Monday, December 02, 2019

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Saturday, November 30, 2019

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Friday, November 29, 2019

(Corrected) Action Required: Update your FeedBurner Account

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Saturday, November 23, 2019

Choking a porpoise

On my GP's advice, I bought some Vitamin D supplement the other day.
As befits something vaguely medicinal, the tablets come in a sturdy plastic container with a strong 'pull off' seal strap.
The pack is 3 inches tall, that's 78 mm for us remainers.
On opening it, however, the tablets barely cover the base.
There's a lot of fresh air and plastic left over. Probably enough of the latter to choke a porpoise

Saturday, November 16, 2019

An aortic regurgitator laughs

Once a year, as someone with aortic regurgitation, leaky heart valve to you, squire, I have an echocardiogram to see how the leak's going.
This involves lying on my left side while a gel coated probe is pushed around my chest by the machine operator. Part way through the proc8this morning, there was a knock on the door and another operator said that one of the two other machines wasn't working correctly. Rachel, my echocardiogrammer, asked if they'd tried 'turning it off and back on again'. Naked from the waist up, with my chest smeared with KY jelly, it was hard to suppress a giggle. Maurice, Roy and now Rachel - it's a killer line, everytime.

Thursday, October 24, 2019

How much is that Sophist in the window?

I got a quote for replacing the fascias and soffits on my house this week. The man who taught me - very straightforwardly - the difference between the two, emailed me a quote of 4 grand for a 'sophist'. I'm taking the price stoically.

Tuesday, October 22, 2019

Self-shooting Editor

According to LinkedIn, SharkNinja (who?) want an editor to shoot themself. In my humble, yet long, editorial experience, you don't get that luxury - there are always plenty of others ready, willing and able to do it for you, usually in the back!

Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Pharrell sees the light

Embarrassed by the lyrics to Blurred Lines, Pharrell Williams says he came from a 'different time'. He's 12 years younger than me and I heard the warning bells on the song's release back in 2013 - it was and is 'rapey' in parts.

This is a much better alternative, a lesson from the then Law Revue members as Auckland University - where Defined Lines are appropriately re-drawn. Who says lawyers don't have a sense of humour.

Sunday, October 06, 2019

Santa's little helpers

So I asked them how Santa gets down our chimney when there's a gas fire in the way!

Friday, October 04, 2019

Criminal act in the library

Called into Huddersfield Library to collect a book I'd ordered. They have an impressive turnround on internet requests. But reputations can be easily tarnished in the cut throat world  of librarianship...
The guy at the desk directed me to a shelf lined with books, each with a piece of paper bearing the name of the borrower who'd ordered it held to the spine by a rubber band. But, horror of horrors, the books weren't arranged in alphabetical order of borrower surname!
My eyes swam and my breathing became laboured. I retrieved my book and went to the self service checkout but I could hardly see to operate it through tears of silent rage.
And it was then that I heard a rapid fluttering of card issuing from some celestial plane - it must have been John Dewey spinning in his indexing system.

Sunday, July 28, 2019

Belloc reworked - for paternalistic employers

The great man wrote: 'Always keep ahold of nurse For fear of finding something worse', to which I'd like to add, for those faced with the overbearing attitude of a 'paternalistic' employer: 'If letting go makes nursey glower, that's because she hates the thought of losing power'.

Taking the cure at Fountains Abbey

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River Skell seen from Surprise View, quite a climb but worth the effort for the view of the Abbey in the background



The Lake, with Fishing Tabernacles either side of the bridge - the Valley of the Seven Bridges is away
 to the bottom left of the picture

The Watergarden.

 

 The place is so very special because my Dad took me there as a child. He used to go on holiday to Ripon, where his grandad was a gentlemen's hairdresser (he didn't like the term 'barber'). At one time his three sons - my grandad, his two brothers Arthur and Albert, along with his half-brother Edgar, all worked in the business. Albert was killed at the end of  October 1917 near Ypres, while Arthur was badly wounded in a mine explosion on the Western Front.
He was rescued from the carnage by a German patrol. Taken prisoner, he had to have extensive surgery, which led to him losing over half his stomach. Arthur, who never married, returned home to Ripon, where he took to wandering late in the evening and during the night - Studley and Fountains were his favourite stamping grounds, and I like to think that here he found peace after the horror, loss and suffering of war.


