IWD stencils

Yesterday, like 8th March every year, was International Women’s Day, this year focussing on the theme #ChooseToChallenge.

To quote from the IWD website:

A challenged world is an alert world and from challenge comes change.
So let’s all choose to challenge.

How will you help forge a gender equal world?
Celebrate women’s achievement. Raise awareness against bias. Take action for equality.

Easton Way in Bristol was yesterday sporting some new challenging stencil art in celebration of IWD near its junction with Easton Road.

Organise Yourself Sister stencil art Feminist in Training

LibreOffice 7.1.1 released

Towards the end of last week The Document Foundation (TDF) announced the release of LibreOffice 7.1.1, the first point release of LibreOffice 7.1, which is available for immediate download.

This release over contains 90 bug fixes and improvements to document compatibility.

LibreOffice 7.1 banner

As usual, TDF suggests that this release is aimed at technology enthusiasts and power users, rather than more conservative business users for whom an older release is recommended.

This latest release is available for all major desktop operating systems (Linux, MacOS and Windows), mobile platforms (Android and iOS) and the cloud. Instead of downloading via the link above, Linux users might like to wait until the update is provided directly via the repositories of their individual distributions, whilst those for mobile devices can be obtained via the app stores for their respective operating systems.

TDF’s wiki charts the changes and improvements in the latest release via the changes made in the two release candidates: RC1 and RC2.

LibreOffice users are invited to join the community so they can both get and provide individual support. Those willing to contribute their time and professional skills to the project can visit the dedicated What Can I Do For LibreOffice website.

Finally, LibreOffice users, free software advocates and community members can give financial assistance to The Document Foundation with a donation via PayPal, credit card or other means.

Marg’s 10K steps a day for Felix Road

Local councillor Marg Hickman, who is also one of the trustees of Eastside Community Trust, has launched a crowdfunder to raise funds for Felix Road Adventure Playground, one of the Trust’s 2 sites in Easton, Bristol.

Felix Road Adventure Playground

Felix Road Adventure Playground. Photo credit: Eastside Community Trust


Felix Road has been in existence for nearly as long as I’ve been in Bristol and provided a much-needed safe space for generations of local children to play, socialise and develop.

Marg writes:

Felix Road Adventure Playground is an inner-city playground supporting some of the most vulnerable and disadvantaged children, young people and families in Bristol. Felix Road is an inspiring beacon of inclusive play, a space where children and families can come together and celebrate diversity.

We need resources to continue to run our busy kitchen staffed by volunteers and providing much needed healthy and nutritious meals for children and families every day, and to help run a girls’ group for Somali young women.

I plan to walk or dance 10,000 steps each day in March. I would so appreciate you sponsoring me to reach my goal. Follow my progress on my Facebook page. Much love.

If you would like to support Marg, please visit her crowdfunding page and kindly give what you can.

Update: Marg’s efforts ended up raising over £2,500 for Felix Road. Well done if you also contributed.

Amazon customer couldn’t post review in Welsh of Welsh book

Cover of Llad Duw novel by Dewi PrysorAmazon was forced to apologise and blamed a “technical error” for a customer being unable to post a review in Welsh of a novel written in Welsh, Wales Online reports.

Cathryn Sherrington of Cardiff had submitted a Welsh Language review which she then translated to English of the book Lladd Duw, by Dewi Prysor.

The book is described by its publisher as a “hefty, ambitious novel set in London and an imaginery [sic] seaside town. It deals with the destruction of civilisation from the standpoint of the working class. An intense, dark novel but with the usual humour from Dewi Prysor.

Cathryn’s review reads as follows:

Gwych Brilliant. I haven’t read a Welsh book for years – sometimes the formality of written Welsh puts me off – this is brilliant though.
Hawdd i ddarllen, stori gyffroes, cymeriadau diddorol. Wedi joio fo gymaint dwi’n mynd i ddarllen mwy o lyfrau Cymraeg.”

In English the review’s second sentence reads: “Easy to read, exciting story, interesting characters. Have enjoyed it so much I’m going to read more Welsh language books“.

