Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Guest post

A first for this blog! "Pete", who now lives in Thailand, where he teaches English to earn a crust, posted the following...

I can't stop pointlessly surfing the net. I'm wasting hours of my not-so-valuable time.

I went to work yesterday at 'place A'. It is 60 km away. (37 miles in old money). On the way back I decided to call in at my friend's house, 'place B'. It is virtually on the route.

Let's call my apartment, 'place Z'.

I have visited A once before and checked the route beforehand as arriving at work is pretty important so Z to A is not a problem.

I have visited B loads of times so Z to B is straightforward for me.

However I had never beforehand driven from A to B.

I went the wrong way, suspected I had gone the wrong way, persevered and ended up adding 50 km to my journey.

Making foolish mistakes like this frustrates me. The whole thing hinged upon the fact that a rural sort of 'B road' [no relation to 'place B'] has a bridge going over a main road. I had forgotten about the bridge.

I was on the main road and reasoned the junction to the rural road to his house had to be on the south side of the main road as B definitely is. I turned south and never found the junction as it on the north of the main road.

Monday, 23 May 2011

All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace

There are few people who's work I enjoy more than Adam Curtis. His documentaries draw together historical strands of psychology, philosophy, politics and economics in a way that I find hugely interesting.

He's best known for his take on the origins of The War on Terror, in "The Power of Nightmares", and how Freudian ideas shaped modern consumerism in "The Century of Self".

Now he's added a third full scale documentary to his canon,  "All Watched Over by Machines of Loving Grace"

This is being broadcast over three episodes on BBC2, and the first one was tonight. Titled, "Love and Power" it showed how the individualistic philosophy of Ayn Rand fitted in with the post hippie ideologies of Silicon Valley to shape the globalisation of the world economy, and how those ideas, far from creating a sort of stable egalitariansim, caused instead, a shift in power from the State to the Markets. The next episode is broadcast next monday and is called

2/3. This looks at how the idea of nature as a self-regulating ecosystem is a machine fantasy.
I can't wait.
In the meantime, if you didn't get the chance to see it, you can watch it again on the BBC iplayer

If you live outside the UK, and you'd like a copy, please let me know and I'll either put it onto soulseek, or burn you a copy.

If you're unfamiliar with Adam's work, I've embedded the fisrt parts of "The Power of Nightmares" and "The century of self" below.

You should be able to chain the following parts from there.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Are friends eclectic?

Take your top 50 artists. For each of these artists, collect the top 20 similar artists (where the artist itself is the #1 most similar). The resulting number of unique artists is your super-eclectic score. You can compute your own score at http://anthony.liekens.net/pub/scripts/last.fm/supereclectic.php
You will need to have a last fm account for this to work.

My super-eclectic score is currently


As this number is larger, you have a more eclectic musical preference. People with scores over 700 have bragging rights. People whose score is below 400 should consider more musical styles!

The following are the artists with the most occurences in your list
  • Julian Cope (7)
  • Half Man Half Biscuit (6)
  • The Wonder Stuff (6)
  • The Wedding Present (6)
  • The House of Love (5)
  • The Fall (5)
  • The Who (4)
  • Ride (4)
  • Roxy Music (4)
  • The Rolling Stones (4)
  • Magazine (4)
  • Brian Eno (4)
  • The Soft Boys (4)
  • XTC (4)
  • The Teardrop Explodes (4)
  • The Blue Aeroplanes (4)
  • Close Lobsters (4)
  • Throwing Muses (3)
  • David Bowie (3)
  • Talking Heads (3)

Close lobsters? Never heard of them.

    Thursday, 19 May 2011

    Some Kenneth Clarkes are worse than others

    The world is full of Kenneth Clarkes. Just do a google search and you'll find plenty of them. Short ones. Tall ones. Black ones. Bearded ones. Fat tory ones that flog cigarettes to third world nations.

    I think I can say, pretty unequivocoally, I do not want to be raped by any of them.

