Today: Light Rain Showers, Minimum Temperature: 13°C (56°F) Maximum Temperature: 19°C (67°F)

Maximum Temperature: 19°C (67°F), Minimum Temperature: 13°C (56°F), Wind Direction: South Easterly, Wind Speed: 9mph, Visibility: Moderate, Pressure: 1009mb, Humidity: 78%, UV Risk: 4, Pollution: Low, Sunrise: 05:02 BST, Sunset: 21:11 BST

Tuesday: Thundery Showers, Minimum Temperature: 12°C (54°F) Maximum Temperature: 20°C (69°F)

Maximum Temperature: 20°C (69°F), Minimum Temperature: 12°C (54°F), Wind Direction: Westerly, Wind Speed: 12mph, Visibility: Moderate, Pressure: 1010mb, Humidity: 80%, UV Risk: 3, Pollution: Low, Sunrise: 05:03 BST, Sunset: 21:10 BST

Wednesday: Sunny Intervals, Minimum Temperature: 14°C (57°F) Maximum Temperature: 24°C (75°F)

Maximum Temperature: 24°C (75°F), Minimum Temperature: 14°C (57°F), Wind Direction: South Westerly, Wind Speed: 8mph, Visibility: Moderate, Pressure: 1020mb, Humidity: 66%, UV Risk: 4, Pollution: Low, Sunrise: 05:04 BST, Sunset: 21:08 BST

Where To Eat & Drink In Balham - SheerLuxe

Where To Eat & Drink In Balham  SheerLuxe

Nicky Phillips: Exhibit, Balham - Sutton & Croydon Guardian

Nicky Phillips: Exhibit, Balham  Sutton & Croydon Guardian

Bach to Baby Term Family Concert in Balham - Wandsworth Guardian

Bach to Baby Term Family Concert in Balham  Wandsworth Guardian

Some nice clag from 66115

London Trainspotter posted a photo:

Some nice clag from 66115

DB Cargo 66115 working 6Y08 on 27/06/2024 from Tolworth Sdgs to Cliffe Brett Marine passing Balham 3 minutes early. It was 9 minutes early but had to wait for a Southern 377 2F23 from London Bridge to London Victoria. It was also carrying HKA wagons making a nice red themed train

Some nice clag from 66115

London Trainspotter posted a photo:

Some nice clag from 66115

DB Cargo 66115 working 6Y08 on 27/06/2024 from Tolworth Sdgs to Cliffe Brett Marine passing Balham 3 minutes early. It was 9 minutes early but had to wait for a Southern 377 2F23 from London Bridge to London Victoria. It was also carrying HKA wagons making a nice red themed train

Light Fitting.

nfraser posted a photo:

Light Fitting.

An original light fitting in Balham Underground Station, London. Opened in 1926 to a modernist design.

High Road part shut near Tube station after accident - My London

High Road part shut near Tube station after accident  My London

Southern trains between London Victoria and Balham disrupted during rush hour - My London

Southern trains between London Victoria and Balham disrupted during rush hour  My London

Du Cane Court, Balham High Road, London

janetg48 posted a photo:

Du Cane Court, Balham High Road, London

An imperfect copy

sarble posted a photo:

An imperfect copy

I was suddenly struck by how the cloud echoes the shape of the building. Or vice versa...

The Tourist

Changing rooms are the same all over the galaxy and this one really played to the stereotype. The lights flickered that little bit more than you’d want them to, a sizeable proportion of the lockers wouldn’t lock and the whole room needed a good clean. It didn’t fit with the eye-watering amount of money we had all paid for the tour.

There were a dozen or so of us changing from our normal clothes into outfits that had been supplied by the tour company – outfits that were supposed to render us invisible when we reached our destination. Not invisible in the “bending light rays around you” way, they would just make us look enough like the local inhabitants that no-one would give us a second glance.

Appropriate changing room etiquette was followed. Everyone was either looking at the floor or into their locker to avoid eye contact with anyone else. People talked in lowered voices to people they had come with. People who, like me, had come alone were silent. I picked up on some of the quiet conversations – they were about the unusual flora and fauna of our location and the unique event we were here to see.

Soon, we had all changed and were ushered into a briefing room where our guide told us many things we already knew. She had slides explaining the physics behind the phenomenon and was at great pains to emphasise the uniqueness of the event. No other planet in the galaxy had been found that met all of the conditions for what we were going to see. She went through the history of tourism to this planet – decades of uncontrolled visits followed by the licensing of a small number of carefully vetted companies like the one we were travelling with.

