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Monday, 10 December 2018

China in fourteen days

Introduction

We had previously travelled on Viking River Cruises (Grand European Tour) so knew that, although not cheap, Viking include absolutely everything other than tips and laundry. The only extras to pay for are souvenirs (if you wanted any). On trips before and after the boat voyage we found commercial restaurants don’t normally sell wine as Chinese are not really wine drinkers.

Visas are not cheap but only take about four days if you use Viking’s recommended agency. Mosquitoes can be a problem in certain months, but we had no problems in September. If you go to the very south of China there is a problem with mosquitoes carrying the zika or dengue disease but the Viking tour goes nowhere near that area. Short sleeves in September are fine as are sandals!

If you count the cost of Chinese visas and laundry bills (we prefer to travel light) you won’t get much change from five grand sterling (each) for a good class of cabin which has its own balcony. You can pay less and, if you go for a suite on the boat, a lot more.

1st Wednesday

Our journey began in Terminal 5, Heathrow at 11:15am, arriving in Shanghai (Pu Dong) at 7:55am the next morning.

1st Thursday

Shanghai. Although our holiday officially started the following day, Viking took care of us by taking us to the Ritz Carlton 5-star hotel. In fact all our hotels were 5-star. And our journey on the Viking Riverboat certainly was.

We unpacked, went to bed and slept until 4pm; we then went for a walk in the city (population 24.18 million). Shanghai is a very modern and vibrant city with a lot of young people. Vuton, Gucci and other top class brands were all represented.

Chinese people are very friendly towards British and Americans. However, walking on the pavements can be extremely hazardous as their scooters are mostly electric and silent and the riders prefer riding on the pavement which is a little hairy! Especially as they expect pedestrians to get out of their way!
Shanghai Area. The city covers an area of 6,340.5 square kilometres, which extends about 120 kilometres in north and south and nearly 100 kilometers in east and west. Shanghai has an urban area of 2,643 square kilometres, land area of 6,219 square kilometres and water area of 122 square kilometres.”
A little larger than London UK!

The next day saw our Viking holiday clicking in…

1st Friday

After breakfast we travelled by coach to visit a part of ancient China in Shanghai with a visit to the famous Bund,

this is the city's promenade along the Huangpu River. This was a wide and long promenade and some of us went a little mad taking photographs of the river, boats and tall buildings. The magnificent colonial architecture towered above the Bund. We then walked down narrow lanes to the splendid Ming Dynasty Yuyuan Garden.

After free time our coach took us to a small shopping mall where we had a delicious dim sum lunch; there we visited a silk carpet and embroidery workshop and watched a young woman actually making up a picture using fine silk threads.

The time she took painstakingly doing this indicated that it would take months to finish such an undertaking. The pictures were on sale but alas nothing of the subject/size I needed.

Then we visited the spectacular Shanghai Museum, featuring four floors of magnificent displays of art and antiquities from 5,000 years of China's history and our coach then returned us to our hotel.

After cleaning up, and a rest, the group were taken to dinner and a breathtaking show by the city’s renowned acrobat troupe. There we got the best seats in the house and marvelled at the acrobatic prowess. The troupe was founded in 1951, and is one of the oldest ensembles in China.

1st Saturday

We were told to leave our luggage outside the door of our hotel room, Viking had a great system as they took the luggage to the airport and sent it on its way. We only saw it briefly at the arrivals carousel where all we had to do was to identify ours (they even took the luggage off the carousel). Then the next time we saw it was in our room when we arrived at our hotel. This happened during all internal flights.

A coach took us to the airport where we caught a flight to:

Wuhan

We drove into the city and visited a restaurant for lunch before visiting the Hubei Museum and bells performance.

The museum had an incredible repository of artifacts predating Christ. After free time to wander around the museum we attended a performance of its sixty-five treasured ancient bells – each bell was capable of producing two separate clear tones.

After a short coach ride we boarded our riverboat called the “Viking Emerald”.

They were very apologetic about the boat saying it was the oldest in their fleet. Nine years is not old for a huge riverboat! And, it was spotless throughout. I am still unsure whether you call a huge river craft a boat or a ship!

Rather than mention static daily items aboard the boat, I thought I’d mention them here, just once. Breakfast was a buffet, the normal ones you get in a top hotel, with a Chinese flavour.

Lunch was a mixture of buffet and waiter service with a choice of soft drinks, beer or wine, and throughout the boat journey, the waiters were most generous with the drink.

Afternoon tea was served at 4pm and at 6pm we met for cocktails, but both had to be purchased on most evenings.

Dinner, like lunch, was a mixture of buffet and waiter service. Some nights they provided a Western menu whilst on others a Chinese menu. Like the hotels we stayed at, the Chinese food was of the type more acceptable with Westerners. In other words, no slugs, scorpions or locusts! As with lunch the staff were very free with the drinks.

Later in the evening there was live music with a singing duo each night.

Every evening when we were going ashore the next day we had a “Port Talk” session where we were told all about it.

Now for the boat.

At 9:15pm  we were given a welcome briefing on the boat, where everything was located and what was going to happen during the next seven days and, at 10pm, we cast off and many were on deck to witness it.

1st Sunday

At 10:30am the ship’s doctor gave a talk on Chinese medicine. Then at 2:15pm we had a presentation on the Yangtze River.

The Yangtze River stretches from a glacier on the border of Tibet to Shanghai. It's China's biggest river and the world's third longest river. China has harnessed the Yangtze for power and navigation with the world's biggest dam. The River is central to China and its history, and has a huge variety of tourist attractions, breathtaking scenery, and diverse culture along its length. If the Yangtze River was stretched straight, it would stretch across the whole of China, from China to the UK, or from China to Alaska! No wonder the Chinese name for it is Chang Jiang, literally 'Long River'.

At 3:15pm We were treated to a Chinese language lesson but, alas, all we remember is “Nihao” (pronounced Neehow) which means Hello.

In the bar at 6:15pm there was a toast to the passengers and later, at 9:15pm we were given a Chinese painting demonstration.

1st Monday

7am Welcome to Jingzhou

At 9:00am there was a shore excursion to an infants school; after the usual coach ride we met some winsome Chinese children during a fun and fascinating visit to a local school. The school is supported in a major way by Viking River Cruises.

The staff and children were so open with us and the children put on a series of song and dance routines. Not sure how young some of them were, but I am sure I could have put a couple of them in my coat pockets. But, I didn’t as we are both too old to raise a family.

At 2:30pm there was another shore excursion to Jingzhou’s ancient city wall but there was a much bigger one to come after we reached Beijing.

At 9:15pm we were treated to a music and dance show, with traditional costumes by various members of the ship’s staff. They were most professional.

1st Tuesday

At 9am there was a presentation of the famous Three Gorges Dam and at 9:50am we sailed along a most scenic part of the Yangzte River.

A 10:45am there was a tea ceremony, where we tasted various Chinese teas and learned that

    • Green tea is good for diabetes, relieves fatigue, diminishes inflammation and enhances immunity.
    • Snow Chrysanthemum tea is caffeine free, lowers blood sugar, good for eyesight and enabling sleeping, prevents colds, and maintains beauty/keeps you young.
    • White tea is good for your liver, cures hives, and also good for eyesight.
    • Dark tea is also caffeine free, anti-aging, helps weight loss, cures sore throats, anti-cancer, takes away toxins and lowers blood pressure.
    • Black tea cures headaches, is anti-aging, anti-oxidation, regulates stomach to relieve pain and takes away toxins.
    • Oolong tea prevents heart disease, reduces weight, helps digestion and lowers cholesterol.


Remember, before you disregard this information – Chinese civilisation is over 6,000 years old.

We arrived at the Three Gorges Dam around 12:45pm. This is the world’s largest hydroelectric dam and was decades in the making. The dam helps control flooding along the Yangtze River which once regularly destroyed entire villages up and down the river shores. This project opened in 2011. Apart from flood control, the dam produces about a ninth of China’s electricity.

