Chewing my keyboard

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

For some unknown reason

I really liked this article...

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

Time to say goodbye...

Well, not quite yet. I am leaving Thursday morning, long before Charles Kennedy takes the stage since I have to ensure that I have reviewed some final edits made to an academic paper before 'first thing on Friday'.

I rushed down to the auditorium first thing because of the singular, apparently controversial debate on financing of the BBC. The debate itself wasn't controversial but the amendment to abolish the licence fee was (I should really stop complaining about debates not being controversial; conference is there to make policy, not provide me with an amusing sideshow and if every debate was controversial and close fought then we would probably have a lot of policy members were unhappy with which is obviously NOT good).

After that, I went into town for coffee with Neil from Aberwysth Uni (spelling, tut, tut) who I spent a fair bit of time hanging around with and who was excellent company (thanks Neil) and who had interesting opinions on a wide range of issues... I then trailed about the exhibition for a while before heading off to a fringe on Wind Power given by the Renewables industry. Jokes about Deflatine apart ("The public loves wind"), this fringe was distinguished by its hot buffet, use of power point presentations and the fact that due to there being only 2 reasonably interesting sounding fringes going on (Poverty and wind power), the fringe was packed out... Or it could have been the free buffet advertised. I do have a perfectly good reason for attending rather than being the stereotyped cheap student who tries to save money on food by 'grazing' buffets all conference... Despite people claiming to manage the feat of not having to buy anything but chocolate bars all conference, most people I know end up either missing a lot of meals (in which case I normally take charge of them and march them somewhere to eat) or do what I do (popping out to buy food in free periods) [For the serial thinkers, that was an aside]. I have to teach students sustainability stuff for their open units and picked up various bits from the fringe. I can always get them to try to critically assess the literature as being the output of a lobbying group for the wind industry. Cool, huh?

After the fringe had finally finished, I rushed to a Stress Management fringe. We discussed our Stressor Drivers and learnt how applying diluted lavender oil to the back of the neck in the position of a classic tension headache can relax you. The sound of the sea or running water is reputed to be very therapeutic. Also, your hand can move involuntarily if you are holding it up and switch from a pleasant to an unpleasant/stressful memory. You should, I guess, ideally try to remember a pleasant memory about running water to destress... No lavatory jokes please...

I was then supposed to be manning the LDYS stall but several other people had had the same idea. I thus ended up discussing Britain's nuclear deterrent, who is a war criminal under interational law and issuing orders to submarines all afternoon. This was absolutely fascinating. It wasn't the heaviest conversation I've had here; I distressed everyone in Crash that morning by getting onto whether if you had a plane the size of the universe if it could crash... Okkkkkk... I interspersed this by trying to beat someone to death with an inflatable 'loan shark' (and Lord Rennard took this opportunity to visit the stall).

Once the exhibition shut, there weren't many fringes that floated my boat. Most of Wednesday evening is aimed at well lubricating people before Glee Club. People either love Glee Club or hate it. Enjoyment-wise, I rate it someone around having to eat your own extremities. I hate bad singing at the best of times but an entire room of it is like scraping nails across glass. Yep, I sound like a complete fogey and my general Victor Meldrew quality is reinforced by my alternative option which was to read the Orange Book in bed. Unfortunately, by the time I had located food and ambled along the promenade back to Crash appreciating the therapeutic value of the sea, I fell asleep on page 7. This is a function of my being tired and not a discredit to the authors of the Orange Book.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Ladies, ladies...

Title alludes to my spending much of the afternoon at GBTF (Gender Balance Task Force training). It also has a certain, well, Victorian seaside town air to it does it not...

I started my morning with a fervent discussion of ethics which plain horrified certain hungover members of LDYS staying at Crash. I discovered the ethical difficulty of consent and keeping public and private separate.

This being that if we suspected a friend was experiencing domestic violence (bruises on the arms, say) but refused to admit to this, is it our duty to intervene through the state given that it is possible to have a consensual relationship involving physical assault which I would argue is no business of the state?

Problem issues: domestic violence is both emotional and physical meaning someone can be reduced to a state where they accept this behaviour. However, a lack of self-esteem exists to some extent in all of us should not be a reason to assume someone cannot make a responsible decision about their own life.

Where did this come from? Well, the conversation roved over suicide in prison, suicide not in prison and fox hunting. The fox hunting issue being that my companion at breakfast said that he felt that allowing people the freedom to be cruel denigated the human condition. This, of course, led to the obvious response that if someone is a sadist then provided they can find a consenting partner, does this constitute cruelty? Does this denigate the human condition? Thus, should we make it illegal? (I would say no, patently). Of course, the fox cannot consent whereas a partner can... And thus the domestic violence conversation started - how do we allow privacy but ensure consent? Can someone be reduced to a condition where they will consent something they don't want? But if we believe this to be the case, surely this is rather like Marxist false consciousness...
The solution could be to try to work on the self-esteem of the abused. Once they gain the confidence to belieev this is not what they deserve, they will leave the relationship on their own... But what if they are beaten to death before then? Problem...

