Tuesday, 31 March 2009

Entertaining flickr pic of the day

Hot shit
Originally uploaded by manc_ill_kid
Was in Tescos trying to buy coconut milk or maybe coconut oil, and found this in the ethnic section.

It made me chortle.

Monday, 30 March 2009

Our Health and Safety shame

Via Samizdata, from The Times
A pregnant woman, her husband and their three-year-old son were killed in a house fire early yesterday as police who arrived before the fire brigade prevented neighbours from trying to save them. The woman screamed: “Please save my kids” from a bedroom window and neighbours tried to help but were beaten back by flames and were told by police not to attempt a rescue.
“There were lads with aluminium ladders who wanted to get to them but the police were shouting, ‘Stay away, get out of the yard.’ They were saying, ‘You have got to wait until the fire brigade gets here.’ Michelle was standing at the window banging on it – we all saw it – and shouting to save her kids but the police were just below her pushing us out and telling everybody to stay away.”
A South Yorkshire Police spokeswoman said: “The senior officer in charge is confident we handled this incident as professionally as possible. In a situation like that you could end up with more deceased bodies than you had in the first place.”

The behaviour of the police kind of reminded me of what happened at the 2002 Mecca Girl's School fire in Saudi Arabia where the polis prevented rescuers from entering the build for fear of coming into contact with women
It has been claimed that Members of the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and the Prevention of Vice (CPVPV), also known as Mutaween, would not allow the girls to escape or to be saved because they were 'not properly covered', and the mutaween did not want physical contact to take place between the girls and the civil defense forces for fear of sexual enticement, and variously that the girls were locked in by the police, or forced back into the building.

Back in the UK The Samizdata piece goes on to cover the Watts Memorial / Postman's Park:-
The memorial was set up by a Victorian artist, George Frederick Watts, to commemorate those who died saving others. It consists of hand made plaques each bearing the name of a person who sacrificed his or her life and a brief citation. Very quaint they are, with their crowded lettering with the extra-large initial capitals and little swirly plant motifs and curlicues in the corners. Even the names are quaint, laboriously given in full. Police Constables Percy Edwin Cook, Edward George Brown Greenoff, Harold Frank Ricketts and George Stephen Funnell are among them. I wonder what PC Percy Edwin Cook, for instance, who perished when he "Voluntarily descended high tension chamber at Kensington to rescue two workmen overcome by poisonous gas" would have made of his successors in the South Yorkshire force.

Co-incidentally I was reading about Postman's Park earlier today on Caroline's Miscellany. Those who died saving lives are remembered more than a century later.
George Funnell, a 33-year-old ex-soldier turned police constable, was on his beat in Hackney when he noticed a fire in the Elephant and Castle pub on Wick Road. After raising the alarm, he rushed into the burning building: the landlady and two barmaids were still inside. First he brought out the landlady, then one of the barmaids. Now burnt himself, he nonetheless went back in for the third woman.

PC Funnell reached the woman, and directed her to a back door. However, he himself was overcome by the heat and smoke. The woman escaped into the street, but by the time rescuers reached Funnell he was unconscious and burned on the face, neck and arms. Eleven days later, on 2 January 1900, he died of his injuries.

The inquest jury commended Funnell and his colleagues for gallant behaviour. The Society for the Protection of Life from Fire gave awards to those colleagues; during the ceremony, Mr G B Fordham commented that "he died the death of a thoroughly brave and sincere man" giving his life for three women who were strangers to him. Funnell's funeral was attended by several hundred police officers and firemen, as well as local people. A memorial committee was set up to support his wife and two children. His memorial plaque reads:


Beware the snivelling creatures that Health & Safety has turned us into.

Parential Leave Rights

Last week the London Blogger's Meetup was sponsored by the Equality and Human Rights Commission, they wanted to open up new ways to engage with people, be it blogs or twitter or forums or whatever.

My take on it was if they want to listen to what I have to say to them, my message would be a very clear "Please cease to exist, please stop using tax-payer's money".

Days later I read in t'Guardian that many of their directors were resigning cos they didn't like the direction the organisation was going. Cool, maybe somehow they had heard my message.

Alas, the commission is still in operation and I read more of their doings in the Guardian this morning.
Concluding that it was time that "policy-making enabled men to play an equal part in parenting", the EHRC proposes that the first 26 weeks of a baby's life would remain dedicated maternity leave for mothers, but with higher rates of pay, so that they would receive 90% of pay for the entirety of their maternity leave. Fathers would still get two weeks of paternity leave at the birth of their child, but this would also go up to 90% of their pay.

Beyond the first six months of maternity leave, the commission proposes three blocks of "parental leave", which could be taken any time before the child's fifth birthday, each of about four months, one block dedicated to mothers, one to fathers and one either could take.

The first eight weeks of each of these blocks of leave would be paid at 90%.


We already have Government Advisor Sir Alan Sugar saying that
... he would be less likely to hire a woman of child-bearing age. Explaining that the law was "counterproductive", he said: "If someone comes into an interview and you think to yourself 'there is a possibility that this woman might have a child and therefore take time off' it is a bit of a psychological negative thought."

So it follows that if the parential leave rules extended equally to men, then men of child-rearing age would similarly be at a disadvantage.

Raedwald has it
One of the other consequences will be that employers will tend to employ men and women beyond their childbearing years, or those who can be classed as confirmed bachelors or spinsters. Half a percent of GDP may be peanuts in this age of fiscal profligacy, but the costs of parental leave to a small enterprise can often be crippling. The public sector will take the proposals up willingly, but with the longer term consequence that single men will earn more and occupy higher positions than married men.

In other words, the changes are likely to improve overall the employment conditions of every group other than young would-be parents.

If I ran a company, a small manufacturing organisation perhaps, where you could easily track that one person working one day produces for the company just enough wealth to pay to employ themself and cover overheads, following the direction of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, that one person working is going to have to generate enough wealth for the company to pay for more staff who aren't working.

Hmm, is this going to drive down wages?

Say a worker for a company generates wealth for the company equivalent to twice his wage, so he gets paid, the boss/admin function gets paid and the overheads and material costs and tax and all that, and the woman currently on maternity leave.

If the company now has to pay for a bloke on maternity leave too, a bloke who previously was a good worker, but is now not generating wealth for the company but still getting paid, then the remaining working chaps are going to have to cover for him and generate wealth for the company equivalent to two and a half or three times their wage, just so the company stays in business.

We can't afford to employ more people, so there's only two ways it can go, the workers who are still working have to increase their productivity by a huge chunk and keep the same wage, or get a wage cut and maintain the same productivity.

Neither of these options are particularly easy to implement, aye we're always striving to improve productivity using engineering skill and technological innovation, that's standard practice, so the only thing we can do different is cutting wages or not increasing them for a few years and keeping them low.

Sorry reader, I'm not in a very productive industry, my guys only generate a few times their own wages in wealth. We can't put up prices or we go out of business, we can't afford to employ more people cos they're going to get pregnant anyway.

Equalities and Human Rights Commission, tell me how I am supposed to afford to pay staff 90% pay when they are not generating any wealth for the company?

