Tonight: Partly Cloudy, Minimum Temperature: 11°C (52°F)

Minimum Temperature: 11°C (52°F), Wind Direction: South Westerly, Wind Speed: 7mph, Visibility: Good, Pressure: 1014mb, Humidity: 90%, UV Risk: 0, Pollution: Low, Sunset: 21:21 BST

Friday: Sunny Intervals, Minimum Temperature: 12°C (54°F) Maximum Temperature: 21°C (71°F)

Maximum Temperature: 21°C (71°F), Minimum Temperature: 12°C (54°F), Wind Direction: South Westerly, Wind Speed: 13mph, Visibility: Good, Pressure: 1016mb, Humidity: 59%, UV Risk: 4, Pollution: Low, Sunrise: 04:48 BST, Sunset: 21:20 BST

Saturday: Sunny Intervals, Minimum Temperature: 11°C (52°F) Maximum Temperature: 19°C (67°F)

Maximum Temperature: 19°C (67°F), Minimum Temperature: 11°C (52°F), Wind Direction: South Westerly, Wind Speed: 14mph, Visibility: Good, Pressure: 1019mb, Humidity: 67%, UV Risk: 4, Pollution: Low, Sunrise: 04:49 BST, Sunset: 21:20 BST

ALDI OPENS ITS 10TH 'LOCAL' STORE IN LONDON - London Post

ALDI OPENS ITS 10TH 'LOCAL' STORE IN LONDON  London Post

Calls for more funding for English classes for Ukrainian refugees - The Guardian

Calls for more funding for English classes for Ukrainian refugees  The Guardian

Harry Hill: 'You paint one picture of Chris Tarrant, and it's hard to stop' - iNews

Harry Hill: 'You paint one picture of Chris Tarrant, and it's hard to stop'  iNews

From the Fringe to the mainstream the Story of Claudia Jones comes to the Wandsworth Community - London Post

From the Fringe to the mainstream the Story of Claudia Jones comes to the Wandsworth Community  London Post

Learn how to fix your broken electronics at the Tooting and Balham Restart party, Sat 16th July 2022 - BrixtonBuzz

Learn how to fix your broken electronics at the Tooting and Balham Restart party, Sat 16th July 2022  BrixtonBuzz

11 June 2022 Balham (1)

togetherthroughlife posted a photo:

11 June 2022 Balham (1)

11 June 2022 Balham (5)

togetherthroughlife posted a photo:

11 June 2022 Balham (5)

11 June 2022 Balham (3)

togetherthroughlife posted a photo:

11 June 2022 Balham (3)

11 June 2022 Balham (4)

togetherthroughlife posted a photo:

11 June 2022 Balham (4)

11 June 2022 Balham (2)

togetherthroughlife posted a photo:

11 June 2022 Balham (2)

Should Children be Polite While Using Smart Speakers?

‘Okay Google. Where is Antarctica?”

Children can now get answers to all their questions using smart speakers and digital voice assistants.

A few years ago, children would run to their parents or grandparents to answer their questions. But with the ascendence of voice assistants to the mainstream in recent years, many children rely more on technology than humans.

Is this a good idea?

How does it impact the children?

When children interact with people, it helps them be more thoughtful, creative, and imaginative.

When they use artificial intelligence instead, several issues come into the foreground. These include access to age-inappropriate content and increasing the possibility of being rude or unpleasant, affecting how they treat others.

As mentioned, technology has both pros and cons. There are benefits to children using these devices, including improving diction, communication, social skills, and gaining information without bothering their parents.

Many families find that smart speakers like Amazon Echo and Google Home are useful. They use them for several functions, ranging from answering questions to setting the thermostat. Research shows that up to nine out of ten children between the ages of four and eleven in the US are regularly using smart speakers — often without parental guidance and control. So, what is the best approach for a parent to take?

Children up to seven years old can find it challenging to differentiate between humans and devices, and this can lead to one of the biggest dangers. If the device fulfils their requests through rude behaviour, children may behave similarly to other humans.

Do Parents Think Smart Devices Should Encourage Polite Conversations?

Most parents consider it essential that smart devices should encourage polite conversations as a part of nurturing good habits in children. The Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood or CCFA is a US coalition of concerned parents, healthcare professionals, and educators. Recently, CCFA protested against Amazon Echo Dot Kids Edition, stating that it may affect children’s wellbeing. Because of this, they requested parents avoid buying Amazon Echo.

However, in reality, these smart devices have improved a lot and focus on encouraging polite conversations with children. It is all about how parents use and present these devices to their children, as these factors can influence them a lot.

But in simple terms, parents wish these devices to encourage politeness in their children. At the same time, they want their kids to understand the difference between artificial intelligence and humans while using these technological innovations.

Do Parents Think Their Children are Less Polite While Using Smart Speakers?

Many parents have seen their children behave rudely to smart speakers. Several parents have expressed their concerns through social media, blog posts and forums like Mumsnet. They fear these behaviours can impact their kids when they grow up.

A report published in Child Wise reached the conclusion that children who behave rudely to smart devices might be aggressive while they grow up, especially while dealing with other humans. It is, therefore, preferable if children use polite words while interacting with both humans and smart devices.

What Approaches Have Been Taken By Tech Companies to Address the Problem?

With interventions and rising concerns addressed by parents and health professionals, some tech companies have brought changes to virtual assistants and smart speakers.

The parental control features available in Alexa focus on training kids to be more polite. Amazon brands it as Magic Word, where the focus is on bringing positive enforcement. However, there is no penalty if children don’t speak politely. Available on Amazon Echo, this tool has added features like setting bedtimes, switching off devices, and blocking songs with explicit lyrics.

