Blog for the man with nothing to say

Scum. Slime. Spammers.

22 Nov 2005

For goodness sake. I run a nice little family website, nothing special, just for my own pleasure really. I post pics of my kids, occasional ramblings and use it to communicate with my family mostly. I even have an open guestbook, allowing people to post stuff to us (hoping for praise, of course, but generally just to know who is out there).

What do I get? Well, lots of friendly people from around the globe posting nice things, compliments from friends and family, the usual and very welcome stuff.

Less welcome have been the assortment of conmen, spammers and perverts who think that this guestbook is their own personal trip to Google heaven.

Well, listen up, dim bulbs. I can delete stuff. I will delete stuff. I will also report you.

The only suitable, eye-for-an-eye punishment I can think of would be to find out where they live and go round to their houses, spray painting "www.croftsfamily.com" on their walls and doors.

Why do I think that they are scum rather than an original form of advertising in an increasingly squeezed market?

Because from beginning to end the spamming business is immoral and corrupting. The internet is cool. Sorry to use such an old fashioned term, but it is. It lets people chat away, buy stuff, find out everything they could ever want to know, and, in-extremis, is changing the whole way that news reporting works.

Spammers corrupt that. They make the whole thing seedy, dangerous and ugly. I get 20 emails a day from these bottom-feeders asking me to be hung like a horse, or invest my money, or get a new job, or see their "XXX LIVE GIRLZZZ", always with, oh-so-amusing spelling mistakes to get round the spam filters. They take something beautiful and turn it into something like themselves.

Well, sod off. Take your "Young Boys" (How tasteful is that. Hope you end up sharing a cell with Gary Glitter) and your chear mobile deals (nice that you use the same marketing technique as the paedophiles, eh) away from my webspace and go and get proper jobs that don't involve annoying normal people like myself.

And while we're at it, could you stop posting your lame adverts all oevr webpages as well. Nobody wants your super-duper self defence system, or your pills, or your silly book, or your software that promises to fix my system crashes.

Just go away, damn you.

Orange Wildfire service being withdrawn

06 May 2005

Orange have decided to withdraw their Wildfire service. For those who don't know about it, this is a sort of assistant who allows you to store phone numbers, access messages and other things through voice activation from your phone. It really is the simplest way available for visually impaired users to access their phones.

So, what have the maker of this groundbreaking piece of inspired design done?

Well, withdraw it, of course.

One step from upstanding company to just another run-of-the-mill lip service payer to disabled access. Thanks Orange.

I am writing to them and hope (please...) that they care enough about disabled users to do something about this;

Dear Sir / Madam,

I have been an orange customer for several years and, until yesterday I had no intention of changing providers. One of the primary reasons why I chose Orange as my provider was the Wildfire personal assistant service, and the removal of this service has forced me to consider a change.

Several years ago, when you introduced this service, my wife, who is visually impaired, had a great deal of difficulty with her mobile phone. Once we heard of Wildfire, from some of our visually impaired friends, we signed up immediately for the Orange network. We have, since then, persuaded many of our family and friends to similarly join you, partly out of convenience from cheap same-network calls, but partly out of loyalty and gratitude that such a fine service had been provided by you. At the time we considered it to place Orange a cut above the rest†and recommended you as such.

Without Wildfire, my wife would be cut off from mobile communication once more. Of course, there are now some methods whereby, at great expense, a visually impaired user can purchase a phone and install software to ensure that they can use it but no solution that I have seen demonstrated comes close to the convenience and ease of use of Wildfire. Consider, if you will, what a mobile phone that is easy to use means to a visually impaired user. It provides independence, security and

I find this withdrawal of service to be particularly offensive in that it demonstrates that Orange have, far from embracing the Disability Discrimination Act and the meaning behind it as I thought when the Wildfire service first came out, decided to actively make life for disabled users harder. This is akin to a company removing its wheelchair†lift because it needed†maintainance. You could argue that other companies have only rough and ready ramps, and that you will supply a similarly insufficient solution, but that argument is essentially putting the lie to your promises to put existing customers first, or to your support for the principles of access for all. It seems that you are simply striving to do the bare minimum for your disabled customers, and in your case that actually involves removing a service rather than the more usual failure to provide it in the first place.

I understand that you claim to only have 54 VI users of the service. I am surprised at this, as I personally know at least 10 of these users, and I never realised what a large percentage of VI Orange customers I knew. Since my wife was not down as one of these users, I can only assume that there are also others, possibly many others, who are about to have their service reduced without consultation.†I quotes†from "The Mobile Industry Good Practice Guide for Service Delivery for Disabled and Elderly Customers" downloaded from your website (http://www.orange.co.uk/disabilityservices/);

"Not all disabled people classify themselves as disabled, or wish to highlight their disability. Employees and representatives of service providers should therefore exercise a degree of sensitivity, and not readily expect people to be able to immediately articulate their specific needs or to be aware of products which the service provider offers. Where there is doubt, service provider employees should ask disabled customers how best they might be served."

Note: "Not all disabled people classify themselves as disabled, or wish to highlight their disability." This shows you why it is deeply flawed to say that you only have a few people who have told you that they use the service and who are disabled. There should be no requirement for them to do so, according to your own guidelines. You are saying that now, in order to save a service that many disabled people find essential, they must identify themselves in the ridiculously short time frame allowed. Did you consider polling your customers to gain accurate figures before drawing conclusions based upon assumptions declared flawed by your own guidelines?

"The following examples of staff behaviour must be avoided: requiring a disabled customer to provide more information than a non-disabled customer in order to obtain a product or service."
"A service provider should also:

listen to its disabled customers and regularly ask for their views and opinions on the provision of services;

be responsive and flexible in its approach to serving disabled customers;

consult disability organisations for assistance and information on disability issues.†"

Did you ask opinions of Wildfire users? Did you consult with disability organisations before closing down this service?


In summary, I am shocked to find my opinion of your company to be changed so quickly from one of respect and admiration for being so visionary as to provide this excellent service, to one of outrage at the high-handed way that the company has ignored the very spirit of anti-discrimination legislation.

New house woes

14 Feb 2005

Still reeling from the move... House not sored yet, world turned upside down, tired, bored and generally downcast.

Yeah, that's how I wanted to be after the move. At present I am just trying to work out where all of our time goes. Every day I find myself flopping in front of the TV for an hour before starting my dervish like tidying efforts afresh. I'm sure that we didn't do so much housework in the last house.

Still, the kids seem to like it. Oz continues his bullish attempts to play with his sister's toys, Pop continues in her efforts to teach him about gravity. Kate gets more and more tired by the day it seems, as do I.

This last year has been a mad blur. How do people cope with more than 2? I mean, I love them dearly, but you barely get any time to play with them what with constant feeding / sleeping / cleaning and calming down, and we have good kids.

