Friday, November 30, 2007
Thursday, November 22, 2007
Tuesday, November 20, 2007
You can probably make out the message from the reproduction at the top of this posting. Discovering it just a few days before we head up to the North-East to take Alexander for the first of his university interviews provides an opportunity to examine some of the social changes that have taken place over the last 39 years.
The first thing to note is that, back in 1969, I was sat on a train and not been driven up to the interview by my interfering and over-fussing father. I have to say that the current arrangements are at my insistence rather than Xan's : he would far prefer to catch the train. However I remain convinced that he would get the wrong train to the wrong city on the wrong day. Thus poor Amy is going in kennels for a couple of days whilst the whole bloody family decamps up to Newcastle to make sure he makes it to the interview on time with his shoes properly shined.
But just has you think everything has changed you spot the final message - written in capital letters to ensure that my parents didn't miss it. "MAY BE RUNNING OUT OF MONEY SOON WITH ALL THESE RAIL JOURNEYS - HELP!". Ah, plus ça change.
Monday, November 19, 2007
It is the hypochondriac accusation that hurts the most. ("Yes Doctor, it hurts, here just below the knee, it's a kind of driving pain which to me suggests something very wrong with my bone marrow"). The large number of tags relating to Healthcare, Infection, Disease and Death and nothing more than my attempt to help my son, Alexander, prepare for his forthcoming Medical School interview. To ensure that he is up-to-date with current medical goings-on I have been appointed his "information stream manager". My job is to digitally clip stuff out of the world press so he can sound a clever-clogs when he gets in front of the interview panel. Which is fine for him but quite distressing for me. The knowledge of all that ill-health out there is a little alarming. Whilst in no way can I be called an hypochondriac, I can't help worrying that I might pick up some kind of infection from it all.
Friday, November 16, 2007
Wednesday, November 14, 2007
Ask me anything you want about Manchester. I'm pretty hot on Manchester. That is because each morning, as Amy and I take our walk, I listen to BBC Radio Manchester's podcast - "Manchester On The Run". It's a good programme. You get a pretty good feel of what is going on in the city in just 7 or 8 minutes. Did you know, for example, that the former Manchester United player and "Busby Babe" John Doherty has just died at the age of 72. Sad isn't it?
Ask me anything you want to know about New York..... OK you know the rest. After we have finished listening to "Manchester on the Run" we listen to the podcast of the Front Page of the New York Times.
The point I am, with my usual circumlocution, trying to make is that the important elements of a good news podcast are (i) brevity; (ii) relevance; and (iii) timing. And there is currently a gaping gap in the market for a decent news podcast covering the UK. The BBC does one but it is not published until the day is nearly over and when it is published it does not score high in the brevity stakes. The Guardian does one but that again is late and discursive. Channel 4 News used to do a splendid one - The Morning Report - which ticked all the boxes. But a few months after it had won my coveted "News Podcast Of The Year Award" it was dropped.
Tuesday, November 13, 2007
There is, of course, a common factor to all these stories. They are self-generated and manufactured to support the broadcasting schedules. The ADHD story was, in fact, a trailer for that evenings' Panorama report. The alcohol story is based on responses to a BBC survey, but as yet they are not saying why they undertook the survey. No doubt we will discover that it forms the basis of a BBC Special. And "Children In Need" will dominate the BBC schedules on Friday evening.
My moan is not with self-publicity. The BBC should be able to produce publicity about its own shows just as any other organisation might do. (By the way, the latest episode of "Fat Dog To The Big Apple has just been posted, don't forget to read it soon). The complaint is disguising such "promo's" as news. Worse still, headline news.
Saturday, November 10, 2007
It's out! A three-page article in the December edition of Waterways World all about our boat's conversion to electric drive. AND they'd done all the minor edits I suggested.
Two slight catches in the "contacts" panel at the end.....
Firstly, they've published my blog about the conversion.... (worcesternb.blogspot.com) ... and I've still masses to write up! My idea was to write at length to include all the details and fiddly problems... but there so many of them!!
