Archive for May, 2005

A needed catchup

Monday, May 30th, 2005

Or should that be “catch up”, to distinguish it from tomato sauce?

I am humbled by the fact that many of my lj friends update much more than daily, and I haven’t been arsed to update since the day after the General Election.

HWMBO has finally landed a new job, one that pays substantially more than he’s making now, and one with the public sector. It’s also closer to Chez Hansen-Tan than his current job. He is ecstatic, and I am very proud of him. The second interview required a day-long battery of tests, both technical and psychological. The headhunter told him that he did remarkably well on all of them. So we’ll be much better off once he’s begun.

I am still on one day a week at Searchspace. My chum at the consultancy which is doing my billing and sponsorship has told me that he’s amalgamating with a German company that makes software in the “quality” arena. This means that I’ll probably have to change my method of getting paid (not that I’ve gotten paid yet…SSL is a notorious cheque-holder-for-30-days type of payer) and suchlike. I do need to think seriously about how to spend my “free” time and what I might want to do after the SSL gig has finished. I’d love to write a book, and go back to university for an advanced degree in something-or-other. It’ll be difficult to do this now, but I want to do it before rapidly-advancing senility overtakes me.

I should also be redoing my website.

In addition, my midlife crisis is fully blown now…I feel as if I’ve wasted most of my time since I graduated from high school. I coasted through Columbia, getting a “gentleman’s B-” and learning more about alcohol than about academic work. I’ve coasted along since then, amassing debt and then only paying it off due to HWMBO’s frugality and our mutual love and respect for each other. I feel like I haven’t much time to do anything interesting or useful.

I know I’ll get over it; perhaps finding either full-time academic study or a good consulting practice around testing and quality will help. But for now, it’s daunting.

I will try to update more regularly; perhaps this will help motivate me to get the rest of my life kickstarted.

Today’s riveting URL

Monday, May 30th, 2005

is here. We are controlling transmission. Thanks to Dave Barry’s blog for this gem.

Stupidity at the Home Office

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

Immigration has been a hot button with the politicians for a long while. However, one would hope that common sense would be able to untangle a mess like this one. The UK husband, British citizen Mr. Cable (an electrician, no less!) brought his Brasilian family to the UK. Now the non-British family are leaving ahead of being deported. His youngest son was born in the UK and, with a British father, is a British citizen. His wife was offered a job that she couldn’t take. His older children have had to interrupt their education. What a mess.

Why is the family being deported? Instead of filling out a settlement visa when they arrived here, they filled out a visitor’s visa. Now, any fule kno that something like this is an innocent mistake. Once the family’s papers such as their marriage certificate and the birth certificates of their children are produced, the paperwork should have been retroactively dealt with. However, they had to return to Brasil before they were deported.

If I were Mr. Cable, I’d stay in Brasil. It worked for the Great Train Robber.

I’m still too conservative, I think…

Sunday, May 8th, 2005

Your Political Profile

Overall: 10% Conservative, 90% Liberal
Social Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Personal Responsibility: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Fiscal Issues: 25% Conservative, 75% Liberal
Ethics: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
Defense and Crime: 0% Conservative, 100% Liberal
How Liberal / Conservative Are You?

Election postmortem

Friday, May 6th, 2005

The General Election is mostly over (Northern Ireland results won’t be known until later today but as they have an entirely different election over there with local issues predominating they can safely be ignored). Labour has been returned with a 66-seat majority, thus making this the first time that Labour has won three consecutive General Elections.

Labour, of course, is harping on that record: three consecutive terms. They are (conveniently) ignoring the fact that Labour has gotten a pasting at the hands of the Liberal Democrats, the Tories, Respect, and any number of independents.

So what do the numbers mean, in my humble opinion.

First, for the Liberal Democrats, the surprise was that they were taking more seats from Labour than from the Conservatives. Charles Kennedy expects to be the official opposition within an election or two; I don’t think he’s close enough yet but, with 59 seats, he has equalled the last major Liberal vote around 80 years ago. What’s more worrying for me (as a LibDem) and what ought to be worrying Kennedy, is the type of seat he’s won and what people are thinking of the LibDems.

