Tuesday, 11 March 2014


So I guess this blog is still here, then?

Sunday, 14 April 2013

Dan Grabs the Headlines

I know, it has been a while. So I want to return with something I can do for a while, a series where I look at the newspaper front pages for the past week.

8th April


We start off in auspicious fashion by looking at an absolute turd of a story from The Daily Mail. The basics are that (apparently) because crucifixes are now allowed to be worn at work the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) has advised employers that vegans, pagans and environmentalists will also need to have their rights respected.

So... good? No! The Daily Mail shrieks this will allow "giving believers time off to go on pilgrimages, such as druids and pagans going to Stonehenge, while environmentalists should be free to lecture other staff about their car use". People talking about what car they drive? Unforgivable! And what about all those bloody Pagans? Well, looking at 2011 census data, Pagans make up approximately 0.0015% of the UK population. I have a feeling they chose Pagans over, say Sikhs, purely as that it adds to the "isn't this just bonkers?" tone of the article. Even though Pagans are as entitled to their beliefs as followers to any other religion.

Probably the most shocking quote from this article is this: "Even atheists should have their beliefs respected, according to the new guidance." Even atheists?! Even those disgusting creatures?! It beggars belief in this day and age that a mainstream newspaper could print such prejudice. Here's a fun game - swap out the word "atheist" with a racial pejorative. Yep, that quote sounds just like bigotry all right.

All of this begs the question: why does this insult Christians? Because employers will have to treat non-Christian beliefs as equally as Christian ones? That's only an insult if you don't respect other people's beliefs - which is what the crucifix-wearing saga was about in the first place.

9th April


I could have chosen The Daily Mail's "THE WOMAN WHO SAVED BRITAIN" but for sheer comedy value The Sun takes this one.

I probably don't need to tell you that The Sun isn't too popular in the north of England (she isn't too popular in Scotland either - that was where she chose to first try out the poll tax). Fans of Liverpool FC have boycotted the paper ever since The Sun's disgusting coverage of the Hillsborough disaster, and The Sun's support of Thatcher didn't go over too well either.

Maybe this played a part in that bizarre headline. They could have left it at "Maggie Dead". At least that would be factual - if grammatically incorrect. But they furnish us with another detail: "Maggie Dead in Bed". It sounds like a very grim episode of Blue's Clues. Is it important that she died in her bed? To answer that you have to look at the fact they put her location in the headline too. Why state that? They also could have just put "hotel" so "Ritz" was a conscious decision.

Are they allaying any fears we may have that she died in agony and in some run-down establishment? Are they taunting us with the fact that she even died surrounded by the kind of opulence most of us plebs could only dream of? Well I think those could be two factors but there is a third - to get a "bloody typical!" reaction from the readers, to make them feel she somehow wanted to go out in posh, fancy surroundings just to wind up the reader. It is clever as it means they can retain some appeal - even in the aforementioned Sun-unfriendly north - for those that liked and disliked Thatcher. You could read it two ways.

The same could be said for the by-line "Funeral like Diana's next week". Is that a fitting end for a great leader on an insult to the nation? You can read it both ways. Everyone knows The Sun is all about maximum appeal and it is stuff like this that keeps them as the nation's most bought newspaper.

10th April


Thatcher's death was inevitably going to grab all the headlines this week but The Daily Mirror went for a bold front page asking "Why is Britain's most divisive Prime Minister getting a ceremonial funeral fit for a Queen?" It is actually a very good point, we will have to wait to see what kind of funerals Blair, Brown and Cameron will get to really be able to say whether that is over the top.

A lot of other papers covered the "Ding Dong the Witch is Dead" campaign, the street parties people had celebrating her passing and so on. Personally I didn't have a party. I didn't like her but I didn't have a party or whoop for joy on knowing of her passing. I had the reaction most people I know did: "Really? Wow. Well, she was getting on a bit." The campaign to get "Ding Dong" to number 1 in the UK charts isn't a disgrace. It is free expression, people are free to buy whatever they want. You can't ignore the fact that a lot of people hated Margaret Thatcher (although the establishment is trying bloody hard to do just that) and a lot of people will not be mourning her passing.

The £10 million pound figure is (apparently) how much security will cost at the event. This is probably to make sure nobody tries to disrupt the funeral by, say, playing the current number 1 single in the UK during the service. There was a good quote from Ken Loach on the service: "Let's privatise her funeral. Put it out to competitive tender and accept the cheapest bid. It's what she'd have wanted."

11th April


The I actually don't capitalise their headlines but I wanted this to fit in with the others. The story covers how Dutch authorities have (apparently) recalled over 50,000 tons of meat as "every single meat product sold by two Dutch suppliers as beef in more than two years was under suspicion." Just... wow. In exact terms this is a precautionary measure as the Dutch authorities could not trace the exact source of the meat. This is also a widespread issue, as "the meat was believed to have been sold on to more than 500 companies across 16 European countries including Britain."

