Thursday, 6 February 2014

The Big Benefits Row


The Mysterious Case of the Disappearing Disability Campaigners.

I'd been looking forward to seeing this debate ever since I'd first noticed it in Channel 5's schedule. They have managed, in the past, to produce programmes about the UK's minorities which were neither patronising nor sensationalist – in comparison to the tabloidesque offerings from some other television channels. I've seen a couple of pretty well-balanced debate programmes on Channel 5, too. So, as I said, I'd been looking forward to this debate and had tried but failed to find out how to get a place in the audience.

On the night, however, I checked the telly guide, spotted the dread name Katie Hopkins (right-wing, loud-mouthed, poor-hating, ex-Apprentice 'star') and, feeling somewhat under the weather, tired, and in pain, decided to go to bed instead. Now, I rather wish I'd watched it so will hunt it down on catch-up; but having read Sue Marsh's excellent article (see link) I'm rather glad that I couldn't find a way to get tickets. I'm a wheelie, too, and had I managed to get there, the building might have collapsed under the pressure of five entire wheelchairs, as you will understand, gentle reader, should you click on the link and, please, read on:

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Please follow the link to the original post: Benefit Scrounging Scum: You don't know what you've got til its gone... #NHS

Bendy Girl says it better than I can – and Joni Mitchell sings it better than me, too... I mean, I sing it pretty well but, oh, please go and read the linked post. And celebrate everything that is just so brilliant about the NHS. Please.

Benefit Scrounging Scum: You don't know what you've got til its gone... #NHS

Wednesday, 28 September 2011

Inaccessibility, Speech-to-text, Post-surgery 'fun' and Other Stories

Trey Harris's eloquent report on his recent surgery and the resultant need to use dictation software - in his case, mostly Dragon Dictate - should stand as a wake-up call to anyone who builds such software. Massive improvements are needed.

There are more and more people who need to be able to use reliable speech-to-text, speech-to-code and voice-control software; either because of temporary disability - post-surgery or injury - or because of permanent disabilities. We need it to live 21st Century lives, whether that be social interaction on the internet, preparing books or letters or posters or whatever for hobbies, or, indeed, in our working lives. There is a massive market there and absolutely anybody could need this tomorrow, either short- or long-term.

And there is a massive, mostly untapped, potential market amongst all the people who would love to be able to say, "Computer: print me a copy of the letter to Phipps & Co. and put dinner with Jo and her lot in my diary for next Friday and open G+ for me please. New post. Take dictation..." - and have it all happen. Smoothly. There's a Mac Concept film: Apple's 1987 Knowledge Navigator Video, on the theme of future-computer, where the guy and his computer converse in natural speech. It might have inspired, or been inspired by, Heinlein and/or Arthur C. Clark. Trey Harris found it for me after I’d tried and failed. But that future should be now or hereabout!

Honestly? Full accessibility should be baked-in to every OS - and every browser! - by now, damn it! After all, just as with wide access gates at stations, automatic or button-operated doors at shops, libraries, hospitals, etc., ramps and level entries on buildings, everybody would use it – even when they're not burdened with prams, buggies, or both hands full!

And, Googlers and Blogger Team, that goes for visual accessibility on every web-page (or site) too. It's not enough to say, oh you can set preferred or minimum text sizes and page-contrast in your browser or system-preferences-pane. Not while every web-site uses a different font-size to start with so you often end up having to over-ride your over-ride. A small control panel with three sizes of 'A's and two or three contrast settings, tucked into the settings cog in the black bar - and repeated in the sign-up process - then remembered as your personal site settings - would do it. Please?

P.S. I typed this, rather than dictating it. My speech has reached the slurr-y stage, editing-in punctuation is a drag and, right now, my typing is less slurr-y ;-)

P.P.S. I originally wrote this as an introduction to a ‘share’ of Trey’s post but Rowan Thunder suggested I put it up as an individual post. I’m also posting it to my blog.


This is Trey’s original post, which I’d ask you to read - there are some good hints and tips in the comments on it, too!

This is the link to Apple’s ‘Knowledge Navigator’ video:

This is the link to this article on Google+. If you read it there, you'll notice some minor differences:

Robert Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke and Isaac Asimov are twentieth-century ‘hard’ Science Fiction writers, all of whom included ‘aware’ computers in at least some of their novels. You can find out more about them here:

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Free Concert for Petition Signature or vice versa...

ONE International is a grassroots advocacy and campaigning organization that fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, particularly in Africa, by raising public awareness and pressuring political leaders to support smart and effective policies and programs that are saving lives, helping to put kids in school and improving futures. Cofounded by Bono and other campaigners, ONE is nonpartisan and works closely with African activists and policy makers.

Their current campaign is this Petition, calling on World Leaders to urgently provide the full funding that the UN has identified as necessary to help people in the Horn of Africa and to keep their promises to deliver the long term solutions which could prevent crises like this happening again.

So far, ONE has achieved 96% of the goal of 160,000 signatures. I've added mine. Please will you add yours.

Thank you.

