Clarence is a She. We decided on her name before we were sure of her sex! But we like the name and think it suits her, there are precedents in any case as in Sister Mary Clarence :-)
Clarence is a She. We decided on her name before we were sure of her sex! But we like the name and think it suits her, there are precedents in any case as in Sister Mary Clarence :-)
Unfortunately I seem to have blown my ISP's bandwidth limits two months running with that burst of downloading. Whilst I wait for the end of the month I'm going to mention some of these recent downloads we've been listening to here at the Warren.
There are a load of Rama sets on Psytunes of varying style and I can recommend them all. Next up, Psysoup is a nice piece of daytime psychedelic trance on a sunny Saturday, with wide swirling riffs around a firm underlying beat building up to a crashing finale. Amarok rating: 4.0 Excellent
Third on the electronic wheels of steel is Planet Rama, a lilting journey around the oceans of Ram's home world with mists of African and Indian chords drifting over the sea. Amarok rating: another 5.0 Favourite, 2 listens
All Over The Shop dives sideways into the James Bond dub, rap, swing and underground Latin room of Rama's style. Well you get the idea it is indeed all over the shop. Got to be worth a listen just for the Bagpuss sample ... Amarok rating: 4.5 Amazing, 2 listens
You can see why I'm so excited about the quality of music available for download on the net today. Needless to say new ISPs are being considered. I'd be interested to hear what Be are like as they have unbundled our exchange so should give a good speed and they are supposed to have very good transfer allowances. Mail me at the address near the top right of this page.
I read that 15F 3007 arrived in the UK at Immingham on the east coast this week, and was moved northwards to Glasgow by road low-loader from my local firm Heanor Haulage over the last 2 days (Weds/Thurs).
The loco is initially on display in George Square in the city of its birth, Glasgow, to launch a £5 million appeal for funds for the Riverside Transport Museum. 3007 is to be restored and displayed there. The balance of the Museum's cost will be met by the National Lottery's Heritage Fund and by Glasgow City Council (Heritage Fund grants are usually conditional on matching some income from other sources).
There is a nice little photo-report attached to the BBC's news item here and also a video report if you can get it to work (I couldn't).
I wanted to give you a meaningful <title> element according to the story or category you are reading. Here's the existing storytitle plugin, which takes the page title from the current story, modified by myself to add category titles. Depending how you are accessing this story you may see the browser title bar as "Serendipity", or as some substring of "Serendipity : Software : Projects : Blosxom", or "Serendipity : Hacking on the storytitle plugin". Now before you all shout I know there are half a dozen other plugins which do this :-) This is as much an exercise in plugin documentation to keep my hand in, until I have time to attack Blosxom itself !
More Meme Cats
More Meme Cats
Igal is a jolly useful little web photo gallery generator which is easy to get started with. You run igal in a photo directory and just upload the resulting HTML and processed images. It's probably most widely recognised for the default "film strips" effect, but you can customise the appearance quite well via its generation options and CSS. At the time of writing you can see some of igal's output in varying states of customisation in the Tunnels section of this website. Igal is written in Perl.
I submitted an improvement concerning file mtimes to the author Eric Pop. He wrote, "this does seem useful, and if i do get around to releasing igal 1.5 at some point, it will definitely make it in there!" I subsequently submitted that patch and a couple of others to the Debian maintainer of igal as well.
However Eric's own igal page seems to have dropped off the net so I am mirroring the work I've done on Igal here. I am hoping that I can hack on photogallery to the point where it can replace igal for my needs, so my Igal category may become purely historical in due course except to document these changes.
The following changes were included in Debian as from igal package 1.4-14
Debian Bug report #335857 igal: Image names with spaces in generate wrongly-escaped slide filenames - Patch
Debian Bug report #335860 igal: RFE: smarter timestamp checking to reduce need for "-f" - Patch
Debian Bug report #335529 igal: RFE: additional option to control index page slide titles - Patch
Also see Wolfgang Trexler's igal 1.4 fixes and internationalisation
Serendipity is coded in Blosxom, a lightweight text-based weblog written in Perl. I've been talking on the Blosxom Developers mailing list about taking Blosxom back on maintenance and enhancement in an organised way. In the meantime I'm also trying to get some of the content published for which I actually chose Blosxom ! Here's the result of a bit of hacking on the photogallery plugin: Shefstock 2007.
The neat result is thanks to the original authors, but I've updated the documentation with suggested usages and techniques. I also added a feature to help integration by reading .caption files from the web gallery software called igal. I have quite a number of igal based photo galleries, and this will make it much easier to bring them across into Blosxom. I hope to add other useful gallery formatting options to photogallery, and to be able to preserve the igal look for existing igal galleries if it can be done easily.
To Shefstock this weekend, for a day and a night of festivity and music. First time we've been there, but it has always looked really good in the pictures. Unfortunately we didn't plan well enough for the weather since I didn't take enough dry clothes ! But it was a great little festie anyway and I'm glad we went despite the damp. When it said "50% chance of rain", this proved to mean 50% chance that there would be 100% rain. We lost the toss but won the match with the weather as everyone seemed to be smiling and in good spirits.
