Saturday, 30 January 2010

Brent Council FOI - FAIL

Here's an interesting thing, I was ploughing through WhatDoTheyKnow.com, looking for something interesting to write about, and found it.

Brent Council are refusing to send replies to FOI requests to the whatdotheyknow.com website. A chap called Michael Bimmlermmer sent them a Freedom of Information request about it.
I have read about your new policy of not sending replies to FOI requests to the whatdotheyknow.com website.

I would like to request access to all internal records concerning this policy change, including but not limited to internal emails, memoranda, letters and notes as well as records of meetings. Moreover I should like a copy of the formal decision of the policy change or if such does not exist, the announcement distributed about it to staff.

I am also grateful for answers to the following questions (which you may or may not decide to treat as business-as-usual instead of FOI requests)

1. Who made the final decision on this policy change? (Name and/or Job title)
2. Who was consulted beforehand?
3. Was legal advice requested?
4. Was the ICO contacted and if yes, what was their reply?

Whilst they don't answer any of the questions put, they do explain why, they're claiming republishing FOIs online may infringe copyright:-
However, whilst we may send the formal notification of the decision to the email address you have provided we will not send the information requested to that address. This is because we are aware that doing so will automatically result in the information being published on the whatdotheyknow website. Publication of information in this way may constitute an unauthorised re-use (under the Re-use of Public Sector Information Regulations 2005) and may infringe copyright. I would therefore be grateful if you will provide me with an alternative disclosure address.

This can be a postal address, fax number or an email address, as long as it does not result in automatic publication and re-use.

It seems a bit rum, and Brent Council are refusing dozens of other FOI requests, here, here, here etc

Orange are cunts

My kissable young sex-puppet was disappointed today, not being able to get an iPhone from Orange:-
I was refused an iphone today. On the basis of having lived in a shared house for the last few years and having changed my address several times. They could not tell me what, there was something wrong with the credit check but basically told me that living in a shared house would mean that I could not get.

I've been wanting one for a long time, dragging my boyfriend to various shopping centres across the land almost every weekend to gaze in the phone shop windows.

They wanted to know where I worked, how long for, job title, whether my place is furnished or not.

Are energy company statements the same as bills, does it still count if it not from British gas, is my accommodation furnished or unfurnished.

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Mission Impossible at work

I don't really like my job, its frustrating, and difficult, the hours are crap and have killed off my social life. The pay is crap too, I barely scrape by.

Right now I'm working night shifts, 10pm to 6am. My manager quit today, and the replacement manager chap had a heart attack two days ago and won't be bacl any time soon.

Paperwork is a large part of my job, filling in endless check sheets, writing lists and lists and lists. Hours spent filing away documents in shelves and shelves of folders. It could all be so much easier and quicker with a bit of IT, a database, a big old MRPII system, anything but these endless forms and checksheets and filing.

This sentiment you regular readers were already familiar with. But this evening I stagger into the factory to find the office I use is no more. It has been moved and rebuilt on a higher floor of the factory. All new shiney desks and new shelves.

But sadly the dayshift people seem to have lost a printer, or failed to hook up this damned computer to any printer in the building. I cannot now even print any of the damned checklists, instead I must write them out, copying them off the computer screen in longhand.

I work in two offices and now neither of them have any access to any printers.

Its like they've made it impossible to do my job.

But not quite. There is no 'they', there's no manager with a plan, no conspiracy. Its just happened that my role is almost impossible.

should I just quit, walk out because the job has become almost impossible? Am I a quitter? Or should I persevere with writing things out in longhand, or try to find another computer with access to the appropriate drives, or some convoluted process of emailing the paperwork to myself on some other computer, some other office and print it out there.

At what point do you draw the line and say fuck this shit?

Shadow of the beast

Whilst researching for a relevant, vital and topical blogpost, I stumbled across a piece I wrote years ago, a travel log of a holiday I had in Spain in 2006. It's a compelling piece of semi-fiction, for your entertainment, I republish it here:-
Shadow of the Beast

All around me are flashing lights and sirens.

I'm sat in the back of an ambulance now, a buxom trainee nurse mops the blood off my face and tries futilely to stitch my left ear back on .

The pain is excruciating... so my mind wanders.

---------------

T minus Friday morning
I'm in the gym, in the sauna I usually go to before work, with my old friend Dominic Diamond. He was telling me about how he'd managed to get a show on XFM Scotland where he had to talk about his own genitals for two hours every morning, kind of a continuation of his work on the Games Master TV show. It was largely due to the influence of his manager, Sir Adam J Schmitt.

I was there, many years ago, at a now closed down club called Stereo in Glasgow when Dom first met Adam as singer in the Hector Collectors. Me and Jax stood at the back, Dom lurking a corner. After the show Adam came over and asked why we were there, we weren't friends of his, or family, no we were there as fans.

----------------

Why the hell did Jax want to go to Toledo?

Where the hell was Toledo?

The name rang a bell, I'd read the name in a book once, Bill and Zed's Wild Highway, about their trip to The Congo to buy back their souls from the Devil. On the way they stopped off in Toledo. There are so many churches there either the devil casts no shadow, or its the only place where he does cast a shadow?

Could Jax really be wanting to go there to find the fallen angel, and fuck him? I wouldn't put it past her, she'd love a bit of red horned cock.

------------------

T minus Friday lunch time
That bastard Danny Wallace has stolen Jax's passport. I got a terrified phone call from her, after accidentally ignoring a few text messages. She had it in the morning, and needed it to pick up travellers cheques, but when she got to work, it was gone. So she was in a taxi heading back to her flat, and I was exploring other possibilities for what we could do. Could her passport have been stolen?

An hour later, after more phone calls and reassuring text messages, it turns out that bastard Danny Wallace had pinched it.

I caught him snooping about in the forests of South Lanarkshire. For three hours over my lunch break I pursued him, until eventually he got his foot caught in a bear trap. It was kind of lucky the local council were trying to re-introduce wild animals like bear and wolf to the region.

While he screamed in agony I reclaimed Jax's passport. In the distance, I could hear wolves howling. The Join Me cult leader would have to gnaw off his own foot to avoid being savaged by them. I chuckled and headed back to my office.

Things I then did before we left:-
  • Text messages from an ex
  • Final farewell shag from an old buddy
  • Dirty phone sex with Jax, when I was driving home
  • Jog on Saturday morning
Met Jax at Central Station - bus to Glasgow Airport
Plane to Luton
--------------------

Luton airport is a brothel, a giant international brothel, set outside of national jurisdictions of such things. It homes the UK's first topless Marks and Spencer's, Jade from Big Brother works there. The airport is the first stop for sexy foreign bitches doing tricks to earn their first pounds sterling.

Bleached blonde russians with high cheekbones and a slavic sneer
Honey skinned Mediterranean chicks with liquid brown eyes

Children In Need Dalek, alas not one of the rather cute harmless ones from the original series with a small gentleman inside pedling away, but on of the advanced prototypes from the new series which actually does electrocute people on touch. There was a trail of well-meaning but ultimately foolish dead children in its wake, exterminated by their TV hero.

Since we'd left Scotland the euro/sterling exhange rate had been tumbling, obviously in fear of our arrival on the continent

At Luton airport, there was a problem with the plane so they sent all the passengers away for a while, some chap with a guitar started playing. Jax and I bought the travel version of Guess Who, we almost started playing before being allowed onto the plane, which stank of oil. I soon fell asleep.

Sleeping fitfully, I could hear that bastard Danny Wallace, there on the plane, the seat behind Jax, whispering, making her chuckle and snicker. She'd glance at me, to check I was asleep, and tried to hold her breathing, fruitlessly.

Trying to find the way to the metro from Madrid Station, not having much Spanish, but wandering any old how, and checking cash machines for exciting ways to extract money in different exchange rates, was it better to have bought money in the UK or in Spain? Jax's cash card, little more than a cracked cheap and a mess of cellotape.

The train into town, full of goths, but not regular, pale faced British goths, no, these ones had sun tans.

Jax's rucksack was twice the weight of mine, must have been hair driers, straightening tongues and the gold bulleon she was running. My bladder had been full for hours.

We arrived stumbling out into the Madrid evening, our first outdoors in Spain. It was dark, and there were lots of people, a slightly moist city centre square, like in any city, surrounded by buses. The Opera Metro Station. The traffic lighty green men hated us as was crossed the square and staggered up an alley to our hostel. Had to ring the buzzer four times before we were let in.

We checked in at the hostel, Jax went for a shower or tried to find the women's showers, foolishly she'd tried to leave the room in just a towel, which had become caught in the door and had to do two laps of the building in the buff save for the small corner of towel which had come away. Need I say it was me who'd lent her the towel to begin with. She resigned to showering with two blokes rather than waiting for them to leave the cubicle.

