Monday, July 31, 2006

Goodbye West Wing

I watched the final ever episode of The West Wing last night. As expected I blubbed like a girly. The performances were all superb but special praise must go to Martin Sheen, Stockard Channing and Allison Janney. It was a perfectly pitched episode and a truly fitting end to the series.

I think part of the reason The West Wing was so popular was because it was politics as we wanted it. The President was a good man and was surrounded by good people. Everyone had a strong sense of morality which drove everything that they did. Some Republicans were shown as the "bad guys" but others, notably Ainsley Hayes, Cliff Calley and Arnold Vinnick were portrayed as equally patriotic and morally driven as the Democrat "heroes".

The West Wing offered the promise of what politics could be and could do. And it was brilliant entertainment with outstanding actors and scripts.

I'll miss it.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Advice for Kim Howells

Kim Howells, Foreign Office Minister, made a bit of a boo-boo during a debate on the current Middle East crisis. In answer to a question on current tactics by his Tory opposite Keith Simpson he replied "I am not a military strategist and I am not aware he is...." Aaargh.

Keith Simpson is famously a well regarded military historian and strategist having been a senior lecturer in war studies and international affairs at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, has written five books on military history and a director of Cranfield Security Studies Institute which according to their website "carries out research and consultancy ina wide range of defence-related subjects, including defence policy and military history.
It uses political and military analysis to interpret, evaluate and develop strategic operational requirements and their implications for defence policy doctrine and force structure."

So yes, Keith Simpson is a military strategist.

Kim, Kim, Kim - a piece of advice - know your enemy. Works in both politics and military campaigns. A quick look at the Conservative Party profile of Keith Simpson would have told you all this. Typical of this Labour Government - too arrogant to check even the simplest facts.

(Hat tip to Nick Assinder at the BBC for this).

Saturday, July 22, 2006

Feeling Guilty

I've just phoned the RSPCA to complain about the neighbour's dog being chained up outside in a thunder storm. I know it was the right thing to do, but there's part of me that feels really guilty. I've never been a tell-tale, and I tend to dislike people who are, but we've thought for a while that there was a problem with the way the dog is treated eg it was left outside for hours on bonfire night with fireworks going off all around.

Despite knowing of various misdemenours of other people this is only the second time I have ever reported someone to an authority. The first time was when a friend drove off having downed more than a bottle of wine. That time I got the third degree from the police on why hadn't I stopped her and how much had I had to drink. I felt guilty for weeks afterwards, even though I knew I had done the right thing. I feel guilty now, but not as guilty as I would if anything happened to the dog.

But honestly - I'm not usually a grass.

UPDATE: The RSPCA came out - and the dog is apparently happy, healthy and has a waggy tail. Am I sure it was out in the rain as it had a dry coat? Am I sure it is left out often? So I now feel half guilty and half annoyed. Still, if a visit from the RSPCA makes them think twice about leaving out in a storm next time then its worth it. But for the second time I've felt the need to report someone to the authorities I feel like the guilty party.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Thursday Thirteen Again

Thirteen Things I Like and Don't Like About The Heatwave

1. It's just too hot - too darn hot.
2. But it get's me singing songs from the musicals - it's too darn hot...
3. Drink so much water that my skin looks great.
4. But am a big sweaty beasty.
5. The Tube in a heatwave is just horrendous.
6. As are South West Trains, come on guys, just one day this week I'd like to get home without problems.
7. It's nice to wear pretty, flowing clothes rather than suits and trousers all the time.
8. But why can't I look as fresh and as unconcerned as some other women you see.
9. Leaving the office early because it's just too hot to work.
10. But being too exhausted to enjoy a couple of hours in the sun by the time I get home.
11. Ugly naked guy in the flat opposite the office insists on sitting out on his balcony - this is not a good thing.
12. Wonky sunburn - how come only one of my arms is sunburnt? I look dumb.
13. Nothing better than listening to good music in the summer - current favourite is Nina Simone.

