When I am in charge …

… these will be seven of the things that I will change (*).

Now, I realise that I’m hardly likely to get elected to high office on the basis of this manifesto but some things really do need fixing. If I have to scream and rant to get my way, trashing my Liberal credentials in the process, then so be it.


Any university continuing to give out honorary degrees and doctorates to celebrities, politicians, business leaders and the like will have their charter revoked immediately. Studying for a degree or higher qualification is bloody hard work (I should know!) and honorary degrees devalue the efforts of all real students.

Unpaid Internships

These are completely unacceptable and stifle social mobility. Volunteering is fine, but those taking part in such activities must be genuine volunteers, free to stop or vary their commitment at any point that suits them, rather than the kind of ‘volunteer’ intern sought by the Sussex Partnership NHS Foundation Trust a couple of years ago.

Software Developers

Continuing to use a floppy disc icon to mean ‘save’ is almost as archaic as using a cassette tape icon for the same function. From the moment I come to power, all software developers will have 24 hours to find, agree on and implement something a little more 21st century. Now that’s what I’d call agile …

Floppy disc iconThe National Lottery

Has always been a tax on the poor. I’m not going to abolish the lottery per se as it’s still relatively popular and I have my eyes on a second (and perhaps third) term in power. Instead, I’m going to turn the lottery into something indistinguishable from premium bonds where the original stake is never lost. Good causes that might otherwise lose out through the lack of lottery funding will be able to apply for the same funds raised from something a little more progressive – let’s call it taxation.

Ensuring that everyone understands that demonstrating a correlation is not the same as demonstrating cause and effect

Showing that the amount of cheese eaten correlates with golf course revenues doesn’t mean that excessive cheese eating causes higher golf course revenues, or vice-versa. Well durr. More seriously though, mistaking correlations for cause and effect might be behind the increases seen in potentially serious, but preventable diseases such as measles.

Prime Minister’s Questions

I’m going to set up an independent panel to assess each answer the Prime Minister (who, of course, will be reporting to me) gives at PMQs. If they judge that a question hasn’t been answered, the PM will have another chance to answer the same question in a new ritual I’ve decided to call Prime Minister’s Detention. This will take place in an empty Commons chamber after all of the other MPs have returned home on a Friday afternoon. If the panel still regards their answer as unsatisfactory, they will have the ability to fine, imprison or force a by-election in their constituency. If this policy is successful, it will be extended to cover all other ministers and eventually, any politician who appears on the Today programme or Newsnight.

Daily Mail Readers

As a good Liberal, I believe that the Daily Mail should be free to publish whatever distortions it wants to, provided it stays within the letter of the law of course. The real problem is the people who choose to read it. Without its readers, it would soon disappear off the face of the planet. I’m therefore going to tackle the root cause and introduce a tax of a few pence per copy sold that will go straight to charities supporting things that the average Daily Mail reader would loathe. I’m very hopeful that the emotional conflict caused by such a strategy will wean these readers away to less harmful newspapers, like, errr, … ok, I admit this policy needs a bit of work. And the other six might do as well. Time to get back to the day job …


(*) Yes, of course I want world peace etc. etc., but I think there needs to be a little bit of realism in my manifesto. After all, I’m rarely in charge in my own house, so I’m hardly likely to become president of the world. Many thanks to Tattooed Mummy for providing the inspiration for this article rant.


Dear Akismet

Dear Akismet,

I have a small suggestion which will improve your usually amazing comment spam-killing abilities by several orders of magnitude. In the spirit of open source, I won’t be charging you for my advice.

If a comment has the phrase “ugg boots” anywhere at all – including in the person’s name, email address or website fields, it’s spam.

No-one needs to make a manual decision about deleting it.

Yours, etc.

p.s. What are “ugg boots”, anyway? šŸ™‚

DD307 – Attitudes

I’ve been catching up with a bit of note making today by finishing off my scribbles on the attitudes chapter of the critical readings book. As I was reading it, I was reminded of an old episode of “Yes Minister” where Sir Humphrey demonstrates that depending on the sequence of questions being asked (or the context, as Potter and Wetherell might call it), the same person can appear to have an entirely different and contradictory attitude in response to the same question “are you in favour of reintroducing national service?”


1-0 to the discursive psychologists I think!

Have French farmers kidnapped the DEFRA website?

I thought that might get your attention! The truth is probably far simpler. Earlier on today, I was searching the DEFRA website for a piece of information I needed and found a small typo in the footer on the (temporary?) ww2.defra.gov.uk domain. One too many s’s in the statement: “Our delivery organisations implements our policies” methinks.

Typo in the DEFRA website footer, 29th September 2010
Typo in the DEFRA website footer, 29th September 2010

Being a public spirited sort of a chap, I thought I’d report it to them, but it’s not particularly obvious who to contact. So being nosey, I went over to Netcraft to see what the site was running and who owned it. This is what appeared:

Netcraft report on ww2.defra.gov.uk hosting, 29th September 2010
Netcraft report on ww2.defra.gov.uk hosting, 29th September 2010

If you click the image above, you can see that Verio moved this domain from London to Paris a couple of weeks or so ago, and as far as Netcraft are concerned, DEFRA is now French!