             Cure of Fountains
In the Chapel of the Nine Altars by moonlight
And in the Valley of the Seven Bridges at dusk
Arthur, a man scarred by war and captivity
Chooses to walk alone and in peace

Under the ruins of the great tower
And by the fishing tabernacles
His cares and pain are eased by
The beauty of ancient tranquillity

Here gods and Greeks and Aislabie’s folly temples
Wrestle for attention in the moonlight and cool
Of evening shade
And the curse of war is banished
By Arthur’s nocturnal wanderings.
 
For more of my family history, the life story of Ripon's oldest Barber and a 100-year-old mystery, read Heirloom.

Thursday, July 18, 2019

It can be murder in Argos...

Called into our local Sainsbury's yesterday to pick up a pair of long-handled shears I'd ordered online from the instore Argos operation. I gave the order details to the guy behind the counter, who disappeared into the back. He returned a couple of minutes later with the shears and hefted them by both handles before putting them on the counter, saying 'they're heavy - you could cut up a body with them'. Feeling the need to reduce the mood of pending homicide that I sensed after his comment, I said I'd bear that in mind but was only planning to use them to trim my lawn edges, at least for the time being. I know retail can be a stressful environment, but left the store wondering if this was some new HR initiative to cut out the need for those signs reminding the more out of control shopper not to be abusive to the staff?

Monday, July 15, 2019

Change for a Fifty?

Welcome as it is that Alan Turing's face is soon to adorn the £50 note, can't help if this is going to prove a 'hidden' honour not at all worthy of the man. After all, when did you last hold a £50? Many shops and pubs refuse to take them: is it just an empty gesture - and one that's far too late? Turing's work is credited as shortening WWII. Think about that for a moment - especially if your dad, grandad or great grandad came back safe. There's countless thousands of us - myself very gratefully included - who a possibly alive today thanks to Alan Turing. Putting his face on a fifty seems rather unambitious. His birthday should be a national holiday; Whitehall should be renamed; and the anniversary of his prosecution should be marked with at least a minute's silence so we can collectively recognise the hero who was persecuted, when he should have been honoured.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Three questions for our time

OK, so these probably just serve to confirm my decent into old fartery, but I have to ask: 1. What's the point of blueberries? They don't taste of anything except sugar and when baked turn into a purple stain; 2. Why do deodorants need a 'safety catch' all of a sudden? When was the last time you accidentally shot yourself in the armpit? 3. Why can't new cars have proper handbrakes? Flipping a little switch doesn't give the same sense of secufryt and driving away with the brake still ostensibly 'on' just feels weird.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

Breakfast in the garden

And someone nearby is doing the same. But his phone's on speaker and I'm getting one side of his lifestory over my fruit and fibre. Arghghhh.

Wednesday, June 05, 2019

Europe's liberation, in dates and song.

Started with the landings in Sicily on 10 July, 1943. Or if you want to be pedantic about mainland Europe, 3 September 1943 at Reggio in Calabria, southern Italy. My father took part in both. And after D-Day, when Lady Nancy Astor castigated the Allied forces in Italy, who'd been sent by Churchill with the understatement of the war in that they were going to attack 'the soft underbelly of the Axis crocodile', saying they should be sent to the real war in Normandy, revelled ever more in the self-deprecating soubriquet of the D-Day Dodgers. It was a long and bloody campaign; doesn't detract from the bravery and sacrifices of D-Day and the long push east to Germany, but Normandy 1944 wasn't the first step in Europe's liberation.

