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Sunday, January 29, 2006

Word Beads: Variety; Doze; Technical; Polar; Fossil.

The fossil-hunters arrived with their array of detector machines, identification manuals and technical information. The news of the recent find had clearly spread quickly amongst this strange community.

The scurrying calmed and soon these men worked individually, systematically, examining the variety of rocks, stones, shells, driftwood in the area.

Some talked quietly of a recent polar expedition, while one had brought a dog which, clearly used to this dull inactivity with its owner, dozed calmly in the dawning sun.


Word Beads.

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Thursday, January 26, 2006

Demise of Radio 4 UK Theme. Disaster or Damn Good Idea?

As a chronic insomniac I know the routine well. At 1am, after Sailing By, the Shipping Forecast and the national anthem, BBC Radio 4 closes for the night and changes into BBC World Service for four and a half hours. Then at 5.30am, Radio Four re-opens, with the UK Theme - a medley of folk songs from the four regions of Britain - and goes on to start the day.

While I have slight nostalgic attachments, occasionally, to the aforementioned UK theme, it usually fills me with horror. It either serves to just rub in the fact that it's 5.30am and I'm still not asleep, or it means that any early morning waking (typical in depression, apparently) is particularly bad.

Either way, if I hear the UK Theme it means I've not slept, or I've slept really, really badly.

And to add insult to injury, the piccolo solo within the theme is really out of tune which, as someone who used to be a reasonably good flautist, is irritating and annoying.

So when, earlier this week, I woke before the theme, heard it, heard Farming Today, and was listening to the Today programme, and the screen on my digital radio told me that at 8.20am the controller of Radio 4 was going to be interviewed about his decision to scrap the UK Theme, I was quite excited.

Revenge on the evil waker-upper and symbol of appalling sleep! Ha! (Surely if the theme is abolished, so will insomnia be...?)

So, sure enough I was still awake at 8.20am. Beginning the discussion with an interview with the widow of Fritz Spiegl, the composer of the theme, was certainly an emotive start, but the interview which followed explained that the theme was 33 years old, somewhat dated, and because it lasts over 5 minutes, they thought that that time could be much better spent with news, and a look forward to what was happening that day.

I do admit a certain sad nostalgia by this point, at the prospect of the 5.30 herald being spoken word rather than duuuh duh duh duh duh daa, but overall my joy at the very living symbol of sleep deprivation being abolished overrode any vague sadness.

So, imagine my surprise when a friend sent me a link to savetheradio4theme.co.uk. They have a petition, apparently signed by over 6000 people. The theme's demise was even brought up in Parliament yesterday!

Now, I am an avid Radio 4 listener. Anyone who knows radio 4 knows that this is a kind of identity thing in many ways. But I also am glad that April will be the last time I should hear that herald of dawn and misery. I can love the station, but hate the theme.

And the fact that many of those who are campaigning to keep the theme, are doing so on the basis of Gordon Brown's splurging about patriotism and nationalism being marvellous, just makes me even more shaky.

So, I love radio 4, I resist most change there, but let the UK theme go. Let me have future insomnia nights without hearing an out of tune drunken sailor, or sickly Danny Boy, or any of the other pieces that make up the almost-6-minutes of let's rub in how badly she's slept. Please!

However, scrapping Home Truths too... now that's another matter.

9.38am - Edited to add: You can hear the Radio 4 UK Theme online, by clicking here. That bloody piccolo!

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Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Information Release: Sheffield Welfare Action Network.

NB I am publishing this essentially as I received it, to publicise the protest. I will write my own post on the Disability Benefits attacks as soon as possible.

Sheffield/Nation Wide Protest against the Incapacity Benefit Proposals.

Saturday 4 February, 1.00pm

Town Hall, Sheffield


Bring homemade placards, etc

there wll be speakers and some music, etc...

