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Monday, June 27, 2005

Farewell to Twice-Nightly Whiteley. Oh, and smoking and pig personalities too.

Can I make a polite request please? Will you just let me have a cigarette after a meal out, or in a bus shelter, or with a coffee and slice of cake in a cafe? Forest are being vocal and campaigning, but I have some difficulty supporting an organisation whose main funders are tobacco companies. They do have some aptly named Writings Worth Reading though.

If you want to tell the government that you want to be able to smoke, you can do so here.

You see, I don't mind being segregated, pushed into a corner with yellowing walls and hacking coughs around me, I just want to be able to have a rollie in the places I go to chill out. Sheffield is very windy and smoking a cigarette, never mind rolling one, can be quite tricky outside. Download the consultation document on the Smoking Ban here.

Apparently, in a recent survey 51% of respondents said that in pubs they would prefer them to be mainly non-smoking, with smoking areas; 19% would prefer mainly smoking, with non-smoking areas; and 8% preferred smoking to be allowed throughout. That's 78% of people who want to allow some level of smoking in pubs - with 20% wanting pubs to be no smoking, and 2% who didn't know.

That's promising, but to those 20% who want totally no-smoking pubs, I wonder what you think pubs are actually for? Would you be happier if we also banned drinking? And laughing? And speaking?

I feel persecuted as a nicotine addict! I don't want non-smokers to have to breathe my smoke, I don't mind being shoved into a corner to keep my smoke away from others! Just give us a break.

You can respond to the consultation document by writing to: Smokefree Legislation Team, Health Improvement Directorate, Department of Health, Rm 707 Wellington House, 133-155 Waterloo Road, London SE1 8UG or by emailing smokefreelegislation@dh.gsi.gov.uk.

Go see my pig, and inherent personality analysis.

Richard Whiteley has died. The BBC Obituary is a good sum-up of a great guy.

Image hosted by TinyPic.com


The Guardian culture-vulture blog said this,
Watching him present the show - as he did for 23 years - sometimes felt like watching your dad dance at a wedding. Supremely confident yet squirmingly awkward, sensible suit and striped blazer topped off with a terrible tie, painful puns would tumble from his mouth, jokes and wordplay that you knew had never felt the touch of a professional script-writer, but had been thought up in the dressing room, and seemed like a terribly good idea at the time.
Very, very true. Bless ya Mr Groovy Ties.

Friday, June 24, 2005

Letters, Ethics, Dosh, Homophobia, Anti-Car, Animations, Songs and Bombs.

I have been having horrendous times lately with certain financial institutions. So I was entertained to be pointed again to a great letter to a bank, allegedly sent, the first paragraph of which reads,
Dear Sir,
I am writing to thank you for bouncing the cheque with which I endeavored to pay my plumber last month. By my calculations, some three nanoseconds must have elapsed between his presenting the cheque, and the arrival in my account of the funds needed to honour it. I refer, of course, to the automatic monthly deposit of my entire salary, an arrangement which, I admit, has only been in place for eight years. You are to be commended for seizing that brief window of opportunity, and also for debiting my account with $50 by way of penalty for the inconvenience I caused to your bank.

You have probably seen it before - I certainly had - but it's worth a re-read.

I also like this response to a speeding fine, and how many of us can relate to this tirade against NTL, though personally I would have eschewed the poo attachments... Letter to the Early Learning Centre is amusing too.

Ok, so none of them help me deal with the particular shits I'm dealing with, but they at least brought a smile.

Speaking of financial services, the Co-operative Bank's position on Christian Voice appears to be being widely supported - quite rightly. The bank asked Christian Voice to close their account with them, due to their extreme homophobia. The Co-op Bank, despite their faults, do have a reasonably strong ethical policy which underlies their investments and determines which companies and organisations can invest with them. (Incidentally, in that Times article I referenced, I do hope that when they say The bank prides itself on its 'ethnical policies', they actually mean ethical policies!)

