Wednesday, November 09, 2011

THIS IS A BAD THING. Do you agree that (a) it is a bad thing, and (b) something should be done about it?

Here is a picture of a peaceful protest
that has nothing to do with the riots.
Today @programmed2run sent me a link to an article reporting that:
70 Percent Of Brits Would Agree With
Shutting Down Twitter During Civil Unrest
It's a shitpot of bad statistics.  I guess, falling short of a majority, the actual figure of 48% wasn't enough to make the story interesting, even though it's an alarming enough figure in itself.

But then All Twitter, the site bearing the article, don't seem to worry too much about accuracy.  They accompanied an article about the August riots with a picture of a pensions strike march.

Monday, November 07, 2011

"I got nothing"

"When I was made redundant last year as part of the UK Govt cutbacks, needed as a result of the banks and our bankrupt economic systems, I got nothing.  No redundancy pay, as I had been in "that" job less than two years and my previous employment didn't count."
From this update on the Robin Hood Tax blog.  For the full comment scroll down to the large passage by Simon14 on Friday 4th November at 18:22.

In not-entirely-unrelated news, a few feet away from me in a sealed envelope is a public sector strikes ballot paper with my cross on it, waiting to be posted.

Sunday, October 09, 2011

Why Has No One Ever Thought Of This Before?

So there we were, walking home from Toby and Angel's wedding on a Saturday night.

Ambling our way along Turnpike Lane.

And Laura turned to me and said, "Do you know what I really fancy?"

"I don't know," I said.  "Chips?"

This seemed like a reasonable guess.

"No," said Laura.

"A salad?" I ventured, rather optimistically.  "A nice falafel salad?"

Thursday, October 06, 2011

The News Will Eat Itself

Theresa May giving her speech at the Conservative Party Conference
"And I'm not making this up," she said.

No Theresa, the Telegraph and the Mail did that for you.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Learning Through Play: My New Card Game, Featuring Oliver Letwin!

Hey everyone!  I've just invented a new card game.  It's called Political Belief Trumps.  It's like Top Trumps, only the rules are completely different.


Don't be!  It's easy as pie.  The best way to learn is to do, so let's have a practice round.

I'm going to start by dealing out the Character Cards.  Now, it's your first time, so we'll just start with two of them.  And I'll make it nice and easy by picking two that are totally different.  Ready or not, here we go!

Now I'm going to deal out the Belief Cards.  Each of them has a political belief printed on it, corresponding to one of the two men.  All you have to do is match each political belief to the correct character.  What could be simpler?!

Friday, July 01, 2011

Will The Revolution Begin In Lord Sugar's Boardroom?

Che-man Ma?
Was Episode 8 the first step?

This is a guest post by Artic Sixpence.

'The revolution is on BBC1.'  Those words were scribbled awkwardly across the Wednesday ITV3 listings in last week's issue of the Radio Times, in my handwriting.

On June 16, Episode 7 of The Apprentice was aired and the unmissable went unmentioned.  In that week the losing team members were malignantly sent to commiserate on their failure, for the nation's voyeuristic entertainment, in a different café to usual.  After a public uprising by outraged students and activist groups that went deafeningly unreported in the traditional oppressive right-wing media, the domineered contestants' café rights were restored belatedly in Episode 8.

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Ed Miliband. He's not a scab. He's an idiot.

Ed Miliband.  He's not one of these.
Yesterday HarpyMarx wrote a blog post calling Ed Miliband a scab for telling Labour MPs to cross picket lines.

I think she gives him too much credit.  I present to you Exhibit A.

It's almost like he's got a piece of string coming out of his back tied to a little plastic ring.  I'm not sure who's stood behind him pulling on it though.

I've given my views on the way the Government has handled pension reform before.  That is my main argument on the issue.  The Government have got it wrong.

However, I'm also not sure what strikes will achieve, and I think possibly the unions have been a little too quick off the mark.  But I support their argument on pensions completely, and that's the most important thing to me.

Ed Miliband seems to have done it completely the other way round.  He's criticised the strike as his main line of attack, and then added that he also thinks the Government have been "reckless and provocative".

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The Teachers Pensions Strikes - My article in @middlebrowmag

The Teachers Pension Strikes

On Thursday 30th June, two of the three main teaching unions – the NUT and ATL – will stage a one-day strike over changes to the Teachers Pension Scheme. My own union, the NASUWT, continue to fight the changes through the courts. As such, I’ve yet to be balloted on the issue, but I shall be cheering on my colleagues from the sidelines.

I don’t want to strike. I didn’t support the NUT when they went on strike over pay in 2008. But this is so very different. For a start, the ATL are going on strike with them. The ATL. This is the first time in their 127-year history that they will have participated in a national strike – not only that, they’ve never even had a ballot on it before.

