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Decision time

January 25th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

Tomorrow night the local council will be having a special meeting about airport expansion and deciding whether to support an extra runway at Gatwick, oppose it, or not offer an opinion.

It is a strange one because the topic is just about the most significant one locally for a long time, and yet the decision itself is just about the least significant – because, depending on your level of cynicism, those making the decision either:

  • Have already made up their minds and won’t change it
  • Will make their decision based on statistics, regardless of local opinion

In any case, the council’s opinion will just be one of many.  Presumably all the councils and resident groups around Gatwick will opppose expansion at Gatwick while all the councils and resident groups around Heathrow will oppose expansion there, and it will all cancel out.

I think I shall stay at home. I have sat through quite a few of these debates and heard all the arguments from both sides many times and not just recently – this was all going on when I was on the council about 15 years ago.

Personally I am in favour by default. Ideally, everything would stay much as it is, but expansion at neither airport doesn’t seem to be an option and I am really against expansion at Heathrow because of the number of businesses that would start drifting away from Crawley towards there.

I think I know which way the council will go tomorrow, but I’m less sure of how the Airports Commission will eventually decide. Whatever they decide it is going to be an interesting few years around here as we either have to work out how to cope with expansion and make it work for us, or have to cope with Heathrow expanding and try to stop companies like Virgin Atlantic moving their offices across there.

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Permutations

January 20th, 2015 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

All the so-called experts are poring over sets of inconsistent polls, trying to work out what might happen in the general election. Will the Lib Dems still be in a coalition with the Tories or would the Tories combine with UKIP? Might Labour have to form a coalition with the Greens and SNP and maybe even the Lib Dems as well? Would there be a unity government of everybody?

As we all know, the way our system is set up it doesn’t matter what proportion of the vote you get so much as where those votes are, which is why parties have been able to get 10% or more of the vote nationally without picking up even one seat, let alone the half dozen that their share of the vote might suggest.

Personally I have no idea what will happen, and I am mainly focussed on hoping Chris Oxlade wins locally, but a part of me would like to see a national result so obviously unfair that the pressure to change the system will be unignorable. For example, a general election where UKIP, the Greens and the Lib Dems get more than 50% of the vote between them but no seats at all and then either Labour or the Tories getting an outright majority of seats while getting fewer votes than the other nationally.

Such a result isn’t completely impossible and maybe that is what it would take to get us to look at something different, and if there was another referendum on a change to the voting system there would be enough dissatisfaction to motivate people to actually vote on it this time.

 

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Father Vlad

December 31st, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

All that business in Ukraine earlier in the year – I just realised that in Father Ted terms, Putin was basically kicking Bishop Brennan up the arse.

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Dave Gorman is goodish

December 11th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

In the past few weeks I have been enjoying Modern Life is Goodish on Dave, featuring Dave Gorman and his PowerPoint slides.

Dave Gorman seems to have found a nice little niche doing shows that owe more to presentations than to stand-up comedy but are nevertheless funny.  I imagine that he would be funny without the slides but I find it hard to imagine him on a stage without a projector now.

It is really difficult to describe what he does and if you try to describe the shows in a way that does them justice. The best way to sum them up would probably be PowerPoint-based whimsical pedantry and I think it is the pedantry that is the key to what makes Dave Gorman funny.

We might spot something that is a bit strange like an overly-specific claim in an advert and just let it go. Dave Gorman will go to great lengths to explain why it is strange, find other examples and do detailed comparisons and then pop up a graph or venn diagram to illustrate it.

See? Doesn’t sound funny at all does it? But it really is.

Having had to put together a few presentations myself, I can see that he is actually very, very good at the technical side of that. Had he decided to do a normal office job that required ambitious but polished presentations he would have done well.

He is also an accomplished photographer as you can see from his Flickr feed, where he shows a good eye for composition.

Above all he seems like a nice bloke and his comedy is almost entirely free of spite and malice. Now I do enjoy and appreciate comedy with a dose of vitriol, I’ve seen Jerry Sadowitz a couple of time, but sometimes its also OK to just sit back and enjoy something more benign.

