Saturday, 20 January 2018

And another thing

On the subject of trains

The other thing that strikes me is how often the railway debate is seen as binary. As-is verses monolithic state owned-and-run.

This isn't just when talking about the future of the British railways but when citing the best and worst bits of the situation in other countries.

No small changes or mixed models allowed. All mentions of "and this happens where they have a nationalised system" talks of separation of running trains and infrastructure or that private companies can still run services or use of private contractors (I know lots of people are chiming sonorous dirges about outsourcing due to Carillion, but I don't think it will, or should, be going away).

What if a government stopped letting franchises for local services at first? Or transformed contracts to be a different sort of private operation like TfL do with the Overground etc? Has anyone done a comprehensive independent analysis of the options showing the pros and cons?

Is the all or nothing a straw man awaiting the flame or somehow the only two options?

The trouble with trains

As per usual when the January regulated rail prices were announced there was a lot of comment about and around them.
A big theme was asking Labour if they still wanted to nationalise the railways and then writing about why this was a bad idea.
But rather than actually analyzing the concept as a whole, because season tickets and full price returns costs had been the story prompt, lots of the criticism was that cutting these fares mostly subsidized the better off segments of travellers.
The problem with this is
a) assuming that big cuts to these prices would be the first and only change a nationalising government would make to the charging structure.
b) that nationalisation would be an isolated action (which is I suppose a fair enough way to make understanding the consequences easier)
but biggest of all
c) that this is a nationalisation issue in the first place.

These are regulated fares. They are set by rules outside of the train operating companies hands. If an administration of any hue wanted to deal with this issue they could just (yes I know that is a huge just and would probably require a complete cycle of reletting franchises but that isn't that long in governmental terms) change the rules. We could have a whole new pricing structure with very little change to the way the railways work otherwise if there was political will.
There are many other issues with how railway "ownership" works currently and what model would be best (in general, there would always be losers in any change) for the country but every January this one rankles.

Secure messaging for public health

EDIT: That thing where you think you've published a blog post before running out to Thanksgiving dinner, then find it in your drafts.

So the other day I spotted this tweet about the adoption of secure messaging in public health pootling past on my timeline (you may want to glance at the blog post linked to in the parent tweet).
and being me stepped in to suggest yes it probably would be that hard. If not much, much harder

There was a bit of a debate, some people suggested that NHS IT projects were only ever difficult and expensive because outsourcing companies ripped off the public sector. I'm not going to defend any of those outfits, but their greed isn't the only reason that such projects are costly. Besides "In House" these days could mean actually properly in house as the NHS seems to be getting serious about digital.

There were some constructive contributions such as

Looking into what open source software is out there is always a good idea, as is looking at the research behind the algorithms. As an example the protocol behind the Signal messaging app is available under the GPL. So with appropriate due diligence for ensuring that it is secure, you are using a genuine untampered with version etc it would provide a good starting point. Of course other protocols are available.

So isn't it that easy?

No. For two main reasons. Firstly security. Strangely for all the reasons successive Home Secretaries have been wrong about the "dangers" of end-to-end security the NHS may well consider it a genuine issue. Audit trails, patients rights to personal data, the bus stop problem, safeguarding, and a million other reasons means that private end-to-end encrypted communications between two health professionals could be an issue.

While the protocol you have chosen may have ways to deal with this, an audit server as a compulsory participant in every conversation for example, you then have a lot of traffic that has to be securely stored. As this is being kept for logging and monitoring any metadata products have to both be referenced by participants and subjects[1] while also being secured to keep anyone from using inference attacks[2], and so on. Good cryptography is bloomin' hard and the more participants you involve the harder it gets.

And secondly?

If you didn't know before then the rapid spread of WannaCry through parts of the NHS technical estate highlighted quite how fragmented and antiquated that estate is. In fact I would go so far as to say that for the purposes of discussing a project like this there is no "The NHS" even if we, for the purposes of discussion, stick to England the enormity of the number of organisational units is frankly overwhelming. Who needs to be included? Trusts,CCGs, special health authorities, GPs, pharmacists, optometrists, dentists, private sector service suppliers, local authorities, universities? While you can accurately accuse me of hyperbole in having the list that long it doesn't matter.

