Thought for the day: "Solutions are not the answer" - Richard Nixon

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

 

Hurray for Mr. Churchill

Further to my bad debating poetry of a few weeks back, and despite popular demand, here is some more. This is from a balloon debate, where one has to defend someone or something from being thrown out of a balloon that is rapdily descending to the ground. My chosen topic was Winston Churchill, and I survived the fray only marginally longer than socialism (losing to Scotland, Potato Lakka, and Furry Kittens). Alas, or perhaps thank God, therefore most of this was never heard...

Preamble

Apologies everyone, for I’m afraid it’s that time,
Where I try to confound you, by speaking in rhyme,
Thought you may be quite tempted, to sling me out now,
My terribly bad poetry, I beg you to allow

The preliminary defence

It’s yours to throw out, whomsoever you will
But listen to my pleas, for I’m Winston Churchill
I may not be pretty, I’m advanced in my years
But still, I can offer, blood toil sweat and tears

Roses are Red...

Roses are Red,
Violets are Blue,
Keep me in and I’ll owe
So much to you few

When a couple have already been thrown out

The crowd in this balloon appears to be thinning,
Not the beginning of the end, but the end of the beginning,
And remember I made, many more famous speeches
I fought them on the hills, in the streets and on the beaches

A limerick

There once was a nasty dictator
A freedom, and democracy hater
He tried to invade;
But his end I soon made
So please don’t throw me out until later

Defence to objections

Now you may want me out, cos you don’t like my tricks:
Always changing party, not to mention my politics,
But I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again:
A man not a Liberal at twenty may have no heart; but a man not a Tory at 40 has no brain

The crap one to keep in case needed

I've lived for my country I've fought on the front,
Of this countries turbulation, I've taken the brunt,
And don't hold against me, my whisky driven pallour,
Remembered I said 'be ye men of valour'

The Grand Finale

W is for war: the one that I won
Driving away the dastardly hun

I is for Iron: I saw it descend
Cross all Eastern Europe did the curtain extend

N is for Never: before in the field,
Of human conflict, has such greatness been revealed

S is for stupid those who didn't hear
When the Munich agreement, I told them to fear

T is for trollied: which I cannot deny.
But it’s no bar to greatness to drink the world dry

O is for outrage that anyone tried
To suggest it be me, that we throw over t'side

and

N is for now: the end’s where we’re at
Please don’t throw me out, for I’d hate to go ‘splat’

Tuesday, November 23, 2004

 

The Meaning of Life

Hmm, as ever I have been indefensibly slack at posting here, my only excuse being that I had better things to...oh no, hold on; that's cobblers. Actually I had nothing better to do and have no excuse, but hey, here I am now. The topic of the evening's symposium is 'The Meaning of Life', since I have just returned from a speaking competition on that very topic. As I spent an embarrassing amount of time composing my entry, I may as well get two for the price of one, and post it here too..

The question, Mr. Speaker, of the meaning of life,
Has, over the years, been the cause of much strife.
And to die without knowing would seem to me tragic,
Not to mention a bunch of similar adjec.
Tives.

And so Mr. Speaker, in the course of this speech
The meaning of life, I’ll endeavour to reach
I’ll consider a spectrum of different views,
And see if we can’t come up with good news

For some the answer lies with a supreme being,
All powerful, all loving, all singing all dancing and all seeing.
Put your faith in the Lord, and all will be well,
Or if you’d rather not, then off with you to hell

Still many prefer not to choose God above,
Some would say that the meaning of life is, well, Love
To find someone, settle down, and generally be mushy,
If only in practice, it were ever so cushy

If not Love, perhaps pleasure: lust, food and money,
Acquire all of those, and life would be sunny,
And yet if we just eat, spend and shag our way through it
Can we honestly say of life, that that’s all there is to it?

