Thursday 4 April 2013
The long rambling post that I nearly put on Uborka
(uborka.nu is alive again, so rejoice. It’s all got a bit political over there and it nearly jolly well got my dander up. I almost posted this 2300 word post there, having been invited, but then thought better of it. So, I’ve posted here instead and linked it from over there and put something a little less controversial there, being as uborka is not my blog. I hope the blogging gods will look favourably upon this behaviour).
I’m going to stick my head above the parapet (and thank you Uborkans for the opportunity to do so in this place).
I’m a Tory voter. Mostly. I’ve voted for other parties in my time (the Pro-Europe Tories – remember them? the LibDems – remember them? and the Monster Raving Loony Party -
probably the best use of an X in my entire voting career), but by default I will generally vote for the blue party because I find that they (used to) have the least number of
policies that I found unpalatable (i.e. not more than 95% unpalatable).
The problem now is that, like quite a few other Tory voters that I know, I don’t feel they represent me any more. You see, I’m one of those funny old centre-right people. A bit
like Ken Clarke, but with less Hush Puppies. Not out there with Redwood or Nadine. But not woolly like the yellow party. And not so big government as the red party.
You see, I’m one of those people who quite like the idea of the power of the individual. I quite like libertarianism. I think the best person to make a decision about my life
is me. And, therefore, the same must be true for everyone.
I think gay people should be able to do what they want to do without me or anyone else interfering in what they do. I have no right to say they shouldn’t get married or give a
loving home to a child that needs it or stay in a double bed in a hotel room.
I think the European Union is, on the whole, a good idea. I think we would get more out of it if we put a bit more into it, rather than sniping from the sidelines (even Mrs T
understood that – she never walked away from the discussions in Brussels, whereas DC has done so).
I think government is better when it is small. On the whole, I believe that people, not politicians, know how best to spend their own money and time.
As someone who has spent all their life working with living things, I’m pretty certain that we can find a way to live on this lovely planet without wrecking it. There’s a great
opportunity for our economy if only we pushed a bit of R&D money that way. Progress is possible, in fact it is necessary – but it can be achieved without breaking the place.
I believe that we need a welfare system that helps those that need help. Equally, I’m fairly sure that some people don’t need/deserve the support of the welfare system, but I’m
not yet sure how we figure out who they are. But I am sure we can identify the Philpotts of this world and isolate them without penalizing everyone else who has the misfortune
to need welfare support.
I believe in a meritocracy. That means that, if you’re a grocer’s daughter, you could get to be PM. Equally, if you’re educated in a public school, you are not inherently bad
and unpleasant – you may well be very good at what you do, even if you partook of a little student excess. But being one or the other should not, within the limits of what can be achieved, prevent you from aiming for the best in life. “Best in life”, of course, is for you to define. Not everyone can be PM – one at a time is enough, thanks. Not everyone wants to be PM.
Equally, with meritocracy comes a need for people to want to improve their life. I live in a mixed neighbourhood – mixed in wealth, mixed in background and mixed in attitude,
albeit mostly WASP. If my neighbourhood is anything close to representative (and I doubt that it is), there doesn’t always seem to be a correlation between the desire to
improve life (and I’m sure that improving the world around you improves your own life, by definition) and wealth or background. There are some wealthy people here who are
lovely and give their time, money and energy for others and expect nothing more than a smile and “thanks” in return. There are some poor people who are the same. There are also some wealthy and some poor people who clearly don’t give a toss. I don’t believe poor people are lazy. But they’re not all saints either. Same is true of the wealthy and the
“squeezed middle”. Wealth, inherited or otherwise, is not a barrier to being a good person – being “priviledged” does not make you a bastard and I find the suggestion just as
offensive as saying poor people are lazy scum. Equally, lack of wealth is not a barrier to helping others – just ask the single mum-of-three who is one of the hardest-working
people on the PTA at my son’s primary. Or ask the man I know who was educated at Marlborough (same school as Kate Middleton) and now teaches in a state school.
The poor are not sub-human, evil and to blame for all that is wrong with society. Nor are the rich. We all are. We’ll only fix it if we stop trying to score points off other
people/social groups and try to figure out how to work together to put it right. In my village, one of the things that pains me most is the “them” and “us” culture that divides
the people perceived as “advantaged” from the “disadvantaged”. However, having sat through a few meetings and discussions, I think that divide is, sadly, coming mainly from my neighbours at the “disadvantaged” end of the village. The more prosperous residents can’t understand why, when a meeting was recently held to discuss improving the village
green for everyone to use, some of the “disadvantaged” people stormed out. As some of my wiser neighbours remarked – if someone wealthy wants to pay to do it (they do -
entirely funded by a local resident) then great, why would anyone object? Having questioned one of the objectors, they simply don’t like it because the donor is wealthy. I can’t understand that at all. Surely, if everyone worked together and discussed it, then we could use the cash generosity of some and combine with time generosity of others to make something that benefits everyone. Or am I being idealistic?
If I can afford to send my child to private school (I can’t), then great. You don’t pay for private school out of your taxes (and before people complain about the charitable
status of private schools, most state schools have charitable status or a charitable arm too – why shouldn’t they?). I think grammar schools are a good idea. Making poor
schools better need not be at the expense of the good schools. But make poor schools better is something we should do. Not sure how we do it, though.
There is no reason why state-provided services can not be run by private companies. There is no reason why that should be inherently bad. My father worked for 43 years in the
electricity supply industry – first before nationalisation, then for years when it was nationalised and then finally after it was privatized. He was a union shop steward. He
can tell you what it was like in the 60s and 70s. Private enterprise is often simply more efficient and effective, but we need effective competition so that the consumer
doesn’t get fleeced. Shop around, chaps.
Equally, private enterprise and the market is not always the best solution to a problem. But if you let the state run things, then you let politicians run things. Do you really
I am certain that nothing in this world is black and white except penguins and zebras. Being dogmatic achieves nothing. However, if you do something that hurts or damages other people, you must expect to suffer the consequences – and that sometimes is black or white.
Being Tory doesn’t make you evil. Ditto being Labour, LibDem, nationalist, Green, or whatever. UKIP? That’s another matter. That said, I feel really quite uncomfortable with
quite a few of the current government’s policies. If there was an election tomorrow, I really don’t know who I would vote for (other than the Cucumber Party, obv.). But political discussion will get the best results, I think. So we need a system that allows grown-up political discussion. When you say that you’re going to end Punch and Judy politics, why don’t you?
I believe in a welfare state, but it has a problem. Shockingly, the politicians lied to us when they set it up after the war. And ever since. They told us that we would pay
money in when we could (when we’re working, earning money) and could draw against it when we need it (when we are sick or hurt, old or infirm, when we have kids). Sounds great.
But, the problem is that, since inception, the money raised today by tax or NI is being spent today on benefits and the NHS. And the cost of both welfare and NHS is going up
faster than the income. There is no pot for your retirement. There is no pot for when you have an accident and need help.
Just like my household finances, it is not sustainable to spend more than you earn. We have to square that circle somehow. But we live in a democracy. To quote Churchill,
“Democracy is the worst form of government, except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time.” As a result, if I form a political party that will balance
the books by cutting spending on the three biggest costs to the state (NHS, welfare, defence) and at the same time increase taxes (Corp Tax, VAT, income tax and NI), I reckon I would garner about three votes at the next election. All the while we live in a democracy with elections every five years, painful decisions will not be taken for fear of
losing power. Equally, long-term decisions will not be taken as the horizon extends only as far as the next election.
Incidentally, the poor didn’t cause the deficit. The politicians did. They spent money on things we couldn’t afford, which have included the banks, the NHS, the banks, the
welfare state and the banks. Oh, and the banks. Problem is, moaning about that won’t get that money back – we’ve got to figure out how we fix the problems we have. We can
certainly start by not making the same mistakes again (so make sure that all kids are taught history and economics in school, really well). But beyond that we need some new
ideas, some of which might be painful and unpalatable – like increasing taxes (hated by the right) AND cutting welfare/NHS (hated by the left). As for the banks – tricky. You
see, if we let them go under and force the shareholders to take the rap, we suddenly realize that we’re all the shareholders, either as taxpayers because the nation owns some
of the most crippled banks or in the form of our pensions and savings. And, as the Cypriots have found, you may suddenly find your savings disappear/diminish if your banks go under. Hmm. Not so easy to solve that, is it? Best pump some money in to stop them falling over…. oh, shit, we’re back to square one.
So, I propose the following manifesto points for the Uborka party. Others may have other views. YMMV.
1. Replace the current system with benevolent dictatorship. That would get round the short termism and populism. A benevolent dictator will know when to pass the baton. I’ll go
first. And I can promise that power will not corrupt. Absolute power will not corrupt absolutely. Honest.
2. Get involved. Things won’t change if we just sit idly by. That doesn’t mean you have to be an MP – maybe a parish councillor; or member of the school PTA; perhaps the
committee that runs your local social club. Doesn’t matter what it is – get up and do something constructive. You don’t have to run the thing – simply rocking up for your
school PTA and making the teas will be a start.
3. Be nice to each other and to the world. Being unpleasant to the world means that your home and place of work – and that of the people you love and care for – is diminished.
4. Work hard. But enjoy life too. Most things are improved by a smile. Try it. By working hard, you will improve your own lot – and, the better your own lot, the more capable
you will be of helping others/improving the world.
5. Save when you can. You’ll need it one day and don’t reckon on the state having the resources to help you in any meaningful way (ponder the demographics of the UK and work out how many wage-earning tax payers there will be by the time you reach retirement age – doesn’t look good, does it?). But put it in a bank in a sound economy, not the UK. Maybe get some clever people together to try and figure out how to fix the
banks properly, whilst you’re at it.
6. Come up with ideas. Invest in them emotionally. Defend them. Then be prepared to reconsider if it looks like you might be wrong. Our politicians would be generally better at their jobs if they did this.
7. Grow something. The world is calmer around plants. It helps you realise that, even though the world is changing, some things have been much the same for a very long time. Life begins. It blossoms. It produces seed for the next generation. It dies. It helps you take a longer view. You’ll need that.
Sunday 12 August 2012
On the Olympics medal table
So, the Olympics are over and Team GB (that’s the team of sportsmen and sportswomen from the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland – Team UK would be so much better) has been placed third in the medal table according to the BBC (official broadcaster for the Olympics) – and I assume they get their information from the IOC.
|3||Great Britain & N. Ireland||29||17||19||65|
I feel uncomfortable with this. The tabulation is determined by the number of gold medals awarded. What happens if you order it by total number of medals awarded?
Britain would move down to fourth, with the Russians taking their place at third. The Canadians, with 18 medals, would suddenly shift from 36th place to 13th. The top ten would look like this:
104 medals – United States
87 medals – China
82 medals – Russian Federation
65 medals – Team UK
44 medals – Germany
38 medals – Japan
35 medals – Australia
34 medals – France
28 medals – Italy
28 medals – South Korea
Surely, the best system would be to give points, three for gold, two for silver and one for bronze. Then you would get this:
225 points – United States
190 points – China
155 points – Russian Federation
140 points – Team UK
85 points – Germany
67 points – France
66 points – Japan
65 points – Australia
62 points – South Korea
53 points – Italy
Other idle thoughts:
USSR – 47 golds, 44 silver, 73 bronze (302 points).*
European Union – 92 golds, 104 silver, 107 bronze (591 points).**
* – I’ve included Russia, Kazakhstan, Ukraine, Belarus, Azerbaijan, Lithuania, Georgia, Uzbekistan, Latvia, Armenia, Estonia, Moldova and Tajikistan.
** – of the EU nations, only Austria, Luxembourg and Malta did not win any medal.
Of course, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania couldn’t be in both Team EU and Team USSR. Between them, they won three golds, two bronze and four silver (19 points). But, however you look at it, Team EU scored more than Team USSR and Team USA put together.
Oh yeah, this blog is still alive.
Thursday 23 July 2009
Why I’m not convinced by the swine flu stats
Hels and Tom both have colds. I’ve had a bit of a sore throat, but it hasn’t come to anything.
When they first went down with a little lethargy, sore throat, snuffliness and all the other usual symptoms, we immediately thought that our turn might have come for swine flu. If it had, we wouldn’t be too worried – we’d get our way through it and get it out of the way. Unpleasant and inconvenient, yes, but probably not life-changing. For the vast majority of people, it’s just a nasty bug.
So, given that, Hels called the doctor. We’d heeded the advice not to actually go to the surgery and it seems our local surgery is well-prepared. Our doctor was able to take Hels’s call (not just the receptionist team) and talked through the symptoms. She (our doctor) seemed a little fed up with the Government’s diagnosis-by-checklist approach. Hels described her symptoms, including her temperature of 37.8 Celsius. The doctor laughed and said that, given her symptoms and according to the checklist, Hels did not have flu but had a cold. If, however, her temperature had been 38 Celsius, that woud have been enough.
So we are carrying on life pretty much as normal. Hels has taken a little time off work (heavy colds tend to knock her down a bit anyway due to previous illnesses in her 20s). But we are not putting ourselves into quarantine.
What I wonder is this: given that our doctor is aware that this cold bug is going around at the moment, how many of the 100,000 new cases this week really are H1N1 flu and how many are just summer colds? Are we getting false information and is the Government making decisions based on that? What will happen if/when we actually get real flu later in the year?
As an aside, the Government gave advice last weekend (as reported by the BBC) that expectant mothers and mothers of under-5s should stay away from crowds. I presume they haven’t visited your average ante-natal clinic lately, because they are never crowded, obviously. And, what of fathers of under-5s? Presumably, if they stayed away from crowded places (like shops, offices, railway stations and workplaces) the economy would grind to a halt.
As Hels put it – the Government takes the nation to war but can’t seem to work out what to do about a virus.
Thursday 4 June 2009
Putting an X
Not sure who to vote for in the European election? You’d do worse than to take a look at VoteMatch.
Wednesday 3 June 2009
On the European elections
It’s the European elections tomorrow.
Given that going to the polling station and placing an X should be compulsory (with the added provision of a none-of-the-above option), what choice is there for a euro-enthusiast in the UK?
Here’s my understanding:
- Labour: policy seems to consist of deferring any decision or committment to Europe for ever, because if you always have to decide tomorrow, then you never have to decide at all. But then, given the current mess of the domestic Labour party, I wouldn’t trust them to decide how to get out of a paper bag.
- LibDem: nominally the most pro-euro of the three main parties, but with some quite clearly bonkers policies, most notably the idea of a referendum on EU membership. I can’t quite understand the need for this – allegedly it is to highlight the benefits of membership, but surely we can do this without such silly and unnecessary brinkmanship? But I think they’ll do well this weekend.
- Conservatives: can see the benefits of being in the EU, but want to renegotiate the terms of the UK’s membership, presumably to make the UK even more semi-detached. Committed to oppose the Lisbon Treaty and committed to never signing up to the euro. And probably not to Schengen either. So, let’s be totally and utterly semi-detached with no influence on the way the EU is run – clearly bonkers, as how can you change and improve something you perceive as flawed if you don’t get involved in running it? It’s like the man in the Dog and Duck who always says that “they” should do something about it. Unless you are one of “them”, then you can’t do anything.
- Libertas EU: Declan Ganley’s plaything, easily confused with the completely bonkers perma-tanned Kilroy-Silk’s madcap adventure (which was called Veritas). Although portrayed by the media as an anti-EU party, they are, in fact, pro-EU. But they want to completely redefine the EU – and show a basic misunderstanding of how the EU works (that is, that a massive chunk of EU power and decision making actually comes from the Council, not the Commission, and is therefore made by elected politicians – national leaders and cabinet members). I don’t think that there is any doubt that the EU needs some reform, but I’m not sure that this is the right model.
- Green: again, a reform-heavy agenda. But their manifesto states that they are opposed to the euro and opposed to the Single Market and intend to levy more taxation in international trade. Surely these policies (certainly the last two) combined with their desire to break up “large” companies, thereby destroying economy of scale, would be so disruptive to commerce and trade that they would seriously damage the economy – and it’s probably not a good time to be doing that. Also, they want to encourage the “individual and household economy” which sounds like a way of encouraging so-called grey or black market transactions – completely outside the scope of the taxation system. The problem with that is that, somehow, they have to pay for the environment and social welfare policies (free care for all elderly persons, regardless of wealth, anyone?). This way financial ruin lies – even worse financial ruin than that we already have.
So, I’m stumped. I want to vote for a pro-Europe, pro-EU, pro-euro party. But I don’t like any of the options available. Any ideas?
By the way: I will be flying an EU flag at our gate tomorrow. If my neighbour can put up BNP posters (I’m not kidding), then it seems the right thing to do.
Saturday 28 February 2009
Geoffrey Smith, RIP.
I remember watching Geoffrey Smith’s World Of Flowers when it was first broadcast, although I can’t have been more than 11 or 12 at the time. It was a stunning series, years ahead of its time. Now we are used to series (often on BBC4) that tackle a subject in depth with lots of footage shot on location around the world and fronted by an expert who is passionate about their subject and gets their message across through sheer force of personality (I’m thinking of people like Jim al-Khalili and Rageh Omaar). That series was a great influence on me, tackling a different genus in each episode and getting across the personality of the plants concerned, the people involved in their introduction and development in cultivation and the places and locations from which they originate.
It would be going too far to say that the programme had a direct influence on my choice of future career (other circumstances in my life had far greater influence), but it was certainly in the background. I hope that they repeat it soon as a tribute – it would be of interest to anyone, not just gardening enthusiasts.
Wednesday 4 February 2009
End of an innings
Good to hear on TMS that the players in today’s test are wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.
Wednesday 7 January 2009
Lewes District Council is making a big fuss about street names. They want to sanitise them by using a pre-approval process for new names to rule out anything that might have a double entendre (even if unintended) or that might be "aesthetically displeasing".
What a load of nonsense. Lewes DC is LibDem controlled and this is a poor advert for them. It smacks of pettiness and small-mindedness.
There are many names which have heritage value that could certainly be considered rude now. I used to havea girlfriend who lived at Crouchers. Just down the road was a country hotel that used the name Crouchers Bottom, which had been the name of the property for hundreds of years. In Sussex, there are plenty of Bottoms (valleys and dips). There is also a Gay Street (homophobic?), Black Down (racist?), the river Uck (yes, the signs get defaced all the time – boring, kids, not funny any more). Lewes itself sits on the River Ouse – it doesn’t really ooze anything and it isn’t a particularly attractive word (it’s just an old word for river), but nobody would want to change it.
It’s a dangerous policy. There is an area of Southsea which features the unbelievably tedious names of Harold Road and Trevor Road – so called because, before it was developed, the land was owned by a family with these names. The area adjoins Fawcett Road which has a pub at one end – you guessed: The Fawcett Inn. More entendres than you could shake a stick at. But I suspect that these aesthetically displeasing names were just fine when they were new – language and attitudes change with time.
And do we really want to have a bunch of wholly anodyne names for roads? Downs View is incredibly over-used in this area. Around Chichester, anything to do with the local heritage (Roman history, the Cathedral, motor racing at Goodwood and local flying aces/aircraft of World War Two) gets used time and time again. Or you end up with a situation like that at Kings Hill (what used to be West Malling airfield) where all the roads are named for varieties of apples - braeburn, russet, worcester and bramley – or old aircraft – typhoon, tempest, anson and stirling. They soon merge one into the next in the warren of identikit houses.
Perhaps there should be pressure on developers to be original. Maybe they should be made not to repeat a road name that has already been used in the same district. That would certainly get rid of the Downs View/Street/Road/Close problem. But it might lead to things like the road near my parents’ house called Syke Cluan Close (apparently, it is named for a place in Scotland, although Google draws a blank) – not relevant to the local area, hard to spell for the locals, but certainly original.
Any funny names up your way?
Friday 2 January 2009
It only took until around 7.15pm today, 2nd January, for me to say to Hels: "bloody hell, the year is flying past already!"
2009 is certainly going to be interesting, potentially dramatic and quite possibly bloody terrifying. As Gordon put it, we will all get there by the end of 2009, but it might be useful to know where "there" is.
