And now, the end has come

Last month, I wrote a bit about a campaign to make the landlord of a local pub keep it open.

Said campaign succeeded in some of its aims, and the council put a stop to any plans to put a shop in the premises. But the campaign really failed, because the current management of the pub were then unceremoniously told to shut the doors by the landlord anyway.

Here’s another one of those moments where I put myself at odds to the conventional wisdom of the area: in this, I’m with the landlord.

The landlord owns the building, and one of his tenants has organised the council to tell him what he can do with said building. It’s not really an interesting building, so there’s no justification for listing it. Other than the people who don’t own it don’t like with the owner wants to do with it. So these tenants have used the bullying of the state to reduce the value of the property for their own selfish aims.

The landlord is now left with a building that can’t be anything but a pub. But the tenants in it are clearly a bunch of twats. So what I’d do in his position is get rid of the tenants and bring in new ones to run a pub.

It’s a shame; Antic (the company that managed the pub, and were credited with turning it around) seemed like a decent bunch of people, and they’d done good work with several pubs nearby. I’m really not inclined to go and spend money in any of their other pubs now.

All over, bar the annoying result

Hooray! The election is over, and once again the guy I probably would have voted for has lost. I realise that this makes me entirely at odds to conventional wisdom in the UK, but you know what? I don’t give a fuck.

In fact, I say this to the wonderful echo chamber that is public opinion over here, and on Twitter etc: I don’t care that you think I’m an idiot for considering voting for that strange fellow. I don’t care if you think anyone considering voting for a GOP candidate is incomprehensible. I might not care for your tone when you say it, but your tone is your problem, not mine.

I looked at the candidates and decided that, while I might not agree with what the one said about everything, I agreed with less from the other. I think that the state stepping back from a few areas of life would be a Good Thing. And here’s the thing: despite what hundreds of millions of Europeans think, there are clearly enough people out there who think the same that the popular vote is within a couple of points.

At least now the damned echo chamber of anyone with a brain votes Obama should calm down…

Sad tendencies

It is a simple fact that areas like the one I live in a a very deep red on any electoral map; in my particular part of London the only competition that Labour have is from the left (from a group whose name is so stupid I can’t even bring myself to type it). And that means that the general refrain once anything happens is that one arm of the state should ride to the rescue.

Case in point: a nearby pub is apparently under threat of closure; apparently the landlord has applied for planning permission to turn it into flats. Which is a crying shame, in my opinion – the area needs more decent pubs.

So I’m all for saving it. But what pisses me off is the way that people are talking about trying to save it: from local blogs, to the local MP, to the current people who run the pub, they’re all doing the same thing. Demanding that the council stop any planning application to change the use of the building. Hell, the main information page for the campaign lists seven ways that people can apparently help. In order, they are:

  1. Email the council planning office
  2. Email the local MP
  3. Email the local mayor
  4. Sign the petition (to be sent to the council planning office)
  5. Email the local paper
  6. Write to the landlord
  7. Email the campaign with some support

Seven ways to help, and four of them are directly trying to get the state to stop the landlord having any say over how he uses his property. Only the fifth is really a sensible way to go about it: try and convince the landlord to keep the pub in place. Or, even better, get the people that run the pub to make a sensible offer and bloody buy the place off him…

Changes and rests

The ancient and over used saying A change is as good as a rest ignores a simple truth: sometimes what the body needs and craves is not one or t’other. It is both.

It was with that in mind that TLW & I decided that we should do something that we’ve not done since December 2010: taking a decent amount of time and going on a damn holiday1.

And so it was that we hazarded the BA website, booked a couple of weeks off, and fucked off to Africa.

But first, to Terminal 5, where I got to test FlightRadar’s recent updates. They work, and it’s quite cool being able to watch planes on the ground with their technical details on a screen in front of you. I have to admit that I was quite impressed with T5; it’s big enough and spread out enough that it’s easy to mistake it for a civilized place.

Then on one of BA’s ancient yet serviceable 747s to sunny Cape Town, on a nice night flight. During which we got to marvel at a most excellent electrical storm over the coast of Nigeria and a stunning sunrise over the deserts of Namibia.

