Tomorrow (Tuesday) I have a Tribunal hearing. To those in the know: I’m appealing the result of the first. To those who are new (*waves*), three years ago Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC) decided I wasn’t entitled to Tax Credits I’d already received; eighteen months worth of payments would have to be repaid. Overnight, I was plunged thousands of pounds into debt. I appealed and that led to a First Tier Tribunal —a spare room in a community centre—where a portly solicitor decided I was eligible, in principle, but that my records didn’t prove I’d worked the requisite number hours. At the time, that seemed like the end of the road. But 22 months later, a more senior judge will decide whether I can appeal.
The road from there to here has been full of tedious detail. At one point, HMRC threatened me with bailiffs unless I posted them a cheque for £3000 there and then. I was outraged but a friend said I should focus on the outcome: not going bankrupt. And she was right. So I swallowed my pride, outlined my situation and offered HMRC a generous repayment plan. HMRC duly reneged on their threats and after two years of scratching and scraping, I’ve repaid the lot. 😀 (So watch for a spike in consumer spending as I replace all the things I’ve been eking out.) I’m still indignant about it, but I was just too exhausted to battle them in another court.
The legal side has been rather less productive. I managed to antagonise a judge while getting my attempts to introduce new evidence slapped down. I then had to convince the same judge that the first one had got the law wrong. By that point, she’d run out of patience with me. (I wear out most people eventually.) And to be honest, I’d worn out myself. But I’m allowed to have her decision reviewed by a more senior judge in the Upper Tribunal; in effect, I can appeal the decision not to allow me to appeal. And that’s what I’m doing.
The deadline for making such a request ran out in January. I nearly didn’t bother to apply. It seemed arrogant and delusional to think two judges could have got it wrong. And with a payment plan in place, there didn’t seem the need to take an exhausting, expensive trip to London to remonstrate with a bored judge. So, instead of enforcing my right to an oral hearing, I made my argument in writing. But my heart wouldn’t quite give up, so, despite ticking the box for a paper hearing, I indicated I would be willing to attend in person if my statement left any questions unanswered. And the judge has taken me up on that offer
At first, I hoped the judge had spotted the glimmer of gold amongst my convoluted arguments and faecal prose. But I suspect my ambiguous response has been interpreted ”judiciously” to ensure I don’t have grounds to storm the Court of Appeal. Generally, I feel like a fly that’s landed in a puddle. And rereading the judgements is like seeing myself dissected and pinned to a specimen board. But I sometimes convince myself I can outwit the lawyers, and I can’t find a case that directly contradicts the issues in play, so if I can convince the judge my statistical analysis is as valid as ‘tick box’ records, then I will get an appeal.
Do I have a chance? Probably not. But this is a case that, in its earliest stages, centred on the difference between hope and expectation. And while it’s my expectation I will lose; I still hope I might win. As they say in sport, it’s still a mathematical possibility.
As the tone of the above indicates, I’d’ve given you good odds on me losing. The best I’d expected was to squeeze between some cracks in the law. But as we worked through the arguments, line by line, the clock ticking by, the judge suddenly rubbed his hair and said, “I think that’s enough for an appeal.” And then it was it. The First Tier Tribunal had indeed ignored my statistical evidence and it will now be reconsidered in front of a senior judge. It’s a huge win; a key piece evidence is reinstated. Which is not to be complacent—the case still has more leaks than the NSA—but, but, but… Well, I’m still grinning from ear to ear. Mathematical possibility? My arse. I have a real chance of winning.
It’s still (just about) National Poetry Day today. So it’s time to turn out a poem.
I’m really struggling with my writing at the moment; I just lose focus and give up. So this poem explores that deficiency:
The grass is always dying
Do the writhing roots long to be branches?
Do some dream of being flag poles
and others aspire to be broom handles?
And if they so, could they ever grow true?
Or would a root erupting into an aimless sky
be confused by the lack of goals
and braid itself into a knot
just as it succumbed to tangled constipation
when chasing every delicious morsel of loam?
Is it set that those who nurture
must forever be
buried in their own meanders?
If so, then I decree that those who rise like trunks
shall provide my board
and them that tie the soil together
shall weave me a home for my second life
that I may continue for ever in my nature.
