Tuesday, September 30, 2008

[pssst] fancy an escort at the singapore grand prix

Singapore's "high-class" escorts [nothing like that - that type of thing is r-i-g-h-t out] are gearing up [see Update below] for a 75% increase in business during the coming grand prix [see Update below].

The biggest difference is that they have to come "from a good family background and at least a university degree," the Straits Times said. "They want escorts who don't look, sound or dress like escorts. They want people to think, 'what a nice girlfriend he has'," it quoted an agency head as saying.

Right, so nooky is quite out of the question, is it?
"Sexual services was not part of the deal but strictly between the escort and client to arrange."
Er ... right. Just to reinforce that this thing is completely above board, a Singapore site presents one of its escorts like this:
Standing barefoot at 175cm, with a svelte 35B-25-35 figure, Mika has a body to absolutely die for and loves to flaunt her assets whenever the opportunity arises, or as the occasion requires!
Anyone planning to fly over that way?

UPDATE: Colin Campbell informs me that it was last Sunday [shows how much I care]. Oh well, better cancel that order then.

[ochlocracy] and the teeming masses

Teeming humanity at peak hour


This is far worse than the Tube stations and buses during peak hours:

At least 100 devotees have been killed in a stampede at a Hindu temple in the northern Indian state of Rajasthan. Officials said at least 100 more were injured in the incident at the Chamunda Devi temple in the city of Jodhpur. A wall near the temple is said to have collapsed, causing panic among thousands of gathered devotees.

It's terrible but equally terrible is the crush of humanity itself, which is increasingly causing an apocalyptic scenario for all.

It is no accident that travelling first class, owning villas and property in Switzerland, having a retreat - all of these are a reaction against excessive population crush. The dole queues, the teeming masses in the street - these are the province of the common man, of which I am one.

Every one of us wants to be treated as special, to have our opinions heard, to be someone - this is what blogs are all about, after all. We recoil from the idea of being a dot in the human landscape, such as in China, India or Africa. Masses are all around us but are still that short distance away to be comfortable. For how long?

What differentiates us from those at the top with the space to think is that we might have thought of the things below but would hardly consider implementing them. Firstly, Robert McNamara, of the World Bank, Oct. 2, 1979:

"There are only two possible ways in which a world of 10 billion people can be averted. Either the current birth rates must come down more quickly or the current death rates must go up. There is no other way. There are, of course, many ways in which the death rates can go up. In a thermonuclear age, war can accomplish it very quickly and decisively.

Famine and disease are nature’s ancient checks on population growth, and neither one has disappeared from the scene…. To put it simply: Excessive population growth is the greatest single obstacle to the economic and social advancement of most of the societies in the developing world.”

Thomas Ferguson, State Department Office of Population Affairs, Latin American Desk, February 1981 interview:

“There is a single theme behind all our work–we must reduce population levels. Either governments do it our way, through nice clean methods, or they will get the kinds of mess that we have in El Salvador, or in Iran or in Beirut. Population is a political problem. Once population is out of control, it requires authoritarian government, even fascism, to reduce it….

To really reduce population, quickly, you have to pull all the males into the fighting and you have to kill significant numbers of fertile age females…. “The quickest way to reduce population is through famine, like in Africa, or through disease like the Black Death….”

... and Prince Phillip:

“You cannot keep a bigger flock of sheep than you are capable of feeding. In other words conservation may involve culling in order to keep a balance between the relative numbers in each species within any particular habitat. I realize this is a very touchy subject, but the fact remains that mankind is part of the living world…. Every new acre brought into cultivation means another acre denied to wild species.”

Naturally, this blog does not concur with the Club of Rome, who stated, in 1991, in The First Global Revolution:

"The real enemy, then, is humanity itself."

The enemy is certainly population numbers but the people themselves, as they exist today, need charitable feelings above all else, otherwise we ourselves descend to the bestial. The greatest obstacle to ZPG is that whilst the west might embrace it from an intellectual standpoint, the high birthrate societies show no sign of doing that.

So where does that then leave the McNamara Doctrine, which is working towards population reduction and survival of the species? Is it the fear of unsustainable levels or more a fear that they cannot be controlled?

Every State [and many of us too e.g. football mobs], fears the crowd, fears that it will turn into a mob and mob rule is ochlocracy, a particular concern in Imperial Rome, for example, in the time of Commodus:

The tumult became a regular engagement and threatened a general massacre. The Praetorians at length gave way, oppressed with numbers ...

If we, quite logically, as human beings, with some degree of compassion, react with horror to what the elite have put into words, if we however, are feeling quite oppressed by sheer numbers, then what do we offer as a viable alternative to solve this dilemma?

[pets] what is the best choice

You could trace my past few months as going from a lady dog [plus owner] to a male dog [plus owner] to a cat [plus owner] and that cat is curled up one metre from my head right now.

Which is the better pet to have or maybe we should even consider a bird or fish?

Dogs are faithful but lick you all over your face when they like you. Cats use you when they are that way inclined but generally keep their distance. Dogs can wee over the floor but cats spray.

Dogs will defend your home and can be almost like a child to you but cats belong to themselves. Dogs bark and can send up an almighty calm splitting cacophany en masse in the neighbourhood but cats wail.

Both can be wonderful pets but it probably comes down to what you see in your pet or what role your pet fulfils.

UPDATE: You really must see this humorous piece by Eurodog - the diaries of a dog and a cat. It puts it nicely into perspective.

[product placement] productive or counterproductive


From MI6:

The Bond franchise has long been known as a cash cow for its producers, not least because of how much it grosses at the box office, but also how much revenue it rakes in from advertisers wanting their brands strategically placed in the movies. It has been claimed that since 2002's Die Another Day was dubbed "Buy Another Day" by some critics.

And it doesn't just happen on the silver screen. In 2001, jewellery brand Bulgari paid author Fay Weldon to liberally dose her novel The Bulgari Connection with mentions of the brand, while numerous music artists have made Faustian pacts with commerce to bankroll their endeavours.

