Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Student loan finally paid off!

This week I received my final letter from the SLC to say I'd finished paying off my student loan.
Nothing unusual in that, apart from I took it out 13yrs ago. Through doing postgraduate study, and having a low paid job immediately following that have ensured that my loan has rumbled along with its GDP deflator rate of inflation.
Anyone who ever pushes for maintenance loans to be charged at commercial rates really does need to go back to the drawing board if you want to continue training postgraduates...

Why did I do it?

Somehow I sat, transfixed, by the non-event of the world cup so far: Switzerland vs Ukraine. There was something so awful about it that I couldn't move from the sofa from where I was watching it.
In retrospect, I could have spent the 2.5hrs entering marked registers, or doing some other productive tasks, like cleaning the house. They should just have gone straight to penalties, instead of the charade of actually playing football.
There is something also deeply ironic in that the Swiss have been eliminated without conceding a goal. On last nights performance you can see why they didn't concede, but they never looked like scoring either.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Saturday in Bromley

I usually claim that I don't know that 6am exists on a Saturday, but I was up at crack of dawn to get down to Bromley to help at the by-election.
We spent most of the day delivering in Chislehurst, and I spent my time in an area where the average house price was probably close to £1m. I was half expecting the dogs to be sent out to chase away the Focus deliverer, or to be mown down in some freak lawn tractor accident.
In the time it took me to do that one round, my two colleagues had delivered 3 rounds, and come back to see if I was still alive!
Lunch was spent in a pub in Chislehurst at which we bumped into the UKIP candidate, Nigel Farage, and his team of henchmen. He claimed to have been out canvassing since 6am, but what I think they meant was, they been on the streets since about then with a megaphone annoying shoppers. And in the afternoon they were "canvassing" pubs, although as far as I could see this involved having a fag and pint and annoying the locals.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Thought for the day

Today's thought for the day was by Anne Atkins, which was today a rant about discrimination towards the murderers of Jody Dobrowski. (If he had been heterosexual their sentence would have been shorter).
The mention of Anne Atkins reminded me of a blog entry by Alex Wilcock who postulated a device that would switch from radio to CD at the very mention of this woman's name. Quite how the BBC get away with the series of so called religious commentators on prime time radio is beyond me.

Too much football!

No not talking about the world cup, but I've played 3 times in the last 3 days. And feeling the effects of it.
Sunday I was in goal for the first time in ages. Managed to pull off some great saves, but I let in one of the worst howlers you're likely to see: ball rolls to me, not too quickly, but towards the goal, and somehow my chocolate wrists let it go through my legs, and virtually throw it into the goal. Fortunately, we were already 1 goal down, and not looking like getting through their defences.
Monday was the regular quick about with mates, at which there was much ribbing of the previous day's efforts. This will continue until someone else cocks up horrendously.
Then yesterday was the start of the University's summer staff league. We faced the old foe of Physics, and comfortably beat them 3-0 (with the half time score being 3-0 when I got substituted...)
So now just need to recover for next week (and only 1 England game between now and then for us to get very nervous about!)

Friday, June 16, 2006

Is it me or is the Times Killer getting harder?

I've consistently failed to complete the last 3 weeks worth of "Tough" and "Tricky" killers in The Times. Are they getting more difficult, or have I not fully developed a toolkit to solve them?

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Rubbish Amnesty

I had one of those days yesterday. With 40mins notice I was asked by our ward support officer whether I was available to do an interview for the BBC. Fortunately, my office is just around the corner from where the interview was going to be held. So managed to pop out for 20 mins to do my piece.
The package was being put together for BBC Birmingham (so only available on Sky Digital, the interweb, and will probably end up on Central Trains next week...). So not the largest audience to hear about the Rubbish Amnesty that we were operating in Bournbrook this week.
We are constantly looking for schemes to try and reduce the amount of bulk refuse that ends up on the streets and in front gardens from rented properties (which is different to the problems of the volume of domestic waste from such a high population density).
Unfortuntely, the publicity was so good, that most of it got nicked by students to put up in their own houses. (It featured a Neighbours character, who is apparently a current cult figure, I remember the days of Jason & Kylie...)

Monday, June 12, 2006

Is it cos I is...

Political Hack has had a go at me because I'm white, and middle class! I'm not sure when being middle class became a crime in Tony Blair's vision of Britain....
Although not denying being middle class, I'm unsure that the evidence in my candidates profile is wholly conclusive. Is attending the local state schools middle class? Is going to university middle class? Or is being Liberal Democrat the clincher?
But those in glasshouses shouldn't play with stones. A study of the 3 previous deputy leaders of the Labour group has a distinct pattern to it: Ian Ward, Hugh McCallion, Stewart Stacey.
Compared to the LibDems: Dave Radcliffe, Tariq Khan, Sue Anderson.
One set of names is more prominant for being white, middle class and male than the other set.

