I’ve been messing about with new designs for my blog. Presently it uses an old version of wordpress which is a little limited in the things it can do and the cool functions I can include.
Also, I feel the current design is a little hard to read.
So I’m working on some ideas for a new design. Maybe you could suggest what you think of my current ‘mess about’? If you like it … great. If you don’t, I’ll try something else.
http://www.stevetierney.org/blog is where you’ll find my current attempt.
Any comments appreciated.
5th In the United Kingdom
54th In the United Kingdom
27th In the United Kingdom
Following the sad death of Peter Skoulding, the March West District Council Seat will shortly become a political battleground during the necessary by-election that is triggered when a seat becomes vacant.
So far we know the Conservative candidate will be Steve Count. I’ve never met Mr. Count but I do know that he beat off stiff competition to be selected as the Conservative candidate and that he did this despite something of a history of causing the Conservative-run District Council headaches in the past. The Wisbech Standard columnist Breakespeare had to admit that the fact that our party were so quick to forgive and forget was an interesting and encouraging development. Of course, those of us who are active Conservatives know that the party doesn’t deserve half the criticism that opponents sometimes throw our way. The right man for the job (in the view of those selecting) will usually be chosen because that’s the correct thing to do.
Meanwhile, local independent Reg Kemp has also thrown his hat into the ring. I’ve seen his comments plenty of times since he’s not at all shy at making his opinions known (much the same can be said about me – I’m aware!) He has recently been a member of the political ‘party’ called “Jury Team” (I’m not sure if he still is) - you might remember them, they were beaten by just about everybody except maybe Animals Count, mostly due to the fact that the only thing they seem to stand for is that they don’t want to stand for anything. He lost the County elections in June, beaten fairly resoundingly by Cllr. John Clark. He’s also well-known for his disdain for Freemasons and his attempts to have them removed from any office they might hold at the District council. An interesting character who will be entertaining during the short campaign, I’m sure.
Among those who are interested in local politics there is a lot of discussion about who might win this. Some previous by-elections have been unopposed and so the fact that this might be more of a battle is causing some excitable folk to salivate.
Some commentators think that Labour have a chance here but I doubt that very much. Labour, in my opinion, are a dead duck right now. I don’t see them as a major threat this year in Fenland. But UKIP are a fly in the ointment. If they have a candidate in, that makes things more uncertain. As for the Lib Dems? Who knows with those guys? Sometimes they come out all guns blazing and other times they fizzle out like damp sponge (do damp sponges ‘fizzle’? I suppose not. Oops. Bad adjective. It’s been a long day!)
Whatever the case it’ll sure be an interesting one and it’s just a terrible shame that it has come about through such tragic circumstances.
If I were a betting man I’d be betting Conservative. But, of course, you know that.
5th In the United Kingdom
54th In the United Kingdom
Why Traditional Games Are Good
A number of teenagers regularly use my shop to play a strategy card game called Magic The Gathering. Back when it was released about fifteen years ago it was a fairly complex card game with about sixty pages of detailed rules. Even though it was tricky to learn in the first instance, something about the game made it immensely popular and in very short order it grew into a giant success which spawned hundreds of other similar games.
Since then the manufacturers have been releasing “expansion sets” at a rate of three or four a year each with addition rules. They have also revised the “main” rules a full ten times. The end result is a hugely complex, detailed, strategic, competitive monster of a game overflowing with complication, rules conflicts and complexity which make the games most of you have probably played look like noughts and crosses (tic-tac-toe if you are American).
One particular boy who plays in the shop has been coming in for years and I’ve gotten to know him. He has explained to me that he had problems at school, has needed lots of help with learning difficulties whose root is apparently a combination of ADHD, behavioural problems with other children and Dyslexia. He’s a nice lad, but he’s had something of a tough time of it by all accounts.
To learn to play Magic The Gathering you are forced to read a huge rulebook and learn the intricacies of tens of thousands of different cards that could be played (most cards have rule variations written on them!). Then, when the game begins if you are playing multiplayer (you can play with two, or many, people) then the game might last several hours during which a great deal of concentration is required. Throughout the game the players must wheel-and-deal, scheme, cooperate and manage complex interpersonal negotiations and interactions.
The (dyslexic) boy learnt the rules in a day by reading and watching other people play. The same (ADHD) boy can sit for hours involved in the imaginative and detailed mechanics of a game that he himself is not even playing at that time. And when he does take part, the same (behavioural problems) boy can make deals, break deals, connive, bluster, get stabbed in the back (metaphorically) and win or lose with perfectly good humour.
That’s why traditional games are good.
