As part of Doha Museum area beautification project, the authorities erected several drinking fountains, in the shape of miniature fortresses, and several drinks vending machines, similarly disguised. In their wisdom, they have since removed the drinking fountains (that's what the twisted pipework on the plinth on the left used to be), leaving only the vending machines. Compared with the continuing atrocities in Bahrain (lest we forget) this is a minor matter, but it's an irritation none the less. Where before you used to be able to take a refreshing couple of swallows every few hundred yards, now it's 500 mls in a plastic bottle or nothing. The bottles are dispensed ice-cold, the last thing you should be drinking in really hot weather. That's if they are dispensed at all. In Dubai, where you have one dirham coins, these machines more or less work. In Doha, they take one riyal notes. Sometimes. Maybe one time in four. Because these are fickle contraptions. They sulk unless the note is brand new and presented exactly in the correct orientation. It helps if you go down on one knee and bow three times first. They positively brindle and snarl at anything remotely soiled, crumpled, softened or torn, in other words, at ninety percent of the single riyals in circulation.
Not an improvement.
There are two pretty good ways to weigh a car: Drive it to the nearest public weighbridge and wait your turn. Look up the manual under General Specifications, ‘kerb weight’ But let's suppose the nearest public weighbridge is fifty miles away and you've lost the manual (and temporarily forgotten how to use public libraries and the Internet) and the burning urge to weigh your car just won't go away- what can you do about it? The good news is, you need hardly any equipment. All you need, for a reasonably accurate result is: a hand-held tyre pressure gauge which can be analogue or digital a retractable steel measuring tape a calculator, pencil and paper, or a good head for mental arithmetic The method Park the car on some clean, level concrete Observe that the car is held up by its four tyres (!) Measure the width of the tread of one tyre: e.g. 6 inches Measure the length of tread in contact with the ground: e.g. 7 inches Work out the area of tread touching the ground: e.g. 6 x
Personally, I see no convincing evidence for the existence of supernatural beings. But even supposing I am wrong and the firmament is positively teeming with spirits, ghosts, angels, demons, saints, archangels, deities of every flavour, even that would not be reason enough for our political life to concern itself with anything other than immediate secular pragmatism. Politics, like ethics, should not ask "How did we get here?" Apportioning credit or blame for the status quo is an exercise for armchair philosophers. Government should address two questions: "Who is suffering genuine hardship?" and "What can we do to help?" There is work enough in a programme based on these two questions to keep politicians busy for years. If in doubt as to the meaning of genuine hardship, Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs is a good starting point. As long as we have people struggling to find food, shelter and basic security, we should not even give ear-time to the complaints o
Instead of wasting time with prime ministers, chancellors and 'independent' pay review bodies (all of whom seem only to understand percentages and not very well at that), we should give the task of resolving the various pay disputes to a Broadcast Engineer. Here's how it would then work: Decide on the salary level at which nobody can really justify a further increase right now. For argument, let's say £100k. Call that 'peak level' and normalise to it. Now apply gamma correction to the entire workforce earning less than £100k. By this approach, the hierarchy is preserved (i.e. nobody overtakes anyone else) but those most in need receive proportionately more generous increases. This is far cheaper and fairer than applying a flat rate percentage. It is also simpler. Having fixed the peak figure (e.g. £100k) it only remains to decide on gamma. For example, for gamma = 0.7, someone currently on £10k would receive an increase of £9,950, someone on £50k an increase of