Saturday 31 December 2011

Anti-American sentiment

The occasional visitor to my blog might be forgiven for thinking that my odd rantettes about American language mean that I’m in some way anti-American. I would like to emphatically state that I am most certainly not!  

For the record:

  • I work for an American owned company
  • I have nothing against American people
  • I’m not against American culture – I listen to American music. I watch American films and sometimes American television programmes. I like an amount of American art.

What I don’t like is American imperialism both political and cultural. It’s their arrogance in thinking that their language, culture and beliefs are über alles. That infuriates me. It’s an arrogance born out of insularity. Unfortunately the impact that American cultural imperialism has over here is amplified by stupid British people, who use Americanisms because they don’t know any better, or worse still because they think that it is somehow fashionable or clever. And, it’s a situation made even worse by what was and still should be the bastion of British culture and language, Auntie Beeb. Sadly the BBC seems to love Americanisms. As a consequence we are doomed!

Friday 30 December 2011

Stewart Lee to guest edit R4's Today tomorrow

Just a reminder that the clever, astute and very funny comedian Stewart Lee is to guest edit the Today Programme on New Year’s Eve.

The selfish festival

I was amazed to see this link, entitled “How to sell unwanted presents” on Yahoo finance. The article epitomises one of the aspects that has encouraged me to hate Christmas. “Christmas comes but once a year, and when it comes it frequently brings with it a load of tat that you wouldn't be seen dead with. Here's how to off-load it.” That statement sums up the sheer pointless stupidity of it all. Christmas is fuelled by ignorance, greed and ungratefulness. It is not magical it is just a facade. Christmas is a lie!

Wednesday 28 December 2011

Mustard or tomato sauce?

In need of a breath of fresh air I wandered out on Boxing Day afternoon. We live close-ish to the Riverside shopping area in Norwich and all was quiet as I walked across Morrison’s empty car park, but I was surprised to see much activity as a bunch of shops on the far side hove into view. I hadn’t realised just how many shops open on Boxing Day. It would seem that even though many people had overspent at Christmas they were still keen to part with hard earned dosh or dosh yet to be earned. There was hustle and bustle in the clothes, electrical, household and hobby shops. People even had need for things at a pound. I was truly amazed. What is wrong with people?

I have only ever seen shopping as a banal chore. How anyone can derive pleasure from it is beyond me. I do have this feeling that the sort of people that see shopping as recreation also watch soaps and reality programmes on the telly, will see celebrities and the monarchy as something to be interested in and be hoodwinked by every fad and fashion that the media dictates; sheep!

I suppose one can dismiss such behaviour as shiny bead syndrome; people are hypnotised by what is put in front of them and fed to them. Whilst not really understanding it by interpreting it like that I can sort of accept it and leave it at that. As I walked by the open shops I noticed that there was a hotdog stand on the footpath, and not only that there were between six and eight people queuing for hotdogs. That perplexed me totally. No doubt after the excesses of the previous day why on earth would anyone what a hotdog whilst out shopping, and why would anyone queue for such a pointless comestible?

Sunday 25 December 2011

Stewart Lee chats to Oliver Cromwell

Stewart Lee chats to Oliver Cromwell about Christmas:

The man who temporarily freed us from the tyranny of monarchy would have been horrified at what Christmas has become. He would no doubt also have been horrified at our stupidity in retaining a monarchy.

"Comedian Stewart Lee, who will be guest editing the Today programme on New Year's Eve, brought puritan Oliver Cromwell back to life to find out whether he is as disproving of modern Christmas shopping as he was when he was Lord Protector."

Saturday 24 December 2011

Keep taking the tablets

On the first of January this year I purchase a Samsung Galaxy Tab, which is I guess a tablet PC. It is much more versatile, in my humble opinion, than the over-hyped bling that is the iPad. It is packed with so many great features, and one in particular that I love is its ability to display eBooks in a number of different formats, thus allowing me to buy books from a number of different sources. I’ve purchased a read quite a few books in this format now, plus I still read yer actual physical books as well. I read the Jon Richardson book that I reviewed here on it. The only criticism that I have of reading books electronically is that I had no real concept of where I was in the book and as a consequence the end can come unexpectedly sometimes. I suspect that you can set it to show your progress but I haven’t bothered to work that one out. To be fair a little bar does appear when the book appears on the screen but this soon fades and if you become engrossed in the reading it is easy to forget. The advantage it has over a Kindle is that it is back-lit so you can read it in whatever lighting conditions.

But enough of the e-reader apps the Galaxy Tab can do a whole host of things. It is very much an over-sized phone so you get a camera, you can text and make phone calls on it, surf the web and much, much more. I do much of the shopping on it. But more than anything else I use it to tweet on. Since owning this piece of kit I have developed a mild addition to Twitter. The operating system is Android which means that there are thousands of apps and you are not tied in to buying stuff via Apple.

I now use the Galaxy Tab as my mobile phone. I don’t actually make or receive many phone calls as such on any phone. I’m sure it’ll come as no surprise when I tell you that I don’t like talking on the phone. Give me text every time! Clearly I would look an even bigger twerp than I already am if I was to hold the Tab to my shell-like so I have invested in a Bluetooth earpiece which it has to be said works really well. Again not wishing to look the part I don’t wear the earpiece all of the time. This approach creates another problem; what to do with the slightly fragile earpiece. The solution was provided by a local ‘head’ shop as below:

Thursday 22 December 2011

Soup rules okay

Etiquette and manners are all very fine but there is only one rule that matters when it comes to soup, and that’s to do with an accompaniment, bread. Bread and soup go together so well. And the bread you choose will vary depending on the type of soup. But there is one crime so heinous that it should never ever be contemplated. That crime is to put butter or margarine on the bread. It is fine to dip your bread in soup, or to mop up the last soup dregs lurking in the bowl with some bread, but you should never ever put any spread on your bread!

Thursday 15 December 2011

Edward Burra

Last weekend we spent a couple of days in picturesque Chichester. Our main reason for going was to see an exhibition of the work of Edward Burra 1905-1976. My favourite period in art and design is around the 1930s and as it turns out many of Edward Burra’s paintings that I like the most are also from this time. Much of his subject matter from around this time is of the seedier side of life and features night creatures from bars, the theatre and the streets.

His style of painting, which has presumably inspired others that have followed him, for the most part has a rounded soft silky quality. His people have shiny fine fabric like skin, curvaceous heads and bodies, with eyes that look into the distance as if looking nowhere at all. He breathes life into inanimate objects. You might well want to stroke the Lorries he paints from later in his career as if they were a cat or a gerbil.

As well as the sizeable collection of paintings at the Pallant House Gallery there is also a video presentation in which we learn that he liked to travel and would go off without saying where he was going. That he would slide out unnoticed from social gatherings. He liked to have a good time but didn’t much care for ‘fuss’, and when he was awarded a CBE he managed to get out of going to the palace to collect it, usefully citing ill health as a reason for non-attendance. Edward Burra seemed like an okay dude.