Ps. I stopped selling games some time ago and do not sell Magic the Gathering. Nor do I
recommend that others go and and buy the game. It’s not for everyone. This article was
purely to demonstrate why traditional games are certainly not a “waste of time” as
some less enlightened folk have suggested in the past.
What Did I Do?
I follow John Elworthy on Twitter as I rather enjoy his occasional quips and anecdotes there. After returning from my holiday I was catching up on my email, blog-reading and correspondence when I happened across his latest tweet:-
“Thank God, the X Factor is back. Not so happy Steve Tierney is back from holiday though. But Norwich won, so 2 out of 3 !”
I’m not quite sure whether to be offended or honoured to be one of Mr. Elworthy’s three things of note at that point in time (albeit the one that ruins his twitter-mood.) I am a little nonplussed though. What have I done to merit such extravagant positioning? I’m aware we’ve had a mild joust over the past couple of months between blog and newspaper, but I had thought it was all rather good-natured. Perhaps John is joking in his tweet? I’d feel better about it if there were a smiley or something. I wouldn’t want to think I had somehow offended anybody. I think I’d rather miss his comments if he were away. Ah well. Sticks & stones and all that.
UPDATE (25th August)
All’s well that ends well. Apparently John Elworthy wasn’t being mean about me after all. His most recent tweet…
And just in case anyone needs re-assuring, I happen to believe Steve Tierney is the best thing to happen to local politics in years. I’m not sure the Conservative Party will necessarily end up thinking so, but how refreshing to hear someone who actually believes something. He’s wrong on the Queens Hotel, Wisbech, though – and common decency says the hostel must go ahead. But there are areas upon which we agree.
Thanks for that Mr. Elworthy. We may disagree on issues, but I wouldn’t want to have actually upset anybody. And I very much appreciate your (far too generous) comments.
I’m pleased to say that my unique visitors (the number of different people who visit my blog) has stayed fairly steady. Not bad given that I was away and didn’t get to post last week! I still sit comfortably somewhere between 16,000 and 20,000 monthly visitors based on the combined weekly stats for August so far! Hopefully, the additional exposure from winning the Total Politics Blog Award will pull in more regular readers! It’s all very exciting. Thanks – everyone!
5th In the United Kingdom
We are often told that despite the public feeling that crime is rising the true facts are that in many respects crime is falling. This jars with what most of us experience day-to-day and thereby creates scepticism of the official figures. Still, we are told that our perception does not represent the facts – that the illusion has other roots than genuine crime. Fear. The Media. Moral Panic. Whatever.
Last night somebody stole a fern out of a pot in my front garden. They didn’t steal the pot – it was probably too heavy and therefore might qualify as ‘real work’. They literally stuck their hands into the earth, whipped the plant from its moorings and then – presumably -took it home and planted it. Or possibly just threw it into a hedge somewhere. I doubt they tried to resell it in the local pub or ‘thrift’ store, there not being a likely massive market for loose second-hand shrubbery.
So now the quandary. Do I report it?
If I phone the police and tell them I’ve had a plant stolen from a plant pot I doubt I am going to receive a visit from the serious crime office. CSI (or the British equivalent) are not going to swarm into my street, cordon off the road and ticker-tape my yard with colourful orange and yellow bands. No specialist analytical team will arrive and take dirt samples from the pot to look for DNA left therein. A plant-shape, drawn in chalk, will not adorn the footpath outside my house.
The problem is, it is precisely this sort of thing which leads to our perception of crime rising.
Last night I had drunks screaming and shouting at 2AM outside my door. One of them stood in the middle of the road flagging down cars and asking for a ride. I have neighbours opposite me for whom a weekend is not complete without an hour or so of hammering on the front door in the small hours demanding “let me in” (actually they say “Pozwalane ja” or something, but I digress) to some faceless resident who appears to very much not want to.
Cars park up and down along my street, engines running, during any sort of show at the Angles Theatre – the double yellow lines do not deter them and of course there are no PCOs to issue tickets because they prefer to discharge the traffic warden-esque portion of their duties at more sociable hours. People smash glass in the road. Kick down the decorative brick walls of nearby buildings. Break open the electrical box and turn off half the lights on the car park. I could go on…
In the last month alone I suspect I have experienced or noticed in excess of twenty individual small crimes of this nature. Often after-the-fact of course, since I do not stalk the streets at night dressed in a body stocking, cape and mask. How many have I reported? None. It hardly seems worth it, so conditioned am I to the idea that nobody will come if I call, that the police will have “better things to do” or that I don’t want to be a bother with my “silly little” crime reports.