While there, we ate well (too well – crocodile, ostrich and a variety of things ending in -bok were tasted). We saw penguins, whales, seals and the Cape of Good Hope. We tasted very fine wines and played with monkeys, and got pictures with some random birds of prey as well.

Don’t shit down my shirt, don’t shit down my shirt….

Disturbingly, we also discovered that tortoises have a sex face:

For the record, the noise is even worse than the image.

It wasn’t all light-hearted japes, of course. There were visits to District 6 and the obligatory Robben Island tour, led by a former inmate who’d learned his tradecraft in the DDR and USSR.

All in all, it was a most enjoyable holiday, both a bit of a change and a lot of a rest. And for the first time in my recent memory, certainly going back to before the millennium, I went a week without checking anything (bar confirming flights on the last day) on t’internet or email.

I recommend the destination. And I also recommend dropping t’internet for a day or seven.


1 – Yes, I know that there have been a great many trips: Italy, Belgium, the Lake District, the Peak District. But they were all weekends or extended weekends, and we felt the need for more.

The geekiness continues

I’ve already gone on about Flight Radar 24, at length, so I shall not go into detail about its awesomeness and how said awesomeness appeals to me, if not to others. Clearly it’s becoming a bit of a legend, what with it being used as a reference on broadcast media during last nights extraditions.

I’ll just mention a new and interesting (to me): their increased coverage of aircraft on the ground at Heathrow.

Screen capture from FlightRadar24.com, copyright belonging to them and whoever they get the imagery from

They’ve either worked with BAA to get a feed directly, or they’ve got someone who has a nice line of sight to the field to put a receiver nearby, because the level of detail is awesome. On most airfields the planes disappear from coverage before landing, whereas in Heathrow you can see not only when the plane lands but where it taxis to; in many cases you can see not only what terminal they arrive at but also what gate. For example, in that image there’s a small BA plane at the far left just arriving into terminal 5A; there’s a BA 777 firmly parked at 5B, and the highlighted line is the path an Emirates A380 has taken from Terminal 3, Pier 6 on its way to the queue for take-off from runway 27R.

This level of detail is probably entirely unnecessary and quite boring to most people, including TLW, but I find it fascinating. And quite relaxing, if I’m honest.

The next step will be to go to Heathrow at some point and see ow well the level of detail reflects what can be seen out the window. I understand that there’s a nice view of the apron from Terminal 5…

You wanna think it through a bit more, Dr Hume?

How’s this for a fantastic brainfart: ignore geography in independence referenda.

Well, that’s not what he thinks he’s saying, but it’s what it amounts to.

People with an Ulster Scots background should be allowed to vote in Scotland’s independence referendum, a senior Orange Order member has said.

Dr David Hume said Ulster Scots had played a key role in Scottish history.

“We are stakeholders as well. Surely a decision such as this should not ignore our input?” he said.

So, anyone who decides they should be a stakeholder should be given a vote in the future Scottish independence referendum. What of other referenda in the future? What, say, the of the eleventy billion US citizens who claim Irish descent and would likely vote to get rid of the border? Or even the dozens of millions of English citizens who would rapidly vote to be rid of both bothersome celtic lands?

Or is it just people from outside the countries in question who’d vote in favour of keeping the Union that should be given these special votes?

Quite clearly stolen

From Grannymar

Q ~ Questions

QQuiet or noisy? Quiet, for preference. Although not silent.
UUnction. Bless you, that sounds like a nasty cough.
EEarly or late? Early, although it would appear that I’ve only mastered the second half of “early to bed, early to rise”
SShower or bath? Shower for being clean, bath for resolving aches and pains.
TType of dog? Any, although a certain staffie cross has a special place in my heart.
IIt lights up. When things go wrong.
OOccurred in 1968? There was a big party to celebrate 13 years remaining until my birth.
NName a super power you’d like. Teleportation, just to cut down on the commute.
SSnack/s you like? All. All of it.

Compulsive viewing

Despite my best intentions, I’ve got a bit of a soft spot for Paul O’Grady. He’s daft, and irreverent, often sycophantic and occasionally nauseating. But the person he rips the piss out of most is himself, and he does it very effectively.

