1 September 2006


My alma mater just emailed me about a couple of lecture series they're running:

Why not retain your intellectual faculties at the white-heat they enjoyed while you were at Keele!


The World Affairs Group has drawn up an extremely stimulating series of lectures and speakers for their 2006-2007 programme. All Lectures start at 7.30 p.m. in the Westminster Theatre, Chancellor’s Building). Please note course fee below.

September 28th

Paul Rogers

Bradford University

War Too Far”

October 5th

D Stevenson


and Peace in the 20th

October 12th

Dr C

Director Middle East Studies



October 19th

Dr D

Transparency International Berlin

World Wide Corruption!

October 26th

Digby Jones

Chief Ext C.B.I.

Globalisation – Threat or Opportunity?

November 2nd

Lembit Öpik

Dem MP


November 9th


Moslem Council

“Iraq” – a case point of Western
Moral and Ethical Decline

November 16th

Bruce Kent

President, Nuclear Disarmament

Getting rid of Nuclear Weapons and

November 23rd

Dr G

Science and Medical Author


Mice, Molecules, Men. Moral Ethics and Biological

November 30th

Alex Danchev

Nottingham University

Terror and Torture

December 7th

M Temple

Staffordshire University

Politics and the Media

December 14th

Tim Jones

Innovara, London and Amsterdam

World in 2026!

December 21st

Lindsay Whitehouse

Deputy Governor

Werrington Young Offenders’

Dealing with Young Offenders

January 4th

Annual Dinner

Keele Hall

Stephen Lander – Director General Serious Crime

Former Head MI5

January 11th

Werner Sabiers

German Journalist


January 18th

L Scott

Aberystwyth University

Intelligence in Crisis from Sept 11 to Iraq!

January 25th

Dr S

Keele University

Looting the World’s Culture

February 1st

Dr M
Breen Smyth

Aberystwyth University

Reconstruction – Northern
Ireland, South
Africa and the Middle

February 8th

Dr P

Essex University

Justice for the Old and

February 15th

D Dorling

Sheffield University

World as You Have Never Seen It Before

February 22nd

Dr M

Loughborough University


March 1st

P Styles

Keele University

Coal is Buried but is he Dead Yet?!

March 8th

Dr P

Nottingham Trent University

Racism in France

March 15th

Dr D

Keele University


March 22nd

N Wheeler

Aberystwyth University

Humanitarian Intervention

March 29th

Dr D

Keele University

Thinking about Peace


Carlisle QC

House of Lords

Terrorism and Civil Liberties – Where Now and


Dr S

Keele University



M Dando

Bradford University


“There is
a lot of evil in mankind

And we
have to be constantly vigilant to combat it

But there
is a lot of good in mankind

properly nurtured it will always triumph!”


Course fee
£25. Pensioners £13. Unemployed and Students free. Please make cheques payable to “World

Why not
try the first three lectures free of charge? This course is dedicated to the
principles of free political debate. You must, however, have the tolerance to
accept that others may hold opposite views! If you want further information,
please ring Owen Powell on 01782 534934.





Tuesday, 3 October 2006

Professor Matthias Klaes

Introduction to Commerce in Five

Wednesday, 25 October 2006

Professor John Wearden

Perception of Time

Thursday, 9 November 2006

Professor Steve Cropper

Playing a part: on
organising and evaluating collaborative

Tuesday, 5 December 2006

Professor Serguei Semenov

Imagine and Discover:
medical Imaging

Tuesday, 16 January 2007

Professor Andy Dobson

Political Animals

Thursday, 1 February 2007

Professor Jo Laybourn-Parry

Antarctica – the edge of


Thursday, 22 February 2007

Professor Stephen Wilkinson

Choosing Children:

the ethics of selective

Thursday, 8 March 2007

Professor Richard Hays

Education or workforce strategies? The precarious position of medical

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

Professor Ronnie Lippens

Whither Critical Criminology?

Wednesday, 2 May 2007

Professor Chris Main

the Reign of Pain fall mainly in the Brain?

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Professor Tom Scharf

Extremes of Age: Challenging
Poverty, Promoting Inclusion


to those unable to enjoy these events due to

John Easom
International Alumni Officer
Keele University, Staffordshire ST5 5BG
00 44 (0)1782 583370 Fax 584422
Moved house or job? Don't forget to let the
Alumni Office know... www.keele.ac.uk/depts/uso/alumni

The World Affiars doesn't look that interesting but some of the inaugural lectures do. If it weren't for the distance I'd seriously consider going.