I'm trying not to moan too much about the heat, but I'm sure I would enjoy it more if I was by the pool in Barbados with a cocktail rather than in an office on Gray's Inn Road....

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

Mysterious Lady
Knitting Maniac
Reverberate 58
Lil Duck Duck
Army Wife

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!


I always think one of the saddest sights in this country is one such as the above - with a beautiful creature locked up in an enclosure behind a fence. It's just wrong.

Think about joining the Born Free Foundation and helping to end the tragedy of animals behind bars.

Punish Hoax Callers Properly

BBC Scotland is covering a story about hoax callers to the Fire Brigade putting lives at risk. After a lot of talk about how dangerous it is we find out that the reckless, thoughtless thugs who carry out hoax calls might get their mobile taken off them, may have their landline cut off and as a last resort can be prosecuted.

Here's a thought - first resort be to prosecute them. I'm not suggesting locking them up and throwing away the key but frankly the threat of being punished (a month cleaning fire appliances and a hefty fine of 10 times the cost of deploying a fire appliance) and a criminal record is more of a deterrant than having your mobile taken off you.

We need to take all crime including "low level" crime seriously.

Stem Cell Research

So Bush is going to use his first veto to block a stem cell research bill. A bill that the Senate and the majority of the American people want. But his ultra right wing, loony fringe Republican core vote demand that he vetoes, so he vetoes.

I have some problems with stem cell research, as I have problems with a variety of moral issues. I can never look at them as just black and white but the passing of a bill banning the growing and aborting of foetuses simply for research helps to allay a fear of harvesting of foetuses. John Kerry suggested at the time of the 2004 election that embryos which had been discarded after IVF treatment could be used - this seemed like an eminently sensible suggestion to me.

Bush claims he is against stem cell research because "murder is wrong". A principled view. I don't entirely agree but it is based on a firm principle.

I look forward to his announcement of a presidential decree halting all executions in the United States.

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

British Summer Time

I had the ultimate British summer experience last night.

Stuck on a roasty hot train which didn't move for about fifteen minutes, a mumbling guard on the tannoy that you couldn't understand and the only thing I had to fan myself with to keep cool was a leaflet about a bloody signallers strike.

Its too hot to be in a non air conditioned office on Gray's Inn Road. I want to be by the pool in Barbados sipping a cocktail.....

Monday, July 17, 2006

Life Experience Test

Found this at Mrs Aginoth. A list of 150 key life experiences and all you have to do is bold the ones you have achieved. Depressing how many remain unbolded.

01. Bought everyone in the bar a drink
02. Swam with wild dolphins
03. Climbed a mountain
04. Taken a Ferrari for a test drive
05. Been inside the Great Pyramid
06. Held a tarantula
07. Taken a candlelit bath with someone
08. Said 'I love you' and meant it (every day to my husband and parents)
09. Hugged a tree
10. Bungee jumped (and never will)
11. Visited Paris (Have been three times, don't know I would be desperate to go back)
12. Watched a lightning storm at sea

