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Monday, May 31, 2010

A Cheese, a cheese, my kingdom for a cheese!

The journey home was via Whitehall Garden Center near Lacock (Pronounced Lay-Cock. You boy!, stop sniggering at the back!), where I happen to be of very close terms with their annual Father Christmas. Needed some netting to protect the veggie patch.

Finally arrived back by 5 and cooked a fantastic spaghetti bol for dinner (we know how to live you know).

6pm was perfect timing for the first portion of Going Postal or as the film version is titled "Terry Pratchett's Going Postal". I know he's got Alzheimer's disease but I don't think he has a gun - so the title is a tad harsh. It transpires that the production team "The Mob" have upped thier game even further than on "The Colour if Magic". This time much of the filming took place in Budapest but you'd be forgiven for thinking they actually went to discworld (if such a place existed in the same plane of reality as we do) given the detail applied to the sets and location scenery.

Once again it's very faithful to the book not least because the screenplay was "mucked about by" Mr Pratchett himself. A few masterful strokes of casting help seal the deal. Great to see that newsreaders brother David Suchet is capable of so much more than Hercule Poirot (a role he was clearly born to play). Here he makes for a deliciously wicked bad guy and so far is faultless. Star of the show is Richard Coyle as Moist von Lipwig but he's got some heafty competition in the firm of Charles Dance, Steve Pemberton (The League of Gentlemen), Andrew Sachs (Fawlty Towers) and Timothy West to name but four.

Can't wait for part two tonight.

Today would gave been Cheese Rolling. Roll on next year (very poor pun intended). Here's the official notice http://www.cheese-rolling.co.uk/event_cancelled.htm which makes for interesting reading. You have been warned. Two minutes silence for the passing of a
Great British tradition please:


















While the sun shines and the Cheese doesn't roll, I have lawn to mow (I know how much Scobi likes to keep track of my grass cutting schedule) and of course netting to install. That will be part of the morning filled. No idea what the rest of the day has in store fir us, but with any luck it'll be feet up with nothing at all!!! Bliss....

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Sun up in the shire

Well here we are then. It's the morning after the night before.

Having physically recovered from yesterdays abusive bus passenger, if not mentally, we regrouped back at the ranch in preparation for our journey back to the shire. I'm sure I've pointed out before how the county signs that border eachother are worded. "Wiltshire Welcomes You" while you're "Welcome to Gloucestershire" and very true that is. Wiltshire does Welcome you (especially if your a prodigal son like what I is) but don't expect to be staying. 'Get orf moy laand' is the correct expresion. You are Welcome to Gloucestershire, in fact, please, keep it, take it away with you... Not entirely fair, but entertaining none the less.

So by 5pm we were to the manor born and all set to party the night away. The roadster did a great job of getting us here and all is well with the world.

The marquee was all decked out with balloons, banners and DJ gear and the Hog Roast arrived on the back of a trailer. Beer and wine were plentiful including a barrel of Waddy's IPA and a barrel of the evil that is Black Rat. What could possibly go wrong?? Well for one thing, the weather. 5.15 glorious sunshine, 5.45 a spit of rain, 6.15 a light shower, 6.45 no rain just some bracing breeze. Party started at 7 so predictably enough 7.15 the heavens opened and it gushed down for about 20 minutes. This did have a positive effect though as with all 60 guests gathered in the marquee, everyone got to know everyone without having any loners wanering about some lost corner of the grounds.

From here on in everything went swimingly. The breeze persisted making it all a bit chilly but patio heaters and the marquee provided sufficient shelter and the tunes were loud and proud.

By 3am it all flowed to a comfortable halt, which Mrs G and I only found out about this morning over coffee and bacon, as we were sparko by a piddling 1am. Unlimited amounts of IPA & Vino Collapso will have that effect.

Next mission is the journey home. I'm struggling to believe it's Sunday already, but at least there's a bank holiday (sadly without Cheese Rolling) and for some of us a couple more days without the grindstone. More sunshine please!!!

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Party like it's 2010... n that

WoW. So I managed to survive a week of unecessary stress and shenanigans at Starfleet and am now celebrating the fact having convieniently arranged five days holiday. Yipeee! OK, so there is a little more to it than that - I don't just take holiday willy-nilly you know - there are things that need to be done.

Let's start with yesterday. That was L's 40th birthday (she of Wiltshire) and to mark this special occasion, A has put a big tent (well a marquee) up in the garden (well grounds of the estate) and is holding something of a party (well piss-up) all through the night tonight. This means certain death for at least 10 brain cells and some long term recovery for whichever of my currently healthy kidney's is still remaining after the event.

It also means Mrs G and I have a trip to Chelter's to do a little gift shopping and pick up some fresh coffee (Mr Badman will be pleased). I've got to go to Chelter's for it, as the Gloucester City Chamber of Commerce and the head of Whittards have yet to receive a letter from me suggesting they open a store within walking distance of my front door..... I digress.

So to make the travel arrangements that tad more complicated, Mrs G has arranged to meet her friend from her previous job for lunch. The fact that daughter didn't include Mrs G on her car insurance when she renewed it (purely an oversight) has made this a logistical hassle resulting in me having to take public transport back from Chelter's while Mrs G lauds it up in the roadster with her mate. It's too complicated and frankly boring to explain.

As I've said before, the problem with public transport is that its for the, ermm, public. One isn't a fan of having to mingle with them, but one must do one's best to help lower one's carbon footprint don't-cha-know. :) I'm actually looking firward to it in an adventuring kinda way. More of that in a mo.

First though - breakfast! Unbeknown to me, British Home Stores (BHS to you and me, I mean how pretentious to think that all of britain's household goods would come from a single store! They must have had their eye on Harrods when they came up with that little gem) (get on with it!! - Ed). As I was saying, BHS do a mean 5 piece breakfast for a shocking 99p!!! (when you buy a hot drink) and not bad it is too.

Post breaking the fast, a short cut through "House of Fraser" (he wasn't in) led to me buying a new shirt, then into Waterstones, the book shop. The important thing about Waterstones is we have to know in advance exactly what we're going in there to buy. If not, it's entirely possible we could dissapear for days at a time. It's dangerous because we're both bibliophiles (no you can't get arrested for that - yet) and find browsing the myriad of books almost as much fun as reading them. 3 days later...a few more bits and bobs and then Mrs G and I parted company (such sweet sorrow) while she went off to meet her friend for lunch and I went in search of the golden bus. (Golden bus?? Ed)

Cheltenham and Gloucester recently invested in some new buses for the 94 route which appear to be made of gold!...







...and leather...







Now this really is over the top for what extensibly is just a bus but then I suppose this is no ordinary bus. This is a Cheltenham bus, specifically designed to make the poor people of Gloucester realiase just how poor they are!! Personally, I love 'em. What's more, mine was almost empty (at least upstairs in which I consider to be first class).

I am clearly wrong about this point, which was only made more evident when some mouthy bint got on at one of the stops from a part of town that Cheltenham wishes wasn't. She tried to use some dodgy bus pass and the driver ended up in a slanging match with her. After some raised voices and some choice language on her part, she paid and clomped up the stairs while singing the driver's praises in some of the oldest English I've heard in a while (and not approriate for the dinner table - or indeed any table - except perhaps a table in a brothel - thankyou: Edmund Blackadder). This waste of good breathing air then decided to avail me of the sh1t collection of music on her mobile phone. How very gracious of her. And that, in a nutshell is why public transport is for the public.... It might be the nicest looking bus in the world, but that doesn't stop the pikeys and the to$$ers getting on board.

Taxi for Mr Ball !!

Friday, May 28, 2010

80's pop culture in 5 seconds

As much as I loved Duran Duran's music, Howard Jones kicked their arses all over the shop - and still does. End of.

- Posted using BlogPress

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Eye Pad

So the day is almost upon us in Europe when Mr Jobs (Mr Big Jobs as Microsoft enthusers refer to him) unleashes his latest pet gizmo - namely the Apple iPad. As a result the tech press are fawning all over themselves in a desparate attempt to bask in some reflected glory that they percieve exists. Don't get me wrong, I'm a converted apple man to the core (First rule of comedy: Be Funny - Ed) but people do get ever-so slightly carried away with the crowd sometimes.

This sort of behaviour reminds me of that line from "Jurrasic Park" where Dr. Ian Malcolm (Jeff Goldblum) says: "Yeah, but your scientists were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn't stop to think if they should". In a sort of 'follow-the-heard' kinda way. At this point of my rambling I could easily have a Squirrel moment and start telling you about my social anthropological theorums that I've developed and enhanced over the years as a result of firstly, studying sociology and secondly, studying people - but I won't.

