In Before Conspiracy Theor- Oh. Too Late!

Wednesday 7 December, 2011

It is not a good time for us LiveJournal Users, or indeed the ones who are running it.

When it’s not the bugs and the glitches from failed updates, the whole site is getting DDoS’d. We’ve had a disrupted usage and downtime every month for the past six months, and poor site service overall ever since Six Apart came along and then was sold over to SUP.

Lots of people are moving to other sites, other people are just giving up on blogging completely. The thing is, when LiveJournal works, it is the only blogging-based social-networking site (as opposed to Social-Networking based blogging sites) out there to do what it does, in the way that it does it, as well as they do it (Which says something, I know). There’s a nice mixture of a basic, steady platform that we can rely on, that the designers and developers have worked on, and a lot of room and settings to play with.

I’ll be honest, the part that we can play with has got more complicated ever since they switched their Customisation section from the old system to the new system, which limits the basic settings you can change and puts more power on customised CSS codes that can override them. For someone who knows nothing about CSS code, it’s quite daunting and sometimes frustrating. But my point is, for those who are a whiz with CSS and layout coding and such, it’s a very nice playground to be in.

You don’t get a nice balance like that on other blogging sites, not even the imitation ones like DreamWidth and InsaneJournal. DreamWidth has a small selection of default layouts and default customisations along with them and there’s not a lot of customisations you can do outside of your layout. I know next to nothing about InsaneJournal but I’ve heard it pales even more in comparison. LiveJournal allows you to do more with your profile, it has the best security control for posts that I’ve seen, the navigation is very good too. Yeah, the introduction of the Seasonal Banner left a lot to be desired, and there’s a few things that should be Opt-In rather than Opt-Out, but the best bits really are the best on offer out there.

When LiveJournal doesn’t work… Well…

The main problem is, is that by now, we’re used to the lack of communication from The Powers That Be that  now run LiveJournal. We have become very cynical to a lot of the things that the designers, developers, coders, maintenance team and customer service team say to us.

They change things “for the better” and end up making it worse, or something else worse. They recently changed the allignment for a layout called Flexible Squares. The “Glitch” by-product was that videos and pictures, no matter their original position or allignment, are now cut off either at the side or right down the middle, due to the new margins. That’s been a problem for a month and when the team first addressed the problem, they said “We know want went wrong, we’ll be releasing a new update soon that will fix it.”

A month on, we’re still waiting for that update. What is the hold up? We don’t know. We’re not even having that question answered, we’re just being ignored. They can’t even use the excuse of the most recent DDoS attack, which LiveJournal is still fighting against apparently, because they are two different groups of employees respectively dealing with the issues.

The thing is, is that all this cynicism has lead to some pretty big conspiracy theories. A lot of people are thinking that these DDoS attacks are actually downtime brought on by glitchy updates. It doesn’t matter if you tell these people that, actually, these are legitimate cyber attacks brought on by Russian Politics, these people refuse to believe it.

I can understand why. LiveJournal are doing a very poor job of defending themselves against these attacks. The attacks get bigger but we should see an exponential response of defense, and we don’t. There’s a very controvercial opinion that, even though LiveJournal is now owned by a Russian company, it was originally American so there should be two servers. One for the Russian users, and a second for the rest of us, so that we don’t suffer the consequences of politics we’re not involved with.

I don’t know whether I agree with that mindset, but I can certainly empathise with those who do. They are not Russian, they might not even be American, and they are spending money on a service that got itself tied up in something that it is too old and too weak to survive. Being involved in the Russian Politics might just be the downfall of the site and bring about the LJColypse. In their opinion, they are wasting their money. The site did used to be better, customer service wise, before the Russians took over.

And the main Russian owner doesn’t seem to care about the users outside of Russia. Up until very recently, if anything went wrong with LiveJournal, like a DDoS attack, the rest of the world found out up to two days after the Russian users did. I have personally trawled through Russian news blogs and news sites to find out information that, as a LiveJournal user, I should have known anyway. It’s like an immovable force has actually met an unmovable object, and eventually something will crack and give way.