Even if you just wanted to have this service for Acute Trusts the number and type of devices that would need to be supported is going to be the source of most of the development, testing and roll-out costs. Unlike an informational website where you can make a choice to have it look less polished in older browsers so long as it gets the point across, nobody will sign off "this will be less secure on X, Y, and Z". Although to be fair it is far more likely "It just won't work on X, Y, and Z" as they won't support the features required.

Even if you could put together a dedicated team, formed of literally the best people for the job and magicaly ensure they were uninterrupted and as efficient as humanly possible. Even if not a single minute or pound was wasted. The design phase would take longer than most onlookers would set asside to have the whole thing live.

Hopefully I'll find some time soon to do a post about the other side of the coin, all the exciting things that could be done with a good, well provisioned, secure messaging platform for public health.
Please do challenge my assumptions and/or conclusions in the comments or on twitter.

[1]This sort of thing is going to become increasingly important as we all get more rights to our personal data
[2]There is no point in using high security methods to protect the text of the conversation about cancer treatment protocols to protect someone's privacy if you use lower standards on the information "oncologist X and oncologist Y talked about patient N"

Wednesday, 15 March 2017

Is equal "Equality"

On the face of it the face of it you might think that the European Court of Justice ruling "An internal rule of an undertaking which prohibits the visible wearing of any political, philosophical or religious sign does not constitute direct discrimination" was fair and equal. As long as applies to it applies to everything right?

Well no.

Firstly even if you don't believe in a religion[1] then I'm sure you can understand the concepts behind them. There are people who sincerely think that the consequences in the long term (damnation) are worse than now (starvation).

So you can't be convinced by that, next is there are some that even if they decide they think employment is more important than religion can't do anything about it. Culturally they'll be stopped by family, spouses, elders or other leaders. This will be by some form of real or threatened violence. It may not be what we want for people, but it is reality and realistically unfixable.

Next if you look at the context of this against other rules and laws in Europe that have come out over the last few years, this is obviously part of rising islamophobia. It may as much about turbans, yarmulkes, crosses, political party insignia and cameos of epistemologists but look at the coverage everyone knows what it is really about.

Even worse:
“However, in the absence of such a rule, the willingness of an employer to take account of the wishes of a customer no longer to have the employer's services provided by a worker wearing an Islamic headscarf cannot be considered an occupational requirement that could rule out discrimination.”
means that when a company starts pandering to racists it has to screw over the whole workforce.

[1] Doesn't really matter which. If your religion says that bad things will happen, eternal damnation for example, if you don't follow the rules, you should be able to understand someone else's does also. If you can't muster up such basic empathy begone with you.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Time for a new way to do continuous/future payments?

Not perhaps the best day in the year to publish this, but I'm the sort of person where if it doesn't get put down it gets lost.
So, I have a new debit card, not for any terrible reason, the old one just reached end-of-life. But while there is no drama behind it, there certainly is because of it.
This is the era of e-commerce, almost everyone takes card payments online and for the consumer the cheque is all but dead. Unfortunately this does mean every few years that a whole bunch of automatic, settlements fall over. Angry emails come buzzing in: this payment failed, that order canceled, if you don't pay soon your service will be canceled.
One interesting exception was TFL, they allowed my oyster auto-top-up to happen even though the payment didn't go through so long as I settled the outstanding amount with reasonable haste.
So what are the alternatives?

