All entries for May 2006

May 31, 2006

Student Union support for AUT could have interesting consequences.

An interesting thought's just occurred to me while I prepare tomorrow's RaW News: Insight on the lecturers' strike.

The AUT are calling for the income from top–up fees to be spent on student facilities, and not on non–academic capital projects, which they see as non–essential. Every increase in offer that's made to the AUT means fewer of these projects can go ahead.

The Students Union is supporting this stand.

But what is the biggest capital project on the University's financial horizon that could expect to be hit by this decrease in funding?

That's right, the Union South Rebuild. I wonder if this has occurred to the Union yet???

May 26, 2006

A brief conspiracy theory

Maybe brought on by the finale of Lost last night, I've come up with a conspiracy theory to beat all conspiracy theories (sorry Mr al–Fayed)...

  • Blair goes to Washington to make speech
  • Blair behaves all woolly and liberal
  • Bush gets offended
  • Bush gets friend to let off firecracker in House of Representatives building
  • News channels (esp. Fox) flock to scene
  • No–one hears about Blair's woolly liberal pro–UN speech



The worst thing about exams is waiting for them to bloody start.

May 24, 2006

Political Blogging starts shaping the agenda

Things are a–changing on t'internet. It all began at the weekend when it was revealed in the Daily Mail that Cherie Blair/Booth had signed a copy of the Hutton Report (you know, that one into the death of Dr David Kelly), for auction – the proceeds of which would go to the Labour Party.

Regardless of your political persuasion, the move was grossly stupid, if not downright tasteless and insensitive. It's a bit like signing the will of a man who people close to you were (unintentionally) responsible for the death of. Pretty sick.

But the story went quiet for a couple of days, except on the 'blogosphere', where it very quickly became a big deal, predominantly on Conservative blogs, but on some non–partisan ones too (if I hadn't been revising I might well have blogged on it!).

And the interest online has made a huge difference. It's now slowly creeped up to the third biggest story on the BBC's Politics website (bear in mind that the Home Office debacle and the Education vote are one and two), and has made headlines in every single newspaper since yesterday.

It's not too much of a stretch to suggest that the blogs turned the story into a big issue and caused great embarrassment to those involved. I suspect it wouldn't have been raised at PMQs today if it wasn't for the online involvement.

Iain Dale, and Guido Fawkes, editors of the book I contributed to, have done much to push the scandal onto a wider audience.

Does this mean we are starting to see a real evolution in the media where people not employed by any media organisation are playing a big role in deciding which stories enter the public consciousness?

Particularly, with British political bloggers leaning very definately to the right, are the Conservatives going to find themselves given an easier ride by a blogging community which is largely in support of them, and who have no rules about bias to adhere to.

It's a tricky situation for journalists to deal with. Not only are they finding themselves beaten to stories by people who aren't under the same pressure to get exclusive stories, but they're going to have to be careful in ensuring that they don't take blogs necessarily at face value. Even those which claim to be non–partisan (perhaps including my own) are highly likely to have political views which shape their writing. And while hundreds of blogs may be united in their criticism (see above), that doesn't mean that there isn't an inherent bias in the blogosphere as a whole.

It seems clear to everyone that the scandal involving Cherie is a dispicable act which demonstrates a complete lack of political sense, not to mention plain manners.

But as the blogs gain influence, journalists need to be wary of who is doing the talking when anonymity is so freely available to those on the internet. Future stories emanating from the internet may not be so factual.


Today we find come closer to finding out where the country's first 'super–casino' will be built, along with the locations of a number of smaller casinos.

The front–runners for the main attraction appear to be Blackpool, the Millennium Dome or Cardiff.

Having visited all three (not specifically to check up on their need for a casino, I should point out), I hope it goes to the Dome.

The last thing Blackpool needs is another way for local people to throw money away. The place is pretty destitute in places, and I think the casino's main customers (if built there) will be people who really need to spend the money on something else. What's more, I don't see that a super–casino in Blackpool will be enough to attract some of the high–rollers, who might expect a little more than the grubby streets of the Fylde coast. It's not exactly Vegas.

Cardiff's a possibility, although the city feels very small and I wonder whether the poverty gap might be worsened with the ease–of–access that the casino will provide.