Meanwhile, we have "reduced lighting" in our conservatory as the electricians have been (i.e. my father and brother) in preparation for the replacement of our conservatory this week. You’d think that replacing a conservatory would not be something to tackle in times of financial uncertainty, but this qualifies as a distress purchase due to the fact that water has been pouring in and it is about to collapse. It’s only costing us <cough> thousand pounds, but it does mean that we are the conservatory company’s new best friends. It will, at least, let in more light and reduce drafts – so we should be more energy efficient, at least by a small bit.
Other thrift measures in place include:
- taking a permit to saw down trees in a well-known National Forest and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty in order to get cheap fuel for our home (and to wind up passing dog-walkers/conservationists);
- thinking about laying more insulation in the loft;
- starting work on the allotment – potatoes are currently chitting on my office floor and a big box of seeds lies ready. But we need to do more digging yet and also source some poo;
- encouraging Tom to use the loo instead of nappies – he is late at making this transition, but shows no enthusiasm for it;
- installing a new, energy-efficient washing machine (another distress purchase – water flooded across the floor and the engineer scratched his chin and sucked on his teeth, just as the warranty had expired);
- enjoying days out that consist of walking with occasional added pint/coffee, or heavy use of the National Trust card;
- DartTag – £1 instead of £1.50. It’s the way ahead, and it makes a groovy BEEEEEP noise and makes the barrier go up all by itself.
Are you saving cash?
Sunday 27 April 2008
…and so, as the labrador puppy of time scampers off with the toilet roll of destiny, it’s time to bid the whining little child of show-business adieu once more…
Sunday 13 April 2008
Remote central London
Reading this news story, I wondered this: given that we are supposed to be living in a surveillance society, with CCTV everywhere, security guards, 24/7 policing, anti-terror alerts and all the rest, how can one of the biggest, busiest stations in one of the biggest, busiest cities in the world have "a remote area" where a body might lay undiscovered for several days. Based on the information currently reported, it appears that this man went to that spot to end his life – what if he had gone there to plant or prepare a bomb?
Wednesday 12 March 2008
Meanwhile, Matt the Bakiwop is walking for President.
Monday 3 March 2008
Pilot to tower: I think we’ll go round again.
EDIT: it’s a shame that the BBC edited this – early versions online had nothing but the ambient noise of the roar of the wind and the plane spotter’s sharp intake of breath. I don’t need Huw Edwards to tell me what is happening.
Thursday 24 January 2008
Here are a couple of stories for people who like pro-biotic yogurts:
Activia maker to be sued for false advertising – no clinical proof that pro-biotics do you any good, according to the suit.
Meanwhile, in the Netherlands, Yakult should be investigated by the government health authorities because it could kill you.
Graybo says: Eat more mushy peas.
Wednesday 16 January 2008
Evil BBC picture editor – still at large?
Thursday 15 November 2007
British nuclear weapons were enabled and disabled by a bike lock key. How very British – just as it should be.
Three Gorges Dam causes geological deformation. No surprise really – the weight of water is bound to have this effect.
Graybo updates Amazon wishlist. Christmas is coming, geese need fattening. Or just send cash:
Friday 19 October 2007
A very funny man
Monday 15 October 2007
Brought to justice
Chichester rapist found guilty and sentenced. I think I blogged about these cases when I lived in Chichester. One attack took place on a lane where I walked frequently, another only yards from one of my clients.
Friday 7 September 2007
Nay, nay, nay, Mr Wilks!
Ronald Magill, RIP. I have never been a soap fan, but my childhood memories of Emmerdale consist almost entirely of Amos Brearly uttering the above words.
Monday 30 July 2007
Mike Reid, RIP.
Of course, those of us of a certain age remember Mike Reid much more for this than for EastEnders. Did anyone ever actually understand the rules of Runaround?
Tuesday 24 July 2007
Brighton stadium gets go-ahead. Although the idiots at Lewes DC could still put a spanner in the works.
Even so, I’m off to do a little happy-jig.
Thursday 12 July 2007
Badger badger badger badger yurk!
Lady Bird Johnson, RIP.
Lady Bird Johnson, RIP.
An early proponent of environmental awareness, Lady Bird Johnson co-founded the National Wildflower Research Center in Austin, TX, which was later renamed in her honour. The Center has done much to increase understanding of North American flora and to promote its preservation. It has an extensive wildflower garden and wildflower reserve attached, and has been a place I’ve wanted to visit for many years.
Tuesday 26 June 2007
The other half of the story?
You will have seen the media coverage of the Silver Ring Thing case currently in the High Court. The Ministry of Truth looks a little deeper and finds that it may not all be as certain sections of the media have portrayed it.
I am quite content to keep my child as far away from all forms of religion as is possible, at least until he has developed some critical analysis skills and can make up his own mind. I’m increasingly convinced the religious organisations, particularly those of an Evangelical nature, are just as scheming and devious as politicians.
via Iain Dale.
Friday 25 May 2007
Pallant House wins Gulbenkian Award. I’ve long admired Pallant House, but the extension is truly splendid and makes it one of the finest galleries I know anywhere. Well worth visiting if you’re in the area.
Thursday 3 May 2007
Vibrant local democracy
I’ve just been for a short stroll across the Ruralville village green to the Village Hall. There, I placed two Xs on a ballot paper (I always find multiple choice questions to be much easier), reflecting my views on local issues and not on national ones.
Ruralville is a small ward, with around 250 voters. Voting here is never a chore, as there is never a queue and the short stroll is a chance to enjoy the view down the valley, admire the spring colours of the trees and listen to the cuckoos (birds, not politicians). The two ladies looking after polling today were not anticipating a high turnout (“we spotted you coming across the green, so we had a moment to hide our teas and paperbacks!”), although I did find another voter entering as I left the polling station, doubling the turnout.
The question is, in a district where the council has been held by one party for 37 years, is it important to vote? Well, clearly the answer must be “yes”. If you are a supporter of the incumbents, then it is important that they have a clear mandate from the electorate to carry out their policies. If you do not support them, then clearly the only way to force change (excluding the possibility of riots on the streets or showering the local council offices with manure) is to use your vote and support an opposing candidate. And, since this is about local politicians applying policies at a local level, issues such as war, income tax and the NHS shouldn’t really come into it.
So, no matter what your politics are, if there is voting to be done in your ward today, go and use your vote. If you don’t and I then catch you moaning about some aspect of local services, don’t be surprised if I come round and give you a stern talking to.
Monday 16 April 2007
Hulking Edward, not Graham
I read this headline and got entirely the wrong idea.
Friday 6 April 2007
Brighton announce £2.2million trading loss. The pressure of being without a ground is really showing and surely the team can not continue in the long term with a strategy of survival-by-selling-the-family-silver (where family silver equates to the team’s best players).
Wednesday 4 April 2007
Thursday 29 March 2007
Another sporting ground crisis
With all the problems that Brighton and Hove Albion have had in securing a decent home for their team and fans in recent years, you’d think that the authorities in Brighton would have learned that they need to give more support to their local sports teams.
But it seems that that is not the case. Sussex County Cricket Club, a championship-winning team that is very active in the community, is having problems seeking permission to redevelop its Hove ground. Only the circumstances this time are slightly different. In the case of the football team, an asset-stripping owner and management sold off the family silver and nearly consigned the club to oblivion, leaving them desperate to obtain consent for a new out-of-town venue. In the case of the cricket club, the management are clearly keen to stay at their historic home in the centre of Hove, convenient for locals and public transport and an important part of the community. And yet the council seems reluctant to support them in this.
Ultimately, I think it quite possible that the cricket club will leave Hove. There has been talk of them moving to Crawley, which would certainly put them closer to visiting fans from Surrey, north Kent and Middlesex, whilst still being handy for trains from Brighton and Hove. Sale of the site in Hove would raise an enormous sum (and lead to not just redevelopment of part of the ground, but the entire ground). A new stadium in Crawley would be good for the club, but there would be one big loser – the city of Brighton and Hove.
It is time for the authorities to realise this and support their local sport teams.
Sunday 25 March 2007
Ode to Joy
The EU is fifty years old today. The BBC has some good coverage of the celebrations and the history.
Wednesday 21 March 2007
Dick Knight irked by Rafa Benitez
Not interested in football? Look away now.
Dick Knight furious over Benitez comments about reserve football. Brighton has long had a strong reserve team that has been an important proving ground for new players and a good place for seasoned players to gain experience or get match time when, for example, returning from injury. Brighton also has strong youth teams too and uses the entire structure to develop new talent, which is useful when the purse for buying-in talent is small (both in terms of saving money by "growing your own" and by earning money by selling players on). Maybe Rafa needs to come and spend some time with some of the smaller clubs and see what real-world sport is about, and perhaps remember Liverpool’s history of transferring talented players developed by lower teams (think Mark Lawrenson).
Wednesday 7 March 2007
EU business loses out because we shout and point
An EU study says that businesses are losing thousands of euro of business due to poor language skills. Not surprising, really, although I have to say that I’ve found it to be exceptional that a business I’ve dealt with has not had a fluent English speaker (and I’ve dealt with thirteen of the 27 nations), except in Spain which seemed stuck in the dark ages when I visited last year. Having said that, it is presumptuous and perhaps short-sighted of UK-based businesses to rely on the superior education systems that exist elsewhere and that give most Europeans educated in the last twenty years at least a basic grasp of English.
Drug bars and property prices
Hmm. Is it odd that I should read this news article and ponder what impact it might have on property prices? And I’m not sure about the Belgian idea of logging foreign number plates, as it is likely I will be driving along the roads between Maastricht and Tongeren and Lanaken complete with GB sticker.
Community Club of the Year
One in the eye for Lewes DC.
Saturday 3 March 2007
So, aside from it being a tax on aspiration as well as a tax levied on those whose home has increased in value without them moving house, what’s to stop the über-rich at whom this headline-grabbing proposal is aimed from renting a home in the UK and actually having their main home (and, presumably, their principal tax liability) in some other country? Remember Mick Jagger in the Seventies? He moved abroad primarily to escape the punitive taxes on the rich, taking much of his money with him – and money held overseas can not be taxed in the UK, so the Treasury actually loses out, not gains, from such a policy.
Tuesday 13 February 2007
The Grauniad on Gillian McKeith and celebrity nutritionists
Sunday 7 January 2007
Saturday 30 December 2006
Between a rock and a hard place
The US has found itself in an unenviable position regarding Saddam Hussein. It would have been far more convenient, from their point of view, if he had died during the initial fighting concomitant to the invasion – I am sure that is why they expended considerable resources on trying the achieve that end.
However, having survived and then subsequently being captured, he was always bound to be a problem for them. Firstly, there was the problem of bringing him to some sort of justice – either in Iraqi courts, in US courts or in an international court. As the US continues to ignore the ICJ, the Iraqi courts always seemed the most likely venue – but without using the independent ICJ, it was always going to be open to accusations of being victor’s justice.
Secondly, once the inevitable guilty verdict had been found, there was the problem of what to do with him. Alive, albeit in prison, he could always remain the focus for protest and the hopes of his sympathisers. Dead, he has the potential to be seen as a victim or martyr, particularly by the Palestinians whom he supported. At least, after death, he is unable to make pronouncements, lead protest or be a general pain in the backside for the Americans and the Iraqi government.
The question must be: is it right to kill someone simply for reasons of political expediency? Surely, by doing so, the US and Iraqi authorities (and, by association, the British government with its so-called ethical foreign policy) sink to the same level as the dictator who also killed when it was expedient to do so. (And, is it right to produce television footage of his death for publication? Surely that is a breach of the Geneva conventions, although I suspect the Americans would argue that they do not apply in this case).
Monday 25 December 2006
Soul Brother Number One
James Brown, RIP.
Thursday 21 December 2006
Saparmurat Niyazov, RIP?
Friday 8 December 2006
Oh dear. Every man of Indian descent must be wincing in the knowledge that this story is currently the most popular on BBC News. And it looks like a BBC wag was the author of the article, with phrases such as
Sunday 3 December 2006
You may have seen today’s news about a large fire at a fireworks warehouse in East Sussex, with its sad outcome.
Our home is approximately 10 kilometres from the site of the fire. We had already heard distant sirens as fire crews and ambulances headed for the scene (although at that time we had no idea what the cause was). Then the house was rocked by a massive blast – big enough to shake the whole building, scaring up the cats and local birds and causing at least one other of my neighbours to come out to see what had happened. Goodness knows what it must have been like to be closer to the explosion.
Friday 1 December 2006
Wine tasting classes
The French governing party, the UMP, has suggested that children should be taught to appreciate wines when in school - which doesn’t strike me as half as daft as it might first appear. I’m not sure about wine alone, but there could be something in encouraging kids to learn more about art, literature, architecture, food and drink – to be able to critically appraise it and understand its origins. Of course, some of this sort of stuff is taught already as part of a wider education, but I know from my own industry that plenty of kids seem to come out of school with no idea where food comes from, what art is “about” and why architecture is important. Even my own wife can’t tell the difference between sage, marjoram and tarragon growing in our herb trough outside the door.
I have no doubt that having a greater understanding of these things helps you to look beyond yourself, understand the world around you and further appreciate the inter-relationships between so many things in life. That has to be no bad thing, in my view.
Anyway, in other news we have today found out that we will not be liable for Capital Gains Tax when Hels finally sells her flat in the spring, which means that we are tonight celebrating with gin and tonics, noting the subtlety of the fine gin, the delicate tang of the quinine and the sharp twist of lime (or getting drunk, you decide).
Tuesday 28 November 2006
Note to self: write long post about self-regulation of blogs and why it will never work; why the current libel, race and discrimination laws should be sufficient; and how people clearly don’t get it.
Friday 24 November 2006
The loss of two voices
Two great voices have been lost to us in the last few days.
Nick Clarke, RIP.
Wednesday 22 November 2006
On rural housing
The BBC have been running a series of articles recently on housing issues. Today’s article is particularly good and deals with the issue of rural housing and, in particular, social housing and the sustainability of communities. It is by Moira Constable, chief executive of the Rural Housing Trust.
As someone who has spent a large chunk of my life living in small to medium sized villages, this is an issue about which I feel strongly. I particularly like the way that Constable highlights the fact that social housing actually does much to preserve those aspects of rural life that attract the wealthy (a village pub, cricket team, local shop, etc.). I really hate it when small villages are preserved in aspic – they become ghettoes of the wealthy. My parents live near the village of Slindon, much of which is owned by the National Trust. The NT has done much to try and preserve the village in a timewarp, with very little new development and tight restrictions on alteration of existing properties. There aren’t even any overhead cables or phonelines – everything like that must be hidden from view. The consequence, in my view, is that the village, whilst pretty, is now so expensive that no local person could afford to buy property there. I’m sure the average age of the population must be increasing significantly, year-on-year. A few years ago, the village shop and post office closed because it was no longer profitable – it has now been bought and is operated by the village residents as a non-profit organisation because the services it provides are so vital to the community.
I’m not saying that these villages need massive new housing developments. As the article says, sensitive and small developments are more in keeping with their environment and can still provide the sort of housing that is needed. But it is no only rented or shared-ownership housing that is needed, in my view, but also modestly-priced housing on the open market. All too often, due to pressure from parish and district councils and the profit-driven motives of the developers, four and five bedroom homes only are built in small developments whilst smaller houses only appear in the large (usually fairly unpleasant) developments on the edge of town (which are often just as remote from amenities and services as rural communities). Perhaps there should be tax incentives to landowners to develop one and two bedroom flats and cottages, which is exactly what used to be built when landowners had to provide housing for their workers before public social housing came along.
Tuesday 21 November 2006
- Grunty Muck-Lane has a rant about people getting his name wrong. I have the same problem with Graeme Spenser.
- Towns across Europe are removing road signs, wholesale. The Dutch, in particular, are less profligate with road signs than we are in nanny-state Britain, but Hungary tops the list of countries I have visited recently for roadsignlessness. via linkbunnies.
- Looks like we need to buy one of these now that Tom has discovered forward gear when crawling. I’ve been sitting in the conservatory typing this and he has just got halfway here from the living room to see what I’m up to. And I’ve noticed that he is useful for getting the dust from under the stairs – it’s only a matter of time before I can start sending him up chimneys.
- America may finally embrace a dollar coin. About time, in my view. I think there will soon be some enthusiasm here to see the £5 and €5 notes replaced with coins, as they get tatty so quickly.
Friday 27 October 2006
Thursday 26 October 2006
This story sounds awfully familiar. Our home is heated with bottled gas which is even more expensive than either bulk-delivered LPG or oil, the options described in the article. Each bottle costs us nearly £40 and, in deep mid-winter when there is nightly frost, we can get through a bottle in six days. Do the maths. We can’t upgrade to either of the bulk options without investing in a (costly) tank plus associated plumbing. You find that, after the first bill arrives, you quickly learn to put on a thicker sweater insted of turning up the thermostat. Our wood-fuelled stove is also a great friend.
In addition, as the article hints, those of us living in rural areas, even though we are only a short distance from two small towns, have to use cars every day as there is no realistic public transport alternative. There is a weekday bus, but it runs only once per hour, goes only to one of the neighbouring towns and starts too late and finishes too early to be of any value to commuters. Bizarrely, it calls at the nearby railway station before coming to our village, so you can’t use it to hook up with the rail service. I’ve never actually counted them all, but our road consists of 31 properties but yet must be home to at least sixty cars. Parking is a nightmare.
Now, I’m not expecting government handouts to help us out (although there could be more help to encourage people to insulate their homes and make them more fuel-efficient – this would both help them financially and reduce emissions). But a realisation of the problem in government and elsewhere would be a good thing. As suggested in the article, villages like ours are often home to those on very low wages (farm workers, for example) and how they manage, I really don’t know (actually, I do – they have wood-fuelled stoves and take wood home from the farm as a "perk". But that doesn’t heat your water or cook your dinner).
Monday 23 October 2006
I’m still not convinced that SatNav is a good idea. Here is more evidence to prove that I’m better off with a map.
Tuesday 19 September 2006
I’m planning to travel to Budapest on Thursday. I think I need to keep an eye on the news in the meantime.
UPDATE: latest news suggests that, whilst there is a large peaceful protest near the government buildings, the violence is quite small scale and can be likened to the "poll tax riots" of the Thatcher years – in other words, mainly confined to one square. I’ve been checking carefully and my hotel is at least two kilometers away from the trouble, so I still intend to travel unless there are significant developments overnight. However, I was planning to take an evening stroll to explore the centre of Budapest, which I may now forego and put off for another occasion.
Friday 15 September 2006
Another distinctive voice lost
Raymond Baxter, RIP.
Monday 11 September 2006
On "significant" dates
We have a friend who is heavily pregnant. Her baby was due last week, but (assuming no change since we spoke with her on Saturday) has yet to arrive. She was very concerned that her baby might arrive today, as there might be some sort of stigma or ill-fortune associated with being born on such an inauspicious date as the eleventh day of the ninth month.
Personally, I find that very hard to understand. If this held true, then the seventh day of the seventh month might also have negative connotations, particularly for Londoners. Equally, going back further in history, September 3rd might be considered a bad day (Great Britain declares that it is at war with Germany, 1939), along with December 7th (Japan attacks Pearl Harbor, 1941), August 6th (Enola Gay drops an atomic weapon on Hiroshima, 1945) and April 20th (Adolf Hitler born, 1889). And that is just taking a single cultural reference point. Naturally, from other reference points (let’s say, randomly, the history of the nation of Uganda) other dates will become important (January 25th – Idi Amin seizes power in a coup, 1971).
My point is that this is all very arbitrary and irrational. There is very rarely any significance in a date in terms of the effect that the events of previous years have on the events of years to come. Even with significant dates for religion, which might conceivably be celebrated in years to come, the authorities have a knack of screwing it up (Jesus was not born on December 25th and his death is celebrated on a different day every year).
