Port De Soller Mallorca

Port De Soller Mallorca

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Book Review - "The Sixth Man" by David Baldacci

Michelle moved, but not quite fast enough.  The blow glanced across her forehead and dug into her ear.  She twisted sideways, found purchase on the asphalt path, pivoted, setting her weight on her right foot, and launched a kick to her attacker's left knee.
Michelle Maxwell loved attacking knees.  It was the largest joint in the body where four bones - the patella, the femur, the fibula, and the tibia - all came together like a highway interchange and were held together by an array of ligaments, muscles, and tendons.  It is one of the most intricate parts of the body and critical for mobility.
Michelle destroyed it.
I heard an interview with David Baldacci on the BBC Breakfast recently and I thought his 'new' book sounds interesting.

I had previously seen his books as I browsed the shelves before but I never got round to actually picking one up for a flick through.  Having said that, on the strength of the interview I thought it might be worth a go.  Mr Baldacci seems to be a bit of a prolific author and "The Sixth Man" is No 5 in his King  and Maxwell series of books about the lives of two ex American Secret Service Agents, both of whom have been fired for losing the people they were protecting.

I have not read any of the previous novels and I may well do as I found that this was a good read.

A Good Read was what it was and there were many twists and turns.  The premise is that King and Maxwell start off to meet King's old college tutor, a lawyer who has asked for his help in a case.  On travelling to Maine they come across, in the middle of nowhere the lawyers car with his dead body still in it.

The case, Bergin, the lawyer was working on, was defending an Internal Revenue (Tax Man to us brits) man who had been charged with multiple murder , six bodies in his barn and he was standing over the grave with shovel in hand when the police conveniently arrived on the scene, guilty, no, but that is all I am going to tell you about that.

The plot moves between Maine, New York and Washington and a high Security Federal prison in the middle of nowhere.  It involves the head of Homeland Security, Private Security Contractors, Mercenaries, the FBI and the President.

The action was pretty fast paced and the whole structure of the book was well laid out, following one lead then another making it easy to keep up.  I really did enjoy it but, and this is only me of course, it was a book that has taken me two week to read.  That is not a criticism as the last two authors and whose books I read and who I know and love, Julian Stockwin and Michael R Hicks, I couldn't put their books down, once started, except for exhaustion.  Baldacci may well fit in to that category as I pick up more of his books in the future.

If you do buy this one, it will keep you on your toes and there are two completely unexpected exposes in the final chapters that had me shaking my head.  Completely unexpected but in the context of the story so perfectly addressed and revealed making you think to yourself, "Why the hell did I not see that coming", which made the two weeks entirely worthwhile.

Good reading, and

Best Wishes

The Sixth Man

Tuesday, 30 August 2011

My Letter to Jackie Doyle-Price MP on third party booking systems for the NHS

Dear Ms Doyle-Price,

I recently visited my doctor in South Ockendon with a hearing problem.  After examining me she informed me that I would need to be referred to ENT for further tests and mentioned hearing aids!

I was then sent in to see the nurse who was to take a swab of my ear for tests and told that the results would be ready in a few days.  After waiting a few days I popped back in to the surgery to be told that there were no indications of infection, good news, so I asked when I might hear about my appointment for ENT.

The receptionist gave me a leaflet explaining that I had been referred to Fortis Healthcare, had never heard of the them and that they should be calling me by Wednesday 17th August, the day of my visit  to check the swab results was Monday 15th August.

I waited but no call was received, so I decided to give it a day or two.  Not having heard anything by Friday I decided to leave it until Monday 22nd August when I decided to call Fortis direct. When I did eventually get through, the phone was going unanswered for an interminable length of time, I gave my details and was informed that a letter had been sent out to me that day and that an appointment had been made for me in October at Brentwood!

Before I get to that I made some general enquiries of the young lady I spoke to on:

a) Why they had not contacted me by phone as detailed in their leaflet - Could not say as she did not know why 
b) Why was their phone not being answered promptly - Understaffed and have been since they were set up and they have loads of backlogs of patients waiting for appointments and have had since, again, they were set up
c) Why would you make someone living in Ockendon and appointment for Brentwood when Orsett and Basildon were easier to get to - It was the earliest appointment.

I have a number of concerns and issues with this.

1. Why is this service of appointments to hospital being outsourced to a private company?

I don't know if you have visited a hospital recently for any of the many clinics that they have.  I have/do. Ophthalmology and Arthritis.  Whenever I visit either department they have teams of receptionists and staff sitting in front of computers.  On arrival you hand them your documents you are booked in.  At the end of the session you hand them your notes and a further appointment is made, normally.  However I note on my last visit to Orsett Opthalmology that a new appointment was not made and I was told that this will be sent out to me in the post and I wonder now if this is because it is going to be done through this new system?

2. On reading the leaflet it clearly states that the GP will write to Fortis and that that will be sent electronically and that they Fortis will then contact the patient within 7 working days, by telephone, if they have been given the correct information by the GP.  I can only assume that they were given it as I have ensured that my GP's receptionist has my full contact details.

But it seems from the above that they did not even bother to do this, because they are short handed, apparently.  

3.  When I did call them on the 22nd they informed me that they had sent a letter that day with the details but if Brentwood was not suitable they could change it there and then and send me a new letter, this was done and an appointment was made for the next day in October from the Brentwood appointment, but in Orsett.  The letter mentioned in that call did not actually arrive at my home until the Wednesday and was postmarked 23rd, I called 22nd.

4.  I then received two more letters on Friday last, 26th August, one from Fortis dated 22nd August confirming my call and change to Orsett and one from Basildon and Thurrock University Hospitals also dated 22nd confirming a 'provisional' booking for the October appointment!

I am assuming that like a bank or credit company, Fortis levies a charge against the local NHS for every letter that is sent out. So why did the letter dated the 22nd still go out when it was postmarked 23rd, and after my phone call?

Why if all of the hospitals still have all of their administration staff in place, do we need to go through a third party and pay an additional cost to them for a service that clearly was/is not geared up to make any improvements to the service already offered?

How much is Fortis charging for this service and are additional cuts going to be made to NHS staff to fund it?  

If the NHS staff are to be made redundant, how much saving is that going to give the local NHS trust, after redundancy payments are met and how many staff are likely to be made redundant?  

If staff are likely to be made redundant because of this privatisation of bookings, what impact is that going to have on the local economy in the long term?

If staff are not to be made redundant from the NHS, why are Fortis being paid to do this?

