Friday, 18 December 2009

The Power Of Television

Of all the things doing the rounds at the moment, including the cold that I've picked up..I've stumbled upon this article on the BBC news website :-

A man has been jailed for killing his wife in an argument by throwing their TV remote control at her. Unfortunately, unknown the herself and her husband, the victim suffered from a weakened artery in her neck. By 'fluke' the remote control struck her at that exact place, resulting in her dying from a massive brain haemorrhage.

How awful. It just goes to show that there are consequences you might not consider to a lost temper.

We're not told what the argument was about. Was it about which channel they should watch ?

It's sad but also true that incidence if domestic violence increase at Christmas time. Just when families should be enjoying spending more time with each other, the stress of all the planning, preparation, desperately fighting your way around the shops to purchase all those 'must have' presents seems to push people over the edge.

Season of good will ?

Maybe there should be less spending of money, and more spending of time instead. We all keep asking for a simpler life, but want someone else to simplify it for us.

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Twelve days of Christmas....strike action..

News today that the members of the Unite union will be on strike from December 22nd, thereby ruining the Christmas travel arrangements for thousands, possibly millions of people.

The apparent disagreement is about BA wanting to cut the number of air steward staff on flights.

I'm always a little bothered by unions' obvious attempts to blackmail the employers of their members. It always seems more than a little ironic to me that by preventing measures that will make the organisation profitable again, there are dangers that more drastic measures will be needed later. Including larger redundancies. If the company went out of business, then all the cabin staff (and everyone else) would be out of a job.

The owner of a sweet shop was on the news earlier today, saying that he had banned all BA staff from entering his shop in Horsham as they were to blame (he perceived) for his plan to go to New York and share Christmas with a friend being put into the balance.

I don't think my opinions of union action will shock, I personally feel they tend to be counter productive in the end. There is, after all, only so much money to go round, and it's sheer naivety on their part to think that the budget for wages increases because of their actions. If anything, it just prolongs and increases any action required to bring a company back into profitability.

Having said that, I do believe that companies should be prepared to think beyond the 'need to cut staff to save money' model that some seem to wheel out in times of financial hardship. What does seem strange is that when any company is doing well, the members of its board do very very well indeed as the success is supposedly due to their actions. When a company falls onto hard times, it appears that they are able to justify stiff pay rises or rewards for themselves as they are having to make 'difficult decisions'. Surely it would make more sense that they suffered a share of the pain that they meter out to the general workforce ? Wage cuts, pay freezes, increases of duties all being things that are asked of staff during such times. Funny how that doesn't appear to translate into the boardroom.

Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Drunk drivers to be 'shopped' by text

A UK Police have launched a service (if that is the word to use) that allows people to report drink drivers by text message. Hopefully people won't be actually driving themselves whilst trying to do it.

Good thing or a bad thing ?

Well anything that keeps drivers off the roads when they aren't in a fit state to drive is a good thing.

Drinking and driving, hmmm, its a lethal combination of two of our favourite vices as a country. We're not the only society in the world that are practically wedded to our cars, but we do seem to have an attitude to alcohol consumption that makes us all look like we pretty much are alcoholics in waiting. Really, did the move to a 24 hours drinking culture provide a more relaxed environment to drinking, or just give those that want to more time in which to get even more drunk ?

When I used to live in the town centre I was surrounded by the effects of uncontrolled and unabated alcohol consumption, mostly by people that didn't know their limits, and seemed perfectly happy to throw money away on something that actually makes them very ill. Some of the illness being quite literally something that I would have to step around in the morning.

As someone who doesn't drive, it never ceases to amaze me the sheer number of people that I see driving their cars whilst talking, or even texting on their mobile phones, without seatbelts on. Drivers do seem to be fundamentally selfish people, and that self absorbed nature extends to their blatant disregard for the safety of others.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

Scottish powers for a scottish parlament ?

You mean, actually give people a responsive parliament that is geographically and administratively closer to them ? Surely not ?

Isn't that what democracy is all about ?

I do wonder what the hell the point is in these devolved governments (Wales & Scotland) not having complete and far rangingly comprehensive powers that allow them to actually, well... do stuff.

Surely unless they actually have powers of some sort, it's just a large, very expensive talking shop ? Our union, (the United Kingdom) was constructed in much different times. Perhaps there would be no need for these local parliaments if the one in Westminster was actually any good.

Maybe Guy Fawkes would have done us a favour had he been successful ? Would a new building have made a different type of parliament ? We make much of ours being the oldest democracy in the world.That doesn't make it the best does it. From what I have seen the Scottish Parliament has been much more responsive, nimble in fact and innovative in thinking about how it goes about delivering the changes the people require.

So why can't ours ? Is it too stuck in the past ? Feet firmly planted in the 19th century, and trying to make it relevant to the Britain of the 21st.