I say reasonably strong because, much to my annoyance, they have spent much of their recent months promoting accounts which fund and encourage car use when we know all too well that excessive car use is exacerbating the huge environmental damage we are inflicting on the earth, not to mention the oil=petrol=war links in Iraq. I have challenged them on this but they state their is no contradiction with their own ecological standards for their business customers.

However, their strong stance against (non)Christian (non)Voice is to be welcomed and encouraged (and you can tell them this here). If you want to challenge them about their car-use promotions, you can also tell them that there too.

And it is almost as if the ecological karma goddess just dropped this into my email inbox. Seriously, I finished typing that last paragraph and then opened my email programme and had an email from Friends of the Earth asking people to act against climate change.

And I'm very, very glad that the BNP have lost their London council seat.

My animations and things page is, if I say so myself, quite cool. Though maybe that's because I only list things on it that I think are cool and whether others share that judgement is a whole other matter.

But my favourite addition to it of the day has to be The Very Model of a Modern Labour Minister. It combines my love of the ultra-camp Gilbert & Sullivan, smart political commentary, and it parodies the same song as my ever favourite Tom Lehrer's The Elements and the relative newcomers Fitness to Practice singing The Drugs Song. Incidentally, finding the links to that lets me know that Amateur Transplants (as they seem to be called) have a new song, but it's horrible.

But where was I? Ok, the Modern Labour Minister song is all about the thorny issue of ID cards, which the UK government is planning on introducing compulsorily. It sounds a terrifying and outrageous prospect to myself and many others, indeed I talked about it here in relation to some spot-on stuff that Germaine Greer had said. The No2ID site say it all much better than I could, and really very well. My recommendation is to go there if you're at all unsure about the issues, and read how they separate fact from New Labour fiction.

And, in case anyone feels like a bit of g0og1eb0m8ing, I give you:
Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell, Jerry Falwell. and Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo, Downing Street Memo
Downing Street Memo and Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo, Rycroft Memo.


And some giggles for the weekend for you - turn on your sound and click depressed patient not so and A Nigerian identity crisis.

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Sheffield Shouts.

Rather a lot of G8 leaders were in Sheffield on Wednesday and Thursday, having meetings about killing people, and blocking off a huge, huge portion of the city centre. They were the Home Affairs and Justice Ministers' summit, it seems. There was a big city-centre-size hole in the tram route, and the buses were going from strange stops which, if not for bumping into the occasional bus person, I'd never have discovered and been unable to get home.

And I have never seen as many police in my life. Everywhere you looked was a sea of flourescent yellow jackets. There were many police vans, not only from South Yorkshire police, but West Yorkshire police too (and possibly more - I only saw some of them). It's a horribly intimidating feeling to walk through a group of 30-40 coppers just to get to the (strangely located) bus stop.

I was carrying a huge mop which I had just bought and I was wondering whether they were wondering if I was going to commit a mop-based terrorist attack on the Ministers. I wasn't.


Photo of a spray painted Official Protester sign, containing a bar code under which is written G82005 NO2ID
Great pic on Indymedia 


There were protests against the summit. Impressive protests, which I was hoping to join myself, but then couldn't. The only place for information about the incredible resistance from Sheffield people against this intrusion into our city is Sheffield Indymedia. (Video here, one of several).

And I always love a bit of subvertising.

Schnews is a great source of information and inspiration, and their weekly newsletter is great. This week, they presented the following figures:

Debt package agreed on Jun 11th $40bn

Total African debt since 1970 $833.4bn

Total African repayments since 1970 $817.4bn

Total debt still outstanding $506bn
.

There isn't much more that needs to be said there, is there?

Wednesday, June 15, 2005

Butterflies, freeBies, and Bollocks about aBuse verdicts.

Yesterday I walked 10104 steps, which was 4.8 miles, burning 704 calories. Yey me! And yey for pedometers...

There is an incredible story in today's Guardian about a butterfly which became extinct in the UK in 1979, whose lives depended on some rather intricate trickery.