When it comes to Google Home, it has brought in a new feature called Pretty Please. Here, Google will perform an action only when children use, please. For instance, “Okay, Google. Please set the timer for 15 minutes.”

You can enable this feature through the Google Family Link, where you can find the settings for Home and Assistant. You can set these new standards for devices of your preference. Also, once you use it and figure things out, there will be no more issues in setting it up again.

These tools and their approaches are highly beneficial for kids and parents. As of now, these devices only offer basic features and limited replies. But with time, there could be technological changes that encourage children to have much more efficient and polite interactions.

George and the Smart Home

It was thinking about issues like this which led me to write my first children’s book — George and the Smart Home. In the book, George is a young boy who has problems getting the smart speakers in his house to do what he wants until he learns to be polite to them.

It is available now, as a paperback and a Kindle book, from Amazon.

Buy it from: AU / BR / CA / DE / ES / FR / IN / IT / JP / MX / NL / UK / US

The post Should Children be Polite While Using Smart Speakers? appeared first on Davblog.

2021 in Gigs

A little later than usual, here’s my review of the gigs I saw last year.

In 2020, I saw four gigs. In 2021, I almost doubled that to seven. Obviously, we spent a lot of the year with most music venues closed, so those few gigs I saw were all in the second half of the year. Usually, I’d list my top ten gigs. This year (as last year) I’ll be listing them all. So here they are in chronological order.

  • Tubular Bells at the Royal Festival Hall
    This was a strange show for several reasons. Firstly, it was advertised as commemorating the fiftieth anniversary of Tubular Bells. But the album was released in 1973, so it was two years early (apparently it was the fiftieth anniversary of when Mike Oldfield started writing the piece). Secondly, Mike Oldfield wasn’t performing – but you needed to examine the publicity very carefully to work that out. And thirdly, there was a troupe of acrobats that were pointlessly leaping around the stage while the musicians played. All in all, I thought this was slightly disappointing.
  • Heaven 17 at the Roundhouse
    Many of these shows were postponed from 2020. This was originally intended to celebrate the fortieth anniversary of the Human League album, Travelogue, but it ended but being the forty-first anniversary. But none of that mattered. This was Heaven 17 playing all of the first two Human League albums and it was absolutely wonderful. Apparently, they had invited Phil Oakey to take part, but he wasn’t interested. That’s Heaven 17 in the photo above.
  • LUMP at the Scala
    LUMP is Laura Marling playing with Tunng’s Mike Lindsay. I kinda assumed that their first album was going to be a one-off, but they produced a second album in 2020. This was the first gig I’d been to in a cramped venue like the Scala for a couple of years and it all got a bit too much for me. I really didn’t enjoy the atmosphere and left during the third or fourth song. I still love the album though and I hope to build up my tolerance for gig crowds over the coming months.
  • The Staves at Shepherd’s Bush Empire
    Actually, this was only two-thirds of the Staves. One of the sisters has has a baby recently and has decided to sit out tours for a couple of years. But the two remaining sisters still put on a great show.
  • Laura Marling at the Roundhouse
    Given how few gigs I saw last year, it’s surprising how repetitive they were. Here’s Laura Marling again (and the Roundhouse again!) Although she has yet to match the heights of the Short Movie tour, Laura Marling is always worth seeing and this show was no exception.
  • Heaven 17 at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire
    More repetition. I think the two Heaven 17 gigs were originally supposed to be several months apart, but the vagaries of the Covid scheduling changes led to them being just two months apart. This one celebrated the fortieth (actually forty-first) anniversary of Heaven 17 starting and was a glorious journey through their back catalogue. Oh, and the support was Pete Wylie, so I can finally say I’ve seen all three members of the Crucial Three live.
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at Hammersmith Apollo
    OMD are just one of those bands that I see live whenever I can. I’ve now been seeing them for over forty years (since they supported Gary Numan in 1980). They have such a massive back catalogue that they can just play hit after hit for two hours. But this show was a bit different as they started by playing all of their 1981 album, Architecture and Morality. They were as good as I’ve ever seen them.

And that was 2021. What will happen in 2022? Well, I have tickets for a dozen or shows but who knows how many of them I’ll actually see? I’ve already had emails postponing the Wolf Alice and Peter Hook shows I was going to see this month. I guess I’ll just have to wait and see how the rest of the year pans out.

The post 2021 in Gigs appeared first on Davblog.

The Return of RTD

Doctor Who has a new showrunner. But he’s actually an old showrunner. Is that a good idea?

Since the news broke yesterday, Doctor Who fan forums have been discussing nothing but the fact that Russell T Davies is returning as showrunner after Chris Chibnall’s regeneration special is broadcast next year. Most fans seem to be very excited by this prospect; I’m not so sure.

Before I start, I should point out that I’ve been a big fan of Russell T Davies since long before he brought Doctor Who back to our screens in 2005. I’ll always be grateful for the work he did to bring the show back and I believe that he’s responsible for some great moments in Doctor Who history.

But I’m not sure I want to see him back as the showrunner. Let me explain why I’m so out of step with most of the show’s fans.

Firstly, although I’m grateful to him for bringing the show back, he’s not my favourite showrunner. Obviously, any Doctor Who is better than no Doctor Who but there was a lot of stuff in Davies’ first run that I didn’t like. For example, He was the person who first introduced us to companions’ families, which brought a slight soap opera feel to some of the episodes. Also, I thought that he often wrote himself into a bit of a corner. This was most apparent in the end of season two-parters. There were many occasions when the first part set up a fantastic premise only to be let down by a finale that just couldn’t live up to the promise. The Stolen Earth was great; Journey’s End was terrible. Then there’s The End of Time. Again, it started off well but had verged well into the ridiculous by the end of the first part. And don’t get me started on the self-indulgent, mawkish nonsense that made up the last twenty minutes of that story — leading to the Tenth Doctor’s regeneration.