I honestly can’t tell if it’s good or bad. I suspect it’s overwrought; but the point of writing a poem in a day is not to contemplate the myriad possibilities but to actually deliver something. Job done.
The Swedish women might be ahead of the pack, but even they're losing.
A day at the races
We count them out; we count them in. We count the fillies; we count the colts. We count the first to pass the post But do we count the last? Posterity will judge us By who we count the most.
A couple of weeks ago, there was a debate on Twitter about the number of women in national parliaments. The dataset provided by Thene is an astonishing list and I saw more in it than I could ever tweet about, so I’ve expanded my thoughts into a blog. Just be aware that the correlations described here were found in my head, the calculations were done on my fingers, and my sources were the first document proffered by Google.
Let’s start by saying it’s a noisy list. For instance, Andorra’s GeneralCouncil is half women, but it only has 28 seats. Were a coin flip to determine the sex of each councillor then Andorra’s parliament would vary between 41% and 59% female. Wikipedia also says the General Council can grow to 46 councillors, but doesn’t explain how. So second-placed Andorra, the leading “Western Nation”, is probably an outlier; there are plenty of other small parliaments that should be viewed with suspicion, too.
However top placed Rwanda doesn’t look to be a fluke. Nor does third-placed Cuba. Someone needs to look at these countries and explain why they do so much better than the Western Nations. However I will stick with the West, since the picture there is confusing enough.
As you’d expect, the progressive Scandinavians come out on top. But would you have bet on Belgium or Spain being in the mix? Well, there they are; eleventh and twelfth. (Infact Spanish-speaking countries do well in general.) Amongst the Scandinavians, there’s a 6% variation between best placed Sweden (4th, 45%) and worst-paced Denmark (15th, 39%). That looks like natural statistical fluctuation. But it also suggests that even progressive countries can’t elect a parliament that’s more than ~42% female. It would be interesting to know whether that represents a fundamental difference between the sexes or whether the best countries still have further to progress. (Kristine?)
Incidentally the Scandinavians executed as many witches as the UK and USA in pre-modern times and yet they’ve overcome their bigotry to top the table. So blaming your nation’s founding fathers isn’t a get-out-of-jail free card.
And, speaking of nutjobs, having a 35% female legislature didn’t stop 24th place Uganda criminalising homosexuality; whereas the extraordinarily macho House of Commons, just 23% female, was still tolerant enough to secure marriage rights for gays. So having women in parliament isn’t a guarantee of a progressive society but, conversely, there isn’t a single progressive country at the foot of the table: if you want more women in government (and I’m assuming the answer is “yes”) then creating a progressive society will get you there, even if it’s not the only route.
Nor can religion be blamed for the lack of women: “religious” Spain is twelfth, but “religious” Ireland is 92nd. I also looked for correlations against inequality of wealth and female literacy; my eyeballs didn’t spot anything worth pursuing.
Where I did come up trumps was over the choice of electoral system. Countries using First-Past-The-Post (FPTP) are most likely to be in the bottom half of the table. (And here I’m talking about all nations, not just the West.) My fingers suggested 36% of the bottom half use FTTP; whereas only 15% of the top half do, and none of the top 22 use it. The difference between FTFP Canada (25%) and the MixedMemberProportionalRepresentation of New Zealand (34%) suggests switching to proportional voting might increase the women in parliament by ~10%.
There’s more analysis that could be done however the take away shock news is that an unrepresentative electoral system produces an unrepresentative parliament. There are probably many changes you can make to improve the percentage of female lawmakers but if the voting system is unfair then you’ll be pushing a boulder up a hill: where a country’s electoral system lets the strongest win, the winners—as in any race—will tend be men.