And what of people who were born on September 11th in years before 2001? Aside from perhaps finding that their party was a bit of a damp squib that year, are they now forever stigmatised by the event? Somehow I doubt it. I used to know someone who celebrated her 40th birthday on August 31st 1997 and was mightily annoyed that the radio was full of mournful music and there wasn’t a celebratory mood (Diana, Princess of Wales, had died in a car accident in the early hours of that day). I suspect that her 41st birthday and every subsequent year has been celebrated with gusto without so much as a thought for the late princess.
In the particular case of September 11th, I’m doubly annoyed by people who are in some way frightened or disturbed by the date. Not only is it irrational and illogical, it also lends a small success to those who perpetrated the attacks in the US that day.
So, if that baby is born today, welcome to the world. The day you were born is not so important as what you do with the days that are ahead of you.
Wikipedia – September 11 in history.
UPDATE: unless it all happened very quickly in the evening, the baby was not born on September 11th, as nothing had occurred by 6pm.
Sunday 3 September 2006
I’d just like to point out that I don’t know anybody who might have a legitimate reason to go to the DEFRA website in the course of their work, who might then be slightly amazed at the arrogance of an online "public consultation" ("the citizens WILL do this, the citizens WILL do that") and who might then tip off a well-known political website about it.
Nope, nobody that I know.
EDIT: global media coverage.
Wednesday 16 August 2006
Three thousand and twenty seven
This government has made 3027 new offences since coming into office in 1997 (more than 330 per year), compared with just 500 or so introduced under John Major (roughly 100 per year) and the rate of introduction is increasing.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just wade through some red tape to the kitchen and fill out an application form to make myself a cup of tea.
Thursday 10 August 2006
Pointless. Useless. Bound to sell shedloads.
In other wireless news, my high gain antenna has boosted the signal in my office from around 48% to about 65% and resulted in only one dropped connection since installation. So I think we can consider it a qualified success.
Friday 21 July 2006
I always find this sort of news story interesting:
William West, 76, of St Helen’s Park in Hastings, had been with his wife Kate, 26, at their holiday home in Gambia.
The couple were on a day trip to Senegal when he disappeared after going into a shop on his own on 3 July.
Sussex Police said Gambian police had contacted them after a body was found. Four people are helping authorities abroad with their inquiries.
A spokesman for the Sussex force said the four people were a 26-year-old woman and three men.
With the information released and the tone of the reporting, we are led to believe, as readers, that the wife has bumped off her husband in an African country. Our imagination takes us on to the notion that she might have done it for the insurance money or to escape an unhappy marriage of convenience. Perhaps she chose an African country in the belief that the criminal investigation system there might not reach her. Already, we’ve bounded to the conclusion that she is guilty – we have been conditioned to do so by years of this sort of reporting and our own prejudices.
The truth, of course, could be vastly different. He may well have been the victim of a random attack. He could have died from some entirely non-violent cause. She may be as innocent as a newborn lamb, truly distraught at the loss of her husband. In fairness, we can not say because we are not party to all of the facts and won’t be until the trial (if there is one) is reported in due course.
Tabloid journalism has a lot to answer for. We assume guilt too often.
Thursday 13 July 2006
Looks like I started something here. My comment at number 2. Comment 73 puts the same idea that was in my head in far better terms. I’ve submitted other comments to the Nick Robinson blog too, but none have been published (yet?).
Thursday 6 July 2006
North Korea in pictures
A fascinating set of photographs of North Korea (albeit with slightly flawed translation of captions) via the linkbunnies. The original article has much longer captions but these are only useful if you can read Russian.
Reminds me of Fraser’s North Korea expedition.
Monday 3 July 2006
Fred Trueman, RIP. Peerless.
Tuesday 20 June 2006
EU wrestling with age-old ideas – which goes to prove that there is nothing new under the sun.
Saturday 10 June 2006
The Seagulls Party is formed to contest local elections and by-elections on a platform of supporting the new Brighton and Hove Albion stadium at Falmer. I don’t suppose that they will put a candidate up for Ruralville (we’re too far away), but if they do then they’ll get my vote.
Tuesday 9 May 2006
Air-sea rescue in need of rescue?
I’m not sure that I understand the logic behind the Government’s proposed part-privatisation of the maritime air-sea rescue service.
Anyone living on the south coast will be familiar with the sight of India Juliet rumbling her way up and down the seafront in the summer, dragging ill-prepared and half-witted individuals from the water. From my parents’ home, she can regularly be seen; when I lived in Chichester, very rarely she would come into the city to drop a “passenger” at St Richard’s Hospital. She makes for a strangely comforting sight.
The rescue service has been somewhat fractured for years, partly run by the Navy, partly by the Air Force and partly by the Coastguard themselves. I can see good sense in bringing the entire service under one control, probably the Coastguard. What I can’t understand is the minister’s assertion that the proposal will provide good value to the tax payer. Surely, if we must pay a private company for the helicopters and then lease them back, they (the private providers) are making a profit at the tax payer’s expense which, if it was under direct government agency control, we would not have to incur. Compared to some other capital projects where private finance might be involved, the sums here are relatively small.
Having said that, PPP or PFI has facilitated some capital projects in other areas of government that might never have got off the ground otherwise, so it may work. From my untutored position, I’m just not sure that it is the most effective method in this instance.
Tuesday 18 April 2006
I’m not sure that I follow the logic that is suggested in this news report that a speed camera in road works is not there to reduce speed but to increase revenue.
Have you ever walked on a motorway? I have. I had the misfortune to breakdown on the M27 once and had to walk about 500 yards to an SOS phone (this was in the days before mobiles). It is not a pleasant experience.
Each year, many people are killed on the hard shoulder in similar circumstances. The news article gives figures for the number of road workers killed and injured each year. I never feel any envy for the blokes putting out cones and signs when people are passing them at 80 – 90mph.
Speed limits in roadworks are there for the benefit of those people working to maintain the roads you drive on. There is a simple and effective way of reducing the danger to them and avoiding getting a speeding ticket and penalty points – SLOW DOWN. There, it’s not rocket science. Leave ten minutes earlier, check the web for roadworks information, use any of the dozen or so mobile advice services (they are free on my phone).
Incidentally, I saw a very effective use of technology recently to overcome the perceived problem of bunching and "panic braking" (which is caused only by those who think it is smart to speed up between cameras, because the speed limit only counts where you might get caught, obviously). On the roadworks on the A1(M), they have erected the cameras that read your number plate when you enter a section of road and read it again when you leave (the section of road in this case being the three miles or so that are currently being resurfaced) – and, by so doing, calculate your average speed on the section. I only saw one speeding driver (who deserved his ticket) – everyone else was observing the 50mph limit without bunching or panic braking and the traffic was moving freely – probably adding only a couple of minutes to the journey time. Perhaps this type of camera should be more widely used instead of the familiar Gatso.
Monday 10 April 2006
Two items of food-related news (I don’t post anything like enough food news items here):
- world’s most expensive sandwich goes on sale. I like the sound of this. Of course, it’s a splendid publicity stunt and well done to Selfridges for coming up with it, but I would like one. Or two.
- we’ve just booked to go to Preuvenemint, (one of?) the largest food fairs in the Netherlands. This strikes me as an excellent plan – food and Maastricht in one go – hurrah! Sadly, we can’t find a decent hotel in the city – it seems that they are either all booked up or have trebled their prices in anticipation of the crowds (or both) – so we’re staying at a lovely auberge across the border in Belgium.
Friday 7 April 2006
Stuff in the news
Well, EURid has put the .eu domain registration process into the LandRush phase. I made my application some weeks ago (on Valentine’s Day, in fact) for a domain for my company under the Sunrise procedures (having a prior right as being a registered limited company under UK law), but have had no acknowledgement and no news. Should I be panicking? I tried to look it up on the EU WHOIS site (which is where the EURid site suggests I should go in order to track my application), but the server that runs that is clearly melting in some office somewhere in Europe. (In this case, it’s Diegem in Belgium – did you know that there is great competition to host EU offices? The French will battle with the Germans and the Spanish and all the other nations to host EU offices – which is why I spend a lot of time in communication with an EU department that resides in a rather grand converted hotel in the French city of Angers. But do you ever hear of British towns and cities battling for these honours? No, because the British tend to be happier sniping at the EU from the sidelines rather than actively getting involved, thereby missing a great opportunity for prestige and employment. Ooops. Ranting. Sorry.)
Meanwhile, north of the border, the avian flu strain H5N1 has been found in a dead swan. The police are reminding citizens to report any dead swan, goose or duck, or any three dead birds in the same place, to DEFRA. What they forget to say is that DEFRA is woefully under-resourced (it’s not health or education, so HMG doesn’t throw money at it), so I forsee a situation very soon wherein the inspection services will be under immense strain (they are already) and will draft in support from every other department within DEFRA. So my local PHSI (Plant Health and Seeds Inspectorate) guys will be sent off to some dingy hotel somewhere, given a crash course in avian flu diagnosis, and sent out to farms. Of course, as plant health guys, they have no jurisdiction and no powers and can’t actually do an awful lot – they won’t even be able to impound birds. Sound implausible to you? Well, it is exactly what happened during foot and mouth a few years ago – PHSI was denuded of staff (they already are terribly under-staffed as it is) who will have to work very long hours achieving not an awful lot.
Whilst all this is going on, Mrs Housewife will stop buying chicken and eggs, spurred by horror stories in the Daily Mail, and agriculture (which is already struggling terribly – oh, sorry, that’s not newsworthy at the moment, is it? – you know, the fact that HMG has promised to pay grants to farmers who have made their business plans on that basis, but have yet to actually deliver money that was due months ago, leaving farmers with huge debts to the banks and no income) will become even more depressed. Gah.
So, this weekend – get a British chicken, have a roast with some British veg. You’ll enjoy it and you’ll help a farmer somewhere (particularly if you go to your local farmers’ market and buy direct).
UPDATE: I managed to get on to the .eu WHOIS, although it is mind-numbingly slow, and it shows my domain name as "application pending". The application and documents have been received, although they are yet to get beyond the "Initial" stage (i.e., the documents are in a filing cabinet and nobody has looked at them). The good news is that I am the only applicant for my requested name. Yay!
Friday 31 March 2006
I hate stories like this one. Look – the sample was of 46 (count them: forty-six) women aged between 23 and 83. Assuming an even spread of ages, only 5 or 6 were under the age of 30, which, I dare say, is an age group with fewer personal committments such as husbands or children that might rein in their more liberal attitudes. So it is barely surprising that 90% of those surveyed are quite conservative in their views.
Go away, researchers – come back when you have something useful to say.
Thursday 30 March 2006
Wrong runway is no joke
Everyone seems to be treating this story as a bit of a joke – a pilot landing on the wrong runway seems like a cause for mirth, with passengers recounting amusing anecdotes of finding themselves in the middle of an army base. But I think people are missing the point.
The pilot had no clearance to land his aircraft at the army base. If, as he’d been bringing the aircraft in to land, there had been another aircraft on the runway, or a vehicle crossing it or even some fixed object in the way, the consequences could have been disastrous for all concerned – it certainly wouldn’t have been one of those "And finally…. [chortle!]" stories.
Clearly, either the systems need to be improved to ensure that this sort of error can not occur again, or the existing systems need to be more rigorously enforced. I guess we will have to wait until the outcome of the enquiry to find out which is the case.
Monday 20 March 2006
Tuesday 7 March 2006
Mud, mud everywhere, mud, what’ll I do?
Ivor Cutler, RIP.
Thursday 2 March 2006
Tessa Jowell didn’t know. So that’s ok then. Clearly, if Hels suddenly came into £344,000, I’m sure she’d keep that sort of information to herself. And I probably wouldn’t notice if our mortgage was suddenly paid off.
I’m glad that’s all cleared up then. It’s good to know that our government ministers are cleaner than the proverbial.
Tuesday 28 February 2006
Time wasting no more
Linda Smith, RIP. Terribly sad – my favourite female comedian.
Sunday 5 February 2006
Al Lewis, RIP.
Monday 30 January 2006
Christopher Lloyd, RIP.
Wednesday 18 January 2006
Use a pseudonym on the net? Leave comments on blogs or newsgroups? Well, you could be in trouble with the law.
Under new legislation recently signed by Dubya, it is now an offence to “cause annoyance” on the internet without disclosing your true identity. So if you flame someone on a site, perhaps in their comments, and do so using a pseudonym, then you could be liable for fines or up to two years in the clink. Sledgehammer and walnut, anyone?
Wednesday 11 January 2006
I’ve recently read Andrew Marr’s excellent book about journalism, My Trade: A Short History of British Journalism, in which he talks about the media’s tendency to exaggerate a story, taking health scare stories as an example. There’s an excellent example around at the moment, that of Avian Flu H5N1. Now, I’m not suggesting complacency at all, but I think we need to get a better perspective on this story. The health officials are happy that the virus does not currently pass from person to person. In fact, it may never pass from person to person. So far, there have been only 156 human cases worldwide resulting in 77 deaths. Now, if we take the population of the planet to be 6 billion, that means that 0.0000026% of the population has contracted the disease and 0.0000013% have died from it. That’s one person in 77 million who has died. For comparison, in a much shorter timeframe, SARS infected 8096 people and of those 774 died (WHO figures) – roughly one person in every eight million.
For further comparison, the World Health Organisation has figures that show that 1.2 million people were killed in road accidents worldwide in 2002 alone (the most recent figure I could find). That’s 0.02% of the population or one person in 5000. Of course, many more were injured.
The number of people dying from preventable diseases, malnutrition, lack of clean water and AIDS/HIV is even higher than these figures, yet avian flu is the story that dominates the headlines. Because these other problems are not perceived by the media as immediate, exciting or dramatic, they rarely make the news headlines. Dramatic stories, no matter how over-blown, are the stories that take the lead and make the front page – because the media needs sensationalism in order to sell newspapers/get viewers/get listeners. I suppose you could argue that we, as consumers of news, are responsible for this. Discuss.
Sunday 8 January 2006
Tony Banks, RIP.
I always admired him for being genuinely enthusiastic about sports and caring particularly for grass-roots sport, not just the big teams (even as a Chelsea supporter). You can’t help but think that he would have loved this weekend’s FA Cup matches (which were one in the eye for the Independent’s comment that there are no shocks any more) and must have really been looking forward to the Olympics in 2012. A sad loss for sport.
Thursday 5 January 2006
Not quite right
Something struck me as wrong about this article:
Sounds plausible at first sight, until you consider that the toll gates on the southbound bridge (as opposed to the northbound tunnel) are at the southern end of the bridge, so do not have any impact on the number of vehicles entering the bridge span. Many times I have been using the Crossing on my way home during rush hour and have been caught in queuing traffic on the bridge itself, the queue caused by vehicles waiting to access the toll booths. Does this mean that, next time I’m stationary on the central span, I should start worrying about whether the bridge is going to collapse? Or is the minister trying to wriggle his way out with a rather lame argument?
Monday 19 December 2005
Hoogstraten criminally responsible for Raja’s death, says the High Court – according to the Raja family’s lawyer, the evidence suggests that Hoogstraten is a psychopath.
Maybe now there will be some sort of justice for the Raja family?
Friday 11 November 2005
Pat Robertson tells residents of Dover, PA, that they have forsaken God by forcing a school board out of office because they endorsed so-called "intelligent design".
I’m not a Christian, but I went to a Christian school. There I learnt that the Christian God is a merciful one. So, let’s take these ridiculous assumptions as being true:
- God exists.
- Pat Robertson is right about intelligent design – evolutionary theory is heretical claptrap.
- Some naturally-occurring disaster befalls Dover.
What will happen? The all-forgiving God will forgive the people of Dover on judgement day. The American nation will come to their aid (even if the American government is a bit slow off the mark) in their time of need. Robertson will burn in hell for preaching such un-Christian hateful nonsense.
How does this man get the support (and money) of so many Americans? Are they really that stupid, ignorant and small-minded?
Friday 28 October 2005
Yesss! Prezza approves Seagulls’ stadium plans. At last! The right decision, in my view – and no doubt influenced by the excellent campaigning by the club and fans.
Also: Seagulls build new nest.
And: Seagulls official homepage reaction. First match at the new ground in 2008.
Tuesday 25 October 2005
Handy tips for anyone considering murder
Tip #1: it isn’t a good idea to attempt to dispose of the body by burying it in concrete as it will probably be found.
Tip #2: it isn’t a good idea to attempt to move the body by carrying it as a pillion passenger on your motorcycle.
That is all.
Thursday 20 October 2005
A sports round-up (which you know means this post will only be about the important issues of Sussex County Cricket Club and Brighton and Hove Albion FC). Switch off now if this doesn’t interest you.
ECB bans James Kirtley from bowling after an investigation into his bowling action. Not the first time. See also:
- Kirtley’s uncertain future
- Kirtley case not unique, says Angus Fraser (so why has he been investigated twice now?)
- Banned Kirtley vows to clear name – as well he might, but it can’t do much for his spirit or morale.
- Sussex CCC official statement
In other, happier news, Brighton recorded their first away win of the season against the old enemy, Crystal Palace. A shame, then, that the event was marred by violence outside the stadium. I think that both teams should be working with the police to identify the trouble-makers and impose a lifetime ban on entry to either team’s matches.
Sunday 16 October 2005
High altitude express
Setting aside the political issues, which are, of course, not to be dismissed lightly, the completion of the world’s highest rail route is a pretty impressive feat of engineering. It’d be great to take a trip on that, and I’m sure the Chinese government has one eye on (tightly controlled) tourism as well as tighter control of the populace.
Tuesday 11 October 2005
Citizens should report unusual bird deaths, but not "any old sick pigeon".
Hmm. How long before panic sets in? I’ll bet that poultry sales are going to start dropping off pretty soon.
H5N1 – the bird flu blog.
The Flu Pandemic Preparedness Snowball – a remarkably level-headed discussion of what governments should be doing and, more importantly, what you and I should be doing.
Tuesday 4 October 2005
Nurse Gladys couldn’t save him
Ronnie Barker, RIP.
Friday 30 September 2005
The truth will out
I’ve lost count of the times that the Home Secretary has denied on TV, radio and in the press that there is a shoot-to-kill policy against suspected terrorists in London. Today, it has been revealed that the head of the Metropolitan Police, Sir Ian Blair, has effectively curtailed the investigation into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell tube station. In a letter he wrote to the Home Office explaining his reasons for this, he said:
Will the Home Secretary now admit that there is a shoot-to-kill policy? Will Sir Ian stand down? Will the IPCC now be allowed to carry out a proper investigation?
Somehow, I get the feeling that we’re looking at no, no and no again.
Friday 23 September 2005
Wednesday 21 September 2005
On this day 50 years ago, the Admiralty announced the annexation of Rockall – the last expansion of the British Empire.
Surely there must be something laying around that we could annex now? We need more useless lumps of rock.
Monday 19 September 2005
Why I think that PR is not a good idea
Germany faced with days or weeks of political uncertainty after CDU wins election by only three seats.
Meanwhile, half-way around the world, New Zealand faced with days or weeks of political uncertainty after Labour Party wins election by only one seat.
In both cases, we see either a situation where a minor party representing a tiny minority of voters holds the balance of power (with the result that their policies become the policy of government) or two major but diametrically opposed parties attempt to create a government together (resulting in impasse and conflict).
In a society reliant on personality and soundbite, consensus politics seem unlikely ever to be successful. Whilst first-past-the-post is seriously flawed, I think it offers a better option than the forms of PR employed in the above two nations which are leaving them with weak government or power disproportionately offered to the smallest minorities.
Monday 5 September 2005
Katrina and the US media
Matt Wells: Has Katrina saved the US media?. Interesting, although it would have been good to have had a non-US assessment of the state of the american media with regard to domestic issues before all this, um, blew up.
From Our Own Correspondent at 50 – featuring a selection of the best articles from the last fifty years.
Friday 2 September 2005
Read this: the LiveJournal of a New Orleans resident who is still there, working to keep 800,000 websites up-and-running with a diesel generator on the 9th floor (hauling diesel up the stairs) whilst barricaded in against the looters (and, it seems, the police and military) – and reporting the actual situation on the ground, as relayed to him by friends and supporters elsewhere in New Orleans.
