Friday, August 29, 2003

Hello people of the blogosphere! I've decided to give out an ICQ number, which will be in use until it is abused. Here we go: twofivefoursevenohseventwothreenine.

Hopefully it won't get picked up by those pesky robots either.
London suffered it's own mini-blackout, New Yorkers will be gratified to hear. A circuit blew and 250,000 people were plunged into darkness...for 35 minutes. Obviously, this is front page news.

It turns out that it was all down to that very American idea of Privatisation. Last year, the tube which kept running through the Blitz, had it's independent power supply shut down and privatised to some fly-by-night power company or other.

This year, the biggest power failure on the tube ever. Co-incidence? No. When will this Labour government realise that privatisation is rubbish and stop doing it?

The Government isn't terribly popular at the moment. Perhaps they could stop privatising and at least make themselves more popular with their supporters?

Thursday, August 28, 2003

Well, now the Government is proposing identity cards, again. Where did it all go wrong? Identity cards are a rotten idea, almost as rotten as privatisation or PPP or PFI or whatever they are calling it this week. This isn't what I voted for and I'm fed up. The Government went into Iraq despite practically all their supporters being against it, and look at the mess, which was predicted from the start.

The worst thing is, I understand that the identity cards are being introduced so we harmonised with Europe. It is such a pity our defence policy doesn't. Privatisation is intrinsically a bad idea - the NHS was turned into a monopoly because the old system wasn't working. To break the monopoly only creates a private oligopoly which can price fix. That is in no-one's (except the fat cat directors so created) interest.

Tuesday, August 26, 2003

Cobwebs. That's what I'm faced with this morning. It's been so long since I've posted I think I've forgotten what my url is. More soon.

Friday, August 22, 2003

Many thanks to Plunky Punk for her excellent discovery


Circle I Limbo

Bill Gates
Circle II Whirling in a Dark & Stormy Wind

Circle III Mud, Rain, Cold, Hail & Snow

Circle IV Rolling Weights

Iain Duncan Smith
Circle V Stuck in Mud, Mangled

River Styx

Circle VI Buried for Eternity

River Phlegyas

Circle VII Burning Sands

George Bush
Circle IIX Immersed in Excrement

Margaret Thatcher
Circle IX Frozen in Ice

Design your own hell

I've been away and all those things I was going to blog about have completely gone out of my head. Yesterday we took our son to get his Hib vaccination - you know, the one developed by the Cubans. Amazingly, I don't see the Americans blockading this one. Funny that.

One of my friends is going to Cuba again soon - she loved it and had a wonderful time. It's remarkable really how rich it is, considering that it's nearest neighbours are dirt poor, and there has been a continuous naval blockade around it for years.

It must be the US base in Guantanamo Bay, siphoning money into it...

Tuesday, August 19, 2003

Statesman or Skatesman?

A website dedicated to politicians on children's locomotive toys...as the author says on his website

"How it all started......

Last Christmas my Dad and me had a big argument. He'd found a picture of Enoch Powell on a pogo stick and claimed that politicians weren't as interesting as that any more.

I'm doing politics A level and thought that he was wrong. So I wrote to lots of them to ask them what they thought, and whether they had ever been on any of the following..."

The website (courtesy of Tom Watson MP's blog)
Science fiction becoming science fact in my lifetime.

It has happened so often now that one could become almost blase about it. But I still get a kick from it. This is what happened to the "flying lamp" that was so beloved of a certain sort of sort of science fiction.

Space probe paves way for European moon landing - full story

Ion drive will propel £77m Smart-1 on journey to find out what Earth's companion is made of

Tim Radford, science editor
Tuesday August 19, 2003
The Guardian

A space probe the size of a washing machine driven by a Star Trek drive no more powerful than a puff of breath is about to explore one of the solar system's oldest mysteries and pave the way for a European landing on the moon.
Smart-1, a £77m European Space Agency probe carrying a British instrument which will settle questions about what the moon is made of, will be launched aboard an Ariane 5 rocket from Kourou, in French Guiana, on September 3.

