Sunday, May 31, 2009

Siemens is proud to sponsor New Democracy

Σhow me the money

Siemens says thank you

"The warrant for Christos Karavellas, Siemens' former financial manager in Greece, was issued after he failed to appear in court as scheduled on Friday. Karavellas' lawyer claimed his client was abroad and sought to postpone the testimony, the source added.

German industrial giant Siemens is accused of bribing local politicians and officials from Greek telephone operator OTE to bag a multi-million-dollar contract before the
Athens Olympic Games in 2004.

An arrest warrant was also issued on May 20 for the group's former Greek operations director Michalis Christoforakos, who is believed to be in Munich. Greek officials are labouring to have Christoforakos extradited.

Two more suspects, former Siemens executive Ilias Georgiou and OTE's former telecommunications general manager George Skarpelis, who are scheduled to testify in mid-June, have been barred from leaving the country.

The paybacks scandal rocked Greece for months and both the ruling party of Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and the main opposition PASOK socialists are accused of taking bribes.

A former PASOK official admitted in June to having accepted 1 million German marks (around €510,000 $720,000) from Siemens in 2000, on behalf of the party when it was in power.

The Siemens scandal erupted in late 2006 and shook the group to its core. The sprawling conglomerate has acknowledged that millions of euros were funnelled into various funds used to obtain foreign contracts, and that the practice was widespread across its numerous divisions."

Saturday, May 30, 2009

When regular journalism is for the birds, Twitter

A few days ago Greek TV ( and I mean with 12 channels showing the same footage, nearly all of it) a "debate" with the leaders of the major parties in the run up to the European elections. I use the "debate" in inverted commas as the format of the event involved questions from a panel of journalist and the politicians' answers. At no point were the reporters or other leaders allowed to query responses. As a result what you had was a dull, lacklustre affair in which those questioned were allowed to simply trot out the party line. There were no opportunities to further probe the answers or engage in anything that resembles the word "debate", at least in English.

I think that the format of the discussion neatly reflects the relationship between the mainstream media and those in power. Yes, you are allowed to ask difficult questions, on occasion, but in the final analysis the politicians have the final word. There is no follow up, and at least for those at the top of this particular greasy pole, no exposure to the harsh wind of critical questioning. The politicians were free to ignore any difficult question and so got out the line set down by the party hacks, PR experts and God knows who else in the wings.

The whole programme was less an exercise in democracy than a beauty pageant, except I think that nowadays most contestants in, say Miss World would give more convincing answers. I shudder to think what the bikini round would look like, though.

On the other hand I followed the event live on Twitter (use #deb8) and that was a much more interesting experience as the idiocies and inanities of our political betters were ruthlessly exposed and dissected. Not least of which was the almost total absence of European issues in a debate over the European elections.

Waffle, evasion and laughable attempts at manipulation marked the answers by most of those involved. The only funny thing about the debate was the clumsy way in which Georgios Karatzaferis, leader of the far right, LAOS party flirted with the possibility of some kind of political alliance with ruling conservatives, New Democracy. Kiss, but no tongue it seems so far. Still with prime minister Kostas Karamanlis up to his neck in scandals and dire poll results looming who knows if this isn't the start of another beautiful friendship.

Welcome to Europe - No loitering


SLEEP, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.


This Is Your God

They Live - John Carpenter

Friday, May 29, 2009

They Live - We Sleep

They Live - We Sleep, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

European elections in Greece

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Greek riots 2008 - Using social media to tell a different story

Yesterday I gave a talk, along with Asteris Masouras on social media and activism for students of the school of journalism at the Aristotelion university of Thessaloniki. The presentation was part of the course, Blogs and the New Media: legal matters and ethics organised by professor Elsa Delagianni. It was a nerve wrecking experience speaking in front of an audience in Greek and I'm sure that I garbled my grammar on more than one occasion. Still, both my and Asteris's presentations on the uses of blogs, Twitter, Delicious and the like were well received.

As promised here is the slide show presentation I used along with a brief summary of my talk in English and a list of the sites mentioned. I will also post the video of the event as soon as it becomes available.