Between 2pm and 5pm there was a shore excursion to see the dam a little closer, but nobody is permitted inside the dam for the sake of security.

At 6:00pm there was a ‘VES’ cocktail party just for those passengers who had sailed with Viking River Cruises before. We attended as we had travelled on their “Grand European Tour” as mentioned earlier.

Later there was a narration on the Sun Deck about sailing through the five locks, all big enough to accommodate our huge vessel.

2nd Wednesday

At 9:30am there was a shore excursion to the Goddess Stream. We embarked onto small sampans for a trip along a small tributary, as some of the more stunning scenery lies along these smaller tributaries. Our guide was a young woman whose voice was very clear, as was her commentary.

At 3:15pm we were treated to a fascinating presentation on pearls and, at 4:15pm, there was a further presentation on Modern Day China.

Then at 9:15pm We were treated to an excellent cabaret by members of the ship’s crew.

2nd Thursday

At 8:30am there was a walking tour of the Shibaozhai Temple.  One could climb a spectacular twelve storey Qing dynasty pavilion (we didn’t) and its adjacent hilltop temple. The tower and red pavilion were constructed in 1819. After reaching the top of the sheer cliff at the uppermost buddhist temple you can gaze upon breathtaking views of the river.

At 2pm at 20 minute intervals, small parties were treated to a wheelhouse tour, then at 4:15pm there was a presentation on Chinese culture.

At 6:15pm the Captain’s cocktail party was held with a raffle with some nice prizes. It must have been fixed because I didn’t win anything. Mind you – it would have been fixed if I had, as I forgot to buy a ticket!

At 8:30pm there was a dumpling making demonstration which I didn’t atten; I prefer the Jack Daniels method of putting on weight!

Finally, at 9pm, there was a film called the Last Emperor. We declined this as we had seen the film some time previously.

2nd Friday

4:30am – 8:30am Breakfast was early today as we had come to the end of our voyage.

We had docked at Chongqing.

5.00am was “accounts settling time.” This was when I learned that laundry on the boat was much more costly than our local dry cleaners. But no worries as we were perfectly happy travelling light.

Afterwards, we disembarked and made our way to the Chongqing Zoo where, as we were short of time, the zoo opened a little earlier and Richard, our guide, managed to persuade the keepers to feed the many giant pandas early. The pandas seemed happy with this!

The giant panda is native to South Central China and the zoo sported many other animals including the African elephants and South China tigers.

After the zoo we were taken to a local restaurant for lunch before a coach ride to the airport where we flew to Xian or Xi’an – both seem permissable.

After landing we were driven to the magnificent Wyndham Hotel.
Xi'an currently holds sub-provincial status, administering 9 districts and 4 counties. As at 2018 Xi'an has a population of 12,005,600, and the Xi'an-Xianyang metropolitan area, a population of 12.9 million. It is the most populous city in Northwest China, as well as one of the three most populous cities in Western China. In 2012, it was named as one of the 13 emerging megacities, or megalopolises, in China.
Not saying our room was large, but I could have parked my old Ford Scorpio there and it wouldn’t have really been in the way! The rest of the afternoon was free to check out the City. Later, we joined our group for a buffet dinner in a restaurant in the hotel complex. Like Shanghai, the streets were lined with trees and flowers. The Chinese certainly mean to clean up their city air and we didn’t notice any dust in the air, and as in all the cities there was no litter anywhere.

2nd Saturday

After an early breakfast we were taken to see the terracotta Army. We were totally unprepared for the size of this ancient emperor’s army. This was during the Tang Dynasty 618ad to 917ad. There were more than 8,000 full size pieces, all looking totally different. We later learned that each one was modelled on a different peasant and afterwards they were all put to death so they couldn’t talk about it. Included were archers, infantrymen, horses and chariots. I believe the horses were spared!

Emperor Qin Shihuang was one of the most powerful men in China at the time. The warriors were to protect him from his foes in the afterlife. This is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Our coach then took us for lunch. After a long walk through gardens we returned to the hotel to clean up and prepare for a sumptuous dinner at the Tang Dynasty Palace Restaurant, where we watched the celebratory music and dance of dynasties past, where more than 100 performers recreate the dances and music of the Tang dynasty. We were, after an exhausting day, ready for bed!
2nd Sunday

After breakfast we were given a huge lunchbox and taken to the airport for our flight to Beijing.

Beijing is the capital of the People's Republic of China, the most populous country in the world. With a population of 21,710,000 people, it is the nation's second-largest city after Shanghai. It was also the seat of the Ming and Qing dynasty emperors until the establishment of the Republic of China in 1911. Beijing is the political, educational and cultural centre of the country and as such it is rich in historical sites and important government and cultural institutions.

We landed after lunch and glimpsed old China as we rode in a traditional rickshaw into the city’s ancient back lanes of the hutong neighbourhood.

We paused during our tour to visit a local family and witness daily life in this tight-knit community. During this time we also visited an old Chinese tea room where we tasted various teas and were given the chance to buy some to take home.

We then headed to our new hotel, the Regent, Beijing - another five-star hotel.

We preferred the Wyndham though.

2nd Monday

After another early breakfast we departed by coach to visit the “Great Wall of China”. We visited one of the best preserved sections of the Great Wall. After an hour by coach we arrived and were told of the fascinating history and legend of this engineering marvel. After climbing up 80% of the height which was easy as there were escalators and a funicular railway, Pam decided not to climb any further, and I was content to keep her company. At least, at first! However, one of our group was an old boy on two crutches who was determined to get to the top. What could I do but follow him! After all, I was a young man of 79!

The coach then took us to yet another Chinese restaurant called the Jade Carving Factory restaurant. Hooray, this one had red wine! It was a good meal if you didn’t go for their miserable chicken burgers! Downstairs they had lots of expensive jade for sale but we had to get quite rude with some of their sales staff as they stuck to us like limpets. But it didn’t ruin our visit as I quite enjoy being rude if the other person has earned it!

In the evening we were taken for an authentic Peking Duck dinner. The recipe originated in the Yuan Dynasty, where, in those times, the recipe for the roast duck was protected by the Imperial Kitchen. Although we enjoyed it, some found the sauce exceedingly hot; the Chinese restaurants in Britain have wisely toned the heat down. I was one of those who actually enjoyed the hot sauce, but then I was brought up in Africa. And talking about sauce, they had wine here as well, and it flowed as if there was no tomorrow! I think our guide, Richard, quite enjoyed filling our glasses.

2nd Tuesday

A tour of China’s most imposing testament to its might. We drove to Tiananmen Square ,which is the world’s largest public square at a 100 acres.

This can accommodate a million people and was originally considered the front door to the Forbidden City. This is another UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is also the world’s largest palace complex, home to 980 buildings with 9,999 rooms, all of it protected by a 20-foot moat and a 32-foot wall. It served as the Imperial Palace during Ming and Qing Dynasties. This was our last day in China and it was here a nasty bug I had caught reared its ugly head. Let’s just say I had to rush to the toilet but didn’t make it by about five yards and leave it at that, shall we?

In the evening we went to see the legend of Kung Fu at the Red Theatre. It really was magnificent and I bought a DVD of the show to bring back to England. We witnessed an astonishing performance of acrobatics and dance – known as one of Beijing’s most renowned stage shows, which has travelled around the world. The most ancient of martial arts, Kung Fu dates back as far as 4,000 years. Its precise movements were perfected over generations as armies fought for their dynastic emperors. Today, the skill is associated with peaceful self-defence and fitness regimes. It is also a performance art, as you will see if you watch the video. This is a lavish production of ballet, gravity-defying acrobatics, fifty costumed players and a sweeping orchestral score. It follows a young monk as he confronts a series of physical and mental changes on the road to becoming a warrior (Shaolin) monk.

2nd Wednesday

Beijing Airport (PEK) for flight take off at 11:15am, arriving at Heathrow Terminal 5 on the same day at 3:30pm. Pam had also caught the same nasty bug, but she was OK as, on an aircraft, you are never too far from a toilet. The guy on the third outer seat was a young computer manager and was quite accomodating!