Once in high orbit, its array of solar panels will unfold like the wingspan of an albatross, to collect the electrical power for an ion drive propulsion system. This will fire a stream of electrically charged xenon atoms to provide a push of no more than a few grams - the weight of a postcard or sheet of paper. Think of an ion drive as a neon lightbulb with one end removed, says Manuel Grande, of the Rutherford Appleton Laboratory in Oxfordshire, and one of the principal investigators for the mission.

But ion drive has a huge advantage over chemical rockets. A stream of xenon ions shoots away from the spacecraft at 10 times the speed of any rocket. So an ion drive spaceship can go 10 times as fast - or set off with one tenth of the fuel.

Monday, August 18, 2003

Being the aspirational middle class person I am, I'm going to be trying a bit of mosaic within Chez Wallybrane. So far I've done some preparation of the panel I'm going to decorate, and cut up some pieces of tile to tessalate. There will be reguar home decorating updates from now on. This weekend we finished painting the lounge, so it already looks better and we took down the dreadful curtains so there is a lot more light in there now. At the moment the stairs are still uncarpeted but I'm hoping to persuade Mrs W soon to allow me to do something about it. I think she is still holding out until the extension gets built.

In five years time.

Friday, August 15, 2003

A friend of mine who works for Save the Children sent this to me

Liberia Crisis appeal

Eleven of Britain’s leading aid agencies, including Oxfam, Christian Aid and Save the Children have come together under the umbrella of the Disasters Emergency Committee to raise vital funds for the suffering people of Liberia.

The actor Ross Kemp launched our Appeal this week and thanks to the public's generosity we have already raised an estimated two million pounds. There are one million people in need of fresh water, shelter and food in Liberia. This means we have raised £2 per person in need, but we still have a long way to go.

Our appeal hotline number is 0870 60 60 900

Donations can also be made by visiting our website www.dec.org.uk or by visiting any high street bank or post office.

Please give generously!

Thank you!

At the present time, there is a power cut over a large swathe of the US and Canada with around 50 million people being affected. New York and Detroit have no power, and in Detroit power is not expected to return until Sunday. At the moment terrorism is not suspected but a fire took place in a power station.

Sources: radio, TV, internet news sources.

Thursday, August 14, 2003

Well, I know the blogstream has almost dried up here at Chez Wallybrane so I thought I would just start writing and see what turned up. Something usually does. Mars is at it's closest approach to the earth on about the 26th or 27th and there are Perseids around at the moment, I'm told.

Reading other people's blogs - Jezebel has finally been reset (see her blog for more) and mostly the rest of blogdom is settling down into the holiday season - light blogging, little blogging, ahhhh.

I'll still be adding my comments to other people's blogs but I was wondering what other people would think of me mirroring my comments on here too?

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

Interesting question on Tom Watson MP's website - should there be more public holidays. I wouldn't have thought a socialist would even need to stop and think about that one. Of course we should! We should have at least as many as the great economies of Europe - Ireland, Spain and Italy. These economic powerhouses have up to seven days extra a year compared to us.

Also, there should be a public holiday for elections, and fixed election days. The public holiday might even encourage some people to engage with democracy, rather than rush around after work trying to get to the polling station and then forgetting.

Monday, August 11, 2003

Next time someone tries to con you with right wing economics, here's what they are really trying to sell:

Right-Wing Ideology in a Nutshell

from the Blue Bus - full article here

When you cut right through it, right-wing ideology is just "dime-store economics" – intended to dress their ideology up and make it look respectable. You don't really need to know much about economics to understand it. They certainly don't. It all gets down to two simple words.

"Cheap labor." That's their whole philosophy in a nutshell – which gives you a short and pithy "catch phrase" that describes them perfectly. You've heard of "big-government liberals." Well they're "cheap-labor conservatives."

"Cheap-labor conservative" is a moniker they will never shake, and never live down. Because it's exactly what they are. You see, cheap-labor conservatives are defenders of corporate America – whose fortunes depend on labor. The larger the labor supply, the cheaper it is. The more desperately you need a job, the cheaper you'll work, and the more power those "corporate lords" have over you. If you are a wealthy elite – or a "wannabe" like most dittoheads – your wealth, power and privilege is enhanced by a labor pool, forced to work cheap.

Don't believe me. Well, let's apply this principle, and see how many right-wing positions become instantly understandable.