There is a reason people perceive crime is rising and it has nothing to do with our overactive imaginations. The “official figures” are all well and good but they do not represent the true picture. I put it to you, dear reader, that our towns are awash with petty crime, antisocial behaviour, vandalism and old fashioned rudeness. Anybody who lives in a town that isn’t fed from a silver spoon knows this to be true. Our solutions? Massage the figures, invent colourful ‘initiatives’, tell people they don’t know the ‘truth’.
Now I’ll be the first to admit that a stolen potplant, though annoying and not inexpensive, is hardly Crime Of The Century. No movies will be made about it starring George Clooney or Brad Pitt. But I wouldn’t steal something from someone’s yard. Would you? With that in mind we must accept that thieves like this have a different mindset to you and I. A pot plant today – a bike next week – a car the week after that? It’s not an impossible progression to imagine.
What would happen if each and every one of us reported each and every crime we saw? Every piece of new graffiti we passed. Every smashed bottle? Every leery fistfight? Every time some mindless oik woke us or our children up by the simple expedient of not being able to hold a few pints, or thinking that the fun way to spend an evening is breaking other people’s stuff? Every broken car window? Every stolen potplant? What would the “official figures” look like then?
This from Iain Dale’s list of British Blog winners:-
Top 10 British Councillor Blogs
1 (1) Luke Akehurst LA
2 Bickerstaffe Record LA
3 Richard Willis CO
4 (3) Paul Scully CO
5 Steve Tierney CO
6 (5) Bob Piper LA
7 (4) James Cleverly AM CO
8 (29) Gwilym Euros Roberts NA
9 Stuart Syvret NA
10 (26) Dave Luckett CO
Fifth in Britain is pretty exciting.
Thank you so much to everybody who voted!
If You Do The Crime …
Each and every one of us has decisions to make in their lives and once those decisions are made we must live with the inevitable consequences. It’s called personal responsibility. Some perpetual bleeding hearts don’t believe in personal responsibility. Everything is somebody else’s fault, or caused by events over which the accused had no control. I don’t accept that at all. We each make our own choices. Many people live in awful circumstances yet never become monsters.
If ever there was an obvious split between the liberal (not necessarily Lib Dem) and Conservative viewpoint, surely the Lockerbie Bomber is it? Turn on a radio talkshow and you can hear both sides expressed, sometimes eloquently, often passionately. While I personally believe wholeheartedly in liberty, I struggle to understand the argument that says a terrorist mass killer should be able to claim (and receive) ‘compassionate’ release.
Let’s just recap. Abdelbaset Ali Mohmed al Megrahi is serving a life sentence for his 2001 conviction : blowing up PanAm flight 103 in December 1988, leaving 270 people dead, in the worst terrorist atrocity and the biggest mass murder in British legal history.
Compassion is that last thing he deserves.
The idea that you can be ‘fair’ and ‘decent’ by allowing a horrific killer to jet home to a festival parade in Libya and spend his last months in comfort surrounded by his family is not compassion. It is weakness masquerading as compassion. I’m sure the people who lost family and friends in the original bombing would love to have a homecoming parade for the poor souls who were victims of this man. The fact that this cannot ever happen should have been all the legal system needed to know.
Lock him up. Throw away the key. That would seem to be the obvious decision to make.
Instead, the wisdom of the Scottish courts is that Abdelbaset gets to go home and be a hero for what he did. He’s terminally ill, you see. And somehow the quirk of fate that delivered the illness means we should forget the two hundred and seventy people he killed and shed a tear for his condition. Yeah, right. There are a great many people in the world who are worthy of compassion and pity. This evil lunatic isn’t one of them.
I’ve just spent a glorious week in the New Forest. In cohorts with a horde of other credit-crunched countrymen and women – my family and I decided to dodge the jet engines this year and instead to decend Southwards into one of the greatest stretches of wilderness our small island retains.
In a log cabin nestled beneath the forest canopy three generations of my family had a truly fantastic time. We barbecued at night under the stars. My wife and I walked nine miles through scrub, marsh and forest, up and down steep hills, along lane and gravel track (getting quite severely lost for some time). We saw a calf born. We had to jump a bubbling brook and climb a sodden hill to get to a road that might help us get home before dark. We stumbled for refreshment into a quaint wood-beamed pub and quaffed juice, real ale and homemade cider (not in one glass…)
We paid a visit to Bournemouth, to Poole and to a Theme Park near Southampton that was packed full of fun. My son went on his first roller-coaster. “That was great,” he said as it thundered into the slowdown lane at the end of the ride, and then plaintively: “Is it finished?” My Mum refused to miss the log flumes despite a cracked rib sustained last week. We trekked through the “Dinosaur Park” and imagined the roars from the bushes were real denizens of the Jurassic coming to hunt us down.
