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World Cup Predictions

by Helen Sun Jun 6th, 2010 at 03:52:11 PM EST

Okay, seems it's time to create a mothership blog to contain our ravings and predictions.

Everything kicks off with the hosts, south Africa playing Mexico on Friday June 11th and the hysteria continues until July 10th.

So usual procedure. Your predictions of who wins the groups and who makes semis and final. FIFA rankings in brackets

Read more... (60 comments, 295 words in story)

Desert Island Beers : Top Ten 11

by Helen Fri May 28th, 2010 at 02:42:23 PM EST

Following my diary about those beers we have loved and lost, it seemed only sensible to carry on and discuss my favourite beers I can rush out to enjoy today.

With two exceptions these are British beers; this is not due to nationalistic chauvinism but, however much I appreciate Czech, German and Belgian beers, I simply prefer the beer style which I first learnt to love. Also, I must note and I hope it's not bias, but four of the beers are from my own county of Essex.

And I know it's supposed to be a top 10, but ... I'm greedy

Read more... (15 comments, 1165 words in story)

Desert Island Beers : Those we have lost

by Helen Fri May 28th, 2010 at 12:09:17 PM EST

The local Campaign for Real Ale (CAMRA) magazine in London has an occasional feature called "Desert Island Beers", named in honour of the radio programme, Desert Island Discs, where celebs are invited to discuss the music they would wish to have with them if they were marooned on a Desert Island. Thus, in the mag, we have the beers the writer would choose to have available if they were cast away.

I was talking with a senior CAMRA person about beers that are no longer available and he suggested I put together a list of beers we have loved and lost. So here they are. Obviously this will not mean much to anyone else here, but I thought I'd write about why these beers mean so much to me  and hopefully that will be a bit more interesting.

So here's 10 Beers I wish were still around

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Are Christians being Persecuted ?

by Helen Wed Apr 7th, 2010 at 07:00:49 AM EST

This was the title of a tv programme on BBC just recently. I assumed from the title and the presenter that it was framed to present a stance hostile to secularism and, in this I wasn't wrong. The President of the British Humanist Association (Polly Toynbee, billed by BBC fact-checkers as head of the National Secular Association) was afforded just a 3 - 4 minutes on screen, the rest of the time was given over to various religious leaders and commentators to give their views on the issue.

So we were treated to what is now becoming the familiar parade of isolated anecdotes being trotted as proof of systematic oppression, a nurse and a teacher sacked for praying for their charges, (re-instated at local tribunal) the British Airways woman sacked for wearing a cross (re-instated at industrial tribunal, supported by human rights group, Liberty) and the Marriage Registrar, a non-religious position, who was sacked (and deservedly remains so) for refusing to officiate at Civil Parnerships for gays, apparently, because her god hates fags.

Additionally we saw the usual subjects complaining about the conflict in Law of differing rights, where Christianity is painted as always coming off worst. Dissent within Christian ranks was minor, suggesting an implausibly consistent outrage across the religious sphere, while non-religious voices were kept carefully at arms length. There was an obviously dodgy use of statistics where a questionaire showed 44% of people felt x-tianity was being persecuted, failing to notice that 56% disagreed with that proposition. Even in my ignorance of religious affairs, I couldn't help but feel the programme was working to an agenda and that another, more useful discussion of the issues was being kept off-screen.

Seems I was right.

Front-paged by afew

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A British Beer Festival (photo diary)

by Helen Thu Mar 25th, 2010 at 05:15:47 PM EST

Given that I'm always going on about beer, I realised that most of you have probably got no idea of what a British Beer festival is.

So, this is a photo diary of the recent London Drinker festival I helped at. A couple of pictures from the balcony

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UK election : Straws in the wind

by Helen Wed Dec 16th, 2009 at 07:40:29 AM EST

Sometime between now and May Gordon Brown will announce the next General election. Most people assume that the date will be May 6th but, depending on which polls you choose to believe, the date could even be brought forward to March 25th. The advantage of the earlier date is that it avoids what will probably be an embarrassing set of budget announcements.

Confusingly, the polls are going in different directions. Two released this weekend show the problem;-

One in the Times shows the tory lead over Labour reducing to 9%

Today's YouGov poll for the Sunday Times puts Labour on 31%, just nine points behind the Tories, who are on 40%. The Liberal Democrats have fallen two points to 16%. Only last weekend the Conservatives were still enjoying a comfortable 13-point lead.

while another, in the Independent shows the lead increasing to 17%.

David Cameron's party is up two points on last month, on 41 per cent, while Labour has slipped one point to 24 per cent. The Liberal Democrats are up four points on 21.

The ComRes survey for The Independent on Sunday also exposes how Gordon Brown's strategy of attacking Mr Cameron's Etonian background has fallen flat with voters.

frontpaged - Nomad

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Apparently, Bob's my Uncle

by Helen Wed Nov 4th, 2009 at 01:35:06 PM EST

Over the wekeend during a quiet moment, Sven suggested the following;-

Helen, why don't you just start that beer and beef website, attract a huge audience and get 40K a year from the ads and reviews ;-)

After he'd managed to reassure me it wasn't a complicated leg pulling maneuver he continued;-

I really believe that with the right kind of site, marketed smartly, you could create a large audience. I am not sure how big, but you'd be amazed what people are earning by blogging. All the skills required for this are right here in this room. All you need is an LLP and.... Bob's your uncle. Which, come think about it is one possible name for the site.

