Tuesday, 30 October 2012

A stay of execution

I recieved an e-mail from the council's allotment officer today.

She told me that she wasn't prepared to transfer the plot from my stepson to me becuase we're not really related.

This was really missing the point. I sent a message back explaining that I was happy for the plot to stay in my stepson's name, but that I was appealing agaisnt the eviction order in the light of the work I've put in over the last few weeks.

Almost straight away, I got the following e-mail back.

Hi Mr Sharp
When a notice to quit goes out it should be permanent – I can not understand why after 2 ½ years of none working on the plot you now are going to do something on it?  Why wait until you received the dirty plot notice and four weeks after the notice to quit you now want to make a difference.  I will put the notice on hold for 4 more weeks as you request but you should adhere to the tenants agreement and keep it 75% cultivated.  I will revisit on 27.11.12 and expect to see a marked improvement otherwise the notice to quit will stand.

So it's now in my own hands. If I want to keep it, I need to sort it, and I have 4 weeks to make it into a cultivated plot. This is challenging because there's not much that can be planted at this time of year. Still, I can weed the weeds, and put membrane down over the beds so that they will be weed free come spring.

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Roadkill on the information superhighway

We've lost something. In gaining everything, we've lost something.

I once had a radio cassette player that had shortwave. With careful manipulation of the frequency, I could tune in to hissy semi-garbled transmissions from Russia or Brazil or Tunisia.

20 years ago, I was a part of a pub quiz league. It was a social event that brought teams together.

15 years ago, as I prepared to leave my flat in Birkenhead for another in Moreton, I spent an evening phoning random phone numbers in the USA. First on the East coast, then as it got later, on the west coast.

Many people just put the phone down, but I had some really interesting conversations.

I'm talking to someone in Bend, Oregon, or Rochester, NY? Same old. Did it yesterday too.

These days, the winner of the quiz is as likely to be the person who's best at sneaking google into the arena.

Now if I want to hear radio from Australia or Cambodia, I can just go online and find it. That which was once stumbled upon and listened to with fascination has become prosaic.

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Thursday, 25 October 2012

"Socialism would never work because of human nature"

On the face of it, this oft repeated maxim does make sense of sorts. All it takes is one greedy bugger, and everybody is no longer equal after all.

But try to apply it to the socialist things that nations do, and see if it fits?

Nationalisation of the railways could never work, because of human nature.

The National Health Service could never work because of human nature.

A minimum wage could never work because of human nature.

These statements are borked, aren't they? They make no sense.

But let's look at the opposite.

Opening up the raliways to the free market means the ruthless and greedy take over.

Ditto Healthcare. And I suppose a case could be made for the abolition of a minimum wage putting the weakest at the mercy of the most psychotic.

Just a thought.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

write this down so dont forget

A couple of things have come together.

Here's the first.

the second is a backgammon tournament that breaks a huge amount of new ground. I'm involved. I'm a pioneer, exploring the possibilities. In terms of the video, I'm an extrovert. Along with another player, we're driving the game We're stretching the envelope. But in this case, we're also being the most creative. We're opposed to each other, philosophically, politically, methodologically. Yet we've developed a mutual respect for each other.

Anyway, perhaps we can help each other in real life.

So this is a not to myself. find out more about the other guy. See if we can do stuff for each other in real life.

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Friday, 19 October 2012

Sunday, October 4th, 1992

Bet you couldn't say what you were doing then, but I can.

I had a job as a postman at the time, but I was on holiday. The day after, I should have been back in work, but I ended up having an extra day off.

I was in Amsterdam, or just leaving it anyway after a week spent doing what young people do when they go to Amsterdam. I was twenty three years old. I don't remember if it was the first time I went or the second or third or what, but I do remember this:

By the time it happened, I was out of the city. Probably heading for Zeebrugge or Ostende, or possibly on a coach on the way to Calais. There used to be a service called the Midnight Express that did day trips from Manchester to the Dam.. I wasn't flying home that's for sure. I was taking the ferry. But it made a convenient excuse for not going in the next day.

It would have been on the coach or ferry or at the ferry terminal that I became aware that something had gone on. I heard no bang. I saw no smoke. Yet I couldn't help be thankful that whatever had happened didn't involve me.