In the amusingly named “Sandy Balls” campsite we swam in the freezing outside pool, laughing and dunking and shivering. My son made great use of the adventure playground. We took the nature walks, following terrible maps to end up in places where I’m pretty sure we were never meant to go. We biked along silent roads past ponies and cows and pigs and deer all free to roam. We enjoyed incredible weather, hot day after hot day broken only by pleasant cool breezes and the occasional brief and exciting storm. We laughed – a lot. We ate, drank and made merry. We lay on grass as the sun melted into night on a golden horizon.
This, I think, is the stuff all great holidays are made of. I hope you all had a wonderful summer too!
Holiday Time For Me
I’m off to the New Forest for 10 days. Back on 23rd August.
So no new blog posts until then unless it rains and I’m stuck in an Internet Cafe somewhere which, I grant, isn’t entirely unlikely in our lovely country.
Until then I leave you with these thoughts on politics. They are espoused tongue-in-cheek and do not necessarily represent my views.
“I offer my opponents a bargain: if they will stop telling lies about us, I will stop telling the truth about them.”
“If God had been a Liberal there wouldn’t have been Ten Commandments, there would have been Ten Suggestions.” Malcolm Bradbury
“It is difficult to get a man to understand something when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”
Upton Sinclair, “The Jungle”
“Politicians are people who, when they see light at the end of the tunnel, go out and buy some more tunnel.”
The New Forest.
Delusion On A Grand Scale
News from America was “good” this week. Apparently, the increase in their unemployment rate has slowed. 249,000 lost their jobs in the U.S.A. in the last quarter which was much “better” than expected, being a lower amount of new unemployed than recent quarters.
Pundits and experts <cough> were rolled out to hail that the American economy was “past the worst” and had “turned a corner”. Well that’s okay then. Time to go out and get a few more credit cards and a personal loan, I suppose.
You have to wonder if the 249,000 American new unemployed are excited about the recovery they are experiencing?
The idea that a massive fall in the amount of people paying taxes (and an increase in folk on welfare) is somehow good news because its not as massive as last month is whistling in the dark of the worst kind. By that same logic if you reached zero employed that would be good news, because every month thereafter there could be no “new unemployed” at all and that would surely mean the
depression recession was over.
Only in the special moon-pie and fairy-lights land of Quantitive Easing, Trillion Dollar trade imbalances and being in hock for everything you own including the shirt on your back to growing Eastern giants does a quarter of a million new unemployed equal anything other than more absolutely horrible news.
Meanwhile, here in the UK, all is apparently well. The papers continue to find new “green shoots” every week, regaling us with stories of how we’ve “past the worst”, “reached a plateau” and are looking at excellent prospects of returning to “growth” in the last quarter of 2009.
The evidence for this bout of good news? Some banks made some money. The pound gained a little ground. Houses prices didn’t fall again. A couple of sectors showed some slightly higher figures than expected. The FTSE has risen somewhat.
Funny so few choose to mention some other useful facts:-
- UK Production levels are below the levels of 1998.
- Unemployment continues to rise – frighteningly fast.
- Tax receipts have fallen off a cliff – requiring ever greater government borrowing.
- The highest levels of government debt ever recorded by this country.
- Trade balance of goods and services remains negative. We are still consuming more than we produce.
- GDP remains negative.
Anybody in the manufacturing industry (you know the people who actually make things to generate wealth for the country) will tell you just how “green” the shoots look. A moldy dark green. Like you find under an old fridge in a squat.
Any sort of brief ‘upturn’ there might be right now is the result of the government inventing money from thin air and using it to fund its activities. All those billions had to trickle into the economy eventually. If this seems like a good idea now, wait until the effect of the initial £125Billion and last week’s new £50Billion fully settle. This undermining of sterling is a stealth tax of the worst kind and it will be coupled with a need to repay the interest (and capital, we can only hope) of a debt mountain unlike any we have ever experienced before. And don’t get me started on the coming inflation…
Meanwhile, some estimate the country already owes £1Trillion Pounds. Add in the personal debt of the citizens and we might have another £1.5Trillion on top of that. The figures are so large they lose their meaning to many of us. But their meaning will become all too clear in due course.
The Labour Party have presided over a SNAFU so large that the seventies look almost tame. Gordon Brown is always telling us this is a global crisis. It feels pretty damn local to the people who have lost their jobs, watched their savings crumble or tried to keep their struggling businesses afloat.
(Hat-tip Cynicus Economicus)