Street jam #1

July 7, 2018 § Leave a comment

Friday 6 July, 6pm-10pm, CL and me, guitar, trumpet, tin whistle and a copy of the Buskers’ Code. We start at Founders Arms near Blackfriars Bridge. Discuss possible locations. Agree that on a scale of exhibitionism between 0 and 10 we’re probably looking for a 5.

We set up between Founders Arms and Bankside Gallery. I knock over my beer. After 10 seconds of playing a resident tells us to shut up.

Fortunately, a passing musician tells us about a formal busking site by the river near the Tate Modern. Unfortunately, there’s a guy setting up his guitar amp there when we walk by.

We toy with the idea of setting up outside the Globe theatre. Which is an open air theatre. So no.

We set up under Southwark Bridge. Great acoustics for unplugged playing. We play one song before a guy tells us we can’t play there. He’s a Hungarian musician with years of busking experience. Apparently he had this location booked until 7.30 and someone else has it from 7.30 onwards. When the new person arrives we move on.

Opposite the entrance to Southwark Cathedral, which is flying a LGBT Pride flag, is a large block of rock that provides us with a seat, a gap between two office buildings that gives a breeze from the river, and an appreciative audience in the form of customers at the Mudlark pub and passers-by, which facilitates level 5 exhibitionism. In the opinion of our audience, the highlight of our set appears to be an extended freestyle reggae interpretation of the outro of “Demon Cleaner” by Kyuss, featuring CL on trumpet and vocals (but not simultaneously).

On the way back to Blackfriars we tip our Hungarian mentor, who is back in the Southwark Bridge spot playing bassoon with a friend on trumpet.




Garden Buildings Direct Sales Rep lied to me about FSC Certification

April 19, 2017 § Leave a comment

So I’m buying a wooden garden shed, because I’ve reached that stage of life where one buys a wooden shed. I want it to be made from timber certified by the Forest Stewardship Council. I know FSC Certification is not perfect or a panacea for what humans are doing to forests (and their inhabitants) across the world. But I think it probably still makes sense to buy FSC Certified timber where possible.

I saw a shed I liked, for sale by Garden Buildings Direct, a brand name of Kybotech Ltd. On their website it doesn’t mention FSC Certification so I called them to ask. Their Sales Rep (based in the Philippines) told me they are FSC Certified. The FSC website disagrees:

Kybotech 1

I then tried to ask the same question in their online customer support chat, and got no answer:

Kybotech 2

Garden Buildings Direct/Kybotech Ltd. aren’t getting my money. I bought from instead.

(Apologies for the poor quality photos.)

Incidentally, there is an organisation called What Shed? that reviews companies that sell garden sheds. Niche market, right? Which would make you think that their reviews would comment on aspects that are specific to sheds, which are almost always made from wood. But reviews by What Shed? make no mention of FSC Certification at all. Here is their review for Garden Buildings Direct, which is very positive.

Coincidentally, today I also got a quote for repairing sash windows. I asked if the wood used was FSC Certified. The guy giving me the quote said “Now you’re getting all technical on me. What’s FSC?”

Finally, here are some thoughts on this story, shared by a friend on Facebook (where I posted a link to this blogpost):

i’m loving this: As one of the largest manufacturing company’s in this sector they [Garden Buildings Direct] are a specialist in selling high volumes of products at very competitive prices. As such please take this into account when dealing with them. By this we mean they are very focused on a lean operation so they have a company owned customer service center in the Philippians [???] and they offer many options to help you customise your building to the specification that is right for your budget. As such if you are expecting the level of customer service and product quality you would expect from Roles Royce all from a UK based call center then this company might not be right for you.

so basically, please stop having Rolls Royce level expectations from uneducated, third-world folk…. also according to the reviewers “On this page you should find everything you could ever possibly want to know about Garden Buildings Direct”
ergo, FSCs are not the sort of thing you need to know about before buying a shed.

I replied:

Or, alternatively, “On this page you should find everything you could ever possibly want to know about Garden Buildings Direct” means “We are assuming you want to be as happy as possible with the product you buy. We are also assuming that if you know that their FSC certification has been suspended, you will be less happy than if you don’t know this. Therefore, logically, this is not something you could possibly want to know about the manufacturer. So we won’t tell you.”

