Thursday, August 31, 2006

Muppet Personality Test

From Jo

You Are Animal

A complete lunatic, you're operating on 100% animal instincts.
You thrive on uncontrolled energy, and you're downright scary.
But you sure can beat a good drum.
"Kill! Kill!"

Not sure how accurate it is - Rowlf was always my favourite, but Animal did inspire me to play the drums. Well, him and Evelyn Glennie.

Monday, August 21, 2006

Amen to that....

Finally, a statement from the Pope that I can agree with 100%.

During his traditional weekly appearance to bless the faithful, Benedict XVI quoted from writings of St Bernard in the 12th century meant for popes of his time on the subject of overwork. The saint advised pontiffs to "watch out for the dangers of an excessive activity, whatever... the job that you hold, because many jobs often lead to the 'hardening of the heart', as well as 'suffering of the spirit, loss of intelligence'

From the Herald.

Three Things About Me

From Paul at Mars Hill.

The MEME of three.

1... Things that scare me.

Crocodiles/Alligators - they don't belong in this time, they should have gone with the dinosaurs

2.…People who make me laugh.

Billy Connolly
The cast of Avenue Q - went to see it last week, very good
People who fall over on the street - cruel, but true.

3...Things I hate the most

Obnoxious Drivers
People who barge past you in the street/on the tube - everyone is so much more important than everyone else
American spelling - we spell things with s's in Britain, not z's

4...Things I don't understand.

Numbers (as in accounts and maths)
Why people think ID cards will protect us from terrorists
Why weather forecasts have to come from outside. We don't need a shivering, wet woman in the Blue Peter garden to illustrate that it is actually cold and wet outside.

5...Things I'm doing right now.

Writing these answers
Working out my "to-do" list for the day
Thinking about tidying my desk

6...Things I want to do before I die

Have a novel published
Learn to scuba dive
Own my own home

7...Things I can do

Play Twinkle Twinkle on the violin - nearly
Laze around the house all day long and not feel at all guilty
Play badminton

8...Ways to describe my personality

Thoughtful - but can be thoughtless at the same time
Apt to be grumpy at times

9...Things I can't do

Ride a bike
Jog - I've tried, I get 10 yards before it hurts

10...Things I think you should listen to

Scenes from An Italian Restaurant by Billy Joel
Flower of Scotland as performed by The Corries - gets the patriotic blood flowing
The Avenue Q soundtrack

11...Things you should never listen to

Heavy Metal - it hurts
Menzies Campbell - just, why would you?
People who tell you constantly why they are right and everyone else is wrong

12...Things I'd like to learn

To Scuba Dive
Another language - preferably a European language
How to fly - it may help cure my fear of flying

13...Favorite foods

Rare steak, cooked for my dinner tonight please
Bacon and egg sandwich
Chicken something - risotto at the moment

14...Beverages I drink regularly.

Diet Coke
Irn-Bru - best hangover cure in the world

15...Shows I watched as a kid

The A-Team
Diff'rent Strokes
Press Gang

16...People I'm tagging.


Sorry, weak joke, I tend not to tag people but would love to see anyone elses answers. Its a tougher meme than you might think.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Is It Really Thursday Already?

Thirteen Things about Louise

Thirteen charities/causes I support. Let me know about your favourite causes, we can probably all learn something today.

1 Born Free Foundation - because animals belong in the wild, not behind bars.
2 Amnesty International - because human rights matter
3 SURF - a charity which helps survivors of the Rwandan genocide
4 RSPB - we must protect and understand the wildlife around us
5 NO2ID - we don't need ID cards and we shouldn't just accept them being foist upon us
6 National Trust - let's be proud of our heritage
7 Aegis Trust - because genocide is still happening today
8 The Conservative Party - for the most part
9 Crusaid - helping people with AIDS at home and abroad (I will do the walk for life next year)
10 MS Scotland - am actually not involved very much, but my mum and dad both are
11 RTCW - helping children with life-threatening illness fulfil their dearest wishes
12 Radio Lollipop - providing entertainment for children in hospital
13 Holocaust Memorial Day Trust - if we are to stop atrocities happening in the future, we must learn from the past

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!
1. Carmen
2. Bev
3. Knitting Maniac
4. Karen
5. Margaret
6. Lyn
7. Froggie
8. K T Cat
9. Karen
10. Christine
11. Amy
12. Nat
13. e
14. Laura
15. Titanium
16. Kailani
17. tc
18. mrs lifecruiser

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, August 15, 2006

My last chocolate - for a while

Very nice it was too. But no more for a while.

