Wednesday, August 31, 2005

New New Orleans?

In Bulgaria archaeologists have discovered a long stash of Thracian gold. These finds are dated to somewhere between 2000-1000BC. How such items do undiscovered for all this time is quite bewildering. There could be as many as 15000 of these tombs where the gold was found.
I'd imagine the country could really turn around its economy if they put some good resources towards unearthing these ancient treasures.

What archaeology always gettings me thinking about is how on earth cities and civilizations end up being abandoned and left to ruin. The current situation in New Orleans does make this sort of occurence a lot more feasible. A rather cold hearted unattached set of words follows. Naturally I have a great feeling of sympathy for all the citizens, but have decided to keep them away from this particular blog.

If 80% of the city is underwater and the damage is estimated to be $26,000,000,000 I'd really like to know what the hard cash value of New Orleans. For the amount of damage done to it I do wonder whether is not a better idea to move on. 70% of the city's area is naturally below sea level, this is something that gets me wondering when the newscasters say the water is going to reside.

Some predictions from meteorologists would signal doom for such cities once the real effects of Global Warming kick in going forward a couple of decades. In the short term there is expected to be a heavy amount of activity of the waters of the Gulf. Reports are that there are going to be up to six more major weatherfronts before the hurricane season is out in November.

If the fears regarding the patterns of our weather are true then this may be the ideal time to move a settlement to a more sensible location. There are of course other settlements that have been leveled. 90% of Biloxi and Gulfport buildings are reported destroyed. Opportunity is there to start small I guess.

Disclaimer: Figures have all been acquired from BBC and ITN news coverage.

Third Alternative & Audio Blog Numero Uno

As I stated in my last entry, I listen and very much look forward to the episodes of For Immediate Release that come out every Monday and Thursday. I wasn't online to listen to it yesterday when it came through in the evening so sat back on my comfy chair and relaxed to the vocals earlier on Tuesday evening.

Once again I expanded my search on the subject of blogs and am finding myself being pulled deeper and deeper into the world of PR. Lee Hopkins' and Heidi Miller's got added to my reader pretty quick.

There was a great segment on Blog etiquette. I stated the opening of my views on Sunday but will add to it as the subject gains more ground.

There was something of a bust up between Steve Rubel and Jeremy Pepper regarding when it is right to trackback and when it was just plugging traffic. I hate to be a fence sitter but to me they are both right on this occasion with the rules undecided on etiquette. In my view the internet should be as connected as possible, so similar articles should be linked up together somehow. On the other hand Steve has every right to refuse pings from anyone. His philosophy is that trackbacks should be used for dialogue, more specifically, for adding to the conversation with new content.

There are clearly two ways one could take as the intention of the trackback. Maybe there's should be a call for a third means of blog connection to add to comments and trackbacks. 'Archives', 'Links', or 'Related Entries' to tie up similar articles together. This would naturally be optional like the other two, so folk like Steve can remove the leaching factor while others like Jeremy can connect up all alike entries.

Anyhow, at the end of making a short story very long, in light of Jeremy's most recent post of his first audioblog, which is somewhat raw, I've decided to let my first recording off my PC go on display unedited on the subject of getting my new cheap-ass mic and webcam.


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Sunday, August 28, 2005

The Hobson and Holtz Report

A month or two ago I was becoming very much aware that despite the fact that I was blogging myself I wasn't tuning into our blogs. When I first started blogging and downloaded Feedreeder my PC didn't cope very well with it at all and tended to crash a lot. Knowing that I had to make a concerted effort I started using Feedreeder again and it's working perfectly now.

Through my course of looking for interesting things I came across I was searching on internal blogging (I may have mentioned my mild obsession with getting my company to install improved communication processes) and came across the mention of Holtz's Law. A perception on intranets which I very much agree with. Better than that it lead me onto For Immediate Release: The Hobson and Holtz Report, a twice weekly audiocast (I love internet audiocasts) on the subject of communications integrated into techonology.

