Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Strike!

So, the strike...

On the one hand:

- I'm really not a fan of the various union leaders. In fact, they seem to go out of their way to make sure I don't like them. And I can't help but think that a large part of their motivation is political; if the Labour party were in office doing exactly the same things, I daresay they wouldn't be as active.

- It is true that much of our public services just aren't fit for purpose (with the House of Commons being the most obvious example). It is true that there is a very strong case for some cuts. It is true that we're just not getting good value for money in a lot of areas. It is true that there are entire functions that various organisations are providing that they really shouldn't be. It is true that the bureaucracy has gotten badly out of hand, and is now serving the bureaucracy more than it should (and, sometimes, more than it does us). And it is likely true that there are entire layers of middle management that could simply be eliminated that would not only not reduce services, but which would actually improve them.

- If we were setting up public sector pay and pension arrangements from a blank slate, it is almost certainly the case that we wouldn't offer anything like the current arrangement, and even the revised arrangement on offer is probably more generous than what would be tabled.

However...

We're not setting up public sector pay and pension arrangements from a blank slate. A particular set of pay and conditions were agreed, including the current pension arrangements. And simply trying to change those unilaterally is wrong.

(And, actually, it's exactly the same argument as I made with the banker bonuses at the start of the year - the contracts say that particular payments should be made; those payments should be made. Despite most of the banks being in public ownership, the government haven't insisted on a mass renegotiation of banker pay, and they haven't even insisted that the banks only pay out the minimum contractually-required bonuses. That they are instead going after public sector workers is a rather shocking double standard.)

The government tabled an initial ridiculous offer. They had it rejected, and came back with another "generous" offer that was still unacceptable. They seem strongly disinclined to further negotiations. That being the case, striking is certainly justified.

(At the moment, the government are asking public sector workers to accept a multi-year pay freeze followed by a two-year 1% increase while inflation is around 5% (effectively, a big pay cut), and to pay more into their pension, and to work longer, and to get a smaller pension at the end. And in return they'll... well, nothing really. Some negotiation. Any one of these, or maybe the combination of "pay freeze" and "work longer", might be acceptable, but all together? Yeah, right.)

As far as I can see, the only thing wrong with the strike is that it's a one-day stoppage. This will probably hurt the workers more than it does the government. Still, this is probably just the opening shot - I can foresee worse to come.

It's going to be an interesting few months.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

One More Update on Goals

As we move into December, I think there's time for one last update on goals, before the end-of-year wash-up:

  • Super Secret Goal #3 - Complete.
  • Blog more - Ongoing. The blog passed 800 posts quite recently, but in order to reach the target of 999 by April 11th it probably needs to hit 900 by the end of this year, which isn't happening.
  • Lose weight - Ongoing. As with the blog target, I haven't done as much as I would have liked, and won't have done as much as I would like by the end of the year, but I'm not too unhappy about the actual progress to date.
  • The band got promoted last year, which meant that our goal for 2011 was to attain promotion again. This proved to be far too ambitious, and so this goal is failed.
  • The Saturday Game - Complete. It seems doubtful that we'll get together again this year, and we'll probably only get together a couple of times in the new year. A shame, but there it is.
  • Write something - Ongoing. I had hoped to get this done for Lady Chocolat returning, but that proved over-ambitious. My revised deadline was the end of this month, but wasn't able to find the time. I intend to have it done by the end of the year.
  • Relax more - Complete-ish. As discussed last time, I let things slide a bit and created problems for myself. Better to just stay on top of things!
  • Books - I have finished "War and Peace", completing the reading I set out at the start of the year. Further, I have now reached 34 books for the year. There are five more books I would like to read, including one from The List. This should be possible, but I'm not going to press too hard.
  • Painting - Complete. For now, I have no intention of investing in any more miniatures. I should probably find a good home for the left-over paint and brushes!
  • Wedding Preparations - Ongoing. These remain well in hand. The wedding cars are booked, we had another meeting with the photographer on Saturday, and we sorted out the bulk of the Guest List on Friday. (That last was absolutely brutal. It's really no fun deciding which of your friends not to invite, since you can't invite everyone.)


Five complete, one failed, and four ongoing. Not a bad position to be in at this stage.