Winter is a miserable time to move to a new house where the big attraction is the large garden. I occasionally look at the windswept grassland at the back of our house and think "Shall I brave it?" Certainly the kids can't go out there for more than five minutes. In the summer I envision entire days on the grass, teaching Oz to fall over and playing football with Pop while Kate sunbathes, but for now they are just a dream.

I think that I have a solution to my despondancy. I shall put up some pictures. Pictures make a house a home, don't you think? Then I'll get the filing done. Then a bit of bookcase action. Finally I'll build the entire garden from the p[atch of grass into a wilderness park. Then I'll repaint some of the bland colours (Why do new houses come in bland, blander and blandest?).

Then, maybe, one day I shall look at all I survery and think;

"Time to move house again"

Out with the old...pause...in with the new

13 Jan 2005

We've finally managed to make it into the new house. After a month in which the move seemed to be going far too well (disregarding Kate's dislocated shoulder and the kids general illnesses) it resolved itself, with only 2 days to go, into the unholy mess that it was meant to be.

We noticed that the kitchen ceiling had been installed a little, shall we say, wonkily. This resulted in much backing and forthing about retentions and such like until the day before the move the builders (Vaugn and Blyth) decided that they would delay completion on their end. We were a bit shocked to find that the legal situation made them perfectly entitled to do this but that was that. We went to a hotel (5 Lakes just outside the town that we were moving to, rather nice but still just a hotel) and lived off room service for 5 days. Oscar decided to grace us with a nasty chest infection while we were there which, of course, added to the fun.

It all worked out in the end though. We moved in and started unpacking. We have now almost rid ourselves of the dreaded boxes and are awaiting our next visit to IKEA to buy the final bits of kit for the new home. The kids seems to love it. Phoebe will tell anyone who will listen that she now has grass, lots of grass (the garden is great) and that she loves her new room. Kate has a little office and I have my bookcases. Now to see whether the arrangements work out.

As for the children, Oscar is crawling like a mad thing now, into anything that is dangerous (bins his speciality) and is even starting to stand up holding onto things. We have a passable 'Dada', 'Mumumumu' and 'Hiya' from him and a couple of weeks ago he produced 4 front teeth in one day.

Phoebe continues to run about liek a mad perpetual motion machine with attitude. Difficult to get food into, but seemingly easy to get out of night-time nappies. She demanded a few days ago that she not wear one. After I had forced one onto her she promptly took it off so I thought "I give up" and she slept dry for 3 days. Last night was a small mistake, but we shall see in the future. So much for regression over the upheaval.

So, all doing well, all ticking along, looking to the future.

Sit up and pay attention!

26 Oct 2004

Oscar is sitting up! I'd forgotten how weird it feels when that happens for the first time. You keep expecting him to fall over (and he does eventually) but he keeps on hanging there. It brings me back to the first time that Phoebe stood on her own. I could swear that there were wires holding her up like Pinnocio but no, just her finding her feet.

What is more, he is starting interact with his world in a recognisable manner. When he sees Kate or I he gives us cuddles (pretty poorly aimed, but the intent is there) and he works at doing things for himself (yesterday he dropped his rice cake in his high chair and spent about 5 minutes fishing it out and he grinned like a fool when he got it back in his mouth).

This makes me sad in a funny sort of way. When we talk about thing like school, the children going out to pubs when they are older, walking down dark alleys, buying cars, etc, all the usual events that will happen as they grow up, I often say things like "Phoebe would have to walk down that alley" or "She would enjoy that school".

I don't say these things because I don't think of Oscar, it is just that, well, he is a baby and Phoebe is growing up. Oscar is going to stay a baby for ever dammit! Phoebe might need a car but Oscar will be making do with a pushchair!

Of course, every step forward shows me the fallacy involved with this sort of thinking. He is going to grow up. He is not going to be our baby anymore.

*sniff*

It makes me understand why people keep popping the kids out way beyond the sensible limits. It is the only way of having a baby, to keep habing them. We shall resist (though, if it happens it happens and that is good) the temptation since we want a nice standard "One given away for free with every box of cereal" life, not one involving constant madness. Plus we'd need a bigger car and I'm not good enough at parking :)

I look at Phoebe when she tells me not to help her into bed as "I can do it", or when she doesn't need my help with the potty, or when she puts her clothes on (and imperfect science at the moment admittedly) and I sense the regret of her leaving home starting to build. It is a grim reminder that our time together isn't forever, that one day she will regard me as more of an annoyance than a protector, a burden rather than a joy. It makes the whole world taste a bit more bitter and clouds move ever closer on the horizon.

Maybe my unintentional slips when talking about the future are just a way of preserving that future as long as I can with an imaginary 40 year old baby boy. Now that I think about it it is a pretty silly foible to have.

Still, I suppose that's why it is so important not to have children for your own sake. They aren't handbags or toys, they are people with as much right to be themselves regardless of other's desires as you do. They just have a bit less experience when it comes to decision making...

*No Phoebe, put down that crayon!*

Houses, houses and more damn houses

19 Oct 2004

Why is it so bloody difficult to move house? Not the logistics of the matter, you understand, though they are nightmarish enough.

No, the simple task of finding somewhere that you want to live.

I thought that we had it sorted last week. We have been to just about every property in the land to see whether we wanted it. We are pretty much resigned to not being able to buy the 'dream house' this time around as the 'dream house' is about 50,000 - 100,000 pounds outside our price range. So we are looking to settle. Space is really the key here. We want bedrooms for everyone plus a spare, a playroom for the kids, a kitchen diner, an office (Kate has a bewildering amount of equipment to be stored and used) and that's it.

Well, we found a house that we thought matched this finally, but even this is proving worrysome. No matter how we re-jig the rooms we end up without a playroom or a spare room it seems. So maybe back to the drawing board. Will we ever find the house to be happy in or will we just get stuck in one that will do.

In all honesty I don't see that we have found a much better option than the one that we are now looking at. Nice views, nice rooms, nice kit, ot perfet but certainly do-able. The kids would love the garden and it would be quite fun to get the garden sorted from the bare turf that it will be at the beginning.

Choice is a curse. When we are presented with a fait accompli we tend to knuckle down and enjoy ourselves. When offered two choices we can draw out reliable metrics that allow us to choose between them. When we are offered a thousand (or in the case of the housing market a seemingly infinite number of choices, only a few of which are known (what will come on the market next week, or next month?) we get frozen in a second guessing hell. Any one of the houses that we have seen would have done, pretty much. If we had to stay in the house that we are in we would be fine, I would imagine.

What if we make the wrong decision? What if we hate the house? What if we don't fit? What if...what if...what if.