We got soaked just putting the tent up and thereafter never really dried out much beyond the "muddy wreck" stage. Fortunately the place we camped was ideally located for the shape of the valley to get 3 or 4 of the major rigs in harmonious balance. For most of the night we had the pounding fast acid beats of the Preston Mad Hatters pointing down the valley from the top entrance; then a trancier rig with some deep progressive sounds - I think the Camouflage Disco - plus a world/folk/jazz stage and a dub/reggae one all mixing in - without even getting out from under our quilt. We thought the fireworks which punctuated the rain throughout the night were a particularly positive and optimistic note !
So I'm afraid we proved to be lightweight festy goers but we had a great time anyway, drinking wine and eating brioche in bed, with four or more distinct rigs somehow swirling and merging around us as if the DJs were all jamming with each other. Basically our own personal chillathon 2007 :-)
Thanks to all the relaxed friendly people involved for a great weekend and we'll see you next year !Pictures Shefstock 2007 Baraka Chillathon 2005
I've adopted a new principle to help keep the place tidy, and it's working well in my study. "If it's worth keeping, it's worth keeping clean. If it's not worth cleaning, throw it out." Not only have I decluttered a lot of obsolete stuff, and made room to empty all the worthwhile boxes onto shelves and sort them out too, but what's left is all much cleaner. It even looks a lot tidier and we can now once again vacuum the corners of the room, woo-hoo !! Mind you buying a new book case from IKEA's Bargain Corner was a major help.
We have also decluttered more radically by removing a stud wall between two small awkward spaces upstairs to make one massive and airy bedroom. "And that is why I am carrying a crowbar, officer." In John's room we knocked down a fitted cupboard that was falling to pieces and full of very tatty toys and games. It should make his room too feel larger and give much more usable space.
Having also decluttered several black bags of rubbish from under his bed, we are going to replace the boy's combination bunk-beds-and-den with a divan bed which cannot accumulate clutter underneath, except perhaps in a controlled way if it has drawers. Meantime John is squatting the living room with his mates, whilst Sylke strips off this one small roomful of the heavily embossed wallpaper which pervades the whole house. Fortunately we have two studies / sittingrooms of our own and a bedroom to hide in ...
And so have we. For weeks we have been battling large numbers of jumping small black enemies on the six medium-to-large cats we seem to have now. The kitties - who are no longer small - are plagued with fleas and the three older ones likewise. They have been sprayed with solutions herbal and solutions chemical, they have been Spotted-On, dabbed, tabletted (under extreme duration usually and not always successfully) until they flee (har har) whenever we approach them ! and everything short of being bathed in lotions.
At the same time we have also sprayed all the nooks and crannies in the soft furnishings twice, washed all the bed linen and clothes several times too. Hoovered round the whole house at least once to remove all dust and eggs which is a major effort in this mansion ! We had already removed almost carpets to reduce dust (sorting out the ugly floorboards is a long term project but the concrete looks nice painted ...)
And still they come and after a few days relief we find the blasted black specs again all over the house. Getting immune to being bitten now, but I have had a couple of very itchy swellings. I know one favourite bed of the kitties outside that is going to be flea ridden for sure, so it needs clearing up. Some gardening is probably overdue anyway !!
... I can feel little black specs crawling all over me now ....
Things have been busy here with getting things done, step by step. I spent today replacing a broken toilet flush syphon which had been given the Order of the Flushing Bucket since last weekend. Took ages to fix as it incorporated a bit of a bodge like so much else previous work in the house. Previous syphon was flimsy modern plastic rubbish which was far too big for it, which had to replace with the same thing since it was all B&Q had in compatibility of fixing on horrid low level installation :-( We would have liked a dual flush one to save water, but we didn't get it ordered in time so bought said horrid flimsy duplicate one in B&Q.
Don't know why we didn't just go to Screwfix to get a trade one like we normally would. At least theirs might have been the right size and definitely far more robust - fitting the rubbish took so long anyway ! So we will probably have to do the job over again when we can afford. Remind me never to install another low level flush loo until I've vetted it for ease of assembly ...
I just downloaded a brilliantly funky set from a DJ called Doyley who played recently for Audiophile in Nottingham. If you insist on a name for it, I'd call it deeply twisted prog electro housey stuff. I think he hails from an outfit called Zerozero in Cardiff. You lucky, lucky sods down there, having talent like this around :-) I can see I'm gonna have to brave the students and get along to Audiophile one of these months.
And whilst I've got this editor open, here's another funky electro prog house set . I've had this one lying around my hard drive for a couple of years, but never listened to it before. It's a single-label promo mix of tunes from Hadshot by DJ Clown, not as dirty as Doyley's stuff (I mean it's even got psy-style house in it at one point, and ethereal hard house verging on trance!) Not to mention a couple of great remixes of familiar tunes (shame i haven't a clue what they're called, eh). Nevertheless rather good. Both of them are just the thing for a sunny Saturday afternoon relaxing with a glass of vino ... enjoy.