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Tuesday, 16 October 2012

4k and allotment update.

Somewhere between Wallasey and Glossop, I went through the 4,000 mile mark in my car.

This 1000 mile segment was done at an average of 50.4 mpg and an average speed of 20 mph.

I recieved a reply to my email about being evicted.

It said the allotment officer is on leave this week so they will let me know next week.

hmph. I have no choice really but to carry on working to get the plot into shape.

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Felix Baumgartner's jump as seen on Google Earth

Felix was dragged to earth by the weight of his own testicles as one person memorably wrote.

Hw jumped from a height of 128,100 feet. That's 39,045 metres. That's about 24 miles straight down. It would take me half an hour to drive it horizontally, even if I was going quite quickly. He reached the ground 9 minutes later.

Anyway, here's what 39,045 metres above Roswell, New Mexico looks like on Google Earth when you look straight down.

 And here's what it looks like when you look northwards.

To put it another way, here's what 24 miles looks like on the ground.

It's like falling from Swindon to Oxford.

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Monday, 15 October 2012

The Ragged Trousered Philanthropists: Tory plans to issue benefits as smart cards.

The majority of the skilled workers still held aloof from these
processions, although their haggard faces bore involuntary testimony
to their sufferings.  Although privation reigned supreme in their
desolate homes, where there was often neither food nor light nor fire,
they were too `proud' to parade their misery before each other or the
world.  They secretly sold or pawned their clothing and their
furniture and lived in semi-starvation on the proceeds, and on credit,
but they would not beg.  Many of them even echoed the sentiments of
those who had written to the papers, and with a strange lack of
class-sympathy blamed those who took part in the processions.  They
said it was that sort of thing that drove the `better class' away,
injured the town, and caused all the poverty and unemployment.
However, some of them accepted charity in other ways; district
visitors distributed tickets for coal and groceries.  Not that that
sort of thing made much difference; there was usually a great deal of
fuss and advice, many quotations of Scripture, and very little
groceries.  And even what there was generally went to the
least-deserving people, because the only way to obtain any of this
sort of `charity' is by hypocritically pretending to be religious: and
the greater the hypocrite, the greater the quantity of coal and
groceries.  These `charitable' people went into the wretched homes of
the poor and - in effect - said: `Abandon every particle of self-
respect: cringe and fawn: come to church: bow down and grovel to us,
and in return we'll give you a ticket that you can take to a certain
shop and exchange for a shillingsworth of groceries.  And, if you're
very servile and humble we may give you another one next week.'

They never gave the `case' the money.  The ticket system serves three
purposes.  It prevents the `case' abusing the `charity' by spending
the money on drink.  It advertises the benevolence of the donors: and
it enables the grocer - who is usually a member of the church - to get
rid of any stale or damaged stock he may have on hand.

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Sunday, 14 October 2012


A few weeks ago, I posted about people with low self esteem being uncomfortable with success.


A couple of days ago, I remembered this, from Luke Rhinehart's book, The Diceman.