Read the rest of this article at Middlebrow Magazine

Monday, June 13, 2011

Review: The Government Inspector @ The Young Vic until 9 July

On Saturday evening Laura & I went to see The Government Inspector at The Young Vic, near Waterloo.

Straight off the bat, I highly recommend it.  We didn't really know what to expect of the seats, just £10 for a stool in the gallery.  But, they afford an excellent aerial view, you can lean on the balcony bar if you get tired of sitting up straight, and the stools are well cushioned.  (Hooray!)

The play itself is a comedy about corruption, paranoia and mistaken identity, set in a small provincial town in Russia.  The town mayor hears word that a government official is coming to inspect the town, throwing (the corrupt) local officials into panic and confusion.

Meanwhile, Khelstakov, a foppish young layabout, dressed in the latest St Petersburg fashions, is stranded in the town's inn, having lost all his money in a card game.

He is then (unsurprisingly) mistaken for the Government Inspector, with hilarious consequences...

Thursday, June 09, 2011

A Bucketful of Bone Marrow


Look at me, going all two-posts-in-one-day on you!*

I should probably be in bed by now, but I thought I'd share this with you.

Just now on the Join Me forum, someone posted a thread about a young girl called Alice, and her bucket list.

Alice is 15 years old and has terminal cancer.  She started a blog two days ago about her efforts to complete her "bucket list" of things she'd like to do before she goes.  It's called Alice's Bucket List.

It may be just two days old, but her first post has already received 1057 comments.

It's not a begging site asking for donations, but one of the things on her bucket list is To make everyone sign up to be a bone marrow donor.

So here's a link explaining all about bone marrow donation.

Wednesday, June 08, 2011

The Case of the Tripling NHS Waiting Lists

[Whoops!  I originally put Waiting TIMES instead of Waiting LISTS as the title, and in the body, of this post.]

On the way home from work this evening I read this on the Telegraph website:

It reports that after various NHS targets were scrapped by Andrew Lansley, waiting lists seem to have tripled in just one year.  At the time he said:
"We will now have to see whether patients' rights and publishing data are sufficient to prevent waiting times creeping back up."


Friday, June 03, 2011

Night of the Living Dead Aid

This morning I accidentally stumbled on this old blog post from 2009, about Dambisa Moyo's book, Dead Aid, and I thought it was worth resurrecting its rotting corpse and taking another look.

It was a bit of a ranty rambly blog post at the time, and I also forgot to follow up one of the comments, which linked to this radio interview with Moyo, which I've now listened to.

In summary of what I'd said before, Moyo used the book to sweepingly label all (governmental) aid as "bad" and feeding corruption, and so should be stopped.  She also had seemed to have criticism for humanitarian and charity aid.

What particularly worried me at the time (and is still my main reservation) was her apparent faith that the free market would simply "step in" and do everything that governmental aid is failing to do.  Apparently Chinese and other foreign investment will inevitably bring growth to African wealth.

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Persistent Pigeon

This sign was on the front door three Saturdays ago at the venue where I go to the Saturday Acting Academy (which is very very good if you're interested in getting into acting - I'm on the intermediate course at the moment).

I never got around to posting it, and the following Saturday the sign was gone and the door open.  Then last weekend the sign had returned.  I'm sure it's only a matter of time before the pigeon learns to open doors, like the velociraptors in Jurassic Park.  Clever girl...

I won't know if the sign is there again for this Saturday's session because I'll be auditioning at this place in Wapping for an evening course from September.  Eep!

Tuesday, May 31, 2011

FIFA Bribery Scandal: That Royal Wedding Snub In Full

For those of you who missed it, there was an excellent* article in the Evening Standard on Friday about the FIFA bribery scandal.  It reminded us all how the final presentation for England's failed World Cup 2018 bid was presented by the unlikely trio of David Beckham, David Cameron and Prince William, and how the three of them met Sepp Blatter in the process.

It continued...
Blatter has long been a hate figure in English football.  He has refused to adopt goal line technology, which could have helped England survive the group stage of last summer's World Cup after a "goal" by Frank Lampard was wrongly disallowed.

He was not invited to Prince William's wedding last month.
Also, spot the deliberate mistake regarding England's World Cup performance last year.

*well, I say "excellent"...

Saturday, May 14, 2011

It's almost as if the results are fixed in advance...

No, not the Eurovision Song Contest.


Also, quite excited about tonight's episode of Doctor Who, which was written by Neil Gaiman.  Eurovision's on at 8, by the way.  If I'm really organised I'll upload mine and Laura's scorecard system this morning.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Education, Motivation & Personal Satisfaction

Laura was shown this video at a training day at work last week and told me about it today.  It's largely about how out-dated our approach to education is.