Ahhhh. Don't think anyone noticed that particular Squirrel. Where was I?? (Get on with it - Ed) Ah yes, iPads....

No, not the Michael Jackson eye pad, which really is very disturbing. I would never want to wake up to Mrs G (or in point of fact anyone) who looked like that!! No, not those... I'm referring to the Apple iPad, due for release in the UK tomorrow (Friday). The apple stores are all going to open early in the hope that hundreds if not tens of people will que up and buy one. Until I get my hands on one I remain unconvinced. But I am leaning in that direction. The reason being, that Mrs G's laptop (which runs Vista) is horrendous. When I consider that all she really wants to do is check her email & facebook and do the occasional bit of surfing.... why have the agony of Vista in the middle ?? This is what's driving me to buy her an iPad. Not the marketing, or the schpiel, just the fact that you press a button, you're on and it works.....

Anyone got any suggestions as to why this is a bad idea? Let's here them in the comments please...

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

All stressed up and no place to blow

That was a load of heartache and worry for nothing then. The whole Starfleet debacle has just caused no end of grief, stress and worry for all concerned. I don't know for sure about everyone else, but it turns out I'm one of the lucky ones that's not been selected for the away team.

The result is just flat out work all day today, which in the end was very productive. I'm sure that wasn't the original intention though.

Expect a proper blather about nothing in particular in the morning.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

England Expects a million twittered pounds

Big day today. Best not dwell on that though.

Now I'm not really one for football. Most of the time I can take it or leave it. I flirted with Crystal Palace for a while and an experience like that is about enough to put anyone off it. I still occasionally take notice. I know a few Chelsea fans, the odd Liverpool fan, a "remains-of-Pompy" (or should that be Pompeii) supporter and living in the south of the country, hundreds of Manchester United fans. I see these people week in and week out during the football season loving the highs and despairing at the lows, while I, non-supporter that I am, get to sit back and enjoy the game when I can be arsed to take a fleeting interest.

Sadly this stance can be socially damaging for me when the conversation turns to the trials and tribulations of a particular team or a game that I have no frame of reference with. Still I count myself lucky that I can see it as 'only a game' while to others it really is 'life or death'.

And then there's the World Cup... Now that does keep me interested. The national team playing a national game (I can't bring myself to call it the national game - we invented most of them anyway) is something to get excited about.

They beat Mexico last night (3-1) in their last friendly before this year's World Cup starts in 16 days time, in South Africa. I will of course be glued to it, especially when it's England v Brazil in the final (you heard it here first). However, I managed to watch them score the first goal last night and then lost all interest. Not because it was boring and not because we were winning, but because it was a 'friendly' which to my mind might as well be a kick about in the park with jumpers for goal posts and all that. At one point, I swear I heard Wayne's mum calling him in for his tea!! Fish fingers if I'm not mistaken.

So instead of watching the match, Me and Mrs G had a couple of online games of Buzz - Quiz World. If you're not familiar with it, a quick explanation is in order. If you are, the next paragraph is not for you.

Basically it's a games console quiz show, much like most quiz shows you've seen on TV. It's hosted by a virtual bloke called Buzz (who happens to be voiced by Charlene's ex, Jason Donavon). Each player has a hand set with four coloured buttons and a big red buzzer. Buzz asks the questions and you press the appropriate coloured button that matches the (hopefully) correct answer. Simple. Here's the clever bit though. You can play online against your friends (if they've got the same setup) or against completely random strangers. Nothing is better than beating someone you don't know on a subject that they've chosen. Include some witty script for Buzz to abuse each of the participants with and you have a parlour game for the new millenium which is easily worthy a some of your down time.

Glad your back... Needless to say, we kicked butt (to use the parlance of our times)

Post Buzz, daughter arrived home and S not far behind her. Full of excitement regarding her new suntan and her forthcoming travelling which takes place on Wednesday. I'm still struggling to get excited over anything due to the Starfleet cloud (not the cloud I was referring to yesterday), but the pain will be over soon enough. Channel 4 had a celebrity 'come dine with me' which still continues to be entertaining followed by Davina McCall (who any red blooded male such as myself can't fail to enjoy watching) in her newest vehicle 'The Million Pound Drop' or #mpd if you're following along on twitter.

Davina McPhwoar

This leads me to finally mention a fairly new phenomenon that is the driving force behind such products as Google TV. If you haven't tried this and you have a laptop (or any web enabled device in view of your TV), I'd recommend it for giggles. Watch something on the Telly. Anything, it doesn't matter what, but you'll get better results when it's something that the masses are watching. Go to twitter.com in your web browser and search for whatever's just being mention or happening. The results are a bit like having the general public sat next to you on the sofa. Everyone's got something to say about everything, and some of it is very funny. Not always, it does very much depend on what's happening, but worth a look if your interested in social comentary on a buffoonery level.

This sort of thing is what you should expect from Google TV, but the funtionality will be built into your TV and not your PC.

It does sadden me a little (much like the death of narrative cinema) to think that this tech encourages you not to share the experience of something in person, but digitally instead. That said, it also enables us to share the televisual experience with friends and loved ones who could be anywhere physically, and yet emotionally right here. My other concern with it, is just because it greatly enhances the tosh that's on TV, the producers of the tosh mustn't be allowed to think this gives them carte blanche to keep producing tosh - but instead get creative with the tech and bring us some new tosh, that's better than their current tosh - if you follow me.....

Enough - I'm clearly in need of my second cup of coffee and I've taken up far too much of your day already. To the bat-cave!

Monday, May 24, 2010

Phew! Wot a Scorcher!

Just fancied stealing that infamous sun newspaper headline. While not as entertaining as 'Freddie Star ate my hamster' or as big headed as 'It was the sun wot won it' (when referring to the 1997 general election, it is still at least in their top 3 of all time I'm sure. Furthermore, it's accurate. Yet again the British obsession with the weather can be satisfied by everyone wandering round moaning about how hot it is convieniently forgetting that 3 days ago it was overcast and miserable. When it comes to metreological debate we have it down to a fine art.

Now we're back on a Monday and this week is likely to be a turning point on all sorts of levels.

The Starfleet situation will come to some sort of resolution. I've spent time doing maths and complicated longwinded overdeveloped algorithmic guesses and have now drawn my own conclusions over the outcome. If there was somewhere I could put a bet on it - I would.

Also appears that some of my longer term predictions regarding UK Governments spending cuts are coming to fruition. That will have impact in all sorts of places, at least one of which may effect me but the devil's in the detail. I'll probably be updating this post with further details on that subject later today.

For those of you that follow me on Twitter, you'll already be aware that last week saw the announcement of Google TV. Pretty much well known in advance to those who keep an eye on this stuff, but now there's a basic introductory video that will help the less technical among you understand the offering.


Google TV



You'll also be aware that the Microsoft vs Google battle has been hotting up again after Micro$oft announced their online version of MS Office. Of course MS would never of just sat back and watch as Google trampled all over their bread and butter market (which they have been doing to great effect) but now the gloves are well and truly off. Throw ZoHo into the mix and we have a battle royal... fun fun fun


Who will win out in the end ?, well time will tell as usual, but I think my money is somewhere between ZoHo and Google for the time being. The Microsoft offering is currently in beta and for that reason is free. It has a pretty good feature set with almost everything you'd be looking for in Basic office apps usage and looks and feels pretty slick. There's some more blurb about it here: How it works. They're current stance is that it's advertising funded for the time being as is the Google and ZoHo personal versions. ZoHo definitely have the most mature offerings and full price plan for several different types of user (once you go beyond personal use money has to change hands)

Cloud computing (as we're calling it now) is nothing new and I'm sure you're aware we've been pushing it under other names for 3 or 4 years now, but finally the bandwidth is more readily available and the in-browser code is up to the job at the same time as storage prices have fallen substantially. Combined with VM backends and flash-copy backups the whole concept has become affordable although not if you're trying to sell it to anyone. When Google and MS (and more impressively ZoHo) get behind it and start delivering it for free, unless you're in marketing the money falls straight out the bottom of it.

The customers that I've had in front of me always have the same two concerns. Security of their data and collaboration on their data. Setting security aside for a minute, Google have already proved they can do the collaboration well with Wave, although not fully implemented in Docs & Apps as yet, but what of MS & ZoHo ? Well the MS offering appears to be using the good old Sharepoint backend... Sharepoint, I could tell you stories to make your hair curl (as my gran would say), but maybe if MS are implementing it, as they own it, they ought to be able to make it work.... or perhaps not.... Until I've got my hands on it I'm going to have to reserve judgement. The ZoHo model appears to follow traditional email notification methods - and right now - it seems to be the one that actually works flawlessly. Kudos to ZoHo.

