Monday, October 31, 2005

Blogs and the Productivity Effect

Sometimes you do have to wonder why employers allow internet access at all. I'm glad that this is a subject that was addressed and rattled Neville Hobson and Shel Holtz on For Immediate Release show #80.
Shel raises the ultimate trump that is year on year productivity goes up, regardless of whatever new means of distractions become available. Follow that with the notion that a happy worker is a productive worker then you know what you should be doing.

First forums and now blogs are getting tarred with the ugly brush of time-wasting. To put this is the most direct wording from the thought in my mind to text on this screen: what utter bollocks.

Of all webpages these are almost more likely to contain information related to work than other typically unblocked pages. Ebay, Amazon, various news sites? You'll need a niche occupation to get use out of these for your job.

Because of this stigma when it comes to using the internet safely (from disciplinary action) I think it of it as only acceptable to use the internet for things like DHL parcel tracking and Microsoft Office Online help. I have a few trusty forums that I have regularly gone to at home and in my lunchtime but it is only fairly recently that I have felt comfortable going to Exceltip.com or UtterAccess.com during the working day to find solutions to my problems.

Now that I have discovered new thinkers that deliver their expert content in a personal manner not previously known on the internet I will be damned if I'm not going to use these resources in the same manner as the MS Office help forums.
Game sites and obscene sites should of course be blocked. I'm hoping most companies will not take the silly step to block blogs.

If the potential of blogs to damage productivity exists in your company then it is because of an unhappy, unmotivated workforce that would rather waste their time than work. In which case they will find ways of wasting their time anyway. With this being the case the problems in your organisation lie far deeper and blogs are but another straw on the camel's back.

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Sunday, October 30, 2005

World Wide Database (WWDB)

Once again I have communications mogul Lee Hopkins to thank for directing me to another excellent blogger. Through Lee I first started reading Jack Vinson. Now I have been directed the way of Nova Spivack.

In a time where I am having to redress this information superhighway notion and give some 21st century tuning. Nova has an appropriate model and reasoning in his World Wide Database layout.
Where HTML was never going to be able to label data effectively in the 20th century we now have XML and tagging on the majority of new webpages, giving data meaning in the form of being named and potentially transferrable. Add open standard semantics as the third component in this evolutionary pot and then we get to the grail that is the World Wide Database.

This is exactly the sort of thinking I am interest in reading.

As an aside Nova also wanted his readers to link to his find the readership post so he can put a list together so that his readers can find other like minded people. Nova, count me as another subscriber!

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Saturday, October 29, 2005

The Secret Right Side of the Brain

As a side note in Neville Hobson's post Understanding Web 2.0 which I referred to in my last post on the old fashioned information superhighway, he left a comment on the bottom about the graphic he used being perfect for right side of the brain people. I agreed, very illustrative.
In light of this I went and took the Brain hemisphere test. Despite the fact my family and most people that I have a relationship describe me one of the most cold-hearted logical people they have ever met, it turns out that I am a right brain favouring individual like Neville.
On the other hand, for the brain test that Neville perscribed, I am mostly left brained.
It is an explanation for being scatter brained at least...

However, most important question (which I have never been asked before) was "Do you do your best thinking sitting erect or lying down?". Instant answer: lying down. A common curse of mine is to find myself in bed with the TV on low and I'll think up something and have to get downstairs, switch on the PC and type my thoughts up and, if possible, apply them there and then.

I wonder if I can push this argument to get me a recliner chair for the office...

Old Fashioned Information Superhighway and in comes Web 2.0

Podcasting, new media advocate Neville Hobson put up a post today titled Understanding Web 2.0. When Web 2.0 first started becoming a topic in the technology sites that I visit I didn't really sit up and take notice. There was so much talk of Microsoft and Web 2.0 that I thought it was a Windows Vista thing and decided I could leave the subject for a couple of months before it would become interesting to me.
However, the blogs I read are getting caught up in web 2.0 so the subject was soon hard to avoid so I filled the concept gaps I had in last week. It is a bit like the 3G (3rd generation) mobile phones phase where we never really knew 1G or 2G phones existed. The same is occurring here, we have lived through Web 1.0 without the name ever being used and are living out the death of Web 1.5 and entering the cusp where Web 2.0 takes over.
What that forces me to reflect upon is my ideals. Over on the left hand side (if you're reading this before I change my profile) you'll see the words '...I am into blogs and trying to get the internet back to warranting the name "Information Super Highway"...'
The Information Superhighway is old hat and seems to truly reflect the dead ideal of the internet before business really took it over and made every piece of content on the net a potential item for revenue. Hence even on this piece of commentary if I was that way minded I could stick Google Adsense on it.

