Gripes & Graplings

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Happy Slapping

Three boys and a girl were recently jailed for manslaughter after severely beating and kicking an innocent man whilst filming the attack on a mobile phone.

The boys were aged 16, 17 and 19 at the time of the attack. The girl just 14. All four came from unstable family backgrounds and spent a great deal of their time roaming the streets of London, making their own entertainment. Yes, entertainment. That's how they see the humiliation and pain they inflicted on innocent people. You see, 37 year old David Morley, wasn't the first victim they'd filmed; he just happened to be the one they attacked while the gang was being filmed by CCTV. He also happened to be the one who died.

As if what happened wasn't bad enough, UK law rubbed salt into the wound by acquitting them of murder, finding them guilty of manslaughter and conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm instead. The boys received a 12 year prison sentence each. The girl just 7 years. All have been told they'll have to serve two thirds of their sentence before being released on license. Just eight years and those monsters will be back on our streets, the thought of which makes me shudder. The girl? Just four years or so inside is all she has to get behind her before her liberty's reinstated.

What kind of message is this sending? That the life of an innocent man being taken in the most despicable manner is worth no more than 8 years loss of freedom for the killer(s)?

But what's more frightening than even the way our courts have handled these youths is the fact that it could even happen. Y'see, this isn't an isolated case. "Happy Slapping" is a trend amongst a youths who enjoy the adrenaline rush the receive through inflicting pain on innocent victims that they can re-live again and again as they watch the film at a later point, laughing at the fear their victims show.

I cry for nation that breeds these creatures and I cry for the
babes they once were. Where did it all go wrong?

What Mr. Morley's father felt about the efficiency of our justice system as he emerged from the court to be met by a group of youths directing throat-cutting gestures toward him and shouting abuse is anybody's guess.

There but for the grace of God...

Related Links:
The Origin of The Phase "Happy Slapping"
What Is Happy Slapping?


Saturday, January 21, 2006

Firefox Warning

Whatever you do, DO NOT install Firefox 1.5.

It's full of bugs - BIG bugs.

I'll come back to this when I've more time but in the meantime you can look through the forum at the number of problems and complaints. I'm surprised they released it.


Wednesday, January 18, 2006

What's With The Post Office?

Once upon a time I could take a leisurely ten minute stroll to a local post office, or sub post office as they're officially called.

Apart from doing the usual post officely things like selling stamps and postal orders, cashing social security giros, and taking care of bill payments, they sold all sorts of weird and wonderful things, some useful, others not so.

Milk, cans of baked beans, sewing needles, tights, sweets, cheap watches, ornaments and greeting cards were all there, as were stuffed toys, porcelain dolls, candles and light bulbs. Of course, they also had a reasonable selection of the things you'd expect to find in a post office such as brown paper, envelopes, string, cellotape and writing pads.

But that was then.

Even though there are around 17,000 local post offices in the UK, over the past year or so most of those in our part of Crewe have been closed down deeming it necessary for us to jump into our cars and head for town instead. Yes, there is a bus that goes there too, but buying a stamp might take a while being as you'll have to wait about half an hour after you've finished your errand before you can get a bus back again. Mind you, by the time you've messed around trying to find a parking space, it might be just as well to wait for the bus. Unfortunately, for those on a low income, the bus fare to and from town in order to buy a 30 pence first-class stamp can make a nasty dent in their disposable funds. But then again, so can the 70p parking charge. Whatever way you look at it, a visit to the post office isn't going to be cheap.

Anyway, yesterday I needed a greeting card and as Richard already had an errand at the post office, I decided to pop along with him as the main post office has always had a nice selection.

But that was then.

It isn't that long since I was last in the post office but my how it's changed. Gone are the racks of greeting cards, the selection of envelopes and other post related merchandise and in their place are... wait for it... hair straightening irons, electric toasters, satellite digi boxes, dvd players and more. There are also lots of films and computer games. Greeting cards? A pitiful selection. I needed a "Congratulations on the Birth of Your Baby Boy" card. There were three. Ok, at least I got one but even our tiny old local post office would have carried a bigger selection.

Now I realise that businesses have to branch out in order to keep up with competition but I wonder how many people think "I need an electric food chopper so I'll pop along to the post office". Not many. But does it matter? According to the counter assistant, most of their sales are spontaneous; people come in for a stamp and go out with curling tongs.

Oh well. Times are obviously changing.

Must dash. We're having fish and chips for tea so I'm off to the newsagents to get it.

Related links:
The Post Office
The National Federation of Sub-Postmasters


Saturday, January 07, 2006

Writers For Sale! Bargain!

What is it with writers? Who's convinced them that their worth is non-existent?

As a writer, I often have to put in a quote for work. My quote is based on the rates I need in order to make a viable living. I have bills to pay, food to buy and, when all the necessities are paid for, I'd like to have a bit left over to have fun with, too. Is that too much to expect?

But actually making enough money to meet those needs is becoming increasingly difficult, even though I work 12 hour days. And there's one group of people I blame for it. Writers!

Yes, writers!

I'm not talking about professional, full-time freelancers; I'm talking about those who are looking to earn themselves some pin money while they stay at home taking care of the children. Or those who live in Asia and believe that because they can speak English, they can make a living as writers earning £2.50 for a 500 word article. Yes, you read that right. Two pounds and fifty pence for a five hundred word article!

Now, by the time I've done the necessary research, a 500 word article will generally take me at least an hour to write. The average is probably closer to 2 1/2 hours. If I were to compete with the £2.50 mob, I'd earn an average of £10 a day by working 10 hours without any breaks. No lunch and no coffee! Just flat out working. If I were to work every week of the year, that would give me a grand total of £2,600. Could you live off of that? Of course not! At least I wouldn't have to worry about not having time for holidays - I couldn't afford them anyway!

Maybe I should be blaming the editors of websites and tuppenny bit magazines for pressing prices down this low, but I'm afraid I have to leave the responsibility with the writers. Any businessman will try to keep his outgoings as low as possible, and only when writers start demanding the kind of fees they're worth will anything improve.

Writers should be proud of their profession and stop selling themselves short. If you're one of those who are undercutting the market, I suggest you reconsider your position and ask yourself why you're writing. Do you want to knock the rest of us out of the market, or do you want to be able to earn the kind of money we should be earning? Bid what you're worth!

If you're not worth enough to demand a decent rate for your work then you shouldn't be writing in the first place. Go sweep the streets instead - you'll earn more!

Related links:
The National Union of Journalists' Rates Guide