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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Pete's LiveJournal:

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    Saturday, March 29th, 2014
    10:41 pm
    Good day out
    Today's bit of Cambridge we'd never got round to visiting: the Scott Polar Research Institute. Compact, clear, and moving exhibition about the heroic age of polar exploration and "the worst journey in the world". Quite a few Inuit artefacts there too.

    A few weeks ago we'd done the Anthropology museum, which was also from the pith helmet era. Striking huge totem pole in the middle of the first floor; slightly awkward and apologetic feeling about the whole place and the spears-and-funny-hats collection.

    Lunch at a little newish Chinese place, North China Dumpling. Does precicely what it says on the tin: £5 gets you 12 very tasty meat dumplings. Bit slippery with the chopsticks. I'm a great fan of uncomplicated cheap dining; we'd recently been to the Pint Shop, which is something of a high watermark of posh pub dining. The pork belly was delicious; wide selection of expensive beers. Hipsterish.

    One week left of work, and two and a half weeks to moving. It's an odd feeling, to be leaving a job with nothing wrong with it. I've ejected from a disorganised employer, been made redundant, quit after a decade when taken over by Cadence, and now I'm moving on by choice. The new job is more pragmatic than idealist, so we'll have to see how that goes.

    Most of the books are now in boxes. Still a lot of things to pack...
    Tuesday, January 7th, 2014
    8:58 pm
    Upping sticks
    So, Laura and I are planning to move to Edinburgh.

    This plan has grown over the past few years; it's a lovely place, and every time we go there I see a little more of it. It becomes more familiar and homelike. It has the liveliness of a city that Cambridge really doesn't. It has the Festival and Hogmanay, and many little things going on throughout the year.

    It's also come to one of those times in life for reassessment; we've just got married, Laura's one-year job at CUP came to an end. We decided that our "it would be nice to move up north eventually" should have its "eventually" upgraded to a "now". Also, it's time to buy a house, and this could be cheaper (although that one has gone). We could go out a bit and get more space, or a nice family house on the other side of a park from the Parliament, or even dead centre above a pub. All at the same price as it would be to buy on our current street.

    Enough property window shopping. It was time to get serious. The downside to this whole plan is leaving a job that is currently rewarding, comfortable and well-paid, and having to find another one in Edinburgh. It took rather longer than I was expecting to get a decent recruitment agent and an interview, but finally I had an interview with a company called Zonal on the 23rd of December. And now they've made me an offer.

    I spent a good part of Monday evening having a wave of Doubt about the proposition; one of the interviewers was offputtingly blunt and started a politics conversation, and I'm also feeling bad about leaving my current employer (Argon Design). There was some discussion of the possibility of me being a remote worker in Scotland after moving there, but it wouldn't be an ideal situation for either party. Potentially a little isolated, potential issues with us both working at home (unless we got the mansion). I also have the Fear sometimes about the amount of work associated with moving house, both bureaucratic and physical. Actually buying a house is a big scary decision too. So much potential for hidden problems.

    But today I made a few more organisational phone calls, and it starts to feel more real and more of a Thing That Is Going To Happen. It's exciting as well; a big shakeup, a chance to do things differently. A house to lay out, decorate, maybe modify a bit. An opportunity to meet new people. My inner northerner will be more comfortable up there; and there will be plenty of opportunities to just wander the beautiful lowlands or coastline to ease the soul. There's a bit of Lake Isle of Innisfree* in this plan, and a bit of Waverly (200th anniversary, by the way).

    * Pedants will point out that central Edinburgh is nothing at all like a wilderness, and that Waverly went badly for its central character; although he did land on his feet. And pedantry is not such a popular pastime north of the border.
    Monday, April 23rd, 2012
    4:23 pm
    Foundation and Empire
    So, it's St George's day. This goes largely unremarked, other than by the occasional pub bore or angry young man with an England flag on his van. It's the date we might have our national day, if we were to have one. Other countries do; usually marking independence day, or the day of some great reform of state. The moment when the country was brought into existence by gunshot or signature. In some places it's all over the street maps, just to make sure you can't forget it. The same is not true of the UK, or Great Britain, or England. We're built in layers and by stages, like the medieval-on-Norman-on-Roman construction of York minster. We can't look back and find a date with a clear dividing line when we can say, "From then, England". Perhaps 1066, but it's problematic to have a national day celebrating the invasion and conquest of your country.

