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This Blogging Month: May

I’ve surpassed 600 posts this month – another slightly disturbing milestone – and also celebrated my second year of posting. It’s beginning to seem like every month I’m reaching a milestone of some description at the moment – and long may it continue!

Behind the scenes, I upgraded from WordPress 1.5 to 1.5.1, and then up to 1.5.1.1 as well, and then up to 1.5.1.2. Each upgrade was completely painless – unlike the one up to 1.5, and for the second upgrade of the month I have to thank Aldoblog for making it that little bit easier by providing a list of updated files. The new version can be downloaded directly from WordPress. The necessary change to go from 1.5.1.1 to 1.5.1.2 is detailed here.

I’ve got round to fixing the search function, which was slightly buggy in that it didn’t work properly when searching from individual post pages. It’s now fully functional, and tastes great! I’ve also added two new features that allow you to subscribe to either the full site’s posts or a particular comments thread by email. For more information on those, please check this post. I’ve also made an RSS 2.0 feed of the comments left on this site available – you can access it using the link under ‘Subscriptions’ on the right, where you’ll also find a permanent link to the full site email subscription service.

The right sidebar has been tidied up a bit, with links to more posts than previously – the most recent (new), most viewed, most commented (new), and most random. I’ve also increased the number of adverts ever so slightly, and made them match the design of the site more closely so that they don’t stick out so much. I decided that it was sensible to increase the number of adverts following last month’s close call with respect to getting enough cash from advertising. I’m sure you’ll be as delighted as me to find out that this policy appears to have worked, with me reaching a record 278% profit this month – this isn’t quite as good as it seems, as it’s quite likely that the hosting fees will increase soon, since this site is starting to become ridiculously popular, now averaging almost 3,000 hits per day – only seven months ago, I was receiving less than twice that figure per month. I’ve also had quite a few emails this month, complementing the site – so thank you very much for those, they always make me smile.

The most popular post of the month was one that was actually published last month – My first missive on Su Doku. The most popular post actually posted this month was my brief history of Su Doku in the UK. I’m beginning to think that Su Doku might be quite popular…

And I think that’s all I can say to round up May!

This 608th post was filed under: Site Updates.

Trade justice wristband not just

It turns out that the Make Poverty History white bands on the wrists of everyone who’s into such things at the moment has been made in factories which break Chinese working conditions law, as well as the standards of the Ethical Trading Initiative. Mainly because it uses forced labour and pays less than the minimum wage. Oops.

From The Grauniad:

A Cafod spokesman said: “We are disappointed this situation has arisen. However, we are now engaging with the supplier to improve conditions within the factory. Under the Ethical Trading Initiative standards, when we find out a supplier isn’t in line with those standards we don’t just pull away. We attempt to engage with the supplier and work with that supplier to improve conditions so they are in line with the Ethical Trading Initiative standards.”

Personally, I prefer this from The Indy:

“We were stupid,” said Dominic Nutt at Christian Aid. “We didn’t check it out, Cafod didn’t check it out, and Oxfam didn’t check it out.”

Really, though, this is the kind of thing you’d hope these charities would look into before they order tens of thousands of items. You’d think it would just be part of their day-to-day practice, to check out companies before ordering from them. But, to give Oxfam credit, whilst they ordered 10,000 wristbands from the affected factory, they haven’t sold these. It doesn’t really make much difference, because presumably the factory will still be paid, but I guess there’s not much more they could do in the circumstances.

Also in the Make Poverty History circle today, Bob Geldolf has been announcing the details of the Live 8 concert he’s planning for five weeks from now. Whilst it’s admirable that so many stars are coming together in this massive event for charity, I don’t understand the point of it. It isn’t being used to raise money, it’s supposed to serve as a message to politicians. Which I don’t understand. After all, people are not going to see these concerts because they support the cause, they’re going to turn up and tune in to see the celebs – so it’s going to send no greater message than that the public like pop acts. Which I think we already know. So what’s the point?

Surely, a more logical thing to do would be to ask people to amass at the stadia without any incentive, but simply to try and persuade politicians. This would not only spare the people of Edinburgh the descent of a million people on their city, but it would also actually send a message. The small problem being, not many people would go.

This 607th post was filed under: News and Comment.

The man from Paris: He say ‘Non’!