I just want it all over. I want to be in a house that I can relax in without this stress over my head. I want my wife to get this stuff out of her head as well. I want the kids to be able to play in the street or the garden without fear of catastrophe. I want to be able to get back and forth from Kate' parents without huge journeys.

I think that I've convinced myself to stay the course. Only time will tell.

I want a vote! No vexation without representation!

01 Oct 2004

*sigh*

A great day for the anti-war crowd.

First, the only interesting thing to come out of the Labour conference (notice how they aren't 'New Labour' anymore?) was scuppered. I am talking about the interesting proposed motion to set a date for troop withdrawl from Iraq. Crushed by political gamesmanship into a wary motion to decide to stay as long as the Iraqis want us to.

Of course, this motion was passed once the trade unions had wrangled concessions out of the government (and who can blame them for looking our for their members rather than the world) and were brought on board.

What no-one notices, or points out, is what they mean by "Iraqis". After all, in recent polling in Iraq, something like 90% of Iraqis want the troops out of their country, so we can't be talking about them. Every party in Iraq that isn't made up of exiles wants the troops out, so we can't be talking about them. No, when they say "Iraqis" they mean "Whatever government we can get elected under our auspices", which, effectively means "Us".

So, we'll pull out the troops when we ask ourselves to. Nice conclusion.

The plain fact is that the US is running scared of an actual democracy, which will likely place a Shiite majority party into power, because it would be most decidedly anti-American. Where in the political theory on democracy does it say that democracy is the government of the people just so long as it agrees with US policy?

So, we'll be there for the long haul. More troops will die, more civilians will die. More towns will be bombarded. We eagely await the post-US-election crushing of Sadr City and Falluja. The policy seems to be to bomb the civilian population until they stop harbouring 'insurgents' and then hope that they will become bastions of US support.

Yeah, right. We all know that what happens when you bomb people, blow up their homes, their families and their sacred sites, is that they rally around your cause, sympathise with the difficulty of bombing them for the Big Picture and shower you with rose petals. Not a one of them, upon looking at the borken body of their child will think "Bastard American Dogs! I will kill them all for this".

Secondly, we get the debate between the American presidential candidates. I've just read the transcripts (which should be more revealing than the presentation of the debate live as it allows you to read what is actually said.) and the future is not inspiring.

Bush says, in paraphrase;

1) Invading Iraq was the right thing to do.
2) By fighting them there we will not have to fight them here.
3) We'll stay the course and win.
4) They attacked us so we struck back.

Kerry says,

1) Invading Iraq was the right thing to do, but we did it wrong.
2) We have made a complete mess of things.
3) We'll stay the course and win.
4) We'll win by getting lots of other countries to join with us.

So, both candidates think that they can win. As if saying it makes it so. Recent intelligence estimates declare that the most hopeful, optimistic outcome is a failed state rife with terrorism and strife will totter along for a decade or so before becoming another dictatorship with, and get this, more drive to get WMD. After all, the only thing that keep the Yanks from invading seems to be nuclear weapons (RE : North Korea). The trick will likely be seen to be to get nukes without letting anyone know until it is too late.

Is no-one going to admit the impossible and say that they aren't going to win because they have no idea of what winning even looks like.

I despair. Just so long as it stays the hell away from me, I don't really know what one is supposed to do. I want a vote in the US election, since we seem to have outsourced foreign policy entirely to a bunch of idealogical nutcases in Washington.

Progress Report

29 Sep 2004

Well, Oz is 6 months and a bit, Phoebe is 2 1/4 and things are going very well for them, if you ignore the current outbreak of tummy bugs (Yes, they are both cheerfully 'not werry well' to use Pop's phrase).

Oscar is now just about sitting up, desperately trying to crawl (and currently failing, but you have to admire the effort) and gabbling away in a language that oly Phoebe seems to appreciate in its fullest sense. Indeed, they will now hold conversations together, though I doubt that she is really getting more sense than us because her translations are limited to "He says 'Hayyyy haaaa'". We have had 'bababa', 'gagaga', 'mumumumumu' and 'dadadada', without any seeming link between the noises and any meaning. He does hold conversations in that he when you stop talking he talks back, but that is often thwarted by enthusiastic calls of "Come on Oscar, just say a few words" which, of course, to him means nothing apart from that it isn't his turn to speak yet.

He is also turning over both ways, though the harsh environment of our laminated flooring does tend to damped his enthusiasm somewhat (usually with a thud).

Phoebe seems to have grown up a couple of years in the last week or so. Her conversations are now what I would expect from a three or four year old, and while her energy knows no bounds, it is usually guided into doing purposeful things rather than the mindless activity more usually seen a few months ago. Her potty training has been completed with only the minimum of difficulty (she was working on it for a couple of months, but this week has finally made it to full nappyless status, with the attendant 'trousers too big' problems).

What continues to astound me is the level of her questions. This may be down to us, or maybe all toddlers are like this, but I like to think that our policy of always trying to answer her questions is paying off in her ability to forumlate quite advanced conumdra. She doesn't just ask questions only when the opportunity arises (ie. she sees a cow and asks "what's that"), she also clearly ponders things at length and then comes to us when she reaches a road block in her thinking. Of course, this tends to lead to some tricky questions, but that is all for the better.

So examples would help to illuminate.

The night before last she ask, after her bedtime story "I like strawberries, they taste lovely. I don't like matoes (tomatoes), they taste nasty. Why?". Not the simplest question, as it involved explaining about taste buds, brain function and subjective maters of taste, but she seemed to get the idea that you identify flavours with your tongue and interpret them with your brain. What impressed me was that she had taken two observations, tied them together and noticed a discrepancy (why do I like one thing and not another) and asked a question that, ultimately, could be the subject of a PhD thesis.

Yesterday we had "Why is that boy crying" directed towards a boy who was having a tantrum in a supermarket. I explained that I didn't know, but that maybe he wanted a sweet and his daddy didn't give him one, or maybe he was tired. She absourbed this answer and, to my gratification, when she asked for a currant bun and was thinking about a tantrum, I could bring it back up and talked her down from it.

A little while before that we had "Who makes the sky pretty". Obviously the trivial answer is either "God" or waffle about light diffraction and corneas. The answer that she got was more along the lines of "You do" when I tried to explain that 'pretty' was something the derives from our own judgement not from an objective standard. Driving home this understanding of subjectivity can only be a good thing, surely?

On the other hand, rather grimly, for a two-working parents family, the other day she gripped me around the neck and said "I love you daddy. I miss you when you are at work." How do you respond to that?

Anyway, that's them. As for us, Kate is increasingly going mad at the number of things in her head (imminent return to work, house move (or lack of it), new televisions and DIY) and I am finally getting around to losing some weight by dint of not eating lots of naughty foodstuffs. 9lb so far (in a month). Not too bad. I am also going swimming a lot (I can now swim my mile in 1/2 hour without dying horribly, and doing a bit of kung fu with Dan.

