Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembrance Day 2008 ...

 They shall grow not old as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning;
We will remember them.

Laurence Binyon (1869-1943) 
(First published in The Times on September 21, 1914)

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

The Barack Obama Victory Speech ...

If there is anyone out there who still doubts that America is a place where all things are possible; who still wonders if the dream of our founders is alive in our time; who still questions the power of our democracy, tonight is your answer.

It's the answer told by lines that stretched around schools and churches in numbers this nation has never seen; by people who waited three hours and four hours, many for the very first time in their lives, because they believed that this time must be different; that their voice could be that difference.

Its the answer spoken by young and old, rich and poor, Democrat and Republican, black, white, Latino, Asian, Native American, gay, straight, disabled and not disabled - Americans who sent a message to the world that we have never been a collection of Red States and Blue States: we are, and always will be, the United States of America.

Its the answer that led those who have been told for so long by so many to be cynical, and fearful, and doubtful of what we can achieve to put their hands on the arc of history and bend it once more toward the hope of a better day.

Its been a long time coming, but tonight, because of what we did on this day, in this election, at this defining moment, change has come to America.

I just received a very gracious call from Senator McCain. He fought long and hard in this campaign, and hes fought even longer and harder for the country he loves. He has endured sacrifices for America that most of us cannot begin to imagine, and we are better off for the service rendered by this brave and selfless leader. I congratulate him and Governor Palin for all they have achieved, and I look forward to working with them to renew this nations promise in the months ahead.

I want to thank my partner in this journey, a man who campaigned from his heart and spoke for the men and women he grew up with on the streets of Scranton and rode with on that train home to Delaware, the Vice President-elect of the United States, Joe Biden.

I would not be standing here tonight without the unyielding support of my best friend for the last sixteen years, the rock of our family and the love of my life, our nations next First Lady, Michelle Obama. Sasha and Malia, I love you both so much, and you have earned the new puppy thats coming with us to the White House. And while shes no longer with us, I know my grandmother is watching, along with the family that made me who I am. I miss them tonight, and know that my debt to them is beyond measure.

To my campaign manager David Plouffe, my chief strategist David Axelrod, and the best campaign team ever assembled in the history of politics - you made this happen, and I am forever grateful for what youve sacrificed to get it done.

But above all, I will never forget who this victory truly belongs to - it belongs to you.

I was never the likeliest candidate for this office. We didnt start with much money or many endorsements. Our campaign was not hatched in the halls of Washington - it began in the backyards of Des Moines and the living rooms of Concord and the front porches of Charleston.

It was built by working men and women who dug into what little savings they had to give five dollars and ten dollars and twenty dollars to this cause. It grew strength from the young people who rejected the myth of their generations apathy; who left their homes and their families for jobs that offered little pay and less sleep; from the not-so-young people who braved the bitter cold and scorching heat to knock on the doors of perfect strangers; from the millions of Americans who volunteered, and organized, and proved that more than two centuries later, a government of the people, by the people and for the people has not perished from this Earth. This is your victory.

I know you didnt do this just to win an election and I know you didnt do it for me. You did it because you understand the enormity of the task that lies ahead. For even as we celebrate tonight, we know the challenges that tomorrow will bring are the greatest of our lifetime - two wars, a planet in peril, the worst financial crisis in a century. Even as we stand here tonight, we know there are brave Americans waking up in the deserts of Iraq and the mountains of Afghanistan to risk their lives for us. There are mothers and fathers who will lie awake after their children fall asleep and wonder how theyll make the mortgage, or pay their doctors bills, or save enough for college. There is new energy to harness and new jobs to be created; new schools to build and threats to meet and alliances to repair.

The road ahead will be long. Our climb will be steep. We may not get there in one year or even one term, but America - I have never been more hopeful than I am tonight that we will get there. I promise you - we as a people will get there.

There will be setbacks and false starts. There are many who wont agree with every decision or policy I make as President, and we know that government can't solve every problem. But I will always be honest with you about the challenges we face. I will listen to you, especially when we disagree. And above all, I will ask you join in the work of remaking this nation the only way it's been done in America for two-hundred and twenty-one years - block by block, brick by brick, calloused hand by calloused hand.

What began twenty-one months ago in the depths of winter must not end on this autumn night. This victory alone is not the change we seek - it is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It cannot happen without you.

So let us summon a new spirit of patriotism; of service and responsibility where each of us resolves to pitch in and work harder and look after not only ourselves, but each other. Let us remember that if this financial crisis taught us anything, it's that we cannot have a thriving Wall Street while Main Street suffers - in this country, we rise or fall as one nation; as one people.

