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March 2009
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May 2009

...and back, now, to the coming aporkalypse

Are we allowed to talk about having made any plans in case there's a lock-down, or is that going to make me look like some kind of paranoid freak?

Put it this way - the three years of running over worst case H5N1 scenarios have given us at home a prrrrretty good plan of how to get through a lockdown, as long as it's not too long.

Remember, Britfolks. Sainsburys/Tescos only ever have 2-3 days of supplies on their premises. And if 3/4's of their staff, including lorry drivers, are sick with the flu (even if they're Tamiflu'd up to their eyeballs), then there are going to be some difficult situations, albeit hopefully only for a few days. When London ground to a halt when it snowed, there was nothing fresh in Sainsburys by 5pm.

Well. Hopefully things'll be fine, and it'll ripple through the population slowly.

Meanwhile, in Oklahoma news

One of the most extraordinary and beautiful songs ever written (I do not say this in jest) , "Do You Realise", by The Flaming Lips has been chosen after much wrangling as the "Official rock Song Of the State Of Oklahoma".

It is a gorgeous and quite wonderfully strange hymn to rationalism, and it will be played at my funeral  (which sounds a bit more ominous and freaky than it really is. I mean seriously, c'mon - it's amazing! Who wouldn't want to know it was that playing instead of some nonsense that the people left behind thought you might have liked?

The Flaming Lips: to be cherished at all times.

Green audit


I wanted to note down all the stuff we're doing at home in the hope that I can then see the wood through the trees and see what the next small steps can be, bearing in mind that we don't own the freehold and also, annoyingly, don't have the roof bit, so we're completely stymied from a solar/wind perspective.

(Note: this list is getting vaguely updated. I keep remembering things we do / have set up. W're on 29 now [woohoo!]).

There might be some things here that (particularly British) folk might not be aware of, so take a look:

1. Lambeth don't do wholesale recycling, they only take specific items like bottles etc. They do take all paper and cardboard, and the usual glass stuff - everything except pyrex & wine glasses.
2. The council takes away large items of junk if you email them - so non-mendable washing machines, etc

3.. So Sains has been participating in some sort of govt scheme (that's unusual for Sainsburys, eh? Not) to judge the viability of recycling all the other plastic recyclables - all the pots and lids and so on. Excellent! So when we go to pick James up/pack him off to nursery, bop, in go all the tubs.

4. Secondly, they also recycle plastic bags but wait! They will also take I'd say approx 85% of all the plastic bag packaging from products like frozen peas, cat food tin six-pack wrappers, cucumber wrapping (!)- tons, and tons of plastic packaging can now be sorted out. So, take it down to Sainsburys, perhaps even in a carrier back you don't need, and plonk the whole lot in the plastic bag recycling of normal sized (not 'Local' ones) Sainsburys - yippee! This stuff when added to every day recycling has reduced our bin-filling to an astonishing extent.

(In case this activates the 'comment' function in correspondents suggesting "What? You're buying vegetables with packaging from supermarkets! Argh!"  yup. You bet. There's a persuasive argument in fact to suggest that the packaging when used effectively, that surrounds supermarket vegetables increases the shelf life and reduces food waste to a crazy extent, compared to traditional greengrocers (which, let's face it, in Streatham are lovely, miles away and also promote their packaging free vegetables on to a pavement blue with High Road fuel fumes. Hmmm)

5. Composter in the garden for all raw vegetable peelings etc. Now my Uncle Toddy puts all his veggies, cooked and raw on his compost heap, and has been doing so for 40 years +. Anyone got a view on why cooked vegetable leavings shouldn't go on? I'm assuming nutrient deficits?

6. Growing our own herbs. I would grow other stuff but unfortunately we don't have an earth based garden! Do grow Rosemary. Incredibly hardy and can go in everything. And smells delicious.

7. Switching off.
We switch off as many things at the mains as possible to avoid power down cycles sapping a leetle bit of energy out. I recognise that we forget sometimes, but the TV/Video/DVD player always goes off, the monitor and computer where necessary. Sometimes the piano gets forgotten because you can't see if it's on or not. We've got to get better than that.
The New Scientist recently suggested in terms of newer eco-bulb type bulbs - they wear out the more you switch them on and off. So, as a rule of thumb, if you are not planning to come back in to  a room for *15 minutes* or more, then switch it off. We've been doing that a lot more recently, and it's a good change.

8. Recharging
We have a battery  recharging "station" ie: it's become routine for us to recharge batteries. Feels utterly bizarre to us that places still sell normal batteries. Shouldn't they sell off rechargers super cheap to just kill the disposable battery market? Obviously we've got a whole bunch of batteries that were already in products when we bought them that are hanging around in a drawer, waiting for the opportunity to recycle them. The EU directives of the last few years suggest that the manufacturers of batteries should be helping to provide facilities to recycle the buggers, but they don't. I personally think we should stick them in an envelope and send them back to their manufacturers.

