Monthly Archives: February 2014

The faces of highly followed philosophers on Twitter

Blog as filing cabinet. Kind of where the whole thing started, years ago. We’ve come a long way baby.
Still putting one foot in front of the other… For good, or ill.

Interview with a Job Centre Advisor: sanction targets & corruption revealed

I have nothing to add, other than read the comments if you have time as they illuminate matters even further. I believe this country, rather than being on a ‘moral’ crusade as David Cameron would have it, has sunk to a corrupt low. I am with Archbishop Nichols on this one


@JobcentreMole is a Job Centre advisor who has taken to Twitter to speak out about the Job Centre’s unfair treatment of people who are claiming benefits. For obvious reasons he is anonymous. I think that what he’s doing is very brave. We did this interview by email. (All emphases are mine).
The Mole says: “I started my career with Jobcentre plus over 15 years ago at such a young age, I have literally done every job at lower (band B) level there is within the Jobcentre. I can assure you my knowledge of Jobcentre Plus is up with the best, I can also assure you I am not alone with my views.” 
Do the management have targets to sanction x number of people, or are your team encouraged to sanction people?

There is 100% no specific target at all, however it is and has been mentioned before that each signer…

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‘Vicky Pryce’

Something has gone rather wrong here, but I’ve kept the glitch because I like it. Or, at least, I don’t dislike it enough to do something about it. This is all very well applied to images, but an absolute disaster as a recipe for life.

bethnal green graffitti

Glass half empty?

Just be grateful for the drink.

Lao Zi

My dog prejudice (sadly confirmed)

Me and my dog have got a prejudice: we don’t like bull terriers of any variety.  In one way it’s quite fair because I freeze up with any type be they English, Staffordshire, American or any mixed up version with a strong bull terrier genetic inheritance.  In another it’s a bit irrational and makes life tricky.  I’ve tried to unpick where it all started for us, whether it was me, or him, because now it’s definitely both of us.

I’ll be honest, we had an English Bull Terrier at my Dad’s house and it was a cussed sort of beast.  It also attacked the goats.  This ended up with both the dog and goats being rehomed, which seemed a bit unfair on the goats, but there you go.  One day I had to pick up a housebrick and bash the dog on the head with it, to try and release it’s grip on the poor goat’s leg.  You get the picture.  Now, I come to type this, I am starting to see where it all started.  Obvious really.  Anyway, those dogs have a very strong jaw and equally thick skull – the brick put him off his stride not hardly.

Since then we’ve had this proliferation of these dogs in urban settings – I can only speak for urban settings because I don’t know about the countryside – and there has been a marked increase in young people having these dogs and I think, it’s fair to say, choosing the breed for the wrong reasons; whether that be street cred, or as a weapon, to make some money breeding, or in some cases as fighting dogs.  I suppose the combination of my experience and those factors has made me wary.  Enter my own dog, a very timid rescue from Navan, Ireland.  He’s taken against them, I think, partly  because I’m a bit on edge but also because they have a manner of bowling up to us when off the lead, tail up, looking pretty sure of themselves.  It doesn’t mean they are aggressive, but it makes my dog nervous because he likes to check out a new ‘friend’ from a distance – he does not like the other dog going nose-to-nose without the chance for an introduction.  So the upshot is, we steer well clear.  

If I see a bull terrier (and round here it’s usually a Staffie, or two) we go somewhere else.  I don’t let my dog off the lead near them, and if the terrier is off the lead already, we clear the area pronto.  I don’t suppose the stories in the press help – sad to say the dogs that often ‘turn’ and injure or even kill people are of this type.  There are also the Japanese Akitas but they are seen around less and most of those owners keep them on the lead.  Maybe it’s something to do with the cost of the Akita compared to the Staffie, and the size of the breed.  When I type that I realise I am making appalling classist assumptions about the types of people I think own Staffies, but in my defence it’s also my personal observation. 

