Tuesday, 30 September 2008

'De-gendered' toilets spark row

'De-gendered' toilets spark row

Personally I am all for the empowerment of gender-free post-hegemonic societal roles. Within the current milieu of the empathy-challenged male oppressor, there is more of a need than ever for the barriers of misogyny, ignorance and sexism to be broken down, and for the complete range of sexual expression to be allowed to flourish in as many places as possible, be that in the White House, or a non-gender enforced university toilet cubicle. As any enlightened observer can see, it is the logic of phallocentric knowledges and the socio-cultural relations and structures that express and justify those knowledges which enable the differential valuation of gender-specific pigeonholes at the levels of patriarchal and sexist discourse.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Can I dig it?

Frankly, digging is the only thing you can do with a baby's first few piles of poo. It's a bizarre set of treacly stuff that goes everywhere when you change the nappy.

And on other random rants, can midwives be taught to say "paediatrician" instead of "baby doctor"? Argggghhhhhh! I know I shouldn't be annoyed by these things, but there you are. In fact, in the classically English way of using circumlocutions to talk about stuff, there were a number of occasions when people really couldn't call a spade a spade. Then again, when someone says "You're doing really well!" you have no yardstick to indicate whether they're jollying you along, or really mean it ...

On that random note, I will return to baby duties. My daughter, I like to think, is a little greenhouse gas producer all on her own, especially since we haven't got round to using the proper nappies yet, and are disposing every time. (The shame ...)

Say Cheese!

I loves Cardiff I does...

Had quite an eventful weekend watching the Blues beat Connacht 58-0 at rugby on Friday. On Saturday I saw the Bluebirds losing 2-1 to Birmingham City, followed by a dinner party chez nous. Sunday saw the permanent move of the Great British Cheese Festival to Cardiff Castle!

That's over 450 different cheeses to sample, plus all the various accoutrements such as real ales, beers, wines, liqueurs, ciders and perries on a glorious sunny day! Naturally I waited till late into the second day to strike - just about the time everyone was flogging off their stuff at knockdown prices.

Best thing of all, was that all of these activities were within easy walking distance, so no need for any unnecessary carbon emissions!

Still doomed...

Hundreds of methane 'plumes' discovered This article was just a couple of days after my original post. It is pretty clear we have irreversibly passed into an era of positive feedbacks that will continue spiralling out of control at ever increasing rates. Where that takes us, we can only begin to imagine, though if we believe James Lovelock,it ain't gonna be pretty...

The question is, what are we going to do about it? Do we sit idly by and let whatever's going to happen engulf us all, or do we try and figure out where the safest place to live and using what means, is likely to be?

I'm thinking of emigrating to somewhere like New Zealand, but that will probably end up getting invaded by the Chinese or someone else when the shit really starts hitting the fan...

Wednesday, 24 September 2008

Economics and climate

Yeah Gwil, it is so weird the way people are not more worried. It's as if there was a giant asteroid on collision course with the Earth, and no-one was paying attention. Well, at least it did make the front page of the Indy the other day. But where are the people running around in the street screaming?

Check out the posts I've put on the Institute wiki, particularly the video by the psychologist Daniel Gilbert. http://climatechange.pbwiki.com/ It's quite entertaining to watch anyway.
Gilbert explains the psychology of what's going on, why we're sleep walking to disaster. I'm reading a book at the moment called "Kluge" by another psychologist. It explains how our brains are a kluge. We have so many biases it seems like we're almost completely irrational. I will write more on this. Some people are getting what's going on, like Tom Friedman, with his book "Hot, Flat and Crowded" - he says rightly that we are entering the "Energy-Climate" era, you can't look at energy and environmental and economic issues separately. I believe that people like Friedman are seeing the world as it really is, or at least they have more accurate mental models of the world than most people do. I've not seen anyone do more than hint to the connection between human psychology and the fact that most people have very inaccurate mental models of the world.

Back to economic meltdown. Check out this FT article http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/83bf493c-89ba-11dd-8371-0000779fd18c.html?nclick_check=1
Warren Buffet is about the most savvy investor in history. He compared the recent market bailout as avoiding an economic "Pearl Harbour". Bear in mind that the bailout hasn't even been agreed by Congress yet, let alone proved to work. Pearl Harbour could still happen. Think about your own financial security. This is the state of our global financial system BEFORE the oil supply starts dropping. What the f is it going to be like when the physical amount of oil starts dropping?

