Thursday, May 31, 2007

Out of the doldrums

Bloggers have been mentioning that they've recently been through a hiatus or dry spell with their blogging. I've felt that way too, certainly two weeks ago. And now I'm back to regular output. There's been something about mid May that has acted like a miasma on the surface of the Blogosphere. Could this emerging cyberworld be developing a climate? Will we see warm fronts and anticyclones in lower Blogistan? Will we start needing weather reports before we can post?
Am I taking this extended metaphor too far...?
The thing with metaphor is that it can lead you by a chain of association to strange places. I'm thinking of this recent slump as a cyber analogue of the Doldrums - a part of the Atlantic Ocean outwith the trade winds where ships used to be stranded. That, of course, makes me think of pirates who have risen in the public consciousness at the same time as blogging, and how the mainstream media view us. And of course, you can't mention pirates without thinking of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. This, I feel is the ultimate symbol and embodiment of the Blogosphere. If you think of how the Blogosphere would look physically, you'd see it as a spherical mass of interconnected wiring, like a ball of spaghetti...
Ramen to you all.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

The grapes of wrath - much whining

Edinburgh University are adding insult onto injury by rubbing salt into the wounds of the Christian Union. How are they doing this? Well by giving permission for the Pagan Society to hold its annual conference on campus. The CU are furious because a few months back, they were denied permission to hold their PURE course on University premises (see previous posts here and here.)
Basically, this is a case of sour grapes, and a complete non-issue. It is Edinburgh Uni's policy to not host events which are discriminatory. The PURE course was: the pagan conference isn't. End of story.
What bugs me is that of all the events held on campus, the CU is singling out this conference as being evidence of the university's religious persecution of christianity. Why pick on the pagans? What did they ever do to the Christian Union? It's this attitude that shows just how discriminatory they are being, and why their course was barred. They just don't seem to have any insight into how bigoted and asshatted they are.
I guess it's because they're young and immature. Hopefully they'll grow out of it.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

You need never run out of milk again

Here's a tip about storing milk for your coffee and wheatybangs. You can freeze milk! Yes you can! What we do is buy a couple of 2-litre bottles and put them in the freezer. When we're down to a third full of the opened bottle, we retrieve one of the frozen ones, and stand it in a small saucepan overnight to thaw. The pan is important, if you don't want a wet worktop.
Before you open the thawed bottle, give it a good shake, to mix up any separation.
Doing this saves having to rush down to Scotmid at the last minute in the pouring rain.

Or, you could get a cow.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Happy Blogiversary!

I've done it! I have blogged for one year. I wasn't even sure when I started if I would last one week. But here I am, with a blog that's a year old today.
I am so glad I started this blog. I have made so many friends in this community that I would never have encountered otherwise. I wouldn't have been a contributor to Change of Shift or the Scottish Blogging Round-up. I wouldn't have been published in Shaggy Blog Stories. I wouldn't have won Janie's poetry competition. All these things I would have missed out on if I hadn't started this blog.
And I have you to thank. You who have read my words, and left comments, and who have linked to me. Without your support and encouragement, I would have found it hard to carry on. Here's to my second year of blogging. Let's hope it brings new exciting things, new directions and challenges.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

The first postcard

Here's my first postcard from Second Life. It's from a new place called the Diversionarium. You can find out all about it here. Unfortunately, it runs on Silicon Valley time, which is eight hours behind us, so when I visited, and took this picture, it was early morning for the management and punters. Sure, Second Life and the Blogosphere are bringing the cybercitizens of the world closer together, but you can never get away from the inconvenience of different time zones. The Internet just shoves it in your face.
Anyway, consider the picture above as an experiment. I did it just to see how to do it. I'll delve back into SL and bring you some more exciting pictures in future posts.
It's the big day tomorrow. Check back in about twenty four hours for a doozy of a post.

Saturday, May 26, 2007

De-mat. Re-mat. Re-run.