Let us resist the temptation to fall back on the same partisanship and pettiness and immaturity that has poisoned our politics for so long. Let us remember that it was a man from this state who first carried the banner of the Republican Party to the White House - a party founded on the values of self-reliance, individual liberty, and national unity. Those are values we all share, and while the Democratic Party has won a great victory tonight, we do so with a measure of humility and determination to heal the divides that have held back our progress. As Lincoln said to a nation far more divided than ours, We are not enemies, but friends...though passion may have strained it must not break our bonds of affection. And to those Americans whose support I have yet to earn - I may not have won your vote, but I hear your voices, I need your help, and I will be your President too.

And to all those watching tonight from beyond our shores, from parliaments and palaces to those who are huddled around radios in the forgotten corners of our world - our stories are singular, but our destiny is shared, and a new dawn of American leadership is at hand. To those who would tear this world down - we will defeat you. To those who seek peace and security - we support you. And to all those who have wondered if Americas beacon still burns as bright - tonight we proved once more that the true strength of our nation comes not from our the might of our arms or the scale of our wealth, but from the enduring power of our ideals: democracy, liberty, opportunity, and unyielding hope.

For that is the true genius of America - that America can change. Our union can be perfected. And what we have already achieved gives us hope for what we can and must achieve tomorrow.

This election had many firsts and many stories that will be told for generations. But one thats on my mind tonight is about a woman who cast her ballot in Atlanta. Shes a lot like the millions of others who stood in line to make their voice heard in this election except for one thing - Ann Nixon Cooper is 106 years old.

She was born just a generation past slavery; a time when there were no cars on the road or planes in the sky; when someone like her couldnt vote for two reasons - because she was a woman and because of the color of her skin.

And tonight, I think about all that shes seen throughout her century in America - the heartache and the hope; the struggle and the progress; the times we were told that we can't, and the people who pressed on with that American creed: Yes we can.

At a time when womens voices were silenced and their hopes dismissed, she lived to see them stand up and speak out and reach for the ballot. Yes we can.

When there was despair in the dust bowl and depression across the land, she saw a nation conquer fear itself with a New Deal, new jobs and a new sense of common purpose. Yes we can.

When the bombs fell on our harbor and tyranny threatened the world, she was there to witness a generation rise to greatness and a democracy was saved. Yes we can.

She was there for the buses in Montgomery, the hoses in Birmingham, a bridge in Selma, and a preacher from Atlanta who told a people that We Shall Overcome. Yes we can.

A man touched down on the moon, a wall came down in Berlin, a world was connected by our own science and imagination. And this year, in this election, she touched her finger to a screen, and cast her vote, because after 106 years in America, through the best of times and the darkest of hours, she knows how America can change. Yes we can.

America, we have come so far. We have seen so much. But there is so much more to do. So tonight, let us ask ourselves - if our children should live to see the next century; if my daughters should be so lucky to live as long as Ann Nixon Cooper, what change will they see? What progress will we have made?

This is our chance to answer that call. This is our moment. This is our time - to put our people back to work and open doors of opportunity for our kids; to restore prosperity and promote the cause of peace; to reclaim the American Dream and reaffirm that fundamental truth - that out of many, we are one; that while we breathe, we hope, and where we are met with cynicism, and doubt, and those who tell us that we can't, we will respond with that timeless creed that sums up the spirit of a people:

Yes We Can.

Thank you, God bless you, and may God Bless the United States of America.
Barack Obama, November 4th, 2008

Obama Wins. Time To Get To Work ...

[Select to view full cartoon by Matson on Cagles Cartoon Site.]

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Julia Bradbury - Modern Environmental Heroine ... ?

It's very rare when a girl agrees with my chosen way of life, but on the recent BBC TV Series 'Railway Walks' you can clearly tell how much presenter Julia Bradbury is enjoying herself.

Julia has spent a great deal of time trekking around the UK and is clearly an active outdoor girl with a love for the environment and it's history. Unusually, for a 'celeb', she also comes across as very down-to-earth and funny. If she can persuade just a few more people to get out and take up walking as a pastime then her job is done.

US Election: McCain In Real Trouble ...

McCain is in deep water now and it looks like Obama is on the home stretch. Another great cartoon by Lane from Cagle's Site. Click image to see full size.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night ...

Today being the birthday of Dylan Thomas, one of my favourite poets, I thought I'd take the opportunity to post his most famous poems, about death and our attitude towards the end of our days. The poem was written by Thomas for his father who was dying at the time.

Do not go gentle into that good night,
Old age should burn and rave at close of day;
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Though wise men at their end know dark is right,
Because their words had forked no lightning they
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Good men, the last wave by, crying how bright
Their frail deeds might have danced in a green bay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieved it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.

Grave men, near death, who see with blinding sight
Blind eyes could blaze like meteors and be gay,
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

And you, my father, there on the sad height,
Curse, bless, me now with your fierce tears, I pray.
Do not go gentle into that good night.
Rage, rage against the dying of the light.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Its The Economy Again, Stupid ... !

Yet another excellent cartoon from Cagle, by Stephane Peray.