Weight Loss

I'm taking the plunge and finally going to knuckle down to a proper diet and exercise regime. Starting tomorrow, I have one last bar of chocolate to get out of my system I think.

I have kicked around diets for a few years now but always find it easy to give up. But I weigh about 3.5-4 stones more than I would regard as healthy - and about 5.5 stones more than the arbitrary "ideal weights" you can see in magazines. I don't want to become some skinny malink, but for the sake of my health (currently not suffering, but that can't last for ever) I really have to lose the weight.

I'm going to blog about this semi-regularly in the hope that actually writing down my achievements and admitting when I fall off the wagon will help to focus my mind a little.

Wish me luck.....

Monday, August 14, 2006

How Convenient

The Government have now lifted many of their restrictions on hand luggage on planes which were imposed as a knee-jerk reaction to the terrorist threat publicised last week. Yet BAA will be keeping these restrictions in place until tomorrow.

Is it cynical of me to relate this to the fact that once through security you can buy the items that you are unable to take into the airport to the fact that BAA derive almost 25% of their income from retail outlets in the airports?

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I'm not scared of terrorists, I'm scared of losing my liberties

So Britain is under attack again.

The first thing I have to say is congratulations and thank you to all the police and security services personnel who work so hard to keep us so safe. As an IRA operative once pointed out they (terrorists) only have to get lucky once, the security services have to be lucky all the time. We will never know how often we are protected by them and how much thanks we owe them.

We also know that terrorists are constantly planning against free nations like Britain and the US and sometimes attacks will be stopped and tragically sometimes they won't be. We also know that at times like this security measures have to be stepped up. And we accept that.

Up to a point.

If I were going on holiday today I would accept the hugely delayed flight, I would accept and participate as much as needed in the additional security measures. What I might not be too happy about is not being able to take hand luggage on or all the shops in the airport being closed. Are these measures really needed? Or are they panic and hysteria?

I am increasingly concerned about the response to the threat automatically being a clamp-down on civil liberties and freedoms. Threat to aeroplanes? Stop holiday makers taking chick-lit novels on their flight. Increased illegal immigration? Make everyone carry an ID card with their biometric data. Kids wearing the latest fashion commit muggings? Stop everyone wearing hooded tops and hats. The answer to any threat should never be to curtail the rights of the innocent.

More support and money for the police and security services would help more than money being spent on registering people on a database.

When terrorists attack our countries they don't only threaten our life, they threaten our way of life. In trying to protect us the government is helping the terrorists achieve their aims.

Thursday Thirteen

Thirteen Things about what's lurking in my handbag

1 Keys - office, car, home all on the one key chain or I'd lose them all
2. Purse - with credit cards, but no cash
3. Travelcard - bless my employers for the interest free loan they give staff, I now save about £200 a month on travel
4. MP3 player and headphones - needs charging as always
5. Half finished Sudoku book
6. Book to read on the train - currently "Cafe Tropicana" by Belinda Jones. Excellent chick-lit breezy read
7. Glasses cleaner - but no matter how often I use it, my glasses are still really mucky
8. More pens than I will ever use
9. A pencil with a rubber on the end - for the half-finished Sudoku book obviously
10. Estate Agent details of houses - we're thinking of buying and I was supposed to make arrangements to see these houses over a week ago. Ooops
11. Mobile phone
12. Half a packet of extra strong mints - for morning mouth
13. Hairclips - I have a habit of taking my clips out on the train and just chucking them in my bag

Links to other Thursday Thirteens!

