Due to the move of the blog to Wordpress posts from Jan 2012 onward will have commenting disabled (when I remember to do it)
Cheers - AE

Friday, 30 September 2011

Victory? For whom?

Paul Dacre yesterday
Town halls are to be shamed into bringing back weekly bin collections, it was revealed yesterday.
In a victory for householders and the Daily Mail, ministers unveiled a £250million fund to restore them.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles said councils will now have ‘no excuse’ to maintain hugely unpopular fortnightly schemes. ‘My view has always been that people expect a weekly collection,’ he said.
Yes, and the reason people expect a weekly collection, and so the reason why tapping taxpayers for another £250m makes this a pyrrhic victory at best, is because they've already fucking paid for it.* Has anyone anywhere heard of a UK council reducing council tax when switching from weekly to fortnightly collections? Anyone?

So what this means is the taxpayers are going to be shaken down again, either in the form of taxes now or in the form of more national debt now to be paid later, all to pay for what they should have been getting in the first place. Some bloody victory, especially as it turns out Eric Pickles can't even promise that the money won't be spunked away on fact finding missions to somewhere sunny with hot weather and hotter waitresses or yet another bunch of outreach and upchuck services for the vertically challenged, gender non-specific, gay, disabled, travellers of extra-terrestrial ethnicity community.**
He cannot force town halls to go back to weekly collections, but made it clear that voters should throw out councils which do not – a provocative suggestion, given that many of those that have gone fortnightly are Conservative controlled.
Mr Pickles told the Daily Mail: ‘I’ve had council leaders sitting at this very table who claim their public like a fortnightly collection and are very supportive. Well, good luck to them. Come the elections, there can be no excuses.’
Actually I don't exactly disagree with this. If people aren't happy they certainly should kick out their councillors (MPs too) come election time, but of course this isn't as straightforward as it sounds when parties have similar, and sometimes identical policies. Who do you vote for when they're all going to do the same thing? Not voting doesn't help since the people that do vote will still ensure that one of the bastards gets in, and like most (all?) democratic countries the UK still doesn't have ballot slips with an option to reject all candidates? As the article makes clear, it's not like this is something one particular party is prone to do when in control of a council, and it didn't take me long working my way down a list of hung councils to find that no overall control doesn't mean any assurance of weekly collections either.

So as far as I can tell The Daily Mail's self congratulatory circle jerk is based on the government tapping taxpayers for another quarter billion to pay for a service they've already paid for through council tax, with no guarantee that this extra money will result in householders actually getting the service. Oh wow, let's break open the champa... er, the really cheap Asti Spumante that someone brought over New Year before last. Seriously, what do British council taxpayers have to do to get the kind of refuse collection service that we get here in Oz, which having come from a fortnightly collection council area in the UK amazed me enough that I blogged it a couple of years ago.
What is it with rubbish collection here? There's a tip/recycling centre about 20 minutes drive away that is either free or inexpensive depending on what and how much we're dropping off. We have a pair of 120 litre bins that are provided to all local rate payers, and for a couple of bucks a week per bin we could double up to 240 litres (or reduce to 80 and get a small rebate). One bin is for rubbish and the other is for assorted - i.e. unsorted - recyclables. Seriously, we don't do any separating beyond what can be recycled and what can't, so all paper, cardboard, tins and plastics with a recycle logo just get rinsed out if necessary and chucked into the same bin, with everything else going into garbage bags before being put in the other bin. Nobody gets their cock in a knot and insists the bins are put out in the morning rather than the night before, nobody talks about fines if it's a bit full and the lid doesn't quite shut all the way, and nobody insists it's in a particular place as long as the robotic arm on the truck can reach, which is a fair way (vid - not our council but similar machines). And both bins are emptied weekly, and we don't have to do anything other than take 'em out the night before the bin men 'garbos' come round.
I mean, how backward is that? Apart from the robot arms on the vehicles and recycling some stuff that's like where rubbish collection was in Britain 25 years ago.
It's got to the stage now where I think the best chance of that happening is for the councils to have some competition. That means encouraging people to go private and pay for a collections from one of the firms that have begun appearing to provide that service the councils are no longer interested in but still insist on charging for. I've no idea what the average council charge for it these days, and even if I could remember what we used to pay that was several years ago anyway, but a very brief search turned up one UK company willing to do weekly bin collections for about 500 quid a year (plus either a one off £50 for a bin or £6 a month to rent one because councils won't let anyone else empty theirs). That company also does a fortnightly collection for those who might want it, either because they don't produce much rubbish or because they just want rubbish taken those alternate weeks when the council won't do it (shame that means having yet another bin).

Of course, not only would all this be more likely if Eric Pickles stopped putting his hands in the poor bloody taxpayers' wallets and instead told them that they could withhold part or all of the portion of their council tax that pays for kerbside refuse collection if they pay a private contractor to do it instead, but it's an essential move if there's to be any competitive pressure on councils to improve their service. And here's where we run into difficulties, because currently members of the political class or all parties seem congenitally incapable of considering any solution to a problem that doesn't involve them at some level. It's not just the empire building attitude, though that's probably a factor too, but this assumption among politicians and civil servants that people simply won't be able to cope with buying services themselves. In modern infantilised Britain this might even be true to an extent, but it's only a problem if council refuse collection is scrapped altogether. It's not a problem if people can choose freely between continuing to pay the council for whatever it's prepared to provide in the way of bin collection and paying a private company for whatever they actually need in the way of bin collection. The only remaining issue would then be that councils would likely crack the sads at the thought of losing some of their income, and frankly that's just a facet of the empire building thing so too bad.

Still, as I say most current politicians are fiercely statist even if they don't think of themselves as such, so I won't be holding my breath. But if you're walking down a British suburban street on hot summer day there's a fair chance you'll still need to, because I'm sure many bins will still contain nearly two week old rotting food stinking the place up.

* I can't see any mention of whether this is one off or annual. Generally I'd expect politicians doing the 'Have some free money' routine to maximise the sound of their generosity with other people's money by saying if it's an annual thing, but possibly the Cobbleition are getting a bit sensitive to the fact that they promised to tackle the spiralling national debt and they're abjectly failing to do so. Or maybe Britons are starting to realise that governments have no money of their own and asking who's really picking up the bills for their largesse. I'm not wildly optimistic about that but I'd very much hope so.
** This is probably about the last group apart from vanilla WASPs who don't have outreach services yet.

I predict (not) a riot

After what happened in Britain early last month it'll be interesting to see what happens in Sydney as a result of this.
Five police officers surround a car, a number of them with their weapons pointed at a man who was reportedly driving around Sydney streets armed with a gun yesterday.
Moments later, the gunman was dead. Police won't say whether officers or the man fired first - or whether the man fired at all - nor reveal how many shots were fired.
The drama unfolded on Castle St, Castle Hill, about 12.45pm after a 000 caller told police of a man armed with a gun driving on Showground Rd. Minutes later, the Toyota Hilux was spotted at the intersection of Pennant and Castle Sts, near the police station.
Plainclothed officers ran from the station, and Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford said there was a confrontation with the driver and a number of shots were fired.
A handgun was removed from the vehicle and placed on the nearby median strip.
As Australian police are routinely armed and in most states are often equipped with tasers as well these sort of incidents are probably more common here. In fact Sydney police shot a guy in his own home only a couple of days ago, apparently as the result of a misunderstanding. And of course Sydney can riot as well as the next city, as the 2005 Cronulla riots showed. Still, despite the fact that so far it appears to share a few things in common with the Mark Duggan shooting in London (not in the race of the dead man because that's not been made public yet and he could be Mr Average White Guy for all we know right now, but just in that police quickly surrounded a car, shot an occupant and recovered a gun) I don't think the shops of Pitt Street Mall are going to need to rush out to buy window boarding before the first wave of looters hits because I don't think anything's going to happen.

