Early-Morning Wake Up Call

Lisa woke me up at around 5 am this morning with the question; “what’s that beeping noise?”

She was right to ask.  It was actually two beeping noises, running out of sync with one another, blaring out discordantly and making a right racket in doing so.  For a moment, I thought it was the timer on the cooker having a fit – had I bumped it with my hip while cooking?  Looking back, it sounded nothing like it, but I was sleepy and you’ve got to check the obvious options.

It wasn’t the cooker.  Smoke alarm, I thought, and not ours.  So off I went into the stairwell, trying to work out where the hell the noise was coming from.  One floor up, a door along, I find the source.  There’s no smoke, no heat, nobody else in the building seems to be up or about – I knock on the door…and suddenly realise I’m knocking on a stranger’s door at 5 am in just my boxer shorts.  A woman answers, her face screwed up in pained apology.  With the door open, the noise is incredible.

“I’m sorry, I don’t know how to turn it off.  There’s no fire.  It says turn off the power before disconnecting, but I turned it off and it’s still making a noise.”

“Would you mind if I try?”

So I go into a total stranger’s flat, wearing just my pants, and stand on a chair in the middle of her open-plan kitchen with this insanely loud noise going off in my face, trying to lever the smoke alarm off of its ceiling mount.

“It says to turn the mains off – what if you get electrocuted?”

Then I’ll die wearing just my pants, standing on a stool in some random woman’s flat, thanks for asking, I think but fail to say.  It would be rude, and the pants comment would draw attention to my unclothed state, which is not wise considering my waist is at her eye level.

There’s a tab on the side of the smoke detector.  Press, lift, twist and heave, and off it comes.  The sound dies away.  I look at the back of the detector, and there’s a lot of brown staining on the visible sections of circuit board.

“Have you had a flood?”

“Yes, I redid the ceiling about a month ago.”

“That explains it.  Looks like your smoke detector was more likely to catch fire than detect smoke.”

“Oh.  Thanks ever so much for that.  You’re a hero.”

“Aye, well, bye now.”

And I stomped off back down to the flat and back to bed.

More Civil Liberties stuff.

Both found via the ever-excellent Boingboing.net, first off here’s yet more evidence demonstrating the shift of approach in Uk policing, particularly the Met, towards the inappropriate use of their extensive powers of search and arrest.  Basically, a tourist taking photos of architecturally interesting places in London was commanded to delete all the photos, and had his details taken “to prevent terrorism”.  His letter to the Guardian is at the bottom of this page, and the accompanying article is here.

A point to note is that, if you are stopped and searched by the police, they must give you a copy of a form detailing why you were stopped.  I sincerely hope that Herr Matza has his copy, and that it does say what he alleges the police informed him: that photographing transport in London is forbidden, as the Met have commented that they know of no such law currently in place.

Meanwhile, in the US, a patrol stop goes South when the man stopped invokes his Fourth Amendment rights to refuse a search.  Granted, there is a motor vehicle exemption to the Fourth Amendment that states, given probable cause, the police can search your vehicle without a warrant.  I’ve got a feeling this is going to boil down to a  he said, she said argument in court between the plaintiff and the police witnesses, and the judge will let the police off of the hook on the basis that non-compliance must be punished in today’s society.  Nevertheless, kudos to him for standing up for himself, even if it did get him tasered and cut up for his trouble.

Reversing the serious/comedy trend.

I’ve changed it to comedy/serious today.

Ben Goldacre, writer of the Bad Science column and ‘blog,was unable to publish a chapter of his book because, at the time, he was being sued by the chapter’s subject, Matthias Rath.  As will become clear, Rath didn’t have a leg to stand on when it came to the libel case he brought against Dr Goldacre, and the Guardian, and it was subsquently dropped.

On the Bad Science ‘blog, Ben has made the missing chapter available to read and distribute for free, under the terms of a Creative Commons licence.  I can’t recommend reading it enough – it’s a brilliant demonstration of the abuses that can happen at the border of science and culture.

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Reconcile the following account with the visual evidence.

I’ll just let this stand by itself.  Here is the police statement regarding the death of Ian Tomlinson during a protest in London last week.  Remember, this is the official police statement of exactly what happened.

Wednesday 1 April 23:36pm

A member of the public went to a police officer on a cordon in Birchin Lane, junction with Cornhill to say that there was a man who had collapsed round the corner.