Yes. I remember Adlestrop–
The name, because one afternoon
Of wet the train-engine drowned there
Unmendably. It was monsoon.
The rain hissed. Someone breathed an oath.
Nothing left, nothing the same
On the watery platform. Above the tide
Was Adlestrop - only the name.
No willows, willow-herb, or grass,
No meadowsweet, not a haycock dry,
No whit less grey, more sodden far
Than the low rainclouds in the sky.
And all that night the torrent sang Close by, and round it,
mistier, Farther and farther, all the floods Of Oxfordshire and
— Siderius Nuncius, uk.media.radio.archers, 24th July 2007
Many thanks to various people on Usenet in uk.railway and uk.media.radio.archers for all the links and pointers and most especially to Sid and Rosie for permission to quote their poems. Any further gallery pointers will be most soggily received. Thank you.
"For those who wish to combine railway voyeruism with flood voyeurism there are some suitable pics at numbers 6-8 in this set. They give some idea of why fGW stopped running trains."
In Berkshire, at the aptly named Marsh Bridge, Midgham and at Newbury station and here and Aldermaston station Newbury Railway Station
In Thatcham, a road picture shows how strong the current was in places: at least it's called Station Road :)
Red flag means no bathing for this 158 at Cheltenham
A Highly Soggy Train at a stand at a signal close to the Alstone Lane level crossing in Cheltenham
First Great Wettern HST at Cheltenham, notice the waterfall from the platform onto the tracks.
People stranded at Gloucester Railway Station
Appropriately named, a Voyager crosses the River Severn near Cheltenham.
On the Cotswold line from Oxford to Worcester, there were extensive washouts near Moreton . Here are First Great Wettern's pics of the Cotswold line washout and some pics from Network Rail's Media Centre on the Cotswold line
Adlestrop (which is on the Cotswold line) itself in drier days.
"Nothing remains the same": Adlestrop village bus shelter with some railway relics
Not forgetting the amazing BBC4 Monsoon Railway programme on India where they handle flash floods from a metre of rainfall.
In summertime on Bredon
The rain it pisses down
Round both the shires the cars stall
In puddles deep and brown
Six miles from nearest town.
Just want to give a biiig pointer to the new Manmademan album Free To Listen. By coincidence I was sorting my old email folders this past week. Did we really go and see Manmademan at Brixton Academy in July 2001 ? Doesn't time fly. I wrote that it was a really great night – well it must have been because I don't remember very much ;-)
Anyway get yourself over to their website and download a copy of Free To Listen. Just select the album or track(s) and then use the "download" button on the right (the paypal option is there in case your browser doesn't run the plugin). Also available for free download are Manmademan's older albums Cell Division and Lovetechnology, which by some coincidence I already have on vinyl. However thanks to www.manmademan.com we now have a CD version too that can play on the hi-fi.
Free To Listen is an innovative album not only in its distribution format but in the sheer variety of ways acid noises are tortured into Manmademan's exquisite sound. Available in a smooth mp3 mix session or DJ friendly individual tunes, I guarantee you'll be hearing these beats on the dance floor and in the chillout. Get yerself sum now !
From: Nick Leverton
Subject: Re: [Blosxom-devel] Project status?
Date: Wed, 1 Aug 2007 18:03:49 +0100
On Wednesday 01 August 2007 08:24, Matthijs Kooijman wrote:
> > This then gives a way to move Blosxom forward by taking the canonical
> > plugins as mainstream, so that the relevant features will work in the
> > same way for all plugin authors.
> Another thing that would be useful is to define some standards for how
> plugins should (roughly) do their work. In particular, it would be useful
> if plugins could define their own hooks, which yet other plugins could
> fill in. These hooks could be somewhat standardized (ie, all the
> different comment plugins calling a "spamfilter" hook that other plugins
> can use to implement blacklisting, or captcha's or stuff like that.
Certainly. In fact I've seen another plugin implementation, the one in
qpsmtpd, which has some neat ideas that I've thought about borrowing - many
of them are included in my lists below.
The following seem to me to be essential principles to help us get on top of
the plugins and base Blosxom functionality. I think they ought not to be
too disruptive to the existing code base. Some of them are things others
folk have mentioned here, which I hope I've represented fairly.
If we are going to get Blosxom more widely used, we will need both to make
packagers' jobs easier and also to make it simpler to configure a package
without editing static files, so I have tried to have regard for that as
These are some thoughts about important but IMO less essential principles,
which might make it easier to implement some plugins or which address some
of the other concerns raised here:
Any comments, additions, deletions please ?
From: Nick Leverton
Subject: Re: [Blosxom-devel] Project status?