Conclusion

Apart from the bug we caught we have no regrets. The bug lasted over 20 days and was worse than flu). We both ended up in hospital and were left with nasty coughs and night sweats – we had to use a hair dryer to dry the mattress out, but again, we had absolutely no regrets.

We had a thrilling time in China, if not exhausting. As previously mentioned, Viking include everything – other than laundry -- including free drinks at lunchtime and evening. However, restaurants, on the whole, don’t normally serve wine as the Chinese don’t seem to drink it – but they do when they come to England! Beer, on average, is around 3% by volume, a lot lower than in the UK.

We are both fully aware that the Chinese are watched throughout their lives. However, nothing of this was apparent and, on the flight home, I realised that this is also secretly happening in the EU, the UK and the USA. The Chinese have a curse which covers this: “May you live in interesting times”.

Our tour guide, Richard, was magnificent. The tour was split into about six teams of 30 and we were lucky to have got the best guide. His knowledge of everything Chinese, including their 6,000 years of history was simply awesome!

Ampers.

An idea for a new form of democracy

It is all very simple and I will suggest some benefits after I explain how simple it will be to implement.

Fist of all it won’t cost the tax payer any money – I’ll explain:

At present, we all go to vote once every five years. Implementing my idea will not change that at all, but unless you listen carefully you may miss how this can be achieved.

20% of the public vote each year so that, after five years, everyone only has one vote.

Each year those 20% will vote in 20% of the constituencies so that, in every five years those constituencies have held one election. It would be important that constituencies wouldn’t be next to each other but scattered throughout the country. 20% in Ireland, 20% in Wales, 20% in Scotland and so on.

There are 650 constituencies, which means 130 constituencies would vote each year. That will always be enough to bring a government down if they don’t keep to their manifesto, and govern for the people – rather than for the elite!

How will this very simple remedy affect democracy?

At present a newly formed government has five years to install their ideas which may not go down well with voters, who, at present, have to wait many years to exercise their power.

This new idea would mean votes on 20% of the constituencies could affect a newly elected government so if they drift off theoir manifesto promises, they may no longer lead in the house.

So a government would need to keep to their manefesto or risk losing power. In addition, the manifesto would need to stress the government plans over a one year period and a new one produced before the 20% election each year.

I will be the first to admit there could be better ways, but people don’t like change and for the voter, this doesn’t change anything.

Each voter will have one vote every five years—as they do now.

This idea has been thought out for the United Kingdom. The number of constituencies may need to change, as the percentage of voters would for some other countries. For instance, in America, they vote once every four years, so the percentage would be 25% and constituencies changed for each House. (435 in the House of Representatives and 100 in the Senate.)

Friday, 31 August 2018

The new alternative to Twitter, better than GAB.

MINDS.COM

Forget Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, Blogger or any of the others.

Forget censorship, rules and regulations.

Some guys in America have built a Social Media site which protects the rights of Free Speech.

It is in opensource which means you can demand the code and if you are code literate, you can check to make sure there are no back doors. Then compile it yourself. Hundreds have done this already.

For additional safeguards, nobody can interfere with the program (even the directors) that has already been coded in.

The best way to describe it is to say it is a cross between Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.

Although a newcomer to the social media world, it has already attracted 1.3 million users.

When you use it, whether to add content, read others' contributions, reply or interact in any way you are awarded tokens. You can use this to put your contributions in front of upto 5,000 other users.

I am a contributer with a monthly subscription but this is completely unnecessary and is not required. But I wanted to help. Anyone can be verified if they can prove who they are. I am.

After only a couple of weeks I already have 487 followers, and my contributions have been seen over 42,000 times.

This is more suited to USA #MAGA people and UK Brexiteers as the left will be more frightened of joining uncensored social media where they get nowhere when they are offended!

But, you need to spend a little time on it as there is so much to see and do. If I can get to grips in two weeks at 79, you should do better, unless you are over 79 of course!

If you decide to give it a try, look me up. My handle is @AmpersUK there.

Ampers

Sunday, 12 August 2018

What will happen with the Boris Johnson investigation by the Prime Minister?

Boris should not, in my view, and in the view of hunbdreds of thousannds of Tory Voters, apologise. After all, back in 2013, a Moslem woman journalist compared the Hijab to a post box, in an article in the Guardian.

Some people are saying May is going to push for a suspension, long enough for her to hold a leadership contest without him. She hates him so much, she’d rather run the risk of losing – rather than losing to him.

However, this will infuriate the Tory voters so much than members will withold their membership fee by leaviing and rather than vote for the Conservatives vote for the new crop of Brexit parties starting up, or even join and vote for UKIP.

If she decides that is too risky, she may just suspend him and carry one, or find some other punishment for him. But, as he is now a back-bencher, her choices are rather limited.

Mrs May is not a fool and she is not as stupid as many imaging. Everything is calculated to keep us into the EU in such a way that a future PM needs only a tiny tweak to make us full members again.

I think there is only one question to ask the Tory party and that is; “How many of your MPs, including Cabinet Members, are accepting bribes from the George Sorus organisation, the EU, or the bankers (Morgan, Rockafeller or Rothchild) to keep us in the EU”?

I’m off to China soon for a few weeks, so it seems appropriate to mention a Chinese curse here: “May you live in interesting times”.

Dear reader, we are living in those interesting times!”

Ampers.

Thursday, 9 August 2018

The Burka kerfuffle with Boris Johnson


The Moslem Burka

What a lot of hooha about Boris Johnson’s comments! The Burka or Hijab is a garment aimed either of Moslem men subjecting their women to torment or as a weapon to terrorise the inhabitants of Europe and America. There is a third reason which I will devote a whole paragraph to later.

Why do I say “ subjecting their women to torment”? This is because the garment is either black or in the case of the Hijab, darkish blue. In the sun, these clothes contain the heat and the woman suffers much more than their menfolk who wear lighter clothing to reflect the sun.

Why do I say “ a weapon to terrorise the inhabitants of Europe”? This is simple, many, including myself, see these people and wonder if they are wearing a suicide vest under the cloak. Or even that it may be a man hiding a Kalashnikov under the cloak.

The third reason is quite illuminating. It is not only well known, but obvious in Europe that Moslem men cannot keep “it” in their pants and many of them indulge in their favourite passtime, rape. Wiser women wear these garments so as not to excite Moslem men in their company, or even Moslem strangers walking down the street.

Many Moslem countries are now banning the facce covering garments, it is not only the west who are keen to;

Banning the burqa

Why more countries are outlawing the full-face veil
LAST June, a few months after Chadian forces had crossed into Nigeria to fight the Islamist insurgents of Boko Haram, two suicide-bombers detonated their belts in N’Djamena, Chad’s capital, killing more than 30 people. Two days later Chad’s government banned the wearing of the burqa, the Muslim woman’s covering that hides even the eyes. Henceforth, said the prime minister, security forces could “go into the markets… seize all the burqas on sale and burn them”. Those spotted in such “camouflage” would be “arrested, tried and sentenced after summary proceedings.” Heavy-handed as that sounds, several other sub-Saharan governments have followed suit. A month after Chad’s ban, Cameroon did the same in its northernmost region following suicide-bombings by people clad in burqas. Now the ban has been extended to five of Cameroon’s ten provinces, including its two biggest cities. Niger’s government has banned the garment in Diffa, a southern region that has also been hit by Boko Haram. And late last year Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari, a Muslim, said that a ban even on the hijab, which shrouds a woman’s head and chest but leaves her face on show, may be necessary if bombings persist.
Even countries unharmed by Islamist terror are banning the burqa. Last year Congo-Brazzaville barred it in public places to “prevent any act of terrorism”. And Senegal, which the French security service says is vulnerable to an attack, is pondering a ban, too. Only one west African country seems to be moving in the other direction. The Gambia’s eccentric dictator, Yahya Jammeh, who recently declared his nation to be Islamic, told all female government workers to cover their hair.

