Thursday, January 31, 2008

Which Way


The Gough Map is the oldest known "true" map. Before the Gough Map everything was based on a combination of religion and superstition - the "here be dragons" type of map. But with the Gough map we can se a relatively true representation of the UK. The orientation is rotated 90 degrees, but once you realise that east is up it all makes sense. Interestingly it does make the UK look a bit like an old shoe in shape. Not helped by things getting a bit vague once you get to Scotland, and it is here that the shape is the least accurate. But consider this was drawn around 1360 and you have to admit it is a fine effort.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Apples to Cider


Interesting concept. Walk to India with no money. Mark Boyle has put aside two and a half years to walk to India relying on peoples goodwill. He hopes to get food and lodging in return for odd jobs. The aim is to show that money is outdated, and to show us how we could be helping each other. The "Harvest Walk" is inspired by the help villagers used to give on the farm without expecting payment.

All credit to him, wonderful concept. I am not sure that we need to move away from money but I can see his ppoint. I do think he may hit a problem at the Channel. I am imagining the conversation at the ticket desk "one way ticket to France please" "£60 sir" "er, I don't have any money" "£60 sir" "no, you see, it's OK, I don't believe in money" "yes sir" "I want to show the world we can do without" "yes sir, well maybe you can do without a free trip to France"

One For Me, One For You

So first it's Peter Hain. Then Labour get revenge by naming Derek Conway. Then the Conservatives go and name the guy who named Derek Conway. It is turning into a complete sham. All reminiscent of the cold war. We'd shoot one of their spies, so they'd shoot one of ours, then we'd arrest one in retaliation for that, ad infinitum.

I wouldn't mind so much, but I can't help feeling that if they put half as much energy into running the country as they do having scandals (both part of and the dobbing in) then the country might be in a better place than it is now.

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Walking


Name In The Box

I was listening to more stories about the american election today and I began to wonder who on earth would run for president anyway. I mean, don't get me wrong, I can understand why people have in the past. But now? Bush has made such a mess of the country (and world) who on earth would want to take it on?

Monday, January 28, 2008

Mount Rushmore

Oddly enough last week I had at least two seperate conversations relevant to this post by Dog Collar. It is to do with the way life has changed. In the old days travelling meant that you couldn't be contacted. Even when I started this job, only 7 years ago, once I was on the road it was hard to get me. Yes I had a mobile but that was it. Now we have mobiles (with better coverage), we have wi-fi, we have 3G. Although I still use the out of office message it is very unusual for me not to reply within 24 hours. We have added layer uppon layer of technology in the thought that it improves our lives. In fact it does the opposite.

Thinking time is now a thing of the past. When you couldn't be contacted then you had time to mull things over, consider new ideas. But now everything is instant. Replies are expected. This is actually a backward step. We spend so much effort dealing with the now that there is little time for the future.

I think how things must have been when the only options were snail-mail and land-lines. There would have been no point expecting things to be done by tomorrow, or even by the afternoon. A normal turn-around must have been a week. Everything slower. Everything more considered. It must have been wonderful.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Star

In this present
This definitive, unmistakeable, now
Where all my pasts have lead
From where my futures
Draw away


And in this now
I long for that past
Wishing
We had been bound
In one perfect moment
By a shooting star

wdydwyd

"Why do you do what you do?" is a simple question, but hard to answer. A new weekly blog for "wdydwyd?" is updated every Monday with a selection of people's answers to the question.Some examples: "Because otherwise I'd be punished" "To be connected to the world" "Because I'm afraid to do what I don't do" Each one is a photo -- usually very visually striking. It's a community-art project where people have submitted photos from all over the world.Follow the new blog. Bookmark it or subscribe for free. http://www.wdydwyd.com/

I believe that I have mentioned this site before. It has had a revamp so that it will nowbe more like "Post Secrets" by the looks of it, with weekly updates. It needs to get up to speed.


