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Archive for January, 2008

Global Warming – Businesses to Blame

I was reading the Independent on Sunday and the headlines read “Profits of Doom” – Big business shuns green policies.

Well, there you go, it must be official then. The assumption that this title makes is that there IS a problem with global warming THAT BIG BUSINESS COULD FIX… and that’s where I have an issue.

Here are my concerns. Firstly climate change – definitely – it’s happening (and as they say, it has happened before and it WILL happen again) – no doubt about that – global warming is another matter. Sitting here with my hands purple with cold in sunny Wark in February after some AWFULLY cold, snowy weather it’s hard to believe that global WARMING is real and if it is, BRING IT ON, I say. But that’s not the point.

The point is this… I’m not AT ALL convinced that we’re the cause of most of the climate changes OR that we have to repent in order to make things ok. This is another one of those politically correct things – one has to be GREEN, one has to have GREEN CREDENTIALS and if one doesn’t – one is BAD.

Ok, how about the argument that carbon dioxide change comes AFTER, not BEFORE climate change… the problem with looking at FACTS as against FANTASY is that facts put forward by large numbers of scientists get IGNORED because scientists by and large are seen to be BORING. The fact that 50% of the American population thinks we’ve only been here a few thousand years show how rivetting science is despite having cast-iron concrete proof that we’ve been around for millions of years – half the population of the supposed world-leader isn’t interested.

And so it seems to be with climate change – show a bunch of hurricanes, get someone with street-cred like Al Gore up on stage and we’re all convinced that if we just amend our ways, it’ll all come out in the wash. We must of course suffer to do this and big business must suffer the most – otherwise they are evil.

Well, I need convincing of the following:

Why is it that the carbon dioxide level changes appear to be the wrong way around.
Why is it that a good number of scientists are DEAD SET against the current arguments – these are experts in their fields – not newpaper reporters.
What earthly difference in percentage terms can anyone in Britain make – while the Chinese continue to expand and polute – not to mention America… if Britain went hell for leather into this what percentage would it make on WORLD scale… I’m guessing a virtually insignificant amount.

Maybe, just MAYBE some big businesses have done their math?

As for the ice-caps – well, I’m no expert on the subject but the russians a while ago were planning on putting some huge umbrella up – it failed and I can’t remember why they tried – but what’s wrong with shielding the polar regions from the sun? A very light, very large foil (or whatever) reflector in space would be feasable even if it ended up with the odd puncture hole due to meteorites. Expensive, yes, but feasable, definitely.

And then there is THIS…. Please, grab some coffee and watch THIS – at least one scientist thinks there is ANOTHER way. If you want to listen to Al Gore, he’s on TED.COM as well – quite funny with it too.

http://www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/192

BBC – In Search of Truth

I don’t know how many of you watched the BBC program “Watchdog” the other night. It was my first and last time.

They were checking into “bugus psychics” and I could not believe my ears when I heard

“of course, there ARE genuine psychics out there”

Since WHEN? It seems I’m not the only one that spotted this because if you key the words into Google there are plenty other people out there who were equally taken aback.

And we’re supposed to take advice from the program? I don’t think so!

I don’t mind nonsense on TV in general – you can always turn it off or cancel your SKY subscription – but I really object when it’s on the BBC – we can’t exactly refuse to pay the licence now can we (for international readers, yes, we HAVE to pay a licence over here in the UK).

Life as we Know It – National Express Trains

It is often said of middle-aged people that they are “grumpy” – especially men. There is certainly an increased tendency to complain and an apparently unlimited number of things to complain about – but I was thinking about this….

With age comes confidence, experience and an increased desire for comfort. Is it any wonder then that given someone who is less intimidated by authority, has the experience to know when things have been better and who actually cares if their trip is comfortable or product actually works as advertised, that these people would be more likely to complain?

I can remember a time as a teen when I would stand in long queues to get into a nightclub. Why did I do that? Why would I stand in a long queue to get into a bar so I could have the privilage of spending my hard-earned money on booze? I guess thinking back, I didn’t know there was a better way and I had this crazy idea that getting drunk gave you more chances of meeting the opposite sex, therefore standing in queues in the freezing cold at 10.30pm was just the price you paid. Similarly I used to accept pretty awful service in shops before I’d travelled to the likes of the USA where staff are actually polite (whether they mean it or not is another matter, it’s the experience that counts). I don’t do any of that any more.

I’ve been on National Express trains twice now since they took over from GNER. The first time they screwed up the trip and put 2-train’s worth of customers onto one – the result, passengers who’d paid a fortune to sit in first class for a bit of comfort were standing neck-to-neck from London to Peterborough – in the height of the flu season – and I may add the company had just printed a load of leaflets to let you know how they were putting on extra trains to improve the service from the last lot. The second time they’d screwed up the seat bookings and so it became a mad scramble to get a seat with a table – first come, first served. It mattered not that you might have paid twice the cost of a cheap overseas holiday flight just for a train seat.