Security is an ongoing problem for all of them. They have each had security issues at various times and things are not looking great for some of the biggest names online in general. Trust is really what's a stake and they've all been taking it for granted for too long. I'm not going to get back into the facebook debacle again - but you know the issues I'm sure. However, until someone addresses this fully with a true end-to-end solution (ho ho ho) it's going to be the elephant in the room. There is interesting work being done here on the socialmedia side (which I believe is really where collaboration should be taking it's lead from).

I heard that phrase "Deepwater Horizon" applied to the facebook situation recently - meaning it's going to blow and it's going to be a disaster for all concerned, but in the meantime, Diaspora, OneSocialWeb with inputs to and from OStatus could really help show the way.

Of course the whole thing is cyclical, and so we can fully expect to be pulling everything back out of the cloud again (I remember mainframes - that was cloud v1.0) in the future onto some ridiculously high powered local device with googolplex's of storage attached to it. But then that's what keeps me off the streets and paying the bills. Just....

Sunday, May 23, 2010

What the papers didn't say....

Some fairly interesting stories in the Sunday papers. The Times has an article on the forthcoming 'austerity measures' that the government will start putting in place from tomorrow. The figure they have in mind is £6bn - serious money. My eye was drawn to this paragraph:


An area that is being targeted for large early cuts is information technology. Some large contacts (sic) - especially those signed in the dying days of the last Labour administration - could be scrapped.

The Sunday Times has learnt that large IT suppliers such as IBM and Hewlett-Packard have been put on notice that they might be expected to reduce the value of their contracts by 20-30%.


Fascinating.

There's also mention of Mick Jagger who suggests we should have a trial for legalising drugs - select a community and let them go for it. He opts for the Isle of Man, an inspired choice. If it all goes wrong, and they become a hopelessly addicted criminal cesspit, who'd care? Indeed, who could tell the difference?

I smiled.

Yesterdays golf went reasonably well, although I think I may have been ever-so-slightly pipped at the post by some footware misalignment and premature card signing by one of our number meaning I made 4th place instead of 3rd (which had been my goal). Regardless it was an enjoyable day out with plenty of banter as always and the evening ran it's predictable course including tripple hurling from a cab on the way home. Poor boy.

The stiffling heat is still in evidence today which so far has consisted of sitting in the garden for a while, huffing and puffing, followed by sitting in the shade for a while, consuming liquid, sitting in the garden for a while, huffing and puffing...... Ad infinitum. Well we don't get weather like this often so you've got to sit in it - haven't you?

We have a mini trip to town planned to exchange something that daughter bought as she's at special school learning how not to get beaten up. No doubt she'll be wanting to show off her new moves on someone later - I shall hide.

Gutted that it's almost Monday again already!! Best not dwell on it. Have fun.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Golfy's golfing

Lawn mowed and it's too hot to type :-)

Tomorrows event is an ongoing nightmare to organise. It is nigh on impossible to organise 8 blokes to all do the same thing. There's always someone or something that doesn't fit with the plan. We started off as 10, lost one to a wedding, one to a football bash and nearly lost one to the ash cloud and BA Cabin crew strike. Luckily the ash cloud abated and the cabin crew didn't strike (yet) so we were back on 8.

Sadly the night before we've lost another one to tennis elbow. I've sent out a distress flare to a couple of potential standbys and the scenario now is we might be 7 or we might be 9. Either way it an organisers hell. And who's the organiser?? Well it's me of course. These things are sent to try us.

It doesn't matter though. The weather will be fantastic, the golf will be competitive and the drinking will be required.... Who could ask for anything more?

Enjoy the summer. It'll all be over on Monday.

Thursday, May 20, 2010

How to avoid "Going Postal".....

You might have already read my previous post "Going Postal"... but, I've updated it and if you haven't read the the bit about Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose, go back and read it again... and watch the video. Somehow, that is my next big thing.

Going Postal

I'm not a quitter. In fact usually the trickier something is the more I dig my heels in but just lately it's getting to a point where I'm starting to think quitting might be the only way to maintain any level of sanity.

Things have been unsettled for some time at Starfleet begining with the erosion of local engineering staff whose tasks were moved to another 'low cost' planet in the system. More recently there's been the removal of a minor perk as part of communications provision. Then there was a bigger chop in the form of long term stability and what happens at the end of your tour of duty. Worse still has been selection of the away teams. On top of this, the leaders of the planetary system I've been exploring have negotiated a new method of reconnoiter which has led to a steep learning curve for all involved. Simultaneously we have a complete replacement to the weapons system which I've been trained on - although many of the team are still in the process of this.

Well that should be enough stress for anyone shouldn't it? You're existense on board the ship is in doubt and they redefine your current research project, give you new weapons and take away your longer term cushions. Is it? bollox!

Let's put in place a new process for doing everything which takes away any percieved control of destiny that we as crew members may have had. Furthermore let's make the crew implement it - afterall they haven't got anything else to do - like make Some FECKIN MONEY FOR STARFLEET!!! Can you tell I'm not impressed?

For me though, the straw that's weighing that little too heavily on my back is the news yesterday of the loss of one of our more senior crew who has been extremely helpful to me and many other crew members over the years. A torch bearing guide through the foggy lower decks. He's going where no man has been before and will (in my opinion at any rate) leave a large hole.

So I do hope, dear reader, that you'll understand if I loose the plot and - as they say in America - Go Postal!!! It would be imminent if I was a complete loon - which just for the record, I'm not. All the same, there's only so much bullsh!t that even I can put up with...... Arrrrgggghhhhhh!!!!!!!

Now I'm 110% certain that no-one at a certain level (or above) at starfleet reads anything I ramble on about, which is a shame. It's a shame because if someone at Starfleet just took 10 minutes out of their day and watched this, they'd understand why they're in the situation they're in and better yet, they'd fix it!!

Motivation is at all time low it would seem, and this eminently sensible research points to 3 concepts: Autonomy, Mastery & Purpose which could turn it around... Perhaps I'll bring it up next Tuesday - unless I get fired



Still - at least I know it's falling on deaf ears somewhere......

This brings me neatly onto "Going Postal". If you've got Sky and have read any Terry Pratchett and enjoyed it, then I'd seriously recommend sky's adaptation of "Going Postal" which will be the 4th novel to be filmed and is scheduled to be screened over the forthcoming bank holiday weekend (30th/31st May - Sky1 and Sky1 HD)

This is the third adaptation that Sky have carried out for the great Discworld series
They started off with "The Hogfather" in 2006 with a 2-part "movie" that closely followed the plot of the novel. Briefly, the Hogfather, who is the Discworld equivalent to Father Christmas, has gone missing and Death is forced to take his place while his granddaughter (yes, Death's granddaughter) Susan attempts to find out what happened. But then if you've read the book, you'll know that.

In February 2008 I was lucky enough to meet Mr Pratchett at a literary event in Bath (close to his home as you may or may not know). This was just after he'd "announced" to the world the condition of his Ahlzhimer's disease and while that subject threatened to overshadow his appearance, Mr P wasn't having any of it. Sympathy is not really what he's looking for. He is however, looking for a cure. I digress. The point I was making is that he made a fleeting (Hitchcockian) appearance in The Hogfather and I asked him if he was considering ending his writing career in favour of acting (assuming he could convince anyone to make more of his novels into films). Bit cheeky of me I know, but from what I know of the man, he likes a bit of a giggle and this proved to be true. His response surprised most people in the room: "I'll certainly be returning to the small screen and sooner than you think. Sky are screening the next two books in a month or so's time, though I feel it's unlikely that I'll show up at the oscars anytime soon." But then I knew it had been made before I asked the question....

The second outing is from Mr P's first two books in the series, "The Colour of Magic" and "The Light Fantastic". The production team have clearly upped their game and David Jason just slots straight in there perfectly. How did I know about it's existence when I asked Mr P the question? Well, I was lucky enough to have seen some of it being filmed in Gloucester Docks.
For those non-Discworld reading individuals that don't have a clue what I'm on about the first three minutes of Hogfather, which outlines the world this is all set in can be seen here, but again, If you've read the books, you'll love it.

So here for you delectation are the trailers to all three adaptations. They just keep getting better.


The Hogfather




The Colour Of Magic




Going Postal



Seriously... go and read the books - they're a proper treat.

