26 July 2011

Gardening update

The dedicated fanbase out there will recall my replanting of a herb garden a couple of months ago. I did promise some updates, and promptly forgot. So...

1st batch: died
2nd batch: dying
Seeds: died

1st batch: died
Seeds: died
Seeds 2: sprouting

1st batch: died
2nd batch: hanging on, but probably terminal
Seeds: died
Seeds 2: sprouting

The trays have been moved downstairs, avoiding the direct sunlight, so we'll see how that goes. Of course this means, if they do grow, I have to move further to get the herbs. Meh.


17 July 2011

David Cameron, Britain's greatest politician?

These thoughts have been bubbling around for a couple of weeks now. However the current Murdoch phone hacking drama has thrown them some focus. Although I dare say I'll break that by the end ...

For anyone living in a box, Murdoch, or more accurately his organisation, News International (NI), have been hacking phones. The Guardian has been prattling on about this for at least two years now, with varying degrees of buy-in from the authorities, and other news businesses. A lot of it was dismissed as harassment by NI and the police.
Vindication has come in the last fortnight when it was revealed the News of the World (UK tabloid, owned by NI) had hacked phones of: celebrities (meh); families of 9/11 victims; politicians; and the clincher, the phone of Milly Dowler who was murdered a few years ago - what got the public's attention was the NotW deleted off messages as her mailbox was full. Thereby giving her parents hope she was still alive. Ahhh all class. Finally the other non-Murdoch papers have caught on, and the politicians decided that public opinion was strong enough to challenge Murdoch.
that last point is important, as the political class in the UK were in thrall to newspaper editors, and in particular NI. NI owns the biggest selling daily paper (the Sun - and no, I'm not linking to it), NotW (biggest selling Sunday paper, until it was axed last week), The Times and the Sunday Times. Murdoch and his various editors were frequently seen courting the politicians, so no politician was prepared to speak out.
It wasn't just a Tory thing either, Blair and Brown also kept NI close, although Brown's relationship with them seemed more fraught. Which, if nothing else, is a point in favour of Brown. Oh and NI possibly hacked Brown's phone or blagged info from the hospital, before running a story of his newborn son having cystic fibrosis. Class.

So how does this fit with Davey-boy? Well, as mentioned Cameron has a close relationship with NI, the (now ex) editor of NotW Rebekah Brooks hung out with him, he had a number of dinners with high ranking NI people, and possibly of greatest concern, hired Andy Coulson -  the editor of NotW, during the main period of hacking, as his Director of Communications. Brilliant!

I'll get back to that, and how Cameron has dealt with the phone hacking allegations.
He's been in government since May 2010, and has managed to piss off pretty much everyone when he's tried to change policies or funding. Now, I'm not against all of his proposed changes, there is a hell of a lot of bureaucracy here, and as one example, the NHS does need reforming as opposed to tinkering - as most governments seem to do. He also seems keen to break the monopolies of Union's in the UK, and I suspect that's not necessarily a bad thing. The conflicts inherent in both of those examples relate to change, something the UK doesn't take to very well (in my experience). This conflict over change, has led to a number of protests and development of the Met's kettling techniques.

What I've found interesting is that in each case, the mud, which should have stuck and caused massive political embarrassment, has slid off Cameron. He's been prepared to sacrifice Ministers when public opinion reaches a level he's uncomfortable with, and is prepared to perform U-turns on policies. These are described as indicating a listening Government, one that has enough confidence to change its policies on the basis of consultation and feedback.
In effect, this means that critics of the Government, and there are many, find it difficult to hook into an issue and critique it properly as the boundaries keep changing. The Government is also introducing a large number of policy changes, so creating a large number of fronts of conflict. thus splitting critics, and the public. I imagine for a large majority of people, and I count myself in that number, the sheer number of protests concerning policy change begins to meld into one amorphous blob.
It is this flexibility and shape-shifting that is keeping Cameron afloat.

What has really struck me is that nothing has stuck to him, sure he's been canny and used the LibDem's to front a number of unpopular proposals, and their ratings have plummeted. But Cameron seems to be pottering along nicely. I have to hand it to him, and the Tories, their policy introductions have been brilliantly managed.

So what has changed in the last fortnight? Well for one, Ed Milliband has found his voice. He decided early on in the debacle, to risk NI's wrath, and go after them. He didn't really have an option there, as his leadership has been, thus far, a little weak. So credit to him. Cameron vacillated, defending NI, Coulson, and anyone else, until it became obvious that public opinion has reached whatever threshold he uses to gauge issues, and then he came out all but saying that Brooks should go. Which, eventually, she did. So the Government, led by Milliband, suddenly decided that NI was fair game and started digging into them. Launching inquiries, criticising their behaviour etc. All the stuff you'd expect leaders of a country to be doing as a matter of course.

And yet, so far, Cameron appears to have escaped unscathed, again. He's managed this by his standard method of sacrifice, in this case using NI. What remains to be seen is when the inquiry reports back, how much did Coulson know, and how (or if) he lied to Cameron. Cameron's judgement in hiring Coulson looks doubtful at best, and his defence that the Met had vetted him will need to be examined. If only as there is now evidence that NI was paying off police officers, and that a top police officer left the force to write for NI (Andy Hayman, described as a dodgy geezer -by politicians no less!), others had frequent meals with them, and another ex-editor worked for the police. Hmmm.
Given Cameron's ability to shift, removing the target from critics, I don't think this will bring him down either. The inquiry will take some time, by which time the public will have moved on. However, it will be interesting to see if this is the making of Ed Milliband as a decent opposition leader. He's been on form so far, and staked his claim early.

