Friday, 24 September 2010

RIP Eddie Fisher

Not sure about your music, but I, and thousands of Star Wars fans would like to thank you for this.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Women defends herself from Bear with Courgette

From Yahoo News:-
"The bear growled and was very aggressive and tried to come inside of her back door," Maricelli said. "She was able to stop the pursuing bear by improvising."
The bear took a swipe at her with its paw and tore her jeans. The woman jumped back and grasped the nearest object on her kitchen counter inside the doorway — a 12-inch-long zucchini she had harvested earlier from her garden.
She flung the zucchini at the bear from a distance she estimated to be 3 feet. The vegetable bopped the bruin on the top of its head and the animal fled, Maricelli said.
I suppose it's why we rule the earth and wiped out lots of bears. If you're going to get scared by someone throwing 1 vegetable at you then you're not going to be the top species, are you?

Wednesday, 22 September 2010

Journalism Rent-Seeking

It was only a matter of time before the people who cut-and-paste press releases decided that they needed special protection (from EurActiv):-

The main journalist trade union in Europe and the UK wants citizens to be given 'European Democracy Vouchers', funded by internet service providers, which can be used to buy newspapers and pay for online media subscriptions.
The vouchers, which would work in the same way as restaurant vouchers currently used in several countries, would be funded through a levy on internet service providers (ISPs), according to the National Union of Journalists in the UK (NUJ).
The idea was aired in a submission to the European Commission's consultation on creative industries, published in April (EurActiv 30/04/10).
How about you go fuck yourselves instead?

Bono's ONE Foundation

From the New York Post
The Bono nonprofit took in $14,993,873 in public donations in 2008, the latest year for which tax records are available.
Of that, $184,732 was distributed to three charities, according to the IRS filing.
Meanwhile, more than $8 million was spent on executive and employee salaries.
This is the man who accused Bush of not doing enough for world hunger.

Cable on Capitalism

From the BBC:-

The business secretary will tell his party's conference that "murky" corporate practices threaten UK firms and "capitalism kills competition".

He will announce a consultation into issues such as executive pay and the role of directors in takeover battles.

OK, assuming that Cable means "capitalism" in it's correct term, using Britannica's definition of an Economic system in which most of the means of production are privately owned, and production is guided and income distributed largely through the operation of markets, then:-
  1. Every player in the system would like to wipe out the competition but...
  2. It's still the best system around for delivering competition
As for all this boardroom stuff, you have a very simple choice: don't own shares in companies that you don't like. I ended up with a philosophy that derives from Gordon Gekko - I only buy shares where the people in charge have a large stake in the company. Steve Jobs gives a shit about Apple in a way that most executives don't. 

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Working from Home and Carbon

From The Telegraph:-
Shoppers need to buy at least 25 items from a website, before any environmental benefits take effect. If a consumer buys fewer items than that it would be better to drive to the shops, than rely on a lorry to make the delivery to their home.
This is the finding of the Institution of Engineering and Technology, which looked at the so-called rebound’ effects of activities that are commonly thought to be green. Rebound effects are the unintended consequences of policies.
Prof Phil Blythe, chairman of the IET transport policy panel, which produced the report, said: “We hear a lot about the environmental benefits achieved as a result of working from home. However, on closer inspection it does appear that any environmental benefits are marginal.”
First of all, you have to strip out those parts that are common between say, Amazon and Waterstones. They both have suppliers, who both deliver to warehouses. The next part differs, but has similar levels of fuel use - delivering packages from the warehouse to depot (in Amazon's case) vs delivering from depot to Branch (in Waterstones' case).

But the real difference is what happens next. In the case of Amazon, they transport your book from depot to home, along with hundreds of other parcels. Whilst it's not going to be the most direct route to your home, it's going to be part of a large optimised delivery (these guys have software to work out the best route). If you consider that a van is going to deliver to even 5 houses in the same estate, it's going to use almost the same energy than one householder will use going to town.
Maybe I'm missing something in the chain here, something that adds a whole load of extra fuel to internet use, because I really don't buy this.

