Monday, November 12, 2012

'Desiderata' - An Inspirational Poem From 1927, Relevant Today ...

Max Ehrmann
Desiderata is a 1927 prose poem by American writer Max Ehrmann, largely unknown in the author's lifetime, but better known now and very thought-provoking.

Go placidly amidst the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.
As far as possible without surrender be on good terms with all persons. Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexatious to the spirit. If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.
Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery. But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.
Be yourself. Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment it is as perennial as the grass.
Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth. Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.
Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.
Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul. With all its shams, drudgery, and broken dreams, it is still a beautiful world. Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

For full details on the history of the poem, see the Wikipedia Entry.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

Not Your Everyday Homeless ...

This is what you see.
The real homeless are invisible.
This Is Local London and the Surrey Comet recently printed a short article by me about the different types of homeless persons that I deal with as a volunteer...

The word “homeless” conjures up an image in everyone’s mind – and it is probably the same vision for everyone.

You’re thinking right now of a dishevelled, unshaven man, slightly the worse for drink, sitting against a wall with a paper cup for loose change.

Well, if you were to take a closer look, you would realise how wrong you are. The different types of people affected by homelessness would astound you. Certainly, alcohol plays a part, as a cause – but there are just as many who turn to alcohol, and drugs, once they find themselves in such a position.

If you were to spend a few hours in any homeless charity location, for example, KCAH (Kingston Churches Action on Homelessness) or the YMCA in Surbiton, I bet you wouldn’t even be able to tell who has and who hasn’t got a permanent home.

There are families or part-families. There is also a growing problem with homeless youths. There are sober, clean, middle-aged men, a surprising number ex armed forces. There are elderly. There are couch-surfers, often in their teens and 20s, who flit from one friend to another. And there are people of all ages with mental health issues.

I see these varied kinds of people as a volunteer at the YMCA in Surbiton.

Government funding to social and welfare projects across the country has been cut and Kingston has had its share of lost funding.

Ultimately, you can’t actually “deal” with homelessness – it is the symptom, not the cause. But charities providing help will continue to fight this battle until the causes are eradicated.

The Bridge - BBC Does It Again With The New Scandi-Crime ...

The Bridge's Saga and Martin, two very real characters.
I still can't fathom why we Brits can't make stylish crime dramas like 'The Bridge' - and like 'Wallander' and 'The Killing' before it.

It's not just because it's Scandinavian - I thought 'Borgen' and 'Those Who Kill' were rather average. But 'The Bridge'... Damn, I have to rearrange my calendar around all the transmission times. It is *the* must-see for me, and I'm *not* a big TV watcher.

Headhunters - showing now.
Perhaps it's because my main intro to TV crime drama is being an avid reader - particularly detective and crime novels. Both 'The Bridge' and 'The Killing' were long-drawn out affairs over a whole series (similair, depth-wise, to a novel) not 'episodic' with a new murder and the perpetrator always found before the hour is up.

And, btw, talking of Scandinavian crime writers... can't wait to see Headhunters, the 'Jo Nesbo' movie this weekend... A Norwegian film which is being released, deservedly, in 50 countries.

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Hello Chaps, It's Tweed Run Time ... !

I say! Well, next weekend is the London Tweed Run 2012, a day when dashing young chaps and young ladies dress ever so stylishly and ride rather spiffing classic bicycles through the streets of our dear old London to a destination where we all have tea, cake and probably gin.

Registration for entries has been closed for some time, as it's just such a popular event. It's even made it's way to the colonies, with similair events now held in our former territories of America and Australia.

So if one is loitering in the Capital next Sunday, do wave us on, won't you? There's a nice chap. Jolly good!

In the meantime, here's one of those picture-show thingies a chap shot and beautifully edited...

Toodleoo for now...

Sunday, April 22, 2012

All You Need To Know About The English Defence League

The English Defence League, a Neo-Nazi Far-Right extremist group against the Islamic Faith will try today - and fail again - to hold a mass rally in Brighton, possibly one of the UK's most tolerant cities. This is all you need to know in one, easy graphic.