22 August 2006

Office suite I'd really like

I was just reading an article on Slashdot about the possibility of a version of Microsoft Office for Linux and it reminded me of something I've been thinking about, off and on, for some time. It first came up whilst I was trying to learn TeX, or rather the LaTeX implmentation of TeX. I got to thinking that what I would find really useful, at work at least, would be a wordprocessor that was entirely styles based and where if you edited a style the change would be automatically propagated to everywhere that style was used (a bit like how CSS is supposed to work, although the ability to 'lock' a document to the current set of styles would be useful although this could be achieved by exporting to PDF). A big problem I've found with styles in current word processors (MS Word, OpenOffice &c) is that if you chage a stle it very often will only change it for new uses of that style, existing text in that style will remain unchanged.

A lot of companies require that all documents be produced with a set set of fonts, sizes and colours to give a corporate standard. A styles based wordprocessor would allow them to create the required styles and provide them to all employees, probably along with document templates for standard corporate documentation. When the management decided they wanted to change the corporate style they could just update the style library and redistribute it, as each document was opened the changed styles would be applied. It would save a lot of hassle having to create the styles yourself and manually change each document when the corporate styles change.

I think that this would get us closer to the intention behind Tex of just getting on with writing the document and not fussing about the look of it. I suspect that it would also help make documents more accessible for people with disabilities as it would make them more readable by automated systems, similarly it would make documents more suited to automatic processing. Styles could be semantic in nature, rather then seeing a block of text which is defined as being "bold, 22pt, Arial Black, centred" the software would see one labelled "ChapterTitle".

26 July 2006

Dentally Assaulted

A filling fell out of one of my teeth last week, taking most of the tooth with it. As I don't have a dentist I had to go to the Dental Hospital.

I called in advance and they the only way to get treatment is to show up at 07:30 to get a number then there'd be a minimum two hour wait and I'd get treated, first untruth. I showed up at 06:45 on Friday morning (I booked the day off work) and there was already a queue of 8 people. By the time they opened the doors at 07:40 there was a queue of about 30 people. After the pushing and shoving I was 12th in line and got number 12. I was then told to come back at 13:30 as they would only be treating 10 people that morning and 10 in the afternoon. So if you want treatment there get there for 06:30 and bring something to sit on (that folds up quickly into something that can be used as a weapon) and a book.

I hung around in town for a while, did a bit of shopping and drank far too much coffee.

At about 13:00 I went back to the hospital and took a seat in the ground floor waiting room, as instructed. After about 45 minutes they opened up reception and started to call people through. I noticed that a lot of the people they were calling through didn't have a number and hadn't been there at 07:40, which revealed the second untruth. You don't have to show up early and get a number, you can be referred or even make an apppointment if you've been treated there before.

After about 25 minutes my number was called and I went to the reception desk and gave my details (Name, address, full servicemedical history &c) then was sent to sit down in the waiting area again. Another 15 minutes passed and my name was called. I went into a side room which contained about half a dozen dentists chairs. I was dragged to one where a guy in his 40s (I guess a dentist) took my details including stuff like allegies (including the fact that I'm allergic to latex, i.e. what their examination gloves are made of) then looked in my mouth and confirmed that a large chunk of one of my molars had disapeared and the tooth would have to be pulled (the one positive thing about the dental hospital, they don't try to pad their income by 'saving' a tooth), I could have told them that at 07:40 that morning. I was sent to another waiting room, on the second floor this time.

About 15 minutes later I was called through and was seen by a student dentist who (based on his accent, body langauge and general manner) seemed to be from India, probably the Southern half and probably somewhere quite rural but with access to a large town or city (his English was excellent, better than many native speakers), probably Hindu or non-practicing Sikh (when you live and work in such a multi-ethnic environment as I do you learn to spot these things, I'm only mentioning the races to flesh out the story). He poked and prodded for a while and rattled some instruments around in my mouth, then he called over his supervisor to check his conclusions. His supervisor was a practicing Sikh who (from his turban, accent and body language) seemed to have either been born in the UK (probably London) or in Kenya and moved to the UK at an early age. The supervisor looked and prodded then confirmed what the dentist on the ground floor had said, better to have a secondthirdfourth (remember, I'd said from the get go what the problem was) diagnosis. They then sent me to the first floor to have an X-ray because they wanted to see where the roots went so they'd know if they would need to nick my gum.

