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Saturday, 29 December 2012

Wheaton's Law

Some pointless rambling, if you will.

What if people obeyed Wheaton's Law - which is, put simply, Don't Be A Dick?

What if every codice of laws included it as the first entry and it was just as binding a piece of law as anything else?

If people genuinely looked at their actions, each action they took, and thought - am I being a dick when I do this? To an individual, a group, the human race in general? How different would things be?

If we accept that we shouldn't disadvantage others just to advance ourselves, especially when we already have such an advantage over those being disadvantaged - would the world be a better place?

Are we even capable of being the people we'd have to be, for it to work?

The vast majority of humanity aren't dicks the vast majority of the time. It bears mention. It's just those few times and those few people. Because it seems that the dickery happens when we need it least.

I suppose the only way we can get around it is to punish dickery when it occurs, reward non-dickery, and hope that the lessons are learned.

But do me a favour? Just as an experiment? Tomorrow - go out of your way to not be a dick. Assess what you do before you do it, see if it is being a dick to anyone - either directly or indirectly.

Let's just see if it won't make our world a little bit better.

We're sorely in need of it.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Where Do I Begin?

There is so much wrong in the world, right now, that it takes a lot for one particularly wrong thing to eclipse everything else.

Since my last blog post there's been ongoing campaigns of extermination in Syria and Gaza, unrest and violence in Egypt, moves both forward and back in US state politics, further moves backward in the UK government's responsibilities to its people, weekly trips to my doctor, and a whole host of other things that have added to the Human Race's collective karmic burden and overall stress level.

And that's the extraordinary stuff. We then have the ordinary - people starving to death and dying of preventable and treatable illnesses. The stuff we don't dwell on every day because we're simply not wired sufficiently to cope with it. Stuff that is often thrown in our faces the moment we feel bad about something, anything, else - as if hurting about something means that we immediately don't care about something else.

The attack on a Chinese school in Henan province, for example; 22 children injure, some of them seriously. Something that was eclipsed in the media, but immediately held up as an example of ethnocentric reporting - unfairly in my opinion.

All of you reading this know what I'm leading up to I'm sure.

At the core of all of the passionate arguments, the angry tirades and the reasoned debates that follow - about gun control, about psychiatric evaluation, about metal detectors and safety, about motives and responsibility and all the things that could have been done - there is the inescapable fact that a young man murdered seven adults and twenty children, before killing himself.

The same dance happens around every shooting, especially every school shooting - the nature of the beast results in high emotion, understandably. Everyone wants a solution, a way to stop it happening, and they want it to be implemented quickly, and they all have their own theory on why it happened and how it could have been prevented, and agreement and concensus is harder to get hold of than a flash application on an iPhone.

I of course have my own theories, my own opinions. I'm not sure about sharing them. While a lot of people have an interest in specific crimes - serial killers is a popular one - I have always had a rather grim interest and fascination over school shootings; of course I take no pleasure from it, but trying to understand why, trying to get to the root of it is a constant drive for me. I'm sure that probably sounds rather insensitive, and it's not meant that way, at all - no more so than a World War 2 enthusiast is insensitive to the 60 million or so casualties of that war.

There are simply the inescapable facts, and they must be taken for what they are, and conjecture recognised for what it is. And the people of Newtown Connecticut deserve our sympathies and our condolences for what must be the most difficult time most of them have ever had to face.

And now I wonder, with a certain amount of dread, whether or not the Westboro Baptist Church will actually dare show their faces in that town. At first I dreaded the NRA - but thus far they have been somewhat silent, a modicum of grace I wish they would show more often. But Phelps and his crowd are an entirely different kettle of fish; and how they haven't been declared a hate group, I will never know.

I have nothing witty to round this off with, so I'm just going to stop typing.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Nights Closing In

I've never got on with winter.

The cold bothers me. It's not just "not liking" the cold; it's a pain thing. My teeth are very sensitive, sensitive enough that when the air's cold enough, they hurt when I inhale through my mouth. Most of my joints react to the cold by becoming little clusters of pain, too; thank you, arthritis.

Likewise, the dark gets to me. I type this at not long after five in the evening, and already it's dark outside. I talk about being a night owl, and I am, but that doesn't mean that more night is better. Going to work in the dark in the morning and returning in the dark in the evening is awful - though as of right now I'm still sick as a dog, so that's one displeasure I am spared.

