Archive for March, 2007

What’s cat food made of?

March 26, 2007

catfoodWell, according to the label of this can of cheap stuff rats may have something to do with it and judging by my cats response, it could be made of rats gone bad since they would happily put their teeth in a recently deceased one but would not go near this stuff.

I have to admit that I bought this can of cat food because it’s cheap. But I am not being mean with my cats, it’s that the price of catfood has been soaring together with housing, gold and any other precious thing under the sun.

Am I the only one that thinks that there is a cartel at work to squeeze every last penny from the pockets of us feline lovers?

Two days ago I decided to give it a go at cooking my own catfood but only Bighead has shown appreciation. But Bighead is a bit wild and his diet probably includes the odd rodent with some frequency.

I tried to keep it on a budget, I used one packet of Tesco Value minced pork (1 Kg, £1) , one packet of lamb liver (1/2 Kg, £1), carrots (Tesco Value again, about 30 p for a bag that you need a wheelbarrel to carry around) and a pack of Tesco Value long grain rice ( 34 p).

I had to try it, I feed a colony of five cats that live in my back-garden (three of them are also lodgers) and on the long run that’s an expensive business. I tell myself that I have to keep them lean to bring out the best of them. A month ago one of them brought a small agonizing rodent on my doorstep, she dropped it there and looked up at me with eyes full of pride (good girl, pat pat).

That’s a positive effect of not overfeeding your cats but unfortunately a month before that it was a beautiful bird and I remember last summer when one morning I woke up and found that my garden was covered in pidgeon’s feathers. I could not find the corpse, a few days later the smell led me to the right place. But I love cats, they bring a lot of joy, I always had them around and I place them very near the top of the evolutionary scale but this doesn’t mean that I will give into the blackmail of the catfood industry, I didn’t have much luck with my first attempt but I will improve my recipe and be free.

I’ve since read a bit around the net and there’s some yummy recipes around and I learnt that I should cut on the rice and add some supplements. Will I be able to save some money also? For now I have a freezer full of packets of this stuff that I’ve cooked and that’s probably better for dogs than cats but Bighead will have to go through it anyway. I am also left with five cans of Tesco Rat Value that again only Bighead eats. Four out of five of my cats are becoming very lean and tomorrow I could find another corpse on my doorstep.

Target audience

March 24, 2007

“Excuse me Sir, do you often smoke and drink?” said the emaciated young man in the brown suit jumping in front of me after he had just recited the same line to another passerby that like anybody else had duly ignored him. I raised my eyes and looked at him. Before I could say a word or shake my head he smiled broadly and quickly added “No need to worry though!”

This is the current chat up line of young Axa insurance agents trying to sign out policies from their kiosk at Catford mall these days. And you don’t need to worry, he’s not trying to stop you harming yourself, he only wants some of your money, by direct debit.

I wonder if in other places around London Axa agents have different lines to pick on the most common risks run by people there.

In Heathrow “do you often fly?”, in Harley Street “do you often have botox?”, in Bermondsey “have you got into fights recently?”, in Soho “do you practice unprotected sex with strangers?”, in Whitehall “do you often lie to the public?”. Whatever that is you don’t need to worry, they’re not trying to stop you.

Where’s Joan?

March 23, 2007

Two weeks ago I emailed Joan Ruddock MP urging her to sign this Early Day Motion (also here) in defense of the Freedom of Information Act and I am truly surprised by the fact that she hasn’t done so yet.

I imagined that a seasoned campaigner like her would be alarmed by this wicked piece of legislation and you’d find her up in arms against the forces of reaction at work in the palaces of power. I hope that it is just a case of this matter escaping her attention.

I have to say that Joan Ruddock isn’t technically my MP as I live in Bridget Prentice’s constituency but I wrote to her for two reasons:

– the boundary of her constituency is just the end of the road from where I live (the boundary is also due to move to include where I live by the next elections);

– my MP cannot sign the Early Day Motion because she is a minister in the department that proposes this legislation.

Speaking of my personal experience, me and my associates of the Save Ladywell Pool campaign have been using the FoIA extensively and to great benefit to the public interest. With this law we could have been denied access to important documents that should have been accessible to the public in the first place but are instead kept conveniently filed in some obscure corner.

If you are a constituent of Joan Ruddock (Lewisham Deptford), please email her ( hoyleel@parliament.uk ) and ask her to add her name to this EDM and support Freedom of Information.

Wherever you live, please check if your MP has signed this EDM and in case he/she hasn’t done so yet then please urge him/her to do so.

On the map

March 22, 2007

Click me!

I found this massive rabbit in may hat

March 21, 2007

And as you’d do whenever you find a massive rabbit in your hat…I pulled it.