So going back to the conspiracy theories, if LiveJournal don’t seem to be doing their best to right the situation, or preventing that the exact same things don’t happen in the future, it makes sense that people are getting suspicious. The theory that LJ are lying about a DDoS attack as an explanation of glitch-based down time is absolutely ludicrous, but some others do have a bit of foundation to them.

Like the site being down iconsequentially of the DDoS attack, just to bring about new updates. Sneaky and could actually be true. Back in 2002, on the anniversary of the 11th September attacks, Fanfiction.Net was closed down for the day in commemoration. When it came back, it turned out the admins of the site used the downtime to rid the site of NC-17 rated fanfictions.

Crime of Opportunity doesn’t seem the right phrase there, but either way, it left a lot of people unhappy and disgraced at the actions.

So that Conspiracy Theory comes from something believable. There’s no evidence I can think of to suggest it’s the case here, but I know for a fact that the FlexiSquare glitch was noticed around the time of the last DDoS attack and brushed off originally as a consequence of DDoS related bugs.

Again, LJ aren’t best known these days for their customer service and communication skills, but at least they owned up that it was actually an update glitch on top of a badly timed DDoS attack.

So what can LiveJournal do to satisfy their customers? Well, I don’t know. I have some ideas and suggestions, but nothing that would please everybody.

I know they need to deal with their server defense, because just shrugging their shoulders after it’s taken place and going “Sorry, we’re dealing with it.” doesn’t instill much confidence. They need to work on prevention.

Upping the customer communication is almost always welcomed. Issues recognised and stated etc, and apologies wouldn’t hurt either. They really need to stop fixing what isn’t broken and focus on what is broken instead. For every time they “improve” something, they bring down a backlash upon themselves because people liked it the way it was, and what’s worse, it usually breaks something else. If they just undid the update, it would fix things within seconds. Instead, they leave the new “fix” as it is and work on trying to fix the problem they caused.

They need to do something that makes us users want to stay, and not just because it’s better than the rest. If we’re going to deal with poor service from them, we might as well go deal with almost-as-good-as service from another place.

…Dare I say it? Maybe selling LiveJournal to another company wouldn’t go amiss either. I know it’s along the same lines as separating the servers, but LiveJournal seem to have both feet in the toilet and bringing down a crap storm upon them because of it. I just think maybe some separation would be beneficial someway. I mean, selling the site couldn’t cause more than there already are, could it?

In the meantime, it’s better the Devil I know for me. But don’t worry, i’m all set up for when the LJColypse does happen. Meet me at the Carousel in Fantasy Land!


London – Not The Prime Example of Wheelchair Access

Wednesday 8 June, 2011

Today, Dear Readers (if I have any, that is) I’m going to talk to you about access. I’ve probably mentioned it before, its one topic I’m very experienced in. Mainly I’m going to be talking about Access in London.

A couple of years ago, I went to London for the very first time ever. Then a few days later, I went again. The second time, my destination was Croydon, which is in Essex, which I’d always believed to be a town within the Greater London area, but perhaps I was wrong all those years. It’s probable. Anyway, I definitely went to London once, and that second time I went Via London.

Both experiences have left me wanting Never to go back to London.

Here’s why: Awful Access.

Now, I can talk until I’m blue in the face about the poor access of the public transport in Liverpool is, I can talk until I’m bluer in the face about the access of public transport in the Midlands… But London takes the cake. London, our capital city, filled with tourists every day of the year… Possibly has the worst wheelchair access I have ever experienced.

And that’s including the time I was stuck in Liverpool Town Centre for an hour and a half because not one bus driver in five buses would put the damn ramp down.

Yes, much worse than that.

You see, once you’re in London, whether you know the city outside in or not, things are not always what they seem. London depends on an array of tube stations, bus stops, taxis and bridges to get people where they need to go. Unfortunately, London didn’t get the message that wheelchair users were people too. Maybe three tube stations on the whole tube map claimed to be “wheelchair accessible”. Tube Stations are either adjoined to main train stations, or you access them via street-level stair cases, for lack of a better description. There might be a Tube Station every 50 feet or there abouts, but if you can’t get down those steps (or up steps to the platform, in one case) then you just have to keep on going until you come accross a “level-entry platform”.