    Actually, some rapes are worse than others, and those aiming a big hefty kick at Clarke are making cheap political capital.

    Certainly the "justice" system will give out sentences of varying lengths according to the circumstances surrounding each case. Someone that drags a woman into the bushes and holds a knife to her throat will rightly get a longer sentense than someone who couldn't take "no" for an answer after a night spent drinking with his victim.

    There are plenty of reasons for wanting to see Clarke removed from a position of power - reasons that apply to a whole lot of other MPs, but stating the bleeding obvious isn't one of them.

    The "All rape is rape" mantra doesn't sit comfortably with me. It has the effect of placing any discussion of the subject out of bounds.

    Also in the news today, Film Director, Lars Von Trierhas been kicked out of the Cannes film festival for saying he could understand Hitler. He struggled to coherently elaborate on this statement.

    Again, I find the assumption that certain things must not be said to be unhealthy.

    Tuesday, 17 May 2011

    Up and away... soon... maybe....

    Shhh! Do you hear that?

    It's the sound of loins being girded. Of palms being spat upon. Of sleeves being rolled up.

    You see, I'm going to go on my own again, only, not just yet. I'm preparing the ground first. Getting things in place, so that when I tell my current booking agent I am not going to pay him any more, I have some other means of getting work.

    So, I have been informing my current crop of pupils that if I do leave, their arrangement is with me, not with the driving school as a whole, and that they don't have to go with a different instructor, no matter what they are told.

    I've got a load of free business cards printed, and I use them as appointment cards for my pupils, letting them know that should that card come back to me from someone else, they get a free lesson, or £20 if they've passed their test.

    I've found our old dreamweaver disk, and installed all sorts of macromedia gubbins on my computer with a view to creating a simple website.

    Currently I'm giving £130 a week to my booking agent. I'm gambling that if I give my money to google/facebook/the local ad rag/etc, I will be able to fill my diary better than I'm doing right now. I'm gambling that since it's me that get's the credit for a good job done, and not someone elses school, eventually I will have to pay out far less to find work.

    But for now, I'm going to carry on as I was.

    I feel much better, although I'm finding the website creation thing a bit daunting. Not so much the stylistic elements. Generally that's straightforward, if occasionally a chore. But the actual nuts and bolts stuff about root folders and ftp transfer.

    Might just spend a few quid on one of those website in a box packages where you get a "free" domain name and what have you.

    Friday, 13 May 2011

    Health and safety

    I was listening to my local BBC radio station yesterday, and they had a guy on to promote his book.

    He's a doctor, working at Alder Hey Children's hospital, and he reckons that people that make lifestyle choices that cause them to be ill should not be treated on the NHS.

    He advanced a financial case, but really, he was taking a moral position.

    You see, he was thinking about stuff like this...

    But doesn't the same argument apply to the things below too?

    Saturday, 7 May 2011

    The Lib Dems - What were they for anyway?

    I don't have a crystal ball, but based on the recent council elections, I predict that if a General Election were to be held next week, the Liberal Democrats would lose the vast majority of their MPs.

    I've heard people say that those who feel betrayed by the broken promises of Clegg & Co. had the wrong idea about what they stood for in the first place, but I reckon part of the reason the Lib Dems did so badly, while the Tories emerged with nary a scratch, is because you expect the tories to screw the nation.

    So what did they stand for?

    If they've been pretty much eliminated as a force in British politics, then we're back to essentially a two party state. One of which could be described as a Keynesian, Centre Right party, with a progressive attitude to social issues. The other of which could be described as a Monetarist, Centre Right party with a reactionary attitude to social issues.

    The Lib Dems were in the "middle". Between the two.

    All seems a bit pointless somehow. A Keynesian, Monetarist Centre Right party with a progressively reactionary attitude on social issues, or something? I mean, you've got Coke, and you've got Pepsi. Why bother making Virrgin Cola?