I await your early response 

Yours sincerely

Tom Stronach


Friday, 26 August 2011

Update to My day in the office

received a phone call today from British Gas Business in response to my e mail yesterday where I called them a bunch of dunderheads.

Dear Ms xxxxx,

You have sent me a letter with the above reference No on it. Addressed to me, with sub name of xxxx (see attached).

You really are a bunch of dunderheads in that organisation. Maybe you would like to give me a little more of a clue as to what this is actually referring to, so that I may file it in the appropriate file.

If it is in fact to do with a unit of a previous tenant called xxxxxx, I last wrote to your company on that matter, I believe, in JUNE 2008, but then the expectation of an early response has long since evaporated.

If it is on another matter and the addressing of the attached letter is just another 'mistake' then that is alright then, as the Great British Public have come to expect no less of such an august body.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course, although I am due to retire in 10 years!

The phone call went a bit like this;

Caller, "Mr Stronach"
Me, "Yes"
Caller, " You contacted us yesterday via email and I just thought I would call to see if we can sort things out"
Me, "Okay, give it your best shot"
Well he went on at length and as it transpired the letter that they sent me giving me a complaint reference number that I thought referred to a previous tenants unit, did not in fact refer to that unit at all.  No, I'll bet you will never guess in a million years what it was about.

No. give in. O.K.

I wrote to British Gas Business in SEPTEMBER 2010, yes that is correct  SEPTEMBER 2010 about another property that they had sent me a bill for for £1400.00.

I wrote to them in SEPTEMBER 2010  and told them that they must be mistaken as the meter and property they were billing for was transferred by me in 2001.

The guy then went on to argue that it did not matter as they had received a telephone call in January 2008 from a named person in the Property Company I work for asking British Gas Business to take on the meter!  I responded that that couldn't have been the case because we have had no control over the meter since 2001.........

And anyway I asked,  if you had supposedly received a call in 2008, why did you wait until 2010 to produce a bill for energy?  He couldn't give a response to that.

I then asked, if I wrote to them in SEPTEMBER 2010 why are they only issuing me a complaint reference number in AUGUST 2011?

I gave up at this point and told him I would get back to him next week.  I am going to enjoy my bank holiday and then tell him, again, what I think of him and British Gas Business, AGAIN!

Utility companies you really do have to despise them......................................

Jody McIntyre - Police Brutality

The news has been full recently concerning the Independent Police Complaints Commissions ruling  concerning the 'assualt' on one Mr Jody McIntyre 

The IPC release states, "The IPCC has partially upheld an appeal from Mr Jody McIntyre in relation to a complaint he made to the Metropolitan Police Service about the treatment that he had received from their officers in Parliament Square during the student protests of 9 December 2010."

To be honest I only vaguely recalled this and I knew little of Mr McIntyre other than what I had seen on the TV at the time and I have to confess at the time my immediate reaction was, "well there you go a disabled person who wants to be treated the same as an able bodied person, and he is getting his wish".  By that I meant and mean that he chose to attend the student protests and when they denigrated to the level of thugs, as students protesting usually does, he was treated the same as any other protester on the street, so what is he whingeing about.  That was my thought then.

What are my thoughts now some months on.  Well I'll tell you.

What the hell are the Independent Police Complaints Commissions doing coming out with load of bollocks that they have done yesterday.

Look, we criticise the Police for being heavy handed (well I don't as a rule) and then we criticise them when they are standing back and letting thugs whether student or otherwise tear down and destroy buildings, destroy peoples livelihoods, throw fire extinguishers of tall buildings at police officers and other protesters seven floors below them and when they, the Police, are caught up with rioting thuggish behaviour we expect them, every single one of them, to be able to step back and look at every single person and consider his or her human rights before taking any action, really, lets get real over this, please.

Let me just say here that I have been known to be quite vigorous in my condemnation of the Police on many occasions, in fact here in the UK many Police forces have taken to social media and Twitter and so have individual officers tweeting about crime or events in the local area.  I follow the local Inspector, he follows my wife but for some strange reason he doesn't follow me! Well it's not really that strange when I think about it as he recently tweeted asking for comments about something asking if it was a good idea for the local Police to adopt something that was happening elsewhere.  I responded that it was always a good idea to implement or try new initiatives as anything that will help the public to help the Police to catch criminals had to be good in the long run and even if it didn't work, at least it was tried. However my response was twofold.  The second part of my response was along the lines of, "and anything that is done to show that the Police actually did turn up to a crime had to be good as normally when one is reported it was odds on that they a) don't turn up at all,or, b) turn up weeks later when it is to late to do anything about it!  so I suppose it is no surprise then that he isn't following me, and I really don't mind, really.

In my job I get quite a lot of visits from Police officers looking for CCTV or this and that and when they do visit they normally have put up with a diatribe from me on the lack of Police on the streets, cuts, laziness of investigations, the (current) idiot in charge, why I think PCSO's are a waste of space, not as people but as a quasi non authoritative and expensive 'cop out' by the government..... I could go on and on, but it always comes back to one thing, I wouldn't want to be a Police officer in today's modern society and just like our Servicemen and Women I have great admiration for them doing a lousy job in the face of even more hostile and vicious condemnation of them than I ever aim at them.

But back to Police Brutality and Mr Mcintryre....

I  believe that it is acceptable to organise and hold a protest over anything that you want to protest about but I do not believe and never will support any group of 'protestors' who in the course of their organised rally then turn it into a violent rampage through our streets, attacking property and businesses.  I really do not care what their grievance, is there is no excuse for this reversion to tribalism and viciousness.  Now one could argue in this instance that Mr McIntyre was exercising his right to attend a lawful and peaceful protest march that then went awry due to a minority who also attended with the intent of causing the trouble and one could argue that he or those who did attend who were not intent in causing trouble, could not foresee that trouble would break out, or could they.

Well of course they could because that's what happens nine of of ten times when these apparently educated buffoons take the the street.  I am not talking about the mindless, uneducated, oppressed and downtrodden from the [in McIntyre's words] "under privileged"  classes, who I do agree have got a right to feel irked at their lot through the inequality of a system that is stacked against them and maybe changes will be made to the system as a result.  But I still can not condone the riotous looting that took place.  Unlike McIntyre who seems to revel in it and even encourages it in his posts.