It’s funny how sometimes we store information somewhere, we forget all about it and then they pop out just at the right moment. That’s what happened to me yesterday as I was working, overtired from baby-care and a little light-bulb flashed over my head.

It was a straight chain of thoughts and it said to me “remember that tonight there’s the Area Forum and remember that the Constitution of the London Borough of Lewisham says that Area Forums can place items in the Agenda of the Mayor and Cabinet and there’s some stuff that could be well placed there”.

Yes, I knew that already because I had read the Constitution (not all, just bits) and because Lone Ranger had also once commented on some local blog considering how nobody ever took the opportunity.

So I sat on the computer and typed:

The Mayor is asked to agree that:

– the consultation on the Loampit Vale development carried out in October 2006 was inadequate and a new consultation should be undertaken;

– the Leisure Needs Assessment that underpinned the project for the new Leisure Centre has serious shortcomings and does not provide an adequate platform for the planning of the leisure facilities in the Borough;

– a new leisure needs assessment should be commissioned and that such assessment should consider a realistic forecast of increase in population, including the new developments at the Town Centre that are forecast by the change of UDP. It should also include those parts of the neighbouring London Borough of Greenwich falling into the catchment area as well as paying attention to the impact of the transport interchange;

– any detailed project for the new leisure centre be based on this new leisure needs assessment;

– a study of the impact of the re-location of the Leisure Centre from Ladywell to Loampit Vale should be carried out;

– a survey to assess the structural condition of the Ladywell Leisure Centre be conducted by an expert surveyor;

– the refurbishment of Ladywell Pool be costed and put to consultation as an option;

– the new leisure centre should not lose facilities compared to Ladywell Leisure Centre including a pool tank of equivalent or greater size than at Ladywell and the provision of an adequate deep end of the pool for the maintenance of scuba-diving training and the eventual re-introduction of competitive diving in the Borough;

I printed 60 copies and off with my bike just in time to speak with the Chair of the meeting and the officers about this initiative.

That was granted and the rest is history. Because I think that I made a bit of history yesterday. Oh yes, this is clearly a first. Sweet.

You can read some more here.

The Trap

March 20, 2007

Just how free are we? According to Adam Curtis – we’re not. In fact, he says that in an attempt to liberate us, Western governments have simply narrowed our choices and created a system where class and money means everything. In a series of three films, Curtis finds out how we got where we are today, and how our system of governance has led to chaos abroad. Be warned. These films may well change your life.

That was the synopsis for the Trap on BBC2 on Sunday at 9pm. I saw the first two episodes and found them fan-ta-stic!

Unfortunately there’s only one episode left. Fortunately here you can see a series of extracts that can help you prepare to see the third and last episode this coming Sunday.

Not to be missed (read this line one hundred times).

Swimming

March 19, 2007

Ladywell Pool, Mayor Bullock says it's old and crumbling down and needs demolishingIt’s now a few days since I spoke at Mayor and Cabinet meeting and I’m still processing what’s happened.

I spoke for only about two minutes as I shared my allocated 5 minutes slot with fellow campaigner Mary. I spoke on the assessment of needs. Mary tackled the appalling consultation issue.

I was slightly nervous about the risk of forgetting important parts but I think that I managed to touch on the all of the main arguments keeping it dry and factual. Only that when closing my presentation one comment that was not about background documents or numerical considerations slipped out of my mouth. I called the planned centre “unambitious”. Of course the Cabinet Member in charge of Sport skipped on everything factual that I had said and decided to pick on my comment on their ambition and spoke at length about their great ambitions. I might have believed her if I hadn’t had detailed knowledge of what she was speaking about.

“You know that I don’t have a right to give you a reply in here” I thought throughout as the she freely told me that “the new centre will have 250 spectator seats” (the old one has 514 seats), it will have a cafe (like the old one), a creche (like the old one), a …” ah well you got the picture, she kept on reading the list of the features of this new sport centre and didn’t manage to mention one thing that there isn’t already at Ladywell and that’s because there isn’t one, unlike the opposite.

What she decided to leave unchallenged is for example that the new centre will not have windows on the swimming pool room, that it will have only 1.9 m at the deep end instead of 3.8 m of the old one (so no diving boards ever again), that it will effectively be 25% smaller than the current one (since Archimedes’ times pools are measured by the volume of water they contain) and that this pool will be squeezed into a shady courtyard surrounded by 4 housing blocks with a total of 410 flats. She also forgot to say that next door, part of the same complex there’s another block with 344 flats, the other side of the road there’s another with 600 and the industrial area in front has been declared residential so that there will be a gigantic housing development there too and that 2 minutes away from there another developer is about to build 500 more flats. All this will bring many thousands of new residents to live at such close distance from this centre that their usage will mean extreme overcrowding and probably a denial of access to many of the current users that just won’t find space there.