Being pro-EU, I really hope this is the start of a trend. Relocating government departments (albeit virtually at the moment, I admit; but maybe, eventually, real people could follow …) to France would certainly make visiting them more fun than taking the train to London!

Update 02/10/2010: I eventually found the email address for theĀ  DEFRA webmaster buried somewhere on the site and let them know about the typo. I had a really good response back and if you visit their site now, you’ll see that the grammar in the footer is now correct. Public-private partnership at its best!

Brown, Cameron or Clegg? – part 2

Other than the surge in support the Liberal Democrats received in the polls after the first leaders debate, one of the things that’s most striking about the general election this time around is the sheer creativity that’s been expressed in blogs, twitter and YouTube by “unofficial” sources. Not that long ago, probably the most creative campaigning you saw was John Cleese making party political broadcasts on behalf of the SDP-Liberal Alliance (we must have had longer attention spans in the 80’s – it’s 10 minutes long!) If you want to relive 1987, the video is below:

So, this time around we’ve had twitter and #iagreewithnick after the first leader’s debate and the wonderfully ironic #nickcleggsfault after certain newspapers attempted to smear or scrutinise (I’ll leave you to construct your own interpretation) the LibDem leader last week.

Blogs have been busy too – I particularly enjoyed Millennium Dome, Elephant and his take on the first leader’s debate and the more cerebral Alix Mortimer’s ‘This is how we know we are right’ post from last week.

And if you’re still working out how to vote, then perhaps this flowchart might help you

Finally, there’s been some incredibly witty stuff on YouTube. There’s far too much of it that’s kept me entertained to post on here (and searching them out has given me a whole new source of procrastination material to keep me away from DD303), but the one below makes me smile …

Happy voting …

Correlation – or cause and effect?

I’ve just noticed something interesting on the eTMA system for this year’s course.Ā  And before anyone asks, I’ve just checked to see if my mark for TMA06 is back, which of course it can’t be because the submission deadline hasn’t passed yet, but it doesn’t stop me checking. I’m not obsessed at all. Definitely not.

My assignment scores are strongly correlated to the time of day I submitted them. My lowest assignment score was submitted earliest at about 6.20pm; my highest score was submitted latest at about 10.30pm. I hadn’t noticed this before I submitted TMA06, but on that basis it should get my second highest mark – which would be very nice indeed with respect to my OCAS score!

I’m hoping that this really is cause and effect at work – rather than just one of those weird correlations. If so, on next year’s course, I’ll be submitting them all at 11.59pm …


Holiday websites

Not websites about holidays. Just ones that make me smile, seeing as I’m definitely in the holiday mood at the moment …

1. Fail blog. Sometimes a bit hit and miss (in fact, usually more miss than hit if I’m honest), but the gems are worth searching out.

2. Millennium Elephant. A fluffy toy who talks far more sense than most politicians. Also lives with a daddy who has a Dr. Who fixation (sigh).

3. Private Eye. Not as funny as it used to be. Or was that Punch?

4. Backmasking. I was introduced to this by one of the tutors who ran the DXR222 summer school at Bath University last year. It’s amazing what the addition of information does to your perceptionsĀ  (in the form of the lyrics that are supposed to be revealed when a song is played backwards). I now can’t listen to ‘another one bites the dust’ without thinking about this site!

5. The Onion. Transatlantic weirdness.

12 ways to procrastinate when writing a TMA

TMA02 is now just about finished, honest. But I realised as I was writing it I was beginning to turn procrastination into an art form. So here are my top 12 tips for how to put off getting to grips with an OU assignment – all of which I’ve done while ‘working’ on this one.

1. Read your email and if there’s not enough of that, look in the spam folder to see if there’s a get rich quick scheme that could, might, just conceivably, possibly work.

2. Watch Burton Albion lose 1-0 to Oxford United on Setanta. Much as I want Burton to get into League 2, I’d love to watch them on Setanta again next season, which means they need to stay in the conference!

3. Paint the garden fence. I haven’t bothered doing this for years, but I was desperate to get away from the assignment.

4. Run out of woodstain while painting the garden fence, necessitating a trip to all three DIY stores at this end of Derby to get the right colour woodstain to continue.

5. Watch lots of old F1 highlights on the BBC Sport website. Then go to the old ITV F1 website and read James Allen’s blog.

6. Get up early on Saturday morning to work on the TMA and then watch F1 qualifying from China instead. Go Jensen!

7. Get your wife to drop the iron, necessitating a trip to Asda, Currys, Sainsbury’s and then back to Asda to find a suitable replacement.

8. Plant rocket and salad leaf seeds and return to them on an hourly basis to see if they’ve sprouted yet (they have).

9. Re-organise your web bookmarks, visiting every site in them as part of the task.

10. Upgrade your computer’s anti-virus program, necessitating lots of reboots and waiting for Windows to do mystery stuff. (Thank goodness mainframes don’t require this every time you try to change something).

11. Write a blog entry on procrastination and how to do it.

12. Read your email again, someone might have sent you something in the last five minutes. Repeat endlessly.