Monday, 21 November 2011

Smokin', Drinkin' and Gettin' High

I've had thoughts whirling around in my brain for years about drugs and stuff and the only way to get them out of my head is to get them on paper. Well not paper but pixels - you know what I mean. I was prompted to do it now because I read a BBC story about how the Australian government are forcing cigarettes to be packaged in non-branded packets to discourage smoking. I thought to myself 'Those idiots are wasting their fucking time. This is how it should be done.'

So here are my unstructured ramblings to solve the UK's tobacco, alcohol and drug problems - just like that.

For most people smoking or drinking or taking drugs is fun and enjoyable - and who cares what they get up to providing that they aren't anti-social or harming anyone else? It really doesn't matter what they do - after all it's their body and their choice. Good luck to them.

Unfortunately an increasing number of people 'enjoy' these activities to excess and are ruining the lives of themselves and others in the process. The UK government spends a lot of money trying to get them to stop and are failing miserably to do so.

Currently the emphasis of anti-'this and that' campaigns is focussed on the health risks associated with substance abuse. I think this is the wrong way to tackle the problem for the following reason:

Health warnings appeal to people's common sense but substance abusers obviously have no common sense otherwise they would not be abusers. Health warnings have been everywhere for years and years but we still have the same problems. People aren't listening - let's face it there are a lot of idiots out there.

So what is the answer?

I think the government should stop worrying about the health of its citizens.

Tell them 'We don't care what you do to yourself - just don't expect us to pick up the bill when you get ill.'

The government is trying to save money in the NHS so why don't they stop treating alcohol, tobacco and drug related illnesses?

There will be deaths of course and people and their families will suffer but the message is a simple one to get across: 'The NHS can't afford to treat people who are trying to kill themselves. If you want the NHS to survive there have to be sacrifices, better it be those who don't want to live than those that do.'

This is very bold and would have to be phased in over a number of years so that people currently being treated don't have the goal posts moved on them. But I think it could work.

The government are telling people exactly how it is. No wishy-washy nannying from the state. They are saying 'We respect you as individuals and we respect the choices you make. But don't expect us to come running when you do something stupid'. Who wouldn't want a government that honest?

As part of this new honesty the government also has to admit that the 'War on Drugs' has been well and truly lost and it needs to back that up by making all drug use legal. The fact is that we waste hundreds of millions of pounds per year fighting against illegal drugs - some of this money could go to the NHS to care for people who actually want to live rather than by trying to save those that don't really care.

Drugs should be available in the same way that alcohol and tobacco are - strictly regulated. Quality controls could be imposed and revenue raised on their sales. Prices would drop and a whole criminal network would be destroyed at a stroke. With the lower prices, crime rates would drop as users would not need to steal to finance their activities. It's a no-brainer, win-win situation.

Naturally there would need to be a huge educational campaign in schools telling of the dangers of drug use (and that includes alcohol and tobacco). Parents also need to be held accountable for setting good examples and educating their children. I think that most kids get into drugs because they hang around with or are bullied by the pond life that unfortunately infects even the best schools. Generalising terribly; I believe that stupid, uncaring parents begat stupid, uncaring children. Only intensive education over many, many years will help with that. Please keep monitoring this blog for the time when I inevitably have an incoherent rant about the state of the UK education system.

Laws also need tightening up and made consistent to discourage underage consumption. For example, it is illegal to buy alcohol if you are under 18 but you can drink alcohol in a pub if you are 16 or 17, accompanied by an adult and eating a table meal. And if you're under 18 it's not illegal to have alcohol at home or a friend's house. Also of course, you can get married or have kids if you're 16. A 17 year old Dad can give alcohol to his one year old daughter but he can't go to the pub by himself! This law is a mess.

For goodness sake, pick an age when to become an adult and stick with it. I say that if you are old enough to marry and have kids, then you are old enough to vote, drink and get high. I believe that age is 18. I think that the age of consent should be kept at 16 because sexual maturity is earlier that intellectual maturity.

