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Thursday, March 31, 2005

I Suddenly Lost My Appetite...

Guess where I was when I took this photo. Go on, guess.

I can almost guarantee you are wrong.

I was in Marks & Spencer! Marks and Spencer!!!!

M&S, selling porn? Surely not... I could not believe my eyes, that in the middle of the tasty food section, I was faced with this.

I sent them an email (which you too can do, from here), which said,
I was in the M&S store in Sheffield City Centre and was horrified to see a selection of pornographic 'lads' mags' amid the food section.

I have no idea how this was ever thought to be a good idea by your shop. Your main customers are surely women, many of whom will feel offended and intimidated by naked women on the front of magazines.

I treat myself to your food from time to time as it is high quality, but will certainly re-consider doing this if I am to be faced with pornographic images at children's eye level.

I am, as the cliche goes, shocked and appalled!

Guess where I was shopping? Posted by Hello

Monday, March 28, 2005

My train of thought

at approximately 7.23 this evening.

I feel sick. Did I take promethazine* this morning?
Ummm no, cos I'd run out of diet coke** so was going to take meds*** in the kitchen instead.
But then forgot.
Ok, so, no promethazine, that explains feeling sick.
Hang on, no meds this morning****!
It's 7.23pm***** and I haven't taken my morning meds yet. Argh******!
:-o

Key:
* promethazine - anti-emetic
** diet coke - on offer in the local shop
*** take meds - swallow chemical joy. or something
**** morning meds consist of 5 pills. every morning (note morning, not evening)
***** 7.23pm - evening (thus not morning)
****** Argh - self-explanatory.

Guffaws, Guns and Glasses.

A while ago I was sent a very funny email, which began:
NOTICE OF REVOCATION OF INDEPENDENCE

by Basil Fawlty, Fawlty Towers, Torquay, Devon, England

To the citizens of the United States of America:

In the light of your failure to elect a competent President of the
USA and thus to govern yourselves, we hereby give notice of the
revocation of your independence, effective today. Her Sovereign
Majesty Queen Elizabeth II will resume monarchical duties over all
states, commonwealths and other territories. (Except Utah, which she
does not fancy.) Your new prime minister (The Right Honourable Tony
Blair, MP for the 97.85% of you who have until now been unaware that
there is a world outside your borders) will appoint a minister for
America without the need for further elections. Congress and the
Senate will be disbanded. A questionnaire will be circulated next year
to determine whether any of you noticed. To aid in the transition to a
British Crown Dependency, the following rules are introduced with
immediate effect:

It went on to detail 17 rules, including:
2. There is no such thing as "US English". We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize".

4. Hollywood will be required occasionally to cast English actors as the good guys. Hollywood will be required to cast English actors to play English characters. British sit-coms such as "Men Behaving Badly" or "Red Dwarf" will not be re-cast and watered down for a wishy-washy American audience who can't cope with the humour of occasional political incorrectness.

7. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry guns. You will no longer be allowed to own or carry anything more dangerous in public than a vegetable peeler. Because we don't believe you are sensible enough to handle potentially dangerous items, you will require a permit if you wish to carry a vegetable peeler in public.

9. All American cars are hereby banned. They are crap and it is for your own good. When we show you German cars, you will understand what we mean. All road intersections will be replaced with roundabouts. You will start driving on the left with immediate effect. At the same time, you will go metric with immediate effect and without the benefit of conversion tables. Roundabouts and metrication will help you understand the British sense of humour.

14. You will learn to resolve personal issues without using guns, lawyers or therapists. The fact that you need so many lawyers and therapists shows that you're not adult enough to be independent. Guns should only be handled by adults. If you're not adult enough to sort things out without suing someone or speaking to a therapist then you're not grown up enough to handle a gun.

Snopes have now done their thang, and completed a piece on the original, and development of this letter, including two rather funny responses to us Brits from USA. Including:
Roundabouts will be banned. What is the point of turning left in order to turn right? They are confusing to Americans and are death traps. You will start driving on the right with immediate effect. Most of the world drives on the right already. You will be allowed to turn right on a red light if safe to do so though you must check local county legislation as this is not permitted in all areas.