I admit, however, that my opinions on Davies’ writing are purely personal. And, because of the massive rise in popularity of the show during his tenure, many viewers see his approach as the gold standard for how the show should work. My other points are, I hope, less opinion-based.

Secondly, Doctor Who is a show that should always be moving forward. In the classic era of the show, previous Doctors and companions would reappear very rarely. When someone left the show, you knew the chances of seeing them again were very slim. When an executive producer left (we didn’t call them showrunners back then) you knew that the show would change in new and experimental ways. Sometimes the changes didn’t work; most of the time they did. Change is fundamental to the show. It’s how the show has kept going for (most of) sixty years.

The newer sections of the audience don’t seem to realise that. I constantly hear fans wanting things to go back to how things were. As soon as Rose was written out at the end of series two, there were calls for her to come back. And while series four has some pretty good stuff in it, I think that bringing Rose back was pandering to the fanbase in an unhealthy way. We now have a situation where fans expect every character who has been written out of the show to be brought back at their whim. There aren’t very many weeks that pass without me seeing someone in a Facebook group suggesting some convoluted way that David Tennant could be brought back to be the Doctor again.

The show must always move forward. It must always change. I believe that RTD knows that, so I hope that his second era in charge will be sufficiently different to his first. But I worry that fans will start asking for Tennant back as the Doctor with Billie Piper by his side. For some fans, that seems to be the only version of the show they will be happy with.

Finally, I worry about what RTD’s reappointment means for the future of the show. When Chibnall’s departure was announced, all of the news stories claimed that he and Whittaker had a “three and out agreement” between themselves and that he only ever planned to do three years running the show. That’s rather at odds with the talk of him having a five-year plan for the show when he was appointed to the role. I realise that he will have done five years in the post by the time he goes, but he will have made three seasons and a handful of specials — so I’m not sure that counts.

No, I think it’s clear that Chibnall has been hounded out of the role by that toxic sector of the fanbase that refuses to give his work on the show a decent chance. And, given that Moffat also put up with a lot of abuse from certain fans, I begin to wonder how easy it is to find someone to take over the job. Chibnall’s departure was announced at the end of July and the BBC would certainly have known about it for some time before that. But they have failed to find someone new and exciting to take over the job and I wonder if it has become a bit of a poison chalice. People want to do the job because, hey, it’s running Doctor Who! But, on the other hand, if you don’t please the fanbase (and no-one can please all of the fanbase) then you’ll be vilified online and hounded off social media. Add to that the fact that both Davies and Moffat cited insane working schedules as part of their reason for leaving and, suddenly, the job doesn’t look quite as tempting.

I have no inside information here at all, but I wonder if the reappointment of RTD was an act of desperation on the part of the BBC. We know that Chibnall is steering the show up to and including a BBC centenary special that will be broadcast in 2022. But the show’s 60th anniversary is the year after that and without a showrunner, you can’t cast a new Doctor and without a new Doctor in place pretty soon, the 60th-anniversary celebrations would seem to be in danger.

The news of the reappointment has all been very celebratory, of course, but I wonder if that’s actually the case. I wonder if the BBC’s approach to RTD was more like this:

“So, that show you resurrected back in 2005. Well, we can’t find anyone to take over as showrunner, and unless we get things moving pretty quickly we’re not going to have a 60th anniversary worth speaking off. Seriously, we’re thinking of just cancelling it… unless you can suggest something that we could do…”

This, of course, leaves RTD thinking that the only way to save his baby is to step in himself. Maybe he’s stepped in as a stop-gap until the BBC finds someone else to take over. The announcement says he’s signed on for the 60th special and following series. But that’s a bit vague (because the English language doesn’t have a plural for “series”!) so who knows how long he’ll hang around for. Time will tell, I guess.

But, if you’re one of those fans who think it’s big or clever to be unrelentingly negative about the showrunner on social media, please stop and consider whether you’re part of a problem that could end up with no-one wanting the job and the show being cancelled.

All-in-all, I wish that the BBC hadn’t done this. I would have far preferred to see the show moving forward. But if, as I suspect, the alternative was no new Doctor Who for the foreseeable future, then obviously this is a good plan. I’m keen to see what Davies has in store.

But first I’m really excited to see what Chibnall has in store for his final series and the subsequent specials. If series 13 improves on series 12 to the extent that series 12 improved on series 11, then it’s going to be great.

The post The Return of RTD appeared first on Davblog.

Virgin TV 360 — First impressions

I’ve just upgraded my V6 box to Virgin TV 360. I’m starting to think that was a mistake.

When Liberty Global took over Virgin Media in 2013, it seemed likely that at some point in the future VM would stop using TiVo software to run its set-up boxes and switch to something based on Liberty’s Horizon platform. That something is Virgin TV 360, which was announced last year and is now being rolled out to any VM subscriber who asks for it. I asked for the upgrade last week and my new kit arrived today. I’ve been using it for a few hours and I’m beginning to wish I hadn’t.

I heard about Virgin TV 360 last year, but I haven’t been keeping up with the news, so I was somewhat surprised to see it advertised on television last week. On further investigation, I found the page about it on their website and discovered that I could order the upgrade for my account. The website upgrade path didn’t work for me, so I called them and booked the upgrade.

As I have a V6 box, I didn’t need new hardware, they just sent out a new remote control and told me that I could upgrade the software myself once the new remote arrived. That arrived this morning, so at lunchtime, I settled in to upgrade my system.