13. Stayed up all night long and saw the sun rise

14. Seen the Northern Lights
15. Gone to a huge sports game (depends how big is huge. Celtic vs Aberdeen at Parkhead was big enough for me)
16. Walked the stairs to the top of the leaning Tower of Pisa
17. Grown and eaten your own vegetables
18. Touched an iceberg
19. Slept under the stars
20. Changed a baby's diaper
21. Taken a trip on a hot air balloon (would love to though - over the Masaai Mara)
22. Watched a meteor shower
23. Got drunk on champagne. (one sip and I'm a giggly wreck)
24. Given more than you can afford to charity
25. Looked up at the night sky through a telescope
26. Had an uncontrollable giggling fit at the worst possible moment
27. Had a food fight
28. Bet on a winning horse
29. Asked out a stranger
30. Had a snowball fight
31. Screamed as loudly as you possibly can
32. Held a lamb
33. Seen a total eclipse
34. Ridden a roller coaster
35. Hit a home run
36. Danced like a fool and not cared who was looking
37. Adopted an accent for an entire day
38. Actually felt happy about your life, even for just a moment (most days actually)
39. Had two hard drives for your computer
40. Visited all 50 states
41. Taken care of someone who was shit faced (and been taken care of when drunk)
42. Had amazing friends
43. Danced with a stranger in a foreign country
44. Watched wild whales
45. Stolen a sign
46. Backpacked in Europe
47. Taken a road-trip
48. Gone rock climbing
49. Midnight walk on the beach
50. Gone sky diving
51. Visited Ireland (and the nuns in Kilkenny DO know the best pubs)
52. Been heartbroken for longer than when you were in love
53. In a restaurant, sat at a stranger's table and had a meal with them
54. Visited Japan
55. Milked a cow
56. Alphabetized your cds
57. Pretended to be a superhero
58. Sung karaoke
59. Lounged around in bed all day
60. Posed nude in front of strangers
61. Gone scuba diving
62. Kissed in the rain
63. Played in the mud
64. Played in the rain
65. Gone to a drive-in theater
66. Visited the Great Wall of China
67. Started a business
68. Fallen in love and not had your heart broken
69. Toured ancient sites
70. Taken a martial arts class
71. Played D&D for more than 6 hours straight (no, three hours was enough - I was an elf who was in love with a goblin with a 4 foot tongue.)
72. Gotten married
73. Been in a movie
74. Crashed a party
75. Gotten divorced
76. Gone without food for 5 days (3 days in hospital when they forgot to feed me)
77. Made cookies from scratch
78. Won first prize in a costume contest (I was Dopey from the Seven Dwarves)
79. Ridden a gondola in Venice
80. Gotten a tattoo
81. Rafted the Snake River
82. Been on television news programs as an "expert" (nope, but was invited to be a stand-in for an election rehearsal programme. I was Malcolm Rifkind and Kirsty Wark was mean to me)
83. Got flowers for no reason
84. Performed on stage
85. Been to Las Vegas
86. Recorded music
87. Eaten shark
88. Had a one-night stand
89. Gone to Thailand
90. Bought a house
91. Been in a combat zone
92. Buried one/both of your parents
93. Been on a cruise ship
94. Spoken more than one language fluently
95. Performed in Rocky Horror.
96. Raised children
97. Followed your favorite band/singer on tour
98. Created and named your own constellation of stars
99. Taken an exotic bicycle tour in a foreign country (can't even ride a bike)
100. Picked up and moved to another city to just start over
101. Walked the Golden Gate Bridge
102. Sang loudly in the car, and didn't stop when you knew someone was looking
103. Had plastic surgery
104. Survived an accident that you shouldn't have survived.
105. Wrote articles for a large publication
106. Lost over 100 pounds
107. Held someone while they were having a flashback
108. Piloted an airplane
109. Petted a stingray
110. Broken someone's heart
111. Helped an animal give birth (and helped to make sure the runt was fed and survived)
112. Won money on a T.V. game show
113. Broken a bone
114. Gone on an African photo safari (It was a normal safari, but lots of photos taken, that counts right?)
115. Had a body part of yours below the neck pierced
116. Fired a rifle, shotgun, or pistol
117. Eaten mushrooms that were gathered in the wild
118. Ridden a horse
119. Had major surgery
120. Had a snake as a pet
121. Hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon
122. Slept for more than 30 hours over the course of 48 hours
123. Visited more foreign countries than U.S. states
124. Visited all 7 continents
125. Taken a canoe trip that lasted more than 2 days
126. Eaten kangaroo meat
127. Eaten sushi
128. Had your picture in the newspaper
129. Changed someone's mind about something you care deeply about
130. Gone back to school
131. Parasailed
132. Petted a cockroach
133. Eaten fried green tomatoes
134. Read The Iliad - and the Odyssey
135. Selected one "important" author who you missed in school, and read
136. Killed and prepared an animal for eating
137. Skipped all your school reunions (if there have been any I've skipped them all)
138. Communicated with someone without sharing a common spoken language
139. Been elected to public office (no, but have been a campaign director for several people elected to public office)
140. Written your own computer language
141. Thought to yourself that you're living your dream
142. Had to put someone you love into hospice care
143. Built your own PC from parts
144. Sold your own artwork to someone who didn't know you
145. Had a booth at a street fair
146: Dyed your hair
147: Been a DJ
148: Shaved your head
149: Caused a car accident
150: Saved someone's life

