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LonCon3 - my PoV on issues.

Having read Lesley McIntee's explanation for having had to leave Loncon3 early, I'd say that while I'm saddened, I'm not surprised.

The experience the private security company were giving was *odd*.

They were, for the most part, being utterly professional, but they were also being 100% overt and the demeanour I was receiving from almost every one of them was peculiar. It was almost as if they'd been told that any facial expression other than a slightly suspicious scowl was a sackable offence - there was very little in their behaviour which was other than perfectly proper, however their projected attitude was causing me nerves. I've seen *that* particular attitude before, and it's been on the faces of crowd control police who are not only expecting something to kick off, but are almost prepared to cause it to - I really, really don't like being in that atmosphere - too often I've had it kick off around me because of that attitude, and I want to be elsewhere.

The attitude of the staff who were doing the fire sweeps of the top floor was an exception to the professionalism. It varied from the brusque "It's full, you're not coming in" delivered in a somewhat south london "I'm trying to be important" way up to somebody telling a group to leave a room about 10 minutes into the scheduled event as "Leave, or else". His colleague, on the same sweep had the decency to actually explain the problem with keeping fire routes clear, and that the room simply wasn't allowed above a certain number of people.

I didn't witness any actual victimisation of individuals, nor indeed anything beyond a piece of piss poor "how to deal with the public", but the overall "visible policing" approach was offputting, as was the general air that they expected the fans to start *something*.

I left the Con on Friday night, and London on Saturday morning, as it appeared to have become a victim of its own success, in as much as it seemed more or less impossible for any popular panel *not* to exceed its fire limits for the room, unless it was being held in the auditorium. Being refused entry is one thing, being ejected is another, and where you've had most of 2 days where you've managed to get to 2 panels because the ones you wanted to go to were oversubbed and you're either denied access or been ejected after the start is a little galling, but what it also means is that there's little to do other than deal with the crowds of fans who are in a similar position. That there were groups of people who'd started to game this by simply planning on constantly attending panels in the same room and never actually vacating was making things worse as Friday went on.

I don't like crowds. I'm always subconsciously tracking objects on a collision course with me, and I get stressed when that number ads up. In a crowd that number is pretty much "all" and I need to be elsewhere. My "elsewhere" was denied me, so my fallback was to be "Not there".

I can't help thinking that Excel is simply not set up for an event of the scale or kind of a multi-track fan convention. They have a relatively small number of relatively small rooms, and if I was counting right, the fire limit on most of those rooms was of the order 120-150 people, over maybe 20 rooms which meant *maybe* 3000 people out of an apparent attending group of 7-8000 could be in a room at a time.

If you have an event which doesn't rely on a number of mass presentations at once, and where overlap of noise and vision isn't an issue, such as the national motorcycle show, or a trade event where everything's done on the basis of passing traffic to a 2-300sqft stall, Excel is great. For something where you're trying to put multiple thousands of people into distinct events in groups of 100-150 - rather less good.

Return of the Time Lords

On an otherwise typical Saturday evening on the Thames Embankment in London, amongst the hustle and noise of people out to have a fun evening and the noise of taxis going about their business, anyone listening carefully could just have made out a brief, peculiar wheezing-groaning sound which, if written, could have been said to sound like "VWORRRRRP VWORRRRRRP" . The sound died away quickly and the noise faded back to being as it had been, with no notice taken by the merrymakers who continued on their way.


"So just why have you brought me to London? It's not as if I've never been here before, and you've even brought me back to my Now - it's not as if anything different's going to happen now."


The girl questioning her companion was a thoroughly average young woman, of average height with long brunette hair and a round face. Average in all but the quirk of her mouth as she finished her statement, and the spark in her eyes that belied a questing mind.


Her companion was a taller man with a mop of unruly brown hair that fell off to one side, with a boyish face perched on top of a bow tie and wearing a suit of a cut which was in fashion many decades earlier, yet somehow timeless. Looking at her from the side of his eyes, he continued walking apace along the road.