And

Call for simultaneous peaceful protests across the UK,

The Gov’t has finally announced what its plans are for
incapacity benefit and claimants and in SWAN’s view,
it is very very draconian and unpleasant. The changes
are the biggest in welfare for over sixty years(see
below), we are calling on all decent and caring
people, claimants, campaigners, activists, faith
groups, churches, individuals to support our call and
peacefully protest in your locality


It’s going to get even tougher

There is to be an even tougher and brutal regime for
most on incapacity benefit (IB) (it is extremely
difficult to claim IB now.) Benefits will be cut by
over 25.00 and will only rise when a claimant looks
for work, there will be even more stringent medical
assessments and tougher requirements to seek work or
lose benefit. Employment advisers will be placed in
G.P’s surgeries to ‘spy’ on the sick. Swan is already
hearing from a number of disabled people who are
terrified of these changes, they are saying that the
‘disability benefits‘regime is almost unbearable now’,
and how can it be worse!

>From the Guardian

‘'New claimants will face a tougher entry route and
more demanding tests on the benefit, renamed the
employment and support allowance.

Responses to the reforms

Already reactions are coming in: Macmillan Cancer
Relief feared "workfare-style compulsion" for sick and
disabled people, saying ‘it had already had to
intervene to stop chemotherapy patients and those with
a terminal diagnosis being called to work interviews’.
Of course, people should have help when and if they
are ready to go back to work, but what about the
Employer, are they ready for this? SWAN will also ask
why are the reforms ‘target led’ with the aim of
getting one million back into work? If the reforms are
so good , why does there have to be sanctions and
co-ercion? This approach will mean many many thousands
of the most vulnerable in our society who simply
cannot work will face such co-ercion and harrassment.
Further, where are all these jobs going to come from?
unemployment is now rising and employers themselves
admit they discriminate against people with
disabilities. The figures the Govt gives are
disengenous as well, fraud in IB is neglible (around
2% according to the DWP) and a large number of people
who could claim (for example those with terminal
illness) do not even know they are eligible! Having
work advisers in G.P surgeries will put added pressure
on sick people and one can argue it will compromise
the GP/patients relationship and is an infringement of
civil liberties.

SWAN will campaign vigorously against these reforms
and calls on all allies, friends, etc to do the same.
Finally, those who would call diasabled people:
scroungers, ‘leadswingers, etc, realise that 'these
people' are not others, different, from outer
space,they are us and one day, certainly as you age,
it could be you.

Resources:

excellent balanced summary of the changes here.

Disability Alliance, challenging the myths.

Sheffield Welfare Action Network.

swansheffield@yahoo.co.uk.



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I'm working on it...

I want to write about the scary Incapacity Benefit proposals. I want to write a review of Life Stripped Bare: My Year Trying To Live Ethically by a Guardian journalist, Leo Hickman. I want to write about the cool day with Z on our 2nd Anniversary. I want to write about the evils of excess packaging (having received 3 items of post this morning in plastic-wrapped bags). I want want want.

Watch this space. You never know.


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Friday, January 20, 2006

Save the Whale(s)!

There is a whale in central London. I thought it was a cute story until one report said they thought the whale had swum there, to shallow waters, to die. I was surprised at how inconscienably sad that made me :-(.

Northern Bottlenose Whale.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

From My Email.

From Friends of the Earth:
With spring on the way, now is the time to start thinking about whether to buy new plants for your garden or balcony. Investigate the Postcode Plants Database to find out which plants are local to your area before you make any purchases. These will encourage local wildlife, and will be better suited to local conditions, so will need less maintenance than exotic species. Visit http://www.nhm.ac.uk/nature-online/life/plants-fungi/postcode-plants/



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Sunday, January 15, 2006

Registering the Damage.

So what on earth is going on with this Ruth Kelly / sex offenders register(s) / teachers stuff?

What I have learned is:

  1. There is a register, separate from the Sex Offenders Register, known as List 99, which contains a list of people who must never work with children.

  2. One man has been working in a school, despite being on the Sex Offenders Register, having been cautioned for looking at child pornography.

  3. A 'caution' means he admitted to doing it.

  4. Another man who has been convicted of sex with a minor, got a job in a school.

  5. There has even been a case where someone who is on (the aforementioned) List 99, who has been approved, (seemingly) personally by Ruth Kelly, to work in a school nonetheless.