At this point, one might expect an anti-Christmas rant.

There isn't one.

I could go on at length about its faults and flaws but in all honesty - I just haven't "felt it" for years. It's been a case of putting up a bit of a front of enjoyment, and hoping that it would lead to me actually having some fun. Truth be told, at times, it's kind of worked; but I can't help but wonder if that was just being around people I care about anyway, regardless of season.

So rather than direct any venom at the holiday, I'd like to apologise to my friends that are still up to their eyeballs in christmas spirit. I just don't have it in me. I tried - lord help me, I tried - but shy of a miracle, this time of year is going to be (to me) just the same as any other, but more expensive, and with better excuses for hangouts and parties.

I try not to get in the way of other people having a good time. Just because I don't want to doesn't mean other people shouldn't. But if I seem withdrawn this season - it might not just be the sickness (which in itself is a pretty big reason why I'm in such a crappy mood). So please accept my apologies, and be understanding if I'm not so involved as one might want or expect.

I'm not crazy, I'm just a little unwell.

Wednesday, 7 November 2012

Leaders Of The Free World

The first thing that greeted me on Twitter this morning wasn't riotous celebration of the victory of Barack Obama; it was a series of retweets of individuals disgruntled that Mitt Romney had apparently won the popular vote, but lost the electoral vote. And thus in their eyes, deserved to win the election anyway.

1) As best I can tell, Obama has over 50% of the total popular vote, meaning that aforementioned complainants are getting their information from a source that may require questioning.

2) George W. Bush in 2000 won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote. He drove us into financial ruin and two wars. The man trying to clean up the mess left behind doesn't have time to get the world into that much trouble, so I don't think you have any right to feel butthurt.

I personally am amazed that nearly half of the country would vote for Mitt Romney. I believe that many of them weren't voting FOR anyone, they were voting AGAINST Obama - which is nice in theory but shows a total blindness of the kind of man that would be replacing him:

"I don't think my current babysitter is good at his job, thus I shall leave my baby on the doorstep and hope the wolves take care of her."

Because, America, you dodged a bullet. You're recovering - you're recovering faster than we are, and regardless of my Prime Minister's claims, it's not because our tactics are the same. (Yes, Cameron trying to ride Obama's coat tails. Opportunistic like a vulture.) And your recovery is through the guidance of a statesman, a man who has known what it is to be poor, a man that's inherited a house of cards that is falling over.

Sure, maybe your recovery isnt fast enough. But precious few of you are in the bracket that Mitt Romney wanted to help. Because you work for a living. Leave the millionaire CEOs to business - leave the presidency to leaders.

That's even ignoring the kind of person Mister Magical Underwear Millionaire is. The kind of person that shouldn't be in charge of a first world country in the modern era. Even if his policies and competencies were first rate, I couldn't accept his bigotry, his sexism, his classism - and unfortunately these things inform his policies. I'll let you do your own research into how.

In summation: America, enough of you made the right choice. And I am glad you'll never get to know what Romney's America would have looked like. The very idea chills me to the bone.

Maybe in four years the Republican party will be able to find a candidate that doesn't sicken me so - and I hope so. Because then there can be a debate, an election, a real choice.

Though if I have one complaint? ...I'd love to have seen the third party candidates do better.

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

I Have Neglected You

...and for this I apologise...but here's a picture of Starscream demanding you all hail.

I hope that made you chortle. Gif'd by a friend of mine. Not the best moment in Transformers: Prime, but still it made me laugh hard enough that Dr Pepper came out of my nose.