I had suggested that all these developments should have been factored into the assessment of the need of the area and that it is astonishing that they have been overlooked but she decided not to pick on that.

Never mind, although she skipped on it I managed to say it, it’s now in the minute of the meeting, I’m now writing it here and I will of course bring the matter forward in any way possible.

But I have a feel that what she would have really liked to tell me was something else altogether and it was about their financial acumen. In fact, from a financial point of view this plan is cunning. They sell a plot of land for residential development and they force a swimming pool in the courtyard where nothing would have been built anyway. Because there’s a swimming pool the price of flats on that and surrounding developments increase and they can sell the land for more. Then when that is built they can close the old pool and they sell that land too. Now, that’s clever.

Can it be that blinded by this very clever financial plan they can’t see that the plan for the sport centre is ugly and insufficient and altogether a damage to the community? And that it is so easily demonstrable that a case for a legal challenge on their decision is a piece of cake?

I had a swim at Ladywell pool at lunchtime yesterday and the sunlight was making the pool glorious. There were lots of noisy kids that I managed to avoid even swimming underneath them at times thanks to the generous deep end . The light, the water, the space, I loved it. I thought about how would it be if it didn’t have windows and the pool was as shallow as the bog-standard British pool where everytime you dive you risk to scratch your nose on the bottom.

But of course I am unaffected by their ambition.

I haven’t mentioned the Mayor. Well, he was there and Mary even managed to get a reaction from him. I heard him saying “I’m not interested in what you say”. I hope that he later reconsidered as what she was saying was that there is very solid ground to say that the consultation they run on this scheme could be considered unlawful and that this could put all this development scheme at risk of substantial delay at the very least.

P.S.: I should bite my tongue and not comment on the Mayor’s insistence on calling Ladywell Pool decrepit or other comments alike. I thought that on this matter pictures speak louder than words. Judge for yourself.

20/03 Update: following press coverage of the meeting and a rather stiff and silly Council’s press release on the issue I posted a comment on http://www.saveladywellpool.com/.

Edit and resubmit yourself if you want to!

March 13, 2007

The Government rejected my petition and told me to edit and resubmit!

On 23rd February I submitted this petition to the E-petition site of the Govenment:

‘We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to introduce legislation restricting access to PFI contracts for the outsourcing of services statutorily or traditionally delivered by the public sector to not for profit organisations only.’

As additional information to fit within the allowed 1000 characters I wrote:

The public sector is by nature a not for profit organization and when outsourcing parts of its activity it should do so using other not for profit organizations.

Many public facilities and services are now outsourced to companies whose core interest and expertise is profit – not provision of public services.

The reason for involving the private sector in public provision is that the private sector is more dynamic and provides better expertise in the different fields of services.

With this proposal this character of the private sector would be enhanced as, free from the need to tighten up the belt to produce profits, the management of not for profit companies can work for better purposes than the interest of the shareholders and a market where management expertise and innovation in the fields of the services that are the subject of these contracts could finally emerge.

It has now been rejected!

The motivation?

Being identical to another already existing petition.

According to the No 10 Team my petition is identical to this one:

We the undersigned petition the Prime Minister to Stop any more PFI program, and work to cancel all current PFI program.

That provide as additional information:

The goverment should stop creating any more PFI program, and stop lining the pockets of private companies from the public purse.

Are these two identical?

I’ll write some more about the subject matter of my petition during the next few days.

For now I only wanted to report on this disappointing experience. I now need to concentrate on other things and that include working, baby-care and preparing for tomorrow Mayor and Cabinet meeting so I don’t have the time to write an essay on it but will do before long.

I just say that although the Government very kindly suggests me to edit and resubmit I think that I’ll decline and do it myself without letting them telling me what I am allowed to say and what I am not allowed to. Thank you very much.

Speaking at Mayor and Cabinet

March 13, 2007

I just received this email from Lewisham Council:

Dear Mr Calò

I have spoken to the Mayor regarding your request and I am pleased to say he has agreed to allocate you 5 minutes to speak on the Loampit Vale item.

Regards

Wow! Thanks Steve.

This email refers to this Mayor and Cabinet meeting that will take place tomorrow Wednesday 14th March at 6 pm at Catford Town Hall.
I now have to make sure that in those 5 minutes I manage to explain clearly enough what’s wrong with all this.

That was Michael Brecker

March 10, 2007

Micheal BreckerThe second entry for these are a few of my favorite things is dedicated to one of the greatest musicians that I ever had the luck to see performing live, Micheal Brecker.

They say that he was 57 when he passed away on 13th January this year. I am not so sure. I think that he lived a thousand lives at the same time or one could not explain how he managed to play so many gigs around the world and play in so many records if he didn’t have at least 500 years available to do so.