So what am I to do? I don't want to remove that statement from my profile. I still believe that eventually all (useful) human knowledge should be placed on the internet for all to enjoy and learn from. But using the term Information Superhighway immediately classifies me as a sentimentalist that is a little out of touch with the way of things. I blog, I buy things from internet outlets, I listen to podcasts. I am down with it, as it were.
I'm going to have to change it and live with the fact that under the surface I may just be an old fashioned man in a 23 year old's body. First impressions are everything, after all.

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Thursday, October 27, 2005

Beavers back in Britain

I made a technorati search for an alternative perspective to the BBC's coverage regarding the release of beavers in the English countryside and the first on the list was Huma's blog Sounds Like Puma. The BBC article was a bit poor, lacking an author name and lacking context and details. I actually found more information in the first blog I found.
Apparently beavers have not been present in England since the 12th century where they were hunted to extinction, it was in Scotland where the beaver survived until the 16th century. This view contradicts the BBC view where the beaver has not been present in the wild in England for 500 years.
A top search in google finds Wikipedia which suggests support for Huma's view. Another top search for: Beaver England in Google pointed me to a site that suggests the last record reporting of a beaver in England was in 1526. Another top result says it is the 13th century when they became extinct in England. Inconclusive stuff at best.

Either way, the beaver is back and this badger is very happy about it.

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Bill Gates Interview on BBC Website

For my 100th post I am going to point you in the direction of a recent two minute long Bill Gates interview where he briefly states his reasons for continuing in the software business when with a fortune of $50 billion+ he could really be retiring.

But what would the world be without Bill Gates? I'm too young to remember the Before Gates age. A man in his position just doesn't retire. You could never amount such a fortune without your desire going so much further beyond money. It is a silly question to ask of him. I would only want to retire if I made the money in a job that I didn't like doing. If you own your company for 30 years, there is no way you couldn't be enjoying it.

Big surprise, he states that he doesn't own an iPod. Hands up those that find this fact shocking.

Wednesday, October 26, 2005

Your New Office on the Train

It'll be slow in coming but at least it is on its way: high-speed internet access when travelling on the railway. I enjoy my working trips to the capital but the difference between getting to work in 15 minutes when going to the office and the 2 1/4 hour journey required to get to where I need to be in London is a little gruelling at times.
An hour of that journal I cannot do anything with, it is either on the tube or on the footpath. For the remaining I am sat (luck permitting) on a no-change journey to Waterloo. That's two and a half hours of good working time each day so easy to seize.
With the train companies discovering Wimax as alternative to the cheaper but less reliable satalite and mobile phone networks, things are looking up for seeing commuting turn more economic.

Now we only need them to provide the space to open up the notebook...

George Galloway Pleads to be Prosecuted

At this point I'd like to say something about Respect member and Bethnal Green and Bow MP George Galloway challenging the US Senate. Accusations are flying at him over alleged fresh evidence that his estranged wife provides the link between himself and the cash for oil scandal that lingers over the food for oil program that was in operation in Iraq during Saddam Hussein's reign.

But considering the man makes a living out of lawsuits I don't think it is worth the bother.

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Let out the Inner Child - Make a Pumpkin Face

A change from the usual here and I'm going to share a little secret. I've been having some real trouble getting the inner child in me to show his shiny mug lately. Tonight, after a fair bit of persuasion from two fellow Flying Aqua Badgers, I finally stuck the knife in and started sculpting.

Has to be said, one of the best experiences I have had in weeks. My creative skills have been confined to the electronic world over the past few months. It's a wonderful release to make something that doesn't require a screen to see it again.
The evil looking one on the right is my creation.


















So there you have, if you are finding yourself stuck to the screen too long, do remember to take your creative talents away from the PC once in a while.

Tuesday, October 25, 2005

Smoking Ban and the Nanny State

It will soon be over. A smoking ban in public places has been again by the UK cabinet and the bill is to go through parliament tomorrow and from 2007 we are going to start seeing a healthier nation. At least that is the theory.

First we have to get through the massive amounts of adversity that comes from such an action. The British Beer and Pubs Association are not happy. They wanted to see limits imposed instead. There's not enough taxpayers money in the world to regulate smoke limits in pubs. At least not effectively.