Sea levels

I generally skip the Sunday papers these days, prefering to spend my weekends catatonic in existential angst, but via EU referendum, Booker in The Sunday Telegraph reports that the sea-level rise thing is all a big lie.
Despite fluctuations down as well as up, "the sea is not rising," he says. "It hasn't risen in 50 years." If there is any rise this century it will "not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm". And quite apart from examining the hard evidence, he says, the elementary laws of physics (latent heat needed to melt ice) tell us that the apocalypse conjured up by Al Gore and Co could not possibly come about.

Its nice the way that this scientist's work is based on actual real-world measurements rather than computer models.

The other week when I was looking over BBC coverage of sea-level rises, I was somewhat concerned about the inhabitants of Tuvalu, who ten years back were going to have their island washed away by the rising sea levels predicted, luckily EU Ref is reassuring.
To that effect, the climate hysterics have recruited the government of the Maldives, and indeed the leaders of Tuvalu – another of the supposedly threatened Pacific islands - where the sea has if anything dropped in recent decades. By lining their pockets with gold has the "international community" kept the island leaders "on-side" willing to promote the myth which sustains the whole scam.

I've read up the IPCC report with its sea level rise predictions, and they do say that sea level rises will be accelerating, which is possibly when we don't see any rise now, but as soon as the Greenland icesheet melt, then seas will bubble up and we'll all be moving to the highlands. But one thing that nags at the back of my heid is that the predictions are all for the year 2100, by which time most of the reports authors will have passed away, and thus be unaccountable. Actually, by that time, two and a bit generations, the world's populations will have gradually drifted away from the present day coasts anyway, like how people don't buy houses on flood plains in the UK so much.

Anyhoo, my point that I drifted away from is that there are few published predictions of sea level rises within lifetimes, say twenty or fifty year timescales, where you'd be able to measure the sea level now, hold your breath for a few years, then check back and say to the authors of the IPCC reports "you were so wrong, get the hell out of my way" or as may be more appropriate "you were right, please take this mountaintop palace and all our country's riches.

I want a sea level rise prediction that we can actually hold people to account on.

Sunday, 29 March 2009

Voluntary MPs

So today's blogosphere headlines are mostly about how our Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has been claiming porno movies on her expenses. Hilarious stuff, how can she keep her job with the shitstorm about claiming second homes allowance on her constituency home when she spends three days a week in her sister's spare room as a 'main home'.

So Devil's Kitchen has done the sums and stuff
Let us just look at this objectively. Jacqui Smith is a minister, and so pulling in a salary of about £120,000 £141,866; she is also paying her husband a further £40,000: this is a grand total of £160,000 £181,000 in salaries alone.

On top of that, Jacqui Smith claimed £152,683 in expenses last year; minus her husband's £40,000, that is an extra £113,000. Some £24,000 a year, as we know, goes to pay the mortgage on her Redditch "second home" (even though it has been established that she spends most of her time there, and not in her sister's flat).

It all adds up to the fact she's getting paid several times the UK median wage and she has everything the rest of us have to pay for out of our own wages paid for in expenses.

I'm quite tempted to support yon article in The Times which calls for MPs not to receive any pay at all.
An MP is not employed. Therefore he should not have a wage. His expenses are not an issue. The office, the secretary or the PA can be provided by the Civil Service. The question is how, without employment, MPs should live. In an ideal world, they would live frugally, as Plato said the guardians should in his Utopian Republic. In the real world, an MP's temporary mandate might be seen as National Service.

On the other hand EU Referendum suggests that MPs should be paid as much as they want, if only they did their jobs properly.
If MPs performed their tasks anything like adequately, therefore, they could save us billions, in addition to safeguarding our rights and freedom. If they could put up a balance sheet to that effect, then they could easily justify their own costs, and who could possibly disagree with them being well rewarded.

Maybe its not a contradiction, if MPs did a good job than aye, but since they don't then no, we should cut their pay and make it performance related.

But how would you decide their performance levels? Who would decide? The people by referendum? The Lords, The Queen, the blogosphere? The parties in their manifestos?

Hmm, I wonder which films they were.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

UK Web & Mini Comix Thing 2009

Originally uploaded by manc_ill_kid
Hi, my name is Chris Gilmour, the artist formerly behind the spectacularly successful art website 'Naked Chicks on Post-It Notes', earlier today after a morning's protest marching, I took myself along to the UK Web & Mini Comix Thing at Queen Mary University in Mile End as a wanderabouterer.

There were lots of people there and I was feeling pretty quiet, but oh there were sights to be seen.

I was accosted by a chap offering sweets and trying to sell a comic called My Name Is Chipmunk, it seemed quite cool, some young and nubil superheroine fighting crime in a latex costume, and then having a shower by page 17. Not much in the way of a website to link to though.

There was a stage at one side of the great hall and some kind of question and answeer session going on, but with broken microphones so no one in the audience could hear anything. Or maybe it was just me going deaf.

So many tables set up selling comics and things and stuff, I tried to find something familiar to hold on to and stumbled upon OddFish, its this hilarious webcomic full of truly dreadful puns told between the two main characters of Lovecraft the octopus and Howard the pufferfish. Its drawn in a rather warn pencilyshady kind of way.

I could have sworn I saw Saz of t'internet, but kooky comic people all look the same. The whole homemade vibe going down was breath taking.

Last week I tried to brief myself of which comicy folk would be there and what their work was like. My Cardboard Life looked cool online, but then to see the actual comics were really card glued on paper, that was beautiful.

I think I saw whoever draws Bunny, but I didn't linger for too long in case some kind of conversation started.

On the stage were tables set out with paper and felt tips, so I drew a few naked chick drawing from memory, but I got scared that people might see them so I hid them under piles of comics, and tried stalking people.

According to the program websitey thing, John Allison from Scary Go Round was there, but I could place his table. Then I overheard the chap who previously drew the Beaver and Steve webcomic mention that RStevens who does Diesel Sweeties was there, so I did a few more passes of the tables until I'd located him.

Very shocked to discover that Clango has feet, but we chatted briefly and I bought socks.

Slightly better write-up by other people
and here

G20 Protest marching

G20 Protest march - London

Why was I there? How can I go on a protest march with my right-wing frothing-at-the-mouth libertarian capitalist views?
  • Well, I've got this fancy-pants Blackberry which allows me to take photies and upload them to Flickr in one go and it seemed like a prime opportunity for such things.
  • I am a victim of the credit crunch which we were lead into by the incumbant government.
  • I always go on protest marches.
  • Its a free country innit? We have a right to protest, don't we?
  • The march was in aid of many different causes, some of which I agree with.
There were a load of people, not quite as many as were at the old anti-war march in Glasgow in 2003 and Make Poverty History 2005, but a load of people. Lots of different organisations all with their own banners and t-shirts and stuff.

The police presence wasn't quite as agressive as we'd been lead to expect from the media, I saw one or two vans full of polis waiting incase trouble kicked off.

G20 Protest march - London

But no walls of riot-gear chaps, just basically stewarding duties really, and a couple of polis photographers.

G20 Protest march - London

I wandered along with the procession for most of the route, taking a break around Green Park to stop in a pub, and check t'internet. It was a little worrying when I emerges ten minutes later to find the march had split into two, seems like the advance mob were charities and stuff, and the second mob were trade unions.

