Saturday, 5 May 2012

“What grinds my gears” II



This weeks post (a little late and jumping on the bandagon) is about SOPA, ACTA and all the other anti pirate, anti censorship, anti freedom acts thats going on… and Pipa.
First a little briefing on whats going on as I found it confusing to begin with, the video above does this nicely…
Ok, all briefed?
Basically the danger in the US is Pipa, the Protect IP address act, which is actually just a ‘re-write of the Combating Online Infringement and Counterfeits Act (COICA),  which failed to pass in 2010.’ (BBCNEWS, 05/2011)[1].
To see the actual US bill click here. The Act (and also SOPA) attempt to propose that anyone found guilty of streaming copyrighted data without permission more than ten times in six months should face up to 5 years in jail. This comes from a country where for example, in Arizona Negligent Homicide (the killing of a person through negligence) gets 3.75 years for a first offence!!!! or Virginia where a second degree murder if you’re lucky can only get you 5 years!. Thats the same as SOPA and Pipa propose for their bill. (Wikipedia)[2].
The internet in the US would effectively become more like that of China and Iran; if Pipa would pass, SOPA guards against this in places, instead implicating the copyright holders. However, some of this has already begun happening such as the publicised shutting down of Megaupload and all it’s affliates on 19 January 2012.
Sites such as Wikipedia, Facebook and Google are against this, and Wikipedia even took a ‘blackout’ day to show protest against these acts.
Controversially, the UK (and EU) has, just five days ago, signed up to ACTA, the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement, while SOPA and Pipa are on hold. ACTA as the name states should be dealing with counterfeit goods such as medicines etc, however it’s broader scope of course covers data and information. It famously came to everyone’s attention after Polish activists disarmed and shut down Poland’s government in reaction to Warsaw’s plans in fear it would lead to censorship.
It has mostly been negogiated in secret with many countries signing up to it, and it has been negotiated as a ‘Trade Agreement’. There is however a contentious article- 23, that the European commision was not allowed to negotiate over. It had to go to the EU for this as it included criminal sanction, unusual for a trade agreement?? This were decided behind closed doors by the states representatives.
The European Commision support ACTA, however it appears four members of the EU Parliament oppose it, they are: Stavros Lambrinidis (Greek, Socialist), Zuzana Roithova (Czech, EPP) , Alexander Alvaro (Germany, Liberal)  and Francoise Castex (France, Socialist)-who quit shortly after. Germany, The Netherlands, Estonia and a few others still have not yet signed up.
One harsh section that as been reomoved from ACTA was to even cut off offenders from web use.
Yet the act itself is still ridiculous, as are SOPA and Pipa. They claim not to censor, yet there have been wikipedia blackouts, riots in Poland, the US wanting to extradite the New Zealander responsible for Megaupload, and planned further attacks by the hackers ‘Anonymous’. The public can’t be wrong, surely?
So basically this all grinds my gears…

[2] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_punishments_for_murder_in_the_United_States#Alabama

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Thrifty

OK all of this is probably going to sound very patronising or obvious to most people but I’ve found out some people I know really didn’t know all the ways of the ‘thrift’ so thought I’d do this post.
I don’t claim to be some amazing thrifter or ones of the ‘weirds’ that goes through bin bags looking for ‘second hand food’ but I do like to think I’m a reasonably thrifty shopper. This isn’t going to turn into a fashion/ shopping thing, more a “where to get bargains in as many places as possible” thing

Ok first subject: Food
This includes restaurants, cafes, supermarkets….
Right first off if you find yourself in train stations too much of the time (like myself!) and sometimes feel peckish, get yourself a Bite card! Best card ever, it gets 20% off most train food outlets (BK, Cornish pasties, Camden food co., Upper crust etc) any time of the day and its FREE!
Next get as many loyalty cards as possible for, yes it makes your purse/wallet fat but you get points=free stuff! Tesco Clubcard, Nectar, Costa and subway have one too!
Finally for the food section, sign up to online vouchers such as Prezzo and  Pizza Express have their own vouchers on their website, for most others such as Cafe Rouge, Zizzi’s, Strada, Ask, GBK… sign up to website such as discount vouchers or voucher codes.

Next section; General retail shopping
The above mentioned discount vouchers or voucher codes are also vital to this section so it’s really helpful to do, as they have discounts for New Look, Oasis, Marks & Spencers, The Body shop, Figleaves, Dorothy Perkins, Burtons etc.
Once thats done, get yourself loyalty cards for shops that do them, Boots, Superdrug, Waterstones are a few I know of.
Also if you are a student get yourself an account on Student beans if you haven’t already; many many deals on there such as 2 for 1 cineworld tickets. And also get yourself an NUS card; discounts at all the arcadia group stores, Yo sushi, Asos, Amazon, Mcdonalds etc.

Online shopping:
If you have time on your hands and a bit of patience I can’t stress enough the importance of SHOPPING AROUND! If there is something you need, say a new DVD, do not go straight to the obvious, (amazon, HMV, Play) and assume these are the cheapest. Two very helpful websites I’ve found in these searches are
and
For most other things, if on a website that sells something you want, it sounds obvious and I’m sure most of you are clever enough to do it, but search the company/brand and ‘discount +date’ you’ll be amazed what you can find.

Thanks for reading, I’m sure most of you are very shopping savvy and already knew these things but this is for the 1% that must have been busy the day the UK became a discount-happy land. Happy Shopping!

What grinds my gears

A quote from Family Guy.
I have decided  to base a weekly rant of things that have annoyed me on this quote.
This weeks topic: Trains

Or more importantly the trains of our dear ol’ Blighty and their massive failings compared to other countries. Did you know that in the last year alone (from 29/05/2011- 07/01/2012), First Capital Connect were on average later than 5 minutes by 10% for all operating services in each month on the Great Northern Route, the Thamelink route fared little better with 9.35%.
As a regular train passenger frequently on ‘commuter’ trains I rarely get a seat, this is one area of train travel that really ‘Grinds my gears’. If I, as a paying customer am willing to fork out their ridiculously extortionate prices then surely I am guaranteed a seat for my journey. You wouldn’t get this on any other travel in the world (apart from buses but thats a different rant), a plane- you buy your seat, ferry, coach, eurostar, helicopter, horse-drawn carriage, rickshaw, tuk-tuk and so on.
I would be more than willing to not have a seat, for a discounted ticket price. Something I feel needs to be implemented. I do not know how they would do this but I’m sure they would find a way.
Also onto ticket prices, after an 11% rise which apparently reflects inflation, surely the least the governemt could do in our economy crisis is stop people spending up to a fith of their wages on train travel! No wonder the country is broke we can’t afford to buy anything else after we’ve commuted! Tickets are ridiculously expensive; for me to get to London and back, a 30 minute peak time journey into Kings X, is £14.80 with a railcard- then theres the rises in Oyster fares.
This really ‘grinds my gears’.
Websites have started cropping up everywhere of people’s pure hate for British train travel, here are some popular ones:
and this ones my fav as it’s close to my heart:
OK rant over, tune in next week for some more ‘What grinds my gears’. (Hope I’m not ripping off F.G. too much here!)



Sources :  (http://www.firstcapitalconnect.co.uk/about-us/performance/)
(Image @ http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2063528/Wrong-type-soil-Latest-barmy-excuse-delayed-trains.html)