Thursday, September 29, 2005

Big Companies and Their Debt Collection Agencies

I was hoping I wouldn't have to, but it turns out my problem relating to a post I made back in late August regarding Debt Collection Agencies and their relationships with their clients is still ongoing.

The process that this debt collection ritual adheres to is truely facinating. It is amazing what you don't know until you are in the thick of it. Now the debt collection agency's solicitors have sent me a letter, giving me another 7 days to pay up the debts that all parties know I do not owe before legal action may ensue.

This is brilliant, how many more companies/firms have to get involved and disgraced by this disgusting practice. I have decided not to name names yet as I am unsure what my legal situation would be if I wish to pursue this further. But ones thing is for certain, the system that at least these companies adhere to is entirely corrupt.

When it comes to front line customer service I have sympathy, I have been there and no that these people are not individually responsible for the mis-doings of the company they work for in whatever form it takes to upset the customer and cause them to call. For this, they always get my respect.

Debt Collection agency workers, I'm afraid they cannot get the same respect. They know what they are in for when they start working for such companies and if not are quickly polluted by the foul strench that reeks from every part of the practice of their employers. I hate to have to say it but personal experience can draw to no other conclusion.

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

A Statement for Every Morning

A good thing has come out of my current illness (dubbed Manflu in the office), after it has decided that I had to get dismissed from the premises this afternoon after 4 hours odd of diseasing everything I touched or breathed near and sounding like Barry White (dig into my August or September archives to find one of my audioblogs, I plainly don't sound like the Walrus of Love ordinarily).

That good thing is that I have finally got some time to go digging into Heidi Miller's older stash of podcast mp3's which I've been trying to do for the past two months.

Show 5 of Diary of a Shameless Self Promoter introduces the idea of the personal paradigm. For this year Heidi's is "I'm a creative, energetic, moneymaking force to be reckoned with!" I like this a lot. But there's no way I'm going to be able a line like that first thing in the morning, I'm very groggy in the morning. I've going to stick with the first thing that came into my head, the line that Karl insisted Homer shout out in the episode Simpson & Delilah: "I am natures greatest miracle!!"

Thanks for the tip Heidi.

To Understand Pensions

There is no doubt the UK has a pensions crisis. It's not immediate but it is imminent. The trouble with solving it is forces ideology and justice to collide with realism. There are people that have flowery ideas about retirement being about forgetting the toils of work and enjoying life. Whilst that may form part of it, a lot of it's origins was based around finding a way to save for later life.

The problem is also that people are ignorant to the economics involved. I don't recall speaking to anyone in my circles that I've had a conversation with on the subject that knew that they haven't paid for their state pension by their contributions which they've been paying for years. They look at me funny for about 3 seconds and then I brake the silence by revealing that they are paying for the current pensioners and that they will only get their state pension by having the generation of workers at the time of they reach retirement age pay for them.
Pensions 101.

This method of providing pensions was conceived back in post World War II, 1946. Like most other laws and guidelines passed at the time this methodology is dated and no longer viable. The demographics just do not allow it. What this means is that someone will have to suffer when the new system comes in (which it must). Judging from the current system, the first pensioners essentially got money for nothing and are long passed.

I turn 23 in two days and I know that there is no way that I am going to avoid being one of these potential millions of Britons that get stuffed when the new system comes in. I accept that and I hope others do too. 60 years ago, someone that is undoubtably dead made a set of rules that was ultimately going to stuff millions of people. He probably didn't know too much about it so we can't blame him for that.

However, the brave soul that changes it now (please make it radical) will have no excuse for not taking into account the distant future. Provided he or she takes that into account and factors that in to the plan, the ability for the system to flex with the times, then I am a happy man.

An Education in Blogging

Blogs are still a relative new medium but we are at a time where we are looking back at the early adopters stage and moving on to the early majority stage of Moore's Technology Life Cycle. To celebrate (I think that is an appropriate word for it) this new season there are a spate of guides to blogging as those that have now been in the practice for months and possibly years can finally right down and pass on their wisdom.
I found my way onto Seth Godin's new ebook: Who's There? It's a very good read and if you're wondering if blogging is for you I'd very much recommend you click on the link, stick the kettle and have a read over a nice cuppa.
Also, for a great post (so you don't have to go to the full length of a book), Lee Hopkins has posted up his views evangelist educators to clarify this movement in focus from just getting people to blog to having people blog with purpose.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

New Respect for the Those who work in the Legal Sector

Shortly after writing my last post the BBC 1 O'clock News came on and brought my attention to another case that is hitting the European Court of Human Rights. The case is that of Natallie Evans. She has been denied use of the embryos stored after she was diagnosed with cancer that would make her infertile. This is after a split with her partner you provided the sperm for her eggs.

