Big Joe Louis on the Overground

January 9, 2017 § Leave a comment

Last night a blues musician I saw perform a couple of years ago sat down next to me on the Overground.


south london sunday morning + local WW2 bomb damage

December 12, 2016 § Leave a comment

Landscape photography by me (you can consider these photos licensed under the Creative-Commons CC-BY-NC license); map and colour code are photos I took of pages from Laurence Ward’s 2015 The London County Council Bomb Damage Maps 1939-1945 which is available to buy.

The attack on London between 1939 and 1945 is one of the most significant events in the city’s modern history, the impact of which can still be seen in its urban and social landscapes. As a key record of the attack, the London County Council Bomb Damage Maps represent destruction on a huge scale, recording buildings and streets reduced to smoke and rubble. The full set of maps is made up of 110 hand-coloured 1:2500 Ordnance Survey base sheets originally published in 1916 but updated by the LCC to 1940. Because they use the 1916 map, they give us a glimpse of a ‘lost London’, before post-war redevelopment schemes began to shape the modern city. The colouring applied to the maps records a scale of damage to London’s built environment during the war – the most detailed and complete survey of destruction caused by the aerial bombardment. A clear and fascinating introduction by expert Laurence Ward sets the maps in the full historical context of the events that gave rise to them, supported by archival photographs and tables of often grim statistics. (


Ten years after The Sweet Nothing

September 20, 2016 § Leave a comment’s-business-innovation


Crisp hack

September 9, 2016 § Leave a comment


a crisper sound


Now to get some work done


Blast from past

August 2, 2016 § Leave a comment

Just found this online:

From my PhD fieldwork/participation in an International People’s Health University course in Bangladesh in 2007.


Some notes on the Labour Party leadership contest

July 21, 2016 § 2 Comments

Maybe my optimism is unwarranted, but I find reasons for hope in some of the articles I have seen in the past week discussing the current leadership contest within the UK Labour Party. Before, I felt despair, because it seemed like the Labour Party was engaged in a dialogue of the deaf between pro- and anti-Corbyn factions, caricaturing each other, talking past each other, both unable to acknowledge that some points made by the other side might be substantive. This filled me with despair because it seemed so obviously counter-productive if one of the goals of people linked to the Party is to figure out how best to present an effective opposition to the Conservative government. In the past week I have seen some articles written from one side that at least start to engage with what the other side is saying. To me, this seems crucial if people linked to the Party are become clearer about how the Party can move forward from its current civil war. So here I want to say a little bit about some of these articles, as well as about a local ward branch meeting I attended a couple of weeks ago.

The article I found most compelling was Matt Bolton’s “The Terrifying Hubris of Corbynism”. My understanding is that Matt’s argument against Corbyn as leader goes like this. Before Brexit, it was possible to successfully argue in favour of doing two things together: keeping Corbyn as leader and trying to transform Labour into a strong anti-austerity party. Transforming Labour into a strong anti-austerity Party would probably take a long time, and might involve more than a decade of Conservative rule during which Labour would not be a very effective party of opposition. Brexit means Labour needs to be an effective opposition party right now – with the possibility of getting elected in the next general election. Matt’s view is that this is not possible with Corbyn as leader, so it is no longer possible to successfully argue in favour of keeping Corbyn and transforming Labour through a long period of being out of power and ineffective as an opposition party.

If what Matt says is correct, then right now, the Parliamentary Labour Party (the MPs) need to explain to the Party members (the people who are going to decide who wins the leadership contest) why they think the Party has a better chance of winning a general election with Owen Smith as leader rather than with Jeremy Corbyn. More than anything else, I think this requires two things: explaining why Corbyn does not have the support of most of his MPs, and explaining the evidence – the facts – that make the anti-Corbyn faction confident that the Party has less chance of winning a general election with Corbyn as leader. I don’t think that MPs have done enough in this direction yet, although Jo Cox co-wrote a useful article before her murder and Thangam Debbonaire has written this.

I also feel the pro-Corbyn faction have some questions to answer about how they see things moving forward, and this is where I find Matt Bolton’s argument about the nature of Corbynism persuasive, insofar as from their actions (and from the arguments they present), it really seems that that many Labour members who support Corbyn don’t understand the distinction between ‘party politics’ (which aims to gain power in order to make changes in society) and ‘extra-parliamentary activism’ (which aims to influence those in power in order to make changes in society), and don’t understand that by voting for Corbyn as leader in the current contest they might be ensuring the Party cannot be an effective party of opposition, which means the strength of the forces challenging Conservative rule in the UK will be massively reduced (which is apparently what is bothering some of those in the anti-Corbyn camp). Assuming these members want to challenge Conservative rule, this starts to sound like an example of people being given a vote on a yes or no question (in this case, yes to Corbyn as leader or no) where it is difficult for these people to understand what is at stake and the likely consequences of voting one way or the other. A bit like the EU Referendum.