On the whole, not going too badly, but not perfect. Perfection is going to b the mission for the next month :)

Ethical Dilemma

07 May 2004

Theft and Intrigue from the two-foot-tall brigade.

Yesterday, Phoebe told me of distressing story from nursery. She recounted it thusly;

"Phoebe take badge to nursery. Badge have a chimpa-zee onit" (She bought a badge from the Zoo last Sunday and loves wearing it)

"Joshy take Phoebe's badge" (Joshy is one of her friends, about her age and really called 'Josh')

"My say 'Joshy, please give Phoebe's Badge back, please'" ('My say' means 'I', she gets confused about those words)

"Joshy say 'NO!'"

"Phoebe snatch!"

A difficult social situation for any toddler, and not a very easy one for us either.

One of our principles with Phoebe has been to teach her that she is an independent person who has rights, and that because she has rights, other people have rights. The idea here is that, unless you own anything, you will not appreciate what it feels like to have something taken, broken or given and so you will not empathise with anyone when the same happens to them. Since that empathy seems to be the core of most forms of morality we thought it worth teaching.

So, Phoebe has things that are definitely hers, like some of her toys, her pictures, etc. By no means is everything little girl orientated hers in this sense, but a lot is. More importantly, perhaps, her body is hers. This means that if you ask for a kiss and she says 'No' then you don't get one. You don't get to persuade and cajole her into kisses, hugs, carries or anything of that sort. Obviously there are limits (she can't go hangliding, she does have to wear clothes), but in general it works.

The payback is that Daddy, Mummy and Oscar have things as well. Sharing is good (and she loves to share usually, having worked out that if you share with us we will share with you, even going so far as to bring things to us and say "Share it" in order to persuade us to share something with her). We get to decide what happens with these things.

It seems to be working, as far as ethical education of a two year old (nearly anyway) can be said to be working.

So, how do we deal with the problem outlined above. Is it even a problem? After all, she is only defending her property against theft. She didn't knock him to the ground and beat him, she only snatched. On the other hand, snatching is naughty. Disputes should and can be settled differently.

We settled on a "What you did was wrong, but not very wrong and what Joshy did was worse. It was your badge and you didn't have to give it to him. The best thing to have done would be to have gone to Sarah (Nursery lady) and asked her to tell Josh to give your badge back." We then practiced conversations with Sarah to tell her what happened and resolve it.

There we have it. The complexity of a 'Shades of Grey' morality where some actions are more wrong than others, reliance on authority (or snitching rather than snatching) and property rights.

I think that by three she should be able to construct a decent Eurythro style argument to explain why Divine Command moral theory (and indeed all Authoritarian Moral theories) are inadequate.

And in other news, Oscar gave his forst few real smiles yesterday. He really is a little star and soon I will write how his first months have gone.

I Saved a Child from Drowning!

22 Jan 2004

About 20 times in one lunchtime!

Yes, dramatic title, not so dramatic revelation. As I've mentioned before I take my daughter swimming on Tuesday lunchtimes. It was slightly weird for a while, being the only Dad (and probably the only regular Dad that the instructors had ever had in their class), and I felt a little what it must be like to be a part of a minority. There was no sense of rejection, only of curiosity, but that curiosity tended to lead toward exclusion.

It is worth mentioning that there was not, at any stage, any malice offered, nor any intention to exclude. It was purely my reaction to being a minority group, coupled with curiosity from the others there. You cannot help but feel a little self-conscious in such a circumstance.

I'd imagine that I went through the standard stages of minority recognition. A feeling of exclusion, inspiring curiosity, confusion, acceptance. There was an odd stage in the middle where I was touted as a great father for getting a job near to her, spending so much time with her, etc. That wore off quickly enough :)

So, back to the drowning. I've heard people talk about the 'Aquatic Ape' hypothesis of human evolution, that we evolved near water and loved playing in the surf at early evolutionary stages. This would explain (1) Loss of hair, (2) how much we like beaches and (3) why we seem so comfortable in water. Well, comfortable in water we may be, but "Insane in water" describes Phoebe a bit better.

Every time we go to the swimming pool she has to be persuaded to not start her lesson before the last class has come out of the pool. Not that she wants to go in alone, no, she just wants to start the lesson as quickly as possible.

This week the instructors put a few toys about 3 meters away from the steps and said "We'd like the Mums, and Dad, to stay on the steps and see if you can get your child to come out, get a toy and bring it back to you."

Well, by "to stay" Phoebe had already run down the steps, legged it to the toys and grabbed a big ball, by "your child" she had returned it to me and by "back to you" she was picking up other toys and bringing them back to the other children to save them the bother.

Now, I don't want to give the impression that I am boasting abut Pop's achievements in the pool. As it happens, she is not one of the top performers in the class. She is difficult to persuade to stay on her back, she doesn't have much of a streamlined body shape when she is being pulled along (shouting "Kick, Kick!" all the way). She often swallows far too much water and is occasionally sick because of it.

She is, at best, a mediocre swimmer, inasmuch as the word can be applied to a 20 month-old. She makes up for this by being the most enthusiastic swimmer that I've ever met. She runs about in the pool with nary a care about personal danger. She walks until only her nose is sticking out the water and then realises that she is stuck. She goes underwater repeatedly, laughing all the time until she realises that there is this 'air' stuff that she used to like.

I watch this with panicked equanimity. As far as I can tell it is unrealistic to expect her to understand that she is in danger in the pool, beyond the expectation that she should always have Daddy in eyeshot and should never go near water without Daddy telling her that she can. Once we're in I'm a full time lifeguard. I regard this as a good thing though. I am not afraid that she is going to drown herself in the bath (though we obviously don't leave her unattended) because I know that she can fall over in 2 1/2 feet of water and still get to her feet without trouble. She can swim underwater and climb up the steps without ever needing a hand.

What is more important is that she enjoys swimming without the false impression (that you may get from always wearing arm bands, or being carried in the pool) that it is completely safe. She knows that you need Daddy around if you are going to do silly things because, like as not, he is going to have to come to your rescue.

So that's why I say that I've saved a child from drowning. I may do the actual act 20 times a week, but I am trying to avoid *not* being there to save her once.

What's the point?

18 Nov 2003

That's the big question, isn't it? What is the point of life? Why bother if we are just lumps of chemicals? Why not just give up now if in 1000 years we might as well never have existed?

All good questions but, I feel, missing the point by a mile. I don't believe that there is a 'point' in the sense of some overarching universal goal to our lives. However I don't feel that this means that we are pointless, it just means that we make our own 'point'.

