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Friday, April 30, 2010

3 Quarters of a Long Weekend

Shame we don't all have today off as well which would have allowed for a full long weekend, but three quarters is better than none.

The TV debates are over so we've only got a week left of the incessant bolotics. And the results ? Well generally it seems Mr Clegg won the first one, the second was still slightly in Mr Clegg's favour with Mr Cameron a close second and yesterdays seemed to be Mr Cameron's night, although Mr Clegg held a very strong second. This leaves Mr Brown floundering around and in need of some serious hard work, which I'm afraid will get him nowhere. It's apparent that the population have already decided that a change is needed and with the mess the Labour Party have been making of their campaign you could be forgiven for thinking they are actually "trying" to loose the election. Between you and me, I don't think they need to "try" too hard.

Gordon and his "Team" unveiled new posters this morning with the slogans "Don't forget to vote Labour Mum" and "Vote Labour Gran". If my mum (or my Gran for that matter) voted Labour hell would have frozen over. Not only that but the event was a bit of a car crash, as some poor soul actually crashed their car into a bus stop nearby. Presumably distracted by the sight of a man who's collar and cuffs don't match! You can't blame Gordy, The Dark Lord and The Badger for trying, but in all honesty they've made an arse of it.






Where does that leave us then ? It's a two horse race, between the blues and yellows - and we keep being told that the likely outcome is a hung parliament. Some people I know would be "happy to hang the bloody lot of them". The problem here is the First Past the Post voting system. Here's what the Electoral Reform Society have to say about it:

The voting system: how it works
At a general election each of the 646 constituencies in the UK elects one MP to represent them in parliament. Political parties choose one candidate each and voters put an ‘X’ on the ballot paper next to their favourite candidate. The candidate with the most votes wins, and is elected to a seat in the Commons: it’s as simple as that.
This is the First Past the Post election system. Much like a race in which the winner is the first across the line these elections are ‘winner takes all’. It does not matter how close the race was, there are no prizes (and no seats) for those coming second.

Is it fair?
It seems fair that in a single seat the person with the most votes wins. But candidates don’t need to get a majority of votes, just more than their opponents. It means most MPs are elected when the majority of their electorate would have preferred someone else. Currently only one in three MPs can claim support from over half of the voters in their constituencies.
When we add up the votes across all the seats, the national results show that some political parties do better under this system than others. There are no prizes for coming second, so if a party is runner up in many seats it can win lots of votes but very few seats. In fact, in five elections during the twentieth century, the party that won the most votes did not win the most seats. You might say the wrong party won the election.
In the 2005 election, one party won 600,000 votes in the UK but no seats at all. Another party, which won less than half this number of votes, won nine seats. The election result depends as much on where your supporters live as how many you actually have. As the number of seats parties win determines who governs the UK, it is a serious problem if there are doubts about the fairness of the system.

I'm all for changing this because it really doesn't seem fair that my vote is actually only worth 0.2 votes. OK - Enough!!

Fairly quiet weekend planned. Lunch with the Mother-in-Law and the opportunity to see the newly refurbished bathroom (assuming that BBB has finished it by then) and a trip to LudLow to have a look round are two of the items on the list. We passed through Ludlow on the way to North Wales a couple of weeks ago and I was surprised at how nice it looked. Mrs G has been there a few times before, but it'll be a new experience for me, so I'm looking forward to that. Of course the weather makes deciding which day to go on a tricky choice, but it's looking like Monday will be the day. Let's hope everyone else stays home so the roads are clear (Although Scobi's vannin' could cause a tailback from the south west all the way back up to the midlands.)

Whatever you do, have a great bank holiday weekend safe in the knowledge that I'll stop cr*pping on about #ge2010 very soon.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Shocking State of the State

You're not allowed to publish the results of any votes cast in an election until the polling stations have closed. This is a law in the UK. With that in mind....

Read this: http://bracknellblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/bristol-east-are-opening-postal-votes.html and wonder why the voting public are so disaffected by the entire process of Government. Shocking.

Anyway, I drew this to Rory Cellan-Jones' attention with this tweet:
@ruskin147 ... have the Beeb got this story? http://bracknellblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/bristol-east-are-opening-postal-votes.html

Rory posted this:
Extraordinary - in now deleted tweet Labour's @Kerry4MP reported "First PVs opened in east Bristol..." and gave figs for postal votes

And then very kindly Direct Messsaged (DM'd) me back

good story - have you got her original tweet?

Unfortunatly I didn't, but it was still around, thanks to the hefty retreating it had been getting.

@ruskin147 Sorry Rory, I don't - but it still appears on the UKLabourParty Twitter page: https://twitter.com/UKLAbourparty (Can't DM you)

Rory is now a follower of mine, so in future I will be able to DM him (Bound to be useful given the amount of tech I get through). Rory went on to contact Kerry

according to @kerry4mp @UKLabourParty is not an official account. She says she deleted the PV tweet in mins and spoke to returning officer

and that, as they say, is that - for the time being. Who knows, Rory might give me a mention on BBC News 24, or he might not. I'm not expecting to get famous, but I'm happy to have helped out a journalist who I enjoy listening to and is regularly extremely informative.

I'll leave you with this post...

@ElectoralCommUK Electoral Comm guidance on opening postal votes: http://bit.ly/aiawlj <- Who said Twitter was no use?! #kerryout #ge2010

Who was Tommy Flowers?

On the never ending treadmill why is it that there always seems to be sooo much to do ? I'm worn out just thinking about it, but as always the correct approach is break it all up into small chunks, prioritise the chunks, start the most important chunk, start it now! This method works and I'm happy with it, but sometimes there seems to be so many chunks that prioritising them is as big a headache as getting them done. At least I feel like I'm getting somewhere now that some of the bigger chunks are moving along nicely.

All this sorting out has meant I've been a bit lacking on a couple of things, notably, sorting out the golf quarterly for the A.G.S. and talking tech, so this post is to put some of that right.

Naturally I'm not going to blather on about the golf quarterly, other than to say it's on the 22nd at one of two destinations and price negotiations are ongoing.

I am going to blather on about tech though, so be warned, non-geeks and those anti-historian types, look away now.

Let's start at the very beginning (such a very good place to start, as the song goes). Now when I say the beginning I don't mean Charles Babbage's computers. These were slightly more than automated abacuses (abacai??) but they were by no means electronic. The beginning in the electronic sense belongs to the relatively unknown son of a brickie known as Tommy Flowers.

Tommy was born in East End of London in 1905. He served an apprenticeship as a mechanical engineering at the Royal Arsenal, Woolwich, and got a degree in electrical engineering from the University of London. By 1926, he was working for the GPO (General Post Office) where as an engineer it didn't take him long to move into research at the GPO's Dollis Hill four years later. By the time war broke out in 1939 he understood how electronic telephone exchanges could work and it was this switching that would lead him to develop the first truly electronic computer.

The infamous Alan Turing (now considered the founder of computer science) who was working at Bletchley Park code breaking for the war effort contacted Tommy who had been identified through the GPO as someone that Alan believed could build complex electronic equipment to help decode intercepted messages from the Germans. Here, Tommy also met Max Newman who was working on deciphering an even more complex code than the Enigma codes, known internally as "Fish". Tommy's approach was to use valves which he used to run the system having worked with them on the telephone exchanges. He saw them to be reliable, while his seniors at Bletchley weren't convinced. However, he carried on and built an enormous system mostly from his own funding. The girls at Bletchley named the machine Colossus (Over a tonne and an entire room in size) and it used over 1800 valves. By comparison the most complex electronic equipment of the time used about 150 valves.

Colossus ran 5 times faster than "Heath Robinson" which was the previous attempt made from electro-mechanical switches similar to those used in railway systems. Once it had proven itself as workable, a second Colossus was commissioned which when completed produced vital information for the D-Day landings. Specifically a message confirming that Hitler wanted "no additional troops moved to Normandy" as he saw it as a diversion. Eisenhower read the message and announced to his staff, "We go tomorrow." June 6th 1944. Most of the machines were dismantled post-war, but there were two that were relocated to GCHQ (Just around the corner in Cheltenham) where they still ran until the early 60's.

Tommy's work never got the public recognition it deserved, due in part because it was top secret stuff during the war and of course he was covered by the OSA. He carried on at the GPO and developed ERNIE (The random number generator for Premium Bond draws) amongst other things until he retired in 1969. He passed away in 1998 at the age of 92. This summer (2010) Tower Hamlets is opening the "Tommy Flowers Center" as an Technology Center in Henriquesa Street, London.

Clearly without Tommy, computer hardware wouldn't have progressed the way it has, and while it may now be moving in a different direction, today's tech is built by standing on the shoulders of Giant's such as Tommy. We have much to thank him for.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

2010 Election Result

Election news: I can confidently predict one of two things to be completely correct.

Either: a) The Liberal Democrats are going to have a landslide one week on Friday.
Or: b) The majority of Twitter users are Liberal Democrats.

And how have I arrived at this gem I hear you ask? Its all here: http://www.twitvoteuk.org.uk/. I've put a bet on just in case. :-) and it's great to see that this is running on IBM WebSphere Business Events.

So now that's all dealt with I can finally get on with life and stop wondering about the bolotics. Phew! Worth checking to see is your election is over too.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Mooning about

And so it is, that Tuesday has come to us all with the passing of Monday.