  • Direct Debit; while used extensively in the public sector, utilities, and insurance, should there be a campaign to try and get more retailers to use this. Or is it the case that the framework agreement that it is based on provide too much risk?
  • Third party solutions; These exist, for example Paypal allows you to set two methods of settling recurring payments. However these sorts of features come at a price and using value added payment services cost more.
  • A new way? So is there something the banking industry can do?
What would this new thing look like, it would need to be easy and secure for consumers but not expensive for retailers to use. Is asking for both effectively asking for the moon on a stick? I imagine the biggest issue is can this be done without requiring expensive changes/upgrades to infrastructure on either side. Maybe a virtual card that can have a hundred year lifespan issued on a per site basis. Would it be a system of tokenisation that replaces actual cards in most places?
I really don't know, all I'm certain off is I'm not looking forward to going through the whole rigmarole in three years time.

Monday, 22 August 2016

180° on Labour Coup narratives.

I don't want to comment on how likely the full on coup plans laid out in this and other recent stories is.
What I do want to say is how similar this to an cold war narrative of the right.
This stated that electoral victory for Labour under a more moderate leader like Neil Kinnock would lead to a takeover of the party by hard left forces with a pro USSR agenda.
If you are too young to remember these theories (or have just forgotten) then they were written up as a fictional memo in The Fourth Protocol by Frederick Forsyth. I don't think anyone is planning a faked nuclear accident this time however.
Of course the real Neil Kinnock started the fight against the hard left like Militant that many see Jeremy as harking back to and a lot of the same moderate left wing are again crying "Entryism" at an influx of left wing members as they did back then.
Will Mr Corbyn's tactic of mass rallies be more successful than Neil's and will there be a coup after?

Sunday, 29 May 2016

On Love

Sometimes the English make wide eyed comparisons with other cultures along the lines of did you know the X have N words for Y?!??!
Some of these are simply fatuous; yes the native peoples of the polar region can accurately describe differing snow conditions, have you seen how many words the British have to describe rain?
While others miss the point. Greek might have more individual words that describe differing types of love, but I'd far rather have Shakespeare taking 4 beautiful lines to say it. The Bard has expressed a great many degrees of feelings better than I can dream to do and he is still my go-to guy for all out love (and lust) but there are still some levels of affection I feel need filling in.

  • You are to me very much like an ancient cat, very near to my heart unless you have just vomited on the carpet again.
  • Facebook's algorithms probably mark 60% of what we message as bickering but you are always the first person I look to see if they're about when I go online.
  • We may not have spoken in months, but you are still my go-to for disposing of dead bodies.
  • When I say, you can ring me day or night, what I mean is your number is in the special section of my phone where it will actually ring at any time day or night.
  • I try my hardest to avoid telling you I worry about you, because I don't want to worry you. But prolonged absence of evidence you are okay vexes me.
  • Would probably be easy to mark this down as avuncular, but I imagine real uncles spend less time working out who to pair you up with. 
  • Awe is a much underrated form of affection, you may well think I am a piffling idiot, it is just me being weighted down by the veneration.
  • You are warm and your jumpers smell really nice.
  • A fundamental and abiding problem that only fate will solve is who is organising the others wake.
  • It would be much easier to express what you mean to me if you were literally fluffy, then I could just quote Agnes
  • One hopefully far off day you will find out what I truly feel about you and at that point you'll probably never speak to me again
  • None pizza left beef with a side of Badger Badger Badger Badger

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Possibly the nerdiest thing on the internet.

Possibly the nerdiest thing on the internet.

"Wil Wheaton vs. Paul and Storm - Captain's Wife's Lament"

Monday, 29 February 2016

One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean

Described by The Guardian as "A triumph of visual and verbal comedy” One Man, Two Guvnors is a glorious celebration of British comedy: a unique, laugh-out-loud mix of satire, slapstick and glittering one-liners.

Following runs starring James Corden on Broadway, The West End & sell-out national tours, Sheffield audiences can now enjoy this hilarious, award winning and Tony nominated show when Midland Players present the regional amateur premier of One Man, Two Guvnors at the University Drama Studio from March 23rd to 26th.

The play is Richard Bean’s English adaptation of the 1743 classic commedia dell'arte play, Servant of Two Masters by Venetian playwright Carlo Goldoni.

