Tuesday 28 September 2010

Something something something dark side

Inspired by Mark Pack who generated a Wordle for Ed Miliband's speech at the Labour party conference, I decided to generate one for my blog. The new leader’s predominant word was “generation”, mine was… “something”. Surely something’s amiss?

Monday 27 September 2010


In the end I have to confess to getting a little confused distinguishing between David and Edward Miliband but then I was hardly a stakeholder in what happened. Is it a good result for the Conservatives? At first I wasn’t as sure, David Miliband was a known quantity and whenever I thought of him I thought of Tony Blair and not in a positive way. Ed on the other hand is less well known and unknown equates to dangerous.

But I can see why the Conservatives prefer Ed to David, for all David’s association with the past this was hardly something that the Conservatives could use effectively against him, this was something that worked against him for those in his own party. Ed Miliband on the other hand had the support of the unions, even better he was elected thanks to the votes of union members, members who don’t even have to belong to the Labour party yet can have a say in who leads it. This is something that works against him for those outside the party; you might as well paint a bull’s-eye.

I browsed a few left-leaning forums today to gauge the mood and rather typically those daring to suggest a weakness were being slapped down rather than engaged in debate. I have no problem with Unions donating to the Labour party but the incongruity of an organisation being able to use funding to buy votes for its membership - which is how it will be portrayed - isn’t something that can be easily explained away. This ought to please me as it makes them less electable, yet strangely it doesn’t because whilst they continue to live in their bubble world I continue to be denied a credible choice.

Friday 24 September 2010

Sent from my Nokia

My sister-in-law came to visit not so long ago and to keep her children occupied I switched on the PC. The eldest daughter (who was only nine) asks “What operating system is it?”

“Windows”, I replied.

To which she shuddered and went “EUW!”

You see, their parents are Apple… enthusiasts, and the brainwashing starts so early these days. I repeat: I would possibly (probably?) buy an iMac if I could afford one; because when I mentioned this episode the other day I got the impression I’d inadvertently come out as anything-but-Apple - a heretic if you like. This is grossly unfair, I would never disrespect anyone’s software/hardware proclivities, though I’d like to know the difference between the new Shuffle, at £39, and the new Nano at £129, beyond the ability to see what it is you’re playing.

Friday 17 September 2010


I wanted Wave to succeed because, of the big three, I like Google the most – or should that be I dislike them the least? There’s something sad about Microsoft compared to how it once was. I can’t afford a new PC so I’ll not see Windows 7 for a while yet I’ve heard good things. In other areas though they remind me of IBM in the 1970’s; using FUD and the threat of legal action to coerce companies into paying for a licence to protect them from patents that they may (or may not) have infringed. It’s cheaper to pay up than defend yourself – which makes Microsoft sound less like IBM and more like the mafia.

Of course if I had the money I’d skip the PC altogether, buy an Apple Mac and sync my iPhone to it over and over again, if I could afford an iPhone. They're so lovely, but there’s something not quite right and it’s not the control freakery or the fanboys… no, that’s not true, it is those things. Years from now someone will find a decaying Apple II in the attic of Steve Jobs’ mansion and then we’ll discover the awful truth. It’s rather like the sinister and incredibly popular series Friends, everyone looks perfect and you’d like to copy the look but you know things will turn ugly if you dare to sit on that sofa. God help you if you bring your own chair.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Say hello, wave goodbye

I’ve hardly been idle but I need a break from thinking about work whenever I look at the screen, hence I found myself playing around with the ‘share’ options on the blog, again. After adding in the Facebook button I’ve been contemplating Google Buzz; who uses it? I never post to it and rarely read from it, I’m not sure what to do with it; apart from a few short conversations all it does for me is aggregate feeds which makes me think I’m missing something, or maybe it’s missing something. How many ‘buzz’ but don’t ‘tweet’ anyway?

I know Google are serious about social networking since Google Me is in the pipelines and every now and then they buy up some media-related company - they’re up to something, massing their forces, and I'm thinking that the conversation of which I had so few may be the differentiator. So it’s hello to Buzz and goodbye to Google Wave, for which I also had an account and similarly never used; at least in this respect my apathy was shared. I had this suspicion it was less a product and more a framework, a new paradigm for sharing, or something, and I wanted it to succeed - despite not really knowing what it was.

Monday 13 September 2010

They’re moving in herds

When I was in school and involved in one of those teacher-inspired debates about nuclear disarmament and disarmament in general, and generally upsetting our teachers by saying it was a bad thing, one of the questions raised asked what would happen to the thousands employed in the defence industry. I always regarded this as a duff question but the answer given was every bit as naff. The honest answer would have been “they’ll have to find jobs elsewhere”, the answer proffered, by a teacher, was that they could make something like tractors instead. This is why upsetting teachers can be a good thing.