Greek riots 2008 - Using social media to tell a different story

The presentation is divided into three sections:

Finding out what was happening

The internet provided me with invaluable tools to find out about events during the riots and protests that followed the death of 15 year old Alexandros Grigoropoulos on 6th December 2008. The killing of the teenager by a police officer sparked off a wave of violent responses that last nearly a month.

By using Twitter, blogs, Indymedia Athens, Technorati and Google's Blog Search I was able to find information on what was happening both here in Thessaloniki and across the country. In the beginning these were virtually the only sources of reliable information available as the mainstream media were at a loss to explain what was happening and limited their coverage to long distance shots of burning streets and interviews with self - proclaimed experts who had no direct connection with the events happening in Athens and other cities.

Getting your story out

For most December I went out onto the streets to cover the marches, demonstrations and riots that were taking place daily in Thessaloniki and then going home to publish the pictures I had taken and write article to explain the story behind the images. I used participatory journalism sites sites such as CNN's Ireport, Nowpublic and Guardian weekly to submit stories and also wrote on my blog, put photos on Flickr and added video to Youtube.

As a result within days I was giving interviews to CNN, BBC, Sky news as well as French and Egyptian news outlets. The paradox was that foreign media services half a world away were better informed about what was happening here than their Greek counterparts who literally were just a kilometre or two away from what was happening.

The difference being that reporters in Paris, London and New York had taken advantage of the opportunities that social media sites such as Twitter and blogs offer in getting out a story and decided to interview those directly involved. By contrast Greek TV stations limited themselves to endless footage of burning cars and "analysis" by politicians who were at a loss to understand what was going on and just used that opportunity to peddle their own conspiracy theories. I don't think I saw an interview with anyone under 40 till nearly two weeks after the riots had kicked off.

A personal impressions of what happened

At one point I wrote in my blog that I felt like I had lived six months worth of experiences in six days. The more I look back at my blog entries from that period the more I believe that. December proved to be one of the pivotal moments in my life, a period of intense excitement, mixed in with large does of fear and exhaustion. The routine of going out and photographing, the often violent protests, researching and writing articles as well as trying to fit in my day job as a teacher meant that by the day Christmas came I was on the verge of burning out.

On the other hand I felt I had embarked on a hyper intensive journalism course in which months of tuition were compressed into a matter of days. In addition the huge gulf between what I witnessed and what the mainstream media reported confirmed many of the suspicions I had felt before about the role of TV in creating a consensus about how stories are defined.

I felt that I was in a position to explain the background to what was happening to a non - Greek audience. That what we were seeing was not simply a bunch of hooligans out to cause mayhem just for the hell of it. I wanted to bring to light wider set of causes such as police brutality, political scandals, unemployment and lack of faith in the present system which were fuelling the protests.

For more on using social media in general and the influence it had on the Greek riots check out these links:

A beginner's guide to citizen journalism

Social media - How to get started

Social media and the Greek uprising

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Social media και creative media (πολυμεσικά Μέσα), στην υπηρεσία του ακτιβισμού και της δημοσιογραφίας

Riots in Thessaloniki - Live your myth in Greece

Θα μιλήσουν οι:

Αστέρης Μασούρας (ακτιβιστής, blogger, φωτο-δημοσιογράφος)

Craig Wherlock (πολίτης δημοσιογράφος, φωτο-δημοσιογράφος, καθηγητής αγγλικών)

ΠΟΤΕ: Στις 27/5/2009 και ώρα 17:45

ΠΟΥ: Στο Τμήμα Δημοσιογραφίας και Μ.Μ.Ε. Α.Π.Θ.
Εγνατίας 46, Αίθουσα 4Α

Στο πλαίσιο του μαθήματος της Ε. Δεληγιάννη: Blogs και Νέα Μέσα: Νομικά ζητήματα, ηθική-δεοντολογία.

