Shrubbery

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Shrubbery

A missed opportunity to demand that violators shall provide... another shrubbery!

(At the Old Faithful Geyser.)

House of Lords - time for Legislative Service?

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

House of Lords - time for Legislative Service?

I've mulled the idea of having an upper chamber randomly selected from the public like jury service for some time, often over a pint with a friend who prefers to remain nameless. This friend wrote an outstanding letter to Mark Harper which is included below by his kind permission. 

Mark Harper didn't manage more than a stock response, and neither did Matthew Offord and so it doesn't seem that the British Government is taking up the concept any time soon. We talked about the e-petition system but it turns out that it's limited to 1,000 characters and submissions are vetted for duplicates. There is an existing e-petition with this idea written by Simon Ferrigno which I've voted for, and if you support the legislative service idea please do the same.

Dear Mr Harper

We understand that you are working with the Deputy Prime Minister on the matter of an elected second chamber. We’re sure that many proposals and reports have crossed your desk on this topic. We’d like to share something we came up with when the issue was initially raised a few years ago. Having kept abreast of developments via media reports, we were both surprised not to hear anything similar mooted.

Our suggestion is that the second chamber be made up of ordinary members of the public drawn from across the country, randomly selected from the electoral roll, typically for up to 2 weeks of service. The system would be administered in a similar way to jury duty, albeit on a national basis. These people would be brought together, put up in decent accommodation, well fed, and otherwise made to feel as if their presence and contribution is both valued and important. They will be tutored, in an unbiased fashion, on the background of the Bill under their consideration. The syllabus could be defined by the civil servants who draw up the legislation under consideration. At this point, a multiple choice test on what they have been taught will be administered, but the results will not be revealed.

After the test, they will have the specifics of the Bill explained to them by two barristers (selected by parties for and against). The barristers will have the ability to bring in subject matter experts (perhaps drawing on the talent pool currently in place in the HOL). At the end of the evidentiary stage, the “constitutional jury” will have the opportunity to debate the issues and pose any further questions they may have to the barristers or witnesses.

Once completed, the constitutional jury will vote on the matter(s) at hand. The only votes that will actually count are those cast by people who passed the multiple choice test (as long as a quorum is reached). The results will only be reported as percentages. No one will ever be told if their vote counted, and all members of the constitutional jury are recorded as having served in deciding the matter.

Among the numerous advantages, as we see them, are:

  1. Politicians are often heard bemoaning the lack of public engagement with politics. This is an ideal way of re-engaging ordinary members of the public with the business of politics and what happens in Parliament.
  2. The primacy of the House of Commons will be ensured due to the transience of the members of the second chamber.
  3. There are no expensive elections to be paid for, nor will anyone’s voting record need to be skewed to ensure their re-election.
  4. As this chamber will be entirely made up of randomly selected members of the public, there can be no claims of cronyism.
  5. Voting along party political lines may be reduced; hence the decisions made are those that a random cross section of society deem to be right, rather than the whips.
  6. As the names of the constitutional jury are not disclosed until after the final voting, lobbying by vested interests will be reduced.
  7. The second chamber does not necessarily need to be based in London. In fact, there is no reason why it cannot become a travelling roadshow, convening on a rotating basis in major towns and cities around the UK. This may go some way towards quietening some of the accusations that Parliament is London-centric and lessening talk about the Westminster Village.
  8. Should Parliamentary time be short and the workload high, multiple constitutional juries can be assembled (perhaps in different locations), to work in parallel considering different Bills.

We realise that some members of the House of Lords serve on multiple select committees. We’ll admit to not having a plan for how these will be staffed in the future. One could assume that for now, they can be appointed by Parliament continuing to draw on the talent pool from the current HOL and augmenting any vacancies with new appointments proposed by a committee of civil servants.

We realise that all parties are currently wedded to the idea of an elected second chamber. Is there any way that this could work as a viable alternative?

Yours sincerely...

Photo credit: UK Parliament cc

Reviews and Links for June 2012

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides

3/5

A love triangle set in the turmoil of post-graduation. Well written but left me a little cold, I just didn't care for the characters or the sudden resolution.

