Café Pascucci, Clapham Junction

Grabbed breakfast this morning at Café Pascucci on St John’s Road near Clapham Junction. Great little Italian cafe with comfortable modern surroundings and fantastic espresso. Their English breakfast was also very good.

A Solar Grand Plan

One of the benefits of closer relations between the EU and North Africa may be greater energy security. Not Libyan oil, but the enormous wastes of the north Sahara, and the possibilities there for solar power. Scientific American looks at a grand plan for solar in the South West of the US. We might want to think about doing the same in southern Europe or North Africa.

Public and private sector perks

The Observer is reporting a Mirror story on a new MP expenses row, this time about the Speaker himself. Read the piece to see the not-particularly-gory details, but it centres around the use of air miles gained on official business for family trips to London.

Perhaps I’m wrong, but I thought the point of Air Miles was to enable travellers to get some payback on their travel, and to keep them loyal customers on whatever airline it is. Certainly, the frequent business travellers I know use Air Miles for themselves, even if they earn them on their company’s dime.

I therefore just don’t understand the rules that ban Ministers and officials from using Air Miles gained on official business for their own purposes. It’s not like stealing office supplies – you don’t pay extra to get Air Miles. I suppose one reason for the ban might be that it discourages people from booking unnecessarily expensive flights, or travelling more than they need, but I would have thought that if that was the aim, more effective safeguards could be put in place, while still allowing people some small payback on the miseries of airline travel.

There’s a wider reflection here of a modern paradox: paranoia about use of “taxpayers’ money”, combined with a complete insouciance about the same public’s money when put into Barclays, Orange or one of the other big oligopolies. Public servants get lower average pay, few bonuses and much more public scrutiny than their private sector counterparts. They can’t travel first class (a friend who works in a senior role at a major bank is banned from travelling economy in case it reflects badly on the bank), they can’t accept gifts of more than £25 value, and, of course, they can’t use those free air miles. Honours, job security, and public sector ethos are meant to bridge the gap – but it’s a gap that’s starting to look pretty wide.

Let’s hear it for the Staffie

BBC News reports that the Staffordshire Bull Terrier is falling out of fashion, as it gets an – entirely unwarranted – reputation for aggression and violence.

Speaking as someone who was once very fond of my aunt’s Staffordshire Bull Terrier, Sally, I can say that the Kennel Club are absolutely right when they say that Staffies are good family pets. They are, on my experience, loyal and friendly dogs, and it’s a real shame they’re being tarred by association with other more violent breeds.

Wired is 15

Long retrospective on the first issue of Wired at I remember buying Wired, back when I was a wide-eyed undergrad in the chilly fens and it was being imported. Probably not 1.1, but not too long after.

And then I became a dotcom millionaire.