#34: "Pathfinder: Forest of Spirits", by Richard Pett

Monday, November 28, 2011

Both barrels...

George Osborne has decided to start building infrastructure projects to create jobs, and get the economy moving. He's finally realised that that's the sort of thing that really needs to be done to help fix things.

I was absolutely delighted at this... for all of five seconds. And then it was explained how he was going to pay for it all: yet more cuts. Cuts that don't help at all, that just demoralise everyone, that destroy confidence, and that therefore act as a massive drag on the economy.

He was so close. But he might as well not have bothered. Gutted.

Meanwhile, on the yellow side of our disaster of a government, Nick Clegg has finally realised that people hate the Lib Dems. So, he's going to take action to fix that, right?

Well, no. He's called in his marketing experts to help rebrand the party.

Because of course, when people hate you for your actions, and don't trust you because of your lies, the thing to do is carry on with the same actions but find ways to lie more effectively!

If the Lib Dems want to avoid the annihilation that awaits them at the next election, I recommend the following:

1) Withdraw from the coalition immediately. Abstain from all future votes, thus avoiding bringing down the government, but under no circumstances support any government policy.

2) Replace Nick Clegg as leader, and then throw him, and any other person who held office in this government, out of the party.

That is the minimum required to have a chance. Even that will probably not be enough. But anything less will leave the party tainted with the poisonous stink of supporting the current hated government, and leave intact their deserved reputation for mendacity.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

We can rebuild it. We have the technology

I have fixed my bookshelves, at least for a little while. The problem seems to be that they were overloaded, with the books forcing the sides apart, tearing the nails out of place, and causing the whole thing to sag.

I took it out of place, tightened the holding screws, re-did the nails, added some new nails... and it seems nice and solid. I have since re-stacked the shelves, being careful not to force so many books in. This has the benefit that the shelves are now back together, but has the disadvantage that there really isn't enough space for all the books. It seems I need to get some more bookshelves.

And that's before even considering all the hundreds of books LC will be bringing with her...

Friday, November 25, 2011

There's only one way to find out!

Here's a question: who is the greatest heroine in Sci-fi? I'm pretty sure it's either Sarah Connor or Ripley, but which?

There are actually some marked similarities. In the first film, each is relatively defenceless against a far superior threat. In the second film, each reaches a point where she takes a stand against the foe ("Get away from her, you bitch!" being one of the greatest lines in all of sci-fi).

And in each case, you hear occasional tales of a further sequel or two, but nothing seems to come of it...

Now, I like Sarah Connor, but then I also like Ripley. But which is better?

Thursday, November 24, 2011

On the Horns of a Dilemma

I have always had mixed feelings about the Harry Potter films. "Philosopher's Stone" is very distinctly a kids film, and frankly an over-long one at that. "Chamber of Secrets", on the other hand, is fantastic - definitely my favourite of the series. "Prisoner..." is probably a really good film, but I found the change in tone to be rather jarring after what had gone before, and unlike others I didn't really welcome it.

"Goblet of Fire" is the last one I own on DVD. For the first time, I found that the film was really too short - the need to compress the story to fit the allotted time really compromised the narrative. "Order of the Phoenix" is my second-favourite film, largely because of the portrayal of Dolores Umbridge (for my mind, the best and most unique villain in Harry Potter). But "Half-blood Prince" again suffered from being too compressed, which was a shame as it's probably the best of the novels.

And then they decided to split "Deathly Hallows" into two films. I am really not a fan of that approach - IMO, only "Kill Bill" has managed to pull off that little trick. Still, I suppose it meant that they didn't need to compress as much. It's just a shame that DH is one of the few books that would benefit from some serious compression - Harry just spends far too long wandering around on the periphery of the action. And so, Part One is largely spent setting things up for Part Two (and so is a rather wasted film), and while Part Two is considerably better (third best in the series, IMO), the climax is rather to pyrotechnic for my tastes - quite at odds with the final showdown in the book.

Why is this relevant?

Well, due to combination of factors. While I am not personally a huge fan, Lady Chocolat is. "Deathly Hallows, Part Two" is about to be released on DVD. However, in a Disney-esque move, the publishers have decided to release it for all of a month, before withdrawing all the DVDs from sale.