Well that’s three, and so far, it is patently clear,
We not finding a great deal of consensus here
I’ll proceed with the viewpoints, but I must confess doubt,
As to whether it’s likely that we’ll figure it out

So if not God, love or pleasure, then how about knowledge?
Get yourself educated, spend ten years at college,
Learn all there is to know; be a card carrying boffin,
Though you probably won’t be done, by the time you’re in your coffin

Another idea is that life’s about Charity
Work for our fellow man, that they might achieve parity,
But for those who do that, and nothing beside,
It’s much harder toil, that most of us could abide,

And then there's celebrity: popularity and fame,
Stand out from the crowd; be a recognised name.
Be in all the papers, have your scandals laid bare;
Hmm. On second thoughts, maybe, we don't want to go there

Perhaps the answer may be a judicious combination,
All meanings are good, if taken in moderation
But how much of which, what meaning to place first,
What one might think the best, could to others be the worst

And then Mr. Speaker, there are those people who,
Think the meaning of life is good ol’ forty-two
To this whole long debate, those guys probably wish
We could kiss goodbye, and say; "so long, and thanks for all the fish".

And so far, we’ve assumed that there’s an answer to find,
That there *must* be a meaning to all of life’s grind,
And so, for any nihilists listening to this mess,
I should acknowledge the possibility, that it may be meaningless

It might seem Mr. Speaker that no end is in sight
The question, and this speech, could go on all night
But step back a moment, for it may be the case
That asking it at all, is one giant wild goose chase

Does it matter one bit, if our views aren’t the same?
Can’t we use different rules, when we’re playing life’s game?
In fact Mr. Speaker can we all not agree?
That the meaning of life is whatever you wish it to be

Sunday, November 07, 2004

 

The Week

Well it has indeed been a bit of a week: civilisation is going to hell in a handcart (again), lazyliberal the slightly elder submitted his PhD (huzzah), and various friends seemed to take various steps towards sorting out their entangled or unexistent love lives (hallelujah!). At the same time I taught my first class and yet strangely lived to tell the tale, not to mention dealing with other matters that I shall not mention here in order, as it my wont, to attempt to portray myself as having a vague air of mystery...

None of that is the subject of this evening's symposium however, not least because this evening's symposium has no subject aside from 'things to do when it's 2am and you aren't quite up for sleeping’. It has to be said that of the many thoughts I have had in my life, those that have taken place at 2am have historically been the worst. It was at this kind of time that at various junctures I decided to try vegetarianism, embrace God, develop a backbone, and take up exercise. Happily under the cold light of day most such silly tendencies melted, although I did once stretch so far on one of then as to deny myself Cornish pasties for a month (handy hint: this wasn't due to embracing one of the more obscure sects of fundamentalist Christianity). Anyhow you can't be too careful, hence this effort to type for many minutes without actually engaging my brain. Pretty successful so far methinks.

But I suppose I shouldn't head orf to bed without at least a token stab at something substantive. Second thoughts screw that; let's just do a quick search of Yahoo news and find the silliest story possible for me to make some cheap gags about. Chinese officials are apparently working to improve the state of the cities public conveniences before the 2008 Olympics by hosting the fourth world toilet summit, with workshops on such topics as "Toilet Management and Hygiene", "Energy-Saving Measures" and, my personal favourite, "The Humanised Toilet". The delegates, from more than 15 countries, will also have a chance to do a little field research, with a full afternoon's tour of the city's toilets and related facilities. Well there really isn't much I can add to that is there?

Thursday, November 04, 2004

 

Goodbye civilisation, it's been nice knowing you

BUUUUGGGGGGGGGER!

Ahem, now I've got that out of my system. Needless to say Tuesday nights result did not meet with great approbation on my part. Although I had become resigned to it in the preceding weeks by the night itself I actually believed that Kerry had a good chance, at least of winning the vote of the people if not of the Supreme Court afterwards...However it was not to be, with the end result that the world is even more shafted than ever. I am sure that I will return to this topic in some detail in the future...