  6. A man who has convictions for abusing young boys, has been allowed to work in an all-girls' school.

  7. The whole world has gone mad
  8. .


So, being on the Sex Offenders Register does not automatically preclude someone from working in a school, but being on List 99 does.

Except that it doesn't, clearly. It only stops you if you don't get personal approval from the Education Minister to work with children despite history of convictions or abuse. And it seems she is reasonably willing to do that - two cases I have heard about, at least.

Now, I am not naive enough to be under any illusion that if people who have convictions of sexually abusing children are not allowed to work in schools, then all children are safe.

Firstly, you don't need to have a conviction to abuse children, or to be a danger to them.

Secondly, child sex abusers are often drawn to professions which will bring them into contact with children, so schools are probably a fairly high risk place to be in those terms.

And thirdly, the vast majority of abuse happens within the home. Kids are at risk from their parents, relatives, friends, babysitters etc., in the very place they live.

However doesn't it seem, well, sensible to actively stop people who have either been convicted of, or have admitted to offences of sexual abuse against children from working in a school?

Well, yes it does.

On a side note, hippie blog seems to be the number one search result for what programmes will there be on the telly on friday nights in march. Should anyone else manage to find me through those search terms, I can safely say, I have no idea. Gah!


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Friday, January 13, 2006

The world is a scary place.

Firstly, someone is making jewellery out of Barbie body parts. They are very scary.

Secondly, 1990 was 16 years ago. Sixteen years ago. That is very scary.

Thirdly, clowns. Nuff said.

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Thursday, January 12, 2006

Directions.

1. Start at London Heathrow.
2. Negotiate queues and bag checks.
3. Catch flight from London Heathrow to Dallas Fort
Worth Airport.
4. Hire car at Dallas Fort Worth Airport.
5. Start going toward the "Airport Exit" on
"International Parkway South" - follow for 0.2 miles.
6. Bear left onto the highway toward "Terminal East
Parking" – follow for 0.3 miles
7. Bear left onto "International Parkway North" toward
"North Airport Exit" - follow for 2.9 miles
8. Take the "Highway 114 west" exit toward "Fort Worth"
- follow for 29.2 miles
9. Then continue on "US 287 north" - follow for 91.1
miles
10. "US 287 north" becomes "Interstate-44 east" -
follow for 0.7 miles
11. Take left fork onto "US-287 north" toward "Vernon"
- follow for 104.0 miles
12. "US 287 north" becomes "Avenue F (US-287)" - follow
for 2.8 miles
13. Continue to follow "US 287 north" - follow for
104.9 miles
14. Take left ramp onto "Interstate 40 west" toward
"Dumas" follow for 7.8 miles
15. Take "Exit 70" onto "US 60 east" toward "Dumas"
follow for 0.5 miles
16. Take the "Buchanan Street" exit toward
"Dumas/Pampa" - follow for 1.7 miles
17. Turn right onto "Old Route 66 (Interstate 40)" -
follow for 0.1miles
18. Arrive at the centre of "Amarillo, Texas"

Now that's the way to fucking Amarillo.
SO CAN EVERYONE STOP SINGING IT NOW?!


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Monday, January 09, 2006

Psycho-babble or Psychic Healing?

Today's Guardian has an interesting article on therapy. It conveys well the ambivalence that many people have about whether it is the feel-good cure-all as promised by many, or a complete con which will £cost you dear and make you feel rather worse.

I have the same dilemmas too, but I am becoming more and more cynical. I have seen too many people go into therapy because they are struggling with an issue, and end up in years of therapy with a series of therapists, by which time the therapy is all about how much the previous therapists have fucked them up. Therapy breeds therapy?!

I hope that doesn't sound dismissive, because that's how I mean to sound, not at all. It's too, too true, unfortunately.

In the good old days (?!) of first wave feminism, it was said that Feminism's aim is to make itself redundant. I think that way of therapy. I do believe that therapists should be working with clients, with the aim of not seeing them any more, at some point. But so many therapists seem to breed and encourage certain levels of dependence on themselves.

