25 Dec 2009
21 Dec 2009
8 Dec 2009
Its good to see that a certain Walmart-owned employer inspire such confidence in their staff.
3 Dec 2009
When I was in about year 6 I think, I rarely wanted to go to school, and the most obvious way of achieving absence was to feign or overemphasise illness. As my Grandmother (now sadly passed) lived across the road from me, whenever I was 'ill' my parents would send me over there where she would look after me.
On this particular occasion, I remember getting comfortable on the settee in front of the fire, hoping for a day of not doing much, and more importantly, not being at school. After around an hour and a half, my Grandma was obviously not keen on me not learning and so went to fetch something for me to do. I was hoping for just some pens and things to draw with but she returned with Little Women, along with a comment about how if I wasn't going to be at school then at least I could be learning something.
She then handed it to me for me to read out loud to her, and over the course of the the day I read out the entire book, only stopping for a sandwich and a cup of tea around lunch, and then a finger of a supermarket own-brand Kit-Kat clone around quarter to 4. I was also put under pressure to finish the book in time for 15 To 1 being on TV.
Despite me remembering this experience, I don't really remember much of the storyline of the book and consequently when questioned today, I wasn't sure what answer to give in terms of whether I had actually read it or not. It is however a possible reason why I seldom take a sick day from work.
1 Dec 2009
29 Nov 2009
1. Its fully free in terms of not having anything proprietary in it.
2. Unlike like other distros, it looks very pretty:
3. It can run off a live USB, so when I'm at work I can avoid using M$ stuff (mostly).
4. It seems to be intuitive, and I've yet to have any problems with it.
5. Whilst its based on Debian and Ubuntu, its not got too much of the complexity of the former, and the bulky and non-free elements of the latter. A good balance between the two, and also good for those new to linux in my most humble of opinions.
- Instead of Adobe Flash, get the Greasemonkey add-on for Firefox (called 'Web Browser' for license reasons) and add this script and this one. This will play most youtube type flash videos without compromising your freedom.
If you're using window$, get rid of it and get this. Back to normal blogs soon.
20 Nov 2009
Edward IV, 1469, pissed off about music.
17 Nov 2009
I've been exploring free linux distros recently, because I'm incredibly dull. I was previously running Fedora, and then I started messing and broke summat, and rather than fix it, I thought I would experiment with new things. Also, I had lost the Fedora 9 disc, so I didn't really have much of an option, although sensibly, all my files are kept separate from the boot drive, so its a piece of piss to swap OS's.
Having long been a fan of Richard Stallman, I thought "This time, I'm going to go for something completely free" and by free I mean, non-proprietary (as well as in free beer). After looking at gNewSense (looks too hard for me), and playing with Dyne:bolic (which is a weird thing indeed) on my less than powerful living room computer, I settled on BLAG, as this was based on Fedora, which I'm familiar with, as well as having freedom-loving philosophy behind it. Basically, the community behind BLAG take the Fedora distribution, and strip out any proprietary (or non-free) elements, and introduce custom free bits where necessary. I notice this also had the effect of making the whole thing less bulky, and consequently, things run a bit faster.
It worked pretty well 'out of the box', and the initial fixing of stuff is easy if you follow the advice on the forum. One thing I still haven't given much time to is getting a free version of Flash, as this is pretty essential for web browsing these days. There is a 'reverse-engineered' programme called Gnash that is supposed to do a lot of the same stuff, but I found it rather wanting. In the meantime, I had to pollute my 'pure' system with Adobe's original version of Flash, but then I said a Hail Mary and hit myself with birch rods for half an hour.
I might give Trisquel a go at some point.
13 Nov 2009
The idea was proposed by James Tobin, a nobel prize-winning economist who thought that there should be a tax on currency speculation (specifically transactions) of around 0.25%. He reckoned that this would help to calm harmful speculation (which serves no purpose other than to enrich a tiny minority at the expense of wrecking financial systems of small and large states). The money raised would be used for poverty relief, or to support international institutions like the UN.
War On Want (a charity I've supported for around a decade) have long since been campaigning for it, and various countries have said they would support it, although often really really quietly. One such radical is Nicolas Sarkozy, although it seems likely that he's leapt on board now that the idea is gaining ground. A johnny-come-lately, or Jean arrive tard.
The disappointment arrived thick and fast once I learned that Gordon Brown wanted to have a Tobin Tax for none other than the noble idea of bailing out banks in the future. It seems a bit wrong to term it a Tobin Tax in those circumstances, and I can't imagine the late James Tobin been dead keen on it either.
26 Oct 2009
Courtesy of Woman's Weekly circa 1982. In the 'International' section at the back of the book, it had such exotic fare as Chinese Spare Ribs, Fondue, Chicken Maryland and you're feeling really dangerous, Lasagne.
Bear in mind that if you want the parkin in time for the 5th of November, you should probably get cracking, as the recipe recommends leaving the cake in foil for a week prior to eating.
Lush. I love parkin.
23 Oct 2009
Thank you for your enquiry.