And as a further thank you, I'd like to invite you to watch +Daria Musk's Hangout Concert 3 on Saturday night. Daria is a great supporter of ONE International as well as a fine singer/songwriter, given to singing as long as a) there are people to listen and b) her voice holds out - the last Hangout Concert lasted Seven-and-a-half hours... So signing the ONE Petition is also a way to pay forward for getting a free concert ;-)

You'll be able to see this one via embedded players either here on G+ or on shh... the 'f'word... or on youtube itself or at You'll be able to share the player and/or the links on your own pages or blogs or sites so as to invite your friends along. And, if you're on G+, you could even get into Daria's own Hangout and chat with her between songs!

I'll post full links on Saturday in the run up to the concert and during it. 

Lets enjoy some live music together and tip this Petition over it's target. They're only 4% away from it...

*edited because I accidentally published before I'd put the title or the links in... Need... more... sleep ;-)

Monday, 11 July 2011

Michael 'Würzel' Burston. R.I.P.

I've just heard about the death of an old friend.

 Würzel (Michael Burston) was truly a gentleman, a gentle man, open, warm-hearted, generous, so easy to be around. He was a consummate musician, he was encouraging towards and supportive of other musicians; a confidence-giver, someone who gladly shared his talent and skills.

Würzel was equally at home in light-hearted banter and in deep conversation. He listened as well as speaking. He remembered people. Years could pass, then we'd bump into each other and just pick-up from where we were. He and his beautiful partner Jem welcomed all sorts of people into their home and made us feel easy in their warm company.

I feel for her today.

The hole that he leaves in so many people's hearts will be enormous. His legacy, huge.

Mick, Michael, Würzel. Whoever you were to people - we LOVED you, man.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

Ponies for All

“Ponies for all” could lead to a large-ish slump in forecourt petrol sales with knock-on effects on the oil industry but hay and stabling costs are pretty high. Current pony purchase prices range from second-hand-old-banger to mid-priced new family car, with a few in the super-car range, so the pony-sales economy would certainly enjoy a temporary stimulus. However, the vast majority of the ponies would have to come from overseas as there are only about 1.75 million horses and ponies in the UK and a large number of those are below working age. There are also costs to muck storage and disposal, 'though there should be an increase in the availability of manure-based composts and fertilisers.

Mind you, there would be an added stimulus in the cartwright, harness, vetinary and insurance industries. And riding schools, riding- and driving-instructors should see an upturn in business. In the short term, there would be an additional rise in ‘green jobs’ as bridleways and green-lanes are returned to service although introducing ‘pony-lanes’ to the roads might be a slight problem.

All in all, it should be a positive policy for the environment and the economy and I hope that a future Government will have the foresight to introduce this radical platform of measures.

Anyone who wants magic fairies can have them anyway: just close your eyes and say, “I believe in fairies, I believe in fairies,” etc.,

 Originally written and posted, by me, as a reply to comments on this blog at Liberal Conspiracy


I forgot to add in farriery as a trade that would see an upturn in business. They look after barefoot ponies as well as shod ones. 

I also forgot to mention that during the Second World War there was something of a renaissance in the use of horses and ponies for riding and driving - people keep comparing current economic conditions to those of WWII, so why not encourage a similar response now? ;)

Oh! And you might need to clap for the magic fairies thing to work...


Thursday, 31 March 2011

Waxing Lyrical

I’ve been slightly-off-world lately, in great part thanks to the interesting side-effects of the counter-intuitively trade-named Lyrica which continue to steal my words and give me other ones instead.

Par example:

The other day I was sitting in the sunny patch on my doorstep* directing S as to how exactly I wanted the gardening chores done when, while sipping my tea, a clever, space-saving thought struck.

"S," I said, "is there anywhere on the wall to hang my rain-barrows?"
"Your... what?" came the reply, quizzically.
"My rain-barrows. If they were hung on the wall it'd save space and clutter."
"I don't get it. What are they, again?"
"Rain Barrows!" I enunciated clearly, although at this point I was beginning to doubt that I was using the correct term and wonder what on earth might be another word for them.

"Rain-barrows?" I repeated, somewhat hesitantly, pointing at one of the rain-barrows which was perched six feet away from me on top of some empty plant-pots. "Barrows," I said, while thinking it isn't a barrow it's something, um, "for carrying rain," not rain, that doesn't come out of taps, "to spread on the..." Damn - that’s not right... My voice faltered away.
"Watering-can?" S suggested, gently, while stifling mirth...

I could only nod. And blush. And start to giggle.

I prefer ‘rain-barrow’ now. It's a much better name for the object, since I often find mine filled up with a few days'-worth of free liquid from the sky and imagine that others do. Mine would be filled by the down-pipe in the guttering sometimes if it weren't for the slight obstacle of all the drain-pipes from the flat roof of this block of flats (and the balconies) being built inside the walls and linked directly to the main drain. 
Waste of rain! Plus, ultimately, it is rain that comes out of the taps. And barrows surely don't have to have wheels...

* Don’t be daft - I was sat upon a chair. I’m not quite limber enough, these days, to sit on the step. Well, just not and get up again...