If you get the chance this is a must visit exhibition and it is on until the 19th February 2012

Wednesday 14 December 2011

Trouble at the front

I’ve seen the future. The future is R&B. The future is Vintage Trouble. Just when you think that there is no longer any heart and soul in music along come the messiahs to deliver us from the wilderness of popular music.

Tonight Vintage Trouble played The Waterfront in Norwich and blew the audience away. Vintage Trouble is a beat combo that I feel sure is going to go places. Well they’ve already been places; since their memorable performance on Later With Jools Holland they seem to have been touring virtually non-stop. They play a mix of up tempo R&B, soulful ballads and good honest blues. The lead singer is hot, the bass player is oh so cool, the guitarist grinds and weeps while the Animal on the drums glues the outfit together. We were given nearly two hours of their distinctive sound delivered with enough energy to light up the whole of Norwich. You can’t keep still to Vintage Trouble; even the dead would get up and dance.

“Lord have mercy on my soul!”

Friday 9 December 2011

The Blue Meanies are all scoundrels

As I’m sure you can imagine I have no truck with nationalists or patriots. I’m with Oscar on that one. The concept of a British identity is as impossible to define as a sense of Britishness is laughable. And, don’t get me started on the Bulldog-spirit or the retro-racist-speak from circa 1940. It’s all phoney. It has nothing to do with national identity or interests and everything to do with oppression.

It can never be said enough but I am no lover of capitalism. I don’t like it but accept that until a majority want it changed that’s the way it is going to be. Having said that if I had a choice between the partially-regulated (and one may say highly successful) capitalism of mainland Europe and the rape and pillage model that the Tories love, I know which one I’d plump for!

David Cameron is an even bigger tosser than I ever thought possible for effectively giving away any influence that we might have had in Europe. This is particularly foolish in my opinion because I’m convinced that the €uro will bounce back, aided by the new disciplines that will be put in place. This will put the €uro-zone countries in an even stronger position within the EU. The €uro-zone will be firmly in the EU driving seat. Cameron’s made us the fat smelly spotty lad that no one in the playground wants to play with. We are the Shit-Leg* of Europe

The company I work for is a manufacturer. Yes we are that rare commodity, a company that does engineering/manufacturing in the UK! Guess where the majority of our customers are? In the €uro-zone of course! If our economy is to survive and bounce back it’ll be companies like ours that will need to thrive. If a country doesn’t make things then it is lost. Even Switzerland has a manufacturing industry! The way the Tories are acting UK plc is rapidly going to become an offshore banking business, and nothing else; a place where only the rich can afford live permanently; a place where the non-rich servant-proles are bused in on a daily/weekly/monthly basis to do the menial tasks and are then sent ‘home’ again. If the Scots, the Welsh and the Irish have got any sense they’ll break away from the United Kingdom. For us English that aren’t millionaires I guess we’ll be forced to live in Calais and beyond. I suppose it could be worse, couldn’t it?

*a reference to a poor persecuted lad at my school all those years ago

Thursday 8 December 2011


So much of Dickens' writing has passed into everyday parlance and the term Scrooge is no exception. It has metamophosised from a noun to an adjective and is used to describe someone who is penny-pinching, miserly or a hater of Christmas. But is this the correct way to use Scrooge? Surely the story is about a repentant sinner therefore shouldn’t the emphasis be on the positive? So by calling someone a Scrooge you are saying that they have changed for the positive in your eyes. I commend this motion to the house.

Friday 2 December 2011

People need to stand on their own two feet!

Amongst the narrow-minded rich and middle-classes there is a concept of the undeserving poor. The idea that those at the lower end of the income and wealth spectrum are all feckless and lazy continues to pre-occupy those that can only think in black and white. Sadly what most of them fail to grasp is that if we had some fairness in society, a level playing field that truly put us on the road to genuine equality, then less of what they see as government hand-outs would be necessary. Incidentally I've always thought that in the main 'those on benefits are living a life of luxury in abject splendour' is a myth that is as far from the truth than it could possibly be. And before you offer up examples about so-and-so who's never done a day’s work in their life base your utterances on pure fact rather than supposition.

If people are to work and ‘pay their way’ in the world society needs to get real. Those misinformed Daily Mail* readers et al need to understand that there are no quick fixes and that some fairness needs to be applied. There are far too many forelock-tugging cretins spouting things like “there’s plenty of jobs about, they just don’t want to work” etc. etc. For a start there are more unemployed people than jobs to go round and of the few jobs that there are so many are far too poorly paid. Society seems to accept employers exploiting many many workings with the same indifference with which it accepts the obscenely overpaid people at the top.
In principle I’m not agin the notion that people should provide for themselves economically. Although I would always be concerned that there were enough safeguards in society to provide for those unfortunate enough to not be capable of doing so. But if we are to enable more people to provide for themselves and not have to suffer the indignity of relying on the welfare state a very simple framework of provisions will need to be put in place. Those will include:

  • Decent affordable housing for all (the most important foundation for a stable life-style)
  • Affordable transport for all
  • Free Numeracy and literary skills courses for adults
  • Relevant training schemes for those looking for work
  • A living wage as the very minimum for any job
  • Enough jobs to go round




*the paper that supported Hitler

Thursday 1 December 2011

The knob Clarkson

We must thank Jeremy Clarkson. Not for his utterances but for awakening the spirit of right-minded people. Thousands complained to the BBC and Twitter went ballistic. This has to be good. The left need to learn from this. To win the hearts and minds of the majority we need to convey our reasoned arguments via every means possible, and in great numbers. We need to speak to the masses as if as one voice.

Don’t do that George

Tuesday’s Autumn Statement delivered by the chancellor the Right Honourable Knob-head George Osborne didn’t really come as much of a surprise to most right thinking people. The only astonishing thing is that he seems pig-headedly resolute to carry on with this failed strategy.

There is only one thing to say at a time like this and that’s Keynesianism!

Thinking out of the box

Up and down the land, in every pub, on every form of public transport, on radio phone-ins, in the workplace you hear the blinkered morons offering their opinions with a banal simplicity. They are the loud-mouthed brain-washed foot soldiers that halt progress; they stop this country from moving forward.

I don’t care much for ‘management speak’. I’m sure you know the sort of thing, the likes of, “run it up the flagpole and see who salutes” etc. etc. But there is one of these sayings that I would use in certain circumstances and that saying is, as the title of this post suggests, “thinking out of the box”.

“Thinking out of the box” is a commodity that is in very short supply. It is like ‘common sense’ which I find is rarely that common; an irony lost on most people.

Cause and effect are rarely linear. We live in a fractal world.

Narrow mindedness is an affliction that far too many people suffer from in this country. I'm sure you know the sort; the Neanderthal Sun reader, the middle-class Daily Mail* bigots; the sort of people who think all of the world's ills can be cured by a slogan. The sort of people who will blame the world's ills on health & safety, the smoking ban, immigrants, speed cameras, the EU, trade unions, the gay community, the CofE, the BBC, BB King, Doris Day, Matt Busby et al. They will be climate change deniers. They are people who would rather accept conspiracy theories and superstition over logic and learning. These people need to think out of the box. But how do we get them to do that?

