9 November 1998
We are currently redesigning The Other News From England. It will be somewhat sparse for some time yet, but as we now have the software to change printed text into typed text without typing it all in (now changed - the Xerox machine it came with had to be returned because you couldn`t get ink cartridges for it), the intention is to begin to publish some older stuff that was written as far back as 1990 (! pre-internet, almost)...........
However, there is at least one new article this week, and articles on many subjects in earlier issues (which can be seen by clicking below).
Index of earlier issues.
The Summer was a great diversion for everybody, but we hope these articles will continue soon.
(This article held from last week).
GreenNet tell me that W. H. Smith and John Menzies (the two big British magazine distributors) are not stocking or distributing the magazine The Ecologist "because it contains articles about the controversial biotechnology company Monsanto".
This may be slightly misleading, in that the two firms have stated that they don`t carry it any more because it was something their customers would not want to read. They have nevertheless also said "it is very unusual for us to act as censors".
Freedom of the press is something held quite dear in Britain, even though it sometimes doesn`t succeed, and despite the almost boundless capacity for people to lie. Nevertheless, this type of censorship is just as bad as any other.
If you want to read what The Ecologist has to say, they are at www.gn.apc.org/ecologist, and you can click here to see:
Hope this gets you there - www.gn.apc.org/ecologist
There is a single cartoon on the site. The intention is that you will be able to download it, but I am still not quite sure how this is done. Presumably you just select `view source` and copy it. It is GIF file.
If this can be made to work, I will then know how to make the sheet music accessible (some people have complained!), and if I get one email saying it has worked I`ll put some more there.
The problem is largely to do with file types. I have hundreds - maybe thousands - of cartoons, but the only program I have that will make them into a suitable file type keeps crashing.
Mediocrity is what I`m thinking about - because I tried to do the sensible thing and use the railway instead of my car.
The railway once belonged to us all and didn`t run very well but was at least run with pride. Now it has been flogged off cheap to a few shareholders who are interested in nothing other than profit. The easiest way to make a profit out of a railway over a short span of time is to stop bothering to maintain it or serve the customers, and to run it with too few staff - and other similarly brilliant ideas.
But it was the journey on Connex that I was interested in, because it had all the problems one used to get when the railways belonged to all of us, plus one or two more.
The story starts with the train getting in 4 minutes early - it is one of two trains an hour to stop here. The problem is that it also leaves four minutes early, leaving behind anybody who was in good time for their train but who was trying not to be too early.
The arrival at Victoria station was OK, but as the departure boards at Victoria had the wrong times and destinations on them there was a collection of us on the train to Battersea Park who were ready to remonstrate fairly clearly when we only finally managed to get off at Clapham Junction. As the platform officer pointed out, it wasn`t his business - but nevertheless he did look a bit worried, and may well have gone to phone.
I wondered if every train departing from Victoria had it`s wrong destination on the board. I also realised that if the IRA or someone wanted to really disrupt London, all they`d have to would be to hack into the computers at any mainline station and muddle all the trains up. Far more effective than a bomb.
It doesn`t end there. If you become sixty they offer you a `senior railcard` for #18. This offers discounts of `up to one third` off most off-peak fares. A Londoner who uses the railways, tubes and buses might well think it a good idea, because you also get a discount off a Travelcard (one that lets you travel all day for a fixed price). There is really only the one snag: You only get a discount off an `all-zones` card, and the discount is about 20% - or anyway would be but for the fact that most of us only use two zones, which come at a cheaper price. So there may well be no discount at all in some areas. In addition to this marvellous discount of 50p you can get discounts off most normal rail fares - excluding Apex ones, which I believe are cheaper than a discounted normal fare.
If I travelled as much on trains this year as I did last year, and used one of these cards carefully, I`d probably save the price of the card on my fares.
(this article held from last week).
British scientists, by measuring the annual rings in trees, concluded that this year has had the highest temperatures in the last thousand years, and that the last few years have been gradually leading up to this one, which then leads to the conclusion that things might go on getting hotter yet.
This in it`s turn leads to the interesting matter of Harlech castle, whose landing stage is 21 feet above the ground.
The castle was allegedly completed in the 1280`s (less than a thousand years ago), and local historians believe that ships used to come near and then discharge onto the flat gound, and a flight of stairs were used to get everyone and everything up to the castle itself.
It doesn`t seem a very likely story to me.I have looked at the rock face by the landing stage, and notice that it is smooth, just as though beaten by the sea for millions of years before the castle was built. I have also seen a `landing stage` built quite a long way inland, and by a bit of rough surveying come to the conclusion that the landing stage is at the same level as the landing stage at the castle, leading me to believe that the house next to it (of unknown age, but very old) was once a shoreside cottage.
Two explanations are immediately possible.
One is that the land has tilted, putting Dunwich and places (East Coast England) in the sea, and lifting Harlech up. This is possible, but no surveying tricks I know showed any tilt on the castle. Of course, as the tilt would be very slight, it might not be enough to show anyway. (They couldn`t half build accurately in those days!).
The other possibility is that the sea was once twenty one feet deeper, leading one to question why it isn`t that deep now, and also leading to the conclusion that (a) it takes time for the level to come up/go down and that therefore the level could be quite high despite low temperature in 1280, and that it has gone down gradually over the past thousand years, and today`s warming up may only stabilise it or may cause it to rise. If, as I believe, the sea was twenty one feet higher in 1280, then a lot of today`s London would have been under water at that time - but London was only a piddling little place then anyway.
Now, for those who haven`t seen the connection (I hope there aren`t too many of you), if the temperature of the world rises much, there is already evidence to suggest that the sea level has been much higher at one time in the past, and the present state of affairs suggests that it could come up at least that much again (owing to melting icebergs). But there is still the question of how fast this might happen.
I live on a hill, which might one day be an island, and might have to go to see my friends in a boat instead of on the railway - most of which will be submerged in my district.
I heard someone describe Rosicrucians today. There was no mention of the connection with freemasons, nor the fact that they are a `study group` who study everything, but are not allowed to study politics `because freemasons do that` (A rosicrucian once told me).
In fact, they were cast as a mystical sect - perhaps something rather like freemasons.
I posted a letter to the Guardian newspaper today. Politically they have turned rather to the right, so it seems unlikely it will get printed. But just to get my point across, here it is for you:
`Not Playing Our Tune Any more` - Simon Hoggart Sat Nov 7 page 12.
It is not surprising that university students don`t want to bother with the National Anthem.
They are not stupid, first, third or any other generation. The words go `God save our gracious queen....` etc., and that is what the song is about. They probably find it insulting too.
Our Gracious Queen is perceived to be the first (unelected) representative of a society in which `honours` (ceremonially awarded by the queen) go to those who most effectively con the public (in the case of barristers con each other), in which the motive of service has been replaced by the motive of self-interest (railways, water companies, electricity, gas, and all the other monopolies that have been renamed `utilities`, not to mention education, telephones, health and `the city`) and those who persist in serving are considered to be underdogs, in which an obsenely rich and apparently non-productive family (who only pay tax `at the standard rate`) live in a palace less than half a mile from where other people are struggling to survive by sleeping in cardboard boxes, whilst enjoying a credibility that appears to have no foundation (other than the historical fact that an ancestor of theirs was a yob who came over from Europe and kicked out an earlier yob to take over control of this island by force), in which education is thought of as passing exams instead of learning things and appears to be run by the uneducated, in which it is thought to be essential to have a large pool of unemployed people in order to keep wages down, in which property is often valued above life, in which a great amount of the work we do appears to have little or no useful purpose, whilst doing nothing leads to even greater poverty......
Need I go on? The list would run to pages.