Freedom Anniversaries and the Shadow of Tyranny

75th anniversary of D-Day and the 30th anniversary of Tiananmen Square falling in the same week make me think of that guy and the tank. At work back then, we mocked up a poster, with a speech balloon borrowing the Viz Parkie's slogan, so that it had the bloke with the shopping bag shouting 'right, now fuck off' at the tank. I also vividly remember sitting up most of the night the Berlin Wall came down on October 3, 1990 with friends, including a German student who was sharing the house in Bradford. She was in tears as the crowds streamed both east and west as the VoPos stood meekly to the side of the gaping holes hammered into the concrete blocks. After a lot of drink and emotion, the night ended with a drunken karaoke session to the WolfeTones' rendition of A Nation Once Again. Different country; longer and continuing separation; but the sentiment seemed fit for the occasion. As indeed did the end-of-Iron-Curtain 'classic', Winds of Change by the German band Scorpions. German rockers with dodgy English pronunciation (maagik??) capturing the zeitgeist - would've of thunk it? And who indeed would've have thunk that - just under 30 years on - we'd be faced with the divisions of populism and nationalism, instead of the glories of freedom that were promised. Defeat snatched from a promised victory of peace by the old emnities, distrusts and hatreds from the past. Liberation and freedom have been stolen and used contorted to justify selfish isolationism and bolster the Xenophobe. It all seems a long way indeed from the hope and promise of D-Day and a betrayal of the lives lost in the fight for freedom from Nazi tyranny.

Sunday, May 12, 2019

West Yorkshire places of interest on the Peninne Way

Lumbutts and Mankinholes: two real places that sound like sadomasochistic practices only to be attempted between consenting adults with a recognised safeword.

Thursday, May 09, 2019

Caught short in Scarborough

Scarborough's public loos now charge 40p a visit. But don't worry if you haven't got the change, you can go contactless. Payment shows on your card as being made to NYX*Healthamatic. These people really are taking the piss...

Australian proofreading responsibilties

Typo on 46 million new ASD 50 notes. Someone has to carry the responsibilty for this? https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-australia-48210733

Wednesday, May 08, 2019

Chinese consumer protection: how Banggood went bad.

I've made a couple of new online friends, Phenix and Kelvin. It's unlikely that we'll ever meet face-to-face as they live (or certainly work) in Guangzhou, China. They are employed by the Chinese-based global online crapola outfit, Banggood, which specialises in churning out cheap rubbish that is misleadingly - or even fraudulently - advertised online. The ads are pushed via Facebook and other social media, so you appear to be 'chosen' - targetted might be a better description - to receive them. The catalyst for the interesting range of emails Phenix, Kelvin and I have been exchanging concerns this garment
, which Banggood described in the ad they 'selected' for me as a winter corduroy coat. Now, I once owned a very warm and capacious corduroy coat, made from heavy weight cotton corduroy, with warm and generous insultated padding and thought the advert was describing something similar. I've never been to China, but I know winter there brings temperatures far lower than ours in the UK and felt sure the coat would be a real bargain at the advertised price of GBP 28.86. But things were not to be as good as they were promised. When the garment arrived, it turned out to be something more on the lines of a shoddily made shirt. No padding, or even 'real' corduroy as it is 90% polyester. Now, with goods that don't match their description, under UK and EU law, we have a remedy that allows us to claim a refund and for the supplier, usually, to carry the cost of return. But things played out rather differently once I told Phenix and Kelvin about Banggood's porky-pie ridden online advert. For a refund of GBP 9, I would have to pay the return postage! Nice try, I thought, but not really what I wanted to hear - after all, this was as blatant a case of intentional misleading advertising that you could come up with, and one where Banggood were expecting me to either accept the crap, or make an unintentional GBP 19.86 'donation' to their coffers. The bad guts don't get to profit from their wrongdoing - pretty much a cardinal principle of Western consumer law, but one where China has some catching up to do. In the meantime, don't get suckered by Banggood's push ads.