Find more photos like this on wdydwyd?

Friday, January 25, 2008

Deep Down



Finally Tower Colliery has closed for good. For 14years it has been a symbol of welsh defiance. It has been credited with changing the political landscape and to allow the first steps to devolvement. It is put forward as an icon against Maggie.

In fact, Tower colliery is a demonstration that Maggie was right. The collieries couldn't survive as they were. They were losing money. And for a big national company it would cost too much to get the juggernaut structure to turn around. The National Coal Board was dying. There was nowhere to go. But instead, after closure, the miners each donated £8000 of their reduncy pay and bought the mine. A small, streamlined structure, a privatised structure no less, was able to trim the operation so that it could make money for another 13 years. The fact that it has run for 13 years is important for those working there as it has given them a life, but it is too short a time compared to what a government would have had to invest and it would never had made a profit for a national company.

Tower colliery stands for many things. It stands for the pride of the welsh. It stands for the individual against the corporation. But, surprisingly considering its history, it also stands for the success of the Conservative policies and for privatisation over nationalisation.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Should I Stay Or Should I Go Now


So Peter Hain has finally resigned. And yet, listening to politicians toady, we should think he has done the honourable thing, that he should be admired. Sorry, no. The honourable thing would have been to resign at the beginning. Instead he has tried to bluff it out. Only when the police have got involved has he had to give up, admit defeat. This was not honour, this was desperation.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

London Calling

So the Houses of Parliament are a good place to start



Then playing on a bridge



And trying to work out if I like this next one


Next was the path along the Thames,


But with a bit of editing it becomes monochrome and I kind of like this more, it takes on a wintery feel I think

Roar

"A" was worried that I would be lonely while I was away. She insisted that I took Mr Lion with me for company. Although yet another thing to carry wasn't on my wish list, I do find it hard to refuse her. So I ahve spent the last 4 days with Mr Lion. When I started it was fine, he could fit in the suitcase. But one of the mysteries I find about travelling is that even if I don't buy anything it seems to get progressively harder to repack the suitcase. And we got to the stage today where the suitcase was full without Mr Lion in it. End result, I wander around London with Mr Lion in my computer backpack. Which is a soource of great amusement to all the policemen out on demonstration. And also to those in the meeting I was attending.








Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Follow That Cab

Later I get a taxi to the train station. I am early, as ever is the way. I meander around the station, wondering how to spend the next hour and a half. As I wander my hands get cold. I put them in my pocket. I feel my keys. “Strange” I think to myself, “I thought my keys were in my bag”. Oh. Yes. Knew there was something I was supposed to do. Leaving the keys for the hire car at the hotel reception would have been a good idea. So I have to speed over to the taxi rank and explain that I need to be taken to the hotel, but I then want them to wait while I drop off the keys, and then they can bring me back. Nice driver says OK. We get to the hotel. I say “I’ll leave my bags here so you know I won’t run off”. I go in, hand over the keys, accepting the looks from the receptionist that indicate I am a can short of a six pack. I go back out. No taxi. NO TAXI. My bags. My camera. My, well a lot of things. I glance up the road and there is my taxi. The driver obviously decided to move up the road a bit to get out of the way of the traffic. I run. And as I get close she does a u-turn and starts heading back towards the hotel. I am now on the wrong side of the road. I run across, very nearly coming a cropper in a conflict with a Merc. I run towards the taxi. She crosses back to the other side of the road, so she is now facing the wrong way up the street. I run back across, I get to the taxi, hand on door, and she starts reversing. Finally after nearly losing a few toes, I manage to make my presence known and she lets me in. Back to the station. And still enough time to sit and wait for the train. There are times when being anally retentive about travel and being early does have its uses.

Exams

The following starts as something I found amusing but actually it becomes more serious as it goes along. And I accept that I may be open to some criticism, but bear me out.