Cheap-labor conservatives don't like social spending or our "safety net." Why. Because when you're unemployed and desperate, corporations can pay you whatever they feel like – which is inevitably next to nothing. You see, they want you "over a barrel" and in a position to "work cheap or starve."

Cheap-labor conservatives don't like the minimum wage, or other improvements in wages and working conditions. Why? These reforms undo all of their efforts to keep you "over a barrel."

Cheap-labor conservatives like "free trade," NAFTA, GATT, etc. Why? Because there is a huge supply of desperately poor people in the third world, who are "over a barrel," and will work cheap.

Cheap-labor conservatives oppose a woman's right to choose. Why? Unwanted children are an economic burden that put poor women "over a barrel," forcing them to work cheap.

Cheap-labor conservatives don't like unions. Why? Because when labor "sticks together," wages go up. That's why workers unionize. Seems workers don't like being "over a barrel."

Cheap-labor conservatives constantly bray about "morality," "virtue," "respect for authority," "hard work" and other "values." Why? So they can blame your being "over a barrel" on your own "immorality," lack of "values" and "poor choices."

Cheap-labor conservatives encourage racism, misogyny, homophobia and other forms of bigotry. Why? Bigotry among wage earners distracts them, and keeps them from recognizing their common interests as wage earners.

The Cheap-Labor Conservatives' "Dirty Secret": They Don't Really Like Prosperity

Maybe you don't believe that cheap-labor conservatives like unemployment, poverty and "cheap labor." Consider these facts.

Unemployment was 23 percent when FDR took office in 1933. It dropped to 2.5 percent by time the next Republican was in the White House in 1953. It climbed back to 6.5 percent by the end of the Eisenhower administration. It dropped to 3.5 percent by the time LBJ left office. It climbed over 5 percent shortly after Nixon took office, and stayed there for 27 years, until Clinton brought it down to 4.5 percent early in his second term.

That same period – especially from the late forties into the early seventies – was the "golden age" of the United States. We sent men to the moon. We built our Interstate Highway system. We ended segregation in the South and established Medicare. In those days, a single wage earner could support an entire family on his wages. I grew up then, and I will tell you that life was good – at least for the many Americans insulated from the tragedy in Vietnam, as I was.

These facts provide a nice background to evaluate cheap-labor conservative claims like "liberals are destroying America."In fact, cheap-labor conservatives have howled with outrage and indignation against New Deal liberalism from its inception in the 1930's all the way to the present. You can go to "Free Republic" or Hannity's forum right now, and find a cheap-labor conservative comparing New Deal Liberalism to "Stalinism."

Cheap-labor conservatives opposed virtually all of the New Deal, including every improvement in wages and working conditions.

Cheap-labor conservatives have a long and sorry history of opposing virtually every advancement in this country's development going right back to the American revolution Cheap-labor conservatives have hated Social Security and Medicare since their inception. Many cheap-labor conservatives are hostile to public education. They think it should be privatized. But why are we surprised. Cheap-labor conservatives opposed universal public education in its early days. School vouchers are just a backdoor method to "resegregate" the public schools.

Cheap-labor conservatives hate the progressive income tax like the devil hates holy water. Cheap-labor conservatives like budget deficits and a huge national debt for two reasons. A bankrupt government has a harder time doing any "social spending" – which cheap-labor conservatives oppose, and . . .

Wealthy cheap-labor conservatives like say, George W. Bush, buy the bonds and then earn tax free interest on the money they lend the government.[Check out Dubya's financial disclosures. The son of a bitch is a big holder of the T-bills that finance the deficit he is helping to expand.] The deficit created by cheap-labor conservatives while they posture as being "fiscally conservative" – may count as the biggest con job in American history.

Friday, August 08, 2003

For those of you budding cosmologists out there (and I know quite a few read this site!) here is some of the very latest research courtesy of Silflay Hraka.

Adventures in Science! presents: Giant Cosmic Sperm

Big snip

"...However, controversy still rages over the details of the theory, as the projected path of the newly discovered sperm takes it directly into the black hole at the center of the Milky Way galaxy. If, as Einstein theorized, every sperm is wanted, every sperm is good, that every sperm is needed in the galactic neighborhood, then why is this one headed, seemingly hell bent, towards a non-reproductive end?...
Full article here
As regular readers will know, I have a taste for the quirky and downright odd. Heck, I joined the Labour party when Neil Kinnock was leader!