This kind of thing is simply not good enough. With air travel becoming more of a nightmare by the day, we’re all potential terrorists and so what used to be a quick hop-on, hop off now takes almost as long as taking the train – in some cases longer.

If a train or plane is late, you’ve no chance of compensation, but if YOU are late you have to pay FULL-RIPPING FAIR for another ticket. There’s something simply unfair about the one-sided nature of the deal.

Meanwhile the only real solution to transport woes is the car. The car doesn’t care if you’re a little late and it doesn’t mind doing a diversion if a road is closed. But thanks partly to global warming the car is now number one target for more taxation (actually that’s not true, businesses seem to be the number 1 target but I reckon it’s neck and neck).

Well, I intend to use my car MORE often and shout about it. I’m well aware of global warming but less aware of any real proof that we have anything to do with it – public transport is RUBBISH and that’s all there is to it. It’ll take a lifetime to develop a decent, comfortable, efficient public transport system if that’s even possible, meanwhile if there are any younger folk reading this blog – I beg you – if you suffer bad service, COMPLAIN, not to your friends but to the supplier of the service – and don’t just complain, push for a refund. Why on earth should you pay full rate for something that was no as advertised?

The sooner we stop accepting whatever is thrown at us, the sooner things will get better.

Cirque Du Soleil

Last night my wife and I went to see Cirque Du Soleil Varakai at the Theatre Royal in London.

Now, don’t get me wrong, this is NOT what I do – I’m a fan of TV series and movies that cost countless millions in special effects, personally, however marriage is a compromise and so I went along willingly to see what I thoroughly expected to be a bunch of guys prancing around in coloured costumes and not doing too much.

To be fair, this was INDEED all about a bunch of guys prancing around in coloured costumes – but the finest colours I’ve seen for a long time and the acrobatics beat anything I’ve seen on TV without CGI. The whole atmosphere was GREAT, sadly I can’t show you any photos because they asked us very nicely not to. Fabulous imagination, fabulous sounds – great show.

All I CAN say is that if you want a great evening out, get your tickets now – very, VERY good.

And to feed my need for movies… keep an eye out for JUMPER – coming out somewhere in February. Trailers are here http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox/jumper/

British Airways – Pride of the Nation?

Today was fun… my wife and I were due to take the train to London this afternoon and because of some problem at Darlington on the return they were trying to convince us to split the journey and do part of it by bus… erm, no thank you.

So I made the mistake of deciding to take the PLANE – you see, I still have fond memories of when taking the plane used to be FUN – but I’m afraid those days are long gone – between late planes, lost luggage they’ve totally demolished that fantasy.

Anyway, needs must so we re-organised to take the plane. My fault I guess, I completely forgot the fact that you need to be a the airport car park MUCH earlier than if you took the train.. and Maureen’s job meant she could not get to the airport quite in time. So we organised a cheap train down to London for her.

Great… only small loss then? Well no. I set off this morning at 10am for a mid-day flight – parked the car – no problem. Got to the airport – “Where’s Mrs Scargill?” said the helpful assistant. I explained that I needed to inform them she would not be on the outgoing flight.

“No problem” said the attendant – “you’ll need to speak to BA customer services”. So I did the business and rang BA Customer Services.

After HALF AN HOUR with my mobile glued to my ear, listening to adverts, apologies, useless redirections to their website and other rubbish, I finally got through and explained the situation… I could hardly believe my ears at the response…. “sorry, can’t do that, if Mrs Scargill doesn’t take the outgoing journey – she can’t take the return journey”.

I tried to follow the logic – seat is empty – no problem, it’s paid for – less fuel used… why on EARTH should her missing the outgoing journey affect her ability to come back? Well, I won’t bore you – the answer was NO, NO, NO. So what do I do I asked? “She’ll have to buy a one-way ticket for £180” was the answer.

I’m a polite guy but at this point I told them we’d get the train. As it happens we managed to get a flight with EasyJet for WAY less than half of that… thanks for nothing, BA. As it’s too late for them to sell the return flight as a job lot on lastminute.com – I cannot for the life of me see the point – the flight could not be used by anyone else….

But it gets worse, I got to the waiting area just in time to be told the waiting area was changing – so off we all went to a new location- THEN the delays.. to cut another long story short -I too kmy allocated seat and it was BUST… so they had to me me – THEN the plane was an hour late lifting off. But it gets WORSE -having sat waiting all that time I missed lunch – no problem I thought – get lunch on the plane!!! Erm, NO, the pilot in his wisdom had decided we’d rather be ONLY an hour late rather that pick up the sandwiches.. so there wasn’t even any FOOD on the plane!!!

But it gets WORSE _ just as we were about to get to London the pilot announced there was no-where for us to land – and we’d have to circle for another half an hour – which we did.

So it’s not ok for me to screw up an outgoing flight – but it’s FINE for BA to completely mess up our flights!!

Maybe – just MAYBE there was some security implication with Maureen not taking the outgoing flight I pondered. But if that were the case, you might wonder why not at ANY time today was I asked for identification!! Not booking in (the attendant helped me use one of the terminals as it didn’t like my electronic ticket number), not getting on the plane, not getting off the plane – my drivers licence didn’t leave my wallet ONCE. I could have been ANYONE.