With a general election looming at some point in the new year (looming ? It's looming is it ? Like some form of impending doom ? - maybe) I wonder how popular it would be for someone to suggest that they convert the Houses or Parliament into flats, and then tell all the MPs that they have to do their debating on Skype in future. Think of the money we'd save.

Where's the cleaning fairy ?

Ok. So I have no one to blame but myself, but still..... where's a happy cleaning fairy when you need one.

The flat is still a pigsty. Still the mess it was at the start of the week. I have, although managed to motivate myself to actually do some things. Some things.

Went round to Steve's last night, and attended a workshop on how to use the club's cameras. This was handy, because they have lots of buttons and switches and settings and stuff, and I would probably be quite happy to sit and play with them all, but the truth is that I probably shouldn't and Steve probably wouldn't like me to.

I did get some really good ideas about where things were on the equipment they use, and some of the theory behind those strange phrases I keep hearing either Steve or Chris saying 'I need to rebalance the white' or 'you're crossing the line there'. To me 'crossing the line' was something that my parents used to tell me when I was getting far to cheeky.

I think they may have even redefined 'being cheeky' as 'being a little shit', but I guess you'd have to ask them about that.

Anyway. Back to the plot. There's a plot ? Bloody hell, this was news to me. I thought I was just tapping some random stuff into my netbook while I wait for the toast to pop up......

Hmmm... peanut butter on toast, with salad cream. Yum.

I've noticed that in this year, I've not done anywhere near as much writing as I wanted, and also haven't really done as much filming and uploading. I'm quite good at starting blogs, but absolutely terrible at keeping them going. (as you can tell from the updates on his page).

If 2010 is going to be a different year for me, then I am deciding to change that. And I'm going to change that right here, right now. I have found it very easy to update my Facebook and Twitter presence. 140 characters of musings or comment, sent by text. Nothing could be simpler. I'm not trying to blame the technology or sites for the lack of updates.... but of all my character flaws, procrastination is the one that I can put off till tomorrow.

I don't think that it's beyond possible for me to make two updates per week. (There are only so many entries this week because I am on holiday). I have realised that there's no point in leaving that to start on January 1st. Strike while the iron is hot I say. Or at least while it's relatively tepid. Ouch. Careful not to burn my fingers.

Ok. So that's my 'writing promise'. If it's one thing I've learnt recently at work, its that I like to get stuff done. I like to see that there are things being ticked off on my todo list. I might well have a tendency to be a lazy git, but if I lounge around and do nothing, I don't feel very good about it. Don't get me wrong, its not that I want to live my life in a hectic turmoil, being a slave to a never ending list of things to do (god if I wanted to live like that, I could have stayed married). In the end, there's only one way to get things done, and that's to bloody-well do them. It's nice to kick back and relax, but just sitting in front of the computer or TV, getting slowly more and more depressed about how messy everything is, or what else needs doing.

On the subject of roaring with energy and vitality and determination.. and stuff.... I think it's time to put the kettle on....

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Day two

Second day of the holiday.

I have gotten up much later than I had wanted. Having gone to bed a bit later. Still up in time to catch 'Homes Under The Hammer', just because I'm nosey enough to want to look at what other people are doing with their money, and how they are able to make more by refurbishing neglected properties. It's all good stuff. I like watching it, but think that I am teasing myself a little because I know full well, that as much as I would like to try something like that myself, I just don't have the money.

End of 2009, and I'm still renting. Still stuck without even a foot or hand on the property ladder. The hope that house prices would have crashed enough to allow me to buy something of my own has evaporated with the offers to lend money by all the banks that got us into this mess.

My current home is nice enough, but it would be good to be able to do the things that only owners can do. Decorate !

I want to be able to stick things on walls without worrying that pulling off paint or plaster will mean the loss of my deposit. I'd really like to be able to have a whole wall as a blackboard, so that I can 'brain storm' or 'mind shower' (depending how politically correct you are).

I've also got this idea of putting all my DVDs on a wall, with the covers showing, in order to give this collage effect which actually shows a passage of time marked in film releases. I like going round other people's houses and nosing through their book collections. Others like to look at their music - as indeed some people have with mine.

With everything going digital, and being stored on a computer, there isn't this conversation piece. It's such a shame. I just think there's something fundamentally beautiful about a well stocked bookcase. Something about the hodge podge of colours and styles. I guess that's like life itself, in that things aren't (thankfully) uniform and monotone. As much as I love my Mac Mini, or my Netbook, they're pretty soulless. All they say about me is that I can't resist a gadget or two.

If I were to entertain any visitors now, the thing that they would gather mostly about me, and the type of person that I am is that I am messy, and don't clean enough. I never did get around to the cleaning yesterday. I am trying to convince myself to get on with that, and at the same time to get into town and start my Christmas shopping. I am tempted to purchase a copy of the Star Trek film that has recently come out on DVD.