Last night while I was sat in the garden (smoking when I shouldn't have been) the moon was at it's fullest as far as I could tell and it lit the place up as if it were the sun. In truth, it partly is the sun - or at least the light part of it is - as it's merely reflected from our central star. But this got me to thinking about the moon as I have been known to do on occasion.

First a few facts (which given that I've written them in my blog are undisputable).

1. It's roughly 250,000 miles from the earth to the moon which I think means I've driven the distance there and back once in my lifetime so far (give or take a few miles).

2. There are golf balls that Alan Shepard shanked and sliced about during the Apollo 14 mission, several flags, a family photograph, the Fallen Astronaut (a tiny statuette left by the crew of Apollo 15) and many probes, satellites and reflectors as well as the Landers and Rovers used during the 6 manned visits. None of them can been seen with the naked eye, nor even with a telescope (leading to all sorts of conspiracy theories about whether NASA actually went in the first place), but there has been some photos from the Lunar Reconnaissance Orbiter that prove the existence of such sites as tranquility base (the most famous landing site from the summer of '69).

3. It's made of cheese (some say it's cheddar) but samples brought back from the 60's and 70's moon landings are eaten at the presidents birthday dinner each year and those that have tried it swear it's either Brie or Camembert - The tougher outer shell gives it away.

OK, so that may not have been 100% fact, but then I've never claimed anything I write here is, apart from the bits that are ;-)

I'm sure you've noticed that when you look at the moon it has the darker grey portions and very light almost white portions. Everytime I see it like that I feel like I'm looking at an old version of the Earth. It's only in greyscale / black and white because it pre-dates colour. It's like Earth from the 1930's. The dark areas are actually lunar maria created by volcanic fallout and not seas (in Latin "Maria" hence the name) as the early astronomers mistakenly thought.

I've always felt that I have a personal affinity with it because of my age. 1969 was the both my year and that of the first moon landing and while the fact that man even went there should be important enough, for me it just seems so much more significant. The whole Apollo thing has a special place in my heart even if I was too young to remember it. I have a copy of "Life" magazine from the day I was born hung on my office wall. The picture on the cover depicts the Earth as seen from Apollo 8. It was a '68 special all about NASA's mission. On Christmas Eve 1968 this mission also took the infamous "Earthrise" photograph that shows the Earth rising over the horizon of the moon. It's an image that I keep coming back to and is simply Iconic.

I hope one day we'll go back. I saw Moon a couple of months ago and it paints a dark, bleak picture of our orbiting rock's future. I dream of it's future being much brighter and of one day maybe even visiting it myself. But I'm sure there's a whole generation of people 10 years older than me that have had that dream and upgraded their destination to Mars, just because when they were 10 they saw men walk on the moon and believed Mars would be our next stop. Now that we've skipped a generation, we've got to go back and learn how to do it again, and as we've not got any spare cash to do it, I suspect that both mine and their dream may never come to fruition. I live in hope.

In other news - I think my WiFi is nearly dead. It keeps just dropping out for no reason. Now I don't really want to go and buy a new router (and I could go back to my O2 supplied Thompson) so I think a little more research is in order before I go shelling out. Ho-Hum.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Manifesto's

One last point....

There remains one full week of #ge2010 left and if you haven't seen them you might want to look at these:

The Labour Party Manifesto
The Conservative Party Manifesto
The Liberal Democrats Manifesto

Oh... and word of the day.... "Lovebombing" LoL

Hope that helps you out. G

Catching up

Failed miserably to write my 750 words yesterday and I hold my oldest (not eldest) friend entirely responsible for that. I have some catching up to do. Clearly he led me astray with alcohol and food and general chat of people we know, places we've seen and the goings on of the world itself. We set the world to rights and it was loads of fun.

So A&L&LittleA showed up mid afternoon Saturday, and we spread out in the garden and enjoyed the sunshine. A really beautiful day on Saturday meant that as well as consuming the odd beverage or two a full on bar-b-q (using the newly reconditioned BBQ) was the perfect way to watch the sun go down. LittleA has really become a great little character (she's 14 months now) and gurgle's away, points, says the odd intelligent word (like cat-cat or some such) and has an interest in absolutely everything for at least 35 seconds before being dis-squrriel-tracted.

Daughter arrived with S (and later C and Son's "friend" S2). S had made fresh kebabs with Daughter which went down well and we spoofed for who would be first in the tub fully clothed. All very silly but entertaining stuff. By the time the wee small hours arrived we'd migrated back in doors to a game of Buzz and a bit of Singstar before we were all fully worn out and had to sleep. There's only so much Lady GaGa as sung by the youths and mangled by the adults that you can take.

Early start Sunday morning because as anyone with kids will you tell you they set the agenda from the moment they awake, although this is perfectly normal in our house where we're normally early birds. So by 9 o'clock we were all up and had feasted on a proper english cooked breakfast. The five of us (A&L&LittleA, Mrs G and I) took a stroll into the city and around the newly refurbished docks (Oh what a floor that is) ending up appropriately in Robert Raikes' House for a spot of lunch.

Oh what a floor that is...

It's appropriate because it was a Sunday and Mr Raikes was the founder of the Sunday School movement. In fact he was the founder of schooling in general (as Sunday Schools came before the state school system) and they where first held on a Sunday because the rest of the time, the kids were all at work (up chimneys, in factories etc etc. - Oh for the good old days) Today his house is a pub, and a very beautiful one it is too. Can't say that the food and drink really lives up to the surroundings which is a great shame, but it's still perfectly edible and quaffable. A greatly enjoyed weekend that we don't do often enough. Luckily there are bank holidays on the near horizon and L has her special birthday coming up - so a weekend in Wiltshire with more buffoonery and catching up with more of the west country gang isn't far away.

This morning I have a disaster on my hands though. A and I finished off the "Old Brown Java" on Sunday morning which means I've had to revert to the Lavazza, which while good is not the same. So at some point this week I have to have a trip to Whittards to pickup both more OBJ and either some Italian Expresso, Monsoon Malabar or Cafe Francais. Life without coffee would be like life without oxygen probably.

I also seem to be having some very odd goings on with my broadband connection this morning. It's up and down like a pair of whore's draws and I'm damned if I can figure out why. My router is particularly old and has been 100% reliable so I'm doubting that's the problem. Of more concern may be network activity caused by some rouge piece of software. Now I have a fairly solid set of tools on the Mac that allow me to see exactly what it's up to and nothing appears out of place there, so my suspicions point towards the slightly more volatile Windows systems that sit on my LAN. The work box only does work and nothing else (at least as far as is humanly possible) so I doubt that's picked anything up, but it's not impossible. I think a full scan is in order and we all know how tedious that is.....

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Par-Tay

Tired wouldn't begin to describe it, but we did have great afternoon, evening and goodnight...ZZzzZZzzZZzzzz

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Not very, but ever so slightly.... "I"

Started catching up with some of our recorded telly last night and in particular QI. This is clearly one of the more impotant pieces of television that the BBC produce. Not only is it hosted by national treasure and king of Twitter, Mr Stephen Fry but it also employs a bunch of elves who compile all the "Quite Interesting" bits and bobs that it covers. One of these elves lives in the western part of the UK (I like him already - excellent taste in geography) and at the tail end of last year wrote a book which I'm lucky enough to have a copy of. Secret Britain by (the elf that is) Justin Pollard. He's written at least 5 other history related books but this one is clearly the British bits they left out of the show plus lots of bits they left in. Either way, it's great fun.

A couple of highlights for me include The city of Burlington in Wiltshire, a place I've been lucky enough to visit, the Allen brothers book, Vestiarium Scoticum and the lost church of St Laurence in Bradford-on-Avon which is a town close to my heart.

All three of these are deserving of a blog entry each of their own, but I'll leave that to the hard work of others who have gone before me. You don't have a blog and dlark yourself (dlark is used here in it's truest sense meaning 'a made up word to make a well known phrase fit around the word blog').

However, of these three I feel it's only right that I regale you with my tale of the visit to the city of Burlington because it really is a 'special' place in our countries history.

In 1990 or thereabouts, I moved to Corsham in Wiltshire. It's about a dozen or so miles to the East of Bath. A small town with a pretty little high street which has appeared in many a Sunday night period drama on the BBC dressed as a non-descript 18th or 19th century village. All appears normal about the town save for the wild peacocks (which can be a bit disconcerting the first time you find one in your garden screeching at 3am) and the military base just to the South of the town. Rumours abound over the purpose of the site. Some say it's where the British UFO collection is kept, others that it's an inland Naval store (which it probably was) but the truth is far more interesting and there is a beautiful rumor attached to the facts to.

If you've ever been to London and walked along the Mall from Buckingham Palace down to Trafalgar square you almost certainly won't have noticed the ivy clad square buliding on the right of the Mall just before you reach Admiralty Arch. Those of you with a keen eye will have seen the complex set of radio masts on the roof of the building behind this odd block. Clearly this is where Whitehall keep their global communications for managing James Bond and the other double O's. Probably.