Gadgets - Bling or Minimalism ... ?

I was accused yesterday of going against my minimalist credentials because i expressed interest in possibly getting a new piece of kit - the nokia n96, and i had to defend myself fiercely. It seems that my accuser totally misunderstood the whole point of my argument. Minimalism is not 'doing without' stuff we actually need... It's doing without the crap we really don't need.

So is a mobile phone 'necessary' ? I think it is, for my life, simple though it is. Yes, I will recycle my old device correctly! I currently use both a phone, a palm-type pda, and an mp3 player - actually an 'ogg' player, and definately not an ipod. In the true spirit of minimalism, a device such as the n96 will replace all three items.

Not only this, but even with a basic phone you have no need for an camera, alarm clock, calculator, stopwatch. With the n96 or a similiar device, you can donate or 'regive' a whole lot more stuff. Add a set of bluetooth speakers and even the hi-fi goes to a neighbour. Everybody gains. Except Apple.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Bridgestone Formula 1 'Green Tyres'. Yeah, Right ...

Formula 1 Motor Racing, possibly the worlds most boring and environmentally unfriendly sport, has gone green. Ahem. Yeah, right.

Do you buy it? I don't. The campaign called 'Make Cars Green' has not exactly chosen it's best promoters in Formula 1. And the tyres themselves are 'green' - painted green, that is, as a promotional gimmick.

Nobody is fooled by this outrageous example of pure greenwash.

Ashley Cole 'Boo' Brou-Ha All About Money ...

I don't watch many England football games these days (who can, when ticket prices are so sky-high and so many games are subscription-satellite only) but I did catch the England vs Kazachstan game last Saturday.

One incident during the game provoked a chorus of 'boos' from the England fans, when defender Ashley Cole provided possibly the worst back-pass in history to his keeper, only to see it snapped up by a Kazachstan striker (the name escapes me) who went on to score and reduce Kazachstans deficit to 2-1. After that, every time Cole touched the ball, he was greeted with derision by the 'fans.

I don't condone the behaviour of these fans, but in a way it is understandable - and in my view, it's down to money and materialism. The 'fans' who watch top premiership games and internationals in the UK are not true sports fans at all - they are just the elite few who can afford to pay the outrageous ticket prices, which have increased in real terms so drastically over the last ten years.

So if Cole and the rest of the over-paid, under-performing England stars seek real support at the games, then the game needs to attract the real fans back again, who currently cannot afford to see the games. And the main reason for the ticket price increase? Appaling wage demands placed upon the clubs by mercenary players, of which Ashley Cole is considered as one of the worst, or as The Times put it:
..it has been easy to paint a picture of him as, in his own words, “a gobby little shit” — the type that might tell Arsenal where to stick their contract offer and then go straight to tea with their arch-rivals.
The sage of Cole's borderline illegal transfer from his 'beloved' Arsenal to Chelsea in 2005, after Arsenal offered him a low salary, or as this ESPN article puts it:
... he almost crashed his $220,000 Bentley Continental GT when his agent called to say Arsenal would only offer him $104,000 a week rather then the $113,000 he was asking for. "I nearly swerved off the road," Cole writes. "I yelled down the phone. I was so incensed. I was trembling with anger."
England's national team, despite being lauded as the 'Golden Generation' have consistently failed in the last 20 years, with players rather more interested in the luxury cars, high-profile wedding, C-list celeb magazines, bling jewels for the WAG, and endorsements. It is understandable that the fans voice their disapproval.

If you demand extraordinary money you darned well better play an extraordinary game. You want respect? It starts with your respect for those who pay your wages - the fans.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Bail Out Plan II - Revenge Of The State ...

In my post recently on the Bail-Out Plan, I explained how email, messaging and phone calls had pushed the decision-makers to the limit and convinced them to reject the plan. So why did it pass the second time around?

It could have been the slight restructuring of the plan, without doubt. However a major factor was the reduction in pressure from the US voting public, and part of that was the fact that the incoming email servers were shut down. The reason given was that the servers had been pushed to the brink by the response the first time around, and the state officials in charge did not want them to be overwhelmed by the incoming mails.

Whether this was a factor or not on the bill passing, it is worrying that the channel of communication that had worked so well and proven so popular, had been pulled. The American public were, effectively, gagged.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Cost Of US Money Bail-Out Vs Cost Of Iraq War ...

Just a short one here, but isn't it amazing how many Americans are shocked by the price of the Bail-Out - $700 Billion. That's a lot of schools, hospitals and welfare programs right there. The money could be easily spent on so many others.

The US government had the money, of course, just that it spent it on an illegal war in Iraq - estimated cost... $700 Billion. What an thought-provoking coincidence.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

When Will The Oil Run Out? ...

