A Driving Instructor's Blog

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USA Election graphicAt last, Joe Biden has made it to the White House. It’s still disturbing that it was so close, but it’s the result America – and the civilised world – needed.

The Americans are lucky. They were able to rectify the crass mistake which occurred in their country in 2016.

Here in the UK, the one we made just before Trump was elected remains.

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US Election graphicI’m watching the drawn out process that constitutes ‘democracy’ in America. I shouldn’t complain – ours has its own quirks.

But looking at a BBC page where they ask a panel of typical US voters how they feel waking up this morning with the count ongoing, I just thought I’d add my own view.

The overriding question I have is this: why in God’s name is it so f***ing close?

Are there really that many people in the USA who want Trump in again? I mean, it was a mind-bogglingly catastrophic result that got him in back in 2016. But again? What kind of people actually want him as President after the last four years?

People are nuts.

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ReadlyA couple of years ago I was having a clear out and I was amazed at the number of magazines I’d collected over the years. They were mainly my Classic Rock mags, and part of my decision to have a clear out was that I’d been getting more and more disillusioned with that particular publication.

At the time, I was on an annual subscription, but Planet Rock had just launched its own magazine and that did exactly what it said on the tin – it covered rock music. Classic Rock acquired a new editor, and she made it clear in her introductory piece what she was planning. Subsequently, any rock music they covered had to include at least half female acts – meaning it became obscure and far from ‘classic’, at best – and they also decided that (as just one example) Depeche Mode somehow ticked both the ‘classic’ and ‘rock’ boxes at the same time (actually, they decided twice in the space of just a couple of months with that one example). Then they did their ‘best 100 female artists of all time’ issue, and necessarily had to include non-rock genres to fill it out. That was it from me, and I cancelled my sub.

Before any feminists start frothing at the mouth over this, I go to see lots of female artists and bands with female members. I actually seek them out if I hear them on Planet Rock and like the sound. Like Samantha Fish, Haim, Paramore, Evanescence, Courtney Love, Joanne Shaw Taylor, The Lounge Kittens… I just don’t need any feminist magazine editors trying to filter out the men for me. And if you don’t like the fact that I don’t like that fact, click the back button and go somewhere else.

Planet Rock mag suits me fine, but when the lockdown came along, it also came with a lot of extra time for reading and finding tips on how to do stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise had time for. And going out to buy magazines wasn’t an option – even if it would have been of benefit with the ‘current’ issue on sale (you usually need a series of them).

A few years ago, as a result of my quest to find some authentic German food recipes, I came across a subscription service called Readly. It carries – and this is no exaggeration – thousands of UK titles. They’re all the ones you see on the newsstands (and many you don’t), from TV Times, OK!, Hello!, through all the photography and amateur DIY magazines, through to music and musicians (including Classic Rock). They cover specialist computer and technology subjects, gaming, weddings, cycling, fishing, horse riding, pets… everything (but no X-rated adult stuff). Including back issues, too, which multiplies the content by at least ten. And as I already implied, they have similar numbers of publications from Europe, Asia, and America. They’ve also recently started including newspapers, though it’s only The Independent and Evening Standard right now.

My normal Readly subscription is less than £8 a month, but they offer a two months for free trial. Even so, at £8 a month, that’s the newsstand cost of just three magazines! If you were after foreign magazines, you’d probably pay more than that for a single issue once shipping was included.

You can get the Readly app with the offer through Amazon (it’s free), and you can read on your phone, tablet, or computer. You can also read offline by downloading the content.

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Three American MoronsAmerica has a problem. Actually, America has many problems. But with COVID-19, some problems stick out more than others.

Mind you, I say that. But in America right now, pretty much all problems stick out. One of the current ones is in Texas. It seems they have had daily new cases of COVID-19 jump from 2,000 to 6,000 (the article says 5,000, but it is actually 6,000 right now) in a few weeks. Putting that in perspective, Texas has a population which is about a third of the entire UK, yet our maximum number of daily cases has never – apart from one day in April, where I think care homes were added – been much above about 6,000. And the charts indicate it is still accelerating in Texas.

Of course, we had the lockdown. And apart from a worrying number of morons ignoring it, that has brought our daily cases down to around 1,000.

In a similar vein, Texas has seen around 150,000 cases overall. So far. That’s already half of what we’ve seen with three times as many people, and a higher population density.

