Sunday 22 May 2011

Feeling Creative

Been meaning to try this for ages. Here's what happens if you hang a damp top over the bath and squirt bleach at it with a syringe:

Hoping I'll wear these a bit more now they're more interesting, and I've strategically aimed the bleach at a couple of stains that wouldn't come out any other way, so they don't look so grubby now either.

I think that if the fabric is dripping wet and the bleach solution weak then it runs more and you get a more blended, patchy effect, which is more subtle. Dryer fabric and neat bleach gives bolder shapes with sharper outlines. With this in mind I think next time I'll use a weak solution to make the colour patchy as a background, and then rinse, let it all dry completely, and use neat bleach to make more precise patterns over that.

One word of warning - gloves. I almost never wear protective gloves because I hate how they feel, but after rinsing these tops out my hands are distinctly sore and I wish I had.

What I forgot to take a photo of was the bathroom wall - luckily tiled - splattered dramatically with the red fabric dye that I also used on the orange one when the bleach didn't show up as much as I wanted. And the syringe full of red liquid on the side of the bath. Thank god no one called round just then.

Thursday 19 May 2011

Elderflower Champagne

The very first elderflowers are just coming out in Leeds. They make the most delicious fizzy, alcoholic summer drink, and it's unbelievably easy. I'm making 20 litres in a huge plastic crate.

This makes 5 litres:

8.8 pints (5 litres) cold water

10 Elderflower heads (you can leave a bit of the stalk on)

1 and one fifth lbs sugar (2.4 Kilos)

2 and a half lemons (chop them up small, with rind and skins still on)

2 and a half tablespoons white wine vinegar

Mix all that together, and either put a loose lid on the container or make a lid by tying some cloth over the top.

Stand for 72 hours, stirring whenever you remember.

Then strain it into plastic bottles. Use screwcap plastic bottles designed to have pressurised fizzy drinks in them - other kinds can explode as the champagne becomes fizzy. Don't use glass bottles.

Leave for 2 weeks, releasing the fizz every 2 days (more at first).

Then drink it somewhere sunny.

Wednesday 4 May 2011

Tuesday 16 November 2010

Beating Police Repression After the Student Occupation

I'm copying this here from
Bristling Badger, in support of FITwatch and the students and in defiance of censorship. If you have a blog then please copy it there too.

The trashing of Conservative Party HQ during a student demo last week took a lot of people by surprise, not just the police and public but many of the participants.

Many of them had never done anything like it before. As such, they are largely identifable on the footage, and police have been arresting many.

FITwatch - a site that campaigns about police repression of protest, especially throught the use of Forward Intelligence Teams who film and photogrpah everything - published some advice to protesters.

The police responded by making the webhost take the FITwatch site down for a year. FITwatch nonetheless remain committed to their work.

In defiance of this censorship, and also to assist with the prevention of people who'd only trashed property from getting arrested, the offending post has been republished all over the internet. The more places do it, the more likeoly it is that the Met will give up and leave it be.

So here it is. If you think it should be in the public domain, please republish it on blogs and message boards.


The remarkable and brilliant student action at [Conservative Party headquarters] Millbank has produced some predictable frothing at the mouth from the establishment and right wing press. Cameron has called for the ‘full weight of the law’ to fall on those who had caused tens of thousands of pounds of damage to the expensive decor at Tory party HQ. Responsibility is being placed on ‘a violent faction’, after the march was ‘infiltrated’ by anarchists.

There are an encouraging number of intiatives to show solidarity with the arrested students – something that is vital if they are to avoid the sort of punitive ‘deterrent’ sentences handed out to the Gaza demonstrators. A legal support group has been established and the National Campaign against Cuts and Fees has started a support campaign. Goldsmiths lecturers union has publicly commended the students for a ‘magnificent demonstration’ .

This is all much needed, as the establishment is clearly on the march with this one. The Torygraph has published an irresponsible and frenzied ‘shop-a-student’ piece and the Met are clearly under pressure to produce ‘results’ after what they have admitted was a policing ‘embarrassment’.

51 people have been arrested so far, and the police have claimed they took the details of a further 250 people in the kettle using powers under the Police Reform Act. There may be more arrests to come.

Students who are worried should consider taking the following actions:

If you have been arrested, or had your details taken – contact the legal support campaign. As a group you can support each other, and mount a coherent campaign.