"It's strange you know, very strange. You lot, and by that I mean humanity as a whole, have a knack you know. A knack for ignoring things you don't want to have seen - for ignoring the blatant in favour of what you want to be obvious. You tell me nothing different's going to happen now, and you base that on.... what? I mean, in the last ten years you've had the Cybermen invade the whole country, you've had a battle between the Daleks and the Cybermen that very nearly obliterated the middle of London and you've had more strange happenings and goings on than I can count, and I can count to a very, very big number. But no - it's all cream teas and visiting vicars, because that's what England is like, so no - nothing could every happen in London *now* - because your small galaxy mindset insists it can't - in the face of all evidence to the contrary. I mean, here you are walking through London having just stepped out of what looks like a 1950s Police box which is unbelievably vastly immensely huger on the inside than on the outside, and you're walking down the Embankment talking to somebody who looks like a man, but is over a thousand years old, has two hearts and has had several different faces and bodies, having just travelled here from a Circus on the far side of the galaxy a thousand years in the future, and still you insist that nothing different is going to happen *now* because we're back in London?"


Taking a breath, the man paused in his step and turned to face the girl, looking at her almost expectantly.


"OK Doctor. Good point."


Turning to the Doctor, she looked at him in a somewhat expectant way, and as the silence grew, her expectance became impatience.


"Quite right Clara. Onwards."


Taking a stride, he walked onwards, picking up pace and striding forward for a total of ten steps before realising something was amiss. Turning he saw Clara still standing where she had been throughout their conversation.


"Well, aren't you coming then?"


"Well, yes... but I'm wondering...."




"Well - yes - what exactly *is* going to happen?"


"That's the thing about time and what could be. The best and most fun way, and I really like having fun, is to discover it by getting to it and living through it. No fun at all if you know everything that's going to happen in advance. Takes the surprise out of things. Really ruins games like pass the parcel, and can you imagine Musical Chairs at a meeting of Oracles and Seers? There'll be a load of happy clairvoyants and one grumpy one who knows they're going to lose. So, let's go find out what the future is going to bring and have a bit of fun getting there."


"So, either you do know what's coming up and you don't want to tell me, or you have no idea and are just hoping for something to come up"


"Yes, precisely."


"Precisely what?


"Precisely one or the other. C'mon - let's go!"


Staring at the Doctor in disbelief for a fraction of a second, Clara realised that this was probably the straightest answer she was going to get from him, and rather than getting infuriated she simply took a breath, shrugged and strode off, calling over her shoulder..


"So, not coming then?"


Jogging a few paces to catch up, the Doctor grinned at her and, matching her pace, walked beside her and carried on chatting.




A time later the pair, having enjoyed a leisurely stroll through central London with absolutely nothing of any import having happened, paused. In the background, the Palace of Westminster loomed large, its neo-baroque edifice being lit from below by floodlighting and the entire building appearing to dominate the surroundings. Turning to Clara the Doctor got a strange look on his face, and he took a breath.


"You know, it's a strange thing. I've told you of the Time War, and you've never really questioned anything I've told you - why is that?"


"It's because it's you telling me. It's a fantastical story, and I wouldn't know where to start questioning you on it - the entire thing seems to be on far too huge a scale to comprehend - across all of time and all of space - any question I'd ask would be too small, if that makes any sense? Why are you bringing that up now?"


"Too small. Hmm. I suppose any question you could ask would be, yes. Still, surprised you haven't asked one anyway. You ask me questions on everything else. Well. Almost everything. Hmm. Actually, lots. Well - maybe less than you should. I mean, if you'd asked me how to operate the TARDIS toaster things would have worked out better".


"The TARDIS Toaster.... Well - why would I ask you? It's a toaster. I couldn't reasonably have been expected to know I'd have to ask how to work a toaster - I mean Doctor, who on earth would rig their toaster so that it toasts backwards in time. How was I expected to know I had to put the bread in *after* I got the toast out. Anyway the TARDIS dealt with the Reaper - it wasn't as if it was *that* big a temporal paradox."


"Who on... Earth. Yes. I see what you mean about questions being too small. I'm not from Earth. I'm a Time Lord from Gallifrey. And I rig the toaster that way. It's great. It means I always get toast when I want it rather than having to wait for it. Having to remember to put the bread in later is a small price to pay for toast here and now. Delayed gratification. Strange concept. No reason to be delayed, but yes, I guess I'm on Earth just now, so the answer to 'Who on earth' would rig their toaster that way' the answer would be 'Me, a Time Lord from Gallifrey' would do that. Happy now?"