How you feel about that can vary from David Lynch's reaction to one a bit less extreme, realizing that the trend has been around from the 80s and even before and also realizing that the film is not going to be initially funded without it, even if the gross exceeds that amount later. After all, Art may be the primary thing but so is making money on the film is also a factor.

What happens when product placement goes further?
When you see giant Coke cups sitting at the fingertips of American Idol judges, that's not just product placement. That's full-fledged product integration — when a brand becomes inextricably identified with the content of a show.

That's why network executives use words such as "natural" and "organic" when they talk about product integration and scripted TV ... they don't want it to be so blatantly obvious that it overwhelms the programming. But they don't want you to miss it, either.

Somewhere along the line it becomes sponsorship, such as in the Formula 1 races and so on. Does it work? I'm not sure but in the case of Bond's Casino Royale, it didn't in one respect. During the train scene with the watches, this exchange took place:

Vesper: ... maladjusted young men who'd give little thought to sacrificing others in order to protect queen and country. You know, former SAS types with easy smiles and expensive watches - Rolex? [indicating his watch]

Bond: Omega.


Vesper: ... beautiful. Now having just met you, I wouldn't go so far as calling you a cold-hearted bastard -


Bond: Of course not.


Vesper: ... but it wouldn't be a stretch to imagine ...

Does it matter in the end or are you, the viewer, annoyed about the intrusion of products into the flow of the film? And what should producers do about it?

Monday, September 29, 2008

[abortion] the right becomes the norm

Dave Cole is concerned about abortion rights in Ireland, an issue which has been round a long time.

In the days where women still considered their partners' opinion on this, it was put to me in two different situations [I shan't go into details now - sorry to remain vague]. There were medical reasons in both cases and both were accidents, inasfaras any grown, sentient woman could, with care, prevent this or cause it to be prevented.

No matter. It happened and that was that. It's going to sound very weak but I couldn't give an answer as I was undecided, as I still am today. I do see the "murder" argument and I do see that it was a simple impossibility at the time to have the child. Possibly some men can walk away from decisions like this and not care less but it haunted me for a very long time and still threatens to, along with other things I've done.

I wish I could be as certain as both lobbies. I wish I knew definitively that it was wrong or that it was the least worst choice.

Where I feel there is firmer ground is in decrying the attitude of some women who feel that any accident can be remedied this way [although it doesn't seem too pleasant a process to me]. It is always meant to be a last resort, preventable in the main and not forming part of any "family planning". It should never be planned and it should never be a reasonable fallback position.

Whether it is an option of last resort - who knows?

[peabody economics] nothing ever changes


George Peabody set up shop in the aftermath of the 1837 panic:


Because of U.S. debt troubles, Peabody became persona non grata around London (after all, he had sold the Brits much of that debt). But that did not deter him. He bought the depreciated state bonds when they were trading for pennies on the dollar. When these bonds paid interest again, in the late 1840s, Peabody reaped a fortune.

Then along came the next crash, in 1857 and:

Corsair, the Life of J.P. Morgan, tells us that the Panic of 1857 was caused by the collapse of the grain market and by the sudden collapse of Ohio Life and Trust, for a loss of five million dollars. With this collapse nine hundred other American companies failed. Significantly, one not only survived, but prospered from the crash.

In Corsair, we learn that the Bank of England lent George Peabody and Company five million pounds during the panic of 1857. Winkler, in Morgan the Magnificent
, says that the Bank of England advanced Peabody one million pounds, an enormous sum at that time, and the equivalent of one hundred million dollars today, to save the firm. However, no other firm received such beneficence during this Panic.

Ron Chernow wrote that the Morgan munificence was reprised in the 1907 panic:


"In the following days, acting like a one-man Federal Reserve system, [J. Pierpont] Morgan decided which firms would fail and which survive. Through a non stop flurry of meetings, he organized rescues of banks and trust companies, averted a shutdown of the New York Stock Exchange, and engineered a financial bailout of New York City."

Morgan is always at hand through the majority controlled Federal Reserve [read July 14, 2008 here] and its close association with the FOMC in altruistically helping out in times of crises, which seem to pop up quite regularly. Morgan seems to be particularly astute in predicting crises and preparing for them - what of the gold swaps?

[bizarre experiment] not so bizarre conclusion


This blog usually tries to steer clear of just commenting on what the Telegraph or other MSM might be running at a given moment but this story requires a comment I don't think many would make.
Research at Oxford University has found believers can draw on their religion to endure suffering with greater fortitude, suggesting Christian martyrs may have been able to reduce the agony of torture or slow death.

Firstly, what is the point of the study and why the electric shocks? This immediately makes one smell a rat, as the shock approach is beloved of a particular type of people who enjoy the Joseph Mengele style of "research".

Secondly, it is attempting to reduce the physical to the metaphysical, the latter which just won't fit into the box and lie still. There is a contract that anyone who is actually Christian [as distinct from Sunday Churchgoer or Christian Right] enters into and it's spelt out clearly in Matthew and John.

It says that you can be redeemed by belief, not only because of the feeling of relief you get that you're actually going to make it to heaven but through the spirit, the third person of the trinity, actually flowing in like a lifeforce. All you need to do, it says, is believe that it is possible.

Almost no one in the MSM or the main blogosphere either dares or is interested in a kooky idea like that. Look at the adjective the Telegraph uses - bizarre. Yes, the experiment seems that way but in my eyes, it had an agenda. The paper mentions that the experimenters "hoped" for a certain result. I'm sure they did and they duly published it.

Does that make you suddenly believe in Christianity's ability to deliver on the Holy Spirit? Does it heck as like. For the majority, all it does is place the whole concept in the kook category in their minds, thereby putting another nail in the coffin of the "Cross superstition" [or so the shockophiles think].

Looking at society in general, you have to be pretty blinkered not to see the assault on Christianity from within and from outside [Winterval, banning the Nativity plays and so on] over the last decade and the obvious question is why this fixation with stomping out something they deny even exists? Why the Muslim fixation with it, for example?