9. Sewing things up / making stuff
We mend our clothes! I know, it's shocking. What a disgrace. I should be out, spending my money supporting the beleaguered economy instead of sewing up holes in socks! Well, I do. It saves me money.

10. Eco-bulbs.
Barely needs mentioning really, obviously

11. Buy second hand
Cheaper, and less resources used up. Can't say fairer than that. Books, clothes, toys. videos. Stuff. EBay & Freecycle is your friend! And the Heart Foundation book/Music/video shop. Videos are awesome - you  can get hold of a player for tuppence, then the actual videos themselves cost 50p a pop in the charity shop. Hoorah for obsolete technology! We have a pile of Bob the Builder videos which basically cost us nothing.

12. Silver behind the radiators. I tell you what, if you haven't tried this do. It really warms cold rooms up.


13. We use the 'not quite as squeaky clean or clear cut as they'd like you to think' Good Energy for our electricity provision. 100% renewables. Apparently.

14. Obviously I'm always at pains to point out where we can turn off taps or use less water
15. And I will happily say that we follow the Ken Livingstone example, which is that we don't flush after every wee unless there are visitors. Which over the course of a day for a family of 4 at weekends... that's saving a lot of flushes!
Note to all: it doesn't make your house smell horrible. It takes about a week to  get used to the idea. After that, it becomes obvious when you should flush and when you needn't bother.

16. We have 'hippos' in our toilets. Aka water saving devices. you can probably get them from your water company, or just google for them. Insanely easy to install.


17. Buy in bulk / large sizes. We get huuuuuuge paper sack bags of Ecover washing powder that seem to last about a million years, and we also get those big bucket sized 5 litre carriers for washing up liquid and clothes conditioning. I've got this small washing up liquid bottle by the sink that we refill, and we keep an old plastic carton open with washing powder in next to the washing machine (then replenish it obviously from the big sack, that's in the airing cupboard downstairs.

18. Microfibre cloths: Holy crap, have you ever used these things? I know they're not  cotton and in theat respect they're problematically unbiodegradable, but we've ot a microfibre floor washing system for the tiles, and just you knowe, a few cloths. Seriously. The floor mopping one I find works better with a little spray of some sort of cleaning fluid on it after making it 'a little bit damp' but it can be used without, with very little elbow grease. The cleaning cloths get grease off around the kitchen that has been building up for months. They're astounding. So, instead of this being an advert for microfibre cloths, I'll restate why they're in this list: almost no water use, almost no detergent use. Got to be good, right?

19. This is veggie stuff really but I only use glycerine / vegetable oil based soap and 'Green People' Rosemary shampoo, which is about as non-chemical as you can get. the kids use 'Allergenics' shampoo and body wash in the bath primarily because of James' skin but it's also all vegetable, no preservatives and so forth.


20. I cycle to work 3 days a week (will be upped to 5 when James goes to the local school nursery)

21. We don't own a car

22. We hire by the hour and are members of Streetcar or whichever one it is that parks on our street ;)


23. Buy British produced vegetables/fruit wherever possible, and if not then Holland, France and we try not to buy Spanish too much. Yes we do very occasionally buy south american blueberries or whatever, but seriously, so rarely it's not worth mentioning.

(Hey, English strawberries now in the shops, by the way! that'll be that vast new under-canopy place in the west country kicking in).

24. Only organic/freerange British meat produce/eggs etc. We're a bit dodgy with organic because the vegetables cost so much more, but anything from animals, the husbandry issue is way too important. therefore, it's organic milk, butter and eggs, and all the meat produce bought from Chadwicks, the organic butchers in Balham.

25. Sustainable fish. Mostly.

26. Trump card, I'm a vegetarian! Er... cough... a, er... ok. Fish eating vegetarian, so um... officially not actually a vegetarian, ok? OK? Happy now???


27. Own tea mug and tea bags at work - I bring the teabags home to compost them (sounds a bit weirdly over-zealous doesn't it, but given that I just have to plonk them in to my sandwich box, it's not big deal)

28. Make my own sandwiches . Mostly. well, you know. Sometimes I'm too knackered. But I do try!

29. If you use a laptop workstation, or indeed, a laptop, as well as turning off your monitor, make sure you turn off your workstation at the plug in the evening. If you don't, the transformer thing on your lead will continue to suck out energy. In fact, lobby at work for a campaign about it. Everyone's laptops will be costing the company money given that they're probably all plugged in on some form overnight, sucking out vast amounts of energy by the end of the year.