That officer sent two police medics through the cordon line and into St Michaels Alley where they found a man who had stopped breathing. They called for LAS support at about 1930.

The officers gave him an initial check and cleared his airway before moving him back behind the cordon line to a clear area outside the Royal Exchange Building where they gave him CPR.

The officers took the decision to move him as during this time a number of missiles – believed to be bottles – were being thrown at them.

LAS took the man to hospital where he was pronounced dead.

The Directorate of Professional Standards at both the MPS and City of London Police have been informed. The IPCC has been informed.

The Guardian has very kindly made the following footage available for embedding.  The man in the grey t-shirt is Ian Tomlinson.

Duck Season! Rabbit Season!

What’s been happening?  Nothing much.  I got some weird abusive cold calls at the end of last week, from an operator who first refused to accept the existence of the TPS register and then wouldn’t stop ringing the landline.  I phoned BT to complain and got an extremely rude operator who suggested that perhaps I was an idiot for calling BT since I didn’t have a phone number, name or any details of the cold caller who rang me.

One complaint form later, I got a call from another BT operator apologising profusely for my treatment, but also explaining that Bt don’t log incoming calls and therefore can do nothing to help me.  Amazing.  Maybe I should phone up GCHQ?  Just kidding.  Although it does bring up an interesting point about the FRA-lagen – if our call had been routed via Sweden, the government there would have a log of it.  Out of country cold-callers are probably not a problem over there now, I guess.

Going back to BT, they offered to set up a system whereby we can screen our calls.  Anyone that phones up as number withheld or not available would be put on hold so we can decide if we want to answer, or cut out entirely.  That’s probably brilliant if you only expect calls from people in the UK that don’t routinely hide their own number, but for us would cut off phone calls from Lisa’s relatives.  So really all I can do is hope that people don’t cold call me, even though I’m on the TPS register.  If they do call again and refuse to hang up, I’m going to load up some Pan Pipe Moods on Spotify and leave the phone next to the speaker.

Writing-wise, I’m up to 16,000 words and still going fairly strong.  I don’t think 120,000 is an unreasonable estimate for what the first draft will end up as, depending on how the story goes.  I’ve been following some discussions in various online writing haunts regarding form and style for submission, but for the moment I’m going to ignore the bulk of it and aim for “ripping yarn” and once that’s done we’ll see whether I can market it.  I could very well aim to produce something market-specific but then that seems to be kind of contrary to the whole concept of artistic endeavour.  Mind you, you could argue that work has merit based upon popularity – that the Mona Lisa is the most famous painting in the world by dint of being the most famous painting in the world – but then I’ve read The Da Vinci Code and Twilight and both of those novels lend weight to the counter-argument that, even in the bestseller lists, Sturgeon’s Revelation still applies.

Then again, there is the thought that I’d be incapable of producing something fit-to-market anyway, even if I wanted to go down that road.  I doubt I’d be able to grind out a chick-lit pot-boiler in just the same way that I’m unable to imagine myself writing headlines for The Daily Hate and Fear.

Jade’s Final Moments – Heartbreaking Scenes As World Mourns Brave Star’s Passing.

Actually that wasn’t so hard after all, and I managed to work in a reference to an 80’s cartoon show.  I’ll give The Sun a ring tomorrow, see if they’ve got any jobs going.

Got suspiciously ethnic neighbours? Then you too can live out an episode of The Wire.

Yet another in the ever-growing list of police operations based on nothing more than paranoia and a willingness on the force’s part to use the freedom to dominate that Terrorism law gives them.

This time a 63 year old Jazz musician, Victor Frederick, was the subject of a surveillance operation, police searches of his studio and home, forced to the ground and stripped in the street and arrested on “suspicion of making explosives”.

Of course, he was doing nothing of the sort.  He was just pottering about making jazz music, which some people consider a crime but is certainly not cause for an arrest at gunpoint.  A list of “suspicious items” found in the studio during a police search included an “ethnic” container containing a “odourless and colourless liquid” – also known as Mauby – and a “video tape relating to Pakistan”, which (according to the victim, Mr Frederick) was a documentary about Muhammad Ali.

So, looking back at the chain of events, none of the police’s actions were justified or in proportion to the life of Victor Frederick.  Does he get an apology or compensation? No.

On February 17, armed police officers were deployed as a precaution to ensure the safety of the public and officers and a 63-year-old man was arrested. He was later released without charge.