All inter-personal communications between family members, even if resident in the same house, must be through a lawyer. It is compulsory to sue somebody at least once per year - be inventive. It is compulsory to have therapy three times each week and to recover false memories of your childhood which allow you to sue your parents and/or your therapist. Therapy will take the place of speaking to family members. You will be given compulsory courses on how to become dysfunctional. Name your children after interesting medical conditions.

It's inefficient to have a national anthem that changes its title whenever your monarch dies. Let's not forget that your national anthem has an extremely boring tune. We suggest switching to that Rule Brittania ditty, it's toetapping. Or maybe Elton John could adapt "Candle In The Wind" again for you guys.

We'll tell you who killed JFK when you apologize for "Teletubbies".

The whole thing has rather cheered an otherwise dull morning!

Also on snopes is a (true) story about a man doing a presentation on gun safety during which he accidentally shot himself in the leg. It kind of proves the point that gun + safety are not compatible. Guns are designed to kill and maim, and they are just not at all safe. Ever.

I didn't watch the video of the incident, but it is there.

My absolutely favourite Ian McMillan was just on the radio on You & Yours, talking about how marvellous we spectacle-wearers are. I couldn't agree more :)

Sunday, March 27, 2005

Papacy and Poverty.

Ok, people are starting to say nice things about the Pope, now that he doesn't seem to have long left. I disagree with most of it.

Argh! Don't you hate it when you mix up the cooker and the computer?? Amazingly, both seem to cook eggs equally well. But shit, I've got food everywhere.

And to put chocolate eggs and the associated weight gain into perspective, 10.6m children under five die each year, most from preventable causes.
Almost four in 10 die within 28 days of birth and more than four in 10 deaths are in southern and western Africa.
[...]
The deaths are mainly from pneumonia (19%), diarrhoea (17%), malaria (8%), measles (4%), HIV/Aids (3%) and injuries (3%). Premature birth (28%), sepsis or pneumonia (26%), and asphyxia (23%) are the most common causes of very early death.
[...]
Poor nutrition is an underlying factor in more than half of all the deaths under five, according to the figures, published in the Lancet medical journal today.
[...]
An Ethiopian child is over 30 times more likely than a western European to die before his or her fifth birthday.

This is appalling, totally appalling, and that we are allowing this to happen is something I am ashamed of.

As a country we have so much money, food, healthcare. How much did we spend bombing Afghanistan and Iraq? That money could have been so much better spent.

Oxfam here.

Saturday, March 26, 2005

Time Flies...

So, the clocks go forward tonight.

I wish people would stop telling me that that means it's an hour less sleep tonight.

It's not if you don't want it to be. Stay in bed then lose an hour of day instead.

Thursday, March 24, 2005

Parks, Popes, Pop and Puzzling.

The Guardian tells me that a woman called Andrea Webster has put £100,000 of her own money, and is requesting that another million Christians donate £144 each, to realise her dream of creating a Christian Theme Park in Yorkshire.

It is to be called Ark Alive and the aim is "where Disney meets the Bible". The whole thing sounds incredibly bizarre, and for full effect you really should read the article.

Weirdly, that leads me (rather too cleanly than is common!) onto the Pope, about whom the Cardinal Giovanni Battista Re has just praised for his "serene abandonment to God". Now, I don't want to make presumptions or predictions, but that sounds to me like he's dying. Which isn't much of a surprise if you've been following his health over the last few months.

But think about it. The Pope dying on Easter Weekend. How can I say this...? Well, it would just encourage people to believe in the bigotry even more. [Ducking now].

If you've ever wondered what song was Number 1 when you were born, you can find out here. I actually truly have wondered several times but have never known... and now I do! (Who on earth is Deniece Williams??)

I leave you with a puzzle. First correct answer may get a prize!

