Friday, 31 December 2010

My year in review

Living in Sudbury working in a sandwich factory, either sweeping floors or checking quality of deliveries and produce.
Stopped getting deeper in debt.
Bobby McGees, Would-Be-Goods, Tender Trap - The Buffalo Bar 
Xbox 360 died of red ring of death
Matthew Williams, Chris Taylor, MJ Hibbett - The Lamb
Almost got a job with Jaguar, well, went for an interview, performed pretty poorly really. The incident with my self-esteem a little, proving that I was made of better stuff than just factory floor sweeper, not but quite polished enough to get back into the manufacturing test engineering game.
Wonderful World of Cactapuss, Sangeeta, This Is Munich - Nottinghill Arts Club
Tracey Campbell, Rare Groove - Electrowerkz 
The Loves, The Mai 68's, King and The Olive Fields, Funsize Lions - Jamm
The School, Allo Darlin, Pagan Wanderer Lu - The Bush Hall
Quit working at the sandwich factory
Moved to a cold four bedroom semidetached house in Wembley Park
Chocolate Barry, Mr Wright - The Buffalo Bar
Keith Top of the Pops, Superman Revenge Squad, Fighting Cocks, MJ Hibbett - The Lamb
Moved to North Wembley, to a former old people's home, nearer to my attractive young ladyfriend
Started work at a road working depot in Enfield, hour long commute every morning, hour and a half commute every evening.
Vic Godard, The Hardy Boys - The Buffalo Bar 
Started learning to program in perl and Python again.
Stars of Aviation, Moustache of Insanity, The Werewandas, Tracey's Love - Jamm
Blasted Mechanism - Westbourne Studios
Transpersonals, Witness to the Beard, What's Your Vice - Camden Rock 
Wrote a really neat strategy game in perl, and then wrote a personal finance suite in perl too, and spent much of the month entering all my bank statements.
Camden Calling vs Heavy Load, The Priscillas, Malcolm Kaksois, Hughmans, The Camden Calling Collective - The Enterprise
Gronk and the Body Doubles - The Fox and Duck
Allo Darlin, The Smittens, Antarctica Takes It!! - The Luminaire
Last time I posted on the Anorak forum
Lucky Soul, The School, The Lodger - Hoxton Square Bar and Kitchen
Went to Finland on holiday
Knitted a cluster puff hat in a day
Started music career again
Gave up on music career again
Moved to Walthamstow, fifteen minute commute to and from work every day, joy!
Celebrated two year anniversary with my attractive young ladyfriend
Winston Echo, Pete Green, MJ Hibbett - The Lamb
Acquired sofa and bed, and perhaps more importantly: acquired an original Xbox
Spoke to mother for first time this year
Snap Elect, The Plimptons, Dignan Porch, Butter - The George Tavern
The Soul Rebels Brass Band - The Royal Festival Hall
The Soul Rebels Brass Band - Oliver's Music Bar
Became 32 years of age, apparently this makes my jowls more noticeable and also increases my resemblance to a pot-bellied pig, however, was rather pleased that Facebook didn't change their privacy settings on my birthday, and thus allowed friends to send their greetings, self-esteem sky-rocketed, thanks guys.
Darren Hayman - Ye Olde Rose & Crown Theatre
Fuzzystar, Hexicon, Moustache of Insanity, The Crowbar - The Wilmington Arms
Andy From Pocketbooks, Chris T-T, MJ Hibbett - The Lamb

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Video Game review - The Warriors - Xbox

I think my favourite video game this year is The Warriors on Xbox. Based on the 1979 movie this game was released in 2005 for the Playstation 2 and Xbox.

Its a running round hitting people game in the vein of Grand Theft Auto, for 1-2 player game where the first 13 chapters sets out the backstory, and the last 8 or so chapters follow the plot of the movie, a gang in late 1970's New York has to fight their way back to Coney Island for some script-related reason.

Back in the Glasgow, flatmate Alan had it for the PS2, we'd play it together, getting each other's back, looking out for each on the mean streets of some other time, playing by some other rules.

Anyhoo, I think I'd moved out of that flat before we'd got through the first ten levels, and ever since, I've been itching to play it again. Alas, the Xbox was discontinued, the Xbox 360 too expensive and no guarantee that it was backwards compatible with older games anyway. Just in case, I bought myself the game off of Amazon, but with no way to play it, just hoping that one day the Xbox 360 would be backwards compatible enough or some other system could do a decent job of emulating.

I was a fool.

About two weekends back, I wandered into Cash Converters and picked up a second hand Xbox for £10, and a controller for £2.50. And within moments I'd been transported, via Glasgow 2005-2007 to Coney Island, the dark hot summer nights of 1978. I was Cleon, Snow, Ajax and Cochaise. Robbing shops, mugging civilians, marching through other gangs turf. Sometimes I'd just smash up cars for the hell of it.

I felt young again, running with my gang, knowing they'd get my back.

Some would complain that its too violent, and brutal, and lack any kind of morals, but its just a game. Besides its not all about kicking the crap out of people, some levels involve laying down city-wide burners (graffiti) or friendly games of 'king of the castle' with neighbouring gangs.

Anyhoo, I am somewhat addicted to this game.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010

NHS spend and effectiveness

The BBC have a story today about NHS cuts
Government spending plans will test the NHS and social services in England to the limit, according to a report by the Commons Health Select Committee.
A month or so ago there was a rather neat XKCD webcomic about how if craxy phenomenum worked the companies would be making loads of money out of it. One of the examples was that if homeopathy worked then healthcare costs would be reduced. I thought I'd have a look to see whether this was true, and using WolframAlpha I researched healthcare expenditure, life expectancy and to what degree the state funded homeopathy. Okay, that last bit was hard to find, but I did generate this neat graph showing state health expenditure per capita by life expectancy.
It effectively shows how much value for money the UK gets compared to other countries.
We can see that America get's well ripped off, spending more than twice as much than the UK, but with lower life expectancy. And Japan, well, they spend a wee bit less than the UK, but get a good three years on average more life than we do.
Anyhoo, I reckon that this graph show's we're getting crap value for money from the NHS. It doesn't say that NHS cuts will result is shorter life expectancy, just that other countries who spend the same amount are spending that money more effectively to prolong their citizen's lives.
Pleas from the NHS for that lives will be lost unless they get more money should be ignored.

Saturday, 11 December 2010

Student protests and education funding

Yes, its shocking that the bastards bastards Police were so brutal, none of the protesting students could have expected the police to be so frightful.

Yes, its shocking that such a large and overwhelmingly peaceful protest could be overshadowed by the vandalism of a tiny minority.

Yes, its shocking that a university education that was free or cheap to previous generations will now have to paid for by the graduates once they start earning over £21,000.

Yes, Charlie 'Son of multi-millionaire David' Gilmour is an asshole for swinging on the cenotaph.

But why?

Well, its what the police have always done.

It would be nice if the protests could be carried out without any police violence. It would also be nice if protests could be carried out without any vandalism, smashing of private property and graffitiing of public property. It does happen occasionally. Nice ideal protests, like those anti-war marches, they failed in achieving their stated aims, but the protests were less violent than these graduate tax protests.

And there's something dodgy about anarchists demanding more state funding.

The number of students in the UK has pretty much doubled since I was at university a decade ago. In the sixties, 5% of the young went to university, now its 45%. Whatever was spent by the government on universities fifty years ago, to maintain the same cost per student would cost nine times as much.