I sat in another waiting room for a while then was subjected to a student X-ray tech (East African, I think) ramming his latex covered fingers down my throat (and wondering why I was choking) followed by his supervisor (Sutton Coldfied or Knowle) doing likewise with her fingers and bafflement as they tried to get the film in place. After I fought them off and finished retching I positioned the film (I was, after all, the one who knew for sure where the tooth in question was) and they took the shot. Usual delay for developing and I was looking at an X-ray of my tooth. I went back up to the second floor waiting room and waited.

Five minutes later (at least the waiting times were getting shorter) I was called back through to the treatment room where they told me they'd pull the tooth, they might need to nick my gum but it would be a small nick and they'd be able to sew it up no problems. I had a local aneasthetic (which hurt out of all proportion and tasted awful when it dripped on my tongue) and layed back, I sat up swilled and rinsed then layed back again. The student dentist snapped off the remainder of my tooth above the surface of the gum whilst asking his nurse what the various tools were for. He then called over his supervisor who looked at his work and said they'd have to drill out the rest of the tooth. Much rattling and drilling (interspersed with instructions to mount the burr the correct way around next time) they had removed all but one root and large chunks of the bone of my upper jaw. The supervisor explained that this root was a big one and curved, he also explained that they had to be careful. He then asked the student why they had to be careful. "There's a nerve behind it" the student guessed (wrong), "An artery" he tried again (wrong again). I thought about giving the right answer but the supervisor seemed determined to make this a learnig moment so I lay quietly bleeding into my mouth from the thumping great hole in my gum. Eventually (after the student had worked is way through every organ, bone, nerve, blood vessel and unidentifiable purple wibbly thing known to mankind (and a few known only to grey aliens from Proxima Centauri) except the right one) the supervisor relented and pointed out my sinus cavity, which if pierced would be a bad thing. Realisation dawned. More drilling and burring then some pulling and the root was out along with more hunks of upper jaw. The supervisor put a couple of stiches in then got the student to out some more in. After stiching my gum to my inner cheek then lower lip (also sewing part of my lips together) he eventually got a few stiches where they were supposed to be. I was sent on my way with an instruction to avoid heavy exercise (so not a problem) and to take Neurophen for the pain, not anything with Asprin in as that slows clotting, preferably before the aneasthetic wore off. By the time I got to a chemists (the Dental hospital is right in the jamedoulas so it was a bit of a hike) to buy some Neurophen the anaesthetic had worn off. I bought the pills and some water to take them with then took them and went to the bus stop.

4 days later and I'm still in pain, my gum is still swollen (although less so than it was this morning).

I realise that the dental hospital is used to dealing with indigents, but that's no excuse for poor service and substandard care.

24 May 2006

Creating a positive working environment

I attended a short course on Monday on how to create a positive working environment and stress busting. Very interesting. The trainer handed out a printout of a webpage entitled "How to Create a Positive Work Atmosphere". The signs of a negative work environment seems like a spot on description of where I work right now.

30 April 2006

Lib Dems in Birmingham

In the ward I live in (South Yardley, Cllr Hemming is one of my councillors), or at least the part of the ward I live in (Greet), the Lib Dems have been campaigning on a slogan of "Lib Dem or BNP: It's a two horse race". Reading further into their election material they seem to be saying that the only way to keep the BNP out is to vote Lib Dem. Thing is, I've lived in or near to this ward most of my life. I've never seen anything to suggest that the fascists had any real chance of winning. I can't help but wonder if this is some sort of scare tactice to terrify the voters into supporting the Lib Dems, Greet is largely ethnically Pakistani Muslims with a mix of other South Asians.

Personally I'm going to vote Labour ont he grounds that of the Birmingham councillors I've met the only ones I've found to be remotely likable have been Labour.

25 April 2006


Interesting view on the UK 2005 elections.

The site looks at politics not just as a one dimensional line from left to right but as a 2 dimentional graph with left and right applying to just economic/social ideas (taxation, welfare, social security) whilst adding a perpendicular dimension looking at the degree of authoritarianism a person or group exhibits (regulation).

I think I agree in principle with what they're saying, and their discussion around the positions of the labour and conservative parties seems pretty accurate, I don't agree with their assessment of the BNP. From what I've seen and read the BNP are economically more right wing than that, maybe not as much so as the Tories but certainly more so than the Lib Dems. They are also much more authoritarian.