Do I buy it, or do I wait, and let someone buy it for me for Christmas ? Decisions, decisions. Every year my Mother asks me to give her a list of things that I want, for Christmas. Each year, I struggle to find things, because I don't sit around, waiting for Christmas to come about in order to get things that I need. I just go out and buy them myself. There are plenty of things that I want, but don't necessarily need. These things I usually learn to do without. Why would I want something that I don't actually need to have for Christmas.

It seems that procrastination is indeed an art form at which I excel.

Monday, 23 November 2009


First day of my holiday. Aim of this one being to get my Christmas shopping done.

Well that's the theory anyway.

Really, I'm just glad that I'm off work for the week. It's a bit of an endless onslaught at the moment, and that's something that has been going on for so long, I can't really say when it started being like that. Equally, I can't really see when I expect it to end. I'm determined to not spend my holiday pondering what it is that makes work such a pain in the arse at the moment.

In a moment, in the flash of a moment of drive and energy, I will leap up out of my chair and set about cleaning my flat. At the moment it looks like some sort of small dirty bomb went off. (not the 'dirty bomb' that have nuclear material in them, but the kind that creates mess and dirt).

Still, it's only going to get dirty again, isn't it ?

Saturday, 26 September 2009

Atheism is the new religion

While the world fights over itself to say how stupid, irrational, bigoted and down right idiotic Mahmoud Ahmadinejad is, amongst the postulating, and postering.. and general 'we're tougher than you are' stuff, has anyone considered what a curious situation it is where the thought of bombing a place where nuclear material is produced is considered to be a 'good' idea?

When I say curious, I mean 'dangerous', or perhaps 'frightening'. When I say 'good' idea.... well, let's be thankful that George Bush isn't still in residence at The White House, as he probably would have already bombed the shit out of the place.

You've got to like the 'dammit we got caught' reaction from the Iranians, realising that their secret nuclear base had been discovered, was to admit to having it to the International Atomic Energy Agency. Not even worth trying for a minute to say that it's someting else ? Well, that's progress. Now they're almost admitting to stuff after they've been caught.

Let's just hope that the 'intelligence' on this occassion is a little more robust than some grad student armed with nothing more than a furtile imagination and Google.

But still, hey, it's ok, because the most trustworthy countries in the world, (USA, UK, France and Israel) have all said that they're sure the Iranians are 'up to no good'. The Iranians say that they aren't. It gets more and more like when teacher tries to figure out who really started the playground fight. 'He pushed me first', 'He said I was a .....', etc. etc. Usually in that scenario, they all end up getting detention. Not quite sure I like how the punishment stacks up on this one though.

Don't get me wrong, If I was Iran, I'd hardly want to believe their neighbours' promises that they don't really need such powerful weapons. Think I'd stop an awful way short of such mindless bigotry (like there's any other kind) about the hollocaust, and how wiping an entire race of people out would be a good idea. Mad. Scary mad.

The people I really feel sorry for, in all of this, are the Iranians. Because either way, they're the ones that are going to end up suffering, and I don't think any amount of tweeting is going to save them from that.

It's the civilians that are going to get hurt by the bombs, it's the ordinary people that are really going to pay the price of any further sanctions. What can we do ?

Sometimes, you have to think that it's easier and cheaper to quietly give money to the people who want to overthrow the government you hate in their own country. (Wonder if anyone's paying to do that here). It was a policy that worked so well before, right ? When I say worked..... That stupid and shortsighted idea that the enemies of our enemies are our friends is, was and still is.. well shortsighted, and stupid. I mean that lead to such fantastic ideas as the west training the resistance fighters in Afghanistan, helping them get rid of the Soviet invasion. Giving money, weapons and training to such regular stand up fellows as Osama Bin Laden. There was an awful lot of money shoved the way of a certain Saddam Hussein and his rather brutal regime, because the alternatives, or his enemies seemed like a worse bet.

It's true that sometimes there just are NO GOOD CHOICES, and only bad or terrible ones. Lesser of two evils. I wonder if 'keeping your ore out' and leaving it to the people that actually live there to figure out what they want is a strategy worth trying.

Friday, 18 September 2009

Where did all the downloads go ?

Reading today, as I often do, something on the BBC Technology website a nice little piece about how research has shown that the 'kids' do actually want to buy CDs.

Having just spent the better part of two days getting my CD collection onto my Mac Mini, I have to agree... and .... well disagree.. Personally, being a bit of a geek, and loving all this internet malarky, I love the idea of being able to download music that I like off the internet.

Love the idea. The practice, just doesn't work as well for me. Maybe it's something I do, but I don't like the fact that when I buy a piece of music, digitally, I don't actually own it. I can't do what I want with it, in the way that I can with a CD.