The answer is that it delivers on its promise. So yes, there was a resurrection, there has to have been, as the results of it flow through to a few million worldwide on a daily basis. They're not going out preaching it but just living with the benefits day by day. It's always available if you should one day need it.

But look at the anger, the raised eyebrows and the snorts of bemused disgust such an assertion produces in people who like to deem themselves "rational", people who supposedly take all phenomena into account in their conclusions. This thing just won't die off, won't go away, will it? Non-believers trot out rationalization after rationalization explaining it away, sociological, psychological and other and those rationalizations hold up well when measured against physical phenomena.

Trouble is, you can't measure someone coming alive after three days and the power deriving from that, flowing into millions worldwide, in physical terms. It's like trying to measure Herbert's Dune and the life water or Star Wars' Force or the nature of electricity or why we actually "live" and are sentient, as distinct from being robotic. It is like trying to scientifically measure joie-de-vivre - it just won't fit into the scientific box.

It just is, as quite a few people dotted about here and there can testify to.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

[feminist quiz] do you know your heroines

Woman strangling male beast to death

C'mon girls [and guys], let's see how well you know your heroines. The task is to identify which of these famous people:

Germaine Greer, Gloria Steinem, Simone de Beauvoir, Mary Wollstonecraft, Henry Kissinger [oh how I'm missin' yer]

...was behind which quote:

1. Nobody will ever win the Battle of the Sexes. There's just too much fraternizing with the enemy. 2. I do not wish them to have power over men, but over themselves. 3. A woman reading Playboy feels a little like a Jew reading a Nazi manual. 4. One is not born a woman, but becomes one. 5. I didn't fight to get women out from behind vacuum cleaners to get them onto the board of Hoover.

Answers in the correct order

Henry Kissinger [oh how I'm missin' yer], Mary Wollstonecraft, Gloria Steinem, Simone de Beauvoir, Germaine Greer

Bonus questions - which one of these quotes did Simone de Beauvoir not utter?

a. The word love has by no means the same sense for both sexes, and this is one cause of the serious misunderstandings that divide them. b. To catch a husband is an art; to hold him is a job. c. That's what I consider true generosity. You give your all, and yet you always feel as if it costs you nothing. d. It is in the knowledge of the genuine conditions of our lives that we must draw our strength to live and our reasons for living. e. One of the things I really like about men is that they are raised to take responsibility for their actions. They don't make excuses, and they don't have a whole lot of tolerance for people who do make excuses, who try to weasel out from their responsibility.

Answer

e. Correct - it was spoken by feminist Marylaine Block.

[quicksand] how to get in and out


First the good news - you're not going to drown in quicksand - only sink down. The bad news is that stuck you will be and if you're in, say, Morecambe Bay, the tide will get you.

The science is here and below is a practical though misnamed video of how to get stuck and then escape:





Lindisfarne is a place where the tide is also treacherous though well known and signposted. Also, there are refuges [see pic above] dotted along the way, which is fine if you're in one car but what if you're a party of twelve people or so?

I've only once experienced this sort of thing. Being down at the beach in northern England, a few of us ventured round a point to look in a well known cave, only accessible from the sea side. That was fine but on the return, some fifteen minutes later, the tide had already started to come in and was round the ankles.

The thing which frightened us a bit was that it had not come in near where the cave was but it had snuck around the sides where we couldn't see it. A few minutes later, now back within safety but still paddling, it had risen to calf height. In forty minutes we would have been swimming over our heads.

Good luck in your ventures!

[tina fey] darling of the american heartland



... the younger American heartland, anyway. She called Paris Hilton a piece of sh-- who looks like a tramp. Judge for yourself.

[small government] provisions in a mixed economy

Local government office in the new society


The Number One rule of the society, by means of constitutional provisions, is to prevent those who hold elected office from reneging on their roles, as listed below and assuming instead a “nannying” or command and control stance.

The Number Two rule of government is to protect, through the judicial arm, the constitution and associated bills at all costs, a constitution written by and voted for by a panel of representatives, meritocratically appointed from each section of society.

These two rules prevent a regulatory society where the government can criminalize those who put them there.

The Number Three rule is to ensure a mixed economy, heavily weighted towards free enterprise, jealously guarding the right and opportunity for private enterprise, with particular emphasis on companies with less than 30% share of the national market [as distinct from global] and turning the haves and have nots in society into the cans and cannots and want tos and want nots. Equal opportunity means government incentive schemes [as below] but not regulation.

The Number Four rule is that government is assigned to legitimately restrict these areas:

1. formal and de facto merging or collusion of economic entities for the purpose of controlling the market economy in their sector[s], based on market share;
2. price fixing, as far as it can be established;
3. derivatives of certain kinds by regulation but not elimination.

The Number Five rule is that government is officially directed that funds from its flat tax rate of 15% over a threshold, corporate and private, are to cover:

1. initiative and start up grants plus patents;
2. social security for the genuinely needy, inc. part pension provisions 1:1;
3. defence provisions [this being the only area where collusion is legitimate, i.e. treaties with other nations but not in defence contracts, which come under Rule 4];
4. telecommunications, power grids and waste collection/disposal.

One fundamental principle is that an enterprise which goes down goes down and is not bailed out by government under any circumstances.

All other areas, including community policing, are handled by the private sector. The bloated bureaucracy is re-employed in both enterprises set up by the contracted government in a one-off changeover and to work in ensuring the rules .

Saturday, September 27, 2008

[bloghounds write] doing the rounds today

Cartoon courtesy of Wolfie - pity the writing is unclear here.

Andrew Allison and Donal Blaney both cover the difficulties of going to the loo. Sackers quotes Dr. Faber who says it will be 5 trillion, not 700 billion, Calum wonders why he bothers, Cassandra points the finger at the guilty, Cherie tells us Big Brother is watching and Jeremy explains "How to Lose Friends and Alienate People".