America has a complicated political structure, whereby state government mainly calls the shots, but this is further complicated by the various amendments to The Constitution, meaning the people pretty much decide whether they follow the Law or not (it’s the ‘Land of the Free’, after all). And if anyone tries to make them, they get their guns out and it gets even more complicated (it’s also the ‘Land of the Stupid’ at the best of times). And all this is completely legal, thanks to that same Constitution.

You could write forever about the American system. But the point I wanted to make was about wearing face masks. It seems that the Texas Governor has urged people to wear masks ‘where it is indicated’. This has proved unpopular – violently so, from what I can gather. And my question in the title is simply illustrated by the photo from the BBC.

See if you can spot the morons in it. Hint: there are three of them, and I’ve numbered them just in case you can’t work it out.

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Virus graphicWell, Donald Trump appears desperate to outdo himself with everything he says and does. You will no doubt have heard his latest medical endorsement of the possible use of bleach or detergent – injected or consumed – to get rid of COVID-19. He even iced the cake by referring to UV light – used internally as well as externally – as a possible ‘cure’ for the virus!

Whatever he meant – whatever he was thinking – it is what other people will think that matters. Stupid people, in particular.

There has already been a case of someone in Arizona dying because he took Trump’s previous endorsement of Chloroquine literally and dosed himself up on the stuff used to clean aquariums. His wife was apparently in a critical condition after doing the same. In the immediate aftermath of Trump’s latest rant, Reckitt Benckiser – the manufacturers of Lysol and Dettol – have had to issue warnings not to ingest or inject their products.

The problem is that stupid people don’t know that they’re stupid. In many cases, they actually think they’re smart. I suppose ‘stupid’ is perhaps a bit strong, but the alternative – that they are just average people – is potentially even more worrying, since it means that there’s a lot more of them around.

Sticking with the bleach thing for a moment, household products are not manufactured under conditions that make them anywhere near suitable for internal use. They are even further away from being suitable for intravenous use. An example would be calcium supplement tablets. The raw material in those is often calcium carbonate – but the quality of that material is nothing like the calcium carbonate that would be used in cement, which is another of its applications. The stuff in the tablets is purified in a lab to make it suitable for ingestion. The stuff used in cement pretty much comes straight out of a limestone quarry.

Household cleaners share a similar gulf in how ‘clean’ they are, with the additional problem being that you don’t use bleach – particularly chlorine-based bleaches – internally for anything. They are corrosive and toxic. Even gentler bleaches like the peroxides are used highly diluted and for external purposes (tooth whitening, for example).

But the problem seems to be that stupidity – or averageness – isn’t confined to Trump, the Americans, or any other nation, although there does seem to be a link between education and being prepared to do things that it might have been best not to.

Let’s summarise the problem we have. There’s a virus. It spreads easily. It kills a lot more people than seasonal flu does, even though it isn’t flu. There is no vaccine at the moment. No one alive can remember anything like what we have right now. In order to protect as many people as possible, the government ordered the lockdown we are all currently dealing with. No one person’s life is any more valuable than anyone else’s – no matter what their health or age.

Read that last paragraph carefully. It contains no opinion – just facts.

Now ask yourself this. What has changed in any of that during the last month? Absolutely nothing has.

And yet there is an article today indicating that, with the next pulse of warmer weather getting underway, people are breaking the lockdown rules in greater numbers than at any time since the lockdown began.

In my own industry, I continue to see people who are putting money and themselves above all else. They desperately want to return to work, and will try any argument to convince themselves they should be allowed to. There are still people saying that it’s ‘no worse than flu’. There are still people whose argument is ‘I need money, so we should be allowed back to work’. There are instructors desperately searching for key workers to teach, even though they have children and are in daily contact with vulnerable people. There are instructors desperate to return to work by the time ‘the kids go back to school’ (or conversely, want the lockdown lifted just to suit whatever the schools decide to do so that they can work without having to worry about childminding). There are older people arguing ‘I don’t want to be imprisoned for the rest of my life’, as if that is a reason for the lockdown to be lifted. There are people still desperately trying to believe that wearing a mask and gloves means you’ll be safe sitting in a car with six or more different pupils every day, and who would gladly go back to normal if that’s all they had to do. Some would work tomorrow – with no protection whatsoever – if they were ‘allowed to’. Others repeatedly quote ‘Sweden’, as if that somehow means we ought to pretend nothing has happened.