I can copy the CD onto my computer, I can transfer it to my phone, I can lend it to someone else (who of course won't copy it, but will play it to see if they want to purchase same CD or not). If all fails electronically, if my hard drive packs up, or I sell my computer, I haven't lost my music collection, because try as I may, I can't port the music I've brought off the internet from one computer to another. I'd have to buy a fresh download. Why the hell would I want to do that, when if I have the CD I can reload it onto any platform I chose? I don't know what my future needs electronically are going to be, but I can pretty much guarantee that whatever form my computing takes over the coming decades, I will be able to play a CD on it (somehow).

Aside from the overall question about future proofing our data.. and how we have realised that lots of data stored 10, 20 years ago, electronically is now unaccess-able as the formats or medium of storage are no longer supported. (I might come back to this question later - might).

There's just something preferable to being able to hold the CD.... I recently ordered two CDs shipped from the USA, because I'd heard some of the music, and I liked it that much. I didn't even entertain the much easier idea of downloading those tracks. Pah ! I want to hold and see the CDs thank you very much.

The fact that other people seem to identify with the temporary nature of downloaded anything, that when it comes to music the 'kids' are saying that they still would like CDs because that gives them control over what they do with the music. So, is DRM to blame ? The rights ownership information on digital downloads that stops you copying it either at all, or to more than a certain number of devices or times ?

Is the only thing that makes downloading attractive in the first place is the cost, compared to physical CDs ? (For me it's not cheap enough, and I'd rather pay that bit more and have the CD in my hand). Is the real equation then, not that downloads are cheaper, but that 'real' music is still too dear ?

Now that's the suggestion that brings the music business out in cold sweats nearly as much as people 'sharing' their music online in P2P. The argument's as old as the music industry itself. Back in the day, we used to tape (that's with a tape recorder) music from the radio. Hours wasted, trying to copy the song off the radio, hoping that they wouldn't cut the song off near the end, or talk over the track (which I'm sure they did in an effort to thwart that very activity). We'd copy music off our friends... but I don't remember that much of my collection being copied. I remember making lots of 'compilation tapes', where I would select tracks that I liked, and record (tape) them onto a blank tape, so that I could listen to them on my personal stereo.

Oh the days of cassettes, and trying to coach another 15 minutes of playing out of a set of obviously dead batteries, the fact that your music rattled (the heads on the cassette).. how we all hated the CD and hoped that it wouldn't catch on because it would be the death of music as we knew it.

Truth was, the death of music as we knew it, had nothing to do with the technology used to record or distribute it, but like everyone before us, 'our' music was destined for history as the next generation of angst ridden teenagers came up and set about rewriting all the rules.

The 'kids' of today aren't stupid, they're actually very savvy, and perhaps they have realised, that official digital music, is layered with lots of control, they, quite rightly, might be thinking that they don't want their enjoyment of music controlled. Not by anyone, no way, no how.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

The business is killing me....

You can tell it's the weekend, when I have had time to opine about two different stories in one day. I stumbled upon this alarming story on the BBC news website.

Twenty-Three employees of the French telephone company, 'France Telecom' have committed suicide since the beginning of 2008. Twenty-Three ? I would have thought that one would have been one too many. It appears that this is 'explainable' as being the national average.

Explainable ? Well, statistically, they point to the fact that in 2000, there were actually 28 suicides within the firm. So this is an improvement, right ? This is progress. There is apparently a lot of stress in the company, specifically among those that worked for the company prior to its privatisation - they are finding it hard to adjust.

Was such 'Thatcherism' met with fatal reaction from employees in other privatisations ? If the company, are really trying to convince people to leave, or accept new conditions, to lower the number of workers, without actually having to sack them, then good news... at this rate, it will only take them 44 years to get rid of all of the staff. Assuming, of course that they do not replace any of those that take this most permanent form of leave.

I find it disturbing that there is such a human cost to the world of business. Oh, I know that it is the people that get short changed and are the first to fall at any hurdle the business faces, but this ?

To know that a female member of their staff leapt to her death off the office building last Friday, or that another member of staff, who is still alive, and in hospital, had plunged a knife into their stomach after being told that they were being transferred.

Bloody hell, and I thought things were stressful in my office.

Underlying all of this, is the sadness that these people feel that work is so bad for them, that they see the only way out, is to exit the world entirely. I have to be honest and say that there have been times in my career, when I've felt very desperate, and not known which way to turn. But I can honestly say, I haven't linked the feeling that 'I can't do this anymore' to 'I don't want to live anymore'. I don't know if these people had families, loved ones, or even children. But it must be terrible to find yourself in a situation where you can imagine no other way out. Is work really that important ?

If you exclude a paper round, I have only worked for three companies. The first, in numerous roles, but for 17 years. In the end, it was, ironically much longer than my marriage would last. None the less, it took great courage to leave that first employer. Despite how miserable I had become working there, and how I was convinced that there was nothing else that I could do, having left school with few decent grades. I had spent half of my life working for the same company. I had grown from a teenager to a man with a house and family whilst in their employ. The blanket that was strangling me, was the same one that kept me warm, protected. I was safe in the security of the misery that I knew. Oh and know the misery I did.