Secondly, not at my suggestion, they've included contact details for the Electric Boat Association (which is fine and sensible) but also TELCO. Which, if only I'd realised they might, I would have said "no WAY"!!!
TELCO is the Thames Electric Launch Company, headed by one Emrys Burrell (I think I've got that right, I've tried to expunge his name from my memory)... I approached him for advice (two years ago, now) and he came to look at the boat. Des (brother-in-law) and Alan (boatyard engineer) were there. Alan loathed him anyway from other contact, I'd discovered. Des was startled. I was gob-smacked....
Thing was, I'd emailed Emrys all the general idea, he basically emailed back "fine, fine"... and then when he turned up he said (1) oh, we'd have to have plug in shore re-charging, no other way to get a full recharge.... but I'd SAID a key point was not to need shore-based recharging, (2) oh, we couldn't re-charge whilst running along, far too dangerous... but I'd SAID this was a key part of my plan (3) we must have at least 800 A-hrs of battery storage, best form was 2V standard traction cells... making a mere 266(!) cells required, all slightly separated, the boat would have to be totally reballasted... (and, of course, I'd SAID I wanted to avoid this whole problem if at all possible!)
Finally, he recommended they should go under the bed, adding that they'd need a gas-proof box with a flame proof vent so that when they gave off hydrogen whilst recharging (I'd SAID we'd want sealed-type batteries!) this would get away safely... and we didn't want batteries exploding, nasty effect. I'm still not quite sure how I kept a straight face at the idea of sleeping over batteries that might explode if safety precautions failed (one tiny leak would have been quite enough!) (I had, of course, discussed battery safety in my earlier email, yes, yes... E.B. had clearly ignored that - I even began to wonder if he could read...)
I saw Des and Alan giving me curious looks whilst Emrys was talking... was I going to say his ideas were hopeless then and there?... Well, you can't, can you? - and I reckon he was relying on this to force an unsuitable sale on me.
I had a moment with Alan after Emrys had left... I said (something like) "My goodness, the man's an idiot, his suggestions for the batteries are impractical, crazy and dangerous... and why's he say NOW the things can only recharge at 20 Amps maximum... it was one of the questions I asked him in my email, whether there were cells that could recharge quickly enough." Alan broke into a huge grin of relief. I said "You told me he was rather a difficult man, you didn't tell me he doesn't even know his electrics properly!!"
We gave Des lunch, following this. After a slight pause, I could see Des was wondering how to broach that he thought Emrys was appalling... although he was dubious rather than sure about some of the suggestions being crazy, he had realised the man had been steam-rollering that "he knew best" like a hard sell, rather than considering the problems and requirements. I eased Des's mind by saying (something like) "Well, that was a waste of time!"
Later on I did some calculations... from what Emrys had said his batteries couldn't even be reliably re-charged in less than eight hours - FAR too long to be practical! ... I phoned him to explain with the data .. "Oh," he said "Oh".... "Don't worry, I'll work out a way round"... I said "You can't, it's basic physics."
And then a year later he sent a full bill for "consultation"! I'd already said (email) I wouldn't pay that - I said I'd agreed to pay for expert advice and it had turned out he was no expert at all, the only things he'd advised anybody wouldn't already know were of no use. But I did agree to pay for his visiting time.... and we did.
Mind you, I may have been being a bit unfair - negative information is often almost as useful as positive and my irritation did cause me to work out more exactly what would (probably) work (and does, we now know!)
It remains annoying that the man has generated such good publicity for himself... when, OK, only a few examples, but the only conversions I've heard of that TELCO have done, people have found less than satisfactory.... to say the least.... until I heard such earthy remarks I, too, had assumed TELCO knew their stuff.... from what, it would appear, was actually Emrys promoting his business under the guise of "interesting information." Mind you, perhaps he believes himself, who knows?
I've found another use for a blog, to expostulate. Rant, even. Must say, it is annoying that Waterways World, in their "wisdom" put TELCO as a contact... and when I sent Richard Fairhurst, their editor, details of my (definitely useful) contacts I was within ace-aimes of saying (in the email) "Please don't put TELCO as a contact"... ah, hindsight is a wonderful thing...