Well, more like, she'd snuck into a shower cubicle without them noticing, and listened in to their conversation for a few minutes, before coughing a feminine cough to which they scarpered.

(I think we went out for dinner, trying the tapas in a few different places like the Rough Bible had told us, before finishing in a bar with pictures of lesbians on the walls and returning to the hostel to sleep)
------------------------

Anton Martin
We found a Pizza Hut that Bill and Zed had mentioned in their book, they'd said that round the corner lay Tug Town a porno palace, but we couldn't find it, instead we sought out somewhere to eat chocolate doughnuts, and failing that, somewhere to eat. We found one on a corner near the Reine Sofia. Being new to town, we didn't quite understand the pricing policy and got shouted at a little, we had to eat from the set menu, starter main course, starter main course. Ham + mushrooms, some kind of anchovy dish and both of us having salmon steaks.

They hate us, everywhere we go, they hate us.

La Plaza gallery/museum
  • Goya, El Greco
  • Picture of some godly woman spraying breast milk into the mouth of a saint.
  • El Greco's picture of a naked chick and then an almost identical picture of the same woman fully clothed, some weird fetish going on there
  • Picture of a man with a single boobie and a child about to suckle
  • Goya's Colosus, and picture of ugly old people

We grew tired and went to the gallery canteen, it was decidedly 70's. Two pain au chocolate things and coca lites.

Danny Wallace was stalking us again, so I stabbed him in the eye with a spoon and made a cup of sugary tea.

-------------------

Round the corner from the hostel was a nice corner shop type place, I picked up a bottle of Jack Daniels and a bottle of cola-lite.

The thing with Guess Who
It was our second night in Spain, in Madrid, in the hostel. There was the communal lounge, complete with back packing folk and two Australian chick always wandering about in just their coats, the stench of seepage followed them.

Too many drugs.

Jax explained it, whilst for us, from Scotland and colder climes, Madrid was ten degrees warmer than what we were used to, t-shirt and shorts weather. For our Australian fellow travellers, it was ten degrees colder than back home, kind of like if we'd gone on holiday to Iceland or Norway.

There were some more mature travellers staying at the hostel, sipping brandy in darkened rooms, rolling their eyes as people stuggled with the free bread and salt.

So there we were on our second night, Kings of the Hostel in a bustling city, playing travel Guess Who.

There are rules and strategies, I think there are like 20 people in the game, with all these attributes, but only four share the same attribute, four of each hair colour, four people wearing hots, four people with glasses, four people with large noses, four bald people.

I was playing safe, eliminating a genotype at a time until there was only one possibility left. No doubts, no risk, but I won every time. Jax was more theomorphic, but kept losing.

If we'd both played safe, the winning strategy would involve knocking out your own card first to give you an advantage of one. At such a high level game it would count.

Jax managed to spill Cola-lite over the table, so we used the communal events brochure to mop it up, cue eye rolling for the mature folk and the skanky Australian chicks.

After a few four minute long games we grew bored and tried to spice it up a wee bit by adding back stories to the characters. Lucy the double-crossing single mother with breast cancer, Theo the illegal immigrant drug dealer killer.

But it didn't last. As a last gasp we tried only asking questions as song lyrics... "Are you my brown eyed girl?" and some shit to do with Blonde Ambition, etc.

----------------------

It was sunday night, and we were to eat in what we'd translated as The Museum of Ham.

We were served by a kind a of rawnchy cute waitress who hated us. the walls were lined with giant hams, hundreds of them, hung up to cure, or scare tourists or something. We ordered a vague selection of mountains of different types of ham dishes, oh how many pigs must they have sacrified for us? By the end though, I think the waitress loved us.

We got the metro to Tribunal, the cool indie area to the north, with a vague idea of some clubs we'd read about in the Rough Guide. Alas the maps were pants and we wandered lost for an hour or so before we found a cool bar, where they sold joints at the bar, and downstairs as a venue was dark and closed. They played mostly mash-up music.

We found a bar from the book, called Tupperware, which was like the equivalent of Nice n Sleazy in Glasgow, but only the wee bar bit was open and it was a Sunday night, it was a little quiet. David Bowie was stood at the bar with John Lennon and Angus Young. Spock from Star Trek was drunk on the floor, drooling vomit.

Indie people and okay music.

After three bottles, we left.

Bar Buchowski
Served by a gravel-voiced pirate:-
  • pint of gin + tonic X2
  • Pint of vodka + cola light
Made friends with the people speaking all kinds of languages, English, Spanish and French. Asking the barmaid woman wether on a piece of artwork on the wall, the woman was happy to have her boobies suckled. Trying to find out about where was good for flamenco, and poesia urbana.

I used to be Poesia Urbana, the great brazilian grafitti artist. My art was legendary amongst the signatures of internet messageboards.

---------------------------------

Monday
Went towel shopping in Madrid. Their biggest department store is called Les Corte Ingles, but they're not very English. Nice place though. 23 floors all selling exactly the same things with slightly different flavours.

Lunch was in Oscar's restaurant, served by Michael Grant, a chum from Glasgow, he feined not understanding English and just looked confused when we called his bluff.

Jax had bought a pen from Les Cortes Ingles. Not just any pen, but one with a wooden block and chain, like you get in banks and post offices. She loved it so much, it made her so happy.

Nice lunch, bottle of white.

The binding in Danny Wallace's Yes Man book was begining to annoy Jax, it was all blobby glue and cracking.

--------------------------

Looking for prezzies for the folks back home and dictaphones. Metro to Atocha then into the Reina Sofia art gallery.

Howard Hodgkins was very colourful, then went for a quick cola-lite at the cafe where they were setting up for a Vogue Show. I privately auditioned a few of the supermodels who were lounging around.

Jax got propositioned by Jean Paul Gauntier. They were about to go off together to take some 'test shots' for a front cover or something when I swept her away, Pablo honey was calling, drawing us closer.

Guernica!!!
Some other art too, a few Dalis and a whole lotta Pablo

On the 2nd floor was a video installation, by this time we'd taken too many drugs and the fabric of reality was caving in. Zombies with TVs for heads pursued us down dark corridors, and naked women swinging from the ceiling on chains.

There was this video installation in one of the galleries on Madrid where they had loads of TVs which had been taped over so you could only see the odd horizontal line of pixels, and from a distance you could squint and work out it was a boxing match or some kind of news program with a person sat at a desk, but that was it

Walked all the way back to the hostel, but got lost so we stepped into a pet shop, and out again after mewing over teeny tiny animals and a rather large puppy in a cage. Funny that a supplier of gerbils was located next to the legendary Tug Town, the porn Palace of Anton Martin, that we'd finally found.

We were passing through Plaza de Sol when I realised I'd never seen the Mediterranean Sea.

Bell-end biscuits - one touched my willy, so we put it back in the packet and shuffled them, so its kind of like Russian Roulette

The woman from Bar Buchowski had recommended and marked on the map in the Rough Guide, a neat place for us to go, we even had an address. I think it was for flamenco, but on closer inspection in real life, she'd marked a toilet block on the corner of a park, rather than an actual venue, aw man.

-----------

So we wandered dejected back towards the hostel, my feet were killing me, its the last time I wear those damned Converse copies. There was what appeared to be Madrid's answer to Bolton's Ritzy Nightclub on the corner of the square we stayed on, it was called The Palace, and golden glittery around the doorway and the stairs leading down. Earlier in the eveninng there'd been a crowd of worried looking parents stood outside, but now, there were just well dressed twenty-somethings heading in. Jax liked the look of it, so we gave it a shot.

Alas the bouncers didn't like the look of our footwear, or probably our hoodies and t-shirt and general demeanor and sent us on our way.
Our way happened to be up the street away from the hostel, the night was still youngish and we needed to do something. I dunno, we'd been out for ages and achieved nothing, places that didn't exist, or nightclubs where they hated us, so I 'd have been happy to head back to the hostel, play Guess Who, sup JD and cola and sleep. Instead we wandered for a bit, trying to find a nice looking pub.

Everywhere Jax suggested looked a bit shadly, boarded up windows with neon lights inside, couldn't tell if it was a bar or a lapdancing joint. In the end we settled on an American bar, with sawdust on the floor, peanut shells and loud american jocks.

We got some beers, found a quiet table, turned our backs to the jocks and started playing Who Am I, kind of twenty questions for a new generation. Trying to push each other's boundaries by being things other than TV stars or film, singing folk. I was Herbie the car, and she was The Pope.

There was a weird thing that they had on the walls at the American bar, some kind of device for pouring beer from a jug to a glass from a great height, what this adds to the beer god knows, but it seemed to be some kind of tradition, with photos and demonstrations.