A complete ban is the only way. The great problem being is that when you are dealing with addictive substances sold happily over the counter to the masses is that any regulations that hinder freedom is bound to bring irrational retaliation.

Irrational arguments have already began. Exhibit A. "If we are not to force bystanders to inhale our smoke and the only place we can smoke is in sealed rooms then when are we going to incase our roads so pedestrians do not have to inhale the fumes?"
A valid point in another argument sure. But has absolutely no place in as a means to say this act of banning smoking is wrong.
Another argument is that saying that drinking and smoking in a pub go hand in hand. If drinking alcohol is just as bad as smoking how come it is still fine to drink in public places?
There is no suggestion that I have seen that smoking any amount is good for you. Some research suggests a single drink on the other hand, especially when served with a meal, has been shown to have beneficial effects.

If this is the first step to bring smoking out of society after hundreds of years then it is a positive one. It is not the act of a nanny state, but of a government listening to the people that are sick of shortening their lifespan by side-effect of someone elses deadly habits and forking out for dry cleaning bills after a night in a public house.

An amusing article on the origins of smoking in Britain can be found here.
News story from BBC.

Author's situation. I am not a habitual smoker. I will have a cigarette maybe twice a year socially and when opportunity allows I enjoy a Cuban Cigar. One of the best evenings I've had in a pub was smoking a fine Cuban Cigar. A luxury I will have to give up.

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Niklas Zennström - Confident Answers

Today Simon Mayo interviewed Skype co-founder Niklas Zennström on his Radio 5 Live radio show. Despite the fact there were still some figures that didn't make sense to me in his free calls for all vision of the future in telephony.

What most struck me was his answers to questions of services that Skype do not currently offer. By his own admission, the company is not finished in its mission. The answer always being "Not today."
Never turning down the route to every possible venture.

It certainly gives me a lot more positive confidence in him than to say Steve Jobs, considering how the cover up of the video iPod release occured, the faults of which are highlighted here by Shel Holtz.

Weight Discrimination in the Workplace

This is a contentious issue and one that I have never taken the time to form an opinion on. Whilst I am trying to get back into the habit of going to the gym regularly and since today's Working Lunch programme jogged my memory I thought now would be a good time.

There are two main reasons why this is said to occur: overall work performance and interpersonal relationships. This PubMed study supports the theory that there is a trend.

Overall work performance
Strikes some similarity with hiring those approaching pensionable age or women of a child bearing age. Yes there are statistics that support that if you hire an employee from this category you may not get best return. Sadly, these statistics will have very little relevance to the potential employee sitting across the desk from you making a very good job of convincing you that they are the employee you are looking for.

Interpersonal relationships
Again, the statistics may only illustrate a trend. They may bear no resemblance to the person in front of you. Some obese people are ashamed of it, dwelling on their condition and can be quite introverted. Others have a very jovial and free spirited nature that makes it very easy for them to make friends.

In a nutshell, these statistics issued on the subject are good for the obese/overweight people that pay attention to them. Awareness is a great thing. If every individual is aware of the factors that may bring down their performance or chances of landing a job then they are in an empowered position to act on it.

I do not really believe in this weight discrimination business. The only thing getting in the way of a job you want is you. Your credentials, your attitude, your performance. One thing you know is that you don't want to be employed by an employer that is too blind to see through statistics and surveys and forms a judgement of you just by putting you in a category . These employers will not be bucking any trends and you would really have to worry about how this company would be able to survive by thinking outside the box.

However, the fact of the matter is there are poor performing employees. Everyone has to be employed by someone.1

It would be wise for employers to use the research that is going on to address performance issues in their existing workforce. In the white collar world we are supposed to spend 5 minutes each hour not looking at the screen. That's five minutes to take a walk and get a bit of exercise. If exercise and fitness is good for performance and productivity then this should surely be encouraged.

In closing, research and the conclusions it reaches can be useful, but shouldn't be used to blind employers to the individual in front of you that is not a statistic.

1This is a judgement based mainly on low unemployment areas. Where I live a very common saying is "anyone that hasn't got a job doesn't want a job."

Monday, October 24, 2005

How Much is Your Blog Worth?

On the Business Opportunities weblog you they have created a nifty little applet that can calculate how much value your blog is worth. Mine turned out to be about 2800 times more valuable than I thought it was.