It should be illegal to smoke, drink and take drugs before 18. Full stop. No exceptions.

Also to discourage underage drinking I think children under 16 shouldn't be allowed in pubs. I know this is a bit draconian but pubs are for adults. It's where they serve alcohol. Very young children are going into pubs and seeing all the colourful drinks on sale and they are naturally curious especially when they are surrounded by adults drinking them. It's no wonder they want to try them as soon as they can.

Having said all this we do still need to try and save some people from their own stupidity. The 'We don't care what you do' statements need backing up with a campaign to encourage people not to over indulge in their particular vice.

The campaign should not spare the feelings of people or the companies that sell recreational substances - bold honest statements are needed. How about these for anti-smoking:

'Keep on smoking - hurry up and die before we have to pay your pension.'

'Keep on smoking - we need the tax money.'

'Keep on smoking - your kids will soon forget you when you're dead.'

'Keep on smoking - we need to kill off the idiots.'

'Keep on smoking - big businesses are desperate for your money.'

Replace 'smoking' with your drug of choice for other campaigns. This makes the government look very callous but that is the point: 'We are not going to look after you unless you look after yourself.' Most people hate government advice so maybe by using 'reverse psychology' these statements might strike a chord. When challenged, the statements should be defended by the government - none of this 'Ah well, we are being controversial to get your attention' crap. Be clear, for example: 'It is cheaper for the country if people die from drug problems than it is to support them into their later years.'

We will never see anything like this happening in the UK though because it would need a really strong, confident and honest government to pull it off. We are ruled by self-serving idiots who only think of themselves or their powerful 'friends'. They are people who happily push the majority into poverty traps so they can bail out the rich when they fuck up. Every. Time.

In short, they are cunts.

I appear to have gone 'off topic'. Time to stop.

No nice internet links this time because I'm pissed off.

Friday, 9 September 2011

Fun at the Faire

OK, it's been a while. You can see my enthusiasm for this project is waning somewhat but here we go again. Oh, and it gets a bit potty mouthed when I talk about parking in Brighton - those of a fluffy disposition may wish to skip that bit - I shall warn you in advance!

The bank holiday weekend was rather bad. Despite my optimism that it would be better, it wasn't. I had headaches and depression for most of the three days and I really couldn't be arsed to do any work. I had plenty to do for a change and getting it out of the way would have made me feel a lot better. But it was useless so I stayed in bed or wasted my time on the internet.

I was going to go down to Lydden circuit on the Monday to watch the Rally-X events and to say 'hi' to the Project Mobility 4x4 guys that were featured on Top Gear. I wanted to take some action shots of the cars and maybe some pictures of the lads for their publicity. It wasn't to be though and I felt upset that I couldn't be bothered to go out and enjoy myself.

The weekend wasn't all bad news though, Henry Dagg, a good friend of mine, phoned and asked if I'd like to go down to the Brighton Mini Maker Faire the next weekend. I jumped at the offer as I'd always wanted to attend one of these events. Henry had been invited to play his saw at an evening concert after the show and, as he doesn't drive, he asked me to come along. Excellent! Here was a great chance to get out of the house and meet real people doing amazing things. My spirits were lifted for the rest of the week in anticipation.

There was work for me to do during the week and I managed to get it done and was able to pay a couple of bills in the process. Woo. I am a tiger.

Saturday! Road trip!

I picked Henry up in the morning and suggested that he put his busking gear in the van - just in case. It turned out to be a good idea as it happens.

After a few delays on the motorways we arrived in sunny Brighton. It must have been 20 years since I was last there and had good memories of it, apart from forgetting where I parked my car in one of the multitude of identi-kit NCP structures. I had the SatNav on but, as usual, in built-up areas it directed me slightly too late to make turnings without slamming on the brakes. It didn't matter though because it soon corrected and after going the long way round we found the Brighton Dome. Just up the road was an NCP hell hole and I dived in as it was nice and close.