Well the story goes that this block houses the lift gear at the top of a shaft that leads to a 'forgotten' tube station (there are many, of which Aldwych is one). This tube station services HRH and the (self) important people from Whitehall in the event of Global Thermo Neuclear War. The line runs out towards Paddington where it joins the main East/West M4 corridor line that happens to run through (you guessed it) Corsham. The next village along is Box, home of Peter Gabriel and Brunel's masterpiece that is Box Tunnel. Inside Box tunel there's a siding for trains to leave the main line and pull into Burlington city Station.

Bath is built from local stone (for local people - nothing for you here) which was quarried out underneath Melksham, Atworth, Corsham and Box. This has left a huge network of underground caverns which the MoD have made much use of over the years. So from the tunnel in box it's a short underground ride through Burlington to (and this is the bit that has only recently become public) "The Royal Bunker" which is really what's at the military base.

I haven't seen inside the bunker (there's picture online I expect) and I've not seen the pub in Burlington (yes there really is a pub down there) but I have seen some of the stores and other old parts of Burlington that were sold off in the later 90's. It's not cold and damp as you might suspect, but dry and well lit. It's also enormous and when I say enormous I don't mean huge, I mean massive in a mind boggling sort of way. There are streets (you have to have a method to find your way around) which look like long corridors, paved like small roads for the electric trucks to get around. Monster air conditioning units stand rusting at a couple of points, which would have been used to recycle the noxious gassed from above.

Chances are you've either drank wine or eaten mushrooms from down there as it's the home of the largest wine cellar in europe (Octavium) housing 650,000 crates of wine worth an estimated £1bn and a mushroom farm that I believe services many of our national supermarkets. It is an amazing thing to see and should you ever get the opportunity, I recommend it.

So that's my QI for today most of which is fact, I'm off to sample the vino. Toodle-pip!

Friday, April 23, 2010

The 5th day of the working week

"Es sit Freitag" or "c'est vendredi", either way - thank feck for that.

Well, it turns out that things at my Starfleet meeting went quite well. Time will tell what the results of it all will be, but after all the worry, I feel better just for getting it all off my chest. Upstairs in a rather cramped office at one of the outposts was the location and it consisted of all the standard items that are usually covered in meetings of this type. Nothing unusual and entirely as expected. However, there was a reason that the office was cramped, and that was the fact that we were sharing it with an elephant that my commander was doing his best not to engage in any conversation. Those that know me, will know I'm a sociable chap, and felt sorry for the great grey beast sat there all alone so I set about making it my business to introduce my commander to him. He produced a bag of peanuts and elephants are very big. Make of this what you will. I have nothing more to add on the subject.

So after relative success (and I stress the word relative) I was still in need of refreshment which would come in the form of the WTC. As you may know this put me between a rock and a hard place with respect to the #LeadersDebate. I watched some on my phone, though the pub was too noisy to focus, I followed along on twitter, though the twitterati tend not too focus on the detail (well how can you in 140 characters?) This means that I find myself this morning in the position that Scobi was last week and judging the results on this mornings analysis. I did record it though and I will watch it - probably during my lunch today. It'll be interesting to see if my opinion lines up with anything the press are saying.

Something I have found very surprising over the last week or two is the number of people that have really become engaged in the whole election / politics process. I know you can't avoid it because of the news, but last night's conversation in the pub was 80% political which is something I would never have expected from the assembled members in a month of Sundays. But then it was Thursday. What started as very much a passing comment in the canteen at Starfleet yesterday also turned into a good hours worth of political opinion and I was very interested to discover that one of our number sit on the local council.

Equally surprising to me is how engaged I've become by it. A couple of months ago I would have had little if no interest in it at all, but since my conversations with Parmjit Dhanda and the lack or results from him combined with the televised debates (there's nowhere to hide) I'm completely riveted by the whole circus of it. I can't believe I've even gone to the trouble of taking the day off on Friday the 7th just to stay up all night on the 6th and watch the results. This is a worry to me. I have no intention of standing for office at any level. (Just wanted to clear that up)

What I really do need to do - and I don't know if I'm going to get enough time to do it - is to properly figure out the contents of the parties manifesto's and which policies are best. That, after all is the only indicator that we have to go on besides our own experiences of those involved. What I mean by this, is that if someone says they're going to do something, are they actually going to do it ? or to put it another way, can they be trusted ? So let's think about that for a moment. Hmmmmm.... Expenses? Tax? Economy? Iraq? Digital Economy Bill?.... bugg3r! They can't be trusted can they? I'm still going to have to analyse the policies - although I suspect that that could lead me nowhere too.

To other things.... Finally have arranged for BBB to visit Mother-in-Laws this evening and measure up for her new bathroom. In theory this is a twenty minute job, but I believe that while I hold my Mother-in-Law in very great esteem (she is easily my favourite Mother-in-Law of all time), she is extremely adept at removing the two rear limbs of a quadrupedal domesticated equidae using only the power of speech.

Beyond that, some last minute preparations for our weekend of socialising and a huge sigh of relief that it really is Friday! Have a great weekend.

Thursday, April 22, 2010

My Grammar is my father's mother of necessity

Now that I am 41, it's only fitting that this weekend sees a visit from my oldest friend and his four year old wife..... And that in a nutshell is what I love so dearly about the English language.

Clearly the weekend can't see anything, it is a period of time and doesn't have eyes to speak of. My oldest friend isn't that old (in fact he's the same age as me give or take 10 days to be precise) and his wife is much older than 4 (although not as old as either of us yet). Grammer on the other hand is as old as the language itself.

A couple of other friends and workmates have recently started blogging, (namely: Scobi, Stretch & A Bad Man) so I think they need to be made aware of the potential pitfalls of bad grammer while writing wrongs.

There are some very basic rules which I can't take the credit for documenting, but I'm pretty sure that whoever originally put them together won't mind me sharing them here. They are easy to follow and I do my best to do so throughout my writing of my blog. And honestly, I do not, not do so..... without further ado:

1. Verbs HAS to agree with their subjects.

2. Never use a preposition to end a sentence with. Winston Churchill, corrected on this error once, responded to the young man who corrected him by saying "Young man, that is the kind of impudence up with which I will not put!

3. And don't start a sentence with a conjunction.

4. It is wrong to ever split an infinitive.

5. Avoid cliches like the plague. (They're old hat.)

6. Also, always avoid annoying alliteration.

7. Be more or less specific.

8. Parenthetical remarks (however relevant) are (usually) unnecessary.

9. Also too, never, ever use repetitive redundancies endlessly over and over again

10. No sentence fragments.

11. Contractions aren't always necessary and shouldn't be used to excess so don’t.

12. Foreign words and phrases are not always apropos.

13. Do not be redundant; do not use more words than necessary; it's highly superfluous and can be excessive

14. All generalizations are bad.

15. Comparisons are as bad as cliches.

16. Don't use no double negatives.

17. Avoid excessive use of ampersands & abbrevs., etc.

18. One-word sentences? Eliminate.

19. Analogies in writing are like feathers on a snake (Unless they are as good as gold).

20. The passive voice is to be ignored.

21. Eliminate commas, that are, not necessary. Parenthetical words, however, should be enclosed in commas.

22. Never use a big word when substituting a diminutive one would suffice.

23. Don’t overuse exclamation points!!!

24. Use words correctly, irregardless of how others use them.

25. Understatement is always the absolute best way to put forth earth-shaking ideas

26. Use the apostrophe in it's proper place and omit it when its not needed and use it correctly with words’ that show possession.

27. Don’t use too many quotations. As Ralph Waldo Emerson said, "I hate quotations.. Tell me what you know."

28. If you've heard it once, you've heard it a billion times: Resist hyperbole; not one writer in a million can use it correctly. Besides, hyperbole is always overdone, anyway.

29. Puns are for children, not groan readers.

30. Go around the barn at high noon to avoid colloquialisms.

31. Even IF a mixed metaphor sings, it should be derailed.

32. Who needs rhetorical questions? However, what if there were no rhetorical questions?

33. Exaggeration is a billion times worse than understatement.

34. Avoid "buzz-words"; such integrated transitional scenarios complicate simplistic matters

35. People don’t spell "a lot" correctly alot of the time.

36. Each person should use their possessive pronouns correctly

37. All grammar and spelling rules have exceptions (with a few exceptions)....Morgan’s Law.

38. Proofread carefully to see if you any words out.

39. The dash – a sometimes useful punctuation mark – can often be overused – even though it’s a helpful tool some of the time.

40. Proofread carefully to make sure you don’t repeat repeat any words.

41. In writing, it’s important to remember that dangling sentences.

41. When numbering in a written document, check your numbering system carefully.

There you have it. Stick with these and your righting won't be wrong. Or it might.

Back to where I started, and my oldest (not eldest friend) really is joining us for the weekend at some point on Saturday. We've been taking the p!ss out of eachother for about 25 years and I hope we'll continue to do so for another 25 (at least). I'm very much looking forward to the forthcoming mirth, but I know it will be accompanied by the consumption of quite a large quantity of alcohol. Age is catching up with me on that subject, so it will be a challenge, but I'm happy to report that since the birth of his daughter (about a year ago) he's started to slow up a little too - so I might just survive. Regardless, plenty of beer will be on ice and the hot tub will be all fired up and ready to go. If the weather holds out, might even fire up the reconditioned bar-b-q too.

Tonight is WTC night and the next round of PM debates and today I'm meeting up with my Commander for a review. This leaves me torn this evening. I'll be in need of a beverage after a stressful day - hence WTC, but I'll want to catch the debates which won't be on in the pub. Life's hard alot of the time. ;-) Have a grate day!