I had never really been serious about leaving, despite many, many, times saying that I would leave. How would I find something of the same wages, move out of that field (food retail) when I had no experience at anything else, and no education to help me ?

It was this that had trapped me for so long, and then in a fit of unreasoned logic, I figured that I would find something, if the pressure was on, and I had to in order to pay the bills. So I handed in my notice, and took holiday for all of it. Effectively, despite making myself ill with so many pressures in, or out of work, I added one that I would rise to.

So I left. I got a job, on a much lower wage, working in a call centre. The work wasn't particularly stimulating, but the people were nice. It was good not having to deal with the pressures of leadership. Even the reduction of nearly 50% in my salary didn't stop me feeling more free, and alive than I had done in years.

After 6 months of that, I got the chance to go work for another company, in a management role, with wages closer to those that I was getting originally. The conditions and hours were much better than before.

Now nearly three years on from that move, I find myself considering that it was not the right decision to have made. I find that where the work once left me excited, elated and energised, that I had strong belief in the organisation I work for. Now I feel drained, incapable, impotent. Unable to add anything of value, and straining to deliver even the smallest achievement. I have lost faith in the company too.

I don't expect that work should be an exercise in skipping through the tulips, but should it really be that bad that it leaves me feeling drained and exhausted. I can't see the wood for the trees anymore, but I don't think the solution is to chop down all the trees.

My Mother's always said to me that we 'work to live, not live to work'. It has taken me far too long to really understand the true meaning of the phrase. Stupid actually, as it's not exactly cloaked in hidden meanings. I've proven to myself that I can survive on less money. I've proven to myself that status or power are not the things that I crave. I've demonstrated that I am not trapped by the environment, and it is in fact my decision if I stay or go. It only needs now, that leap of faith, that jump off the edge of .... well, not cliff, but it feels more like a moving ship. Jumping off a moving ship. Before the anticipated crashing into the icy waters below, I anticipate a floating on the gentle, embracing sea air first. That'll blow away the cobwebs.

Glass is half full, or glass is half empty. I'm not getting any younger. No, but if I leave it longer, I'll be older then. What would be the point of that ? Why make things harder. There are things that I have wanted to do my whole life. Things that I have always known that I was destined to do, and should at the very least have a bloody good try at doing them, before I take my leave of this world. It's not a return ticket after all.

There's no coming back on the same journey, but really, I suppose, there never was.

Saturday, 12 September 2009

Those damn banks

Ok, so far be it from me to take the mickey out of some other poor sap's misfortune......

This story from the BBC news website, about some poor woman who accidentally sent £2000 to someone by mistake, when she wanted to transfer it to her savings account, well it raises some pointers, and like pretty much everything in life, I find myself unable to resist the temptation to comment.

There's no redress with the bank, because it was her mistake, made when she was using their internet banking website. There's nothing that the banking ombudsman can do, because they are there to regulate the banks, not the actions of their customers.

The bank can't disclose the details of the person she sent the money to, under the data protection act. This means that the poor woman can't claim the money back from them through the small claims courts.

Who has someone's bank details stored on their computer without attaching a name to them in the first place ? Surely that would be common sense... (sorry that phrase again).

'I'm not a dizzy person, I'm not an idiot' she says. You don't have to be a card carrying moron to do stupid things. We all do it. I know I do. I just don't think it's anyone else's fault when I do. (I've accepted my fallibility - see).

It's sad that she's lost the money, but let us not forget, it was her that lost the money. If she had sent a cheque in the post to an old friend, at their address, only to find out that they had in fact moved, and someone else, with the same name had cashed that cheque, would it be any different ? You wouldn't be able to complain to the post office for (god forbid) delivering the letter.

The real thing that disturbs me, is that she works for one of the high st banks. Does this mean she is less or more careful with other people's money than she is with her own ? Because the banks will happily tell you these things 'don't' or 'can't' happen.

Well tada ! Newsflash ! It doesn't matter how good your computer system is, if the person inputing the data, or clicking the mouse, doesn't actually read what it is they are clicking 'ok' to.

Saturday, 22 August 2009

Iphone.. or not to Iphone

So, it is that time of year again.... well actually that time of the 24
month O2 contract that I have, in which I now ponder the future of said

Do I, get all unfaithful and skip ship to another network... some of 3's
offers do look rather juicy.... or do I stick it out with my friends at
O2 and see what they can come up with to reward me for being such a
loving loyal customer....

The phones that are tempting me at the moment, are The Blackberry Bold , Curve , Nokia N97 , or an Iphone 3G (like I really needed
to post a link for that one). At the moment, I was thinking about not
getting the 3GS as... well, the refurbished 3G on the O2 upgrade site
seemed tempting enough.