Steve Green discusses the fallout when Brown meets Bush, Deb-acle warns the EU blog-ban has begun, Guthrum sheets it home to Italy in particular, Tony Sharp gives us the latest on this, Dragon Days shows us Donegal, Flipchart laughs at the finger being pointed at the working class and Gallimaufry's suggestion is just too sensible to be taken seriously.

Richard Havers looks at the demise of regional broadcasting, Liz posts junk, Alwyn lays down the Blogging Ten Commandments, Mrs. Nesbitt goes road racing, James is having difficulty with his motor memory, Ordo proves that Burns burns and Sally feels it's time to pack her bags.

Welshcakes has gone all yummy-plummy, Rob at the BSR thinks he might be drunk, Jams brings us the man who saved the world, Wolfie is betting with a man who wants to own an aircraft and Valleys Mam writes of the Cultural Olympiad, as well as on that EU Blog Ban.

Of our fresh faces, Morgan Hen sees a link between Brown and Sauron, Dan McCarthy gives us some tips on leadership strategies and Devika writes of when she looks at you.

[how sweet it is] wonders never cease



Good for football.

[small government] some of the fiscal issues


Tiberius Gracchus asks:

James how can you have a 'smaller government' and eliminate finance - please explain.

Little bit of a misunderstanding over terms here, specifically "finance". Let's also call the concept "limited government". The role of this government can be expressed thus:

Small government is a night watchman. A skeleton crew. A tiny institution restricted to defending our lives, liberty, and property.

Translated into real terms, it means maintaining armed forces, a police force, criminal and civil courts and provision of services, from old age pensions to rubbish collection. It's legislative function is limited - if it ain't broke, don't fix it and its executive function is to ensure that the constitution/bill of rights is protected. The judicial function is to adjudicate on whether this is being done or not.

The U.S. system of the three branches is a good one.

Where the system breaks down is in Trusts and Monopolies, which are the natural consequence of the capitalist way. It is in the nature of a free market to collude and price fix, for the big players to merge and take over. This is the central dilemma. How far can this right to trade be restricted.

I don't see a compromise here as "the thin edge of the wedge" - all systems are a compromise in the end and adjust to realities and new circumstances. Total freedom in the marketplace leads to Monopolies and thus to the military-industrial complex which then presumes to run "the State".

Therefore, the constitution must address this issue of Monopolies and Trusts somewhere within its provisions and other aspects of free market economics. There is an argument which holds that to restrict trade a little is to support and defend trade in general. So yes, we put in anti-Trust laws.

Other than that, government stays out of finance excepting in one particular way - the minting of money based on an agreed commodity, not on fiat paper. The government, the caretaker government does that - not a Fed of top financiers, not a CFR or Trilateral - a small government directly elected by the people.

Having done all that, the government, in its representative capacity, has one other role - to promote small and medium business through its caretaker role. They can act as an agency in this respect, drawing together the knowledge base, advising and helping, not taxing the cr-p out of small business.

So, Tiberius, I meant eliminating the big finance.

[bailout] as sure as night follows day

Did the super-pollies decide at their "sucker" summit to give $700 bn in direct aid to each and every American tax payer, [according to means], to disburse as they saw fit?

President George W Bush has said that legislators will "rise to the occasion" and pass the proposed $700bn (£380bn) Wall Street rescue plan.

Seems not but let's wait and see.

What could it have bought the American people?

No one is delighted the Americans are in this stew, partly of their own making but almost entirely of the banks' greed. What is delightful is that finally the scales might fall away from the eyes and people will see that neither party is worth the time of day and their leaders are in deep collusion with the finance.

In stark, raw profile, the decision on Sunday will show the American people, once and for all, the lie of the land. They are angry, they are hurting and they are after blood. This is middle America we're talking about, of course.

Bad karma for pollies just now. Good karma for a return to realistic prices once this thing is all over and for small government.

[motor memory] when it fails to serve


Once, in the time when I ran two cars, my friend and I went for pizzas with me taking my custom car and nosing it into a car spot near the pizza shop. We did the business, came back to the car, I went to put the car into reverse to pull out and it wouldn't go in.

Damn. He watched as I struggled to get the gear lever in but every time it went into first gear. Hell. This was going to mean pushing the little bus backwards - it was a light car but not that light.

Then he said that he wasn't sure but why was I pressing down, left and forward when he was sure I had pressed down, right and back earlier? Redfaced, I followed his suggestion, went easily into reverse and we went back to eat the pizzas.

Reason for the blockage? Down, left and forward was the way I put my other car into gear.

Muscle/motor memory

Have you wondered, when you play squash or badminton, how such a small racket head on a long stick can possibly move at an angle to the curving ball/shuttlecock and make [usually] unerring contact with it, often onto the sweet spot of the strings? Miracle, if you ask me.

Motor memory is dependent on a number of factors and there's no need to get technical here, even if I could but it's worth a read, just to see the complexity of the whole thing - motor neurons, synapses and so on. Let me not murmur the words "intelligent design" here but you know what I'm thinking.

Here's a little test of motor memory. You should really do the whole thing but for now, try this:

Get someone to highlight the words written in white in the gap below [yes, there are words there] and then say them slowly to you:

Dog - Bed - Smoke - Coat - Road - Job - Door - Shoes - Head - Drain

Now quickly say them back to your partner. They say that if you are normal, you should be able to repeat seven of them but I sure couldn't. If you are in doubt or even if you are not, try the whole of the test.

Imagine people who can't complete this test satisfactorily. There, but for the Grace of G-d ...

Friday, September 26, 2008

[blogworn] many are taking increasing blogging breaks



Is it just me or are fellow bloggers feeling the work pinch just now? More and more blogs are closing and there is also a constant demand for quick grab posts, which pains me:

"Right now, and for the foreseeable future, the blogosphere is the friend of information but the enemy of thought." [Alan Jacobs in Books & Culture, 2006]

He goes on to speak about the sphere as a disseminator of information, which I dispute, on the whole considering that an awful lot of blogs simply comment on the news [guilty plea here as well]. Jacobs then adds:

"But as vehicles for the development of ideas they are woefully deficient and will necessarily remain so unless they develop an architecture that is less bound by the demands of urgency—or unless more smart people refuse the dominant architecture."