As an illustration I'd like to bring up the game of Monopoly. In this game you, as I am sure you are aware, roll a dice, buy 'property' with 'money' and try to put your fellow gamers out of business by charging them exorbitant fees for staying in your hotels.

Now, what is the point of Monopoly, in a universal sense? Well, there isn't one. The money isn't real, no-one gets anything for winning and the hotels are a little too small for a truly comfortable retirement. When you have finished the game some people might remember that you won or lost, but it is hardly going to change your life (Unless there is some sort of Grand Tournament for Monopoly players). So, why play the game? Why, when someone gets out the board do we not just mug the banker and declare ourselves the winner?

The answer, for most of us, is that it is fun, a pastime, a bit of fun. We get enjoyment out of this sort of minor league gladiatorial thing. It passes a few hours and allows us to sharpen our wits against each other.

The point of this illustration is that pointlessness doesn't seem to stop us from doing things. If we don't bother to ask the big, and misleading questions, we carry on as we would have even if we had found a grand 'point'.

Now, some people aren't content to regard life as just a game, and I am one of them. Life is, quite literally, deadly serious. I am no more trying to prove that life is as trivial as a game of Monopoly than I am trying to demonstrate that Monopoly is the point to life. These people demand that their lives should have meaning beyond game playing. Where they then go is, to my mind, a step too far. They then say that their life should have some sort of universal meaning, timeless and awesome. What puzzles me is that often these very same people claim that they are satisfied that the point to their lives is to participate in a game where the winners get eternal happiness and the losers get eternal torment. They are happy to be playing Monopoly just as long as the board is sufficiently large.

I reject that sort of woolly thinking. If game playing is no reason to live then it doesn't matter how grand the game or how vast the umpire. I say that the things that give us value in our lives, morality, children, family, other people, art, work, are all vastly more significant than some game. They are the very things that make us human and we ignore them at our peril.

For myself, the point is in being a good father to my child, in being a good husband to my wife, in being a good person to those around me. I don't feel the need to have the books balanced at the end. I want them balanced right now.

So, to bring me back to the questions at the top of the page, the trick to answering them is to look at the small rather than the large. For "Why continue to live if you have no point to your life" I say "I do have a point to my life, family, children, my own happiness". To those who say "You won't be remembered in a 1000 years" I say "So what? I don't care if I am remembered in 1000 years, I want to be remembered now."

Don't look outside yourself for validation, look inside.

This was a public service announcement from the "Give your wife a hug" Party.

Pop's Progress

03 Nov 2003

Today I thought that I'd use this journal for what it was meant for, recording things that I'd forget or blend into another time as the eons march by.

So, how is pop getting on? Well, we have a vast number of words in her now (17 months in) including, but not limited to;


  • Mummy

  • Daddy

  • Phoebe

  • Nanny

  • Ga-Ga (Grandad, and very appropriate it is too)

  • Guck (Gus, her friend from parent and child group)

  • Wee-Wee (Either one of the Williams from p&c group, or a regrettable incident involving a dirty nappy

  • Ouise (Louise, a child that she seems rather taken by at nursery)

  • Pooh (,Winnie the)

  • Muck (Milk)

  • Tea

  • Dog

  • Cat

  • Horse

  • What's that?



Well, I could go on listing them all day. There are about 100 or so of them. She can go through a picture book and ID just about every picture. She asks us for basic things that she wants (Milk, Beebies, etc) and she has developed her own little language for many things (Lion = "Rahhhh", Swimming = "Kick, kick, kick)")

Other than that we have full climbing up and down the stairs ability, climbing like a mountaineer (with occasional falls) and some delightful drawing skills. She is happy to identify people and recognises who she likes and who she doesn't.

She loves reading and will often get her books out and demand a story, contenting herself sometimes with just sitting and quietly reading to herself. I loved sitting with her, both reading to ourselves, while Kate made dinner last week. Some people treasure memories of great feats of endurance, I treasure reading quietly with my daughter. How sad am I?

Walking, running and dancing are all well within her abilities, though running still results in the occasional tumble. She enjoys slides and can go up and down them without any help.

I really could go on and on with this, but I'm not going to. I'm just going to sit here and look all smug :)

To believe or not to believe

31 Oct 2003

I'm an atheist. To many people this means "Arrogant b*stard who claims to know everything" or "Amoral Communist baby eater". This cultural bias even affects myself, since I still find it quite hard to write the word without wondering whether I should make it something less confrontational like 'sceptic' or 'freethinker'. Nonetheless, atheist I am.

It is worth noting that there are gradations within the term, though they are often misinterpreted. Atheism relates to belief about god/s. There are broadly two positions within that:

1) I don't believe in gods
2) I believe that there aren't any gods

These two may seem, at first glance, to be saying the same thing but there is a subtle difference between the two. A good example of how this works would be in the question of intelligent alien life.

Given the observation that there are a great many stars in the universe and that the universe has been around a long time, as well as the seeming fact that the beginning of life is merely a matter of probability, it seems unlikely that there is not, or has never been, another world on which intelligence has arisen. As such, holding the position "I believe that there is no other intelligent life in the universe" would be absurd.

However, discounting the bizarre allegations of the large number of people who claim to have seen saucers whizzing above their heads (and I recognise that discounting these reports is a big step if unjustified, but justifying it is outside of the scope of this piece), we have no actual evidence *for* the claim that there is intelligent life other than us. A mere probabilistic argument isn't going to cut it. Our assumptions about the likelihood of life arising may be wildly out. Our estimates of the number of potentially life bearing planets may be wrong. Intelligence may well be a very unlikely thing to surface in the evolutionary struggle. So it is also quite possible to say that, while you do not take the absurd position above, you also do not take the unwarranted step of believing that there are alien intelligences in the universe.

The flexibility of these positions should be clear to all. One could take a generically 'weak' position with regard to alien intelligence while taking a strong (I believe that they don't exist) towards aliens who visit Earth and mutilate cattle (Why aliens who were so advanced in physics would be so backwards when it comes to biology is never really explained. Why they leave the carcasses behind is also a mystery).

So it is with gods. One can take a strong atheist position with regard to some and a weak position with regard to others. Almost everyone is happy to take a strong position with regard to Zeus (silly stories about him coming down to earth in the form of a swan and impregnating vulnerable young girls, leaving his half-man, half-god offspring to wreak havoc seem to point towards non-existence) while holding a weak position with regard to the Christian God (who much more sensibly sent an angel to impregnate a vulnerable young girl, leaving his half-man, half-god offspring to wreak havoc).

For a long time this position, or one very similar, was my own. However, I have realised over time that most of this reluctance stemmed from the same place as my reluctance to write the word 'atheist' as a personal identifier. I have a culturally ingrained barrier to applying any serious criticism to the prevalent religious attitudes. I may think that they are not correct but I still don't want to say so.

