SOPPY SUNDAY

Image result for orangutan baby
Morning. What do you think of my mummy? Isn’t she pretty?

nohat
Like the hat?
n barn cats
Barn cats.
n forst nor
Norwegian roof forest.
n grey crowned crane
Grey-crowned crane.
n el
Not sure whether I should eat this or play with it…
N FAM
Happy families.
n istanbul
Istanbul.
n canaca
Canadian white water.
Image result for timbuktu town centre
Timbuktu.
n brown
This is how you do it…
n black throated green warbler
Black-throated Green Warbler.
n birch
Birch forest.
n fox
Foxy pair.
n keeping warm
A handy place to keep warm.
n japanese garden
Japanese garden.
n mates
Besties.
n mooo
Nice view, Ermintrude.
n specled tanager
Speckled Tanager.
n playing
Now, swing.
Image result for orangutan baby
Well, that’s another Soppy Sunday over … \now what shall I do with the rest of the day?
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44 thoughts on “SOPPY SUNDAY”

    1. Well, that’s the young for you. Never think about the Tory future.

      It’s all about self gratification. Now, now, now, Me, me, me,

      He’ll regret it when he finds out what dreys cost!

      What? THAT much? Oh nuts!

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Since you are here, Terry, I remember you wrote a blog about how the Swiss deal with drugs. As I can’t get into your blog at the moment, I wonder if you could copy the article and email it to me.

          I’d like to be reminded of how another sensible country deals with the problem!

          Like

            1. Thanks. I don’t want to put you to too much trouble though. It was relatively recent… just a series of observations on how things worked in Canton Zurich, I guess.

              But don’t worry if you can’t find it. It’s just that drugs/drug deaths is a big thing here atm. The Scottish government is being blamed for the appalling figures of drug deaths in Scotland, which would be quite reasonable were it not that drug abuse laws and regulations are reserved to London.

              I read a really interesting piece on what Portugal had done, and remembered that you had written about the situation in Switzerland.

              πŸ™‚

              Like

              1. My Mum always says that a change is as good as a rest. She’s right on almost everything but on this one she’s flat out wrong. The only thing that is as good as a rest is a rest. I’ve done the experiment and I’ve crunched the numbers and I can hereby report with scientific clarity that the only thing that is as good as a rest is another rest. Having said that, change is sometimes good. As it’s nearly Christmas, I wanted to write a positive post about change. This is a politics blog so I thought I’d describe some of the things that I think are positive about daily life here in Switzerland to see if anyone would like to import them to a future iScotland. I’m not talking about really big, top-down economic decisions like interest rates or fiscal policy but more the kind of bottom-up policy choices that have a direct effect on life quality and can actually change the mood and timbre of a society. I’m just going to go through a few things that seemed a bit weird when I first moved to Zurich but now seem as normal as a giant bar of Toblerone. What do you all think? Would any of these improve life in iScotland?

                I pay less rent today than I did eight years ago when I moved in to my flat. There are very strict rules imposed on landlords here in Zurich that limit their power to increase the rent. The monthly rent on all flats is tied to the interest rate set by the Swiss Central Bank. If the interest rates remain persistent for a fixed time above the rate on the date I moved in, the landlord is allowed to increase the rent according to a formula. Similarly, the tenant wins if the rates go down and stay that way. Interest rates have plummeted since 2009 so at the moment I’m very much a winner. If I moved out of the flat the landlord would be able to strike a new monthly rent (with some caveats to that) but I’m certainly not going to leave for as long as it effectively gets cheaper month by month. My landlord might be cursing my inertia but there’s not much they can do about it because renters have persistent rights of residence: they can only kick me out if I stop paying the rent or the building is demolished. The world of renting is actually a world of strict rules. For example, everything in the flat from windows to wall paint has a value and a lifetime, meaning that when I move out the landlord can only claim damages out of my deposit by applying a mathematical formula. Paint has a lifetime of 8 years so the walls that were freshly painted in 2009 now have zero value and I can’t be held financially responsible for fixing up the tiny scrapes and marks that built up over the years. There are strict rules about moving out on certain days, notice periods for improvements, responsibilities for internal and external pipes and so on. These rules strike a balance between landlord and tenant. My view is that they generally favour the rights of the tenant by providing stability and a legal set of standards and responsibilities. Sometimes rules turn out to be a good idea.