However, Amazon which employs 1,000 people in Swansea, emailed Cathryn implying her review might have broken its guidelines.

There then followed a social media and email exchange between Cathryn and Amazon at the end of which the latter relented, stating: “This was due to a technical error for which we apologise. It has now been resolved.”

Planning for clichés

The inspiration to write this post was what an old friend referred to on social media as the Town Planners’ Little Book of Tired Clichés.

We were discussing a press report on long-term plans for Bristol Temple Meads, the city’s main railway station and its environs.

The report itself was written up from a press release issued by the literary geniuses employed in the Bristol City Council Newsroom down the Counts Louse (which some people now call City Hall. Ed.).

Bristol Temple Meads railway station

Bristol Temple Meads. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Whilst avoiding clichés has long been a given as advice for good creative writing, the various actors quoted in the Temple Meads piece seem to relish in their use.

Thus the surrounding area “will be rejuvenated with housing, shops and hospitality outlets creating a new area of the city where people can live, shop, visit and socialise”.

Note the exemplary use of rejuvenated.

In addition, how a new area of the city can be created by covering an existing but derelict city area in architecturally contrived arrangements of building materials is beyond me. If you have any clues, dear reader, please enlighten me via the comments.

Then there’s that essential element for anything involving urban planning – the vision thing. This is ably provided in this case in a quotation by Network Rail’s spokesperson: “We are delighted to be working with our partners on this significant regeneration project and Bristol Temple Meads station is at the heart of this vision.”

Helmut Schmidt, who served as the West German chancellor from 1974 to 1982, had a thing to say about visions: “Wer Visionen hat, sollte zum Arzt gehen“. In English: People who have visions should go to the doctor. Genau! Sie haben Recht, Herr Schmidt.

Needless to the whole glossary of hackneyed phraseology seems to have been upended into the phraseology mixing bowl to create something not only unappetising, but indigestible: ambitious; innovative; rejuvenate/rejuvenation; regeneration; gateway; transformation/transformative; integrate; blueprint; showcase.

And on the clichés go, marching tediously across and down the page.

There are nevertheless a couple of absolute gems in the piece to compensate for all this guff.

Firstly,there’s the timescale for the plans. We are are informed that “work is not expected to start for another decade with the expected completion not until 2041 at the earliest“. Thus all that hot air is being expended on something whose actual implementation is two decades in the future; if not more.

A well-known adage springs to mind: pigs might fly.

Secondly, there’s the promise of an integrated transport hub. Basically this means creating a major public transport interchange (as seen in sensible city’s where the local bus/tram serve the railway station). To my knowledge, there’s been talk of a transport hub/interchange at Temple Meads for at least 3 decades already, so for it actually to become a reality within 5 decades would entail the city’s infrastructure planning process moving at more than their usual slower than tectonic plates speed.

Lenovo must pay Italian developer €20,000 in damages for refusing €42 Windows refund

In aLuca Bonissi - image courtesy of FSFE historic judgment in Italy, Lenovo was ordered to pay €20,000 euros in damages for abusive behaviour for refusing to refund the price of a pre-installed Windows licence in a case initiated by Free Software Foundation Europe (FSFE) supporter Luca Bonissi, the FSFE reports.

A grateful Luca is donating €15,000 of the award to the FSFE.

It should go without saying that everyone should be able to freely choose the operating system to run on their personal computers.However, this freedom is regularly abused by hardware suppliers to such an extent that it is almost impossible to buy a new or used system without having to pay the so-called Windows tax for an unwanted OS. Some computer manufacturers still make it very hard for consumers, forcing them to assert their rights in expensive and exhausting lawsuits.

This is what happened to Luca Bonissi.

In March 2018, Luca bought a brand-new Lenovo Ideapad and decided he didn’t want to run Windows on it. He therefore contacted Lenovo to request a refund for the pre-installed Windows system.

This initiated a lengthy two-year bureaucratic and legal all because the company twice refused to refund the €42 Luca had been charged for the unwanted Windows system. After having his requests denied twice by Lenovo, Luca tried to seek help from the Italian Competition and Market Authority (AGCM). However, when he realised that these efforts were fruitless, Luca decided to take legal action against Lenovo.