A boy is sent to fetch water. He must bring back exactly 4 litres of water from the well. He goes there with a 5 litre and a 3 litre bucket. He can use no other containers, and must not use guesswork.

How does he get exactly 4 litres?

Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Transplants, Trends, Tokenism, Titles.

This is appalling (Immigration authorities have denied entry to a Sri Lankan needed for her daughter-in-law's transplant).

This is really interesting (Fascinating social trends survey reveals 35-year transformation).

This story is blatant electioneering, which made me laugh.
"I don't think people would reject a prime minister simply on the basis that he was gay," Blair told the magazine.
The fact that he said on the basis that he was gay says an awful lot about tokenism, the old boys' network and gender bias in politics and society. Grrr (Blair: Gay prime minister possible in U.K.).

This is the coolest thing on the internet by far.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Talk Amongst Yourselves.

You know Barbara Millicent Roberts? You're thinking nope I don't but actually you really do.

I have spent a multitude of hours tonight updating my links, on the right. And my kinja page.

I do want to write about abortions, elections and human rights. At least.

Soon.

I am in pain.

I will leave this there for now.

Friday, March 18, 2005

The Things You Learn...

Did you know that helplessness is the rat equivalent of despair? No, neither did I. And it's not actually what the article is about, but it's the thing that stuck out for me!

Did you know that Alabama has a legal right to police the sale of devices that can be sexually stimulating. Umm... where to start?

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

There are four of us in this relationship...

That's this relationship. My relationship with my (rapidly increasing number of) electricity suppliers.

Soooooooo, at last count I was trying to change from LE to Eco. Eco said they had received an objection from my current supplier, so couldn't go ahead. LE said they had not objected and were about to stop supplying me.

So Eco said they would request a transfer again, to see what happened. Today I had another letter from them, saying again that they had received an objection, and so the transfer couldn't go ahead. I called LE who again said they had not objected and were going to stop supplying me in a few weeks' time.

So I called Eco back.
IncHippie - So you've definitely received another objection?
Eco - Yes
IH - But LE say they haven't objected
Eco - We have received an objection and can't go ahead
IH - But they're going to stop supplying me soon
Eco - Well we can't take it over because of the objection
IH - They say they haven't made any objection

[conversation goes round in circles for a while]

IH - Do you know what the objection is?
Eco - No
IH - And it was definitely from LE?
Eco - Yes
IH - What do I do?
Eco - Speak to LE again?
IH - Ok, but they do say there's no problem at their end
Eco - Could you hold the line a moment?
IH - Sure.

[Vivaldi's Four Seasons]

Eco - Hello! Problem solved!
IH - Great! Yey! How?
Eco - The objection was from S&S, they supply your electricity!
IH - [splutter] S & who??
Eco - S&S
IH - But...?
Eco - Their number is 0845blahblah and you need to quote this number... blahblah
IH - Umm, ok I'll do that now. Thank you, I think.

Soooo I phoned S&S, they don't supply my electricity at all. I knew that already, but was glad they knew it too. But how on earth had they become embroiled in the IH, LE, Eco triangle...

I gave the woman at S&S the long code Eco had given me. That was the reference number for Sheffield City Council's supply of the lighting on my street...

Understandably, S&S had objected to my request to change the electricity supplier of my street lamps.

I laughed quite a lot (mainly nervously! Is it an offence to try and greenify your local authority's power supplies??), and called Eco back, who were closed.

I am sure the saga will continue tomorrow.

Renationalise power, please. If only to stop this hellish situation!

Monday, March 14, 2005

I Am Meme. Ringtones. And Favourites.

Thanks to McBeth,
I AM: A meme in 22 parts.

