The British government conquers whatever century this is

To demonstrate that Britain’s a thoroughly modern country, the Treasury has asked the Royal Mint to create a non-fungible token, better known as an NFT or a cryptoasset.

Nothing I’ve read says whether anyone involved understands what an NFT is–I sure as hell don’t, no matter how many times people explain it to me. The closest I can come is that it’s something that doesn’t exist but that people are willing to pay money for. Sometimes large amounts of it.

Fair enough. If you can get people to part with their money for questionable stuff–well, that’s the world we live in these days. Let the buyer beware. And you can see why the government would want to get in on the act. Hell, they sold us Brexit, didn’t they?

The Treasury tweeted that “this decision shows the forward-looking approach we are determined to take towards cryptoassets in the UK.” 

That sounds almost as convincing as me claiming to be on the cutting edge of technology. Or of anything else. People who actually are on the cutting edge don’t bother mentioning it, although they do occasionally bleed a bit. Or at least, that’s my impression from back here in the cheap seats.

Irrelevant photo: A neighbor’s maple doesn’t care if there’s a fence in the way.

What non-fungible token is the government selling? We don’t know yet. Or I don’t, although as you can imagine I’m just panting after one so I can do whatever it is people do with them once they’ve parted with their money. I’ve been looking online for recipes, but whatever it is doesn’t seem to involve cooking.

Stick around. I’ll let you know all about it as soon as I figure it out.


Britain’s other Great Leap Forward into the–

Remind me. What century is this?

Twenty-first. Thanks.

–into the twenty-first century involves appointing Michael Grade as the new chair of Ofcom, which regulates the country’s media. Grade doesn’t use Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, all of which he’s now supposed to regulate. That makes him the obvious person for the job. He’s also a Conservative, making him an even more obvious choice. And he has heard rumors about the internet and has kids–three of them–who use all of the above, so he’s more than prepared to deal with online safety and, you know, whatever the other issues are. I’m sure some aide will get him up to speed if his kids don’t.

Or an officeful of lobbyists. They’ll know what’s needed. 


Another recent high point in British politics involves the defense secretary getting scammed into a video call with someone he thought was the Ukrainian prime minister, Denys Shmyhal.

No, I never heard of Shmyhal either. I’m guessing the defense secretary was roughly as well informed. 

While we’re at it, do you know who Britain’s defense secretary is? Why, it’s Ben Wallace, of course. 

Sheesh. The ignorance level around here is shocking.

So Ben told the alleged prime minister that Britain was running out of anti-tank missiles to send to Ukraine. Sometime after that he got suspicious, but by then he’d given the hoaxer, who turned out to be a Russian prankster, enough to make an embarrassing clip up on YouTube.

Whether or not he knew what YouTube was before, he does now.


Reports from the world of libraries

Some twenty years ago, two Charles Darwin manuscripts wandered out of the Cambridge University Library, presumably with a bit of human help. They’d been taken out of storage to be photographed and, um, yeah, they somehow disappeared. The assumption was that they’d been misfiled, and I hope you’ll join me in imagining the library’s entire staff tearing the place apart in mounting levels of panic. 

Eventually, the library reported them as stolen, a worldwide appeal went out, and nothing more happened. 

The manuscripts were worth millions of pounds. Or else they’re worth that now. Take your pick. It doesn’t matter since we’re not in the market, but I do have a nice non-fungible token you could buy for considerably less. And a bridge in Brooklyn.

Anyway, twenty years passed, as they will if you give them enough time, and then in early March a pink gift bag showed up outside the head librarian’s door, along with a typed note wishing her a happy Easter. The manuscripts were inside

They’re in good condition and the librarian is in even better condition, and the area outside her door isn’t covered by CCTV. So far, we don’t know whodunnit.


On February 6, when New Zealand celebrated Waitangi Day–that’s a national holiday which among other things closes libraries–a programming glitch meant that the doors of the Turanga Library opened up as if it was a working day, and 380 people came in, browsed, read, returned books, and did whatever else people do in a library, including borrowing 147 books using the automatic book-borrowing thingy, which also thought it was a working day. What they don’t seem to have done is steal anything. Or for that matter, damage anything. 