The situation is utterly chaotic and the authorities are going to have some really difficult questions to answer. Remember, George Bush Sr.’s popularity ratings fell dramatically after the public perceived a slow response by his White House in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, with forces at that time maintaining the new and controversial no-fly zones in Iraq.
As a taster, here’s a recent entry relating the situation as described to him by his friend "Bigfoot":
It’s been 3 days, and the buses have yet to appear.
Although obviously he has no exact count, he estimates more than 10,000 people are packed into and around and outside the convention center still waiting for the buses. They had no food, no water, and no medicine for the last three days, until today, when the National Guard drove over the bridge above them, and tossed out supplies over the side crashing down to the ground below. Much of the supplies were destroyed from the drop. Many people tried to catch the supplies to protect them before they hit the ground. Some offered to walk all the way around up the bridge and bring the supplies down, but any attempt to approach the police or national guard resulted in weapons being aimed at them.
There are many infants and elderly people among them, as well as many people who were injured jumping out of windows to escape flood water and the like — all of them in dire straits.
Any attempt to flag down police results in being told to get away at gunpoint. Hour after hour they watch buses pass by filled with people from other areas. Tensions are very high, and there has been at least one murder and several fights. 8 or 9 dead people have been stored in a freezer in the area, and 2 of these dead people are kids.
The people are so desperate that they’re doing anything they can think of to impress the authorities enough to bring some buses. These things include standing in single file lines with the eldery in front, women and children next; sweeping up the area and cleaning the windows and anything else that would show the people are not barbarians.
The buses never stop.
Before the supplies were pitched off the bridge today, people had to break into buildings in the area to try to find food and water for their families. There was not enough. This spurred many families to break into cars to try to escape the city. There was no police response to the auto thefts until the mob reached the rich area — Saulet Condos — once they tried to get cars from there… well then the whole swat teams began showing up with rifles pointed. Snipers got on the roof and told people to get back.
He reports that the conditions are horrendous. Heat, mosquitoes and utter misery. The smell, he says, is "horrific".
He says it’s the slowest mandatory evacuation ever, and he wants to know why they were told to go to the Convention Center area in the first place; furthermore, he reports that many of them with cell phones have contacts willing to come rescue them, but people are not being allowed through to pick them up.
via the LinkBunnies.
Update: the BBC’s Alistair Leithead reports from the Convention Centre and reinforces much of what Bigfoot says.
Further update: the BBC’s Robert Plummer reviews the likely economic impact of Hurricane Katrina. As usual, the poorest will be the hardest hit but all Americans will feel the impact in some way. And, as we all know, if the Americans sneeze, the world catches cold.
Thursday 1 September 2005
So many things to write about…
…but not enough time at the moment. Maybe later, or over the weekend, I’ll tell you about my thoughts on Ken Clarke’s speech today and on the state of American society when armed looters fire on Navy rescue helicopters in New Orleans. But I will give you this snippet from today’s Horticulture Week (yes, it’s as exciting as it sounds):
"Having a specially named tulip in John Peel’s honour seemed a nice way to keep his name and musical innovation linked together," said Spalding Flower Parade chairman David Norton.
Yes, clearly, because tulips are often linked to musical innovation. Except in Max Bygraves’s case, that is.
Wednesday 31 August 2005
Bad statistics and binge drinking – as much a commentary on sloppy journalism as anything.
Follows on nicely from a discussion we had at the weekend over dinner when a friend revealed that his doctor now considers him a problem drinker just because he said that he’d had quite a bit to drink at a dinner party recently. We concluded that, as with estimates on spending by one’s spouse, doctors take your admitted level of alcohol consumption, add five and double it.
Example: a wife comes home with a new handbag and says "it only cost £20" – the true cost was £50 (20+5=25; 25×2=50)
Example: you tell the nurse that you usually drink 10 units per week. They write down "drinks 30 units per week" in your notes, thereby making you a problem drinker. (10+5=15; 15×2=30)
Apparently, Ken Clarke is unspinnable, according to his aides. I reckon that is because of too little exercise, too many cigars and too much whisky.
He certainly can put the fear into New Labour. But he is also likely to be a competent and safe leader for the Tories and that counts for a lot in politics (even if it is something that wouldn’t have been thought of ten years ago). A strong and competent leader is what the Tories need, because opposition parties don’t win elections – incumbents lose them.
Monday 29 August 2005
Friday 26 August 2005
To make up for the lack of airport blogging (due mainly to my tardiness in getting to the airport on both the outward and return legs of the journey, thereby depriving you of an interesting commentary on the new Pier 6 of Gatwick’s North Terminal – which is gorgeous, by the way – or a long ramble about the flight out which was one of the most turbulent I’ve ever experienced and has left me with a rather stiff neck), I’ve culled a few interesting snippets from the news:
- Doctors should be bold and honest with patients and tell them about the "lack of benefit" from homeopathy, says an article in The Lancet. Astonishly, the best response the homeopaths can come up with is
It has been established beyond doubt and accepted by many researchers, that the placebo-controlled randomised controlled trial is not a fitting research tool with which to test homeopathy.
Say again? What they mean to say is "we refuse to accept scientific means of testing the efficacy of the treatments we promote as being valid". If their methods do not stand up to rigorous testing, then they have no validity or purpose. Period.
- Meanwhile, the latest installment of this website’s occasional Mad Despot Watch reveals that our old friend President Niyazov of Turkmenistan has banned lip-synching in his country. Dear old Turkmenbashi wants to protect Turkmen culture from "negative influences". Personally, I think we’ve just found the best person for the job of producer for Top Of The Pops.
Tuesday 23 August 2005
Harold Evans on the US government’s attitude to science. Worth reading.
Friday 19 August 2005
Mo Mowlam, RIP. I can’t see the PM not turning up for this funeral. But he never fails to amaze me, so anything is possible.
Madeleine Peyroux "disappears" – probably to go and hide for a few months after the quite dire performance she gave for Top of the Pops the other day. She’s got a voice, for sure, but she doesn’t seem to have stage confidence judging by that showing.
Tuesday 16 August 2005
Victor Meldrew Michael Buerk says that women have too much power in society, citing the increasing influence of women at the BBC.
Hmm. Let’s just do a quick headcount of all the female presidents and prime ministers around the world. And also the female company directors (increasing, but still a minority). Yes, more products, policies and thinking are geared towards the needs and wants of women, but I don’t feel like an "unemployable sperm-donor making the house look untidy" yet (although Hels might think otherwise).
EDIT: Buerk "bonkers" according to Anna Ford.
Thursday 11 August 2005
BBC picture editor and breasts – again
Tuesday 9 August 2005
Work in Progress
From Peter Day’s excellent Work In Progress articles for BBC News online, a comparison of Tesco home-delivery services and Waitrose/Ocado.
Thursday 28 July 2005
Interesting to read the comments from readers of Slugger O’Toole. There seems to be a huge amount of cynicism about the IRA’s stated aim of ending violence and non-peaceful activities. I hope the cynics are wrong, but I suspect that the Unionists will only be satisfied by proof in the form of actions (or inactions, as the case may be).
Green Flag Award
Most people understand that the Blue Flag is given to beaches that meet certain standards. But did you know that there is also a Green Flag? Parks and other public open spaces are judged on the criteria of
- being welcoming
- being healthy, safe and secure
- being clean and well maintained
- conservation and heritage
- community involvement
I’m not familiar with all, or even many, of those that have been awarded the flag this year, but the few that I do know are certainly the sort of places where you can imagine going with the family for a Sunday afternoon. Worth checking out.
We’ve had a bit of rain here over the last few days, and very welcome it is too. The grass is definitely greener and the plants are generally perkier.
But try to imagine what it is like to live and work somewhere when 26 inches of rain falls in one day.
Friday 22 July 2005
Not Afraid Tube Challenge
You know, I’m half-tempted to have a go at this. Problem is that I have to be in the Netherlands at the end of the last week in August. But it could be fun to do.
Thursday 21 July 2005
Chocolate store supplies film stars
…as well as providing wedding cake for a famous blogger and his wife.
Well, maybe not famous.
Wednesday 20 July 2005
He cudnae take nae more
Tuesday 19 July 2005
Unbelievable nonsense 2
Teachers want to replace the word "failed" with "deferred success" when marking pupils’ work and papers.
WTF again?? Does that mean that, when the guard on your morning train tells you that the "train has failed" (I’ve always loved that phrase), what he in fact means is that the rolling stock is merely suffering from deferred success. Genius.
Monday 18 July 2005
I’ve just watched Channel 4 News, in which they revealed that they had "found the shop where the London bombers bought their rucksacks!"
Cut to exterior shot of a branch of Blacks outdoor-type shop and aerated reporter breathlessly telling us that this "reflected a pattern of the bombers buying what they needed over the counter" (I paraphrase). The reporter helpfully went on to say that a representative from the store chain had told reporters that they had withdrawn the type of rucksack used by the bombers.
WTF? Firstly, do the media expect us to think that the rucksacks were especially shipped in from Afghanistan for the purpose of bombing? Secondly, do they think that we are somehow going to be reassured by the fact that the particular rucksack has been withdrawn? I mean, clearly it will now be much harder for a bomber to carry out a similar attack if they can’t get that special bomber’s bag.
The reporter went on to tell us that the bombers also bought plastic containers from a nearby garden centre ("for less than a pound!"), but by that point I was fed up and left the room before I put a boot through the TV screen.
I used to expect good things from Channel 4 News. Clearly I should expect only Daily Mail-style sensationalism now.
Thursday 7 July 2005
Thought for the day
Poached shamelessly from 2lmc:
Just as well…
…that this happened today and not yesterday, otherwise the Olympics would probably not be coming to London.
EDIT: when I wrote that, the reports were of a power surge that had left a few people slightly injured. Now a full picture is emerging that is much more disturbing. My cousin and several friends work in the area targeted by the bombers. I’m really quite worried and the reports of eyewitnesses give little encouragement.
FURTHER EDIT: all safe and well.
ADDITIONAL EDIT: the media keep talking about the low levels of fatality. But I can’t help thinking that that is optimistic. Surely the triage operation at the scene will have left the dead laying where they were whilst the efforts were focused on the injured. It’s hard to imagine what the bombers hoped to achieve by this.
LATER: My fears have been realised with reports giving the number of dead as between 33 and 41. I suspect that figure may rise. As for the reaction, I think that Ken Livingstone got it right by saying that this was an indiscriminate attack on all Londoners. George Galloway got it wrong – many people might agree with his opinion, but to voice it today is distasteful and shows a lack of compassion for the bereaved and injured.
LINK: With so many bloggers in the world now, there is often one of our number present at a major news event. Justin survived and recorded his experience.
Wednesday 6 July 2005
I’ve just heard that London has won the Olympic bidding process – and how did I hear? Not from the BBC – their server has given up the ghost. Not from Ananova or Reuters, who haven’t updated their pages with the news. I heard from LinkBunnies – officially first with the news.
Anyway, well done to the London bid team. I’m not sure if it is all a good thing or a bad thing – it’s probably good. I also think that I’ll start planning to be abroad whilst it is taking place.
EDIT: This Isn’t London comes out of hibernation to list the major new infrastructure projects the announcement brings forward:
Monday 13 June 2005
Tim Yeo says that there are too many potential candidates for the Tory leadership. The BBC estimates that there are "at least eight candidates". One commentator in the Independent at the weekend put the figure at eleven.
Under party rules, in order to stand for the leadership a candidate must present a petition bearing the signatures of twenty MPs. MPs may not sign the petition of more than one candidate. There are currently 197 Tory MPs. 11 candidates. Do the maths.
Tuesday 7 June 2005
Am I the only one struggling to see a positive benefit overall from a price-neutral introduction of road pricing? The arguments are pretty well documented in this BBC article – it seems to me that it would only move the problem, not remove it.
The only way to effectively reduce car use is to make it signifcantly more expensive, but that would be so unpopular with the electorate and would also have such a negative impact on the economy that no government is ever likely to introduce such a policy. The marginal increases in costs that we’ve seen over the last couple of years as fuel costs have increased has not really had that much of an impact – it needs a substantial increase in costs to really hit home.
Tuesday 10 May 2005
Work in Progress
Work in Progress column by Peter Day. Definitely worth reading and watching.
Monday 9 May 2005
Wild flower survey
The new edition of the Vascular Plant Red Data List for Great Britain has been published. Whilst there are some positive news points there, it generally makes fairly dismal reading – a large number of plants that were familiar during my father’s childhood are now very much threatened. Hopefully, the list can be used as a tool to improve conservation measures, as well as directing research to areas where it is most needed (a quick scan of the list reveals that our understanding of montane species is pretty poor, for example).
Friday 6 May 2005
Just you watch…
My bet – Tony and Gordon will move for a referendum on the euro as soon as the Conservative leadership contest turns nasty – assuming it does (most previous contest have done so), which may be why Mr Howard has given the party space to bring in new rules in an attempt to smooth and hasten the process.
Right, election over. Move along. What’s next?
On the subject of the election result, I can’t see last night’s outcome really changing anything. The Tories certainly didn’t make any spectacular gains that are worth mentioning (at least in terms of share of the vote), whilst the LibDems continued their steady improvement and have certainly done more to be taken seriously as a proper third party. For Labour, the fact that a lot of the Blairites have disappeared will weaken the leader, but probably not sufficiently to change his plans regarding stepping down.
As I see it, the opposition parties still have a lot to do to be in a position to replace Labour in 2009. Or, more likely, Labour have yet to make that really big cock-up that will lose an election (although they’ve made some fairly horrendous cock-ups so far).
Thursday 5 May 2005
Our challenge this morning has been trying to decide how to vote in the county council election. Labour aren’t really an option, as the council has only ever been either LibDem or Tory. The Tories are the current incumbents.
Having studied the literature, I can find hardly any differences in policy at a local level. The main one I have found is that the LibDems oppose the introduction of charges for local car parks, whereas the Tories would rather introduce them and reduce the Council Tax – either way, you end up paying for the car park somewhere. Also, there is a rather complicated argument about the local planning process which essentially boils down to the LibDems wanting to keep the existing cumbersome and expensive process or the Tories wanting to spend a lot of money to change it – either way, it ends up costing us somewhere.
On balance, we feel that it comes down to track record and, put crudely, the Tories have increased the Council Tax more slowly during their period in charge than the LibDems did when they were in charge. Services have also improved and a few niggling local issues seem to have been sorted out.
So, it looks like a split ballot for me – different Xs on each of the two papers. But at least I can feel safe in the knowledge that I’ve voted locally in the local election and nationally in the national election. I encourage you to do the same.
Oh, and another factor – only the Tory county council candidate bothered to visit Ruralville (or our home at least) – so we can be sure that he knows we exist out here.
UPDATE – H has been to the polling station already and caused quite a stir, being the only voter there and causing palpitations for the rather elderly polling station officers who clearly are not used to such glamour so early in the day! I’m on my way there now.
Monday 2 May 2005
Protest or ignorance?
Interesting – the Protest Vote Party. I’m not sure that suggesting that people put their X against the PVP simply because they do not know enough about the candidates and their policies is really going to encourage them to do so – in fact, I think that such a suggestion is more likely to deter those who have rejected the other candidates after thorough consideration.
Tuesday 26 April 2005
Unscientific BBC survey suggests that fewer people are putting up party posters in the run up to this election than in previous years. There certainly seem to be plenty around here, although red seems a rare colour.
Interestingly, party political posters are exempt from the Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) Regulations 1992 (my favourite piece of legislation to flout, as regular readers will know) provided they are removed not more than 14 days after the election.
Sunday 24 April 2005
Sir John Mills, RIP
Sir John Mills died yesterday at the age of 97. I always think of him saying something like "you simply have to, old bean, you simply have to!" or some other such earnestness whilst sitting in the tail gunner’s seat of a World War 2 bomber. His characters always seemed to be earnest. Perhaps that was my own misconception.
I remember one evening, many years ago, going into the Bell pub in Chichester. The Bell is directly opposite the Festival Theatre. As we walked in, my friend Louise was in a bit of rush, not really looking where she was going, and careered straight into John Mills as he was coming out. Neither party was injured.
Thursday 21 April 2005
Meddling but not changing anything
Michael Howard says that, if the Tories are elected, they will raise the Stamp Duty threshold to £250,000. He stated today that, when Labour came to power, the average house purchased produced a Stamp Duty bill of £900. Today, that bill is £1800. His proposal would reduce that bill to nil for all houses below £250,000.
I think this policy is flawed.
The principal reason that individuals, couples and "hard working families" struggle to purchase a home is not Stamp Duty, but spiralling house prices. At present, there is a definite pressure on prices of properties around the Stamp Duty threshold that was announced by Gordon Brown in the budget. Properties that might be offered at £160,000, which includes a lot of smaller and first-time buyer properties are actually being sold at or below the "150,000 threshold. Dramatically increasing the threshold might save those families a few hundred pounds in Stamp Duty, but it will take the lid off of prices and ultimately cost them more.
The real problem is with housing policy. The Labour party proposes to offer more low-cost and subsidised housing to this ridiculous group known as "key workers". This does nothing other than add fuel to the market by taking many low-cost homes out of the general market pool, denying them to all the other "hard working families" who work in offices, shops and so on, but are not key workers. As any half-witted economist will tell you, reducing the supply always has the result of increasing prices.
In my opinion, the way to make housing affordable to more people is not to tinker with Stamp Duty. Abolish it, perhaps – that would have a zero effect on the market – but I don’t see HMG abandoning that source of revenue. The way to make housing more affordable is not to subsidise certain groups when they purchase property – that, in fact, has the opposite effect. The only way to improve the position of house buyers is to increase the supply of housing by relaxing or changing planning laws and increasing the number of new homes being built, as well as encouraging older homes to become available in the market again. Increased taxation on second homes that are not rented out (we must encourage a strong rental market) would also discourage second home ownership or alternatively raise revenue from those who are the owners of multiple properties that are denied to the general market.
To me, it seems so obvious, yet neither Labour nor the Conservatives can do more than make policies that generate cheap pulbicity.
Tuesday 19 April 2005
Boris on the doorstep
This story made me laugh until there were tears in my eyes. Why would anyone toothbrush their caravan?
Monday 18 April 2005
For those who, like me, are considering not voting or spoiling their paper in the forthcoming election: Not Apathetic.
I’m under some pressure from my wife to "vote properly". I can understand her reasons for this, and feel strongly that I have a moral responsibility to attend the polling station. But without a "none of the above" option, is it right that I should put my vote against a party or candidate whose policies I do not support?
Friday 15 April 2005
Today is the 63rd anniversary of the award of the George Cross to the people of Malta in recognition of their bravery in the face of consistent attacks from the Italian and German forces in World War 2. It was the first time that the award had not been made to an individual. It is hard to imagine how they coped with six months of continuous air raids, living underground for long periods in caverns they had cut from the limestone themselves and surviving on very meagre rations. How would you cope with that?
You may not be aware that the aerial defence of Malta was initially led solely by just three aged Gloster Gladiator biplane aircraft – no Spitfires or Hurricanes here – that were nicknamed Faith, Hope and Charity. The bravery and determination of their pilots and ground crew resulted in the attackers losing several aircraft and consequently believing that the island had substantial airborne defences. As a result, there was no marine invasion of the island, which surely would have been successful and would undoubtedly have changed the course of the war in the Mediterranean.
Wednesday 13 April 2005
|Liberal Democrat 17|
|UK Independence Party -9|
You should vote: Liberal Democrat.
Take the test at Who Should You Vote For?
Hmmm. But I don’t agree with PR, which is a bit of a sticking point with the LibDems for me.
link via Steve.