There's a quiz you can take to see where you fit on the scales. I came out on the far left just below middle line.

It would be interesting to see where some of our elected officials come. I've met some Lib Dem councillors who are very authoritarian and a couple of Tories who are socially quite liberal. I had one meeting with a Lib Dem councillor and a Tory councillor at the end of which all the attendees thought each of them was a member of the other's party.

24 April 2006

Job Offers

Just had a call from a recruitment consultancy offering me an interview with Barclay's bank for a DBA role looking after their share trading systems. Unfortunately it was a production support only role (aka DataBase Baby Sitting), which would bore me silly, so I had to turn it down.

The consultant said he'd got my CV off monster.co.uk. I only put my CV up there last Thursday and this is the third recruitment consultant to phone me having seen it there.

Fortunately I'm in the position right now where I have a job I can stand so I can afford to be picky about which jobs I go for, unfortunately all the jobs that seem to be coming through are ones that I either couldn't do (I can't drive so any jobs I can't access via public transport are out) or wouldn't want to do (e.g. the Barclay's one above).

2 April 2006


Anyone else use Linked-In?

It's kinda a social networking type of site but business/job seeking oriented. The idea being that you might not know anyone who has the skills you need for a job you have on offer or who can offer a job that would suit your skills but someone that you know might know someone or someone you know might know someone who knows someone &c. Of course it does rely on you actually knowing people and knowing that they have a profile on Linked-In.

My profile is at :http://www.linkedin.com/pub/0/131/a3b

A few people I know are on there but it just seems so crass to invite someone to link to you.

7 January 2006

Has anyone else noticed the utter lack of police around Birmingham city centre recently?

Following an event last night (recounted below) I've contacted my MP, via WrtiteToThem.com about it:


I have of late become concerned about the apparent reduction in the presence of police officers 'on the ground' in Birmingham City Centre. Until quite recently uniformed officers (both regular police and 'Community Support Officers') along with a mobile CCTV van were a common sight around the city centre, both daytime and late in the evening. Now, aside from special events and the occasional CSO during the day, they are not to be seen. I am aware that there are many fixed CCTV cameras around the area, but these seem to provide little if any deterrant and certainly are unable to provide anything by way of direct assistance to members of the public who are victims of crime. Plus many are privately owned and not monitored out of business hours.

This raises a number of concerns for public safety.

For example, last night I was entering the top end of New Street, from Victoria Square, a little after 10pm, having just taken my sister and her two children to see "The Wizard of Oz" at the Rep Theatre. Two black (African or West Indian) men, appearing to be in their late teens or twenties, were walking in the opposite direction. As they past us one started to shout at me calling me a "F**king Jew" (please excuse the use of profanity, I just want to ensure that you appreciate the tone of his speech) and other antisemitic statements (I am not Jewish but, presumably because I have a full beard and tend to wear black, occasionally some people assume that I am). Up until this point none of us had even looked at either of them, although obviously his statements at that point drew our attention. His companion then started walking towards me and threatened to "F**k [me] up good." (again, I appologise for repeating his use of profanity). Before I could react the one who had made the initial statements called him off and they hurried away.

I realise that nothing there would have resulted in any police officer wittnessing the scene to have arrested either of them and that if they were arrested the CPS would have declined to prosecute, deeming threats of violence against an individual to be too trivial to take to court. Which, along with the fact that they would be long gone before any police officers might show up, is why I did not call the police as soon as they were out of sight and earshot. I do, however, believe that if there had been a visible police presence the odds are that the event would not have happened and they would have just walked past.

Pleae bear in mind here that we're not talking about something that happened in some rarely travelled back street. We're talking about something that happened in a major thoroughfare of Birmingham City Centre, a principle route from the entertainment areas of Centenary Square and Broad Street to New Street station and the bus stops and taxi ranks around Corporation Street. There is a low but continuous flow of people through that area at that time of the evening.

I know that in the long term issues around urban poverty and the lack of positive male role models for boys and young men (the dress of the man who threatened me seemed to be straight out of a "50-Cent" video or one of the recent "Grand Theft Auto" console games) need to be resolved to reduce such occurances. I do feel that in the short term a visible police presence around the city centre would go a long way to breaking the cycle of violent behaviour.

Your's most faithfully,

Stephen Booth

NB where I have 'sanitised' words with ** here (to avoid tripping concent scanners) I left them unammended in the origial letter.