Tomorrow I will be giving a short talk on the uses of social media to students from the department of journalism at the Aristotelion university of Thessaloniki at 5.45pm - Egnatia 46, Room 4a. Feel free to pop by if you want. Also Asterios Masouras ( will be talking on the same subject. The event is part of the lesson, Blogs and the New Media: legal matters and ethics organised by professor Elsa Delagianni.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Night March

Night March, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Steal This Fest - Thessaloniki

Picture from Allher

Πρόγραμμα του φεστιβάλ κινηματογραφικών ομάδων Θεσσαλονίκης

Μέρα : Κυριακή 24.05
Μέρος προβολής : Ροτόντα
Θεματική ενότητα : πνευματικά δικαιώματα

D.I.Y. or Die: How to Survive as an Independent Artist, USA 2002,(55')

Ένα ντοκιμαντέρ για την ανεξάρτητη καλλιτεχνική σκηνή της Αμερικής.

Steal this film, Sweden 2006, (32')

Steal this film II, Sweden 2007, (44')

Δυό ντοκιμαντέρ για το κίνημα ενάντια στα πνευματικά δικαιώματα.

Δευτέρα 25.05
Φουαγιέ ΠαΜακ

18:00 Μισώ τον ήλιο που βγαίνει για όλους

Ντοκιμαντέρ με συνεντεύξεις φυλακισμένων που περιγράφουν τις άθλιες συνθήκες διαβίωσής τους στις ελληνικές φυλακές.

20:00 Do the right thing, USA 1989, (120')

η ταινία μελετά τα αίτια και τις συνέπειες των φυλετικών συγκρούσεων που ξεσπάνε σε μια γειτονία του Μπρούκλιν, στη Νεα Υόρκη, τη πιο ζεστή μέρα του καλοκαιριού.

22:30 La Haine, France 1996, (96')

ο Abdel νοσηλεύεται μετά από μια ταράχη, όπου ένας αστυνομικός χάνει το όπλο του. Ο φίλος του ο Vinz το βρίσκει και ορκίζεται να σκοτώσει ένα αστυνομικό αν ο Abdel πεθάνει.

Τρίτη 26.05
Ιατρική αμφιθέατρο Ανατομίου

18:00 Ανεβαίνοντας τον Yangtse, Canada 2007, (94')

Το φράγμα “3 φαράγγια” γίνεται φόντο αυτού του δραματικού ντοκιμαντέρ για μια ζωή μέσα στο κινέζικο όνειρο του 21ου αιώνα.

20:30 Μια τρύπα στο νέρο, Greece 2008, (58')

ένα ντοκιμαντέρ για τις αντιδράσεις σε ένα από τα μεγαλύτερα οδικά έργα της Θεσσαλονίκης: την υποθαλάσσια.

22:00 Earthlings, USA 2003, (95')

χρησιμοποιώντας κρυφές κάμερες, το Earthlings δείχνει τις καθημερινές πρακτικές των μεγαλύτερων βιομηχανιών του κόσμου, που όλες βασίζονται στα ζώα για κέρδος.

Τετάρτη 27.05
ΝΟΠΕ αίθουσα 212
Πόλεμος- Οικονομική Πολιτική

17:00 Lemon tree, Israel-Germany-France 2008, (106’)

η αληθινή ιστορία μιας γυναίκας που προστατεύει τη λεμονία της από τον υπουργό άμυνας του Iσραήλ.

19:00 Viva la muerte, France-Tunisia 1971, (90')

Στο τέλος του ισπανικού εμφυλίου, ένα 10χρόνο αγόρι προσπαθεί να καταλάβει τον πόλεμο και τη σύλληψη του πατέρα του.

21:00 The Corporation, Canada 2003, (145')

ένα ντοκιμαντέρ για το ρόλο της επιχείρησης καθ'όλη τη διάρκεια της πρόσφατης ιστορίας μέχρι και τη σημερινή της κυριαρχία.


7ο φεστιβάλ μικρού μήκους στο Φυσικό,
αίθουσα Α31 μετά τις 20:00

Πέμπτη 28.05

Φυσικομαθηματικό αμφιθέατρο Εμπειρίκος
Κρατική καταστολή- σχέσεις εξουσίας

18:00 Φράουλες και Aίμα, USA 1970, (109')

ο Simon είναι ένας φοιτητής στο San Francisco που απέχει από τις συνεχείς διαδηλώσεις και διαμαρτυρίες στο πανεπιστήμιό του. Ομως η περιέργεια του και η γνωριμία με τη Lisa τον ωθούν να αναμιχθεί.