Well, no more. If I am going to apply my scepticism with a bias then I might as well not be applying it at all. That's the point of scepticism. So, I must admit that there is nothing inherently sillier about a story that involves walking on water, virgin births, half-god, half-men, talking snakes and 1000 year old men than there is in one with bearded chaps throwing their hammers around to cause thunder. Obviously silliness doesn't imply that something is incorrect, but it does mean that such claims should require the most superlative of evidence in support.

If the muse strikes me again I shall have a look at some of the support that the gods that I feel uncomfortable dismissing have for them, as well as some of the arguments against them.

Or, of course, some aspect of the world might irritate me and I might have to rant about that instead. We shall see.

£1.59 for a bottle of water?

30 Oct 2003

I swear that some people will buy anything. I was visiting the health food shop in order to stock up on such niceties as yoghurt coated peanuts and cashews when I saw a large stack of bottles of water for the fabulous price of £1.59 for 250mls. Being a health food shop, of course, one expects to see much astrological and spiritual guff, but water?

What is so special about this water I ask myself, or rather the promotional material next to it. Well, the mystery is that it is pure water, nothing else. No arsenic, no calcium, no nothing, just water. There is even a rather cute set of nutritional information on the side (Fat : 0g, sugar 0g, well, duh!). The manufacturers claim that this stuff forms small clusters of water molecules which permeate your cells faster than normal water (presumably because our bodies, in their stupid evolutionary manner, attuned themselves to absorbing a form of water unheard of in nature rather than the water that they actually met everyday for the last 100,000 years or so).

OK, all well and good. It sounds like nonsense to me but then I didn't pay as much attention as I should have done in my university chemistry lectures. As far as I knew water molecules wouldn't form clusters at all as the only forces that would allow them to do so are hydrogen bonds which are simply not strong enough to hold clusters together at room temperature. Since my initial scepticism I have looked about a bit and found that, to no-one's surprise, the Penta Water people (for that is their brand name) have avoided taking the JREF $1,000,000 challenge, haven't presented any actual evidence of their claims, obfuscate over their claimed anecdotal evidence and generally show themselves to be snake-oil salesmen of the twenty first century.

Ultimately their evidence comes down to "AA.Nonymous of Hartlepool says 'I tried it and I felt great' so why not give it a try? What have you got to lose?"

Well, about £1.58 a bottle I'd guess since it doesn't seem to do anything different to tap water. Hell, I used to have buckets of distilled and purified water in the labs at university. I really should have bottled them and sold them for millions.

What galls me is that this sort of critical thinking is simple and easy to do. If we can't even apply our brains to little problems like these then how can we hope to solve any of the more pressing concerns that we have?

Bloody Remote Marketing

13 Oct 2003

I really hate marketing calls. If I ruled the world you'd have to at least start any telesales/telemarketing call with the words "This is a sales call from X company. Today we'll be trying to sell you stuff that you neither want nor need, a fact that should be obvious by the simple observation that our product is so unwanted that we've had to call you up and beg you to buy it in our supercilious tones."

Hopefully, if this were the case, most people would only need to hear "This is a sales call from *click*..."

As if it wasn't bad enough that you often get these calls at outrageous times (9:30PM is the latest so far. I mean, for heaven's sake, who wants to buy a timeshare at that time in the evening?), sometimes they go even further and just sign you up for their crap service without you even wanting to do so.

My current whinge is against BT and Sky Talk. Sky Talk phoned us up six months ago and I told them, because I was weak and listened to their spiel, that I would think about it and call them back if I was interested. They, in their most decidedly finite wisdom took that to mean, "Yes, please. I am gagging to be ripped off by your overpriced scheme. Please sign me up right now, but try not to tell me about it because I don't like to be bothered by people who charge me for things."

BT, meanwhile, got wind of my unconscious rejection of their glorious magnificence and phoned up Kate to beg her to rejoin their ever-growing ranks of slightly dissatisfied customers. Since we'd never left and told them so, they sold us something else instead. As part of this call they promised to tell Sky Talk to bog off and never darken our doors again. Fine, job done, we think. So we go on our merry way, making calls and bedamned to the costs.

Now, six months later, Kate investigates the accounts and finds that *both* Sky Talk and BT have been charging us for our calls. Whoopee! Double price promise! So we are down a cool £150 and the forces of deregulation are up by the same amount. So we engage in a rearguard action to get our money back only to find that Sky Talk have a closed contact centre whereby no-one, and I mean no-one, can get past the initial flunky (a rather nice chap called Mike admittedly) to someone who can deal with this sort of thing, and that BT want Kate to be on hold for the telephonic equivalent of Wagner's The Ring.

Christ!

Just give me back my money and go back to the holes from which you crawled!

Time to return to tin cans and string, methinks.

Going for Gold

06 Oct 2003

Having said that I'm not a very artistic person, I'll spend today listing another of my failings. I'm not a very competitive person.

Now, many would say that this isn't a failing and many others would scoff. The scoffers would then point to their enhanced abilities and medals as evidence of their right to scoff. I can see the scoffer's point here. We drive ourselves to greater standards when we compete against others and the testing that comes from such competition is central to our ability to reject what works and keep what doesn't. Of course, taken to the extreme it can, as can most things, be deeply harmful. The sight of parents infecting their children with the belief that anything other than a medal is worthless makes me very sad. The person who puts every ounce of their being into being the best middle manager in Barclay's bank also fills me with no joy.

With the extremes removed, the middle ground looks rather attractive. It seems to be a basic part of our make-up to be competitive and it is doubtless that many of the big 'winners' in history have been so.

That is why I describe my lack of such an urge to be a failing. It would probably be better if I could get really excited about being the best but I just can't. It is like trying to believe that I am a middle aged woman called Sue. I can say the words but the concept never quite hits home. Ultimately I just don't really care.

I say all of this not just to hang myself in public but also to put in context my enjoyment of a competition that I recently entered.

I do Karate. I don't say that with the intention of impressing anyone. (The whole thing is about as impressive, as a hobby, as Morris Dancing. If you had come to the competition you would probably understand. The sight of grown men in white pyjamas dancing around and shouting a lot is not likely one to inspire fear in the hearts of the unrighteous.) I say it because otherwise it wouldn't have made much sense for me to go and compete.

Now, in Karate competition there are really two options. Kate or Kumite. Kumite is fighting, Kata is dancing. This was a Kata competition. In this we each get up in front of some judges and do our dance (actually about a three minute sequence of attacks and defences in combinations) and then we sit down again. Where's the blood you scream? Well, there isn't any. It is all a matter of getting the sequence right and artistic impression.