`Jerkins,' I said one morning to the masochist Milquetoast of Madison Avenue, `have you ever considered rape?'
`I don't understand,' he said.
`Forced carnal knowledge.'
`I . . . don't understand how you mean that I should consider it.'
`Have you ever daydreamed of killing someone or of raping someone?'
`No. No, I never have. I feel almost no aggression toward anyone.'
He paused. `Except myself.'
`I was afraid of that, Jerkins, that's why we'd better give serious consideration to rape, theft or murder.'
Jerkins lay neatly and quietly on the couch through this whole interview, not once raising his voice or stirring a muscle.
`You . . . you mean daydream about such actions?' he asked.
`I mean commit them. As it is, Jerkins, you're becoming just another dirty old man, aren't you?'
`Spend most of your time lying on your crumb-filled bed reading porno and fantasizing about lovely girls who need you to save them. After they've narrowly missed being crushed by the landslide, or cut in two by the cultivator, or stabbed by the lunatic or burnt by the fire, you rescue them and they give you a spiritual kiss on the fingertips, right?
But when do you reach a climax, Mr. Jerkins?'
`I . . . I don't know what . . . I don't understand?'
`Does the final pleasure come when you're comforting the rescued girl or when the flames are licking at her face, the knife scraping along her veins, the cultivator about to mash her potatoes …? When?'
`But I want to help people. I feel no aggression. Ever.'
"Look, Jerkins,' I'm sated with your passivity, your day dreaming. Haven't you ever done anything?'
`No opportunity has ever `Have you ever hurt another human?'
'I can't. I don't want to. I want to save `First you've got to save yourself and that you can only do by breaking your inertia. I'm giving you an assignment for our Friday session. Will you do it for me?'
`I don't know. I don't want to hurt people. My whole soul is based on that principle.'
`I know it is. I know it is, and your soul's sick, remember? That's why you're here.'
`Please, I don't want to rape any-'
`You've noticed I have a new receptionist. I mean a second one?'
[She was a middle-aged call girl I had hired expressly to date Mr. Jerkins.]
'Er, yes, I have.'
`She's lovely, isn't she?'
`Yes, she is.'
`And she's a nice person, too.'
'Yes,' he said.
`I want you to rape her.'
`Oh no, no, I, no, it would not be a good idea.'
`All right then, would you like to date her?'
`But . . . is it ethical?'
`What are you planning to do to her?'
`I mean . . . she's your receptionist . . . I thought-'
`Not at all. Her private life is her own business. [It certainly was.] I want you to date her. Tonight. Take her to dinner and invite her back to your apartment and see what happens. If you get the urge to rape her, go ahead. Tell her it's part of your therapy.'
'Oh, no, no, I'd never want to do anything to hurt her. She seems such a lovely person.'
'She is, which makes her all the more rapable. But have it your own way. Just do your best to fuel aggression.'
'Do you really think it might help if I got a little aggressive?'
`Absolutely. Change your whole life. With hard work you `might even make it to murder. But don't brood if at first all you can do is swear under your breath at pedestrians.'
I stood up. `Now go. You'll need a couple of minutes to wheedle Rita into accepting a date.'
It took him twenty, despite Rita's trying to say `yes' from the moment he told her his name. After three and a half weeks of Jerkins-style courting he finally managed to seduce her in the front seat of his Volkswagen, much to the relief of all concerned. To the further relief of the principals, they shifted to Jenkins's apartment for further indoor work. The only evidence I was able to garner that Jerkins was trying to express aggression was that once he accidentally bumped her nose with his elbow and didn't say he was sorry. Rita toed the old game of `Oh you're so masterful, hit me,' but Jerkins responded by assuring her that no matter how masterful he was he would never hit anyone. She urged him to bite her breasts, but he said something about having weak gums. She tried to irritate him into anger by using her body to arouse him and then deny the desires she had aroused, but Jerkins sulked until she gave in.
Meanwhile he was trying every trick in the masochist's trade to try to make Rita break off with him. He stood her up on two occasions (Rita sent a bill for her time), accidentally broke her wristwatch (I got the bill) and as a lover usually had his orgasm when she was least expecting it and in the middle of a yawn. Nevertheless, Rita clung lovingly - three hundred dollars a week - on.
At the end of a month of solid success with her, Jerkins was definitely more comfortable with women; he even flirted for five minutes with Miss Reingold. But he was also perilously close to a total nervous breakdown. Being unable to contact a venereal disease, make Rita pregnant, infuriate her, cause her to leave him or fail in any other obvious way, he was desperate. Of course, he'd compensated by accelerating the rate of failure in all other areas of his life. Twice he lost his wallet. He left the water in the bathtub running while he was out and flooded his apartment. Finally, one day he told me he'd lost so much money on the stock market since taking over his own investing, that he'd have to drop therapy.
I urged him to continue, but that afternoon he managed to get hit by a bulldozer while watching some construction and was hospitalized for six weeks. A few months later the dice told me to send him a bill for Rita's services and, I regret to report, he promptly paid it. I've tentatively listed his case as a failure.
It's a work of fiction of course, but like any decent fiction, it contains grains of truth. We tend to think of Masochism in it's purely sexual context - people deriving sexual gratification from being hurt, humiliated, etc. But it's much more than that. The idea of this guy pretty much subconsciously fucking up his life to avoid success rings pretty true to me.