Tuesday next will be a turning point.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Just had to share this with you....



Magic...

Muh-who-veez Pt.2

Now where was I?? Ah yes... "The Road" starring Viggo Mortensen and Directed by the almost unheard of John Hillcoat. You might know Viggo from "The Lord of The Rings" Trilogy and more recently "A History of Violence " or "Eastern Promises" (both of which would link us nicely back to Jude Law via director David Cronenberg)

As I suspected, it is a dark and brooding movie following "The Man" and "The Boy" as they travel south across what appears to be America towards the coast. En route they meet various marauding gangs, cannibals and the occasional nice person too. Some of the back story (how did we get here?) is told through flashbacks and we learn about the boys mother and what became of her. I'm guessing that McCarthy wrote the characters in Title only form and without referring to their relationships in detail to further enhance the unsettled feeling you get from a post-apocalyptic setting. You never feel like you're fully engaged with them but at the same time empathy levels with them are high and I found myself constantly wondering how I would feel in a given situation, or what would I do ? Clearly this is pushing the right psychological buttons and on that level it works.

While it's a story full of despair and sadness, it somehow manages to leave you uplifted. There is hope in the darkest places. I've not read any Charles McCarthy novels, but of the 10 he's written (1965-2006), 5 have made it into film or TV adaptations, and of course I'm already a fan of "No country for Old Men" because of the Coen Brother's connection and my Lebowski obsession. If nothing else, The Road has inspired me to go and pick up at least one and see what they're like.

In other news.... Had a game of golf last night with Stan, Bri and Rodders. Admittedly it was only 9 holes which took us from 6pm through to about 8 but it was useful in getting my swing working again bearing in mind I'm going to need it on Saturday for the AGS event.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Muh-who-veez....

I've got two to discuss, both new releases on DVD this week.

First up is "Sherlock Holmes". Now I've long been a fan of the original Basil Rathbone 1930's and 40's Sherlock Holmes movies. They're classic sunday afternoon fayre which are perfect for whiling away an hour or so of pouring rain and travelling back in time to a much simpler crowd of criminals. Rathbone made 14 of them (that I know of) between 1939 and 1946 with his faithful sidekick Dr.Watson as portrayed by Nigel Bruce. What was particularly wonderful about them is the way that the makers took Holmes & Watson, who are instantly recognisable as the Baker Street crime fighters that we know and love, and then crowbarred them into joining the war effort battling against spies and thieves who were quite often working for Nazi Germany in some form or another. This type of propaganda was not unusual in movies of the period and in this case it just seems to fit into the correct place in history. Transposed from the 1800's into the 1940's works beautifully and you'd hardly expect them to be anywhere else.

This brings us to the new version of Sherlock Holmes as directed by Guy-"Lock, Stock & Two Smoking Madonna's"-Ritchie. Mr Ritchie has managed to bag man-of-the-moment fresh from his triumphant return to cinema via Iron-Man (2007), Robert Downey Jr. Mr Jr. had disappeared under a bit of a cloud of drug fuelled nonsense during the 90's - and whether any of what was reported about him is true - I couldn't care less. I am glad to see him back and he's proved himself an entertaining actor time and time again. Alongside Mr Jr is our great british actor Jude Law who's well known for all sorts of interesting movies of repute. Enough background and Bio stuff, what about the film???

Of immediate notice to a Sherlock Holmes fan of old is that this most definetly ain't that. In fact far far far from it. Second thing of note is this is the only film I can remember to make effective use of the word 'discombobulate' within the first 15 minutes. So why is it so far from Mr Rathbone and Mr Bruce? ... Perhaps it should be called "Lock, Stock & One Smoking Detective". It's Jam packed with Ritchie-isms, from fast paced edits, to slow-mo punchups, retrospective rewinds and vista-loving-long-pans. Now I've heard Mr Kermode's opinion of it, and I wholeheartedly concur. It's a great movie and as long as you keep Guy Ritchie away from the story and/or script, he's a great filmmaker. My only criticism, and it is a fairly lightweight one, is that of geographical misrepresentation of the capital city. It's a small niggle though and one that doesn't detract from the overall experience unless you worry about these things like I do. Geography (and History for that matter) aside, the story is convincing enough to be a Holmes & Watson and although it's clearly not penned by Sir Arthur it breathes new life into two well honed characters who surely have to come back for a second outing. The on-screen relationship between Junior & Law is everything you could want in a buddy movie which just makes it infinitely watchable. Financially it performed well and Warner Brothers must be champing at the bit.

Back in March, the very question of a second was put to Mr Law. And His response?

"We had such a blast making that film, and it was another very happy experience," his response began. "I know you probably always sit in front of actors and they say, 'We had the best time,' and we (referring to Forest Whitaker sitting next to him) had the best time, but we also had a good time on that, too, I promise. I haven't always had the best time but I did on these two. We got on very well, and we were also very aware that we had a hell of a lot more material to use. Conan Doyle wrote over 15 books, and there was so much to take from. Because of our enthusiasm for the project, once we knew it was doing well financially, we all started throwing in our ideas of where it could go and what should happen next. Mine of course involved Sherlock Holmes being locked in a box and Dr. Watson..." (He holds his arms up victoriously at getting the spotlight being put on his character.)

"I think we are probably going to make another one," he finally said, "I haven't been given the absolute... it's not like next week but I think it's sometime this year is what I get."

...and rumour has it that both Paris and Switzerland are on the list for the reprise.

I doubt there will be 14 Junior, Law & Ritchie efforts, but if they can maintain the up-beat, action-filled, smile-a-minute quality of the first throughout another 13, I'll greet every one of them with open arms and my £7.50 cinema ticket.

Second one to get a shufty, is "The Road" based on the novel by Cormac McCarthy (He of "No Country For Old Men"). From a story point of view, could it be any more juxtaposed to Sherlock Holmes? Probably not.

It says here that it's "a father and son journeying together across a grim post-apocalyptic landscape, some years after a great, unexplained cataclysm has destroyed civilization and almost all life on Earth. Realizing that they will not survive another winter in their unspecified original location, the father leads the boy south, through a desolate American landscape along a vacant highway, towards the sea, sustained only by the vague hope of finding warmth and more "good people" like them, and carrying with them only what is on their backs and what will fit into a damaged supermarket cart."

The opening scenes are dark and worrying and in fact I expect the whole movie to be like this, but alas, it was too late at night for me to see it in full, so I'll finish it off tonight and give you my considered thoughts in the morning.

In the mean time, go and rent Sherlock Holmes and have a great night in.

Monday, May 17, 2010

Error: Insufficient Text

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear.  I finally went and broke my run of writing 750 words a day.  It had to happen and some would say thank god it has. I'll do my best to make up for it with this mornings spillage of verbiage into your brain via your eyeballs.  Look away now if you'd rather I didn't.

For those of you with an eye for the stats - I've been averaging 928 words per day. I was making a concerted effort to hit 750 words per day thanks to the impressive http://750words.com website, having now broken my golden rule, I have no idea where this will take me but I'll try and keep it at least full of words even if they're not interesting or engaging.  So what's been happening??

Had a rather slow weekend, which I'm very glad about in all honesty. Work has been busy and depressing, so not having to deal with any of it for a couple of days always helps clear the brain cells back to their neutral position - a cerebral reboot effectively.  I took the time to get back onto organising the golf quarterly. If you don't know one end of a stableford scoring system from the other then in the words of the dude (So that's what you call him. You know, that or, uh, His Dudeness, or uh, Duder, or El Duderino if you're not into the whole brevity thing) then obviously you're not a golfer...





So, Saturday Me & Mrs G took a quick drive out to the course that I've selected to drop off the menu choices (and to have a little pub lunch on the way home) only to find out that the society organiser and chef (Jon) has upped sticks and cleared off to Australia. Worse still, this means that the menu selections have to be reduced to a set menu, which really won't go down well with the lads, especially as they'd already made their choices. These things are sent to try us, and try us they do. In these instances I follow these wise words "When things get bad, stay home, get drunk and bite on a shoe". Needless to say, my shoes are chewed.

On top of this one of our number is going to Canada for work this week and his arrival at the golf on Saturday is under threat from Ash Clouds and BA strikes which will just add an extra level of complexity to the event.

If things could get any worse, we (or from Mrs G's perspective, I) single handedly failed to find a decent pub for any lunch on the way home, which meant that we'd wasted a good hour and a half fannying about when she could have been getting washing on the line. Note to self (and anyone else who's listening): Don't bother turning up to the "Red Lion" at Westbury-on-Severn at 2:15 (Who advertise that they serve food until 2:30) expecting to get anything to eat. To$$ers!