Aside from the goings on across the pond it's been a fairly good if busy week. Went on a school trip to Parliament on Wednesday; after far far too little sleep the election night before. Had a good trip: tour round the Lords in the morning then, stopped by Lincoln's Inn in the afternoon to see how the other half lives (the answer apparently is 'quite nicely thank you'. Tomorrow I have my first solo class at school - teaching Year 7's about the joys of Buddhism, a subject which I know very little about, and which my pupils will know even less about by this time tomorrow...

I was observing an interesting lesson today though: year 8s were writing their 'life plans', laying out both the past and the expected future. You'll get an idea of some of the sort of school I'm at when I'll tell you that two pupils in particular caught me eye: the first wrote "Age 12: got my fourth pony" - the second "mid 20s: work my way up the property ladder". Hmmmmmmmm.

Monday, November 01, 2004

 

Congratulations Mr. President Re-Elect

I read today that a Sri-Lankan businessman has already taken out a full page advert congratulating President Bush on his re-election. Some might say this is a little premature, although others of us might simply raise our eyes heavenwards and mutter 'well I'm sure Jeb's done that already anyway'.

In theory electoral wonks, a crowd of which I am happy to be a fully paid up member, still have a good 24 hours in which to happily bang on about the swing states, the Nader question, and whether Maryland will excercise it's prerogative of one of only two states able to split it's electoral votes. Despite all this statistical obessionary though, and despite the apparent closeness of the race, it's hard not to feel that it can only really go one way: that whatever the actual vote there will be some kind of electoral shenanigans or Supreme court stitch up to mean another four years of Bush. At least then he can't run for another term, and I like to think American isn't quite crazy enough to change that rule, but then of course we may come back to the small matter of his younger brother...

Sunday, October 31, 2004

 

Give me an L...

This weekend saw the joy, excitement and general lib demmery that is LDYS conference. It was my first conference in two and a half years but it only took a couple of familiar friendly faces and one person asking 'so what do the Standing Orders say about...?' before I felt right back in the thick of things. Amongst the several highlights of the weekend was Saturday night's karaoke - believe me when I say that it was nothing if not highly skilled; and it was not highly skilled. No seriously folks it was in fact highly comedic, and occasionally this was even intentional. My personal top five though would have to be:

5. Being called a bloody idiot in my first ever bash at chairing a session of conference.

4. Spending most of Friday night conducting seven different counts by STV in order to produce an ordered list of eight policy motions. Hey we all gotta have hobbies...

3. Narrowly managing to break up an imminent bout of fisticuffs during a fringe on re-nationalising the railways.

2. Apparently I withdraw procedural motions in a manner reminiscent of Conrad Rusell. Pretty much the nicest thing anyone has ever said about one of my speeches...

1. The fire alarm went off the middle of a debate. I rapidly trundled down five sets of stairs only to discover that I had left my wallet but remembered my copy of the constitution. Oh it sums up so much.

Wednesday, October 27, 2004

 

This is the week that is

The coming week sees not one but two momentous political events that will no doubt shake the world to its very core. The first is the autumn conference of the Liberal Democrat Youth and Students which is happily being held in the very town in which I am currently deployed, affording an opportunity to meet old friends, drink small sherries and do Lib Demmery, and yet not sleep on the floor of an ice-cold gym. The second event is of course Sunday's Ukrainian Presidential elections, in which as we all know Viktor Yushchenko is challeging the sitting President Viktor Yanukovych, an event horrific in the certainly that whoever wins, some imaginative columnist somewhere will use the headline 'Viktor the victor!'.

Oh, I also gather one of the colonies is electing a new leader on Tuesday.

Sunday, October 17, 2004

 

Since last we spake...

Haven't written for a while for the extremely insufficient reason that I've been vaguely busy: school, university, lib demmery, finger slicery etc. etc. Of course because I've been up to so much since last I wrote I don't have enough time to cover it all, so a short summary:

1) Am on my first school placement, going pretty well, apart from my general dopiness-induced tendency to forget stuff. Pupils seem pretty good, and keen to assist me in my chosen field with helpful tips ("If you want to be a teacher Sir, be nice and be funny"). Also had a really good morning in another school with some fellow student teachers - we were teaching sixth formers about the House of Commons and had a full panto style theatre thing going (shame! resign! hear hear! etc.): when asked what they had learned that morning the consensus was 'politics isn't boring'. I didn't have the heart to tell them :-)

2) Been elected co-chair of the student staff committee for my course through the usual democratic processes (two of us said we wouldn't mind doing it, we went through a very British 'after you, no after you, no I insist' routine, and then we agreed to share it). Am also on the course steering committee: the things I find to do in my copious spare time...

