Monthly Archives: April 2014

  • Bristol’s most tuneful planter

    Ever since it reopened a couple of years ago with Peter Gibbs behind the bar, The Volunteer Tavern in the St Jude’s district of Bristol has gone from strength to strength and now provides excellent beers and fine food in a quiet oasis amid the city’s bustle.

    I was there on Sunday and noticed what is possibly the city’s most tuneful planter full of bedding plants.

    Piano used as a planter

    I’ve heard of a player piano (also known as a pianola. Ed.), but never a planter piano!

  • UKIP poster corrected

    Somewhere out there in the UK, someone is taking a spray can to UKIP’s xenophobic European Parliament election campaign posters.

    UKIP poster amended to read No to Mass Hysteria

    Hat tip: Maria Aretoulaki

    Incidentally, if you get a UKIP election leaflet and you don’t wish to pollute your paper recycling with it, you can return it free of charge to them at the following address:

    Lexdrum House
    TQ12 6UT

  • How old is the Staffordshire oatcake?

    I’m currently reading Portrait of the Potteries by Bill Morland, published by Robert Hale Ltd. in 1978.

    Being a local delicacy, oatcakes (posts passim) get an honourable mention. Indeed on page 25 Mr Morland does more than praise them, he speculates as to their origin (although he hyphenates oat-cakes. Ed.):

    It is nothing like the Scottish oat-cake, but is rather like a brown and nobbly pancake made from draught-porridge. Incredibly economical to product, oat-cakes are very nourishing and sustaining. They are a symbol of the isolation and conservatism of the valley, since they appear to be an iron-age survival.

    Staffordshire oatcake before filling
    Oatcake awaiting filling

    However, Mr Morland provides no evidence of the Iron Age origins of the Staffordshire oatcake, although one would have thought that, as an archaeology teacher for Keele University’s Adult Education Department at the time of publication, he would have realised the importance of empirical evidence.

    If anyone can shed light on the (pre)history of the Staffordshire oatcake, please feel free to comment below.

  • LibreOffice 4.3 bug hunting session announced

    The first bug hunting session for LibreOffice 4.3 will take place from 23rd to 25th May 2014, The Document Foundation blog announced yesterday. This will coincide with the availability of the first beta of the new major release.

    image of LibreOffice Mime type icons
    LibreOffice for all your office suite needs: word processing, spreadsheets, presentations, database, drawing and formulas

    Those wishing to contribute and participating in the bug hunting session can find details on The Document Foundation wiki./ The wiki also has a list of new features and improvements for LibreOffice 4.3 to check for bugs and regression.

    Participants will need to have a PC with Windows, MacOS or Linux and LibreOffice 4.3 Beta 1.

    Filing bug reports will be extremely easy thanks to the help of experienced volunteers who will be available via the QA mailing list ( and IRC channel (irc://

    A second LibreOffice 4.3 bug hunting session will be organised immediately after the release of LibreOffice 4.3 Release Candidate 1 in mid-June.

  • ORG: Don’t sell our tax data, HMRC!

    The current government’s asset stripping of the British state has now moved onto HMRC, according to an article in yesterday’s Guardian. To quote directly from the Guardian piece:

    The personal financial data of millions of taxpayers could be sold to private firms under laws being drawn up by HM Revenue & Customs in a move branded “dangerous” by tax professionals and “borderline insane” by a senior Conservative MP.

    The senior Conservative MP in question is David Davis, who has taken a particular interest in civil liberties in recent years. According to The Guardian, Davis has said:

    “The officials who drew this up clearly have no idea of the risks to data in an electronic age. Our forefathers put these checks and balances in place when the information was kept in cardboard files, and data was therefore difficult to appropriate and misuse.

    “It defies logic that we would remove those restraints at a time when data can be collected by the gigabyte, processed in milliseconds and transported around the world almost instantaneously.”

    HMRC logo
    HMRC – your data isn’t safe in their hands

    Outside Parliament, the Open Rights Group is campaigning against the madness that has afflicted the taxman. According to ORG, the use of personal data without consent is meant to be against data protection laws, so what are the Information Commissioner and Data Protection Registrar doing about this proposed flagrant breach of data protection legislation?

    In the meantime, the ORG has set up a petition to which you can add your name. The petition reads as follows:

    I call on the government to halt plans to sell personal tax data to private companies and researchers. Please don’t sell our private financial information to companies. Anonymisation is not foolproof and it is my right to object to my information being shared in this way.