Sunday got the lawn mowed, which was just about due. I have a "keep it short" policy and "don't pick up the clippings" method which keeps it looking green and in pretty good condition. It's suffering a bit from some light dandelion rash this year, and lumps and bumps all over the shop, but generally it's worthy of about 7.5 out of 10. That's about 5 more than Wembley at the moment.

Finally got to catch up with "Looking for Eric". I'd completely overlooked this movie but it turns out that it's a complete masterpiece. A stroke of genius writing and Eric Cantona plays it perfectly. There's clearly no end to the man's talent (Not that I'm interested in football). It also contains the immortal line "Where ever you go I'll find you, coz I'm.... a postman!!" If you haven't seen it, it's an all round winner.

Must dash - I can smell the grindstone from here

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Early Learning through the oblong window

Somedays you can learn stuff just looking out the window.

This morning my "coffee while inspecting the weather" was interuptted with the knowledge that Eddie Stobart ( He of the green lorry loads of emtpy tin cans ) now operates trains aswell. There was one trundling by on the railway line at the bottom of the neighbours garden. I didn't quite spill my coffee, but I was genuinely surprised....




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Friday, May 14, 2010

Let's fix up England - Nationalisation vs Privatisation

Now I'm sure you read my earlier post regarding the fact that England has spoken and if not, well shame on you. You really need to understand how this "Great" Britain works or not as the case may be. Regardless, last evening was spent spining out an excellent diatribe on the way things are done in this country and the way things should be done. In short, we put the world (more importantly, the country) to rights... This really is deep stuff for three blokes having a beer, but then all the biggest problems are traditionally solved in this way.

It all comes down to human rights and what should (and shouldn't) the state control that directly effects us members of the public. So clearly we need some changes and as such I would like to present the WTC Manifesto (while not completed yet, it is the first principles of a Manifesto at least) which I can assure you we will be passing on to the members of parliament for the new coalition with the sole intention of inclusion in their future plans for old man England.

1. Services
I'm certain that most people would agree there are certain services that are essential to human existence. Things like the provision of water, energy and food for example. These services are things that (in our bright new coalition -ConDemNation-) should be provided by the state. Today the state provides us with medical (NHS), security (Police & Military), education (Schools & some universities), Entertainment & News (BBC) and the Post Office. Of these how many are provided well?

In the WTC's view (and I'm sure most people of any common sense) the answer is one, namely the BBC.

First of all, let me share with you the logic that has drawn these conclusions. The BBC is an institution that is highly respected the world over. In the face of commercial competition from the likes of ITV, Channel 4 and Sky (in the UK alone) it has managed to successfully compete and moreover "up it's game" to a level that the commercial stations can still only aspire to. It has done this through funding that is mostly publicly supplied, although it is important to note that it does have a smaller percentage of commercial income as a result of sales of some of it's output.

Surely when a semi-nationalised business such as this does so well, then shouldn't it be held up as a paragon of virtue in the quagmire that is commercialism. ?? ie: If the BBC can get it right, what the hell is going wrong with .... ??

Let's be clear, the BBC isn't a fully nationalised institution and neither is it a fully commercial institution. It is a hybrid and for this reason it works. So what happens if we apply the same logic to the other services that we believe the Government should be running ?

1a. Power
The commercial power providers in the UK need to have a certain amount of Nationalised control re-imposed upon them. Forget about everyone having a smart meter to see how much they're consuming, that is putting the cart before the horse (and it is in the coalition manifesto). Use that money to help provide everyone in the country with a solar panel or windmill for micro-energy generation. This in itself would create an entire business and should show the way to England becoming the world leader in micro-engegy generation. So we propose the Ministry of Energy should be taking this bull squarely by the horns and bringing the commercial energy providers back in line with what the people should have a "right" to and not what these enterprises shareholders want. ie: Clean and Cheap energy, not Dirty and expensive dividends. Why aren't we taking a leaf out of NYC's book and applying this logic to the whole country??

1b. Water
This one is a bit tougher, but it suffers similar problems in it's charging mechanisms. The fact that we're charged for the delivery of water and the taking away of water seems to be flawed, but we agree that we'd need to look further into the issues before we can set a firm policy on the subject although it is clear that shareholders influence is too strong when water is a basic need.

1c. Food
Anyone will tell you the supermarkets have too much control and influence over what we eat in this country. From the BOGOF (Buy One Get One Free) deals that encourage us to buy stuff we don't need and either eat it and get fat, or throw it away and load up the landfill sites to the importation of asparagus from Peru under the guise of providing more choice for the consumer which is actually just damaging the environment by flying the stuff over 6000 miles. They are clearly out of control and some government influence could save us a small fortune. Not least in the NHS which is going to be overburdened by fatties in no time at this rate.

So those are the Services that aren't government controlled, but should be at some level. Bear in mind that the method we're suggesting using is a hybrid Government controlled/Commercial model. What about the ones that are government controlled that shouldn't be...

Well I've blathered on about it enough for today - but it's an ongoing agenda item for the suddenly serious WTC, so you can expect views on semi-Privatisation of the existing services in a future blog entry.

At least we don't have to worry about Schrödinger's Japanese Snow Monkey which was a source of mental backflips for me & some of my co-workers, briefly yesterday. The cat died having been left in the box without food for too long.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Why is "having a life" so time consuming ?

Does my nut in. I never seem to have any time to stop and enjoy the view. Not only are Starfleet keeping me loaded up during my waking/working hours, but I enjoy being a sociable old sod as well. This is just taking up a lot of time of late and my social calendar seems to be a bit jammed up again.

I must learn to say "No", even if I don't want to.

I also need to keep my sense of humour when it comes to daughter and her friends. You know how it is when you're sober and everyone esle is drunk. You just seem to not quite get the hilarious joke and end up looking like the grumpy one who should have stayed at home. I fell foul of that last night even though I was the one who stayed home. To be fair to her it wasn't 'that' late, but I don't like being woken up by giggling buffoonery when I've got an early start.

Surprisingly I was young once and as I recall was a far less considerate son to my sainted parents than daughter is to me, so in all honesty I should cut her some slack. I've said it before, but things really are different now and the world has moved on from the follies of my youth, to a different set of follies of today's youths. Worth remembering.

So I've spent a large chunk of the day at one of the Starfleet bases checking out some of the new weaponry and testing it on tribbles.... failed to kill any of them, but maimed a few. Turns out that if you don't watch out for the recoil you could wind up with bandy ears, very dangerous, but it's kind of like all-right. OK? Yeah, right. We also appear to have found an element of mushroom management going on which is a little (to say the least) disturbing. Being kept in the dark and fed sh!t is not my idea of having a good time, or a good job for that matter.

Of late, my heart is greatly saddened by the way that Starfleet have changed from a progressive, forward thinking company of intelligent beings, into a vast group of pencil pushing abacus operators who know next to nothing about "space exploration" and everything about satisfying the evil emperor while the rebellion flounders. I can hear him now (via my bandy ears) "You're lack of faith disturbs me"..... and we all know how that story finished up don't we ?


Talking of follies, it's Thursday so it's WTC which this week, well tonight actually, will be held in the Cheese Rollers Inn. Really looking forward to that as I'm such a fan of the sport. (Yes it really is a sport)

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

...errrm ... WTF!!??

I thought I'd finished with the political posts, but those gist in whitehall have actually got me engaged in this stuff now.  Life may never be the same again. Clearly I haven't seen it all and actually the world's a better place than I thought.

It turns out that the Con-Lib coalition (Some might say the "Con-Dem Nation" - Ho Ho Ho - Ed.) negotiations document, which lists all the agreements they've reached has been publish and seven pages of damn fine reading it makes too. Enjoy... or fume a your leisure:

Conservative Liberal Democrat coalition negotiations 



Agreements reached 
11 May 2010

This document sets out agreements reached between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats on a range of issues. These are the issues that needed to be resolved between us in order for us to work together as a strong and stable government. It will be followed in due course by a final Coalition Agreement, covering the full range of policy and including foreign, defence and domestic policy issues not covered in this document.

1. Deficit Reduction
The parties agree that deficit reduction and continuing to ensure economic recovery is the most urgent issue facing Britain. We have therefore agreed that there will need to be:
  • a significantly accelerated reduction in the structural deficit over the course of a Parliament, with the main burden of deficit reduction borne by reduced spending rather than increased taxes;
  • arrangements that will protect those on low incomes from the effect of public sector pay constraint and other spending constraints; and
  • protection of jobs by stopping Labour’s proposed jobs tax.
The parties agree that a plan for deficit reduction should be set out in an emergency budget within 50 days of the signing of any agreement; the parties note that the credibility of a plan on deficit reduction depends on its long-term deliverability, not just the depth of immediate cuts. New forecasts of growth and borrowing should be made by an independent Office for Budget Responsibility for this emergency budget.

