A world full of knee jerks

I won’t be blowing you away with this observation, but the world has gone bonkers. Completely, utterly bonkers. Beyond political correctness, I think the world’s cojones have well and truly decided to retract all the way inside the body, and given up altogether.

What makes me say that? Three stories in the past week have shown me how remarkably PC-minded we can be.

First, this morning, YouTube announced on its blog that mature content and profanity will be more heavily moderated. In order words, a quick cuss word can cause your video to disappear into oblivion. Now, as Robert Llewellyn points out this morning in his Llewtube video, I’ll be happy to see less mature content crop up randomly when I’m looking for videos of kittens. But profanity? Who sets the blacklist of what swear words are inappropriate? If religious America gets its word in, we’ll have to say “Oh sh…ugar!” as we do in front of 3 year olds? To the best of my knowledge, 3 year olds shouldn’t be left to their own devices when navigating the web.

Second story. Last week, Channel 4 decided to take the entire 4mations site down, after it got cold feet following what’s now been dubbed as “Sachsgate” – otherwise known as Brand & Ross behaving like idiots on air. (For the non-UK folks, two radio hosts made a few immature and somewhat inappropriate “I screwed your granddaughter!” calls to a guest, Andrew Sachs. He’s best known for his role as Manuel in Fawlty Towers back in the 70’s. The story snowballed from two complaints when the show was aired to nearly half a million complaints in the week that followed.)

For a project that intended to push the boundaries of creativity, I’m amazed that a pixelated gimp mask and some cartoon boobies were grounds for taking the entire site down. Clearly, a moment of panic because of some slightly bizarre content. And you know what, that’s one of the great things about the weird and wonderful world of the Internet. There’s weird material being added all the time that forces us to re-evaluate where we stand.

Finally, in the real physical world, the Terrorism Act is becoming a real pain in the proverbial. A 15 year old schoolboy was arrested near Wimbledon for taking photos of the stadium on his mobile phone. He said he was working on his GCSE project, and shoo’ed away from the site. This kind of situation was repeated time and time again.

Before anyone jumps at my throat, I by no means condone humour in bad taste or lewd content on the web. But you wouldn’t chuck out an entire bushel of apples for a single bruised one, right? So why stop everyone else from having fun because of a few bad apples?

My issue here is with the knee-jerk reaction we seem to have towards everything these days. Rather than to get a screwdriver to fix the one slightly loose screw, we just get the sledgehammer out and annihilate the whole lot!

I’m not suggesting sticking your fingers in your ears going “La la la I can’t hear you!” when you face a problem, but the reaction should be proportional to the problem. So put the sledgehammer away, will you?

Hey Rory, need a hand with that milk bag?

Milk JugDoing my usual news browsing while having a morning coffee and trying to wake up, I came across a video of Rory Cellan Jones making a clown of himself doing something I’d expect a 5 year old to do with ease. He was evaluating the benefits of the “new idea” that is the milk bag, as an alternative to glass bottles and plastic pints which are the norm in the UK.

First off, Rory, I’m not sure what kind of bizarre contraption you bought but if you’d bought a straightforward milk bag jug, like the one on your right here, you would have been done in about 3 seconds flat.

Step 1: Put milk bag (which in my lifetime, I’ve rarely seen leaking) into the jug.
Step 2: Snip the corner of the bag by holding the very corner and using scissors or these tiny fridge-magnet bag clippers.
Step 3: Pour the milk into the glass.
Step 4: Drink milk.

It’s far from new, it’s been the most common way to buy milk in Canada for my entire 26 years of life. The milk comes in a bag of 3x 1.3 liters transparent bags, and the best part is that these milk bags make the sturdiest lunch snack bags ever afterwards and create a hell of a lot less waste than bottles or plastic containers.

Ofcom says yes on more TV ads

I’m disgusted to find out that Ofcom is about to allow more advertising on commercial television channels in the UK. Somehow, in response to people using more personal video recorders like Sky Plus, Ofcom’s been fooled in believing that the answer is to slap on some more ad minutes into every show.