Sold!


My blog is worth $2,822.70.
How much is your blog worth?



I got directed to this from Jack Vinson's blog.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Bluetooth: Under your Skin

I visit Darren Barefoot's blog on an irregular basis, normally when I need some light relief (he's a funny guy). Tonight I stumbled across the story he covered regarding adult use of bluetooth and SMS messaging.
Essentially, there is a toy (designed for ladies, remarkably British) that works by text message. OK, so you're not going to get any points for seeing that coming (SMS is too close to S&M for that), but only a mind as sinister as Darren's would think up researching if the device was discoverable in bluetooth searches.
Tremendous!

Saturday, October 22, 2005

Trouble in the Economy a la Gordon Brown

Further to what I was saying on Thursday, I really am getting the impression that Gordon Brown has gone and dug himself a great big hole to greet him for his premiership. I see two fundamental figures which concern me: Annual growth at 1.6%; Annual inflation at 2.5%.
To use a phrase commonly spurted out by the government referring to the anytime shadow chancellor's figures "the sums here don't add up".

As a consumer I'm confused what the hell I need to be doing. I don't much care for interest rates. Regardless of whatever the Bank of England sets them, the same poor rate of interest will be applicable to my current account and the same extortionate rate will be applied to my credit cards. Once I get on the housing market things will of course change, but until then...

The government wants us to spend as much as possible and yet not half us accruing huge debts. And yet if it wasn't for debt the economy would struggle to function, apparently. A bit of adult education here would help. Economics are not taught at school and unless you take a particularly vested interest as an adult you will not learn about it either. A bit of groundwork in making the adult population aware of what their fiscal activities do may help the country work in a more favourable way.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

What David Cameron Will do to the Conservatives

In my mind there is little doubt that David Cameron will emerge as the elected leader of the Conservative party come 6th December. Shockingly enough, this leadership campaign has actually been somewhat interesting in the past two weeks. But it seems to be a fight of personalities opposed to positions. Each of them is the same in their stance: the party has to change, modernize, become a 21st century party.

Cameron is likeable and talks a good talk. The poor man is not going to be able to escape comparisons with early day Tony Blair for that unfortunately. I don't like the way Michael Portillo dismisses Cameron's chances of taking the Tories into government in 2009/10. This is the first time I've spoke of Mr Portillo so I better clarify my view on him. I respect him so much more since he became a political pundit than when he was a Member of Parliament; it is hard to believe how slimy I found him back then. His opinions I am often in agreement with.
Now whilst I don't like what he has said about Cameron, I can't help but think he has a point. The river of time has an opportunity to repeat itself here, reversing the roles. Maggie Thatcher quite to give way to John Major who was given the benefit of the doubt to carry on her legacy. Gordon Brown may be given the same opportunity.
However, Brown has got to be careful for the next three years. Blair wants to out-do Thatcher, no doubts that'll include being in power for longer than she was. If Blair really is a party player then he has to let Brown take his coat off in 10 Downing Street before an election looms. If the downturn in the economy is significant, Brown may end up wading in his own filth after commanding so much power and, in turn, responsibility in his role as Chancellor.

David Cameron is a fresh young mould, who doesn't bear the burden of age that troubles previous leaders and candidates that always have to win on the first attempt or face the sack.
I wouldn't expect him to set out a stall until Brown starts giving away his position, as Prime Minister. I'm intrigued by what stance he will take and how he will empower me to do the right thing, as he puts it.

Bringing Porn To Your Local Public House

Another brilliant idea brought to you by Pascal Pinck writing for Reuters.

When talking about the new Video iPod we get this little nugget of information:
"Historically, pornographers have a strong track record of adapting new imaging devices and formats in a commercially viable way."

In the same article, Mark Kernes of Adult Video News magazine says that consumers may not want to show off such content in the mall.
No, but I can guess somewhere where such juicy clips (C.L.I.P.S, get your mind out of the gutter...) will be shown, replacing sharing your new ringtone with your mates: down the pub.

The oldest profession in the new age. Cheers.

Blogspot or Splogspot?

Sad news this week as spammers have once again ruined things for the rest of us by hitting Google's free blogging service Blogger.com with a wave of newly created splogs as reported on Eweek.com.
Blogger is being picked out especially because of its' easy use interface and the tie in with Adsense. The problem this causes for us genuine Blogspot bloggers is that the likes of Technorati and Pubsub are threatening to cut off blogspot from their searches.