Don't get me wrong here I am not from a privileged background.  I fight every month to survive and I have written elsewhere in these blogs about the inequality of the systems. I did not agree with the invasion of Iraq and I think the Tony Blair lied to Parliament and us over it.  I do not believe that we should be in Afghanistan to the extent that we are and I have severe concerns about Libya.  I think the recent announcement that the USA and now I believe us through our government have decided to increase the sanctions on Syria by not taking their crude oil smacks of coincidence as Gaddafi is ousted from power and the likelihood of Libyan   oil coming back on stream is more than a coincidence and it stinks to high heaven.  The events on the West Bank and Gaza offend any right thinking person, BUT

This does not give you Mr McIntyre or your cronies the right to riot on our streets or to incite it.  As a disabled person who wants to attend these  gathering and not let your disability impair that right you then need to take the consequences that results from either your actions or your presence. If you go out on a protest that becomes a riot then get out as fast as your wheels will propel you, or take the consequences.  If the consequence of remaining there is that you are dragged out of your wheelchair and along the street, tough. I am not going to condemn a Police officer to over reacting in a riot situation, who is probably thinking at that moment that he or she chose a different vocation on that particular day.

Police officers, are being pelted with bricks and bottles and fire bombs, they are probably excited and afraid in equal measure, and no doubt there is a sense of confusion in amongst that as well both for themselves and their colleagues and friends also caught up in this mindless thuggery where you chose to remain.

If the Police are killing, carrying out illegal stop and search, or generally operating outside the law as you promote, then sooner or later those within the Police doing it will be brought to book.  You may call me naive and ill informed in this and I probably am.   BUT, this still does not give you and others the right on my behalf to make the rest of the populations lives miserable.  You do not have the right in my name to attack and burn property and businesses and take away the livelihoods of people who are content living in the status quo and who believe that sooner or later the system will change for the better.

So I say to you get of your high horse and get a bigger soap box, write your articles and promote change.  Encourage other like minded people to form a political party and stand in local and national elections, or, is it that you would rather see our towns and cities burning?  You said in one interview that the reason you were there in December 2010 was the same reason that other people were there, " because I was protesting that education should be free".  I agree but I fail to see how attacking businesses and Police officers can in any way be linked to that aim?

You say,  "the Police incite violence", I say, "you and the protesters incite violence"

You say, "The real issue is the cuts that the government are making in education" I say "what a bunch of prats" People are starving all over the world, the 'under privileged' as you call them of this country are oppressed and ill educated IN EVEN A BASIC EDUCATION and have nothing AND YOU ARE PROTESTING AND RIOTING IN THE STREETS BECAUSE FEES ARE BEING INTRODUCED FOR FURTHER EDUCATION. Now if you were rioting because the basic education of the masses in this country was suffering and that millions of our children are being condemned to a life of ignorance, I might just have had some sympathy for you and these 'educated morons' but you didn't, so I don't.

So while you promote anarchy then I promote giving the Police bigger and thicker batons, giving them more guns, allow then to kettle you as you join the rampaging mob and I will continue to not have a problem when the Police drag you and your likes off our streets.      

  The following links are to various stories and videos surrounding Mr McIntyres 'incident'

The Guardian     You Tube  McIntyre Interview   The Guardian 2

My Office Entrance Step

One of the problems we have in the office I manage, it is a multi tenanted building, is the number of people who sit on the entrance step to eat their fast food, drink and have a fag, or just plain loitering some are recidivists and need a good slap so here are my solutions:

In no particular order

  1. Install a small sprinkler system above the step when they sit or loiter, press button to activate!
  2. There are 3 grooves in the step with a thin metal strip, wire the metal strips up to the power, when they sit down, switch on!
  3. Every time they sit down send the cleaner out with bucket of water and mop!
  4. Tell them to GTF off the step and plank their lazy asses on the street bench opposite the door! 
I favour 1 and 2 any other suggestions?

Thursday, 25 August 2011

My day in the office -Thursday 25th August

I had quite a good day in the office, cleared all the paperwork that came in. Gave Viking a hard time over the phone as they charged me for postage on stamps that they then placed in a box with another order that was delivered 'free' and then had the cheek to charge VAT on that as well. Credit on its way....

I also get a letter acknowledging my complaint from British Gas. Only problem was it had a complaint reference No but no reference to what complaint they were referring to! I say that because I have about 3 or 4 on the go at any one time, but, there was another name on the letter, so this was my response to them via email, I just can't help myself sometimes!

Dear Ms xxxxx,

You have sent me a letter with the above reference No on it. Addressed to me, with sub name of xxxx (see attached).

You really are a bunch of dunderheads in that organisation. Maybe you would like to give me a little more of a clue as to what this is actually referring to, so that I may file it in the appropriate file.

If it is in fact to do with a unit of a previous tenant called xxxxxx, I last wrote to your company on that matter, I believe, in JUNE 2008, but then the expectation of an early response has long since evaporated.

If it is on another matter and the addressing of the attached letter is just another 'mistake' then that is alright then, as the Great British Public have come to expect no less of such an august body.

I look forward to hearing from you in due course, although I am due to retire in 10 years!

Utility companies, you can't live without them, but you bloody well wish you could......

Dogs and their IDIOT OWNERS

What is it about dog owners that make them more antisocial than a rioting looter on the streets of our cities.  Ok, I might accept that that is going just a tad to far, but they are still anti social and should be outcasts from normal society.

Don't get me wrong here.  I have nothing against dogs.  I have owned dogs in my time, two in fact and while they both drove me crazy from time to time I was heartbroken when we eventually had to have Trudy put to sleep and when Scamp disappeared never to be seen again.

Trudy with Mum, Coatbridge circa 1973 
Trudi was our family dog when I was a teenager all those years ago, she was a tiny little mongrel a right bundle of joy and energy and you could not take her for a walk unless she was on a LEASH.  No matter how much training you tried to give her, let her off the leash and she was away, like a whippet out of the starting gate, she just had so much energy that she had to be able to run it off .

When Ishbel and I rejoined my regiment in Inverness in late 77, from a two year posting in Germany, we took Trudy from Mum's in Coatbridge as Mum wasn't able to look after her as well as she could and for other reasons that will remain unsaid here.

Trudy refusing to move off the rug to prevent the new baby being placed here,1978
She was a great dog and walks with her were always full of fun, but she would only ever be let off the LEASH if there were absolutely no other people or animals around, as regardless of her size she would be a nuisance to others, harmless but a nuisance.  Eventually though she developed a tumour in her tummy and while the VET at Eastgate Veterinary on Millburn Road Inverness were wonderful and always looked after us and more importantly Trudy, the long term prognosis was not good and the decision was taken to put her to sleep; it was a horrible time for all of us!

