Monday, May 28, 2007

The Truth, the whole truth and nothing like the truth

I was recently jolted to think about a concept I don't ordinarily pay attention to. With any communication you can divulge:
The truth (telling no lies)
The whole truth (telling everything that is true)
Nothing like the truth (lies, white or the cold hard kind)

It is fascinating to observe which is used, when and why. So many characters to judge.
Luckily most will stick to the code of avoiding lies as it leads to complications and most care to think of themselves as honest beings.
The whole truth is rarely forthcoming because either the right questions are not asked or their is an advantage to be gained out of concealing at least some of the facts for either noble or selfish reasons.

What this leaves us with is just the plain old truth. A representation, a map. The same way an atlas isn't the physical world the truth isn't exactly what we think it is either.

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Saturday, May 26, 2007

Into the Dungeon with Asbo Offenders

No, not my usual right-wing taunting on this occasion. An idea from the York Dungeon Museum to offer free entry to card carrying Asbo holders on the basis that they could be shocked into changing their ways by seeing the treatment that their counterparts would have been given two centuries ago.

However the dungeon manager ruins the illusion:
"...I'm by no means advocating a return to the punishments of old..."


Friday, May 25, 2007

Such Shame

A busy working schedule got in the way of a perfectly good joke:

The correct answer to: "How about dinner? On me?"

Isn't the busy man's answer: "Sounds like a plan"

It's the thinking man's answer: "Ok, but who's paying?"

Seriously ashamed of myself.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Lawro gets funnier with age

During the 2007 FA Cup final:

John Motson: "Oh that's asking too much of Robben."
Mark Lawrenson: "That's asking too much of Batman, never mind Robben."
After a wayward pass by Didier Drogba in the FA Cup final.

Submitted to the beeb by Tim Hanstock, Blackpool.


The System is Wrong - Tax Credits

Handing out welfare payments has always been a difficult area for governments. How much? Who to? How often? What doesn't help is that when these decisions are made the system put in place to allocate these payments plainly doesn't work.

£1.7bn overpaid in one year alone
. Conservative spending hardly exists any more. When credit cards are poorly regulated, savings interest rates lag behind the base rate and fear, uncertainty and doubt surround every pension scheme in operation we should expect nothing less than a spend what you've got culture.

Hence getting any of those overpayments back is going to be a struggle. In any case, the money returned to the treasury coffers is likely to already have been spent in the effort to get it back.

Would it really cost £1.7bn to put a system together that did the allocations right in the first place in order to correct this year on year drain of funds? No, didn't think so.

How Fresh is Supermarket Food

The BBC has been knocked this week for putting out what has been regarded as a shoddy documentary in its Panorama programme on the safety of Wi-Fi. Hopefully tonight's Whisteblower documentary will steer them back in the right direction presenting undeniable evidence that the staff on supermarket counters aren't obeying company policy or, in some cases, the law when it comes to handling fresh produce.

What are the odds that two journalists apply for a job in two different supermarket chains and uncover these lapses if they are not in any way representative of the companies as a whole?

Not high by any stretch.

Naturally Tesco and Sainsbury's are hot on the denials.
Sainsbury's: "unable to see that food safety was in any way compromised"
Tesco: "we are satisfied that any incidents captured on film were not representative of the high standards we insist on."

So Sainsbury's are casting a blind eye then.

Now Tesco, you can be satisfied all you like. Quite frankly, it's not important. What's important is whether the consumers are satisfied. They have the opportunity to vote with their feet but of course they won't bother after the first couple of days. It makes headline news for a day but ultimately the British people are so happy with the cheap goods supermarkets provide they are very reluctant to make any sort of protest against their working practices.

It's horrendous how such indefensible defences are going to remain unchallenged.

Stuart Rose and M&S

Marks & Spencer is an iconic brand name in Britain. Its reputation was sliding shortly after the turn of the century and was in serious danger of a hostile takeover.
Stuart Rose was appointed to stop the rot and turn the fortunes around for one of Britain's top retailers. And what a job he has done with the place. It is no mean feat to increase profits of an already mammoth company by over 90% in two years.

