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

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...

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

 

It's not the losing, it's the taking part

An ever increasing number of moons ago when I was a high school student I was the proud holder of a school sports day record. Not the 100m, or the relay, or the triple jump, although my notable feat encompassed all of them and more. I was in fact the undisputed holder of the title 'most last place finishes on sports day'. You see my class, although populated with a few decent athletes, was very much of the 'I can't run, I've forgotten my kit' school of thought, whilst Muggins here had lofty ideas about the honour of the house. Thus it was that every year in two or three races you could see me rounding the final bend whilst my nominal rivals were already mounting the podium for the national anthems. Which no-doubt explains my enjoyment of the blog DFL at http://www.mcwetboy.net/dfl/ which is dedicated to the Olympic athletes who finish last in their own particular events, on the reasonable grounds that the gold medal winners get enough attention already. D stands for dead, L for last and F for...well you don't need me to work that one out.

Aside from the personal connection, and the not inconsiderable novelty value, the site serves as an object lesson in not being permanently obsessed with medal chances: something which those of us fed up with the BBC Olympic Commentary drivel fest should perhaps email in directing their attention to. As well as highlighting the many different reasons people finish last (someone has to, and they are not all the 'lovable loser' Eddie the Eagle types the media tends to concentrate on) the site includes a 'medal table' chronicling the no. of lasts notched up by each country, currently topped by China, and a number of entertaining anecdotes. I particularly enjoyed "One thing you don't generally expect is to have a last-place finisher test positive for a banned substance — fat lot of good the steroids are doing if you use them and you still finish dead fucking last. And yet that's just what has happened: Olga Shchukina of Uzbekistan, who, I reported Wednesday, finished last in the women's shot put, has tested positive for the steroid clenbuterol. At least she denies it like a top athlete: by blaming the cough syrup!".

Score one up for the true spirit of the Olympics...

Monday, August 23, 2004

 

Lazyliberal's new toy

Since I had cunningly left my rather cheap camera in Singapore I had an excellent excuse upon my return from the Orient for acquiring myself a digital camers with all sorts of cunning features that the previous model was sadly lacking. To that end I yesterday acquired a Konika Minolta Dimage X31 digital camera (with go faster stripes naturally). Buying new pieces of technology is always fun, not least because they can always do twice as many clever things as a model costing twice as much a year before. This particlar effort includes about five different colour options b/w, colour, sepia etc.), four falsh modes and aeveral lighting options although the potential to become my favourite feature definetely lies with the side by side photo option, whereby you can take the left and right hand sides of a photo seperately, providing the opportunity for some good blackmail material. Which given I am going to Hartlepool with the Lib Dems on Thursday may come in handy...

Sunday, August 22, 2004

 

A marathon effort...

I refer of course not to the 26 mile course itself, but to making it through the two and a half hour drivel fest that is the BBC commentay on the race. Brendan Foster is hardly the worst of the beeb commentators on a 'bollocks-per-minute' ratio, but unlike the other commentators we don't get regular breaks - from the start to the end he is wittering away with the best of them. To take one example, at various points during the race he has said

"Paula Radcliffe is better prepared than all of her rivals"

"All the athletes have prepared equally well for this race"

"You can't prepare for a race like this"

See what I mean? And then for the first hundred minutes "Paula Radcliffe is *our* best hope of athletics gold at these games", then as soon as she pulls out it's "we knew she wasn't running at her best, *her* hopes of olympic glory are dashed". One moment the Japanese athlete, who is currently leading as I type, is looking "tired and untidy", the next she is "running well with gold in her sights" and two minutes after that she is "beginning to tire and in danger of being caught". It's really enough to make me write letters to the BBC, but since I don't want to turn into the sort of person who writes letters to the BBC I'm ranting here instead...

Friday, August 20, 2004

 

See now, take my car: 2

Seconds out, Round Two. Earlier today, for the first time in two years or so, I watched some of my Yes Minister tapes, and was reminded of what pure genius the Yes Minster and Yes Prime Minister Series were. For those of you not familiar they centre on three characters: Jim Hacker (Paul Eddington), a likeable if dim minister, Sir Humphrey Appleby (Nigel Hawthrone), his machiavellian chief Civil Servant and Bernard Woolley (Derek Fowlds), his Principal Private Secretary. Within most of the 30 minute episodes the basic format was Jim would come up with a 'grand scheme' to win votes, Humphrey would deviously try and stop him, and Bernard would 'play the audience' and ask the dumb questions on our behalf. Yet within that time honoured formula lay the shrpest of satire, based around the civil service and politics in general, and around that particular weeks topic (Education, Foreign Policy, Trade Unions whatever). YM and YPM were clever satires with serious points buried deep in there somewhere, not straight giggle fests, and therein lies the joy: they are so damn funny whilst being so damn clever. The clever device of making Jim a minister in charge of 'administration', and later Prime Minister, meant that every topic could be covered, rather than restricting it to just the area of one government department.