His current show is apparently calculated to make it impossible for me not to watch, for it is set in Battersea Dogs Home.

I loved visiting Battersea, back when we got Roxy. And I think TLW
would love to go back, as would I. Except that we’re scared that we wouldn’t make it out without getting at least one more dog.

image

And while Roxy seemed engrossed in watching doggies from there, I don’t know how well she’d respond to a playmate arriving from there out of the blue….

It would appear that I was wrong (about some things)

I’ve always hoped that the Olympics would be a success, but didn’t actually expect them to be when the bid was successful. Seems that I was wrong; they’ve been pretty decent all round. Of course, one of the reasons I was against them was cost, and that reason still holds as a vote against them, but the travel chaos and all that didn’t happen. Well done Seb Coe for being just the right dictator to get things done.

So, what did we do during the festivities? Well, we went to see the torch relay, because it was pretty much on the way to the station and only caused a short delay in getting to work.

We put in applications months ago to go see things at the Olympics, and failed in most of our attempts. Although we did manage to see some horses doing sensible stuff – jumping makes sense, while getting a horse to dance clearly does not.

And then we went up into town to watch a bit of the men’s marathon. It was quite entertaining, and because they do it on a looped course rather than all strung out you got to see more of how it developed. Which was interesting.

And that was it; our Olympic experience. Not too much, really.

Our Paralympic Experience has been a bit more interesting, though.









In short: dozens of medals, lots of them GB but a nice silver for Ireland as well. Lots of very interesting moments, like Mr Pistoris getting hammered in the 100m. Some great stories, like the sprinter who collapsed at 50m and then insisted in struggling over the line about a minute after everyone else just to collapse the other side of it again. The javelin thrower who ended up being in the wrong category because of a paperwork issue, and instead of giving up he just decided to compete in said category anyway – rather difficult considering he’d been in a wheelchair all his life and the competition rules require he do it standing up.

All in all, a rather nice way to spend some time, we thought…

Bringing back the memories

In my poorly remembered career as a student, some of the most fun to be had in the vicinity was at a Methodist Central Hall. In Birmingham.

Of course, most people wouldn’t associate (a) Methodist Central Hall or (b) Birmingham with wild fun for student ages, but the fun was there. For reasons alluded to by Auntie Beeb.

Methodist central halls were grand buildings that used to attract thousands of people when the temperance movement was at its strongest. But over the years many have been sold off, with some now used as bars and nightclubs.

The central hall in Birmingham is opposite the magistrates’ court. Built in 1903, it has huge, intricately designed windows and its spire towers above many of the other buildings in the area. It’s a Grade II-listed building.

But it stands completely empty.

There’s a sign for the Q-Club nightclub still on the front, but that was closed in December last year. There’s a palpable whiff of urine in the doorway and faded graffiti underneath a sculpture of John Wesley preaching to his followers.

I find it terribly sad to think of the Que standing empty; no more Atomic Jam, no more Flashback, no more introducing sheltered young NIrelanders to proper all-nighters that end with the watching sun rising through stain-glass windows and silhouetting totally trashed people in silly clothes. No more being charged £1 for a 5p ice-pop and thinking it a bargain.

‘course, I’ve mellowed a bit myself and no longer think that lying on your back on the floor of a chillout room (listening to a friend chatting to the Snoopy picture) as the highlight of a term, but back then and back there it was much awesomeness. And it’s now gone, to be turned into flats.

Sad face.

Confusing ideals and ideas

There’s a lovely little article on the BBC about American thoughts on income inequality, that clearly thinks that its definition of a better world is very very clever and solves every problem.

“a just society is a society that if you knew everything about it, you’d be willing to enter it in a random place”. And it’s really a beautiful definition.

He called it a veil of ignorance, because if you’re very wealthy, you might want the wealthy people to have lots of money and the poor to have very little; and if you are very poor, you might want the poor to have more money and the wealthy to have less.

But in Rawls’ definition, you don’t know where you’ll end up, you have to consider all the different options and therefore you have to think about what is good for society as a whole.

Oh, that is very clever. It’s basically saying that the only just distribution is one where everything is quite level and everyone has the same, because using the theory of a veil of ignorance, the only way for people to be happy is for there to be no difference in what each part of the distribution has.

