Sunday, 22 August 2010


I am fortunate to have a wide ranging group of friends with a wide set of interests and surprising talents, and one of the primary attractants for me in other people is intelligence. I am always keen to meet talented people who can teach me new things, and introduce me to new experiences. Of course, it helps too if they share my interests in politics, public policy and world events, and one of my friends recently shared with me his beliefs on the Illuminati.

The Illuminati - for those not familiar with the term - refers to a number of groups, but specifically the Bavarian Illuminati, a secret society formed in Europe in the 18th century. My friend was keen to show me videos purporting to demonstrate how an illuminati-like group of politicians, bankers and other shadowy figures of influence are currently manipulating the world financial markets and world governments to increase their influence over the rest of us.

This is a feasible enough idea, though I am politely sceptical as to why politicians and wealthy businessmen would spend their time trying to expand their already significant powers over wage slaves like myself when they could be doing fun stuff, like having sex with their attractive mistresses on the decks of their luxury yachts moored in places like Barbados and St Tropez. But each to their own. I did notice that a European hedge fund recently purchased 8% of the world's cocoa supply, fuelling newspaper fears of a massive price hike in chocolate just before Christmas. But any excuse to not sit and eat Quality Street may be beneficial to a growing lad like myself anyway.

Then the videos moved onto naked human beings in cages, and I became openly doubtful. Social change takes a while, and until I start seeing these things on the streets of Surrey, I figure I don't have too much to worry about. But like it or not, oligarchs and nagging doubts persist, and I was duly concerned when I saw that Rupert Murdoch, media mogul and all-round suspicious egg, was bidding $7 billion for complete control of BSkyB.

Murdoch is an unpopular figure amongst the scruffier observers of the business world, and with good reason. His ruthless approach engenders all of the worst aspects of capitalism and those who remember headlines like 'It Was The Sun Wot Won It' will only be too aware of Murdoch's ability to influence the typical British tabloid reader. He simply cannot be allowed to expand his media empire without a public debate and a thorough enquiry as to whether it is in the public interest to allow him to do so.

The difficulty is that the current government is a fragile coalition and potentially cannot stand the kind of negative headlines that could result from sustained resistance to Murdoch's plans. For this reason, organisations like the Campaign for Press and Broadcasting Freedom are more vital now than they have ever been. I would encourage you to read more about their work, and to join if you care about the freedom of the press.

Saturday, 7 August 2010

A Foursome or More(some)

It's been a momentous fortnight for the County Hall poker fraternity - we managed to get four of us (count 'em, four) on a single 1c/2c table one midweek night last week and could even have played some decent poker, if we hadn't spent the time shouting hilarious abuse at one another on MSN messenger. It was especially heartening to hear Matt refer to Scottish Dave as William Wallace during one good-natured rant ('We may take your chips, but we'll never take your freedom!' - okay, so you probably had to be there to fully appreciate it.)

The fact that this non-event is the central focus of my first blog entry for weeks should tell you everything it needs to about my life just now, but that isn't perhaps the whole story. I was recently saddened to hear news of the tragic death of an acquaintance and I am also currently embroiled in the personal difficulties of at least one other person that I know well. But these are not stories I want to tell, or indeed dwell on for any significant amount of time. While joy remains in the seemingly insignifcant detail, I'll stick with that, thank you very much.

I've found an aquatics shop very close to my house which sells live food, and today my fishies enjoyed only their second-ever live feed. Having several hundred bloodworm dropped into the water is the tank equivalent of a food fight at an all-you-can-eat buffet, and it makes for riveting viewing. I swear I could have watched the tussling between the guppies and the dwarf frogs all night without ever getting bored.

The other thing that makes me massively proud is that while all my friends have long since lost the novelty of being parents to real human beings, I am a fish daddy for the first time! I have seen a single fry floating near the surface, starting out a few days ago at barely 2mm long, and this evening I have seen a tiny guppy, perfect in every detail except for being about 1:20 scale of its counterparts.

I am overjoyed by this development - there is at least one other pregnant female in the tank (she's swollen like a tiny barrel, bless her) and I have no idea if this single fry is the lone survivor from a previous birth, a miraculous lone birth in its own right, or is simply one of a group hiding in the tank. Either way, I'm thrilled to be a guppy daddy. An observant friend of mine pointed out yesterday that she saw a shoal of them hiding under a plant - I have yet to catch sight of them if they are there, but I'm eager to see what they will grow up to look like. As the females were most likely pregnant when bought from the shop, the offspring could be any colour, and a splash of something rare and exotic would be another welcome addition to the tank.