Wednesday, 10 October 2012

A Stream Of Thoughts

  • I wish I had the power to reach through my television and grab things. There's so many things I'd grab - like the throats of half of the House of Commons.
  • October/November always feels weird. They're those kind of inbetween months wherein the advertising for Christmas is creeping out, but hasn't gone full meltdown yet. Because, well, stuff happens in between. But Christmas is like a heavy machine - it takes a long time to build up momentum, so it has to start early.
  • If there was some kind of 24/7 delivery service for falafel I'd be a happy man.
  • It used to be that advertising a movie in 3D made people want to watch it more; now whenever I see a segment of a movie trailer proudly proclaiming it will be in 3D it actually kind of disappoints me.
  • I think I know why people don't think much about the world. It gets frustrating because nobody else does. Ironically, if we all just devoted a little more thought to our lives and the things affecting them, it'd make it easier for everyone, not just us.
  • George Harrison was the most talented Beatle.
  • Banks don't lend money. They buy debt. It's an investment like any other. Most investments just don't end up costing you everything you hold dear if they go wrong.
  • Everyone remembers awful covers. Good covers get remembered - but some covers are so ubiquitous that we forget they're ven covers. Like the Black Crowes cover of Hard To Handle, Jimi Hendrix covering All Along The Watchtower, and Toploader covering Dancing In The Moonlight.
  • At least one of those last revelations just blew your mind.
  • I'll post something a little less scattershot soon. I promise.

Saturday, 15 September 2012

Tory Menace, Republican Farce

[MASSIVE LEFTY WARNING. Likely to offend those not quite so Lefty.]

I'm not sure which kind of right-wing folk I'd want in this country right now - our current UK Tory government, or the US Republican party.

Our Tories (because let's face it, for a long time, there's been no coalition) aren't the kind of frothing-at-the-mouth conservatives that you seem to get in US politics. They might appear similar in many ways - predominantly male, predominantly white, predominantly fairly wealthy, predominantly possessed of ties to businesses of many stripes.

US conservatives, however, seem to be conservative to the point of comedy, in all areas. Especially religion and personal freedoms. Being vocally and publically terrified of homosexuality, decrying their opponents by making things up about their personal lives, deliberately trying to come across as downhome and uncomplicated by not bothering to fact-check, blaming immigrants and welfare recipients for everything that has gone wrong since they got into power, being so overtly against worker's rights that in order to be MORE against those rights they'd have to walk into the workplace and actually physically assault people.

Lets face it. So few people in this country would vote for that kind of politician. They'd have their supporters, no doubt - some voters are, well, a bit weird - but they'd never have the kind of support that would lead to them running the country. We just don't operate like that as a people - I like to think that we probably find that in-your-face lack of education on the female body to be an insult to schools everywhere, and that unless one is a total homophobe, the Republican attitude to gay folk to be more repugnant than gay rights ever could be.

Which is why I'd rather have the Republican party opposing Labour here, rather than the Tories.

Why? Because for so long in this country, most parties have been racing to appear as middle-ground as possible. We're not big fans of extremism in this country. Most of us anyway. There's some blips on the radarwhere the BNP and the EDL are concerned, but probably only with as great a percentage of our population as those with serious mental disorders.

So in this country, the face of Conservatism - of austerity, of regular folk picking up the slack to make imaginary numbers balance, of privatising the things which were once ours as a nation and to hell with the needy - has to adopt a more acceptable face; it has to don a mask. It becomes insidious.

Because it is less extreme in several areas - in fact, the one thing I believe our Prime Minister has done right is to take a positive attitude toward gay marriage - it is seen as acceptable; and thus people vote for it, and see it as similar enough to any other political party that they will still view them all as on a similar level. I cannot tell you how often I've heard otherwise intelligent people tell me "They're all the same really".

Yes, except...under the last Labour government, we muttered that over ASBOs, or relations with the US. And under the Tory government, we mutter that while we lose our jobs, and the only people doing well are those buying out our public services - them, and debt collectors.

All the same, really.

Well done, Tories. Just middle-ground enough that people will still vote for you - still right-wing enough that you'll happily string up your people.

Tuesday, 4 September 2012

The Great Enabler

For any of this to make sense, one needs to read and be aware of this article right here:

Christians take 'beliefs' fight to European Court of Human Rights

Let us for illustrative purposes remove the actual concept of Christianity from what is going on here...

- Two individuals feel their human rights are being violated because they will not adhere to the dress code of jobs with (dare I say widely known) very specific and highly regulated dress codes.

- Two more individuals feel their human rights are being violated because they are expected to keep their bigotry out of their workplace.