As an aside, I wonder how much university education costs, not how much people have to pay, but how much it costs, before any excessive profits. Does it really cost prestigeous universities like Oxford, Cambridge and Hull so much more than the local polytechnic to educate? Or do they charge an excess amount cos they can, for the prestige. In the same way that houses in London cost so much more than in Motherwell, despite using the same number of bricks and the same labour to build.

I've been meaning to write this blogpost for weeks, I've been doing research.

Here, how much of GDP should the government spend on education?

Rightly or wrongly I take GDP as a proxy for my income. If the government spends 5% of GDP on defence, thats the same as them taxing me 5% and spending it on defence, the same as taxing everyone likewise. If the government raises corporation tax and lowers income tax, I reckon the corporations will pass on the cost to the consumer and that 5% will still come out of my pocket. They can tax 'the rich' more, but that money will still come out of my pocket.

Anyhoo, here's a graph showing defence spending in the UK over the past few hundred years is a constant around 4% of GDP, apart from when there's a war.

Out of all the money anyone in the UK has earned, about 4% has gone on tanks and planes or muskets and horses, depending on the technological era. We can suppose that that's about how much defence costs to maintain the UK and stop other countries from trying it on.

Now government funded education, that's more of a new thing and hasn't been a constant. As a percentage of GDP it has been increasing.

See how in the 19th century, it was a small fraction of a percentage, and now its about 4.5%. Down from a peak of 6.5% in 1980.

In 1980, there were around 800,000 students in the UK, today there are around 2,500,000 students, about three times as many. If spending per student was to stay the same as it did in the good old days of student grants and 'free' education, then the UK would be paying around 20% of GDP on education.

Sure, I'm playing fast and loose with the facts here, that graph is for all education spending, not just university education. And also, its just government spending, here look:-

In 1850, government spending was only 10% of GDP, the other 90%, other people spent on things of their own choosing, or stuck in banks where it was invested in things. People paid for their own education, or their kids or charitable scholarships or their own choosing. But in the last hundred years, the state as taken more of our money, around 40% and spent it however the prevailing government has decided. Individually we can't be trusted to spend that additional 30% on what we want, government knows better.

That's the welfare state. That's what it costs.

The welfare state is a great thing. Its better that there is a welfare state than if there wasn't one, I think we can all agree on that. However, some people think the welfare state is too big, too costly, to all encompassing, some people think it should be bigger and encompass more.

Personally as a small state libertarian, I'd prefer a smaller welfare state, and more freedom for individuals to keep hold of their own money and spend it how they see fit, like the legendary policy from The West Wing, making college fees tax-deductable.

Elsewhere on the internet, wiser men than I have highlighted the fact that education isn't free, and demanding free education.
What is the point of amassing public money to subsidise the madness of young people who (a) think that complex services even in theory can be 'free', and (b) then proceed to 'demand' them.
My own theory is that there are far too many students to be paid for from the public purse. There should be some degree of rationing, how about letting the best achieving 10% of students from any school have their university fees paid for by the government, regardless of institution and course, non-transferable so the rich kid can't palm off their good fortune on a poor kid. And the next best achieving 10% get a lowest subsidy.

And say the best achieving student doesn't want to go to university, or for some reason gets knocked back from all his choices of uni, then well, hard cheese.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Tim Haynes, Ian Puddick and Guy Carpenter

There was a banner up on a footbridge in London this morning, it bore a web address and there resides a tale of conspiracy, police corruption and marketing.
It seems a chap called Ian Puddick, who is some kind of media/marketing person for a plumbing company discovered his wife was having an affair with a chap called Tim Haynes, the Head of Aviation Reinsurance for Guy Carpenter, they are a leading global reinsurance intermediary. He wasn't too happy about this so he told his wife to stop that, and get moved to a different division of the company. Tim told the wife to lie to her husband, so Ian starts phoning up other directors of the company, the whole thing snowballs and Tim finds himself getting arrested by anti-terror police and subject to various orders censoring the use of Tim Hayne's name.
I reckon the calling of them the anti-terror police is a bit of a red-herring, cos the serious crime squad were merged with the anti-terrorism unit by the last government, so any 'serious crime' is now handled by the anti-terror police. Calling himself a plumber is a bit of spin too.
Anyhoo, there's a bit of a civil liberties and police in the pocket of big corporations angle. It'll come out in court on 13th December.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Ad Hoc Property Guardians and my deposit

I thought I was onto a good thing, maybe I was. You might have heard about property guardians, there was a bit of coverage in the newspapers last summer, but not so much now. If a property like a house or block of flats or offices or whatever is empty, and going to be empty for a while, then instead of hiring a security firm to keep squatters and vandals out, the landlord can hire a live-in property guardian.

The landlord gets someone taking care of the property, the guardian gets cheap accommodation.

I was a guardian with Ad Hoc, one of the two big firms in London. I was paying £50 or so a week and it was okay. Sure the properties were shit holes, but it was cheap and I was skint. The deposit was £300, my overdraft took care of that.

The first place I stayed at was a former council flat in Sudbury. It was freezing and didn't have the gas hooked up for about a month after I moved in last winter. The building was to be demolished in 'about eighteen months'. The other tenants were slowly being moved out whilst I stayed. I started to do the place up, got some bookshelves from Ikea, acquired a fridge freezer, even started painting the walls.

Alas, after three months I was given my notice and found a new place to be a guardian at. That council flat has now been demolished, I drive past the site every so often, the paint was barely dry.

The second place was a rather neat three bedroom semi-detached house in Wembley, right near the station. It had a huge garden, thick with brambles, but it was summer and I was 'between jobs'. There was no heating there either, no gas too, but the weather was fine, so I didn't mind so much. I think they said I would have six months there so I acquired gardening equipment and set to work clearing brambles and putting in potatoes and tomatoes.

Alas, after four weeks I was given my notice and again found a new place to be a guardian at. There's now about ten people living in that semi-, the living room and dining room been turned into additional bedrooms. I wonder if they've got to my potatoes.

The third place was a former old people's home. There were about twenty other guardians staying there in the various granny flats. My flat was on the ground floor and smelt bad. I knew better than to set up home there and kept most of my belongings in storage a storage locker.

Months passed, with such low rent, I was able to start tackling my considerable debts.

At some point, I don't know what came over me, but I grew weary of sleeping on the floor, sitting on banana boxes and not having anywhere to shelve my books, so I emptied out my storage locker and furnished my flat. Less than a week later we were given our notice and told to leave.

Sure, Ad Hoc were quick to find all the guardians new places to stay, offering empty properties round the A406 North Circular Road of out in East London, but the thought of living with the constant threat of having to move on was too depressing so I decided to move to the private rental market. You go to, figure out how much rent you can afford and move to the best property that comes up.<

When I told the nice woman at Ad Hoc that I wasn't going to move into their next place she seemed disappointed.

It was a good deal while it lasted, £50 a week rent, in London, but never knowing how long I'd be at any property.

Anyhoo, its been about eight weeks since I moved out, I'm still chasing up getting my deposit back. I've been phoning them every week, it sounds much like the other guardians at that last place are still trying to get their deposits back too, but to no avail. They have my account details, their accountant has apparently been on the case for at least a fortnight, but still nothing.

They've got my £300 and they seem to be incapable or unwilling to give it back.