If the Conservative Party decide to expel Boris Johnson, the party will implode. If they decide to punish in any other way, they risk hemorrhaging their party, possibly quite severely.

21st century votes have wised up considerably and will no longer be taken for granted.

Ampers



Wednesday, 8 August 2018

We are living in very dangerous times.

We are also living in extremely troubled times

What twitter is doing borders on criminality. They are stifling debate by Republicans, in the US, prior to their mid-term elections, but allow the Democrats free reign to not only debate their policies but to attack the Republican’s with impunity.

Then they have collectively banned Infowars, a large thorn in the side of the Democrats, from publishing their stories on four major outlets, including Google, Apple and Facebook.

Twitter are shadow-banning thousands of people who are on the right, but allow the left to rave and insult with impunity. A black girl, going into politics for Republicans was recently banned for a day for simply changing an insulting tweet against whites by repeating the tweet changing whites to blacks. She was banned but the other black woman was allowed to insult freely.

Twitter is also attacking right wing thinkers in the UK.

Many of us have additional accounts with Gab.ai, and Minds which allow more free reign. Neither is quite as good as Twitter but I have high hopes for Minds as it is opensource and is owned by its users.

There is a concerted attack by the establishment against normal free-thinking Anglo-Saxons. They are terrified of us. They’ve seen what we can do from the past (remember when three-quarters of the world was coloured red on a map? Red for England). This is one reason why I wanted the Scots to have their independence, with the hope that Wales and Northern Ireland would follow.

England would always be on the right, we are more independent than most races, free thinkers and like to do our own thing.
English MPs:

Conservative:         296 – 55.534%
Labour                   228
Liberal Democrats     8
Greens                       1
We are living in troubled times. Families such as JP Morgan, Rothchilds and the Rockefellers, George Soros and many other billionnaires are fighting for a world government so that they can control the entire planet, making sure there is nowhere to hide. One of their weapons where they try to attract others to their way of thinking is through the Bilderberg Group which is used to discuss future plans for achieving their purpose.

The EU is part of their plans. A stage after the EU has consolidated with all of Europe in their clutches, they have plans for the USA and the EU to join forces. Britain is essential for them as they will be able to exert pressure on the Commonwealth. This paragraph has been put together simply because a journalist after one Bilderberg meeting found a scribbled note with the map of the USA with the stars changed to the EU circle. So it is tenuous and I will understand if you would rather disregard it.

The time is rapidly approaching where we may have to make a stand. If we do nothing but write comments on Facebook or Twitter, then we will lose. We need to take action.

I am not a lover of the Far Right. However, I am a firm believer that Tommy Robinson has realised his mistake of aligning himself with, and leading, the EDL He has become more central right. Not a lot but enough for me to feel a little more at ease following him
Positions are lost by the timid who do nothing.
Positions are lost by those that follow the crowd.
Positions are lost by those ignoring politics.
And positions are also lost by voting for a party because your parents voted for them, and their parents before them. The time has come to start thinking for yourselves. Or taking anything a politician tells you at face value. Check everything they tell you.

Ampers.

Saturday, 4 August 2018

Eddie Rickenbacker; an incredible American hero of his time.

This is an interesting true story.

Every Friday evening, almost without fail, when the sun resembled a giant orange and was starting to dip into the blue ocean.

Old Ed came strolling along the beach to his favorite pier.

Clutched in his bony hand was a bucket of shrimps. Ed walks out to the end of the pier, where it seems he almost has the world to himself. The glow of the sun is a golden bronze now.

Everybody's gone, except for a few joggers on the beach. Standing out on the end of the pier, Ed is alone with his thoughts... and his bucket of shrimps.

Before long, however, he is no longer alone. Up in the sky a thousand white dots come screeching and squawking, winging their way toward that lanky frame standing there on the end of the pier.

Before long, dozens of seagulls have enveloped him, their wings fluttering and flapping wildly. Ed stands there tossing shrimp to the hungry birds. As he does, if you listen closely, you can hear him say with a , 'Thank you. Thank you.'

In a few short minutes the bucket is empty. But Ed doesn't leave. He stands there lost in thought, as though transported to another time and place .

When he finally turns around and begins to walk back toward the beach, a few of the birds hop along the pier with him until he gets to the stairs, and then they, too, fly away. And old Ed quietly makes his way down to the end of the beach and on home.

If you were sitting there on the pier with your fishing line in the water, Ed might seem like 'a funny old duck,' as my dad used to say. Or, to onlookers, he's just another old codger, lost in his own weird world, feeding the seagulls with a bucket full of shrimps.

To the onlooker, rituals can look either very strange or very empty. They can seem altogether unimportant.. .maybe even a lot of nonsense.

Old folks often do strange things, at least in the eyes of Boomers and Busters.

Most of them would probably write Old Ed off, down there in Florida... That's too bad. They'd do well to know him better.

His full name: Eddie Rickenbacker. He was a famous hero in World War I, and then he served in WWII. On one of his flying missions across the Pacific, he and his seven-member crew went down.

Miraculously, all of the men survived, crawled out of their plane, and climbed into a life raft.

Captain Rickenbacker and his crew floated for days on the rough waters of the Pacific. They fought the sun. They fought sharks. Most of all, they fought hunger and thirst. By the eighth day their rations ran out. No food. No water. They were hundreds of miles from land and no one knew where they were or even if they were alive.

Every day across America millions wondered and prayed that Eddie Rickenbacker might somehow be found alive.

The men adrift needed a miracle. That afternoon they had a simple devotional service and prayed for a miracle.

They tried to nap. Eddie leaned back and pulled his military cap over his nose. Time dragged on. All he could hear was the slap of the waves against the raft...suddenly Eddie felt something land on the top of his cap. It was a seagull!

Old Ed would later describe how he sat perfectly still, planning his next move. With a flash of his hand and a squawk from the gull, he managed to grab it and wring its neck. He tore the feathers off, and he and his starving crew made a meal of it - a very slight meal for eight men. Then they used the intestines for bait. With it, they caught fish, which gave them food and more bait....and the cycle continued. With that simple survival technique, they were able to endure the rigors of the sea until they were found and rescued after 24 days at sea.

Eddie Rickenbacker lived many years beyond that ordeal, but he never forgot the sacrifice of that first life-saving seagull... And he never stopped saying, 'Thank you.' That's why almost every Friday night he would walk to the end of the pier with a bucket full of shrimps and a heart full of gratitude.
 
Reference: (Max Lucado, "In The Eye of the Storm", pp...221, 225-226)


PS: Eddie Rickenbacker was the founder of Eastern Airlines. Before WWI he was race car driver. In WWI he was a pilot and became America's first ace. In WWII he was an instructor and military adviser, and he flew missions with the combat pilots. Eddie Rickenbacker is a true American hero. And now you know another story about the trials and sacrifices that brave men have endured for your freedom.

Monday, 16 July 2018

What is the difference between a Classical Liberal and a Liberal?

First of all, the lines are blurred with many people. A major problem here is people identify Liberalism with the political party called the Liberal Democrats who, alas, are neither liberal nor democratic.

I do not see myself as a Liberal at all when, looking at the following video, I see that I am, indeed a Classical Liberal.



OK, this is an American production but it applies to people all over the world and the views expressed here are, to me, describing pretty accurately how I feel.

Is it describing you?

Ampers.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

This is how we can punish the Tories and not get Labour

First of all, there will be thousands of Tories who are Remainers. Then there are idiots who voted to leave but cannot break the umbilical cord which attaches them for life to the Conservatives and, who will still vote Tory.

The sad news is, there are very many Leavers who have seen the light and will probably abstain from having anything to do with the vote at the next election.

My plan is two-fold,
first I want to produce an idea which will bring them back to voting, and secondly, I want the same idea to appeal to the huge swathes of people across the country who have either never voted, or have given up on the political system.

There is UKIP, but now we have many other political parties springing up. There is Anna Marie Waters party “For Britain” There is Henry Bolton’s “One Nation” and there is John Rees-Evans “Democrats & Veterans Party”. No doubt many more before the next election. If you know of any, please let me know above [on the right] or at @AmpersUK.