The laughs came in many guises: with several long running gags such as Hackers mixed metaphors coupled with Bernard's pedantry ("we don't want to rock the boat until it's in the bag" "you don't put boats in bags minister") and Sir Humphrey's legendary without-taking-a-breath bureaucratic waffle. My person favorite (and I'm sad enough to remember this off the top of my head) runs thus

Jim Hacker: "Who else is in this department?"
Sir Humphrey: "Well briefly, Sir, I am the Permanent Under Secretary of State, known as the Permanent Secretary. Woolley here is your Principal Private Secretary, I too have a Principal Private Secretary and he is the Principal Private Secretary to the Permanent Secretary. Directly responsible to me are ten Deputy Secretaries, eighty-seven Under Secretaries and two hundred and nineteen Assistant Secretaries; directly responsible to the Principal Private Secretary are plain Private Secretaries; the Prime Minister will be appointing two Parliamentary Under Secretaries and you will be appointing your own Parliamentary Private Secretary."
Jim Hacker: "Can they all type?"
Sir Humphrey: "None of us can type Minister, Mrs. McKay types: [beat] she's the secretary.

These are accompanied by a bunch of fantastic gags, including some great one-liners that could fit into so many situations
Jim Hacker: "I don't want the truth: I want something I can tell Parliament!"

or

Bernard Wooley: "It used to be said there were two kinds of chairs to go with two kinds of Ministers: one sort that folds up instantly, the other sort goes round and round in circles."

or indeed

Sir Humphrey: "The public doesn’t know anything about wasting government money, we're the experts."

I could go on, indeed I frequently do, but I don't want to tell you all the good gags here, not least because there isn't enough bandwith on the internet to contain them all. But if you are interested in politics and love a good satire then what I do want is for you to stop reading and go watch...

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

 

Ganbatte kudasai!

Which is how they say Good Luck in that strange place I called home for the last two years. To everyone with A Levels results tomorrow: good luck, I hope you all get what you need (wishing people what they deserve is a dicey business) and I hope you're all happy come this time tomorrow. Bon chance!

Sunday, August 15, 2004

 

Louder, Sillier, Unsportinger

Three days since last I posted, mostly because I have been occupied watching the Olympics. I am a great fan of the Olympics to the extent that I was glued to, of all things, the Men's Synchronised Diving last night, in the hopes of seeing Britain's first medal. Which brings me somewhat leisurely pace to my point - nationalism and sport. Like most other Brits, I almost invariably cheer for 'our' guys, even when I've never heard of them or their sport before, and when a Briton wins a Bronze in Ladies Synchronised Tiddlewinks, I feel some strange sort of pride, as though I, as a Brit, had something to do with it (beyond contributing 10p to the cause the last time I bought a lottery ticket). I know this can't just be me, because of the reaction of the commentators every time a Brit gets with yelling distance of a medal: often indeed it gets a bit silly with any Brit reaching the final immediately becoming 'a strong medal contender' and any sixth place finish invariably 'just missing a medal'.

In fact Lazy Liberal Snr. tends to get a bit irritated at all this nonsense (although he in fact gets fairly irriated with anything commentators do, a view with which I have some sympathy) and has a wont to shout at the TV on a regular basis, as the 'patriorism' reaches silly levels. Often I can see his point: not only does this mild pride seems to go exponential with groups - witness the manic cheering in Athens every time a greek athlete adjusts his swimming goggles - but it sometimes crosses the enthusiastic into the unsporting. When it reaches the stage, as often happens at Wimbledon for instance, of the crowd cheering when the guy playing Henman serves a double fault, I tend to feel a bit embarrased.

Despite this though, in general I think sporting nationalism is actually a good thing. Whilst Lazyliberal Snr sees it as representing something a bit ugly of the sort that leads to wars, my view is that illogical though it may be nationalism will always exist, and that it being worked out in sports stadia actually makes it less likely that it will spill out onto battlefield. Better that people are nasty to each others countries than that they try to wipe them out. And though it may be silly having someone to cheer for, even if only on the basis of cultural and geographical accident, can make the dullest of sports vaguelly interesting.

Now if you'll excuse me I need to go and yell abuse at the Andorran table tennis team...

