24 February 2009

Freedom of information

With Jack Straw finally ending any thought that I might vote Labour at the next election, maybe it's time to think about some of the inconsistencies of this govt. As Charlie Brooker tweeted it:
So: *we* can scarcely take a shit without 100 CCTV cameras recording our arsehole's every splutter, while *they*...

The Freedom of Information Act is basically a good intention, but how it works is ridiculous. I suspect the majority of enquiries are born of mischief or boredom, rather than any sense of injustice. I suppose the difficulty is that enquirers don't have to demonstrate or even claim any particular reason for wanting to know the information requested. So I could write to Cornwall County Council asking for details of how many councillors claimed lunch allowances in 2008 and how often, just for fun (no, really, it is some people's idea of fun). And the Council would have to do the research and give me an answer. It's a massive waste of everyone's time. But when it really matters, when the govt might be revealed to have been a coalition of the criminal, the cowardly and the careerist, of course it falls apart.

Meanwhile, the govt goes ahead with plans to retain every email sent or received, because anyone might turn out to be a terrorist. It makes taking a photo of a copper a potential criminal offence, totally ignoring any question of mens rea, instead saying that it can be a defence to have a "reasonable excuse" for taking the picture. A total reversal of the presumption of innocence.

And of course id cards, cameras every where, dna database. "Well if you've nothing to hide, why worry?" they say. I think Jack Straw's just invalidated that argument.

I'm actually prouder every day that I didn't vote Labour last time. My MP, Jim Dowd, made my decision very easy by being a total lickspittle, with no apparent capacity for independent thought. Who else to vote for, though? I'm angry that the Labour party has basically disenfranchised me.

And actually, even without the disclosure of the cabinet discussion, we now know, better than ever, that it is indeed a coalition of the criminal, the cowardly and the careerist.

19 February 2009

Barbados and the Netherlands

What do they have in common, then? Probably not much, but they are the two countries I've been to that have a higher population density (popden) than the UK. Data from wikipedia, which will also show, to the discerning, that I've never been to the Vatican City or, quite strangely, Belgium. I've been really near Belgium, and for a while I thought Lille (which I've been to) was in Belgium (it should be). Netherlands, obviously urban, reclaimed, crowded. But Barbados? Has about the same population as Lewisham, but is much bigger. UK clearly has large unpopulated areas (eg Wales, Canning Town). But doesn't India? Yet its popden is much higher than UK. So ... when we say, we love foreigners, we really do, but this is a really overcrowded island, and regretfully, there's no room for you lovely (darkskinned) people, are we lying? Not very british, is it?

14 February 2009

Three (posts) in one (day)

So this post could be about the Trinity, or bicycle oil, or Roland Kirk (obscure jazz ref). None of those. Ignore the brackets. I meant to post something about Valentine's Day, or VD, as it's better known.

It struck me yesterday that this is the best day in the year to be single. Well, single and over thirty. No pressure to live up to an absurd romanticism. No feeling of being the victim of shameless profiteering by, among others, Clintons Cards, Interflora, Any Restaurant, Any Jeweller. The only downside is that if I'd wanted to eat in a restaurant tonight, I'd have had to share the space with numberless couples, in various stages of infatuation or disillusionment.

Oh, but then this morning, on Saturday Kitchen, a sweet young couple tugged at my heartstrings. (One of the chefs had already, quite literally, warmed my cockles.) He proposed to her; she accepted: and for the rest of the programme their bodylanguage quite clearly showed they'd rather be making babies than watching The Omelette Challenge (space here for some comment about eggs).

It was as cheesy as Switzerland but it moved me strangely and I'm now looking for a fresh source of cynicism. Or, and I can hardly believe I'm saying this, for someone who would look at me like she looked at him.

Charlton 2 Plymouth Argyle 0

Let's be clear: Plymouth were very poor. But a two nil win is a two nil win. We need a lot more to get off the bottom, even more to get clear of relegation, but it's nice to come away with a warm feeling on a cold evening.

I wasn't sure it was going to be that way. The first quarter of the match was dire, with Charlton playing a horrible high ball game. Several times it turned into a game of head tennis. There were unfamiliar names on the Charlton teamsheet - that's what happen when you miss a few games - including Tresor Kandol up front, who I'd never seen before. He looked quite gifted.

Then on 32 minutes Therry Racon scored an absolute beauty. The ball fell to him just outside the area. At first it seemed he had taken too long to control it, but turned out he was just setting himself up for a brilliant shot into the top left corner. Larrieu, the Argyle goalkeeper, had no chance but found something to complain to the referee about, which got him a booking.

Things stayed more or less safe - apart from a freekick that bounced off Charlton's crossbar - until half time. Leading 1-0 at halftime is no comfort for Charlton fans. How many times this season have they given away a lead? Anxious times, made worse soon after the break when we got quite a dodgy penalty, which Larrieu saved. Hard to tell from my angle if it was a bad penalty or a very good save. From Larrieu's later performance, a brilliant save is quite plausible.

From then on, Charlton utterly dominated the game. But the usual inability to score (in a brothel) might have been their undoing. Bailey missed one of the very best chances he'll ever have, but made up for it with the second goal, helped by some very Charltonian defending by Plymouth. No real worries until the end of the game.