In Richard Bean’s version Venice is replaced by Brighton in the 1960s where an easily confused Francis Henshall ends up in the employ of sadistic gangster Roscoe Crabbe. Despondent, desperate and starving he is also hired by Stanley Stubbers, an upper class criminal on the run after murdering Roscoe… but if Roscoe is dead, who would pretend to be him and why? Francis struggles to keep his wits and keep his two Guvnors in the dark, as events take ever more hilarious turns

Find out why the Daily Mail described One Man, Two Guvnors as ‘Officially the funniest show on the planet’ by getting your tickets from, or calling (07928) 276383.

One Man, Two Guvnors by Richard Bean, with songs by Grant Olding runs at the University Drama Studio, Glossop Road at 7.30pm from 23rd to 26th March. All tickets are £8. This amateur production is presented by special arrangement with Samuel French.

Soundtrack to the show:

Monday, 18 January 2016

And Then There Were None Trailer

The Company presents "And Then There Were None" Tickets on sale now

Monday, 8 December 2014

An important appeal court judgment on bus wheelchair spaces.

The court of appeal has issued an important and interesting judgement about the extent to which bus companies have to enforce their policies about the wheelchair space. The introduction sets out the scope of the issue:

  1. This appeal has attracted some public interest, so it is important to be clear about the issue. It is not about whether non-wheelchair users should move out of the wheelchair space on a bus in order to accommodate a passenger in a wheelchair. Of course they should if that is possible. Nor is it about whether mothers standing in the wheelchair space with a child in a folding buggy should fold their buggies in order to make way for a wheelchair user. Of course they should if that is possible. Non-wheelchair users, unlike wheelchair users, will normally have a choice about which part of the bus to sit or stand in. Common decency and respect for wheelchair users should mean that other passengers make way for them. What is at issue is whether the bus company must have a policy to compel all other passengers to vacate the wheelchair space irrespective of the reason why they are in it, on pain of being made to leave the bus if they do not, leaving no discretion to the driver.
  2. For the reasons that follow I have concluded that that is a step too far.

The original judge had said "alteration to the conditions of carriage which would require a non-disabled passenger occupying a wheelchair space to move from it if a wheelchair user needed it; coupled with an enforcement policy that would require non-disabled passengers to leave the bus if they failed to comply with that requirement." but First had decided to appeal based on a case in Middlesborough having an opposite outcome and have won.

While this is a failure for the absolute right for a wheelchair user to claim the space what makes the judgement interesting is the reasoning of each of the judges involved. As per usual there appear to be gaps in the legal frameworks as passed down by parliament. There is also the consideration about how far a bus driver can reasonably go in enforcing the company's policy. There is also a lot of associated discourse, for while they all allowed the appeal, each judge wanted to have a say on steps that the bus company could take without a change in the law. Mainly trying to reduce the probability of disadvantage to any wheelchair users and to prevent the policy being perceived as “first come first served” by other users of the space.

So the bus company must take all reasonable steps short of compelling passengers to move from the wheelchair space. We have not had argument on this but provisionally I consider that the bus company must provide training for bus drivers and devise strategies that bus drivers can lawfully adopt to persuade people to clear the wheelchair space when needed by a wheelchair user. Bus drivers have to use their powers of persuasion with passengers who can move voluntarily. The driver may even decline for a short while to drive on until someone moves out of the wheelchair space. There is no risk of liability to such passengers in requesting them (firmly) to move, if they can, because if they cannot safely do so, they will not do so. The bus company should also have an awareness campaign and put up notices designed to make other passengers more aware of the needs of wheelchair users. It might also have to conduct surveys to find out when people are likely to travel and what their needs are so that it can do what it can to provide an appropriate number of buses for everyone.

I am not, at the time of writing, a wheelchair user. I do follow equality issues especially to do with public transport as I often need to take use of priority seats. This sort of judgment could lead to clearer equality law, but as traditional, I’ll not be holding my breath. It is of course a great shame that we can't just rely on "common decency and respect" so people have to fight these sorts of cases.

