be rounded down to £8.95, so on average, neither shop nor customer would be better or worse off – it would just leave us with lighter wallets.

bookmark_borderCenter Parcs

Lots the archer
Originally uploaded by viralbus

We’ve just come back from three full days in Center Parcs (Friday noon–Monday noon).

It’s basically hundreds of wooden cottages inside a forest, with lots of activities for kids and adults. Most of them cost money, except for the subtropical water complex.

The kids loved it – they now want to go there for all their holidays (although I think Marcel will change his mind in about five years’ time – like Legoland, it’s devoid of young people between 15 and 35).

Marcel and Charlotte did archery, “Olympics” and quadbike, and Phyllis and I went for the serail treatment (which was really nice).

The only annoying thing that happened was when we all went for a birthday meal (Léon is 3 years old today) in the Chinese restaurant. We ordered the set menu in advance, and they told us that kids under 3 were free, which made us very happy because we were bringing three (Léon, Gordon and Anna). However, it turned out that they were planning to just give them empty plates for free and we were then “allowed” to share our food with them. Since when has it been free not to pay for nothing?!? Fortunately, the manager eventually gave in, but watch out if you’re planning to visit the Center Parcs restaurants!

bookmark_borderMean-tested computers

Xatarra i xinet
Originally uploaded by art_es_anna

Gordon Brown’s idea to hand out computer vouchers annoys me. Just to summarise:

The prime minister announced that parents are to be offered vouchers worth up to £700 to connect the 1.4 million children growing up in homes without a computer.

“To ensure that we are prepared for the times to come, the government will fund one million more households to get online, enabling parents to link with the teachers at their children’s school and helping young people with their homework and coursework,” he said.

I can see several problems in this.

First of all, there is the usual problem with mean-testing, namely that people who are just a tiny bit too rich to qualify end up poorer than if they had been slightly poorer in the first instance. If there are too many of such measures, it reduces the incentive to try and work one’s way out of poverty.

Second, although I totally agree it would be great if all kids had access to computers at home, how can one make sure that vouchers actually end up as useful computers for the kids? Isn’t it likely that some of them will be swapped for booze or drugs? And if they are used as intended, what happens when the computers break down?

I think a better solution would be to lend or let cheap computers, so that they can’t be converted to cash, and so that there is an incentive to save up money for some better equipment.

bookmark_borderNeocons and born-again Christians

I’ve just finished reading a very important book.

Conceptually, it consists of three parts:

  • Firstly, it describes the American evangelical (or born-again) Christian movement, tracing its history and explaining what its thinking and aims are.
  • Secondly, the book deals with the neoconservatives, showing how they started out as marxists, later becoming conservatives but retaining their revolutionary instincts.
  • Thirdly, it goes over George W. Bush’s presidency in great detail, in particular the decision-making processes leading up to the Iraq war.

Every European should read the first two parts (i.e., ch. 1–7). The neocons and the born-again Christians are rare beasts here, but they’re everywhere in the US, and understanding them is probably the key to understanding America.

The third part (ch. 8–18) is much longer and is perhaps of less importance moving forward, but well worth reading as a chilling historical document.

bookmark_borderLabour will be reduced to 93 seats in Westminster

52% Tory
52% Tory, 23% Labour, 12% LibDem, 4% SNP/PC.
The new Mori poll has Con 52%, Lab 24%, LibDem 12%, SNP/Plaid Cymru 4% (the latter is a UK figure, so probably something like 40% in Scotland).

Some reports have claimed that this would lead to the following seat distribution in Westminster (using Electoral Calculus): Con 493, Lab 121, LibDem 8.

However, this is not taking into account that the SNP rather than the Tories are the ones benefitting from Labour’s collapse.

If instead one uses Electoral Calculus’s regional predictor, the result is even more stunning.

Basically, one needs to put in a higher value for the Conservatives in the “National support” row to compensate for what we’ll do for Scotland; 53.7% seems to work. Now press “Use trend values”, and it’ll fill in regional values. Now move 20% from the Tories to the SNP in Scotland (so that the Scottish values are 16.3%, 27.3%, 12.0%, 37.7%) and press the Tab key, and the “National average” row will set itself to 52, 24 and 12. Now click “Predict Election”.

The result is Con 490, Lab 93, LibDem 9, SNP/PC 38.

Labour casualties include Geoff Hoon, John Hutton, Jack Straw, Alistair Darling, Des Browne and Charles Clarke, while the LibDems are due to lose Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and Vince Cable.