She then turned to more practical matters. She reiterated that our outfits would allow us to pass for locals, but that we should do all we could to avoid any interactions with the natives. She also reminded us that we should only look at the event through the equipment that we would be issued with on our way down to the planet.

Through a window in the briefing room a planet, our destination, hung in space. Beyond the planet, its star could also be seen.

An hour or so later, we were on the surface of the planet. We were deposited at the top of a grassy hill on the edge of a large crowd of the planet’s inhabitants. Most of us were of the same basic body shape as the quadruped locals and, at first glance at least, passed for them. A few of us were less lucky and had to stay in the vehicles to avoid suspicion.

The timing of the event was well understood and the company had dropped us off early enough that we were able to find a good viewing spot but late enough that we didn’t have long to wait. We had been milling around for half an hour or so when a palpable moment of excitement passed through the crowd and everyone looked to the sky.

Holding the equipment I had been given to my eyes I could see what everyone else had noticed. A small bite seemed to have been taken from the bottom left of the planet’s sun. As we watched, the bite got larger and larger as the planet’s satellite moved in front of the star. The satellite appeared to be a perfect circle, but at the last minute – just before it covered the star completely – it became obvious that the edge wasn’t smooth as gaps between irregularities on the surface (mountains, I suppose) allowed just a few points of light through.

And then the satellite covered the sun and the atmosphere changed completely. The world turned dark and all conversations stopped. All of the local animals went silent. It was magical.

My mind went back to the slides explaining the phenomenon. Obviously, the planet’s satellite and star weren’t the same size, but their distance from the planet exactly balanced their difference in size so they appeared the same size in the sky. And the complex interplay of orbits meant that on rare occasions like this, the satellite would completely and exactly cover the star.

That was what we were there for. This was what was unique about this planet. No other planet in the galaxy had a star and a satellite that appeared exactly the same size in the sky. This is what made the planet the most popular tourist spot in the galaxy.

Ten minutes later, it was over. The satellite continued on its path and the star was gradually uncovered. Our guide bundled us into the transport and back up to our spaceship.

Before leaving the vicinity of the planet, our pilot found three locations in space where the satellite and the star lined up in the same way and created fake eclipses for those of us who had missed taking photos of the real one.

The post The Tourist appeared first on Davblog.

2023 in Gigs

I really thought that 2023 would be the year I got back into the swing of seeing gigs. But, somehow I ended up seeing even fewer than I did in 2022 – 12, when I saw 16 the previous year. Sometimes, I look at Martin’s monthly gig round-ups and wonder what I’m doing with my life!

I normally list my ten favourite gigs of the year, but it would be rude to miss just two gigs from the list, so here are all twelve gigs I saw this year – in, as always, chronological order.

