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This Blogging Month: April

This month has been busy in every sense of the word! I’ve surpassed 500 posts and 100,000 words, which makes me question what exactly it is I’m doing with my life! But the fact that I’ve once again had the highest number of hits ever – well over 75,000 – makes me feel a little happier. I’ve had visitors from as far afield as Japan, Thailand, Denmark, and Singapore. So hello to all of those people. I’ve made a slight loss in terms of advertising revenues this month, but given that I’ve been well-above target for the previous months of the year, it’s not a big problem. I actually made a 12% profit in the end (see the comment for more details).

The most popular post of the month was my comment on American patriotism.

I’ve finally got round to doing away completely with the awkward post footers, moving the icons (including a new comment one) up to the top, and adding a new ‘bug’ to the end of posts which have comments, which I feel is, all in all, a more satisfactory solution to the problem. I updated the site guide to reflect these changes, as well.

The sad death of the Pope was marked by the first use of my black website header, designed for such occasions, which stayed in place from the announcement of the death until after the funeral. It’s not a feature I want to be making particularly heavy use of, but I think it’s important that such a facility is available.

You may have noticed that on reviews I’ve written this month, the Amazon.co.uk link has become rather less subtle, with quite a big box showing you the current price and so forth as well as a picture of the cover. This isn’t so much a change in the policy of this site as it is a change in Amazon’s referral system, which now provides me with these boxes rather than cover-pictures. They do have certain advantages: Firstly, they’re much easier to get on the site, and secondly, they give you far more information (such as the price) in addition to the picture. Because they’re bigger, they also force me to be rather more verbose in my review style.

Earlier in the month I had a little bit of a tinker with the colour scheme, so as to make the site a bit more blue and purple (and less grey). I also reworked the individual post pages a little, to give greater prominence to your comments (they were in that silly little font before, which made me look even more self-important than I already appear through my style of writing). I hope you like the changes (if you were eagle-eyed enough to spot them), and I hope that giving the comments section greater prominence will encourage more people to engage in healthy debate about the drivel I so often spout.

I’ve tided the post categories up a touch, so that there is now a separate category for book reviews, and the LBSC and A-Level categories (which were non-sensical and virtually unpopulated respectively) have been removed. Some older posts have been re-categorised, too.

That’s pretty much all that’s gone on this month. There is, of course, a lot of on-going election posting, and don’t forget that you can access my election-only page at sjhoward.co.uk/election2005. And that’s April!

This post was filed under: Site Updates.

Labour aggravates aliens

It would appear that it’s not just earthlings worried about the prospect of a third Labour term…

Though, being illegal aliens, you’d think they’d be more worried about the Conservative prospects.

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Swing Update

Today’s swing figure:

» 1.95% swing to the Conservatives «

The lack of any new polls today means that the only change in the swing is due to the changing relativity of the age of the polls. Nothing exactly groundbreaking.

More interesting is the Indy’s exposé of yet another Labour lie – voting Lib Dem (which the Indy is almost certain to tell us to do) would not ‘let the Tories in by the back door’. It would take a swing from Labour to the Lib Dems of over 23% for that to happen. But hey, what’s one more lie if it makes people vote Labour?

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Su Doku

A revolution in newspaper puzzling has occurred, and I’m part of it…

I’m addicted to Su Doku. If you don’t read the Indy, Times, Telegraph or Mail, then this revolution may have passed you by, so catch up with the lovely article in today’s Indy: The Puzzle that Ate the World. And yes, I did buy the Indy in preference to the Grauniad today just to experience Britain’s first Super Du Doku. I’m making fair progress with it, but it’ll be a while till I’m done, I expect.

I also have the first Times Su Doku book (right), which seems slightly pointless given that I could have bought the program for only slightly more cash and have had an endless supply of the puzzles. But there’s something more satisfying about doing them from the book. I may well get the program, though, before long… I don’t know if I can resist! I’ve got the demo already…

If there’s one thing about the whole Su Doku saga that amuses me most, it’s that the readers of the Mail can’t cope with a puzzle with such a complicated name (!) – they, instead, are presented with Number Crunch Codenumber (see here). Poor peeps.

Anyway, if you want a go at some Su Soku Doku (who says I can’t spell?!), the Times have their puzzles online here, and the Torygraph have theirs here. You could also download the demo version of the program. Or buy the book.

But give it a go, and you will be addicted. Please don’t blame me!

This post was filed under: News and Comment, Reviews.

Blair doesn’t know what he’s doing… and he admits it

Blair has admitted that he doesn’t know the effect he’s GP waiting time targets have on patient care. He didn’t realise that it was impossible to make appointments in advance. He’s clearly not a dedicated fan of this site, then, because it’s a issue I identified months ago.

But, more importantly, how can we re-elect a leader that introduces silly targets, and then ignores – or, more acurately, doesn’t even make an effort to find out about – the probems these targets create?

And the particularly hilarious thing is that even after having the situation explained by members of the public, John Reid still doesn’t get it:

John Reid, the health secretary, acknowledged that there were problems but stressed that the target had produced much quicker access for many patients. A few years ago, many patients had to wait a week to 10 days to see a GP, he said, while on the latest figures, 97 per cent are seen within two days.

The reason 97 per cent are seen within two days is because you’re only allowed to make an appointment within two days. It isn’t an improvement. That’s the problem. Patient satisfaction has fallen.

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Police Brothels?

I’m not sure quite why Tony Carter was searching the new Google Local UK for ‘brothels’ and ‘Maidstone’. But the results seem quite surprising:

you get just one hit – Kent County Constabulary. Complete with map and everything.