    Anyway, they turned out to be another bunch of tossers. The only difference between now and twelve months ago is back then we could only guess, but now we know.

    If the Lib Dems stood for anything they could have ended the coalition. Stood firm on tuition fees. Put their foot down with a firm hand and said "We choose principles over the simple fact that we've managed to get a hand on the reins of power."

    But they didn't, so to hell with them. They're about as much use as a chocolate teapot.

    Just a shame that so many squandered the chance of some kind of electoral reform, just to make a point.

    Friday, 6 May 2011

    Wasting time

    I keep getting phonecalls telling me I have a virus.Sometimes several times a day. I have no way of stopping them, but I can manipulate them.

    At first I'd shout at them, or ask them what my IP address is, but that got boring, so now when they call, I try to keep them on the phone for as long as possible. It stops that particular scammer phoning some other poor vulnerable naive person.


    Hello? Is that Mr S?

    Yes. Hi,

    Mr S.. My name is Steve (with a strong Asian accent) and I'm caling from the nicrosoft operating system department. You have a lot of viruses on your computer.

    Oh no!!! Which one? The downstairs computer or the upstairs computer?

    It doesn't matter. You need to turn your computer on...


    At this point, I leave them for a minute or two.

    Hi. Are you still there Steve?

    Yes. I'm still here. Is your computer on?

    Sort of. It's quite an old system. I'll go and check if it's up and running yet.

    Long pause...

    Hi. Yes. It's up and running now. I have linux. It'x not a windowns system. Does that matter?

    ... Pause. Voices in background as "steve" asks supervisor if he can still scam me when I have linux...

    Hi. Yes. Is your computer on?

    Yes. It's on.

    OK. You need to open up a google window.

    I don't think I have a google. I do have a mouse. Is that OK?

    No sir, you need to go onto the internet and type in google.



    Sorry. I can't get onto the internet right now because I'm on the phone. We don't have broadband here. I'm on dial up. Can you call me back on my mobile phone? Or do you have a number I could call you on?

    OK. What is your mobile number?

    07random number. I shall log into the internet. Speak to you in a minute. Thank you. Bye.

    My record so far is about 12 minutes. I wonder if I can keep one of these poor buggers on the phone for 20 minutes? Who knows? As I refine my technique I may be able to put one out of action for a full half hour, bedore I tell them to call back later since I'm now late for work.

    Thursday, 5 May 2011

    An Alternative to Voting....

    This is an idea that I heard a long time ago. Probably from a radical socialist. I forget precisely who.

    So, in the spirit of "The Mark Steel Solution", I proffer you this:

    MP's should be selected in the same way as jurors.

    The first thing to say about this is that this would mean the end of elections. It would mean, at least in some ways, a no-party state. Here's how it works..

    • Every year/ two years/ five years/ whatever, a load of names are selected at random from an enormous hat that contains the details, scribbled on rizlas, of everyone in the country who is sane and over 18. (or lots of hats, one in each constituency)
    • Each person selected must be a member of parliament for that period, unless they can give a good reason why they shouldn't. (doctor's note, death certificate, etc)
    • While serving as MPs, they should not be paid, but they should be compensated for loss of earnings. This would mean paying them the same amount they recieved for doing their day job.
    Government of the people, by the people, for the people? Or a recipe for disaster, as the Murdochs of this world exploit the naive MP's?

    Feel free to comment.

    Sunday, 1 May 2011

    When the wind blows

    The wind blew today. It blew the hats off old ladies going to church. It blew empty crisp packets up the street. It blew the blades of the wind turbines on Burbo Bank around and around and around and around.

    It blew on the fire that I could see the smoke from, somewhere just over the Liverpool horizon. It blew on Bren's gazebo, at an arts fair in West Kirby, and knocked one of her easels over, breaking a frame.

    And it blew on a gate on our allotment, swinging it wide, just as I drove past it. The gate, with its' bolt extended, smashed my wing mirror.

    It blew my curses to the 4 corners of the globe.