Harold Powell


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Getting by on less

By Harold Powell, 2013-03-08

Our taxes went up at the beginning of this current year--2013. As a result, our disposable income will be about $1,250.00 less this year than it was last. It may not be an enormous increase but it means we will have to adjust our spending downward in order to compensate. I haven't complained about it because what good would it do? Taxpayers are always given the same, coy answer. They are told resolutely that "for the greater good" they must learn to tighten their belts: Economize, economize, economize. And any suggestion, even the tiniest hint, that the tax collector, himself, should likewise economize--even a little, results in immediate shrieks of pain!

It all reminds me of a story Stephen Fry once told:

In the Second World War they would have people form the Ministry of Labour going roundchecking on everybody and particularly on the big estates, to see if all these people, or least some of them, might be released for essential war work. So they went to Chatsworth, the Duke of Devonshire's estate. They brought a stopwatch and clipboard then checked everybody as they went about performing their duties. Eventually they had an interview with the Duke, and they said; "Well Your Grace, we can understand that you need forty seven gardeners and thirteen under gardeners and you need grooms and you need chauffeurs and you need upstairs maids and downstairs maids and in between maids and laundry room maids, and still room maids and kitchen maids and nursemaids and housemaids and parlour maids. Andwe dounderstand that you need a boy to scrape the knives and boots and that you need a butler and four footmen and an under butler. But we wonder if some economy might be made. Do you, uh...um, does Your Grace necessarily need two pastry cooks? To which he apparently replied; "Confound it all! Can't a man have a biscuit?"

I suppose it's just too outlandish to expect the tax collector to forego an occasional biscuit. Taxpayers are told that $2 million dollars for a single golf outing in Florida is all very reasonable--and even necessary. And, who knows, perhaps it is. But, taxpayers might feel a little better about tightening their own belts if the tax collectors weren't constantly loosening theirs.

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I agree--it's COLD outside!

By Harold Powell, 2013-01-24

What does it mean when the weather presenter on the telly says it's -40 degrees Celsius and weatherman on the television says it's -40 degrees Fahrenheit? Obviously, it means that it's...COLD! But for viewers on both sides of the "pond" it also means the temperature is the same!

The Fahrenheitand Celsius scales come together at: -40 degrees below "0" zero.

I've personally witnessed the convergence of the two scales. In fact, the coldest temperature I've ever experienced, first hand, was -58 degrees F (-50 degrees Celsius)! I was just outside Laramie, Wyoming. It was unbelievably cold! Add a howling north wind to that subzero temperature and the official chill index plunged to -125 degrees F. How anything can survive unsheltered in those temperatures is beyond my comprehension. Yet wildlife and farm animals do. You can even mark the direction of the wind by looking out over the landscape at the herds of antelope and cattle. They both do the same thing. They turn their rumps windward then bury their faces in the snow. You don't need a "windsock" to tell which way the wind is coming from, just look at the direction the livestock are pointing there nether parts. Apparently their noses and eyes are the most vulnerable in subzero temperatures and by keeping their faces and heads buried in the snow they can maintain a temperature of 32 degrees F or 0 degrees Celsius for those delicate parts of their body. And you thought that you werelooking forward to Spring! These Arctic blasts can last for days so the next time you snuggle up against the fireplace with a warm cuppa in your hands, remember how miserable and how bored these poor creatures must be!


Zero "0" degrees on the Fahrenheit scale (-17.77 Celsius)is arrived at by mixing equal parts of water, ice and salt. Remember how quickly that hand cranked, ice cream churn froze Mamgu's favorite recipe even on the hottest day in August? The mixture of ice, water and salt keeps the temperature in the churn at 0 degrees F (-17.77 Celsius).

100 degrees on the Fahrenheit scale was arrived at by measuringthe "body temperature" of a healthy man (now known to be 98.6 degrees F but close enough back in the day).