The parties agree that modest cuts of £6 billion to non-front line services can be made within the financial year 2010-11, subject to advice from the Treasury and the Bank of England on their feasibility and advisability. Some proportion of these savings can be used to support jobs, for example through the cancelling of some backdated demands for business rates. Other policies upon which we are agreed will further support job creation and green investment, such as work programmes for the unemployed and a green deal for energy efficiency investment.

The parties agree that reductions can be made to the Child Trust Fund and tax credits for higher earners.

2. Spending Review – NHS, Schools and a Fairer Society
The parties agree that a full Spending Review should be held, reporting this Autumn, following a fully consultative process involving all tiers of government and the private sector.

The parties agree that funding for the NHS should increase in real terms in each year of the Parliament, while recognising the impact this decision would have on other departments. The target of spending 0.7% of GNI on overseas aid will also remain in place.

We will fund a significant premium for disadvantaged pupils from outside the schools budget by reductions in spending elsewhere.

The parties commit to holding a full Strategic Security and Defence Review alongside the Spending Review with strong involvement of the Treasury.

The Government will be committed to the maintenance of Britain’s nuclear deterrent, and have agreed that the renewal of Trident should be scrutinised to ensure value for money. Liberal Democrats will continue to make the case for alternatives. We will immediately play a strong role in the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty Review Conference, and press for continued progress on multilateral disarmament.

The parties commit to establishing an independent commission to review the long term affordability of public sector pensions, while protecting accrued rights.

We will restore the earnings link for the basic state pension from April 2011 with a “triple guarantee” that pensions are raised by the higher of earnings, prices or 2.5%, as proposed by the Liberal Democrats.

3. Tax Measures
The parties agree that the personal allowance for income tax should be increased in order to help lower and middle income earners. We agree to announce in the first Budget a substantial increase in the personal allowance from April 2011, with the benefits focused on those with lower and middle incomes. This will be funded with the money that would have been used to pay for the increase in Employee National Insurance thresholds proposed by the Conservatives, as well as revenues from increases in Capital Gains Tax rates for non-business assets as described below. The increase in Employer National Insurance thresholds proposed by the Conservatives will go ahead in order to stop Labour’s jobs tax. We also agree to a longer term policy objective of further increasing the personal allowance to £10,000, making further real terms steps each year towards this objective.

We agree that this should take priority over other tax cuts, including cuts to Inheritance Tax. We also agree that provision will be made for Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain on budget resolutions to introduce transferable tax allowances for married couples without prejudice to this coalition agreement.

The parties agree that a switch should be made to a per-plane, rather than per-passenger duty; a proportion of any increased revenues over time will be used to help fund increases in the personal allowance.

We further agree to seek a detailed agreement on taxing non-business capital gains at rates similar or close to those applied to income, with generous exemptions for entrepreneurial business activities.

The parties agree that tackling tax avoidance is essential for the new government, and that all efforts will be made to do so, including detailed development of Liberal Democrat proposals.

4. Banking Reform
The parties agree that reform to the banking system is essential to avoid a repeat of Labour’s financial crisis, to promote a competitive economy, to sustain the recovery and to protect and sustain jobs.

We agree that a banking levy will be introduced. We will seek a detailed agreement on implementation.

We agree to bring forward detailed proposals for robust action to tackle unacceptable bonuses in the financial services sector; in developing these proposals, we will ensure they are effective in reducing risk.

We agree to bring forward detailed proposals to foster diversity, promote mutuals and create a more competitive banking industry.

We agree that ensuring the flow of credit to viable SMEs is essential for supporting growth and should be a core priority for a new government, and we will work together to develop effective proposals to do so. This will include consideration of both a major loan guarantee scheme and the use of net lending targets for the nationalised banks.

The parties wish to reduce systemic risk in the banking system and will establish an independent commission to investigate the complex issue of separating retail and investment banking in a sustainable way; while recognising that this would take time to get right, the commission will be given an initial time frame of one year to report.

The parties agree that the regulatory system needs reform to avoid a repeat of Labour’s financial crisis. We agree to bring forward proposals to give the Bank of England control of macro-prudential regulation and oversight of micro-prudential regulation.

The parties also agree to rule out joining the European Single Currency during the duration of this agreement.

5. Immigration
We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit. We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

6. Political Reform
The parties agree to the establishment of five year fixed-term parliaments. A Conservative-Liberal Democrat coalition government will put a binding motion before the House of Commons in the first days following this agreement stating that the next general election will be held on the first Thursday of May 2015. Following this motion, legislation will be brought forward to make provision for fixed term parliaments of five years. This legislation will also provide for dissolution if 55% or more of the House votes in favour.

The parties will bring forward a Referendum Bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the Alternative Vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their Parliamentary Parties in both Houses to support a simple majority referendum on the Alternative Vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.

The parties will bring forward early legislation to introduce a power of recall, allowing voters to force a by-election where an MP was found to have engaged in serious wrongdoing and having had a petition calling for a by-election signed by 10% of his or her constituents.

We agree to establish a committee to bring forward proposals for a wholly or mainly elected upper chamber on the basis of proportional representation. The committee will come forward with a draft motions by December 2010. It is likely that this bill will advocate single long terms of office. It is
also likely there will be a grandfathering system for current Peers. In the interim, Lords appointments will be made with the objective of creating a second chamber reflective of the share of the vote secured by the political parties in the last general election.

The parties will bring forward the proposals of the Wright Committee for reform to the House of Commons in full – starting with the proposed committee for management of programmed business and including government business within its scope by the third year of the Parliament.

The parties agree to reduce electoral fraud by speeding up the implementation of individual voter registration.

We have agreed to establish a commission to consider the ‘West Lothian question’.

The parties agree to the implementation of the Calman Commission proposals and the offer of a referendum on further Welsh devolution.

The parties will tackle lobbying through introducing a statutory register of lobbyists. We also agree to pursue a detailed agreement on limiting donations and reforming party funding in order to remove big money from politics.

The parties will promote the radical devolution of power and greater financial autonomy to local government and community groups. This will include a full review of local government finance.

7. Pensions and Welfare
The parties agree to phase out the default retirement age and hold a review to set the date at which the state pension age starts to rise to 66, although it will not be sooner than 2016 for men and 2020 for women. We agree to end the rules requiring compulsory annuitisation at 75.

We agree to implement the Parliamentary and Health Ombudsman’s recommendation to make fair and transparent payments to Equitable Life policy holders, through an independent payment scheme, for their relative loss as a consequence of regulatory failure.

The parties agree to end all existing welfare to work programmes and to create a single welfare to work programme to help all unemployed people get back into work.

We agree that Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants facing the most significant barriers to work should be referred to the aforementioned newly created welfare to work programme immediately, not after 12 months as is currently the case. We agree that Jobseeker’s Allowance claimants aged under 25 should be referred to the programme after a maximum of six months.

The parties agree to realign contracts with welfare to work service providers to reflect more closely the results they achieve in getting people back into work.

We agree that the funding mechanism used by government to finance welfare to work programmes should be reformed to reflect the fact that initial investment delivers later savings in lower benefit expenditure.

We agree that receipt of benefits for those able to work should be conditional on the willingness to work.

8. Education 
Schools
We agree to promote the reform of schools in order to ensure:
  • that new providers can enter the state school system in response to parental demand; 
  • that all schools have greater freedom over curriculum; and, 
  • that all schools are held properly accountable.

Higher education
We await Lord Browne’s final report into higher education funding, and will judge its proposals against the need to:
  • increase social mobility; 
  • take into account the impact on student debt; 
  • ensure a properly funded university sector; 
  • improve the quality of teaching; 
  • advance scholarship; and, 
  • attract a higher proportion of students from disadvantaged backgrounds.

If the response of the Government to Lord Browne’s report is one that Liberal Democrats cannot accept, then arrangements will be made to enable Liberal Democrat MPs to abstain in any vote.

9. Relations with the EU
We agree that the British Government will be a positive participant in the European Union, playing a strong and positive role with our partners, with the goal of ensuring that all the nations of Europe are equipped to face the challenges of the 21st century: global competitiveness, global warming and global poverty.