To address the first two? I'm sorry, but there's a dress code. Unless you have a very compelling reason to not adhere to it - and this will be in your employment contract - you adhere to it. Airline staff are the face of the company, a company that is meant to put forward a unified face to their customers; nursing staff have hygiene considerations on top of needing to appear clinical and professional. Whatever my personal feeling on the subject of employment dress codes, you go into such a situation with your eyes open; and if you can't deal with the restrictions, then I'm sorry, but you're probably in the wrong job.

To address the latter pair...

I'm sorry. But you don't have the human right to impinge on other people's human rights. You are not entitled to prevent other people from having things they are entitled to. That's not how it works. The Convention of Human Rights is there to defend the rights of all, not take away the rights of some.

All four of these cases going forward to the Court of Human Rights are, patently, ridiculous...the moment you remove the language of faith and belief from their discussion. However, all of a sudden, things seem to be a lot less cut-and-dried the moment we factor in their respective religious beliefs.


We shouldn't allow people's beliefs to become enablers for illegal behaviour - we don't let suicide cults ill off hundreds because they believe they will be subsumed in some kind of alien uplifting, we don't let racial supremacists that truly believe white English people are the master race (yes, they do exist, and yes, it is as mad as it sounds) burn down shops belonging to people who happen to not fit into their template. So why permit another set of beliefs to allow someone to break the law?

It is a sorry state of affairs that I feel I may be looked upon unkindly for suggesting that the laws of a land should be secular. Strictly secular. Based on best practice, and ethics relevant to today, not to a book of dubious provenance. It's why we have a justice system, rather than more priests.

It is my belief that people should be allowed to believe whatever they wish. Beliefs are like teeth - they are very useful, some would say absolutely essential...but they should stay inside your head. If your beliefs lend you comfort in hard times, that is all well and good; just remember that they are beliefs. Not laws, not rights, not priviledges, not entitlements - beliefs.

If you can't tell the difference, maybe you should stay out of any kind of legal situation until you do.

Sunday, 2 September 2012

The Thousand Policies

There's a lot of problems currently afflicting the world that have both simple and complex solutions. Contemplating the nature of these problems and their solutions can lead to quite a headache - lets face it, that involves juggling a lot of data.

"But it's simple," will say a cacophony of voices. "All you have to do is..."

And it's at that point that they all start to diverge, first into relatively few camps, of thought, then into more, then totally diverging from just about everyone else.

No wonder democracy confuses human beings. Presented with all these different options for how to move forward, often subject to misdirection in the intentions of those making those presentations, and trying to put together a set of beliefs from evidence that one needs to find elsewhere.

It takes time, patience, research and understanding to actually settle on a course that one thinks the world should take. Not only in terms of economic strategy, but academic, scientific, moralistic, socialistic.

And once you have settled on that - well, it would be natural that everyone else's plans would seem to ring hollow, right? Except that a lot of them have gone exactly the way you have - putting together their beliefs from a pastiche of information and a lot of soul-searching.

And that is why people don't budge. And very little in terms of words and deeds can make them shift their political standpoint. This is especially true if they have skipped out on a very central aspect of this entire exercise - evidence; it is downright scary to know just how many people will form a political opinion without any basis in fact or reality, basing it purely off the words and beliefs of others for whatever reason.

Sadly, the kind of thing that makes people budge isn't something that everyone on either side can experience. After all, homophobes aren't likely to experience a real attack on their human rights, not in the same way as their targets. Proponents of heavy taxation on the rich aren't usually very rich, so they won't know how that would affect them directly - and contrariwise, proponents of a demolition of worker's rights aren't usually in a position for the erosion of those rights to ruin their lives.

All told? The myriad of political opinions can get to be a bit of a mess - which is why the whole thing seems fairly impenetrable.

And unfortunately, we've fallen into the trap of accepting almost all viewpoints as being just as valid as the others, regardless of evidence, common sense or basic decency.

But that is for another blog, no?

Monday, 20 August 2012

Ain't That A Kick In The Heart

It's a little scary, at times, when you realise just how thin a margin you live by. When you are forced to notice that your entire body runs on a very tight set of parameters, and a single deviation from one of these parameters can lead to some serious issues.

A palpitation can feel like many things, depending on how serious it is. For me it felt like someone reaching inside my torso and flipping something upside down, and all of a sudden my lungs were just bellows. All they did was suck stuff in and push it out again. Breathing was something that I did twenty seconds ago.