The moral of the story: don’t go round making assumptions.



Post-Ghost Ship fire safety with practical advice for making constant improvements

December 7, 2016 § Leave a comment

Following the death of 36 in a fire at a warehouse party in Oakland California last Friday, these notes on fire safety got published and are well worth considering for places that are “public, private, and in-between” (to quote the notes):

Also this:

an open assembly and call for help in order to begin to collectively brainstorm, interconnect and pool resources around what we as a community of artists and organizers can do to aid our DIY spaces right now in the Bay Area — primarily with respect to improving core fire safety and building safety.

Together, through mutual support, we may also better withstand a potential forthcoming crackdown on such critical places of cultural and political production.

The meeting will also function as a skillshare around tackling zoning problems, code compliance / inspection issues, and legal and tenant law challenges germane to unconventional spaces, as well as address any other other intersecting issues presently challenging virtually all DIY spaces already struggling in our present atmosphere of insane rents and massive redevelopment.

Action items might include:

  • Identify spaces / communities presently in need of such assistance –
  • Define a mutual aid network of local DIY spaces and in particular folks with germane skills in the trades (electrical, structural, plumbing etc), architecture, engineering, accessibility, permits, and building life-safety codes
  • Assemble a capable group of volunteers to plan and physically carry out core life-safety improvements to any DIY spaces that need assistance
  • Fundraise into an existing 501c3 for tax-deductible contributions to subsidize such improvements specifically, which we should publicize (note: a separate fund from the victim’s relief fund)
  • Develop guidelines, how-to’s and points of contact for expert consultation and assistance in various areas of need, be it construction-related or legal/permit-related
  • Potentially, agree to create a DIY-space advocacy group that can interface with the city bureaucracy and various authorities, particularly with respect to zoning and land use issues, on behalf of local artists, organizers and activists in our community who rely on such DIY spaces to work and thrive.

We understand many are still in the grieving process and may not be able to attend, but many also voiced a need to address these issues in our community without delay.

To all who are shattered and heartbroken as many at omni are after this horrifying disaster, we pledge our love and support – let Omni know how else and who else we can help.


Reclaiming the University of Aberdeen

December 6, 2016 § Leave a comment

On activist money-related decision-making

October 11, 2016 § Leave a comment

[The] list of things that are important to you…tends to get bigger in middle age, when it might include many of the appurtenances of a middle-class lifestyle, including a comfortable house in a safe neighborhood, a college fund for your kids, a retirement fund for you and the ability to take care of your parents should they need help. All this, by the way, has nothing to do with selling out, and everything to do with common sense, meeting your obligations to yourselves and others and not being a burden on your loved ones. It also has to do with building the kind of happy, stable life that fosters a sustainable and productive activist career.


Of course you can make choices, lots of choices. You can buy a small house or a co-op, instead of a big house with a big mortgage and big heating bills. You can drive an old car, or not use a car at all. You can have one kid, or no kids, instead of two kids. And you can ask that kid to attend a state college for a couple of years before transferring into the Ivy League. These kinds of compromises are recommended by the authors of two excellent books on money management, The Millionaire Next Door and Rich Dad, Poor Dad. Every activist should read them. (Hillary Rettig, 2006, The Lifelong Activist: How to Change the World Without Losing Your Way page 41)

see also

Community organization-action-development-work in the UK

September 27, 2016 § Leave a comment

What follows is highlights from a very useful essay I just discovered by accident on (full text here):

In the late 1950s and early 1960s accounts of practice and theoretical explorations began to appear that viewed community workers as a distinct occupation […] The Younghusband Report (1959) on social work was a significant turning point. It specifically drew on the North American division of social work into casework, group work and community organization, describing the latter as “primarily aimed at helping people within a local community to identify social needs, to consider the most effective ways of meeting these and to set about doing so, in so far as their available resources permit.” The first major collection of material (Kuenstler 1961) took up the notion of ‘community organization’, but it was the terms ‘community development’ and ‘community work’ that became popular – and tended to merge.