The problem is, these “level-entry platforms” still aren’t wheelchair accessible. There is still a massive drop between the Tube doorway and the platform, and the staff didn’t know what to do. One woman claimed she wasn’t meant to touch passengers, a late night security guard told us there was a wheelchair accessible tube down the road (There wasn’t, the station we were at WAS the so called wheelchair accessible station) and refused to be of any help. And then there was the fellow who sent me and my friend to the wrong station with no way of getting anywhere else, because it was the only wheelchair accessible tube/train station for our destination. And it was closed.

Maybe they thought we’d all, as in those of us in wheelchairs, would just like to see the tubes and observe them, not actually go anywhere on them, because I can’t see any logic in naming something as wheelchair accessible when its anything but.

So, OK, the tubes out. There’s other options like taxis.

To be honest, taxis have been the bane of my existence since I was 5 years old. Its a personal grudge, but when desperate times call for desperate measures, one can’t be choosy.

Unless a very expensive London taxi wasn’t in your budget, and you’d already paid so much on the train ticket to get you to your chosen destination. One might suggest that when you’re in a city you don’t know, one has to be prepared for emergencies. We were, but its the principle of the thing.

If I was an average human being, I’d be able to travel on your average public transport. Why should a disabled person pay through the nose for other people’s failings. Don’t we deal with enough rubbish from society?

And then there’s the bus… Now, actually, as far as wheelchair access goes, the London bus I got on to at night, when I was at the end of my tether with public transport, was very good. Automatic ramp, accepted my national bus pass. There was an issue of a nark of a bus driver being very unhelpful to my friend, who needed to buy a ticket, but access wise, I was lucky. Smoothest part of touring London.

My only issue with the buses is that they don’t seem very… Reliable. My guess is that it was only so easy at that point, was because it was gone 11 at night. Earlier in the day and it might have been a very different story.

And that was two different days, with two different friends, to two different destinations. Both riddled with access problems, impending arguments with station managers, redirections and un-anticipated long walks.

London, the capital of Britain. Not really setting an example for the rest of the UK, is it? And I can only imagine what disabled Tourists would think! Never again, not on my life.


Blogging Woes

Friday 1 April, 2011

Have I ever mentioned that I have too much to say? Funnily enough, when I don’t have enough to say or can’t say what I want to say, I end up repeating myself an average of five times about things I’ll have already mentioned.

The reason why I bring this up is because I wanna blog about something that has bothered me all day, but I think I’ve already LJ’d enough for today (Yes, I know. It’s such a shock that I have a not-so-secret-but-kinda-sort-of-i-guess* Livejournal…) and will be abusing my Flist for the next month as it is. So here I am.

Everytime LJ is down, there’s talk of the LJColypse. And this is with every outage, server crash, DDoS attack, random down time, storm-related static interference, news that users don’t like, army of flying monkies, you name it, The Suspected Death of LJ comes up.

Now, I don’t think LJ is about to die sometime soon, but, as I said to one fellow LJ user today:

I’m sure this time won’t cause the end of LJ, but it will probably come at some point and I think with all the problems LJ’s been having, and the fact that so many users are leaving for not-so-greener-in-my-opinion pastures, we might see the end sooner than we expect it. So to play it safe, it’s best to back up in anticipation than have the rug pulled out from under our feet. I’m trying to decide whether doing it the way I linked to above, or Manually posting every single entry of mine into a new journal somewhere… because i’m THAT invested!

And the more we all got to talking about What We’d Do If LJ Was Taken Down Tomorrow, the more the more invested of us became paranoid. I ended up backing up my whole LJ using something called xjournal, and I have a lot of entries! I’m guessing the fellow I spoke to is also backing up his LJ. People joined the community-in-which-we-were-talking-about-this’s own facebook, and people were even talking about this facebook:

http://www.facebook.com/#!/group.php?gid=44348833446

It’s called “The Livejournal Lifeboat”. It’s quite ingenius, if not a little bit sad, that someone’s thought of making a facebook group based on what our parents tell us when we’re kids. When/If we get seperated, lets all meet at a place. There’s something sad, defeatest, Post-apocolyptic about that, isn’t there? Or is that just me?