He therefore initiated proceedings in a small claims court without legal assistance, but soon sought professional aid when Lenovo proved obstinate.

In June 2019, the Justice of the Peace of Monza upheld Luca’s right to reimbursement and ordered Lenovo to refund €42 for the Windows licence and also ordered the company to pay €130 in legal costs

However, Lenovo was dissatisfied with the verdict and appealed, citing 15 grounds for appeal, implicating Luca in further legal proceedings and yet more expense for legal advice.

Finally, in December 2020, the Court of First Instance in Monza rejected all Lenovo’s arguments, upholding the consumer’s right to a refund for the unused pre-installed operating system. The court noted that the manufacturer itself had expressly assumed this obligation in the Windows licence. Furthermore, in a historic decision, the court imposed punitive damages of €20,000 on Lenovo for abusing the appeal process.

Commenting on his victory in court Luca stated: “The Monza decision demonstrated that is possible to reverse the unacceptable behaviour of big techs. What was taken away from the Free Software community has now been returned to it. I encourage everyone to fight back for their legitimate rights!”

Around the block history lesson

Walls made of stone blocks are not unknown in Bristol. Since medieval times the local grey Pennant sandstone has been a common building material, as in the wall shown below, which is situated in All Hallows Road in the Easton area.

Slag block in stone wall, All Hallows Road, Easton

Please note the second block down in the centre of the photograph; the purply-black one that isn’t Pennant sandstone.

It’s a by-product of a formerly common industry in Bristol and the surrounding area that only ceased in the 1920s – copper and brass smelting. Brass goods in particular were mass-produced locally and traded extensively, especially as part of the triangular trade during when Bristol grew rich on slavery.

Indeed it’s a block of slag left over from the smelting process. When brass working was a major industry in the Bristol area, the slag was often poured into block-shaped moulds and used as a building material when cooled and hardened.

Stone walls were frequently capped with a decorative slag coping stones, as can be seen below on one of the walls of Saint Peter & St Paul Greek Orthodox Church in Lower Ashley Road. Otherwise the blocks were just used like ordinary stone blocks in masonry as above. In some instances, the blocks have been used as vertical decorative features in masonry.

Greek Orthodox Curch wall with slag copings

The finest example of the use of slag as a building material within the Bristol area is Brislington’s Grade I listed Black Castle pub (originally a folly. Ed.), where slag has been used extensively.

Black Castle, Brislington

Black Castle, Brislington, Bristol. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

So if you see any slag blocks in a wall in Bristol, you can be sure it usually dates to the 18th or 19th century, more usually the latter, when Bristol underwent a massive expansion.

Moreover, these blocks are apparently referred to as “Bristol Blacks.

There’s a link between Bristol’s brass industry and my home county of Shropshire in the shape of Abraham Darby I.

In 1702 local Quakers, including Abraham Darby, established the Baptist Mills brass works of the Bristol Brass Company not far from the site of today’s Greek Orthodox Church on the site of an old grist (i.e. flour) mill on the now culverted River Frome. The site was chosen because of:

  1. water-power from the Frome;
  2. both charcoal and coal were available locally;
  3. Baptist Mills was close to Bristol and its port;
  4. there was room for expansion (the site eventually covered 13 acres. Ed.).

In 1708-9 Darby leaves the Baptist Mills works and Bristol, moving to Coalbrookdale in Shropshire’s Ironbridge Gorge, the birthplace of the Industrial Revolution. In Coalbrookdale, Darby together with two business partners bought an unused iron furnace and forges. Here Darby eventually establishes a joint works – running copper, brass, iron and steel works side by side.

Below is the site of Darby’s furnace in Coalbrookdale today.

Darby's blast furnace in Coalbrookdale

Darby’s blast furnace in Coalbrookdale. Image courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.

By contrast, here is what occupies the site of the brass works in Baptist Mills – junction 3 of the M32.

M32 roundabout

The site of the Bristol Brass Company’s Baptist Mills works. Image courtesy of OpenStreetMap.

