Archive for March, 2008

Mar 31 2008

Links of the fortnight (and a bit)

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Misc,Politics,Tech

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Sorry for the hiatus. Believe it or not, until I get my replacement MagSafe adaptor I’m spending very little time online – using the laptop on a coffee table (the only place I can jiggle the wire sufficiently to get it to work) gives me a sore back.

Anyway. Jumbo helping of links to make up for my silence …

Sex Scandal Cheat Sheet – from Matt Bors. Excellent.

BBC Micro, we salute you – 10 PRINT “JAMES IS SKILL” 20 GOTO 10

Beau Bo d’Or on the Beijing Olympics

Theo on Civilian vs Military friends – for Rob, Nicky & Ellie

Richard’s Top 5 PR films – Great list but, as others have said, Thankyou for Smoking has to be on there

Aggregating the Walled Gardens – Neville on the future of social networks and the barriers between them

EDM1245 – Total Politics magazine – Sprung!

Tim Ireland on SOCPA – Marcus, Sam, this one’s for you

Tim Marshall on the cost of war – harrowing

Downing Street twitters – whatever next?

Still number one on Google for ‘Sinister Beard’, too. Woot!

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Mar 17 2008

Return of the Sinister Beard

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Politics

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Looking through my Statcounter log today, I apparently had a visitor from Argentina in the early hours of yesterday morning. Not so unusual, thanks to the global nature of the internets and the Google. But this particular visitor is rather special.


Because he or she ended up at this post after googling the phrase “Sinister Beard”.

Which reminds me of Rod. Rod Cartwright, for those who haven’t been following, is a friend and former colleague of mine with a wise, amusing and eloquent turn of phrase. The blogosphere, thus far, is all the poorer without him.

Here’s an article Rod wrote for PRWeek the other day, on the regulation versus self-regulation debate currently surrounding the lobbying industry in the UK. It’s rather good, if a little lacking in Rod-isms.

C’mon, Rod. You know you want to.

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Mar 17 2008

Bell R Us

Published by under Comms,Politics

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According to reports today, British PR firm Bell Pottinger has been hired by the government of Belarus.

Interesting times for the account team.

Incidentally, Bell Pottinger were due before the Commons Select Committee on Public Administration last week.  Which brings me to my next post …

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Mar 15 2008

Links of the Week

Published by under Misc

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answer4earth – answer questions, save the planet. Simple. via Paul Canning

Flickrvision – flickr uploads, live, on a spiffy 3D globe. Nice.

Iowahawk on on Spitzer – prostitute resigns in shame. :D

Tom Watson MP on civil servants blogging. Watching this one with interest.

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Mar 12 2008

MagSafe, MagFoolish?

Published by under Tech

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magsafesmall.jpgEveryone who knows me knows I’m a bit of an Apple fanboy. There are six Macs in the household at the moment. My favourite is the MacBook Pro, on which I’m currently writing this post.

But increasingly I find myself remaining such an Apple fan despite some of the more quirky design features, rather than because of them.

The picture is of the MagSafe power connector for my MacBook Pro. There’s an irony here because the MBP was purchased (by my insurance company) to replace the 17″ G4 Powerbook, which fell off a table because I tripped over the power cord. The G4, despite its bent casing and non-functioning keyboard, now sits in the corner running EarthDesk, so it still looks cool. It’s our printer server, too.

Anyway. See the picture – look closely (click for bigger), and you’ll see that the insulation has started to melt through. The connector seems to get incredibly hot these days, and just yesterday refused to work at all without careful waggling. I fear its days are numbered. And I’m not the only one with a similar problem.

Point is, it’s only a year and a half old. And if I want a new one, I can only buy it from Apple because they refuse to license the design. Our G3 ‘Pismo’ Powerbook, on the other hand, is still on its original power supply at nearly nine years. The G4 is on its second power supply, but it’s an aftermarket replacement which cost far less than it would have done from Apple.

So now I have to fork out a ridiculous sum of Roubles to replace a badly-designed product, and I have to buy it from Apple because of their restrictive patent practices.

Not happy.

At this point, if I could reliably run OS X on a Vaio – or even a Dell – I would.

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Mar 11 2008

More on Civil Service blogs – and Civil Servants blogging

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Politics

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Tom Watson MP, Minister for Transformational Government, has kicked off a very interesting discussion around what a Code for Civil Service Bloggers might look like. Given the Times’s (hyperbolic, perhaps?) suggestion of a “Whitehall Crackdown” in response to the Civil Serf episode, Tom’s decision to get involved – and publicly – can only be a good thing.

Of the many comments on Tom’s original post, Paul and Matthew’s contributions are, I think, particularly relevant.

Paul Canning, like me, doesn’t write about work, for reasons I can wholeheartedly identify with. Matthew Somerville, like many others, wants to clarify the distinction between civil service blogs, and civil servants who blog. I’m definitely the latter but, in the presence of sufficiently clear and understandable guidance, would try my hand at the former.