So I’ve joined. And I’ve been agonising all night what site I should go to in the event that LJ dies. Now, for the moment, I don’t have to go to Any site. I’m not looking to relocate any time soon, you know? But if the rug is pulled out from under me, I want to be prepared.

I’ve got it narrowed down to three places:
InsaneJournal
Dreamwidth
Wordpress (If I can understand it)

I’d also willingly consider DeadJournal as a joke…

I wouldn’t consider here, it hasn’t exactly got the security settings I’d want.
I wouldn’t consider Tumblr for two reasons. The first is for the same reason as above, and also, it isn’t exactly the best place to blog. It’s more of a sharing-awesome-stuff kind of blogging place, not really a place to “Blog” in the good ole fashioned definition of a term.

But wherever I go, would anyone else follow me? Am I the only one This invested into my Journal? Well, going from my post earlier on the subject, No. But for those of us who are that invested in our journals, we’re in the minority. Which is, again, kind of sad.

So this has been on my mind for the majority of the day. Will we all shrug off our LJ families and communities, and history on there, and move on to greener pastures, whatever they may be? Or will we meet up at the carousel and work it all out from there?

Or, I suppose this might be a novel idea, give up the life of an internet blogger and go back out into the real world?

The real world… with real people and shops. I don’t think it’s for me. After all, if I was, would I be this concerned about LJ dying in the first place?

*It’s secret in the sense that I don’t want too many people connecting this account with my LJ, nor many people connecting my LJ with here.


Am I on the Outside Looking in?

Thursday 3 March, 2011

If there’s one thing I will hold my hands up and admit to, it’s that despite being a card carrying member of The Disabled Wheelchair Users Society, I know next to nothing on the culture, and yet I am always in the position of explaining disability-related things to people. The blind leading the blind, as it were…

Driving lessons, for example. When I booked my very first driving lesson, I sat there arguing for over 5 minutes with two different customer service workers from the BSM over whether disabled people could or couldn’t drive. The first person gave up and passed me on to their colleague, who explained calmly to me that if I drove a manual, I’d need at least one functioning leg for the clutch. I calmly told him that that was why disabled people who couldn’t use their leg tended to learn in automatics. I don’t even know anything about cars, that was just what someone had told me when I was first looking into driving lessons.

You’d think that these people, being the first people that potential learners interact with, would know some things about their company in order to keep the faith of the customers.

Alas, it seems like Logic is akin to Common Knowledge, and Common Knowledge is rarely so common.

Which takes me on to my point. You’d think that I, being the actual disabled person, would know a few common tricks of the trade when it comes to being disabled, but alas, I know next to nothing and it’s not like we’re given a “So you’re disabled” booklet to learn these things from. No, we know from people telling us, people passing on the messages, therapists, doctors, nurses… or at least we should be told. That’s not my experience. I’ve been handed tools and pieces of paper yet not how to do the exercises, as it were.

My latest problem is reading. It’s always been a problem, with my arms that are too long for my body, my stunted body being unable to curve at the spine (At least, not intentionally. I had Unintentionally down to a T, but then they put in the rods!). I could never read in bed because I couldn’t read lying down, if I read on my stomach I had to have a lot of pillows propping me up to the perfect angle. Until recently, my favourite position was sat cross legged on my bed or the floor, elbows resting on my knees so that I could hold up the book almost right in front of my face.

Now I can’t lean forward, I can’t rest my elbows on my knees and I definitely can’t sit cross legged. Even the most comfortable position right now only lasts about 15 minutes. How do I read?

For not very long, is the obvious answer. In pain is the more “woe is me” approach. But awkwardly would be hitting it right on my head. I half lean on my left side, whilst propping my side and back up with a pillow, the way it needs to be at ALL times, and holding myself up by way of left elbow resting on said pillow. Right leg bent for my fore arm to lean on, left leg straight as that’s the only position possible right now (maybe ever), book held awkwardly with both hands. 5 minutes later, a position change is needed or a rest.

I read Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince in maybe 18 hours tops, excluding the three hour break I had to take whilst I whinged my heart out. Now i’m reading a book about the same size. It’s taken 3 days to get to 100 pages.