Monday 11 April 2005
Gordon gives a thoughtful discussion of the Spoil Your Vote campaign. I strongly feel that we should have a system in this country that is similar to that in Sweden – compulsory voting for all citizens (subject to a fixed financial penalty and combined with the introduction of more accessible secure voting methods) but with the addition of a "none of the above" option. Not that that idea on its own would solve the problem of people spoiling their paper or abstaining through laziness or ignorance. It is, at least in part, the duty of politicians to motivate the public to vote. In some instances, a minimum turnout is required for a vote to become valid – so it is not only the responsibility of the parties to win a majority of the vote but also their responsibility to motivate people into placing their X. Perhaps a combination of obligatory voting to motivate the people and a minimum "turnout" in the form of papers showing a cross against a candidate instead of abstention to motivate the candidates might, when taken together, lead to more meaningful results.
Thursday 7 April 2005
Doing your own thing
From this week’s Horticulture Week:
The article does not go on to say what "doing your own thing" actually means. Suggestions?
Sad loss of a horticultural hero
I’m a week late with this, but I’ve only just heard – Alan Bloom, possibly the greatest perennial plants advocate and enthusiast of the 20th century, has died aged 98.
Alan Bloom was a great influence on me as I came into the horticulture industry. I’ve read most of his books, including the excellent Plantsman’s Progress, which covers not only his background in horticulture, but also his relationships with parents and children, touching on Fenland life. His enthusiasm and passion for perennials, illustrated by the way he developed a large perennial-growing nursery at a time when shrubs and low-maintenance gardens were the fashion, as well as his co-founding of the Hardy Plant Society, were rewarded with an MBE as well as the two highest honours in horticulture – the Veitch Memorial Medal and the Victoria Medal of Honour.
He cut a slightly eccentric figure. His hooped earrings and long flowing hair marked him out as slightly different from most (rather staid) horticulturalists. He had a passion for plants matched only by his passion for steam power (he collected many engines for his museum at Bressingham, Norfolk). He was also a Quaker and, judging by his autobiography, something of a rebel who was not afraid to stand up against the "perceived wisdom". He did much to popularise perennials, both through his media appearances and also through his development of the "island bed" technique of displaying them, and it is probably fair to say that I might not be doing what I am doing today if it had not been for his efforts in this field.
There were to be special open days of his Dell Garden at Bressingham Hall this summer for the HPS. Knowing his great age, I had planned to attend in order to meet the great man before he died. Unfortunately, that opportunity is now lost. Instead, a tribute day will be held there on 21 June to celebrate his life in the garden he created, a garden which features some of the 200 or so plants that he bred and developed. Some of those plants are growing at my parents’ nursery, and I’ll be planting one or two in the garden here.
Wednesday 6 April 2005
Falmer factor in election
Brighton stadium plans are a factor in the election in the region. Of course, given Brighton’s recent form, the Withdean might well be big enough for a Conference side. Gah.
Tuesday 5 April 2005
BBC election blog
Q: What swimwear do the party leaders wear?
A: According to the Independent diary, the leaders told the Easyjet in-flight magazine that Mr Blair sports surf-wear, Mr Howard doesn’t know, and Mr Kennedy replied "Speedos, I think." Speedos?
Could prove to be informative and amusing. However, other election blogs are available.
Sunday 3 April 2005
Law in action
Saturday 2 April 2005
Schiavo case divides America
Karol Wojtyla, RIP. What’s the reckoning that the Beeb had the obit ready some time ago?
Friday 1 April 2005
Not sure what the EU Constitutional Treaty really says? Confused by the rhetoric and argument emanating from politicians? Then download the full text, all 485 pages of it, in a handy 2MB PDF file.
And I’ll hear no more discussion of the matter until you’ve read it all!
A little bit of politics
Who knew that it was so easy to set up a political party? According to this BBC News article, all you need is two people, a constitution and £150! So, if anyone wants to join with me and form The Arty Farty Party (and has £150 laying around), then let me know. I will, of course, be Supreme Leader For Life and you can be Chief Minion. Our policies will have a broad appeal and include
- free Smarties on the NHS
- beer hydrants in every street
- an increase in spending on public gardens
- twenty seven new bank holidays
Any other policy ideas?
Never mind all the feeble speculation in the media about who should be the next Who (I favour Moira Stewart, or maybe my father in law – or both), the question we should be asking is this – who will be the next Pope?
I’d love to have a go at a job like that. Firstly, I’d issue a few papal edicts for a bit of a laugh – things such as "the pious shall hop on their left foot on Tuesdays" and "the Lord favours those who wear blue socks". But, after that, I’d dismantle the whole ridiculous edifice and give the accumulated wealth that the Catholic church possesses to those who really need it.
What would you do if you were in the Papal shoes?
Thursday 31 March 2005
Live long and prosper?
Pill could extend life by thirty years. If this did come to pass, it would obviously only be affordable by the wealthy, so would increase social division. Not only that, but it would only work if people were in gainful employment for those extra years – no use expecting your pension fund to keep you going for all that extra time.
Wednesday 30 March 2005
Thief makes magician’s rabbit vanish. Genius.
Tuesday 29 March 2005
…due to being away from the laptop, either due to work and non-work committments or due to DIY and gardening tasks, some of which resulted in downtime on my internet connection whilst cables were taken out of the way to facilitate painting. Anyway, since we last spoke, H and I have:
- demolished the wood store in the garden
- extended the outside dining area around the barbeque
- created a new small flower bed by the outside dining area
- planted various plants including Brachyglottis, Cytisus, arum lily (Zantedeschia aethiopica Crowborough), Oenothera, Osteospermum, a cardoon (Cynara cardunculus), burnt-sugar bush (Cercidophyllum japonicum), magnolia (Magnolia stellata), two clematis (the varieties Henryi and Piilu) and assorted herbs
- sown seeds of coneflower (Rudbeckia) and sunflower
- painted the woodwork on the stairs, in the porch and in the master bedroom
- painted one interior wall of the conservatory – aqua, for turquoise fans
- painted the troughs along the side of the house and part of the summerhouse
- visited Borough Market and the Saatchi Gallery
- spent a day with the in-laws/family.
The garden is certainly beginning to take shape now, particularly as the seeds that were sown last week are beginning to sprout. I’m fairly sure that there are going to be too many of some plants if all the seeds germinate – our small garden is unlikely to be able to accommodate 70 sunflowers – so some judicious thinning-out might be called for in a few weeks time (I expect I might be able to donate some seedlings, if they come out of the ground in good shape, to Sil – depends how they all grow). We also feel like we have made some progress on the house, although we have at least two more full days of painting in the conservatory and porch, just to complete what we have started. The bathroom and kitchen have both been put on the back burner for the time being – maybe we will tackle them as autumn projects before the dark nights set in.
There will be photos, certainly of our trip to the South Bank, and possibly, if I get round to taking some, of the garden.
Also, since we last spoke, my parents’ MP has caused a furore in the Tory party by speaking his mind and then standing his ground – more on this when I have a moment.
Wednesday 23 March 2005
Note to self: research further proposed liberalisation of EU services market and possible implications for PFE. Also, look up Polish PM’s comments on joining euro – looks like he’s holding off for a while to carry out further economic reform, even though half his country’s economy uses the euro already.
This article is interesting, not least because several people have commented that there is more than a passing resemblance between myself and Hels’s brother.
Tuesday 22 March 2005
If I’d been advising the breeder of this new plant, I would probably have advised against selling the rights for £150,000, even though that is a good price. Sales of 30,000 in the UK alone in year one would return royalties in the order of £15,000. Add sales of probably five to ten times that volume in the United States, and the same again in the rest of the world, then, even after paying an agent’s commission, you should reach that asking price in a year or two. And then, after that, you’ll be getting similar royalties continuing for the next twenty years or so. Not bad if you can get it.
The shame, of course, is that I’m not representing this plant. I’ll not be earning that commission. Plants with that sort of market power are very few and far between, coming along perhaps once in ten or twenty years.
Food for thought
A note to Americans that voted for Mr Bush in the last election. Your president seems happy to run around and fly halfway across the country in the small hours to sign a bill to prevent one woman from dying a death that would have occured naturally fifteen years ago, instead keeping her alive with no quality of life at all. Meanwhile, he seems determined to continue to permit widespread ownership of firearms, firearms which lead to widespread crime including the loss of ten lives yesterday afternoon in a school in Minnesota.
To me, the priorities don’t seem to be quite right.
Wednesday 16 March 2005
The ghost of Tommy Cooper
Budget day today. The BBC has used this picture of Gordon Brown on their front page:
I felt that he needed a fez:
Just like that!
Tuesday 15 March 2005
Watch out, there’s a Humphrey about
Nothing to do with red and white striped drinking straws, but more to do with the revelation that the Daily Telegraph has used the Freedom of Information Act to gain access to government files on Humphrey the Number 10 cat. The dossier, apparently an inch and a half thick, reveals that, whilst on the Whitehall payroll, he cost the British taxpayer around £100 per year and was
Sunday 13 March 2005
Condoleezza Rice denies presidential aspirations, but doesn’t quite say "no" categorically. Condi vs. Hillary could be interesting in 2008.
Friday 11 March 2005
I expect that any of you with an interest in current affairs and politics have, like me, been watching the goings-on at Westminster with regard to the new terrorism laws. Those who are not familiar with the arcane workings of the Mother of Parliaments may be puzzled to learn that our "constitution" (largely unwritten, of course) provides no mechanism for resolving intractable disputes between the lower, elected, Commons and the upper, appointed and hereditary, Lords. There is no scope to use the Parliament Act here (which relies on the same bill being submitted in two separate sessions before the Commons can force its will on the Lords) – and rightly so, in my view, as there is little point in having a reforming chamber if it can not make any reforms. As a consequence, when neither side will give way (and, to be fair, both sides have made some concessions, albeit not to the satisfaction of the other side) the toing and froing will essentially continue until one or other side runs out of oomph. In that respect the Lords is at a disadvantage, its members being largely of greater age than those in the Commons and with the misfortune of having to sit through the small hours in response to the Commons votes. The majorities opposing the bill in the Lords were diminishing as the night wore on, partly because of the concessions won, but also, I suspect, because some of their older Lordships couldn’t keep up the pace and had retired to their beds.
What might seem more puzzling, particularly to those overseas, is the way in which time stops still in the Palace of Westminster on these occasions. As the sitting has not yet finished, even though it is the afternoon of Friday 11th March outside of the palace, it is still Thursday 10th March within. In fact, it could possibly continue to be Thursday there until Sunday evening, if that makes any sense. On occasions, I could do with days that lasted that long.
Oh, and if you were looking for an opinion, here it is – I think the bill as it stands is flawed, and agree with the LibDem proposals to increase the burden of proof required. I also agree with the Tories when they state that an electronic tag won’t be much of a deterrent to an Al-Qaeda operative if your average petty criminal already has ways of getting out of them. I didn’t find Charles Clarke’s attempt to guilt people into supporting him particularly helpful on The World At One today, when he said that we should approve the bill because today is the first anniversary of the Madrid train bombings – I don’t think that really helped the discussion at all.
Which is one of the reasons why I ran around this morning to make sure that I have a vote to use on May 5th.
Just a quick reminder – if you live in England, Scotland or Wales, you have a little over two and three-quarter hours to register to vote, should the election be called for May 5 as everyone expects. Contact your local district council for details – I was able to download the form from my local council’s website and then hotfooted it in to their offices this lunch time.
Boris Johnson on becoming Tory leader
As quoted on BorisWatch, from an interview with Kirsty Wark:
Thursday 10 March 2005
Zone of Possible Agreement
Zopa, the eBay of money lending, gets a nice bit of free publicity from the BBC today. The question is, will it take off? Given the general mistrust amongst the general populace of online financial transactions with questions still hanging around regarding security, I think that Zopa has some preconceptions to overcome before people will use it on a significant scale.
Has any grayblog reader used it?
Monday 7 March 2005
Soccer corrupts, absolute soccer corrupts absolutely
Apparently, football shown on TV corrupts the behaviour of children that view it. I don’t find this at all implausible, given the way that young kids love to copy their heroes, and having watched my nephew idolise Wayne Rooney, a figure who must be one of the least suitable role models for any eight year old.
What did astonish me, however, was hearing a representative of the Professional Footballers’ Association, speaking on Radio 4′s PM programme this evening, having the temerity to suggest that the problem was not the foul language and poor behaviour of the footballers, but the fact that the TV cameras get them on close-up. What?? Surely, if players moderated their language and behaviour, there would be nothing to be captured by the cameras and this whole thing would not be an issue.
It is time that the football authorities took a tougher line on this. Rugby and cricket woke up to this a while ago, with suitable punsihments now imposed upon players that bring the game into disrepute through their behaviour. Football has already been working to eliminate racism – it is time it dealt with some of its other failings too.
Sunday 6 March 2005
The cricketing bishop, RIP
David Sheppard, Sussex cricketer and Bishop of Liverpool, has died.
Saturday 5 March 2005
So, Jordan didn’t win the Eurovision vote. I wonder if that had anything to do with the fact that, in this BBC photo, she has three arms and really unnaturally wide hips?
Thursday 3 March 2005
Meaningless Statistic of the Day
From Which? via the BBC comes this gem of a meaningless statistic – "one in four touched by identity fraud". Apparently, one in four Britons (based on a survey of just 975 people out of a population in excess of 55 million – not a statistically significant sample, I’d suggest) has either suffered identity fraud or "knows someone who has". This is fear-mongering at its worst. You could say just about anything about any subject if you include people who know someone who has…
Tuesday 1 March 2005
This news article has left me craving a pie.
Monday 28 February 2005
- US raps Russia and Saudi Arabia over the knuckles on human rights. One in the eye for Chomsky? I guess only if the Americans really mean what they say.
- Entire Lebanese government resigns after protests. Somehow I can’t imagine HMG resigning if ever there were massive protests in the UK. Oh. Yeh. There have been massive protests. Hmm.
- Virgin GlobalFlyer set for take off. Rather him than me.
- Clarke retreats on house arrest in a half-hearted way, whilst thumbing nose to Parliament. As is often the case, I agreed with what the other Clarke had to say (I mean Ken, of course – as quoted on Channel 4 News).
- McGhee wants Brighton to finish with 50 or 51 points – 6 or 7 points from 11 matches. Not an impossible task, particularly with matches against Coventry and Rotherham still to be played – but I have to say that I’m not too keen on some of the other fixtures between now and the end of the season.
A different perspective?
Have a look at the second photo in this news story. The caption suggests that the protestors are on a ledge at a height of 50 feet. Now, using the policeman and the railings to give some idea of the actual height, and judging by the fact that it is only on the first floor of the admittedly high-ceilinged Foreign Office, I reckon that ledge is only 35 feet or thereabouts. Pedant, moi?
Saturday 26 February 2005
Third "gorilla breast" woman sues. The mental picture…
I’ve long believed that the Telegraph has the best sports coverage of the daily newspapers in this country, but I think that the Indy is fast improving. I particularly enjoy the Inside Football columns, as they invariably deal with issues at the sharp end of competitive football, and not the glamour of the Premiership. See today’s article on Brentford.
Also worth reading: Adrian Chiles’s column, even if there is a West Brom bias.
There is also a good article by Will Self on Ellen MacArthur, but it is part of the Indy’s paid-for content. Go find it if you’ve already paid up (I haven’t).
Thursday 24 February 2005
Proposals to ban the swastika in the EU have been dropped – common sense prevails.
TUC releases results of survey into unpaid overtime. The self-employed aren’t mentioned, of course. But, after all, the self-employed "love" their jobs, and that is why they do them.
(Actually, I do love my job, but that isn’t the point. My point is that the self-employed are not unionised, which is obviously a good thing, but it means that issues that affect the self-employed are rarely considered by unions or government).
Tuesday 22 February 2005
Save Our Sauce
Lea and Perrins products not affected by food safety scare – so go buy a bottle!
I’m slightly speechless at the sheer idiocy of this latest pea-brained proposal for the honours system from HMG. Aside from the market in fake honours badges that would spring up overnight, do we really want to reward those who make an outstanding contribution to our nation and society (if that is what an honour is intended to mark) with something akin to a boy scout badge of merit??
Wednesday 16 February 2005
Browser wars – new skirmish
IE7 in development – official. Not much information at the moment, and this announcement has clearly been spurred by the rapid success of Firefox. As a seasoned IE user (heck, I used IE back when everyone thought that Netscape 3 was the mutt’s nuts) who also has Firefox on my machine, I’d ask a few questions:
- is this going to be a new build or a tarting up of IE6? I suspect the latter.
- will it have better standards support and compliance? I suspect so, but whether it will have enough to match the other browsers in the market, given that they will also be improving their offering between now and the launch of IE7, is another matter.
- how long will we have to wait? At least a year, I reckon.
- will there be changes to the user interface? For all its faults (no need to list them here), IE has an interface that is easy to learn for any computer novice that has become familiar with any other component of the MS Office suite – and, let’s face it, that’s just about anyone who has ever used a PC. Whilst new features would be welcome, in many ways I hope that they don’t change it too much – the transition from IE5 to IE6 was pretty much seamless.
I guess we will just have to wait and see.
Thursday 10 February 2005
Somebody probably should have stopped him.
…on the following subjects:
- IKEA idiocy
- The Freedom of Information Act
- low slung trousers in the State of Virginia
- Charles and Camilla
- Tory plans for the police
…and possibly much more. But I’m a bit busy at the moment, so the ranting juices are on hold for now.
But get in quick! Send your replies to my anticipated rant in the comments NOW!
Tuesday 8 February 2005
In the news today:
- Army discipline pilot for using helicopter to deliver pizza to girlfriend – I particularly like the nameless BBC wag who has added the line "The Ministry of Defence spokesman did not confirm what toppings were on the pizza".
- Britain welcomes home Dame Ellen. A fantastic achievement, undoubtedly. But is the government hoping to achieve some mileage and share in the glory by announcing the honour so quickly?
- Tooth brushing cuts the risk of heart disease according to new research. Or, on the other hand, poor dental care is an indicator of people who generally do not look after their own health, and these people are more vulnerable to heart disease.
- Observations of evolving planetary system made using Spitzer orbiting telescope, news coming on the same day that we learn that NASA plans to bring down Hubble. So much science to be done, yet no money to keep the tools of research available.
- McGhee keen for Seagulls to focus – too right, and with a goal difference of -13, they need a few wins to be really sure of staying up.
Friday 4 February 2005
G7: ambitious or overblown?
Thursday 3 February 2005
For all you news addicts out there – keep up with global events in graphic form, updated every twenty minutes.
Wednesday 2 February 2005
Kilroy was ‘ere
Kilroy-Silk launches Veritas political party. The Daily Mail in party political form?
Strangely, I think that they could poll quite a few votes in the next election. Which is a shame.
Tuesday 1 February 2005
The media circus surrounding the Michael Jackson child abuse trial seems completely alien to those of us who are never likely to be caught up in such scenes. It seems that the child abuse allegations are, at the moment at least, secondary to the stardom and fame of the defendant. Either way, Peter Bowes’ quasi-blog™ on the court case is worth reading and provides a lighter view of events.
Ivan Noble, RIP
An ordinary man who, through his openness and honesty, touched many people.
Monday 31 January 2005
Cardiac arrest Monday
Blood pressure statistically higher on Monday mornings. I don’t think that my wife needs to be told this.
Wednesday 26 January 2005
25 years of news
Newsnight is celebrating 25 years – take a look at some of the clips. I particularly enjoyed Olenka Frenkiel carrying a piece of the Berlin Wall in to the studio and dumping it on the desk in front of Peter Snow.
There should be a simple answer too, in my view. "Yes".
Tuesday 25 January 2005
The only Jew in the village
"Now I am the Jew here, I am the boss".
Incidentally, is "co-religionist" a real word?
Monday 24 January 2005
It won’t work! The housing price problem will only be solved by supply-side measures, not demand-side policies. Increase the supply of affordable housing and prices will stabilise or fall. And I happen to know a good chunk of land that would be ideal for the purpose.
Incidentally, there was a sensible piece in Deborah Orr‘s column in the Indy on Saturday (lamentably not archived online) in which Ms Orr highlighted how increasing the right to buy would help some people, but would also lead to increased "ghettoisation" of those without the means to purchase property – as if the ghettoes we have already are not bad enough.