We didn't have another dog for a few years after that, in fact it wasn't until the mid eighties when we had again returned from Germany and settled again in Inverness.  We were gifted Scamp, from Ishbels parents as I recall and again a mongrel with the same colouring as Trudy but much larger.

Scamp and friend on visit to Rosemarkie on the Black Isle 
Scamp was again a great dog and much more amenable to training and taking commands.  He would sit, stay, come on command, even in mid run, no matter what he was running at, if called he would stop and bound back to you and trot along beside constantly looking up with a great big smile on his face, tongue lolling with a look that said, "well I'm here, so go on say the word and let me go, come on what are you waiting for" and eventually you'd give in and say "go" and off he would bound.

Sadly, in the mid nineties (see my Mr Fat blogs) when I started to become fat and lazy instead of taking Scamp for a walk I got used to opening the door and letting him go out on his own.  Not very commendable I know, but when you are fat and unfit, it doesn't just affect your body mass it affects your personality as well, so I am not making excuses, just telling you how it was.  One day I let him out and he never came back, days and weeks were spent looking, to no avail and we have never seen him since, my fault and one I will regret forever!

Now back in those days there was no requirement anywhere in the country, that I recall, requiring dog owners to clean up after their bundles of joy.  I also freely admit that I did not give it a thought back then, nor did I until it became an issue and councils started to place signs and waste boxes around parks, with the threat of fines to any who do not clean up after their pets.

So, I went from being a responsible dog owner, allowing for the fact that I did not clean up after them as no one did back then, but, who and when appropriate, always kept my dog on a LEASH, to a bad dog owner who lost his dog through his own fault. So what have I got the hump about now that I am no longer a dog owner and why are other owners Idiots and Anti Social.

We now know and I accept the fact that if I were to become a dog owner again, that I would have to carry a plastic bag and scooper with me every time I took my dog for a walk.  It is the accepted norm and the LAW.  We know the reasons for this they are quite simple; and with that wonderful hindsight that we all wish we had from time to time, we can all, well almost all, say that it should always have been the case that dog owners cleaned up after their pets. 1. because of the infections that can be picked up by their faeces and 2. because of the general mess that other people, including dog walkers can get into by the thoughtlessness of those who STILL DO NOT pick up after their dogs.

It is still a problem.  If you read my blogs you will know that I have taken to walking and I do this almost every day without exception.  I have a great little walk right outside my front door through a wooded area with well defined foot paths, if you walk round the whole circumference it is only about 2.1/2 miles so I tend to do that and then head off into the village and walk for about an hour and a half.

My problem and issue is with dog owners who allow their pets to do their business on the footpath in particular and do not clear up after them, secondly with dogs that are let of the LEASH and are uncontrollable; both groups are completely Anti Social and don't seem to give a fig about anyone else.

As a woodland walk, some of the paths, as I say, are well defined but they do have encroaching plants and fauna and in particular a lot of stinging nettles protruding out into them.  One might think that the local council would visit regularly and cut back the offending plants, or indeed that the walker should phone them to complain, but I don't see that as a big issue and one learns to take care whether wearing shorts or jeans or long or short sleeves.  You just have to learn to zig and zag a little to avoid being stung but this slight encumbrance to what is otherwise an enjoyable walk is completely and utterly overshadowed by the amount of dog faeces also on the narrow paths.

Now I don't care whether the dog has been let of the LEASH and runs ahead of you (well I do, but we will get to that in a moment) or whether the dog is on the LEASH and does it while you are in 'control' of it, YOU SHOULD STILL PICK IT UP AND TAKE IT WITH YOU, it is not nice either for us adults who step in it or, as in my case, my small grand children, who have stepped in it.

And it not just the woodland walk, as I leave the wooded area returning to the tarmac village streets, they too are littered with faeces and I see people regularly allowing their dogs to do their business and then walk off leaving it there steaming on the pavement.  I do challenge them and normally end up being abused for my troubles,  but from now I intend to photograph them and send the photos to the local council with the location.

No doubt they will respond stating that unless I can provide the name and address of the dog owner there will be little they can do, and I may even end up following them to their homes and noting their address details to send this to the council.  It may be I am taking this too seriously but until you have stepped, or your grand children have stepped in one of these steaming mounds, you will understand how I feel!

My second issue is where the dog is let of the LEASH.  Now remember I did say at the beginning of this I have owned two dogs.  One that I could not let of the leash and the second where I could as he was completely obedient to the spoken command.  However if we were out and about and in an open area, park or visiting the shop, where other people were about we tended to keep Scamp on the leash during these periods as well.

Regardless of the size, maturity or training of a dog and of course the maturity of the owner/keeper of the animal when out and about some people are wary of any dog and will walk across the street to avoid them whether it is on a LEASH or not.  And some owners fail to recognise this fact and even if they do they do not give a damn.

What is particularly annoying is when you are in the park or on the beach and dogs are running about wild chasing a bird or some object thrown by their keeper and are barking and generally being a nuisance and their keepers are also 'barking' at the animal trying to get it to return, but because they have not trained the animal to obey them, they are ignored!

A point in case was the 9th May 2009.  I had taken Charlie and Holly to a local park. They were 3 at the time so quite small.  The walk from the Belhus Wood Country Park car park to the Pond area  is very pleasant and we spent an enjoyable 20 minutes meandering through the woods with our bag of food as we knew we would find the Canada geese that are always present in the park.  As we exited the woods into the landscaped area we were immediately confronted by an adult group of 4, a couple who appeared to be in their late 20's early thirties and a couple of elderly ladies, who after angry words had been exchanged, turned out to be Americans. They had a dog with them, medium sized and very excitable.  He was throwing sticks for it to chase, in the directions of the geese (!) and the dog was chasing after it and the geese (very responsible) as we appeared in the dogs view it changed direction and headed straight for us and the grand children.  Well as you can imagine choice words were exchanged as the dog ignored his screaming shouts to 'heel' and I had two terrified children clinging to me.

Were they concerned about the distress caused to my grand children, not one jot and I freely admit that if Ishbel had been with me, she would have been left to look after the kids while I decked the guy.  His response to me informing him that there were signs all around this particular park warning that dogs MUST be kept on a LEAD at all times was, "so what, the dogs have got to be let off sometime"!

