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.