So I genuinely am left wondering; how do people similar to my situation and worse do it? When I was in school, I remember one friend had all of the school books he’d need, on computer with an interactive device. Sort of like an E-book, but also like a game. Now we’ve exploded with e-books for Kindle and the like, I suppose that would be the latest answers.

But I have over 100 books. I don’t want to re-buy all of my books just so that I can read in comfort. There has to be a solution out there. Or am I doomed never to read again? (Because out of principal, I refuse to pay again for something I already own)

I can’t and won’t believe that this is a problem that Hasn’t come up before. I refuse to believe that fellow people with mobility and comfort problems, who need customised equipment to assure comfort and a steady posture, have forsaken reading just because there was nothing out there to make it an accessible hobby for them!

Can we Have a Civilisation, here? Show me the way!


Am I Too Young to be a Fan of The Proclaimers?

Sunday 23 January, 2011

As I’ve said before, or at least inferred it, I don’t change over the years. I just take how I used to be and add to it as I go along. My life is one big collection of everything I’ve ever been in to.

One of these things are The Proclaimers. Charlie and Craig Reid. I can’t tell them apart, and I didn’t hear much of their music, but the music I did hear, I knew and I loved. Lots.

I was maybe twelve when I really knew 500 Miles. And whilst it wasn’t one of my “Oh My God – Head Buzzing!” songs, it was up there. It’s one of those songs where you’re either lame for knowing all the words to, or you’re really awesome, and I’ve been both.

The second song I got to know was, naturally, Letter from America. My dad would go on about the random ill-fitting rhyming of America with Canada. I disagreed, I thought it was done quite well. I didn’t even know there was a political meaning to it until three years ago!

The third and fourth songs come hand in hand because of the little story that accompanies it. I’m On My Way and Don’t Turn Out Like Your Mother. I don’t know whether I already knew of the songs or not, but I don’t think i’d have had any way of knowing about these songs if it weren’t for I’m On My Way being on the Shrek soundtrack. So I’m guessing it was the constant play on the radio that caught my attention. From there, I had to listen to it all the time and 500 Miles, and Letter from America altogether and I used the Yahoo music video service to watch it. It was never something to depend on but it was great for the purpose at the time. Sometimes the next video was something unrelated, sometimes it was related by sounds-like bands, sometimes it was another song by the same band that you’d already listened to.

One day when I was listening to I’m On My Way, the next track started with a very low voice saying “I’m a grown man, I’m over 21. I’ve got an ugly face but I have a lot of fun”. It wasn’t The Proclaimers, which was made very obvious when the voice cut out, there was a suspended chord for a few seconds to fill the air and then BAM, heavy death metal bursting into my earphones. I still to this day don’t really know what that was about, other than a heavy death metal cover of Don’t Turn Out Like Your Mother.

I didn’t think about it for a while, but I had to Google it eventually because those two lines about being ugly stuck with me. Low and behold, I found The Proclaimer’s did a song with those lyrics.

Recently, thanks to Spotify, I’m able to listen to any and all available songs by The Proclaimers whilst I save up the funds to buy all of their albums. The songs remind me of when I first listened to them, other times I listened to them, special times I listened to them, how I felt, how they cheered me up, where I was and why and how I came to listen to them.

They’re very underrated. They’re very political, which I didn’t even realise until a while ago when I read about it all. But you know what? Come rain or shine, these guys have music for all occasions. They’re perfect for post-midnight blues, too.

I would love to see these guys live. It would be a dream come true. And hopefully saying that won’t jinx them in any way, because the last time I said that about a band, they broke up a week later. (Sorry, The Calling!)

So, thank you, Charlie and Craig for existing and giving us all this amazing music. I may have been too young when you first released your biggest hits, but I’ve been on board for 10 years now. That’s got to count for something!


We Don’t Need No Education… ?

Saturday 8 January, 2011

It shouldn’t do, but it still surprises me when I realise how much government-funded associations fail as the go-to people in this country.
They want people to eat healthier, but they’ve hiked up the price of the healthier foods in shops, not sure the details behind that though. Wholesale prices have risen, so our local fruit and veg shops also have to hike up their prices, making them no contenders in competition against the super markets.

Unhealthy and more accessible foods remain the cheap alternatives.