                Pretty much everyone in Zurich rents their flat. As I already pointed out, renting comes with all sorts of legal protections that make it a generally good experience. It has to be pointed out, though, that ownership is beyond most people’s pockets. I’m in the amazingly lucky position that I probably could go out and buy a place but I’ve so far opted not to do that. Why, then, am I not a property magnate? Well, property ownership comes with a significant tax burden. I would have to pay tax on the theoretical income I would earn if I rented out the property, even if I chose to live in it myself. Also, if I chose to sell the flat within 10 years of purchasing it I would be hit with a tax bill that would wipe out any profit I might have made. Ownership just isn’t the no-brainer that it is in the UK. I believe that changes society for the better because it means that most Swiss people are not obsessed with house prices, they’re not saddled with stressful debt, they don’t spent public holidays at the DIY store (more of that later), and they have more spare time and money to do other activities (more of that later, too).

                In Switzerland, if your last lightbulb blows on Saturday night you’ll be sitting in the dark until Monday morning. That’s right, everything is shut on Sunday. I’ll be honest, this took a bit of getting used to but now I think it is a great idea. Scotland was actually a trailblazer on Sunday shopping but I now think it was a terrible move. It’s a really great idea to save up one day for something special, something free from commercial stress. On Sundays what you see is Swiss people going out for leisurely strolls in the woods, families out roller-skating on the national roller-skating paths, cyclists huffing and puffing up and down hills, people on their balconies reading a book or playing a board game, and pensioners going for a boat trip on the lake. I quite often go for a cycle into the weird and wonderful countryside and I’ll tell you now that without doing that I wouldn’t have known about the strange ceremony where they dress the cows up all pretty with flowers and bring them down to the lower winter pastures. The DIY centre is most definitely not open for business and, anyway, bathroom grouting is the landlord’s responsibility.

                Those Swiss are obsessed with recycling. As a consequence, I’m now obsessed with recycling. The binmen will only take rubbish away if it is in a special sack that costs about Β£1.50. That is a lot of money for a solitary bin bag but we need to remember that it does include the price of collecting and managing the rubbish it contains. On the other hand, recycling is free so it pays to recycle rather than chuck it straight in the bin. There are collection points for textiles, batteries, aluminium, cardboard, paint, paper, and even water filters. Every year the council sends everyone a little magazine with the collection calendar, a map of all the collection points and information about how to protect the environment. There’s even a special cargo tram that travels around the city to collect larger items of rubbish so as long as you can get it to a tram stop, you can recycle it without needing a car (more of that later).

                I recently read an economic report that tried to explain Germany’s unexpectedly low GDP per capita. I wish I could find the link but a summary might be that Germany has a lot of shared wealth that doesn’t show up in direct measurements. German wealth isn’t just the sum of individual wealth because huge amounts of national wealth are tied up in shared resources like trains and trams and roads and theatres and opera houses. You can be relatively poor in Germany but lead the life of a rich person in another country because you have access to all sorts of facilities and resources that would either be expensive or just not exist elsewhere. Personally, I don’t mind paying tax if I can see the benefits all around me. Here in Zurich, I do see the benefits on a daily basis. The tram network didn’t just magically appear, the workers painting and cleaning public spaces don’t do it for free, and the opera house renovation wasn’t an automatic transformation. There is nothing sadder than a dilapidated public space or a bus timetable pinned to the bus stop that is 3 years out of date or a swirling mess of discarded crisp bags blowing around George Square. Public spaces and resources are what bind us all together. Without them, society is just people sitting at home watching enormous TVs.

                I really don’t like cars. They clog up the roads, spew out all manner of pollutants, and knock people down all the time. Why not build an ever-expanding network of trams and electric buses and trains? Travelling on public transport around Switzerland and Germany and Austria is a pleasure rather than a chore. I never have to wait long and it’s generally punctual and clean. Cars, on the other hand, are expensive to own due to targeted taxes. We don’t need to wait for autonomous cars to solve our traffic problems because we already have the solution in the form of buses and trains and trams. Let’s have more of them.