*the paper that supported Hitler

Wednesday 30 November 2011


I work in the private sector. I don’t begrudge what public sector workers earn or the pension benefits that they receive. It shouldn’t be about reducing pensions so that we are all poorly provided for. It should be about improving living standards and pension provision across the board. There are some extremely wealthy people in this country. People in power, the rich got us into this mess. It is down to the rich to get us out of it. They need to dig deep into their pockets.

Knocking the BBC

I don’t like knocking the BBC. It’s something that those on the right are very accomplished at in their uniquely subversive, sinister and destructive way. In my opinion the BBC tries very hard to remain impartial. But I do think that they sensationalise and trivialise the news in a way that lowers standards to a form of LCD* that smacks of blatant dumbing down. They also act as unwitting pawns in the war of oppression waged by the wealthy.

The BBC trivialises
Game shows and reality TV programmes are not news. If you want to know what news is I suggest you watch Al Jazeera. Local news mainly seems to focus on ‘how can we put a local angle on national or international news however tenuous the link?’ or ‘human interest’ stories which are of absolutely no interest to normal human beings.

The BBC sensationalises
I’m going to use this definition of ‘sensationalism’: describes the act of foregoing accuracy or dignity in order to capture headlines or public attention.
It is often quite subtle but the BBC is sensationalist. Instead of just challenging they will use ridiculous angles that are not really there or are straight from the black propaganda machine of the Tory press. Please BBC, challenge in an intelligent way; a way that sticks with facts rather than emotions, a way in which you have thought about how you challenge, rather than taking the easy/lazy option. Please stop treating us like children.


*lowest common denominator

Monday 28 November 2011

Can we ever be free?

Most pseudo-libertarians have a tendency to be either right-wing nutters or canon-fodder shielding and doing the donkey-work for right-wing nutters. They spout off about freedom without really having a sustainable philosophy to perpetuate their vision, if you can call it a vision. Pseudo-libertarianism is an act of irony. They preach a warped dogma that can never be fulfilled. They preach freedom from law; a perverted form of anarchy.

True freedom is not about one group of people having the ‘freedom’ to oppress another group of people. True freedom can only ever be equality. Without equality there is only subjugation.

Can we ever be free without equality?
Absolutely not!
But we need more than just equality of economic and cultural opportunity. We need equality of thought and opinion. We need a vox populi not conditioned or manipulated by a small minority. The Media controls or at the very least sets the agenda for ‘public opinion’. And, whilst The Media is in the hands of a small elitist reactionary minority we will never be free.

Saturday 26 November 2011

Stewart Lee to guest edit R4's Today

It would seem that the clever, astute and very funny comedian Stewart Lee is to guest edit the Today Programme on New Year’s Eve; a date for your diaries folks.

There is no accounting for taste

This morning I decided that I really should get around to ordering tickets for a couple of comedians I wanted to see early next year. If you don’t get in quick I usually find that these things sell out quite quickly. So I dutifully went on line to try and book some tickets. Easy I thought. How wrong I was. The booking office website kept throwing a wobbly. Funny I thought, funny.

I had to go into the city anyway so I thought I’d call in at the box office and book my tickets in person. I’m very pleased to report that I now have tickets for Jon Richardson and Richard Herring who are performing at the Norwich Playhouse next March and next April respectively. The Playhouse has added an extra night for Jon Richardson due to the first one selling out. It would seem that at long last Jon is getting the recognition he rightly deserves. I’ve never seen Richard Herring so I am much looking forward to that.

As I was booking my tickets I learnt why their website had been a problem that morning. It seems as though tickets went on sale for a Michael McIntyre show at the Theatre Royal and the phones and website went into meltdown with, according to the EDP, the tickets selling out in six minutes. Because of this Michael McIntyre is now an even more annoying tit than he was yesterday!

Friday 18 November 2011

Be careful what you wish for

I hate this particular saying, but like so many wordy irritations it’s found its way into popular usage. Having said that I have realised that it could well be relevant to our current PM “Oi! David Cameron, this ‘Big Society’, be careful what you wish for”.

Tory economics have sown the seeds of a ‘Big Society’. Quite intentionally I’m sure. But if that ‘Big Society’ does come to fruition and flourish it could well manifest itself in a way that no narrow-minded self-centred Tory could have ever imagined.

I think we in the West witnessed the ‘Arab spring’ uprisings and thought that it was something that couldn’t possibly happen here. But I’m now starting to think that it could easily happen here. Yes, it could well take a slightly different form to that of our Arab brethren, but I think it is coming.

In this country so many people are fed up with the lies, cheating, embezzling and double-standards practised by many politicians. Whilst, at the same time they see their own incomes and standard of living plummeting. Unfortunately there are still too many Neanderthals that believe what they are fed by the Tory media about it being all the fault of scroungers and immigrants, which it clearly isn’t. Why do the simple minded always want to assign blame downwards? But a growing number of us with a smattering of intelligence know that it is bonus bulging bankers and assorted other feral financiers that have raped and pillaged the Western world and left so many of its people hungry and destitute. The ‘Occupy’ movement is a shining example of the way to go. Non-violent direct action along with a great big dollop of community-self-help is the recipe that will enable the 99% to succeed. Today’s take-over of the empty UBS building to form The Bank of Ideas is such a wonderful initiative. We can control our destiny. We can break free of these chains that bind us. All it requires is a little imagination.

Wednesday 16 November 2011

The coalition isn’t working

To the unemployed person it doesn’t matter what the level of unemployment is as for them it’s 100%. Today’s unemployment figure of 2.62 million people might well fit nicely with the Tory economic model but these are real people, real people that are being denied the right to work. My lady is one of them, a victim of the Tory local government cuts. A large proportion of this unemployment has been created by the government when it didn’t need to be so. There are alternatives we just need a government with some courage and a sense of fairness.

This government is destroying lives. You do wonder how ministers manage to sleep at night. I suppose it’s because they really don’t give a shit!

Sunday 13 November 2011

Oh Moses! - Murder in the family

If you have a blog or a website you will know what hours of fun can be had from looking at the ‘search statistics’. These are the terms that people enter into a search engine that then bring them to your site. I like the serendipitous nature of it all. Some search terms are quite bizarre but I do like the strange but small degrees of separation that link sites around the interweb. But little did I know that when I looked at the statistics a few months ago where they would lead me or what would be revealed. It shocked me I can tell you, which is one of the reasons it’s taken me a little while to write about it.