Tuesday 18 January 2005
Dispassionate history of the swastika. Useful for putting down all the fools who want to see the symbol banned – if you follow their logic, pretty much every symbol should be banned (Union Flag for British atrocities during colonialism; Stars and Stripes for American hegemony [oops - been reading Chomsky toooooo long!]; the hammer and sickle for the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan… I could go on…). It is time that nannying politicians stopped messing around at the edges and actually took steps to deal with the issues (for example – if they are so concerned about anti-Semitism, then take greater steps to improve education and tolerance, and also effectively punish those who use violence or desecration to promote such ideas).
Saturday 15 January 2005
Mark Mardell’s Africa diary, with real personal content with amusing asides. Perhaps there is hope for BBC-sponsored quasi-blogging(™ Vaughan!) after all?
Friday 14 January 2005
In a shocking development, I agree with the Duchess of York. Prince Harry’s appearance at a fancy dress party in a Nazi uniform was both in keeping with the theme of the party and in keeping with the behaviour of a normal 20 year old. Even though he has some German close relatives, it does not in any way imply that he is either a Nazi or a Nazi sympathiser. Will someone please get a grip here?!
As I have said elsewhere, if he had gone to the party dressed as King Kong, would people be outraged at his implied support for giant apes swatting at biplanes from the top of the Empire State Building whilst clutching a scantily-clad Faye Wray? I don’t think so.
It has to be said that Harry should have shown a little more forethought about the likely reaction of the tabloid hacks to his choice of costume, but let’s get it all in perspective, please!
Couple name child Yahoo! A mad Romanian story! Hurrah! We haven’t had one of these in literally ages.
Thursday 13 January 2005
My life as an EU Commissioner
I’ve just heard that the NatWest branch in Barnham has been subject to an armed raid. I don’t know any more details than that at the moment, and it doesn’t seem to have been reported on any of the news services yet. It happened around 2pm today.
Whilst I was working in Barnham and living in Chichester, I used that branch as much as three or four times each week and got to know all the staff. I’m hoping that Lynne, Sandy, Sharon, Paula and everyone else there is ok.
Giacomo Nobbio, RIP. You have, at some time in your life, probably held one of Sig. Nobbio’s creations in your hand – over the last fifty years, he has been the world’s leading breeder of carnations, creating just about all of the most popular cut-flower varieties in cultivation today.
No lilies on his casket then.
Tuesday 11 January 2005
Saturday 8 January 2005
Halfway through a book review
Avid readers of this site who have an eye for detail will have noticed that my "current reading" has been the same book for really rather a long time now. For once, this isn’t the result of laziness on my part in updating the sidebar, but is in fact due to the fact that I’m still ploughing my way through the book.
The book in question is Hegemony or Survival: America’s Quest for Global Dominance by Noam Chomsky. You may recall that it was described as "devastating" by Tim Adams of the Observer on the back cover.
Now, I am able to present before the court several reasons why I’ve been chewing my way through this book at such a slow pace, having only reached page 150 of 237. Firstly, I started reading it in the days before we moved house, so time for reading was at something of a premium. Secondly, we have had Christmas and new kittens, both of which have provided distractions from the task at hand. And, thirdly, I took some time out to read Amnesia Moon by Jonathan Lethem, which I got through in about three days, and found to be excellent.
But there are other reasons why I have taken so long to read Hegemony or Survival. Firstly, Chomsky’s presentation is, at best, an irritation. He has a tendency to place "quotations" liberally through each and every sentence, "not all of which" are accompanied by citations or references. At best, this makes the text "difficult to read" and "uneasy on the eye", breaking the flow of text across the line far too frequently to make the act of reading a pleasure. In fact, it is such a hindrance that it even gets in the way of "understanding" of the author’s meaning and intent, preventing a full and complete "assimilation" of the "facts" being presented to the reader.
(OK, I’ll stop now – I’m getting bored with typing all the "s. I think you get my point.)
Secondly, the quotations themselves are often so far removed from their context as to be meaningless to the reader. The quotation of one or two words from a source does not convey the meaning that was contained within the original source document or speech. Let me demonstrate – if I quote "Democrats [...] won’t change anything" to you, you’d think that I was saying that the Democrats were pretty much useless in every respect. However, if you read the entire paragraph (in this previous post on grayblog), you’d see that the intended meaning was quite different. I’m not sure whether this is part of Chomsky’s writing style, or was something forced upon him by editors and publishers keen to produce a lightweight volume small enough to appeal to the average reader of paperbacks and not limited to more academic circles. Either way, it is a practice that undermines the validity of Chomsky’s arguments.
Thirdly, even when offering a lengthier quotation, Chomsky has a tendency to either omit or provide incomplete references and citations for his sources. As an example, this is from Chapter 6 – I read it this morning, and it irritated me no end:
(I could start on the fact that "Minister of State" and "Cabinet" should both be capitalized, but I’ll let it go.) A reference to the notes at the back of the book is offered, which provides the following reference:
That is either laziness or the result of excessive pressure from an overzealous editor. Somehow I feel that the former is more likely than the latter. Either way, we have no idea which Minister of State made this statement, when, and in the context of what events. The quotation is rendered meaningless and does not support Chomsky’s argument.
And, fourthly, Chomsky’s tendency to take the discussion off at a tangent does not lend any weight to his arguments. To suddenly start talking about the American wars against the Native Americans when in the middle of a lengthy section on post-war US policy in Central America, particularly Nicaragua, seems odd at best. But then I was warned about that, as well as Chomsky’s habit of bending chronology to suit his argument (perhaps evidenced by my third point above, although we’ll probably never know), by Francis Wheen. And he often goes in circles and becomes self-contradictory too, but let’s not completely pull the man to pieces.
Strangely, though, I’m determined to see this book through to the end. I’m not convinced by a lot of Chomsky’s arguments, particularly when he tries to go beyond stating the obvious. He seems to attach an unreasonable amount of malicious aforethought to the political classes which, judging by the very few members of that class that I have met, they are rarely capable of (most not being capable of much thought at all). He also finds it unreasonable that politicians are motivated by senses of self-preservation or self-interest when the results of those motives conflict with his own ideas, yet applauds those same motives when the outcomes accord with his thoughts (e.g. Gerhard Schroeder refusing to support the Second Gulf War, which is not in any way surprising when he was so close to a general election; or the Turks not allowing US forces to use bases in their country when they have a large Kurdish community (oppressed or otherwise) who might use the opportunity to attempt to secede and form a Kurdish state with their Iraqi cousins).
But in spite of that, I want to explore his ideas and see if his book reaches some towering conclusion about the state of post-war US foreign policy. If I’m pleasantly (or otherwise) surprised, I’ll report back.
Friday 7 January 2005
EU constitutional treaty promotion
Spain begins ad campaign to promote the EU constitutional treaty.
90% of Spaniards polled knew little or nothing about the treaty. I suspect that the same is true in this country, but I also suspect that a majority of the populace have an opinion about the treaty.
BBC News – Seagulls fans (i.e. Attila the Stockbroker) release single in support of stadium campaign. And it looks like it’ll be in the top ten singles this week.
Whatever your footballing persuasion, buy it now and show support for the stadium campaign. Remember – it could be your club next.
One twentieth of an hour
There has been discussion in several places about the three minute silence that was held on Wednesday in remembrance of the victims of the tsunami. I’ll point you to Vaughan’s site where I have commented on my concerns about "silence inflation".
And in other news…
To give you some variety from the normal diet of current affairs culled from the BBC News pages, here are some headlines from CNN:
- Democrats force debate on election mishaps – won’t change anything, but might just improve things for the next time around (but then a lot of people said that after the last time). See also 20 facts about voting in the USA.
- Americans polled offered more prayer than cash to tsunami victims. This speaks volumes about the state of the American nation, as well as being a damning indictment of the screwed up idea of faith that most people have (I was taught at school that giving was an integral part of Christianity – it seems that the American people have forgotten that).
- Train crash kills 8, injures 240 in South Carolina. This story hasn’t been reported by the BBC at all at this time.
- New arrest in 1964 civil rights murder case – the case that inspired the film Mississippi Burning. Pity that it has taken 40 years to get to this stage.
Thursday 6 January 2005
Microsoft releases "free" tools
Ooooh! I spy a new revenue stream for MS!
So, this is, on the one hand, a good thing, as it should lead to a reduction in infected Windows PCs globally. Tick v.g.
On the other hand, isn’t this anti-competitive, particularly when viewed from the point of view of the anti-virus and anti-adware software companies? I think I’ll hold fire before downloading and installing and see what the perceived wisdom is – after all, my machine is currently virus and adware free due to the non-MS software that I run.
Wednesday 5 January 2005
Even in normally quiet Ruralville, the silence was noticable. Until the phone rang.
Monday 3 January 2005
Load of old pants
Is it me, or is the Beeb on a mission to write loads of rubbish about blogs at the moment?
- Looming pitfalls of work blogs going over the Queen of the Skies thing again.
- Bloggers reveal their motives – well, two do anyway, and whilst their motives are interesting, they are far from representative. And check out the fascinating "12 Rules" section.
- Web logs aid disaster recovery – note the lack of consistency of terminology at the Beeb – weblogs, blogs, web logs, etc.
- Blogs take on the mainstream – a shocking example of lazy journalism, as eloquently pointed out by Gordon.
I dunno. Is the Beeb just trying to be cool and "down wid da kidz"? They even try to present news coverage in pseudo-blog format, in which they cull reports from other media (mainstream online news reporting, radio and television coverage) and cobble them together in "reporters’ log" format (recent example). This does not really give the reporters completely free rein to report with any sort of freedom (FOOC remains the only true home of that, and that is a reprocessed radio programme). The only true blogs on the Beeb, as I would understand them, have been Ivan Noble’s moving tumor diary and the fabulous but late and lamented Newslog by Nick Robinson (a man who seems like a fish out of water at ITN).
Perhaps I’m expecting too much to have truly free reporting in blog format on the Beeb – it might be the wrong place, the wrong organisation or simply the wrong style for a "serious" news reporting organisation. But it would be good if there was a little more proper understanding of the form – maybe that is too much to hope for from a body so deeply entrenched in established media formats.
Sunday 2 January 2005
Cover your ears
Stars to record fund-raising song for tsunami victims – all very laudable, but do we really want to listen to Cliff, Ronan and Boy warbling their way through a song penned by Mike Read??
Friday 31 December 2004
I’m sure that this story was first reported about a week ago on local television. Either way, you have to admire the determination of someone to hide from the law inside a sofa. (Eastbourne Today posted the story on December 23rd – come on BBC, that’s rubbish!).
Thursday 30 December 2004
Why has our PM continued his holiday in light of the events in the Indian Ocean?
Disasters Emergency Committee. Apparently, their website has been struggling with traffic, so you may find it easier to donate by telephone on 0870 60 60 900. Alternatively, all the high street banks are accepting donations.
Thought: will the people in Darfur and elsewhere be forgotten in all this?
Tuesday 28 December 2004
Tsunami aid blog
Sunday 26 December 2004
Hels and I are trying to comprehend the scale of today’s enormous tsunami in south-east Asia. Having recently read Simon Winchester’s excellent book on Krakatoa, and drawing on my slightly hazy recollections of O and A level geography (plate tectonics and all that), I can understand the science of it all and realise that there is no divine intervention here or yuletide symbolism – merely some enormous movements of the Earth’s crust and some terrible misfortune for anyone that happens to be in the way.
Hels said to me that we are fortunate not to live in a part of the world where this sort of thing might occur. To which I might reply that I’m glad that we live a fair distance inland, protected from the open sea by a good range of hills (though some believe the threat to be over-stated), and it has happened before (although a 2 metre surge may seem small, it can be funnelled in estuaries and harbours and become far more dangerous).
Thursday 23 December 2004
Compare and contrast
Wednesday 15 December 2004
Devil you know?
So, at last, Blunkett has resigned, though only for a few minor misdemeanours and not because of his policies and practices.
What worries me though is that the even less attractive political lardarse, Charles Clarke, is tipped to be his replacement. Firepan and fire? Would we be better with the devil we know? (Probably not, but who can tell?)
Interesting to see that the PM persists in supporting Blunkett. I would have felt that this was the time to be putting some distance between Number 10 and the outgoing Home Secretary. Blair has been hanging on to Blunkett desperately during the past couple of weeks, as he is one of his few remaining supporters in the fight against the Brownites. Now, however, we see that Blunkett has become incredibly unpopular with the backbenchers and the rest of the cabinet – to such an extent that the Chief Whip hurled a copy of his autobiography across the Commons chamber (though that says as much about her as it does about him) – and, as such, it can not be doing the PM any good at all to be continuing to support him. The question is, will this encourage the Brownites to move on the PM before or after an election?
Friday 10 December 2004
I was disappointed by this article. I was hoping that the monkeys might be trained to repair my car more cheaply than the staff at the local garage. Mind you, they could already be trained monkeys anyway, by the look of them.
Wednesday 8 December 2004
Left-handers better in fights. I’m left-handed, and don’t mind admitting that I fight like a girl.
Thursday 25 November 2004
I shouldn’t laugh…
…but I did find this chap’s name amusing.
Wednesday 24 November 2004
I expect that you’re following the news from Ukraine as closely as I am. Try these English-language Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian blogs for the latest:
Le Sabot Post-Moderne
The Periscope (includes translations of Ukrainian language news reports)
A Fistful of Euros
Ukraine, Oh My!
See also Ukrainian Pravda (in English).
As Davo points out, "Flipper come home" just sounds silly.
Aggers says the England tour to Zimbabwe must be called off. Sport and politics, chalk and cheese, oil and water.
Monday 22 November 2004
Hack! Cough! Wheeze!
Goodness! I seem to have suddenly developed a particularly bad cough!
Sunday 14 November 2004
BorisWatch on Boris Johnson’s sacking from the Tory front bench. Interesting to read the comments there.
See also BBC News Talking point page.
You may recall that I foresaw exactly this sort of scenario on October 6th.
Friday 12 November 2004
Bush hails Blair as "visionary leader". Which must be quite a curse, really.
Debate-o – will be being closely allied to Bush be the final nail in Blair’s coffin? Or will it be domestic politics that finally does him in?
Wednesday 10 November 2004
For pity’s sake…
…when will our government and the rest of the international community get together and do something about this?
I’ve been covering Africa for 21 years and I thought I’d seen everything, but to watch the officials and the police of a state like Sudan – which has just signed a peace agreement – demolishing people’s shacks under the eyes of international observer and breaching international law, is quite extraordinary and unique.
The population is terrorised and bewildered, with little faith in the power of the international community.
No smoke without
Scottish Executive unanimously decides to ban smoking in public enclosed places. Scotland’s First Minister, Jack McConnell, said there would be an international marketing campaign whereby “tourists can enjoy smoke free environment and the sick man of Europe image becomes a thing of the past”. To which I can only say four words: Deep. Fried. Mars. Bars.
Seriously, though, what’s the betting that there’ll be similar legislation in the rest of the UK within three to five years? And what impact will it have on pubs, particularly those more rural pubs that are important to their community but already struggling?
Rolls Royce hopes convertible will boost fortunes. Um, unlikely in my view. When I was living in Chichester, Rolls Royce Phantoms were a regular sight on the roads, as the factory is just a couple of miles out of the city centre. They are one of the most ugly and shed-like cars you could imagine – their horrid, square, brick-like lines looked like they owed more to a B&Q architect than to the heritage of the Rolls name. A convertible could look like a sawn-off shed. And who exactly are they trying to appeal to? I can’t see this being a housewife’s favourite any time soon.
Tuesday 9 November 2004
Emlyn Hughes, RIP. Is this the year for well-known people to die before their time?
Monday 8 November 2004
The Big Sleep
- Fred Dibnah, RIP.
- Howard Keel, RIP.
- Rob Da Bank to take over John Peel’s slot. In a way, it is good that the Beeb haven’t tried to put in a Peel "replacement". There is nobody that would be up to that task, even the likes of Lammo. And having occasionally listened to The Blue Room, I think this choice should make for some good evening listening.
Wednesday 3 November 2004
When will the Government treat the Diega Garcians with some dignity? The way that these British citizens have been treated in the past, and their continuing poor treatment by the British Government is nothing short of a disgrace and embarrassment.
Crossing the line?
US blogger fired by her employer after putting pictures of herself in her uniform on her website. Not a terrible crime, you would think, but if you actually look at the blog itself and the images, which show her with her blouse unbuttoned to reveal her bra, and then consider the corporate image of the airline in a nation that is still largely prudish and conservative, then Delta’s decision is hardly surprising. Bloggers must continue to beware of their employer’s image and reputation if they write about their work on their site. Even those of us who are self-employed still must be considerate of our clients and suppliers.
Well, it looks like George Dubya has won a second term in the White House. At least this time there seems to be no question over his victory, and with a Republican Congress, he should be free to act in an authoritative manner. Whether that is a good thing or not remains to be seen.
Tuesday 2 November 2004
A few current and recent news stories:
- At the wrong speed – John Robert Parker Ravenscroft, RIP. Peely once played a request for me on his Radio 1 show. Others have paid sufficient tribute to the greatest champion of original new music in the UK – I merely suggest that you put Teenage Kicks on your stereo on repeat for a few hours. He’ll be sorely missed.
- Money woes failed Beagle 2 – "The DTI [Department of Trade and Industry] should have been on the pitch getting involved, rather than cheering from the touchline and coming on as a second half substitute when things went wrong."
- Lord Hanson, RIP – "A company from here doing rather well over there."
- EU leaders sign constitutional treaty at last.
- Kilroy-Silk withdraws from UKIP whip in EU Parliament. Plank.
- US Presidential election today – if you have a vote, use it.
- China’s next manned probe will orbit for five days. Ground Control to Major Yuan Hung-Lo?
- Titan geologically "alive".
Monday 11 October 2004
The times, they are a-changin’
A good idea for a European business like mine. It’d save me being called by European colleagues when I’m still in the buff at 8am.
I find this disturbing. It should be within the power of law enforcement agencies to close down websites that support or promote violence (which is implied here in relation to anti-capitalism protests), but I feel that any such action should only take place after due process in a court of law, with the presumption of innocence until guilt is proven.
Either way, to target the hosting company seems pretty ineffectual – it is easy to find replacement hosting in a matter of minutes, and not too difficult to find hosting that is beyond the reach of the western authorities. I note that the sites concerned are largely online again already.
Friday 8 October 2004
The road to McCarthy’s resting place
Pete McCarthy, RIP. Always a fixture on local television in these parts for his take on arts and culture, as well as his gentle and self-effacing humour.
(Bad form by most of the media, by the way, who have not reported this sad news. Only the Telegraph has picked it up, although has not [yet] published a full obituary).
Wednesday 6 October 2004
Howard’s Wrong Way
So, Michael Howard has made his first speech to Conference as party leader.
Let me make a few things clear. Firstly, I will never vote for a party that is opposed to the euro in the way that the Tories currently are. I have to vote for a government that is going to work in the best interests of me, my business and (soon) my family. For someone that runs a small business that trades across the whole of the EU, membership of the euro is an instrinsic part of that.
Secondly, my personal politics are of the centre, occasionally leaning out to the left on some issues, at other times leaning out to the right – but, on the whole, I’m a centrist. I’ve never approved of Labour’s hand-cash-to-anyone-that-asks-for-it tax-and-spend theories; nor have I liked the Tory don’t-tax-and-don’t-spend theories which seem sometimes to go too far the other way; and I feel a little uncomfortable with some of the micro-meddling that the LibDems propose (ban Chelsea tractors from the school run? too populist and not well conceived).
Thirdly, I firmly believe that this country needs effective government, but also effective opposition. In the past, that rôle has rotated back and forth between the Tories and the Labour party. Increasingly, it looks like the LibDems are going to become the main party of opposition – a fact that has not been helped by the Tories’ adoption of Howard’s Wrong Way.