They did leave messages about the lack of staff on social media and somebody sent in a security guard to shoo everyone out and lock up.


Meanwhile, from the car world…

Police in Spain stopped a driver for zigzagging across the road and using his mobile phone–that thing you folks in the US know as a cell phone–while driving. When they asked him for identification, he showed them a card issued by the Errant Republic of Menda Lerenda and said he was a member of its sovereign diplomatic service.

To which they said, “Uh huh. If you’ll just come with us–”

He didn’t invent Menda Lerenda. It exists in the same way that a non-fungible token exists, which is to say only online.

Sorry. This non-fungible thing has turned into a kind of unplanned theme. 

The republic claims a physical existence by defining each person who buys its i.d. as an independent republic whose national territory is the place they occupy at any given moment.

That makes it, it says, a micronation, “an individual and mobile sovereignty recognised by other states capable of acting with complete independence in strict compliance with international law.” 

Uh huh. 

The driver turned out to be higher’n a kite. He was fined for a variety of offenses and ended up with nine naughty points on his driver’s license. 


In San Francisco, the police pulled a car over for driving without headlights and found nobody inside. Then the car left, only to pull over on the other side of the intersection.

Welcome to the world of driverless cars. An outfit called Cruise is testing out what the article I read calls technology for ride-hailing purposes. I’m reasonably sure ride-hailing purposes are usually called cabs, but we’ve already established that I’m not at the bleeding edge of new technology. If they need to call a cab a ride-hailing purpose, what can I do but make twentieth-century fun of them for it? 

They’re offering free rides at night. (Here, kid, the first one’s free.) The local cab drivers all hate them. I know that without having to look for a source. I’ve been a cab driver. 

Cruise later took to both Twitter and human communication forms to explain that the thing with the lights was due to human error and that the car left because it didn’t consider the place it had stopped to be safe.

If someone Black had been driving, she or he could’ve been shot for that. 

No, I don’t think that’s funny either, but I did think it might keep things in perspective. 

The car wasn’t ticketed, and neither was the company.


Meanwhile, back in Britain, the best brains in government–or at least some that are still relatively unaddled by Covid–are wrestling with the issues that driverless cars present. How will the Highway Code change to accommodate them if, as proposed, they’re allowed to operate at slow speeds on jammed motorways?

Motorways? If you life in the US, you call them highways or interstates.

Well, the non-drivers will (if the proposals go through) be able to watch movies and TV on the cars’ built-in screens but they won’t be able to use their phones. (Sorry. No idea. It made sense to someone.) They’ll have to be ready to take control of the car when it tells them to–for instance, when they’re coming to an exit.

And who gets the blame if something goes wrong? If the car’s in charge, then it’s not the driver, since the driver wasn’t driving. Financially, it would be the insurance company. For dangerous driving, it would be “the company that obtained the authorisation.”

You’re welcome to unravel the bureaucracy implied in that bit of verbiage if you have nothing better to do.  Me, I’d rather vacuum the rug.

52 thoughts on “The British government conquers whatever century this is

    • Someone should make a sampler out of that: It’s all fund and games until someone posts on social media. I don’t know that we’d pay attention, but we could at least say we were warned.


  1. Another great collection of amusing anecdotes and news items! One of them reminded me of another amusing anecdote my partner’s son related the other day – and I think several amusing anecdotes deserves another.

    On holiday, the kids had been sent off to play in the “Rec Room” – short, of course, for “Recreation” – and another kid already in there told them the point of it is it’s full of crap toys and games, and you can just wreck the place for fun…so they set to. I don’t think they did much damage, in fact.