    Speaking of problematic things, our history presents a problem as well. We can't do the day to day continuous construction of the concept of the country on its history, as we keep tripping over discarded moral horrors and abandoned foolish ventures. We need a clean break, a foundation myth to narrate us into coherence again. However, we're also institutionally suspicious of official efforts to do this kind of nation-building, as they tend to produce the sort of tone-deaf bland earnestness of the Olympics and the Millenium Dome, or further back the wave of Modernist town planning now so widely hated. We like our reactionary incrementalism, it keeps things as they were, in the good old days. Therein lies the problem; in as much as there is a collective vision of the country, it faces backwards into Avalon, noted for its lack of wind farms and nonwhite people.

    There is something very close to a refounding myth, or at least a rebuilding one, surrounding World War 2. There we locate "our finest hour", but also the foundation of the NHS and national state education. Egalitarianism was brought to the country at gunpoint, and it almost stuck. Could this be the basis for a more comfortable national solidarity? Perhaps, but there's nobody to make that case any more. All three parties are in favour of privatisation of public institutions, and against the idea of competent public administration per se. There is no universal leadership, just a series of ever more finely tailored marketing messages to ever narrower demographics. The Olympics is managing to unite people in the national pastime: complaining. Not complaining to anyone in particular, or any kind of organised complaining, nor the sort of complaining that might prevent it, nor rallying round an alternative; mere complaint, without form and void. Not for nothing do the Australians call us "whinging".

    Tuesday, April 3rd, 2012
    6:45 pm
    Net snooping
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-17595209

    I think we can safely negate all of Clegg's statements, given his record on tuition fees and the NHS, and assume that it *will* be rammed through. What's really interesting is the phrasing of some of the rest of the article:


    The proposed new law - which the Home Office says will be brought in "as soon as parliamentary time allows"
    ...
    A senior Home Office source said the proposal "absolutely will not be dropped or even delayed", but its "passage through the Commons is still being discussed".


    Let's be clear on this, it's a Home Office policy, like the perennial of the ID cards database; the Home Office will keep trying to push it through no matter who is in power. It is the job of politicians to distrust them and demand proper evidence and discussion. This almost certainly won't happen, but there is a chance that the proposals will get lost in the government's fiasco queue.

    (Various people have already pointed out that trying to intercept every webmail-over-ssl website in the world is a non-starter, not to mention every corporate intranet, plus every chat system or point-to-point IP phone; which makes me wonder what the proposals actually are)
    Wednesday, January 11th, 2012
    7:44 pm
    [politics] Solidarity versus charity
    Solidarity vs charity

    This is something that I've been pondering for a while in relation to the politics of public services. There seem to be two modes of thinking:

    - solidarity-based: "We all need education and health services, and the need for these is inherently universal and equal. Therefore we're going to fund them univerally from public funds."
    - charity-based: "There's a moral obligation to help people less well off than yourself, and we're going to do this by funding services for those who can't afford to pay for them on an individual basis."

    While these are very similar and can produce similar sorts of results, I feel that the original Bevanist welfare state was much more solidarity-based, and that over time we've drifted from solidarity to charity since then. The problem with the charity approach is that it very easily ends up either patronising its recipients, or giving them the wrong things; it's also very vulnerable to having its funding cut off when people no longer feel rich. Hence what's happening at the moment.

    We've already seen higher education taken from universal to private, with a strange charitable fudge on the way student loans are repaid. But by structuring it as loans, we say that the student's obligation to society is *financial*, whereas in the old model there would be an understood obligation to pay one's education forward by being useful to the public. The public service ethos is gradually being eroded in favour of not giving the public any more service than the person in front of you has personally paid for.