Due to contrasting coverage of the story it is impossible for me to tell how much discussion went on regarding consent at the IVF treatment clinic in the frantic hours following her diagnosis. The IVF.net article throws a bias against Howard Johnston, whereas this Prochoiceforum.org article seems to be have a bit more of a sympathetic view on both parties.
What there appears to be little doubt of is that time was of the essence and this issue was greatly overlooked at the time.

This is one of the most difficult cases I've seen pass the nose of the ECHR. It is all going to depend on the judgement of whether an embryo has human rights. If yes, well, the medical world has to be turned upside down. Embryos in storage have to be destroyed after the passing of five years. If the embryos have a right to life then surely they must be kept until it is impossible to do so. Mr Johnston's withdrawal of consent will not matter as it will be trumped by the embryos' right to life.

If this stance isn't taken then things start to favour Mr Johnston and his arguements. However things to get a lot trickier. If you read Professor Sally Sheldon's article you will be able to quickly see all the complications involved in trying to make a decision on this.

After reading a bit of legal text today, I have an even greater respect for those that practice law. It is an absolute minefield and the amount of Anadin they must have to go through to keep their head straight, can't be healthy. Despite the reputation lawyers and legal professionals carry, you have to respect the mind they have on them to make sense of the law.

Marrying your former in-laws

As is not too uncommon, I was scouring the BBC news website for the stories that are not likely to be shown on the terestrial television news coverage. The first story that caught my eye was by Claire Heald headlined: "Son and ex mum-in-law hope to wed".

Until this story was released I didn't even realise that such an event was illegal. I am no lawyer but have access to a few legal references (bearing in mind that this is all UK laws) and it does turn out that under the Marriage Act 1949 it is a statutory no-no.
However, there is at least one loophole and is that both the other affected spouses are deceased.
So if the son's wife has died and the ex mother-in-law's husband has died then the show can go on.

Now at first I was thinking that this was an old law and so the fact that it does not reflect todays society. But on being referenced to the another marriage act that isn't even 20 years old it turns out that there was an opportunity for revision. It was not taken up evidently, but the chance was used to amend a slightly more disturbing subsection of the law. This was to state that a man can marry the grandmother of a former spouse whether she is dead or not (the former spouse, not the grandmother) or the he can marry the former spouse of his grandson with no regard.

I'm not sure what family values this was supposed to represent, but why on earth did the government of 1986 decide that marrying in-law relations two generations up or down the chain was completely fine but marrying the in-laws one generation up or down was to remain judged illegal?

As the case between Clive and Brenda Blunden (they are not married yet of course Brenda just changed her name by deed poll) has hit the European Court of Human Rights and the Court has said (just like pretty much any case that has even come their way) that it is a breach of human rights, as sure as the world is round, the DCA are going redress the UK laws again.

Although, for once I agree with the ECHR on this one. That makes this a very rare day indeed.

Exactly what's the point of being ill?

I am one of these people that tries to see a reason, meaning or at least a point in everything that occurs on this Earth. I just can't figure it out in mild (better labelled pathetic) illnesses. The common cold for example, I am "suffering" from specimin of such now.

So, for the next few days I'm going to be leaking mucus out of my infundibulum apparently just for fun. If the information on commoncold.org is to be believed then the sneezing, wheezing and mucus evacuation do not help the body rid itself of infection. And as 25% of folk infected with rhinovirus do not exhibit the usual systems it is evidently not necessary.

In fact, as the cold can move about (but not multiply) outside a primates nasal passage, by the host not issuing an act of quarantine it only serves to spread the virus. Meaning to me, it is the virus itself either commanding or tricking the human body to react this way to spread itself. Clever little bastards, these viral entities.

In conclusion, we are ill to spread a smart ass virus that wants to colonize the back end of your naval cavity. Depending on which source you take, humans use anything between 8 and 12 percent of the brain. We have control over the basic motor functions, the real high level stuff. Enough for us be able to move about to find fuel, water, shelter and reproduce. We may well have been given higher cerebral features for the sake of our survival. Previous top predators have died out so we are the next step in the evolutionary chain.
I believe that residing in the other eighty or ninety odd percent lies the ability to control the more specific functions of the body. The release of enzymes in the stomach, release of antibodies etc...
Roll on the day where we can conduct our own treatment within the body rather than relying on drugs for the task.

Monday, September 26, 2005

Buzz Phrases

In the effort of collaboration, an area of business that has become increasingly close to my heart, I spent all of five minutes thinking up some sort of buzz wording. I'm yet to decide whether it is just for my own well being (something to stick up on the rim of my monitor, for example) or whether I'm going to take the braver step of trying to spread the captions to colleagues that I believe will find it helpful.