Why are American's so loud, what's wrong with them, we were sat feet away, and they were still deafening. Our own conversation kind of whispered, no need to shout. But the American's too loud and too course. Two of them started dry humping just behind me, I almost boked. The sooner that country breaks up like the USSR, the better.

------------

Tuesday
Gav is somewhere in Madrid. I think he is a rock star, recording overdubs for the Christmas single, Super Trouper B-side.

I wandered my seperate way from Jax one morning, trying to find the bus station that would take us to the next place of our journy. But to no avail, and I kept on having to avoid English speakers

Its warm here, 14 degrees, I'm just wearing a t-shirt, sweating to myself, although all the natives are wrapped up and coldly shivering.

The rain is just threatening to start and Jax is looking to buy a hat. I guess the choice is the same as back home, but the impedus is greater here. I ought to buy something, an item of clothing or a souvenir. Gifts for the family and friends.

We're in a cafe drinking espressos whilst Jax poops and reads Danny Wallace's book, or that bastard Danny Wallace as she's joined me in calling him.

Is there a word for the specific terror you feel when you suspect a bottle of chocolate milk has become open in your bag?

Books and magazines are sodden.

Time passes and we're in an Irish bar in Tribunal, Jax chuckling away still to that bastard Danny Wallace, me imagining making eye contact with the cute barmaid.

Jax's cigarettes stink so much.

We were clothes shopping, but after trying every single shop on the street, and working through them at exactly the same speed as this pair of blond girls who at school would have been in the clique known as the trendies, we'd found nothing. Very shortly it became apparent that all the shops were exactly the same. Of course, the serving wenches were different, well, they tried to look similar and the clothes were different, but so so similar

Desmond from Lost, sits just behind Jax, his sunglasses on his forehead, smoking quietly to himself.

We've been here for six hours now. I'm steadily drinking pints of Guiness, Jax is still on her first.

I'm not so sure about whther the cute bar maid is British or Spanish. All languages have faded away, we're all communicating by sign language, grunts, and Jax's smoke signals and sniggers.

Not sure what book Desmond from Lost is reading. Looks like Breakfast at Tiffany's, but with Nichol Kidman on the cover. He went to Strathclyde uni and was in the same theatre group as I, but about ten years before.

Ooh, cute barmaid looks like hairy girl from Uni, I think her name was Marie McDermott. But I think I saw her at the Woodside, PinUp Nights two weeks ago and she looked older, like a "grown up" who used to be the hairy girl, or her identical twin sister.

What would have happened if rather than skipping off to shave my pubes, or whatever other excuse I used in my 2001 novel Shag Times and beyond for not chatting to her, if I'd actually just said "hi, How's you? Fancy going for a coffee?"

Would I be here now, Madrid Q406

Would the whole Plimptons thing have happened?

Ooh, text message from Gav, he's staying nearby, so we'll hook up for drinks later tonight

----------------------

Jax put it most succinctly when she said "I prefer to get drunk with many drinks, rather than just one"
So we met up with rock god Gav, a text saying he was in some nearby bar and would pop out to find us, at just the very moment we walked in. Lee and Kenny were there too, I'm kinda friends with Lee's girlfriend, and Kenny I used to get taxis with him but he doesn't remember so well.

Beers and sangrias, and laughing and talking about their tv appearances and rock and rool adventures with losing passports. Tracy-Anne and Carey turned up at the bar, but they still hate me since I asked if they'd be interested in being on my Last Night From Glasgow internet tv show

Lee and Kenny soon ran away, so us old Bowlies drank more and wandered to another pub.

Well, I say pub, it was more like a chip shop, which sold booze if you asked nicely, and they took the piss out of us.

It was there they sold vodka in pint glasses and I made the mistake of not asking for diet coke cola-lite, which really cocked up Jax's diabetes.

It was difficult, but she did try drinking the V+C without consuming any sugar, using a straw, but failed, and gave me a rant about the nature of diabetes.

Ooh, mention that Lydiapond is pming her a bit on Bowlie, I love Lydiapond, but have the fear that her wee contructed world is made of cards. At least we'll be hurt together.
---------------------

Toledo rules!!
All nooks, crannies and knife shops. We're in the equivalent of The Tchai Ovna, being filmed by a lesbian. Its so easy to get on Spanish TV these days

---------------------

We were badly hungover this morning, escaped from the hostel half dead, our drinks must have been spiked. That bastard Danny Wallace has employed the dreaded cultists, the Alumbrados, to hunt us down.

Doughnuts for breakfast and trying to consume fluids, in the corner shop. Spilled chocolate milkshake on the underground, triggering a huge security alert which required the army to close half the train network

Trains tation, turtles there, made friends with some kids, waiting an hour kind of fixed the hangover, then sleeping on the train, the weather's been great.

TOLEDO

No sign of the devil at the train station, but some rather annoying Jewish folk on the bus into town. They took our seats when we were bogged down with our luggage.

Found the hostel very easily from where we got off the bus, but were unfortunately tricked by the unseen devil into going into dumping our stuff in the wrong room and then being shooed out by the landlady.

Sight seeing - great
EL GRECO

Restaurant in Toledo - run by militant lesbians
Paella for starter was taking the piss a little bit, seafood, and dead birds scattered liberally.

Partridge for main course, using fantasy knives that Matt would have been proud of, and there were batwing bones in there too. It was served in bowls of stocky water with some submerged potatoes.

The waiting staff laughed at us for choosing white wine.

The waiter was trying really had, wanted to know where we were from, either to make conversation, or so he could scrawl the words "HELP ME" on the bottom of the wee tublets of icecream he served up for dessert.

----------------

The Broadway Jazz Club on Alfonso XII street

The devil IS here

But the Plimptons are on my phone

Me and Jax talking about Bowlie and about relationships

The barmaid has the tooth of the beast as a necklace, not the first one we've seen today

The man is a goat. of Spain.

What the hell kind of horn/tooth is it?

Its of a goat. Of Spain.

PEANUT SHELL OF THE BEAST!!?
(The beast. oooh?)


Writing a song in a Jazz club because its 1/4 to three

Jazz

Love is like a yes use a
Jumper as a tea bird
The sounds of the temper
At the seduction of Arabian neds
The door is the boy

The by. The by. They to boy
to mists of glam
The glass is strange dust of Toledo
Toledo. Toledo ha
Plimptons es Ingles n Ingles
is the key to I'lie
His half melotone father

He sucks the cola. He taps
He sucks his lips. He thinks
it said that the box of stage
is broke and they have no bands
to play anymore

NO WIPE GLASSES

Whats wrong with you
Was it in a melotone
The scribbles are gay
Everything the
Muchas gracias
Por favor

My eye leaks.. But its OK

I'm a chimpansee named Herreeeek
Lhceeeeeaeee is a part of the game. Christopher Gilmour doesn't understand


He proves me correct. June I have jan

I shall write words forever
Every WORD shall have a different style until the END of time
Time, Tjne. TYME
Time. Time

Christopher has other sleth
My life. And yay

Jaz


----------------------------

Its very much like the last episode of Quantum Leap, in a bar at the end of the world

Its like the ashtray of the goads, filled withe the dust and ass of everyman

And also like the potatoes frittellis


This is paradise

Lofknergh

Poo Christopher Poo
BW Chris POa"


Jax laughs. Too much

(sing)Agua por y denein

Pale sands wait. They wait for no man, And yet,.. they wait like ash

Aid

Potatas fritaz

Jaxy Chris (JazzyChrish Subk) love potato fritaz


-----------------------------

After slinging out time at the Broadway Jazz Club where no bands have played, we were lost and drunk, and the streets were desserted, save for the beast sanpping out our shadows. It was very cold, even for our hardy scottish constitutions, we needed to get home to the hostel so we followed red cars.

From each parked red car, we could espy another, in the distance.

Next morning in Zorbas cafe, being served by Fat Miguel, Jax getting back in touch with that bastard Danny Wallace and wanting to do a flyering campaign.

Did I mention we thought it had been raining, but it turns out they just employ people to stray the streets when no one's looking.

Went inside the big cathedral, its very impressive and then looked at the outside of lots of other churches and buildings. Jax was asking about teh nature of God and how someone just thought of him thousands of years ago and we took his word for it. But well, my take is different, religion and God or any of many gods is just something we have to hang a hat on. Without Jesus Christ and Christianity, we would have found some other reason to build hundreds of giant impressive buildings, these days, its just the god of burocracy that we build monuments to.

Whilst I understand people in love do crazy things, the sheer scale of the buildings and wars constructed on the shoulders of Jesus Christ is breathtaking.

An I rather like El Greco paintings, his slightly wibbly faces and the smeary bits where he said he'd finish it later and never quite got round to it. Rather lucky considering how much El Greco is connected to Toledo, kind of like LS Lowry's connection to Salford.