Well, I huffed and I puffed and I got a 3rd place trophy with a chap doing a flying kick adorning it. However, I find it hard to get very excited by it. The person who got first was an absolute genius and the 2nd place went to a friend from my own club whose level of abilities is pretty close to mine but who obviously impressed the judges more than I.

So, did I learn anything from forcing myself to go for the trophy? Well, yes. I learned that, if the atmosphere is, in general, one of wanting to take part but not caring if you win, the whole event can be remarkably friendly. I look forward to finding out whether the same can be said for Kumite (fighting) competitions, or whether the egos take over.

Well, there you are. Short on philosophy, long on personal detail. Perhaps Iíll do a Kantian theory of Ethics tomorrow.

The joy of going local

02 Oct 2003

A rather funny subject for a journal entry that is, by its very nature, global, one might think, but you calls 'em as you sees 'em.

We had some serious network problems at work today which meant that I couldn't do a thing. A web developer who can't see the network is, as you can imagine, a pretty useless beast. So, in order to avoid the tedium of rereading the paper a third time I decided to go home and catch up on some loft tidying, a task that I normally assiduously avoid. However, I failed to make it more than 50 meters from the office as I came across an art exhibition in the local community hall. Not, you might think, the most auspicious of surroundings, but I found myself tempted to enter.

It is worth explaining my attitudes towards the art world at this point. I'm not an artist. I can't paint, can't draw, can't compose. I'm rather in awe of those who can. I used to be able to sing but I always feel that singing is a rather mechanical art form and, since my voice broke, I have a huge hole in my register that prevents me from even this modest form of expression. My oboe teacher told me that, while I was technically proficient, I didn't put any feeling into the music. I didn't understand this then and, largely, I don't understand it now. It is just a matter of blowing in the right holes at the right times, surely? Obviously not, and my lack of understanding of this shows more clearly than anything else my deficit in the artistic impression category.

On the other hand, I don't dismiss artists as time wasters and I certainly don't expect art to be functional. That rather misses the point I feel. It can be used for some function, but if function is its primary goal it doesn't feel like art to me.

Often when I hear the cry of "But my five year old could have done that" I want to respond with "Well why don't *you* go and do it instead" but I bite my tongue. It almost seems fashionable to tell everyone in a loud voice how silly, irrelevant or juvenile art is compared to the 'Great Masters'. Well, so what? What is so wrong with silly or juvenile art? Must it be only sombre, uplifting or technically able? Why not fun, silly and irreverent?

My desire to go and see this local art exhibition was partly driven by a reawakened sense of appreciation brought on by my visit to the National Gallery with Kate and Rillion. Spending a few hours wandering around alternately laughing and gasping at some of the work in there (More often laughing to be honest, we weren't very reverent about the bizarre antics of some of the Medieval works and their hanging pears) reminded me how to enjoy art. It isn't much of a revelation to many, I know, but the realisation was this;

You don't have to know anything about art to enjoy it.

You just need to be able to admit to yourself that you like something, or that you don't like something and take the time to work out why you like it or not.

The first step in this, for me at least, was realising that there wasn't some examiner who was going to tell me that I was wrong. I had to realise that I had a right to have an opinion about these works regardless of my experience. Perhaps that is an inevitable curse of education, particularly an exam based education. You tend to look for the right answers all of the time when we find that, far from being right and wrong answers, often there aren't any answers at all. That realisation can be rather liberating, though it can be taken rather to far.

Anyway, once I had gone through this process, I started really looking at these works for the first time. I don't much like Impressionism, I discovered. It is very clever, it is technically demanding, the origins of it are inspired. However, it doesn't enthral me. Maybe one day it will. Certainly my tastes have changed over the years, so much so that I sometimes feel like there was a completely different person called 'Phil' who was around 10 years ago.

On that subject, one of the paintings that I liked from the National Gallery was 'An Allegory of Prudence' by Titian. The three ages of man juxtaposed (is that the right word? who knows, I'm going to use it anyway) above the three beast's heads leaped out at me. It was interesting. It seemed to have something to say which was a welcome relief from the landscapes and portraits which were starting to wear me down by then. We talked about the idea of the beasts representing the ages in more figurative terms, perhaps with the wolf representing cunning in the old man (he certainly looks like a dodgy sort).

While I'm talking about works that I enjoyed, I'll just mention 'Portrait of Cornelis van der Geest' by Anthony van Dyck. You have no idea how much time I have spent trawling through the National Gallery website looking for this and you have no idea how little the flat representation shows of the work (unless you've seen it 'live'). This painting just jumped off the wall and bashed me around the head. It is done in very thick oils, the sort that you would normally use to paint those 'Tempestuous Sea' images that seem to proliferate. In this case the result is a painting with its own built in shadow and crags. The 3-d-ness of the painting just doesn't come across in a book and, as I look at it on the webpage, it means nothing to me. Strange really, but it taught me that if you want to look at art you'd better go to a gallery.

So, after a very long, winding and deeply tedious (hello, dear reader, are you still there?) journey down Phil's artistic awakening, or at least update to the level of your normal 12 year old, we get to the point. I saw the art exhibition from the local arts and craft group and wandered in.

After a minimalistically nominal charge of 50p for entry I found myself in a surprisingly pleasant atmosphere. There were about 200 pictures on a display for purchase (from £10 to $200 but generally lingering around £30), a big display of children's artwork from the local school (which I thought was unbelievable until I realised that "Year 11" did not mean "11 year old", but which was still extraordinary. One self-portrait in purple close-up was breathtaking), craft stalls with dolls, cards and other goodies, coffee, tea and, for the indulgent, wine. There were also about 10 ladies, all of whom wanted nothing better than to chat about their work, or other peopleís work or even about the weather. I was expecting to be intimidated but instead I chatted, I observed and I learned.

Now, as to the actual art on the walls, and you have to recognise that this is only my general feeling and can be ignored at any time, it ranged from rather hackneyed pictures of tigers, through (to my mind) deeply tedious flowers, into some inspired glades and landscapes, wandered briefly though a lot of sailing boats and ended up with some conceptual stuff that I rather enjoyed. It is rather pointless to try to describe most of them but on the whole I was as moved as I was unmoved and that is all that I had hoped for.

Now, why did I title this 'The joy of going local'? Well, partly a pun on 'Going Loco', but mostly because I am finding that seeing something of this sort locally adds about three rungs of pleasure to it. I can look at the Great Masters and there is a remoteness there. You have to break through it just to look at the work and in some cases you never can. When looking at work in a local exhibition, on the other hand, you know that it was painted by someone down the road who was just doing it for the sheer pleasure of expressing themselves. In that sense it is irrelevant whether it is actually any good, the pleasure in manufacture comes through. The same applies to butchers and bakers (and presumably candlestick makers, though I've never met one). Somehow when you are in a supermarket there is a distance that is always present. The staff aren't connected to their goods, the goods aren't connected to you, everyone walks around with a bubble of detachment. In local shops there is a pride in the produce because, in a sense, when you buy their goods you are buying a little bit of them. Their reputation and self-worth gets attached to everything that they sell. Well, it should do in an ideal world, but the principle works in general.