Simon Hughes, my local MP, has had a scare as his share of the vote went down this time. Last election he had an absolute majority due to scandals associated with the Labour candidate that time; this time Labour ran an unknown just-graduated student and went up about 5%, dragging Simon down to a “first past the post” win (abbreviated FPTP from now on as my fingers like to type “poast” for some reason). Turnout was also down. Lessons Simon has to learn are: (1) Do a better job at mobilising his workers and voters. I got a call a few days ago asking for my help on Election Day and giving me an address near East Street. I went over there in the afternoon (as arranged) and rang the doorbell. A young man came to the door and when I said that I was there to volunteer, he replied that everyone was gone except him and there was nothing to do. I left my name and phone number so that they know I was there, but it seems to me that the volunteer coordinator for his campaign needs to examine how people are mobilised and where they help out and what they’re to do, and (2) Simon has to start thinking about the succession here. Not that he’s going to retire any time soon, of course; he’s still in his mid 50’s. However, this seat will turn Labour again if he were to retire at the next election. The local party organisation needs to be shaken up and refreshed for the fights ahead. This is one of the LibDem’s most public seats in the centre of London. They need to keep it and build on it.

I’m glad that Simon won, of course; he’s a good MP and a good man, and is a credit to this area (where he grew up–in contradistinction to the constituencies of many MP where they visit it for the first time when selected). Long may he wave.

The trend that I see happening is that a great reorganisation of UK politics is about to happen, and it could go either way. Absent the distortion of the Iraq war, the electorate probably would have kept the LibDems at about the same level as they were. Taking seats from Labour is starting a trend of seeing the LibDems as the party that is left-of-centre, with Labour and the Conservatives fighting for the centre and centre-right. The old union members, who are dying off in their thousands, would vote Labour if they ran an amoeba. However, younger voters who are not tied to Labour by the umbilical cord of “The Red Flag” and who remember Margaret Thatcher dimly, if at all, should be the LibDems target voters. By doing that, they will deny these voters to Labour and will nail themselves to the left side of British politics. Ignore these people, and they will lose all their gains (and more, perhaps) at the next election.

The good thing about the LibDem results is that they are now seen as viable candidates, even a viable government. This will help them in constituencies where the mantra has always been, “A LibDem vote is a wasted vote.” The BBC, in their lamentable “Swingometer”, has for the first time included the LibDems in a “Swingometer” of their own, where swings of percentage are analysed to spot national trends. A visual where the three main parties were seen as thirds of a “pie”, and where the seats were located on their individual sections as to their danger of being lost to the “adjacent” party, is also a first.

Come on, Mr. Kennedy: Build on this foundation, and build well! Examine your policies, make sure that they are not only good for elections but good for government, and lead your people, don’t follow them. If you do this, next time around it’s possible that a hung parliament might give you the entry into government you need to get proportional voting passed in this country. Oh, and enjoying a dram is OK, but moderation in all things except your passion for public service would be well-received by all.

Second, for the Conservatives. Yes, they have done well, and taken back some seats that are naturally theirs. Enfield Southgate is an example: Stephen Twigg, he of the eye-roll in 1997 when he swept Portillo away, looked haggard and unwell as he stood listening to the returning officer send him into premature retirement. I’m sure there will be a few before/after pictures of him at the two elections this morning.

However, Michael Howard is not necessarily the architect of all this. He didn’t win over Labour; Labour lost to him. He would have gotten these seats anyway, I think. There are probably a lot of electors who voted for Conservatives because they were not Labour. This will come back to haunt Howard at the next election, assuming he will be able to lead the Tories into it. He is getting old for a sitting politician (and don’t mention Churchill, who was ga-ga for most of his second stay in Downing Street, as a contrary example) and, while he seems in good shape, being 68 or so at a general election can take a lot out of you, and leave you too exhausted to form a good government. Even Iain Duncan-Smith, lamentable as he is, probably would have won more seats from Labour.