I think I've missed the point of Don Quixote. I have no idea who he is.

In the internet cafe next door, some pm on Bowlie to Jax, a guy asking for a postcard
William Bendsen
Rubinsteinsvej 34st. tv
2450 KBH SV
Denmark


Who is this man?

--------------------

Bored of Toledo and worried about not being able to get coach tickets to Sevilla, we headed to the train station around four hours before our train was due. All earlier trains were full, so we're in a wee tapas bar opposite the station. Jax is giggling with that bastard Danny Wallace and I wondering which tapas are good.

The gentleman behind the bar looks like the barman from that last episode of Quantum Leap. Rather jolly, small moustache, snacking on the food at odd moments,

As a fellow moustache bearer, we could be chatting away like old friends, but we're happy enough to accept each other's moustachocity in silence.

In the corner by the door, five old men play cards, spanish cards with cups and cards rather than the politically correct spayed and gay British playing card design.

Jax is making me feel bad cos I've never fought a ninja, but that bastard Danny Wallace has done.

I reckon I could fight that bastard Danny Wallace and win

Now in Toledo train station cafe, dozing off. Jax still reading that bastard Danny Wallace, almost finished it now. My dreams are haunted by culture and memories and relationshippiness.

Its dark outside, night time dark, but earlier it was overcast weather dark, strm clouds fast approaching. As if the dark horsemen were catching up on us and the mission to find the devil, was that ever the mission? or am I just here on holiday with an ex-?

Jax is less than a third through her vacation, whilst I'm on my way to my finalish destination Sevilla.

My grey hairs are more visible or noticable than usual. Maybe all this is draining my life-force away?

Its been a good year, balanced I guess. If things had worked out with Lydiapond, I wouldn't be here with Jax now.

Maybe I'd be in London, going to the clubs I read about online, my friends in Glasgow just fading memories, flatmate Nick who I last saw with Jax, we were at the Science and Natural History Museum.

Am I actually going to write this up in novel form, Shag Times but six years on? or will this just rot as any other journey's log book?

And will Jax continue writing for her solo leg of the holiday. At least with this half I can send her the draft account and she can fill in her side.

-----------------------

It had been days since we last played Guess who, Madrid bus station, after a really crap meal we were curled up at the station bar, dos cervases, bakery produce and unpacking Guess Who again.

Jax dropped the cards all over the floor, I ate a chocolate donut and we played again. Guess Who:The next generation, this time its holistic. No questions about physical attributes, only lifestyle questions. "Do you wear comfortable shoes?", "Has it been a while since you saw your kids?", "Ever had a career in American Wrestling"

Somehow I won every game, but this time it was closer, more risky, Jax down to asking which person I was. We could be onto a winner with Holistic Guess Who.

-----

Many hours in stations
A long and painful bus journey, at 4am the land pirate attacked, slaughtering half the passengers and stealing the bus whilst the driver was taking a well earned break in a travel brothel. Jax slept thoughtout the whole ordeal.

I sat in silence, petrified for my life and that of my travelling companion. Slowly I exchanged eye contact with a girl sat nearby, Isobel, a 30 something PhD anthroplogist with lusty mediteranean looks. By working together and me using the words "No hablo espanol" we were able to overpower our captors and at knife point demand the pirate leader to return us to the brothel.

We lay breathlessly panting in each other's arms as the proper driver got back on the coach, zipping his flies, with a full tank of fuel, our ordeal was over.

I returned to my seat as Jax grunted, snuffled and rolled over to use my shoulder as a pillow.

Sevilla at 6am, kind of nice, chocolate and doughnuts for breakfast.

Disaster strikes, the hostel we'd booked had sold our room because we hadn't phoned to reserve/confirm it the day before. The first woman was all nice but had no English, so she ran off to get a second hostellier, she was kind of stern and sexy and told us off and sent us on our way. So we wandered lost. Jax doing her walking aimlessly thing, and me panicking and trying to find where on the map we were.

Jax's dogged and single-minded determination to find a cheaper hostel by wandering randomly.

Finally we found a sitting-downery and she made me phone the 2nd cheapest hostel in Sevilla, helpfully pointing out spanish phrases in the guide book, and laughing as I tried to answer the spanish gentleman's questions about how to spell my name.

Speaking on the phone is the worst thing ever, in real life you can point and use sign language, but on the phone you have nothing, just poorly verbalised words and people who try to help but only hear half the conversation.

We're on the Plaza D San Pablo, I'm cold, wet, tired and I need a poo and a few hours sleep and a shower and my feet ache and Jax has just vanished.

The new hostel was nice, an elderly gentleman addressed us at the door, recognising my voice from the phone, he took our passports and on seeing how knackered we were, let us go and collapse in our room.
Fitful dreams, a broken computer game, my brother.

We wandered off to the bull ring, in the early afternoon to check showtimes and tickets. In all the merchandise the bulls look so happy, maybe sometimes they get to win. We lost our bottle for asking about tickets and wandered off forraging for food.

Nice pizzareria. we were served by Marie-Ella, a rather sweet, peaches-and-cream looking English girl, being spanish. Blonde and tall and kind of out of place. She is sad, I think the other staff bully her.

She has been saving up to buy tickets to go home to Bournemouth and visit her parents for three months, but always the other staff steal her tips and the rent at her pension goes up.

She dreams of a travelling Scotsman, sweeping her off her feet and taking her home. One day, she tells herself, one day, Angus will return.

I had Pizza de Diablo (pizza of the beast) and Jax had a watery lasagne.

So we wandered North and to the East, around the Alcazar and the Plaza Espanol, making up plausible facts about the town. There's no denying it's beauty, its just the weather's a little crap and everywhere seems to be a construction site. They're building a metro system which at one point was supposed to be open in late 2006.

Its very windy, all the palm trees are being blown about and all the orange trees are losing their fruit, actually, there are lots of orange trees all through the shopping zone, its very Moorish I guess. Out to the east the streets are wider.

So, we're in this cafe, drinking beers and Jax is reading The New Scientist, contemplating the meaning of life and are we living in a computer simulation. I guess you can call it what you like, the idea's been around for centuries, as the ying to the yang of "I think therefore I am" its just these days we have the concept of computers rather than all daemons and illusions

I think, therefore I am
If I think not, am I not
I think not, do you think


Had dinner at the Taberna Alberaberder College of Courtesy, one of the finest restaurants in Spain, if not in the world. We dined with former president of France, Franxcois Meterand, and whilst our views of closer European integration differ, he was a fine dining companion.

We were a little out of place there, t-shirt + hoody, holey jeans and Jax's disease ridden trainers, but the impeccable courtesy of the maitre'd and waiters put us at ease

"That is a fine hoody sir, did you grafitti it yourself, it looks very much like the distinctive style of Glaswegian artist Adam J Smith?"

"Ah, senorita, those are well travelled trainers, I see from your footprints across our recently polished hallway that you have visited the metro construction site and the Plaza Espanol"

We ordered the cheapest wine on the menu, but were informed that our companion Francois had been drinking it since 1982, and alas their reserves had run out recently, they offered us the next most expensive alternative, El Calamite 1996, "Ah, a fine choice senor"

They brought us bowls of mushroom soup with a small piece of cheese, the waiter bumbled lighting the candle at our table, instead igniting Francois's hair, and blew it out before the former premier noticed.

I ordered vole snout, Jax with the lobster and trout spawn, both with salad and dried fruit, Francois had soup of virgin semen.

For maineses I had back of rabbit stuffed with asparagus and baby octopus, presented with a bunny's fluffy tail still weeping blood. Jax opted for wild board with mole and timpotorodors cooked rare, still with a pulse. God knows what Francois had, some kind of gay porn burger I guess.

Dessert was choccy brownie for me in the shape of a scale model of Edward Heath's 1981 prize-winning yacht. Jax had something with a little bit of coffee, served in a squinty cocktail glass.

The waiters were all selected from the finest of Spain's secret service.

There was a secret door just behind where Jax was sat and on the way in she was assaulted by a small child from a wedding party who was later hung up and flailed for us, she was presented with his scrotum inlaid with gold leaf as a momento of the meal.

I paid for it with the last of my Shag Times millions.

-----------------

Today we are sat in a small cafe behind Les Corte Ingles, as disaster has struck again, the famous "Rain in Spain". The streets are awash with drowned mopeds and umbrellas bobbing along where once were streets.

The place is filling up with rain shelterers, businessmen, tourists, locals and hookers.

Fun for 5 minutes idea #11
Photos of McDonalds with all the McDonalds stuff edited out, are they still discernable or just look like any old fast food joint.

Fun for 5 minutes idea #12
Photos of scultpures's boobies.
Is it porn? Do they ever sag?