Although my plan doesn’t involve the coming together of these new parties, I am toying with an idea in which they can each get an MP or two.

We are all short of manpower. Yes, UKIP has a lot, but nothing now compared with Conservatives and Labour.

My plan needs the leaders of all the smaller Brexit parties to send a representative to a meeting to start discussing election tactics. But, I hasten to add, not to actually join forces.

Fighting the next election: At these meetings, each representative should choose two only constituencies where the others agree not to fight. That’s not a lot out of 650 seats. But enough for the smaller parties to concentrate their efforts. Pick the two containing most of your members.

The important point here is there is no competition between the parties in each of these two constituencies. However, they can also fight in as many other constituences not earmarked by the above team without fear or favour!

All the parties, including UKIP, should distribute a joint leaflet with no party mentioned. I can hear you all laughing from my home in Finchley!!! But here is an idea for the leaflets.
Staying at home is not an option

Please read on. Note: we are not suggesting what party to vote for in this leaflet.

There are many reasons why the United Kingdon is in such a mess. One is “tribal” where people think: “My grandfather voted for x party, my father did, and what was good enough for them is good enough for me". How many, reading this leaflet, truly believe the Tory and Labour parties have the same aims as they did when your father and grandfather were alive?

The only hope for Britain is to end the two party dominance of our politics. Apart from not really seeing much difference – both are harmful for people at work, struggling to earn a living to support their families; for the elderly keeping warm in winter; for finding a school place reasonably near your home and keeping them safe from groomers; for getting medical treatment from your doctor on the day you need it and from getting seen to in A&E the same hour you are admitted.
Vote for one of the smaller parties if there is one putting up a candidate in your area. If everyone who sees this leaflet does that, they could get in and upset every official in the two main parties.

Don’t be “tribal”, if there are no small parties standing, destroy your vote by writing “I’ll never vote for ______________ in my life again” [insert the major party applicable]
Please go and vote on May xxth 202x. 
[no actual date available yet]
Before you totally throw out my ideas, remember, unless the smaller parties can work together tactically, we will still end up with the two similar tribes controlling Parliament.

Write to your party leaders with a link to this article and ask them to consider it, providing you think it is a good idea of course!

For Britain                                @AMDWaters
UKIP                                         @GerardBattenMEP
One Nation                               @_HenryBolton
Democrats & Veterans Party    @JohnReesEvans
A possible comeback                @Nigel_Farage

On reading this article through, one thing stands out in my mind. And, that is, how important it is not to put any identification on your leaflet indicating what party people should vote for. Once you do this, it becomes a political leaflet and has to be accounted for in your party expenses for the Electoral Commission. And, should have the name and address of your party agent at the bottom.


Ampers

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Who remembers FUD? The Establishment have taken over from IBM on this art!

I don’t understand

The authorities are pushing how bad a complete break with the EU will be every single day. There are a few things they just cannot seem to comprehend.

These arguments of theirs are the same arguments put out before the “vote” -- they even got Barak Obama to come over to tell us how leaving would be bad for Britain.

In addition, Mark Carney of the Bank of England, the CBI, Richard Bransom and other leaders of Industry drummed into us how bad leaving the EU would be. And, to crown it all, David Cameron sent out a glossy fourteen page booklet to every home in the UK reinforcing all this fear, uncertainty and despondency.

In the sixties, this was known as FUD and was coined by IBM to persuade company buyers to only buy IBM computers. Until Brexit, IBM were the acclaimed masters of FUD.

However, 52% of the British people who took an interest in their country still voted to leave.

Now, over the two years since the referendum, not only the 52% but most of those who voted to remain in the EU are learning that all those “stories” were false, or to use modern parlance, fake news.

Now those same people have started up the discredited stories of FUD (fear, uncertainty and despondency) to persuade us to remain in the EU, should the establishment manage to get their aim of a second referendum.

Our Prime Minister is now well known as someone who has no understanding of negotiations, as she allows the EU negotiators to walk all over her and Britain. We know she was 100% remain when Home Secretary, and we must now consider whether she is really putting Britain’s best interest forward in these negotiations.

A lot of the British public were persuaded to vote remain through “fear, uncertainty and despondency”. The question to ask is, how many of those people who fell at the first hurdle would know now not be taken in by Establishment lies? Would they now vote to leave?

If just one in five were wise enough to see through the propaganda, that would mean the 52% would be increased to over 60%. But, personally, I think the British public are a lot wiser than the Establishment give them credit for and the number could be much, much higher.

Please send a link to every remainer you know!

Ampers

Monday, 25 June 2018

Some Brexit misconceptions

First of all, I must apologise if this is not perfect but I am experimenting on producing a slide show in Blogger.

I have set automatic movement to their mazimum of one minute so you can use the arrows to move as quickly as you wish to.

If it works OK, I may do some on various subjects which lend themselves to this method of communication.

I'd be grateful for any feedback, either in the comments below, or if they are exceedingly rude about my capaabilities, you could be decent and leave a email in the slot on the right!



Ampers.

Monday, 18 June 2018

We are living in dangerous times

The important thing is, to keep your head and act wisely.

When walking down the street, always be aware of who is passing you, and who is behind you, even in broad daylight with crowds around you. Especially when the pavement is crowded. Keep an eye on the traffic.

Carrying a weapon is prohibited by law and the police attitude is, it is far better to be killed, or raped, than having to go to prison because you killed your attacker. If you agree, don’t carry a weapon.

Outdoor clothes

If someone intends to kill or rape you, then you need to consider what you are wearing. Killers hate toffs, and if a rapist thinks you think you are God Almighty, he will hone in on you. Slouch and wear dull outer chothes.

High Heels and leather soles give out a clickety clack sound and the eye immediately hones in on the wearer. I’m from Africa and am a hunter by nature (shops were 200 miles down the road and if you didn’t hunt you’d get pretty hungry). As soon as I hear the clickety-clack of loud shoes, my eye’s automatically swivel towards the sound, and I’m no killer or rapist. Wear trainers and keep your high heels or smart leather sole shoes in your bag until you get to your destination.

Another thing, always walk facing the traffic, if you walk in the direction of the traffic, you are at risk if a car pulls up next to you.

Andrew Kain gives good advice to people in his SAS Handbook.
If there’s a wall, walking close to it will reduce the chances of an attack from that side, because the wall protects you, and you’re narrowing the angles of attack.
As you approach a corner, alley or driveway, however, veer out away from the wall to give yourself that essential arms-length distance on anyone hiding around the corner.

Carry an aid to maintaining your arms-length space, such as an umbrella.
If you have a handbag on a long strap, wear it on the side closest to the wall and wear the strap across your chest, rather than over one shoulder. When crossing the road, clasp the bag in your hand, restricting the opportunity of a thief.
If you’re in crowds, whether it’s in subways during the rush hour, the supermarket on Saturday morning or at a football match, it’s particularly important that your valuables are tucked away and not obvious.
I bought the SAS Handbook for £22.00 way back, Andrew Kain signed the book in October 1996 so I must have had it before then. It was in a slightly larger than A5 loose-leaf format. Andrew, and two of his pals in his executive protection company, had 44 years in the SAS between them.

The book covers home security, street security, car security, and travelling abroad security and much more. Amazon sell the paperback for £6.99 and the Kindle version for £4.79. I can’t stress how useful this book is whether you are living at home, travelling locally or abroad. It is my bible.

Home security

First of all, make it visible. You may be very fond of your neighbours, but your object here for the thief is for him to feel it’s too much trouble – and move off along the road.

When we first moved in, I had Banhams replace the front door with a strong specially made door, with two Banham security locks – one latch and one mortice. The same with the back door. I so had window locks, and the lights – at the top of the windows – were fitted with an unobtusive bar so we can leave those little windows open in the summer without fear the burglar can lift a small child through.

Then I had another professional company come in, more recently, to install a burglar alarm and motion detectors in all the room, and security cameras.