Aargh, we're doomed!

Well if Oliver isn't going to use this title, then I am!

Just read an interesting ('interesting' in a Chinese proverb kind of way) article in the Indy entitled 'The Methane Time Bomb': http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change/exclusive-the-methane-time-bomb-938932.html

So, basically we are now fucked...

The debate now shouldn't be talking about what might happen and how long each thing will take to happen, but more what we can do to 'insulate' (pun obviously intended!) ourselves from when these things do actually happen.

Fallout 3 is due out in the coming weeks, I think I might start by investing in that to get some tips...


Tuesday, 23 September 2008

Serendipity ...

I refreshed the iPod playlist last night, and also finally got round to start George Orwell's "Down and Out in Paris and London".

On the bus, I decided to listen to La Bohème. By the time I'd arrived at Clapham Junction, 10 minutes of someone's dodgy armpit later, I realised the serendipitous nature of my choice. While reading about Orwell being completely broke in the middle of Paris and living in some hotel that's seen better days, I'm listening to an opera about struggling artists trying to make ends meet, and living in less than salubrious accommodation.

All jokes about having opera on my iPod should be addressed to noreply@libdems.gov.uk.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Credit crunch - hold on to your cash

There's so much to say and I haven't got the time right now, I'll come back to this and write more. What I need to say now is that we all need to think seriously about what our money, most particularly our pension money, is invested in. Those people with public sector pensions are laughing. Those of us with private sector pension funds need to make up our own minds and try to protect ourselves the best we can. I'm going to shift all my pension money out of shares and into the "distribution" funds which are the ultra safe, low return funds which people normally use when they're close to retirement. In my opinion the stock market rally after Paulson outlined the bail out plan is an opportunity to get out. Check out the FTSE chart on the LSE website.http://www.londonstockexchange.com/en-gb/

I think we're about to enter an era of low returns from stock markets and I think this would be true even without any energy or environmental considerations. Add energy and climate into the mix and the game changes from maximizing your returns to minimizing losses. If everyone else is losing more money than you then relatively you become richer. When the next surprise comes along it may be too late to get out.

I'm not saying the entire financial system is going to collapse within the next couple of years. I am saying that the financial system can't last until we retire. The credit crunch is just the first tremor compared with the earthquakes that are going to come when the world oil supply starts dropping. I think that it's more likely than not that the world oil supply starts dropping before we come out of the bottom of this business cycle. So it is quite possible that we are about to enter a depression which will not end.

Update: I'm moving my pension money out of shares. I've looked into the funds and apparently the "Distribution" fund has shares in it! Doesn't make sense to me. Anyway, I'm moving my money into cash and index linked bonds. N.B. I'm not expert in investment. The important things I think are: keep an eye on the news, keep learning about what is going on, don't assume that the future is going to be like the past, try and be ahead of the crowd and make your own mind up.

First post

Good idea to have a blog Tim. The name isn't too bad, probably better than what I would have come up with, something like "Aargh, we're doomed!". A somewhat eclectic mix of posts already. Illi, good luck with the tenancy gripes, your letter looks eminently reasonable to me. Cleaning off human poo, good greif. Reminds me of the time someone did that in the entrance hall in Monkridge shortly after we moved in.
I wanted to write a bit about the current financial crap that's going on, this blog is the perfect forum. In the future we'll (or at least I'll) be able to refer back to what I've said and find out how accurate any predictions I've made actually were.

"The costs of global warming..."

In The Reigster. Which I will have to read properly later. Pretty sure they had something else of interest, too, last week, by Andrew Orlowski ...

Complaint to Keatons

24th September
My Address

The Director
152-154 The Grove
London E15 1NS

Dear Sir/Madam,

With regret I am forced to complain and to escalate my property management issues to Keatons at the highest level due to repeated lack of response to these issues from your property management team.

Several issues were not up to standard with our flat upon arrival, rather more than anyone should be prepared to accept as standard. Despite informing property management of these issues immediately, I have not had a single acknowledgement from Keatons either that any issue exists or that they have received notice of any issue. Later emails making a complaint and asking for acknowledgement of receipt of a complaint, and my most recent request for a full response to the whole situation, including my complaint about communication issues, have been ignored.

The team has forwarded most of my points to the Landlady and also sent her responses back to us. I fail to see how that should have been part of the process, her responses have not been helpful in resolving any of the issues.