Anyway, this is all rather a lengthy preamble to explain what happened yesterday.  I walked the dog in the rain, which tends to delight me because there are fewer other dogs out then and that makes the whole thing less stressful.  We had our walk and were nearly home, dog on lead, when a man came round the corner with two black staffies, also on leads.  We were still some distance apart and the two dogs started to growl and strain at the leads.  I made to cross the road, but then the man with the pair did likewise so I stayed put.  Unfortunately, he was moving in slow motion (probably because he was out of his box – another observation not straight assumption).  Staffies pull like a train, which is why so many wear harnesses, and in split second one had pulled the man over in the road and had come after us, snapping and biting my dog who was trying to retaliate as well as run down the street with me.  The dog pursued us into the middle of a T-junction, whereupon I went down like a felled oak, onto my right knee, hip and shoulder.

The aggressor backed off then, looking quite startled and a boy came up on his bike and grabbed the lead and took the dog back to the house down the road where it lives.  The man was still sitting in the road with the other dog, saying nothing as if he was stunned.  I have always had a temper on me – if it comes to flight or fight – I am naturally set to the latter.  I manage myself much better these days, but I roared at the man, the only repeatable bit being that he was lucky I didn’t have the kids with me.

My poor dog has had his feet nipped and was rather sorry for himself in the aftermath, although that may have been more about my angry reaction to the other party.  I have a very sore knee and hip which kept me awake a bit.  I love having a dog; I have had dogs for nearly twenty years now and walked dogs for other people in London and consider myself fairly ok with managing them.  However this incident has reminded me what happens when idiot brains take on the responsibility of a dog, with teeth.  Lately, it just seems like that there are too many of them about here for comfort.  I have a dog, in part, because getting out for a walk every day is part of how I manage my mood and health.  Now, the stress it creates almost offsets the benefit.

Time will pass, my knee will heal, hopefully my own dog will suffer no ill-effects.  In the meantime I am just left with the uneasy feeling that I may be getting too old to be a dog owner in the kind of town we seem to have on our hands lately.


dog ball



Marius the Giraffe & Marius the Giraffe, Denmark

It was upsetting last weekend to learn that a healthy young giraffe was going to killed at Copenhagen Zoo, simply because his genes were well-represented in the breeding pool and if he lived, inter-breeding would potentially affect the health of any offspring, or offspring of offspring, in the future. At least, that’s what I think the zoo where saying.

This gave rise to lots of questions about why the zoo allowed the giraffes to breed at all, if this were a likely outcome, as well as lots of others to do with sensibilities about the public nature of the death and autopsy, before parts of the giraffe were fed to the lions. I wrote to the Danish Embassy in the UK to raise some of these questions and I was sent a link to this statement, in English, from the zoo.

Today, the Telegraph runs a piece about another Danish zoo, Jyllands Park Zoo, which also has two male giraffes, a younger one called Elmer and Marius aged 7. It is the latter who may soon become superfluous to requirements. The zoo plan to get a female giraffe and can’t have two males with one female as there ‘would be fights.’ The link to the Telegraph piece is here, but please be aware it contains a picture of the dead giraffe in Copenhagen.

There are it seems a number of ways to manage the problems of zoo populations. Some zoos don’t breed, the Danish ones do, but then cull the animals that aren’t required. I realise that the case of Marius upset my sensibilities, but it is a symptom of the real problem, not the cause. When Copenhagen said they were going to autopsy parts of Marius to gain more knowledge about giraffes, I just thought… how pointless. We don’t need more knowledge about the biology of giraffes, interesting though it may be to certain scientists. What we need are good solutions to pollution and poverty and war and disease and although I appreciate some scientists study animals for the latter, I am not sure giraffe study forms a useful part of that process. As it happens I am against animal testing full stop. I am also against humans manipulating animals in manmade environments for their own amusement or edification.