There was no tariff displayed on the road though and I didn't see what proved later to be a small sign at the ticket barrier. It didn't take long to find a (small) space and we parked. I get really annoyed with designers of car parks because the bays are always at right angles to the direction of traffic. This means that there is a lot of shuffling about to get into the tight bays because the access roads are also too narrow. If only they were at an angle, then you could just drive straight in - no problem. Of course you might lose a few bays and that would eat into profits.

There were no instructions on the ticket or signs in the car park to say how, when or where you should pay so I thought 'sod it' and we made our way back to the Dome. It would prove to be an expensive stay.

The Maker Faire was excellent with plenty to do and see. I'll put a link to it at the end to give you a flavour. I particularly liked the Water Theremin, Jane Bom-Bane's hats, the Rep-Rap 3D printer and the Arduino stuff. I found it rather claustrophobic and noisy as the event proved to be much more successful than the organizers had anticipated, well over 5000 visitors. I went twice round the exhibitors just having a quick look at everything as I found it very hard to talk and listen to the people manning the stands. Meanwhile, Henry was having in-depth conversations with a few people and seemed to be enjoying himself.

We got hungry at about 2pm so went off to find food. The weather was lovely and the restaurants busy so we were lucky to find space at an Italian place. We had a reasonably priced, but slightly boring, 'hot' Americano pizza each. We ordered extra fresh chillies to make it actually hot. After the meal we went back to the van to pick up the busking gear as Henry had spotted a good pitch outside The Theatre Royal.

Henry Dagg
An enthusiastic and appreciative crowd soon gathered once Henry started playing the saw, he even sold a CD for twice the marked price - result! Henry really is a quite remarkable person, not only is he a fantastic musician on a number of diverse instruments but he is also a very skilled engineer and inventor. During his performance I spent a glorious afternoon soaking up the sun and taking photos of Henry and the passing crowd. I also got chatting to a very charming musician called Frank Holland (The Pretty Things) who was enjoying the music tremendously.

A Face in the Crowd
After playing, Henry met a friend of his and we retired to a cafe for a drink. I can't remember his name I'm afraid but we had a good talk and set the world to rights. After that it was back to NCP as it was time to make our way to The Brunswick in Hove for the concert.

Potty warning!

As we walked into the car park I finally spotted the tariff sign. 25 quid for six and a half hours parking! The rip-off bastards - I would expect a blow job as well for that kind of money. I drove to the exit barriers expecting to be able to pay with cash and saw a sign printed on the barriers, i.e. too late to do anything about it, that said don't forget to pay for your ticket! Where should I pay for a fucking ticket, where? I saw no signs or meters anywhere. Fortunately the barrier took card payments and so Henry paid for the parking. Goodbye busking money. By the way, the barrier didn't ask for a PIN, it just sucked the card in and then spat it out again with the message £25 debited. Actually that sounds rather like a Brighton blow job (so I'm told) - perhaps I should've just shoved my cock in.

How do NCP get away with this? You can't see how much you're going to pay when you drive in until you are in a queuing system that does not allow you to change your mind and park somewhere else. I've had a moan at them but the cheating money grabbing bastards can't be arsed to even acknowledge me. Cunts. I'll be talking to Brighton Council next.

Fluffy again!

Anyway, we were off to the Brunswick, we got there in plenty of time but had to search for a parking spot. There were problems but I've moaned more than enough for today.

We arrived in time for the sound check and I was fascinated by the equipment on stage: all sorts of interesting stuff. About the only instrument I recognised was a Theremin, everything else had been built by the performers themselves. I was really looking forward to this and I wasn't to be disappointed.

The venue was quite small and was packed with people by the time the concert started. The atmosphere was electric because most of the audience, I think, knew the performers quite well. The artists and audience were mainly Makers who had manned the Faire earlier. I believe I was one of only a few 'outsiders' to attend. Actually 'outsiders' is an unfair word to use as everybody I met all day was friendly and chatty and keen to get people involved in what they were doing. I sat on the same table as a bloke that made underwater robots - how cool is that!