I could go on, and on, and on with more examples.

These are the ‘average’ members of society I was referring to. They simply do not have a clue.

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The Fusco familyI just saw this article on the BBC website. Coronavirus has killed four members of the same family in New Jersey.

Grace Fusco was 73. She, and six of her adult children, fell ill after a larger family gathering of up to 20 people. One of those children, Rita, was only 55 and had no underlying health conditions. The story doesn’t mention the ages of Carmine and Vincent, who also died.

It’s a tragic story – and one those over here who are vowing to keep working no matter what should bear in mind.

Having said that, I appreciate that many instructors are in terrible positions. I’m fortunate. inasmuch as I have now have an income from a private pension from my previous employer (hack, spit) of around £250 a week, and a lump sum in the bank from that which I wanted to save, but which could keep me going for several years if I needed it (hopefully, I won’t). And I have no mortgage or debts.

Many instructors – especially the younger ones – have nothing. They have mortgages, car loans, and other debts, as well as kids to feed. Driving instruction is not a high-paying job in the first place – even at best it is ‘adequate’, but you have to have been doing it for years and built up a financial buffer for that to matter.

My primary (selfish) concern is not passing COVID-19 to my parents. My secondary concern is  not passing it to my pupils who have Downs children, who are pregnant, or who have vulnerable relatives. Money comes in third.

I can understand the dilemma many find themselves in. I just count myself fortunate right now.

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Another mass shooting in the USA. And just when you think that, this time, someone must start to take gun control seriously over there, you see this:

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, however, said gun control would probably not have stopped the attack.

He added that if a “crazy” gunman launches such an attack, there is no way that law enforcement officers could be there to stop it.

“The best way is to be prepared to defend yourself,” he told CBS News.

Look, you right wing, NRA-affiliated prat, if he couldn’t have obtained the gun in the first place just by showing his ID (and reports suggest he didn’t even have to do that because he bought it online), this almost certainly wouldn’t have happened – like with most of the mass shootings your country is famous for. How the f**k does anyone over there have the ‘right to bear’ an assault rifle? It’s designed to kill people. Period.

It is lack of gun control that has led to it, and lack of gun control which continues to fuel it.

And what Paxton has said is doubly stupid given that the situation is still ‘live’, and no one could possibly know enough about the shooter to determine his motives at this time, and thus conclude so absolutely that his actions weren’t preventable. Gun control would have likely prevented at least some of the 251 people who have already died in mass shootings in the US this year.

We don’t have mass shootings in the UK to anything like the level they do in the USA. Over here, it needs a special kind of psychopath with an especially deep sexual inadequacy to get hold of a gun and kill a lot of people all at once. In America, you can get a gun with your corn flakes, and if it then turns out you’re also inadequate, you’re already tooled up for what comes next.

And I woke up this morning to discover that as well as the 20 dead in El Paso, another 9 have been killed in a separate incident a few hours later in Ohio. The jackass this time was carrying a high-capacity assault rifle and extra magazines.

Gun control is the only answer. Not the full answer – but a damn sight better one than what they have right now.

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Paul Hogan barbecuing shrimpIs it just me, or does every Australian cookery programme revolve around barbecuing 2-foot long shrimps and an octopus in front of Sydney Harbour?

I’m watching the cookery channel and they’ve got an Australian Day. Every bloody programme it’s the giant shrimps and cephalopods. And Sydney Harbour.

If you want even one shrimp that size over here you need to re-mortgage your house.

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German Traffic PoliceThis made me smile. An 18-year old kid in Germany passed his driving test, then got caught by police with a radar gun doing 60mph in a 30mph zone on his way home (with four of his mates in the car). This happened 49 minutes after his test pass.

He’s got an automatic four-week ban, and will have to take further “expensive” training. He also got two points on his licence, a €200 fine, and his two-year new-driver probationary period has been extended to four.

Plus ça change, eh?

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Trump's Space CorpsLike Brexit, Donald Trump is another anomaly from 2016 that just keeps on giving.

His latest stunt appears to involve restarting the Strategic Defense Initiative – aka “Star Wars” – which was first started by Ronald Reagan in 1983 at the height of The Cold War.

The big differences this time around are that:

  • Ronald Reagan wasn’t a certified nutcase
  • technology wasn’t up to it the first time
  • the key world leaders involved now are bordering on insanity

I think the picture above gives a good representation of what is involved – at least in theory.

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