Tuesday, April 28, 2009

New depths to the Master's villainy

One of my favourite Doctor Who stories is The Mind of Evil. For my reasons I can do no better than refer you to my review on the Doctor Who Ratings Guide. However this story has sadly only existed as a black & white film recording for over thirty years now.

But all is not lost. Recently a special process has been developed that extracts colour information from the black & white copy to restore it to colour - some of you may have seen the results when BBC2 transmitted a restored Dad's Army episode last December. Now the process has been applied to some Doctor Who episodes, including at least one episode of The Mind of Evil.

And being able to see things in colour will reveal many things. For example in one scene the Master disguises himself as a workman wearing a football scarf. Now, courtesy of a post by Steve Roberts of the Doctor Who Restoration Team at this post on Roobarb's Forum, we know which team he supports:
Yes the master of chaos is wearing a Newcastle United scarf. And he's doing so in a tent that wouldn't be too out of place at Sunderland AFC!

I hope that this is a teaser for a forthcoming full colour restoration of The Mind of Evil so that it can be enjoyed in all its original glory.

Monday, April 27, 2009

So what's the point of town twinning?

Today I saw the news that the Oxfordshire town of Wallingford is trying to break its twinning arrangement with the French town of Luxeuil-les-Bains because communications have long since ceased between the two. (BBC News: Town aims to disown French 'twin') This is in stark contrast to Wallingford's relations with its German twin, Bad Wurzach.

In the true spirit of local government international relations (surely a contradiction in term) it seems there is no mechanism for towns to break the twinning. I hope that anomaly gets rectified before a town finds its twin has become decidedly unacceptable.

But what exactly is the point of town twinning? How does it benefit the people of a town? There's some mention in the news of school exchange programmes but they're not especially noticeable. And what else is there? My home borough of Newham is apparently twinned with Kaiserslautern in Germany, but it hardly shouts about it beyond the occasional mention on the website (e.g. Mayor welcomes visitors from German twin town). How exactly has that brought benefit to the people?

Well I can think of some it has brought benefit to. Councillors who get to go on fraternal greetings trips. But councillor junkets are not a benefit to the wider community. The whole series of arrangements does not offer any obvious tangible benefits. If towns want to declare on their signs that they're twinned with some other town then let them, but at a time when the public finances are tight, and council tax is constantly rising, twinning junkets should be one of the first ports of call for councillors to cut waste to cut council tax.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Virginia Morris for West Ham

Two days ago I attended a parliamentary selection meeting for the first time ever. (In the past a combination of moving between home and university, sitting MPs and various timings has meant that the opportunity has not previously arisen.) But on Sunday the West Ham Conservative Association held its meeting to select its prospective parliamentary candidate and the full meeting heard from three impressive candidates before selecting. And I believe we have made an excellent choice.

The Association has selected Virginia Morris as its candidate. I can do no better to introduce her than repeat the words of ConservativeHome: Virginia Morris adopted for West Ham:
Virginia is married with a daughter and has been a Councillor for Richmond upon Thames since 2002, holding the portfolio of Shadow Cabinet Member for Civic Pride and Planning. Previously she stood for parliament for Oxford East in 2005. She holds a PhD in engineering becoming a partner and later a director of one of the leading consultancies specialising in environmental engineering, building design and consultancy services, winning the Queens Award for Enterprise in 2004. She changed careers after spending two years living in Lao PDR, the first working for the United Nations Development Programme and the second walking hundreds of miles in remote areas undertaking research. From this work she has written two books on the Vietnam War.

She said on her selection:

"I am proud to have been selected as the Conservative Parliamentary Candidate for West Ham. The constituency and Newham Council have been run for too long by Labour and I am looking forward to working with the Conservatives here to oust them."
The next general election, whenever it comes, is going to heat up here in West Ham.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Recycling, political style

There are some politicians who seem remarkably adept at comebacks in different positions - on the international stage the many returns of Shimon Peres spring most readily to mind. But it's more unusual for a politician to enter the politics of a different country.

News has reached me of rumours in Brussels that the UK Conservative MEP Christopher Beazely is contemplating trying to continue his career by seeking election as an MEP from Poland. He has reportedly been offered a seat, presumably by the Platforma Obywatelska (Civic Platform), which would allow him to remain in the Parliament when he declined to seek renomination as a Conservative in the UK, but would also allow him to continue to sit as a member of the European People's Party.