  • John Grant (supported by The Faultress) at St. James’s Church
    John Grant has become one of those artists I try to see whenever they pass through London. And this was a particularly special night as he was playing an acoustic set in one of the most atmospheric venues in London. The evening was only slightly marred by the fact I arrived too late to get a decent seat and ended up not being able to see anything.
  • Hannah Peel at Kings Place
    Hannah Peel was the artist in residence at Kings Place for a few months during the year and played three gigs during that time. This was the first of them – where she played her recent album, Fir Wave, in its entirety. A very laid-back and thoroughly enjoyable evening.
  • Orbital at the Eventim Apollo
    I’ve been meaning to get around to seeing Orbital for many years. This show was originally planned to be at the Brixton Academy but as that venue is currently closed, it was relocated to Hammersmith. To be honest, this evening was slightly hampered by the fact I don’t know as much of their work as I thought I did and it was all a bit samey. I ended up leaving before the encore.
  • Duran Duran (supported by Jake Shears) at the O2 Arena
    Continuing my quest to see all of the bands I was listening to in the 80s (and, simultaneously, ticking off the one visit to the O2 that I allow myself each year). I really enjoyed the nostalgia of seeing Duran Duran but, to be honest, I think I enjoyed Jake Shears more – and it was the Scissor Sisters I was listening to on the way home.
  • Hannah Peel and Beibei Wang at Kings Place
    Even in a year where I only see a few gigs, I still manage to see artists more than once. This was the second of Hannah Peel’s artist-in-residence shows. She appeared with Chinese percussionist Beibei Wang in a performance that was completely spontaneous and unrehearsed. Honestly, some parts were more successful than others, but it was certainly an interesting experience.
  • Songs from Summerisle at the Barbican Hall
    The Wicker Man is one of my favourite films, so I jumped at the chance to see the songs from the soundtrack performed live. But unfortunately, the evening was a massive disappointment. The band sounded like they had met just before the show and, while they all obviously knew the songs, they hadn’t rehearsed them together. Maybe they were going for a rustic feel – but, to me, it just sounded unprofessional.
  • Belle and Sebastian at the Roundhouse
    Another act that I try to see as often as possible. I know some people see Belle and Sebastian as the most Guardian-reader band ever – but I love them. This show saw them on top form.
  • Jon Anderson and the Paul Green Rock Academy at the Shepherds Bush Empire
    I’ve seen Yes play live a few times in the last ten years or so and, to be honest, it can sometimes be a bit over-serious and dull. In this show, Jon Anderson sang a load of old Yes songs with a group of teenagers from the Paul Green Rock Academy (the school that School of Rock was based on) and honestly, the teenagers brought such a feeling of fun to the occasion that it was probably the best Yes-related show that I’ve seen.
  • John Grant and Richard Hawley at the Barbican Hall
    Another repeated act – my second time seeing John Grant in a year. This was something different as he was playing a selection of Patsy Cline songs. I don’t listen to Patsy Cline much, but I knew a few more of the songs than I expected to. This was a bit lower-key than I was expecting.
  • Peter Hook and the Light at the Eventim Apollo
    I’ve been planning to see Peter Hook and the Light for a couple of years. There was a show I had tickets for in 2020, but it was postponed because of COVID and when it was rescheduled, I was unable to go, so I cancelled my ticket and got a refund. So I was pleased to get another chance. And this show had them playing both of the Substance albums (Joy Division and New Order). I know New Order still play some Joy Division songs in their sets, but this is probably the best chance I’ll have to see some deep Joy Division cuts played live. I really enjoyed this show.
  • Heaven 17 at the Shepherds Bush Empire
    It seems I see Heaven 17 live most years and they usually appear on my “best of” lists. This show was celebrating the fortieth anniversary of their album The Luxury Gap – so that got played in full, alongside many other Heaven 17 and Human League songs. A thoroughly enjoyable night.
  • The Imagined Village and Afro-Celt Sound System at the Roundhouse
    I’ve seen both The Imagined Village and the Afro-Celts live once before. And they were two of the best gigs I’ve ever seen. I pretty much assumed that the death of Simon Emmerson (who was an integral part of both bands) earlier in 2023 would mean that both bands would stop performing. But this show was a tribute to Emmerson and the bands both reformed to celebrate his work. This was probably my favourite gig of the year. That’s The Imagined Village (featuring two Carthys, dour Coppers and Billy Bragg) in the photo at the top of this post.

So, what’s going to happen in 2024. I wonder if I’ll get back into the habit of going to more shows. I only have a ticket for one gig next year – They Might Be Giants playing Flood in November (a show that was postponed from this year). I guess we’ll see. Tune in this time next year to see what happened.

The post 2023 in Gigs appeared first on Davblog.

2022 in Gigs

Rather later than usual (again!) here is my review of the best ten gigs I saw in 2022. For the first time since 2019, I did actually see more than ten gigs in 2022 although my total of sixteen falls well short of my pre-pandemic years.

Here are my ten favourite gigs of the year. As always, they’re in chronological order.