"She pooed the poo of an unhappy bowel"

I was in hell this morning.

In my dreams there was a War of the Worlds alien invasion, those who survived the initial onslaught were soon finished by some kind of gaseous bleach which stripped the skin first then the flesh and bones.

There was another dream a few nights back, there was a kestrel hawk overhead, riling the other birds, swooping down and taking some out.
Someone spotted a small kitten on a roof and we were worried the hawk would go for it. Then a baby, a toddler even, had followed the kitten out of a window onto the roof but stumbled and slowly fell. I was nearest, I leapt forward, to try to catch it, but I didn't make it. I didn't make it.

I was in hell this morning.

Not sure whether the room keys were on the outside or the insid, but aware of loud noises outside. Bangs and slams, children crying and shouting. Doors being kicked up and luggage being dropped. Gun shots rang out.

Freezing cold breathing on the back of my neck.

I was in hell this morning.

In my head, treading the thin line between could, should, can't, won't, shouldn't and want.

The night before we'd wandered trying to find out way back to the hostel for what seemed like hours. I'd ceased to function as a human being, no free will. Merely highlighting possibilities and expressing no preference. "We could go to the hostel or wander for a few more hours", "We could walk down this street or this one,". Each choice carefully balanced to express nothing, so all decisions were Jax's. I had become the anti-Danny Wallace, the Maybe-Man.

Resorting to asking complete strangers for directions, using all languages to hand, urinating goths, robots, dogs, statues and backpackers.

Earlier in the evening we'd set out for a sherry bar, the oldest in Sevilla, where they still chalk up your drinks on the bar in front of you. The first sherry was a little too dry, not the creamy stuff fond mama used to drink, so we switched to gin and tonic.

It was soon after we were accosted by a chap who looked like Cotton Weary from the Scream Trilogy, asking about a mole on his arm, "No hablo Espanol," his friends smiled and dragged him away.

Shortly later he accosted us again to practise his English. His two friends, a tall, stocky chap who spoke excellent English after studying at the University of Canterbury for seven years with my school chum Big Tim. And a girl who bore a striking resemblance to Scarlett Johansson in Ghost World.

Our friend was an artist/pilot who was ambidextrous, but only with his left hand. He once lost his wallet/pocket in the lakes of southern Scotland, if we find it we should send it back. He drank scottish whiskey like us. Jax was talking to the tall chap and I had the creepy Cotton Weary fellow asking where we were going next that evening. To smoke drugs, in Triana, to inject drugs in Alfafafah, or to swallow pills in whatever the third place was.

I stabbed him in the eye with a broken glass and ass raped Scarlett in the toilets.

The tall chap just chuckled and told me what the Spanish for red wine was Vino Tinto.

Out in the street there was a bit of a party atmosphere, some macarachi band playing a song using the solo from La Bamba.

Jax needed to pee, so we chose the least crowded bar, a corridor with a bar at one side. At the back was a crack den, bar set on beer crates, 11 year old barman, and two unmarked doors to the toilets, J went in and I got two beers.

While she was squatting, the landlord found a piece of chalk and wrote Castillos on one door and Senoras (ladies) on the other. Jax walked out, zipping up and was berated by the landlord for using the wrong loos, winking at me.

We made a new friend, he looked like Robbie Coltrane, "No hablo Espanol", "No hablo Ingles". He explained in much detail why all the photoes of matadors on the walls had smaller pictures of Jesus and Maria tucked into them, alas everything was lost to the language barrier.

Some more wanderings followed, this time to a rather stylish bar. A sultry senorita with dark eyes and hair and a lowcut top served, smiling widely and bottom lip all apouting. I was in love.

Jax became insanely jealous and stabbed me in the leg with a blade concealed in her moblie phone.

---------------------

How to end this? Whilst arguing and stabbing in Sevilla would be nice, it didn't end like that.

After we were chucked out of the hostel at gun point, the Hosteleer's son, waving two fingers and groweling dos noches, we staggered to McDonalds. Jax's blood sugar had gone into minus figures and I had to carry her most of the way, and her rucksack, how many Toledo broadswords and cheap Don Quixote figures had she stolen?

Two swift happy meals, soon put us right and we headed to the bus station. Couldn't find any signs to Malaga, so we asked the nice woman, who rather evily just said we'd have to go to the other Bus Station, other side of town, mate.

We got a taxi, the sun suddenly came out, the temperature rocketed past twenty, and we/I was on our/my way home/out.

The other bus station, the main bus station, looked a bit grotty, it was near the Metro Construction site that we'd grown to love. There were pickpockets by the million, and Jax was quickly losing her new hat. Left it in the back of the taxi, dropped it on the floor at the ticket office.

We sat outside a cafe, drinking our final Savillian beers and trying to figure the Espanola for "stamps". The arguments of last night just a fading dream. Time passed, notes were written and we exhanged all the trip gubbins, passports and itineries as required. And got on the bus.

This was the first bit of Spanish countryside I'd actually paid attention to, most of the travelling up to then had been in the dark, or too cloudy, but now, under blazing hot sunshine, it was braw. Such a flat country, and everything an orangey yellow shade, like the Martians had won War of the Worlds. Not sure, but it could have been for my imagination, the same area of Spain where they'd shot Clint's spaggetti westerns, where Bill and Jimi and Bill Butt had shot the White Room movie, hazy and western style.

Mountains appeared over at the horizon and drew nearers, until we were cutting through them 20% sloped motorways, pack mules and donkeys wandering along the hard shoulders, their owners racing ahead on quad bikes. Dried up rivers and orange rock, until in the distance ahead, there was a shimmering.

Actually there were sign posts to Malaga, which the driver ignored and took our coach veering off to the right to the horror of the passengers. It was when we were racing threw some city that I caught my first glimpse of the Mediteranaen, the fabled ocean, the crucible of civilization.

The bus took about an hour and a half longer than we'd thought it would, so I had just enough time to find the train station, get turned away and found the otehr train station that would take me to the airport.

On a crowded platform, I embraced Jax, a little tearfully, stepped onto the train, and vanished.


Originally posted here in December 2006

Wednesday, 27 January 2010

Inevitably scannerporn.com

When the airport body scanners were first announced they said it wasn't porn, I said Rule 34. It was only a matter of time, and now by way of an anonymous comment on my blog:-

www.scannerporn.com

We saw it coming a mile away.

So, kids can't go through the body scanners cos its violates child porn laws, but adults have no choice in the matter. The government have forced us to become nude models.

Sure they can say its not porn if they want, but that's not quite the way porn works, hence the appearance of www.scannerporn.com Now the airport body scanners very definitely are pornographic.

Sure, that website wasn't quite there first, what with lingerie advertising aping the images, but still, its a neat development in the war against porn terror.

More excessive money extraction

BBC has The AA saying 'increased profits from VAT on fuel' should be diverted to fixing pot holes.

I disagree.

Rather than just extracting more money from the denizens of this fair isle perhaps VAT on fuel could be reduced to help out the consumer and instead the money the government collects from the population and then doles out to anti-motoring charities could be diverted to fixing potholes first.

Fakecharities reckons:-

To this I add:-
  • Road Safety Foundation who were mentioned in the BBC report, their website financial statement has them getting £127,126 from the Department of Transport in the guise of the Highways Agency.

Sure, trying to stop people being killed by cars is a noble endevour, but road deaths are at their lowest level ever, so surely now's a fine time to reduce the state funding for such organisations, so they can thrive on voluntary donations from people who's lives they've touched.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Referral spikes

This one time in 1998 when I was a fresher at Strathclyde University, going to King Tuts to see bands a few times a week, I once went on a mission to pull Kenickie. They were on tour, passing through that venue, and we a fine looking bunch of girls. I'd rounded up a couple of fresher chums, we acquired our tickets and headed along.

The gig wasn't the most crowded I'd been to, but the girls were on top form, their acappella version of Come Out 2Nite was a particular highlight of the set. The band had two new members for this, their final tour, some bloke and a hot keyboard player called Dot, who'd later go on to play with Blur.

My attempt at pulling Kenickie got as far as saying "Hey, how's it going?" to Dot. She smiled.

So, thirteen years later when my website charmed former Kenickie lead singer Lauren Laverne on her radio show, it was like completing a ancient quest.

As a result of getting talked up on the 6Music show, the website got a wee blip of traffic.