And then there's London. Personally, I hope the Casino goes to the Dome. Virtually the only way to get there is on the Tube (£6 for a one–day travelcard!), and it's much more likely to attract the high–rollers which will prevent it from turning into a high–class Mecca Bingo. While there's a lot of economic problems in parts of London, the city's big enough to insulate the effects that the casino will have. The high cost of travel acts as a deterrent too.

Coventry is one of the contenders, and I don't see why the city is applying. They claim it will 'bring growth' to the city, but I don't think they realise that beyond the low–wages the staff will be on, the casino is hardly likely to be Coventry–owned. The Gambling bill was only brought in to allow big US casinos a piece of the British market. What's more, a casino isn't exactly a status symbol. Coventry, Blackpool and to a lesser extent Cardiff, seem to think they're playing Game of Life, when actually they're going to be messing with the wellbeing of some of their most vulnerable residents.

May 21, 2006

Gross Stupidity

According to early exit polls, the wise people of Montenegro have voted to become independent of Serbia.

Did these people not watch the Eurovision Song Contest??? The last thing we need is another bloody Balkan country to lengthen the proceedings and inevitably vote for their neighbours!

I think nations should be grouped together and they vote as one (so Latvia, Lithuania and Moldova share, as do Serbia, Montenegro, Croatia, FYR Macedonia).

And it was a shame to see Ireland let the side down and give a disproportionate amount of votes to the UK entry. Please stop it Ireland, you're ruining any credibility we have when we demand the voting system is sorted out!

And I'm loving this story: link – The Russians clearly don't like the fact that Eurovision isn't prone to rigging by the Mafia. Any impropriety is clearly done by 'ordinary' people with no taste.

May 20, 2006

Environmental Disaster…

What was the cause of this environment disaster (a Category One disaster, no less)?

  1. Release of sulphuric acid into a stream in Devon
  2. Spillage of an underground tank full of Sunny Delight concentrate
  3. Naturally occuring dyes released from unusual rock formations
  4. It's not actually a disaster, it's a piece of artwork
  5. It's the result of David VandeLinde trying to brighten up the walk between Main Campus and University House.

The answer's in the Comments section.

May 19, 2006

Little Red Book – Out Today!

May 18, 2006

University draws out the sting from the AUT strike

Writing about web page

The University Senate has voted to award degrees if exams aren't marked before graduation. Essentially this means if students have achieved over 70% of their CATS but are lacking some of the rest of the marks, they'll get their full degree based on the 70%. People with less than 70% of their CATS marked will get 'unclassified' degrees, which I take to mean are provisional, but subject to change when the exams are finally marked. This is the same system used when exams are missed due to illness.

I'd applaud the University for taking this rational step. They've effectively drawn the sting out of the tail so that if the AUT continue their strike for several weeks (as seems likely now), then students won't be adversely affected. I challenge the unions to oppose this! I'm sure they'll say that our degrees are being devalued, but the fact of the matter is that we still have to do all the work we would have done before, and our mark will be determined based on how well we've done.

Now the dispute can be settled with less haste and more realism. My suspicion is that the Unions were using the impending exams as a reason to settle soon, and on its terms. Now the University doesn't seem to have that hanging over its head quite so much, I'm sure the two sides will come to a reasonable offer.

And perhaps the Students Union will now see that the University has students' interests at heart (at least on this issue), while the AUT clearly doesn't.

May 17, 2006

The ultimate method of procrastinating…

Fruit cake and banana loaf

A fruit cake [L] and a banana loaf [R].

Recipe: Banana Loaf

250g butter
250g caster sugar
3 eggs
2 egg yolks
250g plain flour
2 tablespoons of rum
3 medium–large bananas

Cream the butter and sugar, then do the same with the eggs one at a time. Mix in the flour and add the rum (although be careful that it doesn't make the consistency too runny). Then mash two–three bananas before mixing that into the rest. I found that the bananas also made the mixture a little too runny, so you might want to add a little flour to make it more cakey.

Then grease a loaf–tin, and set the oven to 190c. I can't really give you a very accurate cooking time because my oven is useless. It probably should have taken about 30–45mins, but took more like 120! Best to keep an eye on it every 15mins.

If you really want it to rise, then add a teaspoon of baking powder as well.