One of my blog posts that gets quite a lot of hits is about a visit I made to Chatham Dockyard. Most of the hits seem to be generated by the bit about a Stanley Spencer exhibition. But I also wrote about the rope-making factory that they have there. In the piece I happen to mention the Haverhill Rope Works, a business that my great-grandfather William Whiting had a part share in. It was a search for ‘Haverhill rope works’ that lead me to discover quite a shocking fact. There can’t be that many people that knew about or would want to search for the Haverhill rope works. My curiosity was such that I had to find out what else came up apart from blog when I searched. I was not surprised to find the Museum of East Anglian Life came near the top for they actually have a rope making machine from the Haverhill factory. My blog was listed at that all important Nº7 spot. Just above was an entry entitled ‘William Whiting 1864-1941 - Haverhill Whitings’. I was intrigued. I had to visit this site. The site in question turns out to be a lovingly researched reference by Simon Hutchison who is like me descended from Haverhill Whitings. There on the page in question was mention of my great-grandfather, along with his wife and children, one of whom was my grandmother and several other great aunts and uncles that I had known.

It was then that I noticed Simon's mention of Moses WhitingWilliam was the eldest child of Moses and Emma Whiting. He was born in 1864 in Burton End, Haverhill, where he appears on the 1871 census. By this time he has two sisters, Emma and Alice, and a brother, John. Another brother, James, was born in 1874 but two years later tragedy befell him when he was murdered by his father.” In a sad and cruel irony great-great-grandfather had broken one of the commandments allegedly revealed by his namesake. That commandment was ‘thou shalt not kill’. It would seem that my great-great-grandfather had committed murder by taking the life of his own son, and by the newspaper account that Simon Hutchison references, it is a sad, sorry and macabre tale.

The newspaper report about the incident and in particular the coroner’s hearing suggests that there was a history of madness within the family: “The prisoner’s awful affliction is certainly hereditary, for a long list of attempted suicides, and, in fact, suicides which have been committed by various members of the prisoner’s family are mentioned.” The report makes reference to Moses in the court saying that he did not take the slightest interest in the proceedings and spent most of the time shuffling back and forth on his seat. Later on in the hearing there is reference made to Moses possibly suffering from Delirium Tremens although it was stated he had not taken drink for three or four weeks. There is also reference to the brother of Moses being in an asylum. Despite the jury’s verdict of “Wilful Murder” it is clear that this poor soul, my great-great-grandfather was not in charge of his mental faculties when he took the life of his two year old son.

Thankfully Moses did not face that most abhorrent of punishments, the death penalty, but instead the poor soul spent the rest of his days in Broadmoor. I have no doubt that Broadmoor was no picnic and that he suffered under a regime that probably neither recognised what his condition was nor was able to treat it particularly effectively.

As I pointed out in a previous post my father has HD. Huntington’s Disease is a particularly cruel disease that attacks parts of the brain, it affects different people in different ways, generating a number of symptoms including aggressive behaviour, involuntary movements and a whole host of others that are equally unpleasant. My grandmother Elsie, the granddaughter of Moses also had HD. HD is hereditary. Unfortunately I don’t know if my great-grandfather William had it, and it is possible that grandma received her faulty gene from her mother, but William selling his share of the Haverhill Rope Works at an early-ish age and moving to a different town suggests that he may we have had the disease even if it was never identified as such. My mother has told me that when my grandmother apparently first showed signs of HD relatives had said it as ‘nerves’ and suggested there was a history of ‘nerves’ in the family. Whilst I can prove nothing, I suspect it was grandma’s father William that had HD, and that it had been passed down from his father Moses. Every mention of Moses in the newspaper report points to behaviour consistent with Huntington’s disease. He was probably never diagnosed at the time with it because the first thorough description of the disease, by George Huntington, was only published four years before in 1872, and in the USA. There is no cure for HD. The only treatment is a range of drugs and dietary aids to help subdue the effects of its onset. Treatments that poor Moses would never had a chance to receive.

It doesn’t bear thinking about how tormented, ridiculed and abused a number of my ancestors must have been. They must have suffered terribly at the hands of people who I’m sure were quick to look at superstition for answers to why they displayed the symptoms that they did. No wonder it is alleged that a number attempted and some committed suicide. It could be that I have this awful condition, and whilst there still is no cure I am thankful that the treatment I will receive if I do will be so much more humane than the punishment presumably metered out on many a poor Whiting in years gone by.

I will never know if my grandmother knew about the murder in the family but I’m pretty sure my father doesn’t. Unfortunately in his present condition I don’t feel able to discuss it with him. My mother certainly didn’t know about it and she is confident that if father did know about he would have shared it with her whilst they were married. I am thankful to Simon Hutchison’s painstaking and comprehensive research into the Whiting family history for bringing this to light.

Updated here on 27/5/17

Wednesday 9 November 2011

What’s the time Mr Wolf?

A lot of Americans get emotional or agitated at the mention of ‘9/11’ for understandable reasons. I get agitated when British newsreaders and media types use that same term. This side of the Atlantic it isn’t ‘9/11’ it’s ‘11/9’

It is true that I am irritated by Americanisms in general. It’s their inaccuracies and cack-handed ways with language that irritate me the most. And, dates are a great source of that irritation. Whilst I can almost accept that much of their spelling despite being arrived at by laziness or ignorance offers a certain brutish efficiency, there is absolutely no way that their misuse of the date can be defended. Logic would dictate that as a date is made up of various units of measure you would arrange those units in a uniform way; smallest to largest or largest to smallest. Wouldn’t you? Surely that’s the most logical thing to do. That way people know where they are. Virtually everyone in the world does it ascending or descending. But not so the awkward Americans. They clearly adopted the approach of throwing the individual units up in the air and seeing which way they landed, “Oh Prairie-shit, month day year it is then”.

Tuesday 8 November 2011

"Farther... ...Christmas!"

For those of you that are confused and must celebrate Christmas please note that it is 'Father Christmas' and not 'Santa' or 'Santa Claus'. Alright?

The power of blogging?

Last night I blogged about ‘Winterval’ and today the Daily Mail, the paper that supported Hitler, prints a retraction:

"We stated in an article on 26 September that Christmas has been renamed in various places Winterval.

Winterval was the collective name for a season of public events, both religious and secular, which took place in Birmingham in 1997 and 1998.

We are happy to make clear that Winterval did not rename or replace Christmas."

n.b. just in case there are any Daily Mail readers passing by: of course I don't really believe I had anything to do with it.

Monday 7 November 2011


My previous post about Christmas reminded me of the lies that are regurgitated every year by the lackeys of the right. Unfortunately the likes of the Daily Mail have managed to create stories that have ended up as urban myths, and gullible people fall for it hook, line and sinker!

It’s easy to spot these twerps. They tend to mumble stuff about “political correctness gone mad” or will complain about health and safety, or the EU or immigration. They always have to have a bogeyman (or woman) to complain about; a nebulous evil spirit that manifests itself in the form of their particular prejudice. In counteracting such twatishness there is none better than Stewart Lee. See here his riposte of the lies about ‘Winterval’. The man is spot on:

I’ve never understood why political correctness should be used as a form of abuse. What’s wrong with doing the right thing? Nothing I suppose unless you are a complete pillock. Again I shall call expert witness Stewart Lee. You cannot argue with this stuff!