Of course, it fails to take a great many things into account. Human nature for one; the simple concepts of risk and reward for another.

It says that ‘even’ lots of Americans want things to be equal and fair. What it doesn’t say is that ‘even’ Americans realise that there is absolutely no way to combine such a place and reality. And pretending otherwise is just fucking stupid.

But it sounds fair, and beneficial, and well meaning. And it has the advantage of making people who argue against it appear to be unfair, and malicious, and all round evil. When really people who point out that it’s stupid are just like the little kid, pointing out that the new clothes are suspiciously light on ‘existence’…

And there’s more

Some time ago (is it really almost a year?) I posted about my geek love for Flight Radar 24. Because it mixed several of the things that I like in one geeky package: mobility, flight, statistics and general awesomeness. The fact that it was pretty efficient at bring out an augmented-reality interface also worked.

Unfortunately, that last feature only works on the mobile app. The desktop site didn’t do it, and suffered in comparison. Today, it clearly decided to come out fighting.

Can’t bring in a touch-screen, AR interface to the site? Fair enough. Instead bring in a facility to add the flight’s parameters to a Google Maps view and trace a representation of it across the screen.

very copyright all the people listed at the bottom, google, and FR24

Funnily enough, I can nearly see my house from here. Or at least the park where we walk the hound.

Yes, it’s entirely silly. Yes, it doesn’t actually better the world in any meaningful fashion. But it makes me smile, and it’s geeky. So it is clearly excellent.

Shall I compare thee

The London Olympics, presented in analogous form as a night on the tiles.

This night on the tiles could be one that you dread; there are going to be a lot of people you don’t know there, and quite a few people that you don’t like. But there are some you do like, and the blond haired buffoon who seems to be doing the organising is generally good for a laugh, plus it would be very rude indeed to just avoid going. So you resolve to go along with it and give it a go, reserving your usual excuses if you need to leave early due to chronic boredom.

The first thing you do is head to a surprisingly nice pub, with some entertainment on; this pub could be called Opening Ceremony. This is a very enjoyable experience, with much to watch and discuss, even if some of it is just bonkers.

Then there’s the taxi to the next establishment, and while nothing too fun, at least all the travel just works, despite the usual concerns about moving around on a busy night.

The next drinking spot is again a lot of fun; it’s called Home Nation Doing Well, and everyone seems to enjoy themselves in a nice harmless fashion. Bit too much crying for my tastes, but that’s OK.

Another hour, another place to stop, this time Going to Events yourself, in my case this had a horsey theme and a general feeling of being both sunny and bloody wet, but still a laugh.

Next up: Ireland’s Record – best ever performance. Much drink was had.

And then some fucker insists that we all have tequila. Nobody really wants it, nobody ever enjoys it, and everybody feels better for it. However, it’s still forced upon us, this bottle of cheap Closing Ceremony. And it leaves a bad taste in the mouth, after an otherwise decent time.

How opinions change

When I was but a young thing, there were issues with the first couple of iterations of the NI Assembly, to the point that it kept collapsing. During this period, I thought that it was a crying shame; we went from having a dozen local ministers covering things to having three direct rule ministers; clearly they weren’t going to do as good a job, and NIreland would suffer.

A few years later, and things are somewhat different to my way of thinking. Clearly for a country the size of NIreland, it’s over-governed with three ministers, let alone the dozen local ones. Especially when the three local ones are drawn from the same quality pool as these jackasses.

The chief executive of Translink has been criticised for not appearing before Stormont’s regional development committee.

On Wednesday, the committee discussed the issue of Translink’s offer of a pay rise of 24% to its train drivers.

Committee chairman Jimmy Spratt said he did not think it was “a hardship for someone on £200,000″ to appear before it and “explain what’s going on”.

SDLP assembly member John Dallat said he was disappointed at Ms Mason’s non-appearance, and added that he could have been meeting the prime minister on Wednesday.

“Anyone who puts a family commitment before appearing at this committee needs to consider their position,” he added.

Mr O’Neill said that he was confident about Translink’s business case for the pay offer and that it could fund it.