I've listened to the past 5 or 6 episodes and the content is always great. The guest speakers provide quality info and entertainment. Eric Schwartzman's piece in episode 62 being a prime example. Who would have thought that adult content would be so popular...

Also in episode 62, they touched upon the subject of comments, trackbacks and spam in blogs. I'm not sure if there is an etiquette thing waiting to be established or what, but for me I allow both options of comments and trackbacks because it should really be a matter of taste which the reader wants to use. And, of late, I'm spotting a load of readers who comment but do not actually blog themselves. Trackbacks are my preferred method, it makes the blogosphere more cohesive in my view. Comments should be used for the type of readers I just mentioned and the folks that don't want to take conversations into their own blogs because the subject matter may not tie in or reasons to that effect.

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Raw deal when there is no money involved

For the first time I've ended up on the wrong side of a credit disagreement. I'm hoping it will be the last as it isn't pleasant.

The facts are very simple:
  • I cancel my contract with the company
  • They continue to charge me
  • I set them straight
  • They write back and confirm that they messed and that I in fact owe absolutely nothing

All unarguably straightforward. However, at some stage before the matter was sorted out between myself and the company they bring in a debt collection agency. And it turns out that the same day I receive my confirmation of no monies owed from the company I get one of those great nasty letters from the agency.
You know the type, it's the equivelant of "we brake thumbs" for your credit history.

Now we're suddenly in the situation where because neither of these companies is going to receive any money from me. The process for everything suddenly changes. No-one is interested in making sure their records are in order and that my status is sorted because there is nothing in it for them.
The credit agency is very eager to contact me, putting on BS "Legal Expenses" each time. But for their contact with the company they are attempting to get the money for, there is up to a 30 day gap. What's more, the agency tells me to get in contact with the company in order to get this sorted, knowing full well that they could have (and indeed certainly do have) an email verifying what I have been telling them.

I'm not sure what agreement they are going to come to as to how the agency is going to get paid but they both know they are not going to get a penny from me, so they should just leave me well out of it.

Ordinarily I wouldn't be caught caring a less about such things and leave them to it, but I've got a credit record to think about and I'm wanting a mortgage to think about in the next couple of years so I cannot afford that luxury of ignorance.

But the fact is that this neglectful system is borderline criminal and needs a serious looking into.

Friday, August 26, 2005

What's the deal with Google

With the release of Google Talk, Google seems to be top of the technology agenda this week. Though for the first time, the company is receiving more negative publicity then positive. The deal is all about privacy. Their terms of service can be interpretted as meaning they can give the information they collect on us to any government body at any time for any reason. Check out gmail is too creepy for the details on such thoughts.
I haven't got a gmail account (I've got enough accounts to keep up with already) and therefore can't use Google Talk. From the sounds of it I'm not missing out on anything new, but I do wonder. Am I better off out of it? If Google really is collecting every possible scrap of data do I really want to using each of their services?
At the moment I'll stick to the stuff I need and the stuff that is good, that'll be their search engine and Blogger.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

Audio on the way

I paid a visit to our friendly neighbour hood ebay to go looking for a cheap ass microphone. Turned out I went for a webcam with a built in microphone, as you do. Eitherway I've ended up with something that can record sound and a spot of software that will make an mp3 out of it.
I'm short on time until the weekend but one hopes that at some stage I'll be able to put something together then.

Big night out tomorrow. It's going to hurt me up until at least Saturday lunchtime.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Wil Wheaton - People who blog

As I mentioned on Saturday, the idea of an audio blog is something that has struck me as a good idea. By the time I finish writing this thing it will be payday so I can start gathering the necessaries for it.

Well, the past couple of days I was wondering how it would work on Blogger and indeed who else was doing it. Very quickly I directed to Wil Wheaton's site at WWDN. Despite the fact that Wesley Crusher was never going to make the top 20 in my Star Trek favourites list (not that I have one, just an expression) but the man measures on my kudos rating purely due to being in the show. Stand By Me was a great film, which also helps.