Please would you seek details of the list of problems, which individually could be easily resolved to our satisfaction, from the property management team, and advise us of how you intend to proceed with resolution. They have been sent many times to the property management email address.

They include issues with heating, plumbing, lighting, security, satellite television readiness and our tenancy agreement. My own resolution attempts include seeking help and advice from neighbours, taking risks with electricity due to incorrect safety stickers, contacting the current suppliers of the CredaNet heating system, contacting environmental services and the police community safety team, and the cleaning of human excrement from the exterior of the building. Would you also please acknowledge receipt of my complaint about the property management team communications and respond to it.

Yours sincerely,

Illinois Cook
cc. Housing Services LBTH, Ombudsman for Estate Agents

Am I just a pedant?

Well, yes, I probably am. Let me explain ...

I was watching "The Two Towers" a couple of nights ago. Thanks to it being recorded, I could fast forward through the moaning trees, Bilbo feeling sorry for himself, and the endless jokes about short people.

My ire was stoked mostly by the final scene, when Gandalf and the Rohim rush down the hill. Although they give the Orcs quite enough time to put together an unpleasant looking line of pikes, not one of them seems to be impaled. Now, being one who enjoys his history, I find this hard to believe: it worked for the Macedonians, it worked for the Romans, and it worked for pretty much everyone until tanks and artillery turned up. So why are the Orcs - supposedly not normally a push-over as a fighting force - any different?


And the building, which was due to be finished last Tuesday, will probably now be finished by Friday!

Friday, 19 September 2008

Stand and Die!

16th - 19th Century – Stand and Die!

Marching – May move any or all units every turn (roll for which side moves first) - 3 hexes per turn for Cavalry, 2 for Infantry, 1 for Artillery. Either Cavalry or Infantry or Infantry and Artillery may be placed in a hex only. Never enter an enemy hex. Face one hexside only. May change hexside facing before after or during movement. Mark occupied hexes as Standing, otherwise they are regarding as being ordered to fall back under pressure (no marker necessary) Only as many troops as can easily fit into a hex, with some minute space between bases, may do so. May move any or all units every turn.

All-water hexes = not allowed except by bridges or boats. Firing may take place from one 'river-edge' hex to another river-edge hex however.

Musketry/Attacking – from an individual friendly hex to an adjacent enemy one. Add chances up, every 1 = an automatic casualty, then roll d10 to decide if any fractions lead to another. May attack with all troops adjacent to enemy every turn. Guns take two casualties then become inoperable, take casualties only when no infantry in same hex.

Chances below relate to chance of an enemy figure in the target hex dying:

Vs. Enemy which is Standing = 0.3 chance per man firing
Vs. Enemy which will Fall back = 0.1 chance per man firing
Vs. Enemy Standing in cover(any terrain/buildings etc.) = 0.1 chance per man firing
Vs. Enemy which will Fall back facing in/from cover = 0 chance

Vs. Enemy which is Standing = 0.4 chance per cavalryman
Vs. Enemy which will Fall back = 0.4 chance per cavalryman
Vs. Enemy Standing in cover = 0.3 chance per cavalryman
Vs. Enemy which will Fall back facing in/from cover = 0.2 chance per cavalryman

Vs. Enemy which is Standing = 1.1 chance per gun firing
Vs. Enemy which will Fall back = 0.3 chance per gun firing
Vs. Enemy Standing in cover = 0.6 chance per gun firing
Vs. Enemy which will Fall back facing in/from cover = 0.1 chance per gun firing

Modified by firing from one of the rear 3 hexsides of the enemy = + 0.1 for each firing man, + 0.2 for each cavalryman, and + 0.5 for each gun.

Falling back units move 1 hex back automatically. Standing units stand and die.

Airport security joys.

I saw this on Wired: Airport Pasta-Sauce Interdiction Considered Harmful

A good take on precisely why separating out bottles and cans at airports is really rather pointless: someone has indeed put a name to my pain!

Of course, one could easily ask why on earth this chap was carrying pasta sauce in his luggage, or indeed choose to point out that flying like this is killing the planet ...

Number 1.

The group blog is here. You might think the title sucks - I'd be tempted to agree, but my brain isn't a centre of original thought this morning. Everyone needs to create a Google account (you don't need Gmail, apparently), so they can also become editors.