I recovered, obviously. I'll be okay. I'm still not totally on my feet - doc's orders, I'm not work-healthy until this time next week, and I'm on a caffeine and energy drink restriction (which is killing me). Also the usual spiel about eat healthier so on so forth.

He told me himself that were my heart weaker, that might not have been a palpitation at all. It could have been something a lot more serious. I count my blessings.

So I'm sick again. Mostly stuck indoors again, though almost certainly for less time than before.


Friday, 10 August 2012

Battle Raps For Nerds: Transformers

Your face reminds me of what Prime did to Megatron
Even when he got put back together he still looked wrong
Even Unicron couldn't fix the manged mess
Looking like a sex toy and whining like Rudolf Hess

I'm gonna merge and combine like the Constructicons
I'll Devastate you, bitch, getting Bruticus because it's on
Will Onslaught you in Brawls and then Swindle you into shellshock
Blast-off into a Vortex, Quintesson, I am GRIMLOCK

Mighty like Brawn and twice as brave as Bumblebee
You can call me Mirage because this bitch can't even see me
Demonstrate my Superion aerial tactics sky high
I'll leave you like Silverbolt, so shook up that you can't fly

Isolate your weakness and then savage it like Computron
Like Seekers I'll intercept your shipments and steal your Energon
Ignore your Soundwave monotone and just to make you feel vexed
I'll let you think you have a chance before I call on Metroplex.

Monday, 6 August 2012

Meditations On Caped Crusaders

It isn't the power that makes a hero.

You'd think it would be, wouldn't you? After all, Spider-Man isn't just a guy with an unhealthy obsession, he arrived at his monicker via radioactive spiderbite. Iron Man isn't just a millionaire genius playboy philanthropist, Steve Rogers isn't Captain America because he's a bit patriotic, and Batman isn't just a bloke with a very limited wardrobe.

But then we think about it, and we realise - power isn't what makes these people heroes, either.

Let's face it. The heroes aren't the only ones with power. For every man or woman that would give up everything to uphold their moral code, you'll find a dozen that have no moral code, that would happily murder, steal and cheat their way to victory. Some of them stone-cold sane, some of them significantly less so.

Certainly - Doctor Octopus, Lex Luthor, The Violator and Critical Maas all have the power to do great things, to save lives, to prevent tragedy, to act as heroes. But none of them do. That is left to Spider-Man, to Superman, to Spawn, to the other Specials.

The stuff of heroism isn't, then, to be found in the power to do the deed; it lays in the will, and for that deed to be a righteous one.

I'm a librarian. I am a strong advocate of carrying comic books in libraries. Not just the literary types - all types. For every copy of Watchmen, V For Vendetta and Maus, I'd like to see collected editions of Batman, X-Men, Superman, Iron Man, the Green Lantern, and Captain America, because all of these things teach lessons.

The lesson is that it isn't the capacity you have to enact change that matters - what matters is the change you make. That at the end of the day the value of a life shouldn't be measured in the scale of its deeds, in the quantity, but in the quality.

Because Galactus can devour planets, Apocalypse can end everything, the Black Lantern Corps are death incarnate, and Bane's genius can lay low even the greatest - but all of them were beaten, by men and women brave enough to do the right thing.

And that's why I want comic books in my library.

Thursday, 2 August 2012

Apathy And Its Trappings

Today is a very, very meh day.

It is a day full of meh. A day so meh-ful - so indifferent, so bloody standard - that it defies further classification.

I mean I have no idea what to do today. I don't have the will to do anything. Not sure if I am hungry or thirsty, no real way to prioritise. Everything just feels like make-busy work.


Saturday, 28 July 2012

A Not-So-Everlasting Fire

There's a lot of things that make me angry.

What most of them boil down to - the important ones, I mean, not the continued existence of Simon Cowell or the ending of Wolverine: Origins - are either greed, or ignorance; these two things, either in combination or alone, are easily attributable as the source of most of our troubles as a species.

I get angry about both; about how they affect not only my life, but the lives of hundreds, thousands, millions, billions. About the countless status quo situations maintained simply to keep funneling funds into the pockets of those not necessarily most deserving, or upheld because of fear of any kind of change. Stupid laws and idiotic regulations built on generations of injustice and self-interest. Several monoithic inescable systems solely devoted to maintaining iniquity.