I AM: a woman
I WANT: a tidier house
I HAVE: stomach ache
I WISH: my dad wasn't ill
I HATE: bananas
I MISS: the sea
I FEAR: discovery
I HEAR: the rain
I SEARCH: my mind for explanations. And for where I put all the knives
I WONDER: if I will go out today
I REGRET: spending so long worrying about being too fat when I was actually too thin. I really am too fat now.
I LOVE: beauty in nature
I ACHE: all over
I AM NOT: pretty
I DANCE: to 60s, 70s and 80s music
I SING: along to Sailing By, before the shipping forecast each night
I CRY: too much, and never enough
I AM NOT ALWAYS: moody
I WRITE: lots of tripe
I CONFUSE: emancipate, emasculate and emaciate
I TASTE: tobacco
I NEED: some TLC

Oh my, I am such a Radio 4 geek. I just paid £3 to download a ringtone of the pips. It is of course for red nose day but I'm still not sure that justifies it. Well, not in any circles other than radio 4 geeks.

My favourite International Women's Day post, is by GirlyDyke.

The word of the day is, by far, found chez Rohit and is, mmmm, mellifulous. I can hear it singing!

Giggle of the day.

Irrefutable quote of the day - "Poets have been mysteriously silent on the subject of cheese."
G. K. Chesterton (thanks slow afternoon).

Local Government Lament.

It's great to start the week
With a Council Tax Bill -
Trying to sort it out
Is a struggle uphill.

Eight hundred and forty eight pounds
And thirty six new pence
Is what they are demanding -
Which makes me rather tense.

Of course, I can't afford it
But that's not quite the point.
The fact is that I am exempt
From paying that amount.

I telephoned the Helpline
But I didn't get much joy.

I called up about Benefits -
Was passed around like a toy.

Noone knew quite what to say -
It's all a cunning ploy...

So you get fed up of threatening mail
And pay what you don't owe.

But that I won't and cannot do
So I'll wait til I get their letter.
One day they might sort things out
And I would feel much better.

Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Would You Be Interested in Saving Money on your Gas and Electricity?

Actually, no I wouldn't. It is totally more effort than it's worth. It's a long, long story and I am frustrated and raging.

Several years ago, I used to get salesmen (not sexist language - they were all men) knocking on my front door several times a week. Trying to get me to change my gas and electricity suppliers, to convince me that whichever company they were working for would save me money.

I didn't do it because the thought of every power company being able to undercut the rest produced mental images of those illusions of impossibility where stairs in a square are all going downwards (on the front of my maths textbook at school), or straight rods of iron were weaving amongst each other while still utterly straight. How can every company be cheaper than every company. Including companies which are allegedly cheaper than them.

Not to mention I did not appreciate the invasion of privacy, and didn't want to sign up for anything being sold to me in that way, in case it encouraged companies to think that cold-calling door-to-door was a good way of getting sales.

At some point I stopped getting my quarterly statements from my electricity company (who we shall call YE, as that is their initials...). However, as I used a pre-payment meter and thus didn't get bills through the post at all, I didn't notice (until much later) that they had stopped coming.

Fastforward two years. I got a card through the door from a different company (let's call them BG), saying that they had come to read my electricity meter but I wasn't in, so could I send the card back with my meter reading on. A strange mistake for them to make, I thought, but I did get gas from them so presumed it was some kind of error. I sent the card back with a note saying that I hadn't filled my electric meter reading in because they did not supply my electricity.

A few weeks later I had a letter from them informing them that they did indeed supply my electricity and could I call them with a meter reading. I called them and said how confused I was, and that YE supplied my electricity, and what was happening.

They informed me that they had been supplying my electricity for the last two years since I signed over to them two Novembers ago. I coughed and spluttered and said I hadn't signed over to anyone, and what on earth was happening.

They didn't seem in the least concerned that some kind of fraudulent transfer had happened, and just informed me that they were owed £hundreds for providing all that electricity, while I was buying my electricity tokens from YE still. They said they would apply to YE for that money, and that they, BG would send me a token meter card so I would buy my tokens from them from then on.

Once I had got over the shock, I called BG back a few days later to ask how this could have happened. The woman I spoke to just said, "Well, there are much stricter rules now than there were then" and that it was impossible to look at the form that was filled in as it would have been destroyed by now.