“South Wales Police accepts Mr Frederick has done nothing wrong, and our officers acted in good faith in response to genuine concerns.

“South Wales Police has a duty to thoroughly investigate all potentially suspicious incidents in order to protect our communities.

“Suspicious incident” being euphemistic for “West Indian man minding his own business”?

They are “considering their response” to a letter from Plaid Cymru Assembly Member Leanne Wood, as are the IPCC.  Hopefully it won’t involve an armed response unit, dogs, a helicopter and a bag over her head.

(Link found via boingboing.net)

Fitness, and stuff.

So I’ve been getting back into working out a bit more often.  Before Lisa and I got together, I used to go climbing and work out a great deal, and although it’s unlikely I’ll ever achieve the same level of fitness again (although I might come close if I actually plan my workouts as opposed to just doing things randomly like I used to do) I retain the memory of being able to do silly things with hanging off pull-up bars and stuff.

Anyway, so one of the things that has always given me trouble has been joint pain.  nothing massively serious, just the odd twinge here and there.  The worst one I had recently was my right elbow which, when under tension, felt as though something inside there was going to go “ping” and send my tricep fluttering up into my armpit and the rest of me into a paroxsymal attack.

In an attempt to combat this, I have been doing lots of low-impact exercise.  Cycling instead of running, lower weights with more reps, plenty of stretching, the usual deal.  Another thing I considered was the use of a food supplement.  Normally, I take a vitamin C and an iron supplement daily anyway, as when I go to donate blood I always seem to have borderline low blood iron, so when I noticed a deal on glucosamine sulphate at the supermarket I thought to myself, why the hell not?

I really should think before I do these things.  The glucosamine/chondroitin arthritis intervention trial (GAIT) was a 4-year primary and 2-year ancillary study into whether or not the supplement in normal and combined forms was capable of reducing pain and preventing joint degradation in osteoarthritis sufferers.

The result?  It works…almost as much as placebo does (except in the moderate -to-severe pain group, who showed a significant result with the combined supplement).

Two quid spent re-learning that lesson, then.  I think in the future I’ll stick to the lower impact stuff and maybe just eat a little better.

Worst. Friday. Ever.

Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration.  I got up, had breakfast, read through some news/blogs/comics, went to the 10 am Body Pump class, staggered home, had some lunchables, then Lisa wanted to go to Costco.

Costco is alright.  It’s really intended for the trade market, so we lost out on a lot of good deals simply because of the sheer bulk of packages (48 toilet rolls, for example) would not sit well in the flat.  However, I did manage to get some MEAT for a load of Japanese curry I’m going to make Sunday and eat through the week, and enough Wilkinson sword Titanium razors to se me through doomsday.

Doomsday, now that’s a point.  Come the breakdown of society, I’ll be down there with a dumper truck.  A whole pallet of 60-packs of Chomp: essential for survival.

Needless to say, I had to man up and steadfastly ignore the chocolate aisle.  If I bought in bulk, I’d probably end up acting as if it was some sort of challenge to finish the lot.

So anyway, I had a bit of a headache in Costco.  By the time I got home, it was a lot worse and while I worked on the PC things went downhill to the point where the dialogue from the tv had me spasming in distraction everytime House said something witty or mean.  I crawled into bed and stuck my head under the duvet, only emerging later when Lisa brought me paracetamol and some water.  I got up briefly, but felt so nauseous I had to lie back down straight away.

Later on, about 7.45 pm, I woke up and felt a tiny bit better.  I thought that staying in bed longer would be a bad thing, as I’d never be able to sleep later on, so I got up and made a cup of tea.  One sip of the tea and it was a race: me to the bathroom versus the contents of my stomach to my mouth.  Thankfully, I won.  Back to bed.

Anyway, around 3 am I had to get up and sit at the PC for a few hours browsing random crap until I felt like I could sleep again.  The only thing worth linking to was this clip on io9 which uses a very good clip from Angel (season 5, episode 15, to be exact) to debate the Battlestar Galactica ending.  I did look for an embed code on the various youtube forms of the same clip but the io9 one was better quality and really deserves props for the reference.

Why be a journalist when you can be a government puppet for half the effort?

Less than half, I’d imagine.

The UK government, in yet another display of their vast ignorance with regards to implementing effective policies over what will have the largest visual “splash”, have started a new campaign against terrorism.

“Don’t rely on others.  If you suspect it, report it.”

Continue reading “Why be a journalist when you can be a government puppet for half the effort?”