What's a geek to do ?

How important to me is the 5 megapixel camera on my existing Nokia N95 ?
Would I be able to survive with just a 3 or even 2 meg camera ?
Photography isn't that serious to me, or otherwise, I would, well, buy a
camera. Sometimes it's just nice to be able to take a reasonably good
shot of something you see without thinking 'damn, if only I'd brought my

So I guess the things that I'm looking for are.. functionality and
device convergence. Back in the old days when I used to own a Windows
Mobile PDA (I went through several - XDA, XDAIIs) by far the best was
the SPV on Orange. The choice of network didn't make a difference, but
the fact that it had a normal phone's keyboard made it infinitely more
usable than the touch-screen versions. The screen was smaller, the
camera was a pile of poo (but expectations from a phone camera back then
were MUCH MUCH less) but it just... well... worked.

I think it is this, more than any side issues with a camera that bothers
me. (I do note that none of the phones I have listed have a 'normal'
phone keypad. It's just that the Blackberry's have at least a tactile
keypad/board interface). My experiences with touch-screen phones was
that they were slow to respond, looked fantastic, were brilliant for
other things, (like playing some quirky games) but were absolutely
useless as a phone, when you needed them to work like a phone they would
hang, or freeze and the speed at which you wished to 'tap' was always
about three operations ahead of what the phone was thinking about at the

I am assured by my Iphone loving friends that this is no longer the
case. I am not convinced. There is something very satisfying about
pressing a button, that you just don't get from tapping your finger or
thumb against a screen.. that being feedback, and depth of key travel on
a 'real' keyboard.

This is probably another reason why the N97 made it into my wish list,
because is has a touch sensitive screen, but also has a slide out Qwerty
keyboard. Hopefully more useful than the one on the XDAIIs all those
years ago. (I still have mine, as it's handy sometimes to use, just to
link to the wifi at home and read something. Even my lovely Acer Aspire
One is too big for the times when I just want to sit and read something
in portrait).

Iphones have another thing going for them.. they are from Apple, and
they will work much much better with syncing with my Mac Mini (my first
foray via Ebay into the superior world of all things Macintosh). It was
the 'all in one' and 'syncing to PC' that made me put up with the PDAs
all those handsets ago. The sheer ability to have everything in well,
two places, but be able to act like it was in one place. Maybe that's
not so important these days either, with always on internet and
calendars being held in the 'cloud' and the such like..

Just makes the decision harder and harder.

My contract ends in November, so I have a month or two to think about
which course of action I would like to take. There is the impulsive part
of me that wants to say 'oh to hell with it', and just order the
upgrade. My friends have, so far, sent me a couple of comments, ranging
from 'get an Iphone and you'll never look back' to 'don't get a Nokia
N97, they're shit'. Helpful, you'd think ?

In the meantime, there is of course the danger that the Palm Pre will
launch onto our shores, and that will just complicate things further,
because that has a normal phone keypad.

Do I do the boring thing and go with a 'pro vs cons' list... perhaps
that staple of decision making, the coin toss... or do I call O2 and ask
them which offer they can tempt me with more ? 3 do not, of course do
the Iphone, but they do the Blackberry Bold (sorry Curve, you didn't
make the first round, on account of your 2g-ness) for £30 per month on
an 18 month contract, free phone, unlimited internet, unlimited texts,
500 minutes... this includes the Blackberry service. On O2 their best
Bold package is £34.26 per month, for 18 months, 1000 texts, 600
minutes, this with the Blackberry service. There is a one off charge for
the phone of £97.86. (This is as a new customer, so I can see like for
like). The same package over 24 months with O2 comes in at £29.38 per

Just to see what my custom is worth to O2, an upgrade to Blackberry 1000
texts, 600 minutes, including the Blackberry service, comes in at £29.38
per month, but with me still needing to pay £97.86 for the phone. (so no
better off than new customers).

The upgrade to an Iphone 3g - refurbished I might add - 3g, 16GB version
is £34.26 per month, 500 texts, 600 minutes, unlimited data & wifi.
Iphone is free.

For a snip at £87.11 I can then get the brand spanking new Iphone 3Gs
with 600 minutes, 500 texts, unlimited internet, all for £34.26 per

Is it just me or do O2 not really seem to attach any value to being a
long term customer of theirs ?

3 also do the Nokia N97 for £98 (with change) upfront, and then £35 per
month, unlimited internets, unlimited texts, 700 minutes.

At this point, from a cost point of view, the Blackberry seems to be
winning... my current package gives me no internet, but 400 minutes, 150
texts, for £25 per month. Feels like I'm being done over.

Sunday, 9 August 2009

Time to say 'I told you so ?'

