Archive for January, 2014

Re-evaluating the Green Party

Wednesday, January 29th, 2014 | Religion & Politics

It is always good to really challenge your beliefs when you can, so last night I tried to put aside any biases I hold and read through the Green Party manifesto.

I had previously written them off as sexists who support homoeopathy. Taking a look at their manifesto they talk a lot of sense though.

Here is what I like:

  • They make the case that inequality is bad for everyone (I have a blog post coming on this)
  • They want to reduce government borrowing
  • They aim for a 35 hour working week
  • Not increasing the rate of corporation tax for small businesses
  • Ensuring the NHS is entirely publicly run
  • Get rid of academies and free schools
  • Treat drug abuse as a health issue rather than a crime
  • Ending religious opt-outs of equality legislation
  • Reformation of the House of Lords

Here is what I do not like:

  • Their plan to pay for their pension plan is based on removing the tax incentives for people to pay into private pensions
  • Increased tax on fuels including its introduction on aviation fuel
  • Significant restrictions on air travel
  • Supporting the Post Office which is an appallingly-run and non-essential organisation that we can afford to and should let fail
  • So-called “business protection zones” to stop supermarkets
  • Removing the internal market from the NHS
  • Decentralise the NHS – they claim they can do it without it becoming a postcode lottery, but I am not convinced
  • Complementary therapies being available on the NHS
  • End mixed-sex accommodation in hospitals – why? Surely the Greens should be gender progressive?
  • Provide funding for women’s refuges (but not men)
  • Provide funding to tackle violence against women (but not men)
  • Forcing companies to hire women onto their boards
  • Reducing the voting age to 16
  • Move towards a written bill of rights
  • Oppose nuclear power
  • Reduce motorway speed limits to 55mph
  • Support organic food and oppose GM food

I was originally going to end this blog post with something like this:

There is certainly plenty in their I dislike. But the question is, do they talk less nonsense than the other political parties? I think it is quite possible that they actually do.

However, on reading through the list I have just made, there really is some unscientific stuff in there. So I don’t really know where to go with this ending now…

SMART targets

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 | Thoughts

People often talk about SMART targets. Inevitably people talk about how achievable and realistic are basically the same thing. The reason is that this is actually a common misconception about the acronym.

To understand it, we need to put it on context. SMART targets were originally developed for business and therefore that is the background that they are placed in the context of.

There are a number of alternatives for SMART and I will go through them below.

Rather than achievable (because we already have realistic), you can have assignable. Who will do it? Can we give it someone and have them take ownership of it?

How about agreed instead? This is useful for when setting performance goals in a business environment. A target is not SMART if either the manager or the employee is unhappy with it – it has to be agreed.

We can also leave A as achievable and change the R from realistic to something else. How about relevant? Again, very useful in a business context and probably very relevant for your personal goals too. Why is this target is important? What is the motivation for doing it?

Those are just a few of the alternatives to SMART. Wikipedia has done a good job of cataloging all the alternatives. Personally I like relevant for setting personal goals.

Rocksmith Diary: Day 35

Tuesday, January 28th, 2014 | Music

I have a new found respect for Green Day. Yes, their songs are composed almost entirely of power chords. But have you ever tried to hold the power chord shape for five minutes straight? Oh my god it hurts so much! Barre chords hurt a bit. But not like this. I physically do not have the strength in my hands to get all the way through Oh Love.

I start missing chords by the end of the song because my hands just are not strong enough to keep going. I have tried to end every session with the song to build up my strength.

Speaking of barre chords, I had a fucking F today! I am still missing a lot of Cs and I do not think I have managed to hit an A yet. But F is very slightly in the bag.

I really knocked my mastery percentage in some songs today. I do not know how. I started with My Own Summer by Deftones and apparently got an accuracy of 69%. There is no way that happened. I think I hit about 10% of notes. I am not convinced the game can tell the difference between a wrong note on Eb tuning…

A quick note on sexism

Monday, January 27th, 2014 | Religion & Politics

I’m not actually going to comment on any issues in this short piece. I just wanted to point a link over to this blog post where Chris H has catalogued a few interesting research papers showing clear evidence for sexism.

Rocksmith Diary: Day 32

Saturday, January 25th, 2014 | Music

I was wondering how Rocksmith recommends songs today. I did a google around and it seems to be some kind of magic. At first I thought it might just be a formula based on difficulty and mastery but maybe not. It keeps recommending the new songs I have downloaded over and over again.