Now, because these were coming out of my head I was naturally thinking that there is no way that these are original. The obvious way to find an answer to this question in my head was to go a google search. I must admit the results surprised me.

"Don't just think it, ink it!"

Only 503 results. From clicking through the most interesting links it turns out this is used within business for a few companies. Though mainly, it is the quote of an author of communications titles Dan Zaber, used for setting goals opposed to sharing knowledge.

"Don't just know it, show it!"

Remember, I only spent five minutes on this, so you'll have to forgive me if these sound naff. Even more surprising here, a meagre 14 results. This phrase is mostly used on education sites.
I'm a little stunned. I was expecting thousands of results for these. This teaches me to have a little more faith in myself.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Role Model Responsibilities

The Heaven and Earth Show has asked the question "Should we expect perfection from our role models?" This is, of course, a topic sparked because of the demise of Kate Moss that has been plastering the tabloid pages for the past week.
Perfection is a bit too much to ask, what's more important is that anyone that takes a role model understands that this person is only human too. For me, it's a very simple "no" to answer the posed question. What I do expect of role models is that, like every other denizen of their homeland, they do not break the laws.
Divorce, abortion, nervous breakdown, bad choices... any of these type of things although provoking questions, they should not form a part of what we expect from role models.

There are two types of role model in my mind. The reluctant role model and the confessed role model. The reluctant role model is the one that knows my the very nature of who they are or what they do, that they are going to influence the youth especially. The confessed role models are the ones that actually come out and say that they are.
The confessed role model should naturally take on more responsibility in setting a good example.

But, in all this strife to have desirable role models, humans naturally require guidance, especially in an important life choice or crisis. Seeing what others do before you is one of the most relied upon methods to making a decision.
Because of this, it's a vital part of current society to have controversial public figures.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

Mixing Business with Pleasure

The entertainment and leisure industries are such frivolous things. The money that comes into each specific company in the business is based on a whim. Sometimes I wonder how much this factor is appreciated by their bosses.

For me, it’s a long deliberation as to whether I want to see a film in the cinema for example. It’s £6 a ticket, plus travel and over priced refreshments, for something I don’t even know that I’m going to like.

This summer has been said to be poor but there were still a number of films I was considering seeing:

  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  • Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy
  • Star Wars Episode III
  • Sin City
  • Batman Begins
  • War of the Worlds

In the end, I only went out and saw Star Wars. If I were to analyse why, it would be very much like the reasons I saw Lord of the Rings and the Matrix trilogies. Once you see the first one you know what you’re getting. In other words, I took the safe bet.

It’s a strange day and age where people consider how to spend their money. As much as I’d like to see these films, I can wait. The other Badgers and I will regularly watch a DVD, so instead of spending £40 between us in July/August at the cinema and on the road, we’ll spend a £10 on the same night six months later, and in fact with that tenner, there will be some beer included in that and all.

The public want to be entertained; some don’t mind paying a premium and then they don’t mind going on the cheap either.
I’d love to go to a football game every week. But when, even a Championship side, are charging no less than £25 a ticket there is no chance of that.
I was regularly going to Games Workshop stores and buying £100 or more worth of gear a month. They jacked up the prices and I soon had to stop those trips.

What’s the theme? The nature of the customer is to always return. I want to go to the cinema because I love films; I want to go the footy games because I love football. I want to buy from Games Workshop because I love Warhammer.

These industries have a strong hold on their customers from the first time they purchase. It is more what the business (model) does wrong after that that turns the customer away, opposed to the customer just deciding on his own not to go there again.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Mankind, the moon and space

A couple of days ago the news broke of NASAs' plans to send man back to the moon in 2018. We knew that after the shuttle fleet were grounded and the decommision plans for them made public that the agency would have to start building it's next generation of spacecraft.

The cost is $104 billion. This is being questioned, quite rightly. Even over 13 years, this is still a hell of a lot of money on a program which will not be displaying benefits for possibly decades after the event.

Thank god the days are over from when the Americans spent millions trying to develop a pen that would work without gravity whilst the Russians decided to go with a pencil, presumably HB. But I was hoping that some of this capital will used to make state of the art technology that can be used on Earth. This world would still be in the dark ages if it wasn't for the innovations that was developed out of wars. For the new millenium, I'm hoping that our major technological breakthroughs will come from a purer source. Humans' pursuit to explore the solar system is surely a great candidate.