An option presented is for Google to start charging for hosting. This isn't desired from either side of the provider or the author. The author naturally doesn't want to pay if it can be avoided and Google do not want to take the responsibility of service that will be required if their services were not for free.

Another fine mess created the woeful minority not caring for the consequences of their actions on the majority.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Using Blogs Effectively, For Both Author & Reader

Business Communicator Neville Hobson has pointed me into the direction of Jakob Nielson, publicised as a weblog usability guru, in his own own blog at Nevon.net. After reading through a few of Jakob's pages I think he is nothing short of adequately labelled. His post on the 10 Top Design Mistakes on his Alertbox Column certainly make interesting reading for authors looking to avoid the pitfalls.

I thought I'd take the time to examine where I am with this points:

1 & 2. Author Bio and Photo. One ugly mug on the frontpage and a little bit about me with a link to my full profile if for more information if you really want to know that my favourite film is the soppy It's a Wonderful Life. OK, it doesn't tell you I'm six feet tall, but life has got to have some mystery has it not? Check.

3 & 4. Poor descriptions of posts and links. I'll give myself a 3/5 here. I certainly could be writing better headlines and capturing more accurate links, but I think I do a job I can at least be happy with.

5. Classic Hits. Something to look into now I've got 6 months worth of archives.

6. Calendar for navigation. Well, the very nature of blogs is for the latest information to be at the top and most prominent. Sadly catagories isn't a feature of Blogger. This is frustrating and is liable to be a large factor in my decision of whether to change service or not.

7. Irregular Publishing Frequency. This I have got near sorted. I like to do daily blogging, occasionally letting interrupt a day every so often. This has been going well for near two months.

8. Mixing Topics. Ah, this is where I get caught out fairly often. I'm fortunate to have my disclaimer in the green writing on the top left which gives me a large scope to go on. At the moment the idea is that you find my opinions on matter of consequence in my mind at least humourous or insightful. If you get both of these things then that's a bonus all around.

9. Forgetting that you write for your future boss. I've got this point in the bag. I've known for some time my boss reads this stuff, but I also had confirmation today that my boss's boss not only knows of its existance but reads it too. I always write publically available information as if it will be read by absolutely everyone. You are asking for trouble if you do not take this approach.

10. Not owning your own domain name. What I do here depends on how seriously I want to get taken (I'm biting my tongue as to whether I should be saying something self depreciating here). Perhaps when I narrow down my range of topics and develop a speciality to take on in the blogosphere this will become more important.
However Jakob is correct on one thing: the later I leave it the harder it will be to do...

Monday, October 17, 2005

The iPod Video is Going to Rock Whose World?

The past couple of days I've been involved in conversations regarding the iPod Video and its very quick release after the iPod Nano with, amongst others, Shel Holtz, Piaras Kelly and Lee Hopkins.
If there is a joke for an Englishman, an Irishman, an Australian and an American to go wiht this I'd love to hear it.

A lot of emphasis has gone on how much this move should be upsetting customers. To me where the real fight is going on is with all the companies that Apple is now stepping on the toes of. The SocialCustomer raises some good points, I first heard of this from Ben Hamilton on Lee's blog.

$1.99 for show ownership isn't too bad. The emphasis is on ownership opposed to pay-per-view. This is apparently a big deal, but at a maximum of 480 x 480 pixel resolution it's not greatly transportable, if my information is correct. So there is some safety for a few worried cable companies and TiVo there.

This is an interesting topic and there's loads of blogs and articles regarding it. Latest band to hit out are the Hollywood Unions. This issue isn't going to go away quickly...

Sunday, October 16, 2005

The Future of Free Energy

As we all know, we are facing a global energy crisis that is going to hit most of us within our lifetime. The good people at Lutec Australia PTY Ltd think they are on to the answer. If you happen to have $1m AUS to help them finish off the project, I implore you to make a consideration of this technology.

Thursday, October 13, 2005

The Criminal Green Light

This morning brought news to accompany my morning cuppa that there has never been a better time to commit petty crime in Britain. Early release is now an option being considered by the Government in a bid to deal with the prison population crisis.
In 30 years the prison population has just about doubled from below 40,000 to near 80,000 with some figures doing the rounds saying that this number is going up by 200 people a day.
Early release is a joke. In fact the whole system is a joke. Judges' sentences mean very little these days with convicts spending as little as 25% of their sentence behind bars. The reoffending rate was 61% reconvictions with the next two years following release in 2003. This is just those that got caught.