All of which leads to a slightly tricky dilemma. I'm inclined to think we should own a set of the movies, and if they're going to be available for only a short time, it should probably be now. That's fair enough - a boxed set of all eight can be had for a very reasonable price.

But... do we go for the DVD set, or a combined DVD/Blu-ray set? At the moment, I have a Standard Def TV and DVD player, but I also happen to know that I'll be being upgraded to a High Def TV in the nearish future, after which a Playstation 3 becomes a very likely purchase. And that suggests the Blu-ray set.

It's a tricky one. Normally, the answer would be "get DVD now, and maybe upgrade later", but with the rapid deletion...

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Not Ready for eBooks

I'm finding the idea of getting a Kindle and/or iPad (or equivalents) increasingly tempting as time goes on. However, I am as yet resisting, for five reasons:
  • Despite the oddities inherent in this position given my choice of careers, I'm actually something of a Luddite when it comes to all this newfangled technology. I only got a mobile phone when I was going to visit CJ in the States, and needed some way to be in contact while on the move. I've avoided getting any sort of smartphone, don't bother with Faceboo, and have skipped the delights of MMORPGs entirely. So, to some extent, it's just a matter of principle. (That said, I was an "early adopter" of DVD. Probably one of my best moves, that.)
  • Can't use a Kindle on an airplane whilst taking off or landing (although you should be able to - those things are hardened against lightning strikes; they can handle passengers reading Dan Brown's latest excretions).
  • If I'm away somewhere and my £8 book gets lost/stolen/damaged, it's annoying but no big deal. The occasional £8 is below my threshold of notice, so I'll just get a new copy and move on. However, if my £100 Kindle is lost/stolen/damaged, that's quite another thing. Especially since it would also mean the loss (at least temporarily) of the entire library of books contained within, including the three or four other novels I've taken on holiday with me.
  • This one is specific to the iPad. The one use I have for this device is as storage for my many RPG books. But, in order to be really useful it would need to contain all my RPG books, including the ones currently littering the floor in the Purple Room (due to a broken bookshelf). Many of those books simply aren't legally available in PDF, and in any case buying new copies is too expensive to consider. So the one immediate use I actually have for such a device is also not something I can legally do.
  • Books aren't subject to VAT. Computer files, including eBooks, are.

#33: "Pathfinder: The Hungry Storm", by Jason Nelson

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The Return of Lady Chocolat

Lady Chocolat returned from Kenya on Saturday, and I was able to unveil my latest surprise by meeting her at Heathrow. This proved to be a particularly wise move, as the flight up on Sunday was delayed, but more on that later.

Originally, my plan for her return had been to take the day off work and meet her at Glasgow airport. That was pretty much the best I could do. However, quite close to her departure there was a change of dates, which meant that her return would be on a weekend. And so a plan was born... The day after she left, once I had confirmed details of her return flights and hotel, everything was ready.

The last week was pretty dire, actually. Whereas previous weeks had been a case of just getting on with things, this last week was like the countdown to Christmas or to the school holidays - I just wanted it done, was excessively conscious of the clock, and so it dragged out. But, finally, I got to Friday, which was spent on an epic painting session, and then in to Saturday, and I was off.

The flight down was fine. I checked in online, didn't have a bag to drop, sailed through security (who made me put my boat away. Spoil-sports!), waited a while with a coffee, got on the plane, read for a while, and got off the plane. Pretty standard, really. I was amused that they quite often showed our journey's progress on a big map of europe, where the plane icon they were using was bigger than the distance we were travelling on the map!

On arrival, I made my way from Terminal 5 to Terminal 3. This proved to be a mistake - for all its faults, Terminal 5 is a much more modern facility and generally more pleasant. I should probably have waited there until the last minute before transferring. But no matter. In Terminal 3 I got a couple of sandwiches, spent a couple of hours reading, and then spent an hour impatiently bouncing from foot to foot while LC made her way off the plane, through customs, collected her bag, and into Arrivals.

Surprise!

We stayed in the Premier Inn. This is the second time we've stayed in one of their hotels (the first being in Belfast), and I must admit to being impressed. The staff were helpful and welcoming, the room was spacious, and the bed was comfortable. Basically, I couldn't fault it.