However, they are now pretty much where they were before the ship started taking on water. The real measure for success will be if another significant profits increase is announced in May 2008.

What makes this news piece show on my radar enough to post about is Stuart Rose himself. I've made a mental note to start recognising people I admire and the way this man conducts himself, implements change and the intensity in which he leads is certainly something to be admired.

It is somewhat unsurprising to discover that he was voted 2006 Business Leader of the Year by his peers.

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Monday, May 21, 2007

Trace Technology for Missing Children

Britain is the most monitored country on Earth. A CCTV camera for every 14 people in the land. The technology is both comforting and creepy. What I find strange is that an easy PR trick is being missed in the case for closer monitoring and use of biometric data.

An unprecedented (and in my view, disproportionate) amount of news coverage has been given to the disappearance of four year old Madeleine McCann. A couple of days after the search began the worry cropped up that her abductor may have altered her appearance to avoid detection. Cleverly enough, her parents then advised that we look for the distinctive right eye where the pupil bleeds into the iris.

You can see where I'm going with this. Forgot having several hundred thousand humans already pre-occupied with matters of their own concern when you have focused technology that can perform the hunt much better with eye recognition programming and no distractions.

For the past couple of years, the University of Southampton has been researching ways to uniquely identify us by the way we walk and are now at the stage where they believe it is as distinctive as a fingerprint.

We're not going to have much choice as to whether the technology is going to be developed so we may as well put it to good use.

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Saturday, May 19, 2007

Cup Final Day

The Saturday in May that the FA Cup final falls on is always a day for mixed emotions for football fans. Excitement for the spectacle ahead and disappointment that the season is all but over.

Today was a little bit extra special because it marked the official opening of the new stadium sitting atop the spiritual home of football. I would have loved to have seen a real cup side like Tottenham
take centre stage for such a great event but sadly we were lumped with unarguably the best two teams in the country Man Utd and Chelsea instead.

Why sadly? The problem with these two teams is they both think they are entitled to win the competition and this proved to be the case when neither of them chose to come out and fight for the trophy this afternoon.

Thankfully, this isn't the end of the season and Liverpool have the chance to pull it out of the hat in the Champions League final on Wednesday so I can end this post on a high note.


Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Best Clive Anderson Quote Ever

Sod's law

If it doesn't exist yet you can be sure this government is going to introduce it.

The Hat Problem

Check this beauty of an article out. A maths puzzle with some interesting lessons to take home.

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Right to Vote

Many years ago, people I've never known or ever met died to grant the right to vote to people who never had it before. This fact is flown in the face of people who complain about the current government but didn't cross their ballot paper. "You didn't vote, you've got no right to moan." The implication of this is that the voting system is perfect. In the same way that my spiritual views do not fall in with any organised religion my views on public affairs do not so far fall in with any political party.
Not a situation I'm entirely happy about but that is the way of things at the moment.

A loose summary of my available options:
Labour - I think one of my first blog posts from 2 years ago had me washing my hands after voting Labour.
Conservative - Blair 2.0.
Liberal Democrats - Need to read the manifesto to see what they have that New Tories haven't stolen.
UKIP - Not anti Europe
Green Party - A few fundamental disagreements.
BNP - I'm a long stretch from being that right wing.
Respect - Never has a word been so misappropriated.
English Democrats - Too odd a premise
Monster Raving Looney - Using a vote for comedy value is a little wrong
Independent - None known to me.
Stand myself - If everyone was forced to this option we'd be in a spot of bother trying to run a country...

If my views are evenly represented by more than one party and one of those parties is guaranteed to get into power then voting is not worth my time. It doesn't do anything.

There remains only two reasons that I can see to vote:
1. My vote will go to someone who represents more of my views than anyone else.
2. The parties then evenly represent my views have a chance of being ousted by a party that represents me less. In which case I have to choose between them.

So enough of this if you don't vote you can't complain nonsense. In the case of these local elections there was more benefit in spending 20 minutes consolidating my thoughts and writing this post than going to the polling station. Next election I hope things are different.