                One thing I’ve noticed in the German-speaking world is that they take the countryside very seriously indeed. That includes everything from litter to clean rivers to strict planning restrictions. One of the saddest sights in Scotland is to see litter by the roadside or an ostentatious house planted where there ought to be an unspoiled view. I have no idea how to change social attitudes but it is the case that drink driving used to be just about acceptable and now it is a massive taboo.

                The equivalent of council tax here is called Community Tax. This is a progressive taxation levied on income. Let’s compare that with the weird UK system of levying a fixed charge on the inhabitants of a property rather than the owner. Which sounds fairer? My community is Zurich City so I probably live in one of the largest communities in the country. At the other end of the spectrum, some communities are just a hamlet and a few chickens. All of that means that a village in the back of beyond has more autonomy than the Scottish Parliament, which has been hilariously described as “the most powerful devolved parliament in the world”. In addition to progressive taxation, I also pay wealth tax. If I own a lot of assets or hold a lot of cash I need to pay tax on them. I’d hardly describe Switzerland as a hotbed of radical socialism but in many ways its tax system is far more egalitarian than in the UK. One last thing is that the UK typically has 3 or 4 income tax bands. That might have made sense in the days of ledgers and quills but we have computers now. Swiss federal tax, for example, has about 12 tax bands so getting a moderate pay rise doesn’t suddenly lift you from 20% to 40% tax.

                Long-term unemployment is a genuine tragedy in any country. Short-term unemployment, however, is pretty much a necessity in a dynamic economy because companies that can no longer compete should be replaced with newer ones better equipped for the changing times. Before anyone yells at me, I’ve worked for enough failed companies in my time to know that it pays to keep your curriculum vitae up to date. Given that short-term unemployment is a constant factor in a dynamic economy it ought not be something to fear. In the UK, sadly, it is something to fear because family income levels fall off a cliff after transitioning from paid work to unemployment benefit. That’s a shame because governments ought to be encouraging workers to take risks in new fields and businesses. The benefits system actually encourages a sclerotic economy by punishing anyone who dares to take a risk on anything that doesn’t maximise income stability. In many other countries, however, short-term unemployment is an annoyance rather than a fear because unemployment income levels are pegged to employed salary rather than to a fixed rate. If I lose my job I will qualify for 18 months of employment insurance that will pay 70% of my current salary. I can’t remember the exact details but I think that is capped at 100,000CHF (around Β£70k). For most people, life will go along as normal. Perhaps there will be fewer holidays and meals out but the basic necessities will be covered. After 18 months, though, the credit will run out and anyone still unemployed will be pushed on to the Social Help Programme. That is when the social safety net of long-term unemployment kicks in. The council will allot me a place to live and provide for me in a way that meets the constitutional requirement of being able to participate in society. I honestly don’t want to end up there because although I won’t go hungry or homeless, I will lose autonomy over my own financial decisions. I have to say that I sometimes think the long-term unemployed are a little bit neglected. By that I mean that the state no longer really makes real demands on them to look for a job or provides much help to achieve that goal. It feels a bit like they’ve given up on them and will now make sure they don’t cause a nuisance (more of that later). Despite that, it’s still better than a food bank.

                Switzerland is a very pragmatic place. Some might even say that it takes utilitarian decisions. Let me explain. Drugs policy here is really quite liberal but in some ways it mirrors the long-term unemployment strategy. If you’re a heroin addict you can go to a treatment centre where they will give you actual heroin under the condition that you must take it there and then. The idea here is to stop the associated criminality rather than the addiction. There’s no need for drug addicts to break into houses to fund their habit and there are no opportunities for dealers to build a business because the state has undercut them. The same sort of thinking lies behind Zurich’s approach to prostitution. They took the view that they can’t stop it happening but they can limit the associated criminality by effectively acting as bordello managers. There is even a drive-thru facility run by the council. This would never happen in the UK because dogmatism would trump pragmatism. There’s an argument that the state shouldn’t act as drug dealer but the counter argument is that people who aren’t addicts shouldn’t have their lives blighted by it. After all, it’s not as though the dangers of drugs are a state secret. There’s also an argument that it would be better if sex workers had better opportunities but then again there is also an argument that they shouldn’t be beaten up at work or have their money stolen off them or trafficked. I tend to favour the pragmatic approach. Certainly, if you wander around Zurich city centre in the summer you’ll smell the sweet and smoky aroma of, erm, pragmatism.