Its a shame that there was such a mixed message at the march, some many different voices, all asking for different things, some contradictory, all clammering for attention.

Aw well, at least it didn't turn as violent as the polis had predicted. Shows that we can;t trust the polis's predictions for these things.

Rest of my photies here

Thursday, 26 March 2009

Money Saving Idea #1 Grow your own garlic - week 7

I've gone off young Darren a wee bit, he's seems a bit peely wally compared to his brethren. He's doing well though, I'll give him that, seven weeks old and still healthy.

Nearby The Twins are growing fine, although the one on the right seems to have spawned with another wee shoot coming up next to him.

Garlic - The Twins - 26-MAR-2009

Much the same can be said about young Sharon, the hussy, she's mighty tall and strong now and has likewise acquired a wee chum just poking up through the soil.

Garlic - Sharon - 26-MAR-2009

Exciting news down in the garden. My flatmates have been weeding and planting and mulching, putting a new layer of top soil over everything, but there's a small colony of my ground-based garlic still going strong. At last count I had twelve sprouty dudes. That's like a few months worth of garlic when I pick them.

When should I pick them?

Anyhoo, the other exciting developement is that one of my potatos has sprouted. Two little chaps sticking their heids out. Joy! I'm going to have to think of names for them, or just one name cos its from the same potato?

Potatos sprouting

YouTube hit-rate

Right now I'm listening to Radio 4's PM programme, they're about to do a piece on the Dan Hannan video that's been taking teh internets by storm.

Its like the most viewed and discussed video on YouTube over the past few few days.

This is a graph of how the viewers have been racking up since it was put online.

Right now it's up to 730,000 views, will being covered by the BBC and Channel 4 push it over the million mark or had it's hitrate peaked earlier today with Fox News covering it?

What a fine news story in advance of the G20 summit.

Job vacancies update - 26-MAR-2009

Its Thursday, its time for an update on UK job vacancies.

So going by jobs listed on reed.co.uk its still a consistent fall, 1.3% down from this time last week. Reed lists 107,000 vacancies, which kind of extrapolates up to 420,000 vacancies for the UK.

However, I've also been tracking the number of jobs listed on Job Centre Plus, and that's all over the place. It changed a lot during the day, by up to 5% and today, right now, its about 88,000, the same as a week ago. I'm going to have to keep track of it to see if there's any trend.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Fled the country

So whilst this video is taking teh internets by storm

Whereby our Prime Minister gave a speech to the European Parliament yesterday and in the replies MEP Daniel Hannan tears him a new hole.

It appears Gordon Brown has actually fled the country. He's in New York today and Chile tomorrow.

The Prime Minister's speech to the European Parliament is here, its a bit boring.

Tuesday, 24 March 2009

London Blogger Rights

The one in which he talks about the Spring London Bloggers meetup in reverse order

I'd walked into a fence, drunk on the way to the station, I could almost feel blood trickling down my cheek from the wire. Aw well, I thought.

On the train, sat two seats to my left was a young lady knitting, it seemed to be a white scarf. English wasn't her first language, but I think we bonded over knitting as I pulled out my latest project.

Knitting project #8 - The checkered scarf

Its a bit of a checked, weaved kind of thing. I was a little drunk on the train, so I think I mushed it up. As I said before, aw weel.

Earlier I was at the London Bloggers Meetup at Doggetts Coat and Badge in Blackfriars, towards the end of the evening I was sat at a table with my chum and recent boing-boing star Aref-Adib, Caroline of Caroline's Miscellany, Michald, and Alex4d who can be found by searching for his name. Interesting conversations about the nature of Twitter and the future and the internet and whether documents will exist in a hundred years and many many other things.

Do I actually have to apologise at these things if I roll my eyes when people say they do PR and Marketing. I accept that people who blog have the same skillset as people who do PR so there's huge overlap, but sometimes it feels like there are two types of people who go to #LBM, PR folk and everyone else in the room. It sometimes feels too much like a PR networking event, rather than a bloggers meetup.

To demonstrate a point that I struggle to verbalise, how come after the event my blog here doesn't get streams of traffic from the sites of professional PR and marketing people? I'd have to pay for that wouldn't I. There ought to be lots of blog posts like this one listing people who were there, rather than a brief flurry of tweets dropping off the bottom of the page. There ought to be a London Bloggers roundup post, like the Britblog Roundup or Sugasm.

Interesting folk I spoke to include:-

Andy Bargery
Louis from Adcentered
A tall chap from teh Londonist
Caroline of Caroline's Miscellany
Meaghan from the Spoonfed event listings site

People I made brief eye-contact with include:-

Jaz Jazettera Jazeera Jazamatazz
The Londoneer
Andy Roberts
Fresh Plastic
Miss Geeky

People who I didn't talk to or make eye contact with:-

Annie Mole
The Red Rocket
My London Diary
Fake Plastic Noodles
Stephen Waddington
Milo Yiannopoulos
Brian the Pigeon
We Are Social
Just Giving
(admittedly some of these aren't people as such, but are blogs written by people who I didn't talk to, make eye-contact with or otherwise recognise)
I've probably missed loads of people, if I have, leave a comment and I'll fix the world.

Photies here, featuring me second on the left

There was a speechy talk thing by a Miss @hel_razor from The Equality and Human Rights Commission. It was about how they're engaging with the blogosphere now, and are interested to here what we have to ask of them and the ways we can engage with them. There were writers from the Guardian and other dead trees covering the event (should I feel used?).

My opinion of human rights is documented elsewhere, and whilst its good that government agencies are engaging, or at least opening themselves up to the public, there are already plenty of debates about human rights going on out there on the internet all the time, rather than wanting people to come to them, the Equality and Human Rights Commission could go out and engage.

There are already debates about Human Rights out on the blogosphere, with any number of players engaged with them, the government, the media, charities, bloggers. If a QUANGO wants to join the debate, they should do so but not by sitting back and asking people to come to them.

What about civil liberties? Actually, with Chakrabarti's Liberty, do we need a Government sponsored Human Rights organisation too? Hmm, now I think about it, I've been a big fan of Human Rights Watch, they do some excellent work around the world, do we need a Government sponsored Human Rights organisation?

Blah blah blah, can we have our money back?

Instead of the taxpayer having to pay for this with the threat of going to prison, can't we just vote out any government or authority that tramples what we believe are our fundamental human rights and we keep more of our money ourselves?

Its a bit rich to take our money, then ask us how the resources are to be deployed.

Monday, 23 March 2009

CrapGraph - WeFollow tags

I'm not quite sure what to make of WeFollow, but it's explosively popular on Twitter. Its like a directory of twitterers, you sign up with your twitter nick and three tags, you can then search for people with similar interests by checking out their tags.

Right now there's about 18,500 different tags in use.*

I've done me a graph of the how many people use each of the top 1,000 tags. Looks like a normal distribution with a logarithmicy axis. There's a bit of a spike for the top twenty most popular tags and the top hundres are bumped up a little from the rest of the curve. I guess its cos they're on the first page of tags when you check out what other tags are popular.

