Since joining the Green Party in November I have been going along to local meetings and when there was a call for candidates to stand in the local council elections I volunteered. The aim was to get a Green Party candidate on the ballot for all wards of Welwyn Hatfield Borough Council and I agreed to stand in my own ward, Hatfield West, where I have lived for over 20 years. Hatfield also has a Town Council and three seats were up for election in West Ward so I offered to put myself forward for that as well.
If you follow this blog then you may recall me railing against websites that require the use of the Adobe Flash browser plug-in, which I removed from my iMac in November 2010 and never reinstalled. I watch quite a lot of YouTube (too much to be honest) and lack of Flash was a challenge. For a long time my solution was to use Connor McKay’s YouTube5 Safari Extension but in September 2014, when I had turned off Extensions for some reason, I noticed that YouTube seemed to be working fine – presumably it had started serving HTML5 to browsers without Flash. A few days ago YouTube went further and announced that they are now serving HTML5 by default (at least in Chrome, IE 11, Safari 8 and beta versions of Firefox). They are also deprecating “old style” Flash <object> embeds and their Flash API.
The UK Trident Program maintains a fleet four Vanguard-class submarines armed with Trident II D-5 ballistic missiles, able to deliver thermonuclear warheads from multiple independent re-entry vehicles. It is the most powerful capability of the British military forces (I copied that from the above linked Wikipedia article). We are told that this capability somehow keeps us safe because nobody will dare attack us (or our friends) for fear of vaporisation. There are some fairly obvious objections to this theory which I could go into but I will save myself the effort and just remind people of a 2009 letter to the Times in which the former head of armed forces, Field Marshal Lord Bramall, backed by two senior generals, said that “Nuclear weapons have shown themselves to be completely useless as a deterrent to the threats and scale of violence we currently face or are likely to face”. Completely useless and “virtually irrelevant except in the context of domestic politics”.
I don’t mean to diminish the awfulness of some recent events, but when I checked my news feed recently I saw three positive stories in quick succession, all of them related to the United States. In no particular order:
An article in the Los Angeles Times with the headline Congress quietly ends federal government’s ban on medical marijuana.
An article in Alaska Dispatch News with the headline President Obama declares waters in and near Bristol Bay off limits to oil and gas leasing.
And perhaps most significantly the story in The New York Times U.S. to Restore Full Relations With Cuba, Erasing a Last Trace of Cold War Hostility.
Of course there will be nay-sayers but I welcome all these developments and hope that there is more good news to come this festive season.
Although I buy a few items on eBay I had not sold anything since February 2011. I have been meaning to start again for a long time but what with one thing and a million others it took me till just a few days ago to get to it. I have a lot of unwanted stuff that is too good to throw out. Some of it I could give to charity shops, but to be honest the charities behind the local shops are not the ones that I would necessarily give to – I would rather try to sell things and maybe give some of the proceeds to Freedom from Torture. Anyway, the first thing I tried was a set of steak knives and forks which somehow came to be in my possession a few years ago and which I had never used. I looked them up on eBay and found similar sets for sale, both with and without the original packaging. It seemed like they would probably sell so I listed them.
I am fifty years old and have never been a member of any political party, but with the media gearing up for a General Election in May next year I have more or less made up my mind to join the Green Party.
Although in theory we will be voting for individuals, the vast majority of votes cast will be for people standing as official candidates for one of a small number of dominant political parties and the whole thing will be presented as a battle for votes between these parties. One of the key elements in the battle will be a number of televised debates, and between themselves the main broadcasters have decided to limit participation to just four political parties. They were bound to include the Conservative Party and the Labour Party, and I guess they thought they would have to include the Liberal Democrats despite their huge loss of support since forming a governing coalition with the Conservative Party. What seems wrong is that they will also include UKIP but not the Green Party (or indeed the SNP).
I was looking at Date & Time preferences on my iMac and under Time Zone I checked the box where it said “Set time zone automatically using current location”, at which point a message popped up telling me to “Turn on WiFi to determine your current location”. Since my machine is connected to the router by Ethernet I don’t normally have Wi-Fi turned on and in fact I had deleted the interface in Network preferences. So I added a Wi-Fi interface and turned it on. When I went back to Date & Time preferences there was now a pin on the map marking my closest city, which it had correctly determined to be Hatfield – United Kingdom (though strictly Hatfield is a town not a city). When I unchecked the auto time zone box the pin disappeared but the closest city was still set to Hatfield, as if I had set it manually.
Having not posted anything in July or August I have made up for it with this being my 6th post of the month. I have also gained 13 new blog followers during September, taking the total up to 65. You might think that with 65 followers I could expect each new post be viewed on the order of 65 times within a few days of posting but from what I can tell that seems not to be the case and I am left to conclude that most of my followers rarely view my posts.
Well that was an anti-climax. Had the vote gone the other way on Thursday I expect the celebrations would still have been going on. In the end, 44.65% of votes cast were for an independent Scotland with 55.25% against (see full results). Not as close as polls were suggesting but still a lot closer than the UK establishment would have liked. So what saved the Union?
In 2001 David Blunkett announced that cannabis would be downgraded from Class B to Class C of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971. From 2001 to 2004 I attended the annual Cannabis Festival in Brockwell Park, organised by the Brixton Cannabis Coalition. It was a very popular event and the police turned a blind eye to mass public consumption of the herb. During this time people also started exploiting a loophole which allowed the sale of fresh psilocybin containing mushrooms even though psilocybin itself was classified as a Class A drug. These were high times indeed. The downgrading of cannabis to Class C did not actually occur until January 2004 but things generally seemed to be moving in the right direction.