If you fear you may be arrested as a result of identification by CCTV, FIT or press photography;

DONT panic. Press photos are not necessarily conclusive evidence, and just because the police have a photo of you doesn’t mean they know who you are.

DONT hand yourself in. The police often use the psychological pressure of knowing they have your picture to persuade you to ‘come forward’. Unless you have a very pressing reason to do otherwise, let them come and find you, if they know who you are.

DO get rid of your clothes. There is no chance of suggesting the bloke in the video is not you if the clothes he is wearing have been found in your wardrobe. Get rid of ALL clothes you were wearing at the demo, including YOUR SHOES, your bag, and any distinctive jewellery you were wearing at the time. Yes, this is difficult, especially if it is your only warm coat or decent pair of boots. But it will be harder still if finding these clothes in your flat gets you convicted of violent disorder.

DONT assume that because you can identify yourself in a video, a judge will be able to as well. ‘That isn’t me’ has got many a person off before now.

DO keep away from other demos for a while. The police will be on the look-out at other demos, especially student ones, for people they have put on their ‘wanted’ list. Keep a low profile.

DO think about changing your appearance. Perhaps now is a good time for a make-over. Get a haircut and colour, grow a beard, wear glasses. It isn’t a guarantee, but may help throw them off the scent.

DO keep your house clean. Get rid of spray cans, demo related stuff, and dodgy texts / photos on your phone. Don’t make life easy for them by having drugs, weapons or anything illegal in the house.

DO get the name and number of a good lawyer you can call if things go badly. The support group has the names of recommended lawyers on their site. Take a bit of time to read up on your rights in custody, especially the benefits of not commenting in interview.

DO be careful who you speak about this to. Admit your involvement in criminal damage / disorder ONLY to people you really trust.

DO try and control the nerves and panic. Waiting for a knock on the door is stressful in the extreme, but you need to find a way to get on with business as normal.

Otherwise you’ll be serving the sentence before you are even arrested.

Sunday 24 October 2010

Monday 18 October 2010

Who Asked Them?

So apparently
"The leaders of 35 of the UK's biggest companies have expressed their support for the government's plans for spending cuts running into billions of pounds.

The bosses of Marks and Spencer, BT and GlaxoSmithKline are among those to have signed a letter to the Daily Telegraph." (BBC)
My question is, why on earth is this considered news?

These people have salaries in the millions, they're less reliant on public services than anyone. Why would anyone care what cuts they think are appropriate?

It'd be more pertinent to pick a random bunch of people off a geriatric ward or picking their kids up from nursery. Or how about asking some of the kids trying to escape war and slavery by seeking asylum in the UK?

Of course "business leaders" are going to support public spending cuts - lower tax for them, high unemployment meaning a nice cheap pool of labour, and opportunities to cash in on outsourced contracts and low property prices. Their opinion on cuts is as predictable as it is irrelevant. It's not news and should have been filed in the bin.

"GlaxoSmithKline Uses £7.8 Billion Profit to Distribute Free AIDS Drugs to Poor Countries" - now there's a headline we're all waiting for.

Thursday 3 December 2009

Designed for Landfill

The Sony Walkman turned 30 years old this year, at almost the same time as I did.

Back in the old days a cassette walkman had big chunky buttons, with “Fwd” on one side, “Rev” on the other side, “Stop” in the middle and a bigger “Play” button somewhere equally obvious. They didn’t have a “hold” switch because those massive buttons were never going to be pressed down by accident unless you dropped it on all four of them at once. Doing that would jam them for a minute until you thumped each button one at a time which would generally un-jam them again, sometimes leaving them a little looser but almost always still working.

One happy day “Auto-reverse” came along and removed the need to take the cassette out to play the other side, and at about the same time they got a bit smaller and only needed one AA battery instead of two. As rechargeable batteries slowly came down in price I’m sure I was quite contentedly musically mobile for a while there.

Unfortunately this got me hooked early, and for about twenty years now I’ve combined the activities of walking and listening to music, taking my mind off the massive heavy rucksack I’m often carrying usually via something trashy with the bass boost on. CDs are too flimsy a format to ever really be portable, but they got me used to skipping tracks and I eventually switched to the instantly-obsolete minidisk format. I’m now thinking about getting an MP3 player, but I can’t find anything that isn’t almost completely unusable because of basic design flaws.