Me, my twitter thing is @illandancient

*you get to page 189 before the number of people using the tags falls to zero

Friday, 20 March 2009

Ask G20

Labour have a website asking people...
If I could say one thing to Prime Minister Brown, President Obama and the G20...

(wasn't G20 an Eminem side project?)

My submission was to ask them to stop spending money.

Anyhoo, they also have a page of other people's submissions, well, what people are saying
  • I ask for ethically orientated handling of the world's governing. No more decision making based on who is the strong and mighty, You have on your hands a planet full of unhappy people. Time for you to change this!
  • Think about the next generation.
  • Make sure the current problems don't stop progress towards the milliniuem (sic) development goals.
  • Demand justice for developing countries by making a real concerted effort to combat climate change NOW!. That means REALLY cutting emission, less hot air and more action and less influence from big business. JUST DO IT NOW!
  • If we are going to borrow money off our grandchildren, please spend it on things that will benefit them - green technology and infrastructure would be a good start!
  • Put people first! Keep the focus on helping real people in this crisis. Don't just help the bankers who got us in this mess in the first place.
  • Things may be bad for the rich world, but imagine how much worse they are for the poor and those in fragile states.... Be bold. More debt relief. More non-government or multilateral aid. Less protectionism. NOW is the moment for real trade policy reforms, when it can save lives and livelihoods and prevent resource conflict meltdown.
  • Invest in energy independence; use our tides and waves. Export the technology we create.
  • At a time when sustainability and green economics are key issues; will the G20 commit to developing a new form of the Kyoto treaty? How will it deal with the carbon trading permits scheme which has failed in the EU? Are the US and the UK willing to allow India and China some leeway on its emissions? Is the west willing to take the initiative?
  • Things may be bad for the rich world, but imagine how much worse they are for the poor and those in fragile states.... Be bold. More debt relief. More non-government or multilateral aid. Less protectionism. NOW is the moment for real trade policy reforms, when it can save lives and livelihoods and prevent resource conflict meltdown.
  • Fund building projects.
  • Put People First! This is a time for fundamental change towards a better balanced, fairer and greener world economic system. Don't screw it up.
  • Please ensure that G20 development aid budgets don't become the hidden victims of recession. Development is not an optional add on for good times only!
  • Put People First!
  • Higher taxes for the higher earners. No privatisation of anything. Government is good!
  • This is a chance to change the economic structures, so that the poorest and disadvantaged people are given a fair chance. I value hardwork but I know the foundations need money to alleviate poverty. Poverty is not just for third world countries!
  • Globalisation is good. Protectionism is bad. BUT RULE NO 1. ECONOMY AT HOME MUST BE SOUND. Don't compromise domestic economy for sake of being politically correct.
  • Why does the world economy operate on borrowing/lending and personal debt. It would be more stable if it followed the "live within your means" principle that my Granny swore by...
  • help people help themselves and each other. Keep govt out of the way as much as you can.
  • What role, if any, can faith groups play in aiding all aspects of recovery?
  • Have the bravery to do what needs to be done, however much it hurts. Alex Timperley, King's College London
  • Make sure the weak and vulnerable have more money to spend. Increase spending on public services, they civilise modern society, they are the sunlight in a dark sky. Build hope into a bridge that brings long lasting prosperity for all.
  • Use this opportunity to impress on people everywhere at all levels that its now all about "the Triple Bottom Line" we should generate and spend our wealth but on less things, better things, "Less is More" - Profit, People and Planet is everyones responsibility, "Economic leadership, social leadership and environmental leadership!"
  • Why not buy the poppy crop of Afghanistan to distribute worldwide, particularly to third world countries where morphine for medical purposes are in short supply? The Afghan poppy farmers would then be perceived as productive rather than criminals.
  • Please make the IMF and World Bank truly democratic institutions that are accountable to member states. It is only democracy that can deliver mutual interests and create a fairer and sustainable world economy.
  • The current great wealth inequality is not economically, socially or environmentally sustainable. Lead us to a better and kinder future.
  • Decide on a radical agenda to ensure worker's rights and job growth to create a society that's socially and economically sustainable - but remember at the same time to keep up the struggle to battle climate changes and make our society ecologically sustainable! Justice and equality is the way out of the crisis!
  • Keep trying to give people real help!
  • This crisis is much too good to waste -- so please don't. The economic crisis and the climate crisis together provide a golden opportunity to change structures, mindsets and lifestyles. This could be the best thing that ever happened to the human race!
  • How close do you fell the World is to creating a truly sustainable form of energy, and what effect would this have on the World's economies?
  • How will you ensure that the G20 will learn from the harsh economic climate at the moment? And how will they co-operate to be better prepared for the future growth of their economies?
  • Don't forget the millennium development goals. The rich are still rich.
  • Interest rates can be too low as well as too high. At 0% the section of the economy that lives off interest/capital is crippled. 5% base-rate is fair level for everybody. Interest rates need to go back up to 5% in harmony, across the globe.
  • Will you keep your promises on reducing global debt (esp. in Africa) and on the environment, and find ways to make these commitments the basis of the global economic recovery?
  • Always keep in mind the poorest people in society. As the worlds richest nations meet it is vital to have their voice heard.
  • Don't over treat the patient. You can't fix the problem just mitigate the symptoms and let the recovery happen. It's a tough balance to hit!
  • I'm glad that you're all coming together at a summit to try to get something done. When the whole world's in a hole, the whole world needs to help each other to get out of it.
  • I'm worried about losing my house - how are you going to help me?
  • Gordon Brown - Best luck to you and President Obama. I'm sure the Tories want this summit to fail and the crisis to continue, but the rest of us need you to continue to give people a helping hand and get us out of this recession
  • Brown and Obama - how are you going to make sure that we never have a banking crisis like this again?
  • You're both doing well. Don't get distracted.
  • Poverclimaconomy: It's all one crisis. Put people - not markets - first.
  • Stop making the prudent pay for the failures of the reckless and profligate.
  • Please discuss climate change (obviously). Please also encourage the US to join and support the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, i am shocked and appauled that this huge body of global power has not agreed to this fundamental treaty. Children are our future and this need to be remembered.
  • I think you should have a point where you listen to everyone and not always give your say in things and ask every single person and leave no one out because everyone else's opinion is more important than yours. Especially the younger ones as they will be the ones to deal with it later!
  • Don't forget climate change as an issue. Use the money we are investing to boost the economy on green projects.
  • Please don't forget that the ones most affected by this global recession are the worlds poorest.
  • The governments around the world should be giving cash incentives for people to trade their old cars in for new ones like the German govt. This would help support the industry.
  • It is not laissez fair or communist ideology which guarentees prosperity - It is energy. And we need more. Nuclear Power and other tradiational sources have low energy returned on energy invested ratio and falling, whilst renewables rise. safeguard our prosperity by targetting stimulus package on renewables. secure our energy supply please and if necessary, defy the market.
  • Talk less and listen more. Listen in order to gather lots of information so that you can make reasoned and well thought out decisions.
  • Don't think about the next election, think about the next generation
  • Listen to the Millenium Ecosystem Assessment and protect our natural environment!
  • How will the G20 get the world singing from the same hymn sheet?
  • Gordon Brown, with an American President thats seems to have truly left wing policies, is this the time for Britain and America to lead a world left turn and build a world economy on industry rather than house prices?
  • Please, please, can the countries of the worlld come together to deal with climate change. It should be our top priority. Countries should be prepared for hard decisions. Our children's survivial is at stake.
  • Congratulations Obama - you restored my faith in the US!
  • More regulation of banks! Never let this happen again. No more greed for the sake of greed.
  • Less targets...more action!
  • Act without hesitation, without wastefulness, without concern for the self. Many millions await the reconstruction of the global economy, and look to you in this time.
  • An economic system in which only perpetual growth keeps the thing flying *cannot* be sustainable in the long run. Globally, humanity needs to live within the limits which the earth imposes, and for people in the rich countries this means finding a way to live comfortably while consuming less. Spending our way out of recession, if it means consuming more resources, cannot be the correct answer. The real economy consists of people, energy and physical resources, and money is a chimera.
  • Support human rights both at home and abroad. Put civil liberties above terrorism and religion. Remember IP law is meant to benefit the public also.