And I can't really put my finger on why. I don't think it's because this does happen a bit more with armed cops about and that people are blase about it - in fact if you think about it in terms of incidents per X number of 'police hours armed' it's probably quite rare, and possibly rarer than in countries where the police are not all armed all the time (ironically the last coppers I saw before I left the UK were wandering around with MP5s and a semi-auto pistol each). Perhaps it's just that I don't get the same feeling of them and us with Australian police, or at least not to the same extent as in the UK.

That might not be at all representative of the thoughts of Aussies but it's the way I see it, so my feeling is that people will watch and wait and see what comes up as a result of the investigation. If it had happened in Britain right now I reckon people would already be pulling garden walls apart for the bricks.

Things I still don't get about Australia - No. 34

I'm repeating myself a little here because way back in the mists of 2009, no fewer than 30 things I still didn't get about Australia ago, I brought up the confusing topic of utes.
Yes, I know it's the vehicle that Australia has given to the world and that there's a certain pride in that, but I don't get the point of utes. Or I should say many utes. I understand working utes, no problems there. It makes perfect sense for builders, electricians, plumbers, chippies and other trades to have a ute, especially because they're so customizable if you get a tray body one rather than what the rest of the world calls a pick up. Similarly I can see the sense of 4 wheel drive versions for vehicles that get used on farms or building sites a lot, and also as recreational 4x4 vehicles. [...] What remains a mystery is the coupé style ute, which as far as I can see is a combination of sports car, saloon/sedan and the workhorse ute... but not actually as good as any of them. The ground clearance is too low to be much use on rougher sites let alone off road, and surely most tradies wouldn't want to risk that nice paintwork by chucking tools and materials in the back, even with a liner. And because it's a ute you've compromised the interior even if you get an extra cab or double cab version for the extra a normal number of seats. It's surely not going to be as aerodynamic as a proper sports coupé, so unless someone corrects me on that it seems compromised as a sports car. You do get a shitload of cargo capacity of course, but you get a shitload of room in a regular wagon too and often there's a ute and wagon version of the same car. So why buy, say, a Falcon ute rather than the wagon? And above all else, why do the most popular colours seem to be those of fruit?
Click for linky with bigger pic
As both my regular readers (hi Mum) will be aware I am slowly going more native as I spend time among the Upside Down People, and while I still don't get the point of sports utilities I kind of get the appeal. I can't explain what it is and I wouldn't buy one myself - probably wouldn't - and can't imagine what on Earth I'd do with it if I did, but there is something about utes which is speaking ever more loudly to my inner ten year old. But there's always someone who's prepared to take a harmless fascination to another (still harmless) level, and these people can be found at ute musters, one of which is the Deni Ute Muster held this weekend. And then there are the people whose love of utes is so strong that even that's not enough, and they have to take things even further still.
AN Australian Antarctic crew is hosting its own ute muster this weekend, despite having just two vehicles which fit the category.
Chris Wilkinson, a mechanic at Mawson Station, said the event would coincide with the Deniliquin Ute muster, and NRL and AFL grand finals this weekend.
He said the station had only two vehicles which could reasonably be called utes.
"We have two over-snow mobiles which have trays on them, so they sort of come into the ute category, I suppose," he told ABC Radio today.
"The other vehicle is a light truck - not really a ute - but we're going to call it a ute for our sake.
"We're going to have a prize for the best Antarctic ute, tradie's ute, feral ute and chick's ute."
At least four prize categories and only two utes, neither of which is really a ute. I guess there's loving utes and then there's really loving utes, and Aussies just love their utes. So much so, in fact, that Toyota's latest advert centres on it.

Light hearted dig or subtle piss take? I'm not sure but it's a nice looking ute, eh?

Subbies on the piss?

If someone at The Teletubbygraph was testing it while writing that sentence I'd say it's not working.

Thursday, 29 September 2011

More from the Labour wimmin

Having already knocked everyone for six with Yvette Cooper's fucking hilarious claim that Labour is the party of law and order (as distinct from the party that creates a lot of unnecessary law and likes to order everyone around) the Labour party conference's innings of hypocrisy continues with Harriet Harman at the crease, and she's already swinging for the boundary.

Harriet, please shut the fuck up. The Labour party has enjoyed an electoral bias for fucking years. It's so well known that in opposition the Tories need a swing of ≈5% just to draw level with labour that even your unofficial mouthpieces at the BBC don't try to hide it, and indeed have discussed it openly while covering every general election I've watched. Oh, I don't doubt that the Tories will benefit from any change and would love to gain a measurable advantage over you, just as your shower of hypocritical cunts have enjoyed such an advantage over them for years, but to gain any real advantage would require changes that politically they probably don't think they can get away with. Redressing the balance and getting something that's more or less parity is about as much as they'll get away with this time.

So I repeat, Harriet: please shut the fuck up. Because this is the second time this week I've felt the need to defend the Tories against pot and kettle bullshit from Labour and it makes me feel like I need a wash. If you felt so strongly about this, if you had this wonderful love for democracy, why didn't you attempt to fix it while your teams were in orifice? Why didn't you even speak out about it?

Sauce for the goose, Harriet. By all means come back and whine about it when Labour's been hamstrung by 5 or 6 points for a decade or so, but until then, fuck off.

P.S. - I should add that this idea about not having to be on the electoral roll is just formalising things for all those millions who don't vote at all, and judging by a look I once had at MPs who were elected on less than a 50% turnout in their constituencies these dedicated non-voters live mainly in seats which are fairly safe for Labour. Doesn't seem likely to hurt Labour very much and from the point of view of the individual voter the effect on democracy is about zero. After all, what's the difference between them being registered and not voting for anyone and being not registered to vote at all?

P.P.S. - Guido points out that Harperson is basically suggesting that Labour voters are too thick to fill out a form all on their own and need the brightest person in the household to do it for everyone. Not sure she's looked at it quite that way.

Felines, nothing more than felines...

If the pull of the outside world is strong, there is also a pull towards the human. The cat may disappear on its own errands, but sooner or later, it returns once again for a little while, to greet us with its own type of love.
Lloyd Alexander
A cat's own type of love. Simon's Cat - "The Present"
As Longrider, and any other cat owner co-habitee well understands. Just about moth hunting time here, which generally doesn't involve bits all over the carpet or the easily outraged banging on about cats doing what cats do. The world is not short of them and to be frank, fuck 'em, they're moths.

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Light blogging this week...

... means that the only comment I really have time to make on the above headline is "Are you fucking serious or have you been doing lines of mercury?" Not that Cameron is not a complete twat and his government almost as big a bunch of disappointing and feckless wankers as, well, as the Labour governments of the previous 13 years, but for one thing the government isn't actually cutting police numbers. Seems to me that if forces want to spend their budgets on expensive or irrelevant bullshit rather than police officers then their numbers, or lack thereof, is a problem of their own making. Just an idea this, but they could start with multiplying the number of officers they'd like by the salaries they'd need to pay and then subtracting that number from the budget before spunking money away on other stuff. It's a thought, that's all.