Anger leads to wanting a solution, seeking a means, trying to change things. That very swiftly leads to the realisation that you simply can't do it alone - the next natural response is to go looking for those that think the way you do.

And that is where the entire plan comes apart.

Apathy is one of two things - either ignorance of a problem and thus being unwilling to fix it, or knowing at least a little about a problem and deciding not to try.

And you just just know that if people would only pay attention and think for a second that you could achieve something great and life would be better and we could be proud of being human.

If only they'd give a damn.

But they don't.

Apathy, it appears, is entirely contageous. I've had enough of it - the fire of my anger is cooling to the embers of cynical resentment. I've heard it too many times.

"Nothing will change."

"It doesn't matter who I vote for, they're all the same."

"Who cares?"

I did. Once. Now I'm not entirely sure.

Friday, 27 July 2012

Just Fading Away

Yesterday, I saw a picture of two men posing for a publicity shot.

One of them was David Beckham - smiling, clearly enjoying himself, holding his fists up as if to defend himself from the other subject of the picture. Fit and healthy, wearing a suit.

The other man was wearing a white shirt with blue stripes, and trousers with the belt just slightly higher than you'd expect. He had obviously bought the shirt some time ago, as he'd lost weight in the intervening time - Dark hairline receding, despite the fact that his hair remained absolutely ink-black. Eyes slightly wide, and mouth pursed, though whether for effect or through necessity, it isn't certain.

This is the picture:

This man is one of my heroes. Seeing him like this- so weak, so thin, so wasted - almost made me forget that he used to look like this:

To see a human being that was once the very peak of condition - the strongest, the fastest, the most brash, the most fearless - slowly fade a terrible thing. The world will never see another man like Muhammad Ali, and it will truly be a sad day when he finally passes from this world; but I can't help but wonder if it would have been better if he'd died in that ring, still burning like the brilliant flame he was, instead of guttering out slowly like a tiny candle in a too-strong breeze.

Rumble, young man, rumble.

Monday, 23 July 2012

The World's Biggest McDonalds

Let's say I own a billboard.

It's a nice billboard. It's somewhere that a lot of people will see it, daily. Many people will go past it. So what do I do with this billboard? Well, either I can put whatever I want on it, or, companies will pay me to put up their marketing on it.

That's fine, because they want their brand to be everywhere, they want people to be thinking about their brand subconsciously so that when it comes down to making a consumer choice about food / clothing / whatever, they will pick that brand without really making a weighted decision. So companies spend a significant amount of money trying to get their image everywhere, because it increases their sales.

But obviously, I can't just take my billboard anywhere. If it's being used for marketing, then I obviously can't take it to a place dedicated to the competitors of what it is marketing. That would be silly, right? And also contractually sticky. But then I agreed to adhere to that contract and those particular terms when I agreed to accept money to display marketing for a company on my billboard.

So it wouldn't make any sense for me to enter into an advertising contract with, say, Pepsi - and then show up at a a strictly-regulated Coca-Cola corporate event.

And this is why, if we are to be asked to regulate our clothing at the Olympics because it is so heavily influenced by corporate marketing, that we should be being paid to wear brand names, not the other way around.

That's the way it works, right? You enter into some kind of agreement with well-defined figures of how much you will get paid to market a product or display its brand name, and in exchange you are bound by their equally well-defined marketing regulations, however stringent they may be. Because, hey, you're being paid. So of course you accept the legal whatnots as to what you are doing to get you paid. It's why we sign employment contracts.

But until such a time as I sign such a contract and get paid for such an arrangement, you don't get to tell me what I can and cannot wear.

The last time I checked it's not grossly offensive or public disorder to wear a Rolex shirt in an event exclusively sponsored by Tag Heuer, it isn't a hate crime to wear a Pepsi shirt regardless of what is being sold wherever you are - and perhaps if I was wearing a security organisation's logo when I went in, I might actually be doing Locog a favour.

I understand that corporate sponsorship has granted a lot of money to the games - I believe the main sponsors contributed something like £2bn or so. And I truly want the games to go well - I want everyone to have a good time, I want the athletes to compete without problems, and I want the best to win. I know people attending and hope it is everything they want it to be. I'm not anti-Olympic in and of the games themselves - nobody is so naive as to think this world doesn't need more unity and brotherhood.