Could you follow that paragraph? If not, you may be a serial thinker. Many men are serial thinkers, proceeding from one idea to the next. Women are more likely to be parallel thinkers who can multi-task between ideas. Neither method is better, both are different... I am apparently an intense parallel thinker. I'm also a strong verbal processor (although I actually think pictorially). This means I think through often by talking to people or rather, at people. Strong male-style communicators appreciate facts, strong female-style - anecdotes. To communicate successfully with both groups you must not overstate either...

And so says the GBTF 'Gender differences in communication styles' training. Very interesting if just so I can irritate my supervisor by doing training-speak at him (he is an intense serial thinker - communication is virtually impossible with him. Oh, and he doesn't appreciate my habit of using him as a medium for verbal processing... He feels the need to provide a solution rather than listen to my drivel).

Before I went to this training I was at the Markets and the Environment debate. The agenda is generally devoid of controversy, unlike the rollocking Southport Spring Conference one. Thus, the debate was confined to people standing up in a 'This motion on transport completely neglects any mention of local cinemas, thus despite agreeing with all of it, please reject this motion' vein... and the 'I'd like to speak to fervently agree with line 16'. Thus, interesting content, not interesting debate-wise.

I attended the Porpoise/dolphin fringe.... This was due to the fact I had submitted a motion on Sustainable Marine Management to the conference. It wasn't accepted but it's in redrafting (Federal Party policy are looking at it) and I will try to resubmit next year.

After that, I was in GBTF training all afternoon. Annoyingly the early evening fringe on the Orange Book launch was cancelled (apparently due to a 'lack of interest'... hmmmm...) so I had some free time before ducking in and out the LDYS fringe on single issue organisations (with Amnesty) and going to the Liberal Revue. There was too much singing, it was predominantly trying to have a go at a division in the party I don't think exists except in the mind of a small minority of which a fair few write Liberator... and I'm the eternal critic given I have a shot at political satire every now and again... thus, I sit through deciding that I could do better. As you do.... :D One day I will have to write and stage a sketch to see if anyone but me finds my humour funny.

Monday, September 20, 2004

Rocking all over the pier

And it improved from thereon in... Hartlepool has only been mentioned twice (Hartlepool a particular bugbear since I can't get there to campaign due to work commitments) and there is a definite note of defiance and of trying to put clear yellow water (maybe I shouldn't use that particular expression...) between us and the other two parties. I also stopped being ill which improved my day considerably.

Anyway, I attended the Free Trade debate for a while. I thought this could be controversial but, in fact, it ended up as being a discussion about whether water and health should be included in GATs. I possibly came out more informed about GATs than when I started but that wouldn't be hard. I have always prided myself on knowing nothing about politics for fear I might start wanting to talk to people about different types of voting systems or something... and may need to shoot myself in the interests of public safety. Thus it came as something of a disappointment to me when I got 8 out of 10 on the 'Are you a political anorak?' quiz run by the Electoral Commission. For my pains, I won a blue plastic anorak and a mousemat. I would have thought it was a swizz but my companion at the time had done it earlier and only got 6 (thus, not winning said anorak). Not bad for almost purely guessing... well, not quite. It was kinda multiple choice and I felt some of the names/answers were sorta familiar.

Next we debated asylum/immigration. This was apparently daring of us but, to be honest, I couldn't see how the Mail could possibly spin the policy given it was moderate and in favour of an accountable quota system... I maybe surprised - perhaps I should try flicking through a Daily Mail today. Alternatively, I could buy one, read it publically and see how long it took for me to cause a riot (riot = more than 5 people. I think you need 2-5 for an affray).

I ended up at a lunchtime fringe on Penal Reform. This was because I was following some people who were following someone interested in Penal Reform. I always prefer following friends to fringes rather than choosing my own unless i have some desperate preference since i often end up in something which is pretty interesting but that I'd have never considered myself. Penal Reform was actually interesting since I now know what Restorative Justice is and that there is a difference between a Secure Children's Home, a Secure Training Centre and a Young Offender's Institute.

I left the main hall after Charles Kennedy's Q&A. Charles was pretty funny, although I could tell by his body language (crossed legs, hunched neck into shoulders) that he was nervous. If the questions were really unscripted then this is entirely understandable. There was, of course, the inevitable question about The Orange Book. I still haven't got around to reading this yet. I'm getting plenty of sleep so my concentration is ok so probably a task for the train.