I was quite saddened by the fact that when he died there was no big report of his departure and the achievement of his life in mainstream media, at least not in the UK. I suspect that many music hacks regarded him as a good session man and not much more. Those misguided opinions are only the product of prejudice against his pop frequentations and are also often not immune from a dose of envy that professional critics may behold against those that can actually do something suspiciously well. In fact whenever I saw Micheal Brecker playing I was hypnotized and led to a beautiful place where I could drink at the fountain of the truth on saxophone playing.

I lost the count of the times I saw him playing. I saw him playing in trio, quartet, quintet, orchestra, acoustic group, electric group and solo.
I once managed to sneak in a theatre in the afternoon and saw him practicing, he noticed me but allowed me to stay. He was the nicest person you can think of. I kept quiet and marveled.
Once I attended a workshop with him (I play alto sax), he was very tired having of course played the previous night so he mostly sat with his sunglasses on, told us a few things about himself and very gently gave us lesson one. How to correctly mount a reed on the mouthpiece and how to break it in. Then how to make your own exercises. Sounds basic but they were probably the most useful tips on saxophone playing I ever heard.

The last time that I saw him he played solo! Everybody knows that it is not really the thing to do for a sax to play a full gig solo, it’s not that kind of instrument. Micheal Brecker knew better. I saw him, he did it. And it was great! It was here in London on 9th November 2001, at the Union Chapel.
Now browsing the net I found this recording of that very gig and it’s got excellent crisp sound too.

And as I sat listening to it the most incredible thing happened. My heart stopped, my jaw dropped! I heard my voice! The sound of Brecker’s saxophone is very clear and floating over a mesmerized audience but there is this one member of the public that from time to time you can hear loud and clear yelling for joy and that’s my voice. I’m always very expressive when I see somebody playing it right. The voice is there at start, saying yeah, then you can even hear me holding my breath (that’s what I do, I’m a very participating listener, sometimes I just can’t breathe, I can only listen), then yelling again and again and finally shouting for joy at the triumphant end. The person that recorded this unauthorized video was evidently sitting next to me.

It’s now 2:30 am, I discovered this recording three hours ago and I’m still listening to it going on a loop over and over again and I still can’t quite believe it.

Credit where it’s due: the link to the video comes from this website on Micheal Brecker that’s a work of love from a committed fan and collector.

These are a few of my favorite things #1

March 9, 2007

CrumbWith this post I’m definitely starting to take full advantage of having a general purpose blog.

This is the first of these are a few of my favorite things posts where I promote beauty according to me. Here’s a piece of advice for you in case you need a little book to keep on your coffee table to show off your high-brow taste with your guests.

R. Crumb’s heroes of Blues, Jazz & Country contains the full series of 112 trading cards that Crumb illustrated in the 80’s. The illustrations were done from photos and depict some of the best known names of American popular music like Louis Armstrong and Duke Ellington as well as some of the less known like Peg Leg Howell or Ernest Stoneman and the Blue Ridge Corn Shuckers.

The book comes together with a wonderful cd sporting 21 titles recorded between 1927 and 1931 and selected by Crumb himself that besides being a great artist is also a banjo player and the proud owner of a collection of 5000 78’s.

This book and disc combo is a fantastic trip into early popular american music. Get it and leave it on your coffee table now before you have to invent some implausible excuse to explain your guests why you haven’t got your own copy yet.

Petition Galore

March 9, 2007

Due to unexpectedly high volume of users starting petitions on the site, we are having some difficulty meeting our own targets of accepting or rejecting within 5 working days. Please accept our apologies and thanks for your patience while we catch up.

There’s a new democratic craze around Britain and everyone wants a piece of the action. The new e-petition website that the Government has started is going crazy. I signed a few of them and even submitted one. It was 23rd February, that’s 2 weeks ago now and my petition is still there, evidently held in a queue, longing for some attention from a member of “the number 10 team”.

This is my third blog!

March 9, 2007

Finally! It was a while that I wanted to start a blog just to say things that pass through my mind.

I have another blog that’s Max’s Stuff and that is for my drawings. I started that blog in May last year but I don’t really want to write much there. I have done so in a couple of occasions and those posts look slightly out of place. That’s why I now start this new blog.

I also maintain Save Ladywell Pool. I have been writing a lot of stuff there for about two years chronicling the mighty effort that I coordinated. We won and it was one of the best things that I’ve done in my life. Now that the main battle has been won posts on that site have slowed down but there are ever increasing chances of some fresh movement there very soon. In fact it looks like Lewisham Council has not learnt much from that mighty defeat and are bringing forward a plan to swindle us of our swimming pool all the same, only that they take their time with a carefully planned action. Unfortunately for them they’re not that good at that.