Now, I'm not claiming that it is the best hotel I've ever stayed in. However, I have now stayed in most of the budget chains, and this one is definitely the best of those. And the facilities put a lot of other, more expensive, hotels to shame - indeed, in terms of the room itself, it even beats out some much higher-starred hotels. So, that's good.

(Probably the best thing, though, is that PI Heathrow seemed pretty much identical to PI Belfast. That consistency is itself a boon, since it allows one to book with confidence with what you're getting. I've had generally good results by picking at random, but there have been some stinkers, one particular hotel in Paris being notable...)

We went for the full breakfast, and stocked up on all manner of foods. Good thing we did, really. (The breakfast was a most welcome start to the day - the range was good, the quality was okay if not exceptional, and the price wasn't too steep.)

We then made our way back to Terminal 5. There was fog, which meant delays...

LC had to check-in and drop a bag off. Fortunately, when checking in, she found that the seat next to mine was still free. (I had checked in online previously - for some reason I had to do both flights together.) We then proceeded through security again, grabbed a seat, and waited.

Our flight was delayed, but we were told that it was expected to leave at 12:45 instead of 12. As a result of this, we decided that it wasn't quite time for lunch, so waited. And, fair play to them, they seemed to be running roughly to-time, albeit offset by about 45 minutes. So, they got us onto the plane at about the right time for a 12:45 departure...

Pretty much as soon as we were all on the plane, and stuck there, the captain informed us that there was going to be another hour to wait before take-off. We had no choice but to wait, stuck in our seats.

It's fair to say I was more than a little annoyed about that. Firstly, I don't think they should have had us board the plane in that case. Terminal 5 has its faults, but it is much more comfortable than being stuck in a plane unnecessarily. However, I think that decision is forgivable.

But they should have made it clear to us what the delays were going to be. Had we known, we would have made sure to get some lunch before boarding. That way, the additional wait and the flight would have been much more comfortable. Instead, we had to go hungry. And, of course, there wasn't any meaningful food on the plane. Polo mints do not make a good lunch.

Anyway, eventually the flight took off. I read for quite a while, finished my book, started the next one, and then we landed. And all was well - Lady Chocolat was home.

#32: "The Books of the South", by Glen Cook

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Waaaagh!

After a truly epic painting session lasting more than two whole "Indiana Jones" soundtracks, I finished the last of my Orks last night. The varnish was applied this morning, and they have now joined the rest of the horde (or "Waaagh") on top of my DVD shelves.

I have now completed all but one of the things from my "to do" list for before Lady Chocolat returns from Kenya, and all but one from my "nice to do" list. In both cases, the remaining task was just one step too far, and I have no chance of finishing it off in time.

Anyway, when the last coat went on to the last Ork yesterday I felt suddenly, immensely, happy. Actually, 'happy' isn't quite the right word. Relieved? Free? Something like that.

Given that, why do I now feel a strong urge to rush out and buy a whole bunch more?

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Disaster!

To my horror, I discovered that one of my bookshelves had collapsed on Saturday. This was terrible, not because of the loss of the shelves (they're cheap and nasty £30 efforts from Argos), but rather because of the books that live on the shelves.

This discovery prompted a hasty round of lifting the books from the shelves, and checking that they were okay. Fortunately, no harm was done. My books had survived.

This is extremely fortunate. The shelf in question contained about half of my RPG books, many of which are now irreplacable (being long out of print, and only having a few copies printed ever), and others of which would be extremely expensive to replace (for the same reason). Not to mention that this is a collection assembled over two decades of play...

Of course, I find it mightily coincidental that Lady Chocolat made her anti-RPG agenda quite clear, then arranged for herself a water-tight alibi, a scant few weeks before the shelves containing my RPG books collapsed... I can only presume her agents are at work in her absence.

Anyway, I now have an additional task for the list, one that won't be finished before Lady Chocolat returns (and therefore, she will be forced to bear witness to the horrors) - the replacement or repair of the bookshelves. My inclination at this time is to go for a repair, rather than to invest in another set of low-quality Argos shelves. I'll need to see, though - the shelves will need to be pulled out of position before I can determine if a repair is possible. My belief is that a good round of nails should do the trick, but one can never know. (Unfortunately, at this time it is not practical to invest in some good shelves, so the only question is whether to repair the existing dodgy shelves or to buy some new, equally dodgy shelves. Since the repair is considerably less hassle, it is preferable.)