The web pages of the XXX do mention the MSDN programme, and further information can be found at:
Or by contacting them directly at:
MSDN stands for the Microsoft Developers Network. It is not a source of truly free software as Microsoft is a proprietary software company and consequently do not offer their operating systems free of charge. Free software is a matter of the users' freedom to run, copy, distribute, study, change and improve the software, and proprietary software does not offer this. Further information can be found by doing a web search for 'free and open source software'. There are also operating systems available that are both free and non-proprietary.
Obviously I couldn't go into too much of a rant, but I though this seemed reasonably balanced.
22 Oct 2009
Words And Phrases I've Used In Meetings This Week And Then, Following Impressed Looks, Admitted I Was Taking The Piss
"Service Expectation Enhancements"
"Clear-focussed" <truly meaningless
I'm sure there were more.
15 Oct 2009
They have a point, but they grated on me somewhat, and I don't think they're particularly helpful. In the spirit of satire however, I created my own, and wore it today:
10 Oct 2009
9 Oct 2009
Bus drivers have recently been denied a cost of living increase despite the company making a profit of £134m - a record for the company.
Some fiery words from Graham Stevenson from Unite:
‘The bonus culture is alive and well in First's boardroom. At the beginning of 2009, First management confirmed a 15 per cent bonanza for shareholders for each of the last five years, funding this by slashing jobs, wages and terms and conditions.’
8 Oct 2009
"We regret the fact that at a time of cost savings, valuable university funds were required to take legal measures to address such actions."
Anyway, now 10 Northumberland Road has been occupied. But... by about 4.30, once again the notices have been served. Not surprising considering its owned by the local NHS trust, whom I'm informed have the same legal people as the University. It might be wise to pick another part of the city where:
-There's a greater number of disused buildings
-The locals are more likely to support it
We shall see.
7 Oct 2009
"COMMERCIAL BREAKERS – Rejected by FOX
We're continuing our campaign for media democracy with a series of subvertisements aimed at disrupting the promotion of overconsumption and attacking the legitimacy of advertising. We want the right to broadcast these subverts and we're willing to pay, but the major networks aren't willing to air them. So far FOX has officially rejected our first spot, COMMERCIAL BREAKERS, and MTV has cut off communication entirely.
The idea behind COMMERCIAL BREAKERS is simply to sabotage the meaning of advertising and undermine the power of brands. The average TV ad presents the consumer with a crisis, be it a crisis of identity, a crisis of hunger, a messy floor, an unsightly blemish or erectile disfunction. The crisis is always a crisis of choice, but there is only one choice: the product being advertised. Each ad expresses an individual brand's vision of utopia; a perfect world constructed around a singular message: if you buy the product being advertised, you will be happy and content ... if only for a moment.
This consumer utopia – beamed into our consciousness 24/7 – is a distraction from our real crisis, be it existential, spiritual, environmental, economic or political. And so rather than interpret advertising as a choice between colas or a choice between brands, we seek to reinterpret it as a choice is between the real and the artificial. It's not Pepsi vs. Coke, it's Cool Diet Cola vs. Climate Doom.
After a string of legal victories against Canadian television networks, we are now determined to take on NBC, CBS, ABC, FOX and MTV in American courts. In order to make this happen in the near future, we need our legal war chest filled. It's a tough and expensive game going head to head with these giant corporations in court, but we refuse to back down.
How else can you help? Agitate FOX and MTV and help us spread COMMERCIAL BREAKERS on the web. If you're a twitter user, throw a #fuckfox hash tag on your tweets. Make your own viral subvertisements, memes or mindbombs and launch them anywhere and everywhere you see fit."
1 Oct 2009
Sheffield Indymedia has photos of the site available here. I can imagine that the Broomhill Neighbourhood Action Group are elated by the news, and the autonomous social space will no doubt receive a care package shortly. Both the property itself and the neighbouring experimental gardens are owned by the University of Sheffield, so that's 2 occupations in one year - hurrah!
28 Sep 2009
He must be a bit short of ideas, as he wrote almost exactly the same thing before in 2007. For someone I used to vaguely admire, he seems like a one trick pony these days, spouting the same thing over and over.
Stick to TV perhaps.
23 Sep 2009
I chatted to some anarcho-types today, and they gave me this and told me about a new social centre somewhere in Shef (the last one was the Matilda, which was good while it lasted).
I mentioned my idea to fly the red and black flag at the Last Night of the Proms, and that seemed to go down well with them. I like the use of Emma Goldman on this sheet, and the tone is less Dave Spart than the other ones I've picked up.
The Social Centre opens on 1st October, but the location is (not surprisingly) not published yet.
20 Sep 2009
-Get rid of trident
-Cut military spending
-Abolish academy schools - reclaim economies of scale by having education run through local authorities
-Stop subsidising the arms trade
-Extend universal benefits by saving money on means-testing
-Tax on air and carbon-heavy travel
-Cheap public transport to stimulate economy
-Stop bailing out failing banks - push co-operative and mutual societies to take on role of failed institutions
-Reform Common Agricultural Policy to encourage local sustainable production, rather than protection of inefficient and unfriendly industries
-Massive investment in transport infrastructure to stimulate economy
-Measure success of economy based on quality of life NOT GDP per capita.