 

Links

An important update from the International Earth Rotation Service http://t.co/n5VcLNH3 <- warning, subculture

Seeing Beyond the Human Eye: Video of beautiful scientific and artistic photography http://t.co/aZsFEfh1

ITHCWY: Mission:Explore Food - Get It Now: I posted a few months ago about my brother's crowd funded book, Mission… http://t.co/1A2FEkHN

Kate's #MEF151 looks hard! http://t.co/Qo4N4weY #fb

Pyura Chilensis, the living rock http://t.co/54moGgML

Ghosts With Shit Jobs: http://t.co/CjDH5mz6 #fb

Google's Nexus 7 tablet image leaks onto the Web http://t.co/nuLji4zz via @CNET - holy crap that's a big bezel #io12

Robot Hand beats you at Rock-Paper-Scissors every time. http://t.co/W4K1zAeq (Robot hand crushes rock, robot hand crushes scissors...)

Moon Landing http://t.co/oHFSCowO

Patent 'trolls cost $29bn a year' http://t.co/VQRiKFtb

Facebook Just Changed Your Email Without Asking http://t.co/z9QRi3qP

#Bernal now has a Solar Pump http://t.co/e40lcNLY

House of Lords reform: Nick Clegg's crazy plan is a pay day for has-beens and never-wozzers via @Telegraph http://t.co/kDjbqTFh

Future of ATA = more dishes. Not that expensive. What about it @NancyPelosi ? #SETIcon http://t.co/uobbZ065

Meeting moons at #SETIcon http://t.co/MXykt1QK

RT @erinbiba: http://t.co/Ahh0IhXq - a directory of ways for YOU to participate in space exploration. (Build a rover, get your name on a ...

Is Jupiter helpful to life on Earth? In some ways yes, in some ways no. #SETIcon http://t.co/pG1U3mf3

http://t.co/mZWx5FIr Turing Suicide in doubt?

Gaia corollary: http://t.co/9lPllPbT #SETIcon (re global organism)

Intelligent life: it's all about the unknown unknowns #SETIcon http://t.co/Goo7ngUq

Gorgeous start to the second full day of #SETIcon 2. http://t.co/f0bbwW4V

Was God required for the Big Bang panel rather unfairly stacked 100% against God #SETIcon http://t.co/Keg164Vo

How to find aliens: advice from NASA, SETI and the EMH. #SETIcon http://t.co/HAHZrbv6

ITHCWY: SETIcon 2: I'm at SETIcon 2 this weekend. It's a mix of science, sci-fi, religion and general speculation… http://t.co/jifR8Ang

http://t.co/FZo6GzxJ #todo #SETIcon @myEN Kepler archives opening in October

Success of Kepler Mission is staggering. Discovering water worlds, planets everywhere. #SETIcon http://t.co/4EytfDks

On the cusp of routine spaceflight - at #SETIcon http://t.co/iUU6GgEz

I'm reading Mission:Explore Food on @graphicly! http://t.co/z0iqfQKJ

Far-Fetched Scams Separate the Gullible from Everyone Else http://t.co/M8SyoAvH

Scout: get notified every time Congress proposes legislation with keywords you care about http://t.co/OlU04P45

Exoplanets http://t.co/CAu4C9v9 #fb

Falsehoods programmers believe about time - riff on the malleability of computer time http://t.co/sznLoFlH

JustAnswer Becomes http://t.co/U0xZtr5Z, Raises $25 Million Series A http://t.co/r5IQzmFZ via @techcrunch #PearldotcomLaunch

VatorNews - JustAnswer rebrands as Pearl, raises $25M http://t.co/MTveL1qB via @po_st #PearldotcomLaunch

http://t.co/U0xZtr5Z Has Professional Advice, for a Price http://t.co/RnyqID2G via @mashable #PearldotcomLaunch

Andy Kurtzig Raises $25M To Take Expert Services Online With http://t.co/U0xZtr5Z - http://t.co/PPFhu3q8 #PearldotcomLaunch

