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Archive for July, 2008

Your Right to Dump Rubbish

Our friendly socialist government is currently sneaking through a bill to allow councils to refuse to collect rubbish “if homeowners fail to abide by stringent rules that may include leaving bins in the right place, sticking to weight restrictions and following strict recycling policies”.

Of course, as they’ll have the final word, what happens if you have a disagreement with the bin-men or an un-related falling out with the local council? And what of your council tax? Will you get a refund if rubbish is left uncollected? (Don’t be silly – we don’t have rights like that in this country – after all, this isn’t REALLY a democracy)

I have no problem with any of this – AS LONG AS THEY DON’T MIND ME POURING MY RUBBISH ONTO THE ROAD WHEN THEY REFUSE TO COLLECT IT!!

Johnny Lee and Head Tracking

If you’ve never hear of Johnny Lee – watch this – I’ve ran his software for a number of his projects and they work – guy’s a genius – if the games designers have any imagination – expect some pretty impressive stuff just around the corner.

Head Tracking using the WiiMote
by johnnylee

Motoring Insanity

I got up early this morning and managed something I rarely do these days – read the paper from cover to cover. One item that caught my attention was a feature showing a new Lotus – the “Eagle” capable of doing 160mph and accelerating from 0-60mph in under 5 seconds.

My gut reaction was “that looks nice” – I’ve always been a fan of Lotus and it sounds like a lot of fun… but then it occurred to me how irresponsible in an age of dwindling, increasingly expensive fuel, to be designing, never mind actively promoting such vehicles – surely, it occurred to me, our car designers should be spending their time coming up with innovative ideas for making more efficient, not faster cars.

With speed limits in Europe generally around 70mph to 85mph and with UK law offering, at least most of the time, instant loss of licence for anyone travelling over 100mph, what on EARTH is the point of getting the British public enthused about a car that does 160MPH.

Don’t get me wrong, I get into trouble for speeding all the time – anyone who travels the M6 regularly will know that average speeds there are nearer 90mph – and I don’t have trouble with that personally – I like to get there quickly as much as the next person – but knowing as I do how car efficiency drops as the speed goes up, I cannot imagine what benefit there is – apart from to racing drivers, of making a car do 160mph. Lotus are not alone – and indeed demand for fast cars is apparently as high as ever.

For once I’m hoping the government WILL have the guts to force people to take a more sensible route – no matter how much money they have. I have a Mercedes diesel – it is fast and modern – and manages 40mpg without difficulty. Surely the goal would be to make all cars handle this level of fuel efficiency or better? If it were up to me, car tax would be based purely on the number of miles per gallon with a very STEEP climb for those cars that simply throw fuel away – that would safeguard the public against the current government’s far-left tendencies (taxing 4-wheel drive cars mainly to get at the middle class rural folk they so despise) while ensuring that over a period of time, only efficient cars were allowed on the road – and the more efficient the better. It really doesn’t matter what size or shape a car is – miles per gallon (or litre if you want to be confusing) is all that really matters.

If you’re interested in the science of cars, you’ll remember an Indian company is producing air-powered cars with a range of 100 miles – well, it looks like the Californians are on the ball at last – there’s a car coming out next year which runs on air – with a petrol engine compressing the air for long journeys and a more useful range of 800 miles… but, of course, pollution-free during inner-city travel and with the ability to fill the air tanks from mains electricity overnight. This kind of technology, properly developed and funded could make a major difference to the amount of fuel we consume – but continuing to feature glossy ads for supercars really does not help put is into the mindset for a private-transport future that will be very different to that enjoyed in the 20th century.

Wouldn’t it be nice if British car manufacturers were once again first at something like this instead of trailing behind?

Taking the easy option

According to the British Chamber of Commerce website, a report published by the University of Durham revealed that students may be more likely to choose to study ‘easier’ subjects, and not opt to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects that are desperately needed by employers.

Surely the answer is simple? Why on EARTH are we stupid enough to finance courses that this country doesn’t need? Microsoft technology courses cost the earth and I’m sure many courses in science and technology do also (unless of course you’re a no-hoper in which case they’re likely to be free). Surely the solution is to make science, technology, engineering and math courses extremely cheap or free (after all Britain PLC will benefit in the end) and charge the earth for courses that people take out of personal preference and which we don’t actually need.

Technology books are very expensive and yet I don’t ever recall seeing ways to get subsidies for these.

As far as I’m concerned we screwed our educational system the minute we went comprehensive back in the 70s and we’ve been going downhill ever since. Our position in the world stage pretty much reflects this.

In the future, with permanently rising fuel prices and intense competition from overseas, we will increasingly need people who can innovate, manage and sell hi-tech, advanced solutions to the many problems facing us. Less talk, more action and a desperate need for the left to stop trying to smother our potential best at birth.

Google’s Android

I’m just SO impressed with the Google ANDROID demo – I’m including it here for a while. It starts off a little slow – but bear with it – the last few seconds blows anything the IPHONE can do out of the water.

Quality of Medical Service in the UK

In the Northeast Journal newspaper today, vet Neil Murdock wrote “When animals are ill they are often seen by several vetinary surgeons throughout the course of their treatment, which can be highly unsettling for both them and their owners”.

Well, I’m not convinced our cats could give two hoots who they see but of course this is something we just accept as people in the British National Health system. What worries me more than seeing different doctors – is being treated by doctors with WILDLY varying skills and the total lack of continuity caused by this practice.

I’m in my early 50s now and when I was in my late 20s, having worked in engineering for many years, I teamed up with a fellow who became a business partner and is now a good friend. I’d been into electronics for some years as an amateur but just then moved into it professionally. We were in the middle of a project with a lot of construction in it – and took a break to go to an “amateur radio show” in Leeds.

