The Snow In The Summer or So-So

07/26/2004 - 08/01/2004

Mon 26 Jul 2004

New government advice on terrrrorrr

David Plunkett has brought out a little booklet, and his blackshirts are going to deliver a copy to everyone's homes. (That said, the government said in 1987 that it would deliver a leaflet about AIDS to every house, and mine never got it. Or the booklet. But I digress.)

Now, this organ contains some very useful telephone numbers, such as 112, and a few quick words about first aid. Sadly, it doesn't include "If you're riding a motorbike and you're involved in a road accident, don't remove your helmet."

The book tells us to have a couple of bottles of water handy, and some tinned food. So the students of the world are in there already. If your building is blown up you are advised not to use matches or lighters in case you cause a gas explosion. And if you see the explosion, it advises, it is good to tell the police what you saw. Sadly, there are no tips on how to build nuclear fall-out shelters out of cardboard and sticky-backed plastic, nor how to deal with family members who buy a Frankie Goes To The Bank record. Nor does it tell us how to deal with anthrax through the post, or ricin on the underground, or how to be taken hostage.

As ever, this book is short on practical advice, and long on arse-covering. There will be further details should the publication arrive here.

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posted 26 Jul 2004, 19.05 +0100

UIPee off

Watching Politique on BBC Parliament yesterday, I was struck by the way the UIP's leader, a chap called Anthony Farrage, has yet to learn the basic etiquette of television interviews. When it's the other person's turn to speak, you shut the fuck up. It really is very simple, but evidently not as simple as you.

Speaking of simple, the UIP has to-day lost one MEP. Ashley Mote (UDD, South East) has been suspended from the sponsoring party because he faces trial for housing benefit fraud. Incidentally, should Robert Kilroy-Shaft (UDD, East Midlands) stand and win the forthcoming Hartlepool by-election, he will be disqualified from the European Parliament, as new rules prevent people from being members of both European and national parliaments.

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posted 26 Jul 2004, 19.24 +0100

Moaning Minnie Watch

The fortnightly OFCOM bulletin has produced these complaint figures:

Antan Dec 4
Big Brother 15 (but there will be no adjudication on the various complaints about the fight until after the police have completed their enquiries.)
European Election Results 1 (presumably the inclusion of Robert Kilroy-Shaft)
Shattered 1
Sky News 2
The OC 2
Weakest Link 1
Without Prejudice? 1

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posted 26 Jul 2004, 20.49 +0100


Tue 27 Jul 2004

Transport watch

British Midland Airlines' subsidiary BMI Baby will expand into Birmingham next year. It'll fly to a short list of attractive destinations (Edinburgh, Belfast and Knock from £30 return; Amsterdam from £50 return; Geneva and Prague from £70 return) and a shorter list of less attractive destinations. The airline joins BA, My Travel Light, KLM, Swissair Swiss Airlines, Czechair, and Chavair on its various routes, but it will have the monopoly on Knock Knock jokes.

Elsewhere, Central Trains has begun an in-journey "entertainment" service, using 21-inch televisions. "Commuters will be able to watch live news and sport" during their journeys, claims a breathless spokesmoron, who promises that every electric train in Warwickshire and Staffordshire will have the screens.

Bizarrely, the company hopes that "the programmes will encourage passengers to talk to each other, melting the often sombre mood among travellers." Surely the only conversation will be how to switch this bloody thing off, and loud cheers when some enterprising spark whips out his bolt-cutters and does the deed.

In fairness, each train will include a "quiet zone" with no TVs for commuters who do not wish to be disturbed, and the system has the capability to transmit real-time information about delays on the rail network. So that'll be all the day's programming sorted out.

Hopefully, I'll have more to say on this latest innovation after seeing it in action next week.

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posted 27 Jul 2004, 19.52 +0100


Wed 28 Jul 2004

X marks the spot

In any legitimate balloting system, there shall be a receipt that can be verified by the voter, and can be manually recounted if required. In California, however...

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posted 28 Jul 2004, 20.44 +0100


Thu 29 Jul 2004

Er, quite

Dennis Kucinch, at the Democratic party bash, this morning:

Poverty is a weapon of mass destruction. Joblessness is a weapon of mass destruction. Homelessness is a weapon of mass destruction

Faithless's Weapon of Mass Destruction, last May:

Misinformation is a weapon of mass destruction... Racism is a weapon of mass destruction... Fear is a weapon of mass destruction...