A similar incident happened this week.  I was out walking and became aware of people behind me as I was leaving the wooded area and entering the grass field area to walk towards the gate at Gatehope Drive, I became aware of a small white dog barking and yapping behind me. On looking behind I saw a white male and a young girl.

The Man who looked to be in his mid to late thirties was of slim build, white and wearing glasses and the girl who looked about 13 -14 was skinny and wearing shorts. The dog was not on a leash although the man was carrying one in his hand and a plastic bag in the other, which I assumed to be dog faeces that he had cleaned up after the dog.  As the dog kept running and barking at me, I advised them that they should have the dog on a leash and that it was my belief that there was in fact an Essex Council Byelaw stipulating that all dogs must be kept on a leash in public places. Although having since checked I now understand that it is allowed to let your dog ‘off the lead but:
6.      Keep dogs under close control - It is required by law that you keep your dog under control to prevent any disturbance to wildlife and farm animals. You may let your dog off its lead but it must still be under close control. If you are unable to keep control of your dog, a lead MUST be used.

The above is an excerpt from  http://www.visitparks.co.uk/countrycode/ which is the Essex County Council website.

I further advised them that if the dog kept running at my legs that if it did get to close I would kick out at it. Both the man and the girl responded that the dog was only trying to be friendly. I responded to this by stating that I did not care for the dog to be friendly and that if I had my 5 year grandchildren with me they would be distressed by the antics of the dog and they really needed to keep it under control.

They chose to ignore my requests and continued to allow the dog to harass me and as it got close to my feet and in danger of tripping me I lashed out with my right foot and caught the dog a glancing blow. At this point the daughter was closest to me on my right side with her father on her right. As my foot connected with the dog he came round behind his daughter and raised his hand as if to strike me. I advised him not to as I would respond in kind.

He appeared to take this warning to heart and lowered his hand but said something along the lines of ‘fucking bastard’. My response to that was that he should not be swearing in front of his daughter to which she responded. “He’s my father, he can say or do what he wants, sir, I respect him but I do not respect you sir”! It was not my intention to cause distress to either the man or the girl, however I did realise that my actions would in fact do this,but I do feel, as seems typical of a lot of dog owners, that they feel they have a right to allow their animal to run around regardless of the ‘distress’ that it might cause to other walkers and in this particular instance because of the animals small size they clearly were of the opinion that size matters and it is only being playful.

The same thing happened last night again.  A couple walking with their spaniel and throwing a ball, that they then chose to throw towards me thereby ensuring that the dog would run directly at me. Are people that stupid, clearly they are!

I do know other responsible dog owners and I also see many who are out walking them who keep them on a LEASH but sadly they are the few amongst the many idiots who seem to think that their pets and them have a right to ride roughshod over the rest of us who are not (currently) dog owners or who are  out and about having left the pet at home.

This blog is longer than I intended it to be, but, if you are a dog owner and you fall into the category of being and IDIOT and Anti Social as described you can do something about it. Stop being dumb, keep your animal on the LEASH if you cannot control it. By all means let it off the LEASH if no one is about but as soon as you see others, PUT it BACK on the LEASH.  If you are a dog owner PLEASE ALWAYS CLEAN UP AFTER YOUR PET POOPS!

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

The Society Debate - Respect and Teachers

Callum Jones Blog

Callum Jones has posted has blog defining his ideas and responses to Prime Minister Camerons call for a Society Debate. and I believe his (Callum's) whole argument falls apart on the basis of one sentence contained in his post and it was, " The art of respect should be taught from the moment a child enters a school at the age of four."

Why is your argument wrong, simple.  Because respect should be taught in the home even before they go to school  and learning it at school should be reinforcing what they are taught at home.

In addition to that there is the argument that sending them to school at 4, for pre school is just ridiculous. For other European countries starting ages see School Starting Age  and most reports suggest that, this does not enhance or improve the learning abilities of the children starting at such a young age

David Elkind argues against early literacy teaching, on the grounds that it is developmentally inappropriate: ‘Those calling for academic instruction of the young don’t seem to appreciate that math and reading are complex skills acquired in stages related to age. Children will acquire these skills more easily and more soundly if their lessons accord with the developmental sequence that parallels their cognitive development.’ (Elkind and Whitehurst, 2001, p.14).
Elkind cites two studies of children attending different types of pre-school programmes. These studies found that children introduced to formal learning earlier in their lives (around age four or five) did not display any lasting academic advantage. On the other hand, earlier exposure to academic skills appeared to be associated with higher anxiety, lower self-esteem and less motivation towards learning.
So there you have it in regard to 'learning' however your comments about the Art of Respect being taught by teachers is also off the mark. Teachers in school are there in the first instance, to teach our children academic subjects. Respect should already have been taught by parents before the child even got near the school gates, and sadly therein lies the problem, Parents, Adults who should know better , do not know any better and do not want to know simply because they are treated with no or little respect by a society that has discarded them on to the scrap heap of uselessness and a 10 page speech by our Prime Minister is not going to change that.

Cameron became leader of his party in 2005.  He became Prime Minister on 11th May 2010.  He is on the record as stating quite forcibly that he was going to make changes and while we all recognise that changes can not happen overnight, I see no concrete evidence of him even scratching the surface of the underlying issues that have caused the problems.  And this is not an attack on him personally, but of all politicians since time began.

I wish fervently that it were not true, but all I see is an unequal society both in terms of financial security and personal motivation built on by successive politicians around the world who have benefited themselves (look no further than ex Prime Minister Blair and his millions since leaving office)  and their multinational corporation friends while the underclass are ground into the earth.  I posed a question on twitter last night. I asked, " is 2011 the new 1789-1799 (French Revolution to save you looking it up) and are European and American politicians the ruling Aristocrats that do need a revolution to sort them out?"

I am not advocating riots in the street, or even that guillotines be set up in the capital cities across the world, but some are beginning to think that is maybe what it will take, and a long drawn out debate that is going to, I fear, take us right back to the iniquitous status quo that we currently exist in and the longer it goes on with its inevitable and ultimate probable wishy washy conclusions will then be the precursor to further and unstoppable civil disorder!

Best Wishes 

Monday, 15 August 2011

Is 3D printing heralding further losses in Manufacturing Jobs and Will this lead to more Social Unrest in the Future?

I have posted a number of links at the end of this article to some sites where you can see what they are doing now, at the beginning of this 'new' technology.  And as I was looking through them last week, in between digesting all the news of the riots and their aftermath I started to think what 3D printing might do in relation to the job markets across the world!