And for another thing the Cobbleition hasn't made any cuts. This is getting really fucking tedious to have  to keep saying this, but cuts are badly needed and the Cobbleition has failed to cut a penny off of overall public spending, and in fact they've managed to spend even more. Yes, they have been more profligate than even the crazed fuckwits who preceded them, and only those crazed fuckwits and their equally crazed and fuckwitted followers could possibly imagine that a government that spends more than the last one has cut a fucking thing. The only point at which the concept of spending less enters into it is that they are spending less than the profligate cocksocket Brown would have spent if he'd managed to win the election. That's it, and it does not qualify as a cut any more than saying I'll take out a loan to buy a Ferrari next year and then changing my mind is saving money.<

I'd suggest to Yvette Cooper that she goes home and asks around her family to see if someone can explain it to her, but since her family has got Ed Balls in it that's probably a waste of time.


Sunday, 25 September 2011

Wallets out, everybody

Little time for blogging this weekend, so my comments on this will be brief.
British taxpayers risk being caught up in a £1.75trillion deal aimed at saving the euro by allowing Greece to default on its massive debts.
The eurozone deal, being brokered by the G20 group of nations, would seek to "ring fence" the crisis around Greece, Portugal and Ireland - preventing it from spreading to major EU economies such as Italy and Spain.
It would involve the bailing out those European banks - mostly French - most at risk from their massive lendings to tottering economies.
Greece, crucially, would be able to default on at least some of its more than £300billion debts but remain inside the eurozone. The Greek government's private creditors would bear most of the increased costs.
At this stage, a new bail-out programme would be devised for Greece - with cash coming at least in part from the International Monetary Fund, in which Britain holds a 4.5 per cent stake.
And so...
This could mean British taxpayers paying out more than the £1billion they are already slated to have to contribute under the terms of the first Greek bailout fund.
I suspect 'could' in this context means 'will'. How can Britain avoid it when the IMF is involved? And so I'll make my usual comment in this kind of situation:

It's not your fucking money!

And add only that actually allowing a default isn't a bad thought but this idea is still, to use Douglas Carswell's phrase, bailing water into a sinking boat. The idea that a bail out involves adding more of the problem is just gold standard professional window licking.

Saturday, 24 September 2011

Same same but different

"The MCG is our nation's greatest sports venue, one of our proudest icons, and has been recognised as one of the best sporting stadiums in the world...

“More than 150,000 footy fans are expected to flock to the ground this weekend to watch their clubs battle it out in the Preliminary Finals and there is no better place to watch footy than at the people's ground.

“It's now been 20 years since the Great Southern Stand was built, and it is now the right time to make the necessary improvements to ensure the MCG continues to deliver the world-class sporting experience that it is famous for."

Victorian Premier John Brumby (Labor Party), September 15 2010
"The MCG is Australia's greatest sports venue and a Victorian icon, and it has been recognised as one of the best sporting stadiums in the world...

"More than 150,000 footy fans are expected to flock to the ground this weekend to watch their clubs battle it out in the preliminary finals and there is no better place to watch footy than at the G.

"It's now been twenty years since the Great Southern Stand was built, and the time is right to get to work so the MCG continues to deliver more world-class sporting experiences."

Victorian Premier Ted Baillieu (Liberal Party), September 22nd 2011
The Age, which is where I found this, seems to be treating it a bit as those awful Liberals ripping off the media releases of the honest, hardworking Labor party, but to my mind it suggests something slightly different. In government the Liberals have been much as Labor was, and projects, such as the Myki smart card system for Melbourne's public transport system and the Wonthaggi desalination plant, that some people had hoped would be shut down by the new government have been looked at and allowed to continue. And now we see that not only are the government doing many of the same things as the last one even the bloody press releases are similar. And I wonder, could this be because the elected politicians are not actually running things? Could it be that the public servants actually set much of the agenda and the pollies are there to influence them a little but otherwise just take the credit or blame as necessary? Could it be that Yes Minister was not only not fictional but typical of most governments, national or state?

After all, what's the common denominator here - the civil servants don't change.

Friday, 23 September 2011

When TV cooks go bad

Via The Age, Nigella Lawson's evil twin from a parallel and much dirtier universe. NSFW-ish.

No mention of floury baps, though if it's from jogging I understand talcum powder is better.

Does this mean we get faster internet?

Click for hyperspace wormhole to the article
Antonio Ereditato, spokesman for the international group of researchers, said that measurements taken over three years showed neutrinos pumped from CERN near Geneva to Gran Sasso in Italy had arrived 60 nanoseconds quicker than light would have done.
"We have high confidence in our results. We have checked and rechecked for anything that could have distorted our measurements but we found nothing," he said. "We now want colleagues to check them independently."
If confirmed, the discovery would undermine Albert Einstein's 1905 theory of special relativity, which says that the speed of light is a "cosmic constant" and that nothing in the universe can travel faster.
That assertion, which has withstood over a century of testing, is one of the key elements of the so-called Standard Model of physics, which attempts to describe the way the universe and everything in it works.
The totally unexpected finding emerged from research by a physicists working on an experiment dubbed OPERA run jointly by the CERN particle research centre near Geneva and the Gran Sasso Laboratory in central Italy.
A total of 15,000 beams of neutrinos - tiny particles that pervade the cosmos - were fired over a period of three years from CERN towards Gran Sasso 730 (500 miles) km away, where they were picked up by giant detectors.
Light would have covered the distance in around 2.4 thousandths of a second, but the neutrinos took 60 nanoseconds - or 60 billionths of a second - less than light beams would have taken.
"It is a tiny difference," said Ereditato, who also works at Berne University in Switzerland, "but conceptually it is incredibly important. The finding is so startling that, for the moment, everybody should be very prudent."
Ereditato declined to speculate on what it might mean if other physicists, who will be officially informed of the discovery at a meeting in CERN on Friday, found that OPERA's measurements were correct.
"I just don't want to think of the implications," he said. "We are scientists and work with what we know."
Yes, the implications for physics are huge, but I'm a practical man with an occasionally unreliable internet connection and I'm interested in applications. So answer the damn question - faster internet or what? Incidentally, I don't see any point in attempting to develop this as a means of transportation. The security theatre bozos would go nuts about the time travel aspects and insist on coming round your house to strip search you the weekend before.

Troy Davis

Beyond reasonable doubt? Really? No DNA, no blood, no murder weapon, no ballistics, in fact no physical evidence of any kind beyond cartridges and fired bullets of the same calibre as a handgun Davis admitted having on him earlier that day, and .38 is a very widely used calibre - literally millions of .38 guns exist. And of the nine eyewitnesses seven have signed affidavits recanting their testimonies, among claims that some were pressured into their statements by police and that others were illiterate and didn't know what they were signing. The eighth eyewitness simply refuses to speak, and the last, the one who stands by what he told the court, is felt by some (Davis' defence team, for instance) to have been the real killer all along. In fact nine people have come forward with evidence implicating this man. If so it would not be the first time in the US that someone has ended up on Death Row for a murder they didn't commit, all thanks to the eyewitness testimony of those were actually guilty of the crime.
Spencer Lawton, the retired prosecutor in the case, told CNN: “There is the legal case, the case in court, and the public relations case. We have consistently won the case as it has been presented in court. We have consistently lost the case as it has been presented in the public realm, on TV and elsewhere."
Maybe that's because with no physical evidence and questionably eyewitness testimony many people can't figure out why you've won in court. In the original trial when you had all those eyewitnesses, fair enough, but there's a huge question mark over that evidence now. There's no statute of limitations on murder, yet Davis' team was told it was too late to consider these things now. It's too late to take a polygraph test as well. At the same time he's told that he can't have a retrial 'on the grounds that he had failed to "prove his innocence"'. Well, hey, of course he's failed to prove his innocence, of course the prosecution won in court. You'll always fail to prove your innocence and the prosecution will always win if courts simply decide not to look at contradictory evidence.