Thursday, August 12, 2004

 

Top hole!

The latest wizard wheeze cooked up by the techno boffins at LDYS HQ is a jolly good show of top notch blog engineering...ahem, sorry. Playing the Battle of Britain this afternoon has infected my vocabularly. What I meant to say is that Will and Ryan at Lib Dem Youth and Students have aggregated a bunch of blogs together to produce http://www.artesea.co.uk/libdemblogs/ displaying the posts of several different LDYS bloggers for your reading pleasure. Witness a dozen new postings saying the same thing whenever that nice Mr. Howard speaks…

 

General (Admiral) Lazyliberal rides again

Had another crack at the Battle of Trafalgar and managed to sink the French this time. The trick is apparently to completely ignore the advice of Admiral Nelson to try some clever attacking maneouver (because you don't have time to get organised before the opposition gets to you), and instead form in tight and fight a war of attrition. Not pretty but it did the job: next stop the Battle of Britain.

 

General Lazyliberal rides to battle

Yellow Duck has directed my attention to BBC History's Battlefield Academy at http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/war/launch_gms_bfacademy.shtml which I have subsequently spent most of the evening tackling. After an unpromising start to the first battle (defending a hill fort from the Romans) left me praying for the timely arrival of some Prussians, I managed to dig in and eventually counter-attack to wipe the evil Roman legions from the hillside. Battle 2 (War of the Roses) lasted barely five minutes as, in a simulation which ended if either side lost it's king, the computer immediately advanced his king into range of my longbowmen. D'oh. Although the fact that I was cast as the Yorks didn't do much for my lancastrian sensibilities...

Unfortunately a move to the ocean waves proved my undoing as my attempts to take the French with a classic bull-with-two-horns maneouver turned into an utter mess that left me fighting a desperate rearguard action. Having actually managed to pull it back to almost even, I then made a tactical blunder that the Earl of Cardigan would be proud of, and ended up with my Flagship at the bottom of the Med. Conclusion: I would apparently make an adequate Celtic Tribal Leader, a kick-ass Medieval King, and a distinctly sub-par Napoleonic Admiral. I shall be re-drafting my CV forthwith...


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

 

That nice Mr. Howard

When you move from government to opposition you presumably have more time on your hands to pursue other interests. In the case of Michael Howard he has clearly been filling his time reading 'Tory clichés, and when to use them', and in particular the chapter on 'When you've nothing better to say'. Today's announcement of a 'crime cutting strategy' was a classic Old-School-Tory gambit. Firstly they've picked a headline that no-one could possibly disagree with - none of us support increasing crime right? Second they filled the announcement with a number of old Tory standbys: 'politically correct nonsense', 'zero tolerance', 'cutting bureaucracy' etc. all of which appeal to Tory sensibilities and none of which mean very much in themselves.

What the policies announced today do mean is twofold: firstly a huge step back on police accountability by dropping the proposal for police to record each stop and search they do. This was a specific recommendation of the McPherson enquiry, set up to deal with the issue of police racism following the Stephen Lawrence murder, and not implementing it would make a nonsense of tackling perceived racism in the police. Secondly a big increase in prison numbers: hardly a surprise given Howard's record - 'Prison Works!' etc. - but still. Another Tory ex-Home Secretary once said that 'Prison is an expensive way of making bad people worse'. The average cost of keeping a person in prsion for a year is well over £25,000, and the re-offending rates don't exactly support the idea that it's effective. Naturally Mr. Howard’s announcement today contained no mention of education, rehabilitation or alternative sentences, although there was a nice passing reference to 'so-called human rights'.

Overall my reaction to this announcement is not unlike my reaction to the student funding plans last week: if there was a chance in hell of the Tories winning the next election I'd be really worried.

Monday, August 09, 2004

 

Tories in targeting poor shocker

Last week the Tories announced how they were intending to pay for their plan to abolish tuition fees. Some of you might be wondering why there was such a gap between their plan to abolish the fees and their plan for how to pay for it, but hey what else is new? They do at least have a plan now though so I'd like to take a moment to put the boot into it. The Tories intend to pay for abolishing fees by charging up to 2% interest rates above inflation, which, compared with commercial rates, might not sound so unreasonable. But look at what it means: at the moment the argument is that whilst poorer student have more debt, they don't have to pay it back until their income reaches a certain level, and since there is no 'real' inflation rate, they are not penalised for paying it back more slowly. But the Tories' 2% will mean that the longer paying back the loans takes, the more you will owe *in real terms*. This hits a) Those who have to take bigger loans (the poor) b) those not earning very much after graduation (e.g. those who want to work in the public sector). The poor, the public sector: nice to know that the Tories have a sense of history...