16/11/19: This is an old post and the links are no longer valid. You could try here:

Saturday 5 November 2011

The C word is humbug

A bit like those that like parties, people that like Christmas can’t understand why some of us don’t. It never fails to amaze me how so many people just accept the culture that they are brought up in believing that’s how it should be. I do get some very bemused looks from people when I say I hate Christmas. Many people just cannot understand it. There are so many sheep out there. Worse than those that just can’t comprehend that some people hate Christmas are the ones that feign empathy and will spout some bollocks along the lines of Christmas having lost its true meaning. I’ve no doubt that the festival we call Christmas lost its true meaning when the bloody Christians got their oppressing hands on the feast of the solstice. Christmas is only marginally better now that the god of consumerism has got its claws into yuletide. For some people Christmas can be really hateful, a time of deep depression a time for feeling unloved and for some poor souls it all gets too much. They choose suicide. For me I just ignore it as best I can.

We don’t put Christmas decorations up; although we do display the cards we are given. We still feel obliged to join in with the greeting card ritual nonsense although it is kept to a bare and my lady don’t give each other presents and presents to others are simple and again kept to a minimum. Last year for the first year ever we managed to do nothing Christmassy on Christmas day and we loved it. A few years ago I spent a large part of the middle of the day on my own on Christmas day and it was wonderful; I had beer, junk food and listened to music. It was sheer lazy bastard’s heaven. If I ever had a job where I could work on Christmas day for enhanced pay and time off in lieu then I’d probably do that.

Christmas is so false that I really don’t want to be part of it. The hype causes so much stress for so many people along with so much unhappiness for those that feel that they are missing out if there Christmas does go exactly as social pressure dictates. People spend ridiculous sums of money that very often they can ill afford to buy ridiculous presents that just fuels the furnaces of the hell that is consumer-fuelled capitalism.

I was a big fan of Slade in their day. Yes I am that old! But I don’t want to hear their Christmas hit in every shop, supermarket, pub and restaurant that I enter in November and December thank you. Worse still I don’t want to hear the syrupy vomit-inducing offerings from the likes of Cliff Richard, George Michael and Aled Jones.

But, you don’t have to accept all this nonsense. You don’t get struck by a thunderbolt if you ignore it. Life is good without most of the Christmas bullshit. So, go on, ignore Christmas and you could well be surprised how happy it will make you.

Wednesday 2 November 2011

Imagine Grayson Perry

I’ve been aware of Grayson Perry for a few years now but I’m not aware that I’ve ever seen his work in the flesh so to speak. I’ve seen him on various arts and magazine programmes, on the televisual goggle-box, usually as Claire (his alter ego). I understood him to work mainly in ceramics, he came across as being slightly less pretentious than many arty folk but apart from that I knew very about him. Last night’s hour-long programme on BBC1 ‘Imagine: Grayson Perry and the Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman’ was a joy. Alan Yentob can’t make a bad arts programme (great job you’ve got there Alan) and this one was no exception. It charts Grayson over a two year period leading up to his current exhibition at the British Museum ‘Tomb of the Unknown Craftsman’. The exhibition is a mix of Grayson Perry’s work and artefacts from the museum’s collection brought together in a near serendipitous way to represent an imagined body of work the ‘Unknown Craftsman’. We are introduced to Alan Measles; Grayson’s teddy bear of 50 years standing and Grayson Perry’s deity, as they journey together to Germany on a pastel pink and blue custom build motorbike. All is explained in the programme.

I like or can accept a sizeable chunk of contemporary art. And, despite their politics I think Gilbert and George are particularly outstanding artists. But, I don’t care for likes of Damien Hirst and Tracey Emin with their pretentiously-purveyed Emperor’s New Clothes style nonsense. It doesn’t shock or disgust it’s just downright boring and in my book it ain’t art! Grayson Perry is a cut above all that. I like his attitude to art. Despite the way he dresses, which certainly grabs the attention it seeks, he appears to put in the effort, genuinely striving to produce quality art rather than take the piss. He himself is also critical of much of the art world. He is also a tad eccentric which is no bad thing in an artist. Grayson is truly a great British artist, up there with Hockney, Gormley, Banksy and the aforementioned Gilbert and George, to name but a few. I hope to go and see his exhibition before it closes on 19th February 2012

If you missed this fabulous programme and want to see it, go to the iPlayer. But be quick as it won't be there for long.

Tuesday 1 November 2011

“Nobody knows where my Johnny has gone...”

I’m not a particularly gregarious chap. I like to socialise, sometimes, but I’m certainly no party animal. When I do socialise it tends to be in small groups, because that’s how I like it. Huge gatherings irritate and bore me. I don’t like being told that I need to ‘have fun’ or ‘have a good time’, and that a large gathering of morons eating and/or drinking is the way to do it, because for me it ain’t! Unfortunately those further down the food chain who like parties just can’t comprehend that some people don’t. They think that parties are the only way you can have so called ‘fun’. They think that you can’t be happy unless you enjoy parties. Well let me shock you pea-brained party-goers. You can and I am. I may come across as a grumpy old sod but for the majority of the time, and particularly when I’m not at work, I am happy. I like going out. I just don’t like lowest common denominator entertainment, but if you do then that’s fine by me. You have a right (and you don’t need to fight) to parteee!

We are now entering a period when people manage to find flimsy excuses to have a party. Please spare a thought for those that are not afflicted with the need to waste hours on such nonsense. Please remember that one-size does not fit all!

Monday 31 October 2011

I am a customer and shareholder of Barclays Bank

Does that make me a bad person?

I don’t like capitalism but, as I’m not prepared to opt out of ‘the system’ and live in a ditch, I’ve learned to live with it as best I can. As have most other people in this country I might add. Virtually every financial transaction is an act of capitalism. It’s a shit system but that’s the system, sadly. We can change it but the majority don’t seem to want to. If you have a pension, an endowment policy or some other kind of life assurance savings policy you will indirectly be investing in the stock market, and probably in Barclays Bank or some other institution that is oft held up in public as worse than the rest of them. It does often seem very random about which companies people chose to hate or hold up as examples of “the unacceptable face”. That doesn’t mean I necessarily approve of everything that Barclays do I might add.

To date my working life has been spent in the private sector, so as you can imagine I have been well and truly shafted by capitalism over the years. Early on I was a bank clerk working for Lloyds Bank as it was then. My first ever bank account was with Lloyds, although I switched from them after I left. Over the years I have been a customer of a number of banks, including the Co-operative Bank, who I still have an ‘Oxfam’ credit card with. But I have always found Barclays to offer excellent service, their branches well sited and relatively plentiful and their online banking is first class. So much better than a mutual I also deal with. I acquired the Barclays Bank shares via the Woolwich Building Society. As a member at the time that the Woolwich demutualised I was issued with some of their shares. I held on to them. When Barclays bought the Woolwich I was then issued with Barclays shares in their place. I’ve held on to them. They go up and down like the proverbial Tower Bridge, and this year those peaks and troughs, mainly troughs I have to say, have been quite extreme. I consider them as a long term investment; a little something for my retirement.

