Thought, experience and memory from a brain in a jar, one that sometimes has control over a thirty-two-year-old Londonite.

My Photo
Location: Herne Hill, London, United Kingdom

29 June, 2005

Sleep-walking into Totalitarianism

Well the bill got through, but the war's not over. Annoyingly there were enough abstentions by Labour MPs to kill it at this stage, but so it goes. I'm continuing to send out letters - even to the "aye" Jowell. My main focus at the moment is the way in which it is being suggested the cards will only cost £30, and the possibility, as mentioned below, that the marked up passports are there to pay for the unnecessary NIR.

First up, to Tony Blair:

"Given that the required biometric passports do not require a National ID Register to back it up, and that the treasury has refused to fund it, the NIR will presumably be paid for by the 'less than £30' per ID card. Given the alarming cost of the less ambitious NHS database scheme, how do you expect a budget of £1.8 billion to cover the creation and implementation of the NIR and pay for the production of the ID cards themselves?"

I sent this through the website, but naturally he's a busy man, so I might send this by other means also. I've decided to start writing letters to newspapers also.

28 June, 2005

And On A Lighter Note

Came across this while exploring Pledgebank. And how could I resist?

ID Card Bill - Round 2

The Bill gets voted on, if not debated, today, and the climate has become intensely hostile towards the Bill.

The Information Commissioner has spoken out against the plans, saying they are too costly and intrusive.

The LSE report has been published, and despite not looking at full implementation costs or the effects of civil disobedience, is still way over the Home Office figures. The Home Office has suddenly turned round and reverted to their thirty pound figure, claiming that the rest of the cost will be met by the "needed" upgrade to the passport. Leaving aside the fact that passports are voluntary (so who meets the cost of cards for those without?), the biometrics planned for the passports are far beyond what is required.

The "mark up" on passports to make them biometric in line with international guidelines is far in excess of that being made by other Governments, largely because other countries aren't going completely overboard by bringing in National Identity Registers. We are required to have passports that contain a digital image of the user and nothing more. Personally I wouldn't have much of a problem (alright, a small one) if my passport had a thumb print or iris scan embedded in the card, as long as it wasn't recorded anywhere else. To me it's just a spit and a throw from a photo anyway. What Labour have in mind is something else; a vast and intrusive database recording our entire lives and a card all set to become an internal passport. Blair is blatantly attempting to massage the figures a la "It's a free car with a pint of petrol. The pint of petrol costs £20,000."

What makes the above even more disgusting is that it is a blatant lie. When the passport costs are removed from the LSE figures, (I have no HO figures, naturally), the costs lie between £6.6 and £15.209 billion. So either the LSE's figures are catastrophically awry or, as many critics are suggesting, the massive price increase on passports is to pay for the register, not the biometric passport.

26 June, 2005

Mike's Birthday Drinks

Ian, Jon, Mike & Justin
Ian, Jon, Mike & Justin,
originally uploaded by Simon Scott.
We descended on the Yorkshire Grey to celebrate Mike Scott's birthday (no relation). I got frightfully bladdered and had a heated discussion with Julian about Michael Jackson, before Ian called loudly across the booth "Simon, are you loudly discussing liberal opinions about paedophilia?" I'd taken umbrage at Julian's curtain twitching brand of centreless morality, y'see. Easily done. And Alison delighted me by saying she reads my blog. That's someone then!

23 June, 2005

Le Monde Rich

Went to Richmond yesterday for a game of Go with Daniel. It was probably the most enjoyable game we've played to date. When we started, Dan had been utterly addicted to TurboGo, and regularly trounced me. We broke off from playing for quite some time, and when we finally did play, I started trouncing him. In fact in our last game I very nearly beat him by 160 points, but cocked up in the endgame, letting a dead group live by playing diagonally into his 2x2 territory. Are you with me so far?

When Dan was beating me, it always seemed like there were certain turning points in the game that tipped the balance hugely in his favour - small errors with massive consequences. Yesterday's game felt a little like that, except that it tipped in my favour instead.