Simple things we haven't done but should do
For most things it's a question of habituating the action:
1. Use run-off water. Showers etc or running a sink, as the water is heating up, if you know you'll have more than you want of cold water then run it into a watering can / bucket. this is particularly true of showers.
2. Get a water butt. I am a nitwit for not having sorted that out yet, what a waste.
3. Use the water that comes out of the dehumidifier
4. Use bathwater to water plants (that one is a high summer job really isn't it - a little bit too hassly for every-day sorting)

Not so simple things we must do:
1. Sort out replacing the rotten old frames front bay window with double glazed version (wood natch, not PVC) and any other non-double glazed windows in the flat
2. Sort out proper blinds for the windows in the front room to retain some heat
3. Work out efficacy of a solar panel on the roof of the extension. Is it worth it? Is it too far away from the bathroom to be any use as a water heater?

I think that's enough to be getting on with...

Right. Next time I do the audit, I'll refer back to this but I won't count any of the 'on' ones again. So we'll see a er, culture of constant change! Or something. See how much we can aspire to/actually get done.

Why, why why am I posting about this

Bangs head on table...

The Madonna woman has a date fixed for the appeal for her potential adoption of another Malawian child.

Here is my limited-information opinion.

Children are not commodities.
Madonna is very used to having the wealth that makes life 'happen' and as such, having the benefit of money, a work ethic and a heavy duty faith which means she probably thinks she must 'do good works' or some such stuff must mean she sees herself as an ideal adopter candidate. I think she must find it very difficult to understand the counter argument to this adoption, given how much she has to offer the little girl under discussion.

If she truly believes that this lovely wee kiddie is 'her baby' (which she has said on record) then she should, without question, ship her entourage over to Malawi for 18 months, which is the minimum required. If she is incredulous of such a thing then I would argue that she does not have the requisite sympathy / empathy... er... thing to be adopting children from places overseas.

She is also unmarried now. I wholly and absolutely agree with the original judgment, which stuck to the regulations. She is a single mother, therefore she should not have made the application. This is the kind of judgment that she should have taken in to consideration when working out whether she should have got divorced. But for some reason, she believed that she was above that regulation, as well as the residential one. Why?

Why am I posting about this. The point, I think, is that in her position, she cannot see that she is *not* an honorable exception. Meaning well is not enough. It is incredibly important for the safety of every vulnerable child in a vulnerable economy such as Malawi that a rich person is not given a separate set of rules. Divorced? Loads of kids already? Can't be bothered to fulfill the criteria for adoption? We don't care! for a reasonable fee of 1 (religion based) school, some regular donations to the poor orphans and vaguely positive comments in the press for the next ten years, you too can take home one of our home grown babies, even if they do have a huge number of living relatives. But of course, we'll select only pretty ones for you to choose from. No disabilities or cleft lips visible.

Myself... I think she should be prepared to substantially change her life and potentially do some reading about the general tenets of Buddhism. If she took the kids over with tutors, they'd have a completely amazing time. If she's not prepared to do it, she's got to ask herself why she isn't, then walk away with what little dignity she has left in this matter.

What we have learned

A vast number of people are rightly utterly horrified at the evidence that continues to surface surrounding the preamble to the death of Ian Tomlinson during the G20 protests last week.

There are some jaw dropping photos of Police behaviour. Totally over the top and more to the point, particularly in the case of Mr Tomlinson, utterly unnecessary, gratuitous violence toward someone who presented absolutely no threat; who was walking *away* from officers, with his hands in his pockets. The whole incident is so filth strewn I can't really articulate my anger.

The Counter Terrorism Act of 2008, which became law in February this year, lists as an offence (section 76):

"58A Eliciting, publishing or communicating information about members of armed forces, etc

(1) A person commits an offence who—

(a) elicits or attempts to elicit information about an individual who is or has been—

(i) a member of Her Majesty’s forces,

(ii) a member of any of the intelligence services, or

(iii) a constable,

which is of a kind likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism, or

(b) publishes or communicates any such information."

The British Journal of Photography reported news *before* February 2009 that several photographers had been harassed by Police Officers whilst trying to take photographs of Police actions.

Now. The Police version of events close to the event, as has been pointed out elsewhere, was anodyne and ultimately a lie. The video footage shows no bottles being thrown. Those Police are not under attack. More and more people have come forward with their own footage, and indeed obviously, the footage that has really opened this up was taken by.. well, just 'some guy' ie: a very average person. Not a journalist. Someone like you. The case against excessive force by the Police, and hopefully the criminal case brought against the officer who assaulted Ian Tomlinson would not exist without amateur photography and footage.

