All entries for January 2006

January 31, 2006

Back off the wagon

Follow-up to With friends like these, who needs enemies? from From tractors to reactors

Following a complete week as promised without any caffeine to prove my lack of addiction, I much enjoyed my half a litre of Red Bull to see me through the day yesterday. And surprise surprise, I didn't fall asleep in any of my lectures! Maybe I will be able to pass my degree after all…

January 23, 2006

With friends like these, who needs enemies?

Actually the title is a little unfair; I have only myself to blame for shooting myself in the foot.

Some of my friends have been repeatedly airiing concerns over the past few months at my relative lack of sleep and increased caffeine consumption. So last night, on the end of a particularly sleepless week, I was flat out accused of being addicted to caffeine and stimulants (which I am not). Rather outraged by this, I rashly said "Fine, just to prove you lot wrong I'm going to go the whole week without caffeine and stimulants". You dumb prat.

Today, on my first day of no artificial stimulation (and having a grand total of 4.5 hours sleep again last night), I feel no cravings at all for caffeine. I never have done, hence my argument that I'm not an addict. What I do have is a strong allergy to sleep, and a degree to pass. This necessitates long periods of work. Caffeine is my medicine to deal with this allergy. Without it, I am feeling absolutely awful. I've fallen asleep in 4 out of 5 of my lectures, I have a pounding headache, a cold (not related I think but it's not helping) and I feel like death warmed up. How I'm going to manage to stay awake tonight to get a decent amount of work done I have no idea. My room is still full of Red Bull equivalent stuff and Pro Plus, it seems such a shame to waste it... But no, cheating is wrong, and I will prove you bastards wrong that I'm addicted, because I blatantly am not. I will also prove you wrong that I can sleep properly without it, because it doesnt' keep me awake when I'm in bed. What keeps me awake is worrying about this thing called my degree, which isn't exactly being aided by the fact that I'm falling asleep in lectures and half asleep when doing coursework. So people who are holding me to this, I hope you're happy when I fail :-P

I think the uprights I'm desigining tonight might be in the same place as the driver's knees. I'm not sure that's such a good thing….

January 18, 2006

Oh dear, oh dear.

Writing about So I look like… from Et tu, Bloge.

Ok so I tried this facial recognition site, where you upload a photo and it tells you what celebrities you look like. In order, my top 10 were:

Emma Watson (66%)
Sarah Michelle Gellar (57%)
Keira Knightley (57%)
Julia Roberts (50%)
Daniel Radcliffe (50%)
Kevin Spacey (49%)
Cary Grant (47%)
Ursula Andress (43%)
Saif Ali Khan (42%)
Yair Lapid (41%)

Now whilst I might find the women on that list very attractive, I am somewhat unimpressed that apparently I bear a strong resemblance to them and the first guy on that list is Daniel Radcliffe. There goes my last shred of masculinity… So I tried another shot (it has to be the picture, of course):

Yahuda Levi (74%)
Tom Cruise (73%)
George Clooney (72%)
Simone de Beauvoir (71%)
John Cusak (71%)
Barack Obama (71%)
Joan Baez (70%)
Penelope Cruz (70%)
Dan Aykroyd (69%)
Chuck Palahniuk (69%)

Still two women on the top 10 list, but never mind – by the looks of other people's results it's quite common to get results from both genders. And that list I am happier with. I look 73% like Tom Cruise and 72% like George Clooney – I am a happy man.

All are now certified… Run for cover!

Follow-up to Hearty congrats to… My sister from From tractors to reactors

Last month, I blogged that my sister had passed her test. It's therefore only fair that I inform/warn you that my brother passed his test as well yesterday. Well done to you too Andy, knew you'd get there in the end :-) That means that myself and all siblings are now road legal – how's that for a scary thought?

January 08, 2006

Where is Cameron taking us?

I meant to blog about the leadership election and the new shadow cabinet. Having failed to do either due to other commitments and laziness, I feel that the time has come to comment on recent changes to the Conservatives. Specifically, Cameron and the wave of change he's brought with him.

Firstly, the positive. Number one for me is that Hague is back in the shadow cabinet – a fantastic appointment, and long may his intellect continue to run circles around his Labour counterparts. I know most non-Tories really don't like Hague very much; his character doesn't seem to get respect from those who don't agree with him. However, his formidable skill in the Commons is never to be underestimated, and for all that it's worth I believe that he remains one of the most decent politicians around.