Friday, April 20, 2012

I Do Not Care What Car You Drive ...

Found this on a random Twitter post. Apologies to original poster - I can't find any credit. But I love it.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

The Raspberry Pi - Brilliant British Technology, Back To Basics Computing ...

It really is this small.
It costs £16 and it's a full-blown computer only slightly bigger than a credit card. And it's a little piece of magic. And it's British.

And I'm expecting delivery of mine *real* soon.

The optional case
The Raspberry Pi is a single-board unit with an ARM1176JZF-S 700 MHz processor, VideoCore IV GPU, graphics unit, and 256 Megabytes of RAM. It uses an SD card for booting and long-term storage, and it will network nicely. It runs Linux (Fedora, Debian or Arch) and support Python.

An early prototype
Developed with David Braben, programmer of Elite, one of the best computer games of all time, it allows users, particularly children, to get into the workings of a computer and actually *make* it do what you want it to do. Perhaps now IT Teaching in schools will make the step-change it needs to keep Britain at tye leading edge of technology in the next few decades.

Yes, the geeks of the future will learn their stuff on a Raspberry.

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Cavendish - Two Sprints Fought - Two Sprints Won...

Ok, I *know* I go on about Mark Cavendish. I raved about him in 2009 and 2010. The UK non-cycling sports audience woke up to him in 2011 (years after Europe considered him a demi-God) and made him Sports Personality Of The Year.

And I will *keep* on raving about him while he does this...

At the season-opener Tour Of Qatar with new Team Sky, Cav felt unable to contest the opening sprint on Stage 1 through illness, but he fought for the last two sprints - and has won both.

We're used to him starting off the season slow and building. Not so for 2012. The man is unstoppable.

Update on 11th Feb

Cav crashed out 150m from the line on the last stage of the Tour, suffering minor injuries. But that's Cav - crash or win.

When Kevin Hall Committed Suicide, We Failed Him. I Failed Him....

Working as a volunteer in the local community, you sometimes get to deal with some desperate cases. Some people you can help. And some people you fail, miserably, and you never forget them.

Kevin had marital problems, mental health issues and financial worries. He was due to be evicted and we were trying to help him either buy more time or arrange alternative accommodation.

I don't think we ever really got him to open up because he was a closed, secretive man, and as volunteers, we perhaps didn't have the professional skills to get past the outer layer. And the professional skills required just weren't available. Last March, Kevin was a no-show at an eviction hearing. He had told social workers he “no longer had the will to fight”.

He covered himself, and his flat, in petrol, and lit a match.

Coroner Elizabeth Pygott recorded a verdict of suicide. Hides a lot of sins and details, doesn't it, the simple word 'suicide'? The welfare state, the health and mental health systems, even local voluntary groups just weren't there for him.

You second-guess yourself constantly; could we have done more? Did we miss the signs?

Kevin was not the first person I knew who has killed themselves. I sincerely doubt that he will be the last.

And each one hurts more than I can bear.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Can You 'Drift' A Motorcycle ... ?

We've all seen cars 'drift' but can you drift a motorcycle? And can you beat a boosted Mustang *at* the same time? Err, yup....

[P.S. Would *love* to know what the music is... anyone ?]

Everything Is Fine ...

People, it's okay. Whatever the Government says is right. The Internet is not, I repeat, *not* censored in any way. This handy guide (slightly redacted, explains everything...

Sunday, January 22, 2012

The @RowForFreedom Team - Five Rather Ordinary, Extraordinary Ladies ...

The RowForFreedom Team
On Saturday evening, five rather tired British girls arrived in Barbados.

Not for them the inadequate food and uncomfortable seats of a cramped 747. They chose to do it the hard way - by rowing 2613 nautical miles in a seven metre boat, across the Atlantic.

The girls - Julia Immonen, Debbie Beadle, Helen Leigh, Kate Richardson, and Katie Pattison-Hart, otherwise known as the Row for Freedom Team - joined 16 other teams in the Talisker Whisky Challenge, billed as the 'toughest rowing race in the world' - and arguably one of the hardest physical challenges you can choose to face.

