Thursday, June 30, 2011

Minimalism, Not: Average UK Child Owns £1,677 In Clothes ...

I've been a staunch advocate of Minimalism for a long time... but this report in the Daily Fail left me rather bemused. I know that parents so often say that bringing up kids is expensive but perhaps this is one reason why ...
Four out of 10 children are now dressed in designer clothes by the age of two, a survey has found.

The average child has more than 154 items in their wardrobe, worth £1,677, and shoes worth more than £190, according to the research.

It also found that the average parent admitted buying more than 64 items of new clothing for their child in the past year, with 66 per cent saying they had bought their children clothes which had been worn only once.
The report goes on to say "Thirty nine per cent felt it was their 'duty' to keep their children up-to-date, with more than a third worrying that their child would be bullied if they were not wearing the 'right' clothes."

Apart from the issue of gross commercialisation (and sexualisation) of children, it seems that these suckers are ripe for plucking by the clothing industry - it is sales by guilt.

It also installs in these children an expectation of always having the best at no cost (to them) - which comes as quite a surprise when they grow up and have to buy it themselves.

Many of these parents might also consider themselves as either 'green' or at least aware of environmental issues, while happily purchasing an item of clothing which has travelled around the world, for their little precious to wear only once.

It also reinforces the erroneous concept that people - even children - are what they wear. You are not what you wear, or own, for if you are, and you lose what you own, what or who are you?

Sadly, this is not a lesson that parents seem keen to teach their children.

Public Sector Pension Strikes - Favourite Placards ...

My two favourite placards of the day, from's report on todays Strikes in London and other UK cities.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Public Sector Pensions : The Truth, The Numbers ...

Tomorrows 'Independent' front page... This is why 750,000 people will strike tomorrow in the UK.

Leading Cause Of Death For Ages 5 to 40 ? Guess ...

From : 
Road death is the leading cause of death for those aged between 5 and 40 [In the UK]. You are four times more likely to be killed in a crash than from murder.

The domination of our public spaces by motorised vehicles means that every time you step out, especially on foot or on a bike, you take a risk like no other – this is the price we pay for an over-motorised and car dependent society.

And yet the police allocate only a fraction of resources to enforcement, compared to that invested in preventing other crimes. Those injured by dangerous, speeding or drink drivers are not even included in [UK] counts of victims of crime statistics. Speeding vehicles was the most common type of anti-social behaviour reported in the British Crime Survey - until it was dropped from the survey.
Now this issue is the subject of one of MFLL's Street Talks, a series of open forums to discuss what can be done to make London a more liveable city.

July's Street Talk - "Towards a safer and fairer city – traffic justice in London" is by Amy Aeron-Thomas, who is the Executive Director of RoadPeace, and takes place at The Yorkshire Grey, 2 Theobalds Road, WC1X 8PN at 7pm.

See the full article here. 

Movement for Liveable London promotes discussion on how changing the way we travel can create a fairer, healthier, greener and more pleasant future for London.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Wiggins and Armistead Take National Titles ...

It's a good day when your two favourite cyclists both become British Champions. Today the brilliantly outspoken Bradley Wiggins and shy, quiet Yorkshire girl Lizzie Armistead (who I blogged about here as 'one to watch!) took the National Titles.

And by the way, my favourite Bradley-ism:
"It is nice to be recognised for actually achieving something in life as opposed to spending seven weeks in a house on TV with a load of other muppets."
- A reference to the television programme, Big Brother, after finishing fourth in the Tour de France prologue.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

FBI Hits Latvian Scareware Peddlers...

Seems like years since I posted on the subject of Scareware.

Actually it IS years - I wrote this post in 2008...

It's particularly annoying to get one of these scareware pop-ups that looks like a 'Windows' window, with all the decorations, as if to convince you the pop-up is part of your operating system. As I use Linux and not Windows, it's fairly obvious to me, but I would recommend all users who insist of having Windows installed, to seriously customise their window colours so they can tell when a pop-up occurs.

Well at least now the various International policing agencies - including the FBI - have finally got their ass in gear and raided homes in Latvia, making several arrests according to this report.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

HMRC No Longer Fit For Purpose ...

In an era of cuts to Public Services, and upcoming strikes, the economic focus shifts inevitable to the tax we pay. Or don't.

The cases of Vodafone, Peter Green, et al, and their various underhand and immoral methods of tax avoidance has dragged attention away from a more critical point - that HMRC is no longer able to do it's job. Currently, UK big business are disputing a total of £25bn in tax – equivalent to a year's spending cuts.