By spending a little more I have insured that these precautions are invisible to friends and relations who visit me, but to a trained (thief’s) eye, these all spell trouble for him.

This is what Living in London is all about. I have taken further precautions but I would prefer to keep these to myself.

Ampers

Saturday, 16 June 2018

Is WhatsApp really all that secure?


Secure messaging:

Avoiding back doors is possible providing you use an open source program. This type of program is usually available in code; the user can examine the code and then compile it for their computer. If you don’t know how to compile a program, why not ask next door’s twelve year old son! You'll be amazed at what he can do!

You may ask "why would you need to use this app". I will give just one example but I'm sure you can think of many more. 'Political parties in opposition. Every party which is in government has access to MI5' (and, in America, the NSA)! Texts can be read!

Signal Messenger can also be used as a normal SMS program so you can remove your normal SMS app as there are special benefits with Signal Messenger.

Providing both parties are using the program, full encryption is also available. This part can, of course, be covered by WhatsApp, but remember - WhatsApp is a proprietary program and you’ll never tell if the CIA for MI5 have forced them to put a trapdoor in no matter what they may claim.

                                              - - - - - - - - - - - -
I dictated this whilst on the London Underground using the EdiVoice app. This app allows for long gaps between each bit of dictation unlike Google’s own voice efforts, but you need to speak slowly and clearly. The app also allows for teaching, if it gets things wrong.

OK, I admit this article is a little stilted but I haven’t used mechanical means for dictation for over fifty years. Hopefully I’ll get better at it!

Ampers

Friday, 15 June 2018

High and safe security on your mobile phone.

Secure messaging:
Avoiding back doors is possible providing you use an open source program. This type of program is usually available in code, the user can examine the code and then compile it for their computer. If you don’t know how to compile a program, why not ask next door’s son!
You may ask "why would you need to do this". I will give just one example but I'm sure you can think of many more. Political parties in opposition. Ever party which is in has access to MI5.
Signal Messenger is such a program and can be used as a normal SMS program.
However, providing both parties are using the program, full encryption is also available. This part can be covered by WhatsApp, but remember - WhatsApp is a proprietary program and you’ll never tell if the CIA for MI5 have forced them to put a trapdoor in.
I dictated this whilst on the London Underground using the EdiVoice app. This app allows for long gaps between each bit of dictation unlike Google, but you need to speak slowly and clearly. The app also allows for teaching, if it gets things wrong. OK, this article is a little stilted but I haven’t used mechanical means for dictation for over fifty years. Hopefully I’ll get better at it!
Ampers


Thursday, 14 June 2018

Use your mobile phone and never lose your memory.

Subtitled: To old codgers everywhere - and a few younger ones!

This article is aimed at people like me, who have been retired for a few years, are starting to procrastinate, but still have their mobile phones. Alas, as I use Android, some of the apps I suggest may not be easily available on the Apple store.

You may not be exactly the same as me as, in under a month, I will be celebrating my 79th birthday. I run our home using the following apps and software.

Younger readers might be interested in the following as well, as – apart from helping procrastinators – it can also help to make one more efficient.

A little while ago I discovered £20,000 in an old ISA which I had totally forgotten about. This led me to search for a full accounts program to list all my assets and liabilities. I didn’t want to make the same error again! However, I can now see exactly when bills are coming in so I can be earning as much interest as possible.

I chose a free program – I like free if it works and this one does. I use Linux so was a little restricted but I chose GNUCash. The good news is it is also available on Microsoft Windows and Apple operating systems. Like Quickbooks, if you make a mistake and it hasn’t been reconciled with your statement yet, you can overwrite the errant transaction. And add new accounts to your account tree whenever you need. I won’t talk about their reports section! There are so maay of the reports I haven’t began to use them all!

I use “Daily Expenses” by Michel Garvajal. Load version 2 and if you like it, pay for version 3. This allows me to add my expenses, cash/credit card etc as I travel around and every Sunday I transfer the week’s expenses into my GNUCash. This is, in fact a great freedom.

I arrange my time during the week, but only Mondays to Fridays using the 52 minutes on a job and 17 minutes as a break. The 52:17 is a recognised system and you can Google it. For this I use “Just Reminder” by AppHouze Go. Available from the Google app store. I keep fairly bland names starting with Admin for the first period followed by Project A, Project B, Project C, Project D, Firefighting (for all those problems that crop up) and Reading as the last period when you may be too tired to work! During the day I have an exercise period where, rain or shine I walk one mile. I have a weekly time table proforma and against the projects, I put what I am going to use them for for that week.                                          

I use the “Todo List”, the one by Splend Apps. They write great apps and I have four of them, all paid for but you can use them free. This is for regular things and information throughout the year and I get daily reminders. I always forget to take my asthma puff mornings and evenings. I also remind myself here to take the dustbins out, Another reminder to increase my blood pressure every Wednesdays to watch PMQs. And to change my undersink water filter twice a year, and to buy a new pair once a year, to give an idea. To remind me a month earlier when my home insurance becomes due so I can shop around for a better deal. The uses here for a procrastinator are endless.

“Simplenote” by Automatic Inc for all the major things to do, listing all the major items I have to accomplish. I find this particularly useful as they have a browser app whick links so you can use your computer keyboard. Yes, I know there is Google Keep and Evernote. I use them both for various reasons, but this is best for this job.

I also use “Voice Recorder” and “All Notes”, also by Splend Apps. Voice Recorder records onto various sound files – I use mp3 – for notes on the go. You can speak fairly fast, and have gaps whilst you think of what to say. I use it for taking down people’s phone number, appointments, notes and sometimes expenses, to be added to various apps later when I am sitting down comfortably. All Notes is different. It allows speech to text, but if you hesitate too long the sound closes and it types out what you have said. It also has a todo list, use of your camera, and you can also record a voice file. You can also share all types of these notes by email.

Suddenly, at approaching 79, I have become more efficient. You may find it hard to believe, but regimenting myself this way has given me a new lease of life. Now I never have to clutter my mind with all the things I have to do over the coming twelve months.

I also use “Call Forwarding” by DHC Apps. I have a good phone system at home with a wire free handset in every room. So when I get home I forward all my mobile calls to my home phone. When I leave home, I “unforward” them. Apart from the obvious, saving battery, it also saves me rushing from room to room searching for my mobile. [I also have a wireless charger in each room so that doesn’t help me find my mobile!]

If you can think of other apps which can be included here, add them, together with a paragraph on what the app does, to the Comments Section below. Please also add the cost of the app.

Ampers.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

Does your account program cost you an arm and a leg?

Welcome to GNUCash!

First of all, it runs on many operating systems, including Windows, Mac and many flavours of Linux, including ]Debian series (Ubuntu, Mint, Debian etc)], Red Hat, SuSe and a few others.

Secondly, it is Open Source and totally free to use. For the suspicious, this includes the souce code which, if you have a technical programmer working for you, you can download and look through the code before compiling it yourself. But that’s for the techies – however, it is reassuring.

So, what does it do.

  • A simple answer here, is everything. I have used Quicken and Quickbooks in the past and this works in a very similar way, from entering all your accounts to producing a copious amount of reports right up to Balance Sheet. Reports can be for the month, quarter or year.
  • Not only can you build your ‘accounts tree’, but you can call the headings whatever names you like. In addition, you can add to them even after using the program seriously for some time.
  • You can download your statements in the Quicken QIF files or the new OFX files, which between the two, are used by most banks in the UK.
  • The program has routines to enable you to reconcile your statements with your accounts easily, and as you reconcile each item, you can mark them as reconciled.
  • You can liaise with your accounts program through your Android phone.
  • You can, as I have done, download the 275 page manual, print on both sides, and have it bound by the local print shop for under a fiver. Well worth doing if you are going to be serious about using this program.
  • Amazon have many books, written by many people, available in book format or Kindle format. However if you own a Kindle, you can download the document in .mobi format. Those with other e-readers, you can use the e-book format.
  • You can start using the program from any date. I used the first of the following month, and when the statement arrived later in the month you can add the balances in, these were dated the first of the month and immediately appeared in the correct place before the records I had previously entered. Great.
  • If you put in your company name and address, and your client’s name and address, you can print invoices for any sales transaction.
  • When using for the first time, you have a choice of different sets of accounts to automatically set up. Then all you need to d
There are many more good points about this program, but I tought I’d just give you a flavour of this FREE software.