Until the country devises a method of rehabilitation and proper punishment for criminal acts that actually works, we're just looking at a revolving door system that will do nothing but increase crime.

Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Being Proactive Properly

Today was the first day of my life I set up being proactive. Now in the context of acting (do something), proacting (do something without prompt) and reacting (do something because you are prompted) I have to agree with Dan York and his comment in FIR show 74 where acting and proacting mean the same thing and therefore the word proacting shouldn't be used.

The proactive I'm talking about is acting positively to events and circimstances. Going back to work after a jolly long relaxing weekend, email box full to the hilt (yes after three days of not clearing the inbox this did really mean the hilt, i.e deleting before it would let me send) and questions from every corner of the office it could have been a stressful day.
What a wonderful feeling to wake up in the morning (absolutely when I wanted to as well by the way) and go through every door knowing that you're going to have a good day because no matter what live throws at you, you are going to think the best and make the most of it.

It works a treat. Give it a go. Proacting: reacting positively to life and events no matter what they are.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Addressing Personality Types

I love personality tests. According to the Keirsey Temperament Sorter I fall into the INTJ category: The Mastermind Rationals. Very complimentary name. Of the 16 categories INTJ's account for about 1% of the population. I can understand me being a rare breed ;) .
If I find a test that provides a result I can agree with, I make a note of it. In the case of the Keirsey test I even let my boss know the result. I believe strongly in giving my manager the best information available on me. A common factor I find in success working is knowing as much as you can about the resources you have to use and the people you interact with. Team members are always going to be the most valuable asset to a team manager. As a team member it is your joint responsibility to make sure your manager is as best advised about you as they can be.
If you feel you can't be as open with your employer about this sort of information then you have my personal sympathy. I've become so used to it I couldn't imagine another way of working.

Now, in his brand spanking new webspot, the great Australian blogger Lee Hopkins has redefined four key personality types you find in the workplace. Lee does stress the point that no person is only one of these, but going through the list I identify with every one of them. I can't tell if that makes me easier or harder to communicate with... I never thought of myself as an extrovert before but if I had to side with one by those descriptions, it would have to be this.

Either way, certainly a good tip for improving your communications or to some cases maybe tailoring one-to-ones, specifically thinking training material here.

Monday, October 10, 2005

Protecting Badgers From Culls

Badgers are once again hitting the news as the threats of culls comes ever closer. This time the British Veterinary Associasion is backing the proposed culling. Estimates are that there are up to 300,000 badgers in the wild in Britain and that 50,000 of these are killed each year. In fact the most likely cause of death for a badger that survives past infancy is by road traffic.

They are a very popular animal in this country, I am one to talk, as a member of a institution that has named themselves after the creature. The public generally finds them adorable unlike farmers who generally see them as pests and so, rather like foxes, discussing around the intentional killing of them is typically heated.

Testing is going to go ahead into the feasibility of vaccinating badgers against bovine tuberculosis. The for this three year study will be £3.3million. A small price to pay compared to the 100m a year that goes into compensation to farmers for TB.

Fundamentally, humans have no right to decide in favour of culling an animal when the option of disease prevention is presented. The cost of progress alone to badgers is said to be 50,000 lives a year and then there are the illegal gassing and otherwise killings that can total up to another 10,000 a year. What right do we have to kill more of them when it is avoidable?

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Another Shy England Performance

Despite a 1-0 victory over Austria yesterday, the English football side put in their forth unconvincing display in succession. Sure, Beckham was sent off after two bookings without actually commiting any foul at all, but there was a whole first half to take the game by the throat and really give the fans some belief in the squad.
Fortunately, the job is done in regards to qualification. England will qualify as one of the best runners up if they do not defeat Poland on Wednesday. But this game on Wednesday is the time for action. For as long as I can remember Poland have always been a thorn to England in the qualifying competitions. 1990 World Cup, Euro 1992, 1994 World Cup, 1998 World Cup, Euro 2000 and now 2006 World Cup.
National pride demands that we finish top of the group and an emphatic romp at Old Trafford is required. No caution, we want to see a high tempo game with lots of pressure on the ball. We want to see a performance to make us once again think that winning the World Cup is at least a hope.

Realisations and Paradigm shifts

My current read is Stephen R. Covey's book The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: Powerful Lessons in Personal Change. I haven't even got onto what these seven habits are but I can already feel the world of good coming from this self help book.