Once I'd seen all the ST:TNG reruns he sort of disappeared from my radar. The only time he came back was when I started hearing of the amount of hatred lurking about for him and that apparently he was a bit of a git to work with or something. Never really paid much attention to it or researched on it.

Now I discover that Wil has his own blog coupled with audio and plays a great deal of online poker. Shame he's found on PokerStars as I'm found more around PacificPoker, but hey, a common interest is a common interest.
And much to my great delight, he's quite a funny bloke. Naturally he's gone straight on to my Feedreader list.

I just thought this cool find was worth a mention. You don't normally find yourself on a level with people you watched on TV as a child.

Halo Triple Pack for release


News so hot off the press that I can't even google it (though that may mean I'm just a poor web surfer). Anyway a Halo Triple Pack has been scheduled for release on 4th October 2005 and is going for a rather decent price, if you haven't bought any of the three components already that is.

These are:
Halo: Combat Evolved
Halo 2
Halo 2: Multiplayer Map Pack



A rather neat marketing trick to suck out the last possible revenue on the Halo franchise on the X-box console before the X-box 360 and Halo 3 is released.

As a Halo aside. I came across this little article in the research regarding the greatness of the Map Pack. Here's hoping that our very own Monkeyman of the Flying Aqua Badgers reads the part on Gemini.

Speaking of the X-box 360, a game due to come out near its release date at Christmas is Perfect Dark Zero. Now I played, and still own in fact, the original version of Perfect Dark on the N64. It was the best first person shooter around to suceed Goldeneye until the arrival of Halo. I am really looking forward to the release of this game in the interim between the console release and the time Halo 3 goes on sale.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Life without oil

I touched on the subject of oil in my last blog. The recent situation that has seen the price of oil triple in two years. Currently sitting round and about $67 a barrel, the price is not expected to go down. The price of gas is going up with it as the two are interwoven resources with both being a by product of decay.

These prices will be here to stay in my opinion. For that reason, as much as I would like to drive, I will be giving driving school a miss until a practical alternative way of running a car comes to the limelight.

Our choice of commodities we purchase is now becoming as much as a ethical decision as vegetarianism.

There seems to be no concensus as to whether the prices will go up or down. A confused article has been posted on the BBC News site.

The lack of refineries is causing a bottleneck in production. And a fire in a Venezuelan refinery didn't help the spike in prices. The article I linked to here raises as interesting point which I haven't seen elsewhere yet and that's that the winter is coming up in the northern hemisphere. This will be a real test.

I have a concern that the anti-capitalist terrorists might get intelligent and start getting at the key sources of the capitalist society, resources being one of the easier targets, opposed to trying to gain popularity by killing people. Where life is pretty much going on as normal after the London bombings capitalist societies would struggle to continue without materials of value.

Return of Discovery

The tail end of yesterdays news coverage showed one of the coolest images that I have seen in a long while. The shuttlecraft Discovery returning home to Florida by taking a piggy-back ride on top of a modified Boeing 747.

This is apparently the last we will see of the vessel until March 2006 as the fleet has been grounded due to the fears surrounding the integrity of the hull as foam once again broke off on take off.

I'm still a little disappointed with the approach to space travel and related activity in the 21st Century. NASA in going down in the estimations of the US Government and funding is becoming a big concern. There's even chatter that the current fleet will be scrapped and a new one built but during this transition there could be a gap of 5 years or more. Meaning that the United States may have to rent Chinese resources to continue their operations in the interim.

I'm glad for the competition that China poses to the US. Russia are no longer in the position that they were in the 50's and 60's to compete with the US.

In this world of limited resources it's going to only be a few decades away before space may actually become a profitable venture.

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Trackback

I've finally got around to adding a trackback feature to this blog. Kudos to Haloscan for providing the goods.

D. Examines Marriage

Shortly after watching It's My Life, a youth centred late night debate show, I got thinking on the subject of marriage and wrote a little piece on my thoughts on the subject.
These views may look a bit off base now, but I'll place a small wager on me being right in the end.
So D. Presents Marriage.