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time will tell

Dear Mr Stratton,

For the past few years My Wife, Brenda and myself have been working our plot on the Love Lane allotment site on behalf of our Son (my stepson) Alex Sheldon.

Really, the plot has been worked by Brenda. I would go and do some of the donkey work, but I had little say in what went on. So I didn't really bother with it that much. It didn't feel like I had any stake in it.

Having opened a shop in Liscard, and working between 50 and 70 hours per week getting it up and running, Brenda had less time to give. In addition, her relationship with some other plot holders wasn't good. And then vandals destroyed our shed, and the shed of our next door neighbour.

Brenda decided she no longer wanted to keep the plot. I went along with this, but after a few weeks, I felt guilty about all the stuff we'd planted just going to waste. So I went down to the plot, and harvested a lot of stuff. It took most of a day, and while I was there, I realised I really didn't want to give up this plot.

Brenda wants nothing more to do with it so I've had to do it all myself.

For the last couple of weeks, I've made regular visits to my plot, 3 or 4 times per week, and done what I can to get it back into shape. I've made methodical progress, working from the front of the plot backwards. In those couple of weeks, I have got most of the front of the plot into a reasonable state, I've made use of the metal sheeting from the burned shed to make an area for compost, into which I can now put the overgrowth from the back of the plot.

I am proud of the progrss I have made in the last fortnight or so, even if not everything I've done has been effective. I took the time to research what could be sown at this time of year, and planted radishes, spinach and mustard, only to find my beds under water a couple of days later following days of torrential rain. The beds though, are dug over and mainly weed free.

Over the next couple of weeks, I intend to continue working towards the rear of the plot, until it's all in a reasonable condition. I've shown myself that I can find the time and motivation and I'm enjoying the challenge of running my own plot.

I therefore respectfully ask that you suspend your eviction notice, until a further inspection has taken place.

Yours sincerely,

Paul Sharp

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Friday, 12 October 2012

Are Channel 4 full of it?

This evening, I watched Channel 4 crash land a Boeing 727 into the desert in Mexico.


It was an interesting programme. They bought an old mothballed airliner for £300,000, put a load of high tech state of the art crash test dummies (£100k each) inside it, and stuffed it to the gills with high speed cameras.

To make sure the plane crashed in the right way and in the right place, they rigged up a way of controlling the plane by remote control. Human pilots got it off the ground, and into the general area of the crash site, then another pilot, a passenger in a nearby plane, took over.

This turned out to be a source of problems. The chase plane had to be within 50 metres of the Boeing for the radio control to function properly, and the first plane they used struggled to keep up with it. They switched to a higher performance plane but that had problems with a fuel pump right at the last moment, and they had to switch back to the underspecified Cessna they were using in the first place.

In the end, they managed to get what they wanted. The plane pancaked, and broke apart. The cameras caught what there was to catch. The dummies gathered the data they were supposed to gather.

Everyone went home happy.

But just hang on one moment here. They spent £300,000 on an old airliner, hired aircraft, invested in a whole load of high tech cameras and crash test dummies, which wouldn't have come cheap. They will have had to pay for the presence of Mexican Police, Fire and Ambulance services, which the Mexicans apparently insisted on providing. Yet they could only get hold of a radio control transmitter with a range of 50 metres?

I spent about five minutes searching before I found one with a range of 30 kilometres. That's 30,000 metres.


The price of such a system? $269. That's about 200 quid.

Channel 4 crashed a plane, and they decided it wasn't exciting enough as it was?

Fuck off.

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Thursday, 11 October 2012


I was in my early 20's when the rave scene came around. And I was up for anything going. Yet somehow, I never took ecstacy. I'd still like to try some time.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Blowing hot and cold

I read something interesting on the internet. It was an article by a scientist about how having an opinion doesn't give you an equal right to have your opinion considered agaisnt the opinion of someone who's spent years becoming an expert on a given subject.


I thought it was a good article, so I posted it on a discussion board. Inevitably there was a response from a right wing reader.