For what it is worth I shove kebabs and all kinds of "food" of dubious nutritional quality and animal origin into my gob so the horse meat crisis doesn't concern me all that much.

12th April


Would you believe there is an entire blog devoted to The Daily Express putting miracle cures on their front page? Well there is. There really isn't much need for me to go over what is already covered in good detail by the blog post they did on this story. Their conclusion, however:

"CURE = Potential effective treatment to an unknown level of pain reduction in some unspecified cases."

On another note this kind of "copy and pasted from a press release" article
is becoming an all-too-common occurrence in the tabloids. Thankfully we have blogs like the one linked above, Bad PR, Bad Science, and the Churnalism website from the Media Standards Trust (which can be used to detect if a press release pasted into the website has been recycled as a news story by media outlets).

In case you are wondering "churnalism" is the official term for this kind of lazy "cut-and-paste" journalism.

13th April


This pile of crap story is regarding the Princess Diana Memorial Fund using some of its money to fund a campaign to change the British public's perceptions of immigration, which are massively out of step with reality - for more on that see here and here.

But that isn't really the point here - the point is that Diana's charity is being use to fund the Changing Minds charity, which is (apparently) a Lefty, pro-immigration propaganda campaign. Which is definitely a very bad thing as Diana was famously an immigrant-hating piece of shit.

That's the week in news, come back next week for reactionary bullshit, pretend outrage, outlandish claims and bold-faced lies.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Mental DIY Failure #1

I know that I haven't posted here in a while. Well I've been very busy. "Doing what?" nobody asks. "Improving myself" comes my ridiculous reply. That's right I have recently embarked on a mission of self-improvement. To better myself and somehow forge an improved version of me, from the weathered scrap metal I am currently composed of. So. How has that gone?

Not great.

My main problem is just that I am a walking catastrophe of a human being. That's all. So, in the spirit of sharing, here is the first part of a list of my failures:

1. First Impressions

Have you ever met somebody and just instantly felt like they were a great person? Even though you've only known them for 4 and a half seconds you already want to go out for a beer with them, tell them your secrets and become the best of friends. Maybe even BFFs? Unsurprisingly I do not make a great first impression. That may have something to do with my intimidating intellect or it could be my cripplingly awful social skills. We'll never know.

Pictured: me asking a stranger for the time.

I always thought that poor social skills was something all nerds just have to put up with. It comes with the territory - we can hack into the Pentagon but we can't order a drink at a bar without stumbling over our words like we are trying to describe quantum mechanics to a girl with a distractingly low-cut top. But when I started on my first contract 5 months I saw something that blew my mind.

(No, it wasn't Christina Hendricks naked.)

Real live nerds, who can talk to normal people. Normally! At first I thought there was some kind of magic at play but I soon realised that these people had adapted to their environment and learned to communicate effectively with ordinary people. I didn't even know that was possible. At first it seemed a little creepy to see guys and gals who should be communicating entirely over IRC having actual conversations. But then I realised we could be seeing the beginnings of... the super nerd.

"Sure, I'd love to take you for a drink. Just as soon as I've finished compiling the latest kernel update."

The most noticeable thing they had picked up was creating a good first impression. I wanted to know how they managed this, so I did the nerdy thing. I analysed them. I brought the scientific method to good social interaction, which is either brilliant or indicative of my problem. I eventually realised it was the simplest thing. Smiling.

Pictured: one of the foundations of good social interaction (that I somehow managed not to learn).

Perhaps I need to explain. I only smile when something that makes me happy is occuring. I laugh at things that are funny. I don't smile for no reason. I certainly noticed that whenever these people greeted anyone, they always smiled. This is something I almost never do.

"Oh hey. It's great to meet you."

And the thing is, if you aren't used to it, forcing yourself to smile when you talk to people is incredibly difficult. It feels forced (because it is), insincere (because it is) and weird (because it... could be). But other people do this all the time, and when they do it to me I like it! We all like to be around happy people, so it makes sense for us to be happy around each other - or at least act it. Don't get me wrong, people who smile too much will look strange. But the right amount is extremely pleasant.

Even the most cold-hearted, pessimistic, cynical, negative and angry of people would still want to buy a cup cake from her.

So I tried it. Every time I greeted someone, from a co-worker to a shop assistant, I tried to force a smile. And it was tough. It was tough in the same way forcing youself to sing every greeting would be tough. It was embarassing and it felt unnatural. Sometimes I forgot to do it. Sometimes I remembered and the person on the receiving end of the greeting was so miserable it barely seemed worth it. Sometimes it felt like I was beginning a job interview. But I was definitely seeing results.