Date: Tue, 31 Jul 2007 13:03:54 +0100
On Tue, Jul 31, 2007 at 07:11:40AM +0300, Barijaona wrote:
> I'd prefer not change the spirit of blosxom, but recognize that its
> learning curve is really frustrating. So I suggest the following
> evolutions :
I very much agree that Blosxom is still a useful piece of software but
desperately needs updating in some areas. I write as someone who's set
out to evaluate several weblogs lately, including Wordpress, but who
has come back to Blosxom as by far the lightest-weight weblog for my
pathetic little 80Mb virtual hosting - not to mention having the least
complex code to hack on :)
For instance, many useful plugins are undergoing link rot as their authors
convert to other blog software and take down their Blosxom installations.
I spent ages last night looking for autoblock, textile and twikirender,
any one of which would have done to simplify my post formatting - all
have apparently dropped off the net. I can probably hack up a textile
plugin myself, it looks trivial, but I'd prefer if I didn't have to !
> - one should consider rehearsing blosxom's regarding its default
> interpolate routine and XML feed. Most users are expecting something
> more up to date in these areas, so why not give them out of the box
> the functionalities of interpolate_fancy and atomfeed ? The current
> situation makes blosxom appear really outdated.
> - there are a couple of blosxom starter kits (including a selection
> of plugins and flavours) floating around. We could encourage the
> creation of similar kits through "official" changes to the
> configuration variables in blosxom.cgi.
I agree it would be a worthwhile effort to gather together a set of
"recommended" plugins which we can then document, support, bugfix,
and accept enhancements for. Depending of course whether the plugin
authors agree, but most of them seem to have used the Raeality licence
so it ought to be a formality.
This then gives a way to move Blosxom forward by taking the canonical
plugins as mainstream, so that the relevant features will work in the same
way for all plugin authors. This will reduce the interdependency problems
I've run across, which are not always even declared in the perldoc.
I don't know if the Debian maintainer Gerfried Fuchs is here
directly ? I helped look at a security issue in the Debian version,
http://bugs.debian.org/423441, and though it's not an exploitable issue
in mainstream Blosxom I would very much like to improve the coding style
(apparently left over from Blosxom's earliest days) that let the loophole
I have other vaguer ideas too, along the lines of overhauling XML and
interpolate() as you do, but just getting blosxom back into development
would be a great start !
Who ya gonna call when you want 100% organic genuine natural random numbers, not some predictable spawn of a software random number generator ?
I've just discovered Psytunes which offers free mix hosting for psychedelic DJs, and there is some great music on there. We've been listening yesterday and today to some of Steve OOOD's mixes on there (Steve, Ryo and Rama of the Collective are all there). Just going to download one of Rama's for offline listening. I'm blown away by the quality of the music available. Do go and get a slice of that OOOD action :-)
I've got to get them to lose the autoplaying music on their Myspace home page though. Not that it's not good, but I tend to go there when I'm already listening to some OOOD mixes and the Myspace track just blasts over the top :-(
I wish I had been there. Credit to Digital Frog - browse his wonderful photos (NSFW).
Sectorisation, the creation of commercially focussed business sectors within British Rail, came in as a policy as far back as 1977, with sectors such as Inter City, London and South East and Other Provincial Services.
At first this was chiefly an accounting change, aimed at giving Government visibility of the need for the hard-fought Public Service Obligation grant, as negotiated by Sir Peter Parker. The intention as far back as 1980 was that, as and when business permitted, the various Sectors should be removed from the PSO and turned to profit. but little difference was visible on the ground until Sectorisation took full effect in 1986 with the public launch of Network South East, InterCity, Provincial Railways, Rail Express Systems and the three heavy freight business Sectors.
Sectorisation liveries are included here but because of the long overlap and the slow re-branding, early sectorisation era photos may be included in the BR Blue era, and Sector liveries may also overlap into the post-privatisation galleries.
Pissy Cat is doing really well now. We had a couple more incidents the first week, then he was a really good cat and managed a whole week without peeing indoors. Unfortunately he had a relapse when the cat flap was accidentally left shut last week after we caught Fatso for his vet's appointment, but we can't really blame him for that. It probably helps quite a lot that he now has a bed behind the bathroom door, which he can retire to when it all gets too much. One night I found him sleeping next to the loo - which is not ideal when you need it in the middle of the night - so I persuaded him to move. John then made him up a bed behind the door from old towels. And now he has some territory of his own, in the form of the bathroom, which Madam never goes into. Since then he's been fine and reverted to his usual "Pest" moniker :-).
Mindyou he had a lucky escape from "training" yesterday (Sunday). We went to the pet superstore for less than an hour, and when we got back laden with kitten feeding accoutrements we found the whole house stank of extremely strong tom pee, even stronger than he usually manages. But we couldn't find any wet in his usual marking places, and fortunately for him I'd noticed him asleep upstairs before we went out, where he still was when we got back.
So we think this time it was the strange tabby who has also been hanging around, and who keeps provoking hissing matches and occasional cat-paw fights with Fatso through the cat flap. Fatso seems to think it his duty to sit just inside and guard it, and he's normally quite safe since it's usually set to exit only. But since Mitsi went missing we've left it on "in-and-out" so that she could get in if she turned up. I've found that tabby item in our hallway at least once before, so I suspect it could well have come inside and decided to mark a new bit of territory. Anyway we let the Pest off this time, and it seems to have been the right thing to do as it's not happened again.