The way open source works is, someone has an idea for a program. He puts this information out, and someone technical takes it up and calls for help. Hundreds, sometimes thousands of programmers around the world offer half a day, a day, or even  longer to code up, or solve problems from other coders.

There is a GNUCash Android app, but it doesn’t feed the main program too well so I use an app on my Samsung phone called “Daily Expenses”. You get a whole lot more by buying it (just over £2) and it will back your data up to either Drive or Dropbox. I use this when I am out to record all my purchases and, every week, enter them into GNUCash every Sunday.
    
You can delete any account errors, but that is not advisable once the entry has been reconciled with your statement. Some, but not many, banks and building societies, offer an electronic statement. I don’t mean a pdf but what is called an OFX or a QIF, or even a csv file, which you can upload to your GNUCash and most of the items will be reconciled, leaving only a few to investigate.

It is said you don’t need to be a book-keeper to operate it, but a little knowledge of book-keeping will stop you making a few errors in the first month.

Don’t worry about opening balances, you can put these in at any time, just don’t forget to put the date as at the last day of the month before you begin and they will always show up first.


A word of warning, although this is ideal for small businesses, if you, like me, are using it for your home accounts, you could be heading for a little heartbreak when you see just how much certain aspects of your life is costing you. Men, if you are doing this, split the “clothes” account into his and hers. This could be ammunition when she says “You’re not going out to the pub yet again?”

Ampers

Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Android apps - some new kids on the block

Astrobot and Mastermind look very interesting for serious business people.

Astrobot
This is an email program, on a Desktop or Notebook which will show your emails on the left and your calendar on the right. Naturallyy this can’t be done on a mobile apps, so a simple click between the two. At present it is only available on the Mac Desktop or in the Android and Iphone app stores.

It has a way to go, but the team of 28 in the company developing this are successful software entrepreneurs who sold their previous software program for around $350,000,000.

At present Astrobot links in to both Amazon Alexa and Slack. By the end of the year they will probably link and work for a lot more. For the office, the Amazon Echo is cheaper and will do everything that Alexa does except Alexa has better speakers for music which you may not require.

At present it is free, but I hear it will eventually be charged out to companies, although I have been informed it may be free for the single user.

Here’s their own blurb:

The Press?
  • Mashable: The 12 best apps of 2017
  • The Wall Street Journal: “The cleverest email client”
  • Product Hunt: Mobile App of the Year
  • TechCrunch: “A high-end Gmail replacement”
  • Fast Company: “This email app uses AI to keep your inbox under control”
  • Lifehacker: “The magic really comes from the app’s built-in digital assistant”

Why Astro
• Modern, intelligent features for FREE: Snooze, Unsubscribe, Send Later, Email Tracker, Priority Inbox, Unified Inbox, Calendar, and more, for Gmail, G Suite and Office 365 email accounts
• Astrobot: AI-powered email assistant that highlights important messages and questions, unsubscribes you from emails, and responds to hundreds of commands to help you stay on top of your mailbox and calendar
• Priority Inbox: Know which emails are most important with a focused inbox, powered by AI
• Calendar: View and manage your calendar directly from the Astro app, including an Agenda view with events for Snoozed emails, scheduled emails and reminders
• Slack Integration: Easily work across Slack and email. In Slack, read and respond to emails, and create Calendar events. In Astro, search for Slack messages and share emails to Slack channels
• Astrobot Voice & Amazon Alexa Skill: Read, manage,and reply to emails hands-free by talking to Astrobot, directly from the Astro app or from your Amazon Echo

AI-Powered Email Assistant
• Ask Astrobot: Responds to hundreds of natural language commands to manage, clean up, and search your inbox, add events to your calendar, set reminders, and learn how to use Astro
• Insights: Unsubscribe and archive suggestions for messages that can skip your mailbox
• Reminders: Automated reminders to follow up on important emails, questions, tracked emails, time-specific requests, and @mentions from other Astro users
• VIPs: AI-powered contact list management, so you always know when a priority email arrives
• Voice Commands: Manage your inbox by talking to Astrobot directly from the app
• Daily & Weekly Update Emails: Insights that help you clean up your mailbox and make it easier to know what to follow up on

Smart Inbox Management
• Priority & Other Inbox: Astro sorts your emails using artificial intelligence
• Smart Notifications: Eliminate distractions by getting notified only when an email is important
• Snooze: Swipe to read or respond to an email at a specific time, or when you get back to your Mac
• Email Open & Reply Tracking: Get notified when a recipient opens an email or get a reminder if you haven’t heard back on time
• Send Later: Schedule your emails to be sent at exactly the right time

Calendar
• Unified Inbox & Calendar: Streamline your workflow and save time by viewing and managing your Gmail and Office 365 email accounts and calendars all in one place
• Calendar Assistant: Add simple events using natural language
• Complete View of Today’s To-Dos: Calendar includes events not only from Gmail and/or Office 365 email accounts, but also Snoozed or scheduled emails and reminders, so you get a complete view of your day
• Customizable Calendar Views: Choose which calendars and email accounts to display

Additional Features
• Customizable swipes
• Fast search
• Folders and Favorites
• Email aliases
• Signatures
• Attachments - Dropbox, Box, Google Drive, Quip, iCloud
• Rich text and emojis
• Support for Gmail, G Suite and Microsoft Office 365

I suggest you put their link in your brought forward diary for later in the year. Believe me, this software has potential. If you like experimenting, log in and use it now. I am, and thoroughly enjoying it. Just in case of problems, I use it in tandem with...

Aquamail
I consider this the best email app I’ve seen but it is only available on mobiles which destroys a lot of its potential.

Mastermind
This is an interesting program which will read your emails (as Astrobot does) but will read your SMS messages and allow you to send via voice. It communicates with both Alexa/Echo and Google Home (once again, their mini is best for office use). Like Astrobot it is in a stage of development but promises much.

Here, using their own words, is what they have done so far:

Mastermind lets you send and read SMS text messages, make and answer phone calls, get caller ID, find your phone, get notifications and launch apps on your mobile device and television via Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant devices.

Mastermind connects your smartphone, personal computer, and television to Amazon Alexa and Google Assistant.

* Send and receive SMS text messages
* Make Phone calls
* Find your phone
* Get Caller ID
* Read and manage all app notifications whether they come from Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp, Email, Netflix, Youtube or any other app!
* Cast to Chromecast TV
* Get phone battery charge, data usage stats and app usage stats
* Turn on Wifi, Bluetooth and Do-Not-Disturb
* Launch Mobile Apps
* Start Google Maps navigation
* Send articles from your phone and personal computer to Alexa
and Google Assistant to read aloud
* See your phone's notifications, text messages, and phone calls on your personal computer
* More...

Mastermind Commands:
http://www.mastermindbot.com/c

Subscribe to the Mastermind Youtube channel:
https://www.youtube.com/playli

Download all the Mastermind Bots: http://www.mastermindbot.com

5 reasons to try out Mastermind:

1) To send a text message, say "Alexa/Ok Google, Ask Mastermind to Send Message" and Mastermind will send the SMS message using your carrier phone number.

2) To find your phone, say "Alexa/Ok Google, Ask Mastermind to Call My Phone" and Mastermind will ring your phone full volume even if it's in silent or do-not-disturb mode.

3) When your phone rings, say "Alexa/Ok Google, Ask Mastermind Who's Calling?" to found out who's calling. Send unwanted calls to voicemail, say "Alexa, Ask Mastermind to Reject Call".