    Any access to my personal information held by the government should only be given after my explicit personal consent.

    Sign the petition.

    I have. My financial data submitted to HMRC is meant for them alone, not to be sold to the highest bidder, even in allegedly ‘anonymised’ format.

  • Top Bristol Post headline today

    Today’s online edition of the Bristol Post features a great headline to this story, as per the screenshot below.

    Post article screenshot

    There is however one thing wrong with the headline: it isn’t true since male tortoises – being reptiles – don’t have a penis, but a cloaca (which is the Latin word for sewer. Ed.) – an opening that serves as the only opening for the intestinal, reproductive and urinary tracts of certain species.

    To be fair the fact that male tortoises have cloacas is indeed mentioned by the Post’s unnamed author in paragraph 2:

    The four year-old spur-thighed tortoise is suffering from a prolapse of the cloaca which requires immediate treatment.

    Never let the truth get in the way of a good headline” seems to be a maxim of the British press at both local and national levels.

    Finally, this blog wishes Cedric and his owner every success in remedying Cedric’s problem. 🙂

  • Crapita and the MoJ: still wasting public money

    Crapita’s mismanagement of the courts and tribunals interpreting contract for the Ministry of Justice may not be getting as much publicity now as previously (posts passim), but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t stopped wasting public money, as the tweet below from yesterday reveals.

    As Leisha doesn’t mention the type of court involved, there’s no certainty how many thousands of pounds this laxity has cost, but once again justice is being delayed, contrary to one of the few clauses of Magna Carta still in legal effect (posts passim).

    One might even think that the one organisation that should be concerned about this – the Ministry of Justice – seems to be less concerned with justice and more with covering up its own and Crapita’s serial incompetence.

  • ORG meet-up at St Werburghs

    ORG logoThe Open Rights Group (ORG), an organisation which exists to preserve and promote your rights in the digital age, is holding a meet-up at 8.00 pm on Thursday 24th April 2014 at St Werburgh’s Community Centre, Horley Road, Bristol, BS2 9TJ (map).

    Following the Snowden revelations on GCHQ’s role in Prism, Open Rights Group, Big Brother Watch, English PEN and Chaos Computer Club spokesperson Constanze Kurz are challenging the UK government at the European Court of Human Rights.

    The European Court has completed its preliminary examination of the case and has asked the British Government to justify how GCHQ’s practices and the current system of oversight comply with the right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

    The court has also given the case a rare priority designation. The British government now has until 2nd May to respond, after which the case will move into the final stages before judgement.

    Join ORG in Bristol to hear from Dan Carey, the solicitor for the application, as he explains what the challenge hopes to achieve and how it will progress from here.

    We’ll also be hearing about the Don’t Spy On Us campaign from ORG’s Policy Director, Javier Ruiz, as ORG asks the public to sign its 6 key principles on mass surveillance.

    The event will provide a fun and informal way to meet with other local ORG supporters, as well as an opportunity to learn about mass surveillance.

    Please join the meetup group if you’re interested in coming along.

  • OPW’s success partly to blame for GNOME expenditure freeze

    Gnome logoAccording to German IT news site Heise, the financial cushion of the Gnome Foundation -non-profit organisation that furthers the goals of the GNOME Project, helping it to create a free software computing platform for the general public that is designed to be elegant, efficient, and easy to use – has declined so sharply that the organisation has frozen part of its expenditure. The success of the Gnome Outreach Program for Women (OPW) is said to be partly to blame for this situation (posts passim).

    The situation was explained in an email to Foundation members over the weekend.

    Dear Foundation members,

    Due to a shortfall in the budget, the Foundation board voted on 2014-04-08 to freeze all expenditure which is not essential to the running of the Foundation. This freeze affects sponsorship expenses
    which are unpaid at this time, but it does not affect the funds which we hold for other organisations.

    By keeping our expenditures to a minimum while we regain some delayed revenue, we aim to have things back to normal within a few months. All Foundation members who expect to receive reimbursements within the next three months have already been informed of the issue and most have responded positively. The board will prioritise these pending reimbursements over other expenses.

    The issue has been caused by a number of factors. These include increased administrative overheads in the last few years due to the increased turnover which has been caused by to the Outreach Program
    for Women (OPW), and the associated payments going out while the associated income has been slow to come in.

    The board expects that you may have some questions or would like to know more details about the problem, please read and contact the board at board-list gnome org if you have any further questions.

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