I recommend reading the full judgement.

Monday, 20 October 2014

This week: Romeo and Juliet

Romeo, Friar Laurence, Juliet
"you shall not stay alone
Till holy church incorporate two in one."
Two bootlegging families, both alike in dignity, in fair Chicago where we lay our scene. With Prohibition biting hard Shakespeare’s tale of doomed love comes to life in a basement speakeasy.

Somehow no matter how much you wish for a happy ending it never happens.

Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet will run from the 22nd to the 25th October 2014 at the Sheffield University Drama Studio, Shearwood Road S10 2TD.

Tickets from: via or on 07928 276 383

Monday, 15 September 2014

Romeo and Juliet

Two bootlegging families, both alike in dignity, in fair Chicago where we lay our scene.
With Prohibition biting hard Shakespeare's tale of doomed love comes to life in a basement speakeasy. Somehow no matter how much you wish for a happy ending it  never happens.
Romeo and Juliet is one of Shakespeare’s earliest and most popular plays, with timeless tragic themes of love and conflict. Midland Players transport this classic tale of star crossed lovers to prohibition era America; audiences can expect brawling bootlegging families with period costumes and music to set the scene. To meet the challenge of bringing fresh perspective to this tale of woe it is brought to life amidst the hellcat rivalry of the black market. The violence in society plays out under the nose of ineffective authority. As ever it is the tragic loss of young life on both sides that brings matters into perspective for everybody concerned, far too late to matter.
We will be performing from Wednesday 22nd to Saturday 25th October 2014 at 7:30pm At the University Drama Studio, Glossop Road. Tickets cost £8 and are available from, via or on 07928 276 383

Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Dodgy figure on the cost of London cycleways

Professor Stephen Glaister has given his opinion on the new cycleways in London; apparently he said

“the mayor's plans would cost £100 per Londoner”
Mayor of London unveils segregated urban cycleways - BBC News - 03/09/14

As far as I can tell that is the investment number mentioned in the article, £913m, divided by 9 million ish people in "London".
The problems with that are:

  • That number is the total investment in all cycling programs not just the segregated cycleways
  • It is the budget for a decade’s worth of those programmes, people might think he means this year
  • It isn’t just Londoners that pay for Transport for London

As far as that last point goes, to calculate what fraction they do pay is quite complex:
TFL gets about 1% of the GLA component of council tax from residents, plus a large grant from central government, which while we all pay for. (It may be that proportionally more will come from Londoners due to it having more higher earners.)
40% of TFL income is from fares and similar income, but I haven’t be able to find a sensible breakdown between residents, commuters, other UK visitors and people from overseas.
However any case it is easy to conclude that not all of the £913m will be paid for by residents of the capital.

I’m sure that Professor Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation ("…advocates policy in the interest of the responsible motorist") wouldn’t want anyone accidently mislead by the number as it has been quoted and will be on the phone to the BBC to get this fixed ASAP.

Tuesday, 24 June 2014

The Man of Mode, Romeo and Juliet, and Antigone.

Some things I should have been promoting more, but have slipped recently:

Firstly, The Man Of Mode will be performed by The Company 25th-28th June.

Please buy tickets as it's promising to be a fantastically funny show and £1 from every ticket sold is being donated to charity - a split between Cancer Research UK and Leukaemia and Lymphoma Research UK.

Go to to book.

Secondly, Auditions for Midland Player's production of Romeo and Juliet[1] (show week commencing Sunday 19 October 2014).
There will be two open auditions:

Monday 30 June 2014, 7:30pm at the Harlequin on Nursery Street

Thursday 3 July 2014, 7:30pm at the University Arms, 197 Brook Hill

Everyone is welcome and no preparation is required.
If you are interested in auditioning it would be great if you could let us know which date you think you will come to so we have a rough idea of how many people to expect (and so we know to keep an eye out for you on the night!).