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Really??? Did this actually happen ??

Would any party leader attend a television interview about the contents of their manifesto without know what is IN their manifest?? Oh Lord Pearson....

Bits of stuff and that...

STUFF (stf)
noun.
1. The material out of which something is made or formed; substance.
2. The essential substance or elements; essence: "We are such stuff/As dreams are made on" (Shakespeare).
3. Informal
   a. Unspecified material: "Put that stuff over there."
   b. Household or personal articles considered as a group.
   c. Worthless objects.

4. Slang Specific talk or actions: "Don't give me that stuff about being tired."
5. Sports
   a. The control a player has over a ball.
   b. The spin, english, curve, or speed imparted to a ball.
6. Basketball A dunk shot.
7. Special capability: The team really showed its stuff and won the championship.
8. Chiefly British Woven material, especially woolens.
9. Slang Money; cash.
10. Slang A drug, especially one that is illegal or habit-forming.


Home Stuff (1. Material from which I am formed): Daughter survived her trip to Thorpe Park and arrived home tired and sunburned. Then she had the girls round later to watch Saw 4 (after riding the Saw roller coaster and scaring themselves in the Saw live maze). Bless em. I made pizza's for dinner for me & Mrs G - too big and probably very unhealthy, but you have to have a treat now and again don't you.

Work stuff (1. Partially which generates 9.... or possibly 3c): My Starfleet workload has been keeping me busy (which is no bad thing) and it's helping take my mind off of Thursday - although it does leave me exasperated at the plans to reduce crew members when there's obviously plenty of exploration to do still. Worse still are the recent results announcements that have shown starfleet to be fairing exceptionally well compared to other elements in the United Federation of Planets (some odd people refer to the UFP as stock exchanges)

Odds and sods (3a veering to 10 if you're a geek like me): Next time you need a typeface ask Julian Hansen, clever stuff (7). What ever happened to the Spirograph stuff (5b?), Don't' worry about that Brain Training stuff (3c) and finally Google's Government Requests stuff

Politics now (Probably 8): and Oooo what fun and high jinks. Poor old Gordon, well actually poor not-as-old Ed Milliband (brother of David - Dedwood??). If you missed the heckling he got in Swindon where he visited with the PM yesterday, what a shame. It was beautiful. In fact, a bad day all round for the Labour lads it seems.

Started off with Gordon getting a kicking on Radio 1's newsbeat. While trying to appeal to the youth vote, a 24 year old and an 18 year old got wound up with him over immigration and he wasn't in a comfortable position. (never work with children and animals). However, things went from bad to worse when he & Ed (and the dark lord) went to Swindon. Here's how the BBC reported it:

Gordon Brown's visit to a school in Swindon has descended into confusion before the Labour leader has even arrived, reports the BBC's James Cook. It appears the Labour Party has failed to clear the visit with the relevant authorities at Swindon Borough Council. Mr Brown had expected to be filmed and photographed inside the school, but the council will not allow the media onto their premises to film a politician during a general election campaign. A spokeswoman for the Conservative-controlled council said the same rule would apply to David Cameron.

Then from the BBC's James Cook: Earlier, the council stopped media filming him there because of rules surrounding election coverage. The Labour Party said it was "absolutely outrageous that the Tory council is trying to block access to the great facilities provided here". Climate Change Secretary Ed Miliband was also confronted by an angry man outside the school. He accused the government of doing nothing to help people struggling to cope in the recession or the town itself. He was eventually invited inside to meet the prime minister.

The heckler who confronted Ed Miliband in Swindon, John Doyle, has said he's now had a word with Gordon Brown, reports the BBC's Iain Watson. Mr Doyle says the PM blamed the local Tory council for not telling him what help there is for small businesses. Mr Brown has arranged a meeting for Mr Doyle with the local Labour candidate Anne Snelgrove tomorrow.

It's an enjoyable race and it seems it's all to play for between the Conservatives and the Lib Dems and after Dave's disastrous interview here, It looks more like the blues and reds are stuffed and there is only one choice.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Theatre is life. Cinema is art. Television is furniture. ~Anon

Complete lack of Scobi Wan yesterday. I suspect he's hiding out in his new department.

Finally managed to pick up some new windscreen wipers for the car yesterday. 25 Quid??!! How Much ?? It's only two windscreen wipers! I swear the last time I bought any they were about £11. What is going on in the world ? In danger of turning into my dad/grand father etc. here. I have to remember that growth continues (and in theory will always continue) in an upward direction which is part of the reason you can't get penny chews anymore. Well, that and the fact that Woolworth's has gone bust and such sweets only seem to be sold by the pound now-a-days. Still, it was a bit of a shock. (visual: "Shakes head in despair while staring at the floor" mutters in exasperated tone while sighing: "Twenty five quid, sheeesh")

A relaxing evening in front of the telly brings me to the subject of the peak time televisual experience in the UK. Let's be honest, it's a bit of a mess.

"Television! Teacher, mother, secret lover. ~Homer Simpson" He says it like it is.

There are pinpoints of light that shine through the schedules and provide what it says on the tin (ed. Philips ??) ie: Informative and entertaining programming, but they are few and far between. Generally I don't watch a great deal of TV, it tends to be BBC News 24 (I'm my mother's son, she being a newshound), Sky News or some useful documentary, but I do like a decent comedy or drama or a comedy/drama. Of course Movies are a passion, so that's what gets the most of my eyeballs, probably.

So what have we got? The One Show on BBC 1. Adrian Chiles is to leave 'The One Show'. That's a relief. If ever there was a man who embodies the phrase "Housewives favourite" it is he. Personally I won't miss him. The show itself though is proper "car-crash TV". You really don't want to watch, but it's difficult to look away - you're inner curiosity outweighs your ability to change the channel. It has some of the most incredible gear changes ever witnessed on television. They'll start with something light hearted - like "It's pancake day! and today we're making pancakes" and then switch to "The terrible plight of the starving children in earthquake hit Haiti" and then switch to "The number of guile-mots in the outer Hebrides" and wind it up with one of Giles Brandrith's mini history lessons on something like "Holst's - The Planets". It's a whirlwind of a show that leaves you wondering "What the hell just happened?". Very odd.

Coronation Street is the only soap that I'll allow myself to watch - which is handy because Mrs G likes it too. It's the only one that has laughs in it. The others try, but consistently fail and Eastenders (or "The Eastenders" as Gordon Brown refers to it) is just wall-to-wall shouting at each other - which simply isn't entertaining. Last night's two episode's of "Corrie" didn't have as many laughs as usual but it did have a very expensive looking car crash caused by Kevin not fixing Tyrone's brakes. Tyrone had been to a country pub with his wife, Molly (who's carrying Kevin's baby unbeknown to Tyrone) so all good drama as long as you don't take it seriously. If you're interested (and you're probably not) the pub featured in last nights Corrie was the Chapel House Inn which gets a rubbish review here, but looked very nice on the telly.

Then there's The Gadget Show on Channel 5. I really like this - unsurprising really as I'm such a geek, and the bit I caught last night featured the inevitable iPad review. It also has the gorgeous Suzi Perry - which is reason enough to watch it.

Now, 9pm - which in my book is proper peak time telly had the following on the main channels. BBC1: New Tricks (Old age pensioners fighting crime - it's actually a vehicle for some of our best loved old actors to be seen on prime time). BBC2: Out of the frying pan (Two blokes running dinner parties for so called celebrities). ITV1: Jo Lumley up the Nile (nuff said). Channel 4: Blitz street (Tony Robinson blows up a 1940's style street of houses in the name of history? a bit interesting actually and I did watch 15 minutes or so) and finally Channel5: Flash forward (American TV drama over a bazzillion episodes, so if you've missed a couple you've had it.) Is that the best terrestrial TV has to offer ?? Tosh. Early night it is then.

Not looking forward to Thursday - starting to feel uncomfortable already.

Daughter off to Thorpe Park in the sunshine with her mates today. When she's not learning to be a police-person, she and a bunch of other girls work in a local hostelry (well a carvery actually) which is being refitted. This means they're effectively all on holiday, so they're off to try and scare themselves stupid and get wet in the process. Can't blame them - it's a beautiful day for it.

Finally - this morning's news..... Volcano Flight Chaos still. I hear the Icelandic banks final wishes were to have their ashes spread across europe. :-) Banking reform!! Fix the old Casino banking system. Start Lending money, Bank Directors responsible for banks - not government, Regional Stock Exchanges, Get rid of Goldman Sachs as Government advisors - That's an interesting bunch of ideas - I like them..... It's no use, it looks like I'm becoming a Liberal Democrat. I agree with Nick.... and Vince! D'oh!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Weekend? What weekend?

They just go by far too quickly don't they? Just like summer and it looks like this year summer was two days (quite good for the UK) and now winter is on its way. Of course I jest, Sunday was a cracker. Beautiful weather really felt like summer though I fear it really isn't going to last just yet. Colder temperatures are forecast for this week but no sign of serious rain.

Loving that Java, so much so that I had to have two cups in the end, no doubt the same this morning. I'll be bouncing of the walls by 9am if I'm not careful. A great start from a bad man.