The geekier masses have migrated towards online sources for entertainment, and I’ve got a feeling that if UK television is heading the same way as American shows, crammed with obnoxious and imposing ads, more Brits will start relying on Joost, Bittorrent, iTunes podcasts and other services.

The advertising industry is so sick, all the way to the core, I don’t think it’ll ever recover. If you agree that this new suggested ruling, allowing more ad breaks, should be stopped, please let your comments be heard by Ofcom, do it now, and pass it on to others around you!

Cambridge copper thieves

“Thousands of homes face losing phone lines after cable thieves struck. Police were alerted today at 9.30am to the theft of high-value cables near Cambourne. […] A mobile police station has been sent to the area and high-profile police patrols have been mounted in a bid to reassure residents.

BT engineers are working on restoring the lines but it is not known how long this will take. DS Chris Balmer said: “We do not yet know the exact number of homes which have been left without phone lines however we believe it could be a few thousand.

“BT are working as quickly as possible to restore the phone lines. If you area aware of any elderly or vulnerable residents please check on their welfare. If anyone saw any suspicious activity around manhole covers please contact me. Scrap metal thieves who rip up telephone cables were warned by police they are putting lives at risk”, reported in the Cambridge News.”

Seriously, what’s that all about? No phones? No internet?

However, to lighten the tone, I thought I’d accompany the news with some interesting archeological findings, also reported recently.

“After digging to a depth of 100 meters last year, Russian scientists found traces of copper wire dating back 1000 years, and came to the conclusion that their ancestors already had a telephone network one thousand years ago.

Not to be outdone, in the weeks that followed, American scientists dug 200 meters and headlines in the US papers read: “US scientists have found traces of 2000 year old optical fibers, and have concluded that their ancestors already had advanced high-tech digital telephone 1000 years earlier than the Russians.”

One week later, the Kenyan newspapers proudly reported the following: “After digging as deep as 500 meters, Kenyan scientists have found absolutely nothing. They have concluded that 5000 years ago, their ancestors were already using wireless technology.”

What pisses me off most about the British man who "went missing" for 5 years…

Mr & Mrs Darwin in Panama…isn’t that he’s lieing, cheating and being a downright fraud to avoid paying back his debts, which apparently amount to tens of thousands. It’s that police search & rescue and detective resources, which are already scarce, were wasted on a man who consciously went into hiding.

These are resources that should have been spent on fighting crime, supporting communities and working on other unsolved cases which deserve the attention.

Mr and Mrs Darwin, you are greedy, selfish people and I feel sorry for anyone who failed to receive due care from the police and local authorities because of your shortsighted behaviour. Did you really think you’d live on forever without being caught? Idiots.

Cambridge Congestion Charge: Your chance to speak!

Below, I’ve copied an email I received from the administrator of the Cambridge Congestion Charge forum. I haven’t had the time to edit it or summarise it for my readers, but if you live in or work in Cambridge, please read this, go fill in the survey and let your councilors know that before they smack us with a charge, they’ll need to come up with some solutions.

In my eyes, the first changes they should make are:
1. Encourage carpooling by improving routes reserved to buses and cars with two or more people in it;
2. Improve bus service so that it doesn’t take 3 times longer to get from A to B on the bus than in your own car (see Ottawa’s OC Transpo bus service for an example of a well thought-out plan);
3. Do not include Science Parks in the areas covered, because that’s just money grabbing rather than problem-solving and makes the city look like a bunch of greedy idiots.

Without further ado, here’s the email… Share this information far and wide!



Firstly may I thank you for registering on the Cambridge Congestion Charge website. Secondly may I take this immediate opportunity to say that this will not be sending out regular emails to you.

The Cambridge City Council has launched its public consultation. This basically seems to consist of an online web questionaire and a series of public roadshows around the Cambridgeshire region. I would urge you to take the online questionaire if you haven’t already done so, and visit one of the roadshows as well as contact your local Councillor (easy to use contact details are at the bottom of this email). In the run up to Christmas and New year this important issue may slip your mind and then it may be too late for you to get your point of view across.