I won't tag anyone, but if you do do this, let me know in the comments and I will link to you here.

Jo Salmon
Paul Burgin
Lobster Blogster


A horrible story in the news today and over the weekend about a man who is alleged to have killed over 10,000 greyhounds when they reach the end of their working life.

Although I have been to the dogs a couple of times and enjoyed it, there was always in the back of my mind the knowledge that once a greyhound's racing life was over it was unceremoniously dumped. I just didn't realise that it was done so cruelly.

One step that the government can take to prevent this kind of thing happening again is to legislate to ensure that only licensed operator ie Vets or Abbatoirs can legally kill animals and not just anyone with a bolt gun. The National Greyhound Racing Club also has a role to monitor the activities of its members and not allow trainers/owners who use such services to race. Self-regulation must work hand in hand with government regulation.

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about Louise

Thirteen Things I've Done Since Last TT

1. Been to Latvia. My mum was really worried about me going all that way on my own, but I quite enjoyed it. And it was work so I couldn't really get out of it.

2. Had another violin lesson. Slowly getting there. I can almost play Twinkle Twinkle Little Star. Royal Albert Hall - here I come....

3. Been to see Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest. Great film - daft but great.

4. Started to watch the West Wing Series 6 on DVD. I love the WW, but am really bad at making time to watch things when they are on TV, so have a whole collection of TV series DVDs which I still have to get round to watching.

5. Watched the World Cup final. I was the kiss of death at this tournament - first I supported Australia, then England, then Brazil, then France... Next year I'm going to have to support Rangers for the league - it's the only chance Celtic have of winning.

6. Considered starting a diet. Only considered it though. I think once the house is empty of junk food I'll have to get on with it. My trousers were tighter than was decent for work yesterday.

7. Manned an Amnesty International stall in the local High Street. We were particularly highlighting the case of a Burmese teacher imprisoned for life because her husband is a pro-democracy campaigner.

8. Took part in the 2 minute silence for victims of the London Tube and Bus bombings on 7th July.

9. Daydreamed incessently about going on holiday. I want to go back to Barbados.

10. Watched Big Cat Week on BBC1. The team are following Big Cats on the Massai Mara including the cutest cheetah cub ever.

11. Decided to join a reading group. My first meeting is tomorrow night.

12. Had my brother-in-law and his family over to stay for the weekend.

13. Went to see Billy Joel in concert. It was fabulous. Fantastic. Brilliant. Can't rave enough about how good it was. I've wanted to see him live for about 15 years and boy, it was worth the wait.

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

These nice people popped by to say hello - go visit them.

Mrs Aginoth
Army Wife
KT Cat
Lil Duck Duck
Minerva Jane
Pilot Mom
Amy L Powers
Pink Chihuhua Princess
Lady Jane

Get the Thursday Thirteen code here!

The purpose of the meme is to get to know everyone who participates a little bit better every Thursday. Visiting fellow Thirteeners is encouraged! If you participate, leave the link to your Thirteen in others comments. It’s easy, and fun! Be sure to update your Thirteen with links that are left for you, as well! I will link to everyone who participates and leaves a link to their 13 things. Trackbacks, pings, comment links accepted!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Good News! Bad News!