With fifty-five percent of the French voters giving the EU consitution the thumbs down, many of today’s papers are using words like ‘crisis’, ‘confusion’ and ‘fear’ today. There’s even talk of ‘huge’ margins, which seems a bit over the top. Even The Indy, which declared on Saturday ‘The significance of this poll lies in the campaign, not the result’, gets its knickers in a bit of a twist. Though it does seem to accept the result of this referendum, unlike Tony Blair’s victory in the General Election. Nobody seems to even mention the 70 percent turnout, and ask what it is we could learn from this. If we Brits have a referendum, I’d be surprised if fifty percent of voters bother to vote.

The Guardian has Europe stunned by the result, and its wesbite has Tony Blair calling for a time of reflection. This combination makes it sound rather like somebody’s died. They even seem to be progressing through the various stages of grief: We’ve had denial all this week, while they’ve been clinging on to the hope that a ‘Yes’ vote might just happen, and today we appear to have moved on to anger:

France’s no is highly damaging to the credibility and popularity of the EU, already in very poor shape as shown by the record low turnout in the European elections last summer.

You evil French people… You’ve let the EU down, you’ve let Chirac down, but most of all you’ve let yourselves down.

The Telegraph is obviously pleased that the vote has gone their way, and they’ve done the predictable thing of printing a picture of a smiling Chirac casting his ballot.

The Mail’s position can be summed up by saying that it’s the fifth headline on their website, just below “Rod’s daughter steps out with stepmum’s ex” and two Big Brother headlines. Despite the fact that today’s print edition says Big Brother has ‘reached new levels of debauchery’.

So what does all this mean for the future of the Constitution? Well, pretty much what we’ve all known for weeks. It’s not going to get very far without some redrafting. Which is incredibly predictable: You won’t get hundreds of millions of people of different countries and cultures to agree to a 400-page document easily. And, to be perfectly honest, I’d be surprised to see it happen at all.

It’s clear to anybody that the EU isn’t working, and is in need of reform. But the reason it isn’t working is because it’s tried to become something it never intended to be in the first place – so the foundations are not appropriate. And to wait until there are twenty-five members and then try and negotiate a new set of firmer foundations seems rather silly. Yet this is the situation in which we find ourselves, and there’s not an awful lot that can be done to change the past. So, where do we go from here? I don’t know. It would be impossible for the EU to break up completely, because some of the bonds are too strong. Piecemeal reform of existing agreements wouldn’t solve the overall problem. So it looks like we’re stuck with what we’ve got for now, with all of its quirks and inconsistencies. The existing treaties may not be a practical way to manage the newly enlarged EU, but, at the end of the day, when has European politics ever been straightforward and practical?

This 606th post was filed under: News and Comment, Politics.

More crazy frogs on TV…

…as the French go to the polls in their referendum on the EU Constitution. My jokes never improve on this site, do they?

For all the coverage of the vote in today’s Sundays, there seems little point in commenting until the decision is made and announced. But, hey, this is a comment site so I feel somewhat obliged. The Grauniad website has published a 7pm update, as most of the polls across France close. It looks fairly clear that this is going to be a ‘Non’ vote, unless everyone has followed this voter’s lead:

Katia Volman, a 22-year-old student, left her ballot blank, saying the issues were too complicated to fully digest. “I had so many reasons to vote yes or no so I left it blank and that way I won’t regret my decision two days later,” she said.

Shortly afterwards, she returned herself to her usual wooden box, which she locks herself in night and day, claiming that the world is too complicated and she doesn’t want to do anything in life that she might later regret. The reason being that she wants Edith Piaf singing ‘Je ne regrette rein’ at her funeral. Or perhaps I’m just being cruel.

The Sindie says much the same thing; the Torygraph manage to write a full article on the referendum without mentioning Tony Blair, which is fairly impressive, even in their Q&A about what will happen if the French vote ‘Non’. At the other end of the spectrum, the first word in the Times’s article is ‘BRITAIN’.

Other newspaper websites lead on clearly much more important stories than the future of Europe: ‘Has Cilla been jilted for a young blonde?’ – The Mail; ‘Posh and Becks [sic] bubbly boozathon’ – The Mirror; and ‘Huntley’s devil woman’ – The Sun.

I also nearly forgot to mention that the Guardian has a rather exciting game, to explain the various different possible outcomes of the referendum, on it’s website. Exciting, of course, if you like that sort of thing. Which I’m not ashamed to admit I do. Well, a little bit ashamed, I guess.

This 605th post was filed under: News and Comment.


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