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RMT? Are you mad?!

I must be the most unlikely candidate to be a union representative, and yet here I am, nine months on… Yesterday I gave a presentation to 38 new members of staff in their corporate induction urging them to join a union. Any union. It was actually pretty exciting. I threw in a negotiation exercise for the first time to give people a taster of the difficult but rewarding work unions do, and they were engaged(!) Today, I gave advice to an individual who has been treated unfavourably in a sickness absence issue.

And yet I’m the same person who abhors the term ‘activist’. I tried a stint as an armchair activist once. This barely took off the ground as I quickly found a sense of loathing for my fellow activists. These were people who seemed to prefer wasting their energies on shouting very loudly rather than actually trying to make a dent.

For this same reason, I do not get on with feminists or vegetarians.

I joined a feminist group once and ended up arguing vehemently with the group leader that, surely, human rights were of higher importance than the rights of any one gender. This ended in her taking jibes at me whilst her groupies added in the occasional, ‘yeah, you tell her’. Needless to say, I have not been back, nor am I a particularly welcome member. I think they would have just preferred me had I said from the get-go, ‘man bad, woman good’…

Of vegetarianism, I once attended a vegetarian and vegan conference, which had stands, non-meat goodies, shampoos, conditioners and clothes without the added ham. I like my conditioner without ham, so this event excited me. However, it also attracted the types of vegetarians and vegans who are against immunisation and again, like to yell about stuff and things. Rather than leaving, as I had hoped, with a feeling of wellbeing and camaraderie, I left thinking ‘I don’t relate to ANY of you’. I also left full of the vegan cheese and jam treats my boyfriend and I had hovered over for the last half an hour.

I’m also the same girl who voted Conservative in the last elections which, as far as being a union rep goes, is a serious faux pas punishable by death and a removal of your union badge. This came up last week when I was helping out with a recruitment event to join new members. A full time officer who had joined us for the lunchtime mentioned her disgust for people who had voted them in. I had to stay quiet at this point though anyone who really knew me would have surely seen the absolute terror in my eyes at this point.

Bearing the above in mind then, I imagine it would hardly surprise you that I am about to say the following: Bob Crow? Don’t expect me to get behind this. We’re all feeling the burn; even the Queen. Get over it. Or better yet, why not split the six-figure sum you make from your members and spread the love.

‘Down with foxes… Down with foxes…’

Ordinarily, I would wait until the end of the week to respond to the week’s news, but this one couldn’t wait…

On Saturday 5th June, an ‘urban’ fox was able to get into the window of a residential building in Hackney, East London. As result, two baby twins, Isabella and Lola Koupparis, were attacked by an unknown number of foxes, have been admitted into Royal London and are said to be in a “serious but stable” condition. Now, this is a real shame. I don’t doubt that. What I question is the unnecessary fear that has been whipped up for any mother with a child since the incident, as if foxes everywhere are plotting against children. That they have decided children are their dish of choice and that they ‘want a piece o’ that’. Obviously, this is ridiculous. Most likely, the fox managed to find its way in – either through an open door or an open window – probably trying to find food and found itself in the scenario where it felt its safety was jeopardised or that the children were food. If you were an animal and your sole functions in life were to eat, sleep and to survive by any means necessary, wouldn’t you? Not that I’m condoning the attack, but it’s an animal. I mean, how often do fox attacks happen? I can bet the statistics show the attacks to be significantly lower than a lot of household-related incidences of A&E admissions.

Anyway, the thing that irked me from this particular story was that in a follow-up, it was revealed that as result of the incident, a fox close to the scene of the attack was captured and killed… A fox… Who knows if that was the ‘right’ fox?! It could’ve been an innocent by-stander, caught up in the furor.This is typical of people, to want some kind of scapegoat for what should be the parents responsibility. You wouldn’t leave the window open of your car and leave a baby inside, would you?

Part of my day-job is to collect data published by the Health Protection Agency and analyse it for patterns or unimaginable peaks in numbers. Later in the week, a little after the incident on the 5th, I picked up the week’s data. Since I work in the North East region, and Hackney sits in my region, I noticed “Fox incident”. Now, this is only ridiculous for those who know the usual data that HPA publish – and why would you, unless you work in my field. For those who don’t, HPA particularly specialise in monitoring infectious diseases which threaten national security, so things that could potentially become epidemics like Mumps or Legionella or suchlike. So if I told you that I found “Fox incident” in the context of my weekly round-up, you can probably sense why I was perplexed. Are foxes an issue of national security now? Is David Cameron going to announce a state of ‘War Against Foxes’? In actuality, the comments for the spreadsheet noted that the babies were given rabies shots – not because they were believed to have contracted rabies but rather that it was suspected… but they didn’t say ‘Suspected: Rabies’… The said, ‘Fox Incident’.

