Posts filed under 'Social/Political'

National No Pulling Week

Add comment September 19th, 2012

I don’t normally promote the work of my professional clients on this blog but I’m going to make an exception today because I believe it’s a good cause. Working with Lucinda Ellery I’ve read a lot of very moving stories about women who’ve lost their hair for a variety of reasons, whether it be through illness, the effects of chemotherapy or a variety of other causes. While most of us men have to learn to live with hair loss, for a woman it’s much harder, because it strikes at their basic identity as a woman, and it can blight their lives.

The most difficult hair issue to understand is Trichotillomania – pulling out your own hair. Often triggered by trauma, it has similarities to OCD and self-harming conditions. The women who suffer from it are often misunderstood and treated with little sympathy by the medical profession simply because so little is known about the condition and its causes. They often hide the problem from their families and loved ones and feel dreadfully guilty and depressed about it, yet are unable to stop doing it without help.

In a attempt to raise awareness Lucinda has come up with National No Pulling Week (Twitter hashtag #NoPullingWeek) and is working with a number of magazines and media organisations to increase the visibility of the issue and encourage sufferers who feel isolated to seek help. Today is the second day and there have so far been articles in the following places.

If you think that a loved one may have Trichotillomania, or if you have it yourself, then read some of these articles, visit Lucinda’s pages on the subject, or visit one of the charities such as and find out all you can so that you can get help for the person suffering from it.

Scotland – a whole new ball game

Add comment May 6th, 2011

Well that’s set the pundits chattering – I’m referring of course to the results of the Scottish parliamentary elections in which the SNP have just swept the boards, relegating Labour to a poor second place and almost wiping out the Liberals completely.

As usual the post-election interviews see more useless comments from most of the parties who seem not to have noticed that the election is over and no-one believed what they said – it never ceases to amaze me that they don’t understand that people won’t remember what they said by the time the next one come along but they might well remember how they said it.

Those who know me know that I don’t trust politicians as a breed, but I do support Scottish independence and am therefore glad to see the SNP victory.In the main I’ve been impressed at the way they’ve got on with governing and actually doing most of what they promised despite being a minority government in the last parliament. That suggests a level of ability to cooperate that seems very different to the attitudes of the old-school politicians, who just seem to spend all their time trying to score political points. They really don’t seem to get the idea that many of the electorate actually want cooperation, that that was supposed to be the whole point of the Scottish Parliament, and that many commentators talked about that and how people wanted it to be different from the endless Westminster confrontation politics and heckling.

I will of course be watching the SNP closely to see whether they change their approach now that they have a full majority and can push through anything they want.

And what of the Labour party, who in my youth I supported. Will they grow up and leave behind the old hectoring approach that has seemed such a fixture of their style and also demonstrated how the electorate had left them behind. The party seems to have moved in different directions in Scotland and England – the English party under Blair (despite being dominated by Scots) moved not just into the centre ground (some would say the right) but also into the middle classes and away from its traditional core vote, but has done so by giving up any idea of a core philosophy that anyone can believe in. In Scotland they seem to have tried to hang on to old attitudes and ideas that were relevant in the old industrial working landscape but which now seem out of touch with modern aspirations and which seem merely empty of direction and equally lacking in meaning and conviction. It will require a complete rethink of considerable intellectual quality, not least in economics but certainly in political and social understanding, for them to rediscover their direction and recover from this debacle.

As for the Liberals it must be wondered if they can survive at all. Their coalition with the Tories and their acquiescence to the simple mantra of cuts and more cuts has marked them as being prepared to give up their principles for power, and that is one thing the electorate will not stand from a party that for most of the last 70 years only had its principles to fall back on. It seems that Clegg has fallen headlong into Cameron’s long term trap – if he can wipe out the Liberals in England then the Tories could have a long-term grip there, and with Labour weakened in Scotland then we could be looking at 20 years or more of a Conservative Westminster.

As for the independence question, if the Scottish electorate realise the above situation then they might just decide that a breakup really is beneficial for them if the alternative is a permanent conflict between opposing parliaments. My guess is that Salmond will hold off on the referendum to give that idea time to sink in.

Energy saving lightbulbs

Add comment April 3rd, 2011

Is it just me or does anyone else think that energy saving light bulbs are a scam?

Firstly there’s the equivalent ratings which are hopelessly optimistic and lead to you buying a second bulb cos the first one has all the brightness of a crusie lamp running out of oil. Then there’s the fact that they seem to be somewhat fragile – the first one I ever bought cracked when I turned it on.

But most damningly the advertised long life that is supposed to save us money and energy is just complete bollocks due to them getting dimmer and dimmer throughout their lives to the point of being unusable. One I put in a table lamp wore out in under 18 months and its replacement is getting noticeably dull after just 5 months.

I reckon we’ve been had. Kinda like carbon offsetting.

How Green is my Government?

Add comment November 21st, 2009

Is any one else getting fed up with these TV adverts telling us to drive 5 miles less a day to save the planet?

That’ll be the same government that builds new airports and runways (and then taxes air flights), that allows local governments to build out of town shopping centres and denude the town centres of shops, that creates housing policies that build houses on estates with no amenities far away from workplaces and shops and then wonders why everyone wants to own a car. That strangles rail investment and avoids integrating transport systems to allow efficient movement across different modes of travel. That allows urban roads to be so riddled with potholes that travelling by bus is a shuddering experience, and who has failed to provide the broadband infrastructure that might allow videoconferencing to become a viable means of business communication instead of some meetings.

Funny how it’s always the people who suffer the most who are asked to take action and/or pay the price while the ones who create the problems in the first place are untouched by the consequences.