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Those Hard Spending Cuts

From the Perthshire Advertiser
PROVOST John Hulbert has been given the green-light to organise a council-funded trip to Canada costing £2950 – in the face of severe cuts.
The council figurehead’s sub committee members agreed on Wednesday that a trip to visit twin-town Perth, Ontario, in September or October next year would be viable.
Yup. Rather than spending £3K on fixing roads or educating kids, they're going to go on a jolly to Ontario.

But I'm sure there's a justification for it
Provost Hulbert, whose wife will travel at her own expense, explained that on a previous visit to the town he felt that there were business benefits which could be taken advantage of.
He said: “They capitalise on their craft industry, it is part of Lanark County which has a large number of craft industries.
“When I was there some years ago I thought that we should be doing something along those lines here.”
Doing something about crafts? And you have what experience of business, Mr Hulbert?

Of course there's another old chestnut...
Defending the costly jaunt, which will be funded from the twinning-budget, councillors pointed out that strengthening links between the towns was important.
Councillor Alexander Stewart said: “There is no doubt that the arrangements create business links.
“We would have to spend a little to get there but more comes back, so I am happy to support this.”
I'd love to see Perth provide some figures on this, because twinning rarely creates business links. Yes, it's going to happen, but at what cost?

Twinning was created for a very simple reason... it was to foster friendship links with Europe after WW2. It was to show that Johnny Foreigners were actually quite nice people. And it probably made some sense back then, but in an age when half of Britains holiday abroad and frequently work for international companies, it's pretty much redundant

I've decided to go on a hunt for lots of these stories. Councils pleading poverty in the face of cuts, yet still able to fund luxurious spending. Any more examples gratefully received.

Friday, 17 September 2010

The AA Gill incident.

So, the PCC have ruled against AA Gill.

Here's AA Gill's original quote:-

Which brings me quite naturally to Clare Balding on a bicycle in Devon. Some time ago, I made a cheap and frankly unnecessary joke about Clare Balding looking like a big lesbian. And afterwards somebody tugged my sleeve to point out that she is a big lesbian, and I felt foolish and guilty. So I’d like to take this opportunity to apologise. Sorry.
Now back to the dyke on a bike...
Maybe you're reading that quote in context, and still don't get the joke. Let me try to explain it to you...

1) Gill called Clare Balding a big lesbian.
2) Some people complained about this despite it actually being true.
3) Gill uses irony to express guilt over saying something which is true (because you shouldn't need to express guilt over saying something that is true).
4) Says something that is quite deliberately designed to juxtapose his already fake apology by saying something even more offensive on the same subject.

If you can't grasp that, then you should probably add some tequila to your breakfast and lighten the fuck up.

In which Ratzy Really Pisses Me Off

I was quite ambivalent about the pope's visit. If idiots want to take a day out of their lives to see a bloke behind 3 inches of bullet proof glass instead of doing something useful like playing Super Mario Galaxy, then I don't see it's my business.

But as an atheist, I'm somewhat offended when people call me a Nazi. Rather than dropping into lazy attacks about him being in the Hitler Youth (which wasn't his choice), it's worth pointing out what the catholic church in Germany and Rome did about the Nazis. In a brief summary, they did absolutely nothing to stand against the Nazis, and in many ways, colluded with them.

The way that Hitler gained power was not through a coup, but by a combination of democracy and a piece of legislation called the Ermächtigungsgesetz or Enabling Act. Not only did the Catholic Centre Party vote in favour of the Enabling Act, they actively campaigned for other parties to support it, based on achieving concessions for the Catholics.

So, far from being a buffer against tyranny, the church helped to bring it about.

Wednesday, 15 September 2010

Tower Climbing

A fun video. If you don't like heights (like me), you may find it uncomfortable.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Life in Charts: The Pope's Visit

Chart comparing the total cost per day of the Pope's Visit vs the Olympic Games (in millions of pounds).

Catholicism ain't my bag, I don't agree with a lot of the pope says, but as a cost issue, it's a complete irrelevance compared a lot of other things (I'd have put the deficit in there, but the line would have disappeared.

Wonderful! Wonderful!

From The Guardian
Cuba has announced it will lay off more than a million state employees in a sweeping privatisation drive that will transform the island's socialist economy.

Authorities said layoffs would begin immediately amid loosened controls on private enterprise which, it is hoped, will kickstart the private sector and create new jobs for former public workers.