-Devolution of state control to local councils, reduce central government, cut civil service, extend control of public services closer to local people
-Raise allowance for low earners, introduce graduate tax, abolish tuition fees for students
-Introduce Tobin Tax for foreign currency speculation
19 Sep 2009
16 Sep 2009
While Rod Hull was dealing with a different sort of emu, and no one had decided on the name of the Euro (European Monetary Unit), Colin J Marsden wrote this helpful guide on Electrical Multiple Unit trains. Its part of a series also including books about DMUs. Colin is also the author of 100 Years of Electrical Traction, and the party classic The Diesel Shunter: A Pictorial Record.
14 Sep 2009
The Director / Head of Institutions
Associations of Doctors / Scientists / Schools & Colleges
I borne in 1956 and not seen the independence of India or other things. I visited all parts of India and not visited aboard, Hence the following details are of India.
Everyone knows that the best way of sounding mental is through punctuation - this is no exception:
EDUCATION ON TRUTH
In the World all religion has females & male. How to identify peoples by religion or country wise??? Why all these religion has been created????? Think about a child, whether one boy or girl is there on one side and rest world is on other side, think that who will die for kids, then among those people, the persons who want to save kids should think & educate children in schools. World should be full of thinking like Swami Vivekananda & Buddha because they give education on truth / developments. You may also think always for the better / the best.
I think the writer doesn't like modern education:
At present crime done by illiterate persons are criminals & other crime are literate crime which is done under the word God / religion based on education of shastra’s / ethics. Why the word God & other words like Brahma, Bishnu, Mahesh, Atma, Permatma, Deowata (Man), Devias’ (Females) etc. in Hindi are there it can be cleared by educators of Shastras’ Or can be seen in temples of India, which is harmful for children. It is like Animals as we eat. The day people will think for children about the educational crime and it can be simplify for children by educated persons like education in schools / colleges by theory with practical only.
Education of Shastras’ / Ethics should be simple to know like 4+4=8 by everybody through competitions in schools and should be added in world educational curriculums to think always for children / others. Education should be crystal clear for life in schools so that a child whether Boy or Girl can have smooth life i.e. free from obstructions or hurdles by simple & direct education of shastra’s / ethics like 4+4=8 as well as politics. A Specialized school may be there to think always about best future of children / others with the interactions of other schools & children in all areas like other activities. Not 1 or 2 may be 5000 or more students and teachers can think & ask / discuss this in Schools as a supreme power or prime ministers does.
Nice and simple eh? At the end of our lesson its summed up in true mentalist style:
WHAT IS PURPOSE OF EDUCATION ???????
CRIME BASED ON EDUCATION OF SHASTRAS’ / ETHICS
TECHNOLOGY OF CRIME / DEATH
I should put them in touch with Claude really...
13 Sep 2009
11 Sep 2009
Directors of the top companies in the UK enjoyed a 23% increase in their pension arrangements last year, averaging around £250,000 per year. This works out at around 30 times that of the 'average' worker, compared to 25 last year, according to the TUC.
Obviously, the real issue we need to look at now is to cut the 'Gold Plated' pensions those greedy fucks in the public sector enjoy. Damn those public sector fat cats. Ooh hang on... maybe we are being fair. Sir Fred Goodwin had his pot sadly culled to £342000 after RBS was part nationalised. At least the blow was softened by a £2.6m lump sum he also received. Who's up for some window smashing. Anyone?
7 Sep 2009
27 Aug 2009
26 Aug 2009
Also attached was a letter, that seemed to suggest that I should photocopy this booklet and distribute it freely:
It was written by a French Canadian called Claude Deschennes, who has a bit of a thing about religion:
Not only that, he seems to LOVE rubber stamps, and using them:
He is also keen on drawing diagrams about how he views the world. I liked this one because of the distinction drawn between 'Plants', 'Beasts' and 'Humanity'. To the left, you'll see he's also written "Posters, please, for the classes of biology", as well as more rubber-stampage:
In case you weren't sure, this emphasises once again the importance of Hydrogen:
There's also frequent references to the 'Nebula' as demonstrated by this diagram (and more rubber stamps):
Claude has included a photocopied picture of (what I guess to be) himself:
And thankfully, on the rear, he explains the purpose of the book:
There's so much dense handwriting, rubber-stampage, religious critique and references to the importance of Hydrogen that I can't really do it justice in this blog, but consider this post Claude's first foray onto the internet, as I couldn't find any reference to him when I searched.
21 Aug 2009
"Dear Sir or Madam,
I write to express my disappointment with Oxfam, of which I have been a
long time suppoter and once a full time volunteer for several years.
Last night my dinner was interrupted by a young man who stated he was
representing Oxfam. I immediately asked him, as I ask anyone who
approaches me representing a charity, if he was working for a profit
making organisation who were representing Oxfam, or if he was a
volunteer, to which he replied the former.
I have a policy, having been a charity volunteer most of my life, of
never giving money to a private, profit making company working as agents
for a charity. Profiteering out of other people's poverty sickens me,
and I was deeply saddened to discover Oxfam have followed this
increasingly popular route.