    Charity-based thinking is also very, very easily undermined by the "donors" feeling that they are being exploited, lied to, given insufficient gratitude, or that the recipients are engaging in immoral lifestyles. This is why the cuts to DLA have happened so easily: people question whether all those people are "really disabled". Or consider the endless Mail stories about people given housing benefit for houses that would be unaffordable on average middle class incomes.

    Solidarity is not something that can be centrally ordered, wished or bought into existence. It requires continuous political construction. And I think that the only party in the UK that really understands this and has made it work is the SNP. They've spent at least the past 30 years if not longer working on making Scotland a "solidarity unit", something that people feel a civic pride in and a sense of mutual obligation. And this shows up in the way they handle issues like higher education and care for the elderly: they assume universality (among Scots) from the start, rather than immediately bogging the discussion down in trying to account for the costs on an individual basis.

    England, meanwhile, is not a solidarity unit in anything like that sense; if someone makes a point of their English national identity, there's a very high chance they're going to use it to bash Scotland and accuse Scotland of not paying their fair share. (If someone makes a point of their English "ethnicity", it's very likely they're going to say something about Islam next).

    The United Kingdom? People on the mainland seem to forget about Northern Ireland, which has its own problem of two violently opposed identity groups. There's quite high solidarity *within* those groups - solidarity is easier when you have a common enemy, sadly. Lots of people there would dearly love to be in two different countries but are too geographically mingled for that to be possible. Currently a truce holds; will it last the century? NI's unionists have a strong idea of what the UK should be, not necessarily one shared by many people on the mainland, and what will happen to them if Scotland leaves the Union?

    "British" seems to be the default choice for most people, but as a "solidarity unit" it's fairly weak. Standing up and declaring pride in one's Britishness is Not Done, and attempts to bring Britishness into politics range from the embarrasing ("Cool Britannia") to the problematic ("British jobs for British workers") to the thwarted (attempts to keep train procurement in the UK abandoned due to EU competition law). There is too much problematic history attached to the British Empire for progressive people to embrace Britishness wholeheartedly; Scotland doesn't have that baggage.

    Where to go from here? Europe? I note that the current European financial crisis is entirely down to the same issue of not wanting to pay for those who are percieved to be "cheating the system", in this case Germany not willing to fund Greece. European solidarity is strong among a very small group of elites and weak otherwise.

    The "99%" people have the right idea, but are arguably too far in the other direction of not being specific enough. It'll be interesting to see if that's still going in 10 years time.
    Friday, December 9th, 2011
    1:19 pm
    [politics] The value of society may go down as well as up
    Your pension is not going to pay out as much as you thought it would, and you are going to have to make larger contributions(*1). Who will you accept this from?

    - your government
    - your employer
    - your private pension provider
    Read more...Collapse )

    (I have another, shorter post in my head about solidarity vs noblesse oblige, which I keep meaning to get round to)
    Monday, July 18th, 2011
    3:58 pm
    Back from Latitude! Brief summary
    Best gig: OMD (Laura may have ended up on the Jumbotron here)
    Best gig in rain: They Might Be Giants
    Best headwear: Paloma Faith
    Best suprise: John Paul Jones from Led Zeppelin, as unbilled bassist to Seasick Steve
    Best improvised instruments: Seasick Steve
    Best discovery: Thea Gilmore
    Best comeback: Adam Ant
    Best Karen Carpenter: Rumer
    Least comprehensible: Paolo Nutini
    Most danceable: Waterboys
    Most incongrous festivalgoer: punk-looking guy in camo jacket pushing an immaculate Silver Cross pram
    Best comedy: Shappi Khorsandi
    Most awkward balloon: Sky Arts, which never quite got off the ground
    Best comedy who's not already famous: Pappy's (anarchic late night slapstick sketch show trio)
    Best thing in Literature tent: a video tribute to the Space Shuttle, as part of David Ince's show
    Best political commentry: Stuart Maconie (yes, really; widely applauded by audience)
    Most awkward questioner: (to Marcus Brigstocke): "Did you know this festival is sponsored by Sky, the Times, and Vodaphone?"
    Most useful vendor: Oxfam, who provided me with a sweater, waterproof, and sleeping bags, all of which I'd forgotten
    Best cheese: Halloumination