  • Pale Waves at the Roundhouse
    I’ve seen Pale Waves a few times now and I think they’ve firmly established their place on my “see them whenever they tour near me” list. This show was every bit as good as I’ve ever seen them.
  • Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark at the Royal Albert Hall
    Another band I see whenever I can. This was a slightly different set where the first half was called “Atmospheric” and concentrated on some deeper cuts from their back catalogue and the second half included all the hits.
  • Chvrches at Brixton Academy
    In 2020, I moved to a flat that’s about fifteen minutes’ walk from Brixton Academy. But I had to wait about eighteen months in order to take advantage of that fact. The last couple of times I’ve seen Chvrches were at Alexandra Palace, so it was nice to see them at a smaller venue again. This show featured a not-entirely unexpected guest appearance from Robert Smith.
  • Sunflower Bean at Electric Ballroom
    Another act who I see live as often as I can. And this was a great venue to see them in.
  • Pet Shop Boys at the O2 Arena
    There’s always one show a year that draws me to the soulless barn that is the O2 Arena. Every time I go there, I vow it’ll be the last time – but something always pulls me back. This year it was the chance to see a band I loved in the 80s and have never seen live. This was a fabulous greatest hits show that had been postponed from 2020.
  • Lorde at the Roundhouse
    A new Lorde album means another Lorde tour. And, like Chvrches, she swapped the huge expanse of Alexandra Palace for multiple nights at a smaller venue. This was a very theatrical show that matched the vibe of the Solar Power album really well.
  • LCD Soundsystem at Brixton Academy
    Another show at Brixton Academy. For some reason, I didn’t know about this show until I walked past the venue a few days before and saw the “sold out” signs. But a day or so later, I got an email from the venue offering tickets. So I snapped one up and had an amazing evening. It was the first time I’d seen them, but I strongly suspect it won’t be the last. That’s them in the photo at the top of this post.
  • Roxy Music at the O2 Arena
    Some years there are two shows that force me to the O2 Arena. And this was one of those years. I’ve been a fan of Roxy Music since the 70s but I’ve never seen them live. Honestly, it would have been better to have seen them in the 70s or 80s, but it was still a great show.
  • Beabadoobee at Brixton Academy
    Sometimes you go to see an artist because of one song and it just works out. This was one of those nights. In fact, it turns out I didn’t actually know “Coffee For Your Head” very well – I just knew the sample that was used in another artist’s record. But this was a great night and I hope to see her again very soon.
  • Sugababes at Eventim Apollo
    Another night of fabulous nostalgia. The Eventim Apollo seems to have become my venue of choice to see re-formed girl groups from the 80s and 90s – having seen Bananarama, All Saints and now The Sugababes there in recent years. They have a surprising number of hits (far more than I remembered before the show) and they put on a great show.

Not everything could make the top ten though. I think was the first year that I saw Stealing Sheep and they didn’t make the list (their stage shows just get weirder and weirder and the Moth Club wasn’t a great venue for it) and I was astonished to find myself slightly bored at the Nine Inch Nails show at Brixton Academy.

A few shows sit just outside of the top ten – St. Vincent at the Eventim Apollo, John Grant at the Shepherd’s Bush Empire and Damon Albarn at the Barbican spring to mind.

But, all in all, it was a good year for live music and I’m looking forward to seeing more than sixteen shows this year.

Did you see any great shows this year? Tell us about them in the comments.

The post 2022 in Gigs appeared first on Davblog.

5 Reasons Why Using AI to Generate Blog Posts Can Destroy Your SEO

Using artificial intelligence (AI) to generate blog posts can be bad for search engine optimization (SEO) for several reasons.

First and foremost, AI-generated content is often low quality and lacks the depth and substance that search engines look for when ranking content. Because AI algorithms are not capable of understanding the nuances and complexities of human language, the content they produce is often generic, repetitive, and lacks originality. This can make it difficult for search engines to understand the context and relevance of the content, which can negatively impact its ranking.

Additionally, AI-generated content is often not well-written or structured, which can make it difficult for readers to understand and engage with. This can lead to a high bounce rate (the percentage of visitors who leave a website after only viewing one page), which can also hurt the website’s ranking.

Furthermore, AI-generated content is often not aligned with the website’s overall content strategy and goals. Because AI algorithms are not capable of understanding the website’s target audience, brand voice, and core messaging, the content they produce may not be relevant or useful to the website’s visitors. This can lead to a poor user experience, which can also hurt the website’s ranking.

Another issue with AI-generated content is that it can be seen as spammy or low quality by both search engines and readers. Because AI-generated content is often produced in large quantities and lacks originality, it can be seen as an attempt to manipulate search engine rankings or trick readers into engaging with the website. This can lead to the website being penalized by search engines or losing the trust and loyalty of its visitors.

In conclusion, using AI to generate blog posts can be bad for SEO for several reasons. AI-generated content is often low quality, poorly written, and not aligned with the website’s content strategy. It can also be seen as spammy or low quality by both search engines and readers, which can hurt the website’s ranking and reputation. It is important for websites to prioritize creating high-quality, original, and relevant content to improve their SEO and provide a positive user experience.

[This post was generated using ChatGPT]

The post 5 Reasons Why Using AI to Generate Blog Posts Can Destroy Your SEO appeared first on Davblog.

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

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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.


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.


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


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!