We agree that there should be no further transfer of sovereignty or powers over the course of the next Parliament. We will examine the balance of the EU’s existing competences and will, in particular, work to limit the application of the Working Time Directive in the United Kingdom.

We agree that we will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that any proposed future Treaty that transferred areas of power, or competences, would be subject to a referendum on that Treaty – a ‘referendum lock’. We will amend the 1972 European Communities Act so that the use of any passerelle would require primary legislation.

We will examine the case for a United Kingdom Sovereignty Bill to make it clear that ultimate authority remains with Parliament.

We agree that Britain will not join or prepare to join the Euro in this Parliament.

We agree that we will strongly defend the UK’s national interests in the forthcoming EU budget negotiations and that the EU budget should only focus on those areas where the EU can add value.

We agree that we will press for the European Parliament only to have one seat, in Brussels.

We agree that we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case by case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting Britain’s civil liberties and
preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European Public Prosecutor.

10. Civil liberties
The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to reverse the substantial erosion of civil liberties under the Labour Government and roll back state intrusion.

This will include:

  • A Freedom or Great Repeal Bill.
  • The scrapping of ID card scheme, the National Identity register, the next generation of biometric passports and the Contact Point Database.
  • Outlawing the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission.
  • The extension of the scope of the Freedom of Information Act to provide greater transparency.
  • Adopting the protections of the Scottish model for the DNA database. 
  • The protection of historic freedoms through the defence of trial by jury. 
  • The restoration of rights to non-violent protest. 
  • The review of libel laws to protect freedom of speech. 
  • Safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation. 
  • Further regulation of CCTV. 
  • Ending of storage of internet and email records without good reason. 
  • A new mechanism to prevent the proliferation of unnecessary new criminal offences.

11. Environment
The parties agree to implement a full programme of measures to fulfil our joint ambitions for a low carbon and eco-friendly economy, including:
  • The establishment of a smart grid and the roll-out of smart meters.
  • The full establishment of feed-in tariff systems in electricity – as well as the maintenance of banded ROCs.
  • Measures to promote a huge increase in energy from waste through anaerobic digestion. - The creation of a green investment bank. 
  • The provision of home energy improvement paid for by the savings from lower energy bills. 
  • Retention of energy performance certificates while scrapping HIPs. 
  • Measures to encourage marine energy.
  • The establishment of an emissions performance standard that will prevent coal-fired power stations being built unless they are equipped with sufficient CCS to meet the emissions performance standard.
  • The establishment of a high-speed rail network.
  • The cancellation of the third runway at Heathrow.
  • The refusal of additional runways at Gatwick and Stansted.
  • The replacement of the Air Passenger Duty with a per flight duty.
  • The provision of a floor price for carbon, as well as efforts to persuade the EU to move towards full auctioning of ETS permits.
  • Measures to make the import or possession of illegal timber a criminal offence.
  • Measures to promote green spaces and wildlife corridors in order to halt the loss of habitats and restore biodiversity.
  • Mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles.
  • Continuation of the present Government’s proposals for public sector investment in CCS technology for four coal-fired power stations; and a specific commitment to reduce central government carbon emissions by 10 per cent within 12 months.
  • We are agreed that we would seek to increase the target for energy from renewable sources, subject to the advice of the Climate Change Committee.

Liberal Democrats have long opposed any new nuclear construction. Conservatives, by contrast, are committed to allowing the replacement of existing nuclear power stations provided they are subject to the normal planning process for major projects (under a new national planning statement) and provided also that they receive no public subsidy.

We have agreed a process that will allow Liberal Democrats to maintain their opposition to nuclear power while permitting the government to bring forward the national planning statement for ratification by Parliament so that new nuclear construction becomes possible.

This process will involve:
  • the government completing the drafting of a national planning statement and putting it before Parliament;
  • specific agreement that a Liberal Democrat spokesman will speak against the planning statement, but that Liberal Democrat MPs will abstain; and
  • clarity that this will not be regarded as an issue of confidence.

So there it is....   If they all do what they say they will do, this could actually be a stroke of genius within UK politics. So far, I'm impressed. It's all there to loose. At least they're keeping their sense of humor... so far...



England and Ubuntu, Ibuntu, everybody buntu...


My last word on the Political situation.....

The new Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg says he wants to form a "new kind of Government".

Speaking after the Liberal Democrat party approved a formal coalition deal with the Conservative Party, he said he would not have entered into the agreement with the Tories unless he was "genuinely convinced it would offer the unique opportunity to deliver the kind of changes you and I believe in".

Mr Clegg said he hoped his time in power would be "the start of the new kind of politics I have always believed in, diverse, plural, where politicians of different persuasions come together to overcome their differences in order to deliver good government for the good of the country".

"I hope you will keep faith with us," Mr Clegg said to Lib Dem voters.

"Let us prove to you that we can serve you and this country with humility, with fairness at the heart of everything we do with total dedication to the interest of everyone in Great Britain."

The Lib Dem leader paid to tribute to Gordon Brown, who quit as prime minister on Tuesday evening. He described the Labour leader as a "towering figure for more than a decade in British politics." Mr Clegg said Mr Brown had acted with "grace and humility" over the last few days.

Sky News political correspondent Glen Oglaza said there was no triumphalism to Mr Clegg's speech, the words and promises being delivered in a workman-like manner.

"The most interesting part perhaps was the reassurance he sought to deliver to what he described as the seven million people who voted for the Liberal Democrats, accepting that some of them may find the governmental arrangement strange, assuring them he wouldn't have entered into it if he couldn't deliver," he said.

And that is why I voted for him.

.....so it comes to pass that the great British way of doing things has all clicked and whirred into place in that very Heath Robinson way that some of our greatest traditions do.... And hey Presto! New Government.

The country settles back into it's comfortable routine, like a slightly older gentleman relaxes into his comfortable winged back chair in the Library. Slips on his worn slippers, taps the remnants of his pipe out and picks up the paper to follow the goings-on in the crimea - or some such place.  Meanwhile the kids (Dave & Nick) are running round like headless chickens in the dining room.

"Betsy!!....  BETSY!!!" he hollers, for that is the name of the Nanny who keeps the kids in line. "Sort those damn kids out will you!?, I'm trying to read the bloody paper!".

Betsy emerges from the Kitchen, crown slightly askew, catches the two kids by the ear and tells them in no uncertain terms. "Now come along you two.  Stop messing about and get and do something more constructive with your time. You're always under my feet.  Form a government or something.  Didn't you hear him??"

England has spoken.

Let's hope that this time, in theory, a slightly more thoughtful bunch are at the reigns. As you were.     Keep Calm & Carry On.

Meanwhile back in Tech-land....

I kicked off a download of Ubuntu Netbook Edition yesterday PM (not Prime Minister, we're done with that for a while - pay attention). It comes it at a decent 700Mb and by 6pm last night it was sat ready and waiting for me to do something interesting with.

Mrs G's laptop has Windows Vista sitting on it and it is a constant source of annoyance for her which means it becomes grief for me. The biggest issue is it's speed. Vista is just bloaty and slow. It's WiFi network connection time is painful and getting things done is simply hard work. I understand that I'm spoiled what with having OSX and XP (Yes, XP really is OK nowadays, especially when compared to Vista) but it's just not good enough. I've heard good reports about Windows 7, but I figured I should try the new version of Ubuntu for free before shelling out the £100 to upgrade.

So first job is to create a bootable flash drive to install from if you're building on a Netbook. As I'm trialling on a Laptop, I can simply burn the .ISO image to a CD and boot from that. Building a bootable USB Stick takes a little bit of faffing, but once it's done you simply plug it in your netbook and boot off of that.

It says here:
Ubuntu Netbook Remix is optimised to run on a new category of affordable Internet-centric devices called netbooks. It includes a new consumer-friendly interface that allows users to quickly and easily get on-line and use their favourite applications.

Sounds perfect for Mrs G's needs although if it doesn't have Spider Solitaire and some elements of Open Office, my head will be on the block.

A boot off the new CD results in an impressive looking OS with plenty of quality features. WiFi came up straight away and operation (even from CD) is zippy. If I can find some time this evening perhaps a dual boot installation will be the preferred result. Good stuff.

At ease.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

LibCon Job Done

Latest instructions.....




We await the Queen's good housekeeping seal of approval. Good luck your Maj' (think we all need it!)

Media Meltdown

I've seen it all now... and it's a bleeding' mess and no mistake!...

Sky News. Now there's a different kettle of worms altogether. As you are hopefully aware Sky News is part of News Corporation which is owned my Robert Murdoch. He's pumped huge sums of money into the Conservative party to try and help them win the election, and to be honest, it shows....