As most people who work in the private sector will know, pension arrangements these days, by and large, tend to be shit. I’m not sure when I’ll be able to retire as my pensions aren’t going to be great but I have no desire to work until I drop. I worked for a company for 16 years and paid into their pension scheme. I left about 6 months before that company finally went bust. The last owners ran it into the ground, stole employees’ pension contributions and never made their promised contributions. Because of this, a failed marriage and challenging finances through much of my life my pensions will fall short of anything decent. In an attempt to supplement the meagre pensions that I will no doubt get when I eventually retire I have invested the Barclays shares along with shares of a few other household names into an ISA. My pensions and savings will possibly only just keep me above a poverty existence. And, I am not over egging the pudding here I can assure you. Retirement, despite not arriving soon enough, is going to be a struggle for me, that’s of course if I am spared. That said I know that many millions are going to be a lot worse off than me because they will only have the state pension and other benefits to live on; pensions and benefits that become less valuable virtually by the day. A civilised society would certainly not have the inadequate pension provision that we have in this country.

That’s my excuse, what’s yours?

Friday 28 October 2011

Are we all totally fucking mad in this country?

Yesterday the BBC reported that “Former Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher has claimed £535,000 of taxpayers' money over the last five years, government records have shown.” She is not alone of course, other ex-PMs are at it as well, milking the expenses scam that John Major set up when he was in office. Thatcher’s claims are particularly galling because of what she did to this country and its people, bringing large swathes of the population to their knees. It’s as if our noses are being rubbed in it! I don’t actually have a problem with ex-PMs claiming expenses in principle, like I don’t have a problem with MPs claiming expenses, as long as they are fair and reasonable, but £535,000 over five years is taking the piss big time. I suppose it’s a case of once an evil cow, always an evil cow.

As if that wasn’t bad enough we awoke this morning to the news that “Pay for the directors of the UK's top businesses rose 50% over the past year, a pay research company has said.” Whilst most of us have suffered minimal pay rises or none at all, which has effectively eroded our real income, company bosses have been dipping into their proverbial tills with gay abandon. Thanks to the recklessness by the financial institutions of the world we are in a recession, profits are down, companies are making thousands redundant and yet company directors see fit to up their pay by an obscene amount. It is immoral. But not only that, it doesn’t make good business sense either; there is no logic in upping the pay of those that are measured by results when they are currently not performing. Just remember every £1Million of bonus paid out to some festering fat-cat could pay the wages of 50+ people; food for thought.

These are just two examples of nest feathering at their most offensive. The rich and powerful are raping and pillaging this nation. The majority of us aren’t filthy rich. The majority of us don’t hold public office. The power and wealth in this country is held be an elite few. And, we allow that!

Yes, we allow it. We must be mad to do so. But it doesn’t have to be like that. Ultimately it is us, the majority, who hold the real power. We just need to wake up and exercise that power.

Oh yes, now, what was that ConDem motto again? Oh, that’s right, “we’re all in this together”. Like fuck we are!

Thursday 27 October 2011

White not red

I’m a pacifist and I suspect more people would be if they really thought about the true consequences of war. I would never wish to take the life of another and would never ask anyone else to kill on my behalf. I believe it to be totally, utterly and immorally wrong to wage war. Around this time of year I usually remind people that there is an alternative to the British Legion red poppy. That alternative is the white poppy.

The White Poppy symbolises the belief that there are better ways to resolve conflicts than killing strangers.

The white poppy is available from and promoted by the Peace Pledge Union. “The Peace Pledge Union is the oldest secular pacifist organisation in Britain. Since 1934 it has been campaigning for a warless world.

Please order your white poppy today and wear it to promote the notion of peace.

Wednesday 26 October 2011

Comfort food

Isn’t comfort food great? The grub that cheers you up when you are low. Interestingly all of my favourites are savoury. So with no further adieu here it is, that all important top ten:

Nº1 Baked beans on toast
Nº2 Fish fingers
Nº3 Bacon sarnies
Nº4 Cheese on toast
Nº5 Hummus and pitta bread
Nº6 Macaroni cheese
Nº7 Fish, chips and mushy peas
Nº8 burger, chips and a beer (chips must be thin chips)
Nº9 Nachos
Nº10 Dips and crudités

Beat that!

Wednesday 19 October 2011

Tax and spend

I wish someone with right-wing leanings could explain to me why it is so important for rich people to pay less tax than the less well off members of society, because it is a concept that I really do not grasp. I understand why they claim that more tax is collected if the rich pay lower rates, although I don't necessarily buy that. I also know of the arguments about it encouraging entrepreneurship which is a false argument because if you tax people a little bit more they’ll look for opportunities to earn even more money to compensate. So I really don't see any of their tired arguments as justification for lower taxes. It is like the government saying "we don't have a very good arrest rate for muggers so we're going to make mugging legal". Morally it is indefensible and mathematically it is questionable.

One of the problems we have with our tax system is that it is so unfairly weighted towards those in society that are less well off. We are virtually all taxpayers as I’ve explained before. Very few escape apart from the very rich and the insane. Tax should always be equally about two things: fairness and revenue collection. A tax regime has to be seen to be fair as well as being fair but it must also be effective in revenue collection. At present we have neither. Our tax system is far too complicated which enables the rich to avoid paying what they should. It is my belief that a simpler and fairer system would actually increase tax revenues.

Okay, redistribution of wealth is still not as popular in this country as it should be but that is not surprising as the rich expend a lot of energy and money on propaganda to hoodwink the population into believing that a large gap between rich and poor is desirable. And, sadly people fall for it. Redistribution of wealth, financing the mechanics of state and paying for measures to promote social mobility are what taxes should be for, with the emphasis on taxes applied to income rather than spend. When you tax spending this disproportionately hits the less well off, those that can least afford to pay taxes. If we had less of a divide between those at the top of the earnings ladder and those at the bottom then differing rates of tax wouldn’t be so necessary but unfortunately UK companies would rather get away with paying most of their staff the bare minimum rather than generous wages so that they can reward those few at the very top; it’s pure capitalism/market forces which as we know doesn’t work for the majority of people.

I think the sad thing is that the fair and equitable redistribution of wealth would ultimately create a stronger economy, with a higher GDP per capita and lower tax rates. What fat-arsed money men can’t seem to grasp is that if you put more money into the pockets of the less well off the less well off will spend it. When they spend, business booms and the economy grows. As the economy grows this generates more wealth and higher tax revenues. Beats quantitative easing every single time. It’s similar to the model that works reasonable well in Scandinavia. What’s not to like?

Sunday 16 October 2011

It’s Not Me, It’s You

As readers of this blog possibly know I’m a big fan of Jon Richardson. He has to be one of the funniest comedians performing in the UK today. His comedy is intelligent, complex, subtle and gentle but angry. His comedy tends to be based on what he sees as his character traits, his failings and the failings and irritating habits of others.

Subtitled ‘Impossible perfectionist seeks very very very tidy woman’ this book is about Jon’s foibles and his self-styled failure to find a mate. It is hard to review this book without giving too much of the content away, and as part of its charm is not knowing where it is going to lead I wouldn’t want to reveal too much. This book contains some romance, some triumphs and a lot of very funny bits; my favourite being an incident on a train with a twat on a mobile phone. I read this book mostly on train journeys and I could not stop myself laughing out on many an occasion.