I am also taking exception to the difficulty setting on an Oasis song. I keep hitting all the chords (and most of the other stuff too) but then because I miss something else, it downgrades the entire song. Then I get a few 93% and 95% accuracies and it upgrades the difficulty. Then the cycle repeats. Very annoying.

I also tried connecting my guitar up to my Mac to see if I could use Garageband as an amp. It is far too quiet though. I have to max the gain on Garageband and my speaker volume just to get it heard above the sound of me strumming. I had a look at the input devices that let you connect it to iOS devices but they are well expensive.

Long term I would really like to run my guitar through one of my devices though. This way I can test out different amps and FX pedals before I buy them so that I know which ones I want.

Rocksmith Diary: Day 31

Friday, January 24th, 2014 | Music

Yesterday I finished playing all the songs on the rhythm path. The songs seem to vary in how different the two versions are. For some, the lead and rhythm are almost the same. In others they are very different. You also need strong hands when an entire song is basically the same chord over and over again.

Today I spent some time working on playing in position. This is where you keep your hand in the same place and use different fingers for the different frets. Of course this limits you to four frets, so it all goes tits up when it moves outside of this. However, I think I have made a good start.

Rocksmith Diary: Day 29

Wednesday, January 22nd, 2014 | Music

I am still having problems with the E string not registering on Heart Shaped Box. I had a google around and at least one other person is having the same problem. The forums suggested that I try and strike the notes more softly, which seems to help.

More bitching about the Play Station Network. I tried to buy The Smashing Pumpkins pack, however it said my credit card was invalid. I logged on to try and edit it and it would only let me enter a 3 digit CV2. American Express has 4 digits and they clearly know this because they have a picture of an AMEX showing the 4 digits.

I tried deleting the card and re-add it. This time it left me enter a 4 digit CV2 but when I submitted the form it insisted the card number was invalid even though it was not. Irritating.

In the end I used my MasterCard and finally managed to add the credit. For my £9.69 I got five songs. However, when I went to play them I found that two did not have lead guitar parts. I guess the two songs are single guitar acoustics but I felt a little cheated as I did not see it mentioned.

As a positive consequence though I then had to switch to the rhythm guitar path which got me thinking I could do that more. When I get tired of not being able to do the flashy solos I can switch to rhythm and spend some time not being able to do all the chords.

Thinking about it, they come with a bass track too…

Just in case anyone has forgotten that UKIP are wankers

Tuesday, January 21st, 2014 | Life

In a recent article in The Guardian, it could be easily to interpret that councillor David Silvester was suspended for his anti-gay comments that suggested gay marriage caused the recent flooding.

He wasn’t.

As BBC News reports, Nigel Farage said he was suspended for refusing to shut up…

UKIP leader Nigel Farage said he was entitled to his “strong Baptist view of the world”, but had defied a request not to do further media interviews.

Mr Farage said: “So we suspended him, quite rightly.”

I think there is a critical difference. He was suspended because he refused to stop talking about it. UKIP have not spoken out against the statement. They have just said he should not be talking about. This fits with the original statement that UKIP gave to The Telegraph.

If the media are expecting Ukip to either condemn or condone someone’s personal religious views they will get absolutely no response.

So UKIP are fine with people being a bigot, as long as it is religious bigotry.

It is worth noting however that UKIP does not share Silvester’s views on gay marriage. Their, very different hatred of gay marriage, is outlined explicitly on their website.

A Study in Scarlet

Monday, January 20th, 2014 | Books

I have started reading Sherlock Holmes to see if Steven Moffat and Mark Gatiss had many any changes when they developed their TV series.

I think I prefer the TV series. The novel is straight forward. Sure, Sherlock Holmes is a very clever man. But it is almost believable. Where I quite like the TV series because it is escapism – nobody could be that brilliant, or that much of an arsehole.

I also found the structure of the novel rather strange. In the middle it changes to a story set in Utah for “The Country of the Saints”. I understand why it was there, but it goes on for ages and ages. It is like a mini-novel inside another.



Sunday, January 19th, 2014 | Books

The problem with Terry Pratchett novels is that I often have not read the book that it is a satire of. This is true of Maskerade. I have not read Phantom of the Opera. So when I do, I imagine I will spend the whole time thinking “ha, they have just stolen that from Discworld”. Good read, but nothing amazing.