What worries me is that even a prison sentence is supposed to be handed down only when the case is proven beyond reasonable doubt - better that ten guilty men go free than an innocent is deprived of liberty, and all that - and surely even more so if a death sentence is on the cards. In Troy Davis' case is there enough to be sure beyond reasonable doubt that he should have been in prison, much less put to death?

The answer is necessarily subjective. Those involved in the prosecution think so, but they are advocates for an adversarial legal system and I'd be disappointed if they didn't. It's their job. The MacPhails, the family of the off duty officer who was murdered think so, but twenty years ago they were promised closure and it's been a long wait - I can't honestly say for sure that in the same position I'd want to believe anything else myself. But objectively it seems as if there is effectively no reliable evidence anymore, and even at the point where he'd have been certain that he was about to be killed anyway and owning up to the murder couldn't do him any more harm, Troy Davis maintained his innocence. Maybe he was lying to the very end, maybe not - who really knows? And that's kind of the point.

Oh well, men have hanged with less against them than that.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Satellite apocalypse

No, I don't mean Big Brother Australia will be shown on Sky. I mean this:

We're doomed. Doomed, I tell you, dooooo...

... oh, just the size of a bus and weighing about six tonnes? And that's giant now, is it? I mean, I kind of assumed that giant meant, you know, giant. Biggest thing to have hit the planet since Tunguska, sort of thing. At the very least all the flapping would make you think that it's the biggest man made thing ever to have hit the plant. It's 'giant', after all. Except that if you use that word to describe something that weighs about the same as a luton van with some large furniture in the back, what word do you use to describe the 77 tonne Skylab that de-orbited and fell onto Western Australia in 1979? And since the article specifically mentions that Skylab was the 'biggest piece of space debris to fall from orbit' I wonder why The Teletubbygraph felt the need to spice up the headline with the giant thing. 32 years ago the rather more worrying news that 77 tonnes of space junk hit a populated country, albeit a pretty sparsely populated one and in a mostly empty area, was reported like this:

And the NYT headline now? A very un-scary 'Satellite to land, somewhere'.

Why is it the British press doing the beat ups? Why has the once respected Teletubbygraph joined in? Harden the fuck up, for heaven's sake.

Another Gordon Brown chicken comes home to roost

And to no great surprise rather than being the kind that maybe provides a few eggs it's a chicken of the shitting everywhere and possibly giving everyone bird 'flu variety. Well, what else could we expect when it's enjoyed Brown's faecal Midas touch.
[Health Secretary] Andrew Lansley says he has been contacted by 22 health service trusts which claim their "clinical and financial stability" is being undermined by the costs of the contracts, which the Labour government used extensively to fund public sector projects.
Under the PFI deals, a private contractor builds a hospital or school. It owns the building for up to 35 years, and during this period the public sector must pay interest and repay the cost of construction, as well as paying the contractor to maintain the building.
However, the total cost of the deals is often far more than the value of the assets. As a result, Mr Lansley says, the 22 trusts "cannot afford" to pay for their schemes, which in total are worth more than £5.4billion, because the required payments have risen sharply in the wake of the recession.
Well done, Labour, and well done, Gordon, you shower of epically incompetent cunts. It worked well as an idea to help you spunk money into things so you got nice headlines along the lines of 'Government announces new £X million hospital for Anytown' while also being a way for you to be less than open about the full scale of the debts you were running up in the country's name. But it was a bad deal and I struggle to believe you didn't know it, because if the papers can work it out surely someone in the Treasury spotted it as well.
Earlier in the year, The Daily Telegraph disclosed the extremely poor value offered by many PFI schemes. Taxpayers are having to pay more than £200billion for schools, hospitals and other projects whose capital value is little more than £50 billion.
And this leaves the Cobbleition with having to find ways to make payments. They don't want to make cuts, which is just as well since contrary to popular belief among the hard of thinking they haven't made any, and I get the feeling they don't have a clue how to. My bet is they'll borrow because the mandarins who run things don't know any other way and today's politicians don't have the balls to stop it or the vision to privatise or charity-ise (if there's such a word) almost everything the British state does and let the whole fucking lot stand or fall on its individual merits. Christ, they're barely getting to grips with trimming some of Labour's fat.
It also emerged last night that the Coalition was expected to announce it is abandoning Labour's calamitous £12billion NHS computer scheme. Ministers will dismantle the National Programme for IT, a "one size fits all" project started in 2002 which has never worked, and relace it with regional schemes.
You've been in office for 16 fucking months, you feckless cunts. Is this all you've got to show for almost a fucking year and a half's work? You've worked out that scrapping one of Labour's hare-brained, over priced vanity projects - one that should have been killed before that fucking Labour drone and, judging by the fresh-from-a-come look he sometimes wore, possible rohypnol victim Andy Burnham had even left the fucking building - will save you a few quid.

Well, that's a relief. I thought for a moment Britain might have been in trouble.



... you really are a bunch of bastards.

Windows 7 in Australia - AU$199
Windows 7 in UK - £99.99 or about AU$155
Windows 7 in the United States - US$79.95 or about AU$80
It's a download, Microsoft. A bloody download. Not only are the costs of shipping insignificant the customer is contributing with his own bandwidth. Apple, who despite my being a customer I also feel are a bunch of bastards who aren't above charging significantly different prices for the same products here in Oz, have at least made OS X Lion, also a downloadable operation system, AU$32, £21 in the UK (about $32.50 in Aussie dollars) and US$30. Yes, still cheaper for the Yanks and percentage wise it's not insignificant, but in actual money terms nobody's going to be all that fussed about a couple of bucks.

But you, Microshaft, you are charging Australian customers two and a half times as much for the same product with no real difference in costs to you. I don't mind that it's miles more expensive than Mac operating systems - there are reasons for that which I can understand and accept, and besides you can charge whatever you like. It's business and you can charge what the market will bear. And of course that applies with international sales too, so if the Aussie market can bear paying two and a half times as much, if the average Aussie consumer is two and a half times as wealthy as the average American consumer, then fair enough. But we both know that isn't the case and you've just been charging this much because 'til now too few Aussies have been aware they're being ripped off to make a difference.

However, I wouldn't bet on that state of affairs continuing. Aussies have become aware that they've been ripped off on book prices and have begun ordering from Amazon and Book Depository in such numbers that book retailers here are shitting themselves and one major chain, Borders, has already gone to the wall. I haven't got too much sympathy with Borders since, much like you lot, Microshaft, they charged more for ebook downloads than the same bloody ebook in the UK or US. And it's not just books either, as other retailers are finding out and cracking the sads about. Last year head of the Harvey Norman chain, Gerry Harvey, called for the government to levy Goods and Services Tax (GST is 10%) on all personal imports rather than just purchases exceeding $1000. Since every time the government has looked into this they've found that GST on lower value imports would cost more to collect than it raises this is nothing more than a demand for protectionism, and since price differentials are often much larger than can be accounted for by the lack of GST Harvey didn't achieve much apart from letting more people know that what his stores sell can often be found much cheaper on the internet. Funnily enough Gerry harvey's suggestion that Australian customers be made to pay more didn't go down well and he backed down not long after.