"Umm - Doctor, why are we having a discussion about temporal toast?"


"We're not. You asked me about the toaster and I explained that a Time Lord would rig it that way. That's all. A Time Lord."


Realising she'd lost track of where this conversation had come from, and had no idea where it had gone, Clara decided to go off in a different direction"


"Doctor, you keep telling me that you're a Time Lord, and from Gallifrey - So, all the people from Gallifrey are Time Lords? I'd have thought they'd have been Gallifreyans"


A spark coming into his eyes, a grin spread across the Doctor's surprisingly mobile face and he interlaced his hands, cracking his knuckles before taking a deep breath.


"I thought you'd never ask! And that's not a small question. Oh no. That's a very big question, and a very good one. And to answer it, well at least to start to answer it in terms understandable by such a limited mind as yours..."


Poking him in the solar plexus with her finger Clara proclaimed "Oi! Less of the limited if you don't mind".


Grimacing a little, the Doctor continued.


"Anyway - to answer your question... No, the reason I say Time Lords and not Gallifreyans is that while all Time Lords are Gallifreyan, not all Gallifreyans are Time Lords. It's a bit of a class thing you see - we have lots of classes. We're like a school that way. Lots of classes, all of different things. Of course we're not that like a school. We don't have teachers, and we don't get to change classes when the bell goes. And we have to stay all day. Not at all like a school now I think of it. Stupid metaphor to use. Ah well.... where was I? Oh yes!


Yes - lots of classes. At the top are the Time Lords, and there's not that many of us - there's only a few hundred, with an elected council running the show. The Time lords sit above a load of other groups and live isolated from the Reality of everyday life on Gallifrey. Just like any other planet we have workers - you know, farmers and the like? Time Lords have to eat too you know. And then we have the Shobogans..."


Clara snerked a litte and queried "Shobogans? What sort of name is that? Sounds like some kind of sleigh".


"I'll have you know that my mother was a Shobogan! It's a perfectly sensible name, if you speak Gallifreyan. Anyway, yes - the Shobogans are travelling traders who move between the outer lands and the Time Lord Citadel. And you may be right on the Sleigh thing, although with the Shobogans it's more Ess Ell Ay Wye - they tend to amuse themselves with whatever comes to hand, and oftentimes that's another Shobogans skull, but anyway - yes, you have the working classes, and the Shobogans and the Time Lords, and like I say there aren't many of them."


"Many? Given you're the only one left, it's more like 'any' isn't it?"


His face developing a deep frown, the Doctor looked at her in a hurt manner.


"I'm... sorry - that was hurtful, wasn't it?"


"A bit. Anyway. Yes. The Time Lords. The most powerful beings in this Universe at one point. Absolute mastery over time and space. And yet... The Time War. Yes."


Staring briefly into the distance, the Doctor paused, his face passing through many emotions before he once again started.


"It's a strange thing you know, most Time Lords wouldn't know the man, or Gallifreyan, in the street if they bit them, which for the most part they wouldn't - I mean most Time Lords were crusty old buggers who held onto one regeneration as long as they could - would probably taste dusty if you bit them. Wouldn't be nice, but yes - the man in the street. I was once a man you know. Not just male, but actually human."


He paused as if waiting for a question, which arrived soon enough.


"You were... human? But... how? You're alien - you've just spent the last five minutes telling me so. Two hearts and all. Human?"


"Oh yes - it's a little trick we developed - the Chameleon Arch - your Time Lord essence is effectively removed and you're left as a mortal being, a human in fact. It's odd that we become human when we use the device, but there you are - oddness happens. Your temporal essence gets stored, normally in a timepiece - it doesn't have to be, but really - can you imagine a Time Lord who when faced with storing their selves in either a timepiece or something mundane would choose an egg or a training shoe? Really. Mine was in a really rather nice pocket watch you know..."


He watched Clara's face for any signs of emotion, or disbelief, but all he saw was mild amusement and a little interest.