Firstly, here's Kay Burley completely misunderstanding democracy...



"The public have voted for a Hung Parliament"... Really Kay, Did they?? I Don't think they did did they? But let's not worry about the facts, let's just interrupt our interviewee instead of listening to what he may have to say. Oh and if you can get a Sky News advert in while you're about it, that would be great. "Why don't you just go home!"

What's beautiful about this though is the way that the public won't put up with this sort of patronisation....



...."Sack Kay Burley, Watch the BBC, Sky News is Sh!t", Harsh. But then if you will pick on the little guy what can you expect.


But more and better (and significantly bigger) was yet to come. (Check out 3 minutes and 27 seconds) Campbell pushes the button and Boulton looses the plot. Very professional.



Adam Boulton can't contain himself over the fact that the Conservatives may have lost the election. "Don't Tell Me What I Think!" OK.... but I think Adam may be having some sort of breakdown. A few hours later.... (1m15s)



He really doesn't like anyone reminding him that the conservatives haven't actually won the election and seems to be struggling to believe it.

And the feeding frenzy goes on... We've just been told by the BBC that Luggage has been seen at the back of No.10. Luggage!!?? Can you believe it!!?? I trust there will be film at 6...

A Better Twittererer....

I found the better way to link Twitter and Facebook (which I still have to decide on killing or not) in the Facebook application known as Selective Twitter. Basically when you write your Tweet if you include #fb (at the end by default) it will then appear as your facebook status. Clearly this will make me a much kinder tweeter to my Facebook "friends"

I haven't really written about Twitter at length, so here's a few of my thoughts on the subject just to help you out if you're wondering what the hell it's all about. Large numbers of people don't understand Twitter and I happen to know loads of people who have signed up accounts only to never use them beyond one or two initial tweets. So what the hell is it??

In short, it's one big, massive, enormous, jumbo sized conversation consisting of contributions which are no longer than 140 characters. Simple huh ?.. You might like to think of it as micro-blogging. Very much a quick and instant thought that you put out there.

What is genius about it though is the way that conversations can instantly be divided up into sub conversations with use of hash-tags. A hash-tag is a way of labelling a Tweet with it's content. What usually happens is that a bunch of comments on a particular subject tend to attract a relevant hash-tag and before you know it all conversation on the subject is grouped together under that tag.

These hash-tags combined with the powerful search facilities of Twitter enable us to easily see what subjects (or even words no associated with hash-tags) are the most popular - and are then referred to as "Trending". So if there are large numbers of posts regarding the "uk election", then you might read a tweet that says "uk election now trending". Actually the UK election picked up the hash tag #ge2010 (which I've referred to elsewhere) and so Tweets about the election were easy to follow by simply searching Twitter for this tag.


There's a couple of other features that are worthy of note too. For example "ReTweeting" seen as RT. Retweeting is exactly that - if a user reads someones Tweet and whats to help it Trend then by RT'ing it it just get posted again for everyone to see and of course adds 1 to it's trending count.

For example, in this tweet:
NickBrowne RT @PAImages: Today 1940 Chamberlain stands down ; Churchill becomes Prime Minister in a coalition government http://bit.ly/dlzZFU #ge2010
22 minutes ago from TweetDeck

The user "NickBrowne" has Retweeted the tweet which was originally posted by the user "PAImages". PAImages also included a URL in the tweet which has helpfully been shortened so that it doesn't eat up the 140 character quota, and also added the hash-tag "#ge2010". We can also see that PAImages did this 22 minutes ago and was using the application "TweetDeck" to do it with. See?? It's not as complicated as you think.

There's a public timeline which allows you to browse everything that's publicly tweeted.

You can see a personal timeline which just shows all your friends tweets. A friend in this instance is defined as someone that you "Follow" although they may not follow you back if they don't want to.

Then there's Direct Messaging (or DM). This is just like an email, although still with the 140 character limit and can only take place between twitterers that follow each other.

There's a great video (for those of the MTV generation that can't be @rsed to read about it).



So that's the basics - but How do you do it ??

There are literally hundreds of ways of Tweeting. The web (via twitter.com), Instant Messaging (IM) plugins, Facebook, your phone, any number of third party applications as well as plugins to all sorts of gizmos. I could try and list them all, but frankly I'll be here forever and there's plenty of other people that have done that already. A quick surf about and it looks like this might be the best place for links to all things Twitter. http://www.squidoo.com/twitterapps

In summary - if you don't already have a Twitter account, go give it a try - it's free, fun and can be very interesting. Like any only social group there are plenty of buffoons on it, so don't expect it to be full of useful insight from the off, but once you've had some time to understand it, you can find all manner of up to the second useful facts. Have fun - oh and if you're looking for someone to follow you could do far worse than @golfyball

Monday, May 10, 2010

FacetiousBook and Mondays

Monday's don't get any easier do they?

Mrs G has a particularly tough start to the day today, because on this particular Monday she starts her new job. On the surface she didn't appear too terrified, but I think underneath she was pretty nervous about it. Of course she'll be fine and no doubt will have plenty to say on the subject when she gets home tonight.

Apple have announced the release date in the UK for the iPad. WooHoo... but before you get too carried away (if you're that way inclined) the price is not what I would call appealing. In the US the most expensive model (The 32Gb 3G version) is $829, that converts to £553 in the UK. The UK price though for the same model is £699 ($1047 if you wanted to know). £150 in import duty??!!!??! For crying out loud. Someone is seriously taking the pish! These prices are all tweakable though, with Tax/VAT being applied differently in the US, but regardless it still feels wrong. Obviously I need a trip the states if I'm serious about getting one - although actually I think I might wait for the next version which is almost certain to have a front facing camera if the rumours about the iPhone 4 are to be believed.

More Tech chat now. TimesOnline which it has to be said has been a quality website so far and a very interesting point of reference (even if it is owned by Mr Burns) has come out in favour of a Linux Distro in the shape of Ubuntu. They cite, faster setup and the fact that it just works as two of the reasons for going this way, which bizarrely are two of the reasons I now follow the way of the Mac. So that's now added a new job to my non-starfleet todo list, namely the downloading of Ubuntu and setup on a virtual machine.... when I get five minutes.... so expect something on this by the end of the year.

I've been reading of late, how bad the terms and conditions of Facebook are. Now while I have a Facebook account, I really don't use it much anymore. Until last week I had my twitter account tied into my facebook status, but I was getting so prolific in my twitter postings (brought on by the ingenious mess that was #ge2010) that my Facebook status was just becoming annoying to anyone I was friends with on there. So I've disconnected the link for the time being, but might bring it back if I can find a more satisfactory way of maintaining it and not bombarding the innocent with the utterly trivial. (At least with this poxy blog the reader can choose not to read it -Ed). But what of the Facebook Ts&Cs ? There's an interesting article here which makes me want to switch off my Facebook presence, but there's definitely a gap in the market with what to replace it with..... hmmmm... Google have had a pop with Buzz and Wave, but they're no Facebook and neither is it twitter, or IMVU, or Plaxo. Perhaps Facebook has just had it's run and much like Bebo will be consigned to the "What on earth was all that about" pile, but clearly it will leave a vacuum.... I think something is brewing or the conversation would never of started.

Movie news: The Wizard of Oz was one of those weekend movies that I caught yesterday. It is a classic, but I've seen it so many times (what with it being on every Christmas for 10 years when I was a kid) that I do loose interest in it a bit. That said, it still has some classic lines "Lions and Tigers and Bears, Oh My!", and the special effects really stand up well for a film that was made over 70 years ago. I was completely terrified of flying monkeys as a child (and you see so many of them about... Duh -Ed)

The other one is Ghandi which is the Biopic to end all Biopic's. It comes in at just over 3 hours long which is a hell of a long time to stay sat in one position, but it's a gripping enough story that it's nothing like as painful as one might think. Of course the content is a very worthy one and if you're not familiar with the man's life story, you absolutely should watch this movie for such a superb rendition of it. Not only that, but the movie itself won 9 academy awards (No doubt thanks to everyone's favourite uncle and dinosaur collector, Sir Richard Attenbourogh) and while the academy don't always get it right, this one ticks all the boxes. Ben Kingsley is completely believable in it, so much so that it's hard to get your head around the fact that he played such an opposing character in Sexy Beast - which has to be seen to be believed!.

Well, that's it for now - back to my Starfleet responsibilities.... Oh yeah... 10 minute phone calls?? 10 minutes my arse!! beam me up Scotty!!
 

Where is Golfyball?

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