Have to agree. There needs to be some sort of mechanism which raises the quality of the information at least to published book level [a topic in itself] and yet we can't afford to put up with any form of bureaucratic control or even a Voluntary Code.

Many will argue that the rant is the defining characteristic of the good blog, providing it is backed by research and this does distinguish the blog from the MSM, which has gone over to so-called "blogs" which might charitably, in the main, be called banal.

Total Politics and the like are trying to elevate the status of the blog within the narrow sphere of politics but what of the cooking or pretty-landscape photo blogs? Where do they fit in? They are certainly popular but what s their future? Possibly they'll outlast the text blog.

There is certainly the question of the friendly nature of blogs, a culture in existence where many of us now prefer a list of trusted bloggers to be our first source and initiators of ideas, before going off to Wiki or even to a book, to expand our horizons on that topic.

The local library has been partly replaced by the blogosphere, for how long?

Security expert and tech curmudgeon Bruce Sterling famously quipped at this year’s South-by-Southwest conference that “I don’t think there will be that many [blogs] around in 10 years.

On the question of 'short grab one-liners', concerning what you had for breakfast or where you'll be at 6 p.m. this evening, do you want a steady diet of: "I'll be home at 6 p.m. dear, just as I always am"? In an article, Twitter will die and I'll tell you why, Marios Alexandrou says:

Much of what gets posted to Twitter is not valuable to the community. I'm not saying that there has to be a money-making idea in ever message, but a message to your network should at least be of value/interest to more than one person. I don't need to know that you'll be calling so and so at 9:00pm tonight.

Send an instant message instead or use the direct message feature.
Twitter is like TV. You can park yourself in front of it, become really engaged, and hours later wonder what you did during all that time. I had a one week period where all I did was check Twitter instead of checking my RSS feeds.

And what of the blogs which branch out and include a team? Jay Garmon says:

Nearly all great innovation comes from a singular vision pursued doggedly until it achieves success ... Opening your project up to an unreliable parade of volunteer contributors allows for a great, lowest-common-denominator consensus product.

I can't agree in terms of this blog here. Whilst I have a style some might like/some might vote against with their click-out finger, the introduction of divergence through guest posters has certainly upped the intellectual status of the blog, not to mention the contributions from Anon in comments.

Do we go the way of Samizdata, where a central figure controls a group of under-bloggers who are expected to post with a certain stance on things? I particularly like Johnathan Pierce there but he only pops up now and again. There's something a little 1984 about that blog organization.

There's a negative reaction to guest posters in many cases. I won't name two of my favourite blogs but both gentlemen have other regular contributors and I tend to ignore these latter posts and go for the originator's. It's clear why the owners do it - to keep the thing going and to allow someone else the luxury of posting without having to maintain a blog him/herself.

Now one or two of these 'guest posters' are damned good in their own right and I really like their stuff but there is something ... something ... well, I don't know how to put it, really.

What of the corporate blog, very popular some time back? In a comment on these, which could equally apply to blogs in general, the Boston Business Journal says:

"I try to do it consistently but oftentimes I can't do it," conceded Waltham-based Black Duck Software Inc. CEO Doug Levin. "I don't blog for blogging's sake. I blog when I have something to say." Levin, a self-proclaimed blogophile, said he simply doesn't have the time to blog daily. "I used to do it every Wednesday, but then I began travelling on Wednesday."

Does a firm run a one-product, mini-niche site [or a series of them] or is the future the one-stop mega-site? Quadszilla says, on the trend to black holes:

If you’re doing SEO and have an extremely trusted site as a client, it certainly makes sense in the current Google environment to recommend an “Everything for everyone” strategy ... It would take some cash, but buying and transforming highly trusted sites into everything for everyone sites looks to be a very profitable business strategy.


Are we going to see megasites in the future or will the one-person-blog survive and even flourish?

[the north] not featured in the superports


As one tends to do on a dull Friday, the UK Superports are ripe for investigation.

Felixstowe, the biggest player, rating in the top 30 worldwide, is set to go mega, with Harwich and the other Haven port, Ipswich and this was interesting. Shell Haven, Thurrock, is going to become a major rival, according to plans.

Dibden Bay, Southhampton, which ran aground in 2004, is now hoping to rise again but will Liverpool, scuppered by union action following the decline after containerization, ever rise again? Does it need to?

Whilst the nature of the docks on Merseyside were their own reason for decline in their inability to cater for new shipping techniques, it has become even more pointed that the major ports are clustered in the south-east corner of the country, not unlike most modern industry, such as IT.

Seems to me that the country needs to look at a situation where the only way to survive is to be within range of London. Take North Wales, where I am. It is depressed, for one reason, due to lack of transport infrastructure - a motorway or two - and unless this improves, the second factor - population in the area to take on the jobs - will also not improve.

Is there any serious plan to develop the North or is it to be as it always was?

[offending people] the mc cain letterman way

While Letterman fumed:

"Here's how it works: you don't come to see me? You don't come to see me? Well, we might not see you on Inauguration Day."

... McCain felt he was doing vital stuff, dealing with the crisis. I'd like to know what he was actually doing and with whom he was negotiating. Did the SPPNA* or S. 853 come up in his discussions at all? Now, as for Obama and his non-admittance, despite this link, does his wife influence him at all?

* Left wing rebuttal of the concept

[top 100] conservative blogs


For someone who railed against the big boys and demanded justice for the little blogger in 2006, do you think I've sold my soul by being particularly pleased by this list?

I do feel there is hypocrisy in some people's version of the tall poppy syndrome - that if someone gets somewhere, then they're criticised for enjoying that. With a straight face, I say that it was never to keep new bloggers mediocre that Blogpower was set up - it was to help them upwards.

Ditto Bloghounds now. Good luck to all on this list.