3) Went to a meeting of the Bristol University Japan Society and had an even more freaky encounter than usual with the phenomenon of small worlds: the two Japanese I talked too were a) a girl who once shared a house with my Logic tutor at Oxford b) a girl whose mother was from the town I lived in Japan (that's a town of 9,000 in a country of 130 million)

4) Waded through the websites of various education establishments attempting to uncover when they elect their NUS delegates (and most of them do seem unduly anxious to keep it a secret)

5) Had my finger unstitched, and now have a fine scar to remind me not to slice myself with bottle openers

6) Went home for the weekend and returned with clean shirts and polished shoes (I'm not that lazy or dependent you understand, my Mum's maternal instincts just have a life of their own when it comes to scuffed shoes and dirty shirts)

One or two other bit and pieces, which I shall sit on for now, but will release when to do so will no longer be tempting fate...

Sunday, October 03, 2004

 

Surrealism: A Case Study

I can safely say that this weekend was one of the more surreal of my existence: I have on previous occasions carried bathtubs through town centers and attempted to invade whole oxford colleges, but on a scale of one to surreal this weekend was a tap-dancing dodo in a pink tutu presenting university challenge. It is after all not every weekend that you get to shake an ex-prime ministers hand and then have to go to casualty to get four stitches in it. I should perhaps explain that the two incidents weren't actually related, save that they both occurred at the same function, but nevertheless.

You see this weekend I headed back to my old college for the Balliol Society Annual Dinner. This being an Oxford college there were all the no-doubt standard offices of such occasions: tea and cakes, followed by At Home with the Master, pre-dinner drinks in the buttery and a three course dinner in full black tie. Included amongst the various dignitaries was Sir Edward Heath, who despite looking quite frail, and it being made clear in advance that he probably wouldn't speak, in fact did made a very interesting speech. His speech, and his turning up to make it, impressed me so much that I went up to his table afterwards to basically say so, at which juncture the shaking the hand of an ex-Prime minister part of the evening occurred.

Unfortunately about an hour later I was trying to open a bottle at after-dinner drinks when the &^!$%# bottle opener slipped covering the immediate vicinity in a certain amount of blood, most or all of which appeared to be my own, necessitating a swift trip with a friend to the minor injuries department of the local casualty, still by the way wearing full black tie. Three hours later I was cast oft into the night carrying said four stitches in my finger and reflecting that it had been a slightly odd evening. I should say that the staff at the casualty were excellent, and although it took a longish while to get treated the service was very professional. There was a moment of darkish bureaucracy directed comedy though when I had to provide all of my address and GP details before being asked what the problem was: call me old fashioned but they used to check how serious it was first…

The surrealism wasn't quite over though since the cabby who took us back to the city proved to have a very broad oxford accent and a desire to rant about students (which we weren't but presumably might have been), drunks (ditto) and Muslims (which we clearly weren't but still). Once Mr. Happy Happy Joy Joy had dropped us back it remained only to reflect that it had been a very strange evening indeed...

Sunday, September 26, 2004

 

Our Man in Bristol

Been a while since my last post since I have been busy either dealing with the little darlings at Primary School or hauling thingy to Bristol. Actually despite my desire to present a suitably cynical exterior I must confess that saying goodbye to the kids at school was a bit sad, especially since they were for the most part very sweet about my departure, even if one of them did give me a streaming cold as a leaving present. Arrived into Bristol on Saturday, started the course on Monday, and have since passed the time going to lectures, ploughing through the requisite ten tons of paperwork, and trying to sort out the various essentials of life: food, drink and internet connections. The post-grad accommodation I’ve been hooked up with seems pretty decent, the one drawback being the ruddy great hill standing between it and the university and, aided by the redoubtable Vivienne, I have managed to find my way around to most places of importance, not to mention several places of absolutely no importance whatsoever.