So, how did the tweeting go? I'm not sure I'd do it again. It's time-consuming, and often it's hard to react immediately to key events. I used the time the trainers were on the pitch for most of my tweets, and of course halftime.

Maybe I'll just do pre-match, halftime, and on the train afterwards.

Addicks & Pilgrims

It's been a while since I've done a football post, but I'm hoping to do one today. Saturday afternoon football is back, after last week's snow-off, and I'll going to see if I recognise anyone in the team. Under pressure from a fellow-twitter, I'll be attempting to tweet periodically through the game, and the tweets will appear below right. And on Facebook of course.

Twitter has been at the fore of my tinternet activity recently. I've still got a fairly rudimentary presence, with 0.06% as many followers as twitter champion (in both senses) Stephen Fry. At its best and worst, Twitter is utterly trivial: did the world need to know that my train was stuck in New Cross yesterday morning? In between, it gives the chance to find articles of interest. I've followed followings and followers of the followed, so I'm now picking up messages from Ben Goldacre, the Bad Science man from the Guardian, for example. With so much nonsense on the web, it's good to see that there is a network of serious, sceptical thought.

And fun too. Charlie Brooker cogitates his column online, so this week, we had his taste test of the six new flavours of Walkers Crisps. Eg: Fish & Chips: like kissing someone who's recently guzzled a plate of scampi. Midway through they belch in your mouth.

This may be the golden age of Twitter and it will break under increasing use. I'm being followed by someone pretending to be Noel Edmonds, for example, which is only slightly less bad than being followed by the real one.

09 February 2009

05 February 2009

When good news goes bad

We finally had the budget news today and it's totally unexpected. Evil govt has searched down the back of the settees and found more money. Not only an increase on the basic budget, but some extra money to deal with anticipated new demand, and even more to set up more new services in 2010/11. So the organisation is getting more money than ever, and will in overall terms need to lose nobody - in fact it will grow.

So this puts in doubt whether those who want to leave can. The only hope is that the change in our business will need a change in personnel. Broadly speaking, we may need fewer generic investigators, like me, and more people with specialist knowledge and experience in social care and education. Da management knows that those who volunteered for voluntary redundancy have completely mentally committed to it and will be hard to motivate, so there may be efforts to get evil govt to look at it this way. At least, it's not ruled out. But once again, it's going to be a long time before we know the outcome.

02 February 2009

Snow day

Ah, Christina, not afraid of a bit of repetition:
Snow was falling, snow on snow, snow on snow

Today was largely snowed off. No southeastern trains. No London buses at all so a day at home. I've made great progress with the Cantos on the other blog.

Outside, it's been really quiet today. Hardly any traffic down this unsalted, snow-covered road, so we've had local children playing in the street, snowball-fighting and snowman-building. Probably the first chance any of them have had to do this.

I went out to the shops about 4.30. So quiet on the south circular. The local school (St Dunstan's) closed. Both stations shut up, of course. The pavements - even on the approaches to the station - still covered in slushy snow for lack of walkers.

It's still snowing now and I can't see things being any better tomorrow. The trainlines were covered with snow, and there was no sign of a ghost train having run through for de-icing. With so little traffic on the roads, there's got to be a good chance any heavy snow tonight will settle.

Sorry. This is a dull post, probably like many posted all over the southeast of England today. But then, I am a bit bored by now.

01 February 2009

I wish I got more comments, or do I?

Erda (artist's impression)
Obviously, not many people read this blog, and even fewer ever comment on it (Hi Keith, Hi Clive!). But do I really want more? Let's return to Victoria Coren. She's got a lightweight, amusing piece in today's Observer, about the experience of first love. It's not earth-shattering, but it's not meant to be.

And at precisely 1.04 am some insomniac grump using the name Erda wrote:
What on earth is the point of this rubbish?

Let's try to understand what's going on in Erda's head. Sleeplessly scanning tinternet at 1am he (I'm going to assume it's a man) sees a picture of Vicky, who's attractive enough, with the caption "Ah, first love... lots of Steven Berkoff and no snogging", and has to click on it. But, oh the disappoinment! Maybe the problem was not enough Berkoff (rhyming slang is a wonderful thing). "Rest assured, I was on the internet within minutes, registering my disgust throughout the world". Thank you, Erda, you opened my eyes.

Later, another contributor, chrisjwmartin, says, quoting Vicky
"Here I am, still unmarried and childless at... well, let's just say that I'm a lot younger than John Cleese's most recent girlfriend, but a lot older than she pretends to be."
You were born in 1973, luv. We all have access to Wikipedia.

There's someone who really understands comedy, yes? Really love that 'luv', too.

Whenever I read readers' comments on the Guardian, I despair. It's worse than the Daily Mail, where at least you know what to expect. But on the Guardian, it seems people line up to snipe and sneer at people who are, let's face it, more talented than they will ever be. Just try writing an amusing and original column on a regular basis. I know I can't do it.

So perhaps my obscurity is safer. Let the snipers and sneeryboys stay hidden among the crowd on CiF.