Crime and Celebrity

I seem to be getting on a theme of topics accidentally rolling into each other so carrying on with it. Two days after posting my thoughts on televised criminal activity we have Kate Moss all over the British press, losing her contracts.
Just as important is the police investigation that will come to see if there is any truth in the newspaper reports of drug taking.

This is based on reports and suspicion, although I have a feeling that she'll be found guilty. I hope that I have this instinct subjectively and haven't been coerced.

In light of this I hope they take note of the stuff where they don't even have to do the leg work.

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

Tesco Dominance

In contrast to the subject I was addressing on Friday, Tesco is a company that does indeed use it's information and marketing effectively... and then some. Their pretax profits hit £908 million and this is for only 24 weeks. When you think the yearly results are going to include the Christmas period, they are going to easily reach £2 billion again for the year.

That's a unfathomable amount of cash and even more so in power. Their sheer buying power is what keeps their prices low/competitive. When you think of their clubcard scheme it is very easy to see how they could be using this information to target our wallets. And they do, they have a huge database, named Crucible, which holds data on every individual in Britain to monitor their shopping habbits.

You may have thought at some stage over the years, "why not just take a penny off each pound of the price?" This is why they went clubcard. If you don't use a loyalty card, the retailer can only monitor what someone has bought in one shopping trip. Useful, but only for comparing date and purchase related data in relation to other people. When you're using a loyalty card each time, they know exactly what you are buying each time you shop. The data collected is personally identifiable to you.

The profit margin you can gain from this information speaks for itself. Tesco, in the supermarket stakes, is reaching saturation. The competition commision now has to watch them like a hawk when it comes to cornering supermarket trade. But Tesco is in a great position because non food goods are where they are making their money. They can open purely electrical stores (as has already been planned) and have a long way to go to take over this market. Their is plenty of room for them.

Essentially, my hat is off to Tesco. Brilliant use of the information they gather. The short term looks bright for the consumer. The medium term, it depends how 'evil' Tesco decide to get when they reach the point of domination. I don't like 3rd party purchase of marketing information. If they're getting into that game when there have as much market as they do is certainly bordering on 'evil' practice.

So please, shop wisely and just be aware of the information you openly give the retailers you purchase your goods from.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Commiting Crimes on Television

Earlier on there was an episode of Wife Swap which the badgers and I ended up watching once we got sick of Halo 2 for the night. The spouse of an urban pothead swapped lifes with a farmers wife.

The first thing wrong with this picture is that we have a pothead on TV, a genuine one. Not just someone we are told is a pothead, but a man that is actually lighting up joints in front of the camera and openly had himself filmed doing it.

I'm sorry, but if smoking cannabis is really an offence then this man has to get prosecuted. Anything but makes an absolute laughing stock of the law, when the evidence will take two minutes to put in front of a judge and get a conviction.

You have to judge each case on its' merits ordinarily. Even in this case, the man evidently isn't a terrible father and I'd almost stick my neck out and say it would be much better for the kids to stay with him than be taken into care. But this blatent disregard of the law and the attention paid it surely sends out a message that the authorities cannot possibly approve.

My views on cannabis will have no choice but to change dramatically if this display goes unnoticed. It's one thing to commit a "harmless" minor crime in the comfort of your own home, it's quite another to invite potentially every police officer in the country into your home whilst you are doing it. Besides that, for the "entertainment" this provides the "stars" of the show surely received monetary remuneration. Such stupidity can surely bring only one reward.

Is it to be seen as serious as the case of benefit fraud that came from a show before it?

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Leadership & Change

Charles Kennedy has denied that he plans to step down after the next election. Well that's only sensible isn't it. The Liberal Democrats are on their best run since 1923 and with the tories continuing the flounder whilst in the great difficulty of finding a great leader and Labour not buggering it all up bad enough for them to have to worry about the competition.

I still look back in a small amount of horror thinking back to May and going out and voting to keep Tony Blair in. To be fair, he almost deserves to outdo Maggie.

However, I do like the fact that I can vote for anyone. It's not like I'm surpressed or anything, obviously, it's just that so many people are blind and have their mind permenently made up. My Nan will always vote Labour, my Dad will always vote Tory. I just find it nice to know that I will vote for the party offering the best deal.

One thing about political parties, they have no loyalty to you personally, so don't be silly and pledge your loyalty to them.

I do like Charles Kennedy, all he needs to do is make his party policies feasible and he may have my vote in 4 1/2 years time.

Friday, September 16, 2005

If you don't target your marketing properly, people will think you are an idiot

Now you've got to love Adsense. Sure, without context it gets confusing adverts sometimes but at least it tries. Next you've got to love Adblock, the Firefox extension. When I'm straying out to new websites (new to me at least) I don't mind the adverts showing up, it can give you a fuller picture about what the website is about, or how it is designed. However or the sites I visit regularly, I've seen all the ads before and am just not buying. Adblock solves my problem there.