And this afternoon, I picked up the freebie paper, as I so oft’ do, and noticed the title, “We’re being held hostage by foxes in our garden”.

These are all symptoms of a much bigger problem: People have been rendered incapable of rational thought by fear, and fear of something that isn’t a problem. Foxes AREN’T our predators. They can be kicked in the face, after all. Plus, we have guns(!) And secondly, WILD foxes aren’t cuddly animals. Why are we surprised? It’s like watching the film, ‘Grizzly Man’ all over again! Of COURSE the fox will try to attack you! Most humans, including our own Prime Minister, want them dead(!) If this becomes ammunition for him to legalise fox hunting, I wouldn’t be surprised, and in this state of rampant stupidity, I can only imagine what the public verdict would be…

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An open letter to Britain and the Netherlands

Inspired by McSweeney’s and an economic situation in world news which has irked me so, I decided to write the following:

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Dear Britain and the Netherlands,

On Saturday 6th, I read here that Iceland would be having a referendum vote. The vote would assess public opinion as to whether the Icelandic people should be responsible for paying back 3.8 bn euros (£3.4 bn) following the collapse of the Icesave Online bank. 340,000 British and Dutch clients were compensated, following the collapse, and now their respective countries want their money back; a ‘repayment scheme’ was the outcome of this. The scheme, however, would mean that every Icelandic citizen would need to contribute 99 euros a month for eight years at an interest rate of 5.5% expected to kick in on the eighth year of the scheme.

The reason I am writing is that I wanted to share a recent news story that I encountered on March 3rd. The Daily Express broke the story, ‘Ticket Tyrants even target flooded cars’. The River Ouse in York had broken its banks and overflown into the city centre, causing cars to move from their original parking places. When the flood had subsided, local council parking attendants had ‘awarded’ these sodden cars with tickets. Interviewed about the tickets, a council spokesperson claimed to be unaware of the flood, and suggested that affected drivers would need to give proof that their car had been moved by the river in order for the council to rebuke the fines. The council have been criticised for not having more “compassion”.

Anyone who has had a ticket will know – and I don’t because I cannot drive, but am assured – that appealing ticket fines is often a fruitless endeavour involving far too much effort with no guarantee of appeal. Moreover, if your appeal IS declined – and chances suggest it WOULD be – appealees must then pay the full fine rather than the reduced fee for having paid in a speedy manner. The outcome of this is that often, people end up paying the fee just to make life easier and because they feel that they have no other option.

So, what is the relevance of my mentioning this story?

Whilst I don’t blame the Icelandic government for suggesting such a radical payment scheme to you – I’m sure they considered it the ONLY solution they had to restore their reputation and thus raise their economic status at this time – I don’t agree with the way you have gone about coming to this conclusion, nor indeed the conclusion itself. You have forced the hand of Iceland by blocking their EU application, and worst still, immorally used the anti-terrorism act in order to block Iceland’s bank activity. And thus the relevancy is revealed: Yes. In this instance, you are to Iceland as the ticket attendant is to the owners of those cars, moved out of no fault of their own. The Icelandic people should NOT have to personally foot the bill following the decline of a bank that HAPPENED to be working out of their country. A rise in tax by 99 euros a month is a sharp increase that the people ARE going to miss, particularly with the world in this global economic crisis. You would be asking citizens for money they cannot spare, particularly those made redundant. From a personal point of view, if the foot were on the other shoe and Britain were expected to pay £89.65 (99 euros based on the current euro to pound conversion rate), I wouldn’t be able to afford my study, would go into debt and not be able to live comfortably. Whichever way you look at it, these deductions are unfair.

At this time, I wish to implore you to consider a more compassionate alternative that doesn’t penalise the Icelandic people.

Yours Concernedly,

Sophia Ho Chee

Mother Nature Network and the Endangered Species Infographic

The weekend is here. As is usual for me, today, I have mostly been reviewing old emails from news sites that I’m subscribed to so that I might know what is happening in the world.

One thing that caught my eye, being the enviro-centric person that I am, is this.

Let me start by saying that I have no doubt in my mind that us humans are having a negative effect on the world and the other species which inhabit it. However, this infographic by ‘Mother Nature Network’ – and by the way, I LOATHE use of the phrase ‘Mother Nature’ as it reminds me of the character ‘MOM’ in Futurama who is not the loving old biddy she promotes herself to be and conjures up an image of smug insincerity – only goes to show to me that we’re not being treated to the ‘real picture’ here. For once I would like to see what the net effect of our existence on this planet really is and not such a one-sided approach, even if this is an estimation. What I mean is that I so often see announcements of the amount of endangered species in the world and the invisible (or at times, blatant) finger pointing in our direction, much like a silent fart blamed on the autistic kid minding his own business, playing with the rubik’s cube in the corner. The repurcussion of such a portrayl of our apparent fault is that people start to think everything is hopeless and berate themselves. I, too, have been guilty of this, what with my idealistic tendencies and vegetarian ways. Guilt, in fact, was what drew me into abstaining from eating meat in the first place, but looking at it all from a logical perspective, berating oneself is not useful and just creates self-loathing where there should be action.