It started off smoothly. A screen warned that the upgrade could take up to half an hour, but it only took a few minutes before I was looking at the new interface.

The old TiVo interface was really showing its age and this new interface is much better. It looks pretty similar to Android TV. Gone are most of the lists of titles, replaced by tiles with pictures in them. But while the new look and feel had me smiling, my smile evaporated once I started to use it. I don’t think I was a particularly expert user of the old TiVo interface, but a lot of the functions I used to regularly use are either missing or buried so deeply in the interface that I haven’t found them yet.

A lot of the problems are around the search mechanism. Search is being pushed as the main way to interact with the new system, so it’s disappointing to see that it’s not as powerful as the old TiVo system was. It seems that the database that powers the search isn’t as sophisticated as the old one was.

The old database contained details of thousands of TV shows and films. You could search for pretty much any TV show and you could get information about it (lists of episodes, cast and crew lists, things like that). At that point, you could set a “series link” so that if that program was broadcast on any of your channels in the future, the TiVo would record it for you. There were ways to fine-tune those records — only record HD broadcasts, only record new episodes, only record season 3 onwards — things like that. The new search doesn’t do most of that. It seems to only find shows that are on in the next couple of weeks. When it finds something, you can create a series link, but it’s hard-wired to the channel that you found the program on. And none of the other fine-tunings are available.

A couple of examples might help here. On my old system, I had a series link set for “Doctor Who” on all channels. So it would record an episode of Doctor Who wherever it was broadcast. I wanted to set up something like that on the new system. I searched for “Doctor Who” and it found a few repeats that are coming up on W in the next couple of weeks. But if I used that to set up the series link, I’d miss the new season that’s being broadcast on BBC One later this year. I also wanted to set a series link for “What We Do in the Shadows”. There’s a new season of that coming at some point, but because there are no episodes being broadcast in the next couple of weeks, Virgin TV 360 knows nothing about it and I can’t create a series link.

I mentioned that the old search database had cast and crew lists. You could use those to search for people and set up automatic recordings for any show that mentioned those people. I had a dozen or so of those set up — so I’d never miss a show that featured Neil Gaiman, Alice Roberts, Gerry Anderson and many other people — but that’s not available in the new system. So that’s a whole type of use that I can no longer do.

But I think the most frustrating problem I’ve found so far is the way it renumbers channels. My Virgin Media subscription comes with over 200 channels. Many of them, I have no interest in. So the TiVo software had a “favourite channels” feature. I could mark the channels that I was interested in watching and the TV guide would give me a view that only displayed those channels. The new software also has something like that. But the new feature also has another, completely unexpected side effect. All of the channels have a three-digit number assigned. And over the many years I’ve been using Virgin Media, I’ve learned the numbers for many of the channels that I use frequently. But the new system uses my favourite channels to number the channels and that gives them new numbers that are completely confusing.

As an example, say I’ve only chosen three favourite channels — BBC One HD (108), BBC Four (107) and BBC News HD (601) — the new software actively hides the “real” channel numbers from me and, if I want to type a number on the remote to change the channel, expects me to type 1, 2 or 3. This is annoying for two reasons. Firstly, I need to memorise a whole new set of channel numbers and, secondly, those numbers will change whenever I add or remove a favourite channel. That seems like idiocy to me. Who thought that would be a useful feature?

All in all, I’m really struggling after a few hours with this new interface. I don’t think I’m usually someone who just dislikes change. I think these are real holes in the functionality that I’m missing from the old system.

I’m hoping that some of these will be fixed in future releases of the software. But I’m worried that some of them will be seen as a simplified way of doing things and, therefore, just something I’ll have to get used to.

Perhaps this won’t matter to new customers who are just joining Virgin Media. But if you’re an existing customer who likes using these powerful features, you might want to think twice before upgrading to this new system.

The post Virgin TV 360 — First impressions appeared first on Davblog.

Too much work? How do you choose what to take on?

Freelancing is becoming a really popular way to make money. Sites like Upwork and Fiverr are booming. But how do you decide which jobs to take on? Here are three questions that might help you decide whether to take on some work you’ve been offered.

Question 1: Do I need the work?

Obviously, when you first start out in freelancing, you’ll be grateful for all the work you’re offered and you’ll be happy to take it all on. But, if things go well, you will eventually reach the point where you’re offered more work than you have time to do. At this point you have three options:

  • Politely tell the client that you have no capacity to take on any work currently — but also let them know when you will next be available (they might be happy to wait).
  • Subcontract the work out to someone else — but don’t forget to allocate time to manage your subcontractors and carry out quality checks on their work.
  • Work into the evenings or at weekends in order to finish the extra work. This might be ok occasionally, but remember that one of the reasons you got into freelancing was probably to have more control over your working week and to spend more quality time with your friends and family.

Of course, in order to know when you’re getting near to your capacity, it’s important to know what your capacity is. You need to be good at estimating how long each piece of work is going to take. One reason why I don’t like the third of the options above is that I save evenings and weekends for contingency when an estimate goes wrong and planning to use that time for work removes that contingency.

It’s also worth noting that if you’re consistently in a situation where you’re turning down work because you’re at capacity, that just might be the universe trying to tell you that it’s time to raise your prices.

Question 2: Is this work I really want to do?

Being at or near your capacity is a good reason to reconsider the types of work that you do. Perhaps there are bits of it that you don’t enjoy as much as others. This might be a good time to specialise.