People are nicer to you if they think you are a nice person. If you start a conversation with a smile they will be more inclined to continue it. It was a magic wand to conjure up pleasant social interaction. How the fuck did I miss this?!

"It looks like Dan isn't in today, but I guess he can catch up on today's lesson "how to interact like a human being" at some later point."

This might sound like a success story. And it would be, if I had used what I had learnt all of the time, correcting a flaw that I found in myself to become a better person. But... I just can't do it. This is something I have simply learnt too late to integrate into my social interactions. Oh sure, I'll occasionally remember. But a lot of the time I won't and a lot of the time I am too embarassed to do it. This lesson has passed me by, like tying my laces using the "one loop" method (I am a "bunny ears" guy).

I am irrecovably broken.

Sunday, 11 December 2011


Aaaaaaaaand I'm back. A lot has happened since the last time I wrote a post on this blasted thing I call a blog. I got a job. I moved to Cambridge. Wait actually... that's it. Because of that last point I have a bicycle now! 'ark at me - saving the planet with my legs and a couple of wheels. Although I'm not cycling to work for any political or moral reason - it's cheaper than the bus and a heck of a lot faster than walking. Another change worth mentioning is that I bought a second-hand laptop, on which I am typing this message. Core 2 Duo, 3GB RAM and CentOS. It was a steal as well (as in it was very reasonably priced and quite possibly stolen).

So: this job of mine. I am an IT consultant / Linux Sysadmin for ARM (those of the 95% market share on smart phone microchip design). It's a pretty big deal and now I have to learn the ropes and get up to speed as quickly as possible. To that end, on the advice of a co-worker, I bought an RHCE study guide, so I can start thinking about taking the RHCE exam and get myself a well-recognised industry qualification. But that is quite boring for most people to read about so maybe some other things that have been playing on my mind.

I encountered a view a while ago that I had never heard before. There was a discussion on abortion and I was surprised to hear two rational, intelligent people saying that they disagreed with it (not in all cases, such as rape or incest - only the truly mad believe that). This surprised me but I was more surprised to their reason why. I had heard people argue that it was "murder" but they assured me this was not a concern of theirs. Their position was that if you have sex you should be ready for the responsibility of a baby - and if you get pregnant your "punishment" is to give birth and raise the child. I'm not saying that is a plainly wrong belief (although it is), but I had never heard that position before. It is something I must consider in future discussions.

I bought a Beach Boys compilation the other day. There is something quite funny about a group who's sexiest aspiration with a woman is "to meet her parents" but something charming and lovely about that. I suppose that was back in the day that pop groups had to appeal to young girls and their parents. I wonder if pop groups like that exist any more but they do, in a sense. The difference is that the Beach Boys were "proper" musicians where what we see today are musicians forged in record company pop factories. But that is probably just my inner moany old man speaking.

Wednesday, 17 August 2011

"Your mum!" "Your face!" "Your mum's face!"

The key to an interesting blog are twofold: quality of content and frequency of updates. I am sorely lacking in both departments.

These are two anecdotes I recalled recently. I hope they will suffice. They're both about shitting in public.

First, a few thoughts. I am not one of those people who refuses to defecate in a public toilet. If I need to drop a stool, I'll drop one. I don't care where I am. Okay maybe that is not 100% correct - I would not go to the toilet in the frozen aisle of my local Asda, or off the side of a fishing boat but generally speaking most public toilets will suffice. I don't like toilets on trains or planes because they are too cramped, and generally speaking there is one door between you and everyone else you need to share the rest of your journey with. I don't want the woman sitting next to me on the train to hear my turds splash into bowl. In summary, I have no problem with shitting in public toilets.

"Having to lay a log in a lavatory I have never seen before? This is a nightmare!" "No, no it isn't."

One day, many moons ago, I was in a public toilet, sitting in a cubicle. I feel I don't need to describe exactly what I was doing - and if you feel I should then maybe you should re-read the above paragraph. There. Got it? I was having a dump. As I'm sitting there, I hear the door open and two people run in. I hear them laughing and shouting to each other, and it is clear that they are quite young children. The noise subsides and I can concentrate on the business to hand (so to speak). Then I hear something. Something strange. Something... slightly worrying.

"Tee hee hee!"

I'll be honest - it made me somewhat curious and slightly troubled.

And then I hear it again.

"Tee hee hee!"

By now I am starting to become more than slightly worried. And then I heard it.

"Tee hee hee! I can see your bum-bum!"

My face went exactly. Like. This.

By this point I was, naturally pretty freaked out. But it continued:

"Tee hee hee! I can see your bum-bum!"

By this point I was... shall we say "indignant". And, at the very least, furious.

This perverted child is going DOWN. Okay maybe not Malcolm-X-fighting-black-oppression levels of indignation and fury but, you know. Pretty miffed.