I just find myself wondering if this unity and brotherhood of man should be covered by McDonald's and Coca-Cola logos, and if it should exclude people wearing shirts the men in suits don't like.

Wednesday, 18 July 2012

The Problem With Statistics

Today it was anounced that unemployment is down - reduced by 65,000 in the past three months, down to 2.58 million, according to the Office of National Statistics.

I'd take this as being a really good thing...except for other statistics also coming out of that office. 6,100 more claims for Jobseeker's Allowance in that time, up to 1.6m. And long-term unemployment increasing by 18,000 to 441,000. All this in the past three months.

And there's another issue here; because, see, once - I was one of those long-term unemployed folks. And there's a trick, that has existed for a long time, built into how these statistics are built up.

If you are in training, or on some kind of course to assist you in getting a job, or in the process of making some kind of claim, then you don't count as being unemployed. If you aren't claiming jobseeer's allowance or some kind of other benefit, then you don't count as being unemployed either. Which means that actual statistics for unemployed individuals in this country can basically be inflated or deflated at the whim of those utilising the data.

Nice try though.

Monday, 16 July 2012

When Honesty And Spin Collide

Have you ever taken a look at the news headlines, and seen what they should say? A selection from BBC news:

Could debt relief solve Europe's problems?
(lit trans: Austerity was never going to work, says someone with more economics knowledge than the Chancellor.)

Syria conflict: West 'blackmailing' Russia on sanctions
(lit trans: Russia 'pretty okay' with murdering thousands of innocent people with artillery.)

Pirate Bay block effectiveness short-lived, data suggests
(lit trans: Lawmakers in pay of copyright cartels don't understand how the internet works, data suggests.)

Cardinal Keith O'Brien in gay wedding vote call
(lit trans: Cardinal hopes people are as homophobic and blinkered as he is.)

And now, the weather.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Sun Past The Yardarm

Today I am thirty years old.

I always thought I was meant to be in a specific place, when I reached this age; I wasn't quite sure where that place was, but I was sure it had something to do with houses, mortgages, and other things that show I am Growing Up and Moving On With My Life.

I'm not there, needless to say. That makes me wonder - am I screwing up, or is it okay to not be in the mythical Thirty Zone? Contrary to popular belief, is it oay to still have fun? Can I still listen to whatever I want, play with action figures, spit watermelon seeds at the back of my friend's heads?

At times I wish life came with an instruction manual,complete with timetable - but then life is different for everyone, and we all have to live our own. Maybe given that, I don't necessarily need to worry about the "road map", the cultural stereotype of a man my age - wife, kids, house, job I hate.

Maybe it IS okay to just be where I am.

Besides, I could do with another tattoo.

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

I've Never Noticed That Before...

At times, life seems a bit rubbish.

Everyone feels it sometimes - they're sat on the train, or in the office, or walking home the same way they walk home every night...and all of a sudden, you wonder - how did my life become this?

Same thing every day - same routine, same faces, same people. It gets draining, but the way it drains us is it takes our creativity, our mental accuity, our way of noticing that it's all the same...until we have this little moment of serenity.

But it's these moments of serenity we should live for.

We just take them for granted - or don't even notice when they happen; but they do happen, I promise you. Moments that may seem totally ephemeral, but they are very real.

Your day has been long and hard; the work has been unforgiving, thankless, and ultimately feels a touch pointless...

...but then the doors of the train open just briefly,to letone of your fellow travellers exit - and the soft breeze cools your brow. Just for those few seconds, life isn't a merciless scramble up a greased slope. Just for that moment, there is serenity.

That moment when you walk past a shop and catch a few bars of one of your favourite songs on their radio; or when a child smiles and waves at you just because they're in a good mood; or when you find that tiny piece of street art that nobody else has noticed.

Just sometimes - it's enough to change a shitty "any-other" day, into something a lot more worthy of mention.

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Like A Caterpillar Becoming An Ugly Butterfly

So this is my new blog.

I got tired of my previous blog; it descended into crapness, and then the provider (who I won't name) started being lacklustre about even keeping it up and running. things.

I think it is time for new starts, anyway. My father died two days ago.

Life kind of feels like it is in free-fall right now.