(As are greed, inaction, and a wicked mind.) Going to apologise for this plagarism, sir?

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posted 29 Jul 2004, 21.02 +0100


Fri 30 Jul 2004

Statistics of the day

Total UK consumer debt in June: GBP 1 billion (EUR 1.5 billion)

Total PDRUP wage income in financial year 2002: USD 6.08 trillion (EUR 4.9 billion)

These statistics clearly tell us something about the western economy; I'm not quite sure what it is, but I'm unsettled by it.

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posted 30 Jul 2004, 20.27 +0100

Let's rebuild New Street. Again.

Notwork Rail has announced expensive plans to revamp Britain's main railway station, and stop it from being the Black Hole of the network. The plans cost £350m (€235m), and would redevelop the station's platforms and concourse in four years from 2007.

The proposals - designed by Will Alsop - involve a huge glass roof, letting natural light stream down on to the concourse. This means - yes! - the car park above the station is gone gone gone! Exactly how it will affect The Pallasades shopping centre, which covers about half of the station - has still to be confirmed.

According to the publicity blurb, the new station will be a "stunning landmark gateway for Birmingham" and a true "city thoroughfare." Apparently, pedestrians will be able to walk through to all parts of central Birmingham without the impediment the current station represents. With any luck, this will include a properly covered walkway between New Street and Moor Street - by judicious use of the subways, one could get to the top of New St station drive without getting wet, and only the last 200m exposed the traveller to the rain.

More usefully, the rebuild will increase the passenger capacity of the station by 50 per cent - the station is crowded at the best of times, and occasionally closes when the trains aren't running properly. The existing station was built in the 1960s, and is designed to handle a maximum of about 80,000 passengers a day. It regularly sees 100,000 get on and off trains in a single day.

The overall concourse space will be five times as large, with two airport-style departure lounges for passengers, and new escalators to widened platforms.

The last major work at New Street was a platform-by-platform rebuild in white marble-effect. This 1998-99 project did help to brighten up the tunnel, but couldn't do anything about the lack of natural light to begin with. This project is scheduled to begin as soon as 2007, and will take no less than four years to complete. Hard hats, everyone.

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posted 30 Jul 2004, 20.37 +0100


Sat 31 Jul 2004

By-election watch

The more observant of my readers - at least those who look at the web site, rather than review the RSS feed - will have noticed that the State of the Parties board has suddenly shifted from Labour +30 to Labour -40. What's caused this seismic change?

A new methodology, that's what. So far this year, I've been looking at the direct swing between the top party and the second party. This doesn't factor in the closeness of three-way marginals, nor does it take any account of tactical voting, either for or against any party.

My new methodology is based on taking out the drop from parties that lose votes, and re-allocating them in proportion to other, growing, parties. For instance, if the national polls show Labour down 10%, the Tories up 4% and the Lib Dems up 6%, then I'm reducing Labour's vote by 10% in each seat, giving 4/10 to the Conservatives, and 6/10 to the Lib Dems. Repeat that for each seat, add in a moderate degree of anti-Labour tactical voting, and see what happens nationally.

Labour's losses therefore increase from 68 to 102, the Tories pick up 92 of those seats, and while the Lib Dems have increased their share of the vote by a fifth from last time, they have a net gain of just 7 seats. We're currently looking at Labour holding exactly 300 seats, 23 short of an overall majority.

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posted 31 Jul 2004, 10.57 +0100

Now we are four

Believe it or not, to-day marks the four-year anniversary of my first attempt at blogging. The layout hasn't so much changed as evolved, though the colour schemes have improved in the years since. (I'd particularly like to apologise to those of you who endured the shades of orange from the second half of 2001. I wasn't thinking straight at the time, not that that's any excuse.)

The server moved from Geocities to my own, paid-for subdomain at the start of 2002 - there was also a blogging hiatus for about six weeks while I sorted out a lot of things in my life. Those of you who have been regular visitors to the site might want to know that there's another anniversary looming - I've used the same basic style sheet since late August 2002. At the same time, I moved from using Textpad to a pre-release alpha version of some offline blogging software - effectively, a glorified Access database with some bells and whistles. The alpha never turned into a beta, and I've used the functional, open-source Thingamablog since last May. The RSS feed also debuted at the same time, after an experimental feed.