20:00 This is what democracy looks like, USA 2000, (72')

Πολίτες από όλο τον κόσμο συγκεντρώθηκαν το Νοέμβριο του 1999, στο Σιάτλ και τη Ουάσιγκτον για να διαδηλώσουν ενάντια στη Διάσκεψη κορυφής του Παγκόσμιου Οργανισμού Εμποριου μέσα σε ένα κλίμα βιαιής αντιμετώπισης από την αστυνομία και εναντίωσης από τα ΜΜΕ.

21:30 Lunacy, USA 2005, (118')

Η απόλυτη ελεύθερία ενάντια στον έλεγχο και την τιμωρία μέσα σε ένα ψυχίατρειο.

Παρασκευή 29.05

Πολυτεχνική, αμφιθέατρο Ι.Μ.Παναγιωτοπουλος


18:30 Ναυσικά στην Κοιλάδα του Ανέμου, Japan 1985, (84')

Ενα αντιπολεμικό και οικολογικό παραμύθι.

20:30 Food (14')

21:00 Το Τριο της Μπελβιλ, France-Belgium-Canada-UK 2003, (78')

23:00 street of the crocodile, (21')

00:00 Steal this Party!

Αστεροσκοπειο (party)

Συμμετέχουν οι κινηματογραφικές ομάδες :

Κινηματογραφική Σ.Φ. Νομικής
Κινηματογραφική Ιατρικής
Κινηματογραφική Σ.Φ. Πολιτικών Επιστημών
Κινηματογραφική Φυσικού
Κινηματογραφική Χημικών Μηχανικών

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Welcome to Afghanistan

Welcome to Afghanistan, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Breaking the Silence: Truth and Lies in the War on Terror

A Special Report by John Pilger

"Award-winning journalist John Pilger investigates the discrepancies between American and British claims for the 'war on terror' and the facts on the ground as he finds them in Afghanistan and Washington, DC.

In 2001, as the bombs began to drop, George W. Bush promised Afghanistan "the generosity of America and its allies". Now, the familiar old warlords are regaining power, religious fundamentalism is renewing its grip and military skirmishes continue routinely. In "liberated" Afghanistan, America has its military base and pipeline access, while the people have the warlords who are, says one woman, "in many ways worse than the Taliban".

In Washington, Pilger conducts a series of remarkable interviews with William Kristol, editor of The Weekly Standard, and leading Administration officials such as Douglas Feith, Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, and John Bolton, Under Secretary of State for Arms Control and International Security. These people, and the other architects of the Project for the New American Century, were dismissed as 'the crazies' by the first Bush Administration in the early 90s when they first presented their ideas for pre-emptive strikes and world domination.

Pilger also interviews presidential candidate General Wesley Clark, and former intelligence officers, all the while raising searching questions about the real motives for the 'war on terror'.

While President Bush refers to the US attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq as two 'great victories', Pilger asks the question - victories over whom, and for what purpose? Pilger describes Afghanistan as a country "more devastated than anything I have seen since Pol Pot's Cambodia". He finds that Al-Qaida has not been defeated and that the Taliban is re-emerging. And of the "victory" in Iraq, he asks: "Is this Bush's Vietnam?"

Friday, May 22, 2009

Greece and Britain - The far right waiting to fill the gap

Give us the tools and we'll finish the job - BNP slogan

It is interesting how the political situation in Britain and Greece seems to be in synch. In both countries the major parties have been tarred by scandals and public faith in their credibility at an all - time low. Whether it be the MP expenses debacle in the House of Commons or the endless list of bribery and corruption scandals in Athens the picture seems to the same. That power corrupts and that those in charge have grown indifferent to the consequences of their greed seems blatantly obvious to even the casual observer.

Here in Greece asking most people to choose which of the two major parties they want in power is like asking a Pole in 1939 who is going to benefit the country most; Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union? Similarly in Britain the choices are grim and I doubt if many of those who vote in the forthcoming European elections will do so without holding their nose while they cast their ballot.