4) When your phone dings, say "Alexa/Ok Google, Ask Mastermind What Was That?". Mastermind will read out the email, Facebook update, WhatsApp message, Tweet, Instagram post or any notification instantaneously without you reaching for your phone.

5) To make a hands-free phone call, say "Alexa/Ok Google, Ask Mastermind to Make Phone Call" and Mastermind will initiate the call from your phone or connected bluetooth speaker.

Mastermind takes your security and privacy very seriously. Mastermind uses end-to-end encryption to make sure that all of your information is secure.

All permissions on Mastermind are optional. If you do not grant the permission, you will not be able to use commands that require the corresponding phone permission.

This app uses the Device Administrator permission: Casting to Chromecast from Alexa requires Mastermind to be able to Unlock your phone. This requires Mastermind to have Device Admin Permission. If you don't want to cast to Chromecast from Alexa, you do not need to grant Mastermind this Device Admin permission.

For more details on permissions and which commands require which permission, please see Mastermind's privacy policy:

http://www.mastermindbot.com/p

Mastermind is powered by the Convessa Connected Conversational Platform, the most powerful enterprise-grade connected conversational platform available. Learn more at http://www.convessa.com.

Two important points, the program relies on you having Alexa or the Echo Dot, as without one of these the program is pretty pointless. Remember, the program is still in Beta and is still growing. Once it is off Beta and works smoothly, with new items added, I will enjoy it. Let’s face it, most of us can dictate faster than we can type. I envisage executives with an armchair in their office, just issuing strings of commands!

Bonus to this article.

Evinote app for Android. (not Evernote!)
This is a handy dictating app. It has some good points and some bad points. But before I mention them, let me tell you where I find it really useful. I have it on my home screen and when I am out and about and an idea occurs to me, I dictate the idea. The app then types it out. Then I can either copy it to a clipboard, or share it. I share it to SimplyNotes for action when I get to the office.

Now if Mastermind can access that note and send it to an SMS message or email, it would be fantastic.

The pros
The idea that you can dictate is terrific as it isn’t always easy to get out a pen and piece of paper to scribble a note when on the move. Another point is, it won’t stop until you push a button, unlike Google Voice. I tested it by dictating a sentence and waited for five minutes and dictated something else and it just carried on as if there wasn’t a gap.

The Cons
You have to dictate slowly but then this is a free app with adverts, or for a low cost to remove the adverts.

Monday, 28 May 2018

Beware of these greedy mobile app writers

I have noticed a trend nowadays for app writers to rent out their apps at £x a month. This is sheer greed in most cases. The only legitimate case for this is if they have to rent business premises and employ staff to give massive backup. If this is the case, there may be a design fault in the app.

Take an app with 380,000 users containing advertising. They get an ongoing income, probably not that large, but they offer an upgrade for an app with no advertising and some extra benefits for £2.75. Supposing 170,000 decide to buy it as they love the app and want to support the writer. That’s an income of £467,500 – without the advertising income of the non-purchasers.


This website quotes:
The effective cost per thousand impressions, a measure that equalizes advertising revenue of apps with different click-through rates, ranged between $.53 and $1.12 in 2012. An impression occurs each time a new ad is displayed to a user. So if an app averages 1,000 daily users who see two ads each at an eCPM of $.50, the app would generate $1 on average each day.
Now supposing there is a similar app someone is renting at £1.25 a month. Supposing they only have 85,000 users. That is a regular income of £106,250 but this is per month.  One person is paying £1.25 a month which is £15.00 a year. Suppose he uses it over a ten year period? That’s £150.00 you’ve paid. And, overall, the app writer makes £12,750,000 – nice work if you can get it.

Take Quickbooks invoicing. £9.99pm = 119.88pa = £1,198.88 in ten years. And that’s for one app.

My advice here is, do not rent software if you can help it. An exception could be that you are in business and the app will save you more than the cost, and you can write it off for tax purposes.

I have set up and run five businesses in my life, selling them when the work has become boring and there were no more “challenges”. Annual spreadsheets normally show income and expenditure. Mine showed income, variable expenditure and fixed expenditure. (as an example, telephone equipment came under fixed and calls – which I could control - came under variable). I never minded fixed expenditure too much, but came down hard on variable expenditure.

Ampers.

Sunday, 27 May 2018

How productive are you working from home?

This article is aimed at both self-employed and office staff working from home.

The most important discipline here is self-discipline. To make sure you work at a sensible pace and, at the same time, get your work done.

I work from home, and I have four major projects on the go at any one time. I have a reminder app to remind me when each job needs to be started. And my phone buzzes at the following times. I use the 52:17 technique, that is 52 minutes concentrated work and 17 minutes for a rest break. This keeps me going at full pace throughout the day.

08:30 Administration
09:22 Rest break and phone calls
09:39 Project A
10:31 Rest break and coffee
10:48 Project B

… and so on until five o’clock.

Type in “Reminder” in your app search box in Google and you’ll find a few. But make sure you choose the one by Arthur Ivanets. Some are just a single date widget, but the ones you need to look for are for a series of alarms throughout the day. I’m on Android and use Reminder free, it’s £1.99 to remove the adverts which I am about to do. If not in the Apple Store, you may need to look through a few to find one suitable

An app available on both Android and Apple is called “Wunderlist”. This is ideal for adding all those chores that turn up daily, weekly, monthly or even yearly. Home ones might include clean the Krups coffee machine every three weeks, Take a tablet at 11:00am every day – you’ll need that if you become engrossed in your work. Working reminders might include, send in weekly report for each week by noon every Monday. Ringing the boss every Thursday at 3pm. Normal day by day matters such as buy more printing paper and phone George about meeting up after work, could go into the Reminder app.

One other app is Simplenote which allows quick notetaking on your Android or Apple phone, and you can get versions for Windows, Apple or Linux to share across these platforms. There is also a web version for when you are on someone else’s computer. Google Keep is also ideal as is Evernote, but the latter two can have other uses. I use Keep for snippits of information I get from the Internet and with email. Evernote is useful for entering information, such as clothes sizes, my VoiP account information and other such information but naturally passwords aren’t kept in there.

A good electronic notebook which is networked to your home computer, or to the company if you are employed is very useful. I sometimes pop in with mine to the local coffee shop when I have a routine job which I can do as it breaks up the loneliness.

If it's convenient, include a minimum of a mile walk into your schedule. A brisk walk can do it in around 20 minutes. Best time is early afternoon so it puts some oomph into the tail end of the day. Ideally do it in a rest period – 10 minutes to the local coffee house leaves you seven minutes to order a coffee, 52 minutes working on one of your prrojects, and a ten minute return half mile in the next rest break another seven minutes to relax. As I say, working at home requires self discipline and not lying to oneself.

If you have other apps you prefer, please add them in the comments section.

Sunday, 20 May 2018

An interesting option on retirement

Or, perhaps, well after retirement when you are around 75.

It will also depend, of course, on whether you have children, whether the children are well off, whether they are still loving and supportive if not well off.

And whether, of course, you have invested wisely in pensions during your working life.

This article will assume that you haven't an adequate pension, and if you have children, they are either well off, or have neglected you.

First of all, if you need to go into a nursing home, and you can't afford a private one, there are certain restrictions as you can read in this Daily Telegraph article.

Of course, you can always sell your home and go on a "round the world" luxury holiday and live like a prince until it is all gone, and throw yourself at the mercy of the local council. You need to have less than £118,000 left if you've read the Daily Telegraph article in the above link.

Another way is to consider"Equity Release". This is where you sell your house to an insurance company. It is very difficult to say how much you will get as it depends on the value of your house, the area it is in, whether it is likely to go up in value and other criteria.

For example, if you release £50,000 now from a home worth £250,000 and the loan runs for 15 years, you will build up a debt of £123,000. If we assume that house prices rise at 5pc a year, the value will be £528,000 in 15 years' time. So you will have £405,000 remaining to bequeath.

However, this will still be a lot over the £118,000 mentioned earlier - so an outright sale and a very, very long around the world travel holiday might be your best bet.

But only if you don't have loving, and supportive children.

Ampers.