Made good headway with operation garage clean out. Broke down the bar b q to it's component parts, stripped and cleaned and re-varnished all the woodwork. With the weather being so warm it dried in minutes which made the whole job a lot faster. Screwed and bolted it all back together and the result is a very pleasing "as-new" bar bee. I'm no DIY expert but I'm not afraid to turn my hand to anything and when it works out as well as this has it's worth all the effort. Took me through to about 3 just in time for tea and tiffin.

Mrs G and I spent the rest of an enjoyable afternoon in the sunshine with the various reading materials and then there was a last minute visit from SS and his new boy. What a little star. SS has had some distressing work news and so he and I jointly decided upon a couple of Sunday night pints to put the world to rights and a pop at the pub quiz to boot. A quick poll round the rest of the gang and no-one else appeared to be up for it, but then it was a school night.

That said, nothing to worry about. We didn't go overboard, enjoyed four beers, the sunshine and some intelligent conversation (obv SS wasn't there then ;-) ). More importantly we placed an impressive 3rd in the quiz, the prize for which is 4 pints of whatever you fancy. All well and good, but not to be devoured on a school night.

This week holds the usual work shenanigans with the standout feature being a trip to Starfleet on Thursday to meet with my commander. No doubt to be told whether I'm selected for the away team or not. I cant seem to shift this sniffling (not quite a cold) which has been hanging round for about a week. Reckon that means it really is time to stop smoking. Let's see how long that lasts. Time will tell. More interestingly Thursday, I believe will be round two of the live TV debates and that will be "must see" TV.

I note both the reds and the blues are jumping on the volcano ash cloud bandwagon (Paddy Ash-falling-down isn't involved yet), but it's important to remember that it will litteraly blow over. Reactionary populist short-termism puts me in mind of the spitting image sketch from the 80's: Interviewer: Mr Kinnock, What do you say to people that accuse you of blatent electioneering? Mr Kinnock: Vote For Me! Found it!

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Quizzing in a small world!

Some changes in plan mean that I'm picking up BBB this morning and measuring up the Mother-in-laws bathroom. And then..... To the bat cave robin... Err.. Hang on... To the gar-rage robin! That's what I meant.

But before all that, updates on yesterday and last nights quiz. Mrs G and I trundled into Chelter's on the park and ride. 2 pound per person, parking all day. It's not bad really but it does feel like a bit of a faff sometimes and I'd usually use one of the carparks (which in reality is more expensive and even more of a faff). Funny how perception effects us like that.

We had a bit of mince around the shops and I managed to pick up the first of the coffee's that I shall be testing over the coming days (Old Brown Java). Three quid for a 250 gram bag (makes it sound like a drugs deal) and I suppose in a way it is. Just about to brew my first hit off of hit once I've finished my blurb here. Also managed to finally spend my Fat Face gift voucher which has been hanging around in my wallet since Christmas thanks to my ever generous sister. Got a very nice sweatshirt reduced from £55 to £30 - so a veritable bargain. Even though there was grand sunshine, there was still a slight breeze that took the edge of it, so much so that Mrs G decided she needed a cardigan for her shoulders (I think it was just a pretty good excuse to buy clothes - but what do I know).

By quarter to one we were all set to meet up with the gang in "Tailor's" which is a nice bar up the other end of Cheltenham Town. It was packed, but after some surupticious loitering in the correct manner we were able to secure a table outside in the sunshine. D was already inside watching the game (Man U v Man C) and BBB&A&B and D&E soon joined us. Had a fantastic Brie and Bacon toast and a very refreshing larger shandy (well I'm driving). Many giggles were had and the temptation just to stay all night was very strong. D's cousin arrived (C) and it turns out that she works at the same place that Mrs G is about to start her new job. What a small world! and of course on the plus side, it means Mrs G will have at least one recognisable face on-site from day one. Good stuff.

Home and chilling for the last part of the afternoon before we dash off quizzing with Auntie S & M. She picked us up, which is a result on the taxi/drinking/driving front and whisked us off to a tiny village hall in the middle of nowhere. Didn't expect to see anyone we knew other than S&M but who should be running the bar but M from over the road. (He lives opposite us!) What a small world!. A bargain night and many more giggles were had. £5 entry to the quiz, first beer free, £1 per drink (beer and wine) all night, £5's worth of raffle tickets, and then M (from over the road) very generously gave us a lift home. We were fourth overall, and what did we learn ?? Well, that Ayer's rock isn't called BoraBora it's Uluru (it was on the tip of my tounge) and that the 3 wise kings were Balthasar and Caspar and the other one. Oh and that Victoria Beckham on Roller Skates is a "Wagon Wheel" - geddit?? Terrible. But very entertaining none the less.

And so to Sunday and yet another beautiful morning. If your into F1, look away know, but well done Jensen Button. Great start to the day. Just spoken to the in-laws, who have no decided they're out again today and so BBB and I won't be measuring bathrooms this morning - faffing occurring methinks. So with that leetle job not to do, I'm going to get into the garage and finally clear it out. If I can find enough time and energy, I might even get the ladders out and wash the windows, but it's a long way up and I suspect I may not be in the mood.

So it's off to my Old Brown Java and toast while Mrs G pop's out to get some cooking ingredients and the Sunday Papers. Very much looking forward to reading how Mr Cameron (who was in Gloucester yesterday by the way - and I didn't know!! - What a small World!) is going to "Turn on Mr Clegg" come next Thursday's debate. Mad stuff going on there.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Digi-lection and Social-eyes-in

As a huge portion of the population now live online, it's no surprise that the election in all it's gory glory is being played out all over the Internet. I spent the evening digging around it all and here for your delectation are some of the more interesting sites (or sights) to see...

Predictions:
Who should you vote for? Vote Match can help you. I know I've already mentioned this site, but I've included it here for completeness. You don't have to enter your postcode or email address for this to work by the way. The Tweetlection site tracks twitter posts about the three major parties and graphs them in interesting ways. The TwitElection does more for similar data. Finally, Electoral Calculus.co.uk tries to calculate the result based on a set of poll results

Reference Sites:
Voter Power shows you how many votes your vote is worth but be prepared for a shock with this one. There's everything you wanted to know about your MP but were afraid to ask at TheyWorkForYou.com. Then there is the UK Parliamentary process and rules for elections and no reference list would be complete without something from Wikipedia. They have this entry on the UK General Election

Twitter feeds:
It appears that Nick Clegg is the only one of the three main leaders to have a twitter account, but you can follow the parties here: The Conservatives, The Labour Party and the The Liberal Democrats.
When it's all said and done you can follow the winner's house here at Number 10. Until then, you can keep an eye on the current pulse of the election via the Twitterati through the #ge2010 tag.

News Pages:
The BBC's Live Election coverage
Sky News Election coverage
The Daily Telegraph
The Guardian
The Times

Other bits and bobs:
http://www.general-election-2010.co.uk/

OK - enough of that, now to real life. What another stunningly beautiful morning it is. Last night saw the lawn mown and the little cherub that is daughter off out for her boyfriend's mum's birthday dinner. I don't think she was keen to start with, but she was perfectly happy about it all this morning, so I guess she had nothing to be concerned about after all. Curry, I think. Today see's her back at special school (for the special people) and they're starting to do some reel life practical work. Stopping cars no less. And not guinea pigs, but the general public themselves. Terrifying stuff, and I for one will not be driving anywhere near where they're being educated.

Son didn't join us last night as he wasn't sure what he was doing - you can rely on youths to be particularly disorganised - not that it mattered. He is old enough to make up his own mind about what he should be doing and to be honest he'd rather be playing Call Of Duty with his mates than talking to us about his working week. Having said that, he's joining us today post his football match, and I suspect that his girlfriend might be too, so plenty of entertainment to be had there. Either way, it'll be good to see him and catch up. Also had some sad family news that I can't talk about, but can only be supportive - nuff said.

Me and Mrs G are having a leisurely Saturday though. At least that's the plan. A trip into Chelter's to meet up with D,The Orange One, BBB & their respective other halves for lunch, a pint and bit of foot action on the telly I presume. It's a beautiful day for it as long as it's in the right establishment. We were going to visit the in-laws post match so that BBB could size up their bathroom for a refit, but it turns out that J&W (the inlays) are travelling to the midlands today, so may have to crowbar that in tomorrow. Would also like to drop in on SS and his new boy (Mrs G insisted on a little gift for him which is a nice touch). Don't know what his movements are yet though.

I do, on the other hand, know what Ears and Nose are up to. They are stuck in Spain due to the volcanic ash cloud stopping all the flights. They've hired a car and got to the French border and they've managed to book a seat on a Ferry, but anything could happen. Now I'm a bit jealous of an adventure like that - although I know that Ears would be pulling his hair out if he had any - but for me, the not knowing how we're going to pull off this great escape from the continent would be a great challenge. I'm probably romanticising the idea of the whole episode and would just me miserable if it was actually happening. It all comes back to the old adage, that you just cannot control the world, it controls you, you can only influence (it's the same for everything) - so relax and enjoy it.

Friday, April 16, 2010

3 is the magic number

Finished my education, education, education (3) yesterday and starfleet have trained me - very pleased with it all, I am. They actually seem to have something good going on here, even with the minor bugs it still has. Those crew members that have met the trainer in question will be pleased to hear that his style remains unique in it's field and his banter is as enjoyable as it ever was. Also, he has a couple of photo's he likes to share ;-) Anyway, the new weapon for our arsenal that he's been teaching us to use is great, a vast improvement over the previous one. I'm sure it won't be long before we can use it in anger on undiscovered planets and then we'll know for sure but until then phasers are simply set to "smile smugly" rather than "stun".