Half way through I had a horrendous pain in my right eye – as if it were full of sand. Over a short space of time, the eye got worse and the turned bright red. Seeing there was a problem, the guys insisted I go to the hospital – where they gave me some drops and recommended a trip to my doctor.

I went to my doctor who said I needed a specialist. I went to the Newcastle hospital to see the specialist (all the time my eye was bright red and painful) and he said I had “euvitis” – an inflamation of the eye. I ended up with steroids and a derivative of deadly nightshade to freeze the eye muscles. A week later I was fine – but not without blurred vision throughout and I’m convinced a minor but measureable drop in eyesight performance every time.

This re-occurred every 6 months or so and before long I knew what to look for – and how to handle it – for the first few times I saw specialists – a couple of times this led to an injection straight into the eye – other times drops. The purpose of the drops was two-fold – reduce inflamation- freeze the eye to stop further agro. Leave it too long and…. the needle! Not nice.

On one occasion a female doctor took a look and insisted I wear an eye-patch for 2 weeks – apparently no-one told her they stopped doing that in the dark ages. I insisted on drops – sorted the problem.

I got so disillusioned with the variation in doctors – after a couple of years I simply asked one of my “family doctors” if I could have a repeat subscription for the same stuff I knew worked – from there on I could solve the problem on my own.

One time when my wife and I were in Northern America my eye flared up – and the doctors there were great – they spotted the condition immediately for the first time ever insisted on a complete bank of tests to find out what caused it – the UK doctors had NEVER attempted to do this. Sadly I was only there for a couple of days and there was no time.

Around the year 2000, I stopped doing manual work in electronics – our incompetent civil servants and their passion for regulation made it too much like hard work to produce small numbers of prototypes of the kind of work I used to do – so I moved onto my other passion – software.. and lo and behold, no more eye problems. It occurred to me with a little research that it was the solder flux from spending a good amount of time with soldering irons that was the cause. In 8 years I’ve had no problems of any kind.

Now in all those years you would think that ONE doctor, somewhere would have twigged – but because I got a different doctor almost every time – and because they seem to be pre-occupied with a quick fix rather than finding out what’s wrong with your lifestyle – it never happened. I had to stumble across the cure myself after 20-odd years of suffering.

Life for many could be so much better if we could just get our national health act together! I wonder to this date, had I stayed in the USA a little longer – if they’d have narrowed the problem down.

Life in the slow lane

Another un-eventful day on National Express. The current ad floating about on the trains says “National Express – Same Seats – only Cheaper” – depicting a very relaxed customer who USED to pay £14.75 from London to York NOW paying a mere £10.00 for the privilage – what a bargain!

I’m writing this in notepad as the crappy wi-fi only works when it wants to and never for more than a few minutes at a time. You have to wonder why, on the main line from Newcastle to London they can’t get their act together. It’s not as if the line is new and they haven’t had time to get it working yet!! NOT that you can get much serious work done on the train because they insist on blasting the Tannoy every 5 minutes to tell you about having the right tickets, to apologise for the delay due to fluff on the line, remind you that the meal service is running at half mast due to problems with the air conditioning and how you should respect the quiet coach and turn your phone off – not that mobile phones are even REMOTELY as annoying as the constant announcements on the tannoy. I complained to the ticket collector about the constant dribble coming from the Tannoy and he finds it annoying too!!

After leaving a meeting slightly earlier than expected I got on the 1.30pm from Lonon to Newcastle. Seemed like a good time for lunch so rather than buy some inflated-cost pastry at the station I thought I’d have an inflated-cost sandwich on the train. The £10 offer it transpires is only on a good day, with the wind, booked in advance. My one-way ticket to Newcastle cost a wopping £175 – enough for 2 or 3 round trips to France…. anyway, for all that, they were out of the only decent sandwich they do. If that was the service in first class, Lord help coach A !!! I settled for a packet of crisps. Gone are the hand-made-by-grannies crisps of GNER and in with Walkers lacklustre varieties – I handed over £1 and I heard the attendant mutter something about 5p, which I thought was ridiculously cheap for a packet of crisps – of course that was the change. 95p for a packet of crisps!! No wonder they can offer the WIFI for free – they should through in a massage!!

Signed, grumpy old man. Of course it could be said that if we were all a little less forgiving, rail companies would not get away with this crap.

Attention train crew…. disabled passenger alert….

Attention train crew…. disabled passenger alert….

Attention train crew…. disabled .

Taking the Easy Option

According to the British Chamber of Commerce website, a report published by the University of Durham revealed that students may be more likely to choose to study ‘easier’ subjects, and not opt to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) subjects that are desperately needed by employers.

Surely the answer is simple? Why on EARTH are we stupid enough to finance courses that this country doesn’t need? Microsoft technology courses cost the earth and I’m sure many courses in science and techn ology do also (unless of course you’re a no-hoper in which case they’re likely to be free). Surely the solution is to make science, technology, engineering and math courses extremely cheap or free (after all Britain PLC will benefit in the end) and charge the earth for courses that people take out of personal preference and which we don’t actually need.

Technology books are very expensive and yet I don’t ever recall seeing ways to get subsidies for these.

As far as I’m concerned we screwed our educational system the minute we went comprehensive back in the 70s and we’ve been going downhill ever since. Our position in the world stage pretty much reflects this.

In the future, with permanently rising fuel prices and intense competition from overseas, we will increasingly need people who can innovate, manage and sell hi-tech, advanced solutions to the many problems facing us. Less talk, more action and a desperate need for the left to stop trying to smother our potential best at birth.