The official Cuban labour federation, which made the announcement on Monday, said 500,000 jobs would go by March and eventually 1m would be cut in the biggest economic shakeup since the 1960s.
I've looked up Cuba's economy on Wikipedia. As of 2009, it had a labour force of 5.1m, with 78% of the workforce in the public sector. Or about 4 million public sector workers. So, Cuba is going to reduce its public sector workforce by 25%, which will take it to about 58% public sector.

So, the Cuban people are going to get richer. Which is a massive plus.

Now, assuming that the US doesn't change its embargo, are those who blamed Cuba's ills on the US going to admit their error when the Cuban people get richer?

Just a Thought

Now that Lady Gaga has shown off her meat dress, are we going to get a visit to her home to see her beef curtains?


The Police Federation, which represents rank-and-file officers, last week warned that crime and anti-social behaviour were likely to increase if the police had to reduce officer numbers as a result of spending cuts.
Look, the only reason we bother to call you if something gets nicked is to get a crime number for insurance purposes. We know that it's going to make sod all difference to our goods being found again. The idea that crime, despite the police being completely incompetent at solving most of it, is going to go up because of a few spending cuts is just laughable.

Reeking of Bias

BBC unions last night declared war on the Conservatives with an extraordinary threat to black out coverage of David Cameron’s keynote speech to the Tory party conference.
That demolishes Mark Thompson's statement that the BBC was once left-wing, but isn't any longer.

The effect of party conferences is that coverage raises the polling for the party being covered, at least temporarily. Not showing the Conservative conference (or scaling it down), would be a boost for the other parties.

Regardless of whether this goes ahead, the government should now get onto replacing the licence fee with a subscription.

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Joy of Clients

Potential client calls up.

"hello, I'd like some programming work doing"
"OK, how much"
"Oh, about 4 months"
"Well, my rate is normally £x/day, but as it's for 4 months, I'll give you a discount of £y/day"
"Sounds reasonable"
"Yes, but that's based on a firm commitment to those times".


"OK, looks like it's actually about 4 weeks of work, and I can offer you £z (£z being about 20% less than my £y rate)".
"The rate you're talking is lower than the market rate"
"Well, I can offer you a 20% bonus based on the project succeeding. OK, and that 20% then takes me back to my rate, but I'm going to take on some risk and the timescales are less than the discount"
"Let me think... No".

OK, bit of a rant, but I'm tired of cheapskate bastards who want a professional job doing, but want me to take on risk without offering anything in return for that risk. Every other call I'm getting at the moment is from people offering me less than agency work. And agency work means:-

1) I get paid very quickly
2) Someone provides me with an office, desk and coffee
3) If the hardware breaks or the client can't decide something for a day, I still get paid for loafing around on Facebook.

In fact, I don't mind the genuine, honest cheapskates. I don't mind the people who say "ooh that's a bit steep" when I tell them my rate, and say that they'll go elsewhere. It's the people who are vaguely in agreement with a rate, and then fuck around over it at the last minute in the hope that I'll cave in, having invested some time in talking to them that piss me off. Don't waste my fucking time, assholes.

James Cleverly on Trade Unions

Rather splendid metaphor from James Cleverly

We now have completely different circumstances to the ones when the unions were created. It could be argued that the unions have won their real battle, employers care for their workers, exploitations is now unacceptable and indeed illegal, the Ragged Trousered Philanthropist is an history work of fiction. The dragons that the unions sought to slay have been slain, Bob Crow, Tony Woodley, Matt Wrack et al are like those Japanese soldiers alone on Pacific islands in the 1950s refusing to believe that WWII had ended.

Thursday, 9 September 2010

Any Excuse for a Fall Song

From The Guardian:-

Towns and cities in England's industrial heartlands are the communities most vulnerable to the deep cuts in public spending planned by the coalition government, according to research released today.

Research? Captain Obvious could have told you this. A lot of places in the north live off the state, whether that's dole, government jobs or whatever else. It's why areas like the South West aren't going to suffer much from the cuts - they mostly make money out of being productive.

But more importantly:-

The Fall - Hit The North

A Message to Radio 2

Please, I beg you, stop playing that new Phil Collins album of covers of old soul classics.