Should I have written off the deposit? Or just not have paid my last six week's rent? Is that the more civilized or sensible thing to do?

There's been no word about whether they're taking a cut of the deposit to clean and repair any wear and tear, but it's been eight weeks so that's a moot point now.

If they weren't going to return the deposit could they have not made it clear at some point in the past, or charged a higher rent. But no, just an endless stream of we're working on it, you'll having by the end of the week, the end of next week, etc. It's not so much that they're withholding it, just not competent enough to arrange giving me my money back.

Yay, I got my deposit back! It took eight weeks and three days, and they did take a small cut, for cleaning I guess which is fair enough.

Anyhoo, success!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

Real users

The other day I was reading an interesting article from the depths of the internet about 'real users', the vast majority of computer users and how they are different from the rest of us.

It was from 2003, some website developer was talking about how on his ISP's home page there was a link to a 'search' page, which had a list of links to that era's top search engines, like Yahoo, and MetaCrawler and so on, sites that have all but disappeared now. The article went on to say that when it was time to revamp the site, the developer got rid of the search page and just replaced it with a google search windowy thing or something, if people really wanted to use Yahoo, or Metacrawler they'd know the URL by now and could just type that into the address bar.

When they changed the website, there was a avalanche of complaints from customers who liked the old 'search page', and who couldn't find Yahoo anymore, it was like it had ceased to exist. The developer couldn't quite understand it, but it seemed the vast majority of people who used their ISP, had set the ISP homepage as their homepage and were otherwise completely lost if they couldn't just click through to search.

They are the real users of computers, people who don't quite understand the way it works or even think they need to understand they way it works.

In the comments people added their own stories of woe, stories of encounters with 'real users' who used computers every day, but didn't quite 'get' it.

Like people who don't use the address bar in their browser, they only ever get to things through having google as their homepage, and just entering everything there. The very existence of a URL is a mystery to them. This still happens, in 2008 the technology blogReadWriteWeb was lamenting how the vast majority or respondents in some market research don't use the address bar.

Even in February 2010 ReadWriteWeb did an article that had the words Facebook and Login in the title, magic google juice flowed and it became the top result when you search google for 'Facebook login'. People arrived at as site that wasn't Facebook and complained they couldn't login, three thousand or so people leaving comments along the lines of
Ok If I have to I will comment,I love facebook so right now just want to log in if thats ok with Keep up the good work...
They were completely lost.

I've grown up with computers and the internet, I have a little bit of a blind spot for how other people can not have the same understanding. The other day I was asked "What's the difference between Chrome and the internet?" Sure there are gentle answers to such questions, but all I could do was pat their hand and say "Don't you worry your pretty little head."

'Real users' get scared on Microsoft Word when you put on to make nonprinting characters visible. They're having problems with the layout, so you click the icon to see what's going on, and suddenly they protest, "No, I don't want that!", so you patiently click them off, and mystically explain that there's a few tabs there and a section break where it shouldn't be. The 'real user' looks at you in utter disbelief, wondering how you can possibly know such things.

There's something in that "No, I don't want that!" cry, it reminds me of the sort of thing my three year old niece would say.

'Real users' get confused when you move the icons around on their desktop, or if an icon gets obscured by some other window in front of it. If they can't see it, it has ceased to exist. Its like playing peekaboo with a six month old nephew "Where's teddy gone?", "There he is... behind the cushion that I just put in front of him."

Hmm, a six month old can figure this out, why can't 'real users'? What's wrong with them?

I kind of understand, in the early eighties, about eight hours after we first acquired an Amstrad CPC 464, I remember my brother playing 3D Monster Chase, I watched him for hours, my brain/eyes couldn't understand what was going on on screen, its seemed like some kind of coloured bowtie matching puzzle game, rather than the low-tech Doom clone game that it was. It was a few days before I could comprehend the image as a 3D scene.

'Real users' haven't had that epiphany yet, of realising that Windows are representations layers of panes that can be moved about. 'Real users' don't get that nonprinting characters are helpful and don't print.

The thing is, 'real users' can be spectacularly successful in their endeavors. Just pressing enter lots of times to get to a new page in Word doesn't seem to affect the success of their careers. Sure it may mess up the rest of the document if you need to change something on the first page, but that can be fixed easily.

If people knew about manual page breaks then documents wouldn't need to be 'fixed easily'.

The success of Windows and Vista comes down to making computers dead easy to use, so real users can get churning out poorly laid out documents quicker, without having to learn the ropes. Google's success was in getting to porn just by typing the one word then clicking, without having to remember any of that "http://www." business.

As someone who isn't a 'real user', a geek possibly, it dismay's me that rather than making 'real users' understand things and expand their mind's instead life just gets easier for them.

But no no, the vast majority of people are real-users.

In most offices, when you stand up and look around, most people you see are real users. They're working hard, getting stuff done, but they don't know what they're doing really.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Am I Spartacus?

At the weekend there, in the aftermath of Paul Chambers losing his appeal on the #twitterjoke this, there was a great outpouring of something on Twitter, thousands of people retweeting his original 'menacing' tweet about blowing up Nottingham's Robin Hood airport. It was a great show of solidarity.

But something bugged me, there was something that didn't feel right about tweeting
Crap! Robin Hood airport is closed. You've got a week to get your shit together, otherwise I'm blowing the airport sky high!! #IAmSpartacus
Its that bit at the end, appending the hashtag. Its incorrect, just as incorrect as getting the 'may be a joke twibbon'. Its a disclaimer and that's wrong. Twitter shouldn't need such things, the context is inherent to the medium.

Its like if in the original Spartacus scene, the folk joining in stood up and said "I'm Spartacus! Just kidding, I'm not really, you were right the first time". It agrees with the original charge.

If the sentiment you want to express is solidarity then don't undermine it by joking.

The show of solidarity would have been more profound without the #iamspartacus hashtag, and with a wider range of targets being menaced. "I've left a suitcase of explosives in Victoria Station, you have 28 minutes to find it", "A plane will crash in the next seven hours", "I just pushed a man under a train", etc, purposefully tying up so much of the security services' time in investigating 'menacing' messages on twitter, that the authorities would have no choice but to admit they were wrong, that the twitter medium is not to be taken seriously.

I had this similar idea a few months back, the NATO phonetic alphabet thing, Foxtrot, Bravo, November, etc, to do a similar alphabet using terrorist keywords. So, if any authorities are monitoring voice phonecalls, they'd be snowed under with assassinations, bombs, capture, hijackings and so on.

Advice for student who riot in London

From FITWatch
If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DON'T panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn't mean they know who you are.

DON'T hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to 'come forward'. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DON'T assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. "That isn't me" has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their 'wanted' list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn't a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts / photos on your phone. Don't make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage / disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal. Otherwise you'll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

London food

I don't recalled whether I blogged about it last time I had jellied eels, I meant to, but it probably didn't happen.

As you may know, I do live in London, and in the same way that Scottish people eat haggis, Londoners eat jellied eels, its their staple diet. For hundreds of years the only source of protein for dwellers of England's capital was the eels they fished out of the Thames. When other sources of protein came along Londoners stopped eating eels in quite the quantities they did, but some jellied eel shops still cling on.

There are places that have been selling the same thing for hundreds, possibly thousands of years, jellied eels, pie n mash, coffee or tea in a polystyrene cup. Its almost amazing that these are the only things on the menu, workers would eat the same thing every day, for sometimes their entire lives.