There was such a range of music performed that night that I can't do it justice by writing about it. I have put links at the end that you can follow if you want a taster. Some acts stand out as favourites though:

Jane Bom-Bane at the harmonium singing songs illustrated with marvellous mechanical hats.
The Sawchestra, an amazing group of saw players and accompanying musicians.
Spacedog with the lovely Angliss sisters, Sarah and Jenny - beautiful Theremin and singing and slightly unsettling robots.
The quite extraordinary Thomas Truax with a collection of home-made instruments that your ears will simply not believe.

Jane Bom-Bane

Sarah Angliss

Thomas Truax
If you are in any way creative, I urge you to explore the work of these artists and the other Makers involved - truly inspiring.

Unfortunately the concert had to come to an end but we stayed on for some time and chatted to several people including Sarah Angliss who was quite fascinating (thanks for the drink too, Sarah). The pub was extremely noisy and I had trouble with the conversations though, so I was a bit quiet and uncommunicative.

I enjoy taking photos at music events, maybe I could (not so) subtly hint that I would love it if I could take pictures at concerts in the south-east involving the musicians at the Maker Faire Party. Please leave a comment if you'd like that.

I have rambled on at some length now so it's time to stop. Thanks to everyone at the Faire for a grand day out.

OK, quite a few links to share:

Sorry if I've forgotten anybody.

Saturday, 27 August 2011

Frustrating Friday

So, I'm sat here in my pants wondering what the hell was the point of yesterday.

I got up a bit later than I normally do so felt a bit groggy. In the past I have spent days on end in bed only getting up for bodily functions and a bit of food - that's when the Black Dog was really giving me a bad time but recently I have found that I can't stay in bed after I've woken up as it causes horrible headaches. This is a good thing.

I procrastinated for a few hours on Twitter before I finally went into town to pick up my parcel. I went in the usual door to pick it up. I was first in line but had to wait about 5 minutes for the postman to finish a phone call apologising for some Royal Mail cock up or other. He looked at my card (which I remembered to bring this time. Yay me.) and said 'Oh, you can pick that up from the main post office.'

The system had changed.

Off I toddled to join a queue. When it was my turn 'cashier number two please' disappeared to fetch my parcel from behind the scenes. I have no doubt in my mind that she got it from the same room I was in earlier as that is where all undelivered items end up. Why couldn't the first postman have got it? He was in the same room as the parcel and that is the way it always used to be.

After that I popped round to a friend's house and a had chat for a while then went home. After some food I figured that I should crack on with some work but, again, I got caught up on Twitter and decided work could wait. It got to 6:30pm when I suddenly felt extremely tired and bored and pissed-off. So I went to bed.

I surfaced again at 11:00pm feeling hungry and not at all refreshed. Food and more Twitter followed along with some TV. What a waste of a fucking day. This kind of thing happens all the time and I am totally fed up with it. I always take the easy option and sit in front of the computer because it is just too much effort to do anything else.

I'm turning into a right old fatty. I eat as if I worked hard all day like someone with a real job. Must get more exercise - even going out for a walk everyday would help and not only with physical health but mental health as well. Last summer there was a day when I woke up at about 6am and felt fantastic. I couldn't wait to start the day - I literally leapt out of bed and thought 'I'm going for a walk'. I plotted out a five mile loop and I was on my way. It was glorious. The birds were singing and the quality of light was just beautiful. The rest of the day went well and I got a lot done.

For the rest of the week I was up and out on a different walk and really enjoying it. I walk with friends on Saturdays and by the end of the day I had racked up over 30 miles that week. I didn't go out on Sunday but was looking forward to Monday.

Fucking hell. What was wrong? Monday morning came and all I wanted to do was die.

It felt like I was buried alive - tons of earth pressing on my head but I wasn't suffocating: I was going to be there for an eternity struggling to scratch my way out and not knowing if there was a foot of earth above me or a mile. It makes me shudder even now to remember how that felt. I stayed in bed for about two or three weeks avoiding contact with everyone. Just the thought of speaking on the phone made me feel panicky.