#31: "Black Crusade", by Fantasy Flight Games

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

My Best Friend vs Man's Best Friend

Over on the Chrlog, Chris has raised the question of who is to be my best man. Now, naturally, Chris was the second person I thought of (after Optimus Prime, of course, but it turns out that he's fictional and so unlikely to make it). However, there has been a development...

Inspired by the glorious example of Kim Kardashian, I decided to see if I could use the wonders of TV to fund the wedding. Therefore, I pitched an idea for a TV show to Sky: "My Best Friend vs Man's Best Friend" - a reality TV contest where several random blokes would be pitted against dogs in a bid to become my best man. Contestants would be judged on many 'best man' duties, such as the ability to bring me alcohol, willingness to chase after pretty girls, and ability to give a drunken and embarrassing speech on cue.

(Naturally, the balance of tasks would be important, to avoid skewing the contest too far one way or the other. For example, the St Bernard would have a clear advantage in the "bringing alcohol" contest, while the human contestants would have a clear edge in speech-giving over all dogs, except K-9 and the dogs from "Up", of course.)

Anyway, I figured there would be no way that a TV channel would go for such a ridiculous and outlandish concept, but that was because I haven't watched any reality TV lately. Apparently, Sky Living already have a very similar show, but with less intelligent contestants.

So they've commissioned the show.

Naturally, the big decision that needed to be taken was: who would be the judges. Obviously, I would have to be the head judge, but who else would be suitable?

Well, it obviously had to be a mixed panel, so as not to give the human or canine contestants an unfair advantage. And I think we've done a really good job. Playing the role of "the nasty judge", we have Kelsey Grammar who, having been married several times, knows a thing or two about best men. Our celebrity dog judge is none other than the legend that is Bouncer from Neighbours. And our final 'wild card' judge is that paragon of advertising: Churchill. (Although, to be fair, I think he may have agreed just a little too quickly...)

Anyway, look for my show coming this winter!

(Of course, there isn't a single thing in this post that is actually true. Although a big part of me really wishes it was!)

Saturday, November 05, 2011

A Fascinating Fact

There is only one wedding in the Star Wars saga, which takes place at the end of "Attack of the Clones". This is between Anakin Skywalker and Padme.

What is less obvious is the role of the other characters present. See, the marriage takes place in secret, so only five characters are present: Anakin and Amidala, C-3P0 and R2-D2, and an unnamed official. Obviously, the official conducts the wedding, so that makes sense, but the droids...

Well, it turns out that R2-D2 is the maid of honour, presumably in a Patrick Dempsey style (with all the horror that that entails). See, at that point of time he still belongs to the court of Naboo (canonically, Padme gives him to Anakin as a gift when he becomes a full Jedi Knight, in the Clone Wars cartoon). That clearly means that he's on the bride's side, and since he's clearly neither the mother nor father of the bride, the next most important role...

And C-3P0 must be the best man. Much the same logic applies - he belongs to Anakin, and that's the role that most needs filled.

I'll just repeat that for effect: C-3P0 is Darth Vader's best man.

Anyway, this explains why Darth Vader expresses no surprise at C-3P0's condition when they meet up in Cloud City (in "Empire Strikes Back"). Presumably, he's used to seeing him legless...

A Matter of Succession

So, the government have quietly announced that from now on, daughters of the monarch will have the same rights of succession as sons. That is, if William and Catherine's first-born is a daughter, she will become queen ahead of any younger brothers she has.

As a matter of principle, this is something that is long overdue, even if it doesn't really affect anyone currently living. (Depending on how it is worded, it may mean that Anne and her children move up the list, while Edward and his children move down... but barring a major event, neither of these two were ever going to be crowned monarch anyway.) So, on the face of it, this is a good move.

However...

It does rather beg the question of why the eldest child should become monarch anyway. Why Charles, and not Andrew, or Anne, or Edward? After all, the sex of a child is essentially just a matter of probability, and the birth order is likewise just a matter of probability. The eldest child is not automatically in any way a better as a candidate as monarch. If we're eliminating one accident of birth as a criterion for becoming monarch, why not another?