Lets compare it to other spot traffic blips I've received on several of my blogs:-
Thrilling stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

Friday, 22 January 2010

Big Blue walking left to right

Here's a rip of Lauren Laverne gushing about my website, accompanied by a video of Big Blue walking from left to right

I haven't been this excited about being mentioned on the radio since I Mark Radcliffe read out my emails in 1996 when he reckoned that Transformers were 90's rather than 80's.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

London Indiepop EyeSpy

Rules
1. Points given for Eye-Spying Indiepop people in and around London
2. No points for yourself
3. You don't get points for the same Spyee twice
4. Points are awarded at the first instance
5. Double points for sleeping with, having sex with, or assaulting the Spyee
6. Final score for any 24 hour period

All rules are debatable

Other rules
7. Extra half point if the Spyee is doing their shopping in a supermarket
8. Extra point if they're wearing a hipster stripey top
9. Minus points for considering talking to the Spyee, but not following through
10. No points for spotting bands at their own gig

Bands and Artists
Pocketbooks - 4 points per member
The Loves - 3 points per member/former member
The Bobby McGees - 3 points per member (no points for calling Jimmy Bobby)
MJ Hibbett and the Validators - 3 points per member
Tender Trap - 2 points per member
Moustache of Insanity - 2 points per member
Allo Darlin - 2 points per member
Veronica Falls - 2 points per member
Arthur and Martha - 2 points per member
Electrophonvintage - 2 points per member
White Town - 2 points per member
Darren Hayman - 2 points per member
Comet Gain - 1 point per member

Scenesters
Kitten Painting - 3 points
Bob Underexposed - 3 points
Ill and Ancient - 1 point
John Marshall - 2 points
Nat Davis - 3 points
Camilla - 3 points

Promoters
Trevor OddBox - 2 points
String Bean Jen - 2 points
Ian HDIF - 3 points
TomB - 3 points
The Twee As Fuck ladies - 2 points
Anastacsia So Tough So Cute Baby Honey - 2 points
Rory So Tough So Cute Baby Honey - 1 point
Crystalball - 3 points
El Presidente - 1 point
Team Come Out 2Nite - 2 points per member

DJs
Rocker Rosehip - 3 points
Steve Lemaqc - 4 points

Anyone I've missed or incorrectly allocated points, let me know in the comments.

The dramatic return of Glasgow Indie EyeSpy

Years ago I used to run a website called Glasgow Indie EyeSpy. It's premise was that you got points for spotting folk from Glasgow indie bands in Glasgow, in the street or at gigs.

The reason I mention this now is because on this morning's Lauren Laverne Show on 6Music, as part of their Indie Travel Guide slot, a gentleman called Tony Kienan mentioned the site and I got a wee blip of unexpected traffic.

Aye, about 55 minutes in here.

Whilst I did have doubts that it would become a stalker's charter, it was broadly well received, and received a tonne of traffic for bands searching for themselves.

I had a party once at my flat in Glasgow's leafy south side, and found myself chatting to the King of Partick and Robbie from IoMoPS about who'd you include in a Glasgow music scene Top Trumps and what the scoring would be. A few weeks later it had evolved into EyeSpy and include mostly folk you always see at gigs rather than a list of bands.

Whilst it was a great idea for a website, it was never going to be mega-popular, its constituency of visitors was too small. Sure you could repeat the exercise for other cities, but that would be a whole lot of work and it doesn't scale well.

Glasgow is a city of a specific size, all distances are walkable within reason. Decent venues are close enough together so you can cover lots of ground in one night. Not like London, where once you're in Brixton or Shoreditch, or Kilburn, you're there for the night. In Glasgow the indie band people are ubiquitous, from Stephen Pastel selling records in Mono, uncle Brendan from Teenage Fanclub lounging in the 13th Note to seeing Camera Obscura playing records at The Flying Duck, in one afternoon.

Although I once saw Penelope Keith near the Serpentine and Andrea Spinks in Brick Lane in the same day, its hardly the same thing. It wouldn't work.

In Glasgow you can pencil in twenty minutes to get home after any gig anywhere in the city, for London its more like an hour, or two hours if you go by bus.

Maybe Manchester's the right size for this sort of thing, I dunno, its been fifteen years since I indulged that music scene.

If I were to pick up the batton once more, I'd use Songkick and Last.fm data, rather than the old google, myspace and technorati algorithm.

Hmm, maybe "London Indiepop EyeSpy" would work...

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Faulty CaterCheck 3 Thermometers

I did resolve as a New Years Resolution to "crush my enemies mercilessly", and now at last I have found an enemy, namely the CaterCheck 3 thermometer from Comark.

I feel a little bad writing this blog post, the designers and engineers don't deserve this. Maybe they work incredibly hard for very little pay, designing the waterproof enclosure, the circuitboard, the display layout, spending weeks testing it, before a manufacturer elsewhere assembles hundreds, or thousands on a production line, minimum wage or lower workers spenind days hunched over their workstations, soldering and screwing them together. Or maybe its all automated, barely improved since version 2, the designers and engineer's role having evolved into the innate Dilbert-like cubicle existance, surfing the internet aimlessly for hours avoiding the being caught by the boss's, collecting their adequate paycheck every month, not quite appreciating how lucky they are.

I'm going to assume that this blog entry is going to figure quite highly in the google results when you try searching for "CaterCheck 3" and although I'm procrastinating, this is about how failure-prone they are. If it makes you feel any better, this blogpost may also serve as a googlewhack tripwire, someone in the management chain here, investigating faulty units will find my blog, read my previous moany blog entries and after very little investigation and ruminating, I get dismissed from my job.

These thermometer probes are used in the catering and food production industry, at my factory we have a dozen or so of them, they're probably very popular. And they knacker.

We start off with loads of them, working fine and a few weeks later only two work properly and those are the one's I use every day.

The screen is blank, it doesn't switch on. Or the display fills with characters then goes blank once more.

On closer inspection, there's condensation on the inside of the screen. Blotting the battery compartment shows that its moist in there too.T

Maybe my colleagues have been misusing them. Dropping them in waterbaths, or leaving them on radiators. It is quite a moist and humid environment in here, its kind of understandable.

But very frustrating.

Drying out the stack of faulty CaterCheck 3 units doesn't work. Opening up the battery compartment and using blotting paper then replacing the batteries, that doesn't work either.

I've tried unscrewing all the screws I can find but that doesn't open up the casing, so there's no drying out of the moisture in there.

The one month failure rate here is about 80% and sure there's probably warrantees and a service plan that gets them fixed, but its still incredibly frustrating.

That feeling of helplessness, that these thermometers, so vital for our paperwork and statutary obligations, that they fail so quickly and are impossible to fix with a screwdriver and absorbant tissue.

Maybe there's a better model that is more resiliant? I dunno, its not my call to spec out and order these things. I just have to use them. I just have to wade through and ever-growing pile of faulty units to find the one that works, to do my job.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

World Saving Product Idea #58

Is there a market niche for a cheap(ish) and scalable software MRPII system? Kind of like Sage 50 but more geared towards manufacturing companies.

Out of the box it'll have all the tables and columns you'll ever need, all the forms and reports and queries and graphs. And with a standard right-click you can hide anything that doesn't seem relevant. And an easy way to add new fields, that get's reported back to the folk who've written it so we know what features get used the most and which are used least and what new features the users would like to have.

So, you can use it for your home kitchen, for recipes and what's in the pantry, and then it's good for small hi-fi manufacturing companies and nationwide chains of cafes.

Can we do it in Ruby? And make it so it runs on Firefox, Explorer, Safari and Chrome and if you so desire it'll look just like Sage and Access too.

Can it have the same sort of revision thing as Ubuntu, so it just works and then a year later it works even better with more features and more users. Each release could have a funny name so that geeks and non-geeks will learn to love it.

Can I get a grant from the BCC and some code-monkey's who'll just make it happen under my benevolent dictation. How about a pricing structure where its free, up until you've got 20,000 entries then it's £50, and then £500 after 100,000 entries.

Will Dr. Peter Ball be proud of me?

The database fetish

I can't help myself. Every day, at about this time, when its quiet and I'm frustrated by having to copy out the same list of details as I did the day before and the day before that, I can't stop myself from loading up MS Access.

All the company computers have it installed as standard, and no one uses it. I know, I know, it isn't the best database in the world, but its ubiquitous.

Rather than try to explain the need for a database, how it would make my colleague's and my job so much easier, rather than be dissuaded and redirected to someone else to try explaining again and it all falling on deaf ears, I load up Access, click on New - Blank Database and I start creating it.

One table at a time, one purpose at a time. Sometime suppliers, sometimes products, sometimes specs, sometimes delivery times.

The information is all out there elsewhere, sometimes in Sage, sometimes in Word or Excel, or handwritten forms in folders on a shelf, all in a miriad of locations and format. But I know if I put it in my database myself then its right, the fields have the correct names, the crosslinks are sturdy, and its all sortable and searchable. Its all at my fingertips cos I put it there.

It takes me two minutes to set up the table, and then plugging the information in starts slowly, either by hand or importing, and debugging. By the time I look at the clock, twenty minutes have passed, the table is half complete.