On the flip side the process for selecting the "away team" goes on, with the news that just over half of them are ready to be beamed off the starship, while the rest (almost a third (3)) are still to be decided, mostly by their immediate commanding officer. I bumped into one of the admiral's over the last couple of days who is an all round good egg and the poor man was pulling his hair out. His point being that we don't have enough crew members as it is, and having to negotiate with the captain over retaining existing one's isn't helping to get any new discoveries on-board. There was much harrumphing and huffing amongst the other crew members in the education that reflected the admiral's concerns. Needless to say the crew are restless, which I'm sure they're aware of on the bridge, but there's no comfort in that - no-one who hasn't already been selected wants to boldly go. After all, there may be tribbles ahead. (sorry - that's a bit of a Star Trek joke that I couldn't resist)

At the same time, there may be trouble ahead in the shape of a sodding great volcano on the southern edge of Iceland. The last couple of weeks have seen rumblings, grumblings and eruptions at a 2 kilometre wide volcano known as "Eyjafjallajoekull" (I know, terrible isn't it?). In fact this is the second erruption to occur in a month. Less well known is the 10 kilometer wide volcano known more pronounceably as "Katla" that sits next to it, which has been ominously quiet for some time. Historically, when the smaller one goes pop, the bigger one usually follows - hence my concern.

The knock-on effect has been that all air-traffic in the UK has been grounded for an unknown length of time because of the cloud of ash that "Eyjafjallajoekull" is spewing forth into the upper atmosphere. That is an unprecedented step. Luckily, we don't currently have any plans to be flying, so that side of the natural disaster shouldn't have an impact, but there is growing concern over the settling of the ash cloud. It's reported to smell strongly of sulpher and the debris, while being a very fine dust, is 60-70% Silicon Dioxide. In itself it's not particularly dangerous as it disperses at such a high altitude, although should "Katla" join in the fun and games, we could end up with a very different picture. Something to keep an eye on I think.

Coffee Blend news now, and I have it on very good authority that Whittards have four blends in particular that are worth a taste test. They are: Old Brown Java, Italian Expresso, Monsoon Malabar and Cafe Francais. I have a "Bad Man" to thank for these recommendations, and I'm hoping to acquire them over the weekend for a proper slurping. I'll let you know how that works out.

Now, I know I said I wasn't going to mention bollotics again before next Tuesday, but of course I forgot that history has been made in the shape of the first ever live UK TV debate, which I can't let pass without comment. If the election were to be decided on the debate Mr Clegg would be our PM, (I would include Twitter feeds for the other two leaders, but they don't appear to share their thoughts with the electorate) and watching question time afterwards, I'm really starting to think that might actually happen. A 3 (3) party system clearly works and it is time for a major political change in this country. There is "another way" and with Vince Cable sorting the finances, right now it looks like a winning play. One thing it's definetly done is make the whole process one hell of a lot more interesting and I can't wait for round two. I wonder if red and/or blue opinions will change given the yellow performance. Tricky for them with their manefesto's already published.

Manefesto: from the Greek "Manefest - to make happen" and "O" as in, "Oh, it didn't"

Onwards to the weekend....

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Education, Education, Education

No, this isn't a political blog post. I'm just still in training and as I'm doing nothing else but training I haven't got anything else to add...... Ahhh, but...

Fish and chips for tea, which should really be on Friday, but we live on the edge round here.

Think WTC might be broken tonight. Everyones got stuff to do which means I might get to see the TV debate afterall.

Shhh now, I'm concentrating. Happy Thursday, Friday's almost here!!! WooHoo!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Back to School

All day yesterday was training. All day today will be training and you guessed it, all day tomorrow will be training too. Oh what bliss .

The training isn't at my normal place of work, i.e. home, but instead at our local-ish Starfleet office. This involves a "Journey to Work", which I know many many people have to do every day, but I'm not one of them. In fact, if it were up to me, the majority of the country wouldn't have to journey to work. Let's face it, it is a silly thing. Getting in a car and driving for (on average) an hour everyday, to sit at a desk and be interrupted from your work and not get it done, only to sit in a car and drive for (on average) an hour home again afterwards. Of course I'm generalising no end, but it is true on a basic level.

The journey to my Starfleet Office I see in five major chunks. There's the bit where I get my coffee, the bit on the motorway, the twisty turny bit, the dual carriage way bit and the parking bit. It takes about (on average) an hour, damages the environment, and bores me sensless, although at least I can find something interesting to listen to for the duration.

The bit where I get my coffee involves a short stop at my local BP Garage where they charge 2 quid for a large cup of milky gloop. I can't grumble about it - it starts me off and keeps me going until I get there.

The second stretch is a short hop up the M5. The issue here can be the traffic out of town to the motorway junction. I've known this 2 mile run take up to 30 minutes if you time it wrong. The kids are still on holiday at the moment, so not many mums in their 4x4s (What is that about?) slowing everything down.

The twisty-turney bit is a drag if you get stuck behind a bus and the dual carriage way bit is just that.

Until yesterday the parking bit has always been uneventful, but on returning to my vehicle last night, what did I find but a roof covered in bird-poo. I use the word poo for it's comic effect. (It's well known that using the word poo, twice, in any circumstances, is funny - end of). Well, god only knows what this particular bird had been eating but it took a serious amount of scrubbing to shift it and needless to say I won't be parking under that tree today.

It turns out that the training isn't that bad actually. There's a few crew members I haven't seen in a while and it's always good to catch up with people face-to-face. The subject matter is quite engaging for my inner geek in a sort of accountancy way. It's a new course and so we're acting as guinea pigs to the trainer and because it's a new tool set, there's lots of opportunities to go "ooo" and "ahh" followed by "That'll never work" or "That's a bit dangerous". It is only numbers and calculations so in point of fact it's not really dangerous at all. If I'm honest I'm secretly enjoying the change and nobody could match that tie - with anything :-)

Daughter had the next part of Special School last night (Assault & Battery). I did realise that it is poosible to assault someone without battering them and it's possible to batter someone without assualting them - well, so she said, although I wasn't fully convinced. We also had a very quick run through of her political beliefs using the http://www.votematch.org.uk/ website. Turns out she's all set to vote UKIP. Oh how I laughed. I think she's going to rethink and learn a bit more about the details before she has another go.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

What do "they" know ?

I keep hearing that the Liberal Democrat's won't win the election. Why is that ? Clearly Vince Cable is the best of the potential Chancellor's so why do all the commentators write them off before they even start ? British public being the way they are, they might end up feeling that the underdog needs a chance at it and could they really do any worse that the other two lots have done ?? I suspect not. So What is it that "They" know ? "They" say all sorts of things don't they :-)

It really is impossible to avoid the election buildup now. Last night's TV was pretty much nothing else. There was a riveting documentary on BBC2 "How to win the TV debate" and if you missed it, go and catch it on BBC iPlayer. Spent lots of time looking at how debates have impacted the US Elections in the past. One thing I figured is important from it, is that UK debates have been agreed because Gordon is scared. There's also a classic scene of him getting the hump with Adam Boulton from Sky News. Magic TV. As you know this is the first time we've had a TV debate during UK elections, so it's all to play for.

Then there was Tonight (follow the leader) on ITV (in between corrie's) which focused on David Cameron. He showed some real emotion when talking about his son who very sadly died last year, and the cynic in me cringed the whole way through. I'm sure I'm doing him a massive dis-service by having that reaction, but that's how it made me feel.

And then there was "Have I Got News For You", which is clearly far more enjoyable than all the serious stuff. For some reason, it didn't give me quite as many laughs as I'd expected, but it was still entertaining. I particularly enjoyed seeing Victoria Coren in the flesh having followed her tweets. She might stay up very late playing online poker and gambling her life away, but I like her I've decided.

If you're looking for more giggles about the never ending political jibbering and jabbering that will last until it's all over, you could do a lot worse than listen to the "Vote Now Show" on Radio 4, every Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday night (about 11-ish I think) from now until the election is over. It says here: "Nightly election satire from Steve Punt and Hugh Dennis, with special guests"

With so much of the election about, it's making me into a bore that talks bollotics. Of course it is important and I suppose given the dynamics of it this time round it will be very interesting to see how it plays out. Until recently I've had little or no interest in the whole subject, but they've managed to finally get me engaged in the process by simply p!ss!ng me off enough to get mad with them all. That said, I promise I'll make a concerted effort to stop going on about it, and with that in mind this should be my last post on the subject until next Tuesday.

And why next Tuesday?? Good question. Tuesday is a very special day. Do you know who your candidates are ? Today, the answer to that is no you don't. You might think you do and you're probably very close, but nominations for the General Election don't close until April 20th (next Tuesday), so until then all bets are off. Once they're closed I'm going to ask each of my candidates why I should vote for them. Every candidate is entitled to one election address completely free of charge - the candidate has to pay for printing - but delivery will be handled by the post office. There's also a few other rules that they have to adhere to as well. Things like their address and the name and address of whoever printed them too. So far we've had one in our house - looking forward to the rest.