A hell of a lot of talk goes into paradigm shift. Everyone is living in their own paradigm when they live out their lifes. Normally this results in people having partial perception of situations. What the first part of this book tries to address is changing your view on matters, being receptive and by doing this getting a fuller perspective on the attitudes and interactions in your life.

I was watching and participating in tonight's Test the Nation programme on BBC1. John Humpries was discussing his hatred of text messaging, or more accurately text-talk. It was presented simply. He read one of John Keats's famous love letters to Fanny Brawne. The comparison was made with a plausible modern day text which would go "r u up 4 it?"

The beautiful heartfelt words of Keats alone caught my attention. The comparison was almost irrelevant. My thoughts went back to how my old attempts at writing letters to my girlfriend went. I think I managed about three (none of which I thought were bad, either at the time or retrospectively) before the embarrassment stopped me from writing another. What a tragedy that I never wrote one to her as my fiancee.
I knew how much she loved them. The woman I would do anything for? Yet I couldn't even do something as simple as pen the words trapped within my heart for her. A bit pathetic really, but something I wouldn't have noticed at the time. That's why I'm really loving this stage of my life right now. I feel that I'm learning life at a much faster pace than I ever learnt anything in my school years. It feels so good knowing that at 23 I know so much more than I did at 22. I'm also very aware that at 24 I'm going to know a great deal more, hopefully at the same exponential.

I especially love interacting with 16 - 18 year olds, in limited doses at least. They are the age group (I was no different) that think they know everything about the world. What they don't know already isn't worth concerning themselves about and will play no part in their lifes. It's a great source of amusement. I implore anyone in my boat to do this too. Find a group that you know you'll see grow up over the next few years (at least a group with individuals you have faith in to grow up). It's a great experience seeing folk go through this growth stage, learning the lessons you took on board only a short while ago.

One of the principles of the book is to learn the lessons in it as if you were to teach them. I brilliant notion and a great way to learn anything. So here is a lesson, there are a great number of things you can do for the people you have relationships with. Just try to shift your perspective to the greater picture, be on the lookout for triggers if you can't do this for yourself at least. I wish I could have done it years ago, there are great rewards for the reaping when you consider your actions or just as importantly non-actions from this viewpoint.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

National Novel Writing Month

Anyone that has even a passing interest in writing a novel, I strongly advise to take part in the misleadingly named National Novel Writing Month which will be dominating my November schedule.
No matter how bad you think your writing is, it doesn't matter. This is all about getting involved and stuck in.
Naturally being a web-based venture the word National isn't appropriate. This is a global event which had 42,000 participants in last year, myself included. It's a brilliant chance to meet like-minded individuals who want to write the same as you.
Last year I procrastinated like an immortal and didn't hit the 50,000 word target. This year I'm going to make the grade!

Friday, October 07, 2005

Relaxing Holiday?

I believe I am fortunate to be in a job I enjoy but sometimes it does put me in one hell of a position. I can't look forward to holidays, I can only enjoy any part of my annual leave when I am actually on it.
Why is this? Well, I find that my last day is condemned. Anything that can go wrong will go wrong and all the pressure that can be applied somehow finds its way to rear its ugly head for this specific day. I think this problem comes up mainly because I like my work, I remember working in other places that I didn't enjoy as much and this issue just never came up.

By putting in an 11 hour last day I just about manage to survive and can then go on to enjoy my lengthy weekend (I take my holidays in 3 day spells where I can so I get a 5 day weekend). My brother turned 18 yesterday (in England that means alcohol's legal) so we hit the town or, more precisely, in his case the town hit him. It's the only way to get the weekend started!

I'm not sure how much of this last day blues is psychosomatic and how much of it is the "big man's" evil sense of humour. If anyone else suffers from this phenomenon let me know.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Is Blogging Going to Die Before it Lives?

I, like many other genuine bloggers, am living in fear. Fear of spam. Spam blog posts, spam comments, spam trackbacks... they all exist in this very early stage of life for the blogosphere. The precedent has been set by what happened to emails.
Spam has the potential to ruin a perfectly good communication medium. It is unbelieveable how much this stuff is hated, yet there are still enough internet users that "feed the troll", as it were, to keep the beast sustainable.