As a very crude distinction, I’d venture that the former should stick to their own (and related) policy areas, and get the lines right whilst contributing to the debate. The latter should stay clear of their own (and related) policy areas – not always easy – but are then free to contribute to whatever other debates float their boat.

I’ve tried to address this myself, both in my ‘about’ page (complete with disclaimer), and in a post entitled ‘What this blog isn’t’ just over a month ago.

Tom, if you, or any of your team, would like to discuss further – or, indeed, if you fancy convening for the purpose a virtual forum for civil service bloggers, and civil servants who blog, I’m in.

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Mar 11 2008

Civil Serf: part of the problem?

Published by under Comms,Digital,Media,Politics

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Thanks to a four-day weekend I’m a little late jumping on this particular bandwagon. There are dozens ofmy take on civil serf‘ posts out there already, but I might as well add my own.

The facts are well-known: Young-ish, senior-ish Civil Servant with private sector background finds her frustrated at Whitehall inefficiencies. Many of us can identify, I’m sure. Starts venting her frustrations in her blog. Pulls the plug after the inevitable media interest.

My feelings on this are almost identical to Jeremy Gould’s – she broke the rules (in spirit, certainly, if not in letter). More than that, though, if you ask me (and, by implication, if you’ve read this far then you did), Civil Serf wasn’t helping to fix anything, she was part of the problem.

Sure, she uncovered some bureaucratic inefficiencies and got frustrated by them. Every bureaucracy will have them. But, having re-read a few of her posts, I’m not sure I recall much by way of positive suggestions as to how to improve things. Not a great deal of constructive criticism. I find it hard to believe that she didn’t come across the odd example of government machinery working well, either – but then, as we all sadly know, good news isn’t news.

What interests me more, at the moment, is the ongoing media reaction. Civil Serf is all over the mainstream press at the moment in a raft of identikit, superficial articles. You can hear the pack baying for her eventual unmasking – followed by her inevitable sacking, all in the name of a good story. “Hunt is on”, says the Times, for this “Demon Blogger”.

Is it?

Civil Serf’s identity doesn’t really bother me. I’d be vaguely curious to know which Department she works in, but that’s about it. But given the (Sunday) Times’s track record I guess we shouldn’t be all that surprised at the quest to tear off the rubber mask.  And I would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren’t for you meddling journalists!

Now that the Civil Serf blog has been taken down, Simon Dickson over at Puffbox has grabbed the URL and, where the blog used to be, has posted a useful potted history along with his take on the subject. Which has to be better than the alternative of a page full of ads for viagra and pirate software.

He’s not quite correct to suggest, though, that Civil Serf’s content has been lost for good. Thanks to Google Reader, I have all of Civil Serf’s posts from some point in December onward. I’m not sure, at this stage, whether it makes sense to reconstruct the blog for posterity; if the author wants it taken down, perhaps to safeguard her (or his?) continuing employment, there’s an argument in favour of acquiescence. But I can’t be the only one who has them.

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Mar 10 2008

View from my window this morning

Published by under Misc,Russia

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Someone been on the vodka? Click for bigger.




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Mar 09 2008

Links of the Week

Published by under Comms,Media,Misc,Politics,Russia,Tech

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Light Sabre for your N95 – pointless but brilliant

Simon Dickson on Whitehall and WordPress – don’t hold your breath, Simon

Nokia Internet Tablet – shape of things to come, or interesting tangent?

Renault buys into Lada – cue all the old Lada jokes. But hey, look what VW did for Skoda.

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Mar 02 2008

99 Decision Street

Published by under Music,Politics,Russia

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red balloon.gif24.

Perhaps it’s coincidence, but I seem to have met a disproportionate number of people over the past week who are 24. Born in 1984, ten years after me.

One of my favourite songs is also 24. 24 years ago this week, 99 Red Balloons was just finishing a week as the UK’s Number One. I have vague recollections of my sister and I listening to its fall from grace on the Capital Radio Chart Show, courtesy of David ‘Kid’ Jensen. Nena, lead singer of the eponymous German rock group, was 24 at the time.

If I could find a souvenir
Just to prove the world was here
And here is a red balloon
I think of you and let it go

I gave the song a blast this afternoon to see what my daughter, now the same age I was in 1984, made of it. Lately she’s been asking a lot about recent history so I even had a go at explaining the dated-sounding Cold War lyrics. I spared her the video, though, with its ’80s fashion and bad hairstyles.

Incidentally, whilst looking up the links for this post, I came across the original German lyrics to Neunundneunzig Luftballons. Rather more protest going on there than in the almost comedic English translation, and perhaps more contemporary relevance too.

Neunundneunzig Kriegsminister
Streichholz und Benzinkanister
Hielten sich für schlaue Leute
Witterten schon fette Beute
Riefen “Krieg!” und wollten Macht
Mann, wer hätte das gedacht
Daß es einmal so weit kommt

Oh, and for anyone who’s expecting a ‘Russia election’ post, this is as close as you’re going to get.

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