I gotta say, I'm somewhat sceptical that people have actually said these things,
"You're both doing well, don't get distracted" - What? Doing well? Gordon Brown? By what measure is he doing well? "
Higher taxes for the higher earners. No privatisation of anything. Government is good!" - Aren't people more likely to ask for lower taxes for low earners?
"Don't forget the millennium development goals. The rich are still rich." - What? Is there something wrong with rich people still being rich? Can't we try making poor people rich too. Why not complain that poor people are still poor?

Is this what people who visit the Labour website are actually like? Hang on, I've read the usual comments that get through moderation on LabourList, this isn't the sort of thing real people really say.

Spending and Revenue

Over on Capitalists@Work they've got the wikipedia pie chart showing where all the government's money comes from.

I've seen that pie chart many times, its one of my favourites, it helps put spending into some kind of context.

See here on Iain Dale's blog.
I have just seen the news that the UK budget deficit has grown to £9 billion. A year ago it was just over £1 billion.

So, £8 billion in a year, if that was instead a cost saving, you could get rid of all alcohol duties, spirit duties, wine duties, beer and cider duties.

The RBS, Lloyds TSB, HBOS could pay for Fuel duty, Vehicle Excise Duty and Petroleum revenue taxes, they could all just vanish.

I love XKCD too, he neatly reminds us that whilst our governments are racking up huge unfunded debts, they could have cut taxes and let the people spend our own money however we see fit. But instead we're energy ongetting excitied by bonuses and trivial matters like Sir John Goodwin's £0.014 billion pension.

Thursday, 19 March 2009

CCTV cameras - don't even look at them

Its been weeks now that the thing about the Met Polis insisting that CCTV cameras are installing in pubs before approving licences, I was just reading about the Guardian's poll on the subject on Charlie Kiss's blog.

So the Information Commissioner says it raises serious privacy concerns.

What's perhaps more alarming is the new counter-terrorism posters from the Met which suggest people should be reported for looking at the CCTV cameras.

Its almost like the terrorists have won. Can't the Met Polis just fuck off and stop taking 1984 to be an operations manual.

Yes, I am suggesting that the Met have used "I bomb won't go off here because weeks before a shopper reported someone studying the CCTV cameras" purely to stiffle debate on the subject of CCTV privacy intrusions.

Don't suppose whoever gets to control these things could cut the Met Polis's budget by exactly the same amount of money they've spent on this publicity campaign?

This campaign utilises London specific media: radio and press, posters at tube and rail stations. As part of the national campaign there will also be national press and national commercial radio advertising, large outdoor posters and advertising on the rears of buses. To ensure the campaign reaches minority communities, there will also be advertising in minority media press titles.

Press advertising will appear in national newspapers and on main commercial radio stations. In London, this includes the Evening Standard, Magic, Heart, Total LBC, Smooth and Capital FM.

And perhaps that cost-saving can be passed on to the taxpayers?

Here's SpyBlog taking apart the link between studying CCTV cameras and terrorism
There is no evidence that any Islamic extremist or Irish terrorists or Animal Rights extremists or neo-Nazi extremists, who have exploded, or tried to explode bombs, or set off incendiary devices, have been deterred from doing so by the presence of CCTV cameras. Some may have been tracked down partially through the help of CCTV footage, after their attacks or attempted attacks, but that is not what this poster is implying.

There is no evidence that any of them who have actually had access to any explosives, have ever been caught in the act of "terrorist reconnaissance" of CCTV cameras, neither by members of the public (which is what this poster misleadingly claims), nor by regular Police street patrols, nor even by any covert surveillance of known suspects.

In other news, here's a view of a post box on Corporation Street in Manchester from Google Maps Street view.

Money Saving Idea #1 Grow your own garlic - week 6

Looks like young Darren is still growing. He's a bit darker than his peers, but I see this as a sign of strength.

In the years to come I'm going to have to do a family tree of all the different garlic bulbs I've got and what happens to their offspring, so when I start selling 'Gilmour's Organic Garlic' you can order exactly who you want.

There's going to be a lot to chose from. I was a bit worried the other week, that some of the bulbs I'd planted were duds, but they're all going hunky dory.

The twins have now sprouted and are looking all healthy and everything.

Garlic - The Twins - 19-MAR-2009

And young Sharon, even she's looking good

Garlic - Sharon - 19-MAR-2009

Job vacancies update - 19-MAR-2009

Its Thursday, time for another job vacancies update.

The number of jobs listed on reed.co.uk is still falling, for a few moments at the weekend it looked like the drop off of vacancies had levelled out, but alas, nope.

So its only a fall of 1.16% from seven days ago, but if you extrapolate this up to some made up number of total job vacancies in UK as previous described then there about 426,816 jobs out there, ignoring the new stories a few days back which lead up to believe there were only 200,000 job vacancies in the UK.

Also using figures from reed.co.uk, here's a graph of numbers vacancies for the five largest categories of jobs.

Graduate job vacancies continue to fall, 45% since I started tracking them. That's probably mostly a seasonal thing. Management job vacancies have fallen by around 20%. Its kind of scary that temp jobs remain at about the same level they were a month ago, which makes them the largest sector of the job market, I guess this is just a symptom of the national insecurity we're facing.

The Spectator CoffeeHouse blog has a piece on how unemployment is rising, but from the unemployed side of things, its how job vacancies are falling that I find more interesting. Its not a case of people not looking hard enough for jobs, if only it was. There just aren't as many jobs out there.

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

Poking in the dirt with a stick

Hi there, when I'm not blogging, job hunting or sitting in Borders drinking cappucinos, I work in Hampstead Heath for Heath Hands. They're a volunteer group who do things like bramble clearance, laying paths, clearing ditchs and that sort of thing.

I do it about three days a week, its immensly satisfying.

This morning we were out at the Heath Extension roughly here. Some people were clearing brambles from around a pond, I was set to clearing an old path that had been blocked by a fallen tree some time in the past.

Heath path - before

I cleared up to the fallen tree myself.

Heath path - after

Aye, its immensly satisfying to be able to see the fruits of your labours.

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A challenge

I am in love.

I feel helpless, I feel alone.

I have to appeal against a parking fine I paid at the start of February for a parking ticket I received in January.