I came away from the game more determined to keep playing against humans as much as possible. I have Many Faces Of Go, but tend to try and outpace the machine's playing speed, meaning I play quickly and badly. I should learn to sit on my hands. I went back to a really strange game I played on KGS this morning, running through it looking where I'd screwed up, which was an eye-opener. I took black, and managed to force white into a massive dumpling shape in the middle of the board, with enough of my stones around it to cut out a serious amount of territory. However, white managed a few substantial invasions, and I lost my lead.

Going back over it, I realised I'd played better than I'd thought, despite the 50 points I lost by. I find it strange how easy it is to detach myself from the game when going through it like that. The KGS client software is a dream for this sort of work, too, offering a tree diagram system for exploring variations, a generous comment box, and the usual array of stone marking tools. What I'd really like to be able to do is rig up Many Faces to the KGS client, but there are obvious reasons why that wouldn't be easy. Regardless of that, going over old games really makes it obvious where your mistakes have been, and where you should investigate and study.

Hoping to go back to Richmond on Wednesday, work allowing. I finish my current placement on Tuesday, but would have to take more work if I was offered it.

21 June, 2005

Pledge Banner

An automatic updating banner for the No2ID pledge is available below:

And it looks like this:

Click here to sign the no2id pledge

It will be going onto the Hamilton's Brain link page tonight...

20 June, 2005


I finally got a comment on the BBC website! And to think I thought it was all subeditors on there!

On Cardboard!

Monday 20 June 2005

Dear Tessa Jowell,

Thank you for your response to my initial letter on the subject of ID cards. I'd like to state, at this point, that I have recently signed the following pledge: "I will refuse to register for an ID card and will donate £10 to a legal defence fund but only if 10,000 other people will also make this same pledge." This pledge was launched on 9th June and currently has nearly 4,000 signatures. Its deadline date is in October.

I note from your reply that in deciding your position on the Bill you have chosen to overlook the fact that the "Labour rebels" who voted against this bill on its last outing were elected back in. The key justification you give for voting for the Bill is that it is in the manifesto, irrespective of whether its presence in the manifesto is justified. Such circularity of logic can't be the grounding for such a dramatic proposal.

The Bill, already described as a solution looking for a problem, is currently being touted as a panacea against identity fraud. The much quoted figure of £1.3 billion a year comes from "Identity Fraud - A Study", a document published by the Cabinet Office in July 2002. Close scrutiny of this document shows that, were a national database to be created, it would only serve to save £35 million of the £1.3 billion. This is discussed in full at the following address:

You state that the Bill will not introduce compulsory cards but even its harshest critics have pointed out that without such a measure the Bill will be useless, and any Government not interested in introducing compulsory cards would never waste time deciding if the cards were to become compulsory, how much they would fine people for not having them. Contrary to your statement that cards will not be made compulsory in the foreseeable future and that such a decision would have to be put before the House, the Bill allows the Home Secretary to make it compulsory for anyone applying for a passport from 2008.

I also find it surprising that most people you have spoken to are in favour of the cards. Can you honestly suggest that more people have written to you in favour of the cards than against? And are these people in favour of them in practice as well as in principle? Are they willing to fork out £93-300 for the state-given privilege to exist? It is not enough to find support - the nature of that support must be examined. If the support is based on ignorance and apathy, should that support influence your decision?

I can't help but feel that the arguments put forward in favour of ID Cards have been universally vague and woolly, with David Blunkett taking a complete U-turn on whether or not the cards will help in the war against terrorism; at one point claiming that it would even help against "subliminal" terror, whatever that is. Charles Clarke's frustration at the LSE for not releasing more details on how they have arrived at their costing of £300 per card was almost laughable considering how closely guarded the Home Office's own figures have been, "commercial sensitivity" or not.

Arguments against are backed up by expert advice and detailed reports from the IT community and the security community - informed opinions clearly stated by communities the Government seem utterly uninterested in speaking to.