Saturday, August 20, 2005

Finding interesting blogs

I've started to turn a little obessed at work with the idea of introducing internal blogging and wiki principles to improve communication and project management within the company.
So this is prompting me into figuring out what makes an effective blog, user issues and finding statistics that are going to make this appealing to my bosses that will have to make a decision on implementation.

Thus far I have been directed to a document by Susan Mernit and Julie Leung. Some excellent points, one major one effecting me is that I need to step up on my personal blogging here. One or two sessions a day producing one or two blogs each session. Can only give it a go I suppose.

This was relatively easy to find and I think once I start getting some time of my own I can get this internal blogging fact finder mission nailed. What I have been struggling to do is to get a hold of interesting personal blogs. I have failed to anyone who blogs like me thus far, which I suppose could be a good thing.

That said I did find a blog of interest to me, belonging to Ashley Nicholls. Yes, the pictures were the first thing that grabbed my attention. She's a very beautiful woman after all. The subject matter is quite personal, so it's not what I do normally (writing opinion pieces on matters most people will generally be aware of), but she does express herself with a backbone and she has taken the new approach of doing an audiocast in her blogs. I find this quite brilliant and am half tempted to go get myself a microphone on payday.
You have been warned.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

New season, really...

It was sort of hard to notice, but the new Premiership season kicked off this week. 4 goalless draws and no surprises. I think the only reason it got on my radar (and the rest of the Badgers') is because of the fantasy football league we have entered into.

The cricket has proved to be far more attention grabbing and this was before last night's fiasco of a friendly in Denmark. A very poor defeat for a very poor display. However, the game has no real reflection on the England team. 1st week in the new season is not the time for a friendly. None of those players wanted to be there and it was fairly evident. The only one having a half decent game was Beckham.

Here's looking forward to a better performance all around in the footy sakes from here on to May, and put this grizzly episode behind us.

Sunday, August 14, 2005

The Heathrow model

The passengers trying to get onto flights to and from Heathrow did get my sympathy this week. A British Airways (BA) staff strike started on Thursday 8th August in retaliation to the sacking of the out-sourced catering firm employees of Gourmet Gate. Heathrow is somewhat of a village workplace and that is why this rare case of 'sympathy strike' broke out, crippling BA.

That is part of what makes this situation so interesting from the outsiders cold eye.

One company having its' employees strike due to the treatment of a staff of another company is somewhat unusual. It brings emphasis to corporations to recognise the chain and to account for it. Of all statements of the obvious to come out of the reporting on this story was "BA relies on its staff", make by a BBC journalist on their television coverage.
Thats not exactly a unique situation. Every company in existance relies on its' staff. It's the only reason to have them. There are a few gentile business men around that are knowingly overstaffed for more selfless reasons but they are a great rarity.

My hope is that other companies take note of the importance of their employees and understand how people power can effect profits. I'm lucky enough to work for a company that has great values with regards to its' workforce. But I know that there a millions of people in work for employers that lack this fundamental understanding.

The other interesting part of this story is in how the BA chiefs chose to handle fixing things once their staff returned to duty. This was to keep things on track as if the staff hadn't left and then deal with the backlogue of customers as and when they could fit them in. What this does is make a fewer amount of passengers greatly upset whilst the ones that booked their tickets for dates after the strike were largely unaffected.

Naturally this has those customers treated badly quite upset. Seeing as there are people that were expecting to fly on Thursday 8th not predicted to fly out until August 15th this is not surprising.
However, I'm staying off the fence and believing that BA have made the most logical choice. The choice of either ten of thousands of disgruntled travellers or millions is a easy choice to make. In the grand scheme of things the damage is done to BA however they choose to handle it. Cheaper no frills airlines are cutting into their market share. Oil prices means that BA are losing opportunities to cut costs to keep them in competition and then exceptional circumstances like the strikes do not help them either.