The second problem is in the House of Lords at the moment. Margaret Thatcher, milk-snatcher, Reagan-lover, privatiser, still lives on and on. Until she is “most sincerely dead” and the little Coroner has said so, her shadow will continue to blight the Conservatives. In death there is hope, it is said.

Howard’s relief must be that so many new MPs are coming into Parliament to dilute the mass of vipers who have, up to now, ensured that most Conservative brain power is taken up with plotting against the leader. There will be no plotting this time around, I believe. However, there is also no logical successor who is not tinged with the Curse of Thatcher. Redwood is bizarre. Ken Clarke is too busy keeping Big Tobacco afloat. Portillo has the TV career to look after (and thus did not stand). Rifkind has a safe seat but was again a Cabinet Minister in the last Tory government. Ann Widdicombe is too flaky to be leader, although I admire her outspokenness, rare in a serving politician. She once repeated to a larger audience Cardinal Hume’s private opinion of Archbishop Carey’s personality; Hume was not amused.

I think that the Tories need one more election loss to finally shake off the dust of Maggie from their sandals. By the time the next election but one arrives (2013 to 2015, depending on when the next two elections are called) almost all of the previous government’s ministers and minions will have left politics and new Tories, unencumbered by Maggie, will be standing for Parliament. This is exactly what happened with Labour: hardly anyone from the previous Callaghan government was returned in the 1997 election. The advantage to this is that the Tories couldn’t point to Labour and say that they were the people who’d ruined the country in the 1970’s. The disadvantage is that hardly anyone in Labour had ever served in even a junior ministerial post in government and they needed some seasoning.

I will post separately my thoughts on what Labour will do; I’m very tired from being up until 3:30 and then waking at 7:30 and need a bit of a rest.

What my SAT score means

Thursday, May 5th, 2005

Your SAT Score of 1420 Means:

You Scored Higher Than Howard Stern
You Scored Higher Than George W. Bush
You Scored Higher Than Al Gore
You Scored Higher Than David Duchovny
You Scored Higher Than Natalie Portman
You Scored Lower Than Bill Gates
Your IQ is most likely in the 130-140 range
Equivalent ACT score: 32
Schools that Fit Your SAT Score:

Amherst College
Dartmouth College
Williams College
University of Pennsylvania
Columbia University

What Does Your SAT Score Mean?

Of course, I am a graduate of Columbia University (BA 1974, Latin and Greek), so it’s true, as far as that goes. I believe that a score of 1400 or more also entitles you to join Mensa without further testing (when I joined, mumblety-mumble years ago) it did for me.

This score is nearly 36 years old now, however. Brain shrinkage and general mopery would account for the fact that I’m finding my Greek refresher course difficult and that I found Chinese absolutely devastating to what few brain cells still function up there.

My vote in the General Election

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2005

The General Election has become pretty tiresome in the last few days. New Labour has taken fright at the number of people who are attracted to the Liberal Democrats’ stand against the war in Iraq, and now are trying to convince wavering voters that a vote for the LibDems will allow Michael Howard into Downing Street by the back door. (I’ve seen the back door into Downing Street, and it’s as well protected as the front door).

I believe that this blog from qwghlm references evidence that the political life of the country is changing dramatically. Worth a read.

I am a Liberal Democrat (paid-up member even). One of the reasons is that they are forthright about their plans. Going into an election saying that they will raise taxes is not normally a way to garner votes. There is a crying need in this country to be frank about the facts. The economy is good at the moment, but New Labour are storing up trouble for the future, are not being frank about their tax plans (or are too ignorant to understand why there may be a need for higher/different taxes–which is worse, I don’t know), are running (again!) with a man who is a proven liar (or ignorant–ditto the last parenthesised remark), and someone who has allowed his ego and ambition to overshadow the good of the country. Michael Howard is maliciously playing upon the natural xenophobia of an island nation and downplaying the facts: immigration is (in general) good for a country that is becoming a provider of services. Who’s going to wash the dishes and pick the tomatoes that the Islington set puts on their foccacia? As for tax cuts, I don’t believe that the Conservatives actually think they’ll be able to cut taxes that much. Saying they will is pandering to the natural human tendency to want lots of public services for free. Nothing comes for free. The inevitable cuts in public services would rebound on the Tories.