Unfortunately, this climate of distrust and disillusionment with the present political set up has had unexpected benefits for small far right parties in both Greece and UK. In Greece the LAOS (Popular Orthodox Rally) party is eagerly awaiting the possibility of sending another representative to Brussels/Strasburg. Already they have 10 MPs in the national assembly and are a regular feature on TV shows, part of their attempt to obtain mainstream respectability.

Giorgos Karatzaferis - leader of Greece's far right LAOS party

Likewise the British National Party (BNP) has also given itself a media make over. No more nasty skinheads marching down rainy high streets in Doc Martins, they have been replaced by men in suits with handy sound bites and TV friendly publicity ops. Unlike their Greek counterparts they do not have parliamentary representation, though this has more to do with Britain's first past the post voting system than any lack of support.

Give us the tools and we'll finish the job - BNP slogan

Let's not be fooled by the smooth words and newly found moderation in their speech. In both cases these parties represent the worst in political ideologies and given half a chance they will use and abuse any power given them to further a more extremist agenda.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

It's all on your door step

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Taken from my balcony last night.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Last nights gathering

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Last night there was a gathering of three to four thousand Greeks gathered outside Agia Sophia in the centre of the Thessaloniki. They were there in order to remember the deaths of thousands of Pontian (Greeks from round the Black Sea) during the last days of the Ottoman empire. Their hope is that these events will be declared a genocide by the world community.

In that respect their campaign closely mirrors the one by Armenians who have been attempting to have the deaths of their compatriots at the hands of Turkish soldiers between 1915 and 1923 considered a genocide as well.

As well as politicians from Thessaloniki and Athens the crowd was addressed by Michael Atkinson, South Australia's attorney general (his speech can be read here in English and Greek) who introduced a parliamentary motion to condemn the deaths.

Afterwards those present took part in candle - lit march to the Turkish consulate.

A group of 20 - 30 supporters of the ultra - right Xrysi Ayhi (Golden Dawn) party shouted anti - Turkish slogans during the speeches and then marched along Tsimiski street.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

No animal was harmed in the making of this bomb

100% Organic Poster, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lightning - Taken 20 minutes ago

Every year during May and early June the lightning storms roll around the Thermaikos bay, always threatening to engulf Thessaloniki, but for some reason they never do. I was out on the balcony taking pictures and managed to capture this less than half a hour ago.

Teacher Dude's wonderous world of T-shirts

Albert Einstein on the current MP expenses scandal in UK

Apparently, Einstein was misquoted. What he really said was this:

"Two things are infinite: the universe and the greed of politicians; and I'm not sure about the universe."

100% organic

100% organic, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

They got a TV eye on me

As seen on TV., originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Iggy Pop and the Stooges

Sunday, May 17, 2009

We Hunt People For Jesus

"The Special Forces guys, they hunt men. Basically, we do the same things as Christians. We hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the Kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business," he says.

See the U.S. army chaplin's video here:

Saturday, May 16, 2009

We Hunt For Jesus - Christ has you in his sights

"The Special Forces guys, they hunt men. Basically, we do the same things as Christians. We hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the Kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business," he says.

This is a person, not a bar code

Friday, May 15, 2009

We Hunt People For Jesus

"A U.S. church raised money to send Bibles, printed in the Pashtu and Dari languages, to American soldiers stationed in Afghanistan, a report on Al Jazeera documented Sunday night.

It is against military rules to proselytize -- a regulation one of the soldiers filmed by the network readily acknowledged. "You cannot proselytize, but you can give gifts," says the soldier. It is a crime in Afghanistan to attempt to convert anyone from Islam to any other religion. "I also want to praise God because my church collected some money to get Bibles for Afghanistan. They came and sent the money out." The footage is said to be roughly a year old.

The Al Jazeera report also shows a military preacher urging army parishioners to "hunt people for Jesus."

The Special Forces guys, they hunt men. Basically, we do the same things as Christians. We hunt people for Jesus. We do, we hunt them down. Get the hound of heaven after them, so we get them into the Kingdom. That's what we do, that's our business," he says."

MP expenses - Why pay at all?

Powered by Google.