Beazely has been so staunchly opposed to the Conservative proposals to leave the EPP-ED caucus that he recently formally transferred from the European Democrats section to the EPP part and announced his retirement in the UK because of his opposition to the departure. Now it seems he is determined to stay in the EPP at all costs, even travelling halfway across the continent to do so.

So rather than retiring quietly it seems Beazely is hoping to recycle himself in a new country. The last MEP I can think of who popped up in another country's politics was Sir James Goldsmith, French MEP and founder of the UK's Referendum Party. I never thought Beazely would turn out to have much in common with Goldsmith!

Monday, April 13, 2009

The Archbishop's Easter sermon

Canterbury CathedralYesterday I went to Canterbury Cathedral for the Easter Day Sung Eucharist. Unlike last year (see A Cathedral is no place for a disruption) there was no disruption of the service this year. Instead Archbishop Williams delivered one of the most thoughtful sermons I've yet heard. Here is the first paragraph:
Do you know that God exists? the interviewers ask; or, How do you know Christian faith is true? There are two tempting ways of responding, both wrong. There is the apologetic shuffle of saying, 'Of course, I don't really know; this is just the truth as it appears to me and I may be wrong'. And there is the confident offer to prove it all to the hearer's satisfaction; here are the philosophical arguments, here is the historical evidence, now what's the problem?
The full sermon can be found at The Archbishop of Canterbury: The Archbishop's Easter Sermon.

Monday, April 06, 2009

The most useless website ever?

Hattip to Kerron Cross: Is Size Important? for highlighting this.

One of the problems of email, messageboards, Twitter, Facebook and the like is that URLs (or "website addresses") are often very long and get broken. So TinyURL.com was created to shrink the links. For example Kerron's post has this address:

http://kerroncross.blogspot.com/2009/04/is-size-important.html

TinyURL converts it to:

http://tinyurl.com/cuzp6m

But is small always beautiful? HugeURL.com has been created to do the reverse. It converts Kerron's post into:

http://www.hugeurl.com/?ZDAyYjQzZDkwZTdhNGQzNzc2ZTI3MGEwNDZl
ODQyYzgmMTImVm0wd2QyUXlVWGxXYTJoV1YwZG9WVll3Wkc5alJsWjBUVlpP
V0Zac2JETlhhMUpUVmpGYWMySkVUbGhoTWsweFZqQmFTMk15U2tWVWJHaG9U
VmhDVVZadGVGWmxSbGw1Vkd0c2FsSnRhRzlVVjNOM1pVWmFkR05GZEZSTlZU
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Uk9aREExVjFwR1dtbFNNVXBaVjFaa01GTXhaRWRXYmxKclUwZFNjMWxyV25O
T1ZuQldZVWQwV0ZJd1dUSlZiWFJ2VjJzeFNGVnVXbGRoYTFwb1ZXMHhUMUpz
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eHdhRTFZUW05V2ExSkhWakpPYzFadVNsUmlSVXBYVm10U1FrNVJQVDA9


Can anyone conceive of any use for the website whatsoever?!

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Transport for London illogic

I've just seen the announcement about service disruptions on the Docklands Light Railway this week. (Newham Recorder: DLR Bank service to terminate early) And they just don't make any sense whatsoever.
UNPLANNED engineering works will disrupt DLR services into Bank from Woolwich Arsenal from Monday to Thursday, with trains terminating at Shadwell between 7.30-9.30am and 5-7pm. Passengers are advised to use the Jubilee line at Canning Town or Canary Wharf for journeys into central London.

Services from Lewisham to Bank will operate as normal, but may be busier than usual.

This change is due to works to the escalators at Bank station which are due to be completed over the Bank Holiday weekend with full services returning on April 14.
Or roughly translated, services from Woolwich Arsenal to Bank will terminate at Shadwell, but services from Lewisham to Bank will not and instead will run through.

But on this section of the line the two services use the same track and platforms (and all the platforms involved are basically islands served by the same lifts and escalators). So why on earth are some services being terminated early and not others for escalator works? All this will mean is that passengers from the Woolwich Arsenal branch will just cram into trains for Lewisham, with the escalators Bank having to handle the same number of passengers, albeit coming in even larger numbers at a time.

Often I really do wonder if Transport for London follows any logic when it comes to engineering works. They are creating more disruption for people travelling from the Woolwich Arsenal branch for no apparent reason whatsoever. One of the greatest sources of frustration to commuters is when the reason for disruption is not given. It would do much to reduce travelling stress if transport companies were more open about the causes of disruption, instead of giving absurd reasons like this one.