However, snail mail adverts and whatnot you can't do much to stop. Especially when they are from a company whose services or products you use.

Now since that time in the mid '90's where Dixons, arguably Britains leading electrical retailer, were famously frightening their customers by being able to tell you your full address, how long you have been living there, who your mortgage is with, what you bought last and what you had for breakfast just by giving them your postcode and confirming your house number, it has been more widely accepted that companies know more about you than you strictly want them to know.

In the 21st Century no matter what comes through the letterbox you are never surprised by how much a company knows about you when they are trying to sell you something. However, what can surprise you is how little they know with the information you readily give them...

Today, Capital One. Sent me a letter offering a homeowner loan. Hold the phone, bub. On my application I have to tell them whether I'm a homeowner, private tenant, council tenant or living with my parents.
So can you guess why I'm not going to take up their homeowner loan offer? That's right, it's because I'm not a homeowner, and they damn well already know about it.

Today again, HSBC. Sent me a letter with my CC number on it, asking me:

"Would you like one less thing to worry about?"
That sounds nice, sure, wouldn't everybody...?

"Ever forgotten to pay your credit card bill?"
Er... no. Being the company that would know I'm rather shocked you have to ask...

"Why not consider the advantages of paying your minimum monthly payment by Direct Debit?"
As you jolly well know, tried it, wasn't for me. I'd rather make the assessment of how much is coming off my bill when my paycheck comes in.

So, three questions they already know the answer to. Doesn't get them anywhere. But do they know what the irony is: Now I've actually got one more thing to worry about. You scrawling my bloody number across the top of the letter means I have to shred and liquidize the damn thing to avoid identity theft.

I implore you, marketers, please make use of the information you have to hand. A company that uses personalised well thought out marketing material looks professional. A company that sends useless offers to their customers whilst having the information readily available that would have told them they are wasting their time in the first place just looks stupid.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Dealing with Stalkers

Stalkers are again in the news today after a man shot dead both himself and his victim in a London department store. It is one of the most frustrating crimes as you are dealing with the openly psychotic.
With the psychotic, the normal means of prevention don't apply. Threats of imprisonment can have no meaning for them, that goes especially for the likes of this creature that intends to die at the end of his show.

Now an assessment has got to be made. Could the law possibly be misconstruded to allow innocents to be convicted of stalking crimes. I'm seriously hoping not. Stalking has got to be ended as soon as it starts. There is no excuse to allow it to continue. If someone is stalking, it is only fair they get one warning that they are doing it and it must stop. After that there is no excuse to be caught doing it again and the full extent of the law must be brought down against that person.

With no excuse and no need, only one possible result can remain if left untouched and that's physical or emotional harm to the victim. The perpurtrator has one chance (not that they should, it's just the only way a law could work), after that it is their liberties that should be sacrificed.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

On adoption and chains of events

Well, a rather unexpected topic to come across. It came about when I was clicking on the "Next Blog" button on the top right as I do every few days for a couple of clicks to see if anything I randomly read takes my interest.

Going back to the days when I was with my fiancee, the thought and discussion of children was always there or there abouts. And adoption was something that went considered. In greeneyes1982's post "About Me" she opens up on her upbringing and the great diversity in her family structure.

I love the moral in the story that she doesn't hate anyone for it anymore because if things didn't turn out the way they did she wouldn't have ended up with the same loving parents she has now.
Best of all, she is still able to have a relationship with her birth mother.

I'd wager I'm not alone when it comes to finding that my life is at it's happiest when I know that I wouldn't have had it any other way. To hold this view you must accept that past events had to happen exactly as they did and they were indeed for the best.

One thing I do admire is parents that adopt. Some folks have kids because it "just happens". I love the assuredness that comes with a family that chooses to have kids and not only that, love a child not of their own flesh and blood. It is a beautiful thing.

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Day 4 of the test

In audio form I offer a brief commentary on the repercussions of the events at day 4 of the 4th Ashes Test at The Oval.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

I'm all for cultural diversity but come on...

Reality television was a necessary step in its evolution. Now big brother is a no talent required show. Just be yourself, do well in the auditions for a personality and you're in. Now, there you can be as different, individual and unique as you like. That's the idea.
The X-factor on the other hand, is a reality show that requires talent or at least spark of some kind. A pre-requisite is at least a semblance of the ability to sing. Now week after week we see not a competition but a display of, well: arogance, stupidity, misguidance.