                Switzerland is a land of small, local government. It’s not just that they take pride in being organised but that they also work at scales that allow them to be organised. Local decisions are made by local people who understand local needs. If something breaks, the chain of responsibility involved to get it fixed is mercifully short. There is also competition between all of the communities and cantons. They all need to organise themselves so that they maintain population and income and to do that they need to find the right balance of services and taxation. It makes for a kind of mini market place in decision making. Policy changes that work out for the best can be replicated by neighbouring communities and cantons, while failed experiments (like the late 80s drugs amnesty park opposite Zurich main station) can be quietly abandoned. It’s important to note that the federal government controls the border, the army and the currency but not really much else. Someone tell that to Gordon Brown.

                Switzerland is not a paradise. It has plenty of pros but also plenty of cons. I’m lucky to live in a community with a red-green coalition but life might be quite different in some of the more conservative rural areas where they prefer their own cows to strangers from the next village. They won’t tell you to get back to your own village but once you’ve gone they will definitely mutter something about how the people of Unterschoeneggli are not as upstanding as the villagers of Oberschoeneggli.

                Would any of these ideas make iScotland a better place? Would they make sense in Scotland at all? What kind of bottom-up policy changes would make Scotland function better?

                Yours Aye,

                Terry

                Liked by 2 people

                1. Terry that was fascinating though my mind boggles at drive thru brothels or was it drive through drug rooms???

                  I think a lot of what you said would work in an independent Scotland though given the number of current home owners I don’t think it makes sense to make house owning prohibitive. But safer ,more secure renting sure works.

                  As Lesley Riddoch has said there are plenty of places that have more devolution than Scotland. In fact Scotland doesn’t even have the most devolution in the UK. When it sits, Stormont has more, including control over corporation tax.

                  No place is perfect but the Swiss have it better than most.

                  Liked by 1 person

                  1. I am happy to report that drug addicts don’t drive away in a car after getting their fix.

                    Switzerland is a confederation so it’s more a question of Cantons choosing to cede competences to the Federal government than the Federal government devolving it.

                    The drive-thru brothels are kind of insane but they are also very, very Swiss in that orderliness is maintained at all times.

                    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not in it’s present elevated position.
      I suspect that it will , by gravity, move to a lower level, the basement is the best bet.
      Have you ever tried to move a branch of a tree about the diameter of say a leg, as trumpie would say, muchas heaviness friends, muchas.
      Sorry to bring in a name that spoils the SS, I’m off to stand on the naughty step.

      Liked by 3 people

  1. Aye well they were braw. Lovely to see a gorilla on SS, bit of a rarity here. They are the first great apes to have evolved in Africa, though they are younger as a species than their Asian cousins. The two gorilla species – lowland and mountain – are critically endangered.

    In fact only one great apes species is thriving, well a bit pestilent actually and it’s the most dangerous of them all. Answers on a postcard or comment.

    Anyway since Ed hasn’t been I’ll say t’was just life-affirming to view them pictures so it was.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. So nobody has made a guess for my quiz question. So too easy and not worth bothering or too hard. Maybe Munguin knows. Conan would know with his librarian knowledge…

    Liked by 1 person

    1. PP……I didn’t ignore your question. I just didn’t realize that I knew the answer. πŸ˜‰ (I always have the disadvantage of a six hour time delay of course.)

      Liked by 1 person

      1. You’ll have to get up earlier, Danny.

        Otherwise you risk missing the opportunity to win these prizes that we offer.

        Someone once won a weekend in the Clyde tunnel with Jackie Baillie.