The waste of "RESPECT"

The Sunday Telegraph has calculated the MPs who are the best and worst value for money, based upon the number of times they have voted, the number of speeches they make, the number of written questions and the expenses claimed. (Sunday Telegraph: Best and worst value MPs revealed)

Never mind George, you can go back to thisAt the top end of the scale are Philip Hollobone and Dennis Skinner. At the bottom end, by a long way, is "RESPECT"'S George Galloway. It is not easy for an MP who attends Parliament to make less of an impact on Westminster than a group of abstentionists, but George Galloway has succeeded with an impact on Parliament even less than Sinn Féin!

This reflects badly on "RESPECT - The Unity Coalition" as a whole (as does their recent complete failure to demonstrate respect or unity but that's another matter). Galloway is also notorious in his constituency for doing little to help most of his constituents. Instead it seems he has joined the tradition of extreme left-wing MPs spending all their time wandering around feeling important, making speeches to extreme left-wing rallies and visiting dodgy foreign leaders, all while claiming large expenses to keep them in fine clothes. And going on Big Brother.

Here's hoping that at the next election voters will reject not just Galloway himself but all the "RESPECT" candidates, putting an end to state-subsidised communism.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

So where's our copy of the Newham Mag?

Every fortnight Newham Council publishes The Newham Mag about what is going on in the borough and what the councillors are up to. According to the website it is "delivered to every home in the borough." It has been running for over six years now.

Now as well as having often delivered political leaflets, when I was younger I worked to deliver copies of the Yellow Pages and the telephone directory. Both have involved delivering to difficult to reach addresses. Now I'm not going to pretend that I or others have always reached every single address (there are times when canvassing that I've been completely unable to find a particular address no matter how many times I've looked) but we certainly tried our hardest. And for a not impossible to find address (which the presence of the Yellow Pages and directories here confirms mine certainly is) they would almost certainly get delivered to over 90% of the time. And I live just behind the library and local service centre where my local councillors hold their surgery so it's not as if it's hard to find.

By my calculations there have been approximately 124 copies of The Newham Mag published since I moved into my current address. So why in all the time I have been living here has it never once come through our letterbox?

Is producing a propaganda sheet so dominated by communications from incumbent councillors really the best use of council taxpayers' money? Especially if it's not being sent to all households in the borough?

How to get to Westminster from West Ham

The West Ham parliamentary constituency, like pretty much all of Newham, is in the London Travelcard Zone 3 and has good transport connections with much of London. To get to, say, Westminster one can take either the District Line (with three stations in the constituency - West Ham, Plaistow and Upton Park, though the latter is on the current constituency boundary) or the Jubilee Line (two stations - Stratford and West Ham), both with plenty of direct services. And that's to say nothing about the numerous interchange options involving tubes, trains, buses, the DLR and more. With the current row about MPs' expenses it should be the ideal constituency for someone to live in and commute to Parliament.

So why is Lyn Brown MP claiming £15,889 a year for a second home? (The Daily London News: What does your London MP earn and claim?) According to former councillor Mike Law she was living in Plaistow until at least recently. Tellingly her website is silent on this one.

So why does she need a second home? Where is she claiming from? What does she need it for?

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Shock horror as Nick Clegg learns he's not considered a potential Prime Minister

One of the amazing things about Liberal Democrat leaders is their ability to take themselves so seriously when all around them see them for what they are. Nick Clegg has just had the latest shock. For he has realised he will not be meeting with Barack Obama.
I am really annoyed... As it was not a state visit I understood I wouldn't get to see him. But when I found out Obama was meeting the Queen and David Cameron I got on the phone to David Miliband to ask him what was going on.

(Source of quote: Daily Mail: Nick Clegg's in a spin over Obama visit)
You see Obama is meeting with the present and prospective future Prime Ministers. Not with the perpetual leader of a minor opposition party. What interest has he in wasting his time?

Liberal Democrat Voice: Clegg 'annoyed' not to be meeting Obama notes that Liberal Democrat frontbenchers are allowed to consult with departmental civil servants, in the same way the Shadow Cabinet are, but that is because there is a realistic possibility of the Liberal Democrats serving in a coalition. Not that they may form a government. Both the White House and the Foreign Office realise this. Nick Clegg clearly still has delusions of grandeur.

April Fool's Day - 24 hours or 12?

There seems to be some confusion in the UK about whether April Fool's Day jokes can be played after noon or not. I remember being told that afternoon jokes make the player a fool, but few other people seem to think that these days. So which is it?

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