LibreOffice 7.0 beginner’s guide launched

Cover of LibreOffice 7.0 Getting Started GuideThe Document Foundation’s blog announced last week that the LibreOffice Documentation Team had released its LibreOffice 7.0 Getting Started Guide. The Guide, which was previously issued for LibreOffice version 6.4, has been updated to include all the new and improved features of LibreOffice 7.0, the latest version of LibreOffice, the free and open source alternative to proprietary office suites.

The guide has been drafted especially for those wanting to get up to speed quickly with LibreOffice, whether they are new users of office productivity software or already have some familiarity with other office suites, such as Microsoft’s ubiquitous and expensive offering.

The guide provides an introduction the LibreOffice’s 6 major components, i.e.:

  • Writer (word processing)
  • Calc (spreadsheets)
  • Impress (presentations)
  • Draw (vector graphics)
  • Base (database)
  • Math (equation editor)

Furthermore, it also covers some of the features common to all those components – set-up and customisation, styles and templates, macro recording, digital signing and printing.

The guide can be downloaded (PDF format) from LibreOffice’s English Documentation site., which also includes links to documentation in other languages, as well as user guides for earlier LibreOffice releases.

Express implodes in fury

Nearly 80 years ago, Conservative leader Stanley Baldwin laid into the press on 17th March 1931 accusing them of wanting “power without responsibility – the prerogative of the harlot throughout the ages“.

When it comes to harlotry combined with lack of responsibility, it’s hard to emulate the Express.

For years these purveyors of xenophobia have actively campaigned for the country to leave the European Union, telling all manner of lies in the process.

Since achieving that aim the xenophobia has not abated in the slightest; and neither have the lies.

Yesterday the Daily Brexit – as it is otherwise known – reported (if it can indeed be called that. Ed.) on the the progress post-Brexit UK-US trade deal; or rather the lack of any progress.

However, anyone expecting a rational, balanced account would have been sorely disappointed.

Screenshot of Express website article with headline reading: It's a CON!' Britons react with fury after Biden puts brakes on post-Brexit trade deal

The only con is the poor quality of Express reporting

It’s a CON!’ Britons react with fury after Biden puts brakes on post-Brexit trade deal‘ screamed the headline.

What? All Britons? Hardly.

In total, five Britons were quoted, all of them Express readers, hardly a scientifically selected cross-section of British society.

There is no input to the piece from the alleged government, not even a nudge or wink from the usual unidentified Whitehall source.

Not that such a minor detail matters to the bigots in the Express’ editorial office, who just wanted another opportunity to rant at these beastly foreigners and whose readers were more than happy to assist, especially as a trade deal with the USA was a major objective of Johnson’s Vote Leave government and, if achieved, would represent a major face-saver for a hardline administration whose tanking of the economy by its extremely poor deal with the EU has so far been masked by the damage done by coronavirus.

Furthermore, the piece is an opportunity for the Express to put the boot in on Katherine Tai, President Biden’s nomination for United States Trade Representative, both of whose parents were born in China, so enabling yet more causal bigotry from the Express.

Finally, it’s been a matter of general fact even before his election as president that Joe Biden does not regard the clinching of a trade deal with a post-Brexit United Kingdom as a high priority. Whereas previous US presidents have tended to use the UK as a bridge when dealing with the EU, a UK outside the EU is of less utility to Washington, since Biden has already bypassed the UK and has already been talking directly to Brussels.

If there has been a con, it’s been all the lies and British exceptionalism nonsense that the Express – exercising its power irresponsibly – has published for years.

Going, going…

Here’s a wee update on the bike I reported on Lawrence Hill (posts passim).

Since reporting, a member of Bristol Waste staff has been out and affixed a removal notice to the bike, giving the owner – if any – a fixed period, in this case 21 days (3 weeks), in which to recover their property before it is removed.

Abandoned bike on Lawrence Hill with Bristol Waste removal notice attached

Abandoned bike with removal notice attached to its top tube

I trust when it is removed, the 2 redundant D-locks also affixed to the stand are likewise removed at the same time. 😀

 

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