HMRC's failure in the Vodafone case (£6 Billion Tax revenue lost) in particular is evidence enough, on it's own, that HMRC needs serious overhaul and new legislation - simply in order to fulfil it's current remit. Will this happen? No.

The current Coalition Government is far too cosy with it's business friends to enact further tax legislation on them, let alone chase them for the tax they owe under current laws.

And the current 'chairpersons' of HMRC hardly fill us with confidence :
Is it any wonder why both extreme groups and ordinary citizens are taking action?

Self-Important Rock Star Tax Dodgers ...

[Select images for bigger, clearer versions] 

[Lifted from this post on the excellent New Internationalist Blog.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Favourite Current Demotivator ...

Official : Cycles Now Outnumber Cars In London ...

"Cyclists have for the first time outnumbered motorists on some of the country's busiest commuter routes during rush hour." reports Robin Henry in Today's Sunday Times (p.11).

Henry quotes monitoring data from Transport for London, Mouchel/Sustrans and the City of London. The Corporation of London's assistant director for planning and transportation, Iain Simmons said "On some roads such as Cheapside cycles account for more than 50% of the traffic and these numbers are going up and up every year."

However, in London, hundreds of proposals to reduce danger for cyclists on the London Cycle Network and the Cycling Superhighways have been over-ruled in order to maintain motor vehicle capacity.

Well, it's about time politicians, councillors - and other road users - acknowledged that we're here to stay, and started to provide the facilities we demand for cyclists.

After all, we'll be around for longer too, as generally cyclists are much healthier.

Full article here.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Anti-Cuts Grafitti ...

Cycling In London - One Mans Video Diary ...

Anyone on a cycle in London knows : It's brutal out there. It's a war. You can get creamed between a taxi and a bus - Every. Single. Day.

Which is why I love watching any video posted on YouTube by the wonderful sonofthewindsinc, a very friendly and polite London cyclist who roams the streets of the capital, videoing his rides, his experiences and the people he meets, using a rather bling helmet cam. [not jealous, really]

Sonofthewindsinc is a real gentleman of the road - and a very skilled cyclist. I bumped into him on 5th June in this video, and mentioned the London WNBR the next weekend :

And behold, he showed up, and recorded a huge amount of footage on the day, which he will be editing and posting in the next few weeks.

If you're on two wheels in London - I can highly recommend subscribing to his channel.

Here's one of his 'tasters' for the London WNBR - that's me shouting though the megaphone at 11:45 and 12:30 - Sorry I ruined your sound, man!

Stieg Larsson's Millenium Series ...

Just finished (finally) reading 'The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo' - and straight on the 'The Girl Who Played With Fire' (the first and only translated novel to be number one in the UK hardback chart). I have 'The Girl Who Kicked The Hornets Nest' waiting.

Yup, when I read a good author, I do the whole set. These novels in The Millenium Series are complex, challenging and contemporary.

Plus, the female heroine is a geek who rides a motorcycle. What's not to like?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

A True Story From South Africa ...

This is real.

A story.

A true story.

A story from South Africa about a mother at the Truth and Reconciliation Commission hearing about her son's murder.

The police officer who had ordered the brutal killing was there, shamefacedly listening to the details of what he and his colleagues had done. At the end the room was quiet.

The chair of the commission, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, asked the woman if she had anything to say to the man who had killed her son.

She responded:

"I am very full of sorrow. So I am asking you now - come with me to the place where he died, pick up in your hands some of the dust of the place where his body lay, and feel in your soul what it is to have lost so much.

"And then I will ask you one thing more. When you have felt my sadness, I want you to do this. I have so much love, and without my son, that love has nowhere to go. So I am asking you - from now on, you be my son, and I will love you in his place."

And the policeman did become as her son.

[From the Pip Wilson Blog]

Monday, June 13, 2011

Open Office vs MicroSoft Office - What Am I Missing ... ?

Or, gaining?

Microsoft Office currently is £110 - minimum. OpenOffice is free. And so is LibreOffice. So what does OO lack? Or LO?

Well, not much. Not really anything, actually.