I am sitting in the bar of the hotel waiting for my lunch. I have a few hours to kill before my train. The hotel is interviewing for positions and I can overhear the conversation behind me. Or at least I can overhear the questioner, but the interviewee is too quiet.

The first question I hear is “What makes you want to get up in the morning and clean rooms?” And I am thinking is there anything that could make someone get up in the morning and clean rooms. I mean, “what makes you want to become a surgeon” yes, “what makes you want to defend those in court” yes, “what makes you want to travel” yes. But clean rooms? Seems an unfair question to me. I think about my house when I was a bachelor. To be honest, to a degree I can think about my house now. Cleaning never was high on the priority list. For a good few years after I was married I did take on the mantle of cleaning the bathroom, but somehow I have managed to let that slip, maybe “J” got fed up waiting for me to do it. Cleaning is important, of course it is, I would hate a dirty hotel room (in fact there was someone else’s toenail on the floor in my room and that just isn’t pleasant) but I can’t see it as an inspiring reason to get up in the morning.

Then the next question “Have you ever gone beyond the call of duty for a guest?” The girl must have asked, as quiet as a mouse, what that means. The interviewer replies “it means have you ever done anything that a guest wouldn’t expect. Have you ever surprised a guest?” In my mind I can think of many ways a maid may surprise a guest, none of them are the kind of thing that you would admit in an interview. It appears that this girl has done nothing that she is willing to divulge to surprise a guest.

But this is where I stop being amused. Because I start thinking. I can’t tell how old the girl is because her head is down, her hair hanging in front, hands either side of her face. She is so quiet. I am not sure if she is even answering. She is obviously scared. And the interviewer is barking at her. No attempt to make the girl comfortable, to put her at her ease. Each question makes it worse. I can feel the pit that she feels she is descending into.

I look into that pit, that abyss, that yawning chasm, I am reminded that in the here and the now we are still producing children who can’t write their name. Those who are abused, bullied, demeaned. Who are driven from their homes. Who don’t know the meaning of family. Who are grateful for any opportunity to climb one step above the gutter line. Who won’t be worried about the stock market crash because they are simply worried about where their next 50 pence will come from.

And the final question I hear, “Tell me about a time in your life when you felt proud?”

Silence

Monday, January 21, 2008

OK Go "A Million Ways"

Watch and enjoy

Knees Down

An evening approximating a pub crawl has done nothing to appease the loneliness but only served to aggravate the crankiness. I am tempted to ask where has my youth gone. But then again, my iPod has just started playing OK Go and "A Million Ways" and I am happy.

Overpacked

It was especially nice to indulge myself slightly because, on a personal side, this trip to Edinburgh is not turning out as planned. I have brought rather a lot of stuff with me for three days, anyone seeing my case would think I have rather over-packed. This is because I had two plans to take up some of my spare time. The first was masonic, as I was planning on visiting an Edinburgh Lodge. However, after a rather delayed train trip yesterday I was so tired by the time I got to my hotel that I really couldn't face organising anything. So that meant I brought my suit and my masonic case with me for nothing. Then I also brought my camera and some gear. I was hoping to take some photos. But rather than the nice snowy scenes I was planning on, instead what I have got up here at the moment is damp, grey rain and sleet. A better photographer than me might be able to make something out of it, but it has defeated me. Mind you, it does mean that I can spend my time reading, which is never a bad thing.