We are also looking for people who may be interested in more technical roles e.g. assistant director, sound, lights, stage management, props, etc. If any of these interest you please let us know or feel free to drop in to a rehearsal to speak to us!

Contact for more info.

Finally, auditions for The Company's October production of Antigone (show week of October 5th 2014) will take place at The University Drama Studio rehearsal rooms from at 8pm on Tuesday 1st and Wednesday 2nd July.

No preparation is necessary and all are welcome.

[1]Directed by me.

Thursday, 20 March 2014

Never stop fighting

If there is one thing we definitely love here on the internet, raising money for charity by making a yourself look like a plonker is it.

The #nomakeupselfie online awareness campaign about cancer has moved through several phases (and probably makes a great social media case study) from women posting selfies without make-up, through the “slacktivism” backlash, the genius move by CRUK’s social media team and now the balancing efforts to raise awareness and donations by tagging men men to post pictures of them in makeup.

A colleague of mine, Natalie nominated me to join in and I said I would on one condition, that doing so directly raised money for cancer research via a friend of mine's Justgiving page. Her mother died just over a year ago and that has driven her to start running to take part in the race for life. I have said that if we raise £50 I’ll get made up and have pictures posted on the internet. This is going to happen next Thursday lunchtime and I'll keep the makeup on until at least the end of the day.

So if you want to see me in full make up donate to Kate’s just giving page with an encouraging message for her and the hashtag #SlapTony

Oh and start thinking of stretch goals we could agree for when this has raised more than £50.

Tuesday, 11 February 2014

Update to "Oh my god, I’ve been hacked"

I have added an extra section into Oh my god, I’ve been hacked so it now includes the links for turning on 2 factor auth for Facebook and Twitter.

Wednesday, 28 August 2013


I use the term ‘Spoony’ sometimes to identify myself, it comes from the much shared article "The Spoon Theory" written by Christine Miserandino. As you'll read if, no when ;-), you follow the link, it is a tale of one person explaining to a friend of their life with Lupus through the medium of spoons. It has resonated with a lot of people, especially those with "Invisible" Diseases and disabilities and I am seeing it used more and more.

I especially like using it because as well as being a useful metaphor of how I have to interact with the world it is great term to use when asking for help/consideration without getting into details of the specific "impairments" I have. That of course relies on how well people understand the term. It isn't yet used widely enough for me to use it in the really real world at the moment, apart from in the company of those in the know. But currently in this fabulously geeky and jargon infested world online it is becoming my term of preference. So I apologise if by using it I have confused any of you and I hope that you feel better informed now.

Wednesday, 3 July 2013

Burglar trapping keys

With people breaking into houses in order to go after car keys isn't there more things technology can do to help short of expensive trackers?
First thoughts include fake keys that set off alarms and/or trigger die packs to mark the hands of thieves.
Easier connectivity between house and car alarms so a silent alarm on a house triggers a car immobiliser.

Monday, 1 July 2013

BrewDog – Trolls or clueless about Sheffield?

From their coming soon page about them taking on the former Starbucks on Division Street:

The people of Sheffield have long been screaming out for a BrewDog bar and we have answered the call. We are excited to be joining a thriving community of awesome, eclectic craft beer bars in the steel city, who are all standing up to the mass marketed industrial beers that dominate the rest of the city.

This has got to be either trolling on a massive scale in order to drive eyeballs to that page, like the Daily Mail but fro brewers, in which case I apologise for helping them. Or it is an indication that they know little about the beer scene in Sheffield. Last time the Sheffield and District branch of Camra did a beer survey (this year’s will be on the 13th of July) in a sample of 138 pubs they found Sheffield had 309 Distinct Beers from 140 breweries at an average price per pint of £2.70 hardly a haven for mass “mass marketed industrial beers”. Even if you could only get beers that meet the LocAle criteria Sheffield would still be a mighty fine place to drink beer. But as it is, add in the rest of the real ales and all the keg and bottled beer from all over the world and some hugely knowledgeable publicans and bar staff and this is about the best place I’ve ever been for drinking beer.