The Good....

The Government's ID card scheme may be in tatters after the process of tendering out the software suppliers has been put back indefinitely. Great news. We don't need ID cards, we don't need to track our people. Hopefully this will be postponed for so long that the Conservatives will get into power and put an end to the nonsense claims that we need ID cards to fight terrorism and crime. Actually, we need more police and intelligence services to fight terrorism and crime, the money that was going towards ID cards can now be allocated to that.

The Bad....

The World Conservation Union has announced that the West African Black Rhino now appears to be extinct. All searches for signs of the sub-species have proved unsuccessful turning up only signs of poaching. This is news that actually makes me feel sad - we are losing so many of our wonderful animal and plant species all in the name of progress. It is thought that there may only be four Northern White Rhinos left, let's cross our fingers and hope they make it.

Monday, July 10, 2006

Time to think the unthinkable?

Two years ago, one year ago even, if you had asked me my views on All Women Shortlists for Parliamentary Selection I would have bristled indignantly and launched into a long diatribe about how un-necessary they are. But now I'm not so sure.

In 2005 only 17 of Conservative MPs were women - that's about 8.5%. 8.5% is a derisory figure in the 21st Century. The Conservative Party wants to represent the entire country, yet its Parliamentary Party looks nothing like the whole country. It is almost exclusively a white, male, heterosexual, middle class body. And some of those white, heterosexual, middle class men are excellent MPs and representatives of the Conservative Party who are undoubtedly the best people for the job. But some aren't. Some are bed-blockers, some are arrogant, some turn voters off.

Acknowledging the problem David Cameron established the A-List of candidates with 50% of members of this list being women. Although there are problems with the A List I generally like the idea but it doesn't seem to have worked. In the ten selections since the A-List was established only 2 women have been selected - 20%, hardly great steps forward. In several selections the final three have consisted of two women and one man and there are suspicions that this is a deliberate ploy to split the pro-female vote and ensure a male candidate. It wouldn't surprise me.

I have been involved in selections where looking at a female CV members of the panel will sniff about her being pushy, a similar male CV being regarded as dynamic. I have known one woman to be rejected because she sent her children to private school and by doing so wouldn't be able to understand the needs of parents with children at comprehensives. None of the men were asked what schools their children went to.

I have been interviewed for jobs in the Conservative Party and been asked about my outside life and where I expect to be in 5 years time. Nothing wrong with those questions until you realise that none of the male candidates were asked the same questions and then alarm bells start to ring.

There is still an inherent sexism in the Conservative Party with many of the worst culprits being women and its now time to ask whether looking at the practicalities of All Women Shortlists should be considered.

I know all the arguments against and agree with them. Women don't want to get a job or seat without proving their merit. I don't want mediocre women to be selected as Conservative Party candidates in preference to well qualified and impressive men. But the problem at the moment is that women are not being judged on their merits and mediocre men are being selected in preference to well qualified and impressive women.

I don't know that AWS are the answer, but we can no longer reject them out of hand confident that good women will claw their way through the process. It isn't happening and the Conservative Party has to address this problem strongly.

Conservative Home runs an excellent service updating candidate selections.

Friday, July 07, 2006

I am a Muppet

I forgot to take my camera to Riga which was a real shame because some of the city is truly beautiful and the freedom statue which managed to survive both Nazi and Soviet occupation is breath-taking.

Oh well, will just have to persuade my boss to send me back.

Sunday, July 02, 2006

Full Marks

... go to Tesco in Leatherhead.

The security guard refused to let a topless bloke into the store. I was delighted to see that. It's one of my bugbears, men thinking it's ok to wander round a food shop with their clothes off. It is offensive and unhygienic.

I will be going back there.

Saturday, July 01, 2006

Light Blogging Next Week

Off to Latvia for work.

It certainly isn't a bad job when you're paid to go to Jerusalem and Riga for work. I guess some photos will probably follow...