The method above is how Welshman, PresidentThomas Jefferson, instructed Welshman, Meriwether Lewis, to calibrate his thermometer for journal entries of the temperature during the journeys of the Corps of Discovery. When a graduated scale of 100 equal parts is marked between those to benchmarks, water will freeze at 32 degrees, and when extended beyond, water will boil at 212 degrees at sea level on the Fahrenheit scale.

Stephen Fry jokes that the British have the best of both worlds. In the winter,he says, they always cite the temperature in Celsius because it sounds so much colder and in the summer they cite the temperature in Fahrenheit because it sounds so much hotter. Unless, of course, you're DCI Jack Frost, who is/was by no means a reactionary, but not aboveasking his associates to explain what kilometers and temperatures in Celsius mean in "real numbers."

I don't why the two scales meet at -40 degrees--but they do. It's the one temperature where no "F" or "C" is needed. As a fan ofDouglas Adams I would have preferred they converge at 42 or at least -42. But at my age, I have learned that we don't get everything we wish for. So I decided to google -40 and was abruptly told that no documents matched my request. On the positive side, when I googled plain old 40 the giant search engine trumpeted " About 12,720,000,000 results

Why is 40 so popular and -40 so out of fashion? Wikepedia explains it all, I guess, when it says "4 0(forty) is the natural number following 39 and preceding 41. Despite being related to the word 'four' (4),40 is spelled 'forty', and not 'fourty' " I should have known (smacking myself in the forehead)!

So why waste so much time on this drivel? Because someday, somewhere, someone else (besides me) is going to google -40. And, when that day eventually happens everyone, everywhere will know that at least ONE document exists giving due credit to this amazing spot on the Fahrenheit and Celsius scales! The place where the United States of America and all of Europe finally see eye-to-eye! And those future google-ees will take note that least one place--AmeriCymru--took time to ponder these things. Chock it up to Welsh curiosity! Or, if you don't want to share the blame--to this Welshman's curiosity.

Postscript: I suppose when celebrating this amazing "point of agreement" between the continents it's only natural to expect that some muckety-muck somewhere would attempt to cloud the waters even further! And what better place than the House of Lords! That someone is/was Belfast born and self-proclaimed Baron Kelvin of Largs but known to his mates on the school playground as "Billy Thomson." Billy, with one of his muckety-muck colleagues at Glasgow University, decided to start their own scales henceforth known as Kelvin and Rankine. In a universe of relativity they demanded absolutes zeros. As you might expect there's more to this adventure but this is absolutely not the place nor time to bore you further.

Christmas has come and gone--and none to soon for livestock in Wyoming--but this song in the fascinating A Capella format seems fitting:

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We didn't have that "Green Thing"

By Harold Powell, 2013-01-07

After reading Philip Stephen Rowland excellent blog entitled We Was Brung Up Proper I came across this post which reminded me of Philip's blog. I am not the author and the post was not credited. It simply said the writer observed an elderly woman at the grocery market. He observed her being gently scolded by the cashier when she requested "Plastic..."

Checking out at the supermarket recently, a young cashier suggested that an elderly woman in front of me should bring her own bags because plastic bags werent good for the environment. The elderly woman kindly accepted this public rebuke and apologized explaining, We didnt have this green thing back in my day .

The clerk responded, Thats the problem. Your generation did not care enough to save the environment for our generation today ."

I was a bit younger than the elderly woman in front of me but the cashier's words caused me to think.

She was right about one thingour generation didnt have the green thing in Our day. So what did we have back then? After some reflection and soul-searching on Our day, heres what I remembered we did have.

Back then, we returned milk bottles, pop bottles and beer bottles to the store. The store sent them back to the plant to be washed and sterilized and refilled, so it could use the same bottles repeatedly. So they really were recycled. But we didnt have the green thing back in our day.

We walked up stairs, because we didnt have an escalator in every store and office building. We walked to the grocery store and didnt climb into a 75-horsepower machine every time we had to go two blocks. But she was right. We didnt have the green thing in our day.