However, my concerns run deeper than this. In every contact I have had
with these paid fundraisers, no matter which charity they represent or
which company they are paid by, the conversation runs exactly the same;
I explain my position to which I would expect any respectable and
reasonable fundraiser to accept and move on. However, that is never the
case with paid fundraisers, who have a script of identical responses
that are reeled off. It is quite clear to me from these identical
conversations that the companies concerned are actually training their
employees to argue the toss with their "target". This fundamentally
goes against the guidelines set out by the Institute of Fundraising, and
Oxfam should be ashamed that people are doing this in their name.
This particular gentleman started to become quite aggressive and
perisistent with his argument, and realising that simply telling him
"no, I will not give you my money or bank details" was not going to make
him leave my doorstep, and I was forced to shut the door in his face.
I am apalled by Oxfam's decision to allow a company to make profit from
your charitable activities, and to let standards of fundraising slip so
far as to go against the clear guidelines of the Institute of Fundraising.
I would be grateful if this email could be forwarded to the person or
persons responsible for the decision to contract this organisation, as
well as to your director, so I can hear their responses. I would also
be grateful if you could provide me with the details of the company you
are contracting (if relevant for the process of identification, this
occured on XXXX Road, XXXXXXX) so that I can pass the details
of this incident onto the local council's licensing department and the
Institute of Fundraising in accordance with section 3.1 of their
guidelines on house to house collections.
Far better worded than my efforts.
13 Aug 2009
Anyone who watches ER or Scrubs will see that their hospitals look more fun, with better kit and overalls, and for some it seems that this is the argument why the US system is 'better' than ours.
OK, ours is creaky in places, but it covers everyone compared to 40-odd million Americans who have nothing except the most basic of emergency treatment. Not only this, the US spends around 12% of its GDP on healthcare and it is unaffordable to many, whereas we spend 6% of our GDP on it, and its universal.
I can only imagine that we're going to see the private health lobby descend into more and more dirty tricks and innaccuracies in the months to come, and depressing as it sounds, I can't help thinking that Obama is going to be defeated on this just like Clinton was in the 1990's.
The power that HMO's, medical 'professionals' and the pharmaceutical industry have over not just politics but culture in the US is extensive. Having visited the US a few times, I'm always amazed that prescription drugs are widely advertised on TV, usually with the tagline "ask your Doctor about XXX-Brand-Shizzle" and then "WARNINGthisproductcancauseanalleakagediscargesunpleasantrashesdepressionsuicidesocialostracismlossoffriends andfamilyglobalapocalypseandrandomtwitching".
When I was on a school exchange at age 17, I stayed with a family whose patriarch was a doctor, and he lived in a 'Golf Community' in a small town in South Carolina. On my arrival, I presented gifts from my own fair city to the family, and in return when I left, I was given a bag of freebies that had been given to said doctor. To be honest, most of it was pretty shit (cuddly toy, a cd of love songs, lots of pens and pencils, a face mask, a hat, a shirt and some alcohol wipes*) but the doc said the he received all sorts from the drug companies, including holidays, electrical goods and various other incentives to encourage him to prescribe their drug over someone elses. This seemed quite ethically dubious in my view, but I resisted the temptation to say:
"Surely the reason we put our trust in doctors and medical professionals is because the general public is not an expert in the effects of medicines, and you people have had at least 5 years to learn more than most?"
And also the point that people should take medicines that work and represent good value, rather than based on which company has the most money to bribe doctors with.
*I actually had quite a good time setting fire to these.
30 Jul 2009
What intrigues me about the whole thing is that I would expect organised continental workers to do this sort of thing, as British unions are generally so toothless on the whole that they tend to write strongly worded letters, and get pushed around quite a bit, like a pantomime horse:
The French of course, are always way ahead of us. "An occupation you say? Pof! Zis is, 'ow do you say, zer chicken feed". They've gone a step further by kidnapping their bosses until their demands are met, at such companies as Sony and Hewlett Packard. More on that here.
Whether the Vestas occupation will achieve its objective remains to be seen, but I would say the impact goes beyond one factory. Whilst my own union, Unite, has managed to be visible at a lot of actions, such as the wildcat strikes at the Lindsay Oil refinery, they've certainly not demonstrated the joined-up thinking of the Vestas campaign, which has united both trade unionists and environmentalists. Leader Derek Simpson made a third runway a policy of his recent re-election, and it remains official Unite policy.
24 Jul 2009
21 Jul 2009
In situations like this, a British workforce will feel down and moan a bit. Quite often quietly. Refreshingly, these workers haven't, and they've followed similar action in Latin America and Scotland, and occupied the factory. Yay! Direct Action.
They've got a blog here - and I will be watching it...
16 Jul 2009
10 Jul 2009
Within my reading I came across the name of one academic a few times, that of Chris Knight, Professor of Anthropology at the University of East London. Well, he was. He was suspended recently due to 'gross professional misconduct'.
At the time of the G20 summit, Knight was instrumental in organising The Alternative G20 Summit which was due to take place at the ExCel centre (loads of good shit seems to happen there), which is close to the UEL campus. The University initially gave permission, allowing the organisers to book such window-smashers as Tony Benn.