Of course, they are making a living doing this - if someone is paying your mortgage, it's hard to actively try to lose that income - but ethics should be paramount, not secondary to a therapist's finances.

I guess I get mixed up when I think that these people (hopefully) chose this profession due to a desire to help people. In order to continue their work, they require a certain amount of misery to be around. And yet because of their original motivations to get the job, they want to help people feel less miserable. But do they ever question, on one of those days when the month lasts longer than the money, whether they really want to encourage a client to become independent and live without their input?

And that's not to mention those who go into therapy due to a desire to control, not help, or who develop this desire as they work. Abusive and unethical therapists are, it seems, not that hard to find.

I dunno. Sometimes I'm very up on therapy, other times very down. I'm currently cynical and that will come across here. If I wrote about the same article in a few months, who knows what my take would be. It's a complicated issue, and therapy itself is incredibly intense and powerful, provoking strong emotions, both positive and negative.

In the past week, the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy (BACP) has received about 10,000 inquiries
[...]
The recent publication of Shouldn't I Be Feeling Better by Now?, a collection of people's experiences in analysis, has reignited the 'cure or con' debate. It claims that about one in four clients either deteriorates in treatment or shows no signs of recovery.
Virginia Ironside, one of Britain's best-known agony aunts, revealed that she had spent £54,000 and hundreds of hours on the couch. Her conclusion? Therapy is fraud. 'I became sucked into the destructively seductive world, always hoping I might find understanding and peace through knowing myself better,' she wrote. 'But I can't help feeling angry at being manipulated when I was at my most vulnerable into investing so much money and time in therapists who, truthfully, only made me feel worse.' (More here...).

I have to admit that none of my views will have been helped from the unconscious messages burned into my brain when I spent several hours helping in a mailout advertising a talk by a psychotherapist. You know when you see a word written down a lot and it starts to look weird? I was packing thousands of envelopes telling people about a psycho-the-rapist. Again and again and again. Get Freud going on that one!

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Saturday, January 07, 2006

Cranberries.


100_0934
Originally uploaded by incurable_hippie.
A few days ago I bought some fresh cranberries, as I had never eaten them before.

Yuckkk.

I thought they were so bitter because they were rock hard, so I left them a few days to ripen. They are now soft and really, really bitter.

REALLY bitter.

It's a shame because occasionally, behind the bitterness, I can taste a nice taste, but the eewwwkkk thing overwhelms everything.

On those TV shows where people send in funny home videos, there were often babies sucking a lemon then doing classic facial expressions. I felt very much like one of those babies.

Just goes to show that just because you like the juice of a fruit, does not necessarily mean you will like the fruit itself.

Very pretty, but yuck.

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Friday, January 06, 2006

Alcohol, Coke and Oil.

I'm not a huge fan of the Liberal Democrats, but I'm finding myself sympathetic towards Charles Kennedy.

He admitted to having a 'drink problem', that he has been receiving treatment and hasn't drunk for two months now. There had been increasing calls for him to step down, with unconfirmed rumours of his alcoholism, and then yesterday he made The Statement - his coming out, if you will.

There have been comments about him having made this statement to get the sympathy vote of those who were going to have the power to vote for him, or not, in a leadership election. There are also comments about his having denied being an alcoholic in the past, and thus he has been proven to have lied. There has also been lots of nastiness about whether an alcoholic can possibly run a political party.

Lembit Opik was on the radio a few minutes ago and actually spoke some sense. By which I mean, of course, that he articulated things I had been thinking since CK's statement yesterday ;-).

Firstly, I really don't think he did this for any kind of Sympathy Vote. He sounded pretty wrecked when he was talking, and in the pictures I saw of him on the front pages of today's papers, he looked awful. I think he was simply forced into this admission, with growing threats that if he didn't make the statement, then somebody else would.

It reminded me of all those people (celebs and such) who have had to come out as being lesbian, gay or bisexual because if they didn't, then one of the tabloids would do so for them. Between a rock and a hard place.