I lost the parking ticket, it became lost. Time passed and the fine discount period passed and I was liable to pay £120, so I paid it.

Now I am to postpone my job hunting and the torturous process of application form filling, and I am to appeal against the parking ticket.

I have stared at the the fourth page of the online "Challenge a parking or traffic penalty" form for three hours now. I think I got this far back once in January and once in February.

Loved ones have urged me, the fine is unfair and unjust, I should never have paid it.

I have stared at page four of the online "Challenge a parking or traffic penalty" form for three hours now for three hours.
I am currently unemployed, living of my Job Seekers Allowance and could really do with the money I previously paid for the fine.
I was in possession of a valid parking permit when ticket was issued.
Was not aware of parking suspension when ticket was issued or notice of the parking suspension in the days before the ticket was issued.
Ticket may have been issued at 10:00am but time on ticket was 8:01am.

A small lie. I have not been staring at the screen, at the form for three hours. During that time I have unravelled the hat I've been knitting all day in a fit of proxy self-abuse. I have also discovered that the great herds of traffic wardens I see round my neighbourhood every day are actually employees of NCP ltd, sub-contracted to Camden Council. NCP wardens have had their bonuses based on how many tickets they issue, and the council supplies targets for numbers of tickets they want issued. Also the Interim Parking Manager for Camden Council was sacked in December and its incredibly difficult to find out online if they have appointed a new one, I suspect its possible that the parking department has no manager and is a shit place to work. Also, revenue from parking fines in Camden is down £4,000,000 and council bosses are searching for 'quick wins' to make up the shortfall.

How could I remove all parking restrictions in Camden?
  • Do I need to get elected to the council and then propose some kind of legislation on the matter and win a vote?
  • Or do I work for the council become the Parking Manager, and just do it as part of a new policy to restore Camden to the people who live there?
  • Or, controversially perhaps, do I walk into the town hall every morning at about 10:08am and hit a fire alarm, and then again every afternoon at about 2:17pm?
  • Would putting NCP Ltd out of business help?
Another thing that occurs to me... The standard fine is £120, but you get a 50% discount if you pay withing 14 days. This fine is the same regardless of the size of the vehicle, unlike the parking permit which is dependent on engine size. £70 for engines up to 1299cc, ranging to £145 for engines over 2450cc. So the cost of the permit is proportionate, but the cost of the fine is disproportionate. I wonder if that will stand up in court.

West Hampstead Thameslink Footbridge

There used to be a neat blog, London Connections, that had fanboy details of all renovations and stuff on the London Underground and trainish transport projects, but the lad running it stopped last year. And there's nowt about it on Going Underground, I guess this bit of London transport blogging falls to me.

So, at West Hampstead Thameslink, they've put up a new footbridge, and it's got these towery bits for presumably elevators so the station gets disabled access to all platforms.

For the past few weeks, as I walk past on my way t'Job Center, I noticed they were digging up the nearside platform, digging holes and filling them with concrete and metal things. Exciting stuff. And then wham! I wander past on Monday and there's this ruddy great bridge there.

It must have been a heck of a sight to see them craning it in.
West Hampstead Thameslink
Anyhoo, The Camden News had announced that the council granted planning permission for it back around 26th February, so its all in order I guess. Not sure about Stefan Hoffart's claiming the bridge overlooks his dining room, that side of the stariway is all boarded up.

Monday, 16 March 2009

Ladder climbing

Aw man, there was this point last year when a video I'd made was featured on Boing Boing, and then a few months back a map I'd drawn got me a link from Devil's Kitchen, thinking back there was that time Hugh McLeod (of cartoons drawn ont he back of business cards) linked to my art site and R Stevens (of DieselSweeties) covered it too.

I get this huge warm fuzzy feeling inside when blogs I read every day link to me, I dunno, its a little more fuzzy feeling inducing than when random blogs do it.

So t'other week I got a blogroll link from Behind Blue Eyes, which was nice, he does politicing things.

But aye, last week my BBC sea level rises graph was covered on EU Referendum, which had me skipping all over the coffeeshop, its one of my favourite blogs, and then this morning I rise to discover Iain Dale's covered my blog in his regular ten new blogs post where he describes ill & ancient as an 'attack blog'.

I think that's better than a right wing blog, but not as cool as a swear blog. I think if it was blog chess, it would be equivalent to a rook.

Anyhoo, I'm not sure why, but Iain Dale links to a specific post, this on tagging the nationalities of bands, back at the start of March. My database of bands is still expanding, currently with around 300 acts, quite a few submitted by folk using the form on that blog post.

Someone keeps submitting AC/DC as a Scottish or British band. And whilst there's no denying that some band members were born in the Scotland or Gateshead, the wikipedia entry clearly states that they are an Australian band.

I'm still trying to find bands genuinely from the West Bank or Gaza Strip, hopefully with tracks on iTunes, but alas, I fear there are none.

In Iraq there used to be Acrassicauda, but they don't live there any more.

Sunday, 15 March 2009

How many?

Was out in Bishop's Stortford today, we briefly stopped by a supermarket and I caught sight of a newspaper headline.

Regular readers of this blog will know I've been tracking how many job vacancies there are in the UK based on How many are advertised on Reed.co.uk, and based on Gordon Brown's various statements in the House of Commons. Last Thursday I had the national figure being 430,000 vacancies.

With unemployment around 2 million, thats four and a half unemployed folk per job. Safe in this knowledge I figured the stats in the headline must be refering to how many people apply for each job, and thought nothing more of it.

I am not of the Office of National Statistics, I just go off what information I can scratch together.

Anyhoo, its late at night now, and I finally catch up on reading the article in The Observer, and the actual story is a little different.

The story is about Job Centre Pluses having to pinch staff from other departments, but the opening paragraphs are thus:-
Startling new figures have revealed that on average there are 10 jobseekers for every vacancy advertised in the UK. In one area of the south-east, 60 workers are available for each job.

This week, as unemployment is expected to burst through the 2 million barrier, The Observer can reveal that the spectre of mass unemployment is forcing the government to reinforce job centres, with civil servants diverted from child maintenance and disability claims.

The article doesn't actually give a figure of the number of job vacancies nationally, just a few local figures, 52 in the Isle of Wight, 4,275 in London, but from thems first two paragraphs we can calculate.

2 million unemployed / ten jobseekers per vacancy = 200,000 vacancies.

So crikey, that's less than half my figure of 430,000. What happened?

A month back Gordon Brown was saying there were 500,000 vacancies. And now The Observer is talking about there being a fraction of that left.

There'll be no job vacancies at all in no time.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Baby 'shroom

Baby 'shroom
Originally uploaded by manc_ill_kid
This wee chap appeared in a plant pot in my back garden. Can anyone identify him?

Is he edible and can I somehow grow more of him?

Brief Comedy Interlude

Outtakes from Ricky Gervais being interviewed by Elmo on Seasame Street

I know Gervais isn't everyone's cup of tea, but I doubt there's anyone who doesn't love Elmo.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Money Saving Idea #1 Grow your own garlic - week 5

Originally uploaded by manc_ill_kid
Young Darren Garlic going from strength to strength, bless him. Look he's got two wee arms now, waving about, see how he's curled his right hand into a fist, he's going to be a champion.