The Gatekeeper (first TT - pop in and welcome GK)
Something's Missing
Ellee Seymour (Not a Thursday Thirteen, but always a really good read)
Benson 659
Yellow Rose
Happy Mama
My Two Cents
(leave your link in comments, I’ll add you here!)

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!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

My First Christmas Post

You Are Donner

The most loveable and sweet reindeer, you're also a total dork!

Why You're Naughty: You keep (accidentally) tripping the other reindeer while flying.

Why You're Nice: You're always smiling, even if you've fallen flat on your horns.

Scarily - more accurate than I would hope any of these quizzes are.

No more Christmas posts for another couple of months, maybe.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Why Madonna Is Wrong

There's a whole brouhaha about Madonna and her cross. Particularly in taking it to Rome. Read more here.

As a Catholic (albeit very lapsed) I find her actions completely offensive. I don't agree with many of the teachings of the Catholic Church, I think their opposition to homosexuality is insulting and the opposition to the use of condoms is literally murderous. That's why I don't attend Church any more despite coming from a relatively religious family.

But there's a difference between disagreeing with the teachings of the Church (or any religion) and deliberately setting out to insult the Church in their own back garden. My aunt is a nun and I went to visit her in the convent she stayed in - I didn't get into a discussion about the need for contraceptives, instead I respected the beliefs of the people who had invited me into their convents. I did this because it was the polite thing to do.

Madonna is trampling over the beliefs of the people of Rome which is ridiculously rude. She is using an image which is sacred to many millions of people across the world to gain herself some cheap publicity. Is it worth it? I doubt it.

Debate is always to be encouraged, and there is much scope for debate to be found in the teachings of the Catholic Church and Madonna, like everyone else, is entitled to state her opinions. But she isn't doing anything to encourage debate, she is just behaving in a crass and offensive manner which shows a lack of respect for anyone other than herself and her bank balance.

Still at least she has managed to unite the Roman Catholics, Jews and Muslims. Perhaps we should send her to the Middle East.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

I'm Toby....Yay

Ahh, the ever-cynical and sarcastic speechwriter. Gutsy and not afraid to speak up or clash with authority, his dry wit is amusing. But under it all he's just a big teddy bear... and the world's biggest Yankees fan.

I don't see it, but I'm not complaining. Much more interesting than boring old Sam.

Friday, August 04, 2006

You Tube Fun

Don't try this at home kids.....

Penguin's 100 Top Reads

Penguin have announced the 100 Books you should read before you die. Naturally, all are published by Penguin...

Here they are - with my comments. If I have time and energy I'll put up my 100 Books to read.

Best Crazies
1. One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest — Ken Kesey
2. The Diary Of A Madman — Nikolai Gogol
3. Wide Sargasso Sea — Jean Rhys
4. Crime And Punishment — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
5. Notes From Underground — Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Best Sex
1. Story Of The Eye — Georges Bataille
2. A Spy In The House Of Love — Anaïs Nin.
3. Lady Chatterley’s Lover — D H Lawrence.
4. Venus In Furs — Leopold Von Sacher-Masoch.
5. The Canterbury Tales — Geoffrey Chaucer

Best Villains
1. The Brothers Karamazov — Fyodor Dostoyevsky
2. Heart Of Darkness — Joseph Conrad
3. Diamonds Are Forever — Ian Fleming
4. The Master And Margarita — Mikhail Bulgakov
5. The Secret Agent — Joseph Conrad

Best Lovers
1. A Room With A View — E M Forster
2. Wuthering Heights — Emily Brontë - read a long time ago. Can't say it did anything for me
3. Don Juan — Lord Byron
4. Love In A Cold Climate — Nancy Mitford
5. Cat On A Hot Tin Roof — Tennessee Williams

Best Heroes
1. David Copperfield — Charles Dickens - I enjoyed this, but it was so long ago that I read it. May be time for a re-read.
2. Middlemarch — George Eliot
3. She — H Rider Haggard
4. The Fight — Norman Mailer
5. No Easy Walk To Freedom — Nelson Mandela