"But... yes. Human. Was strange. I was  a teacher at a school. I had lots of classes of my own, despite being middle class. Strange thing that really. Class being somewhere you get taught things, but also your place in the world, and you English - you have so many classes. You have one of the most heavily developed class systems I've ever met. Working/Lower Middle/Middle Middle/Upper Middle/Upper/Nobility - and then to confuse it all you make it possible to move between them just by having somebody touch you with a sword. In most countries what that would make you would be dead, but in England it makes you a Lord, and lets you sit over there..."


"So.. what does this have to do with...."


"With the time war? I thought you'd never ask!"


Glaring at him in an amused way, Clara spoke over him.


"I didn't. In fact, I get the feeling you want to talk about it, and have been trying to get me to ask all night, but just because you want doesn't mean you get. So, let me ask you another question, which is probably too small for you to notice, but I'll ask anyway. If these Time Lords of you were so all powerful over space and time and all, what happened to them - I wouldn't have thought people like that would be so easily defeated by... whatever - where are they?"


His face lighting up in a manner which was almost manic, the Doctor beamed at her.


"Ooooh! That's not a small question. That's a very, very, very big question. Yes. Well. I sort of Time Looped them. They were getting a bit carried away, and Rassilon was about to do some bad things. Rassilon. Big Boss Time Lord. One of the very first of us actually. Rassilon, Omega and the Other. First three. But yes. Rassilon was getting carried away, so I rather sabotaged him and timelooped him and a few others to keep the multiverse safe, but that was only a few of them. Maybe a dozen or so. The rest of them... that's a different matter.


Tower of St Stephen you know."




"What what?"


"You said 'Tower of St Stephen'"


"Did I? Oh, yes - I did"


"So, what about it?"


"That's what it's called, or at least it was called. Almost everybody called it Big Ben, but that's the name of the largest bell. The tower itself was the tower of St Stephen. Until a few years ago - your government decided that people were probably too thick to learn the real name, after all it'd been 150 years and they hadn't managed yet, so instead of forcing people to learn, they changed the name of the tower to Big Ben. Always easier to change the facts to match the perception than to change the perception to match the facts. I may have mentioned. Daleks and cybermen and all that. Mmm?"


"Yes, Doctor. You might have said something along those lines" she said through gritted teeth. "So...?"


"So....? Yes - your parliament. Strange thing. Caused by lots of people losing arguments over the years and setting things up so they don't have to take the blame when they win. Strange setup really - bicameral parliament. Sounds a bit like a shellfish that. Bi-cameral. Bi Cammmmmeral. Yes. But it's not of course - just means two chambers. The Commons and the Lords. The Commons being elected, and the Lords mostly being born, although some people get elected to it by the elected people in the commons. Dreadfully complicated all that, but it seems to work some of the time. "


"Doctor, I know this - I learned it in school. Why are you telling me this?"


"You know this? Oh. Well then - maybe I can tell you something you don't know. Did you know there are actually two types of lords? There's actually bishops in the House of Lords. The Lords Spiritual."


"OK - that I didn't know - why on earth are they there? Or should I ask why in the universe are they there?"


"Oh - the answer to that one's only 'on earth'. They're there because the UK has no separation of Church and State. The monarch is head of both state and church, and so they're her representatives for the church. The other lot though, the other lot are more interesting. There's more of them - six hundred and some. They have a different name....."


"Are you going to make me ask?"


The Doctor sniffed a little and once again seemed to be looking into the distance, just past what he'd just said had previously been the Tower of St Stephen.


"Mmm? Oh? Oh yes! What happened to the Time Lords you ask?"


"Doctor, you do make it difficult to tell which conversation you were having - you were taking about the house of Lords and then jump back to the Time Lords... One conversation or another, just to let my limited human brain keep up?"


"Mmm - if you insist. OK. Actually, it is one conversation, and if you'd stop interrupting me I'd explain. So, yes - you have the Lords Spirtual who are bishops, and they're there just because they're part of the state church, but the other lot - well, that's most of the Lords you know about, and they have a different name. They're the Lords Temporal...."


He left this statement hanging in the air, looking expectantly at Clara, waiting for her to twig what he'd just said.


"Lords ...Temporal? As in Lords... Time. As in Time Lords? Is that what you're saying?"


Just as she asked this question, the clouds which had been gathering around the Palace of Westminster suddenly thickened, and the air became heavy with the scent of ozone, indicating a thunderstorm brewing.


