08 January 2007

TFL = Too Flaming Lazy

Grrr... Why is something so intrisically simple so difficult?

I have switched to using my Oyster card for my general rail travel to stop having to carry around paper tickets, which consequently get jammed. Today I decided to renew and went online - oops forgot my password and locked out my account. No problem I thought, I will go to the Cannon Street Underground and get it renewed there. There were about half a dozen people queuing at the machine, so it wasn't too bad.

Unfortunately, they decided to turn off the only Oyster top-up machine at the station, just as I was about to get there. I wandered over to the office where I expected someone to be serving, no joy. Obviously, 5:30pm is tea-break time for both TFL staff and machines (hopefully, the actual trains don't cotton on to this, or we will be screwed).

I wandered back up to the Cannon Street BR station and looked in the ticket office. There was another queue, but they had Oyster leaflets and posters scattered around. Thinking I had a chance of renewing, I joined the end of the queue. No flaming chance, they "don't do them anymore".

There is no reason for any BR station sitting within Zones 1 to 5 to not have facilities to top up Oyster cards. Ken Livingstone should bloody stay in Cuba, rather than try to replicate their infrastructure over here.

On more positive news, over 3 million people turned off the latest Celebrity Big Brother. Hopefully, there is a glimmer of light ahead.

07 January 2007

Winter's Night in Blackheath

A few weeks ago, Heather and I were crossing the common and saw this picture which we thought was well worth taking. After getting home, I dug out my camera tripod and went and took the snap. Hopefully, the snow promised in the next week or so will come - I reckon a snow-covered picture of the church would make quite a good Christmas card for everyone.

One thing I have been killing time with is to try and research my family tree. Heather had bought me a book on family history research for Christmas (I had asked for it), and it's really useful that so many indices exist online with cheap or even free access. Unfortunately, they are mostly English (which isn't really a bad thing) or American. A bit of a problem for me, as I am such a mongrel with Jamaican, Irish and French ancestory. Also, there is a lot of inconsistency accross an index - one entry in a birth register will have the mother's maiden name listed whereas one won't. Coupled to this is that sometimes it is impossible to find an entry, it makes looking for a needle in a haystack easy.

I think this will not be an easy task...

05 January 2007

Drugs are bad!

Heather and I were visiting a friend who publishes a free paper aimed at the clubbing crowd and got in to an interesting chat about illegal drugs. I have never touched an illegal drug in my life, I have been offered but have refused everytime out of choice. That is not to say I have not been wasted a lot, I just do that with alcohol. :)

I am however realistic. People choose to do drugs, whether to party harder, to escape the futility of their existence or whatever. Just as prohibition in the US during the 30s failed to work, so is drug control not working. I am very much in favour of legalising soft drugs.

Current TV advertising warns about the increasingly stronger strains of cannabis hitting the streets and how it should be avoided. Here's an alternative suggestion: legalise it and regulate how strong it can be, just like alcohol. By doing that, dealers will no longer be the preferred means of obtaining, as it would still be an offence to supply cannabis without a licence. This also means that dealers will no longer be able to lace cannabis with heroin to get smokers addicted.

Ecstacy could be sold over the counter by pharmacies, with a limit of one per person per week or something. By making them legal, the government can regulate their contents and prevent rat poison and all manner of junk being put into them. The result is less risk to clubbers from taking a spiked pill.

When legalising these drugs, it also gives the government opportunity to tax them, money that is currently spent but not seen by the government. This money could be injected back into the Health system, and given the volume of drugs consumed it should amount to a sizable fortune. Better this than spending money on policing something that is becoming ever more difficult with the the constantly limited resources the police have.

While they're at it, they should legalise the oldest profession in the world. The five girls killed before Christmas could have been protected if they weren't having to ply their trade on the streets. A properly regulated setup would also help to stem the flow of human trafficking - proper proof would be required from the "job applicant" that they are doing it:
  1. of their own free will
  2. have a right to work in the UK
  3. are willing to undergo six monthly checkups to check for STDs, etc.
May be I am too liberal to be conservative. Personally, I just like to think I am good at seeing money-making opportunities for governments. Beats Brown's "environment taxes" that will not achieve any improvements.