It reminded me of another video, which has been in my favourites on YouTube for some time, and I go back to it every so often.  It's about what drives people, and explains perfectly why I do such ridiculous amounts of stuff outside of work - the silly comics and stories, the acting classes, the stand-up, the sexual health stuff and most importantly the Hoja Project.

Together the two videos explain why I often find the English education system so hard to work in.  And it turns out they were both animated by the same people.

[Edit to add] Shortly before Laura mentioned the first video, I'd noticed an advert for Sightsavers on the train. The advert had the headline:
Every wipe of his eyes takes Talla closer to blindness
You can see the video version of the advert here.

I hate that kind of advertising. It's so negative. The TV spot I've linked to really nails the tone, right down to the depressing music and the sombre narration. It's dripping with pity.

I want a charity to make me feel excited about all the projects they run that improve people's lives, not try to make me feel sorry for poor people and guilt-trip me into donating.

That's what makes me want to give over my free time and skills, and put my heart into something. The excitement of believing in what can be achieved.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

#AVreferendum: The Naysayers

Parties Opposing AV: [via BBC]

I thought this would be an interesting Venn diagram to make. Unsurprisingly, the two parties who performed best in their own local areas are both against changing the current system, as it stood them in such good stead last year.

The other parties who are against AV include:
  • the racist BNP; 
  • George Galloway's Respect Party, who have lost their way politically after some initial popularity (just 33,251 votes in the entire country last year);
  • Jury Team, whom I'm pretty sure I'd never heard of before now, but were formed in March 2009 and seem pretty sensible from looking at their website;
  • and The Communist Party, who aren't even listed as a party on the BBC's election results page.  Note the lowest placed party listed, the Scottish Socialist Party, received 3,157 votes.  The Communists presumably couldn't even manage to beat that.
Note that perhaps with the exception of The Jury Team, who may grow yet, the opponents of AV are the parties who did very well last under FPTP thank-you-very-much, and parties who have limited support and are unlikely to figure even in a more proportional system such as STV.

Monday, April 25, 2011

#AVreferendum: The False Economy of Insignificant Time Savings

Insignificant Time Savings

One No2AV claim that is true is that it will take longer to count the votes under AV because, yes, it is more complicated.  But that's what makes it a teensy weensy bit better than FPTP.

I love the idea that "more complicated" is somehow synonymous with "bad", and that those few extra vote-counting hours required to determine who is going to make decisions for us for the next five years are wasted hours.

A decision worth making is worth making slowly (which, incidentally, is why we should have been presented with other voting options before deciding whether to replace FPTP).

Friday, April 22, 2011

#AVreferendum: Celebrity Endorsement

Celebrity Endorsement

Not a lot of people know this, but journalists are paid for their opinions.  The best journalists of course get paid the most because their opinions are the best.  The journalists are renowned the length and breadth of the country for spreading their wisdom like thick manure into our brains, so that our intellects may grow and flourish.

And then there are journalists who write for the Daily Telegraph.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Sneak Preview! Those New Voting Machines The #No2AV Campaign Keep Banging On About #Yes2AV

Sneak Preview! Those AV Voting Machines...

Here's a graphic I made to show you just how significant the No2AV Campaign's claim about the cost of the implementation of the Alternative Vote really is.  Note how this is a one-off cost, and all the other costs shown are incurred by the nation every year.

Monday, April 18, 2011

#AVreferendum: Nick Clegg's Bloody Nose

The Alternative Vote Referendum In Numbers

One of the more common arguments you'll hear against voting "YES" is that Nick Clegg is campaigning for it, so you should vote "NO" just to piss him off.

YES, he betrayed millions of LibDem voters.
YES, he sold his soul to the Tories in order to secure this referendum.
But NO, deciding to punish him in this way doesn't really achieve anything, apart from significantly reducing the chances of proper electoral reform in our lifetimes.

We don't often get national referendums in this country - this is only our second ever.  If you want to vote "NO" because you think it's the right decision based on the facts, then fine, but the worst thing you can do is vote "NO" or even refuse to vote just because one politician pissed you off.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Beginner's Guide To "First Past The Post": An illustration of how much your opinion really matters. #AVreferendum

Beginner's Guide To "First Past The Post"

This is the likely scenario for many people when they go to vote under First Past The Post.  And you only get to state a preference about one of the candidates, not give a general opinion about the whole selection.

So what do you do?  You vote tactically.  You don't say what you really think, and instead you vote for the candidate who you find least offensive out of those who are likely to win.

And your preferred candidate looks less popular than he or she actually is.  So next time an election comes around, people won't vote for him/her yet again because they look like they don't have a chance of winning.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Graphs! Why Electoral Reform Is Needed (even if you don't think AV is the right step to take) #AVreferendum

Close, isn't it, between the top three?  Pity their seats in Parliament don't reflect this:

It's no surprise really, that Nick Clegg sold out to the Tories in order to secure the smallest chance of some meagre electoral reform he once described as "a miserable little compromise".