Thursday will be a bit of a git then. Clearly there's WTC but then there's also the first of the 3 live televised debates and the location for the WTC doesn't have a TV.

Well? Am I any closer to knowing what "they" know that means the Lib Dem's won't win? Of course not. Well, "they" are speaking with the authority of historical wisdom. And if history teaches us anything, it is that things change. So perhaps "they" know nothing at all either. None of us know. If we did, we'd have very large bets lodged with the bookies. Miss Coren?? While you're having a flutter, stick one on for me... ;-)

PS: One other thing (There's always something..) If you can't figure out how to vote, try this: http://www.votematch.org.uk/. I got pointed to it by a man at the BBC so I have faith in it for now.

Monday, April 12, 2010

A Messy Week

This week is going to be a bit of a dog's dinner I think. Monday should be fine, but there's a couple of pieces of work that I absolutely have to get done and out of the way today. The reason being that Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday will see me travelling to my local Starfleet office to participate in three days of education.

More mixed messages from the powers that be in the academy - last weeks galactic communication informed some of the populus that insufficient volunteers have been found for planetary exploration and that the "away team" will be hand picked whether they like it or not. Clearly a depressing message.

I'm being trained in the usage of some of the latest equipment to be issued to the crew members and recently installed on my communicator. You might think that if starfleet are investing three days of time training me to use this equipment that it's unlikely that I would be in the "away team" as operators will be required. Don't be fooled for a minute. Captain kirk is reactionary and forward planning is not on his agenda.

One thing I do know is that the trainor is an interesting character with a wide range of ties to smile at, so there will be some entertainment at least.

Another reason for a messy week is my health. Worn out and rough last night complete with sniffles, this has increased to full blown man flu and I really want to get that shifted before spending time, travelling back and forth to starfleet. I'm pretty sure it's something more than just Autosomal Cholinergic Helio-Ophtalmologic Outburst syndrome. I suspect this is a combination of huge chunks of car travel last week, plus a further 8 hours out of 24 doing the same again this weekend, too much sunshine/sunburn and not getting enough fruit and veg. So today, I think I'll start the day with orange juice, expresso, a lemsip and a banana and see where I go from there.

Four movies I've been trying to catchup with and sort of have now - thanks to a pretty relaxed Sunday. A Serious Man, The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus, The Men Who Stare at Goats and The Informant!.

A Serious Man. The Coen Brothers - famed for The Big Lebowski, among many others, have scored a goal again here with the critics, but be warned, it's confusing. Did I fully understand it? No. Did I enjoy it ? Yes. So it's definelty one I've got to go back and see again, and possibly again after that as well.

The Men who Stare at Goats. Based on an allegedly true story it's all about a reporter on the hunt of a story. What he finds is the "New Earth Army" which is basically soldiers with super powers (in their heads). It's a magical, whimsical piece with plenty of smiles and the odd chuckle. Ewan McGregor plays the reporter, the awesome Jeff Bridges plays one of the original members of the Army and George Clooney is his mentee. On top of this is Kevin Spacey taking himself extremely seriously turns this into a gem.

The Informant!. If as it claims this is the true story of a compulsive liar informing to the FBI about alleged price fixing of corn syrup - then it's a truly amazing story. It took me the best part of the first act to actually work out what the hell was going on, but once I had it nailed I couldn't stop watching. Set in the 80's (everything seems to be 60's, 70's or 80's of late, guess that's the times we're living in) there's a very interesting commentary by our lead which is pretty much a juxtaposition to which ever scene we're watching. So an important meeting with someone from Japan, would be accompanied by his views on tie colour for instance - very odd, but very enjoyable.

The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus - Halfway through and I feel like I missed a bit - got to go back and start again - so a typical Terry Gilliam Film. Looks beautiful though.

Of the four of them - The Men Who Stare at Goats is the most accessible and I think, certainly the one with most mass appeal. The Informant! and A Serious Man take up a lot more of your concentration. As for the Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus' - well I'm lost, but I'll have another crack at it when I can be completely undisturbed.

Finally, make sure you've booked a space in your diary for Thursday night and ITV at 8pm. Our future leaders will be having their first live TV debate - I can't wait to see how high Simon Cowell has his trousers!!

Hello Coffee.... It's life Jim, but not as we know it!

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Sunday, bleeding Sunday and an MP Update

So we had E&E to stay last night, but they were so good that we hardly knew they were here. Auntie S showed up about 11 ish this morning to collect them with only a very slight hangover. Think she'd had a good night.

We also got to catch up with A&L via the miracle of Skype. Haven't seen them for a couple of months so there was much to catch up on. Photos were swapped, stories regaled and vino quaffed. A's doing a particularly good job of not smoking as long as he can keep away from the cigars. Daughter was with us too and I think she enjoyed seeing Uncle drain, L and photos of A.

By about midnight the waking hours were taking their toll but did finally manage to arrange a get together and we're now very much looking forward to the three of them visiting us for the weekend in a fortnights time. That will be a very funny and no doubt boozy couple if days.

While we were online, in my other inbox last night, there was email from Mr Dhanda thus:


Hello Golfy, I read your blog and I’m concerned you never got a reply from me about DEB. Chased it with my office but we don’t know your name or address – other than golfy.
My apologies, but could you e-mail me your name and postal address so I can at least give you an explanation on my views on it.

Thanks,

Parmjit

P.S. you can get me at dhandap@parliament.uk


Hansard has this to say on the subject of MP's email:


Once an election is called and Parliament is dissolved our MPs (and their staff) have to contend with some significant changes to the way they can use IT (and other parliamentary services). From the day of dissolution, their status changes and they can longer do many of the things that, since being elected, MPs have taken for granted. Traditionally (and fairly obviously) this includes using House emblems on stationery and free postage (although postage for existing case-work can be claimed back).

This time around, restrictions will apply to IT. From 5pm on the day of dissolution, members who are seeking re-election won’t be accessible via email or be able to access their files through the parliamentary network (members standing down have access until the day before the election). This presents an obvious challenge but one that can be easily got around by nominating a forwarding email address, to which email is automatically redirected until after the election.
It’s made clear that the cost of this new email account can’t be claimed on expenses.


So I probably can't reply to him now anyway. Regardless it's dealt with and the election is now the focus for all potential MP's. Looks like VAT will be going up now that they've all remembered it exists.

Sunday has been another beautiful day allbeit a windy one. Network rail have been running a very strange machine up and down the nearby railway line all day. At first I had no idea what it does but it looked deeply technical. A little bit of digging (there's far too many train spotters in the world that like to record such useless information) and what do I find, but it's a Plasser & Theurer Tamper. Riveting stuff - well, tampering stuff actually. And what is tampering ? and do we actually care ? Something to do with getting the tracks level on the ballast that's used to support them, but in actuality, no we don't care.

I managed to make a start on the garage, but only the first job, clearing out the cardboard for recycling. Still, it's a start. Such an enormous amount of cardboard and such a small car did initially present a problem, but as Auntie S was here and she's blocked the driveway with her monster truck, she kindly offered me the use of it and it made short work of hauling the corrugated to it's final resting place. Next job will be the stripping and rebuilding of the bar-b-q, but probably not this week as I have to spend three out of the five days at Starfleet offices for a change.

Back to the real world and Steak for tea with daughter who's been at special school all weekend. She's then off out to see C. Were stuck with nothing on the telly so perhaps a short wander or an early night... once I've finished my 750 words, well who knows.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Wales watching

Arrived in the north of Wales after a mammouth 4 hour drive. Insanely twisty turny roads and little lanes meant everyone was tottally shattered. But a lasagne and a beverage and a good old natter made it all less painful. It's a very small 2 bed weavers cottage of sorts with ane extra room tacked on the back as a third bedroom. All very quaint and feels like the middle of nowhere. You can (during daylight hours) see the sea, which of course means we can eat our sandwiches and not before. Much like last weekend in scotland, 3G and wifi are nowhere to be found, but I was able to pickup 02.ie, which of course comes from what can only be an enormous transmitter somewhere in Ireland. Hope I don't get charged european roaming fees for using it for 10 minutes. That would be criminal.

A beautiful morning feels like summer has arrived although we all know how deceptive that can be. The plan is a walk and late last night we discovered that we have a tyrannasauras in our midsts. This actually means that we will be walking with dinosaurs. She knows who she is. ;-)

So post bacon buttes, coffee, tea and orange juice we decided from a large collection of walks that mother maintains, where we would be going. Caernarfon (pronounced car-nar-von pretty much) was the destination of choice and is a mere 15 miles from the weavers cottage (that probably isn't) so about 20 minutes drive. We pulled up in a car park next to the castle, which really is a proper castle. Not one of those, sort of a castle type places, but absolutely massive and completely dominates the whole western edge of the town overlooking the estuary out to the Irish sea.


The walk was a six miler, so not massive, but very pleasant and in fact so sunny that I got my first sunburn of the year, and have instantly reverted to my naturally suntanned colour of lobster red. We walked from the castle, out along the bay and then inland and cross country and eventually back around to the castle. A spot of lunch in the Angelsey hotel on the front - Mrs G and I had the Tuna Melt, L&L had the scampi, and M&D had Jacket potato and Steak&Ale pie respectively. All were well fed and I think generally happy with it. L&L's chips were possibly a little over done.