At the eleventh hour, the University decided to withdraw permission to Knight to hold the event, without specific reasons why. Now, reading the fluff and bluster from both Knight's account and others, it would be easy to arrive at the conclusion of some people moaning about having their party rained on. I've actually looked for what the possible reason of the cancellation was, and nothing seems that apparent apart from it seemed like a good opportunity to squeeze out someone who obviously liked rocking the boat a bit.
Did I mention Prof Knight also does political street theatre? And is also an expert on the cultural significance of menstruation? Whatever your conclusions are, its gratifying to know that we still have people like this, and I remain disappointed that I didn't have that many lecturers like that myself.
9 Jul 2009
Clarion buys yet another arms exhibition - Counter Terror Expo
Clarion Events, organisers of the forthcoming arms fair at London's ExCel Centre, have acquired yet another weapons-related exhibition. On 2 July, Clarion announced that it had bought sinister-sounding Counter Terror Expo from Niche Events.
Counter Terror Expo is a new event, launched earlier this year. It claims to showcase "the latest in specialist security technologies, products and solutions which form a crucial part of counter terror capabilities internationally", offering "a forum for senior buyers and specifiers to see the latest solutions which will assist in the prevention of, protection from and pursuit of terrorists globally".
Counter Terror 2009 had over 130 exhibitor companies, including well-known arms and internal security companies. To add a veneer of academic respectability, the exhibition was linked to a "high level conference with 75 specialist speakers", including representatives from government, police, industry, academia and media. Counter Terror 2009 claimed to have attracted 4,000 visitors from government, military, law enforcement, intelligence and the private sector.
Counter Terror Expo joins Clarion's so-called "defence and security" exhibitions, including three bought as part of the package from Reed-Elsevier in 2008. DSEi, the world's largest arms fair, will be held at London's ExCel centre from 8-11 September.
Meanwhile, Clarion continues to acquire new consumer exhibitions in its ever expanding empire. In May it announced the launch of Garden Expo 2010 for gardening and related suppliers. This is added to its current portfolio which includes the Baby Show, the Travel Show and the Spirit of Christmas - all consumer and trade shows.
CAAT spokesperson Kaye Stearman said:
“I wonder how many of the keen gardeners and garden suppliers who are likely to flock to Garden Expo realise that Clarion Events also owns arms fairs. CAAT will be highlighting Clarion's unethical record in the lead-up to the arms fair in September and organising a peaceful protest."
30 Jun 2009
29 Jun 2009
27 Jun 2009
Another thing that I can't reconcile is Carrie's narration over the top of the programme. Its a fucking lazy device that excuses poor writing in my view. Lets have a look:
Its cringeworthy. I don't expect you to have watched all of that clip, and I didn't want my YouTube profile to constantly suggest shrieky crap to me so this was the first example I could find, without looking too hard.
Another reason I don't like it is because whenever this narration pops in to fill in the gaps that the screenplay doesn't, I can't help but imagine I'm watching a post-op, post-lobotomy version of The Wonder Years in the future, where Fred Savage has got so sick of his inner old-man dialogue, that he's moved to New York to enjoy being shallow:
Thanks to me writing this, this blog may well be the first result when the masses start googling (or Bing-ing*) the names of these shows together. Cos that's what's gonna happen.
*Give it up Microsoft, no-one's going to change now.
22 Jun 2009
Well, quite often our food manufacturers try and avoid basic sugar by using High-Fructose Corn Syrups (HFCS) instead. The reasons for this are plenty: Fructose is 30% sweeter than regular sugar, and the glucose used in the past had to be kept at a relatively high temperature to prevent crystallisation, which would make your processed food less pleasant. HFCS is "twice as soluble as glucose at low temperatures so a 50% conversion of glucose to fructose provides a stable syrup that is as sweet as a sucrose solution of the same concentration" (Martin Chaplin, London South Bank University, 2004).
Another possible reason for the increased use of HFCS (also called isoglucose) in the EU is that many of our big brands have parent companies based in the United States. HFCS is derived from 'corn' and US growers have received around $40bn in subsidies from the Federal Government since the mid-1990's (NY Times, 2003). HFCS also has a much higher calorific value than most other sweeteners, so one could say that the US government has inadvertantly contributed to their own obesity problems - thanks lobbyists!
It gets worse: during the processing of the syrup in parts of the United States, there have been allegations of 'trace' levels of mercury from the ley, and we know from the Mad Hatter that mercury is not a life-giving health food. The Institute for Agriculture and Trade Policy (IATP) commissioned research on this and found that one third of products made with HCFS contained mercury, and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) very helpfully decided to cancel further research into the issue, like you would of course. You can read the IATP's report here.
In the EU, we're a little more protective, as there are production quotas in places, so somewhat bizarrely, we actually consume more actual sugar than the yanks, although we must remember the power of our lobbyists as well (the sugar people that is). Its worth noting that the mercury scare has only so far been linked with HFCS production in the US, mainly due to use of caustic soda and hydrochloric acid - I'm not a chemist, so perhaps someone else can explain exactly why.
