Bechstein 83353

I have a Bechstein Model B, number 83353, manufactured in 1908 – the year my parents were born. I bought it in 1975. I went to Mrs Gordon’s warehouse in London and picked through some worn-out pianos. This one had a fine sound even in its dilapidated state. I chose it, and it was refurbished before delivery.

It got well hammered over the years and the action, which I never felt had been very well done, was getting totally worn with springs breaking, dealt with by my fixes. I realized it needed another refurbish and pondered doing it myself as in my youth I always fixed and tuned my pianos. I decided anyway that I needed to be able to practice quietly and bought a Yamaha Clavinova. The Bechstein remained forlorn as I procrastinated over how to get someone good enough that I could trust to do it. Then I met Joseph Taylor of Taylor Pianos and booked him for the job as I had played some pianos that he had tuned and tweaked. It took about a year before he could start on it, and then some months more. But, now it has a new action (improved, roller instead of spring & loop), and is even better than in 1975.

Here is the machine during repair in Joseph’s workshop –




Fine adjustments after I have given it some workout –

Adjusting the backstop


Voicing the hammers


Tuning the strings


and – the instrument back together


Growth, the absurdity of GDP

I have been a fan of Bandana Shiva for a long time.
This is a concise summary by her of the disaster of most current economics:
How economic growth has become anti-life

Growth has become a magic word, something that must be good without asking what is growing. This is like reform, as in –  “to allow the current state of <fill in the blank>  to continue is not an option, we need this reform“, without allowing for various possibilities of change to be considered.


The Cholesterol Myths

Many years ago I read The Cholesterol Myths, published in 2000, by Uffe Ravnskov. You can find Uffe’s work here: The Cholesterol Myths.

It was a stunning analysis that changed my food habits, and which I know has made me healthier and more energetic. I found friends, with whom I discussed the diet changes that I had made, skeptical because of the well-promoted, supposed link of saturated fat & cholesterol to cardiovascular disease.

Now I see the benefits of saturated fats may be about to become a more mainstream view: Butter and cheese better than trans-fat margarines, says heart specialist


British security

I felt impelled to comment on two items in The Guardian newspaper today.

George Osborne in China – wide-eyed, innocent and deeply ignorant

Will Hutton says he feels ashamed of the deals done with China. My view:

I felt rage rather than shame. The UK was at the forefront of nuclear power originally. As with all innovation, first attempts are not so successful, and R&D should follow leading to better designs. Indeed we gave it away and now have to buy back. What happened to the special relationship, could we not have better sourced the systems from the US? Why go on about being under EU control when the real economy is being sold off as fast as possible at knock-down prices to be controlled by non-British entities that operate in ‘tax efficient’ ways – that is, little to us? You can bet that the Chinese PLA will soon be copying everything that GCHQ collects without us knowing. I am not anti-Chinese, but I would like our part of the democratic world to cooperate better together to preserve our patch. Instead of building British innovation and skills this government seems intent on making Britain the upcoming sweat-shop for China. How can George Osborne say we’re an aspiration nation, when it is selling off any possibility of being so?

The GCHQ scandal is not about the Guardian. It is an insult to parliament

Jonathan Freedland is commenting on MPs ignoring this issue of unaccountable spying. My view:

The MPs realise that GCHQ also has information on them, For example, I guess GCHQ has a lot more on Liam Fox & Adam Werritty than is generally known. I leave to the readers’ imagination what that could imply, and I only mention Liam Fox because he seems to be the one most wanting to distract from the out-of-control data collection. But I repeat my previous comment on past posts: that the GCHQ data & systems are a gift to criminals and other governments with malicious intent. Don’t think we are so much cleverer than anyone else. This total data collection will lead to a disaster not security.

Just when I thought I could put “Healthy” on my own Marmalade jars

How could this ruling come about?

Obesity experts appalled by EU move to approve health claim for fructose
But the EU has now ruled that food and drink manufacturers can claim their sweetened products are healthier if they replace more than 30% of the glucose and sucrose they contain with fructose

I read that a can of sugar sweetened soft drink has 39 g of sugar (sucrose). This is 19.5 g glucose, and 19.5 g fructose after ingestion. If a third of the sugar is replaced by fructose we get consumption of 13 g glucose and 26 g fructose. The guide for what fructose we can cope with each day is 15 to 25 g, so we are already over that limit with just one drink.

The suggestion is that this is healthier because whereas glucose raises the blood insulin level, fructose does not. Here is a good summary of the problem:

Sugar Is a Poison, Says UCSF Obesity Expert

You don’t fix a problem by switching off the warning light. People will be attracted to the “Contains healthy fruit sugar!” on the pack.

My prediction:
Fructose is processed by the liver to fat (triglyceride). There’s a host of bad consequences, but one I will single out. On a blood test the fructose drinkers will be told they have a bad lipid profile and will be put on statins. The statins will block the liver from making cholesterol, which is needed among other things as a component in the lipoproteins that transport fats to where they are needed or stored. Some fat from fructose will stay in the liver and the person will develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. If the fructose is added to alcoholic drinks that will be a double liver problem as alcohol follows the same pathway, but at least you know you drank it. In 10 years there will be a lot of people needing a liver transplant.

As in Alice in Wonderland, “When I use a word,”  Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” So, healthy has just been redefined.