JustAnswer Becomes Pearl, Comes Out From Under the Radar http://t.co/5l3UTZ1M #PearldotcomLaunch

A Pearl (.com) Comes Out of http://t.co/LZa65dD3 http://t.co/tUhBuEhe via @HuffPostTech #PearldotcomLaunch

Customer Story - Dr. David Helps Nick Recover from Brain Hemorrhage: http://t.co/HK59IUw2 via @pearl.com #PearldotcomLaunch

RT @Pearldotcom: http://t.co/x1sGSaBc is now in beta, come check us out at http://t.co/ePbqZPiU! #PearldotcomLaunch

RT @MissionExplore: Mission:Explore Food – Video yourself doing one of the missions from the book and get a free copy http://t.co/TpkoBOaY

ITHCWY: Near-plurality of idiocy: "In the 30 years since Gallup started asking people whether they believe humans… http://t.co/9f5FoX9Z

BBC News - Alan Turing: why the tech world's hero should be a household name http://t.co/5eqmNyXY

ITHCWY: Petrol & Marks & Spencer: I recently got back from a trip back to the UK. Every time I go back these days… http://t.co/cV0N8tY7

+1 Error Code 451: an HTTP error for censorship http://t.co/OoA942o8

#todo @myEN Mobile-Friendly Pet Locator PetHub Closes $1.3 Million Seed Round http://t.co/DtkMMSoj

Bridge birthday thing... http://t.co/bBEc7TiC

Brrrr-earnal http://t.co/dD4FiXrv

Defensive Patent License: judo for patent-trolls http://t.co/h6Eq82kr

3 of 5 stars to The Marriage Plot by Jeffrey Eugenides http://t.co/aJwE7cIz

Check out this presentation : How to stop sucking and be awesome instead http://t.co/fqW1ZTG5 via @slideshare

Transit of Venus AND Sutro Tower Serendipitously Photographed from Bernal Hill http://t.co/bZAogCf8

Office has laid on EURO 2012 coverage. http://t.co/8dDStstW

Ridiculously nice walk with Rudy. http://t.co/u6E9H1Gg

ITHCWY: Playmobil http://t.co/bIuMirqh

Mission:Explore Food - Get It Now

Updated on Friday, February 24, 2017

I posted a few months ago about my brother's crowd funded book, Mission:Explore Food. The funding was successful, and the ebook version is available now.

SETIcon 2

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

SETIcon 2

I'm at SETIcon 2 this weekend. It's a mix of science, sci-fi, religion and general speculation.

What really strikes me is that a couple of years ago at the first conference a handful of exoplanets had been found but the Kepler scientists were grinning away, not allowed to say much.

This time round it's hard to find a star without a planetary system. The (silly) Drake equation is falling term by term.

Next SETIcon it has to be some evidence of life...

Near-plurality of idiocy

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015
"In the 30 years since Gallup started asking people whether they believe humans evolved, evolved under the guidance of God, or were created fully formed by God, the percentage of people adhering to the creationist view has actually gone up slightly over time, and now stands at 46 percent of the population."

Depressing.

Petrol & Marks & Spencer

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

I recently got back from a trip back to the UK. Every time I go back these days something about the country has fundamentally changed. This time it's that every petrol station and motorway services has a Marks & Spencer or Waitrose supermarket embedded in it. On the motorway there are generally several large branches, and then a smaller branch in the toilet hand-washing area, and finally a tiny shop selling sandwiches and a small selection of ready-made curries in each cubicle.

At first pass this seems very convenient, but you can't fill up the tank in the smallest BP (paying at the pump being virtually unheard of in the UK) without getting stuck behind someone doing their weekly shop. 

Playmobil

Updated on Sunday, May 3, 2020

Playmobil

Reviews and Links for May 2012

Updated on Friday, May 22, 2020

No book reviews this month.