It has now been re-introduced to 10 secret, and 1 public site in Britain, and its survival story is really quite incredible.
The rather unimaginatively named Large Blue butterfly [...] begins life as a normal caterpillar and the young larvae feed on wild thyme flowers.

From then on its life depends on its con trick. As each larva drops to the ground, it secretes a sticky sugary substance which is irresistible to ants.

The ants are tricked into thinking that the larva is a lost ant grub and take it into their underground colony.

But not any old ant will do, only large colonies of a single species of red ant - Myrnica sabuleti - can act as a suitable host.

An incredible phase in the caterpillar's life then begins where for 10 months it turns into a carnivore - eating the ant grubs while the hapless ants feed and care for it as one of their own.

The caterpillar pupates in the ant nest, finally emerging for a few brief days in the last stage of its remarkable life as a beautiful butterfly.

Changing farming techniques led to the decline of the red ant the butterfly depends on and in 1979 the Large Blue became extinct in Britain.

Mathew Oates, the National Trust's adviser on nature conservation, said: "Over the next few weeks and future summers we look forward to welcoming visitors at Collard Hill to come and see this rare and beautiful butterfly and understand its extraordinary life of deception."


Free stuff

There are pages and pages of lists of sources of free information, loads of things you needed to find out, and also things you didn't know you needed to find out. There is also some cool, free software and loads of discount voucher codes for many online shops. I don't get any exciting commission or anything for any of those, they are just cool and handy.

Michael Jackson

Monday's entry here caused a bit of a stir in the comments. So, responses follow, though how much I do or don't go into this I will see, as I am exhausted and fairly miserable.

Ok, so slowdown shows us this picture which, oh my god, I agree is so weird. I'm quite glad to not be a part of mankind because, if nothing else, he's certainly not apologising on my behalf!

Then metatron joined in. S/he begins, 'Unless you have some categorical evidence to support your disgust - and I'm going to go out on a limb here and state that I doubt this is true - then how exactly do you know that the decision was wrong?'.

Firstly, categorical evidence of sexual abuse very, very rarely exists. It just isn't that type of crime. Secondly, there are aspects of the prosecution's evidence which I actually do think are fairly categorical. Like that both Michael Jackson's and the kid's fingerprints were found on some of Jackson's pornography. This has been widely discussed as typical behaviour of abusers grooming their victims, when it is actually more than that. An adult showing a child pornography is already sexually abusing them.

Let me restate that. Showing children pornography is sexual abuse.

And thirdly, you are demanding categorical evidence that he was guilty. Surely on that basis you agree that he could not ever be safely declared innocent, as proving a lack or absence of something can be virtually impossible. There is evidence that he is guilty. What possible evidence could there be that he wasn't?

'What is your hatred based on?'
My hatred is based on the facts above, and the actions of this man, who when previously accused of sexually abusing a child, paid them off with $millions instead of letting the evidence stand for itself. And a man in his forties who routinely shares his bed with children in any case, and whose house is like a child's fantasy playground. It is also like a paedophile's fantasy playground, let's face it.

'Did you follow the case? Did you see the prosecution's "evidence"?'
Yes. Yes.

'Or does Michael just look a bit odd? Wow! I like your idea of justice.'
Umm hold on. Yes, he does look a bit odd, but the connection between that and his guilt is what? Are you presuming (rightly) that I think he looks odd, and presuming (wrongly) that that is why I think he is guilty? Can I paraphrase your good self in asking where the evidence is to make such a random connection?

'The prosecution failed to produce even the slightest sliver of credible evidence. All they had was hearsay from habitual liars, but you're certain he was guilty because ... ? What?'
Well, what I said above really. And what Jennifer and many commenters say here, and what many, many people are saying all over the world and the web! But I went into some of it at least above and that will have to do.

'Perhaps him being a man didn't fit in well with your feminism?'
Well, perhaps him being a man who showed pornography to a child doesn't fit in well with my feminism? And him being a man who has used his immense wealth and undeserved influence to completely control his surroundings to, thus far, protect himself from the justice of the real world doesn't fit in well with my feminism. And maybe his being a man who possesses and uses lots of fetishising and demeaning and 'barely legal' porngraphy doesn't fit in well with my feminism.