"Oh yes Clara! You wonderful, wonderful limited fantastic being! Exactly! Time Lords!"


And with this exclamation an almighty lightning bolt formed and struck the clock tower, blowing out all four faces of the clock leaving nothing but the gaping orifices where they had being, and causing a "CLANNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGG" sound, which a short time later was answered from the direction Clara and the Doctor had been walking all night with an equally sonorous "CLANNNNNNNNGGGGGGGGGG".


"Doctor... is that....?"


"The Cloister Bell in the TARDIS. Oh yes. But don't worry - it's nothing bad this time. It's just the old girl showing she's happy."




"Oh yes... just wait."


And with that, Clara began to hear a noise, familiar yet not. A noise she recognise but much louder, and rich with unfamiliar bass notes.




Before her disbelieving eyes, the Tower of St Stephen dematerialised, leaving only the echoes of its Vworp drive.


"Doctor... that was..... a..?"


"TARDIS? Oh yes. I said Time Lords would store their essence in a timepiece didn't I? Well, can you imagine anything better for a bunch of egotistical old crumblies like that lot than the clock of Big Ben to store their selves? Six hundred and thirty Time Lords back in the universe. All back. This is big news. On the other hand, the BBC are going to need to figure a new way to start their news."


Quirking her smile at the Doctor, Clara strode off in the direction of their TARDIS.


"I'm sure they'll manage."


"I'm sure they will. They always do."



You know what. People get upset when you call them a bigot. It's apparently a loaded word, and shouldn't be used against *them* because they're only acting in accordance with their beliefs.

But, you know what? If you discriminate against women for being women, you're a bigot - specifically a sexist bigot. If you discriminate against Muslims for being Muslim, you're a religious bigot. If you discriminate against Asians for being Asian, you're an ethnic bigot. If you discriminate against people with a skin colour different to your own, you're a racist bigot.

I personally don't give a flying fuck what some dead guy allegedly told you to believe, it's by your own actions you'll be known and you have the choice to be a blind sheep, following a herd both now and through time, or to be a moral, ethical person and actually *consider* what you're doing. If you still decide to discriminate then you're still a bigot, but at least you've put some effort into the "why". If you just decide to follow some organisations teachings and claim that you can't be bigoted because you're following the greater herd then you're a) delusional and b) bigoted, but putting no thought into the why and the organisation you're following is bigoted too.
Today I found myself listening to an item on the proposed move towards same-sex marriage in Scotland, and heard a representative of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland putting his case forward for not allowing such a thing.

The case boiled down to the "fact" that a large number of people would not want to realign their understanding of what sexuality and gender identity is, and that they should not be forced to, and additionally that this move would have a similar impact to the previous moves banning discrimination on sexuality or racial grounds in the adoption process, which caused a large number of Catholic adoption agencies to close.
The mouthpiece also stated that a move towards same-sex marriage would be against peoples human rights, and that he had a persuasive legal opinion to this effect.

Now, these arguments sounds a bit hollow, and if you look at them what you come up with is the following:

The Roman Catholic Church is bigoted and wishes to remain so in the name of "freedom of religious expression". We are talking about a level of bigotry which drives them to fundraise to campaign to be allowed to perpetuate such bigotry.

The "Human Rights" arguement boils down to "a lot of our congregation are bigots and would be unhappy if it became illegal for them to speak hatefully of something which will fundamentally bring joy to others".
In terms of permitting homosexual marriage, the net result to society is that homosexuals get married. In terms of net effect on society, there *is* none, other than possibly an increase in overall satisfaction, and levels of marriage. The whole arguement about one man and one woman is predicated on the basis that there will be progeny, and the thing is, banning homosexual marriage won't change the overall volumes - it's not as if a lesbian is going to go "Oh, damn - I can't get married to my female partner. Oh well, that's enough for the homosexuality - it's het for me from here on in - where can I find a virile dick to give me a baby?". No, they'll carry on just as before, and in civil partnership rather than marriage.

The RCC mouthpiece also mentioned that there is no historical precedent for allowing homosexual marriage. Now, I'm not the most perfectly rounded historian, but given I can find two direct references where Roman emperors took male partners and basically got married by Imperial Decree, and an explicit marriage ceremony in the 11th century.