I shan't go on much further, though, because I feel arguments against the database would be a waste of effort, and the reason I feel that way is because not only do I believe you are perfectly well-versed in these arguments, I also believe you are personally against the cards. Your previous abstentions imply a loyalty divided between the party and your own political beliefs. As a former party whip you no doubt feel the pressures and tensions more keenly than most, but if there was ever a Bill important enough for you to deviate from the party line, then surely this is it? By your own admission it is time for politicians to give their electorate honesty, integrity and passion. Can't this be the debate where you demonstrate how?

Yours sincerely,
Simon Scott

Hey Get This Heat!

Well, it's been quite close lately. Much of the weekend was spent drinking fluids and being unconscious, although I did get a little further in Banana Yoshimoto's N.P., a novel about a short story, the translators of which kill themselves. Very Georges Perec, and I hardly ever read women writers, so an ideal way of redressing the balance a little. I went up to the park and read under a tree. Inadvertently I'd picked a tree pretty much at the centre of the park, keeping the traffic noise at a suitable distance.

It also seems that my computer can't handle the heat. This only comes into play when gaming, so presumably the graphics card can't cope with any hard work. Either that or the RAM upgrade has somehow dickied it, which is a lot more serious. I'm hoping it is just the heat - the computer has trouble starting on very cold days too, failing to identify the boot hard drive.

I've decided to try and get some writing done on the days when I get up at the crack of sparrows. I've got roughest of rough drafts for most of Chapter 2 now, in which an office worker has a very bad day. There's been a fair amount of off the cuff invention, which is always fun. He sneaks off to go to a job interview, and I needed the interview to be disastrous for him. I'd initially thought about long drawn-out pauses, the heightened discomfort and social awkwardness of it all, but in the end went for something a little more dramatic. The chapter's got quite a fragmented chronology, so I need to be careful with the pacing of events. The quiet slow periods I need to reserve for the character's inner-reflection, and the way the world deals with him needs to be a series of short, sharp shocks.

The project as a whole has shifted somewhat. I was getting far too deep into David Mitchell waters for my own liking, and also felt pressurised into creating long narratives for each chapter, when in fact the narratives ought to be the length they need and no longer (obvious, I know). I've decided, then, to work on the project more as a series of short stories, along the lines of Fucking Martin by Dale Peck. This will also allow me to strike a balance between showing and telling; I tend to do far too much of the latter, and not enough of the former. I'll need to create more stories than I'd initially intended, but I find I'm coming up with lots of fragments that I can put to good use.

Yoshimoto's been a help. It's a very Japanese kind of thing, I assume, but she will have these odd little paragraphs where she describes an image, the sky framed between two buildings, say, and they won't necessarily have anything literal to do with the narrative, but will inform it in discreet ways. I used to look on my own writing as a kind of fractal form. My stories would be decked out with little moments that were microcosmic versions of the story as a whole. I suppose I have become incredibly out of practice, because I'm only now finding my way back to this method. What has struck me that didn't beforehand, has been the way in which a variety of themes that currently interest me - notions of consciousness as illusory, paradox, dehumanisation, circular logic, &c - all interrelate, or at least can be allowed to relate to each other within the stories I'm writing. I might post some bits up at some stage - if I'm proud enough of them...

The Martin Scott-Tumbling documentary I appeared in was broadcast on Resonance FM last Thursday. Quite forgot to post about it on the day! The end product, which I'd not heard in full before, was incredibly well finished, and the cliches of radio music documentary really shone through. Tim Worthington did a fantastic turn as an embittered muso, and Ian's John Peel impression wasn't as bad as he thought it was. There's been some positive feedback on the forums, mainly focusing on the half hour of fill that followed the show proper. This involved Mike and Jo doing lots of Resonance parody stuff, and a ten year old Gurmliss interview featuring the comedy talent of Evans. There may be more planned, apparently. MST took over a year (if memory serves) to get done, but hopefully any lessons learnt will make the next one a quicker job.