So here's where we are, Microshaft. Aussies are becoming more price aware and more conscious of the fact that there are savings to be had on the internet. And I've been asked to update a few rellies' computers to Windows 7 and to shop around and see where the best price is. And I just happened to come across an article in The Age about price gouging, on which someone left a comment to the effect that they saved $109 on Windows 7 by downloading it from the US, though it actually seems to be even more of a saving if you need the upgrade version. So guess what I'll be advising them to do.

Yep, that's right. I'll be recommending they get it from the US for $120 less, and I'll also be suggesting that they tell all their friends. And if they're sufficiently outraged by your pricing policies who knows, maybe they'll all look at Ubuntu instead.


Click for linky

A top European court banned the Soviet Union's famous hammer and sickle from being used as a commercial trademark as it is "a symbol of despotism" in some EU countries.
"The symbols in question would be seen as contrary to public policy and to accepted principles of morality by a substantial section of the relevant public living in the part of the European Union which has been subject to the Soviet regime."
Ahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha haha ha. Haha. Heh.

If they'd said refused to grant it trademark status because it's too well known a symbol, or because it's been public domain for so long that it's just not practical, or even because trademarks and IP in general are something which are being abused and were never supposed to be a route to easy money for IP holders and their legal departments, if they'd said any of that I could have respected it. But instead an institution that dictates to EU member states and hands down decisions felt by some to be morally a bit shaky side has knocked back this request because of the Soviet Union's dictatorial nature and whether using its symbols for business is moral. Motes and beams, boys, motes and beams.

As the saying goes, you couldn't make it up.


Zombie apocalypse

First it hit the UK, now it's coming to Oz. Something we all thought dead and decently buried has come back to life and begun shambling around moaning 'Braaaaaiiins'.

Run for your lives.

Who is Miss Terry and what's she objecting to? - UPDATED

From a comment on Zero Hedge via Nanny Knows Best, some mystery objects springing up in North Wales. Quoted en bloc except for the addition of commenter names from Zero Hedge:
In fact, on the subject of pollution, what the hell is going on in Wales?

Of possibly more worrying importance for Europe is that I saw today THREE brand new 'boxes' being installed in my local area. Green, 4 feet tall, air intake on top, exhaust vent on the back, air pump constantly pulling air through a suspiciously military looking black metal unit inside. Couldn't see all of the printing on that, but it looks like a NSN (Nato Stock Number. I'm ex-RAF and I've seen millions of them). Built hurriedly (I'm an engineer and I know the difference) with commercially available components everywhere you can see by shining a torch through the vents. Installers all very hostile to anyone asking questions. Which I did. Was pointedly told to fuck off and mind my own business.

Ok, they're quite obviously environmental monitoring stations. But designed to measure what? Fallout?

After Fukushima, most of the governmental rad monitoring stations in North America and many parts of Europe went dead. Offline. We have no bananas. No one here guv. What's this 'radiation' thing again?

What's your local area? On what type of land are they sited? Also, did they have UHF/VHF antennae on top? A flat satcoms box? A panel for access to a display/meter? Solar panel on top, or wired to the grid, etc?

Ta muchly.

North Wales, UK.

All on cycle paths; moderately 'off the beaten track' positions. Looks like theres a GPRS antenna inside near the top (top made of fiberglass and marked 'Morgan Marine' on one corner), also a visible 'wallwart' that looks very much like a cellphone charger plugged into a 6-pack extension strip mounted inside on the back. All 3 sited immediately next to a street light pole and wired into it (fresh asphalt strip between pole and green box on all of them).

They're not elegantly engineered at all. Look thrown together out of the cheapest commercially available parts they could get - rain guard inside mesh screen on top is simply a plastic funnel with a rubber 'condom' blanking off the top.

Look like this;

...almost exactly, but green and much cheaper construction. Really bad / hasty silicone sealant application on all exterior joints, etc..."

Thanks for the response. If you can post the rough co-ordinates, I'll take a look some weekend! :o)

Looks unpleasantly like a rad monitoring station. Can't be weather stations, no anenometer etc. (Obviously, you know that.) Mind you, lots of local authorities also monitor everything from pollen to air pollution, and their monitoring stations can look painfully bodged together. It wouldn't surprise me if some spiv from the public sector convinvced the EU to shell out a couple of million for some 'vital' (i.e. not vital) environmental monitoring stations that would keep him and his mates in work for a few years. Probably wrote on his grant application that it was important to measure North Wales' incredibly high pollution levels, and some bloke in Strasbourg signed-off on it. When you look at the other council-sponsored white elephants in the region, that wouldn't surprise me ;o)
Any ideas anyone?
Indeed. I'm not one to reach for the tinfoil whenever I want new headgear but if the guy really did ask and was told to burn off it bears looking at. What and why? Anyone know or know someone who might know? Anyone in North Wales able to get more details off them and maybe FOI it to see whether you get a straight answer or if an attempt is made to kick it into the long grass? I'm not going to take much notice of the Fukashima remark and I'm prepared for it to turn out to be an innocent and reasonable purpose - radon gas monitoring in areas on lots of granite, methane monitoring if there's a badly maintained or designed landfill nearby, something like that. Per Hanlon's Razor I don't like to ascribe to malice (or conspiracy if you prefer) anything that can be explained by incompetence, and Britain has enough self important jobsworths about that it's perfectly plausible for someone asking a perfectly reasonable question to which there's a completely innocent answer to be given the flick instead.

All the same... what is it?


Well, you'll be pleased to know that the local knobheads have also apprently decided it's suspicious. Cos they've kicked the fuck out of it and the fan ain't working now. ;-}

I'm hoping to spot whoever comes to do the repairs and pick that moment to walk the dog. If the guy gets arsey about me taking a few pics of the innards, then we'll know whoever owns it has something to hide.

Wednesday, 21 September 2011

When did Australia turn into America?

Not having a dig at our American cousins here, but I've always felt flag veneration is more their thing what with their national anthem being about it and with every other person you meet prepared to tell you that it's illegal to set fire to it (which apparently it isn't). Maybe some of my fellow Brits feel much the same for the Union Jack, especially those who know it's real name is the Union Flag, but here in Oz most people I've come across seem much less attached to the Australian Flag. There are those republican types who dislike the constant reminder of Britain's influence provided by the Union Flag in the top left quarter, and there are those who say that it doesn't represent the aborigines and Torres Strait islanders who were here first. There are those who think the Southern Cross bit has been hijacked by bogans anyway. And there are those to whom it's just the flag and apart from maybe waving one on Australia Day or watching it being lowered to half mast on ANZAC Day they probably don't think about it often.*