I’m not a fan of poetry. If I’m reading a novel and it breaks into verse, I skip that passage. My inherited copy of The Oxford Book Of English Verse flags only five poems worth revisiting. I might tune in to Poetry Please, but it’s to help my insomnia and I grumble throughout. A snap inspection of my browser tabs reveals just Swinburne’s By The North Sea, Blake’s Jerusalem (not the hymn), Tennyson’s Idylls of the King, Shakespeare’s Cymberline, R.S. Thomas’s The Fair, and the Anglo Saxon poem The Seafarer. I better include the lyrics for the Submarine’s Brighter Discontent, too. Okay, so clearly I have the beginnings of a relationship with poetry—you can deduce that from this site’s title (three iambs wrapped around a beautiful idea)—but it is an abusive relationship, and I am the brutalised victim…
Actually, one of big the troubles I have with modern poetry is it’s easier to write than to read. (Although adding a rhyme scheme and a strict meter makes it impossible to both write and read.) While an essay requires words be judiciously hammered to a consciously pre-fabricated argument, a poem needs no pre-meditated thought; with a touch of emotional indigestion you can brace yourself and let rip some verse. That’s why the web is overflowing with wangsty, pretentious drivel. But I’m writing this on National Poetry Day so, by heck, I thought I’d join the eruption. This contribution to the odious miasma is the more-polished and less clichéd of today’s efforts.
We’re used to protests.
We’re used to protests.
We’re used to “fungus freds”
Pissing in our back gardens
Because they want to shut down the wells
That poison the water,
Make the Earth warmer,
And might topple our gas bills
From towering, exorbitant pounds
Into crumbling, sunken pennies.
We’re used to giving up our holidays
To look after the kids because
The petulant chalk munchers
Who’ve had their salaries moderated
And their pensions regraded
Have shut down the schools
And are anxious to teach
We’re used to losing our pay checks
And laying off the child care
Who don’t like a black guy
And won’t help a poor guy
And would fire a union guy
Have run out of straight roads
And have shut down the country,
Yup, we’re used to it.
Please can we shut down the protest
And do something useful instead.
Already it’s starting to become too oblique; simpler would have been better. And the end of the second verse needs work (if this post keeps appearing in your readers it’s because I’m improving the meter and the allusion to subsidence).
I 100% disagree with the third verse and am undecided on the second (this was an interesting article on the issues). But I thought it worthwhile contrasting different species of protesters. And no blog could have hit my target as effectively as the machine gun meter I’ve employed; you know you’ve read something, even if you can’t quite remember what. Contrast it with this Guardian editorial which brilliantly likens the GOP to Iranian mullahs yet fails to make its premiss linger longer than the sentence articulating it; they should have gone with a poem.
In June, Matt Smith announced he was retiring from the role of Doctor Who. Since then the biggest job in Sci Fi has been up for grabs. But in less than 24 hours, the BBC will announce who has been given the keys to the TARDIS. And since speculating on the role is as British as tea and crumpets, I’ve put together a list of my favourites:
First up is Lenny Henry. He came to prominence as a comedian on children’s show Tiswas in the late 70s, graduated into serious comic acting during the 80s and 90s, and has latterly become a proper Shakespearean thesp. Henry has been off our screens for a while, but if he can cope with the punishing filming schedule, then he could handle anything the script demands while plugging the gaps with over-the-top mugging. Perfect.
One of the things that kept me going when I lost my WTC decision was BBC3’s award winning supernatural TV series The Fades. And one of the things that kept me tuning into The Fades was Daniel Kaluuya’s brilliant turn as an uber nerd. He followed that with a leading role in Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. And while his schtick did eventually grate, this “unknown” could easily exceed Smith’s turn as a vulnerable, funny and otherworldly Time Lord.
Chiwetel Ejiofor has an absolutely mesmerising screen presence, and is well known to Sci-fi fans for his role in Serenity. He’s shown himself at home with comedy in Kinky Boots, and was last seen fighting injustice in the murky thriller The Shadow Line. He’s a long shot, but shoehorning an actor of Ejiofor’s calibre into the role would be a coup.
Lennie James is an actor who really inhabits roles. He was last seen in police procedural In the Line of Duty, where he was utterly convincing as Britain’s answer to Vic Mackey. He was in the dodgy Prisoner remake, as well as Jericho and countless other shows. There’s a question mark over his comic timing, and he might be a prisoner of the scripts, but the role would turn him into the household name he deserves to be.
David Harewood was last seen perfecting the “arsehole boss” in Homeland. But he played Friar Tuck in Robin Hood, and he’s almost as mesmerising as Ejiofor. Like James, comedy could be his Achilles heel.