The course itself seems pretty interesting although the dual techniques of intimidation of impending work (not yet issued, but fully detailed in various thick handbooks) and death by paperwork are preceding apace. More detail on precisely what I’ve been up to can be found on my teaching blog. Meanwhile the small world rule has been as busy as ever - the three other teaching students at primary school included somewhere who was in my class there twelve years back, someone who whilst not exactly knowing my brother recognised the name and was at least aware of his existence, and someone who, at a different school, had the same Year 6 teacher as me. Meanwhile one of my fellow citizenship students turn out to have been one of the guys from my course at uni, at the same college, and who lived next door in our third year. I look forward to my first school placement when it will no doubt transpire one of my students from Japan is studying their on exchange and the caretaker is my long lost uncle.


Sunday, September 12, 2004

 

Government to make HE announcement: run for the hills!

This coming week the government will announce its plans relating to the application system for Higher Education. As a past and current student I naturally get a bit nervous whenever the words 'government', 'higher education' and 'plans' appear in the same sentence since such announcements tend to involve the screwing over of large sections of the student populace. In this case at least financial screwing over is not involved: the belief is that the government will announce a shift to a 'post qualification system', which is to say that you get your A levels, and then you apply to universities in a slimmed down process.

I have to admit that there seems to be a lot about this idea in principle: the UCAS system of 6 applications is quite bureaucratic, and since there is no advantage to not using all 6, often wastes the universities’ time. A post-qualification system might also encourage students who got better grades than expected, particularly from state schools, to apply for more prestigious universities, including Oxbridge.

It isn't all peaches and cream however: my major concern is that the system may prove to be another part of this government apparent obsession with test results - this could partly be seen with the Laura Spence affair where it was taken as read by the government that there was no possible reason not to let someone with 5 As into Oxford, other than discrimination: never mind personal statements, interview process etc. A slimmed down process will provide much less time for interviews and force universities to make more decisions based purely on grades. Even if some or all universities are able to continue with an interview process I fear we will see a lot more Laura Spence type situations - this person has 4 As and didn't get in, this one has 3As and a B and did. Obviously it is a huge issue that people shouldn't be discriminated against because of their background, but trying to do this by focusing entirely on the exam results, and allowing less time for other assessment of academic potential, seems to me to be a bad way of going about it.

Of course the government may not be moving this way: they may be looking purely at slimming down the bureaucracy, making application decisions easier, and encouraging more Oxbridge applications from able state schoolers, whilst still allowing for a full interview process and not attempting to attack universities for making decisions based on factors others than grades. It's just that their track record doesn't exactly fill me with confidence...

Sunday, September 05, 2004

 

Let's ranting!

Teacher training starts on Monday with 2 weeks at my old Junior school. I won't be posting about that too much here since I don't want to clutter the place up too much - I'll probably concentrate on politics and general stuff here and hike the teaching off into a separate blog. But what I will do here is make a little rant about the kafkaesque delight that is the Student Loans Company. My departure from full time education two years back did not abate the opportunities to interact with them, since they liked to send me letters from time to time asking for information I'd already sent them. Generally speaking they would also send it to a different country from that which I had asked them to, and then write me another letter when I didn't reply quickly enough (on the grounds that their letter was still working its way towards where I actually was). And then there was their touching desire to talk to me - so much so that they wouldn't talk with anyone else, even when I specifically told them my parents were authorised to deal for me in this...

But I disgress: my point is that, whilst the SLC has been a permament fixture in my struggle for sanity for some years, returning to full time ed has given them more even opportunities than usual to try my patience. Thus far we have had forms that didn't turn up, then showed up three or four times; passwords that I needed to talk to them that I never received, was then allegedly sent and still haven't got; letters telling me that I haven't returned forms when I patently have; and a 'helpline' that seems to be permanently engaged - methinks with the post A Level results rush now on, they may have just taken the phone off the hook. It will not take much more provocation for me to unleash great vengeance and furious anger in their general direction...