Maybe you design book covers but the covers you really enjoy designing are for children’s books or chick-lit. Then stop taking on commissions for science fiction or war stories. Maybe you’re a copywriter but you find there are particular subjects that you prefer writing about. Carve out a large enough list of topics around your areas of interest and only take on work in those areas.

Or you can gently steer your work towards jobs that stretch you in certain ways. Freelancers don’t often take time for training themselves, but you can find ways to learn on the job. Maybe you create WordPress themes and you want to learn more about programming in PHP. Choose jobs that concentrate more on development and less on design. Change your job description from “WordPress theme designer” to “WordPress theme developer”.

Change your marketing materials appropriately so people stop asking you to work in areas that you don’t enjoy as much. You might have old clients who come back to you offering new work in the areas that you’re trying to cut out. You can decide on a case-by-case basis, but if you want to stick to your new specialisation, you can just say “I’m sorry but I don’t take on that kind of work anymore”. If you’re feeling particularly helpful, you might direct them to someone else you know who works in that area. That’s worth a commission payment, isn’t it?

Question 3: Is this a client I really want to work with?

We’ve all had “that client” who you never want to work with (see Clients From Hell for hundreds of examples). Well, if you’re working at capacity, then you don’t have to work with them again. When they approach you, tell them you’re fully booked up for three months.

But it’s not just individual clients that you have personal experience with. Maybe you find there are types of clients that you would rather not work with. Large corporations tend to move slowly. They might have complex procedures for signing you up as a new supplier and a seemingly infinite number of people who have to sign off on your work. You might decide it’s not worth the hassle.

On the other hand, some smaller organisations can be understaffed. Will your contacts be too busy elsewhere to give you timely feedback on your work? It can be frustrating to wait a week for someone to tell you how much (or how little!) they like your work.

We all have our personal preferences in this area. I’ve done work for some of the largest investment banks in the world and also for tiny internet start-ups. Given the choice, I’d go with the small company every time.

Or you could make a choice based on the client’s policies in various areas. Maybe you want to know their policies on looking after the environment? Or how they encourage diversity in their workforce? Or which political parties they make donations to.

Perhaps it’s actually what the client does that makes you want to avoid them. Are they involved in the arms trade? Do they enable rich people to avoid tax? Are they excessive polluters?

In all of these cases, if you decide not to work with the client, you can decide how you will tell them. You could use the standard approach of telling them you simply won’t have the capacity for several months or you might get a little more satisfaction by explaining exactly why you don’t want to do business with them (just don’t expect that your little protest will have any effect!)


Of course, having too much work is a great problem to have. But if you’re in that situation, I hope some of the strategies above will help you. Are there any other strategies that you use? Let me know in the comments.

The post Too much work? How do you choose what to take on? appeared first on Davblog.

Christmas minus four days

Listening to Billie Holiday on Apple Music

Reading Bernard Cornwell, Samuel Richardson, Balzac, Dickens, Ferrante

Watching Force Awakens

Thinking about how when I retire I'm going to live in small spare flat with a small spare garden with a terrier and a couple of turtles and learn how to write poetry, paint pictures and play the trumpet

Christmas hols

Hooray I'm on holiday for two weeks!

Yesterday I made and put the marzipan on the Xmas cake.

Today I'm going to Sisters using my Cineworld Unlimited card.

Tomorrow we're going to see the Force Awakens

Other stuff I'm doing:
- trying to find O2 Floor tickets for Strictly 2016 tour (we love you, Jay McGuinness, the human equivalent of the Andrex puppy)
- trying to get day tickets for Dominic West in Dangerous Liaisons at the Donmar Warehouse
- trying to get returns for Nutcracker, Cavalleria Rusticana at Covent Garden and Jim Broadbent in A Christmas Carol
- going to look at the West End Xmas windows with Laura
- going to Go Ape in Battersea Park with Alice
- going to Hampton Court as I've just realised I've got Historic Royal Palaces membership
- read, read, read!
- listen to unlimited music on Apple Music
- make mince pies (Delia)
- make Chana masala (Guardian)
- update this blog daily

Happy days

Safeguarding: Southwark diocese

Tea and coffee turns out to be a kettle, some tea bags and a pint of milk.

Then there's a big kerfuffle about where you sign in: at the back, at reception, "I've signed in three times now"

Then someone wants to open a window, but the windows don't open

Oh God someone I know is here. I'll make like I haven't seen her

Three hours later: actually it was really informative, if hair-raising. Obviously some parishes are a lot more problematic than others

Things We Argue About

Driving down to Bristol for sister's wedding. We pass an estate agents window which has little model houses in the window like at Bekenscot.
Me: Laura, look at the cute little houses. Which one would you live in?
Laura: I can't really see them.
Me: I like the white one best, but the green one has bigger windows.
Laura: oh those houses. I thought you meant the houses they were advertising in the window. I was wondering how you could possibly see them.
Chris: I thought you meant the ones in the photos.
Alice: so did I.
Me: how could I possibly have seen the ones in the photographs? What, have I suddenly developed super eyesight?
Chris: that's what I thought. So I thought you must be talking just for the sake of saying something.
Me: when do I ever do that?
Chris: exactly. So I thought you must have gone mad.
Me: so you'd rather ignore everything you know about me and assume that I'd gone mad, rather than entertain the possibility that I might have been talking about the cute little model houses, which only that estate agent has, rather than the photos of houses, which every estate agent has?
Chris: I didn't think they were cute.
Me: surely it's more plausible that I meant the model houses but that what I think is cute is different from what you think is cute, rather than that I'd suddenly developed super eyesight and also lost my mind?
Chris: your position is indefensible
Me: my position is defensible. I am defending it, unfortunately I appear to be dealing with a bunch of dopes
Laura: we can't all be dopes
Me: well, apparently you can
Laura: the families in cars in adverts are never like this

Fall Out Boy

I'm in the grip of several slow-burning obsessions at the moment. Fall Out Boy, for one, I'm sort of crushing on them collectively. What a difference a live gig makes! It's hard to say why as most of the time you had to watch them on the big screens (and why is that different from watching them on YouTube?), but that is the mystery of human presence. Being there, in the same air as people, makes a difference. Why? Maybe they seem more real. Maybe you see everything, not just what the cameraman directs you to see, which helps to fill in the reality of someone.

