28 August 2009

Friday frolics

There are lots of little things to say today, so I will skip around the subjects in this post:

The end of 50 over domestic cricket

The BBC reports on the ECB's announcement that there will be no 50 over domestic competition next year. The 4 day game survives along with a revitalised 40 over competition and T20. Ultimately, though I may have favoured the 50 over game over the Pro40, I think it's the right decision to only have one of them.

The Ashes and the Crown Jewels
David Keen has launched a campaign to bring the Ashes back to terrestrial TV. I agree with his assessment that the atmosphere around this year's Ashes series was subdued because only evening highlights were available on Channel 5; the live coverage restricted to Sky subscription channels. David quotes the Guardian, who published the slightly embarassing viewing figures:
At its peak, Sky Sports 1's live Ashes coverage had more viewers than Gardeners' World on BBC2, which had 1.1 million viewers between 5.45pm and 6pm, and was neck and neck with a repeat of Agatha Christie's Poirot on ITV1, which had 1.9 million viewers. But it could not better the 2.3 million viewers watching Songs of Praise on BBC1.

Wales - a hotbed of terrorism
Amateur Photographer reports the experience of a railway enthusiast (or trainspotter) who was on a camping holiday in Wales. He took some photos of some 'interesting' engines at an oil depot, and was then traced by the Police to his campsite. The Police caught up with him the following day and demanded he hand over the camera and memory card. I'm happy to say that he knew his rights, and that he refused to do so. He did offer to show them his images, but they declined the offer.

I wish the Police would learn a bit more about the law in this area!

Chilean Chapel
This post caught my eye. It shows a wooden chapel built on a lakeside in Chile. Simple and sensitive. I feel like going up to the Lake District via B&Q.

I think that's about it for now.

25 August 2009

Mike Peatman on Megrahi

Mike Peatman has posted on the release of the convicted Lockerbie bomber. I've posted on this before, and last night I listened to an extended piece on Radio 4 whilst driving through 6 (yes 6) sets of roadworks on the M62 (down to 1 lane every time!). I agree with much of what Mike says, and will make a couple more points of my own.
  • It's a shame we'll never have the chance to see an appeal brought. Many people who have reviewed the evidence are not convinced about it and there is also new evidence to be tested. Surely it would provide a better sense of justice for those affected to have the right people convicted and punished for the crime.
  • As there will not be any re-examination of the evidence, the existing conviction stands. As far as the law is concerned, Megrahi is still guilty.

Megrahi's release (to me) has nothing to do with either of the above issues. He is dying. He is no longer seen as a threat to society. He was being detained far from his home and his family. The only reasons to keep him in detention are that a) we think he still needs to be punished, and b) the victims and their families (and some politicians seeking to cash in) aren't happy with his release.

My belief is that prison as punishment is a fundamentally flawed model. I know many will disagree, but I don't see what right I have to inflict pain (to put it in a basic form) on somebody because of the pain they have inflicted on me. We tell our children that 2 wrongs don't make a right, and we aspire to 'turn the other cheek', but then we go and enshrine the principle of revenge into our legal systems. We even talk about someone's debt to society; we say that 'you caused society x pain, so we have to cause you x pain in return'. Otherwise they are in a position of debt. How on earth can we quantify pain in this way?
I'm reminded of the famous Gandhi quotation, 'An eye for an eye, and soon the whole world is blind'.

I do think that we have to respect the victims and their families, but we have to accept that those closest to the crime are probably not in the best position to decide on what happens to the offender. That's one of the reasons we have a legal system - to lend some objectivity to the process.

All in all, I think the right decision was made, though I think we should have insisted on a low key repatriation. That, however, is a PR/diplomatic issue; Not a moral/legal one.

20 August 2009

Friday fun

Many of the bloggers I regularly read have a habit of blogging a summary of issues on a Friday, and today I feel drawn to do the same. It's been a very busy day for me at work (Day one of a four day health and safety training course), and having scanned my usual internet reading list this evening, there seems to be too much to say today!

A mediocre day for England. Seemed to start well, but then lost a predictable flurry of middle order wickets. Hopefully the tail can add on a few more in the morning before we see which Steve Harmison turns up.

I have a lot of sympathy with the Scottish politicians who have had to make the decisions on the man convicted of the Lockerbie bombing. I think it's a complex situation, and I'm not sure of the security of the original conviction. I think they've made the correct decision to let a dying man go home for the end of his life.

Swine flu and communion at Greenbelt
Maggi Dawn shares the news that this year's Greenbelt won't feature the usual Sunday morning communion service and asks for comments about how people are coping with swine flu in churches. As I think I've said before, we have fairly unconventional arrangements for communion at the University Chaplaincy we attend. These arrangements are more peculiar at the moment because the RC Diocese have not been as harsh as the C of E, and the methodists have their shot glasses. This means that our ecumenical weekly communion service (during holiday time) now has a buffet of choices, though denominationally restricted! Anglicans receive in one kind, methodists receive bread and unfermented wine from shot glasses, and the Roman Catholics are continuing as if there's no swine-flu. I can't imagine what newcomers from outside a church setting would make of this, but it seems to work ok.

Great news for the former employees of SPCK, who appear to have been shafted by their incoming Texan bosses. Lots of reports everywhere in the blogosphere, but the USDAW action resulting in payouts to some of the people involved was covered on the BBC.