Powered by Google., originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The 19th National Congress of the Communist Party of China is proudly sponsored by Google.

Google move 'black day' for China

Google's launch of a new, self-censored search engine in China is a "black day" for freedom of expression, a leading international media watchdog says.

Reporters Without Borders joined others in asking how Google could stand up for US users' freedoms while controlling what Chinese users can search for.

Its previous search engine for China's fast-growing market was subject to government blocks.

Twitter for a better life and a brighter smile

Blogs are blase.
Facebook's facile.
What's a girl to do?


Wednesday, May 13, 2009

According to Wikipedia MP stands for.......

MP expenses fraud - If you suspect it, report it.

MP expenses fraud - If you suspect it, report it.
MP expenses fraud - If you suspect it, report it., originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

"Lembit Opik, the Liberal Democrat housing spokesman, was forced to pay £2,499 for a 42” plasma television himself after he bought it at the worst possible moment.

Mr Opik, who is renowned for his high-profile relationships, bought the television in his constituency of Montgomeryshire, Wales, on April 24. Twelve days later, he was re-elected with an increased majority, but by then it was too late.

His claim for expenses for his flat in south-east London, which he bought in 1997, was reduced by £2,499.

An official in the Commons fees office annotated his claim form with the words “NOT ALLOWED (purchased during dissolution)”. Mr Opik has claimed a total of £68,031 for the flat since 2004. Last year, he claimed £12,655 for extensive renovation work. This included a new kitchen, repainting throughout and the installation of wooden flooring in his bedroom."

MP expenses fraud - If you suspect it, report it.

"Sir Michael Spicer, the Conservatives’ most senior backbench MP, claimed £5,650 in nine months for his garden to be maintained. In December 2006, he submitted a detailed invoice which included “hedge cutting ... helipad”, although he claimed last night that the “helipad” was a “family joke”. The Conservative grandee successfully claimed for the costs of hanging a chandelier in his main manor house. "

MP expenses fraud - If you suspect it, report it.

"Douglas Hogg, the former agriculture secretary, submitted a claim form including more than £2,000 for the moat around his country estate to be cleared. The taxpayer also helped meet the cost of a full-time housekeeper, including her car. The public finances also helped pay for work to Mr Hogg’s stables and for his piano to be tuned."

The most worrying aspect of this whole scandal is not the way that those on nearly three times the UK average wage abused the expenses system to pay for everything from bath plugs to moat cleaning on their country estate. The worst part is that such widespread abuse meant that huge swathes of the House of Commons were, at least in theory, open to the threat of blackmail and intimidation by anyone with access to the information. What better way of getting leverage than the possibility that juicy details about your lavish publicly funded lifestyle would find their way into the public domain?

On the other hand those in charge of the parties must have been rubbing their hands with glee knowing that party discipline could always be ensured via the use of veiled threats that such and such outlay might become the subject of investigation by the people back in their constituency.

"Yes, while I agree with your courageous moral stance on ........... I think that they fact that you are claiming for a second home despite living less than 30 miles away from parliament may look a trifle odd to the voters back home, don't you think? So, let's hear no more of this backbench rebellion nonsense, shall we?"

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Average (UK) MP's expenses cost taxpayer £118,000

The average MP cost taxpayers £118,000 in allowances and expenses last year, it was revealed yesterday when the House of Commons opened its books in an attempt to counter accusations of fiddling and sleaze.

MPs are paid £57,485, but figures published for the first time show that the additional total allowances have climbed to £78m, an increase of more than £20m within two years.

Amounts paid out for housing, constituency offices, staff, travel, computers and other items, released as part of the move towards freedom of information, varied widely between neighbouring MPs in the same political parties, the figures show.

The Commons figures were made public as a report by the senior salaries review board recommended a particularly harsh deal for MPs and ministers, pegging salary rises next year to a below inflation 2% and increasing by 1% contributions to an admittedly generous pension scheme.

Peers, however, are in line for a boost of up to 20% under proposals to raise daily atten dance allowances by £11 to £75, overnight expenses from £128 to £150, and daily office awards from £53.50 to £65.

