Monday, October 29, 2012

Internet etiquette failure

I've been invited to join a local group that aims to campaign on an issue I care about. The email from the co-ordinator asked when it would be convenient to meet. He'd sent the same email to a bunch of other people, with all our email addresses in the 'To' box. I replied,
Rather than sending emails to everyone on your list, which means sharing email addresses (not good IT security, BTW), why not open a Facebook group and post messages there?
He replied,
Thanks Margaret,

I will put your point to the next meeting unless you are able to come to it in person.

I know and am part of many 'round robins' as I call them, which work very well with no issues arising. Some of the address list are several screens long! Also where the people involved have never been asked whether they wished to be part of it!

I shall be guided by the collective thoughts about this. If we do make a change it would be best sooner rather than later.

Hope to meet you someday, best wishes, Bob
Lists "several screens long"! No thank you. I tried again...
Hi Bob,

On "round robins", or mass emails; they may "work well" as long as everyone on the list is careful about Internet security, but for one thing, unless all the people on your list have formally agreed to share their details, it would be in breach of data protection guidelines to share them, and I don't like it when it happens. Mass emails where everyone's email address is seen by everyone else on the list, are one way for viruses to be spread. They can also be useful to hackers and spammers. If you wouldn't share the content of your address book with everyone else in your address book, why would you do it online? When sending mass emails, I address them to myself and use the Bcc box for all the recipients' addresses.

I don't think that this is up to the group making a decision to stop doing it; I think you just must! A Facebook group is just one alternative means of communication, but a simple one.
Bob responded,
I have followed this up with the national coordinator of local groups who is not happy with the Facebook option (and nor am I).

Despite my reservations (that it will inhibit communication, especially for those who opt for the 'bcc' list, impose complications for those who manage it and makes everyone dependant on that persons availability and responsiveness) I will introduce an email based group.
Next I got another email, with all the recipients' email addresses in the 'To' box except mine, which was hidden, so I suppose you could say he was making an effort, of sorts.
Hello Everyone,

I need to explain that I have had a request to provide the option for members of the group to hide their email. I have discussed this with the national co-ordinator of local groups and agreed to arrange for an email group. He is not in favour of a Facebook mechanism for this.

Organising this has so far eluded me and this email is sent as before except that Margaret is on the 'bcc' list.
As the stable door is well and truly open, I've given up and quit the group.

'Bob' is not his real name - I respect his privacy.

For the benefit of anyone who doesn't know, here's how to send emails to a group of people - The BCC field.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

On dirty old men and a sense of proportion

When I reached early puberty and my breasts began to sprout, I was groped by a Sunday school teacher when he gave me a lift home in his car. As an adult, a close male relative attempted a clumsy French kiss and, later, someone I knew tried to rape me. He was a little man, the worse for drink, so I didn't have much difficulty fighting him off, but I did end up with a bloody nose and black eye, inflicted when I threw him out. These events didn't traumatise me. I haven't been waiting years for someone to refer me to a helpline. Like many other people, I shrugged off these encounters and forgot about them.

With all this fuss about Jimmy Saville, a dirty old man like thousands of others, I wonder how many of the people who've claimed to have been abused by him were any more traumatised than I was. I can understand people being deeply affected by persistent abuse, such as the sort perpetrated by relatives and family friends, or by rape, but groping? Does this really count? Should it make victims of anyone?

With the benefit of hindsight, all the self-righteous are now baying for BBC blood over Saville, but he wasn't that unusual; the main difference between him and thousands of others was his celebrity, and how he took advantage of it. I knew there was no point telling my parents about my Sunday school teacher; they'd have been embarrassed, and may not have believed it. Until the last couple of decades, when paedophile paranoia developed, most people pretended it wasn't happening. It was because of this culture of denial that priests, celebrity lechers and over-familiar relatives got away with it.

It's good that people are more aware of what is or isn't appropriate behaviour, and it's good that abusers are caught and prosecuted, but it's not good that so many seem to have been encouraged to imagine that their experience will ruin their lives. It needn't. No one should let it.

As for Jimmy Saville and the BBC; I agree with Simon Jenkin:
It is hard to see what real benefit will come from any of this. The case is awash in malice, vilification, exaggeration and litigation. After today's grilling, the BBC might well decide never again to let a child near a male studio presenter. Hospitals will be advised to recruit chaperones for males in children's wards. MPs would apparently deplore anyone permitting children near adult strangers.
Get a grip.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Stop the badger cull

There's no need for me to explain the reasons why the badger cull is a bad idea; other people have done that. My contributions to the protests have been twofold; to cancel my doorstep milk deliveries, because the supplier, Dairy Crest, supports the cull - I've let them know why; and to spread the word on social media.

If you buy milk, ask where it comes from and if its producer supports the cull. If they do, consider changing your supplier or do without until the policy is changed. Ask where the milk comes from that's used by your favourite coffee shop and other milk-users; I'm told that Starbucks is supplied by Dairy Crest. The important thing is to make milk wholesalers and retailers who support the cull aware of your views and boycott their products; commercial interests may prompt a revision of their policies.