I didn't realise there were a group that venerated it in a similar fashion to the Americans and 'Old Glory' or that this group was more commonly known as opposition MPs, but apparently it's so because they're angry about a scene in an ABC satirical comedy called At Home With Julia, featuring Julia Gillard impersonator Amanda Bishop (you've seen her on this blog before). In this scene, to be broadcast this evening unless the ABC have chickened out and pulled it, Bishop's Julia Gillard dances the horizontal tango with the First Bloke, Tim Mathieson, as played by Phil Lloyd. On the floor of the Prime Minister's office. Under a duvet sized Australian flag. And the Liberal Party and their allies have gone apeshit.
COALITION MPs have attacked a controversial TV satire on Julia Gillard as demeaning and suggested ABC funding should be reviewed.
Liberal MP Teresa Gambaro also expressed disgust with At Home with Julia, suggesting to the party room that the national broadcaster's funding should be reviewed.
I'd agree, but not for that reason. Where I'm from many people complain about the TV licence forcing people who don't watch BBC programmes to pay for the BBC anyway, but since it's funded out of general taxation people pay for the ABC even if they haven't got a television. Review away, but review the principle of making people pay for a service they don't necessarily use rather than use it as a stick to beat them with because you find some of their content objectionable. Once again, this is liberalism in name only - the Australian Liberal Party seems to be as conservative as they come.
... Nationals MP John Forrest [urged] the return of tasteful comedy shows such as the 1970s series Are You Being Served.
Mr Forrest told colleagues the satirical take on Ms Gillard's private life demeaned the office of prime minister, after learning tomorrow's episode features on-air prime minister Amanda Bishop and actor Phil Lloyd, playing Tim Mathieson, naked on her office floor under an Australian flag.
“Having sex in the prime minister's office under the Australian flag is the last straw for me," Mr Forrest reportedly told MPs.
So, is this sticking up for Julia Gillard or disappointment that you won't get to see Amanda Bishop's arse, John? Apparently, neither. It's the flaaaaag.
“It's nothing to do with Julia Gillard. I'm not trying to defend her. It's the office of prime minister and it's not even funny.
“The old English traditional shows like Are You Being Served - they were funny, but this isn't."
John, they weren't funny. You found them funny. Lots of other people also find them funny. Other people don't. I've been for a look on YouTube to refresh my memory, and I found it to be a repetitive series of jokes mostly involving the ambiguous availability of an unambiguously camp salesman in a menswear department and the pussy of the ancient woman with a blue rinse who works opposite (feline kind, but - oh, my sides - never referred to as a cat). This may have been bleeding edge comedy in the 1970s when it began, and to be honest I did think the I'm free/pussy gags were funny the first time, but it felt like the show really didn't have much else. Blackadder or Yes Minister it ain't, but if John Forrest is amused by it then he's welcome to buy it on DVD. I suspect the ABC, despite all the things for which it could be criticised, has a better grasp of what audiences in 2011 want. In fact if ratings are any guide what they want is actually on Channel 7 (and much of it is shit if you ask me) but the ABC seem to be doing an okay job of treading the middle ground, and if it makes John Forrest feel better they are still buying second hand stuff from Britain.
"And to desecrate the flag dishonours what my dad did.”
I don't know what your dad did, John, but was it anything to do with fighting to prevent dictatorial types attempting to control other people's lives? I'm only asking.

Or, bearing in mind the religious nut element of Australian politics, is it just the thought of Julia Gillard having sex that's upsetting people? Newsflash, prudes: the woman is 50 in a couple of weeks - she's probably not a virgin, and having had a stable relationship with the same guy for some years she probably enjoys it when he gives her a nice hot fuck as an alternative to a cup of Milo at bedtime. I wouldn't want to see it on my TV either - in a weird kind of way that has to do with her job and personality it'd be like seeing your parents do it - but I can live with it being referred to on TV. And if not I know what to do about it, as does one Liberal who does actually act up to the name and understands what choice means.
But Liberal MP Bronwyn Bishop said if people didn't like the show they could change channels.
She said former prime minister John Howard had been lampooned for years by comedy shows.
And Julia Gillard herself? To her credit also, she's calmly said she won't be watching (fair enough - I can't even look at myself making a speech on someone else's wedding video) and other than that has no commented the whole thing. And while I haven't got a lot of time for her that attitude as raised my opinion of her a smidgeon.

Americans seem to venerate their flag because they think it stands for freedom, representing as it does the original 13 colonies which gained independence from Britain as well as the 50 states of today. Brits and Aussies not so much because their flags are more hybrids of other flags, and in the case of Australia independence was granted at least as much as it was won. So let's leave the flag veneration to people that not only understand it but, understand also that what a flag stands for is rather more important than the flag itself. Because I think that if something's symbolic of being free to do only as you're told I'm not sure it's worth venerating in the first place, as illustrated by a couple of my favourite American libertarians.

* Personally I'm happy with whatever flag Australia choose to have and don't mind what people choose to tattoo on themselves, so I suppose that puts me in the last group.

And then they came for the drinkers...

Yes, drinkers, they're coming for you now. You really should be aware of this by now, but then you really should have been aware of it long ago when the intolerance was directed at tobacco and the sound of marching boots wasn't something for you to fear. Ah, those were the days, eh? And you helped, didn't you?

Yes, you did.

Yes, you did - you're just kidding yourself. You said you'd enjoy the pub more if it was smoke free, though of course not that much more because you didn't spend enough to make up for what the smokers used to spend before they stopped going and now it's shut. You said it would be lovely to be able to go out and enjoy a glass of wine without some filthy smoker's pollution wafting over you, possibly inhaling the carcinogens from a roaring fire in the corner or even a candle on your table instead.* Oh, not all of you said so but quite a lot did, and many more of you just stayed silent and raised no objection, happy that it was someone else getting it and not you.

Remember when they weren't allowed to advertise on TV, and then not in print media either, and finally weren't even allowed to sponsor sport? Did you all object? Did you say it was unfair? Did you stand by the smokers then?

First they came for the communists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a communist

Remember when they weren't allowed to put cigarette cards and other collectibles in the packets? What did you say? Did you oppose it? Did argue that it was unnecessary?

Then they came for the trade unionists,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a trade unionist

Remember when tax on tobacco went up and up and up and up, and carried on going up ever since? Did you say that it was excessive? Did you point out that it would hurt British retailers as people bought abroad? Did you add that it would increase smuggling? Or did you go on your way, happy once again that it wasn't your vice that was being hammered?

Then they came for the Jews,
and I didn't speak out because I wasn't a Jew

Remember when the health warnings came in? How they began as information about tar and nicotine content? How they then became larger and included phrases like "Smoking can damage your health"? How they grew larger still to make room for a variety of longer warnings, and then moved from the sides to the front of the packets? Remember how once on the front they grew rapidly so as to include nasty pictures of various illnesses and conditions that were implied to have been caused by that person smoking? And how the people selling tobacco were then made to hide the stock in drawers and behind closed doors, as if it was somehow possible to become addicted to smoking by looking at the packets? And how they're now saying that even that's not enough and these hidden packets must be absolutely plain? Except for the health warnings and horror pictures, of course, which are to grow even bigger than ever. Did you say "Stop"? Did you say "Enough"? Did you say "You've done enough, now leave the smokers alone"? Did you raise even a peep of complaint?

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak out.

No, you did not. By and large, at best you drinkers kept your silence, which was of course taken for acquiescence, and at worst you joined in the intolerance and marginalising of smokers. Many of you still do, and more fool them. Collectively you did nothing or nearly nothing to help the smokers, and as you reaped so you are beginning to sow.
Red wine's reputation for preventing heart attacks has come under fire from health experts who have declared every drink of alcohol can do you damage.
This should come as no surprise since it's by no means the first time recently that the temperance crowd, the latest gaggle of nannying, neo-puritan wowsers (employing many of the same techniques and occasionally even some of the same people as the tobacco control mob), have pushed the idea that there is no safe level of alcohol.
The coalition cites other studies from around the world finding that the harms from alcohol are likely to outweigh any benefits. ''Every drinking occasion contributes to the lifetime risk of harm from alcohol,'' the report says. Any reduction in alcohol consumption would reduce the lifetime risk of alcohol-related harm.
Does this sound at all familiar to you, drinkers? Does it sound at all like "Every cigarette is doing you harm"? It certainly should do as the message is identical - only the target has changed, drinkers, and the target now is you.

Actually you've been the new target for some years. Did you realise? Were you even aware that the nannies and wowsers were so confident of their victory that they swung the sights around to point your way even as they were still bullying smokers with your assent, if not your vociferous and active support? Did you know?