As you may know one of the main driving points behind introducing a congestion charge in Cambridge is the investment of a substantial amount of central government money into Cambridge’s transport infrastructure. This money has been offered in return for introducing a congestion charge.

The full proposal document which will form the basis of the City councils bid to get the central government money has been written and is available for download from http://www.cambridgecongestioncharge.co.uk/cambridgecongestioncharge/cambridgecongestioncharge.pdf (copy and paste this link if you need to). The document gives insight into the extensive planning that the council has already made and pinpoints the locations of cameras that would catch motorists that don’t pay, along with plans for mobile vans operating at random locations. I strongly urge you to read this document as either way it will change your way of life in the near future. It is quite long and you have to read it closely to establish exactly what they want to do (such as make Huntingdon Road a one way street for cars going out of the city) but it really is worth it. If you don’t find out about it now and make your views known you may regret it in just a couple of years time.

It also seems that normal “Joe Public” will have to pay a charge of £5 per day at current pricing which doesn’t take into account inflationary increases.

Some useful links and information for you:

City Council Proposal Download
City Council Online Survey (watch out for closed and / or misleading questions & note that this is very difficult to find on the City Council website)

City Council Road Show Locations (watch out for odd opening times)

  • The small hall, Guildhall, Cambridge – December 11 – 3-9pm
  • The recreation ground, Histon and Impington – December 12 – 3-9pm
  • The dining hall, Chatteris Community College – January 10 – 4-9pm
  • King Edward VII Memorial Hall, High Street, Newmarket – January 21 – 3-9pm
  • Sawston Village College, Sawston – January 23 – 3-9pm
  • Commemoration Hall, Huntingdon – January 24 – 3-9pm
  • The Grafton centre, Cambridge – January 26 – 9am-5pm
  • The Grafton centre, Cambridge – January 27 – 11am-4pm
  • Trumpington park and ride, Cambridge – January 30 – 6.30-8.30am and 5-8pm
  • Madingley Road park and ride, Cambridge – January 31 – 6.30-8.30am and 5-8pm
  • The Maltings, Ship Lane, Ely – February 5 – 3-9pm
  • Haverhill Arts Centre, Haverhill – February 6 – 3-9pm
  • The Free Church, Market Hill, St Ives – February 13 – 4-9pm

Link to Contact details for all Cambridge City Councillors including email addresses, postal address and phone numbers: http://www.cambridge.gov.uk/ccm/navigation/about-the-council/councillors/

Please remember to make your view known, especially directly to the council, and please feel free to come back to the cambridgecongestioncharge.co.uk website and continue contributing.

If I can be of any assistance to you regarding this matter or using the website please do not hesitate to ask.

Best Wishes,

Cambridge Congestion Charge Website Administrator

Political correctness gone absolutely bloody bonkers!

So Christmas the holiday season is coming, and as if we needed any more political correctness madness going on, Santas have been warned not to use their age-old “ho ho ho” laugh to greet children as it may be degrading to women.

Santas in Australia’s largest city have been told not to use Father Christmas’s traditional “ho ho ho” greeting because it may be offensive to women, it was reported Thursday.

Sydney’s Santa Clauses have instead been instructed to say “ha ha ha” instead, the Daily Telegraph reported.

One disgruntled Santa told the newspaper a recruitment firm warned him not to use “ho ho ho” because it could frighten children and was too close to “ho”, a US slang term for prostitute.

“Gimme a break,” said Julie Gale, who runs the campaign against sexualising children called Kids Free 2B Kids.

“We are talking about little kids who do not understand that “ho, ho, ho” has any other connotation and nor should they,” she told the Telegraph.

“Leave Santa alone.”

A local spokesman for the US-based Westaff recruitment firm said it was “misleading” to say the company had banned Santa’s traditional greeting and it was being left up to the discretion of the individual Santa himself.