As I see it, there are three things wrong with Howard’s Wrong Way:
- Firstly, the lurch to the right. When Michael Howard was made leader of the Conservative party, he promised to create an inclusive party of the centre. This, to my mind, was exactly what was needed in the Tory party if they were to stand a realistic chance of being elected. Instead, and in a mildly panicked reaction to the likes of UKIP, we’ve seen a sudden move to the right, particularly to unnecessarily strong and divisive euro-scepticism, not to mention a drift to the right in other policy areas (although it is hard to imagine how any home secretary could be further to the right than Blunkett). I think that this is an over-reaction, and creating "clear blue water" only puts you further from the majority of voters (most of whom, I believe, are centrists too) and gives you more sea in which to drown yourself.
- Secondly, the desperate desire to be trusted which is likely to come round and bite them on the backside. Howard says that he selects people for his shadow cabinet on the basis of their ability to do the job, and failure to achieve or toe the line will result in dismissal. This is very dangerous, in my view, and I would have expected Howard to know better, having served in John Major’s cabinet which was steadily picked apart by a combination of the human failings of its members and the rabid desire of the gutter press to have a poke at each mnister in turn. Sometimes, for reasons of unity or simply to reflect difficult conditions, it is the PM’s lot to keep within his cabinet people that have not reached targets that have been set. Blair has shown this by keeping Prescott on board for all this time – Prescott has not been a shining example in all the positions he has held since 1997, but Blair needs him in order to keep the Labour party more-or-less together and pulling in the same direction. The Tories are well known for certain divisions, just as much as Labour – it may well be the case that it is prudent for Howard to keep on board certain members who are (for example) europhile or eurosceptic in the future, even if their performance in cabinet is not all that it might be.
- Thirdly, the continuing policy of making a policy out of having no policies. Whilst the rationale for such a standpoint (wait and see what the economic climate brings, wait and see what the incumbents do between now and the next election) appears valid and sound, I think that the voters as a whole will wonder what exactly the Tories stand for, what they believe in and, more importantly, what exactly they will do once they get into office (if they do). Having their "timetable for change" doesn’t show any long term or even medium term ideas – in fact, it only just covers the first month. The electorate are not fools – we live in a consumer society, and we like to know what we’re getting for our money, or our vote.
The consequences of all this? Well, I don’t see the current government losing the next election – not because there is little wrong with them (don’t get me started on listing the things that are wrong with the current government!), but more because their traditional foes are not strong enough to win, veering as they are from being on the far right to being without policy. Meanwhile, the up-and-coming foe still does not have enough voter clout or governmental experience to carry it off. What we may see, though, is a much-reduced majority for the incumbent and a new party leading the opposition – both good things, as it will reduce the arrogant surety of the current leaders as well as providing some teeth-cutting experience for the current third party.
Where it will leave the Tories is another matter entirely. Bring on Boris?
Friday 1 October 2004
Aishwarya Rai unveils model of herself at Madame Tussauds.
Now, for how long exactly have I been saying that she would become huge??
Thursday 30 September 2004
Tuesday 28 September 2004
Russ Meyer, RIP. Apologies for not posting this last week.
So, P&O are closing most of their ferry routes out of Portsmouth. It’s happened before – I remember news coverage in years gone by predicting doom and gloom for Portsmouth ferry terminal, but at least some of these routes will pass to Brittany Ferries, who will now become almost the monopoly service provider, which can only mean fare increases for those of us that use Portsmouth routes. I’m not surprised by today’s announcement though – the last few times that I’ve been on the ferry from Portsmouth, it has been nothing like full.
Monday 27 September 2004
Sport and politics
If you can get to this, then please go.
From the Seen-It-All-Before Dept….
Carter fears Florida vote trouble. Even given Jimmy Carter’s Democrat roots, it can be in nobody’s interest to have anything other than an equal, open and fair ballot in the Sunshine State.
First Pendolino train service cancelled due to technical faults. Remember the ATP? (Actually, I’ll admit that to draw a parallel is to exaggerate.)
Thursday 23 September 2004
Too bloody right
Brighton may need money, but Brighton does not need Bill Archer’s money. Top marks to Dick Knight.
New Oxford Dictionary of National Biography launched. Surely it wasn’t Stephen Lawrence that changed policing, but his murderer or murderers, the police themselves and the campaigners that worked on that issue? Poor Stephen Lawrence was just another teenager going about his own business, not someone who helped to form the nation by his own hands.
Monday 20 September 2004
Brian Clough, 1935-2004, and manager of Brighton and Hove Albion for a few months in 1974.
Friday 17 September 2004
Smells of Eubank, which is a fairly horrific concept.
Thursday 16 September 2004
I’m having one of those days when, whenever I look at the clock, another whole hour has scooted by with very little actually being achieved. This hasn’t been helped by having to take at least 40 minutes out of my day to update software in order to avoid miscreants trying to do unspeakable things with my lovely data.
Wednesday 15 September 2004
The peas process?
One was to Charles Kennedy who is pressing for the Gurkhas to be given British citizenship. The prime minister said he had no problem with it and would give a full answer soon.
The other was to backbencher Andrew Turner who asked what the prime minister was going to do about mange tout – forgive me for not noting down why.
Mr Blair hesitated, looked at his notes and declared: "I don’t know. But I’m sure we are doing something."
Monday 13 September 2004
As another journalist dies in Iraq, evidence suggests that US military reporting of events may not be entirely accurate. Now there’s a surprise. I wonder how widely this aspect of the news will be reported in the US?
Meat and two veg
Remember the BBC online picture comedy caption writer? I think he’s still at large.
Saturday 4 September 2004
Beslan, Bill and Bush
Anyone else reckon that Dubya’s presidential campaign will have been strengthened by the events in Beslan? Any act involving terrorists and schoolchildren is likely to strengthen his appeal amongst American voters, as his stance on terrorism is one of his strongest policy elements as perceived by many people.
Kerry’s campaign will also have undoubtedly taken a knock with the news that Bill Clinton is effectively out of it now whilst he undergoes treatment for a heart condition.
So, at the moment, and much as it pains me, my money would be on George to retain the presidency, albeit by a slim margin.
Monday 30 August 2004
From this week’s Littlehampton Gazette, a headline on a story about a fire at a washeteria:
Monday 23 August 2004
Showers moving west
Goodbye to magnetic clouds, and all that. I think this is rather sad, as I’ve grown up with the familiar three-lobed cloud shapes. It’s possible to look at a BBC weather chart and instantly discern the prevailing conditions, without having to read the accompanying text or listen to the forecaster (although one should always listen to Rob McElwee as he is a minor deity after all – "There’s a deep depression moving in from the Atlantic, and we ALL know what that means, don’t we?"). I also wonder if this will mean the end of the traditional opening of the forecast (well, in days of old at least, and occasionally still today) with a North Atlantic synoptic chart – which, for anyone with even a basic A-level grounding in meteorology, provides enough information to get the general gist of how the weather will be.
Wednesday 18 August 2004
BorisWatch – all Boris Johnson, all the time.
Thursday 12 August 2004
Apparently, according to some people, I rant too much on this site. Well, today, you lucky people, I have a ranting triple bill.
Arrests for all offences proposed. This is a nonsense of an idea, another example of Blunkett’s rampant desire to create a totalitarian state. It will be used as an excuse to arrest all and sundry on the flimsiest of evidence, will lead to a dramatic increase in arrests based on racism and bigotry and will undoubtedly lead to a mass of claims for wrongful arrest. The minorities will feel even more persecuted than they are now. This is certainly not the way to deal with petty crime, not least because it will once again fundamentally increase the burden of administration on a police force that does not seem to be capable of dealing with its current workload. And whilst I’m on the subject, check out the rest of the HMG’s proposals – the arrest powers are getting the headlines, but there is a lot more, such as the increase of powers of Community Support Officers, that should be a matter for concern amongst those of a more centrist or libertarian bent.
Ministers "can not block" £7million win. Too bloody right! The man’s crime was, without doubt, terrible and beyond reason. However, he has been given a punishment by the courts, and should not have a new punishment handed down by politicians because it might be politically expedient to do so, pandering to the lowest common denominator of the baying of the tabloid headlines. If a millionaire businessman had committed a crime of rape, he would not be required to hand over his fortune to the state in addition to serving a jail term. Nor should this man. The lottery is based on luck, and sometimes, as in this case, luck can appear unjust. But justice has been served once already, and there is no need to try and serve a new popular justice now.
Meanwhile, positive ranting as EU’s Barroso strikes balance with Commission posts by involving the medium and small nations in the big decisions, thereby showing that Bertie Ahern knew precisely who was the best man for the job. Genius selections include putting a Dutch woman in charge of competition regulation (the Dutch have a fabulous "can-do" attitude to business that I hope will prevail), giving Irishman Charlie McCreevy charge of the internal market and (probably the best appointment of all) giving the excellent Margot Wallstrom a special mission to improve the EU’s communication with its own people. This last is incredibly important – as a recent newspaper article shows, the EU does actually do what we want – we just don’t notice it. A full list of Commission appointments can be found here.
Wednesday 4 August 2004
Tuesday 3 August 2004
Off your trolley
Tesco plan to kit trolleys out with DVD players for kids according to this news article. The manufacturers, Wanzl, believe that this advance represents "a new dimension of creativity to an existing product". Hmm. I think it could be another good reason to add to my list of reasons for not visiting Tesco.
Personally, if you want innovation, then you need this:
Image shamelessly stolen from National Cart Company Inc..
Meanwhile, check out The Center For Prevention of Shopping Cart Abuse. Very worthy.
Tuesday 27 July 2004
Prescott = idiot
Brighton stadium blow.
I’m not quite sure why Prescott has referred this back to the inquiry. The evidence in support of the Falmer site when compared with the other possible sites is fairly clear.
Either way, this is a massive financial blow to Brighton. I’m not really sure how the club will survive for long whilst having to pay for the planning process for the new ground with the continuing limitation on income that is the Withdean’s restricted capacity. At least the team were promoted, so TV revenue will be higher this year, but I think it will be a major struggle to stay up as there is hardly any cash for new players. Sigh.
Wednesday 21 July 2004
A message for UKIP voters
I hope you are proud of yourselves.
Tuesday 20 July 2004
Hague not vague
I recommend readers to make a point of listening to Today in Parliament. On today’s debate on the Butler Report, I particularly recommend listening to William Hague’s words. Hague is a surprisingly under-rated parliamentarian.
Tuesday 13 July 2004
You have to admire the dignity of this couple. I hope they find the justice that they seek.
Wednesday 7 July 2004
Horrible end to the day here with heavy rain, making driving awful. But clearly not as bad as back home. Hope you’re ok where you are.
And remind me to tell you about driving across the dijk.
Monday 5 July 2004
In the Netherlands
I will post a lengthy post about my travels here, but not now as connection is costly and slow. Wait until next week, ok?
Meanwhile – Greece – who’d have thought it?
Sunday 4 July 2004
Singapore authorities relax a few rules – a little.
Friday 2 July 2004
More from the BBC
More news stories:
- Hubble finds around 100 new extra-solar planets, yet more evidence of the pressing need to try and find some way to keep Hubble working.
- Lord Ashdown takes action over failuire to arrest Karadzic – not before time, and it remains to be seen if it will be effective.
Thursday 1 July 2004
News from the BBC
A few links to today’s news – presented for your own thoughts:
- No charges to be brought over "that" Robert Kilroy-Silk article. Not a great surprise, and in all possibility a victory for freedom of speech, even if his comments were utterly offensive and loathsome.
- Cassini probe sends back pictures of Saturn’s rings. Stunning. I hope people do not become jaundiced by all this – there is an absolute shedload of really exciting stuff coming from man’s exploration of space at the moment, and we must be careful not to under-rate it.
- Some people have said that the young Russian tennis player, Maria Sharapova, is the new Kournikova. There’s one major difference though. Sharapova can actually play.
- Richard May, RIP. If only there was a Richard May to deal with this trial.
- Irish Republic completes its presidency of the EU, described by many as possibly the most successful presidency in the Union’s history. Much credit must go to Bertie Ahern, who comes across as remarkably disarming. Many might be surprised to know that the Taoiseach offers frequent punditry on the main Irish Saturday-night football TV show, something that would seem alien to citizens of nations where the leader is remote from the people.
- The postal service watchdog has sent letters to MPs seeking their support for the campaign to cut the amount of lost and mis-delivered mail. Unfortunately, they got lost in the post. Coincidence or conspiracy?
- Why Sir Peter had to go. From a marketing standpoint, Sainsburys’ offering is not clear – are they trying to be a value leader, taking on Asda and Tesco, or are they trying to be a quality leader, taking on Waitrose and Marks and Spencer? It’s hard to do both at the same time without eroding margins.
- Teacher’s job shortage warning.
"But the mystery is how the primary teacher market became over-supplied at all. The government has had years to prepare for the fall in the number of primary school children. The government and the Teacher Training Agency (TTA) regulate the number of trainees. Yet with 60,000 fewer primary school children expected, last year they increased the target for primary trainees."
Do the words "astonishingly incompetent" spring to mind, hmm?
Friday 25 June 2004
Personal news update:
Not much to write about at the moment. Work is still the dominant feature in life.
- Drove 375 miles yesterday to deliver some plants to Cambridgeshire. Driving a Transit Luton in a strong wind is never much fun.
- Took Hels’s car for its MOT test today. It failed. I’ve been and purchased the parts required to make it pass, and Tim is kindly fitting them. However, he’s already hit a problem, though hopefully it can be remedied quickly.
- I’m currently printing all the inserts for the wedding invitations (where to stay, how to find it, etc.). We should get them in the post next week.
- I’m working my way through a huge backlog of work emails that I’ve filed but not yet replied to or dealt with. PFE has reached a stage where an admin assistant would be useful, but the money is not available to pay for it. So it looks increasingly like I’ll be working longer hours to try and get everything done. Still, at least I remain in total control of everything, and I guess that is a positive.
- And, whilst losing the football last night is a disappointment, I can see absolutely no justification for this idiotic behaviour.
Wednesday 23 June 2004
6p! Six whole pence!
BT are to charge six pence if you press "3" after dialling 1471, according to this BBC News item. However, just using 1471, writing the number down, and then dialling it manually, will remain free. This seems to make no sense, as surely automating this process in the exchange must reduce exchange load and have a lower cost for BT – Brian?
Tuesday 15 June 2004
Still incredibly busy and short of time:
- Started work at 8.30am and got home at 10pm – a little better than yesterday, not least because I didn’t spend the whole day driving around.
- The Two Things, via LMG
- The normally quietly spoken Mervyn King has opened his mouth and put his foot in it – certainly not helpful for those of us that have little choice but to sell now.
- On the plus side, both Hels’s flat and mine were subject to viewings today.
OK – more work to do and then a late night trans-Atlantic telephone call to make. Not very exciting for you, but it’s likely to be like this until I get through this week and next.
Saturday 12 June 2004
Friday 11 June 2004
Why on Earth is the Football League rebranding the divisions? What was, only a few years ago, known as Division 4 will, from next season, be League 2. Utter nonsense. Those of us who support teams in the League rather than the Premiership have no illusions about the status of football played there – it’s generally of a very high quality, featuring spirited and determined teams that are not beset by primadonnas and hordes of overseas players. It does not need tarting up to make it out to be something that it isn’t.
Thursday 10 June 2004
This could be the last time
I’ve just been down to Committee Room Number 2 at County Hall to cast my vote – almost certainly the last time I shall do it there. A shame really, as it is rather a beautiful walk to and from there, along Tower Street, with a lovely view of the Cathedral. And speaking of the Cathedral, I passed the bishop on his way to vote as I left.
If that is as interesting as dishwater, then try the latest Weebl.
Sunday 6 June 2004
Tuesday 1 June 2004
Today is the 75th anniversary of Bognor being granted the Regis suffix by King George V. Having strolled along the seafront this weekend, I can vouch for the cleanliness of the beach – on a glorious sunny afternoon, you can see its attraction. The town, however, is as shabby as ever.
You have to wonder, though, why the powers-that-be in the town have done "bugger"-all to celebrate the anniversary. Surely this would have been an excellent opportunity for some positive publicity for the place, an excuse for a minor royal visit perhaps?
Thursday 27 May 2004
I can’t wait…
… for heated sock spam.
Tuesday 18 May 2004
An Odd Man
Felix Unger, RIP.
Tuesday 4 May 2004
Death at Chatsworth
Devonshire, RIP. Not sure about his patronage of UKIP and his support for the entirely questionable "Right to Roam", but you have to admire the way he held together an ancient estate and made it a successful and profitable business in the face of terrifying inheritance taxes (a tax that I think is thoroughly indefensible – as if the relatives of the recently deceased need to have massive tax worries to consider).
Firewall up. Download update.
Up. Down. Up. Simple really.
Of course, if Microsoft could sort out their software in the first instance…
Saturday 1 May 2004
A less exclusive club
Cyprus, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Poland, Slovenia, Slovakia – welcome to the EU.
- EU becomes "normal" – Paul Reynolds, BBC
- Norway braced for EU expansion – Aftenposten
- Advice for a successful marriage – Budapest Business Journal
- Mixed feelings – Anke Bryson, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung
- Impact of expansion on Russian-EU trade "cut by half by new deal" – St Petersburg Times
- Fireworks fail to fizz as expansion fatigue takes a heavy toll – John Lichfield, Independent
- Europe’s biggest gamble – Peter Fray, Sydney Morning Herald
- Thatcher’s EU vision becomes reality – Anton La Guardia, Telegraph
- New "Europeans" struggle to define that title – Sarah Lyall, New York Times
Wednesday 28 April 2004
Lesson from France?
Twenty five years ago today, Charles de Gaulle resigned as a result of losing a referendum over constitutional reform. Essentially, CDG had linked the referendum to his own position as president of the Fifth Republic, turning what should have been a straight-forward referendum into a vote of confidence.
Somehow, the whole situation reminds me of what is happening now with Tony Blair and the referendum on the constitutional treaty for the EU. I fear that the campaigns will not be about the treaty itself, but more about Europe as a whole and also a vote of confidence in TB – something that I reckon he would be unlikely to win if it happened tomorrow. Let’s face it, the constitutional treaty is not exactly fun-packed or really that interesting to the populace in general – they neither know or care about it, but they like to have a go at something simple like moaning about the French, the Germans or the PM. A product of our shorter attention spans, I fear.
You switched off already?!
Tuesday 20 April 2004
There’s nothing like a heated argument about the EU constitution to set you up for the afternoon.
On the Today programme yesterday morning, I heard Michael Howard say that the EU didn’t need a constitution because nations had constitutions and the EU was not a nation. He didn’t say this just once. He repeated it. His campaign seems to be based on the premise that no constitution is required for the running of an organisation like the EU.
Clearly stuff and nonsense. Corporations have constitutions. Charities have constitutions. All sorts of organisations have constitutions. A robust and transparent framework for the running and operation of an organisation is a fundamental requirement. The greatest shame about all this is that it shows how deficient the founders of the EU were in not creating a constitution at the outset.
If the Tories can not come up with a stronger and more believable argument for voting down the constitution (and I can’t believe that even if the British vote "no" and everyone else that has a referendum votes "yes" that the constitution will be torn up anyway), then I think they will lose the vote and lose heavily.
Unless they play the xenophobia card, of course. And they wouldn’t do that, would they?
Either way, I don’t believe that the proposed treaty needed a referendum anyway. I think that HMG, or, more precisely, the PM, has given into external pressure unnecessarily. The Maastricht Treaty didn’t need a referendum and nor did the Single European Treaty, both of which gave many more powers to the EU than the reforms in the current draft treaty. Even when we joined the EU/EEC, we didn’t have a referendum – it was only afterwards that Labour called a referendum, and that was convincing in its result.
But we know that Mr Murdoch doesn’t have that sort of influence really. After all, he hasn’t spoken to the PM on the subject "recently".
Monday 19 April 2004
Sergei Gorbunov messes with journalistic minds. Full report here.
Thursday 8 April 2004
It’s soooo long since we had a round-up of news stories coming out of Turkmenistan. As you may recall, the President-For-Life, Saparmurat Niyazov, is completely barking mad. Who could forget when he renamed the days of the week and months of the year after himself (first reported here), or when he decreed that youth lasted until the age of 37 (here). So, to bring you up to date on the latest mad happens in Turkmenistan, I present a Niyaozov News Update:
- "Those of you whose teeth have fallen out did not gnaw on bones. This is my advice."
