French railway workers strike: an update

‘Update’, ‘alternative opinion’, ‘unfeeling porcine capitalist viewpoint’… whatever.

You choose.

I wrote the other day about the public sector strikes that are sweeping France at the moment and how it might affect our upcoming trip there. In doing so, I wasn’t (intentionally) belittling or trivialising the issues at hand. I recognise that the striking individuals feel that they have grievances and they’re exercising their legal right to strike. That’s why I touched on the reasons why they are striking instead of just being irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday.

It’s good to be informed.

At the same time, I’m pretty much powerless to assist them in their crusade, so I am actually irritated that they might mess up (a bit of) our holiday. Fair play to me too then.

And then, I received an email with a link to this article on the strike:

Now, for the record, je ne sais pas what the general political standpoint or reputation of news site thelocal.fr is, although their coverage of Asian Giant Hammerhead Worms invading French gardens is quite superb.

That’s for another time though, ok?

Anyway, the first thing I noticed when I logged on was this headline:

Oh. Great.

Anyway, thelocal.fr seems to feel that the French railway workers – les cheminots – actually have a pretty good working life:

President Emmanuel Macron’s government unveiled plans to push through reforms of France’s mammoth rail system.
But the plans have not gone down well with rail unions who are threatening all-out war against the government, or in other words major strikes.

What has really angered them is the announcement that new recruits will no longer benefit from a special employment status of rail workers, which is fabled for the perks it offers.

What follows is a list of those perks, which include (but are not limited to) early retirement, guaranteed employment (no retrenchments), automatic career advancement, free rail tickets for family members, excellent pension benefits, above average wages, plenty of annual leave and subsidised housing.

Yes, it does seem very good. It seems very nice.
It does seem like they enjoy some sort of special status.

There are a number of thoughts that stem from this, none of which I’ve suitably ruminated over and I’m about to disappear back into the lab, so I’m just listing them here.

Firstly: why should the cheminots enjoy such special employment status? There are a lot of other jobs out there that are arguably more important (TB scientist, for example), more worthy (er… TB scientist again) and demand better qualifications to enter (cough… TB scientist) (not that sort of cough, I hasten to add) than working on the railways, but which have far less favourable working conditions.

Secondly: but then, shouldn’t we (humankind in general) be working towards having these sort of special conditions as standard for workers, rather than constantly dragging standards down to the lowest possible levels? I recognise that this is a pipe dream, but still, it’s surely not a bad way to start any process like this.

Thirdly: of course, on the flip side of this is that if there are going to have to be cuts across the public sector, then surely you cut from the ones that have the most, first. That does seem to be the cheminots.

And fourthly: the unions represent the interests of their members. If they simply stood back and allowed these cuts to pass with no objection, then they wouldn’t be doing their jobs. You can argue the validity of their claims and efficacy of their methods, but as unions, protesting against this kind of thing is basically what they’re there for.

And finally: I would just be much happier if this was all sorted before we go over there. (Spoiler: it’s not going to be)

The compliments keep on coming…

Incoming comment from “kevin”. It actually incame a few weeks ago, but I’ve been otherwise engaged.

It’s on this post from last October, in which I detailed the latest work on the iconic sculpture at the Southernmost Point of Africa. The sculpture is now finished, by the way, and it looks great.

Indeed, with lines like:

A few teaser progress images were released this week, and I think it looks fantastic.

and:

It’s very bold, very strong, very… Iconic.
A really cool and important addition to the area.

I thought that I’d been pretty positive about a piece of industrial-scale artwork that was still a couple of months away from being completed.

Not according to “kevin” though, who hit back just four months later with this stinging retort to my thoughts:

Insulting article for such an amazing icon of space and geography.

Before going all ad hominem and telling the world everything about me:

The author is obviously an under educated liberal art fart who knows nothing of geography, space, time, or history.

Broad strokes there, kev. That’s assuming quite a gap in my general knowledge from a few complimentary words about a building site, mate.

Let’s break it all down, shall we?

Do I consider myself “under educated”? Well, I’m of the opinion that one can (and should) always improve one’s knowledge, wherever possible. But I’ve learned a lot in my time – both formally and informally. I’ve got plenty of qualifications from various educational establishments, and I also know not to pee into the wind. And I think that’s both sectors pretty much covered. I therefore refute his poorly hyphenated claim.

Am I liberal? Well, I actually wasn’t sure and so I did a quiz online: it turns out that I am “53% liberal”. Which apparently makes me pretty balanced in my political outlook and therefore very capable of annoying everyone, but not really “a liberal” in the same way that I’m not really “a conservative”, either.

Like the English cricket team often finds itself, kevin is 0/3 at the moment, so might he redeem himself with his next assertion? Could I be I an “art fart”?
I had to go to Urban Dictionary dot com to find out what kevin meant by this one:

Absolutely none of this very specific definition accurately describes me. I have no idea what he was thinking.

And as for my knowing “nothing of geography, space, time, or history”, I mean, where do I even begin? How can you not have knowledge of time? Does kevin mean I’m often late for things? I’m not. I’m very punctual. But anyway, how would he know? Or is he perhaps suggesting that I don’t know how long a minute is? It’s 60 seconds, kevin. It’s not rocket surgery, dude.
I don’t fully understand what it is that he’s trying to say here.
Also, I’m not sure what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture.

Next up, I’m actually quite into my geography. I know it’s only really bordering on science, but I like to know about the world around me. My dad was/is a geographer, and so I think I’ve picked up a lot of his knowledge over the years (yes, I know what a year is, thank you). Also, I’m not sure what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture.