I pull my trousers up as quickly as I possibly can and practically kick the cubicle door open. Someone is going to pay. That was an obvious exaggeration - I couldn't kick down the door to a doll's house - but you get the idea. I survey the restroom with anger rushing through my veins and my brain already planning a suitably bile-filled verbal tirade. And then I see it. A kid, maybe seven years old, at the urinal pointing at his younger brother, also at the urinal, who has his trousers and pants around his ankles and his shirt lifted above his stomach.

Oh thank God. It wasn't voyeurism, just strange urinal technique.

Of course it wasn't some kid spying on me. He was laughing at his brother. With a sigh of relief that should have come immediately after me pushing out that food baby, rather than outside the cubicle looking at some children having a piss, I washed my hands and left.

Another time I was in a cubicle, this time have a wee. It was one of those filthy public toilets that appear to never be cleaned, with piss all over the floor and graffiti all over the cubicle walls. Out of curiosity I started to read the graffiti. Most of it was the usual moronic rubbish, but one piece of scrawled text in particular caught my eye:

"Be in here at 7pm on a Saturday to get fucked hard by a big hairy bear cock."

I knew for sure it was a Saturday. I nervously raise my watch to my eye-line to check the time. The dial reads... 19:00.

Once again, my face went exactly. Like. This.

Suffice to say I got out of there pretty quickly, pushing past a tall, bearded fellow in biker gear as I made my exit.

So there we have it, my adventures with public toilets. Coincidentally the latter half of the previous sentence will be the title of my autobiography. Working title.

Monday, 20 June 2011

Facial Kerplunk

So I thought I might as well post another part from my "diary of crazy". This one isn't at all political, but is still something I am passionate about.

"People Who Shouldn't Be Allowed to Enjoy Music Concerts

  • • Anyone who throws drinks around.

  • • Anyone who takes their top off.

  • • Anyone who arrives in any kind of costume.

  • • Anyone who brings props.

  • • Anyone who crowd surfs.

  • • Anyone who starts a mosh pit and then gets offended when people push back.

  • • Anyone who starts a mosh pit just so they can have a fight.

  • • Anyone who starts a mosh pit.

  • • Anyone who heckles the performers.

  • • Anyone who demands huge amount of space for their dancing/dreadlocks (usually its both).

  • • Anyone who bring their kids (except festivals) or their parents (ever).

  • • Anyone who the surrounding people decides are too old/hairy/much of a dick head.

  • • Anyone who is too drunk to stand up.

  • • Anyone who is too drunk to actually enjoy the concert.

  • • Anyone who is too drunk.

  • • Anyone who takes about six full pints of beer right to the front of the crowd just before the main act comes on stage - you will be jostled.

  • • Any couples who decide to have a sloppy snog-a-thon right in the middle of the crowd. Your love is great and all but it is currently dribbling down my shoulder.

  • • All those people who go without saying.
  • "

    The piece ends abruptly with the following quote on the next page:

    "I'm not trying to ban fun. Just tightly regulate it."

    Well it made me laugh at any rate.

    Saturday, 11 June 2011

    Old Political Ramblings #1

    I recently found a bunch of writing that I did whilst on my placement year. A lot of it was written on the train, it is mostly incoherent and unfocused. It is also very socialist. All of them were written when the recession was at its hardest, when bankers' bonuses were a top news story. Still, I have decided to type up some of the writings, because it is the kind of nonsensical pap you people are used to hearing from me.

    The first is about banks, naturally.

    "I am convinced nobody knows everything about economy and finance. How could they? There are too many variables. Representing economy and finance in terms of figures and graphs is like trying to represent the universe in felt.

    It is ridiculously complicated to even open a bank account: which kind of account, which bank, what kind of card, etc. And there is no transparency at all. You have no idea where your money actually is. Can't someone make banking open source?

    Surely all most people use bank accounts for are convenient transfer of funds, cash withdrawals and somewhere secure to store their money. But we appear to be paying a very high price for convenience."

    This is a piece about religion. It probably reads a little more controversially than I intended.

    "I do not like to believe religion deliberately oppresses its followers. Religion was a mechanism used in the past to assert authority or enforce morality. Now we have government, education, prisons, courts, etc. Religion no longer seems relevant. But alas, it prevails. As does its nonsensical beliefs. `Don't eat pork` made sense when food could not be safely stored and cooked, and medicine was in its infancy. This is no longer an issue.

    However, as it should be obvious to anyone, that is the most minor of issues. Abortion is the issue that most accurately displays the disparity between religious edicts and modern wisdom. The woman's right to choose to have an abortion is fundamental for any civilised society. And yet religion calls it murder. This kind of backwards-thinking can only hold a progressive society back."

    Those are the two least crazy-sounding one's. I will post more when I get the chance.