None of the crew had ever taken on a challenge like this before, although all crew members are what you might describe as sporty, but this endurance event required months of training and planning if they were to survive the Atlantic.

Azores to Barbados.
They faced the loss of their skipper Andrea even before departure; They took on 30 foot seas, broken equipment (steering, water-maker and desalinator all failed at different times), a small onboard fire, and yet: after 45 days, 15 hours and 26 minutes at sea, they (and their boat 'The Guardian') arrived at the chequered flag in Port St Charles Marina, for cocktails and emotional reunions.
"More people have been into space than have rowed the Atlantic."
And in the process they have set two world records - Row for Freedom are the first five-woman team to row any ocean in the world; and they have broken the record for rowing The Atlantic in the fastest time by an all-female crew.

Row for Freedom came in 5th place, an astonishing result, with no less than 6 crews having actually pulled out on the journey, and 6 other crews still at sea, including the military crew, Row2Recovery.

And yes - there is just a little pride that they're British. As a nation we've always been very good at this rowing lark.

So what could possibly drive these otherwise ordinary ladies to do this? A just and worthy cause - Child Slavery and Human Trafficking, regarded as two of the worlds fastest growing criminal industries. Row for Freedom is aiming to raise over £1m for two charities, ECPAT UK and the A21 Campaign who fight this worldwide scourge.
"Human Trafficking is one of the largest global organised crimes today, generating £20 BILLION per year. Today there remain more slaves than ever before - an estimated 27 million people. Half of these are children. Last year over 700 victims were identified in the UK."
The Row2Recovery Boys
The other team I mentioned, Row2Recovery, is a team particularly close to my heart, comprised of current serving and ex-servicemen of the British Armed Forces - some of whom have lost limbs on active service, who are raising funds for military charities, such as Help for Heroes, ABF The Soldiers Charity and SSAFA, and also aiming to challenge misconceptions about what life is like for an injured solider.

Row2Recovery are currently 197 nautical miles from Barbados as I write, with a glorious finish scheduled hopefully for Wednesday. (No slacking, boys. Keep that tempo up! Don't let your Regiments down!)

I've been following and promoting this event - and the two teams - since last year, when I met both crews at the Great London River Race, where I was Senior Boat Marshal at the Finish Zone, and the two crews were using the race as a warm-up. Naturally I took an interest in the Military Crew, but I was hugely impressed with Row for Freedom's resilience and determination.

Well, I've done some epic things in my time. I've climbed mountains in weather from 9 degrees below zero to a scorching 112 degrees. I've dived 56 metres deep on trimix. I've done multiple 100-miler cycle rides for charity. And I've rowed, too, for St Georges (but only a few miles at a time.) But nothing that I've done compares with this event.

So ladies of Row for Freedom, I applaud you. And gentlemen of the Row2Recovery Team, I'll salute you (in absentia) when you arrive.

Epic? Inspirational? It's about as clear a definition of both as I've seen.

'The Guardian'
I described these women earlier as 'ordinary'. Clearly they're not. Something within them has driven them to take on this task and beat it, which makes them pretty special.

Else, if they be mortal as us all, then they are clearly proof that we all have within ourselves the ability to do wonderful, amazing things, perhaps things we'd never otherwise dream of.

One wonders that whatever the crew members do with the rest of their lives, whether anything they do in the future, will ever match up to this. Perhaps in their later years they will look back on this event with pride as the single best thing they ever did.

But I doubt it. At a guess, I reckon they have a taste for it now. A few months rest, and what's the betting they think of some other challenge? Rowing the Pacific? Or unicycling across the Mobi desert, perhaps.

And it is proof once again of my favorite motif:
"Pain Is Temporary; Achievement Is Forever."
Update : Montage image and video of the arrival in Barbados : 

You can learn more about ECPAT UK here and the A21 Campaign here.