H/T Steve Green

Total Politics

Thursday, September 25, 2008

[swanwick] don't you want to stay home


Don't know how many of these have been affected by the Swanwick computer downtime:

BAA, Gatwick Airport, Stansted Airport, Luton Airport, Bristol International, Heathrow Airport, Southampton Airport

... and it's not the first time, is it? Tell you honestly, there are currently five things this blogger has zero desire to do:

1 Travel by plane;

2 Travel by train, bus or car to get there;

3 Be unemployed;

4 Make love;

5 Get sick.

Maybe one or two of those delights will return with time.

[day in the life] mustn't jinx it


All right, so today hasn't been a bad day [so far]. Advances were made and this in itself is causing me anxiety. It's certainly a long journey getting re-established over here and there are factors seriously militating against and threatening to scupper the whole thing but the advances currently have their noses in front.

Tomorrow will tell.

How was your day today? If you can see your way clear, I'd like to know about it. Did you axe murder anyone or make a killing on the markets or meet the girl/man of your dreams? Or were you just glad to get out of it alive?

[favourite marques] in no particular order

What are your five current [in the last five years] favourite models? You can't include collectibles like Austin Healeys or the old Bristols in the list.



The Holden Commodore, which is now making inroads into the American market, is a large engined sub-compact designed for long haul trips in Australia.


Needs no introduction - the Aston Martin Vanquish has to be the sexiest and most menacing thing on four wheels.


My personal choice if I ever get back to some sort of financial position - the BMW Mini is a great car for the UK.


The Miata is a bit aged now but in its soft top form is one of the niftiest around. I've always liked all but its front nose styling.


If I still had a family, this or the Volvo Estate would be the choice - usually wagons are ugly but in this case, the A6 is better in Estate form.

So there are my five. What re yours?

[macintosh] even used to help pcs


I'm constantly being told that the Mac is a toy and that no businesses bother with them and yet this story about the presenters of the "I'm a PC" ad all turn out to be Mac users and the ads for Microsoft were even partly made on Macs:

The new ads are a direct attack on Apple's "I'm a Mac, I'm a PC" ads, which portray the Mac as cool and intuitive and the PC as boring and clunky. Microsoft has ignored Apple's ads at its peril, allowing the Mac maker to own the narrative and frame the PC's image. Now the company is looking to use Apple's stereotype to its advantage.

Microsoft hurriedly scrubbed out the data references to Macintosh but the story still got out. Hey, there's all the proof you need, methinks. Once you've used a Mac and it's fitted itself to your personality, which it can do, it's difficult to go back to a PC.

[fusionman] spirit of adventure

The Taipan has now replaced the QB2 I once sailed but the principle is the same - two man crew, both on trapeze and a very, very fast boat indeed.

I know it's re-reporting what was in the Telegraph today anyway but this represents the type of thing which gives us hope.

Fusionman's flight across the channel will reportedly take place at 13:00 BST, launching from a plane and crossing the English Channel in about 12 minutes. Good luck to him.

Though my little ventures never reached these proportions, forgive me for mentioning that I have also attempted things in my time, once making it into the Australian press for trying to sail an off the beach QB2 catamaran round Port Philip Bay [about 300 miles in sometimes treacherous waters, which did run us onto the rocks at Brighton when a gale hit] and I once took part in a marathon in an A Class catamaran, placing 5th from 68 entrants. Long time ago now. This is a short little video of one of these craft sailing:



It's very much in the English blood, the nautical spirit of adventure but airborne feats are as well. They take more money though. Some say these sorts of things are a waste of resources, which could have been spent on the poor but without this spirit of adventure, surely a community is that much the poorer for it?

Finally, just check out this video of Fusionman:


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

[known terrorist] walked in and out of the country



We still need to ask some relevant questions here.

Why would he have been allowed to escape to Pakistan and South Africa when the CIA, who are not noted for their altruism in desisting from hunting wanted criminals, also seemed to have stepped back and allowed him to do as he wished?

Surely it's not so much whom he knows as what does he know?

Where is he now?

[solar minimum] lower than ever

Click on this pic to play the movie.

The solar wind, which originates in the Sun's corona, gusts and calms with the star's familiar 11-year cycle of activity ... but the entire Sun is blowing significantly less hard [now] - about 20-25% less hard - than it was during the last solar minimum 10-15 years ago.

The charged wind particles also carry with them the Sun's magnetic field, and this has a protective role in limiting the number of high-energy cosmic rays that can enter the Solar System. More of them will probably now make their way through.

This is not so bad where we are, as we have the earth's natural shields but it might be best not to take that space trip to Pluto you were envisaging.

How much do you know about the sun anyway?

1. How many earths could fit inside the sun, in round numbers?

2. What is the name given to the surface of the sun?

3. In Celsius and in round numbers, what is the temperature of the sun's core?

4. How many days does the sun's orbit take?

5. In which country is the hottest average temperature?


Answers

About one million, photosphere, about 15 million degrees, 27.4 days, Ethiopia [Dallol, 34.4 degrees]

[britain] atmospheric beauty



Rob of The Broadsheet Rag and Cherie both made comments which, if you read between the lines, amount to: "Stop moaning about Britain - surely there's something good there."

Both the last posts show that that has been on my mind too. Yes, there are wonderful things to Britain. For a start, the friendliness despite the system, the acceptance, the sense of humour and not forgetting the landscape, let alone the life routines.

Some foreigner recently mentioned a population of 60 million in these small islands and surmised that they were evenly spread out, as in Los Angeles, which of course is not how it is. Instead, there is almost a corral of houses crammed together in one place, then miles of beautiful open countryside [see the pics above] and then another village.

Personally, I love that and the expression "green and pleasant land" is very, very relevant. Couple that with roads which are almost leafy laneways and there are the makings of a country in which a person could retire quite happily, were it not for the system. If that land is deeply embedded in the soul, then nothing is going to drag you away or if it does, there will always be the hankering to return.

So please don't get me wrong about BT, the trains and so on. Despite them, Britain is still a magical place and we're just coming into autumn now, my second favourite season.