Then I've started my new Elena Ferrante book. I wonder if a Lila really existed, or if the author is simply applying herself into two and writing about both halves. I wish I could get the girls to read it: it's such an eye-opening validating piece of work, especially for women. Some woman in the paper was worrying that it wasn’t really literature. Why? Why not? What is
unliterary about it? The fact that it’s enjoyable? The fact that it acts as
though what two young girls in Naples in mid-twentieth century thought or
felt is important? I don’t see how you could find a book more serious intelligent and authentic than these novels are turning out to be.

On a more trivial note, I've been reading about Kate Moss’ new squeeze in the Telegraph: Nikolai von Bismarck, who from a quick piece of deductive work via Wikipedia, must be the second nephew of Gottfried von Bismarck (the first cousin of Nikolai’s father Leopold, who was the younger brother of Gottfried’s father, the
Prince von Bismarck). I knew Gottfried from Oxford when we were both in a
Ionesco play, The Lesson, being directed by an acquaintance from New College. I didn’t really know Gottfried, what with him being such a posho, but he seemed perfectly nice. He moved with the Olivia Channon set and died himself a few years ago, essentially from his lifestyle (drugs, gay orgies etc). All rather sad: gilded youth! This was all post the ITV Brideshead craze. Little did I think, as I was living through it, that people would be looking back at the eighties in a haze of nostalgia.

At lunch I went out and bought some Vichy Aqualia Thermal Serum because it
was on a Guardian list of best skincare products and I’m running out of
face cream. I don’t even know how to use it! It was £5 off. I wonder if it
will have any detectible effect on my skin, that wouldn’t be just as well
achieved with a £5 pot of generic moisturiser. Anyway, when I went to pay,
instead of the self-service checkout asking whether I wanted to buy a bag,
there simply were no bags. There was only a little Boots man wandering
around with a handful of bags. I told him I wanted to buy one, but I had no
change. He shoved a little paper bag into my hand and whispered, “Go, go,
run away!” which I promptly did. Hilarious.

Shopping on a real tight budget (again).

Went for a walk earlier because like Old Mother Hubbard my cupboard was bare .Didnt have a lot of cash so first stop was the fruit/veg market as they were packing up looked through a few boxes and ended up with about 40 apples.a pineapple,6 nice carrots,garlic and all for the bargain price of £0.00.Next stop a Health food place that every night puts out a few bags of goodies just reaching the sell by date ,its all perfectly good food.the haul was 200g of Cornish Camembert,125g of goats cheese,18 Glenilen Farm probiotic yoghurts 160g jars I kept 6 and redistributed the others to homeless people on my journey home.I called at Sainsburys and was able to splash out on Normandy butter ,a sunflower+honey bloomer loaf,Youngs fish ,a £4 ham and pineapple pizza so its good eating today.After washing/scrubbing the free fruit/veg it was juiced and produced 4 pints of juice better and fresher than the stuff bought in the shops.It still amazes and pisses me off the amount of good food throw away and destined for landfills while so many people are havuing a hard time and starving.Just grateful Im not one of them.

SELLING BIG ISSUES ,a honest profession.

   Its my opinion that selling Big Issues is a honest honarable way to make a living.Ive been doing it on and off from the very begining, sure Im critical of the way its run but the benefits far outweigh the negative aspects.So the wages are not the best in the world but your rewards come in the form of the great orduinary people that you meet.Im not the sort that pushes it in peoples faces,I like to think that people who buy from me do so because they want to not because Ive put pressure on them or made them feel guilty in any way.In the past year Ive had a professional fundraising org headhunting me,telling me I could make 4 times as much for less effort.Truth is if I was to shake a bucket claiming the money was for starving third world children well thats where it would have to go,not in my pocket.Im no angel and while selling Big Issues if anyone asks I tell them the money is for me and if asked I tell them my housing status.Like I say Im honest like all the other venders, we dont make a living from other peoples misery - only our own.My advice before parting with money to a charity think about how much reaches those that need it.

If hostel systems work,why do so many end up back on the streets.

My apologies for ranting about time spent in the  hostel system but in my opinion it was 6yrs of my life wasted.6 years where I had to have a keywork session with a moron every week and awnser the same questions over and over again.FFS how long does it take to asses someone and see if they are suitable for housing.Im of the opinion its a deliberate conspiracy to prove to society how essential they are in the rehabilitation of poor unfortunates like myself.Only thing is Ive never thought of  myself as unfortunate no matter what apart from the times I had to sit and listen to all their fucking crap.I put up with it because I wanted a permanent place of my own without them having acsess to my room or supported housing unit so the nosey fuckers could snoop while I was out.I often used toleave little notes for them to find but only offensive ones.They couldnt say anything about this as they shouldn have been snooping .Its a fact if I had a key to their houses and did to them what they do to their residents I would probably be branded a pervert and locked up for a long time.In a nutshell hostels dont work as most residents end up back on the streets or are kicked out for raising hell about their draconian rules.