What I have just written might make it sound like I think I’ve got it all figured out and/or that I’m satisfied with these broad brush-stroke comments. That’s not the case. I’m still trying to figure this out, because it seems important to try to understand what’s going on; like Ani Difranco said, if you don’t understand then how can you act. I’m writing this to solicit feedback, to try to understand better than I currently do.

I attended a meeting of my ward branch of the Labour Party last week. The focus of the meeting was four emergency motions related to the recent vote of no confidence in Jeremy Corbyn as leader by the Parliamentary Labour Party. The debates around the motions were a dialogue of the deaf, two groups of people talking past each other, often aggressively. The meeting’s one saving grace, for me, was that some of the questions posed pushed me into a self-doubt about my own position in the debate. I think this kind of critical self-doubt might be exactly what both sides of this debate need right now – or, if not self-doubt, then at least a greater clarity about why the other side takes the position they do, and what evidence and arguments might be presented to them that they might find persuasive. Having come to the meeting sure of which way I would vote on the motions, I stared at my ballot paper for a long time before indicating my decision.

But I’m not sure many others in the room felt that way. Instead, it seemed like most people left the meeting with the same affiliation they entered, with the same level of certainty about the rightness of their side and the wrongness of the other side, no closer to figuring out what would be best for the future of the Party and the constituencies it serves.


wow what a sunday

September 27, 2015 § Leave a comment

You can’t raise a baby on motor oil but now I wanna buy some

Turn the soil in the autumn where possible so the frost will break it up. Peas and broad beans, strawberries, raspberries, pears and plums all like clay soil.

Hydrangeas are excellent indicators for a soil’s pH, the flowers will be pink in an acidic soil and blue in an alkaline soil.

Gadzoicks! Who would have thunk it? So the backyard is alkaline. Or at least that bit of it is…

An acidic soil is a soil with a pH below 7.0.  Look for these weeds as an indicator of an acidic soil: […] Nettles (Urtica dioica),

So that bit is acidic…I’ll chuck some ash at it…

Adding lime or using woodstove or fireplace ashes can raise the soil’s pH to the desirable pH range. suggests that actually blue hydrangea flowers suggests the soil is acidic with aluminium in it, not alkaline.

Acid versus alkaline

Soil may contain lime and the more there is, the more alkaline the soil will be. Certain plants thrive in a more acid soil, others do best in an alkaline soil, while yet others are best suited to a neutral one. Acidity and alkalinity are expressed as the soil’s pH level. You can buy an inexpensive pH testing kit at any good garden centre to check the pH level of your soil.

  • above pH8 really means you’re in a semidesert. Very little will grow in soil like this.

  • pH7 is alkaline and is usually found in hot dry areas. Most garden plants will survive but need regular cultivation with compost and manure. Brassicas, spinach, currants, apples, peaches and plums like an alkaline soil.

  • pH6-pH7 is neutral and most plant life thrives in it.

  • pH5-pH6 is fairly acid. This is typical of unimproved soil in wet areas. It is good for potatoes, tomatoes and fruit.

  • pH4-pH5 is acid. This is found in cold wet areas. There is little soil life or earthworms. Rhododendrons and azaleas do alright in it but it makes growing fruit and vegetables more difficult. You can add lime to make the soil more alkaline but take it easy, adding small amounts regularly rather than chucking heaps on in one go, which would scorch the roots.

Fruits of this evening’s research: we’ve got acidic soil with aluminium in it near the back door, with blue hydrangea flowers, acidic soil in the back left corner, with nettles, and teasels growing on the right in the sun where i dug up the bindweed or morning glory (thanks to this website for help identifying these last three plants).

Wood ash can be useful in home gardens, in your compost pile or as a pest repellent, explained Dan Sullivan, soil scientist with the Oregon State University Extension Service. […]

“Since wood ash is derived from plant material, it contains most of the 13 essential nutrients the soil must supply for plant growth,” said Sullivan. “When wood burns, nitrogen and sulfur are lost as gases, and calcium, potassium, magnesium and trace element compounds remain. The carbonates and oxides remaining after wood burning are valuable liming agents, raising pH, thereby helping to neutralize acid soils.” […]

One-half to one pound of wood ash per year is recommended for each shrub and rose bush. Spread ash evenly on the soil around perennial plants. Rake the ash into the soil lightly, being careful not to damage the roots. Never leave ash in lumps or piles, because if it is concentrated in one place, excessive salt from the ash will leach into the soil, creating a harmful environment for plants. […]

In compost piles, wood ash can be used to help maintain a neutral condition, the best environment to help microorganisms break down organic materials. Sprinkle ash on each layer of compost as the pile is built up. Ash also adds nutrients to compost. […]

Do not apply wood ash to a potato patch as wood ashes may favor the development of potato scab.

– “Yeah this music could work during labour”


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