I ask myself what makes me different from these guys. Well, I could feel comfortable going for a Big Brother audition. I haven't got a quality that states a default no there. I couldn't however go for an X-Factor audition. I can sing as loud as I like in the comfort of my own home and not disturb myself and I'd imagine most of these folks are in the same boat.
However, I have an immediate audience that know I can't sing in a manner that anyone would want to pay for. If these people had any real friends or caring family at all that they cared to ask the opinion of before going to these auditions they'd get the same answer I get: "You're kidding me right? Hell no!"

Please, end it now, end the madness.

Lessons in confidence

I've just spent a bizarre half hour busy being captivated by Julie Andrews' performance in the 1968 film Star! The movie itself is quite baffling, with fairly little idea of what it wants to be but regardless proves to be quite entertaining in places.
This was entirely unexpected but the cricket was at lunch and the Belgian Grand Prix qualifying had just finished so I was channel hopping. However, I did manage to get myself so lost I forgot to switch back and missed 15 minutes or so of the cricket. Anymore and I would have missed Langer's dismissal!
So what caught me. Well, apart from the fact that I never appreciated how beautiful she was, I was dumbstruck watching a confident individual performance.

This was exactly what I didn't see an hour before when England football Head Coach (um, call the role what you like, that means Manager in English football) Sven Goran Eriksson made a showing on Football Focus. He spent the whole interview looking around in about this ratio 1:1:8 to these directions: the interviewer: Sideways: his chest.
He had to deflect the blame of Wednesday's defeat in Belfast from himself and on to the team as a whole. He did that well, but then there was one key question that needed asking which was "can you motivate the team to victory?". Now bearing in mind he can't answer this question with anything other than yes and he has to have done so for the past 3 days now. It took him 3 seconds to brace himself before answering and even then could not look the interviewer in the eye whilst saying it. So the answer, as anyone who has followed English football for the past 3 years will know, is no but at least the transcript will read well.

So out of today's unproductive Saturday morning I've established three levels of confidence:
1. Where it doesn't exist. You know it doesn't and so does everyone else.
2. Where you have it, but others don't see it in you.
3. Where you have it and everyone can see it.

There's only one level I'd like to be at given those options. Thank you very much Julie Andrews.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Moment of Pride... and Drive

Despite the two main obstacles
1. I said right off the bat I wasn't part of the target audience
2. It's not the best recording of me that's ever going to hit the public domain

Neville and Shel have seen through this and decided to include my comments at not one but two stages of the show. Has to be said you guys made the right move keeping the audiocomment to the end (it'll be better next time, promise). It's quite an honour, that on a subject I knew so precious little about before a month ago that I'd be fit to have comments worth sharing on air time on for what I'm concerned is the best show around.

As I'm writing this, the show notes have just appeared giving me a nice caption: "07:03 Dan Hill enjoys the show even though he says he’s definitely not the primary target audience"

Good news is that they are very happy that they are reaching folk outside the niche that their show is aimed for. I'll comfortably say that it is one hell of a good company to be working for and if it isn't on the Top 100 list it sure ought to be. I'll be sure to keep you posted to keep you posted on how well a systems guy manages to influence the communication within and who knows, maybe even without the large corporation he works for.

The Dodgy World of Cloning

New territory is being broken into in the controversial world of cloning. As eventually expected, permission has been granted to scientists at Newcastle University to clone a human embryo.

The focus is of course on treating diseases and removing the hereditry genes and structures within the embryo that would cause the potential human to be born with them.

For the scientists, they do not believe there is an ethical debate on this yet as it is "only" an embryo. To me this is a pledge of ignorance as they know full well that given the activity amongst the anti-abortion groups that life is before birth. As soon as you can identify the matter as living it is seen as entitled to standard human rights in their view.

I see the necessity of cloning and the potential medical brakethroughs that could come of it. I also find the moral implications reprehensible. If it came to the stage where the human way of life is immediately threatened and cloning is the best way to finding a means of survival. I think then it will be acceptable, for lack of a better word, but until then I think the ethical debate of playing God is stronger than the medical angle.

Suicides sites get slammed

Internet sites that host content on suicides have come under fire in the news today on the back of the story of Carina Stephenson, aged 17, who was found hung in her local woods.
It turns out the records on her computer revealed she was secretly visiting websites that contain all manner of methods and how-to guides for people willing to end it all.

Her mother has launched a campaign of sorts to warn other parents of the danger of such sites and that they should be banned, restricted or otherwise put on itemised billing.

I’m not a parent, so I won’t pretend I can empathise with her position. I think she’s on the right track for itemised billing. Parents should know about such dangerous interests and at least have something to work with before it is too late.