To echo Julie’s thoughts, gimme a fucking break! I thought the Aussies were chilled, don’t-worry-be-happy people? Are they becoming brainwashed by our Western world political correctness insanity? It’s mindblowingly ridiculous that someone even SUGGESTED that!

Thanks to Celia for finding this article from Sydney APF

Good thing I'm not a 'Highly Skilled Migrant'

Last night, I had a little whingefest about David Cameron’s statement that there are “too many immigrants” coming to Britain, which prompted me to highlight that fully legitimate, well educated migrants like myself didn’t appreciate being included in that statement after all our contributions in taxes and hard work.

This morning, I was very interested when I saw that Tony Sharp, a Conservative councillor for Brickhill Ward in Wellingborough had responded to my post. He quite rightly pointed out that Mr. Cameron’s statement was referring to “low skilled workers” as opposed to Highly Skilled Migrants, who are apparently more welcome. [Welcome to the traffic from the ConservativeHome blog, btw!]

In his comment, Tony mentioned a post he wrote a few weeks ago on the issue some Highly Skilled Migrants are having to deal with. In summary:

The entry criteria was tightened last year. Fair enough, there is nothing wrong with reviewing and updating a policy for new applicants that exists to benefit this country. But in one of the most spiteful, wrongheaded and self damaging decisions yet taken by Labour, it was decided to also apply the new rules retrospectively to those Highly Skilled Migrants (HSM) who had been granted entry under the old rules. Many of the HSM already working here are being told they no longer meet the criteria and are being refused the right to remain.

Now, I’m gobsmacked for two reasons here. The most obvious being that moving the goalpost on existing migrants is just the kind of madness I expect from immigration nowadays. And the second, that the criteria are being tightened. Here’s why that surprises me – When I moved to the UK, I did not qualify for a work visa as Highly Skilled Migrant. University degree in Communication & Marketing, enough funds to support myself, multilingual, no criminal record, people both in Canada and the UK who have known me for a long time and could vouch for me. That wasn’t good enough. But for once, today, I’m happy not to be under the HSM program, because getting the rug pulled from under my feet would set me off on another rant, and no one likes to see that.

In fact, for Mr. Sharp’s benefit and anyone else interested, here’s the breakdown of my progress towards becoming a British Citizen. It’s the long and winding road, as opposed to the HSM program.

  1. Dec 2001-Dec 2002: Working Holidaymaker visa – That was nice and easy to get and not too expensive either. They were just getting me hooked, the bastards!
  2. May-August 2003: Working Holidaymaker visa was still valid for a few months, so it covered me for that summer
  3. May 2004: Planning on moving to the UK permanently on a Highly Skilled Migrant visa, but I was told I did not qualify for it. Thankfully, my gorgeous British man (we were engaged at the time) agreed to scooting the wedding forward a year, so I was granted a fiance visa on the requirement that we got married within 6 months of me arriving in the UK. However, until I was married, I was allowed to reside in the UK, but not work.
  4. July 2004: After the wedding, I returned to my favourite place in the world, Croydon, to get a married visa, which finally allowed me to take up employment.
  5. August 2006: Two years of marriage, which I now need to prove to my Croydon mates in letters, bills, pictures, holiday tickets. I literally showed up with a suitcase of information, yet they still looked at me like I was some suspicious drug smuggler with a fake marriage arrangement. But I was granted a leave to remain visa (basically permanent residency).
  6. We’re now in August 2007 and it’s now up to me to apply for British Citizenship, but after the circus which I’ve described above, I’m in no rush to go do the Britishness Test. I consider myself as British as some people who’ve lived here all their life: I say knackered, bloody, can’t be arsed, I can tell a good pint from North American swill, I watch Red Dwarf, Peep Show and Spaced. I whinge about the Tube every time I go into London. I’ve passed my UK driving license on the first go. What more do you want? Oh, for me to go answer a handful of pub quiz trivia questions on the history of Britain to prove I’m really Britanicised? Well… bollocks to that for now. I’ll travel on a Canadian passport! 🙂

All this to say, low skill or high skill, it’s a pain to migrate to the UK, and I would love to see an improved process so that others like me don’t have to go through this chaotic process.