In any case this is another blast of blustery bullshit in the phoney war between cask and keg. Just drink the good stuff, ignore the bad stuff and stop trying too hard to win a battle that doesn’t need to exist, you just look silly trying.

EDIT: Having thought a bit more about this, with a turnover over £10 million, a marketing budget north of £200k and $1,000,000 of supermarket sales they are the mass market brewery opening another pub in their chain in Sheffield. We'll welcome them in, but they are definitely not saving us from anything.

Wednesday, 29 May 2013

The Political Compass

Someone on asked me "Where do you currently stand on the" so I redid the test.

I think this is from last time I did this and it was around the time of the last election:

Oh and wow:

Tuesday, 23 April 2013

Conflicted about Calendar and Ched.

There are a lot of people very unhappy about ITV’s Calendar programme giving a platform for Ched Evans’s girlfriend and her campaign to clear his name.
At no point do I want to suggest anything other than rape is a heinous crime and that is really difficult for victims to get justice.
But reading open letters like this one bring back memories of growing up hearing about the Birmingham Six, Guildford Four and others. They also had appeals denied, there was also outrage that the continued attempts to clear their names was insensitive to the victims. Eventually they were released with the original trials thrown out.

I have no idea if Ched’s girlfriend actually has any new evidence or if perjury happened, but I can’t see a way of objectively judging which campaigns should be allowed media exposure to attempt to gain traction to overturn verdicts or introduce reasonable doubt.
Lots needs to be done to end rape culture and ensure that rapists receive their just deserts, but somehow i can’t bring myself to get behind a zero platform policy for campaigns trying to clear someone's name. I know that from my position of privilege my voice is so far from being important on this matter, but it is hard problems like this that society as a whole needs to somehow have a position on.

I apologise for all of you offended or hurt by this doubt, but there it is.

Friday, 19 April 2013

Fish and Prawn Pittas

Chop, blend or pestle the following: 2 teaspoons of chopped red chillis, 2 stalks of lemongrass, 1 knuckle of ginger root, 1 teaspoon of mixed peppercorns, a small handful of coriander leaf, 2 kaffir lime leaves. Put this in a bowl and add the juice of 2 limes and 2 tablespoons of sweet chilli sauce. Throw in 160g cooked and peeled king prawns, and two smoked salmon fillets chopped into large cubes. Mix to get an even covering of the marinade and put into the fridge for a couple of hours.
Heat a griddle to smoking hot, thread the fish and prawns onto four bamboo skewers and char on the griddle. Meanwhile warm and cut open 4 pitta breads, quarter and separate the leaves from a mini gem lettuce and stuff into the pitta breads along with 2 chopped spring onions. When the skewers are done pull the meat into the pittas. Depending on how sticky your marinade turned out, you may feel you need more dressing if so a little Marie Rose sauce works well.

Serves two,  674 calories per portion.

Prawn Cocktail

In a jam jar combine 2 teaspoons Mayonnaise, 2 teaspoons Ketchup, 1 teaspoon chopped red chilli, salt and pepper to taste.
Add in, a spoonful or two at a time, 200g cooked, peeled, cold-water prawns, stirring thoroughly with each addition to spread the sauce.

Serve on crisp lettuce or use as a sandwich filling. 191 calories.

Thursday, 18 April 2013

Saag Aloo

A variation on the theme of this classic dish based on what spices I had in stock (when did Safeways close BTW?).

Add 1 tablespoon of oil into a largish heavy pan, add ½ teaspoon hot chilli powder, 1 teaspoon each of cumin seeds, coriander seeds, turmeric and ground ginger, 2 teaspoons each of garum masala and chopped red chillies, and 3 cloves of garlic. Gently heat, stirring occasionally to prevent catching, until strong smells emanate form the pan and the contents are forming a paste. One at a time introduce 150g chopped mushrooms, 2 chopped medium tomatoes, a bag of fresh leaf spinach cooking each one down then add 2 large tins of new potatoes in water drained, with the larger ones chopped in half. Pour in half a pint of water and gently simmer for 10-15 minutes.