The smokers knew. You might think it somewhat surprising for people who sit all day in clouds of smoke emitted from something out of a packet covered in health warnings about it sending them blind, but the smokers saw it with crystal clarity. Mind you, it had been done to them so they were sure to recognise it, but I think they're puzzled, drinkers. They've been shouting warnings at you and you've been just sitting there. "They're doing to you what they have done to us", the smokers are shouting, and have been shouting for quite some time. Yet you don't seem to have heard. Is it because the nannies and wowsers persuaded you to push the smokers away out of earshot, or does alcohol damage your hearing?

Oh, I'm so sorry, there'll probably be a health warning to that effect now. Oh yes, there probably will. Tax on alcohol has been going up and up, and will continue to go up and up, and of course there have been labels on the bottles with the alcohol content for quite a while. And you sucked it up and accepted it, possibly in part because you could see that the smokers were getting a worse time of it. But all those other things I mentioned before are happening to you as well now, drinkers. Look at the examples. Look at the dates. This has been going on around you for years.

Seven years ago.
Two and a half years ago
Already in use today
Do you see it? The calls for restrictions on advertising and minimum pricing, the health warnings that have already begun to appear on the labels and the proposals to make them bigger, and not least this new message that it's bad for you even in the smallest quantities and any positive benefit you thought it may have had... well you were wrong, d'you hear? Wrong! It was all a big fat lie, probably invented by a man with a vineyard or a brewery or something.

Is any of this ringing bells with you, drinkers? Can you see the pattern being repeated? "De-normalising alcohol"? Oh, yes, that particular chicken came home to roost earlier this year. Even the concept of passive drinking has been put forward (about five years ago - did you notice, drinkers?), to a large burst of bitter laughter from the smokers, I have to tell you. It dealt them a nasty blow and it's going to do the same to you, drinkers.

Now I hope this has served to get your attention, drinkers, because now I come to the point where I tell you some bad news, some good news and some bad news. The first bad news should be obvious: the same process that has been used with such success on the smokers is now well under way on you, and if you are persist in blinding yourselves to this fact then your liberty to enjoy an alcoholic drink in peace may be beyond saving, at least in the near future. The good news is that there are rather more of you than there are smokers and so you can put up more of a united front. But the other bad news is that this might well be insufficient since the wowsers have the ear of government and government really doesn't care much about you either. If it can do the same thing it did to the smokers, tax the hell out of them at the same time as making their lives miserable, then you can be certain it will. You need reinforcements, other voices to stand up for you. People who are not primarily drinkers. People who can see and understand what is being done to you and what is going to happen next.

People like the smokers, you might be thinking.

But I'm afraid I also have to tell you that some of the smokers think you fucking deserve it. You stood by and did nothing, not a damned thing, to help them when they were getting it in the neck, and now it's your turn some smokers are less than sympathetic. Many of them enjoy a glass or two and can be counted on to fight against the booze wowsers just as they did the smoke wowsers, but of course some smokers don't drink and can't see why they should lift a goddamn finger. Even now you can browse the comments sections of many an online article about smoking and find such bile and venom directed at smokers that Dick Puddlecote has begun to collect it (coincidentally, as I write this he's also got another piece up about passive drinking, just in case anybody thought that one from 2006 was a one off) and you can be certain that the overwhelming majority of the people who've spat such hate are fellow drinkers. Why, many smokers will ask, should they care when you still hate them? Even some who drink will ask why, when they're now making their own arrangements with Leg-ironian smoky-drinkies and soon home brewed drink and home grown baccy as well, they should give the remotest shit?

So who are you going to ask instead? What voice is going to speak up and object to the de-normalisation of alcohol? Me? Not my problem, fellas - I don't drink. But good luck with it, even though I might add that it really annoys me when some bloody drunk yaks all over the pavement or some slightly tipsy yahoo gets a bit loud in a restaurant. Nah, I think I'll let you get on with it while I finish my cheeseburger. Eh? What do you mean it'll be my turn next if I don't stand with you and help now?

Which is true, of course, and has been my point all along. But did you ever think of that when you were watching the smokers get a shoeing? Did you ever consider that they occupied the buffer zone between you and the nannying wowsers? No, you didn't, and many of you still don't. But now you're occupying the buffer zone between me and the wowsers, so of course I'll speak out for drinkers even though I don't drink.

But if you want the best chance of being able to drink in peace I'd mend some fences with the smokers if I were you, and I'd do it pretty damn sharpish.

* H/T Narco Polo (refs 1 and 3)

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

Is it just me or does this sound like the worst porn in the universe?*
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, no stranger to attention-grabbing campaigns featuring nude women, plans to launch a pornography website in the name of animal rights.

The non-profit organisation, whose controversial campaigns draw criticism from women's rights groups, said it hopes to raise awareness of veganism through a mix of pornography and graphic footage of animal suffering.
What the fuck is that going to look like?


Hi, I've come to fix your
washing machine.
    Oh, good. So would you like to
    [meaningful pause] come inside?
Yeah. Hey, is it hot in 
here or is it me?
            Yes, I [meaningful pause] like it that
        way. Would you be more comfortable
 if you took your shirt off?
Well, I will if you will.
Wanna help me? You might
get a bit [meaningful
pause] wet.
             Okay, but first let me stab this rabbit
            in the face and dissect its brains all
over your chest, big boy. 

Squeak, stab, splat, gurgle, squelch, slice, plop



Never mind all the jumping up and down about degradation of women - if they're not being dragged into the porn studio then women who choose to have sex on camera for money is a non-issue as far as I'm concerned. But I do think it suggests that PETA have got more money than they know what to do with because I can't imagine anybody gave them a loan for this. Seriously, PETA, by mixing porn and images of animal cruelty you're going to have two problems. First you'll attract the the most deeply depraved, sick deviant fucks who'll actually get off on that sort of thing, which sounds rather counter-productive from your perspective. Second, you'll be responsible for preventing more erections than the combined efforts of every local council planning office on the planet, which doesn't seem likely to produce much in the way of repeat business. Oh, and if it's vegan pornography the leather fetishists won't watch it in the first place.

Really, PETA, you've jumped the cruelly caged and ruthlessly exploited shark this time.

* In time that might really fuck up some search results.

Seriously, New Zealand?

I mean, seriously?
Over-zealous officials are said to have banned bagpipes from the terraces amid fears that they could distract Scotland's opponents - despite the fact that they have featured in previous tournaments around the world.
Well, it's their stadium terraces so it's up to them, but the justification seems pretty silly. I suppose there might be something in the idea that the sight of a man in a skirt apparently fisting a screaming octopus is distracting, but since Scotland have yet to win the World Cup and haven't won the Six Nations since it was still the Five Nations possibly, just possibly, it's no more distracting than that French brass band who play like they're on amphetamines or Phil Vickery's face. Or that war dance that the national team of a certain south Pacific island nation do before every international match.