Wednesday, May 01, 2019

Peacock meets the bin lorry

For past couple of days we've had a peacock 'visiting' our corner of West Yorkshire. It's a newish housing development, so a large brightly coloured bird does stand out as it struts rather imperiously between gardens and open plan areas. Today is bin day, and by the amount of shrieking and clattering - from bird and bin crew respectively - the former doesn't like the latter very much at all. Perhaps the peacock will move on, or stand its ground against the rubbish devouring monster (presumably part of its anger is due to the loss of a good food source). Whatever the outcome, it's far from quiet in the 'hood right now.

Wednesday, March 13, 2019

Brexit gammon fallout

'It was awful. He was sat watching the voting in parliament, then his face went all red and he shouted something about spitfires and the White Cliffs of Dover, and then he just burst into flames. The Parker Knoll's ruined'.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Returning to the Greengrocers

I first read Living in Truth, a book of essays by and about Václav Havel that was published just after the Velvet Revolution which brought him to power as the President of post-Communist Czechoslovakia in early 1990. Havel was a fascinating figure. A playwright who lived most of his life in Prague, he became a well-known dissident during the darkest days of repression after the short-lived Prague Spring of 1968. He was imprisoned by the Soviet-backed puppet regime led by Gustáv Husák (to whom Havel – cheekily – addresses the essay that was to become the first chapter of Living in Truth, about the long-perceived shortcomings of the regime). Later, Havel become the leading voice of the Czech human rights group Civic Forum – for which he would incur yet more official disapproval – but which would propel him on to a much wider stage as a leading advocate for reform. Havel believed, at the time Living in Truth was published in 1985, that the totalitarian regimes of the former Soviet satellite states – along with that of the Soviet Union itself – had effectively run of out steam, and he, along with millions of others, were living in a ‘post-totalitarian’ period, when people would start to ‘live in truth’ again. What he didn’t foresee, however, was that the end was to come a lot sooner than he believed when he started writing. Barely four years after the essays were written, Havel found himself propelled from dissident and former prisoner to the highest office in the land, and all without a shot fired in anger. It’s the second chapter, ‘power of the powerless’ that I remember best, largely because of the story of the greengrocer. In this chapter, Havel describes the actions of the manager of a fruit and vegetable shop, who – along with many other sales outlets at the time – was expected to display signs extolling the virtues of Maxist-Leninism with their wares. In Havel’s version, the manager has to display signs, with slogans such as Karl Marx’s rallying cry of ‘Workers of the world, unite!’ or ‘socialism is the light of a child’s smile’, in amongst ‘the onions and carrots’ so that they blend with the everyday. Failure to do so, Havel goes on, could lead to the manager being officially reproached for not having the proper, approved window decoration – a failure that will be noted and could be held against him at a later date. But Havel then explains that the signs are ignored, they have no meaning, no-one – probably the manager least of all – actually believes them anymore. They are merely going through the motions of putting them in shop windows, and shoppers pay no attention to them whatsoever. The command to display them is part of the hollow rhetoric of a repressive, out of touch, and increasingly hated power structure. I can’t remember my first response to the story, perhaps I thought it was just one more stupid manifestation of totalitarianism; mind control of the masses, but something that showed that such control was essentially futile. I certainly would have felt that it would never happen in the ‘West’. Yet the story of the sign was not destined to stay among the onions and carrots in my mind. Fast forward 30 years and the otiose signage of totalitarian eastern Europe has now spread like onion blight and carrot fly throughout privatised industries and global economies. Equally pointless exhortations are laid before us in the name of professional development and human resource management (a phrase in itself redolent of repressive power control). We are now required to display the thinking of ‘owning’ our work, or to take team building and commitment to banal –even at times farcical – extremes. We might ignore messages like ‘team work makes the dream work’, but failure to display means we’re not accepting of our place in the hierarchy; a crime to be recorded and for which expiation will be demanded at the next appraisal, or kept on file for future reference, or even references. The ‘power’ of the powerless that Havel uses in the title is the essential power of dissent: the right to be able to say that the emperor is, in fact, stark bollock naked, without fear of repression or harm. That is what is necessary for a return to sanity in public and political life. The rise of populism, along with the derision heaped on empirical evidence, exemplified by Michael Gove’s ‘having enough of experts’ will have to be countered at some point. The alt-right and right wing elected politicians will have to be faced with the reality of their ill-thought through utterances. Not even President Trump can evade responsibility for the duplicity and danger created by double-speak, distortion and populist excess tub thumping. For there will come a time when ‘great’ will become ‘grate’ in his favourite red baseball cap slogan. And when that reckoning comes it will owe much to Havel’s belief that extremism can be defeated by the truth that has to be lived by each and everyone who has been damaged or denied by the politics of division and empty rhetoric. I recently saw an ID lanyard around an employee’s neck which carried the slogan: ‘I never settle for good enough’. Never, really? Not even when you’re running late and the kids need collecting from after school club, or when you’ve arrived at work angry and upset after a row with your partner? It insults the intelligence of the wearer and anyone who reads it. Instead of giving credence to the slogan, my thought was that this person’s thought processes have been commandeered by their bosses, an insult to her intelligence and the collective wit and understanding of herself and her work colleagues. Milan Šimečka, Slovak Philosopher and friend of Havel’s, described this form of propaganda as ‘the big insult’, which he defined as ‘a situation where intelligent people have to listen to bunkum and talk bunk, fully aware that it is bunk, because otherwise they would only have themselves to blame for the consequences’.