Read more... (43 comments, 437 words in story)

The Wrath of Emmanuel

by Helen Sun Aug 9th, 2009 at 04:17:52 PM EST

So, we always knew Rahm Emmanuel wasn't exactly the most progressive person on the plant. After all, the trashing of the blogosphere's favourite, Howard Dean, had RE's grubby fingers all over it. Kos has time and again detailed the perfidy of this man, especially during his time at the DCCC. He supports the wrong people; the republican-lite people, the Liebermans and the Blue Dogs.  

And god forbid he ever be seen to be defending something that's popular with the voters but regarded by the media as suspiciously liberal. In Washington he is an Operator, one of a small and very elite group of people who make things happen, that's why Obama chose him for his Chief of Staff. However there is a price to be paid for having a creature of the Beltway as you Cof C, he measures his effectiveness not in what is good for america, but in impressing his peers by getting something onto first base. But is a man who'd prefer a bunt over a home run ultimately good for Democratic voters.

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Brown turns Norwegian Blue

by Helen Wed Jun 3rd, 2009 at 05:33:05 PM EST

This government is dead,
it has ceased to be,
It's pushing up the daisies...

this is an ex-government

In the last few days, the Labour administration has gone beyond the previous damning phrase of "in office, but not in power" with several significant resignations, and now seems to be "in government but no longer in office". One has visions of Brown commanding illusory Ministers to come up with policies with which to attack his opponents; his advisers hovering around him, too afraid to point out they've all resigned. There is no saving them, no thought now of what could right the ship. What might have been done to prevent this is moot; the expenses saga was not the first blow, but it was surely the fatal one.

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DownFall : The Comedy version

by Helen Mon May 4th, 2009 at 01:46:21 PM EST

Independent - Simon Carr - Brown is in his bunker, with a final, inevitable crisis to come

Boris Johnson was asked last week whether he thought power corrupts. He replied: "Power reveals." Power has indeed revealed Gordon Brown. It has undone him and exposed his workings, his mechanisms, his motivations, his modus operandi, his character, his destiny.

He has marched with an unerring tread from his Downing Street launch two years ago to his final bunker. He was always headed here. The essence of bunker life is that you are divorced from reality. You can no longer see for yourself. Reports come through but they are tailored to what you want to hear, or what your courtiers want to tell you. Historians are press-ganged in to provide examples of sudden, amazing victories. Astrologers or economists provide good news, encouraging news. But time is only going one way, and usually there's only one way out of the bunker

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Silence is the worst of all (LQD)

by Helen Fri Jan 2nd, 2009 at 01:49:20 PM EST

Guardian - Jenni Russel - Shorn of the rituals of old, death maroons us in grief

My father died just before Christmas. He was nearly 80; he had been ill. Intellectually and rationally there should have been nothing startling about his death. It is part of the pattern of things. Yet I have been as stunned by his death, and the utter absence of him, as if I never knew that human beings had a lifespan

At some point in our lives most of us will have a similar event occur to us. Yet few, if any of us, will be able to easily deal with the emotions we must deal with, often with little support.

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Labour indifference laid bare - LQD

by Helen Tue Dec 16th, 2008 at 11:55:05 AM EST

Polly Toynbee laments that Cameron is sounding like he understands the problems, while Brown remains silent in his lair. I imagine Brown still fondly sees himself as a caring individual; however his entire worldview is still so poisoned by the idea that the economic growth of the country depends on the City that he cannot bring himself to criticise those aspects of the City's behaviour that do most damage to the economy, especially as he himself encouraged them.

Guardian - Polly Toynbee - The winds are growing bitter. Labour has to bare its teeth

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Old Helen's almanac - Predictions 2009

by Helen Thu Dec 11th, 2008 at 10:37:38 AM EST

I sent a Christmas card to a friend last year with a couple of predictions stolen from ET about what would happen this year that turned out to be spot-on. So she's written this year asking for some ideas about next year.

So, ego blown, I started writing. And got to the essay below. However, before I send it my question is how much have I mis-understood ? What is obviously wrong ?

Critique away please ?

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The left/right Survey

by Helen Sun Dec 7th, 2008 at 09:38:14 AM EST

This morning's salon had a debate on the number of people here who are left handed and whether the L/R ratio among bloggers differs from that of the general population.

wiki states;- "In 1998, a study suggested that approximately 7 to 10 percent of the adult population was left-handed, and that left-handedness is more common in males than females"

This is self-defined, but answer away....

Comments >> (60 comments)

Feminist perspectives on Transgenderism

by Helen Sat Dec 6th, 2008 at 11:01:52 AM EST

Note 1 : this review is written primarily as a first response for the TG community. I appreciate it is of little more than marginal interest to ET regulars and I apologise for taking up ET space. I just don't have anywhere else to publish.