The again, this one time in Glasgow I did have a doner kebab every day for a month.
Jellied eels
These are jellied eels, prepared as follows:- you get your eel from the Thames, cut it into 'rounds', boil it up so all the collogen-like stuff leaks out, then cooled so the jelly forms round it, the served into a bowl and consumed with chilli vinegar.

It tastes vile, amongst the jellie, the fatty skin and the grizzly meaty bit, there's a wee knot of bone, that I guess you're supposed to crunch up and eat too. I don't understand how people could have eaten this stuff to such a degree, but they did, and so I plough through the bowl.

There's more jelly than meat, more jelly than eel, so you're left with a bowl of jelly, are you supposed to drink it, or just leave it so the waitresses can recycle and use it in the next day's fare?
Pie and mash
My dining companion had the companion dish, pie 'n' mash, topped up with 'liquor'. The pie tasted a bit like cardboard, the liquor, apparently made with cornflour and parsley tasted of polyfilla. The mash was okay.

Its the staple food of the Londoner, as vile as it is, its never going to die out, its always going to be available. Try it today, and again a year later, just in case.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

The Antithesis of Fake-Charities

There was an article in the Guardian today about Help for Heroes, the £100m charity that started three years back with some couple doing a charity bike-ride.

I found myself wondering what charitable thing I could do to make the world a better place. Other than slaving away at my job and donating, other than getting friends and family to sponsor me for doing what I would otherwise do for free, what could I do?

How about this a website with a questionnaire, and after you fill it in, it suggests a range of charities you could donate to that matches your personal preferences, also "other people with similar preferences to yours recommend these charities". You'd get to tick boxes matching the charities you approve of.

Furthermore, so you want to donate £50, this website would divide that money appropriately.

To start with would be a short fallible list of charities, that are somehow tagged by geographic area, reach and what their constituency is, and to what degree they receive funding from the state, or voluntary donations or corporate donations.

Small charities could get more exposure and more donations by their donors being enthusiastic, and 'sticky'.

Some part of the algorithm could be biased in favour of small or 'struggling' charities, I dunno, some kind of flip side to the fake charities thing.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Monday, 8 November 2010

Paying with money

As the new flat slowly becomes populated with furniture and furnishings I find myself spending time queuing up at the tills in Ikea. The folk in front pay with cash, the pay with a huge wedge of twenties, whilst I pay for my purchases with my debit card.

For a few moments I ponder what circumstances lead to people paying for their Ikea purchases with cash, before my mind wanders onwards to whether I should by Ikea chocolate for 39p.

Today in the thrilling world of Twitter, @Pavlunka tweeted the following factoid:-

Something crystalised in my mind, tax evasion isn't just carried out by high earners, the fatcats with off-shore accounts, its also carried out by by the waiters working in restaurants for cash in hand, paying no national insurance or income tax. Me, I pay about 28% of my labours to the state in Income Tax and National Insurance, if I worked cash in hand, I'd be paying none of that.

I pondered, since there are more low earners than high earners, is it possible that lower earners commit more tax evasion than high earners? How could I find out the spread, where would such details of who carries out tax evasion?

It took a wee bit of google-juice, but I found the National Fraud Authority and in January they released the Annual Fraud Indicator report, which had the sort of pie chart I was looking for:-

The 'Tax Gap' being the difference between what the government think they should be collecting and what they actually collect. They don't publish this information often. Anyhoo, rather helpfully there was some spiel about how Tax Avoidance isn't Tax Evasion, isn't considered fraud and isn't counted in the £15billion figure that Pavlunka quoted:-

Actually, Pavlunka's factoid was a tiny bit incorrect, £15billion is the total tax fraud, the tax evasion sector is £7billion. Still tax evasion is seven times the benefit fraud figure, in an ideal world seven times as much effort should be put into combating it. I wonder if that split of resourcing stands.

So, after wandering round the room musing on the pie chart, I thought to question it. Whilst it was the most reliable and detailed information available, there was no other more reliable or detailed that I could find, just how reliable was the information, where did it come from, how could the National Fraud Authority know? Luckily there was a footnote.
So, aye, its all guesswork.

Anyhoo, in answer to my line of thought about how much tax evasion the waiters who are being paid in cash and then spend it in Ikea, well, that's not 'tax evasion', that's 'the hidden economy' and its only 7.5% of the tax gap.

Now in my ideal world there would still be tax fraud, the rule of law will never be absolute, but as long as the cash in hand folk are defrauding the system less than the tax evaders and the tax avoiders, then all is good.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

The Return...

Sky have hooked up broadband in the flat, its costing £10 a month for Sky for unlimited downloady and £13.50 a month from BT. Sure the whole thing could be cheaper, but £23.50 a month between two people ain't so bad, heck its's barely two beers.

In the weeks and months since I've had such bandwidth, I've had loads of ideas of stuff to blog about in detail, such as:-
  • That advert where the girl makes whale noises and says she's like a 'fish out of water', with no idea what 'fish out of water' means
  • How the Housing Benefit cap affects very few people and just those in London, and possibly proposing a lower cap for other parts of the country, based on regional average rents.
  • More videos of me playing cover versions on guitar and dreaming of being in a band
  • Madcap money making schemes
  • Drawings
  • Reviews of stuff
  • Photies of the dinner I cooked today
But really my heart isn't in it so much.

I went to The Plimptons first ever London gig last Thursday night, it was the first time I'd since them in about two years, maybe more. I took lots of photies. Its taken me a few days to get round to putting them through Photoshop and upload to Flickr and Songkick.

Actually, there's a wee gap in the website market there, maybe its been filled by various applications and more recent version of stuff, but the gap in the market is this:- to upload a batch of around fifty photos to Flickr, Songkick, Facebook, blog and MySpace, I need to upload them five times, I'd rather like to just upload them once, fill in the titles and tags and descriptions once, and some web app/service copies them to each of the aforementioned social networks.

Sure, you can share Flickr photies on Facebook, but its much better to have natively hosted photies there, and you can't link photies into Songkick, they host their own.

I don't care about all those network's server space, not my problem if they all hold duplicate photies, I just don't want to have to upload it all five times.

Anyhoo, so I slung up a few dozen photies, and I'm quite proud of them. My style is black and white, blurry, dark and high-contrast.
The Plimptons - The George Tavern - 2010-11-05
I feel very self-conscious using the flash on my camera, its not that I think people will mind, its more of that they'll see it at all. By raising the black level and lowering the white level, its brings out more detail in what would otherwise be dark shots in dark venues.
The Plimptons - The George Tavern - 2010-11-05
It was only after I'd taken a few photies that I realised the candle in the shot would just be a big white spot rather than anything recognisable.
The Plimptons - The George Tavern - 2010-11-05
Cropping shots so that they are wide and narrow, I like those too, it makes up for if I've accidentally cut someone's head off in the original shot, I just cut everyone up, and it helps draw the viewer's attention to stuff like the pint Martin's holding.
The Snap Elect - The George Tavern - 2010-11-05
I'm also quite fond of crowd shots, not only to show that there are actually other people at the gigs I go to, but also, the type of person, whether they're paying attention to the band on stage or talking amongst themselves, how many other photographers there are.
The Plimptons - The George Tavern - 2010-11-05
I like to think that this sort of photo is iconic, the act of the singer being photographed is more important than the shot itself.
The Plimptons - The George Tavern - 2010-11-05
Sometimes the shots are so blurry, there's nothing for it but to crank up the cropping and the levels so much, and it kind of ends up looking good. This could be an album cover, or a t-shirt or wallpaper or something.
The Plimptons - The George Tavern - 2010-11-05