Glad to say we think we're making good progress with feeding the kittens. It's fortunate they were nearly ready to start weaning anyway. The ginger one (the firstborn) took solid kitten-food on his first try, he can actually suck from a bottle instead of just chewing on it, and he's also got the hang of lapping milk from a cupped hand, though not from a bowl yet. The tabby one too can drink with gusto and is able to take small amounts of food off a jamjar lid (kitten-sized plate, you see). The black and white one, who was the last born, doesn't know what solid food is except that it's something you walk across on your way to see what your siblings are doing. But at least he/she can chew on a teat whilst you dribble milk into his mouth !
We're also having Fun With Toilet Training. Sammi found some useful pages on the net about bringing up kittens, and all weekend has been religiously rubbing their nether areas to make them wee. They're starting to be able to do it unaided now, insofar as we've found several kitten-sized lakes of pee on the wooden floor here and a damp patch on the living room carpet. Sammi managed to catch the tabby in the act and plonked it on the litter tray, whereupon it did us proud by making full use of the facilities. Their first solid output: that has to be a good, if already rather smelly, sign !
They are also getting quite active and steady on their legs. Considering that three days ago they could barely stand up, they can move pretty quickly now when they want to. We barricaded the three steps down to the cellar, but it can only be a matter of days before they discover claws are good for obstacle courses and get down there anyway. The three older cats are behaving predictably too. The black one wants to be friends as long as they don't chase him, and he even tried to give one of them a lick today; Fatso is curious but uncertain about these small squeaky new things; and the Pest is extremely nervous whenever he sees them and thinks they are all out to get him. Just wait until they start kitten-fighting with him ...
We had a hopeful bit of news late this afternoon as well. The Avon lady called round and said she'd seen a cat answering to Mitsi's description where she lives nearby. We do hope it's Mitsi but it was already getting dark when we heard, not to mention hailstorming heavily, but we'll be round there tomorrow for sure. It's not far as the crow flies and there is plenty of undergrowth there where a cat could lurk for some time. But the street layout is confusing and might be hard for a cat to fathom. With any luck she may have just wandered or been chased out of her familiar territory.
Sorry about the poor picture quality by the way, still getting used to digicam programs. It's not as good as I hoped in low light. There's also something very strange going on with the rotation flag which I will endeavour to sort out !
Nothing more we can say really. Mitsi went out yesterday, late afternoon or early evening, and hasn't come back :-( We've been round the neighbours and asked them to check she's not stuck in their sheds, and stapled notices to the nearby telegraph poles, but it's 24 hours now. Not the first time one of ours has gone missing for 24 hours so not completely worried, but it's darned awkward with the kittens not being weaned yet.
We're trying to feed the kits with kitten formula and a kitten bottle, but it's pretty hard. They're not used to it and they can't suck. At three and a half weeks, they are also now at the age when they can squirm around and spit the teat out quite effectively. At least they are all quite active and even pee-ing occasionally, so we must be getting enough milk down them. The books do say they only need a few ml per feed - just lots of feeds still. I thought my baby feeding days were over until today !
We were sorry to miss you play, Barclay and SNAFU and all our friends. We realised on the Saturday morning that it was Psycle.
We'd had a really busy week. Had thought of doing Pure Filet(TAWTBILI), Nottingham's self-proclaimed “Filthiest Techno night” last week on Saturday (3rd), but decided we really needed to take the stairs to pieces to mend them. So Sat 3rd was spent hacking off plasterboard, which was in turn covering cracked but tough and thick Edwardian (1901-10) lath and plaster, off the back of the upper half flight, to reveal the full horror of previous owners' bodgery on the staircase (separate report to come.) Dust masks were much in evidence of course.
Naturally the 4th was spent shouting at the kids to take it slowly on the staircase, clearing up a washing basket full of sharp laths and two rubble sacks rull of misc plaster and plasterboard, wuth some more shouting at kids to take it slowly on the stairs and a bit of vacuuming. Only then was it ready for screwing on support bits, where the treads were cut far too short to reach from side to side of the stairs, and for banging back in all those staircase wedges which still had some wood to support, before cleaning up and showering for dinner time. Phew !
And all week since then it's not let up really. Work is always busy but it is looking as if we may be getting somewhere at last. More on that if and when it comes clearer. If you can have such a things as a “social life online” then I've been struggling to have one and put some effort back into newsgroups in return for all I've read and adsorbed over the years. And I owe loads of people emails including JohnM and his publisher not forgetting catching up on family news. So we had a busy Saturday too and got various other bits of d-i-y done. Come 10pm yesterday (Sat 10th) and time to think of getting ready for Psycle we were just too tired.