And finally there is Idras Elba, Colin Salmon and Paterson Joseph. Elba, who starred in The Wire and Luther, keeps getting mentioned; but he’s just too macho for the role. Colin Salmon would make a cerebral Doctor and he deserves a crowning role for his career, but he’s been passed over already. And Paterson Joseph is talented but rubs me the wrong way.
Oh, if I really have to have a black sheep then Harry Potter star Rupert Grint can fill the role. Doctor Who has a history of offending gingers, so it’s probably time they addressed this imbalance and cast one.
Whichever way you look at it, there is plenty of talent around. Any one of these actors could embody the eccentric Britishness that’s an essential part of the Time Lord’s character; it will be a travesty if the BBC doesn’t cast one of them.
In the end, the bookies’ favourite got the role. I wanted an older doctor after boyish David Tennant, so maybe the producers are one step behind me. (Or maybe not.) Anyway, I wish Peter well. He’ll do a good job – “Older Doctors are cool!” I predict an upswing in boys named Peter. And if you think this blog was wrong, read it again – or try looking at the pictures.
My head has exploded and my body definitely aches. But, hey, the beats go on. (And I do really recommend the video: I'd not seen it before today, but it's fabulous.)
So I had my Tribunal hearing a week ago today. I won’t bother documenting all the farcical proceedings that led to it being rescheduled, but at the hearing HMRC caved in and agreed I’m self-employed. (Yea!) And a common-sense definition of ‘remuneration’ was found to exist in case law, too, so I’m fully entitled to receive Tax Credits. (Yea!) Unfortunately, HMRC changed tack and argued I wasn’t working 30 hours per week. And although the judge opined I probably was, he ignored my statistical analysis and ruled against me. (Piss.)
But, still, it’s a “good loss”. The decision that I have a valid, remunerative contract applies for the contract’s duration: which means HMRC can’t go after me for the Tax Credits I’ve started reclaiming, provided I’m recording the number of hours I’m working (and I am). And the decision on the “30-hour element” is restricted to twelve of the eighteen disputed months; if I can prove I worked for the other six, then I should be able to slash the debt by a third and may even be entitled to another six months’ money.
Needless to say, I have no direct records for those final six months. But I wrote a program to examine the times at which I saved files and, yes, that shows me working thirty hours per week – and it gives “start” and “stop” times, too, so might carry more weight with lawyers. The software also shows me working thirty hours per week during the year the judge did rule on. Unfortunately, I am not allowed to appeal on the basis of new evidence; I can challenge errors in law or gross procedural issues but that’s it. (Piss, again!) I will try and shoehorn in an objection (“the colour of the judge’s tie was wrong”) but really, it’s game over.
As you can image, I’ve been through the whole palette of human emotions; currently I’m feeling “chastised acceptance” mixed with”vindicated disappointment”. But let’s face it: I only lost because of my own idiotic lack of book keeping. And I won two of the three points, which is not bad for my first day in court, is it?
This is a blog about money, so you might expect me to plump for Pink Floyd. But, no. Ha! Because I'm quite taken by this sub-Lilly Allen pot-boiler, despite Lana Del Ray's bratty attitude. Mind you, I'm not yet irked by Dana in Homeland so I might have a high tolerance for brats.
Did you know there are two kinds of money? I was tempted to call them real and imaginary, but one is called remunerative and the other unremunerative. The two types are indistinguishable. They both use the same notes and coins and appear in the same column on your bank statement. But it’s okay, the taxman can tell them apart. And blow me, it turns out I’m being paid in the unremunerative kind. That’s why I’ve been asked to repay eighteen months worth of Tax Credits! *facepalm* If only I’d known I would have asked to be paid in the remunerative kind! I’m such an idiot, aren’t I?!
Okay, I’m being facetious. But not by much. Her Majesty’s Revenue & Customs (HMRC) don’t believe I’ve been ‘paid’. The money flowing into my bank account is, in HMRC’s eyes, financial aid from a partner, not remuneration from a client. And as I’ve provided no evidence the ‘partnership’ is generating income, HMRC have asked me to repay £4200.