Monday, 19 September 2011

Intervals at the security theatre

If we have to have security theatre it'd be a nice idea to have intervals, wouldn't it? Not only could you have a break, stretch your legs a bit, browse the programmes and maybe get a glass of wine or something, but you could also look forward to the second act not being exactly the fucking same as the first. And that's where the analogy falls apart because with security theatre you actually have to have the first act all over again even if it's just because someone fluffed a couple of lines.
Flights from Sydney Airport's domestic terminal have been delayed after a security breach.
Two people reportedly entered a secure area of the Qantas-managed T3 domestic terminal without being properly screened this morning.
Passengers report that planes have been grounded and the terminal closed, with thousands having to be re-screened.
"Two passengers enter secure area in Sydney Airport (domestic) causing all passengers to be rescreened. Will be mass delays," one passenger tweeted.
Another passenger said on Twitter: "Entire Sydney Airport terminal has been evacuated due to a security breach. Looks like I'm not getting home today."
And people ask me why I avoid flying if at all possible. You have to queue up to be questioned, then x-rayed and finally scanned and fondled, all of which means passengers are sometimes being told to arrive three hours before departure (I was the last time I flew out of London Heathrow), and then you have to do it all over again if the daft sods lose track and accidentally let someone in without having first questioned, x-rayed, scanned and fondled them.

If the person who wasn't scanned doesn't own up then the whole terminal - and I do
mean the whole terminal - will have to do it all over again. I can wait all day.

Not only has this now happened four times that I know of in Aussie airports - once here in Melbourne, once in Brisbane and twice in Sydney - and caused big delays and inconvenience each time, but the media have failed to ask what seems to me to be the big questions. If people have slipped through security and got airside four times that we know of, but were eventually checked along with everyone else's recheck, then how do we know it hasn't happened a few more times without it being noticed and there being rechecks? And if so, what the hell's the point in all the security theatre anyway? Because it doesn't sound like it's actually keeping the place all that secure. It's not like it's just Aussie airports either, because as I noted a couple of weeks ago undercover journalists managed to smuggle a dismantled gun onto flights from two French airports (and just to prove the point they then took it into the toilet and mantled it) while in the US an undercover federal agent got through security on multiple occasions with her gun in her knickers. So I repeat, what is the point in security theatre that's intrusive, costly, inconvenient and can't even guarantee our security anyway? Can't we just go and see a different play?

If security be the food of air travel, play on;
Give me excess of it, that surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.

Well, it's worked for me, which is why my appetite for flying is roughly zero. At the risk of repeating myself, when I get treated like a paying customer again I'll happily fly, but as long as I'm treated like a suspect by security that we can see doesn't bloody work I won't unless I really have to.

Yet another moan to Blogger

Both my regular readers (hi Mum) will be aware that lately I've had a few digs at Google/Blogger over its persistent nagging for my phone number to help protect my security and privacy or something. It's something I've bitched about more than once and I've threatened to stop using the service if these regular requests ever become demands or if the rumours that pseudonymous blogging will no longer be allowed. You may be expecting more of the same but actually this is a whole new freshly gleaming turd that the Google dog has cranked out on to my lawn. I'm talking, for those yet to try it, about the new Blogger user interface.

Now I know that it's horses for courses and that some people might really like it, but I don't. I've been in and out of it a few times, having a play around and skipping leaving any feedback on it until I'd made my mind up. And now I've had the chance I've come to the conclusion that it's a good example of form over function and that I don't want anything else to do with it. If you like it knock yourself out, but it's not my cup of tea and when reverting to the old UI just now I clicked the option to leave feedback to explain to Blogger why I didn't like it. At this point I noticed a rather concerning line which said "You can switch back to the current interface for a limited time", which I'm afraid altered the tone of what I had to say:

  •   I hate it

No, seriously, I really do hate it. Did you even look at the two side by side? Did you? Let me explain what I mean. The old dashboard had an area on the left about the profile with appropriate viewing and editing links, all labelled in plain English, and a larger though still compact area on the right to manage blogs, again providing all appropriate tools described in plain English: the blog title and number of followers is on one line, a summary of posts and a link to the blog's home page is on the next, and the third starts with a very distinctive 'New Post' button followed by all the other blogging tools you could want. Everything is one click. One click and you're viewing your blog or writing a new post or tweaking the settings or looking at the design layout. And all in strong fonts with a reasonably high contrast making it very easy to read.

Compare this to the new and rather sterile look: the rather skinny fonts often in lower contrast colours making it all harder to read; the odd mixture of buttons with English labels and buttons with new icons and tooltips for people who don't mind mousing over something to see what it does rather than reading it and knowing instantly; the expanse of relative emptiness resulting from the strange decision to hide most functions in drop down menus, one of which is hiding up in a corner; and, when using these drop down menus, the fact that what was a one click process has now become a two click process.

I'm not sure I've explained this all that well but screencaps of the two dashboards should show what I mean. Embiggerise either if you want. First the current UI, which in a wide window sits neatly in the middle with a couple of blank areas either side which are easily ignored. It really is like a dashboard with everything clustered in the same area and divided by function into a few groups. And below is the new one, which ends up being as wide as the window itself because certain elements stick to the left hand edge while others stick to the right. Perhaps this isn't a big deal on a
small monitor, but if you've got a lot of screen real estate sometimes you have your browser window quite large, especially if you've got a lot of tabs open and want to be able to see all or most of them. That's when web pages that attempt to hug both edges of the window become a pain. If you want an extreme example consider both the current and new Blogger UI on a three monitor set up with the browser window stretched across all three screens (yes, I know, I can't think of when you'd want to either, but this is just to illustrate a point). Despite the ridiculously wide window, with the current UI you'd still have the Blogger dashboard sitting roughly in the middle of the centre monitor because it's width and position is fixed - 900 or so px wide (a rough guess, I haven't checked) and centrally aligned. With the new UI you'd have most things over on the left hand monitor and a handful on the right hand side of the right hand monitor, and with a vast electronic wasteland in between. As I say, I can't imagine anyone's normal use would involve stretching a single browser window across multiple monitors but the point is that having elements that cling to both sides can end up looking unwieldy for those who've got the kind of screen real estate to have big windows. And the sort of wide screen HD monitor I'm using right now is, relatively speaking, cheaper than the 19" CRT job we thought were big a decade or so ago.

So I have tried to explain to Blogger.
Since it's known as a dashboard let me draw your attention to the dashboard in your car. I have no idea what you drive but I can make some good guesses about its dashboard. For example, I'd expect that instruments you need to refer to often - speedometer, rev counter, fuel level, coolant temperature, various warning and indicator lights etc - are given prominence and are clustered together in the same place, probably right under your face. Things you want to be handy - radio station, climate control settings and so on - but don't need to see all the time are probably displayed nearby, possibly combined into one up on the top of the centre console. There are plenty of minor variations but I'm pretty damn sure you will not have the speedometer in the middle of the dash, the fuel gauge down by your knee, the rev counter on the far side of the passenger seat and the radio display behind the sun visor. Nor will they display spindly characters in mid grey on a white background.

In summary, and I may have mentioned this, I hate it. The one good feature, the larger post editor, is let down the horribly empty and low contrast look and also by being too large. The old UI looked miles better but just needed to be customisable so that it was the same width as the blog post. It's close on mine but not quite WYSIWYG. The rest, I regret to say, sucks, and I'm not thrilled to see you say at the top that I can only switch back to the better UI for a limited time. Seriously, fellas, the new one is as easy on the eye as John Merrick after a nasty fall down the stairs. If I'm going to have to use it I'd like to have some idea of when so I can shift my blog or find a decent desktop blog publishing app for OS X.
And to top it all off I've tried to send that twice and got an error message both times.

So that's Blogger these days, ladies and gents. Heaps of scope for customising what your blog looks like but you're stuck with their UI even if the new one isn't as good as the old. And despite all the reasons I'm not wild about Wordpress - the lack of customisation and the UI that is less a dashboard than a 747 flight deck instrument panel in the days before glass cockpits - I've taken another step closer to making the switch.
Related Posts with Thumbnails