I wonder if it is as cut-and-dry as ‘it is our fault’. Statistics, after all, can be used for bad. In a recent meeting I attended as part of my day job, a colleague pointed out to the attendees that numbers and statistics mean nothing without comparative analysis and a degree of commitment to learn from mistakes. I thought to myself after hearing this, ‘how true’. In the context of our effect, how many species could we have actually saved or helped to create by mere proximity? Ultimately, what I want to see are numbers. Numbers that represent the GOOD we are doing so that I might be able to weigh the two in my mind and say, ‘well, we’re sort of dicks, but hey, we could be a lot worse given the circumstance! Now… to being better!’

I also wonder how much of other species extinction is due to a force outside of our control but that we simply assume fault and that this was not at all as nature intended it… Take bees, for example. Their ‘colony collapse disorder’ and what looks to be pending extinction, if we are to believe Einstein could possibly mean the demise of own species and those around us, but we don’t yet know why this has come to be. It would be so simple to say that it is all our fault. Indeed, one of the theories with regards to this mysterious decline is radiation from mobile phones. My thought is, maybe they were MEANT to die away, and for another species to evolve and take their place. Maybe it is life’s little way of reminding us that ‘evolution’ still applies here, even if we may have forgotten all about it.

There is a certain egotistical arrogance in assuming so melodramatically that we’re the problem and our effects are irreversible to the planet. Chernobyl, for instance – after the nucleur power plant went belly up and humans were vacating the area for fear of their safety – assumed it would never be inhabitable again, and now it is a ‘haven’ to wildlife.

I’m not suggesting what we’re doing here is fine; that we can rest our minds, keep destroying the ozone layer and its neat security system intended to protect all known life, keep destroying the coral reef, sucking the world dry of all oil and polluting the seas, skies and earth while washing it down with a nice gulp of animal slaughter. However, this planet is a self healing one, just as we are when we cut our skin, break our legs.. If we help the planet to recover a little, it will meet us part of the way but how can we even begin to reverse any damage we have done without knowing the extent of the damage we have caused..?

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Disaster… Again…

On Saturday 27th February, 03:34 local time, Chile experienced an 8.8 magnitude earthquake followed by tsunami warnings. There have been 723 confirmed deaths thus far. To follow the humanitarian responses, and to perhaps give what you can to the Chilean people, follow this link or Google ‘Chile earthquake donate’.

Only a month prior, the world suffered a Haitian blow when a 7.0 Mw earthquake struck the small island, causing devastation. Even at work, the unions were imploring staff to give what they could, including poster input from myself as Comms Officer (minus icons and previously inserted email addresses): 2010 Haiti Earthquake Poster

At this point, I am thinking of creating a black poster with the white font words, ‘For God’s sake, do something!’ I read newspapers and troll news sites online and I am sad to say that I am somewhat desensitised to all the horrible things that happen to the world, and I am not the only one. People just like me roam the streets, ignoring the homeless, switching over the news to sweeter things and on the other side of the world, humans are being crushed under their houses. Ah, the great injustices of the world. However, now is a time for giving to those who need it. I’ll be donating. Will you?

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Google attempt to create a Buzz

In the last week, Google unveiled the google ‘Buzz’ application to its google users. On Tuesday, I received this article from Arianna Huffington regarding how pleased she generally is with the product. I do not agree.

Firstly, it’s a google product, which means it’s not inclusive to non-googlemail users. Secondly, the auto-follow default, which Google are now apologising for profusely, is very presumptuous. For instance, I opened my Google Buzz on Monday for the first time and was shocked to find I was already following my exes mother who I had a brief online encounter with over two years ago. The problem here is all other social networking applications give the user an opportunity to choose who they want to follow or be followed by. By automating it, to the untrained eye, it gives the impression that the other party involved had added them. With the case of my exes mother, for instance, I don’t mind if she chooses to follow me as that is her choice. However, I would never want to give the impression that I wanted to be a part of her online life. I consider it inappropriate given that her son and I didn’t quite end on good terms and I resent that Google would not give me that freedom of choice from the very start. Additionally, this function suggests that Google think everyone wants information about them to be made public to their google contacts. I can think of many addresses opted in to be my pal courtesy of Google Buzz, besides the above mentioned, that I have a weak affiliation with at best. I realise this would not be an issue for voyeurists. Indeed, I’m on twitter and twitter on a regular basis, but I choose who follows me and choose who I follow. Thirdly, and most importantly for me, it’s a poor imitation of products which are already out there. As extreme as this analogy is, it’s as if Google are attempting to re-invent the wheel. This is in no way to suggest that Twitter or Facebook are par with the invention of the ‘Wheel’. However, I believe Google’s time would be better spent working on connectivity with, for instance, Twitter, so that perhaps Twitter could project links, status updates, etc, onto the google profile rather than having two or more seperate accounts which do the same thing. Life is scattered enough without having so many overlapping elements online. Sorry, Google, I usually praise you for your innovation but not this time…