One of the issues that people have said about the rioters, including me, is that they are an 'underclass' within society, created because they have been left in a financial wilderness by politicians because they either will not work or they cannot work or they do not have the skills or the education to allow them to work.

Another reason has also been that there has been a steady downturn in the number of manufacturing jobs available to the population as a whole over the last 40 years and it seems to me that the small number of jobs still available, may well get even smaller with the advent of this technology as it becomes increasingly available to the manufacturing industry.  Or will it?

Lets face it, there is no point in manufacturing goods if no one has the money to buy them and if the masses are unable to go out to work to earn money, who, other than those who are already rich will be able to afford to buy anything.  And while we recognise that there are more and more rich people in the world surely these are always going to be outnumbered by the clamouring classes who are poor!

When I was growing up in my hometown of Coatbridge in Scotland it was expected, no, it was known, that I would end up in one of the many steel works or knitwear factories that the town was famous for.  I know there were dozens of them, because I trawled around most of them as a kid with my home made cart with bottle crates on them asking the workers for their empty pop bottles, which I could then take to the shop and claim the refund, between that and biking between weddings for the 'scramble' on Saturday mornings was a great (and most times) the only source of pocket money we had, as we were an economically (not deprived) challenged family.  But as I got closer and closer to 15 and leaving school all these factories and steel works started to close down in the late 60's heading into the 70's and for many like me, there were only two ways you could go, Military Service or the Dole. I chose the former , but many of my peers chose the latter and the downward spiral into alcoholism as a bottle of Buckie was relatively cheap and as I understand it today there is as much controversy around it now as there was then!

So, will manufacturers adopt the new technology or will they be bribed by governments not to?  Or will they recognise that if there are no people in jobs and earning money to buy the goods that they produce, then there is little point in adopting it?  Only time is going to answer those questions but it may be time we haven't got judging by the riots and the comments from the "I want" brigade who instead of continuing to say "I Want" are now going out and becoming criminal arsonists who are prepared to now "just take" what they want and damn the consequences!

Have a look at the links below, surely it is only a matter of time now before these machines are super sized and developed to the stage where they can produce fully working parts and full size bits of cars and machines and surely will not be good for those employed directly in manufacturing, the economy and all peoples while we still rely on a monetary driven society?

 What do you think?

Best Wishes

Wikipedia    3D Ball Bearings  3D Motorcycle Aeroplane created using a 3D printer in world first: Scientists create aircraft with 100mph max speed | Mail Online  3D body Parts

Saturday, 13 August 2011

These Green and Pleasant Lands

Well it has been a week since the London riots started that then spread to other cities and towns within these 'Green and Pleasant Lands' and what have we got out of it?

Well for me on a personal basis, anger, fear and a little bit of pride were at the top of the list.

Anger because certain sections of society have slipped so far into their own forms of anger and despair, shouting that society has abandoned them, and that they feel that the only way they can react is to revert to the rule of the mob as they move through our cities and towns with bricks and bottles in their hands pillaging and destroying  like a horde of Vikings of old.  But, was it the state apparatus who they say has abandoned them that they looted and destroyed, No, it was people like themselves who suffered, but, with one small and significant difference between them.

The people who they attacked were the indigenous small business owner, people like them who came from poor backgrounds and even some with as poor an education as they, who were the main targets of these imbeciles.  Immigrants, who came to this country with nothing and who also did not want to claim benefits from the state that took them in. Both groups tied together with the desire to make good for themselves and succeed in life.  People who grew up whether in this country or from somewhere else in the world but have chosen to make, 'These Green and Pleasant Land's' be just that, somewhere where they can work hard and reap the rewards for their efforts and ingenuity of managing to get out of the poverty trap that the rioters say that they are trapped in.  They, unlike the rioters decided to not let society tell them they can't be achievers because they came from a socially deprived neighbourhood or country and that it is their lot in life to suffer.

Fear as we received news from our son on Monday night that the pub he runs successfully in the East End of London had just had bricks thrown through his main bar window.  Anger, with a hint of Pride, but mostly anger that he remained in the bar to defend what he has worked so hard to build up for himself from around a £20,000 a year turnover to around a £500,000.00 turnover in the space of 4 years.

But what else have we learned from the last week, well, that has been what every commentator on the tv has been asking of everyone they have been interviewing, with the additional question, what caused it?  I think these questions are going to be getting asked for a long time to come and while I have no answers to those questions I do have thoughts about them. My thoughts and suppositions may not be based on quantifiable or even anecdotal evidence and they may not even be presented as eloquently as some have presented theirs, but then I am only a poorly educated granddad who meanders through this life and 'These green and Pleasant Lands' in many ways, just like the rioters, in that I am trying to survive.

I was not gifted into this world from well to do parents living in financial security or comfort.  I did not attend a private school where the ratio of teachers to pupils allows the teachers to spend time with each pupil encouraging and cajoling them to do better, to work harder and to learn the basics in grammar, spelling and numeracy.  I was not in a single parent family, although my father was pretty much an alcoholic and was either away from home 'working' or he was just gone, more often than not.

I did not have iPods, or iPhones, or game boys, or x-boxes, or fancy trainers and yes these things did not exist when I was a kid, but there was other things that we were just as envious of back then and we were envious when we saw other kids going off on holiday, or had the newest range of clothing, or who could afford to go out for meals and day trips or whose parents had a car, or a colour tv, god yes we were envious but we didn't go on a rampage to destroy our local shops and attempt to murder people who were sitting in their homes above those shops oblivious to the danger they were being put in by these mindless lunatics.

My point is, and this is one of the saddest and dispiriting facts about this whole situation in that not much has changed from when I was a kid in the 60's and nearly 50 years on! So with that fact in mind I suppose one of the above questions can then be simply answered. What caused it? Social injustice and the inability of politicians to recognise that sections of society do feel that they belong to an underclass with no voice, and from the politicians point of view whether it was back in the 60's, 70's, 80's 90's or the  noughties as they have been termed,  those (me) people don't matter because in the main they don't vote and so we just need to ignore them and they will continue to take the shit heaped upon them!