I like Jon’s comedy because I identify with so many of his beliefs and so many of the ways he does things. He is blessed with the knowledge of how things should be done, a knowledge that precious few of us are blessed with. Knowledge like how a toilet roll should be hung on its holder. Things like this should be obvious but it is surprising how so many people get so much wrong.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Ham sandwich rules

Your common or garden ham sandwich is a tricky blighter. I’m sure many of you have lost countless hours of sleep worry over the correct condiment to apply to this humble pork based snack, not wishing to show your ignorance and become a social pariah. Well folks help is at hand. I can reveal the answers to the ham sandwich vis a vis condiment conundrum. There are really only two condiments that should ever be applied to the ham sandwich; they are mustard and piccalilli. Obviously not applied together as that would be just plain silly, either/or.

Interestingly if you were to deconstruct the ham sandwich and eat it as ham on a plate with bread and butter the only legitimate condiment would be brown sauce. The same obviously applies to ham, egg and chips; brown sauce and brown sauce only. Hope that’s clear.

Tuesday 4 October 2011

In praise of Tesco. Well sort of.

A lot of people love to hate Tesco. I suppose it’s because they are the largest supermarket chain in the UK and those opposed to large supermarket chains of any description and the tactics employed by that sector instantly go for the jugular of the brand leader. It’s a view I don’t necessarily share.

I don’t like capitalism, but unfortunately it is the system we are forced to live under. Of course I could just opt out of the mainstream economic society, but that has always seemed like bloody hard work to me. So, I take the path of least resistance and having metaphorically taken the bullet in the back of the head in room 101. Given that, my supermarket of choice would always be Tesco. They have reached their number one position because they a good at what they do. They offer consistent quality and choice at prices that offer value for money. What’s not to like? In my humble opinion the real villain is the American owned Asda. They claim low prices; and yes you can pick out some of their prices and they will be cheap. But, I’ve never liked the quality of their own-brand products and, whilst no supermarket shopping is enjoyable, shopping in Asda always seems like a very unhappy experience. As a consequence I actually think in terms of the whole shopping experience Tesco beat all others when it comes to my shopping trolley prices. My message is lay off Tesco as its better the devil you know. It’s Asda that people need to be wary of.

Whilst Napoleon was probably right when he described us as a nation of shopkeepers I do think it is a great pity that we don’t manufacture as much as we once did. Manufacturing can be a very positive force in any economy. It creates wealth by genuinely adding value as opposed to some of the service sector that creates dubious ‘smoke and mirrors’ wealth. But I suppose I’m biased as for the vast majority of my working life I’ve worked in manufacturing. So when I saw that Europe’s largest private sector employer was now a British company I was quite taken by surprise. Not something you expect. Of course I naturally thought of some manufacturing based conglomerate. Perhaps I’m too blinkered. It turns out, according to this article, that Europe’s largest private employer is none other than Tesco. I suppose we shouldn't complain about any British economic success story as in these times of need “every little helps”.

Monday 3 October 2011

Wake up Britain

There is no such thing as a compassionate Tory. If they were compassionate they wouldn't be Tories. Their policies are only ever designed to enable their paymasters to become even richer. If they introduce policies that appear to favour what they might call the 'lower orders' it’s only ever because in the long run they stand to gain. The Conservative Party is driven by greed and funded on the spoils of greed. They believe that the rich should get richer and the poor poorer. They are the nasty party. Wake up Britain before it is too late.

Tuesday 27 September 2011

Capitalism doesn’t work and is not efficient

You would think that in these lean times buying parts for industry would be a piece of cake. But, I suspect if you were to ask any buyer in the private sector if their job at the moment was a doddle you would get a resounding “No!”

There is a perception peddled by much of the press, big business and the Tories that the private sector is ultra efficient and the most effective driver of the economy. At best this is utter nonsense. I’ve worked all my life in the private sector and it never ceases to amaze me how little people care about their company, their job or their customers.

Unless your only procurement requirements are for water coolers, photocopiers, fork-lift trucks or telecoms your are unlikely to have a long queue of suppliers desperate or even willing to sell you the goods and services that you require. I’ve never understood why you almost have to beg suppliers to accept an order. Nobody seems to want business. It is an everyday struggle.

I suppose if you are buyer for the likes of Tesco, Glaxo Smith Kline, BAE or other big spenders then you could well be beating suppliers back with a stick every single day, but I’m sure it is not the case for the majority of supply chain personnel in most SMEs up and down the country.

It is a sheer fallacy that capitalism and market forces fill demand. They do not. They take the path of least resistance. Their destination is making a ‘fast buck’. Far too many businesses in this country are no longer interested in manufacturing, investment or the long term. If you are relying on the private sector to drive us out of recession I think you could well be living in cloud cuckoo land!

Airship over Norwich last night

Here's a photo of the airship that was buzzing around our flat last night. Photo taken by the Lady.

Wednesday 7 September 2011

Occupied Country - a must read

I started blogging back in 2003, and in most of the time that I've been off and on blogging I've also been reading Steve Garry's blog Occupied Country, he also seems to blog off and on. His latest post is a must read. It basically sums up the state of play in this country by making some very entertaining as well as serious points about how unfair things are. Please pay steve a visit.

Semicircular canals

Don’t worry I haven’t gone all leather elbow patch and topographical on you. For the last week and a half I have felt like shit. Popular medical opinion would seem to be that after an initial diagnosis of “bulging eardrums” and “fluid in my middle ear” I’ve been suffering with a blockage in or before my semicircular canals. I was told at the surgery that there was nothing that they could do for me. It would sort of its own accord. Although they did persuade me to try an exercise that involved breathing in holding my nose and then letting blasts of air out once pressure had built up substantially. It gave me ear-ache and didn’t alleviate the symptoms. Reading up on the NHS website suggested that what I had should last around three or four days. Clearly my ears have to be awkward and attention seeking. Not content with being a bog-standard blockage the problem has to go on for a week and a half. The result is that you feel like you’ve downed ten pints and then been marooned in a dingy on the high seas during a force eight. My days would start with me sitting up in bed with the room spinning. This would last for anything from one to three hours and it was all about being vertical. I knew I had to be sitting upright and vertical for the duration to enable the room to stop spinning. Even once that feeling had subsided I still had problems with my sense of balance as well as a permanent feeling of nausea. I put up with this for just over a week when I decided enough was enough.