Note 2 : I will try to present my notes in the order they were taken, athough some ordering will aid clarity. I will footnote my personal comments to avoid  distractions.


This debate was a sort-of joint venture between MMU (Manchester Metropolitan University : School of law) and PfC (Press for Change -an alleged transgender advocacy group)  and chaired by Prof. Stephen Whittle who is head of PfC.

Principal speakers were Susan Stryker, a prominent Transgender academic and Julie Bindel, a transphobic Marxist essentialist journalist. It should be noted that SS was just 6 hours off  flight from San Francisco and claimed 3 hours sleep in the previous 36. I suspected she faded a bit towards the end of the debate.

Introduction by SW

He initially excuses PfC's silence over the recent Stonewall nomination by saying that PfC work by making friends and not by identifying enemies (1). Surprisingly he does crticise Bindel and asking about how feminism relates to transexuality.

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Obama in the UK ?

by Helen Mon Nov 17th, 2008 at 10:10:10 AM EST

One of the more obvious responses to the election of President Obama has been a questioning as to whether a person from a racial minority can ever hope to climb the greasy pole to political power anywhere in Europe. The framing for this question only allows the answer "No we can't - cos we're too racist". We might think that unfair; we have female leaders instead, something I think the US would find much harder because of the militaristic nature of the American culture. We might also point to fair election systems that at least allow all black people to vote if they want to, something that America also seems to find hard.

But I think it's all missing the point, as I think there is a difference between the self perception of minorities in Europe and America. Everybody in america is first and foremost an american, they are sold the idea of being an American, a citizen. It may be difficult to get those rights and citizenship respected at times, but you yourself are never given cause to doubt because, whatever the feelings of the GOP, the US is a nation at ease with immigrants, their nationhood was built on immigration. This is not true of the UK and acceptance of "out" groups seems more conditional.

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The Made-Men of the NuLab Project

by Helen Mon Nov 17th, 2008 at 08:42:17 AM EST

I had a fascinating conversation last night with a friend who spoke about some of her experiences on the periphery of the nascent NuLab project and what she learnt from it. Due to laws of politeness as well as libel I simply cannot name names or organisations so all of these are pseudonymous, but it remains instructive.

I do not mean by what I write here to impugn all Labour Party MPs, many of whom are good people. But I think we have all come to recognise that there is a certain cadre of metropolitan eleites who seem to be parachuted into safe constituencies and whose primary characteristic is their loyalty to the Nu Lab brand. This essay is useful in showing how they were identified from the others seemingly equally deserving.

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Stonewall : Hypocrisy or Ignorance ?

by Helen Fri Nov 7th, 2008 at 03:02:10 PM EST

Last night at its awards ceremony at the Victoria and Albert museum, the Stonewall gay civil rights advocacy group awarded Iris Robinson, the Democratic Unionist Party (ultra-Protestant conservative) MP in Northern Ireland, an award for being "Bigot of the Year". It was a heartily justified award given her claims that gay people could be cured with Christianist "talking therapy" (aka pray away the gay) and her statement that homosexuality is an abomination.

Which made the nomination of Guardian journalist Julie Bindel as "Journalist of the Year" at the same ceremony especially interesting, given her claims that the transgendered can be cured by "talking therapies" and that sex change surgery was "mutilation".

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The Memory of Death (woo-woo Two)

by Helen Sun Oct 19th, 2008 at 03:07:34 PM EST

This diary was originally a reply to InWales' diary (Woo-woo vs Science). I was asked to re-post as the original comment thread was getting long and this is a slight departure from the original which could stimulate another discussion.


 All things considered, the mind is an odd place to live. After all, whatever scientific investigation there has been on the brain, nobody seems to have a handle yet on consciousness and the mind at all. You can observe it by glancing sideways at the mirror by the light of the moon, but never under the microscope.
Memory seems to be a bridge.

It's incredible to understand how memory works : Strangely so much like a modern computer with transitional memories (RAM) that we hold onto for the day that are downloaded by REM sleep into permanent storage (HDD), dreams being the editing/contextualisation process. Then there is the more subtle background process whreby memories that are unused get put into offline storage, accesible only by triggers (metatags) not under conscious control (JakeS dissociated memories of ptsd).

Read more... (54 comments, 624 words in story)

21st Century Gunboat Diplomacy

by Helen Mon Oct 6th, 2008 at 02:30:31 PM EST

Jonathan Freedland wrote an article in the Guardian commenting on the response to a previous article he'd written. In this he suggested that the rest of the world will take a dim view if America elects McCain as President. As might be expected, a lot of responses centred around the frequently and vehemently expressed American view that it's their election and everyone else should keep their noses out.

Anyone who's read the nationalistic abuse heaped on non-citizens at dKos who dare to have an opinion on the USA won't be the least bit surprised that worse responses are likely from other quarters of the blogos. So really, what he said was no surprise (for us). But in amongst all of Freedland's disappointment at their reaction (and given what happened in Clark county in 2004 he really should know better) there was one sentence that struck me;-

So, Americans who say that since they don't poke their nose into our domestic affairs, we should stay out of theirs,

Read more... (8 comments, 592 words in story)
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