It is interesting to me that one of the ways of reducing debate about an issue is by the use of ad hominem attacks.
I still recall the front page of the esteemed US weekly Time in 1974 Warning of Man-Made 'Global Cooling'. I am sure that Time consulted plenty of experts before publishing that article.
Sorry but the fallacy assumed is your argument is that experts cannot be wrong and trust me they can and often are....
And I too recall that fears about slipping into another ice age did make their way into the public consciousness. I read a bog standard disaster story called "ICE", and yes, the Time article is archived HERE although you need to be subscribed to view it all

The point my respondant wanted to make was essentially that anthropogenic global warming may not be true because climate scientists were predicting an ice age 40 years ago.

So why would those scientists raise such a possibility? Well scientists look at patterns of data, and it appeared to them that the data patterns suggested that global cooling was a possiblity.

Back in the 1970's, humankind was pumping collosal amounts of chemistry up into the atmosphere. We still do, but the composition has changed.

You see, back then, we weren't just producing CO2. We were also producing CFC's, Dioxins, and crucially, SO2. That's Sulphur Dioxide. Now from what I remember of O level Chemistry, Carbon Dioxide and Sulphur Dioxide are quite similar in some ways. Certainly the chemical formula for each is pretty similar. The O part is identical. Do Sulphur and Carbon sit in the same column of the periodic table? Well no, but they both come under the category of "Other Non Metals"

There is one significant difference in atmospheric CO2 and atmospheric SO2. SO2 reflects the sun's radiation. CO2 allows solar radiation through, but stops it escaping. So one is an agent for global cooling. The other is an agent for global warming.

By the early to mid 1980's we were starting to realise that what we were doing was affecting the global environment. From holes in the Ozone layer, to forests stripped bare by acid rain, to african famines caused by changeing weather patterns.

And so a remarkable thing happened. We made a fundamental global change. We banned CFC's as a refrigerant. We implemented measures to radically reduce the amount of SO2 sent up the chimneys and flarestacks of our industrial processes.

To anyone that believes that solving global warming is too great a task, and that we may as well just party on, it's a lesson that given the political will, big changes are possible.

So in the 1970's, there were two polluting processes that to some extent balanced each other out.

SO2 causing global cooling.
CO2 causing global cooking.

And then we took action to reduce one but not the other.

I wonder how that's likely to pan out?

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I was there!

Going all misty eyed here, but I challenge you to watch this and not get caught up in the excitement!

I was sat in the end where all the goals were scored. I will never ever see a more exciting football match.

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Saturday, 6 October 2012

La Cabina

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Slightly better times?

Well for a start, Tranmere Rovers have got off to a quite stonkingly good start.

4 points clear. 11 matches unbeaten. the three top goalscorers in the division. best goal difference in any division. What not to like?

An old pupil got in touch. By that I mean someone who I used to teach a few years ago, not somebody of advanced years. She's that rare breed of pupil that has both the comittment and the funds to put in a lot of hours without going on to mess me around. Her boyfriend is a web designer, and we've arranged to work for each other. He will optimise my site and add a few useful bells and whistles. I will teach his fiancé for free on a roughly quid pro quo basis.

I met him after todays lesson, and we had a good old chin wag. He took a look at my website, and associated stuff, and gave me some good advice.

And so it is that I shall be developing my profile at linkedin, twitter, and facebook. I shall be expanding the location specific sections of the site so that each one contains a wealth of unique information that isn't duplicated on other pages.

And we have a holiday booked.

Same place as last time - Haven caravan park in North West Wales. Again, 2 years since we had a holiday of any kind, or will be by the time it comes around. We're going in April. Something good to look forward to.

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Thursday, 4 October 2012

3,000 miles...

I passed this milestone a couple of days ago, but forgot to make a note.

This time, there were no economical but distance-intensive motorway runs down to Aylesbury. Just normal routine teaching and shopping and going golfing and stuff.

So the mpg is down a little on what it has been. 47.8 mpg to be precise. This is still about 15% better than the fiesta.

The average speed was 17 mph.

So the cumulative total after 3,000 miles is 51.5 miles per gallon, at an average speed of exactly 19 miles per hour.

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