History. Right, I’m not sure what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture, but fair enough: I’m not a huge fan of history. You’ve got me banged to rights and no mistake, guv. Although, of course,  not being a fan is rather different from having knowledge about it. I mean, I can tell you when the Magna Carta was signed and by whom, and I know the date of the Battle of Blood River. Does one need to have a good working knowledge of history to look at a building site and try to gauge whether what is being built will be “a good thing” once it’s completed? I don’t think it helps much, no,

Space. I love space. It’s actually one of the reasons that I love going to to Cape Agulhas. Cape Town is so very crowded. It’s nice to have more three-dimensional extent in which objects and events have relative position and direction around you. But I’m really not sure what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture, because it’s sometime nice to share a piece of artwork with other people.

Or maybe he means specifically the stars and planets and astronomy and that? In which case I really have no idea what this has to do with liking or not liking a half-finished sculpture.

Mmm. Bit harsh. Bit nasty. Wholly incorrect.

For someone who said my use of the word “Iconic” was “insulting”, pretty ironic capitalisation of “ICON” there, kev,

I think what I’m taking away from this comment is that kevin is a bit of an arse I need to be clearer in my appreciation when documenting things on the blog. More unrestrained, more gushing, more obvious; because clearly using adjectives like “bold”, “strong”, “iconic”, “fantastic” and “important” just aren’t making my feelings transparent enough when it comes to artwork that is ±9 weeks away from being finished.

Of course, maybe it’s not just clarity around my positivity that’s lacking, and I’d like to address that immediately by telling kevin right here, right now, that I think his comment was utter crap and a complete waste of time, effort, electricity and pixels. It was attempted punditry at its absolute worst: a seemingly deliberate misreading of my documented thoughts followed a tacky attempt at a personal insult, thinly veiled in presumptive bullshit, pretentiousness and unnecessary idolisation of a hundred square metres of concrete.
He should be ashamed to put his name and email address (available upon demand) to those 107 words.

I like this sculpture a lot. Really, I do. As I wrote back on October 8th 2017, I even thought the building site looked great.

kevin though? kevin can voetsek.

And so to 2017

Everyone does these “here’s what I’m going to do next year” posts and it’s a bandwagon I’m more than happy to jump upon.

But first, as 2016 draws to a close, I’d like to say thank you to those readers who have stuck with this blog through thin and thinner this year. You loyal, gullible fools, you. Also thanks to The Guru, without whose invaluable assistance, this blog a) would not look as good as it does, and b) would not actually look like anything at all. And then also to Mrs 6000, who pretends to read this crap every day just to keep me happy. Although in all fairness, I doubt that she’ll have actually got far enough down the post to have seen this.

So, what plans for 2017?

Well, more photography is a good bet. This holiday season has been disappointing in that regard, so I’ve got a bit of catching up to do.

And more health stuff: I got lazy in the second half of this year, and that’s something you can’t afford to do at my *ahem* ‘advanced’ age. It’s apparently also harder to come back from, so I’ve got my work cut out. Rest assured that you’re not going to be seeing exercise programmes and healthy eating recipes on here though. Unless I find a really nice salad that you simply CANNOT miss out on or something. I think we can agree that that would warrant a blog post or two.

Next up: better communication with friends and family that don’t read 6000 miles… Because not everyone does Internet, and a letter costs nothing.  Well… almost nothing. (Actually, how much is a letter these days?) Again, readers on here will not be troubled by this, I thought I’d just tell you that it will be happening.

And then the drone thing. It’s ordered, it’s paid for, it’s due any day now. And I think it might be mentioned once or twice on here over the next twelve months.

2016 has been fun, and personally speaking, much better than both 2015 and 2014. Thus, 2017 surely promises even more (n=1). Come join me for the ride.

Happy New Year.

Commenters

Look out. Admin post ahead.

It’s been a week since we made some big changes to the appearance of 6000 miles…
I still like it. It’s a good start.

One technical thing which changed along with the front end of the blog was the system for commenting. It’s moved over onto Disqus:

a worldwide blog comment hosting service for web sites and online communities that uses a networked platform

‘Disqus…’ = ‘Discuss…’ Because it’s a comments section. Geddit?
I’m ashamed to say that it took me a while. I was thinking about the Olympic frisbee thing.

Disqus does require you to log in to use it, but it’s a once off thing (assuming that you click the “remember me” box when you log in) and I hope it doesn’t put too many people off. Also, if you’ve already commented since the change, you may have noticed that your comment was held for moderation. I get to them as quickly as I can (time zone differences notwithstanding), and you should see your opinion on the page within minutes in most cases. Regular commenters (you know who you are) have been and/or will be added as “Trusted Users”, and won’t have to endure the ignominy of joining the back of the moderation queue.

I hope this answers questions and puts minds at rest.

Import of comments started

The change has begun… You probably can’t see anything yet, but behind the scenes, a new commenting system is being installed and your old, much loved comments are being imported into that new commenting system so that your valuable views are never lost.

More on that in a future post (i.e. I have to to work out how to use it before I can tell you).

The import to the new commenting system currently stands at post #2005 of an impressive 3597. And it appears to be stuck.
Meanwhile, the new commenting system has sent me 4 emails telling me that it has completed the import.
Really now? Honestly, I believe more of what I heard during last night’s debate.

I’m now working on trying to make the font on the site look pretty. It’s harder than it looks.
And it looked quite hard.

Depending on how things go, the switch over might be later today, or it may be tomorrow.

Either way, despite the best efforts of mice and men (but to be far, mainly men), it’s probably still reasonable to expect a few minor teething problems. We’ll be trying to identify and squash them as soon as we can.