David Cameron says 'immigration is too high'

Evening kids, and welcome to Vero’s daily bitch-out about something or other.

David CameronToday, I’ve got a bone to pick with my old friend David Cameron. For those who either a. aren’t based in the UK, b. aren’t interested in politics or c. live under a rock, he’s the leader of the Conservative party.

Immigration over the past decade has been “too high” and needs to be better controlled, Conservative leader David Cameron has told the BBC’s Newsnight. People’s concerns were “not because of different cultures” or the colour of someone’s skin but pressure on schools, hospitals and housing, he said. [BBC News, today]

I won’t go on much about the latter statement, because I agree that there are pressures on schools, hospitals and housing, all of which scare the bejeezus out of me. But just quickly, a. education in the UK, unless you pay vast amounts, your kids will inevitably be truant chavs it seems, b. the hospitals and local clinics I’ve seen so far made me feel sicker when I left than when I’d walked in, a stark opposite to the clinically clean Montfort Hospital or Children’s Hospital I’ve been to in my Canadian youth, and c. house prices are exorbitant and unrealistic, if you’re not already in the UK, just watch an episode of Location x3, you’ll agree.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the UK. I (generally) love people’s less brash and aggressive attitude than one would find in North America. Humour, culture and music, I feel far more in tune with than any North American guff that gets produced. And friends and family, which I have here, I adore too.

What I will go on about is how, as far as legal immigrants are concerned, we have to jump through such hoops to get into this bloody land of King Arthur, Amy Winehouse and fish & chips. After those pirouettes, I expect no less than to be welcomed with open arms.

I’ve paid disgraceful amounts in visa fees (4 visas in total, one more to come possibly), filled in the worst forms I’ve ever seen without complaining, spent some severely traumatising days queuing at the Croydon Home Office, being herded like a sheep and treated like a criminal*. I’m University-educated, well-spoken… usually, and I make enough money to fund myself and give up a generous chunk of my monthly salary in taxes – so hearing that there’s too many immigrants around winds me up just a tad bit.

There’s unquestionably some work to be done in the key areas that keep a “First World” country up and running, there undoubtedly are some immigrants which don’t give to the country as much as they take, but please Davie, don’t paint us all immigrants with the same bold magnolia paintbrush. Look at your own populace and join Ann Widdecombe in her war against the UK’s very own benefits culture. Oh yes, that’d be fun!

Otherwise it’s you and me, handbags at dawn, baby!

[* Andrew presses me to add “and paid some unbelievable parking fees!”]
[Disclaimer: The theories above are provided under Creative Commons license, on an as-is basis and the author takes no responsibilities over any of her own words and accepts that the statements above are like Swiss Cheese. She’s in rant mode tonight.]

Is borrowing free wifi stealing?

“A man has been arrested after being spotted allegedly sitting in a street with a laptop using someone else’s unsecured wireless connection. Is it immoral to do this?”

This BBC article made me laugh. It must’ve been a slow day for the coppers in that area for them to resort to arresting cheeky wifi thieves.

Couldn’t help but pipe up on the topic. I personally don’t think it should be considered a crime to nick somebody else’s open wireless connection. Now, I’m not condoning using your neighbour’s connection to do your illegal bidding or max out the connection on BitTorrent, but the occasional browsing via your phone or laptop when you’re in another area where the nearest legit hotspot is miles away, it’s a pretty inoffensive activity.

What no one has mentioned so far is the risk of using an open connection. It’s quite possible for someone to setup a wireless connection as a trap for naive people who choose to use it for online banking, online shopping or logging in to email and other accounts. Snap their details on it’s way to the World Wild Web and you’ve got yourself some very useful personal information to pay for your next shopping spree.

Now, to the real guilty party – If you’re enough of a doofus to leave your wifi open, you should expect somebody to borrow the connection. In fact, if you’re that doofus, pay your router a little visit and go stick a nice little password on there. It takes 5 minutes and it stops the freeloaders.