Wondering how I'm going to know when to pick him, like at what point is he good to go? And if I pick him now, are his cloves going to be alright?

I'll give him a few more months anyway.


The Twins have finally shown some signs of life to be be honest, they look a be peely wallie, all browny green and soggy. Not that I'm rascist or anything, but they don't seem as strong as Darren. And Sharon, she's even worse, I'm not even going to show you what she looks like.

The potatos are still underground, I have faith in them, they'll stick they wee heid's out when they're goo and ready.

Here's the flickr slide show of Darren from the day I planted him

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Sea Level rises by 2100 according to the BBC

I couldn't sleep last night, so worried by the BBC's report yesterday that the latest predictions of sea level rises by 2100 will exceed previous predictions. I already debunked it once, that the latest prediction is only 1m whilst the previous prediction was 1.5m. But maybe I'd gotten it wrong, I'd misquoted.

So I looked up all the BBC articles that talk about predictions in sea level rises since 2000 and plotted a graph.

Can you imagine my relief to find that actually the current prediction of a 1 metre rise by 2100 is pretty much in the middle of the range of predictions that the BBC have reported.

My next thing to get neurotic about is that 1m rise, is it from 2009 levels or from the same level that predictions were made from in 2000.

Just how much have sea levels risen since 2000?

URLs for BBC stories

Slightly more polished graph

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

So are sea level rises expectations getting better or worse?

Today's BBC News website has a story about how sea level rises are going to exceed expectations:-
The global sea level looks set to rise far higher than forecast because of changes in the polar ice-sheets, a team of researchers has suggested.

Scientists at a climate change summit in Copenhagen said earlier UN estimates were too low and that sea levels could rise by a metre or more by 2100.

Which comes as a surprise as a year ago the BBC reported that they were predicting a one and a half metre rise.

So my expectations aren't going be exceeded by the latest research, and I get all my news from the BBC.

Actually since 2006 the BBC have been reporting that sea levels could rise by such a wide range, what are we supposed to believe?
When applied to the possible scenarios outlined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), the researchers found that in 2100 sea levels would be 0.5-1.4m above 1990 levels.

Are they making it up as they go along? A bt of consistency please?

Monday, 9 March 2009

Prodding with a stick

I've started doing voluntary work, Heath Hands do work around Hampstead Heath, mulch spreading, clearing brambles, hedge reduction. I've only been to one session, its rewarding work, after a few hours of labour, you can see the difference you've made. However, a more accurate description of what I'm doing is 'scratching in the dirt with a stick'.

I've got a degree in Manufacturing Engineering, I used to make the best hi-fi equipment in the world, and now I'm reduced to scratching in the dirt with a stick.

I have another stick, my special prodding stick, I use it to get people to do things.

A month ago, there was a wee skirmish on The Spectator's Coffeehouse and MP Tom Harris's blog about poverty in the UK. My contribution was verbalising that the problem started in the 80's, why's it taking the best part of thirty years to do owt about it.
Blaming things on stuff “back in the 80’s” is a bit rich, that’s the best part of thirty years ago.

Labour have been in power for over a decade now, if it was broke could you no have fixed it by now?

It seems Tom Harris has had a bit of think about it, in a piece in the Daily Mail he says this
It has taken nearly three decades of failure to get to this point. It could take us a similar time to repair the damage. So the sooner we start, the better.

Instead of our political leaders blaming each other for our past failures, far better, surely, for them in years to come to be able to share the credit for their success by giving back hope and ambition to our young people.

I love my prodding stick.

What would be a convincing arguement?

Via Devils Kitchen, the government are to reduce the national speed limit.
Jim Fitzpatrick, the roads minister, defended the plan, which will be the most dramatic cut since 1978, when the national speed limit was reduced from 70mph to 60mph.

“There will be some in the driving lobby who think this is a further attack and a restriction on people’s freedom,” he said. “But when you compare that to the fact we are killing 3,000 people a year on our roads, it would be irresponsible not to do something about it. I’m sure that the vast majority of motorists would support the proposals.”

Hmph, here's Jim Fitzpatrick saying we have fewer than 3000 road death per year
Road Safety Minister Jim Fitzpatrick welcomed the decline but said road safety improvements were still needed.

"These figures are extremely encouraging. They show that for the first time since records began in 1926 the number of people killed on our roads has fallen below 3,000.

Whilst that was in the middle of last year, its possible that road deaths have crept up by now.
Hmph, here's the Department of Transport in January this year saying road deaths are down fifteen percent in third quarter 2008
The provisional estimates show the number of fatalities in road accidents were down by 15 per cent for the twelve months ending September 2008 compared with the previous 12 months. Total casualties were down by 8 per cent, and killed and seriously injured casualties 8 per cent, compared with the previous 12 months.

So the most recent stats on road deaths have it at about 2,500, the lowest since records began in 1926 (again).
Bah, back in the old BBC article Uncle Jim goes on to say:-
"But these figures make us determined to do even more. Far too many people are still dying and we will continue to do everything we can to improve road safety and further reduce the numbers of people killed or injured."

If a reduction in road deaths makes the government determined to do more, what would make the government determined to do less? Like what kind of evidence would be required for the government to raise speed limits and remove speed cameras?

I can understand if road deaths were rising then the government should be determined to do more, but that's not the case.

There has to be some logic here, something that would persuade.

What can the UK do to be permitted to drive faster on the UK's roads?

Saturday, 7 March 2009

More ruminations on Facebook Scramble Highscores

Quite a significant amount of traffic to this blog comes from people looking for information about Facebook Scramble highscores, what the highest score is.

Its a difficult one, for each grid, it actually says what the highest possible score is, if you get every word thats in the grid. It even lists how many words there are for each length up to eight letters, and when you've finished playing, it lists every word too.

This one time I was playing a game against a girl with a huge vocabulary, she got around 350, I was mighty impressed. But on the same grid, I set my own personal best score of around 250. It was a high scoring grid, worth around 2500 points in total.

There's only one way to get a score anywhere near the maximum, and that is to cheat.

Wikipedia has some details about typing speeds, it says that average for a professional is 60 WPM and super ninjas can do 120 WPM. I'm guessing average word length is 4.2 letters per word, which together means you get around 6 or 8 keystrokes per second. Thats for professional typist, maybe transcribing stuff, rather than thinking about what they're typing, but lets ignore that minor detail.

The spread of letters in a grid means that around 5% of the score comes from three-letter words, 20% from four-letters, 25% from both five- and six-letter words and then the bell curve drifts back down for longer words.

For a grid worth 1000 points, in professional keystroke terms, its going to take 260 seconds to get every single word, which is a shame cos you only have 180 seconds, three minutes. Its not physically possible to get every word, you run out of time. If you start with high-value long words and then work down to the shorter words, you run out of time in the middle of the four letterers.

The human brain doesn't even work like that. It looks for shorter words than adds -s on the end and -er and -ers, -ing, -inger, -ingers. The human brain starts simple and goes complex when its looking for words in scramble, rather than starting long and going simple.

I ran the sums.

If your grid is worth 2500 points, its going to take around 600 seconds to type every word, if you're going as fast as your nimble fingers can go, ten minutes. You're going to run out of time in the middle of doing six-letter words.