I also, some time later, emailed BG to complain at what had happened, and was fobbed off by being told I had probably signed over without remembering. Uh-uh.

Then, at the end of last year, I moved house. It seems that nowadays when you move house you have to find out who supplied the utilities to the previous tenants, and sign them over to you. After this, you can change suppliers if you have a preferred one, but you have to start with the suppliers of the previous occupants.

There are phone numbers you can ring to find out. Gas was straight forward, and I found out that I was with good ole BG again. Electricity, they couldn't tell me. Apparently this property had two suppliers. After lots of phonecalls, and an electricity- and heat-free house for a while, I discovered that my electricity supplier was a different supplier, indeed one which seems an odd choice, geographically, who I shall call LE.

It was all quite confusing. I was getting bills from BG for electricity at my previous address, gas at my previous address, gas I had used at my current address, and gas which the previous occupants had used at my current address.

Because there was another ongoing problem with BG. I lived in my previous flat for 5 and a half years. Throughout that whole time I never used any gas. I had district heating for the central heating and hot water, and used an electric cooker, so had no use for gas. When I moved in, my gas meter reading was 0150. When I moved out, my gas meter reading was 0150. Every 3 months I got a gas bill from BG, with an estimated meter reading, and an invoice for anything between about £20 and £80. Every three months I would phone them and say, "My meter reading is 0150, I don't use gas" and they would send me a bill for £0.

On each bill with an estimated meter reading, it always said, Please provide us with an up-to-date meter reading which we will use to build up a picture of your energy use and thus predict your bills more accurately. Every for 5.5 years I provided a meter reading of 0150 and not once did they learn anything about my (lack of) use of gas.

But yes, that was a diversion. Once I moved in here and had worked out which bills were for here, which for other people, which for my previous address, I started attempting to pay them. There was an electricity bill from BG for £300+, which when I phoned to query it, I learned that they still hadn't requested the money I had paid to YE once I had been unknowingly transferred over to them. So it wasn't me who owed it at all.

Dealing with utility companies could be a full time job. And one that you'd need to be paid danger money, for the stress effect on your body and mind.

With LE providing my electricity in my new place, I had a token meter again, but this time could only buy tokens from the Post Office, rather than a much wider choice of shops with YE and BG. So I requested that LE change me onto a billed meter, so I would get quarterly electricity bills. They did this, came and replaced my meter, and all seemed well.

As Alan Davies so often said, I shouldda left it.

But no. I read about a company which supplies all of its electricity from renewable wind sources. What could be better?? It says it will match your local suppliers' prices, and it's eco-friendly. Marvellous!

Arranged to change to them, all going swimmingly, then this morning I got a letter from the Eco ones saying that LE (who, if you are still following, are my current supplier) had objected to the transfer, so for now it wasn't going ahead. I rang LE who said they couldn't find any objection, rang Eco ones and they have one on record so can't go ahead.

The Eco man assured me that I wasn't going to be cut off by LE and not replaced by anyone. Why oh why oh why.

(Embrace the Wind Revolution and get your name on a wind turbine).

Sunday, March 06, 2005

Philosophy of Technology and Search Engines (Googology?)

Sunday thoughts.

I adore google. It has improved my web use, through its search engine magic, infinitely. I also love gmail, in particular its message threading and its efficient searching of your own messages stored there.

The verb, to google, is commonly used by me and others on a daily basis. In fact, The American Dialect Society chose the verb to google as the "most useful word of 2002".
An alternative usage of the expression "to google" has sprung up on the campus of Rice University in Houston, Texas. On the campus, the expression has been used as a verb to mean "to copulate with" (...)

An alternative usage of the word is in saying that "some brand or concept does (or doesn't) google", which indicates whether or not useful information can be found on it using a quick internet search (commonly with the Google engine). For instance, a person named David Jones, or a computer program named 'Click' don't google, since using either as a query would return hundreds of unrelated links. Both search engines and companies try to ensure that the most relevant results are returned first, thus virtually every well-known company googles.

