Wednesday 21 August 2013

Bird on a wire

Evidently there are too many exclamation marks in use today!  Exclamation mark inflation is not a good thing, but has come about because of the modern habit of texting.  If you receive a text saying "C U @ Starbucks @ 6" and reply "See you there", you come across as a bit begrudging, a bit down.  Your friend might wonder what's wrong.  So you have to reply "See you there!"  You come across as excited and enthused.  Everyone's happy.  And if said friend reports on the the birth of her sister's baby, a simple "It's a boy" doesn't quite do it, whereas "It's a boy!!!!!!!!" does.  Does this matter?  Well, yes and no.  Some well known authors think that there should be no more than 2, perhaps three exclamation marks per 100,000 words.  No, because when you only have a few characters to use, an exclamation mark gets the emotion across.  But the habit has gone beyond mobile devices, so books, magazines, and the wrong sort of newspapers all now use an excess of exclamation marks.  Can you believe it?!  Anyway, it seems to me that the best way to solve the world's economic crisis would be to tax the use of exclamation marks.  Equally, a tax credit could be offered for the use of semi-colons which the younger generation don't even know exist .

I was thinking about writing about this David Miranda affair.  He is after all not the first Brazilian the British Police have screwed over...just that this time it was a little less deadly.  He should count himself lucky.  But really if he was (as appears to be the case) carrying something relating to Edward Snowden he's a bit daft. Unless it was a case of Chris Huhne/Vicky Pryce "You don't mind taking this stuff for me do you?".  Still, I can't help but think that as a PR exercise it will turn out to be yet another disaster for the government. Whatever the true merits, Snowden has generally come out of this quite well....governments spying on their citizens, and the US spying on its allies.  The US government has had to become more open and honest about who it is checking up on, and why...and it will probably find that the NSA will face all sorts of legal cases for breaching the law.  Snowden has gone the way of all whistleblowers.  Of most long-term damage though is that governments are continuing to lose the trust of their citizens.  People like to think of themselves as individuals, protected by the powers that be from the baddies whoever they are....but time after time the government seems to suggest that they think we're all suspicious and they are acting in the best interests of the state apparatus, rather than the people that put them there.  Some public servants go one step beyond, acting as if  everything would be fine if there were no people at all.  When modern media makes chitter chatter ubiquitous and instantaneous it's odd that public opinion matters less and less to the ruling elite. Really quite disheartening.

I remain fascinated with the Middle East.  I saw this morning that the CIA has finally acknowledged its role in the 1953 Iranian coup.  That saw the democratically elected government ejected in favour of the pro-west Shah.  Now, there's an obvious wrong there.  But then the West really only likes democracy when it's the right sort of democracy - witness events in Palestine when the democratically elected Hamas were cold-shouldered.  But rather than dwell on the wrong itself, my mind turns to the issue of 'what if'.  What if the coup had failed; what if the Mossadeq government had been allowed to stand.  Of course, it's a silly thing, but still I can't help myself.  Certainly the USSR would have been more powerful in the Middle East, so there would have been an impact in Europe.  But I wonder if we wouldn't have seen the more fundamentalist Iranian governments we have seen since the fall of the Shah.  If that was the case, we may have seen more stability, and the whole Middle Eastern crisis which rolls on from one decade to the next may just have been solved.  Who knows...I would need to write a book to decide.

I'm quite sad about Egypt.  I doubt there's much tourism going on there now (which generates a significant amount of money for local people), so it is the common man in the street that is suffering from the ravages of political instability.  It's quite monstrous really that the US has been unable to commit itself to admitting to there having been a military coup.  There's only one thing worse than socialism and that's Islam seems to be the having the military in charge is no bad thing.  But hundreds, perhaps thousands have been killed, and many more will die before it's all over.  There can't really be a return to democracy if one of the major political movements, and half the population are disenfranchised.

As I pedalled home the other night, I saw perched on a post in the Limehouse marina a big black bird.  It was the shape and stance of a heron, but it was black.  Normally I would photograph such a creature and display it here for your delectation.  But I was in a hurry, I had a long way to go.  Which is a shame.  Now the birdwatchers amongst you will say it was a cormorant.  But I know a cormorant when I see them. Black.  Long snake-like necks.  This one was different.  Hunched shoulders.  No neck.  Looking at the internet I found 'Black Heron'.  I saw there have been some British possible sightings...but some equal cynicism.  Evidently black herons reside in Africa and are most unlikely to visit London Docklands.  I don't see why, it's a lovely spot , plenty of rich pickings to be had.  Anyway, I don't care.  I'm convinced I saw a black heron.  Not a red herring.

Sunday 18 August 2013

Oil be back

Ooops...usually I write my posts in a block, and then schedule them for posting...this means they get written when I have time, and then magically appear at regular intervals.  Last week, I must have been on dope, as they've all pretty much appeared together...oops, even I would find that a bit tedious....

Sometimes I get random Facebook friend requests, and usually I just ignore them, sometimes I'll delve a little further and find they are from the mother/father of one of The Boy's friends and just occasionally they distinctly dodgy.  I had a request a week or so ago, and without thinking...we were in Scotland...I just accepted it.  Shortly afterwards I received a message from the person concerned.  They are the PA to someone who was a fellow graduate trainee at Austin Rover and had been trying to track me down. Ridiculously, it appears to be 30 years since I left the safety of the educational system.  How does that happen?

In case you have forgotten, Austin Rover was the purveyor of the finest in British automotive engineering - the Metro, the Maestro and the Montego.  I had ended up there because having gained a 2.1 in Economic and Political Development since 1800 from the University of Exeter, I had no idea of how I wanted to earn my crust, so went on the Milk Round to find a company that would have me.  I liked cars and in the toss up between  Ford, Vauxhall and Rover, my misplaced loyalties took me to Coventry.

Even with my limited knowledge of the real world, I realised we were back in the dark ages.  In the factory, if you did well, it would take a decade to move up a grade.  A robotised production line for the Metro required two burly blokes to bend the panels over their knees to make them fit.  The badge for the MG Maestro wouldn't fit the space on the rear door, and the then soon-to-be launched Montego had to have the interior redesigned because the ashtray was positioned just by the air vent, ensuring that ash was blown everywhere.

And so on.

Once I was asked by my boss to drive his car to pick up a VIP from the airport. He drove a metallic blue Rover.  I went to the car park, saw another couple of hundred of them so just clicked on the remote control until one flashed at me.  Only after I returned did I discover that I'd taken the wrong one...there were only a few remote lock combinations, which may have been a slight security issue.  My own brand new MG Metro had three changes of engines, and even then couldn't manage the journey from Coventry to Edinburgh without a top up of a few litres of oil.

And so on.

Anyway, the twelve or so sales and marketing graduates are meeting up.  I will be fascinated to see what we have to talk about...hopefully lots.