Told you this wasn't going to be very eloquent.  But all of that does not excuse or justify those who did what they did last week. Allegedly it all started over the shooting of Mark Duggan  in Tottenham on the previous Thursday. I don't believe that.  Sure, I believe that the Police must be subject to the most rigorous of investigations any time they shoot someone and a large number of people believe that when these investigations take place that they are nothing more than a continued cover up as no police officers have every been charged after shooting anyone and according to the stringent voices out there, that can only mean one thing, that the police have got away with it again. (see) shot dead by police-30, officers convicted-0

I wrote a blog earlier this month and before the riots took place where I asked,  Parenting in a modern society, has society lost its way?  Now in that blog I wrote:
Let's face it, and no one seems able or prepared to say it outright, because of the absolute stink it will cause, but if we were to look at the problems in almost any  society today and I do mean any society not just 'democratic'  or westernised societies, who are the biggest burden on the states and who causes the most problem for the states and the middle classes:  Bingo, well done if you answered, "it is clearly the NO INCOME or LOW INCOME families the have nots if you will,  and their poorly educated children that are bringing every country in the world to its economic knees!"

Why is that (?), well it's simple really, take a look around you, that's if you are not substantially well of that is, and what do you see?  You probably see hundreds of people every single day of your lives who are good for nothing layabouts, who live of state benefits, and I accept that there are people who do but who do not want to, but a large proportion of them are feckless b*****ds who will not go out and find a job and they spend their days drinking booze, taking drugs, smoking fags, driving cars and going at it like the proverbial bunny rabbit and who are breeding out of control.
And who is paying for this? You and I, the people who do go out to work and pay our taxes so that these people can continue to live of the fat of the land that we through hard work are trying to build on to sustain us in our old age, but we can't and wont get any sustenance from the state because it has already been given to these people. And the cycle is self repetitive as their broods of children are brought up in these houses, I will not call them homes, because a home to me is where a family lives, loves, cries and grows together and sometimes they fight, but that is in the the nature of humans, so it should be embraced as part of the whole.
So instead of looking at Lower Income families and getting them to attend Parenting Classes, here is an idea, that I am sure will be truly obnoxious to some, but I think has merit, why don't we go down the road of mass sterilisation, we could introduce it like fluoride, into the water system and every one would be made sterile, one step further than the Chinese with their law of 1 child per family!
Now I really don't know if that is the answer to all our woes but what I do know is that even if the brightest brains on the planet were to look at the problems of society and say, 'yes we have created an underclass and we need to do something about it  and one of the ways to give us time to do this is to ensure that we do stop mass procreation' no one will ever be brave enough to implement it.  We have, as I believe, created generation after generation of underclass peoples who are born into families who do not have the will or the where with all to even believe that they can ever be anything but worthless objects in a modern society.  But there is nothing modern about it.  One definition of 'Modern' is " somebody living in the present period, especially somebody whose tastes and attitudes are regarded as nontraditional or strikingly new"  These attitudes are not strikingly new they are strikingly old, they are in the past they belong in the past but the dinosaurs old and young, generation after generation who pervade politics of all 'Modern' nations have singularly failed to address these old problems that then become cyclical and 'new'.  Why is that?

In another Blog An Open response to... I say:

From the very first day of the welfare state we have been heading towards these days of social unrest.
We have for the last 40 years been telling a section of society that you do not need to take care of yourself, you do not need a job, you do not need to pay rent.  We, the state will do it for you and it will be funded by people in work!
It is a great concept, the welfare state, and there will always be people who do need assistance through life, but what we did, was make it the norm where we have got to the point where lazy feckless gits, like those who are rioting have got to the point where they truly and actually believe that every single thing in life should be given to them for free, and maybe it will one day, whether or not they are actually capable of finding a job and getting paid for it and to be able to go and purchase everything like the rest of us
We have generations of families who have seen their parents and grandparents, sitting at home because they have rolled out one excuse after another as to why they should not work and we have given them handouts to enable them to buy their drugs and their booze and run their cars!  This is borne out by the fact that while the papers may keep referring to 'youths' the rest of us are watching the images and seeing that it is not wholly this section of the populace who are out there.  I nearly said section of the community, but they are as far removed from being a part of a community as ET.  But we do know, fact, that a large number of youths are out there because there feckless parents don't give a shit about them and they were born probably and only as a means to get an additional cash bonus through the child benefit system and the parents, do not give one toss where they are or what they are doing at any time of the day or night!
And in that condition they have learned that they have no need to respect the state or their neighbours.  And so when the payouts are reduced, or cut, what do they resort to, mindless thuggery.  It is not aimed at authority or the state persay, how many town halls were attacked, how many police stations were attacked.  I can't see any reports saying any were.*  No it was shops and mostly little shops, one man and one woman enterprises that suffer at the hands of these thugs  Including my own son who had bricks thrown through his bar windows last night.
*Although one, subsequently was, but that was an aberration within an aberration I fear.

Another thing that is making me angry is the news yesterday that Prime Minister Cameron is calling for those involved in the riots to be punished and punished severely and one of the ways to do this is to throw whole families out onto the street, if one of them was found and caught and charged and convicted of taking part in the riots.  Wandsworth Council has already latched on to this and issued proceedings against  a mother and her children (and I do not know their circumstances and whether they fall into my feckless category or not) but even if they do is this the right road to go down.  first_rioter_given_eviction_notice 

Are we suddenly going to have Wandsworth Common and other large open spaces filling up with tents and caravans as we have whole swathes of the 'underclass' populace thrown out of their homes.  One might argue, well what are you bitching about you have already called them feckless good for nothings, yes and they are, but is it really serving a purpose to further disenfranchise the whole family for the actions of the one, it doesn't make sense!

We have parents queuing up today who tell us they are afraid of their children because they do not respect them and one of the reasons for this is the possibility that the 'bleeding heart brigade' took away the rights of the parent, the teacher and the local bobby to chastise children.  We told children at every opportunity that they have rights, and they do, like the rest of us, but in taking away the ability of a parent to give their child a hard smack on the bottom for disobeying them, or by grounding them, for fear that the child would report them to the local authority with the full weight of the law being brought to bear on them has surely contributed to the lack of respect shown to parents, the neighbourhood, the country and authority in general!

We know from the images and reports also that it was not just the children of 'worthless stay at home' families that were involved in the rioting and looting.  No, it was the School teaching assistant, the social worker and the architect and I have no idea what that says about society, but if I were I judge every single one of them would go to prison and Kenneth Clarke and the rest of them can go to hell over that one, and these people who are convicted and are in jobs, should suffer more ate hands of justice, than the 'feckless' ones, but it probably wont happen.