Secondly, in terms of his having lied then yes, he lied about his drinking to reporters. Who wouldn't? Not least because one huge characteristic of addictions and addictive behaviour is an incredible ability to disguise what you are doing, in order to be able to continue doing it. Another characteristic of addictions is denial - both being in denial yourself, and denying that there's a problem to other people.

So yes, he lied about his drinking, but that was because he was being asked about it by journalists (who are the last people you would want to make such an admission to), his addictive behaviour required him to deny the problem so it could continue, and because even if he has been seeking help for the problem (and therefore not in denial to himself), that still doesn't mean that he would want all and sundry to know about it.

On the third point, whether an alcoholic can run a political party, all I can think is, 'Well, he has been doing, so clearly yes, an alcoholic can'. I think the thing is that it wasn't Charles Kennedy the alcoholic running the party, but the Charles Kennedy, of whom alcoholism is one feature.

Some people with addictions, illnesses or disabilities are able to function on on incredibly high level. Others cannot function at all. The fact of being an alcoholic in itself should not preclude someone from holding high position (however it really should preclude them from driving or similar).

I understand that in 5 minutes, a number of the Lib Dem shadow cabinet are going to make a statement that they will all resign by Monday if Charles K hasn't resigned himself.

Why? It's getting unnecessarily nasty, as far as I can tell. Charles has proposed a leadership election, in which he will stand. Is that not enough?

Like I say, I'm not a Lib Dem supporter. Nor indeed especially a Charles Kennedy supporter. I just think this whole situation sucks. It makes me very uncomfortable and it's just unpleasant.

Anyhoo, let's move on - it's g0og1ebom8 time!

Coke, Coca-cola - info here.
Also, Exxonmobil, Exxonmobil, Exxonmobil, Exxonmobil. Ha!


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Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Favourite Subversive Material of the Moment!

My current favourite flyer:



My current favourite song, discovered on the second Peace Not War CD, can be heard here.

George Bush is an Islamic Fundamentalist.

George Bush is an Islamic fundamentalist, obviously
Trained by Al Qaeda in the heart of Texas to fight for the faithful army
He's now in the process of uniting the rest of the world against the good old U S of A
The land of the free will come crashing down if he has his way

It's the only explanation, old Bushy boy is an Islamic Fundamentalist
He's three quarters the way through his plan already and no-one's even noticed
That must be a damn-fine Al Qaeda training camp they've got down there in Texas (Yee ha!)
Getting him to pretend he's as thick as pig-shit was a stroke of pure bloody genius

Yeah, George Bush is an Islamic fundamentalist, obviously
Trained by Al Qaeda in the heart of Texas to fight for the faithful army
He's now in the process of uniting the rest of the world against the good old U S of A
The land of the free will come crashing down if he has his way, trust me

He's presided over and has been involved with one of the worst financial disasters of a generation
Every move he makes seems to be directly against the interests of his nation, haven't you noticed?
He's used the media to increase the social insulation of an already fairly bland population, since the McCarthy days
And now he's declared war on Islam just to increase the consternation

As far as I can see there's only one explanation
George Bush is an Islamic fundamentalist, obviously

These days on the street you hear all kind of interesting conspiracy theories cos no-one knows what the fuck's going on, we're all looking for explanations
The most interesting one I heard the other day was that the West was controlled by genuine democracies that actually represent the will of their populations
Only the one about the aliens, the anti-Christ and the Freemasons is more laughable. Ha ha ha ha.

I think my theory is much more plasible, let me tell you about it, it goes like this,
George Bush is an Islamic fundamentalist, obviously
It really is the only explanation I can see
For his truly anti-American foreign policy.

Now, at this point, I would ask you all to sing along with the chorus, normally. If it wasn't for the fact that there are cameras on the premises and the CIA might be requisitioning the tapes at any time. So I recommend that at under all circumstances, catchy though this numbers is, you do not sing along, you do not even smile. I recommend the most you do is tap your feet. But you do that at your own risk.



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