I reckon with human typing speed limitations the highest score is around 1200, thats ignoring the way the human brain works and ignoring any kind of thinking about what you're typing.

Unsent letters unwritten books

A few weeks back I was a a fine fine gig at the Buffalo Bar, there were all these people I knew, friends off of the internet, people who I used to know in Glasgow. It was kind of weird. I felt so distant, all alone in a room full of friends.

Right now, I'm feeling funny. I was trudging through the darkest folders of my computer and finding stuff I'd lost years ago, forgotten CD artwork, abandoned Cool Edit Pro sessions, stuff I'd started writing.

The writing below is from a Word document dated 03-July-2004, I vaguely remember writing it. It was going to be my untitled fifth novel, the sequel to "Somewhere In The Sun". It serves as a neat snapshot of the time, a world long gone, deleted and redacted.

I read through it briefly.

There are mistakes, things that shouldn't be published, things that should be forgotten, I should change the names, but that's kind of a betrayal of my memory.

But like I said, I'm feeling funny right now.

Dear Debbie,

The sun is shining brightly outside, it’s a warm summer evening. I’m sat in a cafĂ© in Edinburgh, tucking into a plate of chocolate fudge cake, gooey marshmallowy chocolate oozing over the edge onto the table, and supping a pint of Tennents. Opposite me is Kirsten, she’s similarly stuffing herself with Belgium waffles with chocolate sauce, she’s trying to fill each little square hole in the waffle with ice cream. She hasn’t touched her cup of coffee yet.

A beautiful scene, I’m sure you’ll agree.

Kristen just pointed out how that Glasgow and our little social scene there has changed so much while you’ve been away, and when you come back it’ll be kind of like you’ve jetting into the future, and missed so much. You’ll be spending ages trying to catch up, figuring out the missing storylines and plot twists.

I remembered something Robbie had suggested in the pub a fortnight ago. I don’t think you know Robbie, he’s someone who’s only become visible in the last year, I’ll get to him later. Robbie suggested I wrote a book about our social scene, the bowlie social scene.

At the time I knocked back his suggestion with a frown and a shrug. But well, in the context of bringing you up to speed, my mind’s racing and the events of the past twelve months or so are right there in front of me.

As part of the West End Festival Belle and Sebastian put on a mini-festival in the Botanic Gardens, ‘Schools Out’ they called it. It was free.

Vividly there’s this scene in my head now, stood on the embankment looking out across the crowd.

On stage is Camera Obscura, Camera Obscura’s John Henderson at the microphone, singing about love, somewhere behind him on stage, towering over the rest of the band is Gav, playing bass dressed in a suit, completely inappropriately for the weather, which is glorious.

In the crowd at the front of the stage is young Patrick, clutching a camera. Nearby, further back is Nal and Matt, they’re close together. A few yards behind them, sat in a circle are the French girls, about four of them, and their friends.

I can see between the stage and the crowd, into the ‘back stage area’ well it’s a flower bed in the Botanic Gardens, members of Belle and Sebastian are lying out in the sun, Stuart Murdoch, Stevie Jackson, the girl, Chris ‘Beans’ Geddes, and Belfast Bobby. And near them is Blair, the filmmaker, and Alan the ubiquitous roadie who’s also drummer for My Legendary Girlfriend.

Out in the crowd, just beyond the French girls, I can see McGazz the singer from My Legendary Girlfriend, he’s chatting to Adam Smith and, shit, Adam Smith has a girl with him, a girlfriend, I can’t see her face though, she looks like Yael from here. Too far away.

There’s a girl who looks remarkably like Carolyn Cross, just walking through behind them.

A short way behind them is Andy from Troika and his girlfriend cute Lisa, and on the benches behind them some for from a TV company are interviewing a bunch indie kids. My God, its Cameron from Big Brother doing the interview.

Opposite them is the great seething mass of the internet Bowlie community, Noj, his girl, Dawn from America, Daveinthedumps, his sister, Steph StereoDonut and her boyfriend Tomth, Robbie’s there, stood near Yael and I guess a guy who must be Vodz. On the other side of Robbie is Stavros or Katja, the German. There’s a ginger guy and his sister lurking behind them. LinseyMop has her hands all over some guy who must be either FastEddie or JohnAlyoisus, I dunno. There’s weirdness going on there. Kristen and Hero, Ali and Colin, Twitch, and god knows who else.

My friend Otto stands a few yards away with his long term and pretty girlfriend. Out through the crowd beyond that lot I can see half the usual Glasgow lot, James, Stacy and Lucy and Martin, others who I just recognise.

Miles out in the distance, under the trees of the family area away from the seething crowds I think I can see Tim from work standing to watch Camera Obscura, and at his feet is Gilad and I guess his new family. Folk from work. Yards away from them stands a Trevor, his reading book hanging at his side. That’s as far as I can see into the distance.

Now to my right, nearby against the sculpted trees are members of the Owsley Sunshine, Kain and Dead Fly Bukowski. Joe Kain catches me looking around and nods in recognition, he slips his arm round the girl at his side.

I look away, embarrassed.

The sun is shining so brightly and the music’s great.

Katrina House brushes past me to my left, heading to the crowd at the front of the stage, watching her wander down I can see Simon 803.

It’s a beautiful scene, I’m sure you’ll agree.

I glance around this place once more and think “Aw, for fuck’s sake.”

I hate all these people.

Individually they’re cool, likeable, even the cunts amongst them, of which there are many. I get on with them. But right now, I hate most of my friends.

They’re all coupled up. And me, well, I’m not.

I’m filled with envy and I feel sick.

Friday, 6 March 2009

The end of sterling

I understand that the Bank or England are cranking up the printing presses and churning out money. This devalues the old pound sterling, its kind of the same economic measures that Robert Mugabe was taking in Zimbabwe.

Not that it makes much difference to me, I have no money, I just have debts. I'm vaguely aware that in olden times debt was theft, it was a dishonest accumulattion of wealth. Not so in 21st century Britain, I have overdrafts and credit cards, so that makes it all okay them.

Right now I am unemployed, for the past ten years I have been paying National Insurance and now I am claiming it back in Job Seeker's Allowance. Anyhoo, that doesn't help my debts, they remain constant.

As the pound devalues my debts become less.

We need alternative currencies, here are a couple we can try out.
Big Mac - Sold all over the world and a concrete thing that you may or may not consume (price taken from Brent Cross branch)
GoldGrams - Units of gold available from GoldMoney
Minimum Wage Hour - whatever you earn for one hour's work at minimum wage
JSA week - one week's worth of Job Seeker's Allowance.

Their values are as below in current pounds sterling, I suspect this will change over the coming weeks.
  • Big Mac - £2.09
  • GoldGrams - £21.18
  • MWH - £5.73
  • JSA - £60.50
Or in McDonald's Big Macs
  • GBP - 0.48 Big Macs
  • GoldGrams - 10.13 Big Macs
  • MWH - 2.74 Big Macs
  • JSA - 28.94 Big Macs
I'll check up on these in the coming weeks to see which is the most stable currency. Not quite sure how to measure stability, but hey, I'll have a think and it'll all be okay, aye.