[55 minutes] fulfilling conversation with bt

I know I promised a happy-clappy post next but I’m sorry – this one is crying out to be told. There’s a single mother I know who found herself with a problem this morning. She phoned up from a friend’s and basically, her internet has been cut off.

Well it happens, doesn’t it? At least it does until you look into it in detail.

Part 1 The Direct Debit

Basically, she had the internet set up via BT last year and she had a direct debit. OK so far. Then, one month, BT tried to take the money early and she had not had her money put in by that date. Don’t forget she’s a single mother here and is not au fait with these things.

All right. BT now refused to accept money from her via direct debit, as she was a debtor and so she had to go to the Post Office with baby in tow and skip her full time course she’s doing to get a job to get enough to pay people like BT.

She did that, paid and then tried to get back onto the direct debit. BT refused because she had a bad record. Then the worst thing possible happened. There was an issue with the baby or whatever, she did not pay the next bill at the PO on time but she did pay in the end and all seemed well.

Suddenly, months later, her phone line has been cut off because of her debt from last year – one payment [at the PO] which had not been on time.

Part 2 The Phone Conversation

I didn’t actually make the call but was privy to it and was given a blow by blow description as it went along. It went roughly like this:

09.48 Ring ring. Hello, all our operators are busy just now, would you hold? Piped musak and then someone comes online. “BT supports Woodland Creations, planting trees all over the damned place – aren’t we green?” Then back to the queue.

09:55 Recorded voice comes on – press 1 for this, press 2 for that. N1 is pressed, it rings and then a recorded voice says: “All our operators are busy just now, would the sheepnik hold?” In the meantime, they inform him that all conversations are being recorded “to provide a better service” and sent to KGBHQ for later use against him.

10:03 A man does eventually come on and my friend says he wants to pay first then complain. “Oh yes,” say BT, “would you care to tell us about the complaint?” “No, no, pay first,” the benefactor says. BT immediately switch him through to a number where someone actually does come on and speak. Success! “I’d like to pay by card number UR . …”

“Sorry sir, we can’t accept any payment with a card starting with that designation. I’ll switch you back.”

The queue begins again as my friend murmurs something along the lines of them being a bloody telecommunications online money receiver and they can’t accept payments?

10:12 A man in India comes on line, speaking some Indian dialect, doesn’t get the required response and then hangs up. The phone goes dead, meaning no signal at all, not even a cut off signal. Not a sausage. I mention that that happened to me yesterday with the government but that someone did eventually come on line.

10:18 My friend gives up, waits a few minutes and then tries again. “All our operators are busy, Woodland Creations etc.,” with one added touch: “At this current moment, there may be a delay in paying.”

10.23 A man comes online and my friend repeats what he tried to say at 10.03, making the payment now [which was not able to be made earlier because of the UK designation but obviously BT has now relaxed the stipulation] and now comes the complaint phase.

10.26 BT explain that my friend can’t complain to them because the problem was the Post Office’s for not sending the payment through on time. My friend hasn’t explained the situation yet so now he does … quietly yet forcefully. He demands to be able to complain and is told that what he is saying is being recorded anyway so he expresses dissatisfaction and exits the phone call, thereby granting him permission to contact Ofcom who are set up to handle this sort of thing.

10. 43 Three things came out of all this:

1. How quietly spoken, pleasant in manner and yet angry the whole thing was. It was not the call centre man who was at fault but the system and a certain lack of intelligence from the operatives;

2. There was almost an expectation that any exchange would automatically descend into a complaints procedure and they had therefore expended great energy in addressing this issue instead of getting the telecommunications issue resolved;

3. BT want £50 for reconnection.

[wordy wednesday] of trains, brains and the eye




Ian Grey makes some good points in his piece Kilts and Saris:

I find the whole happy clappy celebration of diversity stuff misguided and tedious in the extreme ... If I happen to meet people of different backgrounds that I find interesting, I may choose to find out more if they are willing to tell me. The last thing I want, however, is the Council telling me what to be interested in. I’ve now found out about a Demos pamphlet by Liam Byrne called A More United Kingdom, but by the amusing way, through post-publication blogger ridicule.

Demos, of course, is a most interesting group and you can read an abstract about Mulgan and the boys and girls here - just the sort of people to be dictating to us. However, this is not the main point of this post.

The main point is that, by buying Private Eye 1219 yesterday, savouring the idea of a good laugh after the jobsearching was done, I found it anything but amusing. In fact it was depressing in the extreme. This is not a commentary on the Eye itself which, despite the generally held opinion that it is going downhill, is still a fine publication but rather on the material it was writing about.

Yes, I know that "the incompetence of the FSA, the government and the banking sector" [p13] makes good copy and that Salford Council's allegedly mindless squandering of money on sacrilege [p11] is a ripe issue for castigation but somehow, with the British winter coming on and some of us having to actually be out on the street sometime late October, the tales of appalling wastage by Demos type people or the classifieds, pleading:

"Lady in financial distress - any help appreciated," or "Made redundant - 4k would help immensely in the coming winter,"

... have a certain depressing edge to them and lead me to paraphrase Richard Thompson/Fairport Convention:

The storming wind cuts through to my skin
But they cut through to my blood.
I would not be asking, I would not be seen
A-beggin’ on mountain or hill
But I’m ready and blind with my hands tied behind
I’ve neither a mind nor a will.

So, if I'm flinching when the Eye touches on these things in their witty way, what of my own daily dose of unwitty doom and gloom here on this blog? Hmmm - perhaps this blog should turn escapist and post on happy clappy topics instead.

One article in Private Eye did grab the attention though and that was "Signal Failures", on p10:

"The rail industry has had enough of passengers spoiling punctuality statistics."

Oh yes, oh yes. I've already had a taste of this with the changeover in Manchester, which was like something out of a Python episode. As the Eye points out, trains are allowed to be 10 minutes late but passengers daren't be even 30 seconds late or else that train is gone, mate.