Then I tremble in the knowledge of what will happen if my manager finds out what I've done.

I close Access, click through to the location where the database was saved, I press delete, and pause a moment before clicking the Yes button.

This job could be easier, more satisfying, less frustrating, simpler, more accurate and foolproof.

I click and ceases to exist.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Suicide, work and suggestions

When I was a schoolie I knew a girl, a teenage girl who's self esteem was so low, she once regaled to me a story about how she was going to slash her wrists in the bath one day cos she dreaded getting in trouble the next morning for some homework she hadn't done. So cheap she felt was her life.

My job is quite frustrating. I'm never quite sure if I'm going to get in trouble for decisions I make. At any moment, something I did yesterday or last week could blow up. Some minor discrepencies slip by as the older guys know they always have done, and some minor thing becomes huge.

I've no confidence in my duties or the bits of paperwork I fill in. One manager will tell me how to do one thing, their manager says to do it another way, the assistant manager confides with me third way, and another manager tells me something different.

Like that girl many years ago. I'm ready to jack it all in the next time there's trouble.

Just quitting my job mind, not killing myself.

I really want to work for Richer Sounds and Audio Partnership. They're nearby, they do hi-fi which was my career until I was sucked into redundancy and sandwich manufacture. And they have a well respected employee suggestion scheme, one of the best in the country. On average, according to the internet, each employee makes twenty suggestions a year, and every suggestion is read by Julian Richer himself.

Me, I thrive on making suggestions and improvements for how to do my job. But these have been swatted down and knocked back repeatedly with my current employer.

The mentality in my department is that the job's not supposed to be easy so let's make it as difficult as possible.

I have a degree and an IQ of 140, and about 60% of my job is writing out in long hand exactly the same list of items that a) I wrote out the day before and b) the guy across from me has on a Purchase Order printout.

So yes, I'm applying for jobs elsewhere. Any suggestions, leave them in the comments, and offers, email me.

World-saving product idea #57

In amongst the climategate, Patchygate and glaciergate contoversies which have stripped Climate Change of all it's data integrity, there has occasionally been reference to these two facts:-
A) weather is not climate
B) airport weather stations aren't ideal for measuring climate

So my idea for a thing that could save the world is a little internet aware climate monitoring station. Just a wee box with flashing lights that you can buy for your cousin or your gran for their birthday. Its got a thermometer, a GPS tracker, GPRS, humidity thing, sunlight sensor and whatever else you want or need to track the climate.

Its all hooked up to a website which tracks climate change, so that from this point onwards, regardless of the past, you'll have crowd-sourced data you can depend on. The website will have a big map on it so you can zoom in to see where the climate change boxes are located, where there's loads of them, where there's none. Geo-caching folk could send them out to sparser regions, schools could could sponsor units in developing countries or on cargoships

From the website you could see if neighbouring ones have vastly different readings and in real-time you could wander over and find out why.

The information would all be there, at your fingertips. No doubt about data processing biases or loast data from years ago.

£20 and it could be yours.

Dear Lazyweb, make it so.

What? £80,000?

Other bloggers have been tearing this blogpost to shreds. Its essentially a business plan for how to do a collectivist Left-wing Local blog.

What sticks out for me most of all is this paragraph on costs:-
My initial workings suggest that a local blog covering a population of 30-40,000 people might be able to survive on turnover of around £80,000 per year inclusive of a living wage for two staff and operational costs, but exclusive of delivery costs (see below) which will need to remain volunteer based in the short term.
Its frankly insane.

Blogging platforms are pretty much free. Blogger, wordpress, Livejournal, even Facebook groups/notes. Sure, you can spend money on a TypePad blog and hosting on your own server somewhere, but its not really necessary, its a vanity thing like getting 7 inches pressed.

And whilst a living wage for blogging alone would be nice, it does suggest that you'll be employing people who don't really want to write blogposts.

Me, I work for little over minimum wage, in London, making sandwiches. The blogging I do for free, because I want to.

The author of the post does go on to cover where the money comes from. Not specifically from the website itself, but
...in the longer term these costs should as far as possible be covered by worker organisations like trade unions (and thereafter a Labour party more open to wider left engagement), the reality is that funds may need to be raised from charitable/employment creation sources (see, for example, this kind of opportunity coming along in Wales), and from very local advertising.
Lets turn this into a bullet-pointed list:-
  • Local blog
  • Trade Union blog
  • Labour party blog
  • Charity blog
  • Employment creation sources (no idea what this means)
  • Local advertising
Such a list makes me squint at the screen in confusion and despair. Why would anyone want to read such a thing. Why would a trade union paying for such a thing be in the interests of its members, or a charity for that matter? And just what are employment creation sources?

I like knitting, its a fun diversion, I'm not very good at it, but the end results are pretty neat. I'm currently working on a scarf, its taking me ages. About six weeks so far, not every day mind, but a few hours here and there. One day it'll be finished and I can give it to a loved one as a gift. Someone suggested I could sell it, I could have some kind of knitting business.

This is insane. It takes about fifty hours for me to knit a scarf. At minimum wage that would be about £300. Three hundred quid for a scarf of slightly lower quality that TK Maxx.

There's no way anyone would ever buy from my scarf knitting business, it would never be able to pay its worker.

Likewise, a blog that costs £80,000 would never work.

Okay, maybe it would, such things have happened in the past, sometimes overnight. Very rarely, but sometimes.

But if that's your businessplan, its insane.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Pay cuts, pay rises

Here's a question for you. A personal, moral question.

Without reference to your colleagues or managers, would you accept a pay cut in return for the lowest paid staff at your company getting a pay rise?

Answer in comments below, cheers.

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

Body Scanner Porn the legend continues

I read on The Register:-
The proliferation of airport body scanners will spark a flurry of low-grade porn, internet conspiracy theorists claimed last week.

But officials at Manchester Airport, where full body scanning is already due to be tested, have been quick to dismiss this as urban myth. Who to ignore?

A number of websites have suggested it is a simple enough matter to transform the slightly abstract, solarised images currently taken by airport scanners and turn them into slightly fuzzed smut.
"internet conspiracy theorists claimed last week"? I was going on about it last October
...asserting that the images are not erotic or pornographic. Clearly she is unaware of Rule 34,
Rule 34 - If it exists, there is porn of it.
We're just hours away from something appearing on ffffound
Besides, Boing Boing reckons that the Technical Specs do allow for storing and sending the images.

Monday, 11 January 2010

365 Days - Week 1 update

So, a week has passed since I started doing the 365Days flickr meme thing where I take a self-portrait photie every day for 365 days

These are the top three most viewed pics for the first week:-

365 Days - Day 4
22 views

365 Days - Day 3
14 views

365 Days - Day 2
10 views
And the least viewed pic

365 Days - Day 5
1 view
The full set is here

Back to the Academies International scam

Its been about six months since I blogged about Academies International, they were an organisation who nabbed my CV off Reed.co.uk and phoned up offering a guaranteed job if I went for one of their training schemes. I went along and merrily signed up to a £9,000 loan taken out on my behalf.

Anyhoo, that blog entry has consistently been really popular, with literally hundreds of folk searching on google for it.

There's a whole handful of websites attached to Academies International now including The Financial Training Academy, The Financial Recruitment Academy, The Business Development Academy, The Vocational Training Academy, The Technology Recruitment Academy, The Technology Training Academy and The Application Development Academy. The sites all look very similar and there's a load of overlap in the people they have leaving testimonials about how neat the company is.

I've been wondering how much these testimonial folk exist in real life, are they on Facebook or google? These are their names:-
  • Carley Watson
  • Kuldeep Wassel
  • Jamal Khan
  • Steven Clark
  • Scot Williams
  • Kazi Jubaer
  • John Wright
  • Kantilal Tywol
  • Rabab Halabi
  • Wayne Li
  • Abdullah Jama
  • Cara Richardson
  • Xu Li
  • Pete Banks
  • Matthew Sulivan
  • Fiona Brown
  • Sharifa Marshall
  • Jennifer Matthews
  • Riddhima Moothoo
  • Matthew McCarthy
  • Jakub Jez
  • Neil Turnnidge
  • Henry Costa
  • Martin Pluck
  • Mitchell Hayes
  • Joseph Davies
  • Sairan Mosadegh
  • Ahad Miah
That blog post last summer has garnered 22 comments so far, a record for this blog. Folk sharing their stories, mostly the same deal of phonecall referring to details on an old CV and then offering a guaranteed job.
Its true about what they are saying about the Business development acandamy, or the financial acadamy, or what ever they want to call it. i attended the course for 10 weeks, and i spent more then 8 000 pounds, for a promise i that was lie from the begining. i couldnt belive i fell for such a scam. i am trying my best to get my money back if that is possible. i would want an advice from any one who also a victiem to this crim, if there is any one who has a way to help me to get my money back. i am a 22 year old man who has quite his job, to get a better oppotrunity in the IT field, and now i am flat broke, with no money for food travel or bills. and am struglling to cope with the stress on my mind, if there is any one out there who can help me to do something about it.. i am very upset and i dont have any words to describe how am feeling.
Some people left advice in their comments, this from iyah:-
I contacted the Guardian, and they said I should report it to Consumer Direct on 08454 04 05 06. They will log it and if there are others then this may get picked up by the most relevant Trading Standards Office, but that was the only advice they could give me.