So we hope you all had as good a time as we did at home. Cos we had a really nice weekend ! Tune of the night for me at least was probably Duran Duran "Rio Rio" which we listened to on some TV charts show with entertaining videos, a nice followon to our opening the weekend with hours of swing, soul, rock and pop randomness from Niquid and gal via Internet radio from Psystream.net on Friday night :-)
Colin from O.O.O.D's latest DJ set, which was podcast on Chaishop recently, starts off with a funny little sample of somebody rambling on about a telepathic race called "the Ood". It's a great set, full of unreleased killaaah mixes of the sort OOOD do so well. Go have a listen if you like trouser-shivering acid trance.
Anyway, I seemed to recognise the voices in the sample, and having chatted to the esteemed Colin O.O.O.D. a few times at The Awakening (website now offline), I assumed he sampled himself or someone else I knew, speaking whimsically about their band's own name.
But no ! Due to the <sarcasm> high quality and innovative programming </sarcasm> we get on our 30+ digital telly channels these days we were reduced to watching repeats of Doctor Who one evening last week. Though for me it wasn't a complete reduction, as I missed all but one of the so-called “second series” (actually something like the 28th season, and I saw almost every episode of seasons 1 to 23 as they were first broadcast). I think Billie Piper is a great Doctor's Companion and I will be sorry to see her go. Her character is well up with the best-written of the short-skirted low-cut lassies from the 1970s and she's a good actress to boot. The Doctor has had intelligent and capable companions before, but I think only Stone Age apparelled companion Leela was given as independent a personality as Rose Tyler. But the big question is, has Rose actually done a proper full-on Doctor's Companion stylee scream yet ?
I was pleasantly suprised to find, after my 20 year gap in watching the programme, that I really enjoyed Christopher Eccleston's single season as the ninth Doctor. A Doctor who (sorry...) was believable for adults and kids alike. I'm starting to accept David Tennant as the Doctor now, provided I don't have to watch him for too long. Even with a good character it always takes me a couple of stories to get "into" a new Doctor. After the first Doctor's regeneration, the seven-year-old me thought Patrick Troughton and his penny-whistle were far scarier than the monsters he vanquished. In his first serial the second Doctor definitely had me hiding behind the sofa !
Now the character written for the tenth Doctor, apparently drawn from a composite of Ant+Dec and Richard Hammond, just irritates the hell out of me. Great entertainers of course, all of them, and I love the Hamm-ster on Top Gear as he regularly punctures Clarkson's inflated self-importance. But all characters lacking in the gravitas and other-worldliness which should deepen our renegade Time Lord's quirky irreverence. I mean, the Doctor getting slushy ? Never happened even with his old Time Lord flame Romana. That's just a cheap fallback by directors and scriptwriters who lack the imagination to show an alien character, genuinely adapting to the human emotions he's been exposed to for so long (see authors such as Ursula Leguin, C.J.Cherryh, etc.)
Russell Davies please note, suspension of disbelief will stop when you break the spell. If you're going to take characters in a new direction, it does actually matter that it's compatible with their previous behaviour. We don't need no steenking Personality Transplant Fairy, let alone alien abductions.
But I digress ...
The episode we watched, or at least watched part of until Tennant's antics irritated me once more, was The Impossible Planet [plot spoilers] from last summer. You could have knocked me down with a sonic screwdriver when the bloke in the mining base, the Doctor and Rose started quoting that deadpan sample about the odd Ood. For a minute I thought the script writer was into psy-trance too. I'm always cheered up whenever I spot the origin of a sample I know well. Apart from increasing your enjoyment of the tune by sharing the composer's sense of humour, you can bore people for ages afterwards telling them where it comes from and then rambling on about Doctor Who ;-)
Oh yes. Did I mention the crypto-Siamese Pest has a Siamese yowl too ? And he is not happy about some strange cat in the garden now.
He's still pee-ing indoors every couple of days, by the way, in case you were curious. But at least that's better than last week.
Well we hope so, anyway. Junior was the runt of his litter and for a long time had the title of "ugliest cat in the world", his face was so crumpled and the black patches on his otherwise white body so oddly arranged. He's part Siamese, though the genes mostly expressed in his thin and tapering black tail - if it wasn't for that you wouldn't know. As such he's intelligent and actually a really nice little cat, and his face has filled out now that he is mature. But as a crypto-Siamese he's also quite sensitive and very demanding if you indulge him too much (his other, more usual, title was "Pest"). As a runt, he's always been on the bottom of the local cat pecking order.
Where we lived before was in a small close so our four or five cats ruled the area, and had very little competition. Two of them, the females, who had been used to being single cats beforehand, didn't move with us as they chose to go and find obliging pensioners with a ready can-opener, who would keep them in single pampered luxury. We even met one of the new cat-slaves when they came round to see whose cat had moved in with them.
Here, the remaining three boys are just a few of a large number of felines. Some of the competition were here first and had territory already - others we think are new themselves, but far more alpha-cat than our easy-going middle-aged batchelor crew. So there's been a lot of spraying in the garden, on the bins and by the the back door - anything which sticks out a bit basically - which we have to clean regularly otherwise ours (even though all neutered in childhood) start marking indoors to compensate.