This is all I ask…

1) I’d like one that takes a standard sized interchangeable battery, preferably a single AAA, with as long a life as possible. Nothing affects my enjoyment of a music player quite so much as it being silent because the battery has run out, and being able to carry a spare charged battery is the only practical way of making the thing truly portable.

2) I want something reasonably easy to navigate by feel so I can keep it in my pocket out of sight. Not just because I don’t want to get mugged for it, but because I need to pay attention to small matters like crossing roads, looking where I’m going, and generally not ending up like those earphones in a pool of blood from the road safety ads.

3) It’d be handy if it could be reasonably rain proof, or at least come with a rainproof cover it can stay in while I use it. I need this because I live in the UK where it rains quite a lot, and I plan to go out in that rain quite a lot with a portable music player. That’s the whole idea of it being portable. If I wanted to stay at home where it’s dry then I’d use my computer instead. I had a waterproof Sony Sport Walkman in about 1988 so I don’t feel I’m asking for the moon here, but water resistant electronics don’t even seem to exist any more. What happened there? It hasn’t stopped raining.

4) I’ll have it in any colour that won’t show dirt too much. I’ll try not to actually drop the thing in any puddles, but I’m not going to wash my hands before each time I touch the stupid thing. Black works, any other darkish colour would do, white would be bottom of my list.

I’m struggling to find anything that meets even the first two criteria, and I’ve now started just looking for something with as many visible buttons on it as possible.

How does one operate an MP3 player which only has one button anyway? Presumably the sodding thing changes function all the time and you have to keep taking it out of your pocket to find out what the damn button actually plans to do next time you press it. Or each side of the same button does something different so that you have to get it the right way up in your pocket, guess which corner of the circular button you’re stabbing at and then wait a few tantalising seconds to find out whether you’ve skipped to the next track, turned the volume up, turned the volume down or skipped back to the start of the track you were in the middle of. You can be tantalised for even longer if the middle of the same big circular button also happens to be “Pause”.

Touch screens? Horrible! Fine, I guess, if you’re sitting somewhere warm and dry (because I guess you can’t wear gloves), devoting all your attention to dragging the pretty little animated icons around. Not so much fun if you want to go anywhere where you might have to look away from it for a minute or where anything might bump it unintentionally. So you can’t actually put it in your pocket and walk, drive, do the washing up, exercise, weed an allotment or eat anything to music.

And why the hell are these things all white now? WHITE?? They’re supposed to be portable, and yet if you’d like them to stay shiny at least until the novelty of having something new has worn off you can’t put them in a pocket, can’t touch them if you’ve been reading a newspaper, can’t put them down on any surface that might have any dust on it or in a room that might ever have had any children in it. And it must take the potential resale value down to a small fraction at a stroke, because after just a few weeks use it’s going to be a highly unfashionable shade of yellowy grey.

And is it really too much to ask for corners that won’t rub off? Coloured plastic has been around for quite some time now and is available in a vast range of colours, several hundred of which would make very nice colours for the casing of a small electrical device. It’s really not necessary to coat it with a metallic finish of any description, and it’s going to look much better in a few months time if it doesn’t have a coating that wears off all the corners.

But the battery situation is just unforgiveable. Having agreed - more or less - on things like standard time, which side of the road to drive on, and roughly how many volts are going to come out of a socket in a wall, humankind went on to produce battery cells for mass consumption in some common standard sizes. Both AA and AAA rechargeable batteries are easy to source, durable, easy to charge and easy to replace – they’re the quite blindingly obvious choice of fuel for a small portable electrical device. So why would anyone decide to put a completely non-standard sized rechargeable battery in a portable device and then seal it inside so it can’t be charged outside the unit?

Because, obviously, anyone who wants portable music enough to buy one of these things is going to want to sit next to their computer all the time to recharge it. They take 3 or 4 hours to charge, so when the music suddenly stops half way to the 24 hour garage one evening, all you have to do is turn around, walk back home and sit next to a USB port for three hours and then you’re up and running again.

OK it means they can be ultra slim, but I can fit seven AAA batteries in the tiny fifth pocket of my jeans - it’d be well worth an extra 3mm width to be able to carry a spare battery around with me. For when the battery runs out. Which it is generally going to do while I am in the middle of walking and listening to something, rather than when I am conveniently sitting at home next to my computer.

Especially since some MP3 players have a battery life of an unbelievably low six hours - perhaps that’s so that you can’t actually get too far away from your PC before the battery runs out? I despair.