Back to the question, is he Britain's greatest politician? From a best for the country perspective, too early to say - depends very much on his reforms and what eventually happens with them. From a politically savvy approach, oh yeah - he makes Tony Blair seem positively static. And he had a huge majority to work with. This slippery approach makes it very hard to see what his end-game really is, unless it's politics and power itself. Which, as a career politician, makes sense.
Depending on how the phone hacking goes, as it does have the potential to bring down the government, depending on what revelations come out,and how well Cameron does at distancing himself from NI, I'm going for a qualified, yes.
You get what you deserve.

Most of the links are to the Guardian, but theirs has been the most indepth coverage, and well, I do read them by choice.

B (oohh a serious post, wow)

14 July 2011

sponsered ads

Sometimes they don't work. This is from my last.fm page.

And in other news, my daily average number of tracks has increased from 39 to 40. That may have something to do with the amount of music being played over the last couple of weeks...


Of various musical endeavours

There's been a number of gigs and music related events recently, so briefly:

Pallas - Glasgow
After significant peer pressure by the rest of the caped crusaders, my trusty gold cape was packed and I headed up to Glasgow for the prog-gods Pallas. Beer was consumed, an additional caped crusader was acquired (the cape maker no-less, resplendent in purple), and we headed to the gig. Bear in mind this was Friday night, in Glasgow. The neds were most confused. Arriving at the venue we found yet another cape crusader, our number are growing. Today, the prog, tomorrow, the world. Caught up with the band, who seem quite keen on the cape-age.
Gig was good, seemed to be a warm-up for High Voltage, and everything flowed well. The new material sounds very rocky, and is quite different from the 'old' Pallas. Not worse, just different. I've found it a bit tricky to get used to that, but live, it works well.

Due to time pressures with a nightclub afterwards, the caped crusaders were turned into caped roadies.

Roger Waters - London
The next day saw me flying back to London for the Roger Waters gig. I was always a bit nervous about this, given how much the Waters tickets were, and how much I wanted to see him. The plane I was booked on was 2 hours late leaving the airport, meaning I got into London at 6, just in time to head straight out to the gig (at the O2).
Crickey, that was a gig and a half. A performance of The Wall, with a full multimedia show. I think that's pushing to be best gig I've been to. Sure, there were a couple of mawkish moments, but over-all, emotionally draining.

The Weakerthans - London
One of my favourite bands, so really pleased I got to see them. Quirky Canadian indie-rock. Very relaxed band onstage, similar to Tragically Hip or the Phoenix lads - well ok, possibly not that relaxed. One of those gig you come out of going, yeah that was exactly why I love the band.

Had a quick trip up to Nottingham last weekend to share a pint or two with the Glaswegian contingent down visiting the Nottingham posse. We may have met up in a vinyl shop. I may have bought some cheese, and also Japan 'Oil on canvas' to try and recover some credibility. Europe Final Countdown (12" mix) and The Firm Star Trekkin (12" mix) were the cheese...
And I believe I have a rock gig next week, Queensryche and Judas Priest. Brilliant!


11 July 2011

UK banks

I've decided to change my bank. I am currently with santander, who have managed to screw up every action I've asked them to do. They were good, but the monkeys who now inhabit the Loughborough Uni branch are, honestly, down-syndrome simians. They lie, due to ignorance, they don't do what they've said, their communication is atrocious, and the concept of customer service -jeez, just don't go there.

So for the last couple of days I've been going through what options I've got to move to. Basically, there's bugger all. With the banking crisis squeezing many out, the options are as limited as high street shopping. Cutting Santander, I've got NatWest; Barclays; HSBC (who don't seem to like general people); Lloyds and RBS. There's a few other smaller ones, but not many.
Savings accounts are more varied, as there's more of a win in them for the bank.



7 July 2011

Cooking with Bruce: Zucchini cakes

I do like this recipe, it's very simple, it tastes nice, and goes well with lots of things.

3 zucchini (grated)
3-5 spring onions chopped
2T chopped dill
2T chopped parsley (probably more, or add some coriander leaves)
2T grated onion
1/3c grated kasseri cheese (med-hard cheese, I've also used parmesan or, weirdly, ricotta)
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3T flour (poss more)
fresh ground pepper

Grate zucchini, sprinkle salt over it, then leave in a colander for at least 30mins. Squeeze out moisture, then add everything, mix. Season with salt and pepper. You may need extra flour if it seems extra sloppy.

Heat oil in fry pan, dump tablespoon full in - kinda press down to spread, cook until golden brown. Serve hot or cold.

The world is your oyster. I had it tonight with a caesar salad, and two of the cakes as 'burgers' with tomato, mustard + chilli sauce, lettuce etc.

Oh, I've also made the same recipe with leeks and feta, which works well too.


Gay teaching in California

it's looking probable that California will make teaching of positive contributions to society by gay and lesbian people mandatory in public schools. this is similar to the enforced positive impact teaching for mexicans, native americans, women, etc.

That's all fine and dandy (hehhehe) but what struck me was one of the dissenting Republican voices who said:
"Our founding fathers are turning over in their graves."
(Tim Donnelly)

now what way up are bodies buried...oh yeah turn over, get some baby