Maybe if we all report them, it will be picked up?
I contacted the Guardian too, but it was a futile gesture.

Rather interestingly former employees of Academies International also left comments:-
i was also a manager until i realised what they got up to there

they are sexist bullies who think employing young women will somehow get men especially to buy

yes it is a load of crap

there are no jobs

and now they are going downhill trust me!! ppl have them sussed now

Sunday, 10 January 2010

New Year's Resolutions status update

So, after a week, how have I been getting on with my New Year's resolutions:-
  • Play a gig in London
    Haven't even touched my guitar this year, but I did promise my girlfriend I'd write a song about her.
  • Find a job
    Updated my CV once and had a look at reed.co.uk
  • Build my own audio pre amp
    Had a look on Maplin and RS com for that preamp kit they used to sell.
  • 100+ pageviews a day here
    Did it for a few days, but it's kind of tailed off now. Having said that, average views has gone up from 70-ish last month to 85 this year.
  • Reduce my debts by more than 50%
    Jesus wept, the other day my gas got connected again, and I ended up spending £8 on one day's worth of heating. £8, that's like two hours work for me. So I'm going to have to wear my warm clothes in the house more and turn the heating off.
  • Mercilessly crush my enemies
    I did a bit of a project plan for this, but have failed to identify any realistic external enemies.
  • Run 10K in less that 25 minutes
    Its a bit cold out, but I did see my running shoes in my wardrobe the other day.

Saturday, 9 January 2010

Links and stuff

A wee roundup of my favourite blogposts this morning

List of internety bloggy things to do

  1. Write a deep and personal blog post that begins with the phrase "I'm a troubled soul..." And then goes on to cover my recent lack of going to gigs, the triumphant return of The Yummy Fur, that Mars Hotel gig in 2002 and my job's horrendous working hours and conditions.
  2. Some kind of website where you pay me £10 and I send you something cool in the post every week for X weeks.
  3. Some kind of website like FreeCycle but for services rather than goods.
  4. Blogpost with the top three of my 365 Days photos.
  5. Another blogpost about that Academies International Scam where I write about the people the have giving testimonials.
  6. Start doing those blogposts where its a list of links and include that Dick Puddlecote one about alcohol, with the Tim Worstall quote.
  7. Scan in and post the Mr ToiletRoll sex photos from 1999.
  8. Long blogpost about manufacturing and databases and availability of information, basically ranting about things that annoy me at work and how Linn Products really know how to have a great MRPII system and its given me an unrealistic view of the world.
  9. Come up with an idea for what a website called Indie Central Tonight would actually be about.

Wednesday, 6 January 2010

This 'pensioners burning books' story

God, its everywhere, in all the newspapers, in all the blogs, everywhere. In the Guardian, The Metro, The Seattle Post, EU Referendum, the list is endless.
Volunteers have reported that ‘a large number’ of elderly customers are snapping up hardbacks as cheap fuel for their fires and stoves.

Some PR/marketing company have done a great job, and some sites are smelling a rat, The Civil Society quotes the Association of Charity Shops as having heard no evidence of this new trend, and has firmly declaring that there is “no truth in it”.

I reckon it was a bit weird the were no charity shops named and the folk in them also nameless.
Workers at one charity shop in Swansea, in south Wales, described how the most vulnerable shoppers were seeking out thick books such as encyclopaedias for a few pence because they were cheaper than coal.

One assistant said: ‘Book burning seems terribly wrong but we have to get rid of unsold stock for pennies and some of the pensioners say the books make ideal slow-burning fuel for fires and stoves.

A lot of them buy up large hardback volumes so they can stick them in the fire to last all night.’
Which leaves only Jonathan Stearn from Consumer Focus and Ruth Davison from the National Housing Federation as the shameless publicity seekers.
Jonathan Stearn, energy expert for Consumer Focus, said: ‘If pensioners are taking such desperate measures to heat their homes it is shocking. With low wholesale prices and increasing profit margins, there is clearly room for energy companies to make price cuts immediately.’

Ruth Davison, of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘The spiralling cost of energy means heating homes has become a luxury rather than a necessity for many people – particularly the elderly, low paid and unemployed.’
Both of them? or was one just a witness dupe, tricked into providing a quote for a groundless news story. Kind of like that bit in Brass Eye where Labour MP Syd Rapson said that paedophiles were using "an area of Internet the size of Ireland".

I reckon Ruth is the dupe and Jonathan Stearn is the Chris Morris with a message to put out, demanding energy companies make price cuts right now.

Maybe the companies could, but according to the internet here, the wholesale cost of fuel makes up 50% of yer power bills, so a 10% drop in the wholesale price, would be a 5% drop in your fuel bill. Actually, there's this neat document here from early December detailing how profitable energy companies are.

I dunno where Stearn gets his info from but the NERA report says
Even though wholesale energy prices have fallen recently, gas and electricity suppliers are earning very little margin on their sales to domestic customers, according to analysis by NERA Economic Consulting (NERA). The analysis takes the energy regulator’s own research, and builds on it using data extracted from public sources or supplied by the energy companies.

The energy regulator, Ofgem, has previously estimated a “gross” margin between the domestic customer bill and some of the costs of a notional energy supply business. At the request of Energy UK, NERA has updated Ofgem’s method to current conditions and has extended it to include a more complete set of costs.

Based on current tariffs, Ofgem’s method would show an annual gross margin of £204 per dual fuel customer. NERA’s analysis shows that additional costs reported in public sources (including Ofgem itself) absorb £133 of this gross margin. Accounting for more realistic customer characteristics (e.g. average consumption and tariff discounts given to customers who shop around) absorbs another £39. NERA also estimates that the cost of specialised energy trading, needed to match energy purchases to customers’ demand, costs another £34 for a dual fuel customer. As a result, suppliers are not quite breaking even on dual fuel customers. (The annual overall margin is actually minus £1 per customer.) For customers who take electricity and gas from different suppliers, NERA finds that suppliers make on average a small positive overall margin – £9 and £10 per customer per year, respectively.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

Excess Winter Deaths - then and now

Elsewhere on the internet Mark Wadsworth ponders checking old news stories for predictions about climate change.

Intrigued, I went back to the BBC in 2000 and found this promising fewer winter deaths, so I nipped over to the Office of National Statistics and rung up the Excess winter mortality stats. These are defined as:-
the difference between the number of deaths during the four winter months (December to March) and the average number of deaths during the preceding autumn (August to November) and the following summer (April to July)
So there's been a sweeping decline since the 1950's

So aye, there's a bit of decline, and the cold snap killer winters are taking fewer lives each year. I reckon that's technology and legislation rather than the winters getting less severe, central heating and winter fuel allowance, that sort of thing.

But in the context of the BBC story, we can have fun with statistics. If you take just the data for the 1990's, the trend seems to be increasing deaths.

And for the 2000's, even we only look at the last decade, whilst the numbers are a thousands below the 1990's the trend is also an increase.

Anyhoo, more snow is forecast for the next few days here in 2010. The stat to look out for in news stories, in a couple of months time, after the powers that be have done the paperwork, is that this winter 2009/10 will buck the trend having highest level of winter deaths since 1975/76 (58,100 deaths) or possibly 1969/70 (67,790 deaths).

Monday, 4 January 2010

365 days - Day 1

Inspired by Lauren over on Walk You Home, I have decided to do that flickr 365 days thing, you know, the one where you post a self portraity photo every day for a 365 days.

This is Day 1's photo

365 Days - Day 1

The lighty bit reflected in my eye is the mirror in my attractive young ladyfriend's flat.

Sunday, 3 January 2010

New years resolutions

For 2010 I hereby resolve to:-
  • Play a gig in London in front of people who've paid to come in
  • Find a new job with better hours that's a bit more career-orientated rather than just rent-paying
  • Build my own audio pre amp
  • Draw more traffic to this blog (+100 pageviews a day)
  • Reduce my debts by more than 50% (£3,500)
  • Mercilessly crush my enemies
  • Run 10K in less that 25 minutes
They're not particularly ambitious resolutions, and a little project planning will see them through. I'll to keep you informed with monthly updates.