For those of us who go on protests, ever, it is incumbent upon us to not simply take cameras and video cameras, but to show them. Clearly. Keep them visible. And state, clearly: This is not a Police State. You will be held to account. I can, and I will take photographs of you. Over and over again.

You can sign the No.10 petition for an official enquiry using this link. I suggest you do.

James fell in and went Splash

There's a way of undestanding real events which comes in to sharp focus when something happens to one of your kids. All along the timeline are a miriad of crossroads, and road forks. And down all the ones that aren't gone down are a mutiplicity of "What ifs".

The story of James falling in to a foot of water, being very shocked, crying, sodden, having to be stripped and wrapped in a nice warm cardigan to get home... you know. These things happen.

He fell in to the Avon river. About 50 yards further on, the river became very choppy and deeper and might well have pulled him away, close to him on either side of where he splashed in, hard, broken up concrete sticking out of the river. If he'd fallen in the dark, dank canal in between the boats and the side... if if if if.

Well. the point is I try very hard not to look too closely behind me at the routes not taken, whether they might have invited good or terrible outcomes. There's no real point in dwelling. He had a daft accident, he wasn't hurt.


Wired UK

I think I picked up some of Hammersley's ridiculous, positive, absolute refusal to get miserable optimism reading Wired UK this morning, hence the below.

...and you know what. It's not bad. It's madly London oriented, as you'd expect, but it has a satisfyingly charming British (English) slightly cynical, slightly obsessional geekiness about it. The other thing I like is that it suspects you actually know alot of this shit anyway, so it doesn't want to treat you like an idiot. Things that are bad - silly, tabloidy Wired touches (Wired/Tired/Expired... no, Twitter in tired? How rad!) and purely the delay in writing articles /going to print etc which makes the Hulu reference in the iPlayer article slightly out of date. That wouldn't be so bad, but mentioning hulu confidently is part of the mission to be informed and smart. I am smart! I know about hulu just like you, so you should read my opinion. Hmmm, well I know more about Hulu than you, purely by dint of the fact that there's a bunch of news about it on Silicon Alley that you didn't know about when you wrote the article. No disrespect.

The big question is - when travelling, would I pick it up to read first, from the pile of those available. would I buy it *before* Word magazine? The answer is yes, for all its failings (stuffing itself full of free glossy brand ads smells a little desperate if you ask me, but then that's because I've worked in print - but then, one suspects that a vast number of its potential readers will be similarly smart enough to realise that the debut issue is stuffed full of freebies).

It has good content. It is worth a read. Give it your support, then recycle the fucker. Don't have it hanging around your house in a growing pile because you suspect that the pile will max out at 10 issues and will then be a collectors' item (Phil ;).


A week for a couple of decisions, neither of which I'm going to tell you about, but hopefully I'll have lots to say in a few weeks. Some of it optimistic! You never know. I'll shut up now.

One of the things I'm planning to do is write about the  - in the hope, I have to say, that I might finally get some of this crap out of my system, but write about the heady days of 2003, when I had a billion ideas, felt completely integrated in to new ways of thinking and was having brain-gasms on an almost daily basis. none of which ever saw the light of day, most of which has been superceded but some elements of which have never been made by anyone. I think it's long enough ago for it not to really affect my work now, and I'm not going to mention them in terms of the brand context anyway. Let me know if you think this is a bad idea. I doubt if you will, given that you are probably my mother ;)

In other news, I'm back on the bike after an enforced absence due to the bizarro allergic reaction, and a massive, brain hurting cold that immediately followed (presumably my immune system was so wiped out the cold came like a global smack and it went in to ultimate fail for a few days).

I've had about fifty five thoughts about this, that and the other in the last few days so I want to try and make sense of them. Is it worth writing them up? I think more and more I'm beginning to think hell yes, why not. One of my major mistakes in the last few years is keeping alot of my ideas and musings to myself. I didn't want this to be a tech blog because I never felt I had anything truly original to say - +
.. There's so much bloody hot air blasting around the interweb about the same old bollocks every day it all seemed a bit pointless to me. What I have begun to realise though  - and I say this knowing it's going to sound a bit crap, is that when one cannot physically network with people, due to making the decision to get home to see my kids rather than make the decision to, you know, well, I don't *have* to go home tonight, I could go to X,Y or Z event instead (upshot of which: nice night out, guilt, confusion, agh)... well, you have to make up for that somehow. And I think, like the rest of my crew, we do have a long termist, interesting take on things these days.

But I'm not turning this into a tech blog. I don't have the time, and besides which, I like talking about any old crap. My life is a plural one. So. Climate change, Feminism, social tech, my kids, a bit about me being depressed, probably, and er... other stuff.

This is not a manifesto for change, by the way. It's more a confident assertion of business as usual.