The well though-of LifeHacker site article addresses some concerns people seem to have about transferring their allegiance to Open Source software. After all, if it's free, how can it be any good? If the Microsoft product is expensive, surely it's better? Well, it's a little bit prettier...
Mainly, Microsoft Office is glossy. Very glossy. When it comes down to it, the problem has always been a matter of gloss .... most people will choose it just because it looks nicer .... All that gloss doesn't necessarily mean it's better, though.
Microsoft entire department of graphic designers have made their Office suite very pretty, and sadly - mysteriously, I think - that seems to be actually a criteria for some people. But ...
... when it comes down to it, both OpenOffice and LibreOffice can do, more or less, everything MS Office can do. There's really only one exception, and that's Outlook, and the free offerings just don't have anything to match that.
Frankly I'm not actually a big Outlook fan anyway. I'm more a fan of Thunderbird or even Evolution. BoWhich is why I was pleased to read this bit, which cancels out Microsoft's are more flexible and just work better. And again, they cost nothing, as the article goes on to point out ...
[The free offerings] do, however, have the rest of the open source community - which means you've got apps like Mozilla's Thunderbird to fill the gap. So, If you pull an outside app into the mix, the two sides are even again.
The only other advantage mentioned by Lifehacker is the support that Microsoft gives. However this support is described as "convoluted, unhelpful, and difficult to navigate or contact."

In response, OO and LO have 'forums' and 'communities' where "you can usually find the answer to your question by searching through each suite's forums for the answer - or by just asking other users on those same forums."

In the end the article finished with this :
All three will read and write MS Office formatted documents. All three can make and read spreadsheets and presentations. They can all handle images and special formatting for text. They're all full-fledged office suites, one of them just costs a lot of money. Just don't let the glossy interface and large user base make you think you're the oddball by not buying it - free options get the job done, too. 
So if a respected site such as LifeHacker can't find a significant difference between the suites - apart from price - you have to ask yourself why you - and so many corporate bodies - continue to pay MicroSoft for licences?

In the UK, the Government waste millions on these licences. Last year this article highlighted the potential savings that could be made by switching to Open Source software - but no action has been taken as yet.

2011 World Naked Bike Ride in London ...

Yesterday I had the rather surreal experience of leading 1000+ cyclists. Naked. Around London. This was part of a worldwide protest against car culture, for cycling safety and generally an expression of personal freedom.

I would add, that as Chief Marshall, I was dressed. Here's my favourite media clip of the day which explains what it was all about...

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

The 'Beast' Gets A Fix From Dr. Bike ...

The 'Beast', Mk 10
The 'Beast' was ridden hard to Regent's Park over the weekend for the London Green Fair, where one of the always excellent 'Dr. Bike' guys took a close look at my problem front gears.

Verdict: My front chain ring has missing teeth, anyway, so it needs replacement. No point doing anything else until that's fixed. I kinda knew that, anyway, but it's always good to get a 2nd opinion.

The old 'Beast'
For those not following recently - the 'Beast' was a hybrid made from the parts of 9 bikes - and now 10, as I was given a very tasty Claud Butler frame. For free. Yup. So I proceeded to strip everything - everything - from the old machine, and piece by piece transfer them over to the Butler.

A full days work, a bit of fine tuning, and the 'Beast' Mk 10 is silently gliding along Surrey streets...

Still need to work on those front gears, though.

Epic Mini Graphics Job ...

Mini graphics job spotted in Surbiton, Surrey. Pretty cool...

Wednesday, June 01, 2011

The State Of Britains Roads ...

Britains roads are under pressure.

Increasing heavy traffic, a few severe winters, higher repair costs, and dwindling highways funding (according to a report from the Audit Commission) mean that potholes are rife and always seem to be in the wrong place for cyclists and motorcyclists - i.e., in the left-hand 1.2m of the road.

This indicates to me three things:
  • Councils are ignoring the needs of cyclists and motorcyclists when briefing or contracting road engineers;
  • Councils seem to think they have enough insurance to cover injuries to cyclists and motorcyclists caused by damaged roads;
  • Very few councils have cyclists and motorcyclists to advise them;
The old (passe) argument about "cyclists and motorcyclists having less road rights because they contribute nothing or less to road maintenance budgets" is dead and buried, of course.

The very fact that traffic is increasing (as is the Road Fund Licence) while highways funding is dwindling breaks the imagined link that many have between the Road Fund Licence and Highway Maintenance Budgets - the link that was broken back in 1936.

Cyclists and motorcyclists are taxpayers and council charge payers too. We have a right to decent roads. After all, we do not cause traffic, we do not hold up other road users and we do not cause the damage to roads in the first place.

If we don't get it, we will vote at the next council elections for anyone who will give them to us - regardless of what colour rosette the councillor wears.