There most definitely *is* a precedent for this. More so if you consider the sexual nature of catamites in times of antiquity. If you really, really want to push a point, the fact that the RC church holds their god to be represented by purely male aspects, and that the priesthood is forbidden temporal marriage as they are considered to be married to God - hmm - Dear RC church, you appear to have broken the very thing you're arguing for with your entire clergy.

The obscene "war on same sex marriage" declared by Cardinal Keith O'Brien looks even more ridiculous given that the majority of his own congregation in Scotland are actually *for* gay marriage. Keith O'Brien is an out and out bigot. He is espousing a viewpoint based on hatred and fear, rather than the love for all men explicitly laid out in the Bible. Campaigning against something which only has an impact on his organisation because that organisation is based around a doctrine which espouses bigotry and hatred to small sections of society, while understandable, is a vile position.

I am glad that there is no formal established church in Scotland, and doubly so that if there could have been, it is not the Roman Catholic church. This doctrine of hatred towards fellow humans who simply want equality in the eyes of the temporal law - note "temporal", not "spiritual" - is repugnant and has no place in modern society.
When quoting "there is no precedent for" something, be very careful of where you lay unless you are an eternal being who has always been and always will be - your very existance has no precedence - the RC church is maybe 2000 years old. What do you know? 2000 years ago, there was no precedent for its existance, yet exist it still does.

So, same sex marriage being legalised - it will make some people uncomfortable. Well, tough titties. If you're not open minded enough to realise that this change literally makes no difference to the way you live your lives then I pity you. Just because same sex marriage is legal does not mean that suddenly you're going to be forceably joined in matrimony to somebody of your own gender. It just means there will be a few more marriage ceremonies, and the registrar of births, deaths and marriages will be a bit busier.

If an individual organisation doesn't wish to carry out religious marriage ceremonies then that's their call. That this issue might result in some organisations having to excommunicate portions of their communion and as a result dilute their own perceived power - well, that's a sort of sweet irony, isn't it? Doubly so if the excommunicated parties end up "defecting" to a rival denomination, or even religion.

As long as the civil authorities will accept the appropriate documentation then that's all that should be required for a marriage to be recognised.

But yes, institutionalised bigotry from an organisation who consider the 1960s to be the absolute latest thing in dogmatic reform has no real place in a modern society.

Anybody want to see Springsteen?

Anybody want to see Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band?

I have two tickets for Hard Rock Calling at Hyde Park in London on the 14th July which has Springsteen headlining and a load of other acts.

Face value of the tickets is £66 each, but make me an offer.

Either here (comments screened) or pol@geekhouse.eu

Non-monogamous marriage - the mechanics

Prompted by a footnote over at http://www.onehotcrumpet.co.uk I've just put a bit of thought into the mechanics of how to make non-monogamous marriage work, and have come up with a couple of concepts. In all of the following, where the word "marriage" is used, take it to refer to the registration of a partnership in the eyes of the civil authorities - the religious aspects of the word do not have force for this article.

The one issue I can forsee with either of the following is that there is no allowance whatever for relationship precedence, but arguably at the point where you're entering into marriage with somebody, the whole primary/secondary/tertiary/unununary concept really shouldn't apply.

The first model is a fairly simple one where a 'marriage' is a simple relationship between two individuals, but with no limit on the number of relationships that any individual can enter into. This would mean that for a basic 'V' model you would end up with something like:

P1   P2
  \    /

Where P1 and P2 are equal spouses of P3, but where P3 is absolute spouse of P1 and P2. The result of this would be that in matters of probate, P1 would have claim on 50% of the estate of P3, as would P2, but P1 and P2 would have no claim on each others estate. P3 in turn would have claim on 100% of P1 and P2's estate due to being their only spousal partner. P1 and P2 would both have "next of kin" relationships with P3, but not with each other, and P3 would have 'next of kin' relationships with P1 and P2.

A Triad would look like:

 \    /

More complex could be something like:

 \   /   \   /     \   
  P6   P7       P8

Where you have 2 triads overlapping with P2 in each of them, and P4 in a 'Y' configuration with P3, P5 and P8.