Mercury is not the only issue, studies have shown that HFCS is linked with diabetes, and you can read more from dry journals such as this one.
Eat fruit (that's quite good) or if you want a friendly natural version of HFCS, eat some honey!
18 Jun 2009
Originally, I planned twice a week, but it can be hard work getting up early enough in order to get to the little municipal pool in time. I like this little pool because its also the place where I learned to swim under the stewardship of a Julie Chipchase (fantastic name). After my lessons there, I would always eat these horrible synthetic sour sweets, and later in life, I ended up attending the school next door to the pool. As a theme, sour sweets continue to this day.
I must admit, I do feel the benefit of doing 30 odd lengths (cue jokes about '30 lengths' fnar), but its one of the few things where I am actually competitive, albeit against the old and infirm.
The other people that swim there at that time of morning are generally people in their 40s and 50s but I can't help but swim as fast as I can. The thing that interests me is that usually I am resolutely against competitive behaviour. I don't even like playing computer games. This competition even includes cycling to work - I cannot cycle any other way apart from as fast as I can, and if someone is in front of me I must pass them - a similar thing happens when walking also.
A combination of nervous energy and misanthropy I reckon.
16 Jun 2009
14 Jun 2009
-Israel can continue colonising using settlements (it is colonising, despite what Benny calls it)
-A Palestinian state can have no standing army or control of its air space, and essentially limited control over its borders
Palestine remains a prison. Whoopee.
13 Jun 2009
11 Jun 2009
10 Jun 2009
Its been widely reported that the government is considering changing the voting system, and one thing I am particularly geeky about is knowing about voting systems.
Gordon Brown is said to favour the Alternative Vote, or Alternative Vote Plus systems (a form of the latter (AMS) is used in Scotland and Wales for their parliament and assembly elections although without the preferential bit, and the former is used in Australia). Despite much reporting to the contrary, these are NOT proportional systems of voting but rather preferential systems, in that the voters state their desires in order of preference, rather than picking one candidate (1 for your favourite, then 2, 3 etc). Alternative Vote Plus is the same, but you also vote for one candidate from a regional list (like in the EU elections) and these 'proportionally' return 'top-up' MPs.
Why This Blows
When Tony Blair won in 1997, he won around 66% of seats in the commons with around 44% percent of the vote. It is suggested that if this election used the AV system, he would have won with an even larger (and unrepresentative) majority. This is not cool in my book - there would have been even less dissent in the years that followed.
My problem with AV+ is twofold:
1. In the regional lists, voters must vote for a party rather than a candidate, severing the link between the electorate and the representatives, and putting power into the hands of party apparatchiks (which I thought we were trying to avoid).
2. Having some MP's elected on one system, and other on a different one creates a two-tier system. The Top-UP MPs would argue that they are more representative of the will of the people, whilst the others would argue that at least the electorate chose them directly.
Its a crappy system with too many compromises. The UK already uses a good form of PR, and this has not been mentioned in much of the media coverage.
In Northern Ireland (and historically, twice in England in the 19th century) the system is the Single Transferable Vote (STV). The country is divided into multi-member consituencies (usually between 5 and 10 members - the more members, the more proportional). The electorate chooses candidates in order of preference (1. 2, 3 etc or just 1 if you only wish to choose one), and then the seats are divided using a formula that I won't go into here. Basically, it comes down to counting the first preference votes, then if a candidate gets over 50% they are elected. If not, you then add up the second preference votes, then the third etc until they reach the magic 50% mark (and until all the seats are filled).
Critics of this system say that it is slow - well, considering we don't get to vote very often and its kinda important, I'd rather it take a bit of time. Also I don't dig this argument about how great it is to have majority governments. I don't think politics would suffer from politicians co-operating more and learning how to be a bit more humble. STV is also the favoured system of the Electral Reform Society, and if you're as nerdy as me about these things, you can get a better explanation from their website.
8 Jun 2009
6 Jun 2009
Browsing through comments on this blog, I completely missed this comment from a member of Obits, clarifying a few points. As even I missed it (and its my blog) I feel it necessary to offer them a right of reply over my comments. You can read my original post here:
I just came across your post from nearly a month ago and wanted to clarify something.
Many folks, including you, seem to have latched onto Rick's quote about innovation and interpreted it in rather severe ways.
I understand the appeal of looking for something more barbed to react to, but I don't believe that was ever Rick's intent.
Our point is that in 2009 there is no need to reinvent the wheel. The voice of a rock'n'roll band should come naturally, without some absurd pretense of being the "new shoegaze" or the "new lo-fi" or whatever hyphenated shortcut is being used to describe some variation on essentially a very familiar idiom.
It's not that we revel in being anachronistic, it's that we see ourselves as part of the same primitive blueprint that has been the backbone of everything from Eddie Cochran to The Standells to Neu! to Wire to Minutemen and so on.
What hopefully makes us different is what we collectively bring to our interpretation and execution of the rock'n'roll formula.
And, as Rick pointed out, that's not something we have much control over. It kind of is what it is.