Thanks to my legion of regular visitors, especially those who take the trouble to send supportive emails. Special thanks to Chris and Scott for their input over the years, and to Brennan Vic for their general support. And thanks to the visitors, who seem more interested in chickfights and Kelly Rowland than anything else.

Where do we go from here? I may as well accept the inevitable, that the blog has become too diverse for one location. Politics and news will remain here, commentary on arts and life moves to my heart's gonna lead me in so many ways, and football musings have been at weaver_footy for some months. Not that this is a bad thing in any way.

Here's to the next year.

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posted 31 Jul 2004, 17.23 +0100


Sun 01 Aug 2004

July statistics

24,150 pages served up from this side last month, an average of 39 per hour. I've had 3,717 distinct visitors, and I think that's an all-time record. Top search term was Sascha Baron Cohen, the uncomedian. (Well, if someone funny is a comedian, someone unfunny...)

The statistic you've all been waiting for: 89.6%. Internet Deplorer's share of consumer browsers is, once again, below nine-tenths. Netscape and other Gecko browsers make 9.6%, the remaining fraction is from the likes of Opera and Konquerer.

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posted 01 Aug 2004, 12.29 +0100


Republicans solicit "race" of journalist, told to go fuck themselves. Now, there's a rally for Sid and Doris Bonkers of Phoenix (I think it's Phoenix) to cheer Richard Chainsaw to-day. As a responsible paper, the Arizona Star will be sending a small crew to cover the event. So far, so tedious.

One of the rally organiser for the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign called the AzStar on Friday, to confirm the journalist crew. And this organiser asked Teri Hayt, the Star's managing editor, to disclose the journalist's race on Friday. Ms Hayt declined to give this information. "It was such an outrageous request, I was personally insulted," Hayt said later.

Pompa Sasshat, a spokesmoron for the Republican campaign, said the information was needed for security purposes. "All the information requested of staff, volunteers and participants for the event has been done so to ensure the safety of all those involved, including the vice president of the United States," he said, omitting the fact that Mr Lieberman will not be campaigning.

Ms Sasshat repeated that answer when asked if it is the practice of the White House to ask for racial information or if the photographer, Mamta Popat, was singled out because of her name. He referred those questions to the Secret Service, which did not respond to a call from the Star Friday afternoon, but did leave a note under a brick in a car park.

Journalists covering serious presidential candidates must undergo a background check and are required to provide their name, date of birth and Social Security number. The Star provided that information Thursday for Popat and this reporter, even though the Republicans are not serious presidential candidates. "That's all anybody has been asked to provide," said Hayt, adding that this is the first time in her 26-year career that a journalist's race was made an issue.

In other news, we hear of this chance encounter between a numbskull and a small plastic badge:

Illinois representative Janice Schakowsky told how she was part of a group that met with Mr Bush at the Occupied White House several months ago. She was putting on her coat after the meeting when Bush stepped forward to shake her hand. Then he "literally jumps back in horror," Schakowsky said.

On her coat lapel was an "Obama" button in support of Illinois Senate candidate Barack Obama. "Suddenly I realized he [Bush] thinks I'm wearing an Osama button," Schakowsky said.

When she explained who Obama was, Bush responded: "I don't know him."

"I told him, 'You will. You will.' "

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posted 01 Aug 2004, 12.47 +0100

Weather in week 31

As predicted, the high pressure area came to rest over the near part of Scandinavia, leaving a pattern unusual for this summer. Cloud persisted until Wednesday, when temperatures soared under some humid air. That hot air cleared east on Thursday night, allowing a couple of cool days, but the heat built again on Sunday. Top temperatures ranged from 27 on Thursday and 26 to-day down to just 18 last Monday. A total of 22 degree cooling days takes the summer total to 94. It's been the hottest week of the summer, beating week 24 in mid-June by a single degree.

Next week: the Scandinavian high will persist, but we don't know exactly how well it will keep out the low pressure systems that are still circulating in the near Atlantic. Some showers - possibly thundry - will appear on Monday, and more may well follow later in the week. Between them, it should be sunny and humid. In summary: do wrap up.

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posted 01 Aug 2004, 22.55 +0100


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