Old And Older

I don't get a lot of time for browsing through antique shops and second-hand bookshops these days. It was very nice then to decide, after an afternoon working in a hotel room, that half an hour fresh air while the shops were still open wouldn't be a bad idea. And I found an antique shop with a rather nice masonic jewel, and a bookshop with a couple of nice old poetry books. A very pleasant half hour.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Live and Let Die

The second of the Bond series. Another gripping story. Again Bond isn't the kind of hero he appears in the films. He is driven by inner demons that lead him on to the next day, the next fight. His demons give him the strength he needs, lady luck gives him the rest. I find it interesting seeing a very different character to that I grew up with watching the films. It is obvious that it is written in another time, another political era. But it also shows attitudes in another time. It has to be read with a slight suspension of what we now believe to be politically correct.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

Party Time


A friend has recently been complaining about the smoking ban. Not because she smokes, but because it has put her off boys. Apparently it's all to do with nightclubs. In the old days nightclubs smelt of smoke. Not the nicest of smells, but bearable. Now (I am reliably informed, I no longer frequent them) they smell of sweat and farts. And the nearer you get to a group of blokes the worse it gets. It seems it is so bad that there is a two foot zone around them that it is impossible for girls to penetrate without fainting! So even if they spot a guy they like the look of, they can't actually get to speak to him.

I had never realised that the smoking ban was also going to act as a birth control system. I await with interest some stats on teenage pregnancies before and after the ban.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Thunderbolt Next


At the risk of developing a theme to this blog, once more I will say that someone high up doesn't like Gordon Brown being in charge of the UK. Ever since GB came to power we have been hit by one disaster after another. However, the gods have realised that GB has not taken the broad hints and have now decided to make it more personal. I take it that the plane nearly striking GBs car at Heathrow was a figurative shot across the bows.

Pen and Pencil

Children can sometimes give you a momentary glimpse of the future. At five years old they can give you an idea of what it will be like living with a teenager. Having had a meeting at an EU building this week I was able to pick up some of their branded paper. I thought "A" would like it so I brought it home. Last night I gave it to her saying "I brought you some paper you can scribble on" (look, I know it isn't very exciting, paper, but that's not the point before you tell me I am a meany). Her reply "I don't scribble Daddy, I do proper pictures". Suitably chastised I retired from the room.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Splash


While sure that I was alerted to the existence of I Lick My Cheese" by my friend over here, rather strangely I can't find actually evidence to support this theory. A search on her blog does not show an entry for the book.

Anyway, digressing. So, this is a book about post-it notes that get left by flatmates alerting you to the fact that they found your crusty undies, they threw your joint in the bin or they lick their cheese. Having been a flat-share in my student days I thought I might enjoy.

Well, it is possible that those days are too far away because this book didn't really do much for me. Too shallow, too quick, not enough background, and I didn't appreciate the authors humour. Not my best read.

However, there is another possibility as to why it didn't work. My flat mates were not really note writers. Generally we were rather more direct. Still emblazened on my memory is the Saturday morning when I felt a lie-in was necessary having had a late night tripping the light fantastic in Glasgow. One of my flat mates had other ideas. He felt I should be up revising. He came in and woke me up to tell me so. I simply turned over and tried to go back to sleep, a perfectly sensible option I felt. And I heard him leave the room. Vindicated I thought. Approximately 5 minutes later he came back in. And proceeded to empty a bucket of cold water over me. Direct action you see. A post-it would never have got me out of bed!

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chipmunk Fishing - A Weird Hobby


Indoor Chipmunk Fishing - Watch more free videos

Hunger

Brussels never fails to catch me out. I mean, it is the centre of the EU. I always think it should be vibrant. So I think that I am safe arriving with a late flight. Imagine my disappointment/frustration/annoyance/resignation to find, at 2315 hours, after I have checked into my hotel, that there is nowhere to eat. I wander for three quarters of an hour in rain and wind but finally surrender to the obvious fact that the entire city is closed, and for dinner I make do with a can of water and a packet of biscuits from a vending machine.


