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Gilby’s, Pete’s, and Diversity

It seems that Gilby’s on Sandy High Street is to close and turn into a restaurant (via planning notice on a lampost opposite Gilby’s). This is a shame. Although a bizarre and mildly rubbish shop, I will sadly miss it. For those of us without a car it is the only accessible place in Sandy to get common things like hammers, screws, primer without an epic trek to Homebase in Biggleswade, an inconvenient hike to B&Q in Hitchin, or a lunchtime trip to that excellent place down Goodge Street in London. This is all especially sad since the aptly-named Really Useful Shop closed down.

There seem to be certain shops that follow abstract rules that determine what they have in stock. For Gilby’s, if you expected them to stock something, they wouldn’t; if you thought there was no chance, they would have it. Another interesting example is Pete’s, the off-licence at the end of our road: if you keep looking, you will find it, unless you ask at the counter, in which case they will not have it in. I have looked for hours for obscure things in there and been rewarded; I’ve asked at the counter for something like beer and been told they don’t stock it.

The other dimension is that they are going to open a new restaurant, which is brave to say the least, especially after the demise of the the Indian that wasn’t the Gandhi Sandy. Although this is not nearly as brave as the sad lamented Diversity, which opened last year as a trendy/chav menswear shop opposite the Gandhi. You could tell the writing was on the wall by the speed they did indeed diversify into womenswear (of which there are already two shops in Sandy, although none of them sell gypsy skirts (as I believe they’re called)). Needless to say, Diversity left town a few weeks ago without me ever having the chance to go in. Maybe they knew about this.

Hatfield and blame

Following on from what JediMoose says about blame culture, I was a little concerned recently about the corporate conviction of Network Rail for the Hatfield disaster. It’s good in many ways that someone is being held responsible for these crashes when something is obviously at fault, but I worry what the effect will be when an enormous fine is slapped onto Network Rail (not Railtrack, which no longer exists). Either less money will be available to run the railways, or the public will pay through higher fares or increased government subsidy.

I have a similar worry about hospital cases where hospitals are penalised financially, which can only further reduce the effectiveness of the hospital, thus making corner-cutting and bad practice more likely.

I must say, however, that I have never been in a position where I or a loved one has been hurt in either of these ways. Given the choice though, I would prefer criminal conviction of individual negligence, which should be legally provable, rather than suing and draining a public organisation of its money, which came from the public in the first place anyway.

There’s a similar rant that could be made about trade unions and strikes, which mostly seem to occur in public organisations (fire fighters, teachers, university staff) so don’t hurt managers or shareholders like strikes are meant to, but members of the public, children, and students. Probably best to stop there.

Pie petition

Fans of pie might want to sign Scaryduck‘s Bring Back the Breville Pie Magic petition. The Breville Pie Magic is apparently now only available in Australia, which prompted Scaryduck to comment: This is important*, dammit. We’ve got The Ashes. The Aussies get the Pie Magic. That’s just wrong in my book. I haven’t signed up, but what’s the point of a weblog if not to promote causes one is not prepared to actually do anything about? (see also Judean People’s Front).

Would libraries exist?

Library Stuff has some interesting thoughts on whether libraries could be allowed to exist now if they didn’t already considering all of the current legal issues surrounding copyright and IP. I would doubt it, especially for public libraries. However, there are some types of publication that seemed to be aimed at communal use and that arguably need libraries to exist themselves, e.g. the Encyclopedia Britannica, scholarly journals. Whereas the effect on undergraduates might have been to lower the price of textbooks but raise the amount of money needed to actually be a student, no one researcher could afford the journals and varied resources to undertake detailed research effectively unless they share resources with someone else. As soon as you share books, you technically have a library. Perhaps these monolithic tomes would never have existed or flourished. In the case of scholarly journals, the need to more accurately target an audience might have led to a more healthy situation than now, where libraries are bound to purchase highly priced journals laden with research done by academics who have to publish in jounals in order to be funded.

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Although it is more of a glorified tweak, mostly to make the site more amenable to smaller screens, to finally get the Anglo-Saxon rune poem and its translation visible, and include both Google and Wikipedia search boxes, at least for my own benefit. You may also notice that old and new entries are in a different fonts, which is to do with the different way I am now coding individual posts. New entries should appear properly in a nice serif font.

Incidentally, the Anglo-Saxon rune poem is the funny writing in the top right hand corner, which should look like this, except all on one line:

Ur byþ anmod and oferhyrned,
felafrecne deor feohteþ mid hornum,
mære morstapa þæt is modig wuht

Clicking on the text should bring up the following translation:

Aurochs is a courageous beast, having huge horns,
A savage beast, it fights with its horns,
A noble stalker of the moors, it is a fierce beast!

The original text and the translation were taken, with permission, from Tom Wulf’s text and translation. See also.

Personal collection managers

I wish had more time and effort to look at personal collection managers, as discussed on Library Stuff. These allow anyone to make a personal catalogue of their book collection. I can think of some (non-librarian) people I know who might find this interesting (if they weren’t too busy writing books) considering they have already attempted to classify all the books they own.

Given the success of Wikipedia with its complex organisation of data and treatment of complicated subjects (e.g.) but with a degree of authority and accuracy that few could have foretold, one wonders whether there can ever be a similar movement for book cataloguing. Given the poor quality of even professional vendor-supplied records, and the difficulties that the intracacies of cataloguing cause for even competent cataloguers, I doubt it, unless a very clever format and framework of rules is devised.


I’ve had a little play with a new web-based similiar-to-Bloglines RSS aggregator, Side4 (via Library Stuff). One thing I didn’t think a Bloglines rival would do is add another frame; if they got rid of a frame I might be impressed. It does look fairly neat though, if only the text of the posts didn’t spill over the side of the page. There are a couple of other irksome features that have put me off for now: the add feed feature doesn’t intelligently find available feeds like Bloglines does; it seems insistent that I want to subscribe to a shortlist of popular feeds (slashdot, boing boing, etc.) which I have no wish to subscribe to: maybe they are trying to kick start usage; there seems no easy way to mark items as read/unread; there are icons with no text attached, such as this which I think means Home. Really, am I bothered?


We recently signed up to an organic vegbox scheme. Partly, this was so we could get regular fresh vegetables which you just cannot get from Sandy, despite it being famous for market gardening. Supermarket vegetables (and a lot of their food in general, viz especially chicken) are often tastless. We also liked the idea of trying organic food and supporting the idea. Another benefit of the vegbox idea is that you get a selection chosen by the firm that runs the scheme so that, as well as getting staples like potatoes and gloriously misshapen carrots still covered in mud, you get things you’ve never tried before, wouldn’t think of buying (e.g. cabbage), or, as in the case of chard, never heard of before.

More than anything, chard is a wonderful word, similar to one of my favourites, snood. You don’t see snoods much any more. Anyway…

Chard is a bonkers plant a bit like spinach but you can also use the stems of a chard. I sauted it, not very well, and it was very tasty. We had ruby chard if that makes any difference: it certainly looked striking with bright red stems.

I’m worried about the impression this post gives of me, speaking as someone who works for the public sector in education, has been described as a rabid public transport fan and car-hater, and is now advocating organic vegetables. I should point out in my defence that I don’t read the Guardian (not much) and never wear sandals, which I detest.

001 again

001 again.