Drinking water

Its no wonder England managed to get through 70l of water during Saturday's game if they were "drinking" it like Beckham.

I wont comment on the game itself, just on the awful refereeing, and his unusual approach to the rules, and the fact he limited the times that players could take a splash of water onboard.
England had a 12th man in the form of the crowd, while Paraguay had their 12th man in the referee...
[The photo above is by the very excellent and award winning Dan Chung of the Guardian. For the LibDem readers of this blog, Dan took the photos of Charles K for our 2005 General Election literature, including the "flying wedge" photo with CK stood infront of 20 odd people (and me in one of the corners) used on the manifesto cover and the back of the campaign battle bus!]

Friday, June 09, 2006

News from North Herefordshire

A former work colleague has sent through news from north Herefordshire where he is a parish curate.
This just seems like yet another World Cup tie in...
Ashley's support for Walsall doesn't seem to have helped them this season, so I hope it doesn't rub off onto England.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Football tourny

The Shed competed in the Uni's end of term summer festival on Monday & Tuesday, progressing as far as the the semi-final before being knocked out 2-1 with a deflected shot being the winner! This is a great effort from the team to make it to the final 4 from 80 teams entered, and the best result they've had in this annual event. Its even better when you consider the average age of The Shed is close to 30, while the student teams are close to 20.
The photo below is of Tony Simpson dribbling past a host of defenders before burying the ball in the onion bag to score the winner in one of the group games on Monday. If they ran "goal of the tournament", then this would be up there.

Thatcher's legacy

Tuesday's Evening Mail carried this story about a Guild motion to celebrate the future demise of Maggie Thatcher.
Today, the motion has been pulled because of the furore, which even made it onto the BBC.
Anyway, I've only just had a chance to bang out a letter, which I guess will not be printed now, so reproduced here for posterity:
Richard Angell is clearly a Thatchers child, and demonstrates much that was wrong with the Tories during the 80s. (Thatcher party call, page 2, Evening Mail, Tuesday June 6).
Richard has sunk to the level of the government of the time by being as nasty as they were to individuals and groups.
But the government of today is just as bad. Mr Angell has forgotten that it was Tony Blair who promised not to introduce university tuition fees. But promptly changed his mind when he was elected in 1997.
It is Tony Blairs government that is authoritarian and oppressive, with the introduction of ID cards. Students will be financially penalised by these cards when they are charged for changing addresses annually.
No one should celebrate the demise of an individual, but I know Ill be partying when Tony Blair finally leaves no 10 Downing Street.
Councillor Dave Radcliffe, Selly Oak ward
PS It was Argentina, not Thatcher, who invaded the Falklands illegally, not unlike Tony Blairs illegal war in Iraq.

The Beautiful South

Absolutely ages since I've been to a gig, so it was really good to pop up to Wolverhampton on Monday evening to catch The Beautiful South live.
I haven't worked out who the support act were, the lead singer was a bit of a mumbler. I think they were welsh... One song was about dressing like ot the the seventies, another "arrow to my heart" or similar.
TBS essentially mixed their set list between showcasing tracks from their current album and old favourites. Everyone sang along or bobbed up and down in time to their anthemic songs.
Good time had by all.

Friday, June 02, 2006

Tories turn left

On the face of it some of the Redwood's proposals sound quite sensible: removing dangerous cycle lanes, letting taxis etc share bus lanes, having no all red phase on junctions.
But think about what some of these mean, and the potential impact of the headline of allowing left turns at red lights.
What do they mean about dangerous cycle lanes? Given the 10 point plan is intended to increase road capacity for cars by 10-20%, I presume they mean cycle lanes that take up road space instead of cars. So Dave's tories want to move one set of road users onto the pavement to join pedestrians.
Turning left at traffic lights is a recipe for accidents. It works in the States because you have wide roads, and fewer pedestrians/cyclists. But when you'll have cyclists running down the inside lane approaching traffic lights on red, before occupying the advanced stop line, then there will be accidents with cars turning across cyclists. (Having a car/van turn across you is horrible as there is so little you can do apart from take the hit and hope that you come up with all limbs in one piece.)
Introduction of underpasses and footbridges would seem to be a step back. Underpasses are notorious, and are magnets for graffiti and anti-social behaviour. Indeed the current vogue is to bring all forms of transport onto one level (e.g. the buss mall/Masshouse development in Birmingham).