Making marmalade

Several years ago I had a common blood test that showed that the HbA1c level was near the upper limit of what is currently regarded as acceptable. At that point I realized that I knew little about insulin and its function. I remedied that on a journey which eventually covered both nutrition and cell biology. On the way I discovered research by Robert Lustig, who now has a viral video, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, on YouTube. I had read the book Pure, White and Deadly published decades ago by nutritionist John Yudkin, and Robert Lustig was making the same point more forcefully. I had found most marmalade too sweet anyway so I experimented.

The recipe uses a 850 g can of cut Seville oranges. The can says to use 1.8 Kg of sugar. I reduced that to 1.3 Kg. Then noting that Lustig points out the different and less benign metabolism of fructose compared with glucose (especially for us non-athletic types), decided to try using glucose instead of sugar. This did not produce marmalade as we know it but some cloudy syrup.

The best result of experiments is:

850 g can of prepared Seville oranges. This can be fresh Seville oranges when available but then add pectin.
400 g water
650 g sugar
650 g dextrose

Boil for 10 to 15 minutes. You have to check for setting as it explains on the can, though I now keep all factors, quantities & heat, the same and find I don’t need to test.

This mix will give you about 1.5 g of fructose in two teaspoons of marmalade, and has the right bitter edge that is the point of having this conserve. If we go by what we used to consume before the days of cheap bulk sugar it looks like we had up to 15 g fructose a day; so this marmalade gives you space for other fruits. Friends to whom I have given a jar say they like it and don’t refuse more.

From Russia with love

Occasionally I read a SPAM email.

This one had a subject: “You have been specially selected

The first line of the content was: “We at Gold Ring Club Casino Casino have randomly selected you to receive a massive 200% Match bonus

It was sent from an address ending: .ru

Elephant thoughts

I read recently Don’t Think of an Elephant! Know Your Values and Frame the Debate by George Lakoff.

The book was published in 2004 and is a collection of articles and talks. I found the analysis of political ‘right’ and ‘left’ valuable, though he is focused on US politics. He thinks it stems from models of the family. There are two extremes. One is the family where the father is the head and others are subservient to him, in which he uses punishment to make good people out of bad people – this is the right. The other is the nurturing family where both parents are of equal status and nurture their children to become nurturing parents themselves – the left. He accepts these are two extremes and that there is a continuum and all of us will use both models at some time. He says that people vote on values even when that is against self interest. The right have been honing a story based on their model for decades. He wants the left to develop a story based on their model to provide an alternative, which is what he calls reframing. I have felt this myself for a long time – we need a new story on which to build a vision of our common future.

I then read this article where I found Lakoff misunderstood. My comment to the article is below.

Royal Mail: the rhetoric of privatisation. How to reframe the political language of austerityand sell-offs

This article misunderstands the point Lakoff makes. Lakoff would say that using a phrase ‘casino economy’ is a mistake because it keeps the argument in the casino/austerity ball game. Reframing means changing the basis on which judgements are made. Change the debate to one about fairness, such as that those building houses (the workers) or those growing food (the farm workers) cannot afford to buy a place to live or good food to eat. Public property is being sold so that we have to rent it back forever; it’s like indentured labour.

Then I looked at the source of the above article and had the same response.

Framing the economy: the austerity story

George Lakoff says that once you have a frame facts that don’t fit are ignored. The current story of the economy is the stern father model who applies austerity medicine. If you try to present an alternative view of the economy that view will fail. We have to create a new valid story on a different frame, and I think fairness is a good frame for the nurturing parents model.

A theme to develop

Reading again about digital data collection whistleblowers:

War on whistlelblowers and journalists

I had to comment:

For me the insanity of the NSA et al data collection is that criminals will infiltrate the agency. I have no doubt that criminal organizations are investing in putting people into top universities, like Stanford, in order for them to get jobs in the digital spying agencies. Once they understand the backdoors built into proprietary encryption software, so that the NSA can decrypt on the fly, all financial services will be open to huge fraud; probably we would not know about it – the criminals would not want their work hampered. But, at some point the world could literally be held to ransom. Of course not just financial services would be in jeopardy. Edward Snowden is the good guy, we will not know about the bad guys till something awful happens.

Natural Life and Natural Death, not Life or Death

I found the Mortality statistics in England and Wales a wonderful insight on how we view death. On the chart every death has a cause, some labelled disease (almost). There are a few Unknown causes and a slight hint in the use of the word Senility, but that death might be natural is not part of the classification. We would be immortal if only we could get rid of disease. I am not criticizing these statistics they are important in deciding priorities in health care.

A more realistic view comes in a book The Emperor Of All Maladies: A Biography Of Cancer, by Siddhartha Mukherjee. I have not read the book yet though I will do so soon, However, there is a summary in an article by the author Cancer: The new normal?. He is presenting cancer as something not to be conquered (because maybe that is not possible due to the very processes that keep us alive) but something that we can live with if we focus on medications that limit or postpone the damage that cancer does. This reminds me of a similar suggestion about malaria that we might be able to make it a less malign disease and live with it.

One of the most beautiful books I have read in the past few years is Final Exam, A Surgeon’s Reflections on Mortality, by Pauline W. Chen. In the book she shows how in our aversion to acknowledging our mortality we fail people in that last period of life when body systems fail. I will extend my comments after reading Mukherjee’s book.