So, The Plimptons third album "00s Nostalgia with The Plimptons" is launched 20th November 2010 at Nice n Sleazy in Glasgow, and its great, I know, cos I've heard it.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Give Me My Internet 2: A new beginning

Those of you who regularly read my blog will vaguely remember the troubles I had getting online last year, trying to find some kind of broadband solution, you may have missed such moaning on this blog, fear not, I have a new round of moaning to do.
Last week was a blast, I've moved into a lovely new flat, my heart swells, the flat is large, clean, warm and well, nice. There is a BT-branded phone socket on the wall in the hallway, and when you plug in a £2.99 Tesco Value phone there is a dial tone.
Alas, when you call a mobile to try to find what the line's number is, there's just the "number unobtainable" message.
When I dial 150 nothing happens, it just goes silent.
I want to sign up Sky Broadband, they seem like good people, offering unlimited internet for around £10 a month. Just imagine all the blogging I could do, just imagine all the episodes of The Sarah-Jane Adventures I could watch, or the gigs I could hear about, the videos I could post, the graphs, the drawings, the poorly rehearsed Tindersticks cover versions, oh, the limitless possibilities of limitless internet.
Alas, when I try to sign up to Sky, they say that the phoneline is active and demand I enter the phone number. I would love to, but I cannot get it.
When I try BT's website, there is nothing I can do, no help mechanism I can follow without entering the phone number, but I don't have it.
When I phone up the nice people at BT, after rounds and rounds of recorded messages and option, I end up just waiting patiently whilst it rings out.
An hour.
I've waited an hour to speak to someone at BT who can help.
There is no one.
If I unping the phoneline from the wall in my hallway, and pull it out to the road, and tie it to my car's tow hook, and then drive at high speed away from my flat, wrenching the phoneline from it's roots, will it drag the phone exchange through it's network of tunnels and out and trailing down my street? or will it just become unattached somewhere and my phoneline will cease to be active so that Sky will send round a nice man to hook up broadband for me?
How do I get my internet?
Give me my internet!

Tuesday, 19 October 2010

Arguments during Dispatches

There were arguments whilst watching Dispatches last night. The program blew the cover on tax havens and government ministers and advisers who use them.

I feel the need to clearly verbalise my feelings on the subject.

Firstly I think in the UK we pay too much tax. I dispute the assumption that the government has any right at all to my earnings. As I've discussed elsewhere, I pay about 50% of my earnings as tax, sure income tax is 22%, but with fuel duty, VAT and so on, its 50%.

I get up early, I drive for miles to get to work, I work hard, yet half of my effort is to fill government coffers. Except the government has no money, its just a transient state, it spends my money, or worse, it gives it away for free.

And where it gives it away is the problem, the redistribution of wealth, from the hard working to the workless.

I'm saving my pennies to buy myself an xBox 360. If anyone who lives on benefits, on government handouts, who does not work, who does not have to get up at 7am to go to work, if they can afford an xBox 360, if they have a higher standard of living than me, then I pay too much tax, tax levels in the UK are too high, and I fully support anyone who takes legal measures to reduce their tax bill.

I believe sovereign states have the right to set their own tax levels, without having to ask the UK's permission.

Is that a contradiction? Considering I dispute the government's right to my (or anyone else's) earnings? Nope.

If anyone seeks to reduce their tax bill by moving their assets and money abroad, then so be it. It's a perfectly legitimate expression of opinion, the UK's levels of tax are too high and it follows they should be lowered.

Monday, 11 October 2010

Spread of rents in the UK housing market

Good evening blog readers, I'm in the process of moving house. I'd been meaning to move away from Wembley and closer to work for a while and now, well, to be honest I'm of no fixed abode until I get keys to the new place some time next week.

Anyhoo, it took a while to find somewhere to live. We had a budget, around £800 per month, no more than £900. We wanted a two bedroom place so one room could be an office/studio/den/spare bedroom, but a one bedroom place would be okay if it was nice. I had location stipulations, nearer to where I work in Enfield than Wembley, and also closer to ways into London town centre of gigs an stuff.

Other people in the househunting game have other stipulations, such as, not in the east and near on of those cool west London tube lines.

Here, take a look at RightMove, London doesn't really really cater for the two bedroom less than £800 a month west dweller.

No matter how hard you look, there's always going to be something better in that price range towards the east.

The concept of 'cheap' two bedroom doesn't exist in west London.

Its been a while since I was out looking for a two bedroom flat, in fact last time was around ten years ago, in Glasgow. We got a rather executive city centre flat for £575 a month, that was expensive for Glasgow. But for London, that's not even on the radar for the cheap end of the market.

There isn't even a cheap bit of London with the shittest two bed flats for around that. I know inflation exists, but no no.

Anyhoo, so I like graphs and stuff. I went onto RightMove and started scraping.

This is a graph of the distribution of two bedroom flat rental prices in Glasgow from RightMove. It tells us that if you're looking for a £800 two bed there, you can pretty much get any flat on the market. A shitty flat in a shitty area will cost £400 a month and a decent one will cost £800. Sure there are more luxurious city centre ones over a grand, but most of the market is within your grasp.

Its not just Glasgow that's that cheap, here's a look at the spread in Glasgow and Manchester. Its the same spread.

Sure, Manchester is a touch more expensive. The average being £628 per month compared to Glasgow's £593 per month, but there's not much in it.

Anyhoo, here are all the price spreads that I scraped off of RightMove.

Yes its hard to see what's going on there, suffice to say there's a wide spread of rental prices comparing different cities and towns in the UK. That's kind of obvious to all.

You'll have heard of the north/south divide, or how London is horrendously expensive compared to the rest of the world and it gets cheaper the further from London you go.

So to illustrate this here's a graph of average rent for a two-bed in different parts of the UK, with latitude along the y-axis and price along the x-axis.

The rent floor for the UK seems to be £490 a month. No town has an average rent much below this. Sure, some of the vilest shitholes will be cheaper, and there's always flatshare.

London is generally more expensive than anywhere else in the UK. Even the cheap bits of London are more expensive.

Here's a wee graph of the spreads of various places in that expensive latitude around London.

I've cut off the x-axis at £1500 per month cos above that it gets rather depressing. Do you really want to know that the average rent in West Hampstead is £1710 a month an Tower Hamlets is £1570? Around three times more than double the average in most of the UK.

The other day Raedwald blogged about how Middlesbrough was well cheap, you could buy a four bedroom house there for £132,000. But that still not quite scraping the barrel.

I use to joke with people that I could quit my job and move to Hull and live in a nicer flat just on my Job Seekers allowance. But it appears there are cheaper places than even Hull. Carlisle for example.