This model scales really rather well and allows for pretty much any configuration of polycule, simply requiring that the 'marriage' is one of the vertexes between any two individuals, and that the assignable rights can either be shared in their entirety or subdivided to an arbitrary level based on the number of marriages an individual is in. The typical question here is "what about the children?", well the answer to that would come down to the basis that a child has two biological parents, and any discussion on the childs guardianship should start on that basis, as is the case with monogamous marriage.

Divorce in the above is simply a case of annulling the specific vertex between the partners being divorced - it will have no impact on the rest of the marriages at a mechanical level, although as any individual who has had a breakup in a non-monogamous grouping can most likely attest, the social pressures between the remaining partners will be somewhat taxing, probably including a degree of backstabbing, ongoing acrimony and chinese whispers. This will require a new area of specialist relationship counselling to deal with, but is realistically no worse than the current situation that many non-monogamous couples face.

In the case of the above, the anti-bigamy laws would need to be repealed in their current form, although I would suggest that any legislation enabling this style of multiple-marriage should have a mandatory disclosure provision whereby all partners of any individual need to be made aware of the other married partners, and of potential married partners prior to the marriage being entered into, and breach of this provision would constitute grounds for a charge similar to the current bigamy charge - it is possible to cheat in a non-monogamous relationship after all.

The second configuration for a non-monogamous marriage is rather different. It's the concept of a contract group marriage syndicate, where the "Marriage" is actually a semi-corporate entity, effectively a co-operative, in which each member of the marriage has an equal stake, with all partners being equal within the group in terms of rights and responsibilities. Individuals may 'contract' into this marriage style with the consensus of the group as a whole, and may contract out unilaterally.This structure would allow for extremely flexible group marriages, and individuals would not be restricted as to the number of group marriages they could be part of, however membership of one would be registered in the same way a civil partnership is at the moment.

Divorce from this structure of marriage would be a simple "serving notice and closing all ongoing affairs" rather than a full formal divorce process, however the severance from this structure would have to be recorded with the authorities to ensure that the "rights and responsibilities of a married partner" were maintained correctly.

A letter to Apple

Dear Apple,

I know that you are the purveyor of all sorts of bling devices which have a near religious following amongst your adherents, and that the hardware itself is of excellent quality and on average your software's no worse than anybody else in the industry.

I also acknowledge that you seem to have the online sales format nailed, between the Apple.com store and iTMS.

What you terminally suck at, in ways that are nauseating to behold, is bricks and mortar sales.

Your store format is... odd, and may well work at any point where the staff outnumber the customers - which given there were at least 15 floor walkers is quite possible some of the time.

At the point where the customers outnumber the staff, it all falls to pieces a bit.

Pick up a small, high value item off the shelf and go and try to pay for it.

The "obvious" place is the Genius Bar - who are not sales people and so you can't pay there.

The next thing is to go and talk to the staffer who has no customers with them.

This doesn't work - all she's doing is staring at the other floorwalkers. She helpfully points me at a floorwalker who turns out to be "busy" waiting for something to be brought from the stockroom for a customer standing elsewhere in the store.

So, I wait. And the floorwalker I was waiting for wanders off and "helps" somebody who was sitting staring confused at an iMac.

Over the next 20 minutes this happened any number of times - not just to me, but to a number of other customers, a goodly number of whom gave up and left, muttering about shit customer service.

When I eventually get hold of somebody with a "Mobile Till" (iPod Touch with a barcode scanner), she asks if I've been waiting long.

"20 minutes or so"
"Oh god - I'm sorry - that's quite quick for a day like this"

Followed by something of a story about how in theory the floor walkers have their own floor segments to deal with, and how if they stick to them then it works alright as they know which customers are waiting, but which falls to pieces every morning when the management see one area or other busier than the rest and cut the floor staff loose to just be where they want to.

The fact that I have a staff member telling me how shambolic it is says something. If it weren't for the fact that the item I went in for is only available from Apple stores as retail (and believe me, if I could have waited for it, I'd have ordered from Amazon or Play, both of whom have it listed for less money and on average less hassle) then I'd have walked out well before I was eventually served.

