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

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Location: Herne Hill, London, United Kingdom

15 November, 2006

End the Madness of Free Banking

First Direct, the branchless bank, is going to start charging a monthly fee of £10 to some of its customers.

The fee will apply to those paying less than £1,500 into their account each month or those who have an average monthly balance below £1,500.

The bank say that this is so that only customers with dormant accounts will be targetted. Meaning that they are charging £10 a month only to those low maintenace customers who presumably don't use up as much in the way of resources, which then serves to subsidise those that do.

This is being touted by consumer groups as a first step towards an end to free banking, a football that the banking community kick around with relish from time to time. But banks are supposed to make money by using the money that we bank with them, giving us a small amount of interest and keeping the rest. The other source, natch, is debt, hence first direct waiving the £10/month fee for customers who take out loans, or (I suspect) have overdrafts. The banks are in profit, so why the need for a pay banking service? First Direct tell us that it is so they can focus their attentions on their more important customers. Yeah.

Recently the banks raised the idea of introducing charges for the use of ATMs. This, they said, was necessary to cover the costs of ATMs. But ATMs are there to replace bank tellers. Clues in the name, children. The introduction of ATMs saved money, and because of the flawed way in which they work, they also encourage debt, as anyone who has gone over their overdraft limit following an incorrect balance statement will testify. If they do start charging, people will start queueing up for the humans, and then in ten years time the banks will probably start considering charges for peak times (like, y'know, lunchtime) for the extra staff they will have to take on to make up for the drop in ATM use. Lookin' busy, makin' money...

An end to free banking would be unethical for a further reason, and that is that there is now no real alternative to having a bank account. The powers that be have slowly made it more and more difficult to live without one, citing their usual list of bogeymen (benefit fraudsters, tax evaders, etc.) as a reason. So soon, every life will come with a £93 surcharge + extras (for the NIR) and a further £10/month fee from the age of 16 for the rest of your life.

Grr, and, needless to say, arg.

14 November, 2006

NaNoWriMo - Day 14

Well, so far, so good, or should I perhaps say so far, so many words. Over 20,000 of them now! It's been quite an education developing the plot as I've progressed, and although it perhaps doesn't stand as good writing, I've found the challenge of creating filler (for the pacing, you understand, not for the word count!) an enlightening experience. Being forced to do something with the extraneous characters has meant giving them more of a share of the plot, and a hand in the overall dynamic of the story that otherwise wouldn't be there.

I've yet to do any revisions, but for when I do, I have made the quite arbitrary rule of forbidding myself cutting anything unless I am replacing it with something else.

I'm having a (thoroughly English, not at all graphic) sex scene at the midway point by way of celebration, and am off to a gathering of fellow NaNoWriMoists in Leicester Square on Saturday.

05 November, 2006

Sausage tribar - a first attempt.

As part of my ongoing contribution to the 1,720 uses for sausages thread on the QI forum, I decided to try and create an impossible tribar out of sausages. This is attempt number one. I'm going to have another stab at it on Monday, this time using one and a half sossies.

02 November, 2006

Count Me In

So I was on the Idler forum yesterday and someone mentioned the National Novel Writing Month in America, and an annual event where people sign up to a writing marathon to produce 50,000 words of novel between the 1st November and the 30th.

I'm far too busy, of course, but this works out at 1,500 words a day, which takes me about an hour or so to do. So what the hell. I've often said that one of the biggest barriers to my writing is that I hate sitting at the keyboard turning out crap. This is one of the (many) reasons why I don't write very much, and the main reason why I tend not to do perhaps as much editing as I ought to. The challenge of churning out 50k over thirty days will, I hope, lead to a slightly less precious attitude to my output, and it'll also bring those high numbers within an achievable reach. So, yes, basically, I'm doing it.

I've set down certain strategies, basing the central character to some extent on myself (he's a temp in London) , and using the various pursuits I followed on my week between assignments to populate the plot. Added to that will be a Dickian strangeness that is the main guts of the novel, but I've not quite worked out what that's all about yet, which is part of the fun.

I'm 1550 words into it so far, and hope to build up a decent amount of slack in the next couple of days so that I can spend some time editing what I've done and working out a bit more of the plot. The story is going to be some sort of conspiracy type affair, but with the emphasis on big Government as a self-serving meta-consciousness. I've also arbitrarily made the decision for each day's writing to mirror palindromically, so in the first 1550 words, for instance, there features the word balloon, and so a balloon will appear in the closing 1550 words.

It will also be people with characters that are named after my various online chums. If that's you, ask me for inclusion.