Undoubtedly this won't make our record sound any better to you, but perhaps it'll keep it out of the recycling bin for at least one more spin.
We'll be in the UK this September, so please come to a show if you can. I'll buy you a beer and you can tell me if we still seem like a bunch of old toads in a tired blues band.
I would like to thank Sohrab for sticking his neck above the parapet and answering my concerns - its always a risky thing to do and I truly admire him for it. In the off-chance he's reading this, I'd like to say that I really like the latest single on Sub Pop and I would urge readers to purchase it.
*As a side point, I see 6 followers on here - how many of you are hidden? Leave a comment if you one of them, or if you're a little scared, don't.*
5 Jun 2009
In these situations, my calm demeanour occasionally cracks, I sigh loudly, reach for my passport and declare that "I'm nearly 27 y'know".
I didn't help the situation today by having no beard (consequently looking about 12 years of age) and I ended up expressing some dislike of having to carry my passport. Till-monkey asked about a driving licence - I said "I don't drive" and that I expressed "no interest in learning".
"What about a provisional one?"
This stumped me somewhat, so I continued packing my shopping.
"I like your badge" she says, and temporarily I'm heartened by this compliment, and then I realise that my badge is a 'No To ID' badge. Part of me really really wants this girl to have a deep distrust of the increasing authoritarianism of our government's plans to introduce said cards, but gradually I started to realise that she thought I was some vehement anti-booze ID activist who has a MASSIVE PROBLEM with being asked (I don't).
"Oh yeah" I force a laugh "I didn't realise the irony of the situation". She stares, and it dawns on me that she may or may not know what 'irony' means. Despite this being her loss, for some reason, it makes the situation even worse, and the only thing left to do is wish her a good weekend and slink off.
One to file under anxiety and social awkwardness I feel.
Whilst this is a turbulent period nationally and locally for our political system and economy, and taxpayers supporting financial institutions for their ineptitude, I feel it worth pointing out that the UK government (specifically UK Trade and Industry) plans on lending its support to the Defence Systems and Equipment International (DSEi) arms fair, one of the world's largest.
Despite a majority of the population objecting to arms sales, the government subsidises the arms trade with approximately £850m a year. This is during in a period where unemployment is rising along with a growing national debt.
Arms companies maintain that their industry is vital for the economy's well-being, however arms sales make up just 1.5% of total exports, and employ just 0.2% of the workforce. Not only this, but the trade damages Britain's reputation abroad. BAE Systems is currently under investigation by the Serious Fraud Office for their dealings in several countries.
When the opportunity arises for us to choose our MP once more (and this seems increasingly likely), I would urge voters to question their candidates on their policies associated with this. If we can make it an issue now, we might be able to save lives in the future.
3 Jun 2009
2 Jun 2009
1 Jun 2009
At the time of writing, not a single US news network has published the pictures.
27 May 2009
24 May 2009
23 May 2009
Here's what they published:
"How about devolving most of the Common's power to local government? England (and other parts of the UK if they wanted) could then run a federal system that would bring decision-making closer to the subjects. (And if we ditch the monarchy, we can actually be citizens rather than subjects)."
22 May 2009
At the start of this year, I never would have thought that MPs would behave like attention-seeking teenagers who have been told off by Daddy. "I HATE you! I've not done ANYTHING wrong! I'm going upstairs to cut myself with a butter knife".
Nadine Dorries does make a salient point that an effective way that MP's can win 'back' the trust of the public is through mass suicide. Might I suggest hari kiri.
21 May 2009
[The BBC wanted experiences of Sheffield from the 1980's, so despite being between the age of 0-8 I thought I would have a go]
Having been born in 1982, I'm a little limited in my contribution, but there's a few things that stick in my mind.
One was how few cars/traffic there was. Sheffield City Council (and South Yorkshire County Council as was) ensured that bus fares were really cheap. I remember my Mum taking my brother and I to 'town' and her asking for a "10 and two 2's" reflecting the price at the time. I think once transport was gradually scaled back, more residents bought vehicles and were unwilling to return to the public sphere.
There were also 'features' that I associate with that period, such as the fountain at the top of Fargate, and the dark and mysterious shops that inhabited the rather intimidating 'hole in the road'. Most of the underground pedestrian walkways were filled in during the 1990s.
My Dad was unemployed for around 2 years in the 1980s because his employer, the Sheffield Smelting Company (later taken over and then closed) was so closely connected with the steel industry. Thankfully, my Mum worked part-time as a teacher supporting those with disabilities, so there was one income for our young family. My Dad would take me to nursery on the back of his bicycle.
Whilst I was at school, there were still remnants of the 'municipal socialism' that Sheffield was known for. The Education Authority had its own printing works that made our exercise books. During the 1980's we had people like David Blunkett at the helm of the council, before he became an authoritarian right-wing bruiser of a politician.
Rather than emphasising the great differences that Sheffield has compared to other cities, Sheffield's overseers became known (and are still known to a greater extent) for the white elephant schemes, such as the World Student Games, and certain 'regeneration' ideas such as Meadowhall. Meadowhall effectively killed off regeneration in the city centre for a decade.