This dispute has being going on for over a year. I was assessed in September 2011. A month later, my Tax Credits were stopped and I was ordered to refund eighteen month’s worth of payments. I appealed. HMRC rejected my appeal but forwarded the case to a Tribunal. And tomorrow, finally, I will get my day in court.
As it happens, I can kinda see HMRC’s point. My client and I have never signed a contract because we live on opposite sides of the Atlantic and could never afford to enforce the paperwork. I also have full day-to-day control over the project, and my client has always taken care to ensure I remain solvent. Our relationship is so close that when asked to describe it, I said we were ‘client/partner’ – a monumental brainfart that has caused 70% of the trouble. I withdrew that statement, but the smell still lingers. So, yes, there is a case to answer.
But the brief I’ve submitted wafts away that partnership claim. It points out I’ve never completed the partnership section of my tax return; that my client and I don’t share risk, as required by the dictionary definition of ‘partnership'; and that HMRC’s own manuals classify me as an employee, for the purposes of a payroll tax called National Insurance. However I’ve also shown that the ‘partnership’ is selling software to consumers. That software pre-dates my involvement with the project, but if I’d formed a partnership it would have been part of the deal. I’d not told HMRC about it before because it was—literally—none of my business. But as long as the judge credits the ‘partnership’ with those earnings I will qualify for Tax Credits. Heads I win, tails they lose. I hope.
The realisation that I had such a strong case left me feeling upbeat. But things didn’t start so positively.
Inevitably, the rejection of my appeal knocked me back. However there was nothing scary in HMRC’s response; we just had a ‘fundamental difference in interpretation…best settled by a tribunal.’ So I was quickly back on my feet, convinced HMRC were being as fanciful as I was being pedantic. That enabled me to enjoy Christmas 2011.
Additional, post-Christmas correspondence drew my attention to the importance of remunerative work. So I emailed my client, asking if he was still selling the existing software. However an over-zealous spam filter zapped my correspondence, and I never received a reply.
The Revenue’s formal case arrived in February 2012. They pack their papers in despair so ripping open the envelope left me despondent. Arguments I’d thought slain had been revived and for the first time they presented a coherent, well-argued case. I only skimmed the brief before stuffing it in a drawer, determined to give myself time to recover. Three days later, I received a letter from the Tribunal Service telling me I had a fortnight to file.
Initially I didn’t dare scrutinise HMRC’s file. That sounds silly, but I needed to build my confidence – so I just drafted my response and gathered together additional evidence.
Then I dipped into the ‘Facts of the case’. Twice I thought I’d found an error, but both times it was my memory that was at fault. However there were no monsters lurking between the lines; no indications of anything that could kill my case.
As you’d expect, the legislation closely matched HMRC’s manuals, but the precedents they cited were full of juicy common sense. My original appeal focused on whether I was engaged in ‘profit seeking behaviour’. And the rebuttal argument I’d used had passed muster in a different case, perhaps explaining the sound of off-stage choking from HMRC’s lawyer.
That discovery boosted my confidence enough to wade into the legal arguments. And, as my senses adapted to the numbing chill, I began to see how silly their case was. They’d hung it all on the lack of a project specification and that damn ‘client/partner’ statement. Well, I could provide a project specification—nobody had ever asked!—and our partnership was as real as Santa Claus.
Throughout this process I kept emailing my client to see whether he was still selling the existing software. And, if he was, whether I could use his sales figures. Finally, as I knocked the last nail into my potential coffin, he replied.
Yes, he was still selling the software.
Yes, I could have redacted figures.
For the first time in a week, I smiled. More than a smile: I grinned, from ear to ear.
I briefly fretted that the sales figures wouldn’t be big enough. But they’ve proved ample. Very ample.
And so I posted my brief on 29th February – it seemed appropriate.
With the hearing due no earlier than September, I put everything out my mind and got on with my increasingly hectic life.
More time passed.
The Tribunal Service are required to give a fortnight’s notice of the hearing. So my worries began to build toward the end of August. But no letter arrived.
As we passed ever deeper into September I became convinced the hearing would spoil my birthday. However that, too, passed without news, and I relaxed.