However, Independent MLA David McNarry said Translink should be wary of assuming the pay offer would get “royal assent” or that the committee would “unanimously endorse” it.

Which one there is the most silly fecker?

  • John Dallat – for assuming that there is no possible family explanation that would be more important than a bunch of committee fools in a jumped up talking shop. Which is more important – delivering a report to Stormont, or any number of things that someone’s family demands of them?
  • David McNarry – for thinking that any employee contract negotiation requires “royal assent”. It’d be a pretty sorry state of affairs if it was required. Politicians should only really be involved in a single salary negotiation, and even then in a limited way: their own. And they should definitely be required to justify that salary to the people they represent. For example, Mr McNarry should be justifying why he’s worth £43k in salary and £67k in expenses for his office…

It’s sometimes striking to me just how quickly and completely my opinions can change. Clearly local democracy is a good thing, but too much of it can really get stupid very very quickly.

Doing my bit

My job is not one that lends itself to working from home; a large part of it is based on speaking to people as they come in and firefighting little problems as they arise, neither of which is particularly easy to do over the phone. Also, there are many difficulties in working out how to actually get onto our network from home and inefficiencies in the work-arounds that we’ve had to put in place.

That said, looking at the massive problems that both of my usual train journeys would have during the DOG, and today especially, have forced me to try and work out some alternatives. My options are limited; one train journey goes through ground zero for train disruption, the other goes through St Pancras which is hardly an easier option. Driving isn’t an option, what with my only route options involving roads liberally painted with the Five Rings o’Doom. So: on some days, I’ve had to decide to work at home.

I’ve not done that in quite some time, since moving over here really. I’ve got plenty to do (for a couple of days at least), and will hope to arrive back at work with a new accounts package, a few HR things and generally a better idea about several projects that I need to do. So it should be good.

It’s difficult, however, to get on with doing work when there’s a staffie-type dog in the house. Because you can be happily typing away without a care in the world, when suddenly your elbow feels damp…

Lovely animal, Roxy is. But why she’s obsessed with licking my damn elbow, I’ll never know.

For the record

I hope that the Olympics work out well; I hope that all the bad things that could happen, don’t. I hope that the lingering image we have of it is either brilliance from Danny Boyle or good ol’ fashioned oratory and French bashing from Boris.

However, when Cracked pick up on a lot of the nonsense surrounding the games, I gotta say, I’m not sure that there won’t be one or two things for us to look back on and go what the fuck were they thinking?

Happy Olympic Travel Mayhem, folks!

A most excellent diversion

Those that know me will probably know that I like flying; I like the who experience aside from the security theater and the waiting about.

That said, I’m also a sucker for the Eurostar. I like the simplicity of their check in, I like their security that’s probably as effective as airport stuff but nowhere near as unpleasant. I like that you can rock up half an hour before and there’ll be no difficulty getting on the train. And I like the fact that I can make one small change to my commute and instead of spending Friday night at home, I can spend it in a nice hotel…

… next to a pretty little canal …

… where there is a vast selection of beer …

… to enjoy.

As I say, I like that I could get to Brugge with only one extra change of train. And with no limit to the amount of beer I could come back with other than how comfortably I could get it home. And that on the weekend that we were there, the entire damn town started singing.

In short: TLW & I had a lovely weekend in Flanders. And I’ve got dozens of interesting beers to work my way through. Hurrah!

Oh dear

If you’ve been out and about on the tube during rush hour recently, you’ll likely have heard the dulcet tones of Boris Johnson. It’s unnerving hearing a voice doing anything other than give station and service updates, even more when it tries to be enthusiastic. Like this:

Yes, Bozza, we know, the entire system is going to be gridlock. Yes, it’s going to be unpleasant. Yes, it’s worth researching GAOTG and their station disruption maps. But stop trying to pretend that it’s going to be fun to live through this disruption.

Of course, it could easily be worse. Imagine, if you will, that the voice making these announcements was significantly more adenoid-y. “Comrades! It’s the General Secretary Mayor Livingstone here, instructing you to all find some other way to get to work, because I need these trains to get people to and from my vanity project the Glorious Olympiad!”

*shudder*