The Drugworker

Not all of the people working for homeless orgs are money grabbing careerists,or worse stupid.sOME ARE ANGELS i DONT HAVE TO NAME THEM THEY KNOW WHO THEY ARE its a tradgedy that they are more often than not in a surbordinate position and stick with their job to genuinly help.
 I know a girl ,I say girl even though shes in her mid 40s now,she was a teenager when I met her begging on the Hungerford Bridge in the 80s.For over 20yrs she was a hard core heroin user,she knows everey trick in the book that drug users follow,maybe she even wrote it.She got of the drugs sorted her life out got a job with an org that deals with rough sleeping drug users,shes very familiar with the problems and bigotry and difficulty these people face when sorting their lives out or trying.Happy ending - no way,all she gets todo is the donkey work she feels and justibly that she is more qualified than her co-workers,she thinks she has been hired as the token ex-junkie.What a criminal waste of what could be that orgs most valuable asset.Is this her 2nd chance at life,and who could blame her if she went home everynight and stuck a needle in her arm.

  So it been established that rough sleepers have a pretty rough time,one night a outreach worker eventually finds them hidden in some out of the way place,they say I can get you a hostel place,meet me tomorrow.Let me tell you it feels like finding the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.So you meet you go through all the procedures you think peace,safety ,escape from alcholuism ,petty crime,drug addiction  and all its related baggage,you feel exstatic but that soon wears off when you are in your cell like room ,it begins to dawn on you that what you are holding in your arms like a new born baby is not as you envisaged a pot of gold but in reality its a bucket of shit.You are so run down tired you dont care anymore so you sleep.You awake to the sound of footsteps in the coridor,keys getting pushed intolocks door slamming obcenities being shouted,youre half asleep thinking shit slop out already,you rush to get dressed looking for the bucket there is none.The door opens you have one leg in your trousers a voice booms room check ,it then dawns on you again you are not in the Holiday Inn ,but a hostel ,you dont yet know youve been sentenced to 6yrs.

Winky Face!

I'm just going to come right out and say it.  I am not a huge fan of emoticons.  I do not use a happy face to indicate happiness, or a sad face to indicate sadness.  I don't even use LOL when texting or IMing, as I prefer a simple "ha!" to get the idea of laughter accross.

However, I will acknowledge that I am in the minority.  If there was a battle, I lost.  Emoticons have won, and I accept their place in the world.  I will even admit that they can make the tone of an email or text or whatever clear if the words themselves don't convey the proper meaning.  I don't use them myself, but if someone sends me a frowny face or a confused face, I understand their meaning and move on with my life.

Except!

The winky face.  If there is one emoticon I cannot stand, it is the winky face.  You know the one I mean:

;)

The intended meaning, as far as I'm aware, is to convey cheekiness or sassiness.  And it drives me up the freaking wall.  Because here is the thing.  In real life, people smile at each other, or frown, or have big smiles, or stick out their tongues (which, ugh), or look surprised.  All of which have a corresponding emoticon to convey these expressions.

Do you know what people don't do?  Wink at each other.  Constantly wink at each other.  And if they do, they should stop, because I'm sure they'll just develop a twitch of some kind.

There only two contexts I can think of where winking is appropriate in real life.

One:  If you are playing a joke on someone and want to let someone they are with in on the joke subtly.  A wink at that person while continuing the joking will get that message across, and then hopefully they'll get in on the joke and you'll all have some fun times.

Two:  A pickup wink, done in jest.  Possibly accompanied by finger guns.  This works in almost any circumstance in life, and is generally delightful.

That's it!  Those are the only two situations in which you should be winking!  Or maybe if you're trying to get a contact back in place.  But blinking would also accomplish this, so let's forget that one.

Two!

So, when I see people (and god help me, so many people do this) use the winky face after a comment they mean to be funny, all I can think is STOP STOP STOP!  If you need to use an emoticon (and I really must stress that no one needs to use an emoticon) in that case, will the smiley face not do?  What is wrong with the good old smiley face?  Are you too good for the smiley face??

Your cheekiness comes across as far less cheeky if you have to tell me you're being cheeky!  (Also, the work cheeky looks funny when you write it too many times. Cheeky.) Would you really wink in real life after you said whatever you just said?  I thought not. It's just dumb.  Stop it.

However, if someone develops an emoticon for the double finger guns, I will have to bow to their genius and gladly allow all winky face/double finger gun emoticon combos, as they will be hilarious.

Mug of the Day - 3 August


Cuba!

Mug of the Day - 2 August


Bruges! It's my most multi-lingual mug, as it also says "Bruges" and "Brujas".

Mug of the Day - 29 July


The kings and queens of Scotland.  Educational!

Mug of the Day - 28 July


Barcelona is one of my favourite mugs. I think it's so pretty.

Politicians and journalists, put the statistic down and step away.

A person with a little bit of information is usually a danger to themselves and possibly society.  This is particularly the case at a time when something must be done.

A good example of this is the present scandal on MPs' expenses (does it have an official name yet - "Duck-gate").  A number of people have jumped on some analysis by Mark Reckons, a LibDem blogger, that seems to indicate there is a positive correlation between the size of an MP's electoral majority and the chances that they will abuse the expenses system.  In essence, the more safe an MP feels, the more likely they are to be a crook.

This apparent correlation has led Mark and a number of other people (such as Polly Toynbee and Ben Bradshaw) to suggest that we move away from the First-Pass-The-Post election system.  Their reasoning is that a PR election system would lead to lower majorities for MPs', and according to this correlation, more honest MPs.

Now, the first problem with this is that (I think) the analysis doesn't stand up to scrunity (details of my concerns are here).  Mark has been careful to caveat his statistical conclusions, though I don't think his caveats go far enough.  The caveats, of course, have been ignored by everyone else.

