Archive for the 'Musings' Category

Musings: Equality and Diversity

The Boss at The Work forced the entire team to go on a half-day Equality and Diversity training course yesterday. I wonder if maybe she was trying to tell us something? Normally I hate these things. I’m certain that after being brought up in a country like the UK I have an idea of what is, or isn’t socially acceptable. I might spout the occasional racist, homophobic or disablist (is that even a word) comment, but that’s more to do with shock value than any ingrained dislike of any particular group.

The first part of the session was by far the most interesting part. We were presented with a fairly simple thought experiment designed to highlight our presumptions and ingrained stereotypes and to show how these influence our thinking.

The Exercise

It has been decided to send a group of people to a recently discovered island where they will live an isolated existance for the next fifty years in order to create a new society. The following twenty people have volunteered, but the ship can only take twelve people.

  1. Trade Union Representative In A Factory
  2. Nineteen Year Old Shop Assistant
  3. Nigerian Doctor
  4. Grandmother With Arthritis
  5. Ex-Cabinet Minister
  6. Afghan Refugee
  7. Black Professional Footballer
  8. Sixty year old Army Sergeant
  9. Peace Campaigner
  10. Barman
  11. School Cook
  12. Pregnant Teenager
  13. Unemployed Black Teenager
  14. School Crossing Patrol Officer
  15. Retired Joiner
  16. Gay Nurse
  17. Physics Professor
  18. Bank Clerk Who Is In A Wheelchair
  19. Farm Labourer
  20. Jazz Musician

It’s up to you to pick, based on these brief descriptions, twelve people to help you forge a new society out of nothing. The rest of the exercise revolves around discussion of the reasoning for picking, or not picking the various individuals. Naturally a lot of these decisions came down to practicality: a doctor is a doctor regardless of nationality, skin colour or creed. It did however highlight some more subtle stereotypes and presumptions. For example how many people read that list and assumed that the Unemployed Black Teenager was male? Most, if not all, of you probably did. Equally it’s fairly natural to assume that a School Cook will be a woman and that, for whatever ingrained reason, a peace campaigner will be a young, unkempt, middle-class Englishman with dreadlocks and facial piercings.

Have a think about it for now, and I’ll post up my list, with reasons, in a couple of days.

Musings: Tesco and Partick

I’m sure a lot of you will remember the commotion that accompanied the announcement that Tesco planned to build a large store and housing development on the site of the old Partick Central Railway station. Some of the locals even went as far to form a pressure group called Stop Tesco Owning Partick (STOP), to fight the development. They organised a high profile campaign to resist the plans put forward by the supermarket giant, and ultimately you could argue that they were successful.

It’s just over four years since the original planning permission request, and just a little less time since the unauthorized demolition of the station’s Victorian ticket office. The planned development never took place, and the site remains unused waste ground to this very day.There seem to be many reasons for this, but the main stumbling block seem to be the inability for Tesco to have the store they want without causing mayhem in the surrounding area. That seems a fair enough stumbling block to me, and I’m sure if I had to spend every day staring at whatever consumerist monolith they threw up I would be objecting as well.

I passed the site on Saturday while out for a walk, and it brought a smile to my face. On the one hand I’m glad that the people of Partick managed to prevent a large corporation throwing up a deeply unpopular development. It shows that we’ve not yet slipped into a William Gibson-esque world of corporate bullying, but on the other hand I wonder if their actions are responsible for causing a change in Tesco’s strategy. There seem to be quite a few Tesco Express stores popping up all around the town centre and west end. There’s two at Charing Cross within spitting distance of each other, another about 400 yards away in Finnieston, and one more at the St George’s Cross end of Maryhill road. In an ironic twist there’s even one in Partick less than a minute’s walk from the site of their planned superstore. I found out that one is in the process of being set up just along Paisley Road West from my flat as well.  On top of all these smaller stores they’ve also upgraded the old Maryhill store to be a monster, and they’ve  also got giant stores at Silverburn, Springburn, Shettleston and Rutherglen.

If Tesco are deliberately trying to muscle into the local shop market as a result of being burned in Partick then I’ll have to congratulate them on their evil genius. If it’s coincidental, well, I don’t believe you. Congratulations STOP; you won a battle, and lost the war.

Incidentally I think Partick would have benefited from a new superstore. The Sainsbury’s at the retail park is far too expensive considering the surrounding area is supposedly mostly students and poorer households, and that Morrison’s is like something out of East Germany in the 1980s. They only got modern touch screen tills this week, and unless you’re in there first thing on a Sunday the whole place can be choked up by one fat bastard standing in an aisle.


The Newspaper Question

I’ve been wondering, out of hand, how difficult it would be to start up a newspaper. I know that individuals have done it in the past, HP Lovecraft for one, but is it something that might still be possible in this day and age. It’s unlikely that it would be a profitable enterprise given that most established papers are losing money hand over fist, but maybe something along the business model of the Metro might be successful.

I bet you’re wondering why why might someone like me want to start a newspaper though, and what could I offer that isn’t already out there. In truth I’m not sure, but I know that a newspaper nowadays is more than something to report the news. Maybe there’s a market for a newspaper that’s consciously unbiased? Would people be interested in just reading the news without someone sticking a pair of tits on it like the sun, or blaming immigrants like the Daily Mail? Just the facts ma’am.

