The Snow In The Summer or So-So

Knowledge is liberation

Koan

Emmingott:For the record, there is now no functional difference between Labour and UKIP, both led by racists supporting isolationism and Brexit.#

12 February 2017
The sweet Snell of success
More United polls its members on whether to back Gareth Snell (Lab) in the Westminster by-election for Stoke on Trent Central.

This blog is a member, we have a vote. What does Gareth Snell stand for?

(Show your working! What is the candidate's record, and how can we interpret the evidence?)

A NO vote would be coloured by this blog's inept local MP. A YES vote would back a candidate who is wrong on at least one key value. But we have to work with what we've got: Snell is flawed, he's not as bad as the others.

And so we decided to vote YES, support Snell. Not through much enthusiasm, but to demonstrate that we want More United to be bigger than one party, and to help find the limits of our ability.

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2 February 2017
Ten more britpop bands

Lyrique Discorde posted ten top britpop bands of the 90s. Lots of love for Sleeper and the Longpigs, excellent.

From this side of the pond, we have a slight problem. When we think of britpop, we think of Ant and Dec, the Spice Girls, Eternal, East 17, Robson and Jerome. All of them brit, all of them pop, none of them "britpop" as the term is usually known. That's reserved for bands and acts preferred by Radio 1's influential Evening Session, by the New Musical Express (Incorporating Accordion News), by Chris Evans and Caitlin Moran.

We riff off Laura's list, and add another ten.

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26 January 2017
Puzzled Pint for December 2016

Dungeons and Dragons.

How we score? Start at 6 for each puzzle, deduct marks for ambiguous solutions, deduct marks for cultural specificity, add or deduct marks for style and artistic impression. Average the puzzles together - meta counts double - and equate to an Oxford degree. 7 is First-class, 6 is Second-class, 5 is Third-class, 4 is Fourth-class, anything less is refund territory.

Location - Simple logic puzzle to visit all 16 locations once, collecting coins and keys. Only after laying out the items did we figure that "moors" is meant to be a homophone for "Morse". 6.

Suiting Up - clues are right, wrong, total, shift, and initial letters of the owners. We're looking for some but not all of the elements, and we need to work out the elements in a suit of armour. The puzzle relies on another weak homophone, and requires a particular accent to work. We'll class that as culturally specific, and knock off a mark. 5.

Memorising Spells. Prompts are "carefully arranged", "central", "combination of two ideas", "in order". A nice idea, let down by details. Not clear that we enter precisely one letter per square (a monospace font for the scrolls would have helped.) Some of the two-word descriptors were disputable. And the typeface for the descriptors is difficult enough right-way up, and very hard to read on its side. +1 for idea, a generous -1 for execution. 6.

Turning Undead. Putting things in their boxes, but to get from that to the solution is a leap of faith. On-theme for a puzzle involving clerics and ghouls, but off-theme for a fair puzzle. +1 for idea, a miserly -2 for style. 5.

Picking Locks. Sets of five boxes says binary, pigpen bottom left, 2x3 says Braille, and top-left we didn't spot by inspection. That gives four words: the spacing top left suggests Morse, but it took a while to work out how. We can see this would frustrate a decent solver, but an ace would solve it at speed. The answer is a combination of English words but doesn't look like an answer, not sure that's quite on. Slightly generous, +1 for style. 7.

Meta - You Slayed the Dragon. See, here's a problem. The sequencing makes for a very good middle-difficult puzzle on its own. Associating the attacks with the weapons is not straightforward - Excalibur is a magical weapon, it deals magic. A good idea, perhaps not as solid as it might be. And given the difficulty, that hurts. -1 overall. 5.

Overall, a Third Class set. Lots of good ideas, let down a little by the execution.

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24 January 2017
Livejournal in Russia

From the You Asked Us files...

So... should I be leaving LiveJournal because its servers just went to Russia and they have regressive anti-LGBT laws, or no need to worry?

This blog knows there were earlier opportunities to leave. All stem from Six Apart being utterly useless. Most are irrelevant to this discussion. Two are not.

[For completeness: 1) Six Apart buys; 2) Six Apart puts adverts on; 3) Nipplegate]

4) December 2007, when Six Apart sold out to Sup. We always had to assume that the NSA would hack into Livejournal accounts. Now, the FSB was also going to lay its hands on the information.

5) January 2009, when Sup closed down development in California. At this point, it became inevitable that data would be collected in the CIS eventually; the only surprise is how it took eight years to make the move.

We must assume that GCHQ is taking a carbon copy of everything posted from this neck of the woods, and leaking this to the CIA, and from there it goes to the FSB through the usual channels. This is unethical, it's almost certainly illegal, and we'd be happier if they stopped. But this is not specific to Livejournal.

But should people leave Livejournal?

It's not for this blog to say what someone else "should" be doing. We don't know other people's situations, and we're not comfortable jumping into situations we don't understand.

That said, actions have signals, signals allow judgements. These are the broad lines we'll use.

A) For a general Western audience, Livejournal is dead. Wouldn't recommend that new internet users start there. Conclusion: anyone using Livejournal is likely to be established on the internets.

B) Moving is a pain, and it reduces people's audience for a time. Some will never get all the audience back.

C) There are ties amongst people who still use Livejournal. In particular, it is still easy to lock posts to a controlled audience. Conclusion: anyone using Livejournal is likely to have strong ties to other users.

D) Livejournal supports the Poutine regime. Conclusion: anyone using Livejournal is supporting that regime of dubious legitimacy. Corollary: anyone using Livejournal between 2001-9 was also supporting a regime of dubious legitimacy.