But who knows, maybe the police are branching out? 😉

This post was filed under: Miscellaneous.

Medics Revue

Tonight was the Medics Revue, a common med school tradition whereby the students effectively ridicule the lecturers and other staff in their prescence. This was Durham’s first attempt, entitled ‘Medicine: The Musical’. And it was really very funny. There were only three people performing, and it must have taken them forever to get it all together. It really was excellent, including the Anatomy staff featuring on Blind Date competing for a date with Stefan (Histology Lecturer) by stating which artery they would be (Splenic, Aorta, and Pulmonary, as it happens), our Cardiovascular lecturer as James Bond, a version of West Side Story’s “America” entitled “I want to be in a Business Park”, and a slightly bizarre version of Tenacious D’s “Tribute”. And it raised lots of money for charity, too.

As something of a sidenote, there’s been a link to Amateur Transplants over in the sidebar for a while now, but there’s never really been an occasion to mention them – but as their CD featured in the Medics revue, it seems as good an occasion as any to encourage you to hop over there and buy a copy – it’s only £6, and it’s all in aid of Macmillan Cancer Relief.

This post was filed under: University.

Swing Update

Today’s swing figure:

» 2.02% swing to the Conservatives «

One new poll: YouGov/Telegraph 36/32. So that’s quite close. And the Lib Dems are on 24%. Noting too exciting or revolutionary here.

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Labour Spam

More ‘hilarious’ and unsolicited emails from the Labour Party:

At this stage in the campaign I think it is very important that we avoid sinking to personal insults and name calling of the sort that we’ve been getting from those unprincipled scumbags in the Tory Party.

I think that’s supposed to be funny. But the irony is that it sounds more like a parody of a Blair speech than anything else.

We have to stick to the issues.

Like the issues of whether Mr Blair will be launching any more wars to add to the five in his previous eight years? Or whether someone who has openly broken Ministerial Code should resign?

And for me, one of the biggest issues is that we can’t have Michael Howard as Prime Minister.

Why not? Because you’re going to fix the voting?

It is terrifying to think that in a week’s time we could actually have a Tory government.

It isn’t even remotely scary. Let alone terrifying.

And if you just read that and thought ‘nah, it couldn’t happen’ imagine exactly the same presumption in millions of other voters; all thinking that it’s safe to abstain or vote against Labour this time.

Wouldn’t that be a joy?

There should, of course, be more to an election campaign than just being negative about the Tories.

But sadly, there isn’t.

That Charles Kennedy is a waste of space as well.

But you haven’t yet managed to convince your leader that he’s a serious threat.

But here are some important facts about the Conservative Party:


Today’s blame culture is all their fault.


When they abolish the Winter Fuel Allowance and free TV licences, pensioners will be expected to burn their tellies to keep warm.

That’s interesting. Instead of getting a £250 fuel allowance, and a £126.50 TV licence – total £376.50 – the pensioners will be rewarded under the Tories with a £500 reduction in their Council Tax bill. And yet you think that they’ll be unable to keep warm. Evidence?

Crime went up under the Tories (not surprising when you look at all the senior Tories like Archer and Aitken who ended up in prison).

And violent crime has gone up under Labour – not surprising when you look at all the violent crime precipitated by the senior Labourites like Blair and Campbell launching unjust violent wars.

When Michael Howard last faced a leadership election he came fifth. There were five candidates.

When the party leaders were rated for trustworthiness, Mr Blair came third. There were three leaders considered.

Yes when they last had the chance to vote for him, the people who know him best decided that he was:
* less appealing than John Redwood
* less of a fresh face than Kenneth Clarke
* less moderate than Peter Lilley
* and less likely to win an election than William Hague.

You know that’s what they were thinking? Evidence?

So don’t stand back and let the Tories win by accident. If it hadn’t been for people who cared taking the trouble to vote,

I don’t intend to let the Tories win by accident.

we would never have had the minimum wage

Why not? If ‘people’ hadn’t taken the trouble to vote, then surely the proportions would still have been roughly the same?

would never have had the NHS

Except the foundations and proposition for the NHS were laid by a Conservative government.

and John McCririck might have won Celebrity Big Brother.

We could only hope.

So please, if everyone who receives this email was able to persuade one wavering voter to back Labour, we could avoid another 18 years of Tory government starting on Thursday.

So once the Tories win the election, everything will be so rosy that we won’t want to return to Labour for eighteen years?

Pick one person you know and work on them non-stop from now until 5 May. The bloke I’ve chosen is still really angry with this Government but I’ve told him he has to move on and see the bigger picture. After all it was four years ago now and John Prescott didn’t mean to punch him that hard…

Humour really doesn’t work for me here.

John O’Farrell
Author and Broadcaster

Presumably writing because nobody on the campaign can be bothered with the little people.

This post was filed under: Election 2005.

Email from University

I’ve just received an email, from which I have quoted below:

I have been in touch with a variety of staff responsible for the marking of your assignments.

Due to a variety of unforeseen circumstances the results/feedback have been delayed by at least a week. Some results/feedback may not be released until the end of next week (Fri 6th May).

Does this mean that I’m now allowed to say ‘Due to a variety of unforseen circumstances, my availability for exams has been delayed by at least a week.’ Somehow, I doubt it. But what it does mean is that I won’t be getting results from any of this year’s assignments until a week before the exams, and so won’t know my weak points which I need to concentrate on during revision. Helpful.

This post was filed under: University.

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