Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Herding Cats

Dear Reader,

Another lazy post today...

You may have observed my joy at all things cat. I found this whilst surfing that YouFace thingy. This is the job I was born to do.

Enjoy dear reader.


Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Klepto Kitty!

Dear Reader,

Just a quickie today. I stumbled across this video whilst browsing that tinterweb watchtube thingy. All my cats ever bring home is leaves, and occasionally the remains of a small dead animal. This little fella is a little more inventive and has been caught on film.

Enjoy, xx

Monday, 21 February 2011

Libya - A Prayer for the People

Dear Reader, 

Recently I submitted a comical (allegedly) post about the the domino effect in it's various forms. One of those was of a political variety. It seems that another domino effect is taking place in the Middle East as we speak. 

I think it only fair that I apologise in advance for the number of hyper-links in this post. By it's very nature, there is a lot of supplemental information floating around my simplistic overview of what is occurring. This whole re-defining, (if that is the appropriate phrase), of power bases throughout the Middle East, (and potentially beyond) requires a lot more supplemental information than I can easily paraphrase in a single post. 

Firstly Tunisia, whose 23 year regime fell in a largely bloodless overthrow. Interestingly a leak from Wikileaks has been cited as one of the the key influences for this uprising, which is (in my opinion), an under documented positive result from Julian Assange and his colleagues. Important in this uprising was the support of the military, who decided that suppressing this uprising by force would not be the right way to go. Just to balance this, it should also be pointed out that when Tunisia's leader Zine_El_Abidine_Ben_Ali came to power, it was a as a result of a similar shift in military support.

So onto Egypt, whose 18 days of largely peaceful demonstration led to the eventual deposing of President Husni Mubarrak. This result did not come without a fight however. A fight fought on many fronts, utilising the existing control he still held over communications (i.e mobile phones and the internet) and the more traditional violent route. Again, crucially the military held sway, now in temporary power until a new power structure is put into place on a democratic footing.

Onto Bahrain, whose current situation is better than it was a couple of days ago. Again, the military, and crucially, the police have stood down, allowing peaceful protest and a dialogue is opening between the ruling Royal Family and the protesters.

It should be noted that this upsurge in demonstration is also being felt in Yemen and Morocco. Quite a domino effect I think you will agree.

So, onto the reason for the post, Libya. This country is also gripped in a storm of rebellion, typified by a leader who has long outstayed his welcome. The key difference between the examples cited above and Libya is that the military are not the tools of government, they are the government. 

Colonel Gaddafi has been in power in Libya since 1969. He has resisted numerous attempts to remove him, including US bombing raids in response to the 1986 Berlin Discoteque Bombing which Libya was thought to be a sponsor of. Libya was also thought to be a sponsor of the Lockerbie bombing, so not the most pro-Western regime in the world.

He has also resisted rigorous economic and political sanctions from the UN, when it comes to holding onto power whilst breathe is still in the body, he seems to be a professional clinger.

Clearly things aren't running as smoothly (if you are a protester) here. Reports of widespread slaughter are rife. Although it is comforting to hear that two Libyan jet pilots have defected to Malta, the reasons why are not so comforting. Having been given orders to bomb protesting civilians, they chose not to.

I am, as I write this, listening to a live feed from the BBC. Reports of protesters being bombed and genocide in the streets of Tripoli are not encouraging. This coming from the entire Libyan delegation to the UN, pleading for international intervention to stop the genocide.

So, no comedy here, apologies for that, but there doesn't appear to be anything to laugh about. Colonel Gaddaffi may be at this point fleeing to Venezuela, (let's hope so) but more importantly lets hope that some of the stories flooding out of Libya are not as bad as they sound.

My prayers, (such as they are) are with you along with I'm sure those of my readers. A swift and peaceful resolution to this situation is the only acceptable outcome.

Back soon, dear reader with a more (hopefully) positive post.


Sunday, 20 February 2011

Site Of The Month - Part 4

Dear Readers,

This site, along with it's not inconsiderable YouTube presence is a joy to me. It combines two things that are close to my heart, comedy and cats. Dogs and other animals do get a look-in as well. Mainly though, this site is about the exasperation shared by every cat owner about the behavior of their cat(s) amplified to the nth degree.

Somebody sent me the first video from this author some time ago and it is particularly resonant in our family as one of our cats exhibits pretty much all of the traits illustrated (apart from the baseball bat) in attempting to wake us up.

This first outing has managed to attract over 22m viewers, no mean feat I think you'll agree.