Google itself does not like this usage, fearing the dilution and potential loss of its trademark like Yo-Yo, Xerox and escalator (...). The company went as far as to send a cease and desist letter to Paul McFedries, creator of wordspy.com, a website that tracks neologisms.


I had no idea I was going to learn those other meanings, and thus no plan to mention them here, but they are really interesting so I had to log them.

Google powers blogger and blogspot too, and you can even google google!

But, what I was leading up to talking about (before I got distracted with marvellous linguistic factettes), was about Google as God. It came about when, in response to an LJ post I read, someone was advised to ask the google god. Wow.

Reasons galore as to why google is the new god flooded my head. I wanted to know what others thought. So who did I ask? Why, the Google God. Many people have wondered about, discussed, read and written about that very thing.

Someone has written a paper entitled Google as God: the Theology of Search Engines. A reiki-practising social worker has written My Google God, there are techies and Christian folk writing about it, presentations at international conferences and comparison charts.

Many of the articles, essays and blog entries I read were written in response to a NY Times article written by Thomas L. Friedman following a visit he made to the google headquarters.

In a lot of what I have been reading this last half hour, Friedman is misquoted as saying,
"If I can operate Google, I can find anything. And with wireless, it means I will be able to find anything, anywhere, anytime. Which is why I say that Google, combined with Wi-Fi, is a little bit like God. God is wireless, God is everywhere and God sees and knows everything. Throughout history, people connected to God without wires. Now, for many questions in the world, you ask Google, and increasingly, you can do it without wires, too."
In fact, he was quoting Alan Cohen, a V.P. of Airespace.

I think that google is a god of our time. Of sorts.

Throughout history, humans have made God into whatever they wanted or needed Him or Her to be at that time. While following available religious texts, the room for interpretation has meant that the most powerful people of the time could, and would, interpret the readings or lessons or messages in a way which was most appropriate for them or others at that time.

I am talking mainly about Christianity as that is what I know the most about. At times, God has been a punitive, angry and jealous being. At others a loving, caring father. In other circumstances S/He is a dictator of morals, or someone to be adored and worshipped, or to be feared. A lot of the historical periods of Christianity's understanding of God contained elements of all the above, but at different times, some aspects are seen as key and central whereas in other times it is other characteristics which predominate.

God's nature has always been relevant and appropriate to the times of those who believe in him. Humans have always made him fit in with their understanding and experience of life.

So, is Google God? Well, google is pretty much omniscient, and omnipresent too. Omnibenevolent I doubt. And omnipotent - arguably. In societies like that which we live, the media has an awful lot of power. People who decide what information we have, how it is presented, how much detail we learn, execute an immense amount of control over what we know, how we think, what we care about. Google, in being a gateway to the vast amount of information on the net, and the way in which it orders its search results and presents the information, can affect the concerns and awarenesses of those who use it.

Of course google isn't a spiritual or religious God. But it is a god which fits in with our knowledge, experience and lifestyles as we live them now. And in many ways that is what God has always been.

Christianity Today points out that The Internet is arguably the first non-deity in human history to be ascribed with ubiquitous sentience. (...) You can learn the average annual rainfall in Myanmar from a coffee shop in Topeka, or check last night's baseball scores from Siberia.

The author then goes on to look at other bloggers' responses to the question, including
A better question than "Is Google God?", wrote another, is: "Is Google wise? The wisdom of the answer depends on the wisdom of the question."
and
"The answer to Friedman's question ['Is Google God'?] is rather simple: No. Because Google knows but doesn't understand. … Google's ability of metareasoning is limited to one level and it cannot by itself metareason about its metareasoning."
This is also backed up by Quentin Schultze, who says
"Knowledge about is merely the accumulation of mediated information, whereas knowledge of includes intimate understanding, seasoned judgment, and active participation".


These are all valid points, which I respect.

Google has its fans, and many other computer companies are in awe of this corporation which is succeeding so hugely where so many have failed.