    Had a bit of trouble due to messing up my ankle on the first day, spending the rest of the festival with various degrees of limp; also ended up with swollen feet after standing all day. The only thing I'd complain about (apart from the weather, which was mostly wet but we got one glorious sunny day, and in any case isn't in the organisers control) was the volume: events in the literature and poetry tents were often hard to hear over the main and secondary stages! I'm not sure it's a good idea to have it quite that loud at a festival with lots of kids, either. Not everything needs to be played at 11.
    Thursday, April 7th, 2011
    9:52 pm
    The question of internships has been in the news recently. Not only are people complaining that the system of unpaid internships perpetuates the class system in a lot of high paid metropolitan jobs, but people have even started overtly auctioning them off at Oxford.

    I benefited from internships myself, in both my summers while at Cambridge. The first of these I got through being on the winning team of the BCS programming competition (which itself I got travel funding for from the college). One of the volunteers from the BCS who was organising it found places for two of us at his workplace, a financial services software house in central London. It was within an hour and a half commuting distance of my parents', who agreed to put up my Australian friend Ed over the summer while the two of us worked. I spent 8 weeks hacking Delphi for them, for about £200 a week. At the end of it my temporary colleagues gave me a copy of Stroustroup's C++ book, which I felt was generous of them (I think they liked me and were impressed by how much I'd got done); and I still have my product advertising mug from back then. Subsequently I spent the money on a laptop and going interrailing: I was the last of the grant+no tuition fees generation, so going to university was not a massive debt inducing experience.

    The first BCS competition also introduced us to some people from IBM Hursley, who would almost certainly have arranged us places there if we'd asked.

    The second summer Altera funded three internships within the computer lab, which involved working with Simon Moore to produce the hardware and associated teaching materials which would be used by subsequent second year students. This was extremely educational as we were doing a proper digital electronics design project from start to finish, with access to professional tools. It taught me a lot about the process and also about analog aspects of digital design, especially noise and grounding. I still have one of the PCBs as a memento. Altera offered us interviews and jobs at the end of our course; I decided not to take up the offer as I didn't
    fancy the location, somewhere near Slough in the soulless "M4 corridor". But the electronics experience helped me get a job with Azuro later.

    So both of these were a combination of meritocratic processes and advantage. The first one was clearly selected on the basis of us doing well in the BCS contest (meritocratic) but we had college funding for that (advantage, although not a parental advantage). The Altera one was done by interview (meritocratic) among Cambridge undergraduates (pre-selected). Both were
    also paid, which it seems that not all internships are these days.

    I can see how this process is difficult from the other side: it's hard to justify hiring a paid intern unless you feel certain you can get some proper work out of them. That in turn is hard to determine without a selection process - but that itself costs time. Hence the huge preference for an intern that someone else can 'vouch' for, or has some kind of track
    record. This is made slightly easier in a technical area where ability has tangibility and is more linked to results.

    Unpaid internships, on the other hand, seem like a much dodgier thing and a straightforward violation of minimum wage laws. Paid-for internships are even worse, overt bribery; but I think for the forseeable future those will be confined to media and political sectors where there's no meritocratic recruitment anyway, it's all based on schmoozing. I'm told that international
    development pretty much requires a year or two of unpaid internships or volunteer work on one's CV, which means it's entirely staffed by trustafarians.
    Thursday, December 9th, 2010
    2:19 pm
    Education
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Public_university#Continental_Europe

    Meanwhile it is being seriously argued that England can't afford free university education, unlike rich countries such as Poland and Scotland.