The website offers the prospect of watching all of the videos along with some rather cute merchandise which, having become a bit of a fan, I might have fallen for. There are also photo competitions for cat owners and all sorts of other good stuff.

It's fab and can be found here...

Alternatively pretty much everything can be accessed from the YouTube page...

Either way I hope you get as much enjoyment from this cat as I have.

See you soon dear readers...


Thursday, 17 February 2011

Mr Cameron’s Big Society – an explanation

Dear Reader,
Once upon a time there was a politician with a big idea. That politician got to be Prime Minister which gave him the opportunity to implement this big idea. As it was a really big idea it needed a really big name – Big Society. That politician is the current UK PM David Cameron. If you are unaware of this big idea, or like many people don’t understand it, I am here to help.
A couple of links may be helpful:
David C, speaking in Liverpool about the “big idea”
DC launching the big idea. Not the most popular video on YouTube, my cats have considerably more hits, but that’s for another day. However the comments, all two of them, are amusing.
If you can’t be bothered to waste 1:48 mins of your life watching this you could read the full transcript of this speech as published by 10 Downing Street here. This may take you even longer than 1:48 mins of your life.
Using the transcript above I will attempt to paraphrase the published speech above with some comments of my own, thusly doing something that may well take even longer to read, but hopefully sort this thing out. DC will say his piece and I will dissect.
DC: I’ve been in Downing Street for a couple of months now and it seems to me that the business of government falls into two categories.
There are the things you do because it’s your duty.
Sometimes unpopular – but you do them because it is in the national interest.
But there are the things you do because it’s your passion.
The things that fire you up in the morning, that drive you, that you truly believe will make a real difference to the country you love.
Moi: Wow, government sounds so easy, unpopular things and popular things, I get it.
DC: And my great passion is building the Big Society.
So I can’t tell you how excited I am that, after all that talking, we’re now finally doing.
And today, I want to take this opportunity to explain some of the real, practical steps that we are taking to help make the Big Society a reality.
Moi: Strap in, the ride could become bumpy…
DC: But before I get into the details, let me briefly explain what the Big Society is and why it is such a powerful idea.
Moi: I’m listening…
DC: You can call it liberalism. You can call it empowerment. You can call it freedom. You could call it responsibility. I call it the Big Society.
Moi: I would call it confusing.
DC: The Big Society is about a huge culture change…
…where people, in their everyday lives, in their homes, in their neighbourhoods, in their workplace…
…don’t always turn to officials, local authorities or central government for answers to the problems they face …
…but instead feel both free and powerful enough to help themselves and their own communities.
Moi …?!?…
DC: It’s about people setting up great new schools. Businesses helping people getting trained for work. Charities working to rehabilitate offenders.
Moi: Sounds like it’s about people doing stuff the government won’t be able to afford to do anymore as a result of spending cuts. People will be getting paid for this, right?
DC: And this is such a powerful idea for blindingly obvious reasons.
Moi: Consider me blinded.
DC: For years, there was the basic assumption at the heart of government that the way to improve things in society was to micro-manage from the centre, from Westminster.
But this just doesn’t work.
We’ve got the biggest budget deficit in the G20.
And over the past decade, many of our most pressing social problems got worse, not better.
It’s time for something different, something bold – something that doesn’t just pour money down the throat of wasteful, top-down government schemes.
Moi: So it’s time for something that pours money down the throat of government in different and amusing ways.
DC: The Big Society is that something different and bold.
The question is: how can we build it?
The truth is that we need a government that actually helps to build up the Big Society.
Moi: Hmmm. The Big Society is a whole new bunch of quangos and bureaucracies that replace the old bunch of quangos and bureaucracies that have new and different names. They will undoubtedly have the word Big in their titles and require a Big building.
DC: These are the three big strands of the Big Society agenda.
First, social action.
The success of the Big Society will depend on the daily decisions of millions of people – on them giving their time, effort, even money, to causes around them.
Moi: The success of the Big Society will depend on tax payers giving more than they do currently.
DC: Second, public service reform.
We’ve got to get rid of the centralised bureaucracy that wastes money and undermines morale.
And in its place we’ve got give professionals much more freedom, and open up public services to new providers like charities, social enterprises and private companies so we get more innovation, diversity and responsiveness to public need.
Moi: We would like charities and private enterprise to run bits of the country we don’t want to run anymore.
DC: And third, community empowerment.
We need to create communities with oomph – neighbourhoods who are in charge of their own destiny, who feel if they club together and get involved they can shape the world around them.
Moi: Communities with oomph? Could this mean club together and work with a whole new bunch of red tape you don’t understand and that has just been invented to make the old bunch of red tape that you were getting a handle on redundant, just as you were making something happen.
At this point I thought it would be best to move onto the conclusion…
DC: It’s my hope – and my mission – that when people look back at this five, ten year-period from 2010, they’ll say:
Moi: I’m still in power…
DC: ‘In Britain they didn’t just pay down the deficit, they didn’t just balance the books, they didn’t just get the economy moving again, they did something really exciting in their society.’
Moi: Here’s to hoping…
DC: Whether it is in building affordable housing, tackling youth unemployment, inviting charities to deliver public services…
…the people in Britain worked out the answer to the big social problems.
A big part of that answer is the Big Society.
I think we are on to a really big idea, a really exciting future for our country and today, I hope, is one more, big step towards that.
Moi: Well, if you think that pigeons have big steps then give yourself a big pat on the back.
OK, back to little me. Now I may be coming over as a little negative and cynical, but that’s because I am a little negative and cynical. I think I really do understand the Big Idea now, and it is a Big Plaster over some very Big Spending Cuts.
Over and out, dear reader.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