Here, this is my wee list of the average 2-bed rent in various places in the UK.
£1,711.15 - West Hampstead
£1,569.78 - Tower Hamlets
£1,530.41 - Bethnal Green
£1,394.95 - Brixton
£1,252.63 - Wembley
£1,173.56 - Brighton
£1,144.02 - Enfield
£1,093.44 - Uxbridge
£1,031.45 - Walthamstow
£955.47 - Croydon
£874.05 - Reading
£869.32 - Slough
£828.37 - Chelmsford
£783.09 - Edinburgh
£775.00 - Burnham on Crouch
£755.04 - Portsmouth
£736.06 - Bristol
£692.54 - Plymouth
£668.94 - Cardiff
£666.67 - Birmingham
£664.54 - Colchester
£648.22 - Newcastle upon Tyne
£645.89 - Norwich
£627.92 - Manchester
£617.50 - Leicester
£606.42 - Liverpool
£597.65 - Sheffield
£592.19 - Glasgow
£581.67 - Swansea
£578.26 - Moss Side
£576.36 - Nottingham
£553.09 - Coventry
£516.23 - Doncaster
£507.14 - Bolton
£504.90 - Rochdale
£504.41 - Middlesbrough
£497.64 - Bradford
£496.24 - Hull
£479.17 - Carlisle
Thrilling stuff, I'm sure you'll agree.

Does this open up some interest questions about the nature not just of Housing Benefit, but also Job Seekers Allowance in the UK, and who pays for who.

Playing around on Excel instead on OpenOffice Base, I've put together this surface graph of the spreads in each of the aforemention towns, and done it so it looks a little like the cover to Joy Division's Unknown Pleasures.

Its going to be a wee while until I can get on a 'puter that can run better graphing software.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Yeo Dairy

I don't watch X-Factor very often, but staying at my brother's place this weekend, it was on TV. Gotta say, this advert for Yeo Valley milk was the best thing on.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Thorn Dice

Am currently clearing my flat and loading up a storage container, so of course I'm getting distracted by cool things on the internet.

I was looking for a cool new hobby to get into, 3D printing seems neat, considering it can produce wonders such as these thorn dice.

I'm not a gamer any more, but WANT!

Thursday, 30 September 2010

Places where I have lived in London

It was 2007 when I moved to London from Glasgow, I had a job but no where to live when I arrived. I had a plan, I'd drive down in my wee car, and then find a nice internet cafe, and sit on the internet on Gumtree until I found myself somewhere to live.

It was a fine plan, I only slept in my car for one night before I found a room in Alperton, about five minutes walk from the factory where I was a manager.

Living near enough to your place of work to be able to walk home for lunch is a luxury, its a joy. The accomodation was a bit crap though

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Revulsion of Desire

My heart, it swelled, I was so ready to love, the joy of the life we could have lead together.

But it wasn't to be.

I can't stand my HTC Desire, and I'm going to have to take it back to the Orange shop.

I got it yesterday, after awaiting for ages for the Orange online shop to have some in stock, I took the advice of the internet and went into Harrow to check out the high street shop. The gentleman who served me was friendly and helpful, he gently tried to persuade me to get the Samsung Galaxy instead, but my heart was set n a life with the HTC Desire.

Somehow I'm on the £15 a month Dolphin price plan, but regularly pay £40 a month, somehow although the internet shop says I'm entitled to an HTC Desire as a free upgrade, in real life I'd have to pay £50 to upgrade, but my heart was set on our life together, so £50 wasn't so bad. I handed over the money, was advised to charge it for ten hours before I used it and skipped merrily home.

But after a few hours with it, no, its not to be, and back to the shop it will go.

Before I go on, here is a small bullet-pointed list of the reasons why:-
  • 9 hour battery life
  • Cluttered up with irremovable Orange Apps
  • Poor 3G signal
  • Poor GPS signal
  • Orange SafeGuard censor/filter thing
  • Clunky user interface
Like the nice man said, I charged it up for ten hours, so it was the middle of the night when I started playing with it, and after a few hours I needed to charge it again. My last phone was a BlackBerry Curve, which when I first got it, had a battery life of ten days, more than a week. The HTC Desire, I'm going to have to charge it up every time I go near an power socket. Maybe some folk are used to crap battery lives, their phones always on the very foreskin of technology, but for me that kind of neediness is too much.

I'd be a little fucked without a phone, and so a short battery life is Thomas the Tank.

There are two Maps applications on the phone, google maps and Orange Maps, two app stores, the Android Marketplace and the Orange App Shop, there are a tonne of games. I'm not really a game kind of person. Sure, I'm addicted to Mario Galaxy 2 on the gf's Wii right now, and I have been dreaming of buying an Xbox 360 S 250Gb for months and months in the hope I'll be able to play Warriors and Project Gotham Racing 2 again, but on a phone, I don't want games.

No games on my phone please. Sadly you can't remove the Orange installed games, there's five of them taking up valuable program list real-estate. I have to scroll past them, any time I want to go into the program list, there's no way to get rid of them.

Similarly, the stocks and shares app, the weather app, and whatever the heck FootPrint is, there's no easy way to get rid of the or hide them. At least on the BlackBerry you could hide stuff, but on the Desire, nope.

I dunno, maybe only some of the unwanted apps are Orange-installed, and some are Android HTC affairs that are also locked. Either way, I don't care, it don't matter to me, all that matters is the only way to declutter the list of programs is to take it back to the shop an not bother with the Orange HTC Desire.

Ooh, I downloaded a bar-code reader app. Its great, you just point it at any barcode on anything, and it'll read it. 2D barcodes too, so you can see what all those cool internet folk are really saying in their 2D barcode avatars. I spent a joyful few hours going through the gf's cosmetic collection, scanning barcodes then searching for how much these potions cost online.

Maybe I'm a dirty perve, but its so much fun.


But is it enough fun to keep the phone, to spend my life with it forever?

I downloaded the FourSquare app and we headed off to Brent Cross. On day I shall be mayor of all of London, with my Blackberry I was making good progress, alas it didn't have GPS, so I was always in the vague area, but with the HTC Desire from Orange, it would know exactly where I was.

That was the plan, that's what was supposed to happen, but no no.

Wandering round Brent Cross there was no GPS signal, and barely any 3G signal, I couldn't even update Twitter to moan about it. My little FourSquare dreams of skipping hand in hand with my Desire through clothes shops and coffee bars, came tumbling down. The grim reality of silence and shite signal strength.

Ah, in the old days of my BlackBerry Curve I'd spend hours on google reader, catching up with the world, reading blogs, frothing at the injustices of the world. Hours at work would fly by, with muted snorts and sniggers, evening with loved ones spent smiling and nodding and vaguely agreeing with whatever they were prattling on about whilst I was in my own little world.

With the Desire's larger screen and fast 3G connection and cool pinching zooming in type things the world ought to have been a more beautiful place. But no, my dreams were dashed again, as soon as I sign into google reader, I get some blocking screen from something called Orange SafeGuard, that is to protect me from things only over 18 year olds can view.

I'm a youthful looking chap, even with a couple of grey hairs, the folk at work reckon I'm a good decade younger than my ID has it, so its understandable that Orange SafeGuard would try to protect me. I have a healthy appetite for porn though, redtube, youporn and pornhub being my choice video sites, and Curvy, Menage a 3 and Chester 5000 XYV being my choice of rude webcomics, so I clicked through to get the SafeGuard thing removed, only to have my dreams dashed once more with a broken link, so I couldn't actually remove SafeGuard.

Strangely though, the next time I logged into Google Reader, I had no problem. That kind of inconsistency frustrates me.