ECPAT UK's mission statement is to "End Child Prostitution, Child Pornography and the Trafficking of Children for Sexual Purposes." They are active in research, campaigning and lobbying government to prevent child exploitation and protect children in tourism and child victims of trafficking."

The A21 Campaign is comprised of individuals, organizations, government officials, and people like you who are committed to abolishing injustice in the 21st century. Their goal is four-fold:
  • Prevent people from being trafficked;
  • Protect and support those who have been trafficked;
  • Prosecute traffickers, and strengthen legal responses to trafficking;
  • Partner with law enforcement, service providers and community members to provide a comprehensive front against trafficking.
Both causes deserve your full backing.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Didn't Take Long - #Facebook 'TimeLine' View Ripped ...

Aw, this is just genius. Actually, I quite *like* the Timeline View on Facebook, even though I don't use FB much myself (some of my friends do, so I use it too keep tabs on them)

And, yes, I'm guilty of at least a *few* of these sins....

[Select image for the full-size, full-depth image. You won't be disappointed]

Friday, January 20, 2012

Sherlock ...

Ok. I'm still officially mindf*ck*d from watching the last episode of Sherlock on BBC1 last week.

I've reviewed it twice and *still* can't figure out how he did it. This is British TV at it's very, very best and deserves *every* award going. Twitter stream went white hot for hours afterwards with people still in shock. Epic stuff.

Missed it? Check BBC iPlayer. You won't regret it.

File-Sharing Site MegaUpload In FBI Raid ... is reporting that suspected download piracy site - which helps users find possibly illegal files on other sites - has been raided by the FBI and closed, with it's executives indicted by the Justice Department in what the authorities said was “among the largest criminal copyright cases ever brought by the United States.”

The FBI said that it had executed more than 20 search warrants in the United States and eight other countries, seizing $50 million in assets.

Visitors to the Megaupload site (which gets about 50 million hits daily, were greeted with a message from the Justice Department :
”This domain name associated with the website has been seized pursuant to an order issued by a U.S. District Court.”
Megaupload, which has 150 million members for its file-sharing service, was on the recording and movie industries "most-hated" lists.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

For #Sherlock fans... A Montage From Series 2 ...

As Sherlock ends tonight on BBC2, with the likelihood of nothing better on this year (at least until 'The Killing' III comes along), here's a beautiful montage from the current series to enjoy, based on the friendship between Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch) and Watson (Martin Freeman).

Saturday, January 14, 2012

The #EDL In Barking - Report ...

Whether it was '50-odd', 80-ish or a very precise '92', it doesn't matter. What does matter is that the EDL's 'big' Barking demo attracted less than 100. They claimed on Twitter (as they do) 250 to 300, but the photo below shows *all* of them. I made it about 80-ish, and I'm getting very good at counting as they stagger drunkenly by.

This is *all* of them. Four flags, and about 80, I reckon.
Myself and friends arrived nice and early to catch the racists in the pub, and my two mates had coffee after coffee in the bar, eavesdropping and tweeting all the EDL plans, plus the usual brave B.S. At that time there was about 35 odd EDL 'warriors' there. A few of them were very odd. (Honestly, do the EDL not know by now that we do this every time?)

Members of UAF and other anti-racist and anti-fascist groups gathered in the town centre at a point on the 'march' route, while the EDL thugs were kept at the station - well, in the pubs near the station - until 1.00pm when their dismal numbers drifted past us, escorted by 'stewards' from Berkshire and East Anglia EDL.

Plenty of abuse and Seig Heils from them, aimed at.. well everybody, really - and plenty of shouting and chanting from us, and so they passed by, to be corralled finally in front of the Library (a building whos purpose needed explaining to them).

We then joined them in the routine chant battle, ours imaginitive, literal and rhyming, theirs limited to the usual 'E-E-EDL!' and the national anthem with the wrong words. In the end, at 3.00pm, they we're escorted away, we stayed, and 'Antifa' held the field. It was, as they say, London 3, EDL 0.