The successful suicide committers tend to be the ones who hide it rather well, so no-one can come to their aid.

However, I do not believe such content should be banned, anymore than certain taboo documentaries or indeed violent movies. I won’t pretend to be a parent but I won’t lie to you and say I don’t know what suicidal feelings are like. I was a heavily depressed child and it was a daily contemplation and indeed cold logical decision as to whether or not to do it.

Anyone who is of the mindset to be able to commit suicide has the imbalance in the brain that means influence would have very little to do with it, in my opinion. If they didn’t get on and do it would lead to a very miserable life feeling an ill out of their skin. I doubt it is possible to persuade a human that doesn’t have the inclination to suicide to commit it.

I know I have views here that I’d imagine very few people would share, but I do not think of suicide as a tragedy. I see it as the person gaining a relief and hopefully finding a new ‘thing’ going on in the great beyond where they can be happy.

Mark Kleiman has a good view on the subject.

Disclaimer: I have as much faith in a great beyond as I do in God. I also have as much faith in God as I do of there not being a God. But hey, what’s the point of being given 75 years to think on a rock if there isn’t more to it?

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The rebirth of English Cricket and the Death of English Football

Well, it's finally over. There are no excuses left to keep Sven Goran Erikson.
"We can't sack him, he's never lost a qualifier."
Can't say that anymore can we. It was never the point. The fact of the matter is that we will never win the World Cup or European Championship with this manager. Under his influence the team is completely dispassionate. So there is no point in him in the job.
Every time he does it as well. To quote John Motson: "On comes Owen Hargreaves, what's he doing to do?" What does Owen Hargreaves ever do for England? Jeez. I guarantee you that the next manager (please, God, make it soon) he's the first squad member out of the door.

Post game analysis from David Beckham: "There were strong words from the manager, Steve McLaren..." Take that as you will.

Either way, while English football is dying on its arse (suffering our worst defeat in 25 years against the Danes, a poor as you like performance against Wales and losing to the typically woeful Northern Island side that really pulled one out of the bag to their credit for the first time in 33 years), thank the Lord for the Cricket and the wonderful array of English swing bowling.


Update: "Taxi for Eriksson" the headline for The Sun on the matter. Damn why didn't I think that one up last night.

Hats off to the Reverend

Hats off to the Reverend

On an issue close to my heart, I discovered that the retired Reverend Alfred Ridley of a grand old age of 71 has been sentenced to 28 days prison to join such illustrious company as Ian Huntley of Soham fame.
His crime: Protesting the rise in Council Tax and refusing to pay the excess.
From the looks of it, his local Council let him get away with 5 months non payment before using the last resort of jail time. On his long Voyage to Woodhill he was given a suspended sentence in July, which from what I know on the subject of council tax debt, would be about a fortnights worth.
So his month long sentence would be two fortnights worth of sentencing after the suspended threat didn’t prompt him to change his ways.

The main crime of the Council Tax in Britain is that the increases are never justified. Because it is a tax you must legally pay for the luxury of breathing (alright, living somewhere, same difference if you ask me) they (the local councils) believe they can raise it up whatever levels they like and its tough on us (the public) for we must pay it.

How on earth we had a revolt against petrol prices 5 years ago but haven’t had one on Council Tax to rival the Poll Tax rebellion I don’t know. Though, saying that, you can see it coming. The tragedy of it is that the idea of a riot/protest march would no doubt be seen as a green light to next active terrorist cell.

Still Rev Ridley’s actions follow the thoughts of millions. He won’t be alone and something is going to have to give.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Another step: D's voice on the internet

After listening to the Hobson and Holst Report #65 I just had to make a comment on it.
I couldn't just leave it as a text comment so I decided to record an audio comment for them as well. It's only my second crack at a web published recording and I'm not sure if they are going to use it. But that'll be my voice going on to a much larger audience than what I'm used to here if it is used.
Enough to make a man nervous.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Dan Hill and the Black Hole

I did a quick google of ["Dan Hill", Blog] this evening and managed to discover another Dan Hill who to be honest has got a blog that I should have really been writing. Freaky that, huh. I have the tendency to turn rather militant when I suffer at the hands of corporate/organisational injustice.

I commented on his post A new definition of pathetic offering my views on spam and the reasons I have recently had to turn on word verification (my apologies to Guru and other commenters).

I love the man's style. Short of not sharing the same experiences it feels like I'm reading my thoughts when I go through some of those posts. A very cool but a little scary experience. I like I'm being a little influenced by the film Gattaca which I've been watching as I have written this. I just have to get this in at the end: that it is a fantastic film and the ending always tugs on my heartstrings.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

You've got to love political correctness... or have you?