Wednesday, February 13, 2019

110,000 vacancies in adult social care - some suggestions from a recent recruit.

Two suggestions to help the government fill those vacancies Ban zero-hours contracts - the bane of the sector for anyone with a family, rent or mortgage to pay or even a half-decent life to live. Pay at least £10 per hour - Again, how can care workers afford to live? Currently, by denying both, the government and employers are expecting the workforce to pay the price for their failure to understand or acknowledge the basics of 'supply and demand'. By doing so, they're denying care workers a decent reward for their very worthwhile labours and ensuring the NHS will continue to shoulder the burden for their misconceived policies. And they could also start to realise that families can no longer be expected to pay for spiralling social care costs - much of which end up being paid out in dividends to private sector providers' shareholders.

Thursday, January 31, 2019

Texan public library book storage facilities

Just received a copy of Diana Athill's Stet, from the excellent Better World Books. I see from the stamp on the top that it came from the Houston Public Library Service. Can't help wondering if they have a depository that also overlooks a grassy knoll, like the more infamous institution in Dallas. My dad once made a worrying admission about the events of November 1963. We were watching TV together, when a voice declaimed 'everyone remembers where they were when they heard the news of Kennedy's assassination', to which dad - whose memory was never good at the best of times - replied that he didn't. I half expected the Green Berets or CIA to come bursting through the living room door...

Saturday, January 05, 2019

Could you tell me about a time when you...?

I was enduring yet another competency-based interview recently when a thought came to me. Although these things are intended to show a potential employer how an applicant fulfils a job spec, in reality they are deeply biased against older applicants. To illustrate this, picture Candidates A and B: A has four years recent and relevant experience in the position they're applying for. Candidate B, however, has a working life extending back 40 years, with a wide range of experience culled from working in a range of different industries or workplaces. An interview panel member asks both: 'could you tell me a time when you flange wangled a spurrfler successfully?'. Candidate A did this for the second time only last week and gives a faultless answer. Candidate B, however, has flange wangled for decades but can't immediately remember a specific spurrfler related episode; she could well be able do it in her sleep, but this time-limited interview scenario doesn't operate in her favour, and she comes across as a flange wangling ignoramus. It's only on leaving the interview that a classic spurrfler wangle from 2002 floods back into her memory, but by then it is too late, and Candidate B is well on the way to receiving a generic bum's rush rejection, along the lines of '... strong field, impressive qualifications... unfortunately...' and so joins the scrap heap. I wonder if the HR gurus who come up with this torture ever have to face competency-based interview questions along the lines of 'can you describe a time when you successfully screwed over the career prospect of older job applicants and would you like to tell us about it?'