Yes, yesterday was a bit shit to make me think of that again. Saturday needed to be a much better day. I was damn well going to make sure it was.

Here are the highlights of yesterday's browsing history:

Piers Morgan Is A Dick To Penn Jillette via @robinince:

It's the Friday Puzzle! via @RichardWiseman:

Nervous system articulation of a prosthetic hand via @element14:

Bountiful Books: 13 Incredibly Intricate Historic Libraries via @RichardWiseman:

Promenading on BBC2 via @timminchin:

Wonderputt via @pcpro:

Bloodhound Bottle Rockets - Bang Goes The Theory - BBC One via @bbcbang

Marco Tempest: The magic of truth and lies (and iPods) via @UKSKEPTICS:

I think I'll put some clothes on now.

Friday, 26 August 2011

First Post

Yesterday was a bit frustrating. I've got a job waiting for parts but I missed the delivery a couple of days ago as I was having a dump at the time. So I finally felt that I could leave the house yesterday and go into town to pick it up.

I went to the bank to deposit some cheques that were immediately swallowed up by the insane charges that Lloyds TSB seem to think are acceptable. Didn't we bail out Lloyds when they were in trouble? But the fuckers in charge are still screwing every penny out of their customers that they can. It seems that us plebs have to dig deep in our pockets to shore up banks when times are hard but we don't get to benefit when the money comes rolling in again. All the incompetent cunts that got the country in trouble are happily enjoying their bonuses again whilst the rest of us are living hand-to-mouth.

But I digress. So I'm in town and on my way to the post office when I realize that I've left the delivery note at home. Bollocks. By the time I get home I've had enough and can't face going out again. The job will have to wait another day.

It sounds daft but sometimes (a lot of the time) I just do not want to leave the house. I get the feeling in the pit of my stomach that is usually reserved for when you are about to go on stage in front of hundreds of people and you've forgotten what to say. I've got it now because I know I've got to pick up that damn parcel.

I don't think I'm agoraphobic because once I'm out and about I feel fine. I also enjoy going for walks in the countryside, it's just the first step of leaving the house that I can't stand.

Blimey, 315 words at the end of the last paragraph. That's more than I've written for ages. My job does not require me to write reports or letters so the last time I had to do any writing was over 20 years ago in my first job. And not since school for 'creative' writing. I got an 'A' for my English language 'O'-level - how the fuck did I manage that?

The aphorism 'Use it or lose it' is spot on. I've noticed this a lot recently - not just for writing but also for maths, electronics and problem solving or for any kind of logical thinking. I just don't need to use these kinds of skills anymore.

I remember that I could look at a maths or programming problem and just know the correct way of solving it. All my thoughts were focussed and the solution would just present itself. I'm not talking about particularly complicated stuff here but these kinds of problems should be bread and butter stuff really. But I find now that I can't concentrate on anything for very long and I get a kind of 'swirly' feeling in my brain when I'm trying to locate the 'loose end' of the problem that I can make a start on. I can see it there it's just that when I make a grab for it it just slips away out of my grasp.

These problems need addressing but my complete lack of motivation makes it very difficult. I so desperately want to do interesting and creative things with my time but I just can't bring myself to do them. Why is that? Why can't I just enjoy myself? The rewards would be huge if I could only get off my fat arse and do something!

Oh well, enough for today. Here are some things I looked at on the interwebs yesterday that you may like:

Richard Herring's Edinburgh Fringe Podcast: 

Iceland's On-going Revolution:

Have You Ever Tried to Sell a Diamond?: 

Europe needs a revolution: 


Proof: Sir Philip's IT spending review based on false figures: 

And finally, one for the lads (I definitely would): 

I got to these sites from my Twitter feed but I can't remember who sent me there. Have a look at who I'm following, you may find someone you like!

Do I feel better for doing this? Time will tell - stick around and see what happens.

Thanks for reading.