Google indexes and analyzes 1.5 billion Web pages. When I typed in a search for 'Mr. Ed's real name,' Google started sorting 1.5 billion pages to find the pages that contain those words. Then Google found and analyzed all the links to all the pages that have those words. Finally, Google combined all of that to give me a list of results.

It did it in 0.17 seconds.

And sure enough, the first site Google listed told me TV's Mr. Ed was played by a horse named Bamboo Harvester, and he was made to talk by sticking a peanut butterlike substance under his gums, which he'd try to get out by moving his mouth and tongue.


(I like logoogle, a collection of fake google logos!).

Friday, March 04, 2005

Friday Night After A Bad Friday Day.

So, a study today has recommended that people's debts do not exceed 45% of their annual income. Oops. It's a bit late now. Without going into what my annual income is, nor how much I owe, I can safely say that my debts are several times my annual income, rather than less than half of it.

It is, of course, wise advice, but it doesn't represent real life for me. I did a four year University course, with a student loan for each of those years. Then living off a credit card when I spent 8 months with no income. And, of course, I am not blameless and also bought sometimes essentials and, yes, sometimes I spent on extras on credit cards after my benefits had finally been approved. When I say essentials there, I do really mean essentials. I'm not talking about an essential pair of jeans, or an essential night out. I'm talking food, electricity tokens, and such.

But yes, I have also caused some of my debt by buying things on credit when I could have lived without them. Clothes, books, household things. One incredibly depressing thing about being on low levels of benefits (for 18 months or so I got around £42 a week) is that it is not like being a bit skint when you're waiting for payday. It is a level of poverty and misery which you have no apparent way out of. In my case, miracle cure would have got me out of it, as I could have then been able to work, and afford things again. But there was no miracle cure, and no other way out. I was barely able to get out of bed, even less able to leave the house.

As a result, every week money was a struggle - in fact, more of an impossibility than a struggle. Once bills and electricity token were covered I was left with around £15 a week for food, transport, socialising, clothes, toiletries, emergencies, treats, presents for people etc. But with £15 a week, and the only accessible shop to me being expensive, virtually all of that money went on food, and a little left over for travel - mainly to medical appointments.

So, no hope of (what were those other things I mentioned?!) socialising, getting new clothes, toiletries, dealing with emergencies, getting the odd treat for myself or birthday or Christmas presents for others. There was just no feasible way of even entertaining the idea of spending on any of those things.

As nowadays there are very few cash machines which dispense £5 notes, I would get £10 out one week and £20 the next, then £10 again then £20 the following week. This was how I had to go about getting hold of the £15 I could spend.

When you are poor it is very difficult to take advantage of situations where richer people can save money. I have talked about this lots before, but basically, you can't take advantage of 'Buy One Get One Free' or '3 for 2' type offers spontaneously, as throwing things which aren't immediately required into your basket is just not possible. Similarly, it is much easier to take advantage of kilos of free washing powder when you have a car to take you back home, rather than a bus and a two-mile walk. Not to mention that poorer, or disabled people may only have a local 'corner shop' which they can realistically access. These places are often more expensive for general items, and don't have so many special offers. People with transport, for example, can shop around, getting the best prices.

But above all it's miserable. You're constantly counting pennies and having to make choices between loo paper or sanitary towels, and there is no end in sight. You're not skint until you get paid next week. You're not going to have to skip biscuits / coffee / whatever until Saturday. How your life is is how your life seems it will be for the immediate and perhaps long-term future. If your fridge breaks, then you don't have a fridge any more. If you don't have a winter coat, then you get cold til the spring. If, like me, you gain weight, then you have to continue to wear the same clothes even when they are two sizes too small.

I don't want to sound melodramatic or like I'm pleading for sympathy or pity. I'm not. Nowadays I have more income than that, and though I am often skint, it is generally a different level of skint and I usually at least have food in the house. However, that period of time was appallingly difficult and it is important that people know how it really is to live on a tiny amount of money.

Ok. Rant over. Well, that particular one at least. For now.