Hours pass, and I've installed a few new apps, and had my dreams dashed by them, and I think its about time to tidy up the desktop from the standard on, move things around a bit, and that experience was clunky too. I couldn't find how to delete apps and widgets from the desktop so I had to start a new clean slate, and then if I made a mistake and placed an app where it wasn't wanted, I couldn't shift it, and had to start again. Maybe there's an easy way of doing it, but with the rest of the shite I've put up with the thing, I can't be arsed.

Not everyone has these problems, some people enjoy using the HTC Desires, I've seen them, they're satisfied.

I'm not though.

I painted a beautiful picture in a heid of life with an HTC Desire, and this thing from Orange don't match it. It doesn't come close, it is a worse experience than my two year old BlackBerry Curve. And so, back to the shop it'll go.

Then what?

On Twitter @marksany is the herald of the iPhone. I have given this though. I like the idea of the iPhoniverse, the Apple life. I'd want an old school iPhone 3GS rather than the iPhone4, that antenna business hasn't been resolved satisfactorily.

But no, its not going to happen, I'm not at a point in my life where I can embrace the iPhone. I'm typing this blogpost on my Acer Aspire One net book, running Ubuntu. There's no iTune on Ubuntu. I have no Apple Mac, and my old Windows desktop 'puter is about to be packed away, and unlikely to ever reappear. Without some kind of home computer to 'tether' (if you will) the iPhone to I'd be missing a chunk of the iPhone experience. Its unsatisfactory.

I could be wrong.

I often am.

In fact, one of the main points of this blogpost is incorrect. It is possible to remove the Orange-installed apps from their HTC Desire. I can re-flash the memory with the uncorrupted Android OS. People off of Android fora all over the internet have done it. It voids the Orange warranty, but it resolves the issue. It requires a Windows PC, but it does resolve the issue. I'm unwilling to try. I've had the HTC Desire from Orange for just over 24 hours, and I think I prefer my old BlackBerry Curve.

Its possible, I guess, that in the next few days @conorfromorange might announce that the new version of the Android software, Froyo, is coming out to Orange users, and without is the removable of all the frustrating apps and shite that annoys me so.

But that won't help the crap 3G and GPS signal that thwarted my FourSquare dreams and subsequent moaning, but would that be enough to keep me as an Orange customer?

I don't like having my emotions toyed with like this. I've dumped beautiful women for less.

I fear maybe I'm being stupid and ungrateful here, that the HTC Desire from Orange is a great phone, loved by thousands, why don't I love it? Why must I make a fuss, why can't I just accept it the way it is, embrace it tightly and love it like I've loved others before?

I handed over fifty quid for it, when other upgrade phones would have been free. I paid for it, and all I got was heartache, a big load of heartache.

Saturday, 18 September 2010

Knitting project #15 - Cluster puff hat

When I was in Finland recently I was taught how to crochet. Whenever I'd tried it in the past I'd gotten stuck at the end of the first row, no idea how to double back to do subsequent rows.

But now I have the power, the mad leet crochet skillz.

So I made a Cluster puff hat.

I guess it looks a little bit gay, but I was kinda going for the twenty-something stoner look.

Here's a wee vieo that shows you how to make it.

Whilst it may look like there's a ghostly figure of an elderly person praying on a chair behind me, I took this photo when I was on my own in my flat in an former old-people's home. Its probably just the way my laundry's heaped up on the chair, rather than an actual ghost caught on camera.

Tuesday, 14 September 2010

Orange Desires

Its phone upgrade time with my Orange account, I've been packing a Blackberry Curve for the best part of two years, its served me well, all those gig reviews written and posted from the back of the room, Twitter and Facebook.

But technology has moved on and the 'berry Curve is an anachronism. I need GPS, I need real-time positioning and navigation for FourSquare. I need 3G for YouTube video streaming, I need a full size browser.

All these things are almost my reach with the HTC Desire, the Orange website says I can get it, but alas they're out of stock.

Moan moan bloody moan, its all I ever do.

I've been checking the Orange website regularly, every day for about two months now, and the HTC Desire is always out of stock.

Jesus Christ, I've worked in electronics manufacturing, things can't be out of stock for that long. These things take five minutes to assembly, if its out of stock, they can make new one's in the time it takes me to write this blogpost.

If there's a parts shortage you can modify the design and retest the product in a week, in a day even for minor changes and the get stock levels back up again.

What's the problem here? Is Orange about to go bust cos they and HTC can't manage their supply chain? The Desire has been out for months and months, any supply problems should have been resolved months ago. Bah!

Tom off of the internet tells me that HTC are launching a new product tomorrow, possibly the HTC Desire HD (with LED flash) so perhaps Orange and other retailers are running their stocks down.

That's no good for me though, I just want a regular HTC Desire, nothing new or fancy, not High Definition or any fancy pants, just the same Desire as everyone else.

So do I wait and see if the new HTC Desire HD is one of my free upgrade options, do I change providers to Vodaphone or T-Mobile and get one of their Desires or do I stick with Orange and upgrade to some other phone which isn't the one I want?
Sent using BlackBerry® from Orange

Monday, 13 September 2010

The Left-Behinds - Greedy

I could have sworn I'd bought a Hefner single back in '97, but when I checked the other day it was actually by Gretschen Hofner, who are quite different.

So the first time I ever saw Darren Haymen play live was in 2007

Saturday, 11 September 2010

The Plan - The continuing journey

Its been about a fortnight since I set off on my latest music career. You'll have read the first blogpost about it here, and undoubtedly will have watched some of the videos.

Here's the viewing stats
  • Wake Up Boo - 61 views
  • Keep the circle around - 21 views
  • 100,000 Fireflies - 24 views
  • Tiny Tears - 15 views
  • If you don't Pull - 8
Its the law of the jungle round here, survival of the fittest, and so the weakest video gets eliminated from my setlist.

I've finally gotten myself a power supply for my wee Marshall amp, so I've plugged in my guitar, turned up the tone, and rerecorded the set, and added two new songs.

Have a listen and let me know what you think.

Until next time, enjoy!
The Greedy Ugly People
Dear Stephen Hawking
Tiny Tears
100,000 Fireflies
Keep the circle around
Wake Up Boo

Thursday, 26 August 2010

The Plan - The Voyage Begins

Its been the best part of a month since I did that blogpost about my plan to get from here with no musical career to somehow getting to play next year's Indietracks.

I have made progress, this is the first step, the first series of videos.

I've recorded five songs, uploaded them to YouTube for your delectation, the songs are the following covers:-
  • If You Don't Pull
  • Tiny Tears
  • 100,000 Fireflies
  • Wake Up Boo
  • Keep the Circle Around
and by a process of survival of the fittest, after a week, I shall eliminate the least popular from the set and replace it with more songs, be it covers or originals. I plan to re-record the more popular songs, better, with guitar plugged in, with different instruments, arrangements, effects and backing singing.

Its like evolution, the weakest is eliminated whilst the more successful change and adapt.

So without further faffing about here are the videos.

Comments and abuse welcome.

Thursday, 19 August 2010

Origami and Insects

Was a little bored at work, I was idly fiddling with a post-it note and made a little origami bird. Then I wondered if I quartered the paper could I make a smaller flapping bird?

My office is near some sewage works and as such we are plagued with flies and the spiders who prey on them. They are forever crawling about on my desk and terrifying me.

arachnid origami 1

arachnid origami 2

arachnid origami 3

arachnid origami 4

arachnid origami 5

Sunday, 15 August 2010

You wait, time passes

Crikey, its been ages since I last did a quality blog post. Its the time, I just don't have it, you know, to really sit down in front of the old keyboard and find something new and interesting to write about. I can't just squirt out any old crap.