During the 1960s and early 1970s there was a growing recognition of the extent to which poverty remained a major feature of UK society (see, for example, Coates and Silburn 1970). There had also been a fairly substantial series of debates around the significance and importance of people’s participation in various aspects of government activity – perhaps the best known being the Skeffington Report on planning (MHLG 1969). Following the efforts of the Democratic administration in the United States of America to wage a ‘War on Poverty’, the UK government sought a similar, but cheaper, initiative. Self-help and resident participation were seen to be possibilities for the improvement of inner city situations. […] The result, in 1969, was the launch of the Community Development Projects programme. It was the largest action-research project ever funded by government. The avowed intention was to gather information about the impact of existing social policies and services and to encourage innovation and co-ordination. […] Workers in many of the projects came to reject the analysis and strategies of the original project proposals. They sought to organise and research around larger questions of inequality and deindustrialisation rather than more localized concerns around community organization. There was often a desire to bring about a much stronger link between the struggles of the workplace and those of the neighbourhood and community; and to develop means by which groups can join together in things like federations to better influence decision making on a city-wide, regional and national basis.

In some respects, the optimism and enthusiasm with which community work and ‘participation’ were greeted in the early 1970s and late 1960s waned with the realisation that many of the issues the work sought to confront were not resolvable at the local level – a realisation that was underlined by the widespread public expenditure cuts after the oil crisis of 1974. There was a considerable growth in the political awareness of community workers in the mid to late 1970s and this has been reflected in the adoption by workers of very different ideological stances. This is sometimes represented by the contrasting of so called social work or community development traditions of practice, with political action traditions.

[By the early 1980s] The nature of community work had shifted. While some workers still had the freedom, and were disposed, to encourage opposition to the social and economic policies of the Conservative government in Britain – and their impact on local communities (especially with regard to the closure of heavy industries, engineering works and mines upon local communities); the context in which many were employed had changed. The language of managerialism had spread through many local authorities recasting much of the work in terms of meeting organizational objectives rather than local community needs. Most particularly, the focus was upon the more effective use of resources and the efficiency of services – especially with regard to housing and care. There was a significant shift away from locating workers in local neighbourhoods in order to sustain and develop local groups and associational life.

[Today,] State-sponsored community work remains largely locked into the mix of care, economic development and service delivery improvement work that developed during the 1980s and 1990s. However, three particular areas of state-sponsored work did, to some limited extent, bring a stronger emphasis upon community-based organization and group-functioning in England. First, the emergence and growth of tenant management organizations has led to some attention being given to the cultivation of local groups and the deepening of their capacity to develop and run their own organizations. However, this has not been without tensions (ODPM 2002). In particular local authorities have tended to see tenant management organizations as extensions of their management activity whilst those involved are more likely to see themselves as community activists. They have also tended to see them as rivals. The result was that those employed to facilitate the development of tenant’s management organizations and cooperatives often slipped into either representing the view or policies of the local authority to the group or advising them on the technicalities of housing finance funding. The enhancement of local group life was commonly sidelined into a series of courses on ‘how to chair a committee’ and such like.

Second, the New Deal for Communities Programme in England – part of the government’s strategy to ‘tackle multiple disadvantage in the most deprived neighbourhoods’  – has involved an emphasis upon local community involvement. (New Deal for Communities was established in 1998 and expanded in 1999 to include some 39 partnerships and involving a spend of some £2bn). However, results from the interim evaluation of the initiative indicate that there is only patchy evidence of increased participation in local networks, neighbourliness and involvement in local groups. In contrast, there does appear to have been a significant increase in the trust invested by local residents in local institutions. As the evaluators stressed, community involvement and engagement takes time (Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research 2005: 67).

Third, the Sure Start programme, originally announced in 1998 and aimed at increasing the quality and availability of child care in selected areas in England, improving the health and well-being of children, and providing support for parents initially involved a significant emphasis upon community development and involvement. Some interesting and apparently successful locally-based work emerged.

Crisp hack

September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment


a crisper sound


Now to get some work done

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