The brush disappeared again this morning! I managed to locate it much quicker this time. It reappeared in the cats' cupboard, on top of the tools, when I went to get the stuff for the wallpapering. My wife denies all knowledge of how it got there, and I know I certainly didn't put it there. I think this brush doesn't have a firm grip on reality.

Friday, May 25, 2007

By his fruits ye shall know him

You'll have heard of the Horse Whisperer, who can charm horses merely by whispering the secret Horses' Word. And now there's all sorts of whisperers - cat, dog, whatever pet you've got. Well gather round, and let me tell you of a chap I knew in my youth, who was a Fruit Machine Whisperer!
Many years ago when I was at college (this was the first time, way before I ever considered nursing) there was a guy on the course who, more often than not, was my lab partner. Naturally, we used to frequent the Students' Union in Edinburgh (Ah those far off happy hours when you could get three pints of lager for £1-50!) It was there that he demonstrated his uncanny ability of charming money out of the fruit machines. These were your bog standard electronic machines, with lots of lights, electronic diddly-diddlies, and three tumblers bearing different fruits - blackcurrants, plums and strawberries, as well as bars and bells. Get three in a row : get various amounts of prize money.
It was there, one night when he told us how to win on these machines - and blow me, if he didn't put into practice what he had preached, and came away with a small profit, enough for a round of drinks!
Convinced that I was now in possession of some arcane secret of the universe, I had a go.
I lost everything.
I don't do fruit machines now.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

RCN Def Con 2

So the RCN are to ballot on industrial action, following the staged pay award in England and Wales. How could the government balls things up so badly, so that this unprecedented turn of events could come to pass?
What the RCN are looking for in their indicative poll is whether there is support for the idea of industrial action, and what form that action ought to take. The answer to the first part ought to be obvious, going by the reception Patricia Hewitt famously got at that conference. And things have gone downhill from there.
But what sort of action should we be contemplating?
The important thing is to hold onto the moral high ground, and to retain the support of the public. If we lose that, we're sunk.
Keep in mind the one objective of this, which is to reverse the staging of the pay award, and have it paid in full. Get that, and the industrial action must be immediately abandoned. The 2.5% is achievable. Anything above that has to wait until the next pay round.
Industrial action should hurt the government, not the patients. Keep the emergency service going, but attack the government's targets and initiatives.
By awarding the pay rise in full to us Scottish nurses, somebody in the Scottish Labour party has committed a tactical error of legendary proportions - not that I'm complaining about it, you understand - it's an error that benefits our case. It weakens the government's justification for staging the award down south. Gordon Brown must be spitting bile. Good. Remember, we owe him nothing. He's behind the staging. Let's force him into a U-turn, then keep the pressure on him so he doesn't shaft us again.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The brush has reappeared! So has another one. But just because they reappeared when I pulled the freezer out to clean behind it, doesn't mean my hypothesis below isn't true. It just makes it more difficult to get folk to believe it.
Spocko , in the comments to the previous post, says that he read somewhere that when you get to heaven you get back all the things you lost in your life. If that's so, what in tarnation am I going to do with several dozen odd socks?

Sunday, May 20, 2007

A brush with dematrixulation

The brush has gone missing.
I haven't touched it. My wife hasn't moved it. The cats... well what would they want with a brush anyway?
So in order to sweep up after the cats, my wife has brought down the dustpan and brush from upstairs. Yes, we are a two dustpan and brush household (three if you include the old set in the shed which is used for leaves and garden debris).
All this, of course, is evidence that the Matrix is true and we are living in an elaborate computer simulation.
See, what happens is this, the computer only rezzes stuff that you're actually looking at. If it's not in your field of vision, it merely becomes stored information. Now, obviously, at certain times, depending on what arcane factors influence the running of the program, we're getting glitches. And when they happen, stuff fail to get rezzed. Stuff like the brush, the socks, the glasses, the fish from the fridge... (don't ask. It's still a mystery.*)
Sometimes, after a day or two in limbo, the objects mysteriously reappear. I'm kinda hoping that's what'll happen to the brush. Sometimes they don't.