The web is full of Photoshop contests, of varying standards. I found one, quite accidentally, which impressed me muchly. Everyday Objects Swapped with Musical Instruments.

Chocolate has been banned for NHS Staff?? Why is this not head of the news? It's nearly as bad as all this bloody no smoking nonsense.

Hehe.

Whaaa?!

Fin.

Stoned Graffiti in Hackenthorpe. Posted by Hello

Thursday, March 03, 2005

Petitions and Presumptions (aka I hate Bigots)

With regard to Powerless to Stop Mental Health Unit in DoncasterToday and Dismay over Mental Hospital Council Unable to Block Healthcare Firm's Plan.

To Editor, Doncaster Today,

I read with interest your article entitled, "POWERLESS TO STOP MENTAL HEALTH UNIT". I find it difficult to understand why people are objecting to this unit's proposed existence. Why campaign to change the law to require that psychiatric units need 'special' planning permission? And why would psychiatric patients using GP and other local services be more of a stretch to those services than residents of two nursing homes?

That 3500 people signed a petition against this project worries me immensely. Why did they feel this was necessary? Mis-information with regard to people with mental health problems is rife, particularly the myth of 'dangerousness'.

The facts are that around 300 people out of 1,000 will experience mental health problems every year in Britain, that people with mental health problems are much more vulnerable to be assaulted themselves than to assault anyone, and are also much, much more likely to harm themselves than anyone else.

In terms of violence towards others, according to psychiatrists, the likelihood of someone being killed by somebody with a mental disorder is probably less than that of winning the National Lottery outright. Even then, victims are likely to be someone known to the killer, rather than a stranger. In fact, the most dangerous group in society is young men who drink, so for a community to feel safer I suppose it would also campaign to ban all young men and alcohol from their community?

Myths and inaccuracies being widely propagated are causing a community to be worried about risks which are not there. They are also causing this community to risk losing the benefits that new residents of this centre will contribute to their local society.

I sincerely hope that some honest and fair information will be provided to the members of this community to allay their fears, and instead to welcome new members of their community with respect.

Wednesday, March 02, 2005

Poverty, Play-Doh and Pick-Ups. Voyeurism x 2. Benefits and Bible Stories.

So, the internet is peppered with lists of chat-up lines. Almost all ill-advised, incidentally. As are the ones in this list of Christian Pick-up lines. What do you reckon to, "excuse me, i believe one of your ribs belongs to me"? Or the honestly quite bewildering "you put the "cute" back in persecution!"?

That actually leads quite nicely to a large selection of Bible Stories Recreated in Lego...

Anybody's voyeuristic tendencies can be nurtured and encouraged by going to Random Live Webcams from the Net. The clue is in the title really. I particularly like the Launderette in Takanabe, Japan, an incredible Austrian landscape (complete with skiers), and there are many images from the PlusNet offices in Sheffield.

I talked about how cold it got here in Sheffield. Now, you really must see these amazing photos of ice-encrusted vehicles. They look incredible.

The Peanuts4Benefits campaign is one which I very much support.
Millions of claimants are facing benefit increases of as little as 50p per week from April 2005, the smallest rise for at least 30 years. For example a single person on Job Seekers Allowance, over 25 years old, will receive 55p increase giving a total of £56.20 per week.
It seems that as the benefit levels do not rise in line with wages or even prices, people on benefits are in real terms becoming poorer each year. The tiny increases leave people worse off year on year. There is more good information from Oxfam: Facts about Poverty in Great Britain.

Back on voyeurism, there are some fascinating reads on notproud.com.

I've just made myself one of those microwave snack rice pot things. I had to separate the rice from itself initially, as it was in a huge pyramid solid shape. I realised when I was doing this, that it smelt distinctly of play-doh. Much as Play-Doh, and in particular its smell, are fabulous. I'm not sure I want to eat rice made from it.

Tasting the rice now - it tastes like no rice I have ever tasted, nor does the sweet and sour sauce taste of anything at all. There is still a distinct childhood toy smell... Hmmm.