Makes two large portions, 445 Calories each.

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

I’m an irrelevant publisher

Lots of commentary on the “Draft Royal Charter on self-regulation of the press” it looks like the reach will depend on how “relevant publisher” comes to be defined. Hopefully there will be guidance but at the moment this looks like it will be for the courts to decide.

I'm happy enough that no-one will very think that I am in any way relevant ;-)

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Self indulgent but important post*

This post is timed to auto-publish while the dress rehearsal for Silhouette is underway. As director it will be my last significant creative input to the play.
The real downer will be on Sunday, it is all over the gang breaks up and will never be quite back together.
Those of you that do cons, genre weekends, beer festivals etc will know all about this, as the emptiness hits.

This time I want it to be different.

The last few years have been difficult and I have given in to moping, moaning, griping and the like. 2013 has been particularly bad lots of things have come together to make my like worse, piled on top of each other and even a couple of my key coping strategies have been pulled out from under me. So I am going to change one or two things to try and have things move in a positive direction and not slump even more when play week is over.

  1. I will be more positive about myself on the Internet. I don’t want to stop talking about how I feel or my problems but the angsty broadcast messages on twitter and facebook help no one least of all me. You lot, out there are a key part of keeping my sprits up, I still want those conversations to happen, but as directed communication not scattergun moping. Please continue to ask how I am or what I’m up to, tweet, DM, facebook messages, SMS, whatever. I just don’t want to mope as much. None of this of course applies to me getting angry especially about politics and policy.
  2. I will be trying to have a slightly healthier lifestyle. This means watching what I am eating *and* drinking (it is very easy to spot one source of calories that I can cut down on) so even more of those “maybe” responses for meals or social drinking will turn out to be “no sorry” in order to help with this. I will be trying to use MyFitnessPal so will be after people to add as peer reinforcement on there. I’ll also be trying to do more exercise, but have limited energy. On that note
  3. I will be increasing my efforts to pace myself properly. Or rather decreasing my efforts and insuring I have breaks, evenings off, quiet weekends etc planed. There are a number of my friends who are good at telling me off, hopefully I can get to the point where these wonderful people don’t have to do this and we can talk about nice stuff instead. Again this probably means more “maybe” responses turn into no.

Sorry to all of you who are just casual readers and don’t *know* me or my problems, but this was far too long for twitter or facebook and this seemed to be the easiest way; everyone else *hugs*

*Who am I kidding all blog posts are self indulgent and while important to me this isn't important in the grand scheme of things.

Tuesday, 5 February 2013

The nasty party

As a label, the term ‘nasty party’ does nothing to differentiate between the main parties in Westminster politics.
Pick any coalition policy you detest and you will find it difficult to get a silver rizla between it and the last government's position.
Also as close as the Tories and Labour are on many things it is often not easy to predict which party will take up the most right-wing stance.

Friday, 25 January 2013

Discussion point around gender

With the exception of the provision of healthcare (and statistical work to plan that care) is there any reason why the government, its agents or any private organisation needs to know a persons gender?[1]

The good side if the world started stepping back from Genderism is we no longer need all whole rafts of overly complicated legislation. The stuff that always causes issues for some people by accident or design, while trying to redefine who can do what to whom and what legal rights they get while doing it. Or what is written on a piece of paper that really shouldn’t be as powerful as it is. Add in throwing away societal restraints about how many people can be joined together in these “legal relationships” and we will have made a move towards trying to have a world where we just treat each other as human beings.

But more pragmatically would anything important break if forms, official or otherwise, paper or electronic ,didn’t question us about this?

[1]I know why organisations like Facebook asks to help target adverts and power social graph features, but a) they still don't manage to target ads and b) that is a want not a need