*The fish was one of those things that did reappear. That's the mystery!

Friday, May 18, 2007

My first event in Second Life

Strangest party I've ever been at.
Second Scotland in Second Life were having an open day. Our country is well represented in this brave new cyberworld. There are two Scotland sims, and number two was throwing a shindig. It's run by the University of Paisley, and looks to me to be an arts project. There were three avatars there in kilts (four if you include myself), and an interactive map of Scotland with ear trumpets bearing the names of eminent scots such as Burns, Carnegie and Billy Connolly. Not forgetting the capercaillies that wander about the sim. It's all very surreal and dreamlike.
Conversation can be a bit random. You hear the people within earshot, but if they're talking to someone a bit further away, you end up with half a conversation. And when that is interweaved with another half-dialogue, and you factor in the delay between typing and display, the script starts to resemble an Ionescu play.
Still, with all its limitations, it's science fiction become science fact. It's the cyberworld predicted all those tears ago where you can interact with others in a virtual reality. And it's only coming up for its fourth birthday! Imagine what another four years will bring!

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Leaping into action

I'm starting to come round to the idea of reforming the House of Lords. Up until now I've been of the 'if it ain't broke, don't fix it' persuasion. I see no point in constitutional change just for the sake of it. I'm also against an upper house whose only purpose is to rubber stamp acts passed by the government in power. You get a situation where bad laws go through unchallenged.
Saying that, the current set up is a bit casual. Lords get appointed, but they may have other commitments, that keep them away from the chamber. The upper house is an important check on the runaway aspirations of a party in power, and shouldn't be left in the hands of people who might or might not turn up to vote depending on their schedule.
I would be in favour of a senate made up of one or two senators representing each county, or major city, elected democratically. That way, bills passed upwards from the House of Commons would get the scrutiny required to prevent bad law blighting our land.
But I wouldn't rush it. constitutional change has to be well discussed and examined before implementation, otherwise you end up with a situation worse than the one you tried to fix.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Guess what day it is?

Happy Nurses' day! Yes, it's that time of the year when we celebrate the contribution that nurses make to society. This year I remembered! I went onto the ward this morning and wished everybody "Happy Nurses' Day!"
"Oh is it? So it is."
So what did I do today?
Well, I put drops in patients' eyes, gave out medicines, took some blood, put more drops in eyes, helped pat slide a patient, gave out meals, gave advice on the helpline, wrote up the care plans, bathed eyes, gave out more medications and put even more drops in patients' eyes.
What sort of a day did you have?

Monday, May 07, 2007

Dancing in the datastream

Second Life is an interesting place to visit. It's a virtual world where you exist as an avatar, and you can interact with other human-controlled avatars. It's only been in existence for three years, and it recently signed up its six-millionth inhabitant.
It's still a work in progress. It has teething troubles. But it has potential. And it is science fiction become fact.
Remember Tron? Disney's venture into computer animation? A world existing inside a computer system? It's here.
But a better description of what Second Life is like from an SF perspective is Michael Moorcock's Dancers at the End of Time trilogy. In it, the world is a playground for its population of aesthetes, who throw parties and create marvels out of the world's energy field. The most eminent citizens if that world are the ones who produce the most fantastic creations, just as they are in Second Life.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Holy craps at Holyrood