From here we had a wander around the town - which to be honest was a bit of a surprise. I suppose I expected it to be very touristy, which for many parts it is, but then there's the rough element as well. A Pound stretcher features as a very prominent store off the main square and there were many/several youths of the early twenties age group with rather podgy girlfriends each of which had a pram in tow and carried 24 cans of some non-desript cheap larger. This bothers me and makes me think of Mr Cameron's broken britain talk - although this doesn't mean he automatically gets my vote. I am trying very hard not to get on the politics subject again, but it keeps getting in the way of everything just lately. See tomorrow for an update on the elected MP story.

An ice cream and then a wander to visit the "re-generated" area of the town which is known as Victoria Docks. Beautiful to look at, but boring to spend any time in. Someone has obviously spent quite a sum of money trying to smarten the area up, but it's essentially a bunch of expensive flats overlooking a marina, a cinema/theatre and a single shop. The shop is very nice and we bought some posh-ish souvenirs, but it's no Gloucester Docks - not that that is a great deal better, but Gloucester Quays does have a very nice floor ;-)

So then to the journey home, which was far more rapid than the journey there in the first place. Friday night from the Gloucester area to North wales, would ordinarily involve travelling up the M5 then the M6 and then across country, but the magical TomTom traffic plugin suggested that actually this would be a 4 hour trip and that going across country avoiding the motorways would take 3 hours and 45 minutes. We went with this, and it actually took about 4 hours, but we were constantly moving rather than sitting parked on a busy motorway just outside of Brum. The return came in at a fantastic 3 hours and 20 minutes using motorway pretty much all the way. But then it wasn't Friday night. Say no more.

SAturday evening saw Auntie S's kids staying with us while she had a night out with M and a very entertaining Video Skype conversation with A&L. More on that tomorrow though. Time for bed. So night all. Stay safe.

Friday, April 09, 2010

What the MP did next.

I feel I have to write a follow up to my earlier post regarding my boiling blood and the lack of response from my elected representative.

I have this morning received a letter from Mr Parmjit Dhanda and I feel I have to at least give him credit for doing his job, if not entirely in the way I would have liked. Here's the letter in full:

08 April 2010
(Handwritten)
Dear (Redacted)

(Typed)
Digital Economy Bill

Thank you very much for taking the time to contact me recently on the Digital Economy Blll, you raise an important issue and one I take an interest in as Vice President of the All Party Group on Telecommunications.

I apologise that there seems to have been some delay in replying. I have spoken to my staff and according to our records we had sent a response to you on this issue, informing you that I had written to Rt Hon Stephen Timms MP, the Minister for Digital Britain in order to raise your concerns at the highest possible level. I can only apologise if you did not receive this letter.

I have now received a response from Mr Timms and have included it with this letter, I hope you find it interesting and informative. Unfortunately in the fast moving world of politics things can become out-of-date very quickly. Mr Timms' letter is no exception as just last night certain parts of the Bill were modified or dropped as it passed through the House of Commons.

Overall I believe the Digital Economy Bill was an ambitious piece of legislation which will equip our country for the digital age by providing the infrastructure needed to ensure the country's creative industries can flourish. Among other things it will overhaul the broadcasting industry, start the ball rolling on radio switchover, ensure high-speed broadband access for all, and deal with internet piracy. The Bill was of course not without problems and I was pleased to see that the efforts of backbenchers in Parliament have meant that some of the controversial aspects of the Bill have been reformed or dropped altogether. Today the bill is being considered for a final time in the Lords, where peers are expected to rubber stamp the legislation.

I'm sure you will be pleased to see that the most controversial part of the bill - clause 18 - which handed the high court powers to grant injunctions forcing ISPs to block access to online sites has now been withdrawn. I hope this will mean that the Bill can be seen as a comfortable middle ground, balancing the rights of internet users to their online privacy and the rights of recording artists and film makers to receive fair payment for their efforts.

Thanks again for taking the time to write to me, if I can ever be of any further help to you on any other Parliamentary matter please don't hesitate to get back in touch.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Parmjit Dhanda
Member of Parliament for Gloucester

What has piqued my interest here though, is the handwritten PS at the bottom of the letter:

P.S. I did read your blog and I'm sorry you didn't get an earlier reply.

Interesting stuff, and the letter to Mr Dhanda from Mr Timms:


Parmjit Dhanda MP
House of Commons
London
SWlA OAA

(handwritten)1 (typed)April 2010

Dear Parmjit,

Thank you for your letter of 18 March, enclosing correspondence from your constituent, (blank space), about the Digital Economy Bill.

The Government wants as many people as possible to enjoy all the benefits that broadband internet can bring. New technology has changed the way people access content, but we need to make sure that those who use the internet to access music, films etc pay the appropriate charge for doing so. On-line copyright infringement is a serious problem, and we have been working closely with rights holders, media companies and internet firms on practical solutions.

Everyone would prefer a voluntary rather than a regulatory solution, but it has not proved possible to achieve one. The Digital Economy Bill, published on 20 November 2009, sets out in detail our proposed legislation to tackle unlawful peer to peer file-sharing. The Report can be found at: http://www.dcms.gov.uk/what_we_do/broadcasting/5631.aspx.

The details on the Bill can be found at:
http://interactive.bis.gov.uk/digitalbritain/digital-economy-bill/

The legislation will require ISPs to write to their customers with accounts identified by a rights holder as having downloaded their material unlawfully. ln the cases of the most serious infringers, if a rights holder obtains a court order, the ISP would have to provide information so that the rights holder can take court action.

No representative of interested parties would sit on either the independent body or the Tribunal, and no technical measure would be introduced until the appeals process is exhausted.

Originally, the power in clause 11 to apply technical obligations was drafted sutficiently widely as to allow it to be used for any purposes. This was a concern that was also raised by the Delegated Powers and Regulatory Reform Committee. lt was always the Government's intention that this power should only be used in relation to those who are the subject of repeated copyright infringement notices and we believe that, even as originally drafted, the legislation would have had that effect because of surrounding clauses in the Bill.

However, in order to be absolutely clear on the matter, the Government has already introduced an amendment to the Bill to restrict the effect of any technical measure under clause 11 to subscribers who have received repeated notifications but continue to be identified in infringement. There will be a full appeals process, including to a First Tier Tribunal, which is a judicial body. The full appeals process must be exhausted before any technical measure is imposed.

We are not requiring ISPs to monitor for unlawful file-sharing. Nor are we proposing that ISPs look at what users download in order to combat piracy. The way in which cases of alleged copyright infringement are discovered involves identifying material offered to other users for download in breach of copyright, rather than any monitoring of an individual's internet account for downloads.

The process identifies the lP address of an uploader (under the legislation, making material available for copying is a breach of copyright) using publicly available information, and does not look at what an individual downloads. Under the legislation, it is the rights holders who will identify cases of alleged copyright infringement, not the ISPs. A fuller description of the proposed process to identify unlawful file-sharers was included in the 2008 consultation document and in the Explanatory Notes which accompany the Digital Economy Bill. These can be found at:

http://www.publications.parliament.uk/pa/ld200910/ldbills/001/en/10001x--.htm

Please thank (blank space) for taking the trouble to raise this issue with us.

(handwritten) Yours ever, Stephen

STEPHEN TIMMS

A quick look at my log and I find that Mr Dhanda had used Blog Search for the phrase "parmjit dhanda" on the 8th April (9:48 if you want to be exact) so that he could read my "blood boiling" rant. Of course there are a few other interesting gems of info from the logfile, but it would be unfair of me to share them all. Although if Mr Dhanda is reading this, some neighbourly advice, I would recommend a browser upgrade when you get a minute ;-) IE6 has passed on.

Mr Dhanda certainly deserves credit for doing his research here, and I'd be interested to know how many other MP's would have even bothered ?? or better yet, if they're educated centrally in carrying out such searches (That's my paranoia showing through. Mr Orwell has a lot to answer for). Fascinating stuff.

Mr Timm's letter is clearly a mass produced one, which serves as some indication that the department in question has had to respond to many concerns on the same subject. It is informative and goes a little way to helping me feel better about the bill's intent.

Even Mr Dhanda (who didn't vote on it) says it was an ambitious piece of legislation, and I'd agree. Mr Timm's does appear to have bitten off more than he can chew, and I still remain surprised that it's passed it's 3rd reading, getting rubber stamped and will clearly become law.

One can only hope that further reform's to this law will be forthcoming as we stumble through this intentionally well conceived, but not fully thought out piece of legislation, evidenced by the number of suggested changes even during it's final reading.



I don't believe for a minute that I can solve the issues with the way parliament works, but there are two things that I think could really make a difference to the public's perception of democracy in this great country.

1. No more whips - An elected representative is elected to make representations on behalf of those that elected them, not on behalf of a whip.

2. MP's should be allowed to vote without being in the chamber, but only if they can provide evidence that they have attended all of the associated readings. This would require some geeky, tech, but is completely achievable. It would also mean that your MP has no excuse not to vote. Far more work would be done without all the travel backwards and forwards for voting.

OR and this one is right out there....

2. Let the people vote and not the MP's (controversial hey?)

I think that should be the public's ultimate goal, and the results could be very interesting indeed. Whether the "we the people" would ever be allowed to do this, I have no idea.
 

Where is Golfyball?

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