So perhaps when the monarch dies, the surviving children should draw lots to determine who becomes the next king or queen. Or, indeed, perhaps we should have an election.

But, of course, it's actually a very short jump from that to the ultimate step along this path - the elimination of the monarchy entirely. After all, being born a prince rather than a pauper is just a matter of an accident of birth. Being born to a rich family does not automatically make you a better candidate for monarch than anyone else.

(And I say all this despite not actually being anti-monarchy. In principle, I would prefer a republic. But in practice, I can't see any better solution, especially given the caliber of politicians we have currently.)

It's a very dangerous game, adjusting the rules for succession. Because as soon as you make any change, you open the door for making any change.

Friday, November 04, 2011

War and Peace

In a mammoth reading session, I managed to reach the end of "War and Peace" last night, a little ahead of schedule. In all, it has taken just under 100 days to get through.

It was an interesting novel, not least because it had a very clear agenda - Tolstoy wanted to argue that history was not a result of the actions of Great Men, but rather an inevitable procession of events that just aren't under anyone's control.

I disagree, mostly. While history is not just the story of Great Men, and while looking for a single ultimate cause of any historical event is rather foolish, this does not by itself negate free will, nor does it make history inevitable.

Tolstoy's argument is rather flawed, in a number of ways. In particular, he makes the assumption that the universe is infinite (it isn't) and that time is infinite (it isn't, in either direction). He also argues that historical events are inevitable, based on the fact that once you've done something you cannot take them back and do them differently. The faulty logical leap here is obvious - just because you cannot now go back and change things doesn't mean that at the time you couldn't have acted differently.

He also attacks historians based on their search for an ultimate cause of historical events. His argument here is that every cause is, itself, the result of some other cause, and so on back in time. This is correct, as far as it goes. However, what he neglects to consider is the possibility of 'windowing' history - when studying the causes of the Second World War, historians won't go back to the Roman Empire and work from there, but rather will go back just a few decades. Having doen this, they'll note the starting conditions, and work from those. In effect, this means that all studies of history are at best a simplification of reality... but that's inevitable. The only totally accurate map of history would be identical to the events themselves!

I think he's also wrong to discount the actions of Great Men entirely. Indeed, he argues that such figureheads are actually the least free figures in history, as they have to act in accordance with the inevitable path of events. But this just isn't true, either.

Arguably, the course of events will be directed by the sum of the will of the seven billion people on Earth. That makes sense (although even that is a simplification, since it neglects factors we do not control, such as the weather). However, it is also true that some people have a greater or lesser impact than others - if Barack Obama decides we're going to attack Iran, that counts for rather more than if I decide we won't!

Tolstoy's counter-argument here is that any movement of armies is dependent on the many people in the army - if the men and women of our armed forces refused to attack Iran, then the will of our politicians is moot. This is true, as far as it goes. However, it depends on many thousands of people exercising their will to countermand the will of one other, and it depends on them doing so even when they're strongly incentivised not to do so. They could refuse to fight, but they won't - if only a few refuse, they will be punished harshly, and a mass refusal is highly unlikely in anything but the most extreme circumstances.

Anyway.

If the purpose of literature is to make us think, then this was a great book, even if I disagree. If the purpose is simply to entertain, then I'm afraid it was little better than okay. I'm glad I read it... but I won't be reading it again in a hurry!

#30: "War and Peace", by Leo Tolstoy (a book from The List)

Thursday, November 03, 2011

Fourth Season Syndrome

It is an almost univeral law that for any TV series you care to name, the second and third seasons are the very best the show has to offer. (It's not absolutely universal, before you start citing exceptions...)

The reasons for this are quite simple, actually. In the first season, the creators are working without feedback, and so they have to take their best guess at what the audience will like. So, some ideas will work, some will fail, and others will do okay. In the second season, then, they are able to refine the concept. Ideas that didn't work out are dropped, while others that worked well are expanded. And so things are great for a year or two.

Problem is, after three years or so, they will have used up all of their best material. At this point, they will go one of two ways - either they start expanding on lesser ideas (resulting in an inevitable loss of quality), or they will try to take the show in new directions by shaking it up (almost certainly resulting in a loss of quality).