Tuesday, August 31, 2004

 

Dumb as a Post

It was today announced that the Royal Mail has been admirably consistent regarding its performance targets this year: they have missed all fifteen of them. This seems to me deeply impressive; I would have expected that they'd hit at least one by accident, but apparently not. On the other hand perhaps it isn't that surprising given that it's only the latest in a whole succesion of noteworthy Post Office deeds. Some three years ago I wrote of their laudable desire to encourage me to take more excercise, by forcing me to walk two miles to their depot to collect a package which was 6p short on postage. Then just this year, for our comfort and convenience, they abolished the second post. The fact that the new first post was mysteriously delivered at the same time as the old second post, leading some cynics no wonder exactly which of the two posts had been abolished, is surely mere coincidence.

Shortly after this change I was also witness to a deeply impressive bit of postal speed: having sent two postcards from Malaysia, one to the South East of England and one to the North West, I was suitably pleased to discover that the former arrived in well under a week. Alas the second took four weeks before it showed up, suggesting that it takes the international post 4 days to get from Malaysia to Bracknell, but a further 3 weeks for the Post Office to get from Bracknell to Bury: nice to know that they are pausing to take in all the best of British Scenery on the way.

Oh by the way, those of you concerned that all of this might be leading to suffering amongst the higher echelons of post office management will be reassured to note that the profit targets have been met and that the bonuses, which the executives no doubt rely on to ensure that *they* can afford to use Fedex, are secure.

Sunday, August 29, 2004

 

Dispatches from the front

Due to a number of scheduling conspiracies related to student union elections, finals, and being 6000 miles away, this weekends trip to Hartlepool was actually the first parliamentary by-election I've made it too. Well it seems the stories are all true: besides the obligatory gazillion leaflets to be delivered, and the apparently traditional luxury by election accomodation (offered by the 7 star Hartlepool Hilton conveniently situated in the HQ attic), there were several not-seen-in-two-years friends, plenty of dodgy latvian spirits and numerous encounters with wild dogs (one of which was actually slightly more than close, but in the end we didn't need to get Dr Harris MP to amputate my finger so all's well that ends well).

On a vaguelly political front I also met literaly dozens of undecided and convincable soft labour voters, which mean that another Leicester or Brent East is definetely not out of the quesiton. The fact that three high profile MPs (Evan, Lembit and Simon), one Lord (Chris Rennard), several HQ campaign boffins and upwards of a dozen LDYSers thought it worth turning up both bears testament to this and makes it more likely, and with the probabe polling day being the 6th of October it looks like that is only the warm up act. Hopefully I'll have chance to go back there before the big day although, on the off chance that I meet that dog again, this time I'll be taking my shotgun...


Quizilla


you are tiberius
Tiberius was the second emperor of Rome. His
mother wanted it more than he was. He had to
leave his wife to marry Julia, the daughter of
Augustus. He never really cared much for
politics. Later on in life, he moved to the
island of Capri, turning it into an island of
depravity and sex.

What Julio-Claudian Roman Emperor are you?
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My inner child is ten years old today

My inner child is ten years old!

The adult world is pretty irrelevant to me. Whether
I'm off on my bicycle (or pony) exploring, lost
in a good book, or giggling with my best
friend, I live in a world apart, one full of
adventure and wonder and other stuff adults
don't understand.

How Old is Your Inner Child?
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Disclaimers

No animals were harmed during the making of this blog. Apart from any cats kicked by the author whilst frustrated at his inability to work out this bloody hmtl gunk.

With the exception of the author, this blog does not contain any nuts.

As a firm believer in the right to freedom of speech and freedom of expression, the author would like it to be known that if anything whatsoever in this blog happens to offend somebody, he is happy not only to retract it but also to deny ever having written it.

This blog can help weight loss only as part of a calorie controlled diet.

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