The other day, via Astrid off of Facebook, I discovered the joy at is Hyperbole and a Half. Its this blog where the author write memoirs, stories of things that happened to her, illustrated using MS Paint.

Its hilarious and almost had me weeing myself. Its her brutal honesty that wins through and also how she shamelessly wants to win at the internet.

I fear if I tried such a thing, friends and loved one's would advise me against it in a matter of seconds.

Anyhoo, There was an interview with the author elsewhere on the web where she says it can take 16 hours to do a blogpost. I understand, I wish I could do that, but I'm inevitably dragged away to do something else, washing up, work, get off the sodding internet, etc. She writes around two blogposts a month and cos its pure internet comedy gold, she has the 1240th most popular blog of the internet, with a technorati authority of 526, by way of comparison, my old Naked Chicks on Post-It Notes barely made the top 100,000 blogs and only had an authority of 126, back in the day when Technorati authority meant something.

Anyhoo, so right now I have a wee bit of time to myself, and instead of practising away at my guitar and videoing poor cover versions of The Just Joans and Moustache of Insanity songs, I'm going to revisit a subject I covered a few weeks back on this here blog, and that is the website All Our Ideas.

For those who haven't been paying attention, is
...a platform that enables groups to collect and prioritize ideas in a transparent, democratic, and bottom-up way. It’s a suggestion box for the digital age.
You can post a question, provide some possible answers for people to chose and then if people suggest other answers they become part of it too.

I set up a wee half-arsed thing about civil liberties here, its had fifty one votes so far, undoubtedly a large proportion of them came from the same person. See, whilst the site is a great idea, it doesn't quite provide a hosepipe of traffic, that's up to me, the user, putting links on twitter and facebook and here, and I can only muster 51 votes.

Or in the case of deciding whether to play guitar or learn java or some other life-enriching activity, I mustered 54 votes.

And here follows the wee quality bit of this blog post, wondering how popular AllOurIdeas is for other people, here's a wee table of polls that I've found and how many respondents they've had.

chrislifeenrich 54Chris's life enriching project
Most pressing civil liberties issue in the UK
Craigslist Knowledge share project name
What's the funniest word
What should be Scott's most important focus as your new Congressman?
¿Cómo solucionar los problemas relacionados con el tráfico ilegal de drogas en México?
What should be the topic of the International Legislator Survey Project in 2011?
Which do you want more from the student government?
Which do you want more from allourideas?
What future innovation does society most need?

That's all I can find right now, there's probably loads more people using the site, but I can't find them, what I can find however its lots of people talking about the site, lots of social media news write-ups.

If more people are to use the site, which would be a neat thing, then surely some kind of easily accessible index would be good. Sure, some people will want their surveys kept quiet, if its just a wee local thing or a corporate employee only survey, you don't want folk for all over Asia voting, but if it something where you want as many people as possible to vote to get the broadest range of opinions, then maybe, instead of an index, some kind of hosepipe site would be neat where you just click through voting on lots of different polls and surveys.

I dunno.

Anyhoo, if you're reading this, having somehow found this page via google, and you know of any other allourideas pages that I don't have on my wee list, then let me know in the comments. Aye.

Tuesday, 10 August 2010

Taxes again and benefits

A bit of a flurry of tweeting today, The Today Program as I was driving in was going on about cracking down on benefits cheats, later on @Rosie off of the internet retweeted something about how the government has convinced us that folk living off 65 quid a week are more of a problem than people earning millions and paying less tax.

This got my mind going through the usual questions I pose when such discussions arise.

Around lunchtime I was ploughing through feeds and caught up with Al Jahom going over the same topic and again covering the retweeted tweet from @sarahluv81 who I used to know in Glasgow, pointing out that she conflated tax avoidance with tax evasion.

After some more reading, prompted by twittist @sarahluv81, it seems that the common definition of tax evasion vs avoidance:

Tax avoidance is the legal utilization of the tax regime to one’s own advantage, to reduce the amount of tax that is payable by means that are within the law. By contrast, tax evasion is the general term for efforts to not pay taxes by illegal means.

.. has been superceded – or at least refined – in English law.

The United Kingdom and jurisdictions following the UK approach (such as New Zealand) have recently adopted the evasion/avoidance terminology as used in the United States: evasion is a criminal attempt to avoid paying tax owed while avoidance is an attempt to use the law to reduce taxes owed.

There is, however, a further distinction drawn between tax avoidance and tax mitigation. Tax avoidance is a course of action designed to conflict with or defeat the evident intention of Parliament: IRC v Willoughby.[22] Tax mitigation is conduct which reduces tax liabilities without “tax avoidance” (not contrary to the intention of Parliament), for instance, by gifts to charity or investments in certain assets which qualify for tax relief. This is important for tax provisions which apply in cases of “avoidance”: they are held not to apply in cases of mitigation.
Ultimately this conflation means that the Gift Aid scheme is evil tax evasion and should be stopped. Gift Aid whereby you can personally allow charities to claim back the income tax on any donation. So if you donate £100, you’ve already paid £22 income tax on that when you earnt it, so the charity can claim that back from the government.

Taken to its extreme, if you donate all your earnings to a charity, the charity could claim the complete swathe of income tax and essentially you would have evaded paying any tax on your earnings. EVIL.

Anyhoo, the two questions that I try to ask whenever the subject of income tax arises are these:-

How much tax do you think you should pay?

Be it a proportion of your income or a lump sum, this is about you yourself, earning as much as you do.

@rosiebunny wanted to pay 5% tax
I’d settle for 35%
@AlJahom would accept 40% but would prefer a minarchist 10%-15%, and
@sarahluv81 thinks it depends on how much I earn.

I did some back of the envelope sums, including council tax, national insurance, income tax, fuel duty, booze duty and vat, I pay 50% tax right now. Bah I say, Bah!

And secondly:-

Would you accept a pay cut in order to fund a pay rise for those earning less than you?

In answer to the second question, I would accept a pay cut to fund those on the lowest wage at the place I work. However, other people I’ve asked say they would but only if the people earning more than them take pay cuts too. That’s a no then. Its not about other people, it not about everyone else in the company, its about you, and if you’re basing your answer on what everyone else does then it’ll never work.

It’s a big fundamental thing about the redistribution of wealth. Is it about redistributing your wealth or someone else’s?

If you think it’s about someone else’s then its theft and you’re a thief. You can dress it up as society or constitutional or whatever, but it just comes down to theft, taking people’s hard earned wealth without their consent.

So its about consent. Back to the first question. I could probably form a city state with Al Jahom, we broadly agree on levels of taxation, me with between 35% and 42% and him with 40%, but couldn’t form a city state with Rosie, her levels of taxation are too low to be of any use in my opinion. Sure, her state might work, and who knows citizens of my state might all decide to up sticks and move to the Rosie Free-State. Sarahluv on the other hand might find it awkward in both states, since she’s always be comparing how much she earns and pays with everyone else and then demanding special treatment for either herself or people who earn more or less, that’s explicit in her position.

Maybe its similar to Rosie’s position, maybe in the Rosie Free-State only people called Rosie are subject to such low taxes and other groups must pay more, I dunno, its hard to tell.

Anyhoo, considering I’m currently paying around 50% tax, both Al and Rosie’s tax regimes seem better than my current situation,