Sunday, August 08, 2004

 

It's getting hot in here...

911 degrees Fahrenheit to be precise...shortly after I arrived back from Japan I dragged myself off to the cinema, along with my brother and sister-in-law-to-be, to see Michael Moore's new 'documentary'. In case the inverted commas don't make it clear I'm not a big Michael Moore fan. It's not that I'm a right-winger, more the opposite: although he often makes some interesting points I think Moore gives liberals a bad name by overstatement, over pettiness, and over-propagandarising (hey the conservatives do that all the time, but we're supposed to be better aren't we?). Hence the inverted commas, because calling Fahrenheit 9/11 a documentary is pushing it a tad: it only works as a description in the sense that party political broadcasts are documentaries: it's not precisely fiction, and there probably aren't any actual blatant untruths, but the purpose is not to present a balanced point a view, the purpose is to convince as many viewers as possible that the maker is correct, even at the cost of some dodgy analogies and visual techniques (like presenting certain points and images as going together when they don't).

In the case of Fahrenheit 9/11 my main criticism is that there were too many moments that were presented as having some significance, but actually didn't, and seemed only to be there to flush out the moments of genuine interest into a full length propaganda film. Two examples - exhibit 1: what I presume was an attempt at making Bush seem elitist by noting that he went to sleep on September 10th 'on soft French linen'. What the origins of Dubai’s sheets has to do with the price of fish is rather beyond me. Exhibit 2: a long discussion of the small number of state policeman on duty in Oregon (I think), presented as some king of evidence that actually Bush isn't worried about national security, but just trying to manipulate the public into fear. Bush may well be doing that, probably is, but the number of state policemen on duty in Oregon doesn't help much with the case to my mind...Not to make this post too long, but another problem I had with the film was it's lack of conclusions beyond 'Bush is bad' (I knew that already!). What you got was a 15 minute segment on, say, Bush family ties to the Saudis, then, just when you were expecting a tie up on that, a 15 minute segment on homeland security, then one on civil rights, then Iraq, and so on, but with no real pulling them together. I have other things I could say too, but that'll do for now because I want to move onto the good stuff.

Where the film really did an excellent job was of making it clear exactly how much of waste of space Bush himself is: the segment of him sitting in a classroom reading with small children with a look of bewilderment/panic on his face for several minutes after he was told of the attack on the world trade centre makers this entirely clear, and the final Bush soundbite in the film is simply priceless - watch it and wet yourself. Also of great interest in terms of the dodginess of Bush's acolytes, although only tied into the rest of the film in a general 'why is Bush here anyway?' sense, is the opening segment about the 2000 elections. Finally there is a very educational comparison on what Bush's sidekicks were saying about Iraq and WMDs before and after September 11th. I should also say in fairness that of the three of who went to see it (all of similar liberal views), I was the one who liked it the least - my brother in particular regarded it as excellent.

In conclusion, if you haven't seen it already see it now: it's interesting and it certainly makes you think. But I can't be shifted from my view that a less propagandist and rabid liberal could have done a better, and possibly even more effective in anti-Bush terms, job with the same material.

 

Wilkommen, Bienvenue, Welcome

Okey dokey, I am now kind of up and running and ready to make my first proper post. Nothing controversial for now though, I'm gonna start with 'See now, take my car': this is something I plan to do until I run out of good ideas, and will basically involve my dredging up some vaguely obscure piece of TV, film, or music and attempting to persuade you of its genius. No. 1 on my list is Animalympics, the greatest animated film ever made...Based around the simple idea of animals doing the Olympics it is packed with fantastic gags, musical numbers and set pieces, most of which still have me wetting myself the 152nd time I watch it. Most of them alas don't work without seeing the actual film although one of my faves follows a hippo on the vault "4.5: is that her score, or the reading on the richter scale?". The fact that many of the gags don't actually make sense if you think about them (such as, of a crocodile athlete, "he started life as a handbag, was told he'd never walk again!") makes absolutely no difference to the enjoyment of the piece. The voices include Billy Crystal and Harry Shearer (of Spinal Tap and the Simpsons) and anybody who doesn’t see it following this review will be amongst the first against the wall come the revolution…

  • Imdb link


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    Maiku testo maiku testo

    I have absolutely nothing of interest to say. This is not unusual. What is unusual is that today I am acknowledging this fact. This is a mike test to see if this contraption works...


    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?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    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?
    brought to you by Quizilla

    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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