In fact, I tell a slight lie. I did find one place that I could have got a drink and some food. And it was tempting. But I finally decided I was not so desperate that I could justify going in a strip club. After all, I couldn't work out just how I would justify that on expenses.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Yawn

You know what, today is one of those days when I wish I had something to say but my brain is really too tired to think, and too stupid to take me to bed.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

One For Me, One For You


To be clear from the off, I carry a donor card and I think more people should donate organs. However, I think it is entirely wrong to go for an opt out policy. It is incredibly emotive. My medical side means I am personally not too bothered, after all I am going to go for cremation so please make use of any spare parts that I have not worn out (although I feel as though there may not be many of those). But many people feel very strongly about this, some because of religious reasons, some for no more than it makes them feel queasy. Whatever the reason, this is about respect. We have been given our bodies, it is up to us to decide what to do with them. The state has no right to assume ownership after our death.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

KerSplosh

We watched "Flushed Away" this evening. During the X-Factor we ended up with the family tradition of eating dips on Saturday night and "A" enjoys it so much that it seems mean to stop just because the series ended. It is proving a bit of an effort to find something on TV on Saturday nights however. But tonight we found "Flushed Away", which we hadn't seen at the cinema. Now, many of these childrens films I end up disappointed with. "Cars", "Ratatouille", "Finding Nemo", I don't find any of them live up to the hype. But I have to admit that "Flushed Away" had me laughing throughout. Specifically the slugs, bursting into song and adding the backing tracks. I might be sad but it kept me amused.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Golden Handshake


Is it just me, or is there something wrong with a Prime Minister taking us to war and then later joining a company that are set to make a massive profit from that war? This seems to take cynicism to an altogether unprecedented level. I am not sure if this is a golden handshake, or more one dripping with blood.

Hot


I may be wrong, indeed please correct me. But wasn't there something promised about a national debate before any decisions were made? And, even worse, it went to french contractors.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Short Back

So here I comment on the fact I don't like Johnny Depp. And, having just seen a clip for "Sweeney Todd", I believe that I am utterly and entirely justified in my dislike.

Monday, January 07, 2008

I Vote Vinick


I have to thank "The West Wing" for at least giving me a vague idea of what is happening in american politics. Don't they make it confusing? I am not sure why it has to be so complicated.

Barack Obama (isn't that an unfortunate name, is it like an order? he is just asking to be heckled) doesn't do it for me. He doesn't seem to have any real presence, I can't look at him and believe. And I am not impressed by what I have heard either. This is going to sound very shallow because I am not talking about content. It is the way he speaks. It may be that I have only heard certain soundbites, but he doesn't seem to have any finesse, any nuance. All I have heard has been loud and uncontrolled. To inspire, the voice has to speak with poetry, to know when to be quiet, when to be loud, when to implore, when to demand. I don't hear any of this.

And Hilary. Now that's an interesting candidate. How much baggage does she bring with her? How does she manage that baggage? Because it is mixed baggage. Bill may not have been a good man, but he was a good president. When he wasn't too busy with cigars and not having sex he managed to do some very good things. And, as I understand it, Hilary was behind a lot of those good things. She had a lot of influence over his decisions. She could be an amazing force for good.

Sunday, January 06, 2008

Avast Me Hearties


Last night we finished watching the Pirates of the Cari... (hold on, I need to go and check how many "r"s and "b"s there are)... Pirates of the Caribbean trilogy. Now I am not usually a Johnny Depp or a Keira Knightly fan. But in this trilogy they are good. The second film of the three was a little slow at the beginning but picked up after 40 minutes. And apart from that 40 minutes it was all fantastic. The third is a long film but one of those that seems to pass in a blink. A great mix of humour and action. Special commendation to Bill Nighy, despite an amazing amount of make-up and a fantastic mask, the facial expressions were still recognizably him. The third is a complex film, with a number of interweaving plot-lines, some of which don't come to an end, but it is the complexity that makes it good, in that you are constantly having to guess how it is all going to turn out. It is never clear, as in the first, whether Captain Jack Sparrow is very clever and plans everything or is just extremely lucky. If you haven't yet seen these films then go and watch them now. I was very sceptical before I saw the first one (as I say, not a fan of the main cast) and I expected it to have been very over-rated, but I am willing to admit I was wrong.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