But another reason is more personal. Our local MP, Simon Hughes, helped HWMBO and me when HWMBO’s application for temporary leave to remain as my partner was lost by the Home Office. He asked them where it was, and they miraculously found it and approved it, all within a month. More to the point, I had posted in a Usenet newsgroup and in uk-motss about our plight and the fact that we were writing Simon for help. One of Simon’s assistants read my post and emailed me directly, asking how Simon could help! This is an MP who knows a lot about constituency services and who hires people who care about his constituents too. The help started before they’d even gotten our letter.

So we’d vote for Simon no matter what. The Tory candidate in Southwark North and Bermondsey doesn’t even register on the radar. The New Labour candidate hasn’t bothered to canvass around here nor even leave any of her literature. This seat used to be safe for Old Labour up until Simon squared off against Peter Tatchell in 1983. They haven’t really gotten a look-in since (although Simon got a scare in the 1997 election as the Labour candidate came within about 3000 votes of unseating him).

The old American adage that “all politics is local” is, I believe, starting to come true here in the UK. Local candidates with stands on local issues can get elected, even if they are independents (a doctor who campaigned to save a local hospital won in 2001 and is running again).

Politics is full of surprises. I think that Labour will come in with about a 100-seat majority. I think the LibDems will come in at about 65-70 seats (which would be their best in almost a century). The Conservatives will, as has been usual, turn on their leader after the debacle as Howard will be too old to fight another general election, assuming a 4-year term for this Parliament (he’s 65 or so now). To whom will they turn? Ken Clarke is also too old, Malcolm Rifkind is still the Old Guard, John Redwood is too maverick, Portillo is too out of politics (as well as being too pink), Oliver Letwin may be out of Parliament–and if he is elected, he may be too concerned with his own majority to bother with leading the party. Until Margaret Thatcher (and her little dog Tebbit too!) finally kick the bucket, the shadow of Thatcherism will poison the Conservative Party .

Which brings me to my real fear in British politics: the lack of an effective opposition. In the United States, the separation of powers means that Executive, Legislature, and Judiciary keep each other in check (sometimes: the current signs from Washington aren’t too good). However, due to our history, the United Kingdom has no separation of powers: they all inhere in the Crown and in Parliament. The Prime Minister and Cabinet can basically do whatever they agree to do as long as they have a loyal group of backbenchers to follow them. The Opposition (and there is a reason they’re called Her Majesty’s Loyal Opposition) are there to call attention to what the government is doing, to criticise it constructively, to work in committee to amend and improve bills, to work in the Lords to revise bills sent from the Commons, and generally to ensure that the Government doesn’t always get its unalloyed way. If the Opposition is ineffective (as it has been during all of Labour’s 8 years in office, since the Tories have been too busy tearing each other apart to be effective) then the Government can basically do whatever it wants. This is a bad thing, as no party or Government has all the answers even if it has a large majority.

We need an effective Opposition. If the Tories can’t get their act together soon (and I think they have one more Parliament to do it in) then we will need to think of alternatives. The Liberal Democrats seem to be that alternative, at the moment. Getting nearly 70 seats in this Parliament will help move people’s opinions, as up until recently they were too small to be thought of as an opposition party or even as a potential government.

So if you’re a British voter, please ensure that you do your duty this Thursday and vote for whomever you think is the best candidate in your constituency.

Have to get this in….

Sunday, May 1st, 2005

Hooray, hooray, the first of May!
Outdoor shagging starts today.

Today in rogueclassicism

Sunday, May 1st, 2005

we have a revision to the Revelation of John’s Number of the Beast.

I particularly enjoyed the last paragraph.