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Monday, 16 June 2008
Cycling

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A colleague at work suggested we should join the local gym. Through our work we can get a special rate (£28 per month). I might go and check it out: they have the usual facilities plus pool.

In the meantime I pulled out my bike this evening, brushed off the cobwebs, pumped up the tyres, and took it for a spin. The hills around Oxted are steep, but it’s a zero sum game because you always end up back where you started. Half the time you are going downhill.

Posted by bigblue on 16/06/2008 at 10:01 PM
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Sunday, 15 June 2008
Foxgloves

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I took this photograph on the Greensand Way yesterday, while on a walk with visiting family from Australia. (We only did a short stretch near Toy’s Hill).

According to the BBC gardening website:

Foxgloves quickly form colourful clumps to liven up areas of light shade, attracting masses of bees. The common name has nothing to do with foxes. It’s a corruption of the phrase ‘folks’ gloves’ - fairy folk were said to use flowers as gloves. The Latin, digitalis, refers to the flowers’ finger- or digit-like shape.

Besides buying or sowing the seed of a particular kind of foxglove, also buy a packet of mixed seed, to give all kinds of colours. But note that most foxgloves are biennials, which means you sow the seed one year; they flower, die and scatter seed the next. Also be aware that all parts of the plant are highly toxic if eaten, but handling them isn’t a problem.

Digitalis purpurea: the only British native is the biggest and best, capable of reaching 1.8m (6ft) high. It has soft, felt-like leaves and a strong stem that can carry hundreds of tubular flowers. The buds are white; the flowers a rich, rosy purple with lovely speckles and clusters of short hairs in the throat. A biennial or short-lived perennial, it’s best grown annually.

See Foxglove, Digitalis.

Posted by bigblue on 15/06/2008 at 09:51 PM
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Friday, 13 June 2008
sub-standard

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This ironically named newspaper (are journalistic standards an oxymoron anyway?), like many tabloids in the UK, does not hesitate to pronounce on the “guilt” of the subjects of its stories. 

It will happily comment on the legal or moral probiety of almost anyone (but itself) whether they are an accused person who is awaiting trial, or a Brazilian electrician rushing for their train who is unlawfully executed by the police.

The subtext of this headline is that the killing wouldn’t be so bad if the shopper was a “guilty” teenage yob. It exhibits a lack of understanding of the values that underpin our society (the so-called Judeo-Christian values that this newspaper often claims to defend).

There are some of the things that I consider as I loiter at the checkout, guilty (of shopping) of course.

Posted by bigblue on 13/06/2008 at 09:15 AM
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Thursday, 12 June 2008
Parking fines in Chertsey

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I spotted the local traffic meister walking in Chertsey town centre and followed him to do some observational research. He moved quickly around but didn’t seem too concerned by my presence. I had worried he would find me threatening after the recent news that traffic officers face more dangers at work than soldiers in Iraq (according to the traffic officers anyway).

My finding during the 30 minutes of research was that all the business vehicles parked illegally had a driver inside (or nearby) who came and moved their vehicle before it was ticketed. Some private cars escaped ticketing the same way. A few private cars that were both illegally parked and unattended were ticketed.

In retrospect it seems an obvious explanation for my previous observation that business vehicles get off lightly when it comes to parking fines.

Posted by bigblue on 12/06/2008 at 10:36 PM
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More about parking

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Here are some more photographs showing the parking situation in Chertsey, Surrey. As you can see from these and previous ones, the situation is as laissez faire as that any Parisian street.

I notice that the one vehicle to actually be ticketed is the private car. These photos were all taken within about 30 minutes. My theory is that business vehicles are the worst offenders but get soft treatment.

Posted by bigblue on 12/06/2008 at 12:23 PM
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Wednesday, 11 June 2008
Turn cash into less cash

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There is no shortage of schemes in this world that will convert your cash savings into a smaller amount. What is unusual about this one is that it has popped up in our local supermarkets and (at a fee) promises to do precisely that. Yes ladies and gentlemen, this very machine will convert your cash into, er, well, cash!

Full marks for effort to whoever came up with this scheme, and with a hat tip to Finkangel where I saw this first.

Posted by bigblue on 11/06/2008 at 10:50 AM
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Tuesday, 10 June 2008
Parking in Chertsey again

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Another example of creative parking in Chertsey, Surrey.

Posted by bigblue on 10/06/2008 at 10:41 AM
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Monday, 09 June 2008
Political Messages in Nanterre

Continuing a recent theme of political stickers and graffiti, I thought I would post two photographs of very different messages which I spotted in Nanterre last week. According to Wikipedia, 25 percent of the population of Nanterre was born outside of Metropolitan France, with 14 percent being non-EU immigrants. The swastika sprayed onto this lamppost is therefore more likely to be directly aimed at these immigrants (rather than at Jewish residents of the suburb for example). Then again are Nazis known for being fussy about who they hate?

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The next photograph shows a sticker I found on a lamppost outside the Saint Joseph Catholic Church in Nanterre Prefecture, proclaiming Solidarity between Peoples. It is typical of the kind of political sticker or poster one sees in these parts, redolent of struggle imagery that seems to belong to an earlier era..

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I have mentioned before that Nanterre is where the 1968 riots all started, and I wonder if this explains the imagery - is it some kind of nostalgia for the past in the same way as the right-wing graffiti, with the swastika could also be seen to be evoking facist nostalgia?

The next sticker I found fits this theory. To announce a protest against the first anniversary of the inauguration of Sarkozy as president of France it uses the images of Tommie Smith and John Carlos, two symbols of the world-wide protests in 1968.

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The third man on the podium that day was the Australian Peter Norman, who won the silver medal.

The gold and bronze medalists were Americans Tommie Smith and John Carlos, respectively. On the medal podium, during the playing of “The Star-Spangled Banner”, Smith and Carlos famously joined in a black power salute.

What is less known is that Norman, a white Australian, donned a badge on the podium in support of their cause, the Olympic Project for Human Rights (OPHR). It was also Norman who suggested that Smith and Carlos share the black gloves used in their salute, after Carlos had left his gloves in the Olympic Village. This is the reason for Tommie Smith raising his right fist, while John Carlos raised his left. Asked about his support of Smith and Carlos’ cause by the world’s press, Norman said he opposed his country’s government’s White Australia policy.

Australia’s Olympic authorities reprimanded him and the Australian media ostracized him. Despite qualifying 15 times for the 100m and five times for the 200m during 1971/72 the Australian Olympic track team did not pick Norman for the 1972 Summer Olympics. That year was the first ever where no Australian sprint team went to the Olympics.

He kept running, but contracted gangrene in 1985 after tearing his Achilles Tendon during a training session, which nearly led to his leg being amputated. Depression and heavy drinking followed. Norman died of a heart attack on October 3, 2006 in Melbourne, Australia at the age of 64. US Track and Field Federation proclaimed October 9, 2006, the date of his funeral, as Peter Norman Day. Both Smith and Carlos were pall-bearers at Norman’s funeral.

Bonus link: Protest in Nanterre in November 2007 - two groups of students (and the police) clash over whether the University should be blockaded or not.

Posted by bigblue on 09/06/2008 at 09:08 PM
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