This is, to put it mildly, a crappy customer experience. It is not one which overly endears the Apple Store to me as an outlet, and similarly does not endear Apple as a brand - it really does smack of the whole "Style over Substance" thing of which Apple is frequently accused - having a store with no tills, no pay points and having every staff member (except for the ones who aren't) be a walking till sounds great. Right until the store gets in any way busy and there's no actual organisation behind it.

I don't really expect these issues to get fixed, as Apple as an organisation frequently proves itself to be massively clue resistant when there is an actual problem identified for it to deal with - "Not Invented Here" being an endemic problem.

Well, you probably haven't lost a customer in me, because to be honest this is the first time I've ever tried to buy anything in an Apple store, and if I have my way then it's the last too. But just imagine how many other customers you *are* losing through crappy customer service like this.

No love.


Spectacularly failing to get it

And thus do we figure out why Amazon bloody well deserve to rule the eBook world, and why lots of the other vendors are *Spectacularly* missing it.

I have a Sony PRS500. Had it since before they were available in the UK, but it does - it reads eBooks, has an e-ink display and lots of storage - it pretty much was the first e-ink reader to be commonly available.

For long enough I've been sideloading my own stuff, but it's been sitting in a drawer for a year or so, but recently I dug it out again.

Discovery #1 - Calibre can no longer see the PRS500 - I'm guessing support has been dropped, had a look and couldn't find any real reference to support one way or the other.

So, install the Sony Library software and it can see the device, and it can do its thing with it - so far so good.

The Sony library software has a "Online Book Store" function, which simply lists a small number of 3rd party bookstores and links through to them.

So, I decide to go and try this commercial eBook gimmick.

Click on "WHSmith", go to one of the most cluttered "portal" sales sites I've ever seen.

Click around the place a bit, find the "Bernard Cornwell" tab on the "most popular" list and go through to that.

To be confronted by a total mishmash of titles presented - now, Cornwell has written a *lot* of books, but you'd think an online book store would make *some* effort to keep some coherency, but no - it wasn't even alphabetical - series in random orders, interspersed in other series - no rhyme nor reason.

Anyway, eventually tell it I want Sharpe's Revenge.

Get dumped through to a payment screen which breaks most of the accepted norms on which order fields come in and such like, and which insists I register with the store. Which I do.

Now, I have a problem with having to register with every damn online store - I shouldn't have to - worst I should have to do for a one-off purchase is to put in my cardholder details on their payment page - if I want to do this multiple times then that's my lookout, not theirs, but no - I have yet another damn account with personally identifiable and thus leakable information, just to buy a book.


Join their damn club, pay for the e-book thinking I'd just get a download popup, or maybe a "Click here".

Oh no.

Instead I get an e-mail from WHSmith with a "click me" link - yay, another clickjacking vector. Just what the world needed.

Download the file, and my computer helpfully asks if I want to dump it into the Sony Libary software, and I go "yes" and that's good right until I get another popup.

"You need to subscribe to Adobe Editions to use this file"

Great - so, in addition to having to tell my life story to the book shop, I now also need to repeat this with a bloody 3rd party DRM provider.

This is like buying a single book from Costco when you've never been there before, but you only get every other letter, and you have to go and buy the other half from Makro - and you don't have a membership with either of them yet, and you need to tell far, far too many people far, far too much about you as a person.

To buy a book.


With this approach to service, they *deserve* to fail on their arses. Quite honestly, any company who take a real world transaction which would be "Walk to shelf, pick up object, walk to till, hand over money, leave shop with object" to multiple levels of faff and shit have spectacularly missed the whole advantage of online retail, and in fact of more than I can comprehend.

Dear WHSmith. Your website is an atrocity against UX, the user experience is comparable to having accidentally stumbled into a fetish club. While looking for the WI. The necessity for an account profile to be established for a single book is ridiculous, the fact you're using a proprietary DRM solution whereby I need to give my life story to another 3rd party, and particularly one in the US who have *no* concept of data protection legislation is also ridiculous.

And I rather suspect this experience will multiply for every online bookstore I try to buy anything from.

Really, screw that. Screw the crap experience, screw the privacy invasions and above all screw WHSmith.

RIP Moth - 1995 - 11:01am January 18th 2011

We had to have Moth put to sleep this morning. She was loving and content to the end and had people who loved her with her at the end.

I Miss you Moth.