        Liked by 1 person

        1. OMG Tris!!! That reminds me of what is said to have been an old joke used by comics on the vaudeville circuit:

          “I just won first prize in a holiday contest! An all-expense-paid week in Philadelphia!”
          “Oh really?! What was second prize?”
          “TWO weeks in Philadelphia.”

          An oldie but a goodie! πŸ˜‰

          Liked by 1 person

          1. Ha ha… I did once use that, Danny. The second prize was a fortnight in the Clyde tunnel with Jackie Baillie!

            Clearly the Vaudeville comics pinched it from me… erm, I think πŸ™‚

            Liked by 1 person

                1. Tris……LOL……..I appreciate the “small r” description for my benefit. This is usually not required in the UK of course, but Americans are always having to say “small r” and “small d” to separate the political concepts of republican and democratic from the political party organizations.

                  “Republican”is even complicated as a party name, since the party that grew up around Thomas Jefferson….(in opposition to his bitter political enemies John Adams and Alexander Hamilton, who led the Federalists)……..was called the “Democratic-Republican” Party. The members of Jefferson’s party were often just called “Jeffersonians”, but were also often called REPUBLICANS. It became even more complicated in 1824-1828, when the Democratic-Republican party splintered into the “Democratic Party” (called Democrats) and the “National Republican Party” (called REPUBLICANS). But further naming confusion was in store. The old National Republicans have no relationship to the party of disaffected Democrats, Whigs, and abolitionists who met in Wisconsin and Michigan in 1854-1856 and formed a party in opposition to the Kansas-Nebraska act and the expansion of slavery into the new territories of the West. Abraham Lincoln down in Illinois left the Whig Party, joined the newly formed Republicans, and the rest is history. These are the modern day REPUBLICANS that Trump calls himself. πŸ˜‰

                  So, with a direct ancestral line back to Tom Jefferson, is today’s Democratic Party the oldest continuously active political party on earth….as it’s usually described? Looks like that’s pretty much true, all things considered, although the Brits might quibble on an historical point or two. They have old parties too.

                  I enjoyed this article about the matter:

                  https://www.politifact.com/wisconsin/statements/2016/oct/24/tim-kaine/democratic-party-oldest-continuous-political-party/

                  Like

  3. Where is that Canadian Whitewater.
    Did some myself years ago (mainly Quebec and Ontario) but that stuff would have been above my pay grade.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. That’s a nice looking Speckled Tanager, but the sorriest looking bunch of bananas I’ve ever seen. Long past the sell-by date surely.

    The appearance of what may be bird damage to one of the bananas brings to mind a paper published last year in the BMC Journal of Evolutionary Biology, co-authored by Dr. Daniel Field at the Milner Centre for Evolution of the University of Bath, in collaboration with Dr Allison Hsiang from The Swedish Museum of Natural History. The title is: “A North American stem turaco, and the complex biogeographic history of modern birds.”

    Fossil evidence indicates that “banana eater” birds of sub-Saharan Africa lived in North America 52 million years ago. Drs. Field and Hsiang declare that “Our phylogenetic analyses support the enigmatic fossil bird Foro panarium Olson 1992 from the early Eocene (Wasatchian) of Wyoming as a stem turaco (Neornithes: Pan-Musophagidae), a clade that is presently endemic to sub-Saharan Africa,” and conclude that “in the Palaeogene, total-clade Musophagidae was distributed well outside the range of crown Musophagidae in the present day.”

    The news was reported by the BBC:

    https://www.bbc.com/news/science-environment-44604170

    There are 11,000 species of the bird family Musophagidae (literally “banana-eaters”); sadly, none of them residing in North America anymore.

    The Great blue turaco (Corythaeola cristata) is a fine looking bird:

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Not only does one learn something new on MNR every week, but some of it is damned serious stuff.

      There are some real beauties on there. I know that 50 million years is a long time, but, goodness me the climate in Wyoming and in most of Africa, would have a job being much more different, the one from the other.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. LOL……Yes Tris, one can hardly blame those birds for moving to the tropics to avoid the Wyoming winters. And good luck finding some bananas growing there these days. πŸ˜‰

        Liked by 1 person

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