They want more people to adopt healthier life styles, but they’ve got rid of most of the easy-access healthy lifestyle schemes throughout the whole country. That means those who were eligible for it, their target audience being the elderly and essentially the poor who can’t be full members of a full-time gym, can no longer take part. Kind of puts everybody back at square one…

Then there’s education. I don’t know what the government think they’re doing with all these academies when nobody wants them, and the ones that are already around have already proved themselves worthless. The education board are looking in to buying every kid a Kindle, so that there bags are lighter, yet they can’t pay for more resources, and some schools can’t even pay for up-to-date textbooks, or enough teachers to cover every subject.
And I remember being twelve. I remember being scared of breaking school property and ruining my text books, yet all the lads in my year flinging their bags around, kicking them under desks, dumping them down in the mud to play football in the rain. The education board thing it’s a good idea giving kids who can’t even keep their uniforms mark-free for a day expensive things like Kindles? Or even worse, iPads?

I’d like to not go into Education Transport because I know it’s not relevant to your average school goer, but it’s something that a lot of people Should know about. It’s important. When I was in school, I was an unfortunate victim of educational transport due to my disability. Don’t get me wrong, for the most part it was ok. Except I couldn’t stay after school for extra curriculum activities, and that’s where many friends are made and interests and hobbies are honed, and then when I got older, I missed most of my GCSE revision lessons due to them being after school and during holidays. It didn’t get so bad until the educational board swapped efficiency for cost-effective. Taxis and small mini-buses were swapped for massive mini-buses. I was late every day to college, I didn’t get back before 5:15 every night, and my social life never improved.

I’ve heard it’s gone even more down hill since then.

It’s obviously a case of the bigwigs at the top, once again, making all the major decisions which affects everybody else but them. They’re not the ones having to depend on the service, but i’m sure if they did it would be vastly improved. I’m sure they’d have something to complain about if they were told they’d just have to deal with being late for an important meeting which could mean the end of their career. I’m sure they wouldn’t like being told that the people behind the service they have no option but to depend on, are doing the best that they can do to assure they’re doing their best and would be surprised to hear anyone depending on the service are at risk of losing their job because they’re always late.

Change meeting and job to exam and any worthwhile education and you have pretty much the average experience of everyone I shared a mini-bus with.

The worst is the state of our libraries. I’m not sure whose behind it, but libraries are in danger because apparently, they’re not keeping up with todays trends. Let me tell you this, it’s not that they’re not keeping up with today’s trends, it’s that their not helping intergrate the latest trends with the old trends of using a library.

My local library has an online catalogue. I’m sure everyone’s local library does. But I can put in any top authors into the database and every search comes out “No results found”. Does this mean that the library doesn’t have any books by these authors, or does it mean that the database hasn’t been kept up-to-date? Your average potential library user probably has more important things to do than go to a library on a chance to see whether or not it has a book that every library should have, and probably chooses to pay out for a certainty at a book shop instead. People need to know there’s a reason they should go there, it’s not enough to say “Hey, we’re a library, you should assume we have what you need.”

I now find it completely pointless to struggle going to the library myself, due to not being able to take the time to find it and look around once i’m in there. There should be a Home Service for “the elderly and infirm”. Not only is this completely marketed to an O.A.P, which I find a little insulting, but also to get such services, you need to go for an assessment appointment at the nearest major library. I have history with said main library, but unfortunately, it’s back where I used to live and nowhere near where I live now.

If this is a service designed for the house-bound, how are they meant to go to a land far, far away to be assessed as eligable for such a service?

It’s a cruel irony. The social services and government is all a cruel irony.

Well, I suppose we are British after all. In some ways, it’s poetic justice. But god, I wish someone would, for one minute, think these things through and actually do something to help instead of creating these loop holes that allows them to refuse their own services to people who it’s targeted at.


The Deep Freeze

Friday 3 December, 2010

My brain is clearly affected the same way by snow and extreme cold as my whole country is: very badly. It should be impossible for my brain to freeze up like it had, I can blog about almost anything if I needed to. It wouldn’t be interesting, it might not even be that long, but By George! I could do it.