Lawks! Didn't mean to make such a colossal post. So it goes.

18 June, 2005


Well it's 7 am on a Saturday so naturally I'm up and online. Six years ago my sleep cycle got completely out of hand and had to be "chemically" reset. These days I tend to run quite strictly to a seasonal schedule - in bed by midnight and up with the sun, meaning that I get hardly any sleep at all during the summer months, and have a bit of a struggle getting up in the winter. And as we don't change the clocks at weekends, I often find myself up at the ungodlies. But no matter, it's a chance to attempt a post I've been thinking about lately.

I've been working for a magazine company for the past couple of months, an arrangement set to come to an end in a couple of weeks. As a result I've been catching the train at 8:59. On the few occasions that I've missed the train (I don't know why - the length of time it takes me to reach the station seems to vary considerably from day to day) I've had the opportunity to watch a fox that pads through the verge by the side of the railway. There's an old patch of concrete there that once housed a pre-fabricated hut. The shack was removed a while ago, and now, seemingly every morning at a little after nine, the fox will rest there a while, either oblivious to those waiting for a train, or wise enough to know we complacent humans won't bother trying to cross the tracks and scale the barbed-wire fence.

The last time I saw her was on Thursday, and she had two cubs with her, one of which was being groomed, out in the open; the other was more nervous and lurked somewhere out of sight in the bushes. I seemed to be the only one interested in the fox with the one exception of a girl who kept turning from the fox to the other people on the platform, a broad grin of incredulity on her face. I suppose her smile was infectious because I did feel at this point that it was almost supernatural - that it did feel supernatural - and this feeling made me kind of sad, kind of happy. Sad, because it shouldn't feel so strange; wildlife, beautiful or not, should be more commonplace than that, and it is only because it had come into the city, into a man-made reality, that it seemed odd, seemed a transgression.

The happiness came from the way the foxes just seemed to be getting on with life. Here were various people standing about either not noticing or pretending not to notice the foxes, while the foxes got on with their own business. It seemed to me that there was an earnest acceptance of our presence, that the foxes didn't pretend not to mind us being there because they need no pretence. And perhaps it was because this was all happening on my doorstep, more or less, or perhaps because in the foxes continued existence within the mechanised, automated, zombie world of ours, I could feel a sort of hope for the rest of us, a hope made all the stronger for the magic that seeing the foxes fired up in me and the girl with the smile.

17 June, 2005

That's not fair! You're cheating too!

"We are slightly caught with this London School of Economics work, because they have got this survey and they are dripping out bits of it. They haven't shown it (to) us ... the full text at all, and they are really running a media campaign with scare stories of this type which it is very difficult for us to deal with because they won't show us the basis from which they are doing the work,"
[Home Secretary Charles Clarke] told the [TODAY] programme.

Campaigners and politicians alike have been requesting that the Home Office release a full and explicit breakdown of their own figures, those resulting in the £93 and rising fee. Instead, those at the HO merely mutter "commercial sensitivity", ruffle their papers and change the subject. Now the LSE report is getting attention, and releasing its £300+ figure, again without (as yet) a complete breakdown, and Clarke is getting uppity? I'm glad that Clarke's work has been made more difficult. I'm glad that he has claimed the £300 figure to be "mad". If in the long-run the LSE report does show a likely breakdown of costs it will also demonstrate that Clarke lacks the knowledge, intelligence and imagination to put the Bill through Parliament in the first place.

Another thought has occured to me of late, and that is the fact that the Bill initally only brings in a voluntary scheme. With public support for the card falling and falling, had, I'm sorry, were the bill to go through, surely the intial take-up of the card will be dwindling. Considering the cost of the scheme will certainly be taken up with overheads to begin with, surely this will push the cost of individual cards up even further? Or will we be taxed more in order to pay for the scheme's lack of popularity. I suspect we'll happily never get to find out.