    Edit: now it's all over bar the shouting.
    Wednesday, December 1st, 2010
    1:40 pm
    [Politics] Shooting the messenger
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/wikileaks/8172916/WikiLeaks-guilty-parties-should-face-death-penalty.html

    Literalism strikes again. The strange thing about the recent revelations is how much they seem to be things that anyone who cared and was paying attention believed anyway: Chilcot enquiry nobbled, Iran dangerous, Royal makes gaffe to foreigners, after-dinner speakers make off-colour jokes to receptive audiences, the caucasus is full of eccentric dictators, etc. The response involves another factor:

    (on the suggestion of murdering Assange) As the anchor on the CBC news programme warned him that his comments were “pretty harsh stuff”, Prof Flanagan responded that he was “feeling very manly today”.


    Asserting masculinity through murdering people who inconvenience you? How 12th-century.
    Friday, November 26th, 2010
    11:40 pm
    Booking a rest in Bucharest
    We have a habit of taking holidays in November; it interrupts what's usually a quiet reclusive time between the end of summer and the hectic Christmas season. And holiday destinations are nearly always free from crowds. So, via the magic of the Crowne Plaza reward points scheme, we got offered three free nights in a hotel from a short list. I picked Bucharest due to curiosity about eastern Europe and it being about the right latitude to be warmer than Cambridge.

    Along the way we came up with a convoluted travel plan which involved staying in the Yotel hotel in Gatwick for the night before our flight out. This is pretty much a Japanese capsule hotel; our double room was entirely occupied by the bed, which could be electronically retracted into a sofa, and a thin shower area walled off by glass. It's like staying in a cyberpunk techno-future. Not ideal for claustrophobes or people who don't like hard beds, but if you get cabin fever then the entire terminal is available for your entertainment - the hotel is in the terminal building, very convenient.

    Flight out involved changing planes in Budapest. From the air it looks like an interesting place, all white buildings with tiled rooves; we shot through the terminal with no time to spare to look at anything at all.

    Bucharest is very much the opposite. Grey buildings under grey sky.

    The hotel we stayed in in Bucharest was extremely plush, with a reccomended restarant, and complimentary pool/sauna etc in the basement. Right next door was the Ramada, whose restaurant we also tried. Food played quite a big part in the holiday; Romania has some great wines, on which there is low duty, and anything locally produced is comparatively cheap. So we had our two hotel dinners, and one in the place rated highest on tripadvisor.com, called Baba Dochia. Menu only in Romanian, but the owner happy to advise; I ended up having pork in a tasty sauce with potatoes in cheese and cumin. Dinner for two with wine for £30.

    We went to two museums, the "peasant" and "village" museums, one indoor, one outdoor. Both had taken entire traditional wooden buildings as exhibits. The peasant museum contained an entire windmill, water mill, house and a church. The village museum had about 50 buildings in a park, all with appropriate internal decor. Several of them were various types of watermill, adapted for tasks like fulling cloth and crushing rock for gold mining.

    One house had a tiled roof like a Roman villa, but most had traditional wooden tiled rooves. Built to a very steep pitch, they loom blackly above you, especially the steeple of the wooden church that forms the centre of the exhibition.

    Given more time I'd be happy to explore the country. It seems to have the sullen pride of a place to which the 20th century has not been kind. The revolution of December '89 is marked in street names and the occasional memorial. In the basement of the peasant museum there was a small exhibition on the disaster of forced collective farming its casualties, which gave me the impression of being quietly very, very angry about it.

    Possibly the best example of the strange collision of ancient and modern is this building: http://www.iocoffee.ro/ - modern glass built directly in the shell of an older building.