Could we dare dream of such a world…

Even the reliotively non-partisan Metro isn’t perfect. Its pages are almost 50% adverts. Understandable given that the paper is given away free every day in many major cities, but it’s content suffers as a result. I half-joking, half-seriously, often point out stories in the Metro that were on the front page of Digg days before. I can’t prove that they’re lifting their features from the internet to save money, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were. Still that’s better than those papers that are still blatantly manufacturing the news and trying to pretend it’s serious journalism. Say what you like about the Daily Star for example. At least they realise they’re all about tits, sport and celebrities, and they’ve never tried to be anything else.

Wonder if the missus would kill me for starting a Daily Star clone…

Ring Out The Bells

There’s something that I’ve noticed, suddenly, about Glasgow on a Sunday: the silence. I don’t mean after the end of the world silence, or the silence of a mountain glen. I’m talking specifically about the silence that occurs between 10 and 11AM on a Sunday morning.

The absence of kirk bells.

At the minute I live within five minutes walk of at least one church. I can actually see the steeple from my doorstep, but I’ve never heard its bells ringing. Conversely the church in the village where my folks live rings out every Sunday morning without fail and has done since it was built over a century ago. It’s not unique to their little pocket of Ayrshire either. Up and down the UK bells ring out every Sunday calling the faithful to prayer. I can’t find a reason for the lack of church bells either, and I know for a fact that the Adhan, the Muslim call to prayer, is broadcast from the Glasgow Central Mosque on Fridays. It seems odd that no churches ring out on a Sunday in a city that’s so adamant in it’s religious convictions.

As an experiment I would like to hear, and see, the effect of every kirk bell in Glasgow ringing out in unison at some appointed hour.

Murky Sunday Moochin

Today is one of those kind of days that I like to call nowhere days. A nowhere day is a day that’s the same length as a normal day, but seems to be completely devoid of simulating activity. You kind of get up in the morning, and you spend the day picking at random activities, but you never quite manage to find something that holds your interest for long. Normally what happens is you end up poking, poking and poking at various things, in my cases computer games and the internet, until eventually it’s time to go to bed.

I wouldn’t mind so much if this was a work day, and I was only feeling kind of meh because I’d, for once, managed to complete all the mundane tasks the Boy Blunder had come up with, but the fact that today is Sunday and I’ve spent most of it mooching about makes me sad.

The Unwritten Challenge

I’m sitting here conducting an experiment that would probably warrant being sectioned under the Mental Health Act. I’ve got a calculator in one hand and a couple of dozen novels open in front of me on the desk. For the last half-hour or so I’ve been counting up the number of words on a single solid page of text and multiplying by the number of pages to give me a very, very rough idea of how many words make up a decent sized novel.

There is a reason for this mad endeavour of course, but I’m not sure it’s really all that bright of an idea. You see I’ve been reading about some of the online reading competitions and challenges such as National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo to its’ friends) where entrants have to produce a 175-page (50,000-word) novel by midnight, November 30. From reading some of the stories on the forums etc it seems fair to say that some people write to win, others to prove they can and some people just for the hell of it.

I know it’s not the number of words that’s important, but it does give me an idea of when a piece of prose stops being a short story and graduates to fully fledged noveldom.

Is there a point to all this I hear you ask. Well yes, yes there is. I’m thinking about giving it a go. I’m not sure when to start, or what manner to proceed in, but I’d like to try and set myself the goal of producing something approaching a novel in length and composition before the end of 2010. The best I can figure it from the novels I’ve looked at tonight an average length for a paperback novel appears to be between 75,000 and 100,000 words at about eleven words per line and very roughly thirty-two lines per page. These are rough estimates of course, but as I said I was only looking for a ballpark figure to give me an idea of what I’d be shooting for.

So here’s the rough plan. I’m going to try and come up with a story idea worth attempting to write a novel around, and then I’m going to try and sit down and at least write out a first draft. I’m going to set myself a target of maybe one or two thousand words a day, and try to stick to it. I’m going to hammer away without excessive revisiting, self-editing or messing about and I’m hopefully going to have something worth reading at the end of it.

All things being equal, it should take between two and three months of steady work to produce something worthwhile. I reckon if I can bring myself to stick to a decent writing schedule for that I can do it for anything.

I’ll probably post on my progress, or lack thereof in the near future.

Remembrance Musings

I’ve written in the past that every year seeing all the poppies going around in early November always makes me thing of my Gran and her tireless annual collection on behalf of the Earl Haig Fund (Now the Poppy Scotland Fund). It also makes me think of the Big Country song Remembrance Day which seems to capture the mood of the day better than anything else I’ve heard.

In your fine green ware
I will walk with you tonight
In your raven hair
I will find a Summer night

Upon far flung soil
I will run you through my head
In my daily toil
All the promises are said

I know the weary can rise again
I know it all from the words you send

I will go, I will go
I will leave the firelight
I will go, I will go
For it’s now the time is right

I will sing a young man’s song
That you would sing
On Remembrance Day
I will be the sacrifice
And bells will ring
On Remembrance Day

I must leave this land
And the hunger that is here
But the place I stand
Is the one I love so dear

Like a flower in some forest
That the world will never see
I will stand so proud
For I know what we can be

I know the weary can rise again
I know it all from the words you send

I will go, I will go
I will leave the firelight
I will go, I will go
For it’s now the time is right

I will sing a young man’s song
That you would sing
On Remembrance Day
I will be the sacrifice
And bells will ring
On Remembrance Day

This day I will remember you
This way, I will always return

And I will sing a young man’s song….