BA have to really start reconsidering their business model and how it will work in 21st century aviation.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Big news, little news

What a week. There's a hell of a lot going on but to be honest nothing that I feel passionate about to write at great length. The Iraqi food for oil scandal that has been milling about for years is finally making progress. Nothing greatly surprising going on here, my faith in the UN has been waining for a while.
That is a matter of great concern to me. The UN is the closest thing we have to an international government. In the depths of time we are going to need one, we are going to have one, I have no doubts about this but we are sure as hell not ready for it by any stretch of the imagination. Sadly I don't see it being remotely feasible within my lifetime.

The would-be bombers of 21 July have been arrested and in most cases charged. Now this should be good. Lots of ethical questions which could make the criminal justice system look damned stupid to come out here.
Is someone who possibly intended to kill dozens worse than a man that actually kills one? The UK penal system is weak. Short sentences and poor rehabilitation rates are commonplace. Will a would-be suicide bomber get released at any stage. Er, how about no. The last guy that got put away for murder, see you in 6 years...

I can't sign off without saying something about the cricket. Best Ashes Test match by far, no matter how much I hated watching the last half hour. I just didn't think we were going to do it and was cursing wasting my weekend before Jones caught that final ball.
Not sure we are going to deal with Old Trafford, a spinners pitch. Giles is doing alright but I wouldn't want to leave him to it.

Tuesday, August 02, 2005

The joy of a good bottle of wine

Now, when I describe this blog as my unique outlook of the world it's purely because no-one can see events from the same perspective of me, not that I have any special insight sadly.
This also means I struggle to focus or be anywhere near as professional in my blogs as I would like. And the reason tends to be mostly due to Big Brother and my inability to avoid commenting on it.

Tonight was one of those rare nights to myself (the rarity of them is what keeps them pleasant, by the by) and after watching about eight hours of VB tutorial videos I thought it would be ok to tune into regular television.

Essentially, all I got was a lot of a repressed gay mans whining. Shame really. First week I couldn't stand the bloke (yes he was whining then) but after he survived the first eviction he changed and was actually quite amiable. After the ladette of the four geezers left though, his world started falling apart and he turned into quite the ****. Take your pick of which four letter word fills that gap, quite frankly I think most if not all will apply.
He's actually got me to the point of shouting at the screen and due to the lack of anyone watching it with me, sending text messages about how badly he deserves a beating.

Most notable thing here is that it usually takes a Liverpool footy game to get me annimated about what's on TV. So this has got me going in the first regard and then comes along a heavily (take that both ways if you will) drunken Kinga. The question of what has Big Brother yet to view gets answered. A women pleasuring herself with a wine bottle in the middle of the garden. Job done! I was in hysterics. And as for the editing, a touch of class. Serious praise to the way those scenes were captured.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Famine in Niger

Appeals for aid in Africa just aren't what they used to be. Back when the Somalian and Ethiopian crisis' were playing a prominent part of the news, the amount of aid wasn't an issue. It was all in the logistics, getting past the warlords to the people in need.
In this particular instance, there are no gun gangs running about. It's a relatively simple matter of supplying the goods.

So what's going wrong this time? Well, I believe cynasism is playing a large part. People just aren't as willing to give out to spare of the moment causes. Neither do they have the same faith as they used to in the popular charities. A lot has been said of Oxfam and wasting a lot of the money through high overheads where they insist in having top draw high street shop locations.
Then there is also the saturation of the charity market. There are so many worthy causes nowadays that the public has to get choosey about who they give to.
Myself, I have a direct debit set up to my charities of choice. For me, this means I can easily walk past the collectors on the streets with a very clear conscience. I'd imagine many other people are in my position too and have done the same thing.

To top it all off I believe that Live 8 has hindered charities and appeals for Africa. "We don't want your money, we want you" I believe was the slogan, but even if it wasn't, this is the message that has stuck with me. The whole Live 8 agenda was to make our money that went to appeals feel insignificant, comparing it to what governments could achieve.

A change of tact is needed, as the targetted governments aren't going to take affect for quite a while and these short term appeals are still very much needed and just as important as they were in the 20th century.