13 June, 2005

Invite To Civil Disobedience

The below site was sent out to the No2ID mailing list. You'll see me in there somewhere. Probably if you're reading this then I've already forwarded the email on to you personally, but if not, do think about signing. The ID Card/Database stinks more and more the closer the debate comes, and this level of protest is just what is needed to give Parliament a more realistic idea of what people think.

12 June, 2005

Tessa Jowell has written an opinion piece for the Telegraph.

"People are fed up with spin, and it's spin that makes them fed up with politicians and politics. They want honesty, integrity and passion from us. They want to feel part of something bigger. And if we don't give them that, if we don't inspire with our beliefs and values, who can blame them for thinking we are all, as my dustman would say, a bunch of knobheads?"

Hmm... Well she certainly has failed to inpsire me with her beliefs on ID cards - her main reason for having them seems to be "they were in the manifesto", which doesn't even count as a belief, does it? And if you ask questions of your MP and she fails to answer them directly, then you're not going to be inspired, or even interested, in what they do have to say.

10 June, 2005

Bringing Nothing To The Table

Well, as previously mentioned, Tony Blair is frightfully excited about the forthcoming (!) debate on ID Cards. This may not have trickled down to the rest of the party however, as today I received a "response" to the various questions I posed to Tessa Jowell. As she's a public servant I'm sure she wouldn't disapprove me quoting her form letter in full.

Dear Mr Scott,

Thank you for contacting me recently about ID cards.

Labour was elected on a manifesto that included the pledge to re-introduce a Bill on ID cards. I will be supporting that Bill when it is introduced.

The system will remain voluntary for the foreseeable future and any move to make ID cards compulsory will, as far as I understand, require the approval of parliament. The required technology is due to be introduced with biometric passports which will be needed for travel in Europe and North America in the near future. Any issues over reliability will, of necessity, be addressed as part of the introduction of that technology.

I have discussed this issue with many constituents. The majority of people I have spoken to in my constituency support the introduction of ID cards or are certainly not against them.

With best wishes,

Yours sincerely,

Rt. Hon Tessa Jowell MP

She utterly fails to even entertain the possibility of discussing my questions regarding the wisdom of sticking to the manifesto irrespective of whether or not it was the manifesto that led to the pencilled cross appearing in a particular box. The only question she comes close to answering she does so in the vaguest of terms.

I should point out, however, that she's so far abstained from every vote on this issue, which does make me wonder how comfortable she is with the party line, especially as she is a former party whip...

How Curious

Whilst watching some Looney Tunes the other night I chanced upon a discovery of Earth shattering importance! Well, maybe not, but you can check it out here...

Satan's Local, More Like!

Satan's Local, More Like!
Satan's Local, More Like!,
originally uploaded by Simon Scott.
This took place back in April, but I've only just got round to scanning the receipt. Just a bit of fun, you understand.

09 June, 2005

The BBC's "Have Your Say" page is more interesting than usual today, as the public speak their mind-brains about the forthcoming "mileage tax" scheme. Straightaway they've demonstrated that the scheme doesn't take less environmentally damaging vehicles into consideration, and pondered about whether or not they'd really like the MOT to know where they are all the time. You can't help but imagine (unfairly, I'm sure) the relevant politicians reading through the comments and thinking "Oh yeah! Hadn't thought about that!"

But as an ardent non-driver, I can't help but feel that what is currently happening with motoring is that people are finally having to pay for the Cost Of Motoring. Most people are appalled at the likely increase in road related tax that the proposed scheme will incur, but at the end of the day, motoring should pay for itself, rather than have everyone burden everyone else's responsibilities all the time. What's really sad is that people are complaining about the fact that they live miles away from elderly relatives; this is the world that motoring has created in the first place, freeing businesses up to move around, freeing up individuals to move around. As energy, and hence travel, becomes more expensive our once shrunken Island will begin to grow again, but it's already too late, because we've all been scattered to the four winds.