Article on BBC website today, trying to figure out if we have any
lessons to learn from history in the dealing with outbreaks or

Is there anything to learn from the way that the press has hyped up the
nation to fever pitch about an illness, that worldwide to date hasn't
killed as many people as die falling down stairs in the UK every year ?
Hmmm. Let me think.

Another article reports that the incidences of 'Swine Flu' are slowing.

Apart from the obvious fact that this was to be expected when the
schools broke up.. what's new ? Maybe all those handwash gels littering
every single open surface in every work place, or maybe it's the 'if
you're ill, stay at home - self quarantine'. Maybe it's just that the
virus isn't anywhere near as dangerous as we were 'told' by the media,
and doesn't pose the risk to most normal people ?

Maybe this halt in the spread of the virus, is temporary, and we'll see
a resurgence when the kids go back to school, maybe things will peak
more as we get into winter, and people start spending more time in
closer confined areas.

Maybe we won't be counting the fact that of the 12,000 people that die
from seasonal flu every year, how many of them could be saved if we made
this much fuss of it ? Why do we accept so many people dying EVERY
YEAR ? Are these people somehow not worthy of our attention, or the
airtime of the television networks or those precious column inches in
the press ?

As sad and tragic as the deaths around the world from this virus are,
how are those victims any more important than the thousands of people
dying every year? Doesn't our (dare I jinx it?) temporary success at
fighting the spread of H1N1 just go to prove what is possible if the
will and the money is there ? So how as a society, can we look the
relatives of those that die every winter from seasonal flu in the eye,
knowing that we really could have drastically improved their chances of
survival ?

Says a lot about us I think. Some people say that we define ourselves by
what or who we take with us on life's journey. Actually, I think the
opposite is true, and we define ourselves by our choices of what to lose
or who to leave behind. How do we define ourselves by the people that we
allow to suffer and die ?

Sunday, 2 August 2009

[Fwd: Twitter & Facebook vs Religion]

Sunday August 2nd. 2009. 10.44am.

Interesting, or at least worthy of some comment, article on the BBC news website today.

The debate at the link, is centred around discussion of the Archbishop of Canterbury's statement that Facebook, Twitter and their ilk are ruining our ability to interact in person.


I wonder. There are, as ever two sides to this argument, and in my characteristic devils advocate-ed-ness, I am going to play not one side, but both. (no puns intended there).

I have to agree, that by spending so much time online, conversing with people in inane and utterly pointlessly shallow conversation that it does mean that I am not actually going out and having the same pointless and shallow conversations in person.

Somehow, I can accept 'small talk' when it's online, or in a text message, or via Facebook chat (dammit, for it really is the scourge of society, that not only is it helplessly addictive, but that it also doesn't bloody work properly !), but do roll my eyes (I roll my eyes across the table, and really do hope that someone else is awake and generous enough to roll the back again) at 'small talk' conversations in real life. Not because I am snobbish about them - well ok, maybe just a little, but maybe because, I've never quite got the hang of 'pointless' conversation. There is ironically a point to pointless conversation, it tells you more about the person, albeit unintentionally, than you may get to know otherwise. You get to see what are the random and scatty things that circulate around this person's mind ?

See, I find people both fascinating and annoying. Not really getting them, as much, if not more so than they don't get me. Now I really don't know if this is actually a natural state of the human condition, but I do have to confess to feeling that most of the people I meet in 'real life' I would rather not have to talk to, and therefore have to pretend to like them, in order to not come across any more of an arrogant self serving bastard than I probably do already. In my 'cyber life' I can freely ignore, be invisible to, or delete, people I don't really want to be bothered with. (If you are a cyber friend of mine and are reading this, then you know that I really want you on my 'list' or otherwise, you wouldn't be - take comfort. I am inordinately fussy).

All of this time online, desperately trying to get back to the point, does in my case, mean that I don't get any of the things done that I might otherwise do with my evenings. The same would be true of the Television, that evil box in the corner of my front room, that makes me, (it does make me) turn it on the minute I get home, and then sit in a near vegetative state, searching for something to watch, bemoaning that 'there's nothing on' - despite the near infinite number of channels - but still sitting there with the damn thing on. In case I miss something important.

Important ? Like what ? The end of western civilisation ? The discovery of a black hole in an underground French research facility ? Would I not get to know about these things some other way, at some other point ? I'm pretty sure on September 11th 2001, I wasn't say at my Television all morning 'just in case' something significant happened. As it was, I was out, with my then wife, and my daughter. We returned home to have one of her relatives telephone us, to say that 'America's under attack' - to which I think my reply was 'don't be stupid'. How stupid did I look, saying that to a mother frantically worried about her son (who was in America at the time) ?

Had I been online, I guess I would have known instantly. Had I had a Twitter account then, I would have - had I also had mobile internets -  seen the number of tweets about it. So I guess I would have known sooner, but again, how would that have changed the outcome ? Pivotal and unimaginable as the events of that day were, I'm pretty sure they had it covered without me.