Watching old BBC's Points of View you do have to feel embarressed on occasion. Today it was because of my fellow men reacting to the series Bring Your Husband To Heel, a tongue in cheek programme basically saying that man and dog can be trained in the same way and putting the theory to the test.

Natuarally these blokes complaining were saying it's sexist and you could never do the same in reverse, ie Bring Your Wife To Heel.
All this has gone and done is ruin our case of one-upmanship. And now such a series is not possible. For the fact of the matter is that if such a series degrading men can be aired first without any form of resistance then the women do not have a leg to stand on should the same show following the same format be shown but degrading the women instead.

So congratulations guys, by the very act of complaining you've help maintained the oppressive, unrewarding and rather dull British stance of having to stand by Political Correctness despite the vast majority of us hating it with a passion.

F1 and the dull death

I've just finished watching the Monza Formula 1 Grand Prix and the words of Jeremy Clarkson in yesterday's The Sun ring true:
"This afternoon (Saturday Qualifying), someone will get pole position for the Italian Grand Prix - then tomorrow, just after you've fallen into a deep, dreamless sleep, he'll win the race."

The sport is in the dolldrums where despite the fact the mercifully the dull years of the Schumacher era are over, this season is finding it hard to work great excitement into the races.
The two championship leaders have been wheel to wheel for about 3 of the 1000+ laps that have been raced this year. Raikkonen is clearly the fastest and best driver. Alonso is ultimately blessed by reliability. So much so that he has a 27 pt margin at the end of play today.

The Championship cannot be made exciting by impairing the best driver in the best car with dodgy tires and engines (without intention, naturally). I know the organizers are in a tight spot but something needs to be done to encourage wheel to wheel racing that means something.

A start would be with fixing the qualifying rules. No doubt it was a lot better when we had three flying laps and the drivers could come out at any stage of the one hour session, at least in my humble opinion.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Trying to make sense of the Gulf Coast situation

It's taken a few days to try and gain a reasonable perspective on the events in the southern United States. I don't know where the blame lies, quite frankly that's not my biggest concern, but it is quite clear that actions are not occurring as they should be.

For one, there were a couple of days of warning that the hurricane was a coming and most importantly the city was likely to flood. Now, in light of this information, I for one would have a backpack ready to rough it for a few days.

In the most developed country in the world I just cannot comprehend how we are hearing people talk about starvation. I just can't get my head around it. That being said I've seen the pictures, people who didn't die on the first night haven't made the 6 days since the disaster. Lack of water certainly would be amongst the causes and dietary health conditions like diabetes.
All in all the preparation and response has left a lot to be desired from all involved. From choice individuals I'd wager as well as the organisations. There are 8 major US cities within 1, 000 miles of New Orleans. To me, 4 days from knowledge of the Hurricanes coming is enough to prep up, move out and be in a position to help. On the tail end of day 6, we finally see a state where the support is in place and the stranded and stricken and getting water and being evacuated from the city.

The sickening part is all in the looting and resultant crime. Police officers have resigned because they see New Orleans as a dead city and have lost everything they have (irony is they would have been the only ones that still have a job, along with the construction trade) and do not want to face death on the streets were armed crooks are running riot. And who can blame them.

I am guilty in having too much faith in what the United States can do with all their wealth and technology it seems. However with the resources available, the limited knowledge I have and the support in my opinion by most parties, including the President who's already confessed things could have been done a lot better, I stand by my judgement.

What I and the friends I have discussed this matter with, have a concern about is how fragile this makes America look. No part of this is an advert for the civilization of the USA and how strong it is. And I worry for them when terrorists begin to make more than half-arsed attempts at destroying the fabric of their capitalist way of life.

Common sense has not prevailed. Instead there is crime, death and a whole lot of mess to clear up.


In closing I would like to offer my condolences to the true victims that have acted responsibly and honourably to a life altering natural disaster and I hope they will now soon be able to get the chance to grieve for what they have lost and start building a new life for themselves.

Choice Links:
The last New Orleans running webcam I could find;
The associated blog to the webcam;

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Technology can save lives in the pool

I first spotted the story on a ZDNet blog by Joe McKendrick and later on a small segment of the 7 O'clock Channel 4 news.

It turns out they are actually putting motion monitoring technology to work as a safety device. We're more used to security systems leveraging this field but now a relatively new system called Poseidon (great name by the by) to spot drowning or flailing persons in the pool. Especially good for the busy pools where the few of a lifeguard in commonly blocked.

From my experiences as a child that had an incident or two whilst swimming where the lifeguards didn't even notice my plight, I'm somewhat reassured by this news.