A Mini Makeover

Dear Readers,

Don't let the title fool you, I haven't been getting all greasy under the bonnet of a Mini making it different and lovely, these skills are beyond my grasp.

I have however given the blog a mini makeover. I have a friend who is a graphic designer who ripped my colour scheme to shreds. Hopefully this will make him a little happier.

I have also added a most popular widget to the sidebar of the blog, which works very well. If you are a new visitor you can find out what all the (muted) fuss is about by checking out my most popular posts.

Stats are what they are, and currently the most viewed post is part 3 of a Start Wars style epic regarding my attempts to gain entry to America, which begs the question why did you only read the third part? Another day for that I think.

If you are a regular blogger and have a good suggestion for a widget I would be glad to hear it, please comment using the comment widget provided.

In the interim, hope you enjoy the new look, especially if you are my graphic designer friend.

Signing off, dear readers x

Once Upon A Time In Luton

Dear Readers,

So, this should have been a simple train journey into London on a Saturday...

Getting tickets was easy, getting a seat was easy, I knew where I wanted to go. What could go wrong? I only made one slight miscalculation on my journey. This miscalculation manifested itself a few stations down the line.

Having ensconced myself on the train I committed myself to making three stars on some Angry Birds levels that had been bugging me for an age (for the record I got one more, several more to go). Digressing already!

I was half listening to a conversation being held further down the carriage between two employees of the train line operator regarding current upgrade work that was going on which interested me because me and my dear wife use this line quite regularly. However as we approached their eventual destination (not mine, I had much further to go) the conversation turned to the what the police had been doing to the town in advance of the march.

My half listening capability tuned in and reached full listening (I don't have the ability to give 110%, oh and neither does anybody else, sports people, office workers, anybody!) Digressing again.

"So they've turned the centre into a fortress, nobody can get in or out" said one of the charming and suddenly reassuringly large gentlemen that were sharing my carriage. A short transcription between the two lovely gentlemen who I will coin Fred and Bill ensues:
  • [Fred]: So, what the police have done is lock down the entire town centre so no one can get in or out.
  • [Bill]: Really and why have they done that (Bill, like me, doesn't read the papers).
  • [Me, Quietly]: Really? And why have they done that!?!
  • [Fred]: Look, you can see what they have done if you look out the window...
  • [Bill]: Blimey. (A man of few words).
  • [Me, Quietly]: Ah, so the entire town centre has been zoned off with very expensive looking barbed wire fences, yet it looks deserted. I wonder where all this trouble could be. Oh and look yonder, judging by the number of special incident vehicles strategically parked over there they must have been expecting the mother of all battles.
  • [Bill]: Wow
  • [Me, Quietly]: OMFG
  • [Fred] Yeah, it's the English Defence League Rally.
OK, worth dropping out of the conversation for just a mo, especially if you are reading this outside of England, just to put this particular group and current location in to context. So the English Defence League, is what appears to be an organisation of disenfranchised football hooligans who want another excuse to fight. Along with some others who undoubtedly have some deep concerns about the national identity of Britain, ah, the ultra-nationalists then. Happy campers, one and all. The last time they visited Luton the trouble caused was almost apocalyptic.