    I get the impression that it's a country that values its intellectuals as well. It's proud of Ionescu.
    Thursday, November 11th, 2010
    1:36 pm
    I agree with khalinche
    I was going to write about education today, but this says pretty much what I wanted to say. (Locked entry; it refers to http://www.lrb.co.uk/v32/n21/stefan-collini/brownes-gamble which is publicly readable)
    Wednesday, November 10th, 2010
    4:41 pm
    Tax universality
    (previous post appears to have been overtaken by an actual riot)

    From a Guardian commentisfree comment: "its just a little bit perverse to ask a shelf stacker to contribute more of their taxes so that a student can go to university for 3 years"

    This sort of argument I've been seeing a lot lately, it's clearly going around, especially in the context of arguments over benefits. It's the classic tax protestor argument: find the easiest target of a government spending program and the worst example of taxation (e.g. little old ladies sent to prison for non-payment of poll tax), then play one off against the other. People who haven't been to university attacking the funding of it; people without children attacking the payment of child benefit; British nationals questioning why any benefits should be paid to non-nationals; people who hate art questioning arts funding; etc.

    The Conservative party is quite happy to encourage this sort of thing, as it facilitates a miserly government agenda through eroding social solidarity. I say "miserly" rather than "small"; one which tells less well of people that there is no money while spending it on boondoggles. (In fairness the current government is cancelling the vanity projects of the previous one while not yet starting its own, apart from cyberwarfare and free schools)
    3:11 pm
    [Politics] Education, education and the other thing
    Discussion on twitter:

    From: DrDickyD

    I support #demo2010 but anti #libdem line drawn by #nus is ludicrous. LibDems are still only major party with policy against tuition fees

    From: eyebrowsofpower (me)

    @auntysarah "LibDems are still only major party with policy against tuition fees" in your RT: now I am very confused inre clegg policies

    From: auntysarah

    @eyebrowsofpower Coalition govt and hypothetical Lib Dem majority govt are entirely different things. We did not win the election.


    Now, I have quite a bit of respect for Sarah and therefore am going to assume that she's simply obliged to support this nonsense as a condition of her position in the party. That doesn't make it any less nonsense, and the obvious reply comes to mind, "You won't win the next election by reneging on manifesto promises either!".

    I'd been meaning to write about tuition fees since I saw this article in the Guardian trying to claim that the policy actually represents scrapping tuition fees. It has the same sort of desperate flavour to it of a parent trying to convince a child that the cheap plastic replica of the toy they wanted is just as good as the real thing, or of someone trying to convince the inland revenue that what appears to be a profit is in fact, a loss, and that they should ignore the Ferrari on the drive.

    If policy A were really the same as policy B, it should be equally possible to get it passed, and wouldn't attract the ire of the public. This must lead us to believe that the policies aren't the same. And there's an important difference: the fees+debt plan moves the debt from the government balance sheet to that of the individual. Moving debt around so it appears to vanish is Accounting Fraud 101, as practiced famously by Enron; it's the kind of thing that got us into a huge financial crisis.

    Attempts to sell a system people don't understand as "fair" are also doomed. Would you enter into a potentially expensive financial situation with someone who told you that it's OK, it's not actually as expensive as it seems, it'll all be fine, you just have to pay for it for the rest of your life? This is very much the sort of thing that puts people from poor financial backgrounds off coming to university. They will be afraid of debt - and rightly so.

    Generally I've been somewhere between disappointed and concerned about the lack of open dissent within the coalition. It's clear that a strategic decision has been made to present a united front to the world, to placate the invisible bond vigilantes and deal with all the people who were afraid that a coalition government would be indecisive. But there's no value in being decisive in the direction of a misguided policy. And vandalising higher education is not the way to go. Like some of the recent cost-cutting measures, it's the eqivalent of burning your furniture to save on heating bills.

    Even under a coalition, Parliament doesn't really support discussion and dissent. These are difficult decisions, and they're being made rapidly in a non-public way. That alone makes me suspicious.