Urban encounters and renewed faith

Add comment October 31st, 2009

I had a delightful surprise last night. On the way to visit a friend I passed by a park area near my home. The park isn’t lit and the trees surrounding it still have enough leaves to keep most of the streetlight out. Walking by, my eye was caught by a flicker of light and  looking closer I realised that it was coming from a mobile phone held by one of two youngsters of maybe 14 years old who were lying on the ground. Slightly puzzled I was about to move on when I caught another movement nearby – a bushy tail – which as my eyes adjusted to the darkness resolved into a young fox about 10 feet from the youths. As I stood and watched I realised that they must have been keeping very still for some time and that the flicker of light was from one of them trying to film the fox on his mobile.

They were doing an excellent job of avoiding disturbing the fox and I watched it move gradually closer until it was within about 2 feet of one of the boys, probably hoping that they had some food but showing remarkably little fear of them for such a streetwise creature. It was an enchanting sight.

The fox looked to be in good condition so there must be plenty of food available here in the centre of the city. Good to see such an animal flourishing so close to us. Equally encouraging to see two young lads appreciating it too. It’s so easy to fall for the trap of the tabloid media’s demonisation of young people, and assume whenever you see youngsters at night that they must be up to no good. These two were showing quite the opposite and clearly were delighted to be so close to a wild creature and must have been displaying great patience and reserve to be tolerated and trusted by that fox. I hope they managed to get some footage on their phone and that they continue to be enthralled  by the natural world.

Copyrights and Wrongs

Add comment October 14th, 2009

You know there’s something strange happening to the world when you find yourself almost agreeing with Rupert Murdoch!

What cataclycm could cause this abberation? Google’s attempt to take over the world of books and the Associated Press’s attempts to battle them in the area of news generation.

Actually given the all powerful search engine’s involvement I’m not sure whether this post belongs here or on my SEO Blog, but I think my history in the book trade means it should be here. Though my time at James Thin Booksellers now seems an age away and most of my reading seems to be online these days, I still love books and have the greatest respect for the people that write them. At one time I also had great respect for quality journalists, particularly those of The Scotsman who were trained under Alastair Dunnett, but I seldom see any these days – the newspapers I used to devour are now riddled with spelling and grammar errors, poor writing devoid of any sense of rhythm, and little recognisable research.

The news moguls are concerned about the use of their “quality content” by other people, often without attribution, and are trying to find ways of getting people to pay for it. They see Google as a major and increasing problem because more and more they are delivering not just search results but sizable extracts, which in our short attention span world can mean that people don’t even need to visit the news sites at all. If they don’t visit then they don’t see the adverts or don’t consider paying for premium content. Since hardly anyone actually buys a physical newpaper these days that’s the end of their business model.

Now it has to be said that Associated Press don’t seem to have much a of a clue about the web and what it is or how it works. They’ve spent some years trying to avoid people linking to their sites  – without paying for the priviledge – and for a while they tried to avoid deep-linking completely. They don’t seem to get that the web is about links. They also seem to have little idea of collaboration or any form of trying to profit from their work other than by direct sales and direct advertising. Essentially they don’t seem to have adjusted to the modern wired world and have decided that Google are their main bogey-man.

Now so far you may not have much sympathy for them, but there’s another side to all this and that’s copyright. If you respect writers (and musicians as well) then you want to see them paid for their efforts or they might just stop producing the literature, quality news articles, or music that we appreciate so much, or at best they might be unable to spend so much time on it and lose quality. For that reason I’m in favour of copyright, although I appreciate that it may need to develop in order to cope with the digital world of the 21st century. While I would be happy to see increased availability of out-of-copyright and some out-of-print material, at the end of the day I can’t agree with breach of copyright.

Some people, particularly in the USA, seem to have a rather extended view of the idea of “fair use” – the principle that allows quoting of work for review or criticism for instance. Plagiarism seems to be all too common and lifting of content just because it happens to be on the web seems to be accepted. It’s in this vein that the increasing indexing and display of site content seems to be considered reasonable. But even if you accept that, how can you tolerate the wholesale copying of books and the assumption that because you did the work of copying you suddenly have the right to make money out of them. I was brought up to understand that the action of copying or storing in a reproducible medium was itself illegal – copyright notices generally say so explicitely – yet some major academic libraries have collaborated with Google in doing this very thing.

Frankly I’m astonished that major publishers didn’t immediately slap court orders on Google to prevent such copying. They didn’t seem to wake up to the fact of what was going on and didn’t protest loudly enough when Google suggested that they could opt out if they wanted to. The principle of copyright should give the owner the assumption that they don’t have to run around opting out of someone else’s attempt to steal their work. Maybe the publishers were hoping they’d get a cut later, maybe they just didn’t understand the internet in the same way as they seem not to understand ebooks.

Google almost got away with it by paying various large sums to writers and publishers organisations but now we’ve got governments intervening as they realise the problems of monopoly that are arising. American federal regulators stepped in to prevent the latest agreement going through following a wave of complaints, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel is the latest major figure to speak out against the whole idea as she opened the prestigious Frankfurt Book Fair a few days ago.

I’m very aware that what I’ve written here is less than an iceberg tip of a very large and complex subject and I could easily spend months researching the various implications. There are, for instance, questions of privacy and confidentiality in accessing the planned book repository, questions about whether Google is trying to make profit from out of print books, and probably many more.

The trouble is we’ve already allowed Pandora’s Box to be opened by allowing the copying in the first place – mesmerised by Google’s self-appointed task to index all the information in the world. What gives them the right to do that? And what do we do if they succeed and establish a monopoly? So just this once I reckon I’m happy to see a media mogul go up against them if it means that this whole subject gets a thorough airing and people and governments realise the implications of allowing copyright to be ignored.

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