Unlicensed minicabs

Those of you outside London probably won't know, but London operates two separate taxi services. The familiar Black Cabs are easily spotted and can be hailed in the street. However, due to their high prices, the fact that you can't really phone one (you can, but they never come) and that they're difficult to find late at night, a parallel system of "minicabs" has grown up. These are just ordinary cars and you negotiate the fare with the driver before the journey starts. Inititally they were completely unregulated, with attendant problems, but they're now regulated by Transport for London.

TFL are running a campaign claiming that unlicensed minicab drivers commit ten rapes a month. I'm not going to challenge this statistic, but if true I don't see why this problem can't be tackled by some a very easy strategy.

Illegal minicabs are easily found. Stand outside a pub or club late on a Friday or Saturday evening and you'll be approached by loads of unlicensed cab drivers. If the police were to do this and arrest the illegal drivers for being unlicensed, they can take a swab of their DNA (we won't go into the privacy implications of this, as it's already the way things work). The swabs can then be run against the police DNA database to see if there are any matches for any of these "ten rapes a month" TFL are claiming.

So why aren't they doing this?

Oil junkies

Is it just me or is there something junkie-desperate sounding about BP and Shell's current campaigns to show how "green" they are, doing renewables research. It just sounds so much like:
"I can give up the oil any time, man. Just as soon as I finish these last few million barrels."

Brain warmer time

My sexy brain warmer

You can tell it's getting cold when I have to start wearing my sexy brain warmer on the bike. Keeps the ears warm. Holly bought it for me for Christmas last year, and it makes a real difference. Pity it makes me look like I'm in dodgy Euro porn.

In other news, I just had the satisfaction of slamming the door in a Tory's face. All she got out was "Simon Rumble? Hello I'm whatever from the Conservative Party" before the door went closed again. I'm not normally so rude, but everything about those fuckers offends me. Not to mention that our Tory fuckwit MP opposes the Congestion Charge.

Store cupboard sausage and cider casserole

There is one consolation to the weather getting cold: I get to make more delicious but ridicuously easy casseroles thrown together with whatever I have lying around. Last night was one such night.

Most people probably don't have loads of cider lying around, but I was in Somerset last weekend and stocked up. The thyme in the window box died of neglect while we were away a month or so ago, so it's kinda equivalent to dried. The sage is still going, so that's fresh.

I made this last night and it was excellent. Now I'm going to enjoy the leftovers for dinner tonight!

Cider and sausage casserole

  • 4 fresh pork sausages
  • 100g diced chopped pancetta
  • 1 large onion
  • 3 large carrots, roughly chopped
  • 1 large courgette, roughly chopped
  • 2 cups green lentils (washed)
  • 1 tbspn chicken stock concentrate
  • ~1 L traditional west country cider
  • sprig of thyme
  • 6 sage leaves
  • 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • ground pepper
  • worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tbspn cornflour

Brown the sausages over high heat in (just brown them, you're not cooking them). Remove to casserole dish. Brown the pancetta and remove to the casserole dish. Roughly slice the onion and soak up the fat from the sausages and pancetta, cooking until the onion is slightly browned. Get the oven on to 160C.

Deglaze the pan with some of the cider, scraping up all the lovely goodness from the cooking. Bung everything except the cornflour into the casserole dish and fill with cider until the liquid level is just above the solids. Season with pepper and a hefty glug of worcestershire sauce.

Place in the oven for a couple of hours, stirring occasionally. After one hour, mix the cornflour with a small amount of extra cider, until smooth, and add to the casserole to help it thicken.

I served it over cous cous, because that's what we had in the cupboard. Would work equally well (better, even) with mash, rice, whatever.

Text strike!

Last night, I sent a text message to Holly around 19:30. It arrived this morning around 07:30. Twelve hours to send about twelve bytes of payload, at a cost of 3p. It's about the most expensive data transmission system in the world, and one of the least reliable.

For this reason, I'm going to start keeping track of when this happens and demand a refund. The cost to the company will be much much more than the 3p paid for the message. Maybe they'll get the message. Holly and I are on the same phone provider, so they can't even try passing the buck to a third party, not that that would be valid anyway since they're the ones charging for the service.

Maybe you should start complaining too?

Sharon the peacemaker?

Who would have thought that Arial Sharon, the butcher of Sabra and Shatila could start to look like a peacemaker. Could it possibly be that the man has realized that humiliating the Palestinians is never going to bring stability? I'm not convinced, but will watch with interest.

Israeli politics is bizarre for someone from the Westminster style of politics. I'm used to stable governments and parties with stable (ossified?) positions. In Israel, with its proportional representation, you instead get rapidly changing alliances and policies. Compromise: the essential fuel of democracy. It's chaotic and weird, but fascinating.

Anti-strike laws: the new slavery

Today is a national day of protest against the Australian government industrial relations "reforms". For those not up-to-date, they're taking away a huge swathe of rights from Australian workers including nationally-agreed industry award rates, the right to appeal against unfair dismissal if you work for an employer with less than 100 employees, and remove penalty rates for Sundays, public holidays and unsociable hours.

Government departments have warned their staff that they could face fines and other penalties if they attend.

Here's the thing I don't get about these anti-strike laws: how can it be illegal to withdraw your labour? Isn't that just slavery under another name?

The Dismissal

On this day thirty years ago, the most important event in Australian political history of my lifetime happened, and I was only four months old.

After the opposition Liberal (that is, conservative--yeah, weird isn't it?) party held the country to ransom by blocking supply, the unelected representative of our unelected head of state sacked the government. While, obviously, I don't remember these momentous events, they have shaped the history of my country.

What I think was the most disappointing aspect of the entire affair was that in the resulting election, the Australian people rewarded the party that had held a gun to their heads by making Fraser prime minister.