Here are a few of the recent seaches which have thrown up this hallowed blog:

Yahoo - sextillion july 2003 scum
Yahoo - gaetano proposed to abby
Yahoo - tory chinese symbol
Google - oliver letwin mi6
Google - big brother africa gaetano pictures
Google - ruby slippers template
Google - classified used camera private sellers in washington dc
Google - gatecrash prince pictures
and finally, but least surprisingly on Google: 'larry lurex'
John O'Farrell and I have lead somewhat parallel lives, but he is a year older. We both joined the London Labour Party about the same time, but I joined Brent and he joined Battersea. I went along to a few Anti-Apartheid marches and I think he said he didn't but other than that our political lives were very similar. It sounds like it is continuing to be - full article with the link.

Why I can't leave Labour

John O'Farrell
Friday August 8, 2003
The Guardian

Either we are now living under the longest ever Labour government or it just feels like it. Many people whom I respect have resigned their membership of the Labour party recently. Others have chosen to remain, while a third group have sent off their angry letters of resignation but forgotten to cancel their direct debit. "I quit in protest at this government's incompetence! Oh, hang on, I'm still a member apparently."

I can't really imagine myself ever divorcing the Labour party. Yes, I am angered by some of the things that some members of the government have said and done, while there are plenty of other things I applaud and admire (particularly Gordon Brown's habit of buying his Treasury team my novels for Christmas). But perhaps the main reason that I'd personally find it impossible to turn my back on Labour is because when you are close to it you see ordinary elected activists really making a difference.

Thursday, August 07, 2003

Well, it's like this you see. A lot of firms in Britain which build major headquarters and new roads and such often get the road named after them. For instance, in Brentwood when Hambro (the bank) made a new HQ, the new road was called "Hambro Road". So no shocks there. I was thinking about that as I drove past the old and seemingly disused 3M building in Bracknell today. Now, you know what 3M make - magnetic tape, post it notes and, of course, glues of various kinds.

The road is called "Bond Way".

Wednesday, August 06, 2003

This is the biggest news since the invention of the pc:

"Printers produce copies in 3D

It may sounds like science fiction, but the printer you buy in the future could be able to produce a real-life object from images on your computer.

Several companies are working on developing low-cost three-dimensional printers which could eventually find their way into the home.

The machines work by placing layers of a powdery material on top of each other to create a real-life model of a digital image.

"With hundreds and sometimes thousands of layers, we can develop a prototype that works, from coffee cups to car parts, in a variety of textures and colours," said Andy DeHart of the Z Corporation which makes 3D printers. "

This is the humble beginnings of replicator technology, with which you can make almost anything from almost anything else. At the moment they are using plaster, but they have used a plastic. You can make shapes as complicated as you like, and if you could "print" with copper and zinc, you could even build battery powered devices that worked!

You could also "print" electrical transformers, though that would be a bit more tricky.

Trickiest of all by today's standards would be silicon chips. Food, on the other hand, would be a bit of a doddle in comparison.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. I want the company I work for to start making them *NOW*.

A nice piece from The Eye Opener's blog

Bargain Hunting Parents Flock to Gun Shop's "Back-2-School" Sale

BROWNSBURG, INDIANA- Fall is in the air, and Crazy Eddie's House of Guns is once again holding its annual Back-2-School savings extravaganza. Budget conscious parents will be happy to find a large selection of low-priced firearms for today's grammar and middle school students. Most schools issue parents a list of recommended school supplies to help parents shop. Crazy Eddy offers his own list:

one (1) Glock PI-17501
set of six (6) anti-personnel mines
at least four (4) 9mm clips
one (1) set of child-sized ProMax body armor
Shotguns, though helpful in dodgeball and other close combat, are not recommended due to their size and incompatibility with most grammar school cubbies.

A sale like this may have been unheard of a few years ago, but with media reports of school violence on the rise [no one believes government statistics indicating a drop in such incidents], America's school children need to arm themselves just to keep up with their peers.

"Face it, parents these days are worried about the safety of their kids, and they feel even worse knowing that they can't be with them all day. We offer a product that let's them relax in the confidence that their child can defend his or herself. Little Suzie is packin' more than her lunch!"