    I wonder if your difficulty in understanding virtual money stems from imagining there’s such a thing as real money. I don’t understand much about it myself, so take this with a pinch of salt, but I don’t think there is such a thing. We all play this game (and some make up the rules), where we agree that a certain amount of money can be exchanged for so many goods and services, so we don’t have to constantly barter. You might argue that the cash itself is real, but since its value is changeable, that stuff is just virtual tokens the same as a number on a web page or binary digits in memory – it doesn’t have any intrinsic value. Its value varies with the amount of it in circulation, and banks and governments mint it at a rate calculated to maintain stability (or cream in profits from us, in a more cynical view); they set interest rates, which alters the value. Hence we have problems like inflation. So, it doesn’t matter if it’s printed bits of paper or gold or cowry shells – the “reality” of it (as money) depends on how much we print/mine/find/counterfeit.

    Douglas Adams warned us of this in his history of a certain blue-green planet where a spaceship of mainly middle managers crash-landed, survived, and decided to make leaves the currency, so that money would grow on trees and they’d all be immensely rich. They end up with “three major deciduous forests buying one ship’s peanut” and decide to burn down all the forests.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You’ve gotta love Douglas Adams. I’m not sure how I missed that bit of Adamsiana, but I’m grateful to you for introducing me to it–and to the wreck room story. As for cash, you’re right, of course, and the introduction of paper money led to a lot of people refusing to accept it, which is why until relatively recently US bills said they were exchangeable for silver. (A friend insists it was gold, but my memory’s holding out for silver.) I always wanted to try it to see what happened.

      Of course, silver and gold have minimal intrinsic value themselves–they’re rare and they’re decorative, and they don’t rust. After that, I’m out of flattering attributes. And that thought was nagging at the back of my mind as I wrote the post, but I ignored it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Mardi. And I should tell you that I looked up the definition of fungible a minute or two back. It’s already erased itself from my memory. Maybe the definition is something that refuses to stay in the mind.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. You point about -if-the-driverless-car-had-had-a-black-driver- is all too well understood.
    The dandelins are coming out, but we haven’t seen the fingibles yet. We’ve had plenty of rain though so they will show up eventually. And my perennially damp basement is full of fungible entities, unfortunately. (Every year the guy who does my taxes must take into account my earned interest: This year it was $1.63, up from .89 last year. Then he asks me if I have anything in gold,and we both laugh as I tell him I have no crypto either.)

    The library stories indeed are a day-brightener.

    As for vacuuming the rug, I am still with Erma Bombeck, who said she would do more of that when someone marketed a riding vacuum.

    Over here we can be unmasked if we want to be. A surprising amount of us, it seems, don’t want to be yet.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for helping me understand why I can’t understand this non-fungible business: We don’t have a basement anymore. So obviously, no fungibles growing there. Wow. That really opened my eyes. So much so that I misread “vacuuming the rug” so that I thought you were vacuuming the dog. Which made perfect sense to me: Get that fur in the vacuum before it gets the house dirty.

      Housekeeping Tips from Ellen.

      Be careful spending that interest. You don’t want to get reckless with it.


  3. Awesomely entertaining post … I’m with all of you about this crypto thing. Absolutely ridiculous! British appointees to important jobs? Gee, don’t we have this issue everywhere. It’s frustrating to watch this incompetence. Once again Germany has a woman as a defense minister (visiting troops in high heels) without any previous knowledge of the military. Nothing against women in high positions, but this important post needs to be filled by someone who knows what he’s doing (forgive me for using the general “he” and not supporting the whole gender he/she * crap). Loved the library stories too and looking forward to your next post!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve found interpreting NFT as standing for ‘Numpty Fleecing Tool’ helps to understand what they are – and for.
    I still think self-driving cars are (maybe literally) still driving up a blind alley… They’ve spent so much energy and brain power (and still are) on getting them coping with all the complicated variables of life on the roads, when the simpler answer (more vehicles running on pre-defined routes, maybe guided by some sort of… I dunno, rail?… with fewer hazards to compute and scenarios to legislate for) has got a 100-odd year history of you not having your 80-90mph book reading, or film watching, interrupted by being stopped by the police.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Florinda, I understand that you’re trying to engage here and I’m happy to hear from you, but please, say something of substance instead of just scattering blessings.


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