'Might I suggest you try acquiring the trait of objectivism?'
You might, but I had to look it up. Objectivism, it seems, is less of a trait and more of either the particular philosophy of Ayn Rand, or a movement within art, in areas such as poetry or literature - a type of 20th century poetry in which objects are selected and portrayed for their own particular value, rather than their symbolic quality or the intellectual concept of the author.

So, that said I'm going to presume you meant objectivity (though even then I'm still not sure it's strictly a trait, but that's the obsessive linguist in me so I'll stop). I do have the skill of objectivity. I have done enough reading, studying, debating, campaigning, reasoning and just plain living to have that skill. But objectivity in itself is really quite dull, especially where opinionated blogging is concerned.

I generally believe that objectivity is the place to start, using the objective facts and statistics and generalisations and information to then build an opinion. If you want to read total objectivity then a blog is not the place to look. In theory a news reporting website would be a source of objective fact but that is virtually never the case either. True objectivity is a lot rarer in our media than is often thought.

But yes, I understand and appreciate objectivity, but as a basis to then build on with what I know and live and learn subjectively and through experience, as that is what is vitally important.

'I wasn't aware that the average hippie sought the existence of a police state and mob justice by gut feelings, preferring it to due process.'
I'm not the average hippie, thank god. I'm not the average anything. And you are right that no average hippie, nor this hippie here seeks the existence of a police state. Unfortunately we mostly live in one, but believing Michael Jackson has bought his way out of allegations several years ago, and has bought his way into the service of a persuasive team of barristers this time, does not in any way equate to seeking a police state.

Breathe out.

The adorable custard spy jumped in with her own wonderfulness: 'Metratron, sort yourself out! Consider this: would any other 45 year old man found to have been sleeping with children get away with it? Really? And for someone who wants an evidential basis for statements, please at least have the courtesy to READ Hippie's blog before you accuse her of making judgements on the basis of appearance (I don't believe the post made any reference to MJ's looks)or gender. In contrast, you've demonstrated your own tendency to do this with your facile assumption of "she's a feminist - she must hate Michael Jackson because he's a man"! Think about it. Learn something new yourself.', to which I nod a lot and smile and giggle, and slowdown rejoined the discussion, with 'I concur. I don't see what Hippie's opinion on Jackson has to do with feminism, apart from the fact that Metatron obviously seems uncomfortable with both. I also suspect that he/she/it meant 'objectivity' rather than 'objectivism', but that's just the sort of slip people tend to make when indulging in their own subjective rants. They also tend to forget that they're on a blog - where strong personal opinions are to be expected - and consequently end up forgetting their manners. But that's just my opinion.'

I am mainly quoting those last two comments, rather than discussing them. This is partly because they articulately and cleverly make their own points very clearly, and it is partly because I'm really tired now and need to rest! But waves to Custard Spy and slowdown for knowing why I blog, and why I'm not an appalling person who makes judgements on the basis of unusual facial features.

Monday, June 13, 2005

Michael Jackson...

has been found... not guilty. What the fuck is that about????

I am so sick on hearing those verdicts.

I heard an interview on the radio with him a few minutes ago, in which he referred to himself as a black luminary. Where on earth do you start with deconstructing a statement like that?!

I hate him.

I cannot publish this post yet because of blogger errors. Don't know if the whole world is blogging the not guilty nightmare.

Great quote, though, from a woman from Kidscape who was on The World Tonight just now. If I had one thing to say to Michael Jackson, it would be for God's sake, stop sleeping with boys. Quite.

In 1996...

In 1996 handguns murdered 2 people in New Zealand, 13 in Australia, 15 in Japan, 30 in Great Britain, 106 in Canada, 213 in Germany and 9390 in the United States. Stop handguns before they stop you. God bless America

Thursday, June 09, 2005

So, what do you do then?

Whenever I meet someone new, usually their 2nd, 3rd or 4th question is, 'So what do you do?'.