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Alec Baldwin: Put a major oil company out of business

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/alec-baldwin/put-a-major-oil-company-o_b_421021.html

So, as you might have guessed from my twitter, I have just recently discovered Alec Baldwin has his own blog via The Huffington Post, and so I am gorging on this currently.

Alec mentions (see the above link) his disappointment that the American Government are pushing for a health reform far more than other pressing issues and I wanted to discuss this here as it’s something that cannot be conveyed sufficiently via the medium of a 140 character twitter.

So, YES, the government are of course pushing for a health reform. It’s far more likely they will affect change and get support in that one area (in the short term) than support for energy changes (which involves far more work). Ideally, the Government SHOULD be chipping away at all key areas that need change, and who says they aren’t, but to think Obama and his minions are all Supermen – and women – capable of taking America out of the hole it has created for itself and making everything better in just four years is simply foolish. I imagine the Government figure that it’s better to tackle health first when it’s something that is comparatively ‘easily’ remedied leaving time and resources to work on the harder issues, rather than to put all their focus into one pot, marked ‘energy’. The unfortunate reality is that it will probably take a major and quantifiable shortage of oil before oil lobbies and executives change their ways, let alone allow alternatives onto the market other than themselves, and even then not without a fight. There is just too much demand and they are making too much money out of it currently. I mean, look at the electric car situation. Apparently, the technology is out there (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Who_Killed_the_Electric_Car%3F) but alternatives are being shot down by organisations that monopolise the energy and trasportation market. So imagine Obama’s plight to encourage these same organisations to stop making so much money out of oil, and instead invest in wind, biomass or nucleur energy. Much like an addiction, America can’t even see they have an oil problem despite being the world’s biggest oil guzzlers. So, how do you encourage people to do what’s best for a country when they are too blinded by money that they assumed they WERE doing it already by way of supply and demand? If only we could put America into Rehab and cut them off cold turkey. It is, unfortunately, never that simple. Particularly so because it’s not simply the actions of oil companies who are to blame for America’s abuse of oil. It’s the food markets who import from halfway across the world when they could use products from their own country, it’s companies who use oils to create packaging and it’s the public who choose to be oil dependent.

That’s not to say that the energy issue is a hopeless one, or indeed that Obama et al are wasting their time by pursuing a better health care system. On the contrary. They have to get this right, and right now. Health is one of those issues where both parties can see the negative effect that not having an adequate system in place is bringing unto the voters in their constituencies. And if they don’t, I am sure they receive plenty letters to inform them as such to the tune of ‘I have cancer but can’t afford treatment’.

In summation, my assessment is that writing a Huffington post about changes that need to happen with regards to energy is like preaching to the converted. Bear in mind the people that read the Huffington Post are liberals who are quite aware of the issues and are probably anti-war, probably cycle, take the bus, eat less meat, etc, all for the cause of reducing the CO2 footprint and using less energy. The people that need to be reached are the ‘Average Joes’, with their four-by-fours, driving a block to get their one-litre bottles of Mountain Dew and the parents that allow their children to go to unnecessary wars. If you garner support from these people, then you should have the support of the masses. And what reaches these people, far more than public service announcements, advertisements and pie charts? Famous-actor centric comedy shows and soaps of course! Scrubs, for instance, have made such light work of breaching the health insurance issue. Every other episode touches on a patient without health insurance and people take it seriously because by making it into an episode, using likeable characters of every age, gender and race, Scrubs have put a face to the issue and made it incredibly personal. So, how about Baldwin making an appearance in such shows as General Hospital or The Bold and the Beautiful discussing energy issues in a way that would get through to people… Or we could bring back Hank Hill for one episode looking at how the lack of propane gas has affected him, his family and pals… Or someone could make an Independence Day-style film, set in a world where humans have consumed every last drop and the Average Joe is fighting with their neighbour because they have to WALK to the nearest store, only to find they’ve run out of soda with no view to getting anymore, ever, probably starring Will Smith, Willie Nelson, Tina Fey, Jake Gyllenhaal and Miley Cyrus…

Baldwin, get writing!

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