The best part was that Barking is no longer in fear of the EDL. The town, even the market, stayed open all day long, shopping crowds were very good, and the good people of Barking joined us in reviling these hate-filled drunks. Local cafes we're knocking out take-away coffees to us at a £1 a shot, chatting with us and wishing us well, even thanking us for our prescense. It was beautiful.

As was the mix of anti-racists and anti-fascists, as you can see from the images, from teenagers to elderly, of all colours and faiths.

In general (with one exception, of which more later) the event was also well policed. The senior officers involved ran good communications with the UAF leaders, and I had several long conversations with various officers, nearly all of whom (unofficially and off the record of course) stated quite clearly what they thought of the EDL, their thoughts pretty much matching our own.

One arrested
Anyone know him?
At one point, two EDL members (we think) infiltrated our 'ranks' and picked an argument with one of our ladies. We can't say for certain they were officially with the Nazis, but they were certainly drunk, abusive, and were hauled away quickly by the Police for a bit of a chat, then arrested (we think). Later we saw the two of them walking around in the 'no mans land' between the two front lines, so it's possible they might have been merely cautioned.

And to the single clash point of the day. Within our ranks were three (possibly four) young black guys, joining in our chanting. Later as they went to leave, they were subjected to an instant stop and search right next to where we were situated.

The reason, as explained by a senior officer, was that they were known to local police, who had decided that they had (unspecified) just cause to stop and search them. Whatever the rights and wrongs of that, the location chosen - right next to us - was provocative to say the least. Heated (non-violent) arguments broke out between protesters and police, who after a long while, let the lads go freely on their way. It was an unpleasant interlude in an otherwise peaceful day.

The senior officer, when I spoke to him later, stated that his officers were within the law. They probably were. Policing these kind of events requires a deft touch, but location and timing is critical. I and many others considered this episode badly handled, badly timed, and provocative.

In the end reports stated that 5 arrests were made, all EDL, and as we all dispersed, we reflected on one main impression of the day: Is that it? Is that all?

Is that all the EDL can muster now? Less than 100? I've had bigger birthday parties than that.

However the EDL try to spin it - and they will - this was a dismal turnout. And next time, there will be fewer, and fewer, until one day Tommy Robinson will be marching down a High Street somewhere, and he will look around to see that he's on his own.

Further report here from Hope Not Hate.



Later on at 18:50 it was reported that the EDL clashed with locals and Police in Whitechapel. Obviously frustrated at their lack of success in Barking, they kicked off on the way home, with 'many arrests' made by Met Police riot officers.

Tesco was also attacked with people taking shelter in local shops. It is thought the group travelled from Barking on the underground, before turning violent in Whitechapel. Up to 15 police vans are at the scene.

Apparently, the local community are now out in Whitechapel defending the East London Mosque from being attacked this evening.

Friday, January 13, 2012

A Stylish, Minimalist Desktop ... Linux Delivers ...

One of the reasons I'm a Linux fan is it's flexibility. You can do anything with it, and you can make it look like anything. Want a 'Mac' theme ? Vista? Win7 ? Just download it - or create it.

My most recent desktop customisation reflects my minimalist beliefs. This is the Lucid version of Puppy Linux, built from Ubuntu binaries. The window manager is OpenBox, with WBar and 3 Conky's, which can be switched on or off as neccessary.

If you want the config codes or icons, just let me know!

Sunday, January 01, 2012

Sherlock Is Back... With 'The Woman' ...

First episode tonight of the new series of the BAFTA winning WGBH-BBC Sherlock three-parter, and it didn't disappoint. At all.

Based on 'A Scandal In Bohemia' (but diverting widely from the original plot, after after about 10 minutes), writer Mark Gatiss has created three things: A must-see drama; a suitable tip 'o' the hat to our great detective; and a truly memorable duo of Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman.

And Irene Adler ... so hard to cast for this role, the *one* woman who got the better of Sherlock (in the original) but who's criminal awesomeness was downgraded in this version (although her sexual awesomeness hit the ceiling).

Take a bow, Lara Pulver (formerly of 'Spooks'). Nicely played, and like the very best espresso, rich, dark, highly steamed and a real kick.