Years ago I predicted a likely return to villagedom, to pocket communities the length and breadth of the country whose populous would rarely travel beyond their local borders unless it was truly necessary, unless the benefit would outweigh the cost. Perhaps this is an extreme possibility but I think it is becoming more and more probable, especially if the oil giants hang on to their clean and free fuel patents til they can work out how to charge people for it. You might also call me a reactionary, but I would disagree. The shape that society has is in a continual flux, but to suggest that the present is always better than the past, that we are on one long slow progress is the highest of all arrogances, a way of saying that yes, in the past we've made mistakes, but we don't make them any more. There must have been a time when slavery was a new and exciting idea...

Human progress seems to run as follows:

Man tires of cold hard floors - he invents the rug.
Man tires of the rug getting dusty - he invents the rug beater.
Man (alright woman) gets tired of taking the rug into the garden and beating it - man invents the vacuum cleaner - time is saved!
Rugs no longer need to be removed and taken outside - man invents the wall to wall carpet - time is filled in again.

Thus it is with the motorcar that we don't draw the line at making the slightly too long distances accessible - if we can't get from London to Scotland within a day we feel we're missing out. And hey! Why go a quarter mile into town to do your shopping at the local store when you can take a forty minute round trip to the hypermarket built miles from anywhere! And heaven help you if you try and work out if you're better off after the road tax, fuel tax, car, mechanics bills, etc, etc. A job in Manchester? I can move! If I want to visit the family seat, it's only three hours away, and you've got to go where the work is these days...

(I should now point out, as a declaration of interest, that my immediate family are all intent on leaving the country - three relatives, three countries...)

In the space of a generation or two a trip to France has become commonplace, and we send our privileged students off to India, America, Australia. We even flout our wealth at countries too impoverished, cultures too different, til we have starving African children clutching carved wooden mobile phones. Sadly the world has shrunk far too quickly for us to deal with the global problems that already existed and thanks to the shrinking we've gone and made a load more.

End Of The Beginning?

I've being paying lots of attention to the news blog on the No2ID site lately. The below was featured today:

“This is a debate which is just beginning. I hope there is a full debate where people can understand that as a result of the changes in biometric technology, and in particular as a result of the fact that we are going to have to change passports for everybody in this country, then it is a very sensible next step to make sure we can have proper protection against fraud and abuse.”Tony Blair during Prime Minister's Question Time June 8th 2005.

The No2ID campaign commented:

Hang on a minute. You attempt to steamroller through a piece of highly controversial legislation in the final months of the last Parliament, claiming extensive consultation and ‘overwhelming public support’, reintroduce it at the first opportunity (before even forming Select Committees to be able to give the lightly edited new Bill proper scrutiny) and then admit that the debate is only “just beginning”?!

We understand fine thank you, Tony.

Biometric technology has not ‘changed’, you’ve just discovered it for the first time.

There is nothing ’sensible’ about the ID cards Bill - it’s not even named correctly.

It is your government that has made fraudulent claims and that wants to abuse our civil liberties.

There has been no proper debate.

To which I have nothing to add, other than TB seems desperate to be seen as fulfilling his promise to listen, and that he welcomes debate only inasmuch as he is sure of what the outcome will be any way - note how he hopes the debate will demonstrate his viewpoint to people, rather than server to assure that the correct decision is made?

And sadly, Corin Redgrave suffered a heart attack last night while attending a council meeting to defend the rights of travellers in Basildon, and is now in a critical but stable condition. Saw him recently in the thoroughly entertaining Tynan diaries, and wish him a speedy recovery, for what it's worth.

03 June, 2005

At last!

Whilst coming up the stairs at the exit of Tottenham Court Road tube station I heard the following announcement:

"Please stand on the right or walk on the left when using the escalators."

It used to be:

"Please stand on the right and walk on the left when using the escalators,"

which is a good deal trickier, and regular GRW readers will know how uppity I got concering various badly phrased announcements on the underground. I've not heard if they've changed any others, but will doubtless post them here if they have...