    (What would I do? Put corporation tax back up to the level it used to be under Thatcher, for a start; implement the LD proposed "mansion tax"; have a proper go at tax avoidance schemes - fund HMRC properly; and defer cuts a while until the economic situation has improved)
    Tuesday, November 9th, 2010
    1:24 pm
    Writing
    Not really been keeping up with the "write something every day", but I have been commenting on like_a_swallow's series of question-asking posts.
    Monday, November 1st, 2010
    9:43 pm
    Not quite nanowrimo
    I know I don't have the time and spoons to write a novel, but I am going to try to write something somewhere every day. Will probably end up being mostly nonfiction to LJ, but we'll see.
    Thursday, October 28th, 2010
    3:16 pm
    Steampunk and Empire
    I'd been vaguely pondering nanowrimo this year, and had got as far as the basis of an idea for some steampunk:

    Miniturised mechanical technology develops, with sapphire as the crucial material playing the role of "silicon" in contemporary technology. This leads to a project to build a rail link from London to India. The story itself plays out at a remote location on the railway in the Middle East. An explosives depot, with sophisticated automated defences. Protagonist starts to worry as the dump grows larger and larger - hubristic engineering project? Administrative error?

    Chekov's armoury leads us to believe that the depot will be detonated - but by whom, why, and with what effect?


    Today I read:
    http://www.tor.com/blogs/2010/10/stupid-things-we-say
    http://www.antipope.org/charlie/blog-static/2010/10/the-hard-edge-of-empire.html
    to which I think the response has to be, yes: steampunk is linked to the Empire, and yes, it ignores the dark side of that time. However, I'm going to defend it on escapist grounds, and argue that this applies a lot more widely, to historical fiction in general as well as quite a lot of classics. People should be able to guiltlessly enjoy escapist fiction. This probably needs more unpacking, but that's for another time.
    Tuesday, October 19th, 2010
    4:55 pm
    BBC raid: pensions again
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/tvandradio/bbc/8072241/BBC-may-pick-up-556m-bill-for-pensioners-TV-licences.html

    So the Conservative/Liberal government has started its expected attack on the BBC. £556m is a pretty drastic loss of funding. However, the picture is a bit more complicated if you look at the BBC's annual report for Y/E March 2010, page 11, things look a little weirder. The BBC actually reported a £512m surplus last year. Clearly someone has looked at this and decided to raid it. However the pension fund reported a £1.3bn "actuarial loss", which represents the difference in the amount expected to be paid out in pensions (increased) versus the value of assets held by the pension fund (decreased).

    Pensions are the great financial fudge issue of our time. I suspect the intent is to force the BBC to have another fight with its staff over pension rights.

    I support the BBC, but it seems to have ineptly developed an image problem in recent years. Maybe the time is right for a reality-style documentary on inside the BBC, which I think would do a power of good.
    Friday, October 15th, 2010
    9:35 pm
    Article goes here
    Some things which I've been musing about but not taken the time to write out properly. I'm quite slow when writing original thoughtful stuff, even though I can dash off comment replies on some subjects very quickly. Drop a comment if you're interested in reading any of these, that'll motivate me :)

    - "My time as a teenage paramilitary", about being in my school's cadet. One of those things which was perfectly normal at the time but seems weirder and weirder in retrospect. Schoolboys with live firearms and minimal adult supervision? Madness! (The _ammunition_ was very safely locked away, so not quite that mad)

    - From that, why the media are completely wrong about violence, especially in computer games; kids pick aggression up from other kids and adults around them and nobody seems to notice how it actually works.

    - Why anyone who uses the phrase "fiat currency" like it's a bad thing is a loon.

    - Writing about the internships I did as an undergraduate. Internships were in the news a while ago, with uproar about the inegality of unpaid internships. Mine were at least paid ..

    - Other economics: currency wars with China, what on earth is going on with the US.

    - Note I have here that says "programming as concept marshalling". Not completely sure how to unpack that, but I have another driveby insight: the reason visual programming languages have always struggled is that the important thing in text based programs of any size is identifiers, not operators or keywords. Maybe my syntax highlighter should be highlighting my identifiers different colours and not bothering with the rest.
    12:31 pm
    Further to that
    If you want to see just how badly the UK and US governments understand "cyberwarfare", look at Gary McKinnon. A country that actually cared about having an effective "cyberwarfare capability" (e.g. China, Israel) would have quietly recruited him. A country that cared about defending against "cyberwarfare" threats wouldn't have been vulnerable to him in the first place.

    (currently fighting the urge to bore LJ with economics)
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