Well, it had to run out sometime - It's called the 'Peak Oil' factor. This article from UK mainstream media, The Guardian, states that:
World oil production has already peaked and will fall by half as soon as 2030, according to a report which also warns that extreme shortages of fossil fuels will lead to wars and social breakdown.
Some say that supplies will continue at the present rate until 2030, some say only until 2012. But others claim that in 2005, we already passed the tipping point.

We seem to be very lethargic on making plans for the future loss of oil. The main concern I think, is that there will be less and less (and thus, more and more expensive) plastics, chemicals (including fertilizers) and transport fuels. We can replace local power (solar, wind, tidal) and local transport (electric, hydrogen), but plastics (no current suitable alternatives) fertilizers (for food to feed a growing world population), and fuel (mainly for air travel) will be scarce, and expensive.

UK Government Rejects Open-Source, Will Give £700 To Low-Income Families For Internet ...

The UK Prime Minister has announced plans to provide every schoolchild with broadband internet access at home. Under the proposals parents are to be offered vouchers worth up to £700 to connect the 1.4 million children growing up in homes without a computer.

What a waste of money. £100 is easily enough. Take a standard basic laptop, add MicroSoft bits and yes, you're probably looking at £300 to £400 but £700? Not necessary. Even worse is the total rejection of open-source software. for just £100, you can get an Elonex WebBook, (pictured) fully kitted out with Ubuntu Linux, browser, anything you need.

PostScript June 2010:

My niece actually got one of these laptops via a local scheme. The unit was just fine, but frankly caused a few problems which she would have been unable to fix has she not had recourse to Uncle Geek, yours truly.

UK Wants All Court Records Online ...

In the UK, at the Labour Party Conference, Justice Minister Jack Straw (right) stated his intention that all UK court records should be placed online for all to see.

Gee, how many problems can you see in this picture?

I can't actually see a benefit... I can foresee dozens of problems - privacy and accuracy of data foremost amongst them. The UK Gov has an appalling history of IT projects failure - the National Health Service, the Air Traffic Control System, The Passports Office, The Criminal Database: not One of them has delivered what was planned, on budget, on time. Yet the UK Gov continues to award IT contracts for these unnecessary schemes to those same companies who have continually failed before.

Added to the continuous data errors and losses that have plagued British public services in recent years, does anyone have any confidence that this pointless scheme will work at all well. And I have yet to discover any benefit from this scheme.

Perhaps it may be useful to local vigilante groups searching for targets, or for jury members wanting to find out some previous convictions of the accused before them. Other than that I cannot see any potential good uses that this scheme can be put to.

And to top it all, I embarrassingly find myself inline with a group of people that I'd never normally side with - lawyers and barristers, who are also dead against it.

Flamenco, Jazz-Funk and Electronica ... ?

I don't know if you've heard of this Spanish band called 'Chambao' - they're a wonderful of traditional flamenco and modern electro-funk. Try them out. (A bit off-topic for this blog, but I just love this band...!)

Video links here for Pokito Y Poko, Camino Interior and Ahí Estás Tú.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Biker Given 39 Points. Yup. Thirty-Nine ...

No, I couldn't believe it either. I mean, I like going fast(ish) but to be caught speeding seven times in one month, will get this: a ban, a fine and 39 points on your license. And no chance of cheap insurance. Ever. Until the day you die. Which, for this guy won't be too long. Well, so long as he carries his donor card - at all times - that's okay. I guess it's his life.

I don't condone speeding for many reasons, including the obvious one of likely imminent death. Guys (and girls) - don't give the police any more reason to harass us further!

Still, I see that speeders face even greater punishment in Iran, where they get the whip out.

Student Fridges Pose Health Risk ...

Reeeaaallly.... Next you'll be saying Posh Spice is vain, that guy in Rome actually is catholic and Jackie Kennedy had a black dress in her wardrobe for the odd funeral.

Yes, this is a real news story from the BBC, who, you would have thought, must have better things to report.

Parking - How It Should Be ... !

Fighting The Scourge Of Scareware ...

Excellent news report on scareware on the BBC today. Several of my friends have in the last year purchased software online just because a box popped up onscreen saying "You Need This!" Mugs.

And in some cases, the 'Scareware' has been known to itself install spyware. Stay well away from these "Wonderful One-Time Only Offers!"

You only have yourselves to blame.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Why The Bail-Out Bill Failed: Democracy ... ?

Well, jeez, I was as surprised as everyone else.

Many representatives from both sides of the House spoke against it, which was expected, even including Nancy Pelosi, but even more actually voted against it.

What happened was this: the American people seems to have decided that they didn't want their tax dollars going to buy another yacht/jet/house for the bosses of financial institutions who'd made big such mistakes with the customers money.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of the bill, there was a huge groundswell of public opinion against it, and they decided they didn't want it, so they used the only weapon they had - the telephone, the internet, and the fact that the elections are very close. They called, messaged and emailed their representatives and told them straight - "Vote for this bill and you can pack your bags."