Recipe: Fruit cake
Exactly the same as the banana loaf, except add 200g of currants, raisins and sultanas (that's 200g total, not each!) instead of banana. Might take a little longer to cook than the banana loaf depending on the size of the tin.

May 13, 2006

Buy my book!

So here's a quick story…

I've written a bit (3% to be precise) of a book which is coming out in just over a week. It's called The Little Red Book of New Labour Sleaze and is about (you'll never guess!) Labour sleaze since 1997.

Granted, this has caused me ideological issues, but the promise of money and fame (joke) has made me do it.

Anyway, the book is now available on Amazon , with a very nice 20% off. That makes it £6.39!

Waterstones have bought 1,500 copies of it to sell, and it really is perfect coffee table/toilet seat reading.

The Guardian have already called it: "an impressive litany of 100 or so scandals " and said it'd make a perfect birthday present for John Prescott.

And the Sunday Times said: "If Tony Blair is wondering why the local elections went so badly last week, this book will explain all."

So grab your copy now! It'd make me very happy, and you never know, might pay off some of the student loan

May 12, 2006

The Daily Mail teaches us Spanish

The Daily Mail are giving away CDs to help you learn Spanish. Which is very nice of them. Let's see what phrases we can learn from them…*

Vaya de nuevo a donde usted viene
Go back to where you come from

Usted no está cantando más, usted no está cantando más...
You're not singing any more, you're not singing any more

¿Es usted un gay?
Are you a gay?

Esto es una tienda local para la gente local
This is a local shop for local people

Su cerveza es mierda
Your beer is shit

¿Qué usted le significa no vende pescados y virutas?
What do you mean you don't sell fish and chips?

Sabía que debemos haber ido a Bognor.
I knew we should have gone to Bognor.

Extranjeros sangrientos
Bloody foreigners!

  • These phrases may, or may not, have been made up by me.

Library Books and How to Treat Them

What is acceptable when it comes to writing in library books?

To the best of my knowledge, the library doesn't have guidelines about what you can and can't do to a library book in terms of writing in it. I'm guessing you can't.

But we all know that people do deface/annotate library books. My question is what's acceptable, from a student's point of view?

I ask because some of the books I was reading today were at times verging on the illegible due to drawing, often where the text had been translated into Cantonese (or something very similar) in all of the white spaces.

Here's my (very personal guide) to what's acceptable. I'd be interested to know what others consider acceptable too.

  • Pencil is okay, pen less so. Having said that, if you have to use a pen, use black or blue.
  • Don't write any long notes in a library book. There shouldn't be more than maybe ten words on a page.
  • Underlining is OK, so long as it is straight and doesn't end up crossing through the words. Preferably use a ruler.
  • However, vertical lines are better (i.e. in the margin to reflect important lines/paragraphs rather than important words)
  • Generally, anything written in a library book should be of use to the majority, not just to you. This, perhaps controversially, rules out translation except in a book which isn't in English. Even then, translate words, not sentences.
  • If there's something which might be of use to a few people (such as translations or particular essay ideas which you want to share), write them on a separate piece of paper and leave it in the book. Tough luck if someone decides to throw it out.
  • No graffiti, doodling, useless nonsense, stream–of–thought type stuff

What do you think? And should the library instigate some official policy about what is acceptable, taking into consideration that people will write notes regardless of whether there's a blanket ban?

If Childrens TV was postmodernist…

Postmodernist Pat
Postmodernist Pat
Postmodernist Pat and his shades–of–grey cat
Early or late in the morning
Just as time is dawning
He picks up Lyotard and Derrida in his van

Nobody knows of there's a bright or dim red or blue van
All his "friends" will smile as he waves, apparently to greet him
Maybe… You can never be sure
There'll be knock, ring, objects through your door

Postmodernist Pat
Postmodernist Pat
Postmodernist Pat and his shades–of–grey cat
Early or late in the morning
Just as time is dawning
He picks up Lyotard and Derrida in his van

Based on an idea by Dave Sheffield
Don't blame me

May 05, 2006

A Stupid Day for Burying Fantastic News!

Two pieces of news which shouldn't have been buried today:

1. They're making a movie based on '24'.

2. It's only gonna be shot in bloody London!

Get in. Also, I want one of these t–shirts, but they're £18!

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