Since Mitsi decided to move in, the former Pest has been struggling to keep his place in the cat tree. She was only six months old at the time and wandered around the house laying kitten ambushes for the staid older trio. They did not like this and generally treated her with suspicion and ran away from her (I said they were easy going). Junior, as the youngest, was especially unimpressed with being pounced on and fought with by a kitten - which might seem odd because it's only a year or so since he stopped trying to play-fight himself with his older part-siblings. But you can't fight time or nature, and to protect himself Junior became quite dominant towards the young female Mitsi, hissing and cuffing and even chasing her whenever their paths crossed.
Since Mitsi had her kittens last week, the Pest now has a bad case of jealousy. Apart from all the interest in her, as a nursing mum she gets extra food, a box by the radiator, and she has these odd small things which do nothing but squirm around and sound like squeaky toys all the time. He doesn't know what to do but he's anxious, so for the last week the house has stunk of male cat pee.
We weren't sure it was him though we had our suspicions, but we couldn't find who was doing it or where, as it was always done at night or other times when nobody was about. Even though they're all neutered and shouldn't be able to spray like a real tom, it's still so pungent that after a few hours diffusing, you can't really narrow down on it. It came to a head when male cat pee appeared on my desk sides and top yesterday (Mitsi's kitten box is also in the study so it was a clear territorial challenge to her). Last night I finally caught Pissy Cat in the act down in the cellar - so I rubbed his nose in it, gave him a comforting stroke, then threw him out, with the cat flap locked on "exit only". It may sound cruel but it's how you train real kittens so I hope it will work for our arrested-kittenhood adult boy.
Today I've been giving him extra fuss and attention to build up his confidence. Nothing like a bit of fuss from the real alpha male in the house to bolster your self-importance :-) And there has been no repetition yet today - it looks hopeful that we can train Pissy Cat out of this bad habit.
We've cleaned and covered up the smell with Jeyes Fluid, to stop him or the others trying to re-mark where they smell his old marks. "I love the smell of Jeyes Fluid in the morning, it smells like Freedom". I also rubbed some very very dilute mixture on my fingers and stroked him with it, on the back of the neck where he can't lick. So now he's marked with our scent, the clean disinfectant scent of the house collective. I expect we'll still have a bit more piss to clean up, but now we know who it is I hope we can solve it.
Next to tackle is his new found habit of dumping his, err, dumps on the lawn, rather than under the massive laurel bush which I tried to teach him when we moved in. After a winter unmown, it's now grass with an unhealthy covering of smelly cat dung. But one thing at a time otherwise he'll get too stressed again !
We the undersigned petition the incoming Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his new Chancellor, or their Tory opposite numbers if Prime Minister Blair clings on until an election, to roll back the boundaries of recent Governments and free the people and businesses of Britain for a busy and prosperous 21st Century, and most specifically to:
Cancel the expensive centralised ID Cards boondoggle immediately. Instead Government to promote and accept a range of trusted and secure third party forms and methods of identification, authentication and authorisation, each appropriate to purpose, such as online authorisation from financial or other newly-established institutions, computer identification certificates e.g. http://www.thawte.com, notarised signatures, and other existing legal forms.
Why: Identity and authentication are big criminal and security growth areas now (I work in IT security and would really rather I had a more positive job). Solving them will be the economic boom area of the early 21st century. We have experts in this field in the UK, so Britain can lead the world in business, set standards, and host a whole spectrum of financial spin-offs - provided only that we tackle the commercial problems involved in internationally secure assured identity. We are going to have to find out for our own security how to work with legal assurances from other countries so it's really important that we actually do so - why not make money from it by selling our services ?
The proposed insecure and centralised Government ID Card scheme, in contrast, shows a considerable lack of forethought, and will leave Britain in the economic Third World with the state security of Iron Curtain Europe.
["Why Cryptosystems fail", Proceedings of the 1st ACM conference on Computer and communications security 1993, Ross Anderson, University Computer Laboratory, Pembroke Street, Cambridge; "Sensible Authentication: Identification, Authentication, and Authorization", CACM Queue Feb 2004, Bruce Schneier, Counterpane Security; "Beyond Fear: Thinking Sensibly about Security in an Uncertain World", pub. Copernicus Books September 2003, Bruce Schneier]
Re-evaluate our duties under the UN Single Convention on Narcotic Drugs and move to a harm-reduction based approach to reducing drug use, such as the successful "British Method" ["A review of the Second Report of the Interdepartmental Committee on Addiction", United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, UNODC 1966; "Heroin-based treatment in Germany", Journal of Drug Issues, Spring 2002, Michels, Ingo Ilja] as used in Holland, Switzerland and Portugal. Licence controlled sales to adults (possibly with doctors' certificate for the addictive ones) from authorised premises in the same way that alcohol and tobacco and even methadone are now officially controlled, to avoid the present evils of drug prohibition and criminalisation.