MPs have enjoyed a number of sizeable pay rises and holding down next April's award will avoid a possible controversy before an expected general election in May.

Sir Archy Kirkwood, the Liberal Democrat MP who speaks for the Commons commission which published the expenses figures, said: "This is a significant step towards openness and accountability and I welcome it. The taxpayers can really see how their money is being spent."

Sir Archy, MP for rural Roxburgh and Berwickshire, may have been relieved to discover he claimed several thousands of pounds less than the average in 2003-4.

MPs are meant to produce receipts for bills of more than £250 and publication of detailed figures follows a series of disputes over expenses claims, culminating in £90,000 repaid by Michael Trend, Conservative MP for Windsor, for a London home he did not possess. Mr Trend is to stand down at the election.

The bulk of claims cover staff costs, although MPs from the Speaker, Michael Martin, down have been criticised in the media for employing relatives.

An out-of-town allowance up to a maximum £20,033 open to all MPs except those representing inner London constituencies has also proved to be controversial, with some parliamentarians buying flats from which they keep any capital gains when they retire or lose their seats.

The £80,836 claimed by Tony Blair put him in the bottom 10 MPs. But the prime minister, who has accommodation in Downing Street and Chequers provided by the state, was still able to claim to run his Sedgefield constituency home, which doubles as an office, as were other cabinet ministers with grace-and-favour apartments, including John Prescott, Margaret Beckett and David Blunkett.

The Tory leader, Michael Howard, claimed £126,658 and the Liberal Democrat leader, Charles Kennedy, £121,630 in 2003-04.

The highest sum claimed was £168,889, by Claire Curtis-Thomas, Labour MP for Crosby, and the least, £56,657, by Mr Trend since his fall from grace.

Top of the travel claims was a Scottish MP, East Lothian's Anne Picking, with £39,744, while Siobhain McDonagh, of Mitcham and Mordern, spent more than £40,000 on paper and postage to write to her constituents.

Stephen Pound, Ealing North MP, who claimed £111,000 in 2003-04, said it was the equivalent of 3p each year for each of his electors.

"This is not about filling our boots," he said. "This is not about trousering a lot of money. This is about the money it takes to do the job."

The senior salaries review board recommended that judges' salaries go up by 2.5% and senior military officers' by 2.8%, with senior civil servants receiving up to 9%.

Both peers and MPs are to lose their generous 57p mileage allowance for their first 20,000 miles of motoring. It will be cut to 40p a mile for the first 10,000 miles and 25p a mile thereafter.

MPs' staff allowance goes up from £66,458 a year to £72,000 and to more than £80,000 for London MPs.

Gucci are proud sponsors of the war on terror.

Welcome to the Google gulag

We know where you live. we know where you work. We know what you watch. we know what you buy.

Monday, May 11, 2009

This war is set to run and run, by Jove.

Bratatat - Afghanistan

Bratatat - Afghanistan, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Phosphorus claim after fatal air strikes in Afghanistan

Afghanistan's leading human rights ­organisation is investigating claims that white phosphorus was used during a deadly battle between US forces and the Taliban last week in which scores of civilians may have died.

Nader Nadery, a senior officer at the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission, said the organisation was concerned that the chemical, which can cause severe burns, might have been used in the firefight in Bala Baluk, a district in the western province of Farah.

Dr Mohammad Aref Jalali, the head of an internationally funded burns hospital in Herat, said villagers taken to hospital after the incident had "highly unusual burns" on their hands and feet that he had not seen before. "We cannot be 100% sure what type of chemical it was and we do not have the equipment here to find out. One of the women who came here told us that 22 members of her family were totally burned. She said a bomb distributed white power that caught fire and then set people's clothes alight."

Sunday, May 10, 2009

How to process NEF files with Gimp


I'm getting in touch with my inner geek today. Actually, I managed to learn how to do something that I have been wanting to do for a long time. I found a way to process NEF RAW files in Gimp. For those whose mother tongue is not Klingon or Photogeek it means that I can process the pictures from my digital camera at a much higher quality than before (here is a video which neatly explains some of the technical details in everyday terms).