Links

#boarding SFO http://t.co/YLDFpmwF

Penn Jillette's rant against Obama's drug policy http://t.co/Ri5HAqxH

Congratulations @SpaceX -- Dragon arrives at space station in historic 1st http://t.co/91suk4ZV via @sfgate

Why your camera's GPS won't work in China (maybe) http://t.co/FQIFN8wI

Sigh, obvious, invalid, bullshit -- BBC News - Microsoft wins patent fight with Google's Motorola unit http://t.co/0PENWTCV

BBC News the secret links between Star Wars and Wales http://t.co/T8yEulCu (is there any tenuous link with Wales you won't publish?)

:) Hot weather to continue next week http://t.co/izAc2yA1

Not Skip's Tavern any more... http://t.co/dPx1NIj8

Reality rocks in San Francisco earthquake exhibit http://t.co/yo82B38b (Looking forward to this!)

BBC News - In pictures: Annular eclipse http://t.co/YA5F6or2 (Check out the Lemurs checking out the eclipse)

ITHCWY: Annular Eclipse at SFO: The only solar observatory outside the international terminal at SFO (some… http://t.co/ZqMXm8Ec

Beer was near, sadly earlier. http://t.co/2BeMAJZj

America's great divergence - American History - http://t.co/zQcVJIcQ http://t.co/fSdtXSvl

"Why won't you answer me?" - Parenting - http://t.co/zQcVJIcQ http://t.co/Ljzg6vpG (I should stop telling Kate about her 'milk head')

1906 earthquake refugee cottage at The Presidio. http://t.co/pof5LotA

+1 Judge suspends US law that provided for indefinite detention without trial - Boing Boing http://t.co/xsBuLyYb via @BoingBoing

Daniel Raven-Ellison, Guerrilla Geographer Information, Facts, News, Photos -- National Geographic http://t.co/DjgJdvMJ via @NatGeo

ITHCWY: Gopher Snake: Bernal Heights Park http://t.co/OoHYDU0y

Turned out nice... http://t.co/G2pHtgbd

RT @CatfoodSoftware: Blog: Catfood Software on Google+ and a Hangout Pledge: Catfood is now on Google+. Once 50… http://t.co/ZC84h8AN

ITHCWY: Open Immigration: I'm increasingly in favor of opening up immigration. Partly it's a general sense that a… http://t.co/cBLQT2rI

ITHCWY: Snake rests on Toad: At the California Academy of Sciences. http://t.co/YTQh682A

New Golden Gate Visitor center - lots of tat, no food :( http://t.co/vXmZn099

Obama sighting on morning dog walk. #fb http://t.co/wZdwN2Mj

President Obama: 'I Think Same-Sex Couples Should Be Able to Get Married'; http://t.co/CtC6k2A8 (shameful that it has taken this long)

Gaia revisited: http://t.co/sHSeFph7 - I'm still in the extreme camp: http://t.co/6dzIjBy7

Post Doyle Drive detour quite pleasant on the way home tonight. http://t.co/fSK8e4v9

THINKWALKS: http://t.co/ToOZo3KQ #todo in San Francisco @myEN

ITHCWY: Bottled Water: A company called Evive launched this week to battle the evil of bottled water with reusable… http://t.co/5X9e3emO

ITHCWY: Pelicans http://t.co/0xoup7z5

It's @KQED pledge yet again. Throw them a bone public radio freeloaders: http://t.co/00UvTamT

Illegal dumping can now be voted to fix at http://t.co/SsliF12n #bernal-heights!

Yet Another Awful Dumping Incident on Bernal Hill http://t.co/35kLDRdn via @bernalwood

+1 AllClear ID Rolls Out First-Ever Social Security Number Blocking Service For Children's IDs http://t.co/wnRILNzQ via @techcrunch

Rejected and controversial New Yorker cover art (the mentos one is very good) http://t.co/afo9AxZd via @BoingBoing #fb

Annular Eclipse at SFO

Updated on Thursday, November 12, 2015

Annular Eclipse at SFO

The only solar observatory outside the international terminal at SFO (some binoculars and a complicated harness of cardboard cup wrappers). Gathered quite a crowd!