Best Tearjerkers
1. Of Mice And Men — John Steinbeck - Loved this one.
2. The Age Of Innocence — Edith Wharton
3. Notre-Dame De Paris — Victor Hugo
4. Jude The Obscure — Thomas Hardy
5. The Old Curiosity Shop — Charles Dickens

Best Scares
1. The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll And Mr Hyde — Robert Louis Stevenson
2. Dracula — Bram Stoker - Again, time for a re-read. But I think I liked it.
3. Frankenstein — Mary Shelley - Ditto

4. The Castle Of Otranto — Horace Walpole
5. Turn Of The Screw — Henry James

Best Minxes
1. Vanity Fair — William Thackeray
2. Lolita — Vladimir Nabokov
3. Baby Doll — Tennessee Williams
4. Breakfast At Tiffany’s — Truman Capote
5. Emma — Jane Austen

Best Journeys
1. On The Road — Jack Kerouac
2. The Odyssey — Homer
3. The Grapes Of Wrath — John Steinbeck
4. Three Men In A Boat — Jerome K. Jerome
5. Alice In Wonderland — Lewis Carroll

Best Decadence
1. The Great Gatsby — F Scott Fitzgerald - Loved this
2. Vile Bodies — Evelyn Waugh
3. The Picture Of Dorian Gray — Oscar Wilde - And this
4. The Beautiful And Damned — F Scott Fitzgerald
5. Against Nature — J K Huysmans

Best Rebels
1. The Autobiography Of Malcolm X — Malcolm X
2. The Outsider — Albert Camus
3. Animal Farm — George Orwell - Just read this recently and really enjoyed it.
4. The Communist Manifesto — Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels
5. Les Misérables — Victor Hugo - Fantastic. It's long, but well worth it.

Best Sci Fi
1. The Time Machine — H G Wells
2. The Man In The High Castle — Philip K Dick
3. The Invisible Man — H G Wells
4. The Day Of The Triffids — John Wyndham
5. We — Yvevgeny Zamyatin

Best Violence
1. A Clockwork Orange — Anthony Burgess
2. Hell’s Angels — Hunter S Thompson
3. A Tale Of Two Cities — Charles Dickens - the only Dickens I've not been able to get into. But I do keep trying.
4. Another Country — James Baldwin
5. In Cold Blood — Truman Capote

Best Highs
1. Junky — William S Burroughs
2. The Moonstone — Wilkie Collins
3. Confessions Of An English Opium-Eater — Thomas De Quincey
4. The Subterraneans — Jack Kerouac
5. Monsieur Monde Vanishes — Georges Simenon

Best Subversion
1. 1984 — George Orwell - Fabulous, everyone should read this.
2. The Monkey Wrench Gang — Edward Abbey
3. The Prince — Niccolo Machiavelli - Great. Taught me all I know about trusting politicians.
4. Bound For Glory — Woody Guthrie
5. Death Of A Salesman — Arthur Miller

Best Crimes
1. Maigret And The Ghost — Georges Simenon
2. The Woman In White — Wilkie Collins
3. The Big Sleep — Raymond Chandler
4. A Study In Scarlet — Arthur Conan Doyle
5. The Thirty-Nine Steps — John Buchan

Best Adultery
1. Madame Bovary — Gustave Flaubert - I enjoyed this
2. Thérèse Raquin — Émile Zola
3. Les Liaisons Dangereuses — Pierre Choderlos De Laclos - One of my favourites
4. The Scarlet Letter — Nathaniel Hawthorne - Liked this too

5. Anna Karenina — Leo Tolstoy

Best Debauchery
1. I, Claudius — Robert Graves
2. Hangover Square — Patrick Hamilton
3. The Beggar’s Opera — John Gay
4. The Twelve Caesars — Suetonius
5. Guys And Dolls — Damon Runyon

Best Action
1. Treasure Island — Robert Louis Stevenson
2. Iliad — Homer
3. The Count Of Monte Cristo — Alexandre Dumas
4. From Russia With Love — Ian Fleming
5. War And Peace — Leo Tolstoy

Best Laughs
1. Cold Comfort Farm — Stella Gibbons
2. Diary Of A Nobody — George & Weedon Grossmith
3. Pickwick Papers — Charles Dickens
4. Scoop — Evelyn Waugh
5. Lucky Jim — Kingsley Amis

I must admit that this list leaves me somewhat cold. And I don't feel the need to read many that I've missed, just re-read some that I've previously enjoyed.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

23 Questions

Found this at Jo's website.