How do we know this? Simple. Those that voted against the bill were predominantly those who had either expressed strong opposition before voting or are in marginal seats, whereas those that voted in favour of the bill were mainly those who had either stated clearly their support, or are retiring at the next election.

Well, all the pressure put on the decision makers worked. Who'd have believed it? People Power Democracy in the USA?

On the Banks? Let 'em go bust. Are we really supposed to have sympathy for these unregulated over-paid button-pushing gamblers? In whom we placed so much trust, yet who have proved to have such poor judgment, to be so universally appalling at their jobs that they have brought down their companies on their own heads? Not only were they gambling with our money - but they clearly are not very good at it. If a steel company, or a dairy business, or a hardware store should get into difficulties, would the Government step in and protect investors?

So your shares and investments have taken a dive. So what? Shares fluctuate all the time. Shares are for the long-term, and they'll bounce back in the long-term. If you were looking for a short-term gain, well, guess what? You gambled and lost. That's the deal.

So your bank is foreclosing on your mortgage because you didn't make the payments? So what. You over-reached yourself. Trade down or rent out, you do what you have to do to get by, but you just had to buy that big house, didn't you? And if you bought-to-let, with the intention of earning money off renters, then I laugh twice as hard.

So you worked in the banking sector and now you're unemployed? Well, I didn't hear you gripe when you used your last bonus to buy that speedboat. You're in banking, for Christs sake - you make nothing for society, you contribute nothing to society, and your entire industry is based on fragile confidence.

As for the market, we take the pain now, then restructure and regulate the whole money business for the future.

More Lost Data ...

In a follow up to yesterdays post, more lost data news follows just 24 hours later. Now it's a camera found on eBay in the UK with MI6 images of terror suspects and military equipment.

This, can I remind you, is the Government that states that when ID Cards come in, our data is 'safe' in their hands.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Data Privacy - Official Charged, For Once, But Another Hole Found ...

The Cabinet Office official who left top-secret documents on a train in June is to be charged under the Official Secrets Act, according to the BBC. Usualyy they a) aren't looked for; b) aren't found or; c) aren't bothered.

The suggestion, is, of course, that all data leakages and losses (and there have been soooo many..) are generally the fault of careless commuters falling asleep on the 6.15 from Victoria. This nicely attempts to deflect attention from another leak of your data (okay, only if you live in West Yorkshire, but you get the point.)

I'd keep a fuller log of all these data losses but I don't have the time or the inclination. Besides, when they're happening faster than you can write about them - something is seriously wrong...

Tories Let The Train Take The Strain ...

The Tories say they would scrap plans for a third runway at Heathrow and build a high-speed rail line instead. They are proposing to create a new line linking London St Pancras, Birmingham, Manchester and Leeds - saying it would cut Heathrow flights by 66,000 a year.

As one who would zip up and down the country on a regular basis in my previous life, I know that the trains are actually quite good now, as opposed to their previous reputation. And as for cutting out check-in times (what is it now? 3 hours? 2 days?) and being able to carry a bottle of harmless water on board...

Trains will do it - IF - and it's a big if - the franchises are price-controlled. How ridiculous would it be if the train was so much more expensive than the flight... ?

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Taking "Renewable Resources" To A New Level ...

I post a fair bit on using renewable resources. One of my friends joked recently that if I could build a motorcycle out of Pepsi can ring-pulls, plastic bottles and compost, I'd have done so by now. But seeing this image below made me finally realize that there is no limit to human ingenuity. Yes, its a wooden car (except for the engine), and yes it runs nicely, and yes, it's legal.

He must use a ton of wax polish on a Sunday morning, though.

Friday, September 26, 2008

ID Cards By The Back Door ...

The fight against ID Cards continues but it looks as though the UK Government have switched to 'salami' tactics, i.e., slice-by-slice introduction. The announcement came yesterday that certain groups - those on marriage visas and foreign students - will have to get these cards.

This is of course known as introduction by 'creepage'. The next groups to be added will be students when opening a bank account, airport workers, and others untill there are few left behing in the UK who don't fall into one of the governments 'special categories' The legislation has been delayed because the little public support there was for ID cards has been eroded by the contant loss of personal details by various government departments, particularly HM Revenue and Customs (25 million details lost). The government says it wants to "give people a sure-fire way of proving they are who they say they are". It argues ID cards will "boost national security, tackle identity fraud, prevent illegal working and improve border controls". However all of these arguments were discounted many years ago, but the government keeps trotting them out.

Critics (like me) say identity cards interfere with civil liberties, are too expensive and will do little to tackle problems like terrorism. There are fears the cards might cause friction among ethnic minority communities particularly affected by police stop and searches. And some are worried the cards would force illegal immigrants into avoiding contact with hospitals and police.