After the Q&A I went around the exhibition. Correction - I attempted to stock up on pens for the year... Pens and squeezy planes (where the wings pull off easily, allegedly), and a hedgehog keyring. Best goodies so far was NASUWT just because of the flashing pen and the sheer size of their goody bag. The Local Government lift (it wobbled as well, it felt like a lift) was pretty coolish. I still don't get how anyone got 29 seconds on the IFAW porpoise game. I was going really fast but lost the ball; the guy I was with did it very slow and completed the course. I am also going to have endless amusement out of the British Heart Foundation waist size tape since I have more than one podgy male friend (hee, hee). I was directed to this stall by Heather on the LDYS stall. They were going to find the healthiest political party so she sent me because I'm 'whippet-thin' (according to the woman on the stall) - we decided to help this process along slightly [grin].

After visiting that old favourite, Pizza Hut, we went to the Royal Bath Hotel for a Europe fringe. Europe fringes are generally complete underwear but I was convinced by my companion's killer reasons for going to this fringe a) he'd always wanted to go into the Royal Bath hotel (he lives in Poole) to see what it looked like b) it was in the Gladstone room. c) was that it served food but this became less important after I'd gone to Pizza Hut. He spent so long telling me how conservative and elite the hotel was that inevitably I caused utter proletariat chaos upon arriving... arriving covered in tomato and cheese (hands and face) carrying a takeaway pizza box that I had nowhere to put. I needed a bin and ended up trying to force the box into an ashtray bin in the lobby. 2 doormen converged on me and looked at me and the box as if I was something nasty they'd stood in. Bear in mind that I was not only covered in cheese, I was also wearing a halternecked copy of Marilyn Monroe's dress in pink underneath a bright purple velvet coat... and bright red lipstick...

The Europe fringe was one of the more interesting I've been to although no one tackled the whole issue of 'Where next?' for the EU. Apparently we lose at least 3bn due to the government not being able to borrow at euro rates due to not being in the euro zone (don't question that stat - I *think* I've got it right). Oh, and the main Lib Dem EU fringe attraction, Idris (not a Geographical Information system but a person... I think that's the name) the UKIP chap who heckles amusingly and incoherently. Idris, incidently, was reason d) for attending the fringe. Unfortunately, everyone shut him up :(

Afterwards, we went to a Q&A session run by the Chard group on the erosion of civil liberties. This was in a very small, very hot room with Mark Oaten and Peter Black AM. No speeches, just a discussion. Although conversation kept drying up from time-to-time, it was very unscripted and quite entertaining esp. when ten minutes before the end someone decided to bring up fox hunting just to stir things. I asked some questions about ID cards although my main contribution was showing a councillor from Derby everything I'd collected from the exhibition... loudly.

Oh I do like to be beside the seaside

Well, here we are again, dear readers... How long for is a different matter seeing that I've felt ill since about 7pm yesterday... and I only arrived at 3pm. Maybe I've become allergic to Liberal Democrats - not something I'd exactly relish (although other people may differ ;) ).

Sunday afternoon was as dead as those militaristic, melon-brandishing critters in Ice Age (for anyone whose seen that cartoon), so I loitered about the LDYS stall hoping someone I knew would turn up. Lots of people I know arrived and when we got ejected I went to the conference rally.

If I hear that the Liberal Democrats have no no-go areas I'm going to scream... Likewise, if anyone else tells me to go to Hartlepool or that the Lib Dems are the new challengers now... This conference is very much aimed at the media rather than the members from what I've seen so far and I think that's a shame to some extent, being the purist that I am :( I can also be cynical about anything. Oh, and rather depressed that my semi-regular dining/dancing/informing me what debates are about partner isn't coming. It's not we spend a lot of time together or anything, we just often end up at the same academic/sciency fringes. I miss his remarks, his laughter, his presence really, a great deal.

Later I went to the Roy Jenkins life & times fringe... In which I found he was a overall good chap and not much else (although I did miss about 50% of it). I guess I'll just have to buy the book. Crucial conference buy: The Little Orange Book. I bet they're moving sheds of them.

Anyway, a new one on me. Someone I'm sure tried to chat me up. I wasn't that interested but it's not happened before such that I've noticed. I'm aiming for 3 attempts by the end of conference, just to prove I can bait even if I don't want to bite. I'm wearing a very fetching burgandy 'Seven-year itch backless number, which makes me feel disturbingly naked (Marilyn was obviously braver than I). Despite the tape (which keeps becoming visible... or maybe I have a complex), I look like her anorexic younger sister. It's understandable that she was a size 16.

Onwards to fair trade...