Fast forward to the present day and the TUC conference, where various delegates show every sign of inhabiting the same land of make believe. Apparently what we need to do is invest, though it’s a little unclear as to what with (since we don’t have any money) and what we’re supposed to invest in. People probably, that’s suitably vague.

One could argue that a strong and vibrant economy does far more to protect employee rights, as it requires employers to compete for their services, but in less certain times a Union can play a vital role against employer excess; those, for example, who might be tempted to sack their workforce on a Friday and re-employ them on a Monday at less favourable terms. However, I have no time for Unions promoting a fantasy world that makes product for the sake of making it, regardless of whether anyone wants or needs it. The private sector can’t afford such nonsense, you either make money or you don’t and you go out of business. But how does one objectively measure value in the public sector? The answer is you can’t, hence it becomes easier to indulge.

We have school classroom sizes of around 30 not because this is ideal, we’d like them smaller, but because that is what we can afford. I’d suggest we pay for all public services this way. Since what we can afford fluctuates, our spending might sometimes adjust accordingly. I have the greatest respect for many working in the public sector, some do a job the difficulty of which I can barely comprehend, but contrary to what we hear the cuts won’t bring an unfair burden; this is a burden that those in the private sector have had to bear alone for the past twelve months. Pay cuts, redundancies, employer pension contributions stopped. Welcome to the real world.

Thursday 9 September 2010

Phil Ruse vs. the World

Judging from my blog statistics, or at least those I can understand, which isn’t a lot, I need to calm down a little lest I come over as some kind of Dwight Schrute-like right-wing reactionary crazy. I’ve noticed a worrying tendency creeping in; taking myself and the world around me far too seriously - that'll never do. There are real problems and they bear discussion but there’s also fun to be had or at least that’s what I heard. I’m not finding much ‘fun’ at the moment and maybe that’s why I’ve slipped into ‘negative me’ a little too often. Letting off steam has a purpose but large doses of cynicism are so defeatist, so unattractive, so difficult to maintain. Constructive criticism on the other hand… I like the challenge of writing a few sentences without inducing torpor.

Torpor is the least likely reaction when watching Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, a film adaptation of a series of graphic novels (Question: what’s the difference between a graphic novel and a comic?) it couldn't be accused of taking life too seriously. The scenes are cut so frenetically it takes a while to gain a sense of flow or feeling for the characters, but I caught up and ended up enjoying it - stupid but a lot of fun. I learnt a lot about myself too; mainly that Kieran Culkin is a good looking guy in an odd kind of way and I really like girls who dye their hair.

Sunday 5 September 2010

Some of my best friends are socialist

Take one Conservative politician and a statement of affairs (for want of a better word) on more than one subject. The first deals with accusations of an improper relationship, the ‘evidence’ for which is staying overnight with his special advisor in a twin-bed hotel room. The second deals with rumours of marital problems; my wife has had a number of miscarriages, is the response, and this has put a strain on our marriage but we are working through it.

Now sit back and watch the ensuing confusion on the Labour left. They can question what qualifications his special advisor has for the job but, as has been pointed out elsewhere, such a role has no specific qualification and anyway, why have his critics waited until now to raise this?

They can hardly criticise someone for staying in a room with another of the same sex; why, some of their best friends are gay. This non-story is therefore problematic but the target so tempting that they have entered into an unintentional and some might say unholy alliance with of all newspapers, The Daily Mail.

We have left-wing wannabe politicos determined to destroy a Tory politician, a right wing newspaper out to destroy any politician, and a common straw man line of attack; that an attempt to start a family is no proof of heterosexuality. Well ‘duh’, you don’t say? Whoever said it was - certainly not the politician being examined.

I can understand though despise the antics of some newspapers in playing to their readership’s homophobia. Perhaps more despicable though are the antics of those on the left who lack the moral courage to see the wider issue and denounce out of hand as irrelevant the issue of any person’s sexuality, or indeed the state of their marriage. Instead they take an opportunist swipe at the old enemy, never mind the consequences.

Wednesday 1 September 2010

In the middle

We know what happens to people who stay in the middle of the road. They get run down.
Such is the importance of his role in the creation of the National Health Service that the idea of criticising Aneurin Bevan is equivalent in my psyche to that of criticising Winston Churchill. Shamefully I know little about this lifelong adversary of Churchill except for a few choice quotes, including the one above though it’s not a comment I care for. Voltaire said “Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too”, but I find it difficult to square this message of tolerance with Bevan’s warning on indecision. I read it as more of a threat; get out of the way (or else) whilst we give battle to the Tory “vermin”.

Many years ago I saw an interview with a young member of an anti-fascist group; he use to be a fascist, he explained, but now he hated them. Commendable perhaps, but at the time I wondered whether it was hatred that continued to fuel his day, and the behaviour of numerous direct action groups since has done little to dispel this suspicion. They were different times and I suppose it’s not so much Bevan’s comment that concerns me; it’s the decision of others to revere it today. I much prefer “The purpose of getting power is to be able to give it away”, it sounds almost Thatcherite.