The Conservatives and Liberal Democrats are against the scheme and both say they would scrap it if they win power. So you know who to vote for.

European Union Gets Tough(ish) on Emissions ...

I was both surprised and pleased that the EU has rejected Motor Industry pleas for more time to create greener vehicles with lower emissions. The EUs intention is to reduce vehicle emissions from an average of 158g per vehicle to 130g by 2012.

Pleased, because it's a step - albeit small - in the right direction for long term sustainability. Surprised, because most thought that the application for delay would succeed. All the smart money was on the legislation being watered down, due to pressure from heavyweight lobbying from the Society Of Motor Manufacturers and Traders, as well as many sides of the European Parliament. However, at the last minute the coalition against seems to have imploded.

The SMMT had called for a delay until 2012, mainly citing a long 'design cycle' for newer engines, but this was rejected by the EU - If the Car Makers had been following their own 'greenwash' advertising, they'd have those engines ready by now. So much for R&D.

Has the EU Grown Brass Ones?
I've always been a strong supporter of Europe as an ideal, but not of the EU as an entity, riddled as it is with fraud and poor accounting, but this was a pleasant surprise. Some reports even suggested that many individual MEPs voted contrary the instructions from their own governments. Perhaps the EU has found its balls?

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Lib Dems Break Privacy Rules In U.K. ...

The Liberal Democrats broke privacy rules with their use of automated phone calls featuring leader Nick Clegg, the Information Commissioner's Office says. Senior Lib Dems had insisted the calls would not break any rules as they were for "genuine market research purposes".

Ah.. em. Genuine Market Research? I don't think so. Calls were made to voters only residing in 50 key seats that the Lib-Dems feel they need to crack to get any influence on UK politics. The Information Commissioner's Office has now ruled that the Lib Dem calls constituted "direct marketing", which are not allowed unless someone has given prior consent. Much as I have a soft spot for the Lib-Dems, these kind of practices are likely place them firmly in the same gutter as the Labour Party and The Tories. I look forward to them standing up in the House Of Commons and talking about protecting that same rights they themselves have breached. It hardly matches their new logo (right)...

Surprisingly, the enforcement notice gives the Liberal Democrats 30 days to stop using the calls. Surely an auotmated system such as this can be just... here's an idea... switched off!?

Quitting Smoking - How Hard Can It Be ... ?

I've been thinking more and more about quitting, mainly because I recently had to register recently with a new doctor and I had to suffer the third degree about my smoking.
I was asked an interesting question: not "Why don't you quit?" but, instead, "Why do you actually smoke?"

Well, gee, I had to think about that. After a bit of self-analysis I came up with this... I smoke because:
  • I enjoy it;
  • It relieves boredom;
  • I don't think I can quit;
  • I don't think I want to quit.
I know for a fact that cold turkey will not work for me (it doesn't work for most people) So, I'm taking these excuses one at a time.

I'll continue another day, because I need a fag right now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Naomi Klein's 'No Logo' - Ever More Relevant ...

I've just re-read Naomi Klein's 'No Logo', the definitive book on anti-globalisation, corporate ethics and branding, which has become became a huge hit worldwide and a cultural milestone.

It's compulsory reading if you're ever tempted to buy Nike, Starbucks, McDonalds, Gap, MicroSoft, Pepsi, etc.

It has led many, including me, to be very careful when buying, to guide our hard-earned cash towards the purchase of goods and services supplied by companies who abide by certain standards of doing business.This method of protest, called 'Ethical Consumerism' is gaining momentum.

I would hesitate to quote a list of 'good guys' and 'bad guys', but I would encourage you to do some research.

YOYOW - You Own Your Own Words ... !

I heard this word recently - YOYOW - while I was talking to a friend about a couple of 'anonymous' blogs, who's authors kept their identities private.

One can understand keeping details secret for reasons of security, of course. You can't display too much of your life on a website - far too easy, apparently, for 'trawlers' to gather data about you. Another reason, especially for using aliases not only for yourself but those you might mention, is fear of the consequences. several bloggers, web site authors and posters have lost their jobs or been dragged into court over comments they've made online.
I can see the point of this, for some, but not for me.

So, back to 'YOYOW' - 'You Own Your Own Words'. The phrase was created by Stewart Brand when he launched 'The Well'.

Those who post anonymously online might not realise that many readers (including me) consider these postings to have less 'validity', due to the posters identities being private. The secrecy protects the posters from any challenge to their facts, which means they could write anything they like, however true or false.

I'm a little more upfront, I take responsibility for all my comments, and I'm quite open to anyone's responses. Go on, take your best shot!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Severed Fifth - A New Way To Distribute Music ... ?