I have a Nikon D80 DSLR and until quite recently all my pictures were JPEGs (the photography world's equivalent of mp3) simply because I had neither the space nor the programs on my computer to work with the bigger NEF RAW files that Nikon cameras use. Thankfully I have finally, overcome both obstacles by buying an external hard disc (500gb but filling up fast, alas) and today I figured out how Gimp (an open source alternative to Photoshop) can deal with NEF files.

Here is a quick guide for others wishing to do the same. Don't worry, it is fairly painless and FREE. Let me just say that again, FREE for those at the back in the nosebleed section.

1 If you don't have it already GIMP can be downloaded here.

2 You will need to get UFRaw which can be downloaded here.

3 Once you have set up the programs then open up your NEF file with UFRaw and then click on the GIMP icon (a small fox) in the bottom right hand corner. This will allow you to edit your pictures. You can save your images as TIFF, JPG etc but not NEF.

Lydia posing

Lydia posing, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Your god Plutonium will not save you.

"Your God of repentance will not save you.
Your holy ghost will not save you.
Your God Plutonium will not save you.
In fact...

...You will not be saved!"

John Carpenter's Prince of Darkness

Friday, May 08, 2009

Experiments in story telling through images

Click on the image to see it in full detail.

Over the last few weeks I have become more and more interested in the ways in which I can use GIMP (the open source alternative to Photoshop) to manipulate images. It was the the next step for me in terms of improving my photography processing, however, I thought rather than just leqarning to re-touch photos I would try to produce images that subtly subverted their original meaning.

My first "targets" were the recent UK anti - terrorism ads which are so Orwellian in their tome and philosophy they demand to be parodied. later on I realised that I could also tell a story through the manipulation of posters, newspaper accounts and leaflets, which is exactly what i have been doing (see here for the full collection). The story is still unfolding in my head and I have no idea how it will end.

The one thing I can say is that I have learnt an enormous amount in pursing this. I don't think it would be an exaggeration to say that I've learnt more about processing pictures in the last two weeks than I learnt in the last two years.

Take the image above, for example. The NY Times picture is actually six processed images place one inside the next, Russian doll style, each layer, itself the product of a great deal of manipulation. At each stage I had to solve the difficulties I came across, some of them minor, some more complex. The result is much more than the picture, but rather a whole bunch of skills which I'm not about to forget soon. Who knows, they may even prove useful in real life?

My story telling has been inspired by V for Vendetta (comic and film), 1984, Orson Welles's radio production of War of the Worlds, Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco, the recent G20 events in London and the Greek riots of last December.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Your dream job - an EFL/ESL lesson plan

This is aimed at intermediate and post intermediate students and is a way to practice discussion, presentation and listening skills. You'll need an access to the internet and a way of recording either audio or video.

Lesson Plan

1 Students form groups of 2 - 4 and give them 2 minutes to write down as many jobs as possible e.g. teacher, doctor etc.

2 The groups with the longest list writes it on the board. Ask other students to add to it.

3 While the students are doing this write down their names on pieces of paper. When they have finished the job exercise hand out the names at random.

4 Students now decide which job from the list on the board would best suit the person whose name is on their piece of paper. The student then tells the other what job they choose and why.

5 Now ask students to write down their own dream job and why it would suit them.

6 Discuss this in pairs/groups.

7 Now explain to students that they are going to watch a video another job and they have to write down as many details about it as possible.

8 Students compare notes and decide what kind of person would be best for this job.

9 Now explain that in part of the application for the position involves posting a 60 second video on Youtube . See some examples here. Their job is to create their own video. To find out more details about the position get them to study the full job description here.

This can be done with a webcam, video camera or their mobile phone (audio or video). The video can be edited with Windows Movie Maker, which comes as standard with every copy of Windows. Alternatively, they can use their own images or images off the internet to create a video with still images and a voice over. Photostory 3, Windows Movie Maker or Slideshare, and Animoto are some of the programs you could use.

Read more about the person who got the job, Ben Southall.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The search for fire goes on

, originally uploaded by Teacher Dude's BBQ.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

May Day - Thessaloniki Greece

May Day - Thessaloniki Greece

May Day - Thessaloniki Greece