I’m not sure why I didn’t think of it before but I suddenly remembered ear candles. I figured that at the very least they would get things moving a bit. The lady went off into the city, returning later with a couple of packs along with a bottle of a fresh herb tincture of Plantago drops from these people. I immediately started on my first set of drops followed closely by the ear candle treatment. I won’t go into too much detail but the candles did bring quite a lot of muck out. I then proceeded with an intense course of vapour rub steam inhalation, four or five times a day. That night I also slept with an extra pillow under my head. My thinking for this was that given that if it did need to drain, lying almost flat wasn’t going to help. The next day saw me feeling worse than ever. I was prepared for this though. I believe they call this a ‘healing crisis’. Undeterred I carried on with the tincture and the frequent steam inhalations. Thankfully by day three it appeared to have yielded results. Today was the first day in over a week and a half that the room didn’t spin when I awoke. I’ve been able to go to work and get through the day without wanting to give up and die. At the height of the discomfort you think that it’ll never end. Thankfully today, even though I’m not fully back to normal I do feel that I am getting better.

Of course I can’t categorically state that any of my home treatments have helped to cure me. They could just be placebo or a coincidental. But I’m convinced that the ear candles did at least a small amount of good because of the amount of wax they brought to the surface. Either way I’m thankful that I appear to be on the road to recovery.

I hope in some small way that I can help others who might be suffering in the same way with this information.

Friday 26 August 2011

I hate myself sometimes

I’m very ashamed of an action I took this morning whilst alighting from my train in Thetford. The train was running late and there were a larger than normal crowd waiting to get on. The light to indicate that the doors could be opened to an age to come on. Whilst I waited and before it did so I saw this chap push to the front of the crowd and start jabbing on the button to open the door. When the door finally opened he started to get on the train before anyone had got off. Almost as a reflex action I barged into him with my shoulder knocking him back off the train. I don’t think at first he knew what had happened. I looked around and he was staring at me as if to say ‘I’ll remember you’. The actions of both of us were ill mannered and I’m certainly not proud of what I did. Rough justice isn’t justice. I get very irritated by bad manners and people’s non-consideration of others but that is no excuse for losing my temper. I shall of course beat myself up about it and sadly, as it happened in Thetford, there’s a good chance that if the individual concerned is hell-bent on revenge then he or his mates will be looking to beat me up or knife me as well. Deep joy! Now where’s that copy of the Daily Mail?

Thursday 25 August 2011

It was easy, it was cheap

Just imagine how even more exciting life would have been if we’d have had the internet in 1977. Punk with all its associated culture and spin offs would have found it a lot easier and cheaper to get its message heard. The fanzine, that important artery of communication between artiste and curious fan would have made the genre so much more accessible if it had been online. I suppose purists would dismiss this fantasy, alleging that it would have far removed punk from what it was, a disparate anarchic underground diy movement. Of course it is all pointless speculation really, but something to mull over in my dotage.

Wednesday 24 August 2011

One in a billion

Contrary to popular belief 1,000,000,000 is not a billion. It is only a thousand million. A real billion is one million multiplied by one million (million² or 1,000,000²), and is written thus: 1,000,000,000,000.
Glad we sorted that out then.

Tuesday 23 August 2011

A clause for the common good

To secure for the workers by hand or by brain the full fruits of their industry and the most equitable distribution thereof that may be possible upon the basis of the common ownership of the means of production, distribution and exchange, and the best obtainable system of popular administration and control of each industry or service.”

I still like the original version of Clause IV, drafted by Sidney Webb in November 1917 and adopted by the Labour Party in 1918, and feel that it is still applicable and a desirable aim to aspire to. Our world would be a much better place is these ideals were the driving force of a democratically elected government.

Thursday 18 August 2011

Life, the universe and everything revisited

During my time as a Quaker attender I would often find great inspiration in reading 'Advices and Queries'; a set of useful paragraphs which as well as being included in 'Quaker Faith and Practice' also came as a handy little booklet. 'Advices and Queries' is an inspirational guide delivered in bite size chunks. It always amused and comforted me that there were 42 of them. HHG2G fans will be aware of the significance of this number. My favourite 'A&Q' and the one I read over and over again was No42. Apart from the last sentence no one apart from Jeremy Clarkson could possibly object to the wording. I'd like to share it with you now:

"We do not own the world, and its riches are not ours to dispose of at will. Show a loving consideration for all creatures, and seek to maintain the beauty and variety of the world. Work to ensure that our increasing power over nature is used responsibly, with reverence for life. Rejoice in the splendour of God's continuing creation."

Wednesday 17 August 2011

KPIs, smoke and mirrors

Captains of industry and latter-day politicians get very horny over KPIs or to give them their full unabbreviated title Key Performance Indicators. Unfortunately as with most management tools they are a sham. They don’t measure performance per se, rather they measure people’s ability to ‘play the game’ and to massage and manipulate figures. Those that are ‘clever’ find ways to influence outcomes. Those that either don’t care or don’t realise that it is a game rarely do so well in the measurement stakes. Sadly important decisions are made on the back of all this false data. People’s livelihoods are affected by them. It certainly happens to a degree in the company I work for and I suspect it happens in varying degrees up and down the land.
If targets are set and people don’t meet those targets it doesn’t necessarily mean they have ‘failed’ even though it might be seen as failure. It could be that:
  • people are too busy doing a really good job that they don’t have time to facilitate the generation of correct data
  • the overall data collection process is flawed
  • someone else is entering data incorrectly
  • data is being misinterpreted
  • the metrics used are not well defined and/or have not been communicated to those concerned
  • data of different standards and from different sources is being accepted as ‘like for like’
  • people concerned aren’t doing their job properly
  • any permutation of various of the above
  • Other factors that I’ve failed to consider
One of the biggest problems with data collection is inconsistency. In large organisations data will invariably arrive from a number of different sources. Different branches of the organisation will interpret what information is required each in their own little way. Even if information is gathered from electronic systems it is subject to contamination; unless you have got very basic black and white true/false type data it will be flawed. The data entry if made by humans will vary. The more sophisticated the data is the more chance it has of being incorrect. These measurements will be further corrupted where you have government departments that collect data from outside organisations. The variables of interpretation offer so much scope for erroneous answers as to render many findings pointless. KPIs can only ever be accepted as giving an approximate overview or flavour at best. They can only ever be considered as a licking your finger and holding it up to the wind type of approach. 

In my experience rarely do KPIs tell it like it really is and far too much weight is given to them when making important decisions. Essentially KPIs are just statistics and we know exactly what that means. There really is no replacement for quality, hands on, management; people who know the job and being trusted with getting it right.
One of the biggest problems with data collection is inconsistency. In large organisations data will invariably arrive from a number of different sources. Different branches of the organisation will interpret what information is required each in their own little way. Even if information is gathered from electronic systems it is subject to contamination; unless you have got very basic black and white true/false type data it will be flawed. The data entry if made by humans will vary. The more sophisticated the data is the more chance it has of being incorrect. These measurements will be further corrupted where you have government departments that collect data from outside organisations. The variables of interpretation offer so much scope for erroneous answers as to render many findings pointless. KPIs can only ever be accepted as giving an approximate overview or flavour at best. They can only ever be considered as a licking your finger and holding it up to the wind type of approach.
In my experience rarely do KPIs tell it like it really is and far too much weight is given to them when making important decisions. Essentially KPIs are just statistics and we know exactly what that means. There really is no replacement for quality, hands on, management; people who know the job and being trusted with getting it right.