By November, changes in postal routes meant the postie was shoving a palpitation through my letter box every morning.
Is it today?
Well, now That Day has arrived. And tommorow, after an oral hearing, I will find whether my arguments and the extra evidence I have provided amount to a hill of beans.
Oh shit. Oh shit. Oh shit.
I need a positive Muse. So down with fat cats and up with giant teddy bears: the revolution begins here!
Update: The case has been adjourned until the end of January. I drafted a blog about why, but I didn’t much like it and events are continuing to unfold. So I will publish an update in the new year. The bottom line is that I’m still in the game. Thanks everyone for your support.
Comments on my last blog touched upon how I’ve (occasionally) neglected myself, and how I (occasionally) struggle to fit in to adult society. Well, this episode should shed light on both, while meandering to a happy conclusion.
“I don’t suppose you know what you’ll be doing in a year’s time?”, asked the dentist’s receptionist, waving her hand across an empty appointment book.
I shook my head, and we agreed on a time and date.
“I’ll write another card for you to lose.”, she said.
“Oh, I didn’t lose the last one,” I replied. “I just forgot.”
My childhood dentist retired while I was at university. At the time no other surgery would take on NHS patients so for over a decade I scrubbed and hoped, unable to afford private dentistry. Even when an NHS dentist started up, I kept my head in the sand ignoring the problem.
But a couple of years ago, I got myself together, organised the paperwork, and signed up for free dental care. You’d think, after all that time, my mouth would be a pit of festering stumps. And—yes—they did have to chip off the plaque with a jackhammer. But by some miracle no fillings were necessary. And regular checkups resumed.
The first checkup happened after six months. The next, after eight. And then, in 2011, my dentist let me go a whole year. Twelve months later, I’d forgotten. The surgery left reminders on my answering service; but nobody ever calls me so I didn’t play them in time (two months worth of unheard voicemails amounted to three messages – two from my dentist) and I missed the appointment.
A week later, I listened to the messages and went into meltdown. And I really do mean ‘meltdown': my diary is so sparsely filled that I’ve not missed an appointment since I was eighteen. I couldn’t reach the surgery on the phone so the part of me that expected the worst—that believed the appointment card’s threat to “charge a fee”—took over and went wild. Really wild. Realy, really—
Well, you get the idea.
For a week, I let it fester; just letting the despair gnaw away at me.
“Why bother?”, I wondered, “I’m not in urgent need of dental care, so why provoke their wrath when I could sneak away without a fine?”
You might call it procrastination; but I’d call it pro-actively avoiding an unnecessarily stressful situation.
Fortunately my self-esteem is in surplus, so, instead of letting dental check ups recede into history, I popped in to the surgery and talked to the receptionist in person. Her sole reprimand was a stiff “oooh”. That was it. That was the monster that had terrified me for a week, the monster I’d imagined would crack my bones and rend my flesh into bacon: an “ooh”. Nobody had expected me to attend because I’d not rung up and confirmed the appointment. There were no fees. No dressing down. And no worries. Yes, I am an idiot.
It’s become a cliche of sports commentary to say sport is played in the mind. Well, life is played in the mind, too. And that’s where I’m “losing it” (so to speak) – in the mind.
My life is full of fears. Not big or easily comprehensible phobias, like, say, a fear of dentists; but banal things, like missed appointments. My timorous nature and my overprotective upbringing have fused to create a personality that just wants to hide (and there was always plenty of stuff to hide behind in our house).
I am working to reprogram that learnt patheticness. Obviously it takes more than a single win to banish those fears. And they’ll be plenty more situations in which I fail. But as of today I am a little more capable than yesterday. And that’s all we can ever hope for.
Source of this post's title.
PS: I’ve spent my whole life resisting the world’s attempts to make me ‘grow up';I remember bawling my head off when moving up schools. I think deep inside of me, I recognise that becoming an adult puts me one step closer to death. So maybe my fears are just fears of dying, and, as such, am much more perceptive than the rest of you. 😛
Sometimes people don’t blog because life is going well. Sometimes they stop blogging because they’re ill. Sometimes it’s because nothing interesting is happening. And sometimes it’s because the person is too damn busy—or tired—to find the time. For me, it’s been the latter.