Monday, April 11, 2011

Brains to AV #Yes2AV

Yes, I'm going all political for a few weeks.  We have the best chance we're likely to get in years to improve our electoral system very very very slightly.  It's almost not worth getting excited about, except if we don't make this small change now, we'll give the main parties an excuse to sweep the issue under the carpet saying the public don't want change.  It's not often we get national referendums in this country - the only other UK-wide referendum was in 1975, on continued European Community membership.

Let's not waste this opportunity.  "Yes" to Fairer Votes on 5 May.

Wednesday, April 06, 2011

Day 29: The Day The Earth Moaned Still

I must confess.  I've probably been moaning rather more than I promised over Lent.  But I decided very early on that it didn't count if it was about my landlord, a prudence that paid off once I realised he'd used up all of my chutney without telling me, my sausages went ungarnished, and I could charge round the kitchen slamming things at will.

However, there has been no shortage of things that made my smile.  Here's a list of 3:

1. Films

A couple of weeks ago Laura and I went to Rich Mix to watch a film directed by this guy:

It's beautiful and viciously funny.  I can't recommend it highly enough.  Here's the trailer:

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Day 9: Moanhog Day

...or something.  I just don't know any more.

I may have moaned about my landlord again.  But that's okay.  Because it doesn't count.

Here are some YouTube videos wot I just favourited.  Prompted by Claire.  "Sometimes", Claire?  Only "sometimes"?

And finally a Simon Pegg and Nick Frost one that you can't post on external websites. But you can watch it if you follow this link. It's my favourite.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Day 5: Weekend At Moanie's

Well, it was quite unlikely that I was ever going to post every day, especially as the very first weekend in Lent I went to spend a weekend in Somerset with Laura and eleven members of my immediate family.

Which was lovely, so that's my smile.  Especially playing my three-year-old nephew on the giant chess.  Which largely consisted of him removing all the pawns from the board and lining them up on the grass.

And if that's not enough for you, have yourself some nice facial hair.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Day 2: Moan Alone

See what I did there?  It's my day off today, so I've been at home (alone), and this is all about giving up moaning for Lent, so I made a clever film-based pun about it.  You might as well expect more of the same as this goes on.

Don't say I didn't warn you.

First though, I have a confession to make.  At about 9am I moaned a little (just a teeny tiny bit) about my live-in landlord.  But I pay him money for the privilege, so that doesn't count.  Right?  Plus I only realised I'd been moaning around 3 hours later.

Today I have mostly been amused by jokes about the upcoming UK Census via Twitter.  It started with @armyofdave providing the best argument I've seen yet for ticking the "No Religion" box, and for not digging up and re-animating the decaying corpse of a ten-year-old joke.

As @Cassetteboy says...

Here's the genuine Census Campaign website, by the way.

Then @cherryblack (via @silvermong) uncovered the mystery behind the missing question 17, before @malcolmcoles spoiled all the fun by telling us what the real reason is.

Finally, the ever reliable @davidschneider pointed us in the direction of the marital status question.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Day 1: This Is A Moan-Free Zone

On Sunday evening, whilst getting in some early pancake practice, Laura's brother asked her if she planned on giving anything up for Lent.  Without really thinking through all of the consequences, she announced that she would give up moaning.

And, being the obedient little puppy dog of a boyfriend that I am, I decided that I'd give it a go too.  I'm not at all religious (though I was brought up a Catholic), and I haven't given anything up for Lent since I was about 8 years old.  Come to think of it, I'm not even sure if I managed to successfully give up chocolate mice.

Never mind the inconsiderate bugger who decreed that Lent should start on a Wednesday, which just so happens to be my seven-lesson day.  (For those new to the blog, I'm a secondary school Maths teacher.)  The least they could have done was ease me in on a no-lesson Monday.  (For those new to the blog, I'm a part-time secondary school Maths teacher.)  Fortunately, the Year 10s are on work experience for the next fortnight, so I "only" had six lessons to contend with today.

And it went okay.  It wasn't one of those oh-too-rare days where I come home on a massive high, but it was quite nice.  There were lots of things I could quite easily have moaned about, but I didn't.  I shared some of them with colleagues, but I said most of them with a smile on my face, and didn't dwell.

This reminds me a little bit of being in Tanzania.  When somebody greets you in Swahili and asks you how you are, your responses are limited to the equivalents of "good", "cool", and "excellent".  Any kind of negative response is simply not done.  You can, if you wish, then go on to explain how you really are, but by then the tone is already set.
"Habari yako, bwana!"
"Safi, bwana, safi.  Nimepata malaria."
I'm now in a similar position.

So I thought I might as well embrace it.  I'm going to try to post about something that goes well or makes me smile every day.  And here is today's...