Just apparently not in cold weather. Which puzzles me. Not so much my brain, or even my body which doesn’t react to cold temperatures very well either, but this country. We’re pretty impressive in our capacity to complain about the weather. It’s a stereotype but stereotypes start somewhere and this one really is true. We complain when it’s too hot and can’t do anything and we complain when it’s too cold and can’t do anything, but either way, speaking in terms of temperatures, it’s not actually that bad.

In Australia, for example, you literally could fry an egg on the sidewalk on one of their cooler warm days. Same goes for parts of America on their ridiculously hot days. When we approach mid-twenties C, this country panics, yet that’s pretty average for a normal summer day in Australia.

We start worrying whether things will start to melt, people getting heat stroke, old people start to actually die passed the thirties, and then there’s hilarious but inevitable hose pipe ban. Remember this year’s? We had a week of gorgeously warm weather, the water levels dropped so they imposed a hose pipe ban. Remember what happened next?

It rained. A lot. Frequently, as is this country’s fashion. It was ridiculous. But not as ridiculous as we get in the winter.

If you’d have looked out the window these past few days, you’d be forgiven for thinking events from The Day After Tomorrow were actually happening. Flights were affected, trains were affected, buses were affected, roads were affected, schools were closed down, people started panic buying and the inevitable talk about elderly people affording their central heating took place on the news.

I’m thinking this was a sign from some higher power, giving us some proper news for once instead of incessantly talking about the engagement and pending marriage of Prince William and Kate Middleton. Well, it taught us, didn’t it?

If there’s anything we know how to do, it’s to make the weather into news. Not just one piece of news, but everything related to or affected by the weather is reported. The safety concerns about flying because the snow and ice on the runway makes it difficult to land, concerns about the engines freezing over despite the extreme temperatures planes must face when they’re flying in the sky. Train lines freeze over, that’s a story about efficient train services and the amount of money that goes into public transport. Poor innocent travelers are being stranded because of trains, they’ve got no other option than to get the train and without trying to battle through, they wouldn’t be able to get to work. So when the trains go down, there’s more replacement bus services on, but they depend on the roads and the roads are a state! Last time there was heavy snow fall, there was a grit and salt shortage. Would this happen again? What about the lorries filled with food for shops, will they be able to get through?

I’ve never understood the logic that delayed lorry deliveries mean that people should panic buy. If people didn’t panic buy, the stock left in the shops would last longer. If more people followed this logic, this wouldn’t make the news every year.

And that’s what that is. That big paragraph above? That is every single article and headline premise in the last 5 days. For a very conserved country, seen as The Good British Folk With The Stiff Upper Lip, we’re quite melodramatic.

Scandinavian countries, even some of the Shetland Islands here, face this kind of temperature everyday. I don’t see their country grinding to a slow, frozen stop. They still have trains, they still have other forms of transports and if planes couldn’t fly in -5 degrees C, nobody would be able to fly in or out of Sweden for most of the year. It’s ridiculous.

We’re ridiculous. We’d probably not believe the end of the world is here every time snow hits in Winter, if we just knew that life can carry on with the snow. Train Services, I’m mainly looking in your direction.


This is a public service announcement

Saturday 27 November, 2010

As the title and address of this blog, I was indeed a twenty-something journalism student, and failed because I dropped out. There are reasons behind this that I won’t go into but a lot of it had to do with the university course being complete shambles.

I still think I have something, though. At the very least, it’s the skill to fill a blank space with words.

This space, right now, is dedicated to wheelchair access. After all, not many other places seem to want to give it or put much thought behind what “wheelchair access” or “disabled access” means.

At the very least, it means access or facilities designed to help those with a wheelchair or physical disability or impairment to become equal with their peers and fellows. Why is this so hard to understand?

Disabled toilets should probably have hand towels that people from wheelchairs can reach instead of being 3 feet above the sink, as well as bins that aren’t foot-pedal operated. In an accessible toilet, I know for a fact that the target users are very unlikely to be able to use it. Exceptions to the rules and all that but, think about it, please? There’s also issues with taps that some people can’t grip or push down on. Lever handles would be ideal for the majority, motion sensored ones even more so.