- Midwives and nurses to be replaced by army conscripts.
- Turkmen leader inspires love towards watermelon.
- Turkmen leader hands out free Mercedes cars
- Man makes giant shoe in honour of Turkmen leader
You can catch up on all the "latest" news from Turkmenistan through the official Turkmen news agency – shame there hasn’t been any news since October.
Friday 2 April 2004
Anarchy in the UK?
So, immigration minister Beverley Hughes was forced to resign and now the Home Secretary is under pressure from the media and opposition, all as a direct result of a civil servant "whistleblowing" to the opposition.
Now the Government has recognised the worrying nature of this sort of development and launched "whistleblowers’ roadshows" (heaven help us) in order to provide a route for concerned civil servants to air their concerns. Or, in other words, to give Number 10 a method of controlling these sorts of events and managing them, rather than giving the initiative to the media or opposition.
It does represent a worrying development though. If a civil servant can act to bring about the resignation of a minister, albeit a reasonably junior one, then that suggests that the civil service as a whole could do considerable damage to an incumbent government, whether that be in the general public interest or as an act of malice or political opportunism. The result of this would be an ungovernable nation, as the infrastructure that administers would, in itself, become unadministerable. The political and governmental instability that would result would lead to dire social and economic consequences.
So, the question is, how does one strike a balance between the need to keep the civil service truly impartial and apolitical, as it is always supposed to have been (though I doubt that the reality matches that ideal) and the need to allow legitimate concerns to be raised and dealt with in an effective manner, without causing sensationalist reaction before such concerns and allegations are proven?
Answers on a postcard?
Tuesday 30 March 2004
Oh, and tut-tut BBC! This Alistair Cooke tribute page is marked "Last Updated: Thursday, 13 November, 2003, 12:38 GMT" – I’ll bet that gets fixed sharpish.
Friday 26 March 2004
Chichester in the news
Major fire at Portsfield Peugeot – this is on the main road by the railway line, and both have been closed. Apparently train services are "very messed up" (technical term used by the guy in the ticket office at Barnham), which should make my journey to Tunbridge Wells later a little interesting.
Four injured in bus crash – for those familiar with Chichester Bus Station, you’ll feel, as I do, that this was just a matter of time. The drivers often drive recklessly and far too fast, in my opinion. From what I’ve heard, the bus didn’t stop as it approached the bus stand, went through the railing and into the front of the bus company office. Passengers would have been standing between the railing and the office, under the canopy, waiting for the bus. Maybe something will happen now to slow the buses down, although it would be a case of shutting the proverbial stable door.
Thursday 25 March 2004
So Britney is the sexiest woman in the world, according to the annual FHM poll, the results of which were announced today. In second place was Rachel Stevens, making her the highest placed Briton. I heard her on the radio this morning, saying that she couldn’t understand what people saw in her and that she wasn’t sexy, blah blah de blah. Bollocks – she knows she’s got it, and she knows that she can flaunt it and make money. She wasn’t picked for S Club 7 for her singing talents, I’ll be bound. Faux modesty fools nobody.
Of course, they both trail by a long distance in my personal sexiest woman poll. My winner has beauty, brains and genuine modesty.
Monday 15 March 2004
Not shocking at all
Government "ignores" space threat.
Whilst Neos may not be a huge concern to many people, I think that this story is completely symptomatic of the current government’s attitude to just about anything and is an example of the way that they handle many issues:
- people have concerns
- government sets up a task force to investigate (note: may have a different name, such as independent review, inquiry, panel or committee)
- task force makes recommendations
- minister promises that recommendations will be implemented
- three years later, somebody points out that nothing has been done, but by then the issue is dead so nobody cares
Don’t make me list all the examples where this has happened.
I’m sure that our government is by no means unique in this regard. I think that this is a major contributing factor in voter apathy. Speaking of which, there was a good report on the subject by Dan Damon on this evening’s PM programme on Radio 4, but unfortunately I can’t find any web links for it.
Thursday 11 March 2004
There were all sorts of things I wanted to write about today. The stupidity involved in hitting yourself in the eye with a pair of headphones (don’t ask); the beauty of my newly-painted kitchen cupboards and the wonder that is the gloss roller; mispronounced words; when beige is not beige; the immediacy of blogging; and half a dozen other "fascinating" subjects.
But ideas of writing about such frivolity seem fairly inadequate in the light of today’s news.
Now, I know that I have ranted before about things that go on in the world that are tragic and yet do not make the headlines, and how we shouldn’t necessarily always focus on the headline tragedies and react in a knee-jerk style. But I’ve also been interested by the low level of reaction to the bombings in Madrid today in blogs in general. I’ve taken a bit of a straw poll of my regular reads, and none of them have mentioned today’s events so far.
When the Twin Towers were hit in 2001, every single blog devoted gigabytes of content to the subject. There was speculation, discussion, argument, discourse, opinion and even some on-the-spot reportage. But since then we have seen a succession of terrorist acts and other tragedies – the Bali bombing, the Casablanca attacks, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, several bombings in Turkey and much much more. Maybe it is less shocking now – perhaps the death of more than 170 people in a terrorist attack that is not so far from home is no longer enough to move us to outrage, revulsion or even to think and write about it. We’ve become numbed by it all and sit blankly transfixed by the news images on television or the articles on news websites.
If that is true, then it is a shame. I think that the content of blogs is a reasonable reflection of the subjects that are being thought about by people at large. Subjects which feature prominently in blogs are also likely to feature in conversations in bars, taxis, cafes and at dinner tables. If people are thinking about these things, by extension they care about them and are likely to come up with some sort of opinion about them. It’s our duty as voters in a democracy to think about the affairs of the day and consider what our opinion is, otherwise how can we ever hope to influence governments so that they truly represent the will of the people. For, in order to do that, the people must have a will to be represented, based on more than the ideas spoon-fed to us by the corporate-funded idealogues that make their pronouncements on the glowing box in the corner of the living room and in the rags that pass themselves for newspapers.
Basically, what I’m saying is this: THINK.
Update: English language blog in Madrid.
Monday 8 March 2004
Scientists develop vaccine for diarrhoea. The article helpfully tells us that around half a million people die from diarrhoea each year, but I wouldn’t mind betting that no more than half a dozen of those are tourists from western nations or members of our armed forces. More likely they are people living in squalid conditions in the Third World with no access to clean drinking water, for whom an expensive vaccine like this is really likely to make little or no difference.
Not only that, but those of us in the west are becoming so protected from illness and viruses now that we will soon have no resistance to anything at all – as soon as any sort of disease comes along, it’ll run like wildfire through the populace. A little dirt and a little illness doesn’t hurt.
Friday 5 March 2004
Thursday 26 February 2004
I feel a rant coming on. But I can’t decide what winds me up most. So post some comments on any or all of the following topics, and if my rant juices are still flowing at the end of the day, I’ll let rip.
- Mel Gibson’s film, The Passion of The Christ;
- GCHQ, Katherine Gun, Clare Short, Kofi Annan and bugging;
- Ann Winterton: a "family values" Tory;
- UK "amongst most secular nations in the world";
- President Bush moves to outlaw gay marriage.
Meanwhile, and risking accusations of being a BBC addict (or victim, if you prefer), may I suggest that you take a break and listen to Jonathan Marcus’s documentary series Age of Empire.
Wednesday 25 February 2004
For those that think that football has no part in the community – 1,000 jobs. Aside from all the stuff I listed the other day.
Monday 23 February 2004
A sad, and sadly all-too-true, article from today’s Telegraph.
The club are losing money as each day goes by. If directors stopped writing cheques, no one would get paid. Obviously it cannot go on.
If you care about football, even as little as I do, you should be worried by this. This has serious consequences for League football in the UK. If Brighton fail to get a new stadium, it will undoubtedly lead to the club’s closure, miracles notwithstanding. Next it could be your local club. The Gillinghams, Bournemouths, Port Vales and Exeters of this world are all in the same boat. It’s about more than just a football ground. It has social consequences that are all too often overlooked – a local football team is part of the community.
This bloke is going to get a lot of flak for saying this – from some sections of society, he will receive more than flak, he will be vilified.
The thing is, I think he is right.
People from our part of the world saw this sort of thing at first hand with the murder of Sarah Payne a few years ago. Her body was found on part of the Brinsbury Agricultural College, near to the A29 in West Sussex. People were, quite rightly, shocked and outraged by the murder of the girl. But I think I was even more outraged by the senseless waste of time and money when literally thousands of people descended on the site to leave flowers and gifts. The police had to set up traffic lights to control the traffic and stationed officers there around the clock to police the event. The College had to set aside a field for car parking because there were so many cars there. The County Council had to clean up the flowers and toys and remove them for disposal. Somebody (I’m not sure who – probably the College) paid for some Portaloos to be placed there and serviced. And you couldn’t get flowers from any of the local florists – they were doing a roaring trade.
It was utterly, utterly ridiculous. And to criticise it in any way was seen as heartless. An old school friend of mine went there with his wife and children to lay flowers. When I suggested to him that he would have been better to have given the money to a charity such as the NSPCC or ChildLine, he essentially told me that I was being selfish. His justification was that a child’s life had been needlessly taken and that it was his duty to mark that.
I don’t see him leaving flowers every day at the children’s ward of the local cancer hospital. Or at the graves of HIV/AIDS babies in Africa. Or for the eight children around the world that die every minute from disease or malnutrition.
[WARNING - sweeping statement ahead!] In my view, the problem with people today is that they do not look at the wider world. They don’t look beyond the immediate. Consequently, people do not think about the wider implications of their own actions. Also, they do not look beyond the headlines at the things going on in the world that are not major news.
Generally, people do not think. At all. Thinking is an extremely attractive quality. It was and is one of the things I love most about Hels. Nearly all of my friends Think (it deserves capitalization) – a healthy dose of cynicism mixed with a little optimism and a dash of observation. An avoidance of the knee-jerk. A desire to avoid the headline grabbing sensationalism of much of the mainstream. An appreciation that nothing in this world is straight-forward, simple or easily resolved.
And definitely not the sort of people to suffer mourning sickness.
Thursday 12 February 2004
How long do you think it will be before we start getting spam for oxytocin pills?
Tuesday 10 February 2004
Just to prove that I do read more than the BBC news….
- Norway tops world table of deodorant usage
- Nirvana now temples offer escape from earthly cares
- Bride snubs greedy groom, weds guest instead
- Ostriches find favour in Oblast, featuring an interview with the "Obi Wan Kanobi of ostriches".
A call to all football fans…
Monday 26 January 2004
A little bit of politics
Simon Hoggart on Ken Clarke’s return to the front bench. via Darren. All hail the return of the most powerful weapon in the Opposition’s ammunition.
Wednesday 21 January 2004
State of the Union
Tuesday 20 January 2004
Facts or opinion?
George W Bush and the real state of the Union. Worth reading, particularly if you are American and have a vote.
If the Daily Telegraph has always been nicknamed the Torygraph, what will it be known as if the allegiance changes?
Monday 19 January 2004
Two sad and shocking deaths to record:
Australian batsman David Hookes has died after being assaulted outside a bar in Melbourne. Hookes played 23 Tests for his country, and was coach of the Victoria state team. He was 46.
James Lawrence, guitarist with Chichester band Hope of the States has taken his own life whilst recording at Peter Gabriel’s RealWorld studio near Bath. He was 26. (Thanks to Celine for making me aware of this).
Wednesday 14 January 2004
Man’s body found in freezer.
You shouldn’t laugh, I guess, but the fact that there will not be a post-mortem until Friday tickled me. Can’t they stick him in the microwave?
Tuesday 13 January 2004
News you might have missed: Enric Bernat Fontlladosa has died, aged 80. Fontlladosa invented the Chupa Chup lollipop in 1958. Startlingly, it is now manufactured in 170 countires, and four billion of the things are sold each year.
Monday 12 January 2004
Price war victims
Supermarket price war predicted. This is being billed as good news for consumers, resulting in more choice and lower prices. But somehow I’m not so sure. The price war will result in yet greater pressures on suppliers (i.e. farmers and food processors) in order to reduce costs. The producers are already under great pressure to produce highly consistent food at very low costs, driven by the demands of consumers. I feel that increasing that pressure will only lead to more food scares like the one involving salmon we have just seen (although I’ve yet to be convinced of the merit of the claims in that case), and will also improve the odds for mass-produced subsidized food from western multinationals at the expense of food from smaller producers, be they in developing nations or in the next village.
Friday 9 January 2004
Apparently, Nicholas van Hoogstraten is not sorry about the death of Mohamed Raja, for which he was tried for manslaughter.
Draw your own conclusions.
Thursday 8 January 2004
Her Britannic Majesty requests…
BBC News – UK passport holders will need visas to enter US. Whatever happened to being granted passage without let or hindrance?
Aside: isn’t English a strange language? The verb to let can mean either "to allow" or "to hinder".
Oh no! I feel another rant coming on over this news. Kilroy is clearly a fool for writing such an ill-conceived and prejudiced article, and the editors of the Express are even more stupid for being foolish enough to print it.
Interestingly, in the Express’s own reporting of this news, they only refer to the peice as a "newspaper article" and don’t mention that it appeared in their own publication. How curious!
Tuesday 6 January 2004
Food for thought
In Ghana, there are only six doctors for every 100,000 people.
The NHS in the UK imports doctors from other countries in order to redress the perceived shortage of doctors in this country. Can you guess which is one of the nations targeted by NHS personnel managers?
Fact poached from a trailer for tonight’s Radio 4 programme The Poor Wars.
UKIP – no votes for you
Letter bombs to MEPs are the price of EU policy, says the UK Independence Party. Rrrgh! ….bile… ..rising…. must resist urge to rant!
In the name of all that is good on this planet, what the xxxx are these idiots thinking? How on Earth can the UKIP suggest that there is any justification for letter bombs in the world of politics? I think that they have just successfully shot themselves in the foot – their constituency is dominated by the more conservative elements of British society who will, rightly, be totally abhorred by the sentiment that their spokesman has expressed.
Incidentally, responsibility for the bombs has been claimed by a group calling itself the Informal Anarchist Front. The BBC reports that they are the responsibility of the Informal Anarchist Federation, apparently a misnomer which shouldn’t be confused with the Italian Anarchists Federation, who, unlike the UKIP, have denounced these bombings. More here.
To be honest, I hadn’t realised that anarchy was so well organised. Isn’t that a contradiction in terms?
UPDATE: the leader of the UKIP has now condemned the bombings, although he went on to reiterate his warnings of civil war in Europe. Scaremongering at its best.
Wednesday 31 December 2003
Will someone put the bitch down at the earliest opportunity? There is a limit to what is acceptable in today’s society. The thing is an ugly brute too.
Monday 29 December 2003
Wednesday 24 December 2003
I often travel the section of road that has seen a fatal accident today. It is very dangerous. The coach looks like it belongs to Richardsons, a company often used for school and college trips from Chichester.
Maybe this will lead to new safety measures on that road. They would be long overdue.
Monday 22 December 2003
For anyone that didn’t read the Independent on Saturday, I recommend Feargal Keane’s article Saddam’s arrest should be the signal to bring other war criminals to book.
Friday 19 December 2003
Woo, yay and, indeed, houpla! West Pier restoration given the go-ahead. All they need now is the money.
Tuesday 16 December 2003
Stepping on a banana skin
The transport reporter on BBC South Today, Paul Clifton, used a term I’d not heard of before when talking about the campaigners opposed to the construction of a second runway at Gatwick. One step up from NIMBY (not in my back yard), he described them as BANANA (build absolutely nothing anywhere near anyone).
A friend of mine who is professionally involved in countryside management would describe BANANAs as being members of the "blue tit and woolly hat brigade". I know what he means – unfortunately, a balance has to be struck between conservation and infrastructure and development, and that sometimes means that what we would like to preserve has to give way for what we need to develop. Equally, sometimes that situation is reversed, and the poor people who make those decisions and then put them into practice are unlikely to ever satisfy everybody.
Monday 15 December 2003
Free PCs for all..
Not much discussion in the Blogosphere (well, I’ve not seen much) of Metronomy, a new company that is giving away umpteen million (or several hundred thousand, depending on who you believe) free new IBM PCs. Or, to be more precise, it is loaning them on a rolling three year contract. There’s a catch of course – you must agree to be exposed to one minute of adverts for every twenty minutes of computer use, and must also use your computer for not less than thirty hours per month. I don’t find either of these restrictions to be particularly challenging – it’s easy enough to use the advert time for a loo or tea break, and an hour a day is pretty low level usage for most of the people who read this site. I also predict that patches will become available very quickly to suppress the adverts.
Is this a good idea, from either a commercial or marketing point of view? In my opinion, it will certainly have an impact on the PC market, probably wiping out the bottom end low-cost and very low margin machine market. Bad news for the likes of Dixons and Comet, I’d suggest. I am also unsure about the viability of the business model itself – will enough advertising revenue be generated to make the loan of the computers (and associated transport, admin and support costs) a profitable exercise? I’m not sure, as many companies are already wary of advertising on the net, having had their fingers burned by unrealistic promises in the past. I suspect that the main beneficiaries of adverts in this context are likely to be the usual suspects – purveyors of online financial services, Amazon and their competitors, the supermarkets and possibly also e-government. I don’t see it as being any more effective than other online adverts, other than by being more closely targeted than traditional net adverts.
We shall see. Hels and I may apply for one, just to see how we get on with it. After all, we need to be a three PC family, don’t we?
Sunday 14 December 2003
Assuming that the man arrested in Iraq really is Saddam Hussein, the real question that will be asked now is what exactly to do with him. So far, finding much evidence of anything at all has been a problem. I guess there is enough from the attacks on the Kurds and the war against Kuwait to convict him of something. But the question is, where will he be tried? And under which authority?
Tuesday 9 December 2003
Yesterday, Nicholas van Hoogstraten was released from prison. It had been found by the High Court that he had no case to answer in the alledged manslaughter of business associate Mohammed Raja.
In July 1999, following a long-running dispute with Mr Raja, van Hoogstraten allegedly sent two henchmen to Mr Raja’s home with a loaded firearm, with, it is claimed, the intention to scare Mr Raja. These two men shot and killed Mr Raja on his doorstep.
In his ruling yesterday, Sir Stephen Mitchell agreed with the defence team:
But, because there was no evidence that Hoogstraten foresaw that the two men would have deliberately turned the gun on Mr Raja, he could not be prosecuted for manslaughter.
If, however, Mr Raja had been killed accidentally by Hoogstraten’s two alleged henchmen, he could have been convicted of manslaughter.
Now, I’m not a lawyer and have no legal training, but doesn’t it seem to you that the law is just plain wrong in this regard? The Court was satisfied that van Hoogstraten sent these men, and that he knew they would carry a firearm. Surely that is enough for some sort of conviction?
I think there must be several people around who have already packed their bags and left the country.
Wednesday 3 December 2003
Is it art?
Glass toilet opened. How long before some couple goes in there for more than just a pee?
Tuesday 2 December 2003
Simply put, without the EU, my business simply would not exist. The euro itself certainly makes life a lot simpler – it would be better still if the UK were to join in too – the sooner that happens, the better, as far as I am concerned.
Thursday 20 November 2003
UN report talks bollocks – shock!
The BBC tells us of a UN report into the impact of technology on the third world (or rather, the lack of technology). Apparently:
Now, feel free to accuse me of over-simplifying here, but surely most people would rather have good health, nutrition and literacy before worrying about the difference between 56k dial-up and 64k ISDN?
There is so much in the news that I want to comment on today: George Dubya’s visit to London, the protests that go with the visit, the bomb attacks in Istanbul and, dare I say it, Michael Jackson’s arest in connection with child abuse allegations. Lamentably, I’m much too tired, having driven 300 miles today, much of it in heavy traffic and through driving rain. I need sleep. Fortunately, I have my own warm and safe home to do that in.