1. Elaborate on your default icon.
I don't have one. Should find a nice photo of myself or a nice photo that Darren has taken.

2. What’s your current relationship status?
Have been married for just under three years.

3. Ever have a near-death experience?
I lost a lot of blood during an operation and my blood pressure went dangerously low. But I was unconscious so I'm not sure if that counts.

4. Name an obvious quality you have.
I like to think it's that I'm an obviously nice person when you meet me. I have my moments, but I think I'm nice. Obvious negative quality - awful, awful singer.

5. What’s the name of the song that’s stuck in your head right now?
None at the moment. Normally lots going on in there. The most recent I can remember is Oh What A Circus from Evita. That was yesterday passing all the posters on the tube.

6. Name a celebrity you would marry:
Don't know actually. Celebrities don't tend to do it for me other than on a really superficial level. Characters do - I would scrap with Donna for Josh from The West Wing.

7. Who will cut and paste this first?
No idea. But let me know if you!

8. Has anyone ever said you look like a celebrity?
Nope. Never.

9. Do you wear a watch? What kind?
I wear one to work, then take it off the minute I get to the office.

10. Do you have anything pierced?
My hears, don't wear ear-rings often though.

11. Do you have any tattoos?
No. Sometimes think I would like one, but can never make up my mind.

12. Do you like pain?
Nope. And I'm a really baby about it, which doesn't help as I'm the most clumsy person around and always banging myself into doors and tables.

13. Do you like to shop?
For books, always. No such thing as too much book-shopping. For DVDs/CDs sometimes. For clothes hardly ever - small and fat is not a good combination.

14. What was the last thing you paid for with cash?
I really can't remember - I think it was my violin lesson on Saturday.

15. What was the last thing you paid for with your credit card?
Credit card was a rucksack for Darren. Switch was two tickets to go and see Avenue Q. Unfortunately I managed to call myself Sir Louise - the drop down menu confused me.

16. Who was the last person you spoke to on the phone?
A member of Clare Short's staff - confirming she was the Chair of the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Genocide.

17. What is on your desktop background?

18. What is the background on your cell phone?
A photo of Darren asleep on the sofa at his mum's. It is very cute.

19. Do you like redheads?
I liked a redhead once....

20. Do you know any twins?
Two of my friends at school were twins.

21. Do you have any weird relatives?
Only kind I have.

22. What was the last movie you watched?
Went to see Superman Returns at the weekend. It was good.

23. What was the last book you read?
The Mysterious Mr Quin by Agatha Christie. As usual I found her short stories less enjoyable than full length novels. I am currently reading Boudica: Dreaming the Bull by Manda Scott and loving it.

As usual I won't tag anyone, but do let me know if you take part.

How to help the NHS

The NHS is in meltdown. Only the most ardent New-Labourites still have their heads in the sand about the crisis that is affecting it. Smarter minds than mine are working on what to do, but I have a couple of suggestions:

1. Support people with private health insurance. Having private health care is not a sin, if I could afford it I would. And the people who do have some are alleviating the pressure on the NHS. There should be some kind of tax break to recognise this - not a huge tax break, but an amount that would recognise not only are private health patients saving the NHS money, but also time - by coming off waiting lists, they are freeing spaces for people who need treatment and can't afford or wish to go private. Private health insurance should NEVER be compulsory, but the tax system should recognise that private patients help the NHS by not using it.

