“People aren’t protesting for the right to BE waitresses and hairdressers, they’re fighting for the right to HAVE them.”

This is the sound of a nail being hit squarely on the head (video in the link).


Hate crimes and political shenanigans

Neil Mackay in The Herald writes about SNP factionalism:

The SNP has always had a fractious, bitter, conspiratorial base, which some politicians have pandered to in the past. Now, it seems as if the base is coming overground, as if the base is set on taking the party over.

…will I ever vote SNP again? What if I vote SNP in 2021, backing Sturgeon’s vision for Scotland, and end up with something very different if she’s dethroned, something which I’ve no trust in, and which, frankly, repels me?

I reckon many moderate Yes voters like me – greatly discomfited by nationalism, but hopeful that a better Scotland can be forged away from the failed Westminster model – would think twice about voting for an SNP without Sturgeon at the helm.

And in The Scotsman, justice secretary Humza Yousaf responds to lurid claims that the Hate Crime Bill will criminalise freedom of expression.

The Bill’s provisions on freedom of expression provide reassurance that stirring up offences will not unduly restrict people’s right to express their faith, or to criticise religious beliefs or practices or sexual practices. Freedom of expression is not without limit, but this Bill will not inhibit controversial and challenging views being offered as long as this is not done in a way that is threatening or abusive.


It’s time to reopen Jurassic Park

Carlos Greaves, writing for McSweeney’s:

Hello, Peter Ludlow here, CEO of InGen, the company behind the wildly successful dinosaur-themed amusement park, Jurassic Park. As you’re all aware, after an unprecedented storm hit the park, we lost power and the velociraptors escaped their enclosure and killed hundreds of park visitors, prompting a two-month shutdown of the park. Well, I’m pleased to announce that, even though the velociraptors are still on the loose, we will be opening Jurassic Park back up to the public!



Did your employer just requisition your home?

A thought-provoking piece by Dr Fiona Jenkins:

Although many employers are certainly being supportive, let’s not forget that those who until recently took their homes for private space are not gaining a privilege right now, but losing a set of prerogatives

…so “working from home” at present means something like this: employers have requisitioned the home as a condition of continuing to work, and they have taken away the office as part of what was previously offered to enable people to work.

I’m putting together some notes just now for people who are new to working at home. I work full-time from home and my work area is set up accordingly, not just with computer equipment but with furniture and accessories, some of which cost a lot of money. I chose my flat with the expectation of working from home, so it has sufficient space to do so; and the costs of working from home have been factored into the money I charge my clients.

But many people who are currently working from home have not got properties that are suitable, do not have appropriate equipment or furniture, and are not being compensated for the extra expenses of working from home – expenses not just including heating but the extra cost of electricity, of possibly requiring better broadband and so on.

And of course, those of us with children have to deal with the fact that schools are closed. I co-parent, so my children are not here all the time; I work on the days they are not. That isn’t an option for couples who may both be working at home.

Jenkins rightly points out that some employers are accommodating. She gives the example of an employer deciding that a 25-hour working from home week is full time. But many are not, and the costs their newly home working employees are incurring may be significant.


While I am completely behind the move to lockdown, and grateful to have an employer carefully addressing the issues so that we can maintain our core work, I worry that caught up in the urgency of crisis we risk forgetting just how problematic the “working from home” pillar of our strategy for mitigation is in multiple respects. Just because we accept the necessity of action in the context of emergency should not mean that we do not question its further implications and its practice.



Free course: gender representation in the media

You don’t have to feed your mind during lockdown, of course. But if you’re looking for something to interest, enrage and enthuse you Strathclyde University has a free course on gender representation in the media. I’m on week 3 and I’m finding it fascinating and thought-provoking.

The course is here. It’s hosted by Futurelearn, which does all kinds of free courses: a couple of years ago I signed up for one about forensics, because I thought it might be interesting. It was, and now I know how to get away with murder. Probably.


“There’s something quite transcendental about making love with a dolphin”

Just because it’s the end of the world doesn’t mean there isn’t plenty of stuff to laugh at. This, from the Mirror, had me in tears.

Man had sex with a dolphin called Dolly for a year – and claimed she seduced him

Almost every paragraph has a killer line, such as:

“At first I discouraged her, I wasn’t interested. After some time I thought ‘if this was a woman would I come up with these rationalisations and excuses’?”


Free videos for schoolchildren from the BBC

BBC Teach has thousands of free videos, mapped to the curriculum, for primary and secondary schools. It’s a fantastic resource for parents that also offers advice to those of us suddenly and unexpectedly running a school in our homes.


Free audiobooks for children

Audible, the Amazon-owned ebook service, is offering free audio stories for children for as long as the schools are closed. 

It’s a pretty good selection, ranging from classics such as Winnie the Pooh and White Fang to more contemporary Audible originals. I think it’ll come in handy on a rainy day.


A bag for life

This is my bag. There are many like it, but this one is mine.

My bag is an Animal, canvas and khaki. It was a present from my daughter nearly three years ago, a happy gift during a sad time.

Since then my bag and I have been inseparable. It has felt my nervous hands shake in doctor’s waiting rooms and seen me bounce around stages and dance floors. It has transported red wine into dry venues, sweets into cinemas and home comforts into hospital wards.

My bag has carried birthday presents and bottles of pills, iPads and injections, capos and co-codamol, hairbrushes and hand sanitisers, wine and wigs. It’s been to museums and to meetings, to parks and parties, to solicitors and salons. The badges it has worn so brightly, the rainbows and unicorns and statements and slogans, have brought me many Subway smiles, knowing nods and sour stares.

Like me, my bag has seen better days. Its back is threadbare from years against my hip, its khaki green dyed blue from a parade of new blue jeans. Its straps are worn and twisted, the little love hearts that hide underneath the fabric faded by friction. And like me, it has started to take shapes its creator surely never imagined.

I have another bag ready, another Animal. It’s like my bag, but it isn’t my bag. Not yet. But I know that it’ll soon be time for me and this bag, my bag, to say goodbye.

If my bag could talk, if it asked me, “was I a good bag?”, how would I answer?

I’d answer:

Yes, you were a good bag.

You were my bag.


So long, and thanks for all the fish

(Update: the dolphin photos were fake news: the images are from Sardinia where our marine mammal pals are regularly spotted. But the sentiment still stands)

I’ve given up trying to predict the things that make me cry these days. The latest ones were images from Italy showing the now-clear water teeming with fish and even dolphins.

The water has cleared up because there aren’t so many humans zooming around and churning up sediment, but the photos also reminded me of the satellite images of Coronavirus-hit towns and districts across the world: where previously they sat under a permanent cloud of man-made pollution, the pollution is gone.

It sometimes feels as if Covid-19 is Mother Nature giving us the mother of all hints: if this is how you’re going to behave, I’m better off without you. Coronavirus isn’t the end of the world; it’s a teaser trailer for the bigger, more frightening versions that are coming if we continue to pursue a model of economic growth no matter what the consequences.

The dolphins also reminded me of this, by the late, great Douglas Adams.

Curiously enough, the dolphins had long known of the impending demolition of Earth and had made many attempts to alert mankind to the danger. But most of their communications were misinterpreted as amusing attempts to punch footballs, or whistle for titbits, so they eventually gave up and left the Earth by their own means – shortly before the Vogons arrived. The last ever dolphin message was misinterpreted as a surprisingly sophisticated attempt to do a double backwards somersault through a hoop, whilst whistling the ‘Star-Spangled Banner’. But, in fact, the message was this “So long and thanks for all the fish”.