Final score: anyone using Livejournal has an unusual and long-standing situation. For this person, the benefits outweigh the costs and relative isolation.

Is there a working alternative to Livejournal, hosted in a "country" (usual Osman definition) that is less up itself? We're not aware of that alternative.

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10 January 2017
Stormont on the verge of collapse

Siobhan Fenton penned a substantial piece, which we collect here.

Conservatives are handling this very badly. DUP steered talks away from their role in the current crisis and how they lost 490m. Instead, the DUP played on Conservative MPs lack of knowledge of NI & cheap nationalist sentiment about soldiers, to distract.

And it worked. Instead of talking about austerity, poverty, peace or security in present day Northern Ireland, we got ill-informed bluff about The Troubles.

It's extremely disappointing because Northern Ireland is experiencing major social issues which need resolved - poverty, crime, human rights. And all the Conservatives are giving us is cheap sentiment about national identity. It just means Northern Irish people are failed long term.

I've been nervous about Northern Ireland for a while but seeing how badly that just went, I think things could be about to get a lot worse. The Conservatives have just confirmed they lack interest, ability or awareness of basic facts to resolve the Northern Irish political crisis. With Northern Ireland already facing uncertainty over border with Republic after Brexit, we're now in a very worrying period of instability.

This could all come back to bite Theresa May badly if Northern Ireland then blocks Article 50. But she doesn't seem to realise. The Supreme Court is currently deciding if Stormont is also entitled to a vote on Article 50 - this could be significant.

If they rule yes, one of two things could happen - Stormont is still collapsed and unable to vote either way, which banjaxes Brexit further. Or Stormont is back, but after tense elections in which Brexit will have been a main election issue and parties will have had the chance to put blocking Brexit in manifestos and now say they have a mandate to vote against Article 50 when it comes to Stormont for approval.

And if Northern Ireland manages to stop Brexit happening that is going to put the UK in one hell of a constitutional crisis.

So if the Conservatives won't get their act together because they think Northern Irish people are citizens who deserve better, then perhaps Theresa May will at least decide to intervene when she realises it could be the biggest threat to her Article 50 plans yet.

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7 January 2017
Back at Number One

Top of the Pops from New Year's Eve 2016.

Kicked off with Anne-Marie Alarm, pacing the stage like she owns it. Then to Kideko/George Kwali/Rose/Irie and Crank it (woah). Loud and bangy and we still cannot see any merit in this track. Gold glitterfall near the end.

It gets better. Tom Odell performs Silhouette at his electric piano, with a backing band (and the string section miming on a remote stage). Later in the song, Tom moves out into the main crowd. With slightly better shot direction (no shots of the drum mechanism, purlease) this could be epic.

(More: Great performances from Alan Walker and Zara Larsson, and Nathan Sykes advances his case for the Eurovision Song Contest.)

Louisa Johnson does Tears. A performance with Clean Bandit, which we suspect would have had them namechecked, except they're back to number one. Rockabye comes in with a caption, and it's a repeat from last week.

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28 December 2016
Look Back at Correspondents Look Ahead to 2016

Every year, the BBC's international correspondents try to predict what will happen in the coming year. Every year, we look back at the prognostications, and see what they got wrong, and if they got anything right.

The 2015 edition had been a Red China special, going on and on and on about the communist country. We named Bridget Kendall the winner, and The Listener as the loser.

We're using the 2016 edition as broadcast on Radio 4 at 8pm on 1 January 2016. A slightly revised version aired in the World Service that weekend. Owen Bennett-Jones hosted, with a fearless foursome:

James returns after a year off, Jon makes his debut.

What will 2016 be remembered for? Bridget said a woman would be UN Secretary-General. Wrong. Lyse called "the year of wreckoning", but from her optimistic tone, it may have been "reckoning". ISIL to lose territory, she reckoned, picking up a point.

James saw "a year of sound and fury signifying little"; a very bad year for the poor, a good year for the haves. Jon prophecised slow progress over Syria, as ISIL fell apart under its own uselessness.

(More: ISIL, Afghanistan, the Year of Silos, EU referendum, Yankee election, oil prices, and artificial intelligence.)

We're going to give the win to Bridget Kendall, primarily because specificity is the right approach, and also because it bloody well was a Year of Silos.

Correspondents Look Ahead to 2017 is scheduled to air on Radio 4 at 8pm on Friday 30 December, repeated at 1.10 on New Year's Eve. It's in the World Service at 0900 and 2300 Friday.

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27 December 2016
It's Still Number Two

Now the BBC's second-biggest weekly music show (behind the CBBC Chart Show), Top of the Pops is hosted by Reggie Yates and Ferne Cotton. Again. Neither of them has been on Radio 1 for a couple of years, and frankly we'd rather have Clara Amfo and Greg James and Cel Spellman. Maybe they'd be allowed to lead into Queenie; a news bulletin at 14.50 meant this edition began at 13.50.

Anyway. Louisa Johnson performs So good, her top ten hit from November. Great voice, great song, but the combination doesn't quite work. DNCE have dropped by with Cake by the ocean, a number 4 hit from early summer. Lively performance, the sort of speed we got from Busted in the day, the quiet bit in the middle is used for the afternoon's first glitterfall.

(More: From Louisa Johnson to notorious homophobe James Arthur, via dancing, balladry, bad staging, and worse vocals)

And there's no place for the Christmas number one from Rag 'n' Bone Man. We finish with the yuletide number two from Clean Bandit. Rockabye bored the pants off of us by the end of November, but here it is. And there we are. Jane Hill is up next with the news, followed by a Party Election Broadcast on behalf of the Monarchists. We'll be back next week with a review of TOTP New Year.

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