And then I realise I run into difficult territory because I am not a vegetarian. You see, although I detest what I perceive as animal cruelty I don’t know exactly where I personally draw the line. I do know I try to eat free range products, and I do know as I get older I am enjoying meat less and less. I don’t like fish, and on the odd occasion I have eaten farmed salmon I thought it was the most disgusting flabby fatty product I had ever tasted. I imagined all the fish packed tightly into tanks without room to swim up wild streams and develop any sort of muscle tone at all. The life the animal or fish leads is definitely there in the meat we eat and if I end up mainly vegetarian in time, I wouldn’t be too surprised.

Still, this doesn’t help Marius I, or Marius II. From a scientific point of view it’s hard to be offended by the Copenhagen Zoo statement, As a human, a member of one species sharing the same home with other species, I don’t really understand why a zoo needs to keep, let alone breed giraffes (or any other animal come to that). The statement from Copenhagen Zoo does not address that fundamental issue at all, rather it seeks to rationalise a system that I find indefensible.

(The obvious picture to add here is one of a giraffe, you know, a close up of those inquisitive and limpid brown eyes with long lashes, but frankly to do so would chip my old heart even more than it is already – and at the moment it feels like a knackered and cracked, leaky old teapot).

Marbles, specifically the Blue One

Sometimes, I really feel am losing mine. Today I wrote an actual letter, with a pen and paper and everything. In my head, I am sitting at a desk with a view out over an unflooded meadow – perhaps it’s a summerhouse with a wood-burner in the corner. I guide my fountain pen over that thick creamy paper that costs a fortune and form elegant words that cohere and serve my purpose. In practice, I am sitting in the car, leaning on a student’s workbook, using a pen I picked up in the workroom and writing on a scratty piece of supermarket own A4. The pen turns out to be too good for the paper, and bleeds through heavily onto the reverse. This affects my formatting as my rambling text spreads over the page. I end up with my address written in capitals along the very top edge of the paper, my signature drifting out almost into the right hand margin.

I teach letter composition. It is in not my finest hour. Still, I enjoyed the pen.

Then I queued in the Post Office to post my missive. Old habits die hard. When I came upon the snake of people ahead of me, and the third cashier slammed the blind down on her position, I might have wept, fallen to the floor and gnashed my teeth. And then, I remembered that I don’t do that sort of thing any more. I am mindful now, and a queue gives me a quiet minute, or ten, to be in the moment, to meditate, and to connect with the interconnectedness of everything – even in Post Offices. A queue offers me the chance to connect with the inner bliss of everything. As I did this, I was reminded of the film – The Overview – about the experience of astronauts spending much time in space earth-gazing; literally gazing back at what is also known as the Blue Marble, our own planet. And as they do this, they experience a profound shift in perspective, that never leaves them. They will be able to explain it better than I can, so I am posting the link to the film here, but I will say that as I thought of the Blue Marble, in the Post Office queue, I was nearly brought to tears at the miracle I was ever born at all, to experience the wondrousness of it all.

For those of you who know me – don’t worry – I’ve counted the marbles and the few I have, remain.


I found all these little faces trapped here, in a burnt waffle. There was nothing I could do to help. So I ate it anyway.

I feel it would have tasted much better with maple syrup (and cream). A dry old burnt waffle ain’t all that… especially with this little lot screaming silently at you.

Actually now I look at the photo, you will think I am quite mad if I post it on here… so I won’t. Just watch out for the little waffle people when you next indulge. They really are there.

Waiting for a change…

There was a song that had a similar line to that in it – maybe Robbie Robertson and something to do with a train. Maybe he was waiting for a train and not a change. I can’t remember. My morning brain is always a bit hazy and mazy. Pre-lunch can be a bit of a trial to be honest.

We’ve not had an estuary shot for a while. Here’s one I took recently when it wasn’t raining, for once.

The sand on the beach has been the only part of the Essex earth you can walk on without it groaning, so waterlogged has it become round here – in the driest county in the UK.

Pity the poor others.

dark estuary

As for the song, I googled it… Somewhere Down The Crazy River – figures.