The Lib Dems have just turned down a deal with the SNP. It's the referendum. They're playing hard-ball on this issue. Fair enough. That's what coalition politics is about. The SNP are going to have to jettison some of their manifesto promises if they want to rule Scotland. So it looks like goodbye to the referendum and the local income tax then. I wouldn't take anyone's refusal at the moment to be the last word. It's merely the opening round of the game, entitled 64 vote pickup.
Here are the rules as far as I can work them out.
In this particular match there are six players - for the purposes of clarity, lets call them Mr Yellow, Mr Red, Mrs Blue, Mr Orange, Mr Green and Mrs White.
Each player has a set number of votes given to them by the electorate (those of them smart enough to read the ballot paper anyway).
There are 129 of these votes.
The object of the game is to get half of them, which is 64.
The remaining vote left over belongs to the referee or Presiding Officer, and is put to one side, but you don't want it put on your side.
Mr Yellow and Mr Red have to persuade all the other four players to play on their team.
Mrs Blue, Mr Orange, Mr Green and Mrs White all say they're not going to play on anybody's team, anytime soon, no-siree-bob.
(Actually Mr Green has still to say this, but I guess he's still a bit unsure of the rules)
Mr Yellow and Mr Red then have to carefully and strategically start discarding policies until the other players agree to join their team.
Whoever gets 64 votes after offloading the Presiding Officer card where it'll do the least damage is the winner!

Where do we go from here?

I guess this weekend, the SNP leadership are busy making phonecalls trying to forge some sort of coalition to run Scotland. Everybody's talking about an SNP/Lib/Green alliance as if it's a done thing. That's probably the most likely outcome, but maybe the SNP should be thinking outside the box. What about an alliance with the Conservatives? A marriage made in hell to be sure, but it would put the Lib Dem's gas at a peep, that's for sure. After a disastrous election, what could be worse than to even be denied involvement in a power-sharing government, and see the Tories take their place!
Admittedly, there are two big obstacles to a Tory/SNP coalition. Annabel Goldie said "no" prior to the election, and there is the even more obvious problem of Independence, and the Referendum for.
It's a poor weapon that doesn't cut both ways (Salvor Hardin). A referendum could settle the question of Independence once and for all, and it could quite easily be in favour of the union. Support for a referendum does not equate with support for independence. The Tories could go along with the referendum, on the clear understanding that they would be campaigning against independence in 2010.
The Greens hold the balance of power though. Margo McDonald intends to stay staunchly independent, though even after being dropped by the party, she must surely be in sympathy with their policies.
There's always Labour/Lib/Green plus Tories? The grand unionist rainbow alliance against the SNP? Yeah... like that's going to happen.
We'll see what happens next week after the Monday bank holiday. A second election isn't off the cards yet!

Friday, May 04, 2007

Clearing up the mess after the night before

What a pig's arse of an election! The phrases "brewery", "piss-up" and "couldn't organise" come to mind. It's been over nineteen hours since the polls closed, and we still don't know who's won - apart from the spoiled ballot party, who unfortunately don't have any candidates.
For readers in America, we're trying this novel concept called democracy in Scotland. Unfortunately the organisers underestimated the inherent numptiness endemic in the general populace. It's now official, there are people who are too stupid to vote. We just never had a way of screening them out before. Obviously holding two elections at the same time with completely different voting systems is the way to go about it.
So far, Labour and the SNP seem to be neck and neck. It'll be interesting to see what combinations of parties will eventually make up Government.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Guess who I saw walking along the road?

Today I saw Death. Yes, him. The fourth horseman. The grim reaper. Best friend of Billy and Mandy... okay okay, enough with the hyperbole. I know it probably wasn't that particular mythological archetype - just some flesh and blood human who looked like him.
So what did he look like? Well, I was in the car, caught in the start of the rush hour, so I overtook him at a leisurely pace. My initial view of him was from behind, and I was aware of his long black Matrix-style coat. Now this afternoon was T-shirt weather, and I was thinking that this coat would be way too hot in this blazing sunshine. Now if it had been the middle of winter, I probably wouldn't have given him a second glance, but today? "Looks like Death warmed up," I thought.
I looked for a scythe, but all he had was a black briefcase, or it might have been a toolkit, it had that sort of plasticky look about it.
By this time, the traffic was moving slowly forward and I was now passing him. I must admit to curiosity as to what this long-haired, black-clad, toolkit wielding apparition looked like, so as I pulled ahead, I took a quick look in my wing mirror.
He had no face!
The long dark hair I had seen from behind continued round to the front. Like Cousin Itt from the Addams Family.
"Well!" I thought, "You don't see that every day."
I just hope it wasn't an omen.