The latest casualty of this law has been "Fringe", which ended its third season extremely strongly. Unfortunately, they've started the fourth season by introducing a major paradox that has dramatically shaken up the world and the characters. The reasoning between these changes makes no sense (in order to fix a broken universe, some of the characters deliberately caused a time paradox?). And, worst of all, they've retconned the previous three seasons. Effectively, it's like jumping into an entirely different show four seasons in, but only after someone managed to destroy all of the DVDs of the previous three series.

Basically, it's not a good situation. As things stand, "Fringe" will be joining "Torchwood", "Bones" and "House" on the reject pile, which is a shame.

Meanwhile, "Merlin" is continuing to be quite good, although it, too, is suffering from Fourth Season Syndrome. (I would say more, but Lady Chocolat hasn't seen it yet... spoilers!) "Strikeback: Project Dawn" has ended, but was at least good fun, if not particularly high art. "Carnivale" remains good, but is nearly finished. And "Terra Nova" remains... okay, I guess.

Finally, two annoyances. It looks like Sky have taken the decision over the last season of "Chuck" out of my hands - they've decided not to bother showing the last thirteen episodes. I'm marginally annoyed at this, since I had decided to see it out. And it's still not clear when (or if) "Clone Wars" will be returning. But then, that's going into its fourth season as well...

As things stand, it looks like I'll be down to "Fringe" and, maybe, "Terra Nova" by the end of the year (with "Nikita" returning in April-ish). Given that neither of these is currently very good, that may finally be the time to drop the Sky subscription - it's been a long time coming.

Wednesday, November 02, 2011

800th post!

This is the 800th post on this blog.

There are 162 days to the 12th of April (I'm not counting down, I just did the calculation). That means, in order to reach 999 posts before the wedding (and thus Part Four), I would need to post a little more than once per day for the next five months.

Which isn't impossible, but I'm not sure I have a sufficient supply of inane waffle and tedious rants to fill up all that space!

Just a Thought

I find it very interesting reading much of the comment on the Guardian's website about the interaction between the Occupy protestors and the administration at St Paul's.

The Guardian and its readership is pretty strongly anti-Christian. At any other time, they would be quite keen to wipe St Paul's off the map, to destroy Christianity, and to forget it ever existed. Likewise, very few of the Occupy protestors would normally have anything whatsoever to do with Christianity, and a good number would normally be hostile to the church.

Which is fair enough. I don't agree, but they're entitled to their beliefs. (And, for what it's worth, I'm less than impressed by the actions of the administrators at St Paul's - there's a reason I've been referring to them as 'administrators' rather than 'clergy'.)

But I have to ask: if you're so virulently anti-Christian, what exactly gives you the right to lecture the church for not supporting your pet cause? Especially since the Occupy movement haven't actually told us what they want, only what they're against - and hating the 1% is not a Christian attitude.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Getting Rid of the Kardashians

Every so often, some extremely worthy band of folk propose some sort of new legislation for our own good. A smoking ban. A fat tax. A carbon tax. Whatever. It's really quite infuriating, especially since these measures will almost certainly not actually fix the problems, but will just make like that little bit more miserable.

Well, if they are determined to 'help' us in this manner, here's one for them:

I would like to see a total ban on reporting 'lifestyle' stories about celebrities. It should be illegal to report of whatever Jordan is currently doing, on the sex lives of footballers, on Kate Middleton's latest fashion choices (or, worse, whatever her sister's bum is doing these days), on the irreconcilable differences that have caused Kim Kardashian's marriage to break down after 72 days, or any of this rubbish.

They should do it for environmental reasons. Think of all the trees that won't need to be pulped (note that recycled paper is better than non-recycled paper... but not using the paper at all is far better still). Think of all the energy saved because of all those TVs being switched off!

They should do it for feminist reasons. These lifestyle stories are put in magazines to sell to women. The entire industry (along with the fashion, cosmetics and diet industries) bases its business model on reducing the self-esteem of women. (And, worse, they hit you at both sides - firstly, they build these people up, provoking the sense that "I'll never be as good as her", and then they tear them down, encouraging their readers to mock the celebrities... only for the guilt to hit you, leaving you feeling even worse.)

But, most of all, they should do it because these stories, and the celebrities who thrive on them, are just bloody annoying. We should starve them of the publicity they need, so they are forced to either develop actual talent or, more likely, just go away.