I'm sure there's someone out there who can do something interesting with Stevie Wonder's Uptight, but a single which is arranged in exactly the same way, except with Phil Collins singing has no place in a good world. It's like someone offering you a juicy, shiny apple or a slightly bruised apple and telling you they cost the same. There's just no reason you'd choose the slightly bruised one.


The parents of two prostitutes who allegedly had a ‘threesome’ with Wayne Rooney spoke of their sadness yesterday at the impact of the revelations on his long-suffering wife Coleen.
In an extraordinary statement, privately-educated Jennifer Thompson’s father Hamish and mother Danuta offered their ‘most sincere apologies to Coleen Rooney and her family’ and said they would ‘never condone' what the 21-year-old is alleged to have done.
I can't help wondering what kind of upbringing these girls have if their parents are going to "apologise" to a stranger for their children taking part in a consenting act where the stranger's husband was arguably the only guilty party.

Maybe there's a reason they became prostitutes...

Massive Fisking Of This Statement

Regarding the attack on a boy at the Ridgeway School in Wroughton near Swindon, the boy's mother said:-
The review doesn’t mention what needs to be done to improve race relations in Swindon which is an urgent concern considering the increase in the vote for the BNP.
Let's be clear about this: there isn't a "race relations" problem in Swindon. It's mostly white with a small Bangladeshi population around Manchester Road and a few Indians dotted around the town. Is it perfect? No. I'm sure there are isolated incidents. Do people mostly just get on here? Yes.

And that "increase in the vote for the BNP"? That was in North Swindon, because the BNP put up a candidate this time, and so the vote went from 0% to 3.1%. They got 0% of the vote in South Swindon because they didn't put up a candidate.

Now, where do you think Ridgeway School is? In South Swindon. Where is Manchester Road? In South Swindon (the border is the railway line). So, areas affected by this incident, and the BNP are completely unrelated.

Wednesday, 8 September 2010

Bomber Command Bleg

I don't like to do much blegging, and generally only on behalf of charities. In order to get the bomber command memorial built, they need about £1.9m in 6 weeks. Please give generously.

Friday, 3 September 2010


Town Hall planners have used new powers to throw out “garden grabbing” plans to build homes on a country lane.

The planning committee on South Ribble Council rejected the plans to build six two-storey detached houses on land behind a home on Marsh Lane, Longton.

Committee member Graham Walton said: “This amounts to garden grabbing and we have been given an opportunity to do something to stop this happening in a beautiful area like Marsh Lane.”

And building 6 houses on this land is going to turn it into downtown LA. Right?

View Larger Map

Thursday, 2 September 2010

Blair's Autobiography

The tome has already shot to the top of's best-seller list.
I  really don't understand this. So many people are reading it that all the juicy or interesting stuff is going to get filtered in the press anyway. Plus it's coming through the filter of Blair, a man who is a certified bullshitter.

Wednesday, 1 September 2010

I don't see this working out well...

From The BBC
The Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) is extending its remit to cover the online realm.
It means that online marketing and ads will, from 1 March 2011, be subject to the same strict advertising rules as traditional media.
The ASA will also have the power to ban marketing statements on social networks such as Facebook and Twitter.
In simple terms, this means less stuff gets produced in the UK. If you're a UK games site, you now have to comply with ASA regulations. Meanwhile, your foreign competitors can do what they like.

Pity really. I thought that the internet was the way to finally ditch these dinosaurs like the ASA and the BBFC.

Blair on Fox Hunting

From Farmer's Weekly
In his memoir, A Journey, Mr Blair said he deliberately sabotaged the 2004 Hunting Act to ensure there were enough loopholes to allow hunting to continue.
Describing the act as a "masterly British compromise", Mr Blair said it left people able to hunt foxes "provided certain steps were taken to avoid cruelty when the fox was killed.
He also told then-Home Office minister Hazel Blears to steer police away from enforcing the law.
This reinforces my view that Blair is a wretched, dishonourable man who is about nothing but Tony Blair. He introduced the fox hunting law for no other reason than as a sop to the class warriors of the Labour party to help promote himself in power. Yet he actually had no moral desire for such a law, and now that he's long out of office and can't be affected by showing it's a sham, will do so.