For all its faults, I love Sheffield and have never left. I went to nursery, school and university in the city, and now work in a vaguely promotional role, where this affords me the opportunity to enthuse to outsiders about what makes Sheffield a great place to live, study and work.
20 May 2009
1. Tom Doyle (he is popular after all)
2. Speed dating (O-K)
3. Sheffield (fair enough)
4. Pinki (no fucking clue)
5. On Valentines Day (ditto)
Amongst the other words in the cloud are 'Mainstream Society', 'BBC News', 'Agitators', 'Notorious Group', 'Freedom', 'Mathlete' and 'Class War'.
Its like the brain of the internet is expressing its nausea and confusion.
19 May 2009
Don't like it? Then make a tiny impact and sign a petition on the CAAT website.
18 May 2009
14 May 2009
"Lawyers acting on behalf of Mark Thomas served Speaker Martin with legal papers demanding am independent audit and investigation into the scandal of MP's expenses. The audit should examine all claims going back to 1997, not just the last four years, any mispayments or misclaimed expenses should be repaid rather than rely on voluntary repayment when MP's feels adequately embarrassed and if there is evidence of fraudulent claims then the police should be called in to investigate. MP's should be subject to the same standards and laws as the rest of us.
If Speaker Martin does not launch an independent investigation then Mark and the lawyers will seek a judicial review of his actions. "
You can find more details of exactly what he's planning from his website.
Who is Bubba 2000? What you cannot see in this sign is that vehicles illegally parked in this area are threatened with clamping. Now clamping, or at least the threat of it, is usually a stern enough deterrent to prevent the illegal or unsafe stowage of vehicle in this particular spot.
Bubba 2000 has a longing. He (I could be wrong, but the handwriting looks more male) overtly expresses a desire to enjoy the freedom of leaving some property in a particular space. Not just that, Bubba 2000 is rebelling: He's seen the sign, he's seen the warning, but he is not intimidated. "Bring it on" he was probably thinking "your signs will not dampen my freedom of parking expression". Not just that, his self-belief goes beyond a simple expression in the first person, and he opts for the nominal third person, with a certain amount of grandeur.
He takes you one way, then, confusingly, brings you back, to a personal level with his heartfelt (and first person) confession that, alas, he does not have a vehicle in which to show his contempt for restrictions placed upon him. The use of the word "ain't" produces underdog, and bluesy self-pitying signals, and the non-standard spelling of 'Motor', short for motorised vehicle, brings humour and dialect back into the equation. We can characterise the rollercoaster of emotions thus:
CONTEMPT FOR SOCIETY'S RESTRICTIONS
ADMISSION OF INADEQUACY
HUMOUR/DIALECT AS DEFENSE MECHANISM
12 May 2009
11 May 2009
8 May 2009
From my initial ropiness following seeing Tubelord (somewhat disappointing) and Johnny Foreigner (meh, OK I guess) at Fuzz Club last night, it was gratifying to be in work and be asked whether I wanted a sandwich delivering from down the road. I went for large bacon and sausage with brown sauce - it certainly helped bring me round.
Despite this, I felt like my usual routine was somewhat disrupted (surge of effort until 10.30, then coffee and chocolate as the 'reward'), and then around 11am, a senior staff member bought in 2 trays of tiramisu. You may recall from my previous posts that, where I work, cake is taken very seriously.
The logging of cakey delights is taken so seriously by my team that I present to you some highlights from various reviews:
"If this is the product of being another year older (Ms Mottershaw had turned 22) then age - yea, perhaps death - has lost its sting. A truly extravagant confection yet gift-wrapped in the sweetest simplicity; a cake that was apparently downloaded then simply downed, in my case to the pleasing accompaniment of a cafetiere brew; stylish and stunning - a new gold standard that is most welcome in the current climate. TC"
"Imagine a traditional chocolate marble cake but in the shape of a cartoon magnet; presumably the Tenerifians make a whole circular cake and then cut it in two. Stacey, a souvenir of whose recent holiday this was, could shed no light on the matter. Somewhat disconcertingly, due to the unusual shape and marbling effect, the cutting of the cake resembled a surgical operation, or the dissection of an organ during post-mortem examination. However, such worrying thoughts were soon set aside by a satisfying - if unspectacular - offering, the rather dry consistency of which provided a good compliment to late-morning coffee. TC"
"On first bite, I was hit by two contrasting sensations - the cake texture was beautifully fluffy - a wonderful piece of baking. By contrast, the icing was, frankly, damp.
Nevertheless, it sat well upon the aforementioned cake base. Flavour-wise, there was an immediate hit of smoky, dark chocolate. The sensation was temporarily dizzying, but all too brief. The chocolate flavour was not sustained, and was overtaken by a rush of sickly sweet icing. In short, that icing had no right to be there - it belonged on another, cheaper cake, not on this beautifully crafted piece of baking.
In conclusion, then, the cake sent me to heaven; the icing sent me to hell. However, considering the occasion, benevolence must win the day: a sterling effort by Monsieur B. (R deR)"
So there we go. What started as a simple scoring system has outgrown itself, and become somewhat literary. I may publish more highlights in the future, or, I may not.