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Todays bright idea #10 – smartphone video feature

November 23rd, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Technology

Tonight I was being a grumpy old man at a concert in London, where I could hardly see Toyah onstage because of all the smartphones being held up by people filming it. I think we have reached the point where this is now considered normal and it is too late to stop it but perhaps we can do something about how everybody is doing it, and that is today’s bright idea…

…A feature built into the operating system of the phone that activates whenever you are using the video function but the phone is still in portrait orientation and points out that landscape is the correct aspect for video so stop being a dick. If this appeared in the next versions of IOS and Android a lot of us pedantic types would be made very happy.

 

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Say cheese!

November 21st, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

Watching the news tonight I saw the familiar sight of prisoners being transported into a police station in those vans with the little heavily-tinted windows and the odd photographer breaking loose from the pack to hold their camera up to the heavily-tinted window at arm’s length to try and snap a photo or two. With flash. While the van is moving.

The question is: has one of those photos ever resulted in anything better than a big reflection of the flash from the glass? I can’t recall ever having seen a picture published anywhere of a prisoner inside the van, taken through the window, so why to they keep doing it? Do the photographers actually think it will work one day or is it a motion they just go through partly out of habit and partly as a futile gesture to show how hard they try for a picture?

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Crisis? What Crisis?

November 18th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Politics

I finally finished reading Crisis? What Crisis?: Britain in the 1970s by Alwyn Turner. It took a while. I would probably have read two or three novels in the time it took me to read it, even though it is a much shorter book than many other history books that often weigh in at 700 or 800 pages.

The reason is that history is not as compelling as fiction for me. With a novel I will, if it is any good, find myself speeding up as I get further through and want to find out what happens next. And I will also put more time aside for reading do I can get to the end. Almost by definition, with a history book you know how it ends, and with a book about the 1970s there is no rush to get to the end because it ends with Thatcher.

That said, I was taken by surprise when the book finished because it was only 70% of the way through according to the progress bar at the bottom of the Kindle. I had forgotten that history books tend to devote a lot of pages at the end to references and bibliographies and this is the first one I have read as an e-book.

Quick conclusion: it is a different perspective to the others I read and even with covering the same ground it came up with a few things to make me stop and think. Well worth reading. There were a few points in it that I will probably return to in the near future.

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Nothing Has Changed

November 17th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Music

Right now I am on Spotify, listening to Nothing Has Changed, the new David Bowie ‘Best Of’ album.

I shan’t be buying it for several reasons. Firstly, I don’t buy CDs any more at all, but even if I did I already have a 2 CD David Bowie hits collection and used to have quite a few of his original albums on vinyl. I have a few thoughts about this latest collection though: [Read more →]

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The Turing Test

November 17th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Technology

The concept of the Turing test has been cropping up a lot on the news lately, due to the current film about Turing and a competition hosted at Bletchley Park. For some reason it sparked off a whole bunch of thoughts. [Read more →]

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So

November 17th, 2014 · Posted by Skuds in Life

The last few months have seen the regular annual influx of new graduate joiners at work, which means two things: a temporary tendency for the building to smell of Lynx and a permanent increase in the number of people who start every answer to a question with the word “so”.

This habit used to be mostly limited to academics in economics, psychology and related fields, especially if they were American, but spread throughout humanities and social sciences and now is everywhere. I do semi-seriously wonder if universities actually teach this explicitly rather than just by example. Presumably someone thought it sounded better than saying “er” or “um” when they need a little while to work out what they are going to say, and it just escalated.

Unbelievably that is not the only way the word “so” is catching on. There is an even more irritating verbal tic, where people use it to end a spoken sentence. It is like they realise that what they are saying is utterly predictable and just let the though fade with “so…”. It crops up a lot with quiz show contestants on TV who might say something like “Well I enjoy reading and watching films and I have a 2-year-old daughter so…”

Is this new? I am wondering if it is one of those things that everyone (including me) does and has been doing for ages, but you don’t notice it, and then when you do consciously register it you can’t un-hear it.

Well that’s my audition for the next series of Grumpy Old Men sorted out, so…

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