I left the house at 10am – and arrived in London mid-afternoon – I COULD HAVE ALMOST DONE THE TRIP THERE AND BACK ON THE TRAIN!!

Next time if I can’t get the train – I think I’ll just cancel the JOURNEY!!!!

Thanks BA for turning a mountain into a molehill. I’ll make sure as many people as possible know how helpful you were.

A LOST Cause

I’ve updated an older post here – created when the government first starting to lose laptops. Now it’s becoming a habit and the MOD has managed to lose unencrypted details of 600,000 servicemen.. and they serious expect us to believe they are capable of looking after identity cards? Would you trust them with a SECOND HAND CAR?

Add to that the lost 3 million learner driver records and all the rest of the losses – all with minimal or no encryption. And what kind of response do you think YOU would get from the taxman if you said “oh, sorry, I lost my computer tax records” ??

I suppose I should prefix this by saying “thank heavens we’re in a democracy” – because at least we find out about this stuff – there is no way you’d ever hear about such losses from the Russians – they spend a generation blowing up their own space rockets without telling anyone so a few missed records would never make it to the press.

I recall my blood boiling about an earlier affair, wherein a hard disk went astray and the response from Ruth Kelly was “did not include personal data such as credit card or bank details”.

The problem with THAT statement is obvious to anyone who lives in the 21st century – the worry is not the odd loss of data, it’s the ACCUMULATIVE loss of data. the fact that these records contain name and other contact details makes it a snap to tie this up with other information. There are disks available on the web with the personal details of millions of individuals and half a million squaddies – add this information to the collective whole – and you can start to form a serious database on millions of Britons and SELL IT.

The problem is that once this kind of information is out in the public – it tends to STAY out. Anyone with an email address will know that once you make the mistake of making your email address available – you’re FOREVER going to get spam from all corners of the world – there is no “withdrawing” information – and although it’s easy enough to change your email address, changing your home address and other important information is NOT quite so easy.

In one of the earlier transgressions, the transport secretary said that the disk was “formatted specifically to the Pearson configuration” and was not easily read by third parties. It doesn’t NEED to be EASILY read, if it’s decoded ONCE the information can end up on the web for sale and end up in thousands of databases in a matter of DAYS.

So, does anyone REALLY still want an Identity card??? You’re kidding, right???

Human-Animal Embryos

It would appear that the first applications to create human-animal embryos are in! The promise of course is the possibility of cures for serious diseases.

Opponents worryingly say “we should not interfere with nature”.

Have you ever heard such a stupid phrase in your entire life.

Here’s nature for you. Natural disasters that kill tens of thousands prematurely and ultimately nature kills us all. Cancer is natural as are heart attacks, virii and countless other diseases. It is quite natural to come into this world, develop sentience and the ability to understand that you are going to die and then lose the lot with a stroke.

Give me a break – nature is best…. nature is not very nice AT ALL and the sooner we start to learn how to look after ourselves without relying on “nature”, the better!!!

OPT-OUT or NOT?

The government (apparently) is considering the idea of opt-out for spare body parts – AT LAST.

Like most of us, I “keep meaning” to get an organ donor card but lets face it we’ve all got so many other things to do… meanwhile people are dying out there despite our technology – because the doctors can’t get the parts they need to save lives.

As I get older I get more disillusioned with society and so if you’re still a believer in the good spirits of your fellow men – don’t go over to the BBC website – they’ve an article about this subject and there’s a comments section – you have never seen such a load of selfish responses in your life – one guy is worried in case the heart he gets is of the wrong religious persuasion – GET A LIFE – YOUR ORGANS DON’T KNOW THE DIFFERENCE. The sad thing is that I’d be prepared to bet the bank that those who make such comments, if they were on their deathbeds waiting for an organ – would take ANYTHING as long as it works.

As far as I’m concerned if my heart or lungs give up I don’t CARE about the background of the person who’s parts I get – as long as they’re HEALTHY!

What with this and starting the ball rolling on nuclear power plants, there’s hope for this government yet!

The TED Videos

I just can’t praise this website enough… http://www.ted.com/

REALLY excellent videos. For those of you who are in TV hell at the moment partly because of the RUBBISH they’ve had on TV (including Sky) over the Christmas and partly because some of the more promising new shows from the US are dead right now because the writers are on strike – and assuming you’ve an enquiring as against passive mind – there is some WONDERFUL material in here. I have clearly not seen every video on the site so don’t blame me if there are some duffers -but the first few minutes of Al Gore’s video is REALLY funny, there are some amazing videos – including one guy who demonstrates calculating squares of – wait for it – 5 digit numbers – in his head live on stage (and he doesn’t look ODD either) – to people doing amazing work on bionics – and more. Well worth spending some time there.

Microsoft Surface

I’ve the greatest respect for Microsoft – but this is really funny… you may have to click twice…