Whose fault

There is a supplementary question to the one about tribal culture being compatible with democracy. And that is whose responsibility is this terror masquerading as ppolitics. And, sadly, Britain has to bear the brunt of this. Most of these countries were colonised by the empire. And it was this colonisation that brought the idea of democracy. Many good things came about through colonisation, we brought sanitation, education, transport. But we also brought the potential for bad things as well. And when we could not hold our position in these countries, when in one way or another we were evicted, we then shirked our responsibilities to support and maintain. Politics interfered with what was right. We put our power, our might, behind those that we thought would best serve our interests. And we set up a false structure, a paper house all too easy to blow over in the wind.

Friday, January 04, 2008

Hear Ye Hear Ye

If you know me then you will understand why I have Google set up to send me notifications everytime that avian influenza, foot and mouth, and bluetongue are mentioned in the news. And to be honest "avian influenza" tends to tell me about the things you would expect it to. The other two subjects can be a bit more of a surprise.


Foot and Mouth seems to often get converted into "foot in mouth" and seems to feature heavily among politicians and sports personalities. Every other day seems to find a politician having said something they shouldn't.


Bluetongue is even more varied. I get messages about the bluetongue lizard. I get messages about the bluetongue stadium. And even more interesting I get messages about Bluetongue lager.


My education is expanding in ever unexpected ways.

Thursday, January 03, 2008

Croak Croak


No, not a return of my flu. Instead I have discovered that it is the Year of the Frog. And no again, this does not mean that the french are going to win all sports this year. It really is the Year of the Frog, and Sir David Attenborough is the patron. There is actually a serious side to this, apparently frogs throughout the world are succumbing to a fungus and they are gradually dying out. So if you do see any frogs you may want to consider giving them some Canesten to take home.

Two Tribes

Considering the current levels of violence, an important question to ask is "is democracy compatible with a tribal system?" In Pakistan we see that the leader of a party must come from a particular family line, rather than because he (or she) is the best candidate. This results in a situation where a young university undergraduate, with little experience, changes his name so he can run the party. This seems, at best, farcical. His press interview was not inspiring, did not make the viewer believe that he could fix the massive problems ahead. But he is chosen because of his family.

Think about the established democracies. These did not occur overnight. They took a long time to develop. And they certainly did not develop straight from a tribal system. There were many steps, importantly gradually changing the balance of power and forming a nation first. Unfortunately in some countries democracy has been forced on them, before the first steps have been taken towards a united country. This leads to a situation where tribes (clans, families, castes) still believe that they are likely to be oppressed by the others, the "them and us" is still very embedded in the way of life. This of course then leads to situations where people are accused of cheating. Of those, once in power, trying to protect themselves and their tribe.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

I Knew It

You Act Like You Are 31 Years Old

You are a thirtysomething at heart. You've had a taste of success and true love, but you want more!
You're responsible, wise, and have enough experience to understand a lot of the world.

You're at the point in your life where you understand yourself pretty well.
You are figuring out what you want... and how to get it!

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

Bang Bang


Midnight, and the new year was heralded by all the fireworks that now seem obligatory. I didn't see them (being already in bed). Of course there is always a worry when you have pets that firewroks will scare them. This is not a concern in this household. Our cats actually got onto the bedroom windowsill to ensure that they has a great display and could see it all.

Christmas Week

I really have spent the majority of the Christmas week holed up in bed. I know it isn't bird flu, but can't confirm whether or not it is real flu vs man-flu, but whatever, I have felt rough. I do not recommend this as a way to spend Christmas. I am definitely on the road to recovery but still have no energy and very quickly feel washed up. This has, obviously, taken the edge off Christmas.

However, I don't like to dwell on the negative, and like to find an upside where possible. So the good news is that, for possibly the first time ever, I have actually lost weight over Christmas. Even better is that I haven't spent the entire week in a state of perpetual flux between "merry" and "bladdered".