I live in dread of that question because there are so many ways to answer it, but none which ever quite fit into the smalltalk nature in which it was asked.

I could answer, variously:
  • Nothing, I'm mad

  • Lots of things, I'm just not paid for any of them

  • I'm studying

  • I do mental health stuff

  • I hate people who define others by what they do

  • My main achievement is still being alive at the end of each day

  • I cry a lot, have panic attacks, and hear and see allsorts that noone else does

  • I leech my money from your hard-earned taxes

They're all true, but I rarely want to go into any of them really. And rarely do. Other than 'I do mental health stuff', which I say quite frequently while avoiding the real meaning of do, the others depend on my moods and that day's bitterness level towards a scary and presumptious world.

In any case, DH Kelly explores this exact issue on Ouch this week.

--

Every week I receive a newsletter in my Inbox from World Wide Words, a fantastic resource full of great information for linguaphones (a word? or just a company selling foreign language courses for £loads?) like me. From last weeks, I loved,
Weird Words: Valetudinarian

A person who is unduly anxious about their health.

The everyday word for a person of this sort is "hypochondriac", but
this polysyllabic and literary term is a good alternative at times
when it is desirable not to seem too unkind. In November 2004, the
word appeared in an obituary of the football writer Arthur Hopcraft
in the Independent: "Fastidious, set in his ways and prematurely
balding, Hopcraft had an air of the valetudinarian bachelor about
him from a relatively early age."

The word appears in the language in 1703, in the third volume of
William Dampier's A New Voyage Round the World. Dampier was an
extraordinary explorer, map-maker and buccaneer; a couple of years
after he published this volume he commanded a privateering voyage
during which Alexander Selkirk, the model for Robinson Crusoe, was
marooned. He wrote: "Many of our English Valetudinarians have gone
from Jamaica...to the I. Caimanes,...to live wholly upon Turtle
that abound there". (He's referring to the Cayman Islands, these
days famous more as a refuge for the money of the reclusive rich
than for sick people.) A writer in the Gentleman's Magazine in 1787
remarked that: "Every one knows how hard a task it is to cure a
valetudinarian."

The word is from Latin "valetudinarius", in ill health.
And I can't say I'm not wondering whether I'm a valetudinarian would be a good answer to the question I opened with... it wouldn't be accurate, but it would at least be something to say!

--

Waste Online is a fantastic resource. If you want to know how to dispose of pretty much anything in as environmental a way of possible, they have ideas for how to re-use, recycle, donate it. So if you're wondering what to do with old video tapes, or cooking oil, or old hearing aids, freezers or even fire extinguishers, you'll find great ideas there.

--

I am very, very, very happy to hear that Fathers for Justice have disbanded. I was informed of this by the rather excellent Truth About Rape women, and the F4J statement on the issues has caused me much cackling. Ha.

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Akathisia, Biganimals, Councils, Donethings, Extragoodlinks ABCDE.

Go Sheffield! For being one of only two councils in the country to choose to house a group of people fleeing intolerable conditions. And shame on all the others.

And check out this liger... a lion / tiger cross that is monumentally huge!

Sometimes I get a form of either restless legs syndrome or akathisia from medication, which can feel absolutely torturous when I'm lying in bed and trying to get to sleep. For anyone else similarly afflicted, a bar of soap could be worth a try... Of course I'm sceptical, but given that my incredibly persistent verruca may actually be being reduced by daily applications of garlic strapped to it, I'm more open to suggestions nowadays!

Check out links on the right of the screen, by the way. I only put them there cos they're fab. My favourites of the day are On Becoming a Homosexual... and 360 Degrees of Sky.

And finally, a meme stolen from birdychirp:

    Ten Things I've Never Done
  1. Windsurfed

  2. Liked my stomach

  3. Got a suntan

  4. Learned Japanese

  5. Cheated on a partner

  6. Had a perm

  7. Found Jim Davidson funny

  8. Lived a tidy, organised existence

  9. Been to Sweden

  10. Eaten sushi
And you...?