Click on any or all of these links to find out more about why the cull is a bad idea, and why it's not just bad for badgers; it won't help cattle either.

From the Independent: Costs of proposed badger cull to prevent TB in cattle will be greater than the financial benefits

The RSPCA's campaign to stop the cull

From the Guardian: Badger cull "mindless", say scientists

Sign Brian May's e-petition (you must be a UK citizen to do this)



Photo: European badger from Wikimedia Commons

Update: 23/10/2012
Reply from CEO Allen at Dairy Crest says he's referred my letter to the managing director of dairies who deals with doorstep deliveries. No idea why, as I doubt he has any say in the cull policy.  Meanwhile, the cull's been postponed a year, with excuses aplenty, though the RSPCA hopes it means a complete revision of the government's position.

Update: 2/11/2012
Reply from my MP to an email:
Thank you for your email of 19 October about bovine TB and badger control.

As you are aware, infected badgers are highly contagious carriers of bovine TB. The dairy farming community has made clear that their livelihoods are at serious risk if the infected population is not controlled properly. Bovine TB harms farmers, their cattle, and consumers of dairy products; it also undermines wider countryside management and conservation efforts.

The Government is committed to using all of the tools at its disposal and continuing to develop new ones as a package of measures to tackle the disease. In high-risk areas herds are tested annually and any cattle that test positive are slaughtered. Restrictions on cattle movements have been further strengthened to reduce the chance of disease spreading from cattle to cattle – farmers who have had a case of TB on their farm will not be allowed to bring new cattle in until the rest of the herd has been tested for TB and a vet has carried out an assessment. They will also now have only 30 days, down from 60, to move cattle that test negative for TB from a TB breakdown farm.

The possibility of a mass vaccination programme was considered very carefully but is currently impractical. The Government has funded and developed an injectable badger vaccine and over the course of the next three years is making available £250,000 a year to support and encourage badger vaccination around the areas of any cull. The vaccine does, however, have significant limitations in the field. Badgers need to be trapped before they can be vaccinated and the process has to be repeated annually for many years, which limits its use to small-scale projects. In addition the vaccine is not 100 per cent effective in preventing TB and does not appear to make any difference to those animals that are already infected. As a result, current vaccines will not be as effective as culling in reducing the spread of the disease from badgers to cattle.

For these reasons, I support the Government’s decision to protect dairy farming and the interests of the wider rural community by approving a cull. However given the importance of the pilot culls, it is vital that the policy is delivered effectively. It is for this reason that the Government has accepted the request of the NFU, on behalf of the companies co-ordinating the culls, not to proceed with the pilots this autumn. The decision follows this summer’s exceptionally bad weather, protracted legal proceedings, the advice of the police to delay the start until after the Olympics and Paralympics and, most recently, the revision of local badger population numbers to a significantly higher figure.

By starting the pilots next summer we can build on the work that has already been done and ensure that the cull will conform to the appropriate scientific criteria and evidence base.

I appreciate that you do not agree and will find this response disappointing, but hope that you will not hesitate to contact me again in future.

Yours sincerely
Tim Yeo

Thursday, October 04, 2012

For National Poetry Day



Liverpool, 1944-1968

Candle-nosed children
(catarrh's common around here)
play on the bomb sites
under towers hung with washing.

Ships' voices
bellow above the city noises,
lonely, no longer in convoys,
like sirens

calling Granddad
back to the sea.
He sailed over torpedoes
but never told tales.

A tart with a complexion
like lunar craters
bought tea in Lewis's cafeteria,
saying, "Thanks luv."

People stepped over
a drunk outside the Adelphi.
He could be dead
but no one bothers.

Mrs O'Malley, scrubbing steps,
says, "Holymarymotherogod"
when a boy stepped in the suds.
He said, "Cherwa?"

I caught the bus home
smelling of wet clothes
and someone's chips,
and Woodbines.

Liverpool revisited, 1970s

Arthur Dooley
(folk hero of the '60s,
welder turned sculptor,
champion of old architecture,
piss on the bureaucrats!)
said, "Gerrof!", but they
took great chunks out,
like a mad dentist,
filling in with flyovers and downunders.
Concrete's handy stuff.


I used to go through this area on the bus, on my way into the city. Arthur Dooley tried to save some of the old architecture nearer town, much of it with original wrought iron decoration.

I was a student at Liverpool College of Art in the 1960s, living at home in the suburbs and working in Lewis's department store on Saturdays.  
I knew Arthur Dooley when we were both CND members, going on demonstrations with lots of other people. He was a real Scouser.
My grandfather, who lived with us until he died, had been a steward on the White Star Line. He  never adjusted to life ashore when he retired. He used to go and watch the ships whenever he could, sitting in the gardens along the river-front at Waterloo.