A new project called ‘Severed Fifth‘ (no, I don’t know either…) has been started by Jono Bacon, a big name in the Linux World and currently Community Manager for Ubuntu or (GNU/Linux Ubuntu to give it it's full name). Bacon aims to create and distribute his thrash metal music in a new way, as he says, to “take the Open Source methodology and apply it to music.“ He’ll be issuing tracks under a Creative Commons Sampling Plus Licence. The basis behind the project is to “explore different methods of generating revenue” in the music industry.

This is really radical stuff, and Jono deserves your support. Check out his site and try a few of his tracks - It’s not to my taste, but that’s not really the point! Open Source Software has already woken up and regalvanised the computing industry, perhaps now is the time for the over-regimented music business to get a kick in the pants.

Lateral Thinking at it’s best.

Roger Ebert’s 'Boulder Pledge' - An Anti-Spam Agenda, 12 Years On…

Film critic Roger Ebert’s reviews are compulsory reading for the Tinsel Town movers and shakers. However, I also regard him highly as one of the first people to take action against spam email. Back in 1996, Ebert created ‘The Boulder Pledge‘, a promise not to purchase anything offered through spam. Part of the pledge is worded by Ebert as follows:
Under no circumstances will I ever purchase anything offered to me as the result of an unsolicited e-mail message. Nor will I forward chain letters, petitions, mass mailings, or virus warnings to large numbers of others. This is my contribution to the survival of the online community.
Seems obvious now, doesn’t it? But I’d like to expand on it a little by adding this bit myself:
I also pledge not to purchase any goods or services brought to my attention via annoying pop-up windows, misleading Google paid-for listings, or (in real life) junk mail.
If I’ve missed anything… Let me know!

Quotation From 'The Beach' - A Philosophy Of Life ...

Watching 'The Beach' (again) recently, I was struck by this quotation from the film which I just loved. Must have missed it the first time around. I'm not a huge fan of DiCaprio, and I hated the way that the British tourist in the novel got 'Americanised' for the US market (or should that be 'AmericaniZed'?) but, hey, it's still a good movie.
Mine is a generation that circles the globe, and searches for something we haven’t tried before.
So, never refuse an invitation, never resist the unfamiliar, never fail to be polite and never outstay your welcome. Just keep your mind open and suck in the experience.
And if it hurts, you know what? It’s probably worth it.
'Richard', from ‘The Beach’

UltraLight Backpacking - In The Footsteps Of Grandma Gatewood

I've been a keen backpacker since my teens, and alongside my minimalist domestic lifestyle, a minimal approach to hiking and backpacking seems to me to be entirely logical. Most of the benefit of living with fewer possessions transfers to the outdoor life very nicely indeed.

Even back in the 80's I was doing multi-day hikes with a simple day-pack of basic stuff. I knew I wasn't the only one, and I certainly wasn't the first.

In the 50's, as hiking for pleasure was becoming more popular and mainstream, packs carried by many were already approaching levels between 30lb and 60lb, especially for long-distance treks such as the Appalachian Trail in the USA. (European equivalent trails were slow in coming), but it was the 'AT' that Emma 'Grandma' Gatewood hiked end-to-end, with "a duffel bag containing an army blanket, a plastic sheet, and other very simple gear". She became, and still is, a legend.

Even before this, outdoorsman Horace Kephart, in 1917, had written on the subject of reducing the load, allowing a hiker to go further, faster, and easier. Ultimately the practice of ultralight hiking goes back even before soldiers in armies across the centuries, and before explorers in unknown lands.

It really began with nomadic tribesmen, natives across the world who were in tune with their surroundings to such an extent that they would find everything they needed along the way: food, shelter, clothing, first aid, weaponry, and entertainment. From the Aborigines and Maori of Australasia to the Sami tribes of Scandinavia, the Bantu and Masai tribes of Africa, those of South America and all over the world, natives knew how to travel.

There are, to my mind, two approaches to Ultralight: the technical and the cultural. Between the two extremes, each hiker finds their own way.

The Net is full of personalised 'Gear Lists' pages of Tips and other resources. Even if by following just a few ideas, you'll trim the weight off your back.

Just imagine, after a confortable lunch stop, leaning back against a tree beside a stream, nervously contemplating the struggle to once again lift the heavy pack that you were so glad to dump on the ground just a short while ago. It looks much like the boulder its leant against.

Now your vision blurs, and then clears, and suddenly your pack has gone, and in its place is a small bag that you would have overlooked had you not been seeking it. You lift it with just two fingers, lightly flick it over one shoulder, and make your way onwards.

Admit it - sounds good, doesn't it?

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Quotations of Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi ...

As long as you derive inner help and comfort from anything, keep it.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not include the freedom to make mistakes.

Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.

Honest disagreement is often a good sign of progress.

I believe in equality for everyone, except reporters and photographers.

I cannot teach you violence, as I do not myself believe in it. I can only teach you not to bow your heads before any one even at the cost of your life.

I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is only temporary; the evil it does is permanent.

In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness.