Once again I wonder whether we aren't swapping the things that make us human for the nebulous idea of 'choice'.

Good grief, how do these things happen? You start off writing about a visit to an art gallery, go through art appreciation in general and end up moaning about urban angst in the 21st Century.

What I need to do is focus on the task at.... what was I doing again...

Immigration or Desperation?

01 Oct 2003

Yesterday my mother in law (hereafter known as MIL) did something for which the Daily Mail would probably give her a medal1. She reported a suspicous immigrant2 to the authorities. However, while the Mail would be giving the medal for keeping the streets clean, MIL's actions were driven by compassion rather than a desire for some sort of ethnic purity.

A quick summary of the action : MIL, FIL (Father in law) and little Pop were walking in the park when they noticed a man in a very tattered state. The man approached them and MIL took little Pop away for obvious reasons while FIL tried to communicate with the man (with some trepidation I suspect). He was in a bad way, obviously not having washed and probably not having eaten for some time. The chap asked, in very broken and almost incomprehensible English, "Is this Ireland?". No conversation could ensue due to the obvious language difficulties. FIL called the police and the police picked him up wandering lost down the high street.

It transpired that the man was an Afghanistani refugee who gave all of his money to someone in order to be parceled up, strapped to the bottom of an HGV and shipped, driven and dumped. He was lost in the middle of a non-descript English town thinking that he was in Ireland. How the b*stards who do this to people sleep at night is a mystery to me, but I suspect that the answer is "On a pile of money".

As I heard this story, irrelevant details stuck in my mind. He was wearing two pairs of trousers. Why would you want to do that? Because it was freezing cold on the journey? Because it was an easy way to transport the sum total of his worldly possessions? Who knows. What I do know is that this is not the act of someone who just wants to get a quick buck because he is a scrounging lowlife. This is a human being, the same as you or I, who found, in his desperate circumstances, the fortitude to undergo such a dangerous and insane course of action as to don his spare trousers and take his luck.

What will happen to him now? I really don't know. Probably a detention center of some sort, maybe enough tokens to buy some food and clothes, probably a nice ticket back to Afghanistan, since it is now 'safe', the crusaders having done their bit. Sans money, sans hope, sans just about everything.

What would have happened to him if he hadn't been picked up? I imagine that he might have found his way to London (that seemed to be his destination). I am led to believe that it is rather easier for the women because they get picked up by vicious brothels and sweatshops to be abused until they are worthless. What a man does I don't know. Freezes to death on the streets, takes up mugging, gets welcomed into a warm fraternity of fellow refugees, I don't know.

Where all of this is leading is this: Why is someone worth less because they weren't born in this country? The sort of determination that is shown by someone who undergoes such hardship is worthy of recognition, not rejection, surely. I'm not suggesting that everyone who comes over on a boat is a great asset, but then not everyone is a curse either. Maybe it is my liberal conscience (I try to only let it out at Christmas but sometimes it escapes), but don't we have some sort of collective responsibility to these people, just because they are people?

Ahh, hell, what do I know. He's probably the Afghanistani equivalent of Fred West. Best to lock him up and send him back to a war zone...

1It is worth noting that my MIL is a nice compassionate person (some would say too nice) and that she would never, ever, read the Daily Mail unless her daughter was in it, and even then under sufferance.

2MIL has asked me to note that any claims of illegal status on the part of the chap are only speculative since we do not know his exact status.

Another day...

30 Sep 2003

...another dollar.

A slightly frustrating day today. A customer phones me up and tells me to shut down their site www.midangliacancernetwork.nhs.uk because the content is too out of date. The idea that, maybe, just maybe, they should *UPDATE* the site doesn't seem to have occurred to them. Well, that's not very fair, it did occur to the authors, just not to the board. Oh well, there we go.

So, I look to the world to entertain me and I find that all any newspaper can talk about is Blair's speech to his party conference. Well, here's a prediction. "Foundation hospitals are the only way to go", "Top-up fees are the best way to get everyone into education" and "Love, love me do, we beat up the chap with the moustache". Is it just me, or isn't it a universal rule that when you start to charge for a free service, customers don't pick up, they leave. Doesn't the same apply to top-up charges for universities? Apparently not.

On the whole, Labour look like the Tories, the Tories look like a sewing circle who can't stop bitching long enough to actually be a party and the Liberals are still wandering about saying whatever they like because they know that they'll never need to actually test out their theories. Vote Natural Law1, says I. At least that way we'll face invaders with a blanket of healing meditation energy rather than Pvt.Tim, the lone British soldier who isn't off getting a suntan somewhere.

Still, there is always one place left to look. Little Pop. We went swimming today and she loved it, absolutely loved it. A few weeks ago I was a bit worried when she shouted through her whole lesson. Then the next week she shouted some more. Then, miraculously, she laughed and jumped about and nearly drowned herself (well, maybe not so miraculous, she should be walking on water by now, surely?), swallowing half of the pool which she deposited on Nannie's car seat an hour later. So today I wanted to see whether it was a return to the shouting, but no. Now that she can stand on the bottom she can't get enough. Even the shower (or tickle snake as Kate so cutely puts it) didn't faze her.

Really, if they want world peace they should force all of these people with too much pent up aggression to take their daughters to the swimming pool. We'd have peace over the Gaza strip in hours.

1(NB. Damn, the Natural Law party aren't fielding candidates anymore. Next the Monster Raving Loonies will go out of business and we'll just be left with David Icke)

Blogging for Blogging's sake

29 Sep 2003

Well, finally we have CroftsBlog. For those of you not in the know about such things, Blogs are a fairly new name for a fairly old thing, journals.

Years ago we used to keep journals out of sight, often even going to such lengths as locking them away, to prevent people from seeing our thoughts. Now, of course, having been brought up on a diet of Big Brother and instant fame, we like to put them up for anyone with a computer to see. I find that there is a refreshing honesty about that, though of course I worry whether that is just my social conditioning at work. Perhaps Davina will come down and take my soul...

I am reminded of the recent revelations of the contents of Alistair Campbell's diary. It was read aloud without ever comment that this was the diary of a spin doctor, and that you don't think that he would be stupid enough to commit anything to paper, private or not, if it wasn't in his interests to do so. I think that blogs will bring out a lot of that in people, running an internal "What if my mother in law reads this" check against their entries, so that these things end up being less one's inner thoughts and more what one would wish one's inner thoughts to be.

Well, we'll never know because no-one who doesn't know me will ever read this :)

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