2. Despite my support for private health care I would ban NHS employed staff from working in the private sector and using NHS rooms/equipment and time to do so. If a consultant wants to earn thousands of pounds in the private sector that's fine. But to do so by telling NHS patients that he can't help them on the NHS but come round later today when I'm doing private consultations with your chequebook and I will treat you then is just sickening. An argument against this is that all dual-role doctors will go private, I don't believe it. And anyway, the market probably couldn't cope with the newly full-time private providers. I doubt there would be enough demand to cope with the supply.

As for private operations/care being provided on NHS premises - not a chance. The beds - bought by the NHS, the equipment - bought by the NHS, the rooms - paid for by the NHS, should all be used by NHS patients. If private companies want to provide private healthcare then that's fine, but they also have to provide the infrastructure and free up the space and equipment for NHS patients.

3. Managers are fine. But they don't make medical decisions and shouldn't make medical decisions. I was in hospital a couple of years ago for a fairly serious operation. In 10 days I was moved 7 times. Almost every time it was preceded by some bitch with a clipboard visiting the ward. By moving me, it aided her bed usages figures. I don't care. It hurt and it wasn't in my best interests. I spent my last night in hospital in a cubicle just off A&E - that is not patient care at its best. When I refused to moved one day I was marked out as a trouble-maker. It didn't seem to matter that my blood pressure was dangerously low, necessitating emergency treatment in the middle of the night and I was so sore that I couldn't even sit up, it was the request of the bed manager that I move to a different bed to ensure that there was the correct bed turnover for the ward. Put clinical decisions firmly in the hands of clinicians.

I know there's lots more to be done. But I think these are areas that could at least be looked at.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

The Cost of being an MP

Tim at Conservative Home has run an excellent article on the financial costs of being a Conservative Parliamentary candidate - find it here.

I'm sure it doesn't just apply to the Conservative Party - candidates in the other main parties presumably have similar horror stories. But it does help to explain why there is a plethora of lawyers, bankers and businessmen/women in Parliament and fewer teachers, nurses and office workers.

Tim estimates that the cost of being elected, including lost earnings, travel and attending events is approximately £41,000. That's significantly more than my annual salary and I regard myself as being extremely lucky and in a well-paid job.

Some people have argued, with some justification, that this is a small price to pay for the job. They'll earn approximately £60,000 per year, be able to play about with the expenses system, employ their spouse as their secretary and have fabulously long holidays during the recess. All true - if not true for all MPs. But is it that simple - speculate to accumulate?

Of course not - the high cost of being a candidate, and it is a high cost, is acceptable to the well paid lawyers and self-made millionaires and by applying to be a candidate they are accepting the costs they will incur, even though they are unreasonable. But would a (for example) primary school teacher with two young children be willing or able to take that step towards becoming an MP. Of course not, nor would I. Despite being on a good salary, with a husband on a good salary, we can't afford to even look at buying a house in the South of England. To lose £10,000 a year (assuming early selection) would just be impossible.

So what's the answer? I don't know. Tim has made some suggestions which bear careful consideration. I particularly like the one about a "candidate protector" who can advise the constituency association and the candidate on what events are must-attend and which ones, despite the pleas of the Chairman, really aren't. If candidates spent less time and money at every cheese & wine and strawberry tea and more out meeting the electorate it would help both financially and politically. Of course the candidate must attend some social events, (s)he is the cheerleader-in-chief of the Association but not every event. And especially not seeing the same 30 people over and over and over again, just changing whose house this month's event is in.

Central Office also has a role to play - while you do want to see members of the candidate's list working at by-elections, it isn't reasonable to demand that they spend a certain number of hours working at them. It is reasonable to ask all the candidates in the south east to spend x hours at a London by-election, it isn't reasonable to ask candidates from the north west to spend the same time at it. Similarly there has to be a radical rethink of the training weekends that they offer. Candidates will spend hundreds of pounds, leaving their constituency behind on ideal campaigning days (Saturdays) to sit in a hotel somewhere in the country to be told daft things that may have no relevance to the campaign they are running locally.

As I say, I don't know what the answer is. But when people ask why Parliament doesn't look more like the country it's because the majority of the country couldn't afford to get there.