It is unwise to be too sure of one's own wisdom. It is healthy to be reminded that the strongest might weaken and the wisest might err.

One needs to be slow to form convictions, but once formed they must be defended against the heaviest odds.

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.

Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.

When I despair, I remember that all through history the ways of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants, and murderers, and for a time they can seem invincible, but in the end they always fall. Think of it - always.

You must be the change you want to see in the world.

What difference does it make to the dead, the orphans and the homeless, whether the mad destruction is wrought under the name of totalitarianism or the holy name of liberty or democracy?

Victory attained by violence is tantamount to a defeat, for it is momentary.

An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.

Freedom is not worth having if it does not connote freedom to err. It passes my comprehension how human beings, be they ever so experienced and able, can delight in depriving other human beings of that precious right.

I think it would be a good idea. (when asked what he thought of Western civilization)

Why Is It Called 'White Space Life' ... ?

Flip through any glossy lifestyle or home improvement magazine, and look at the images used in adverts, usually depicting some impossibly good-looking young couple in a tidy, roomy lounge in a modern apartment, full of light and space, with no clutter, no mess.

Now look at your own room, flat or house. Quite a difference, eh?
You'd imagine that the advertising image of that perfect environment is an unattainable goal - but it's really not.

The Nightmare
Frankly, we buy far too much unnecessary stuff. Then we buy more stuff to maintain and store and clean the other stuff and all it's accessories. Then we barely use it, we forget about it, it gathers dust. And then we throw it in a landfill.

We buy this stuff not because we need it, but because we want it, just at that particular fleeting moment when we see it, because purchasing makes us feel good - it's a form of therapy.

We buy a small flat, fill it with rubbish, decide that we then need a bigger house, trade up, enjoy the extra space for a week... before proceeding to fill it up again with the same old crap.

The Dream

It's difficult, ridding ourselves of this addiction, especially with a family, but the benefits are astounding. And - this is important - it's not necessarily about frugality: you can buy less, and you can save a lot of money, but you also have the choice of buying 'less-but-better': I know a guy who has 23 shirts, all pretty cheap, while I have 5, all hand made, which probably cost about the same to buy.

With 'White Space Living' you can have better stuff, but most importantly, you have less to store, tidy, clean, maintain, insure and protect. And by the way, as a by-product, you use resources less, have less to recycle, you can make ethically-based buying decisions, and raise a finger to the big evil corporations!

White Space In Graphics

The phrase 'White Space' is also used in graphic design to refer to the, well, space, usually (but not always) white, around an text or graphic element, which highlights the item itself, on it's own, on the page. In the same way, less stuff in real life simply means that the stuff you do have becomes more precious, you get more pleasure and enjoyment from it, you tend to use it more, and keep it for longer.

My Personal Experience

When I moved a few years ago, most of my mountain of stuff was in boxes. With being too busy and having no time to unpack, I fell into a routine of living out of two or three boxes for a while, only retrieving stuff I needed, when I needed it.

And a year later, most of those boxes were still sealed. So I had the mother of all clear outs, and I put the brakes on spending. Pretty soon, I'd whittled my possessions down to a bare minimum.

Since then, I've been a passionate believer in, and practitioner of, minimalism. This has further inspired me to address other aspects of society, and get involved in anti-consumerism, environmentalism, recycling, local politics and various other causes.

My life now revolves around things that are far more important: experiences, travel, activism, relationships.

I don't miss the stuff at all.

Welcome - A Not-Very-Brief Explanation ...

This site is a collection of comments, thoughts, and links to articles on a very specific lifestyle choice - that of... er... lets just call it 'White Space Living', shall we? It's a combination of a few things. So what's it all about? Well, let's break it down into its parts:

Bright Green is one of many flavours of environmentalism, which pursues the goal of long-term sustainability, through radical changes in the economic and political operation of society. The belief is that technology and social innovation are the keys to sustainable development. Learn more here.

Techno-Progressivism is similiar in a way, utilising the same sort of changes but for different goals. It is the desire for the empowerment and emancipation of mankind through technological, scientific, social and ethical change. Learn more here.

Minimalism is a personal lifestyle choice, to minimize the aquisition of excessive material goods, for various reasons such as spirituality, personal taste, frugality, anti-consumerism, conservation, social justice, and even tidyness. Learn more here.

And ...

E-Activism is the method: It is the use of technology such as e-mail, web sites, blogging and podcasts to enable communication, to deliver a message to a large audience, for fundraising, lobbying, volunteering, community building, and organizing. Learn more here.

So is that any clearer?

Well, I hope so, I know it's a bit complicated. 'White Space' is just my phrase for the life choice as a whole. For an explanation of why it's called this, see Why Is It Called 'White Space Living'? You'll probably get a clearer idea of the aims of this site by viewing the 'Categories' box and selecting one that interests you.

So, welcome. Read on, and consider.
 "We must be the change we wish to see in the world."