Shel Holtz and Neville Hobson were speaking of the problem in show 73 of For Immediate Release, the podcast discussing PR, online & corporate communcation and the intersection with technology. They were talking of the good old days of email, where people were checking their email account multiple times a day, anxious to see what people had sent them. I even remember that as little as 5 or 6 years ago I was going through this same thing. My interest in personal email is almost dead, if not for a couple of old friends I still keep in touch with this way.

I'm now at the same stage with blogs. I have a load of applications run on start up and one of them is my RSS aggregator. I look forward to seeing what the feeds bring and what comments I have received on my blog.

I think we (and I mean a very collective we) are in a better position to head off spam for the blogosphere than we ever were for emails. Blogs and syndication is still for the technically minded, however mildly, where as email was always for everyone. As the even mildly technically minded know that responding to spam brings more spam. It's optimistic to think we can see the evil spammers off by just ignoring them, but if this theory was ever put to the test I'm sure it would work.

I don't like the pessimism that always accompanies the fight the against spam. I believe there is a way of making it obsolete. If ISP's were to take a stand to send a prominent message to their new users about spam, what it is and how to avoid we will be able to get the message through that spam has no place in 21st Century marketing.

Monday, October 03, 2005

How Euro Are You?

How Euro are you? This is the question being asked of the the British public tonight on BBC Two. I am naturally fascinated by matters of Europe and the UK. This means a lot to because I do believe the world will be truely united at some stage of human evolution. The only alternative is that humans will destroy each other.
I will happily call myself any geographic associated name that fits me: Andoverian, Hampshiran (not that that's ever been used), Southern, English, British, European, Human.

As a nation, the majority of the population of England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are comfortable being called British. If only it was as simple as agreeing to be European and then we are one step away from being the global human race.

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Longwang and Jokes That Come Too Soon

It's amazing how you can learn valuable lessons when completely sober at 2:30am on a Saturday night. About 20 minutes ago I learnt about Typhoon Longwang menacing over the Chinese coast.
Now, because I knew I would forget this in the morning and so some other comrade would get to the punchline out first, I decided to get the message out first, by text...
Message reading "Beware of Typhoon Longwang".

I was selective enough to send it out to people who would find the name funny, and lets face it, this can only be truely amusing before it starts taking lives. Consciously entering the word "Typhoon" should have been clear enough to indicate to my English friends that there isn't actually anything to worry about.
Some jokes are made up are made up very quickly after a distressing event and the comment "too soon" by the audience often follows. I still can't joke about Southampton FC being in the Championship, that's how long it can take for the waters to settle.

However, one problem is that this text was sent out at 2:30am on a Saturday morning. Ordinarily, anyone doing this should be considered well drunk. So, I think I've lost my edge there. Also, it turns out some people actually answer/read their texts in the middle of the night. Obviously this text was meant to be something you spit out your cornflakes over, not read dozy and half focused in the early hours of the morning.

Less than a minute after sending, I received a phone call from Mr Scott saying no more than "You sent me a text message...". I went and rambled on that everything was fine and it was a message supposed to be read in the morning. I'm not sure at what stage he hung up but I imagine I am going to be facing some woe at some part of my Sunday.

Let this by a lesson to all, texting someone in the dark hours can be just as bad as phoning them. Only send texts to folk you know either turn their phone off in the night or at least leave it on silent.

My apologies once again Mr Scott.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Gambling Law Revisions

There are four big money health and lifestyle issues that the government needs to be wary of how it treats: Alcohol, Tobacco, Drugs and Gambling.
Today's topic is gambling. (Reported here on the BBC News)

The Flying Aqua Badgers love their poker and are not adverse to a day at the dogs or the odd wager in the Bookies. On a personal level, I am very pleased that the 24 hour sign up period before gaming is no longer required. This is fine for me, because I know how to gamble responsibly. My sympathies go to the nuclear family of those that don't.
I am also glad to see that the machines in fast food outlets are to be taken away.
At least adults have a sense of money and it's their choice whether to blow it in all on red or not. Children have little idea and giving them to opportunity to play slot machines is just asking for trouble.

The trouble with the law is that it is near impossible to regulate common sense. I won't say that it is impossible, because that just isn't true. It's the practicalities of such regulation that pulls it into the near impossible end of the scope.

I have little doubt that the increased ease of being able to gamble is going to wreck lives. I understand additions, but I think that gambling is one of the weakest activities/substances to fall victim of.
The rule of gambling is very simple: Do not bet what you can't afford to lose.