So what is this desire to know everything that is happening, at the time that it is happening ? And what of the irony that by being at a computer, at home, you might actually miss, well, being at something where something happens ? Is it turning us all into remote observers ?

Do we no longer participate in life ?

One of the comment on the website remarks that perhaps we are all too scared to go out and really do things... I think copying and pasting would be easier than paraphrasing...

The church in all its disguises along with government and minority groups have made sure that its breaking some law or other to even get close to another human being without paying a tax,fine or be imprisoned.Its no wonder people feel safe in their own homes locked away from all the danger the "outside"has become.The internet is communicating where at least your in control without spies(for the present).

Steve Grant, ipswich, United Kingdom

Hmm. There's a point there too. Goes back to the thing about 'how many kids play in the street anymore'. Not many at all. When I was a kid, which wasn't all that long ago (depending on your perspective) my sister and I both played in the street. I used to go out cycling with my friends, (and naturally go to places I had been told I wasn't allowed to go). No harm ever came of us. I feel very sorry for the kids of today that aren't allowed to go to the park on their own, or aren't allowed to spend any time at all on their own. If you are never left to your own devices, you never learn how to occupy yourself. The constant presence of a parent leaves them responsible for finding things to do all the time. My parents never did that. As a child, I prefered to spend time alone, I would be in my room playing with Lego (don't get me started on the benefits of Lego) or reading, or playing in the garden with my Action Men, or going for a ride on my bike. Instead kids today, seem to think that everything in the universe centres around a NIntendo DS..or which mobile phone they have, or fighting over who gets to use the Wii fit, to simulate cycling, or running, or tennis.... is it just me, or why not turn the damn thing off and go get a bat and ball and learn hand eye co-ordination the old fashioned (actual) way, but doing it for real ?

One of my friends and I used to play a lot of tennis together in the summer. About when everyone else was watching Wimbledon, we would be down at the local tennis courts, playing tennis. I was never that good, he was always more athletic and physical than me. But I still had a great time. Best of all it was free (until someone that actually had paid to use the tennis court turned up).

I love the internet, for the tool that it is, and I think that it does help in many ways. It does also provide many distractions from actual life. Which I think is sad. There is something in the fact that we are losing the ability to converse with strangers, that we don't know how to read mood and body language, you can see it all over the streets when you go out. People don't make eye contact for fear of offending, everyone walks around in their own little bubble, shutting off the world by texting to someone, drowning it out by listening to music in their earphones.

The less we speak to people, and learn to accept that there's a little bit of annoyance, and inconvenience about life that just has to be tolerated, the less we are able to judge when people are really deliberately being a pain. We have no scale upon which to judge these social infractions. I'm convinced that this leads to misunderstandings and in some occasions, even conflict.

I used to wonder why I never realised that I had perhaps unintentionally offended people with a remark I had made. At one point I understood that my lack of understanding wasn't born out of the fact that I was a bad person, or that the other pary was overly sensitive, but rather that I had this tendency to not look at the person while I was saying these things. It meant that I lost the chance to read their reaction, and tailor further comments accordingly, or even apologise for overstepping the line. Something as simple as that, seems to be more and more common. And as a species, our frustration leads us to be less and less measured in our responses.

We are creating a society of bored, frustrated, intolerant, misunderstood, angry people. So frustrated are they that some find they are quick to temper. So frightened are we, and so lacking in true, real friends that actually are there, that no one says 'hang on a minute, calm down mate, he only meant.....'.

Social networking is a great tool, and a great thing to have in our armoury. But like any tool, the real skill is in its application, and that comes from the person using it. A pot of paint and a paintbrush can be used to paint the side of the house, or can be used to paint a beautiful picture (ok, maybe more than one colour), or it can be used to paint graffiti, or insults. It's not the fault of the paintbrush that its used to describe that 'sharon is a slag'.

I do genuinely worry that we are headed for a society where we never speak to each other, except on line. I find myself doing it, having lengthy conversations in Facebook chat, when really, I could just pick up one of my phones and speak to the person. You know, like wow ! Speaking in real-time ! Yes. It's called a conversation. With my love of Skype, and my mobile phone, there is nothing stopping me talking to anyone, anywhere in the world. It is only laziness that prevents it.

I'm coming out as if I am on the Arch Bishop's side of the argument, but my own actions show otherwise. I can't sit here and type about the evils of people spending too much time on their computers, because I am.. well.. at my computer....

Perhaps the organised religions of the world should use Facebook, and Twitter to communicate more readily with their respective masses. Perhaps 'God Tweets' are the next big thing. Before someone starts writing an application that lets you tweet in your prayers (I bet someone has already done it though) I have one last point to make.

No one went to war with someone because of the internet. Well, not yet anyway.