Why: This will cut the legs from underneath the tabloids' Gangster Britain and convert the biggest sector of the black economy into tax-paid legal business (eat your heart out Al Capone). Save approx £8 billion per year currently wasted in promoting/policing the futile War On Some Drugs, and gain another £8 billion in licensed drug sales - instant £ 16 billion win to the exchequer and a recurring £8 Bn annual windfall. Cash to build up needy NHS mental services, cash for neighbourhood policing to prevent legalised drugs from getting out of hand, better social services and support to stop the needy falling into drug problems, cash for reducing personal taxes, cash for investing in UK business, etc etc. Above figures all come from Government statistics and think tanks.
Repeal the greedy and pernicious Inland Revenue regulations "IR35" and "S660A" which are designed purely to tax small one- and two- person businesses into the ground and steal the cash that should have been invested for growth and seen them through the recent recession. Restore the foundations of economic prosperity to Britain's small expert contractors, designers and retailers by legally limiting the tax definitions of "employment" as applied to a one or two man Company with self-held shareholding and a monopoly customer ["SMALL BUSINESS ISSUES - PARAGRAPH 5.95 OF THE BUDGET 2004 RED BOOK", Chartered Institute of Taxation and Tax Faculty, September 2004], to attract intellectual skills and provide Britain with a financially secure, well-paid, skilled and flexible IT workforce for the 21st Century.
Why: The economic boom from such a windfall of tax reductions would need a sure hand not prone to panic: in the Chancellory to steady other Government economic policies and in the Bank of England on interest rates. On the other hand it would kick-start a massive re-growth in Britain's small IT sector to the point where, as before 1999, we could once again compete with Asian outsourcing and low-taxed Silicon Valley. The tax loss in question should be more than compensated by the business growth resulting as well as the foregoing two changes. The last year before IR35 in my audited accounts for 1998-9 I paid £17,000 total tax, plus VAT on turnover - now due to IR35 doubling my company's taxation and resulting flat small-business markets, this year I am paying you just £8,000 total and no VAT. Are you, Mr. incoming Chancellor, good enough to repeal IR35, treat small companies equally with big ones, and handle the resulting increase in tax take ? Your small IT businesses hope so because we are crying out to be allowed to grow and invest !
Significant tax revenue from road pricing, congestion charges, fuel duty, and other transport taxes to be ring fenced for any cost-effective (public or environmental return > 1%) public transport improvements at both local and national levels. Reverse year 2006/7 Department For Transport rail franchise cutbacks in SW England, NW England, Wales, Scotland etc. Invest in new and refurbished rolling stock for longer and more frequent trains, enhance future franchises to reduce overcrowding, and back extension of electrification, bus-rail interchange and re-opening of routes, tramways and stations to promote essential UK economic mobility.
Why: We wasted our oil revenues - let's not waste this tax too. I have to travel for work from north of Derby to Keele, a journey of just over an hour in a car, but which takes 2.5 to 3.5 hours by public transport. I work at home as much as my employer permits, and I realise hypothecation is a dirty tax word, but we the public expect you the Government to invest our money in the transport sectors you expect us to use. There are some good investment ideas emerging from the lower parts of the DfT for infill electrification and rail company co-operation with private enterprise, but it seems in general the Secretaries and Ministers have missed the train which had their plans on - in fact they've probably cancelled it. Since 1995 successive Governments have been playing with their trains. Now let us have no more secretive Railroad Tycoon franchise brinkmanship from the train-set operators at the DfT as seen in 2006-7. Leave renting the stock and planning the trains to the franchised entrepreneurs, and limit Government's rôle to providing broad direction under clear long term plans, open investment in national infrastructure, and underwriting of larger TOC growth/co-operation schemes.
If you are as angry as I am at the increase in Government interference in our lives, at being ignored at the ballot box and overriden by un-elected advisors, at the money being wasted in our names on propping up long-failed policies and introducing new failures, the ever increasing taxation and the ever decreasing services, then please sign the petition at the URL below. The closing date is 20th February 2008 as I hope our lame duck PM Blair will finally have gone by then and we will have a new and more effective Prime Minister, one who listens to the people, not just to those who want to curry favour with him.
The security checksum below is signed with my key 0x2AD08766 and dated 21st February 2007, but - the signing applies to the HTML between the cut lines, not to the text as rendered on your page which is browser dependent ! It may validly change if the embedded links change but this will be uploaded as a separate journal.-----BEGIN PGP SIGNATURE----- Version: GnuPG v1.4.6 (GNU/Linux) iD8DBQFF3MORNJCRUirQh2YRAmoiAJ48arbjyb7VXTpB4EgEr/WOIHxEqACeJ5DF WYVvrqE3BllDkhKF+riy+20= =NFOG -----END PGP SIGNATURE-----
One very small cat, and three healthy looking kittens ! One ginger+white, one black+white and one tabby. She won't let me photograph them yet but stand by for a flood of newborn kitten photos. Clever cat :)
Who ? The cat ...