I’ve had side projects coming out my side projects—I’ve just finished another tranche of leaflets—and have been too exhausted to sit and cogitate and comment.
But things are settling down. And, hopefully, I’ll be round with comments over the coming month. Hopefully.
Every four years I get ridiculously optimistic about the new year.
The last time was 2008. Yes, the year the banking system collapsed. Also the year I spent six months on the dole. But the year, too, I secured my current contract; so not all bad.
2011, by contrast, has been totally shitty. It even finished with a shitty flu bug. And it’s left me piles of shit on the side, that are still waiting to be cleared up. So it’s hard to see how this year could be worse. (No! It’s okay Universe! I can imagine how it could be worse.) And I must be due a regression to mean soon. In fact, I can feel it in my soul: this is gonna be a good year.
Actually, my soul might just be channelling this: Tying Hands & Holding Shoelaces Caitlin’s Harnett’s Tying Hands and Holding Shoelaces(Warning: the button opens a pop-up window, which your browser will block.) The song’s a mesmerising net of plucked chords, gentle percussion and sudden melodic sprinkles – like an upbeat Street Spirit (Fade Out); it’s completely entrancing. And there isn’t a record whose lyrics better embody the innocent and wonder of falling in love.
So, before you get any further into 2012, listen to Caitlin. Then listen again. And then again. And maybe listen a little more, just to be sure. 2011 is dead. Buried. Let it go. Open your eyes to the possibilities around you. Let wonder infuse you. We still have another 358 chances to really screw things up. And surely one them has to pan out, hasn’t it?
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Giles Fraser writing about how #privacy was yet another of the 20th Century’s anomalies, why that means politicians might become less bland, and how we’ll all have to learn to #forgive.
That optimistic view can be contrasted with an app like Yik Yak, although according to Joanna Weiss thinks the situation may not be so bleak. She also says the app’s authors are working on ways to reduce bullying, though I could see equivalent apps emerging from less scrupulous devs.
Nice article on Maria Miller’s resignation by Debra Orr: it points at the extant positive discrimination in Westminster, separates a subtle philosophical distinction on Cameron’s motives for hanging onto Miller, and then lays into destructively radical feminism, Feminism sometimes clings too hard to a sense of identity that always equates “female” with “underdog”….Female solidarity, in which womanhood alone is the high ace in victimhood poker, is often seen as the most important thing. The idea that any woman can represent all women is clung to, even though it’s reductive and absurd.
A review of Max Tegmark’s book Our Mathematical Universe that expands on his Mathematical Universe Hypothesis.
According to this, high frequency traders have a faster link between exchanges so they can buy up shares before the order is satisfied at remove exchanges and then sell them at a profit. The solution is to delay the orders to the nearest exchanges so that they arrive roughly simultaneously.
A rather nice review of how errors in pronunciation mutate language (rebracketing – a change in word division so a nadder becomes an adder; metathesis – swapping of consonant order so waps becomes wasp; syncope – loss of sounds such as the missing t in Christmas; epithensis – where sounds are inserted so that emty becomes empty; velarisation – where L turns into a w such as in folk; affrication – the loss of y before u in tutor; spelling pronunciation – where you pronounce a word as its spelt.)
Andrew O’Hagan’s piece on his attempt to ghost Julian Assange’s autobiography is astonished. It will make you look critically at yourself.
Experts speak on the value of dredging: all it does is increase conveyance (the ability to carry water away).
This post by Robert B Weide seems to be the definitive comment on Woody Allen. It reminds you that Mia Farrow married Ol’ Blue Eyes when she was 21 and Sinatra 50 (Allen was 55 and Previn 19-21 when they started their relationship), that she had an affair with Sinatra while still in the relationship with Allen, and that she had herself broken up the relationship between André Previn and his wife. It points out she’s unwilling to denounce either her brother or Roman Polanski, both of whom have been convicted of sexual offences involving a minor. It does a good job of diffusing the circumstantial evidence—the killer blow is Woody Allen’s claustrophobic—and shows how the accusations could have come about without turning Dylan into a liar. I went into it suspecting Allen and came out far less concerned.