The current management have struck back in Amateur Photographer. they are blaming the previous management. I think they're all to blame, along with uncontrollable changes to the photography market.

19 August 2009

Come on Burnley!

Despite the fact that it doesn't help my fantasy football team, and the more important fact that I am an Accringtonian, I take great delight in Burnley's victory over Man United. It's great to see the big teams knocked over by the new boys.

More bad news at Jessops

My former employer is finding it hard at the moment. Jessops have found it very difficult over the last few years, and I found out yesterday that one of my former colleagues is to be made redundant as the company moves to cut costs even further. When I managed a Jessops store, we had the following indefinite full time posts:
  • Manager
  • Assistant Manager
  • Sales Assistant
  • Lab Supervisor
In addition we had 4 or 5 part-time sales assistants, and this was a small shop!

I'm informed that the profile of a similar store (mine was closed a couple of years ago) is now down to just a Manager on a full time indefinite contract, and a bunch of part-time assistants.

The unique selling point of the business, when I joined it, was that the people who worked there were enthusiasts. That meant that customers came to the shop for more than the product; they came for advice and a chat about obscure photographic equipment. It was a specialist shop.

By employing part-time staff in the majority of posts, they have lost this USP. There isn't any advantage to shopping in Jessops now. You'll get a better price and equivalent customer service from the faceless internet!

It's sad that a company founded on family values and expert advice has been diluted, and I'm not sure how much longer the business will last.

Amateur Photographer has this from the former Chairman and Chief Exec.

14 August 2009

Guitar Hero

This is a story that the sadly missed BigBulkyAnglican would definitely have recorded on his blog. And even though I posses the guitar skills of an otter (despite owning two guitars), I thought I should mark the passing of Les Paul on this blog.

I played in a band for a while when I was at school, and although I was a keyboard 'player', I was inevitably exposed to electric guitar culture - all bands have guitars! It appears to me that Les Paul was much more than just a person who played and made guitars. He was an icon in the world of rock music.

He was an innovator in musical technology and developed one of the first solid bodied electric guitars. The move away from a resonant sound box opened up massive stylistic possibilities that hadn't existed before! He and his contemporaries changed the course of rock and roll music with this innovation. Les Paul's 'log' (yes that's what he called this guitar) was the forerunner of the Gibson Les Paul; a guitar that nearly all your favourite rock musicians will have played on stage at some point in their career. This is what many people mean by a 'Les Paul'; in my teenage years, I remember the dawning realisation that a 'Les Paul' wasn't just a guitar!

Lester William Polsfuss (to give him his full name) wasn't just a guitar maker though. He continued to innovate with musical effects and recording techniques which have gone on to shape modern music even more than his guitar design! He experimented with multitracking well before there was a convenient, all-in-one machine that would do the hard work for you! Les Paul will go down in musical history for his contribution to music. I just hope that future generations of musical geeks have the same realisation I did. There was a man behind the guitar, and he was great!

The final thing to say is that in reading about his life today, I discovered that I've spent some time in his neck of the woods. He was born and raised in Waukesha, Wisconsin. Just down the road from New Berlin, where some good friends of ours live.

12 August 2009


It sounds like it could be a new form of torture dreamt up by American intelligence agents. In reality, though, it's what a friend and I did last night.

Although we are in rented property, our landlord is quite flexible about us doing little bits about the house. With the impending arrival of LittleLanky, we are trying to create space in the house for an assembled cot etc, so we thought it would be a good idea to spend £20 on materials and make the loft a bit more usable as a storage location.

Thanks to the assistance of the aforementioned friend this task is now complete, and our giant tent is now safely sitting in the loft. The next step is to dismantle a couple of shelving units (upon which the tent was previously stored) and put them (along with 10 boxes of books) alongside the tent. That should give us acres of space for a baby and all its 'stuff'.

11 August 2009

Strange experiences

Up until yesterday, all the purchases we've made in the anticipation of LittleLanky's arrival have failed to cause alarm.

  • The pram (an Easy Walker Sky) is assembled, but safely tucked away at my parents' house.
  • The cot (Ikea's cheapest one) is still in it's box in the spare room.
  • The changing table (a funky Ikea number) is next to the cot, also in its box.

I think that's about all we've acquired so far, and as you can see, it's mostly boxed or not in our house.

It all changed yesterday when we were in Booths we spotted an offer on organic and environmentally friendlier disposable nappies for new born babies. Although we fully intend to use reusable nappies, we're not naive enough to think that we'll never use a disposable, so we bought some.

I know it doesn't seem like a big deal, but it felt a bit like it did when we decided we were going to try for a baby in the first place; a bit scary, and completely uncharted territory.

Anyway, we now own some nappies, and we should probably get our act together on the myriad other items we 'need' before the baby arrives.

6 August 2009

Mummy and Daddy classes

Last night we went to our first antenatal session at the hospital, which was all very interesting. The person leading the session was very nice, if slightly mad.

Although we didn't discover any amazing truths about parenthood in the first session (it was mostly common sense), the session brought our experience of pregnancy to the next level! It's all somehow much more immediate now that we've had the tour of the maternity ward and seen a model of a baby at 30 weeks gestation (which is the milestone we reached today).

I need to crack on with assembling furniture and tidying up a bedroom! Everyone tells me that once the baby arrives, we will both be too tired to operate allen keys.