Buses? Don’t even get me started on buses. I don’t think any proper planning went onto wheelchair access on a bus. The driver’s hardly know there’s a fold out ramp, or how to use it. There’s a lot of drivers who refuse to get out of their cab to see to it, or even acknowledge it and will drive away from the curb so that the wheelchair can’t even try and argue.

When the driver does bother, it’s as almost as if it’s the person in the wheelchair’s fault that the bus is a few seconds, or maybe even minutes, held up. It’s not. It’s the bus company’s and sometimes even the driver’s, but it is never the passenger’s. Staring at a user with contempt because they are struggling to fit into the sorry excuse for a wheelchair space before the bus can leave the stop is not helpful. It’s rude, it’s ignorant and it’s misdirected.

And Banks! Listen up HSBC in Southport, Lord Street. You have steps that imitate the steps of the Philadelphia Museum of Art and no wheelchair access. You don’t even have the cop out that other buildings supply in the form of a doorbell, or if you do, a person in a wheelchair has no way of getting to it. Sort yourselves out, get a ramp, automatic doors and accessible ATMs because right now, an independent person in a wheelchair (And yes, there are a few. They’d probably be more if everywhere was as accessible as they make themselves out to be) has no hope of getting in to that bank, and seeing as HSBC debit cards have the horrible tendency to not work in other ATMs, you’re really intruding on a wheelchair users day. If they have no access to ATMs, they have no access to money.

Last but not least, i’d like every where with a ramp to employ a person in a wheelchair and get them to asses it. A ramp doesn’t automatically mean a person in a wheelchair can access the premises or the facilities. There are many, many train stations who have ramps that go underground as an alternative to the steps to get to the otherside of the tracks. They are so steep, they are dangerous, even with someone in control of the wheelchair from behind. It helps fuel the attitude that every person with a physical disability, whether they have a wheelchair or not, should always have a carer or assistant with them. They have the right not to if this is the only thing that keeps them from independent.

It is disgusting. I’m looking at you, local councils. Fix it, deal with it, get people who actually need to use these facilities, more than one to represent a variety of conditions, and do as they say.
Someone who is able bodied in a stock wheelchair is not an option. They have full range of movement and good amount of power in their arms. They have a full range of vision and no body parts sensitive to jolts. They will not be able to assess fully what is or isn’t safe or good use to a disabled person.


A Personal Opinion That Might Lose Me Friends

Wednesday 24 November, 2010

If I was the queen of the world, I would ban smoking and increase the prices of alcohol. Why? Because i’m a power crazy extremist who just wants people to suffer…

No, not really. It’s really because no good comes of smoking. Seriously, I don’t care how many people say they’ve known people who’ve smoked all their life and have been fine and infact, they died of something Completely Unrelated, the point is that no one is effect-free from smoking. It’s alright if it just destroys their own bodies, but it doesn’t. Breathing conditions/asthma is caused and worsened respectively by second hand smoke and the junk from it lingering on clothes and hair. The chances and frequency of Emphysemia, which now has to be politically-correctly called COPD, and lung cancer would probably lesson, seeing as smoking is the leading cause of them.

Why go through all that when the simple solution is to just not start in the first place or give up? Not to mention how ruthless some people can be to be able to smoke. It’s not just a case of “Don’t like? Don’t go there”. It’s a case of “You wanna smoke? You go into a place that is FOR smoking and shower on your way back out, and don’t come crying to me when it starts to kill you because you were warned and now your dying before your time”. It wrecks families and lives and it is SO easily avoided.

As for alcohol, too many young kids get smashed every weekend and binge drinking culture is wrecking a lot of cities in the UK, and people don’t seem to care that they lose control when they get black out drunk and pull stupid stunts. Accident and Emergency departments of hospitals get flooded with people who are hurt in some way due to binge drinking, or are suffering from alcohol poisoning.

And finally on the topic of drugs… There needs to be more control so that people know exactly what they’re getting in to when they start them. I have been told by too many people that there’s nothing in poppers or speed or E and that the side effects of coke are all exaggerated to scare people, and yet a week later people die through taking those exact things. I’m no drug expert, but i’m pretty sure that there is going to be some side effect if the drug is used to alter the natural chemical reactions in your body. And the so called safe legal alternatives? Just got classed worse than the illegal ones and are now also illegal.

I hate to say I told you so, but…