So back to the train... by now we are rolling into town station...
  • [Fred]: Blimey, there's loads of 'em.
  • [Me, Quietly]: OMFG, there's loads of 'em
Six deep at the platform, however there is a comforting police presence. Upon departing the station stop, my carriage is populated as follows:

Me, a very nervous looking black couple who had jumped on at the last station, a large number of English Defence League supporters and a noticeable absence of Fred, Bill and more importantly the police!!! As you can imagine my joy at this turn of events could only be measured by a machine that was designed to measure unfortunate turns of events and convert these events into joy.

Whilst staring fixedly at my phone in the hope of staying alive, occasionally I would steal glances in their direction, interested in their attire, and also their demographic make-up. Depressingly, mingled in with the largely older and expected hooligan scum-bags were a small number of younger activists. Even more depressingly, the young feminine side was also evident - something that was seen much on the hooligan terraces where a lot of these idiots were brought up. They flagrantly wore their "colours", EDL badged hoodies along with (in the feminine cases), English badged wellies (seriously)!

In their extremely limited defence I have to state that nothing bad happened to anyone, apart from a severely increased heart-rate for myself and the unfortunate black couple who, as far as I know, continued their journey without further harassment, as did I.

And so to wrap up...

About 1,500 EDL members (if that is how you refer to them), managed to make it to Luton. The bill for policing this group came in at about 800,000 of your English pounds. Add to this the cost of locking down a town centre on a Saturday, which, at time of writing I do not have the numbers for. It would appear that the right to free speech can actually be quite expensive.

As a result of the measures imposed this rally passed off peacefully.

There still appears to be a number of people in this country who just want to fight, and they will jump on any band-wagon to ensure they have a justification. What worries me is the ones who want to fight use and use belief (be it religious or political) as an excuse to cause some trouble.
Belief can be a wonderful thing, but so dangerous in the wrong hands, especially if those hands are quite happy to use them.

More soon dear reader xxx

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

The Domino Effect (and variants thereof) - Nobel Prize in the post...

Dear Reader,

Whilst wandering around the supermarket the other day a strange thought occurred...

So, the Domino Effect (bear with me) is a term which describes an event causing another event nearby yada yada yada ad nauseum, at least until there are no more nearby events left to occur.

This effect could be illustrated with a video showing an enormous number of dominos stacked end on end, knock over the first and then all the others fall over in sequence. However Youtube has a far better illustration demonstrated by "scientists". It is quite clear they are scientists because they wear white coats. Apologies about the music, it is most annoying.

Much fun, if you have too much spare time and an apparently unlimited supply of mentos, diet coke, bits of plastic tube and time.

Now to Domino Theory, a political whimsy which guided US foreign policy between the 50's and the 80's and resulted in the Vietnam War amongst other rather sordid actions. If you can't be bothered to read the lengthy wiki post above then the policy can be summarised in this natty diagram...

In short, if one is Red, they will all be Red. Very adult.

Now this is all very tedious, and if you have stuck with me thus far I really am getting to the point, (and my Nobel Prize nomination).

We understand the Domino Effect and also the Domino Theory, inextricably linked as they are. Whilst wandering around my local supermarket the other day I discovered a third Domino related theory. I noticed that on a particular night of the week (Tuesday) that my supermarket was largely free of the usual collection of degenerates stacking their trolleys with high fat food and cheap alcohol.

On other days, the tills were as usual staffed with a mixture of under 18's and over 50's on minimum wage struggling to cope with a five deep queue of people which has been present from opening time to closing time.

On this Tuesday, the tills were as usual staffed with a mixture of under 18's and over 50's on minimum wage, but where were the queues?

The supermarket was more reminiscent of George A Romero's classic zombie flick Dawn Of The Dead, (the original, 1979) where bemused shopper-zombies attempt to go about their normal/zombie lives when there is no flesh available in a largely deserted shopping mall.

I might be digressing a teensy bit :)

So, back to Tuesday, what's going on? I asked my self. Like a good scientist I ploughed literally minutes of research time into the phenomenon. Analysing the vast amounts of data that had landed on my doormat I found the answer. A local and extremely powerful restaurant had a two for one offer on Tuesdays...

This will be the Dominos Effect in action.

Having posted my findings on this website, I expect a notification from the Nobel prize board imminently.

For legal reasons: it should be noted that a similar effect could be recorded if promotions by Pizza Hut, Pizza Land, Pizza-Curry-Junction (my favourite) or any other pizza outlet happened to deliver on my patch.

I will keep you posted regarding the Nobel Prize dear reader...