With that out of the way, we move on to Cameron himself. Prior to the leadership election I was a Davis supporter, because I believed in his policies more so than any of the other candidates. Cameron to me was an unknown. I was concerned, however, that Davis lacked the appeal to win elections. Whilst sticking 100% to ideology is nice, in practice the number one objective for the Conservative party, and for the good of the country as a whole, is that we defeat Brown in 2009 (although I heard a tip that it could be Milliband as the next leader, watch this space I guess). Hague is a great Tory and a great politician (and he made a good leader), but he wasn't electable because people outside the grass roots didn't warm to him (although I think his timing was wrong, if he had turned leader in 2001 I think the last election could have been quite different in result). In the same way, Davis doesn't charm the middle ground; he can come off as quite arrogant and staid, and also has the old-man stereotype image of the tories. For these reasons, I was very impressed when Cameron burst on the scene at the party conference against a lacklustre performance by Davis. He energised the country, not just Conservatives, into taking interest again, and at the end of the day interest means votes.

I heard it said not long ago (I think this was Jeremy Wright when he came here last term) that Conservative policy was popular with the voters. Numerous polls on the streets around the time of the election pointed to the fact that people liked the policy of the Conservatives, but when told that it was Conservative policy there was a sharp reaction against it. Therefore logically, we don't need to change our values, principles or policies in order to be elected; we need to refresh our image. I believed that Cameron had the power to do this and to win back voters; certainly more so than any of the other candidates. What I didn't expect was the current levels of madness which he seems to be rampaging on about.

His policies, which we heard very little about before his election, seem to be taking the Conservatives on a rapid trip to the left. He is scrapping the patient passport scheme for the NHS, which would have helped those who would not otherwise be able to afford it pay for private care whilst freeing up NHS resources for the rest of us who do not wish to pay for private operations. A foolish move based on the rubbish and propaganda against the scheme – why not tackle it head on? It was a good policy.

There are other examples where he is taking things to the populist extreme. He has pledged to get more women into the Conservative party – a good idea and one that we need to pursue more actively for sure. Women are under-represented in the Conservatives and this is wrong. But he refuses to rule out all-women shortlists. This is taking positive discrimination too far – we should encourage women more to come forward as candidates for sure, but to rule out men as competitors for some seats means that we are potentially ruling out strong candidates for election based solely on gender, which any true equal opportunities campaigner would not support in my opinion. All-women shortlists, as we have seen with the Blair government, give rise to weak MPs who do little or nothing to fight for what they believe in. Look at the backlash against Oona King as an example. Make no mistake, all-women shortlists are a step too far in attempts to be politically correct/electable and public opinion in time will backfire against them.

Of most concern to me though is Cameron's manouevering towards market socialism and away from free market modernisation. His environmental policy includes specific emissions reduction targets and something called the Carbon Audit office (a new public sector bureaucracy). This moves sharply away from a cornerstone of Conservative belief, which is that we should deal with the world how it is, not how it should be. Consider that 155 countries have rejected a targets approach to emissions reduction, and of the 34 economically developed countries, only three are on track for their reductions targets, which even then by the climate scientists judgements are not nearly enough. As Conservatives, we should understand economics well enough to realise that this approach is at odds with securing economic growth. We should be moving away from a targets-based approach and instead looking at policies which will be of positive benefit regardless, because the economics relating to climate change are very vague. If we take the wrong road now, it's going to cause absolute havoc to economies around the world over the next century.

Therefore, one would expect to see a Conservative suggesting policies such as removing obstructions to innovation, removing energy subsidies, deregulating energy and transport markets, which would all boost technological growth and efficiency. Britain is also in a unique position to assist the developing world through the Commonwealth. A true Conservative would surely view this as preferable to bending to EU-led efforts that basically amount to a wealth transfer from Britain to the continent and the rest of the world.

Cameron's plan for a Carbon Audit Office would not provide a useful check to government power. Because it is based on the false premise that carbon reduction targets are a good thing, it will quickly become a rod for the economy's back. There is already a huge and thriving rent-seeking industry that exists parasitically on British commerce precisely because of government policies in this area. It is likely to exercise disproportionate influence on the new Office, which will quickly become just another QUANGO of the sort Margaret Thatcher rightly abolished in the 1980s.

Global warming is an important issue, and as such deserves serious thought. Cameron's noises in this area are nothing more than a re-hash from an old Socialist script. His reputation as an original thinker and moderniser is marred by the out of date and out of touch policies he is proposing for tackling climate change. The most concerning thing is, I feel that this is just one area in which Cameron is jumping on a populist bandwagon to grab attention at the expense of original policy and real thought and progress. If we are to be a party of the future, as a political force and as a nation we deserve better. Your move Mr Cameron.

January 2006

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