Secondly, even if there is a correlation, it does not mean there is any real or useful link between majorities and honest MPs.  A classic example is the correlation that areas with high level of policing having a high level of crime, leading to the policy conclusion that policing should be reduced as it causes crime.

And finally, what no-one seems to have tried to show is how PR will help, even if the correlation holds.  Though there may be many reasons for PR, tackling MPs expense dodgies seems the flimsest.  Consider:
  • While PR will change the majorities of some MPs, it needn't necessarily lead to the fall in the majorities overall.  You could have some MPs, which after first and second votes, have a larger majority.
  • Some forms of PR can lead to more corruption.  For instance, voters have little ability of getting rid of a hated MP in some forms of close list systems, where that MP heads the list.
  • It would seem from the evidence of the unseating of Neil Hamilton in the 1997 election, and the current mass sacking of tarnished MPs, that the current system can act to get rid of sleazy MPs when the voters have the facts.
So please, before advocating constitutional reform, can we stop and think for one moment.

Sorry is the hardest word, but I can do regret

What I can't get is why Gordon says sorry so badly. The secret of political apologies to so say sorry quickly and completely, to close the story down (you may also want to say sorry because you mean it, that works too). Brown's apologies are slow and grudging.

Gordon has waited five days before apologizing about Smeargate.  By waiting and then saying sorry, he's guaranteed further damaging coverage of the story as the morning paper report his apology and analysis it. If he had said sorry straight away when McBride had resigned, the story would have been over already (assuming there's no further emails).

Also, his apology is so mealy mouthed.
I take full responsibility for what happened. That's why the person who was responsible went immediately.
If you take full responsibility, you take full responsibility. You can't say I take full responsibility, but in the same breath say I'm not the responsible person. And I'm sure that Gordon is "sorry for what happened", but is sorry that people in his office considered smearing people.

Tail wagging the migration dog

Is the Home Office insane, listening to a BNP dog whistle?

Jacqui Smith is proposing that skilled work must first be advertised in the Job Centre before it may be given to a migrant, so that British workers have a chance. Non-EU migrants need a master's degree before coming to the UK for skilled work; EU migrants can come as they please unless they're a Dutch Parliamentarian. How many master-level jobs are advertised in Job Centres at the moment? How many master-level British workers look for jobs in Job Centres? Pure posturing.

Welcome to Balham Bou's Style Blog


We would like to welcome you to Balham Bou's first post on our style blog. We hope to inspire you with our ideas and fashion advice.
We would like to generate a on going discussion between Balham Bou and you! :-)

balham bou on bbc2 "Mary queen of shops"@9pm


thank you for all the surpport you have showed in the passed and hope you enjoy the futrue at balham bou
working with mary portas was priceless
30 june one to watch"mary queen of shop"bbc2@ 9pm

Taking a leak

The Government has just sprung another leak.  As reported by Iain Dale, an email has just been leaked showing that Harriet Harman is to have a meeting with the Speaker's Office and the Serjeant at Arms to discuss the Speakers statement to MPs on Wednesday about allowing Police to search Damian Green's Parliamentary Office.  Other invitees to Harman's meeting include Gus O'Donnell, Jacqui Smith and Jack Straw.

However, apart from the irony of another leak (and the desperation of Labour's news management), the best bit about this story is Harman's office attempt to wriggle out.  According to the BBC, her spoken has said:

"The purpose of the meeting is to discuss the parliamentary business and handling of issues that arise from the fact that the speaker's statement and the Queen's Speech will be happening on the same day."


Yes, if you are going to have a meeting about Parliamentary procedure,
you invite the Head of the Civil Service, the Justice Secretary and the
Home Secretary (as well as the Labour Chief Whip) at less than 24 hours
notice; they are busy people, who enjoy nothing more than talking about
seating arrangements.

Putting destruction in context

The third headline on the BBC news website was "Amazon deforestation accelerates".  The article, in doom laden tones, usually consider appropriate by the BBC for environmental stories, states that:
The destruction of the Amazon rainforest in Brazil has accelerated for the first time in four years, Brazilian officials say. Satellite images show 11,968 sq km of land was cleared in the year to July, nearly 4% higher than the year before...

In recent years the Brazilian government has been able to celebrate three successive falls in deforestation. But the latest estimate from the National Institute for Space Research, known as INPE, shows that this trend has come to a halt.
Now, at a time that the world seems to be falling apart, with the terror attacks in Mumbai, protests in Thailand, the end of Western capitalism, and the assault by the Met police on Parliamentary sovereignty, you would think the ordering of BBC stories is strange. But the biggest sin, is the poverty of the story.

The lesser error is the suggestion that one year data can signal an end of a trend. To be honest, I wouldn't be sure that three years of downward data shows there is a downward trend; but there there is no way to tell whether this year's rise was a new trend or a blip.

But the howler is saying the 12,000 sq km were destroyed (as opposed to trees just being cut down) without any context.  How big is 12,000 sq km?

Using what seems to have been the international benchmark of choice when discussion Amazon destruction, 12,000 sq km is around half of Wales; that seems big.  A more appropriate comparison is that 12,000 sq km is but 0.2 per cent of the total rainforest area of 5,500,000 sq km.  Or put it another way, this rate of loss would have to continue for 50 years for the present rainforest to fall by 10 per cent; hardly disastrous.

So the bottom line of the story is there is no evidence that the slowdown of a already very slow fall in the Amazon rainforest has stopped.  A good news story.

Balham Bou on BBC 2 'Mary Queen of Shops'

If you missed the show you can check it out on BBC IPlayer!

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/page/item/b00ccg5m.shtml