Discuss Take Your Gun to School Day!

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Chart Singles. If you have been following these Martian chronicles (sic) then you will know I have a bee in my bonnet over CD prices, and single CD's in particular.

In the article, it says that Asda sells between 15 and 20% of all CD singles. You know why? Because they regularly mark down the prices! I bought a CD for 1p a couple of months ago in Asda. Obviously I don't think there was any profit for the store, but most people would be willing to buy CD singles if they cost 99p, even £1.99 if it was good. As the article says, "The price of CD albums has fallen from £14 to around £10 in recent years, whereas the price of a CD single has remained steady at £3 to £4. That makes singles worse value than they were five years ago."

Note, record companies - CD SINGLES ARE WORSE VALUE THAN FIVE YEARS AGO. That's when you last sold lots of singles. Co-incidence? No. People know when they are being ripped off and we are not putting up with it any more. Why should a single cost more than a newspaper?

Monday, August 04, 2003

Tribune recently has been quite scathing about the Government, and with some cause, I think but recently the editorial made me sit up and think. Instead of the usual "Let's-bash-Tony-Blair" this was a little more thoughtful and revolved around the issue of left versus right within the party and the media friendliness of both sides.

You see, you can be media friendly and left wing. Look at Ken Livingstone - which is probably why he has been expelled than any real reason. Other factors include realpolitik - trying to get rid of American bases will not go down well with any US administration, and they will use any trick to fend off any party which suggests it. Equally, nuclear disarmnament, while a good idea, will not be allowed for similar reasons. But these are not exclusively left wing positions, and should never be a major part of a progressive platform.

However, more flexibility may be allowed in the financial arena and the current craven attitude towards renationalising the railways is causing enormous harm both to passengers and to staff. Perhaps the Government shouldn't run the railways but the private sector has been enormously incompetent and even negligent.

Equally, Foundation hospitals are not going to be as democratic as they should be, which is wrong.

Finally, we are actually being wrong-footed by the Tory Shadow Home Secretary. Obviously he would be replaced immediately the Tories took power (too left-wing) but his focus on civil liberties and Labour's perceived cracking down on liberties (eg more cameras, identity cards, "black boxes" in cars) run against the traditions of both parties. Surveillance and intervention on striking miners by MI5, that is the Tory party we know about.

So, a few suggestions for the best Prime Minister we've ever had:

* Make Foundation hospitals truly democratic - that'll scare them.
* Ensure that freedom (as enshrined in the new Clause 4) shines as brightly as the new responsibilies we now endure
* Make sure the rich pay their fair share of tax - after all, they can afford it.
* Ensure that embarrassments like the Inland Revenue selling their property to a company that operates from a tax haven never happens again by not privatising anything else at all.
* Start listening to the Land Value Tax brigade - Council tax is mean and unfair. It needs reform.
* Leftwingers often have good ideas - a lot of them can be spun into the web of Government without the Daily Mail getting the vapours.
* A cull, or downgrading of civil servants who still try to oppose the Government programme, or actively advocate PPP or privatisation.
* Windfall tax on board members who earn more than 30 times their average employee.

Friday, August 01, 2003

From the Eye Opener

It's "Oy," not "Om"

This was just too funny to not share - it's Zen Judaism!

Let your mind be as a floating cloud. Let your stillness be as the wooded glen. And sit up straight. You'll never meet the Buddha with posture like that.

There is no escaping karma. In a previous life, you never called, you never wrote, you never visited. And whose fault was that?

Wherever you go, there you are. Your luggage is another story.

To practice Zen and the art of Jewish motorcycle maintenance, do the following: get rid of the motorcycle. What were you thinking?

The Tao has no expectations. The Tao demands nothing of others. The Tao does not speak. The Tao does not blame. The Tao does not take sides. The Tao is not Jewish.

Zen is not easy. It takes effort to attain nothingness. And then what do you have? Bupkes." [PeteBevin.com, from the book Zen Judaism by David M. Bader]The Shifted Librarian]

Good news for all you space exploration fans!

Ion engine records nearly five years of firing time
Posted: July 30, 2003

The future is here for spacecraft propulsion and the trouble-free engine performance that every vehicle operator would like, achieved by an ion engine running for a record 30,352 hours at NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif.

Full story and pictures

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