Friday, November 09, 2007
So what do the 4 million British bloggers write about? If you use this blog as an example then the answer must be that we write about people writing blogs. In that case the great blogosphere is nothing more than the kind of endless illusion you get when you look in a mirror at yourself holding up a mirror.
Convinced that blogging was more than technologically mature navel-gazing, I instigated my own survey based on the highly scientific "next" button. If you look towards the top of any Blogger Blog there is a small button labelled "next" which will take you to a randomised blog. A good way to get an idea of what people blog about is simply to press the "next" button repeatedly and note where you get to. My small survey this morning took me to five random blogs. So here it is, the definitive answer to the question, "what do people blog about?".
1. Making Money
"Earn $27 in less than a hour and over $100 in a week" declares the first of my random blogs. It is full of nothing but invitations to click on commercial websites or fill-in fake surveys for which the person running the blog gets a small cut of the profits I presume. This is to blogging what Exchange and Mart is to quality journalism.
2. The Civil War In Florida
I am glad that the random "next" button sent me to this site because it epitomises all that the Internet and blogging is about : esotericism. The blog - which is run by the American historian Dale Cox, is dedicated to the study of the American Civil War in Florida. It's a subject I have never given a second thought to - until today. I spent a fascinating half hour reading through the postings. Wonderful stuff.
3. Machete Blows To The Conscience
The third blog is in a language that appears to be Portuguese. It serves to remind us that the Internet and blogging is a global phenomenon and that whilst English might be the dominant language it is not the only one. I tried entering a sample of the text into an on-line translation system with the following results. Make of it what you will!
"It has a girl crying in cômodo to the side. I hear its sultry soluços transposing the bricks of the wall and supplying my spandrels with lamentations and my chest, anguish. It soluça. E beating of its soluço aches me as small machete blows in the conscience. It has this girl of cômodo of the side. It seems that it is opening drawers, I know there. It will be that it is thinking about leaving by this time? It will be? It there and I here. It there committing its small acts of insanity, for guilt of a sad end and I, here lying on of one edredom on the frozen soil".
The fourth blog is rather intriguing. It is entitled 7th Grade Homework blog and appears to be a list of tasks set by teachers in an un-named school for their students. One example is a message from Mr Little, as follows -
"Wednesday: Write 1 paragraph answering this question: "Who was really the first people/person to America?" Use 3 facts, and use the "Before Columbus..." activity and WS as the backbone of your thought. Students absent should e-mail me for this copy!"
OK Mr Little, I will have a go at the task and post it to my blog. Anyone else can join in the game.
5. Pictures of Tomas
So, there we are. That is what people are bloggong about at the moment. Don't know about you, but it makes my spandrels ache.
Thursday, November 08, 2007
Wednesday, November 07, 2007
Tuesday, November 06, 2007
The wonders of the Internet means, of course, that what was once parochial is now pandemic. I know of Jimmy's death because of the notice in the Irish Times which I was able to read thanks to my Press Display subscription. Wanting to know a little more about the late owner of "The Dublin House" I was easily able to track down a feature on him and his family which appeared in the Irish newspapers some nine months ago.
No doubt I could read his will, check his bank account, riffle through his Health Records, and check his tax returns if I wanted to. But I don't. And even if I did, Jimmy wouln't mind. He's gone now, part of history, part of the public record.
I know that a lot of people get very worried about the amount of information about us that is out there. This is all part of the big-brother world where individual privacy has reached the extinction stage. But so much of the fear seems to be pointless paranoia. Jimmy's family had lived for three generations in the vicinity of Dunshaughlin before he and his wife bought the Dublin House pub in 1945. Running the pub and hardware store would have made them the centre of village life. And from what little I know of village life, the mass of information which is available on the Internet about them will be nothing compared to the mass of personal information which would have been common currency in a rural community.
People who look back on a golden age of individual privacy which is now under threat from the all-watching, all-recording world of databases and security cameras, are often yearning for something which never existed. Whereas before the knowledge of Jimmy's death at the age of 90 would have been known throughout the town, now it can be known throughout the world. I don't see anything wrong with that. And neither does Jimmy.