In a sense, you can't blame it on the train, which has to run on aging tracks and uses a rickety infrastructure to hobble along, so it is no surprise that trains must remain stationary for lengths of time outside the main cities, for both those reasons and also to get an available platform which no one on the train, apart from the trolley boy, can inform you about ahead of time:

"What, am I a bleedin' mind-reader?" thinks officialdom, whilst actually telling you, in the sweetest voice and with a big grin on the face, "That's in the realm of speculation, sir."

The great joke, of course, is that the Man-Behind-the-Window at the ticket office in Hull [and they still do have men and women, real ones, doing that in a remote place like that], told you, in good faith, that you had 32 minutes between trains, more than enough to make the changeover.

What he did not tell you was that you would arrive at a platform on one side of the station, which then involved asking three officials [if you could catch them] on which platform your train departed, receiving three different answers and then having to rely on the TV screens which happen to have broken down that day until a little old lady tells you it always goes from Platform 13.

Thank you and where is that, perchance, as the platforms only go up to 12 in this part of the station?

"Well, you see that archway on the far side of the station over there, like? You go over there and you'll need to go up those stairs, along the moving walkway, down the stairs second on the left but mind you don't go down the right hand stairs and then you'll find it."

At this point, there are 15 minutes left.

Naturally the conveyor belt is broken but you make the platform in good time all the same and then the little matter of which part of the endless platform the train will actually stop at starts to dawn. Knowing you have a millisecond to catch the destination on the front before the train sweeps past, [there being no indication as to destination on the side and with the TVs being down], you take the chance to leap on and ask the passengers around you.

Suddenly, One Above sees your misery and miraculously provides a young lady in uniform to stick your head out of the door and ask if this is the right train, to which she replies:

"You could do ... but then again, I wouldn't risk it, if I were you."

... at which point you leap off the train and rejoin the jolly frenzy and anxious looks about you on the suddenly population-swollen platform, causing someone in prime position to join his train to snarl at you, which in turn causes you to gently caress your Beeching Axe, secreted in your jacket.

Of course, anyone in Britain reading this would know it already. So, let me think - happy topics? Happy topics? Now what can I dream up?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

[britishness] the illusory definition

This, from Deogolwulf, has to be close to brilliant:

I am not sure what Britishness means, but, from what I hear, it has something to do with celebrating diversity, embracing and empowering communities, and working together for a vibrant society of respect and equality and democratic values — from which ugly rash of words I am led to imagine that it is some frightful disease engineered and released by a committee of sociologists, Fabians, and women with “ethnic” earrings.

[phone camera] thence to bluetooth and here


Well all right - you've all been doing these things for the past few years, along with your Black Berries et al but I've been in Russia, don't forget.

So today, when I stepped out of the car close to the Wales /England border and took a happy snap, little did I know how easy it would be to bluetooth it to the Mac and thence into the post. Wonders of modern technology.

[deed poll] puts them out of their misery

Many surnames came down from occupations, as you know - Thomas Cooper, Thomas Brewster, Thomas Tucker.

So from where was the surname Crapper derived?

[hyslop] let off the leash

Courtesy of Theo, one of the best in a long time:

[artificial conflict] beloved of the politicos

Beauty is beauty and home is home, wherever it is.

"The new generation, the new Russians who indulge in the consumer society remain very hostile to the West. They still see things through an East/West prism. They still believe that Nato is an offensive bloc surrounding Russia, they truly believe that one of these days one of the military exercises they organise will turn out to be real. They think very differently."

I think I'm in a position to say I know the Russian way of thinking and the above is true in some aspects, except that it is not as hostile as the quote makes out. In fact, the following is closer to the mark:

In the epic struggle between capitalism and communism, the ultimate winner is consumerism.

Like every citizen in every country, the Russian and the Brit want a slice of the consumer pie.

That is modern Russia in a nutshell - shop at all costs and buy the best brands on the never-never, with the most accessories possible . When you wake up, you might have to go to work, an irksome thing to many Russians but the spin-off is that you can shop in your breaks and after work. The palaces of glitz have sprung up everywhere and even if you can't afford to buy, you can pretend you are buying, the shopgirl helps you try on those new tops and skirts and you feel you're part of the jet-setting Gucchi and Armani set, the dream of most Russians.

Whereas the west has become gradually weaned off the Christian social mindset, the new god being consumerism, the Russians bypassed that Christian social mindset, having emerged from the godless communism of the USSR and something had to step into the breach once nanny had gone.

It wasn't going to be Christian compassion and sane values, especially as The Church had done zero to help the ordinary Russian during the totalitarianism. So politically, the average Russian has inherited his parents' and grandparents' prejudices, the media has told him what America is up to now, he prefers to leave it to Moscow to take care of and hopes Moscow leaves him in peace to get on with the shopping.

No one has rejected democracy - it's just not interesting.

Here in Britain, there is deep dislike of Russians at the official level but I've noticed the ordinary Eastern Europeans, at ground level, seem to be tolerated in the society. However, this is soured by both what is happening above and in the immigration conundrum. The attitude of both Russians and Brits worries me as it has been whipped up by these factors and plays on the natural fears on both sides.

I am in daily contact with both Russians and Brits, ordinary folk and I can vouch for the fact that neither have horns, neither wish the destruction of the other as they have other things on the mind like jobs, homes and family. In this confusion over what the politicos are telling us, there is a great danger that each of the peoples will be isolated from the other more and more, to the point where, if the politicos say the other side has done something dastardly, the common man will gladly spring to arms and march off to slaughter his hated foe.

It's the old, media fed illusion all over again. Apart from the scramble for rationed resources, there is no deepseated nationalistic reason for conflict whatsoever. It's all been whipped up, artificial. Take this one and this one. They say "Russia" did this, "Britain" did that. Since when did the discredited ones at the top earn the right to be called Russia or Britain?

People are people the world over. They are proud of their ethnicity, they think they're the best people in the world, they're nationalistic, they welcome visitors from abroad to stay with them, they like to travel, they have foibles, they are human.

That's all there is to it.