Back then, we washed the babys nappies because we didnt have the throw-away kind. We dried clothes on a line, not in an energy gobbling machine burning up 230 volts 50 Hz wind and solar power really did dry our clothes back in our early days. Kids got hand-me-down clothes from their brothers or sisters, not always brand-new clothing. But that young lady is right. We didnt have the green thing back in our day.

Back then, we had one TV, or wireless, in the house not a TV in every room. And the TV had a small screen the size of a handkerchief (remember them?), not a screen the size of Wales. In the kitchen, we blended & stirred by hand because we didnt have electric machines to do everything for us. When we packaged a fragile item to send in the mail, we used wadded up old newspapers to cushion it, not Styrofoam or plastic bubble wrap.

Back then, we didnt fire up an engine and burn petrol just to cut the lawn. We used a push mower that ran on human power. We exercised by working so we didnt need to go to a health club to run on treadmills that operate on electricity. But shes right. We didnt have the green thing back then.

We drank from a water fountain when we were thirsty instead of using a cup or a plastic bottle every time we had a drink of water. We refilled writing pens with ink-fillers instead of buying a new pen, and we replaced the razor blades in a razor instead of throwing away the whole razor just because the blade got dull. But we didnt have the green thing back then.

Back then, people took the bus, and kids rode their bikes to school or walked instead of turning their mums into a 24-hour taxi service. We had one electrical outlet in a room, not an entire bank of sockets to power a dozen appliances. And we didnt need a computerized gadget to receive a signal beamed from satellites 24,000 miles out in space in order to find the nearest fish and chips shop.

But isnt it sad the current generation laments how wasteful we old folks were just because we didnt have the green thing back then?

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London Welsh Festival of Male Choirs at Royal Albert Hall

Saturday 13 October 2012 - 7:00 PM

I know everyone on this side of the pond will going to Portland, OR on 13 October 2012 but for our friends on the other side of the pond there will be a grand performance of Welsh Male Choirs at Royal Albert Hall in London at 7pm.

I am especially interested in this concert because I have a cousin who will be performing there, and because the village of Penclawdd (on the north shore of the Gower Peninsula will be so well represented). My grandparents were from Penclawdd and we still having family living there to this very day.

Edward Rhys-Harry (from Penclawdd) will be the Music Director for the massed choirs of over 1,000 voices and Robert Nicholls (also from Penclawdd) will be the organist. To top it off, they will be performing several pieces written by my favorite Welsh composer--Karl Jenkins--who,coincidentally, is from the village of Penclawdd. Ahem...no bias here!

I would imagine that most Americans (Welsh or otherwise) would not be able to call Karl Jenkins by name or pick him out of an identity parade. But--his brilliant compositions would be ( and are ) instantly recognizable from coast to coast, border to border in the USA. Especially--Palladio, which, thanks to De Beers Adverts will forever be associated with diamonds !

The concert will be recorded and rebroadcast on S4C sometime before Christmas. Since S4C is blocked here I'll have to purchase my copy but that's OK because all the connections to Penclawdd warms the "cockles" of my heart.

I have included a video of Karl Jenkins conducting Palladio.It is not my favorite version but the electric harp adds an interesting dynamic to this wonderful piece:

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Kate - The Duchess of Cambridge

By Harold Powell, 2012-09-16

As a Welsh-American I am ambivalent towards the Royals. My grandfather was a dedicated nonconformist and believed the Twdors were the last to hold a rightful claim to the British throne. He was a firm believer that Owain Glyndwr was the last, true Prince of Wales.

That said, I want to state in the strongest terms possible that in my opinion the French magazine which published the semi-nude pictures of the Duchess of Cambridge while she honeymooning in a remote, private villa in France should be condemned in the harshest terms. To do such a despicable thing while chanting the tired, boring mantra of "freedom of speech or press" rings so hollow. It is offensive. Why doesn't the magazine in the name of freedom publish a picture of Mohammed? Remember van Gogh or Rushti? We all know the answer: They are sniveling little cowards and their only true devotion is to the gods of the Franc (or Euro). They pick on Kate precisely because they know they can cite their self-righteous platitudes with impunity.

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