I was sitting on a train shortly after Clarke announced his ridiculous, now curtailed, plans to reduce the numbers in prison and to reduce the numbers being sent to prison. There was a couple of teenagers on the train sitting opposite me and they were brazenly discussing their plans for the day which included being on the train without a ticket, heading off to Southend and "gonna do a bit of robbin and smashin".  They all laughed at this and one actually mentioned Clarke's speech from the previous evening commenting, "and it'll be be O.K. cos the Tories wont send us to jail".  This is the message we have been sending to these people for years.  That it is O.K. to exclude yourself from society, because no matter what you do, the outcome, no matter how bad you have made other people's lives, you will get a short holiday and be let out for good behaviour no matter how 'naughty' you have been.  

It is an old cliché, but it is true, politicians do not understand the real world.  Whether it is our own or in other countries they have no idea.  They all have their fingers in the pie, but that's O.K. Because they are politicians.  I think I am correct in stating that if an MP is convicted of a crime, he cannot then sit in Parliament.  But that is not the same for a favourite of a Prime Minister or a favourite of a friend of a friend of a Prime Minister or one who has contributed heavily to party funds and is elevated by a Prime Minster to the House of Lords.  They can commit a crime and go straight back, after serving their very lenient sentence, into the House and reclaim their attendance allowance and multitude of benefits, what kind of message is in there for the ordinary and downtrodden people who choose, wrongly, to then go on a riot?

Bankers and Politicians, who should have been looking after our interests, plunge us into economic melt down with their underhanded and in some instances, criminal practices, and we are told we must bail them out of this position.  We must put up the money, that we haven't got, we must pay higher taxes, that we cannot afford.  And it goes on and on day in day out and all of this is played out on 42" TV screens, nicked or otherwise for all to see.

So why is it a surprise when the pressure cooker lid blows off.  The pressure has been building for over 40 years and maybe we will not be able to put it back on.  And it is just not here.  I understand that the city of Philadelphia last night imposed a curfew for everyone under the age of 18 from 9 PM Friday night until Saturday Morning and the same thing will be imposed on Saturday, this because youths REGULARLY initiate Flash Mobs via their smart phones see, Curfew 

Well, those are just some of my thoughts, but what do you think?  I could go on and on on this subject, but much like a politician, I am getting bored with it and just wish it would all go away, but it won't I fear it will only get worse and of course just to instil even less confidence in us we are now seeing the open hostility between those who govern us and those who mange our police forces as the war of words of who did what, when and why.  But of course all of that then pushes the problems above on to the back burners, because the political in fighting is much more 
important than the rioting and its causes and solutions............... or so it seems.

Best Wishes and please stay safe 

Friday, 12 August 2011

Should Virtual Suicide Be Outlawed? | Future Crimes | Big Think

Should Virtual Suicide Be Outlawed? | Future Crimes | Big Think

Interesting article by the Blog Big Think on virtual suicide.  Not something I have considered, virtual or otherwise.  Although I have said to Ishbel on many an occasion as we have watched programmes or read articles about people who are terminally ill, or who have had an accident and they become incapable of looking after themselves, that that situation for me would be intolerable and that I would just want to die either by having medical care withdrawn or having the plug pulled on life support.

But what was more interesting for me in this article was the sub content that Facebook were trying to bully, through a legal letter, Moddr who are  offering people the software to carry out their virtual suicide and destroy all links with the social network sites they are signed into.
  The virtual suicide machine launches a series of scripts which Moddr.Net has created which log into various social networking sites and deletes all network contacts.  In addition, the script blocks further access to the account by changing the prior password and by not providing the new login credentials to the individual committing virtual suicide.
Why then are Facebook so exercised about this programme, well in the words of one executive;
  a Facebook executive noted his vision was for everybody on earth to have a Facebook account. 
As the author of the Big Think  Blog goes on to say;
Consider the implications.  In effect, Facebook will become the default global citizen database.  Those that did not participate would become non-existent in the eyes of the world, an act akin to committing “social suicide” as one researcher in the UK has commented.  Advocates and frequent users of Web 2.0 have even commented that they would not trust somebody who did not have a Facebook account.
The article goes on to inform us that incitement to commit suicide in the real world, in many countries, is an offence and I can understand the reasons for that.  For example, I suppose, where you have someone in a family who holds the purse strings, but for whatever reason has become mentally impaired and rather than kill him or her and run the risk of being caught and sent down for murder, people could be tempted to Chinese whisper that person into killing themselves.  Again there is clearly a risk of being caught, but much lesser than if you were to carry out an actual murder. So, it is right and proper that incitement to suicide should be an offence in a socially aware society.

But, is it really right that a company like Facebook threatens a company with dire legal consequences, for providing software to people who might otherwise want to get out of their social networks and with the contacts therein but may not have the willpower to actually do it, without the push.  Maybe people like that do exist, and it may be that it could be argued if they are in that position with their 'on-line self and or avatar' then they could be as vulnerable in the real world.  But I do not think that Facebook are doing it with any sense of social or moral  superiority, do you?

I have a confession here, I confess I do not know why sites like Facebook and Twitter or Linkedin seem to be worth as much as they are quoted to be.  They are free to join and they don't charge you once you are a member.  I am a spectacle wearer and apparently I am going deaf, my super hero alter ego tag is Mr Fat, but other than all that I think I am in fairly good condition, but don't ask me to undertake a medical as it may dispel my own belief in my own well being; and that wouldn't be good.  But the point is and I have just checked my Facebook, Twitter and Pushnote pages and I really don't see any adverts aimed at me or anyone else for that matter.  So why are these companies worth so much. Did I just read this week that some Russian oligarch had just invested $300 million dollars in Twitter? Why?

So if Facebook already has 850 million users world wide, why does it matter if a couple of hundred thousand commit mass 'virtual suicide' to rid themselves of their on-line persona.

I know that many are critical of it. I have been in the past and I am sure I will be again in the future.  Maybe I am one of those people who might be vulnerable to be pushed into this 'virtual suicide' as it was pressure (gentle as it was) from my peers in the form of my wife and youngest daughter, Jennifer, that 'pushed' me into opening  a Facebook account.  I also confess here that I am not a habitual user of it.  Rather I am a tweeter and while I have tweeted in excess of 2000 tweets a high proportion of them are re-tweets from people I follow who have infinitely more interesting things to say than I have. Or, they are links to Blogs like Big Think or a young chap Callum Jones who is also a blogger and much more eloquent and erudite than I and usually has interesting things to say, even although he is still just a 'spotty' kid(!) who still has to find life in all its glory. And it is my tweets that form the bulk of my posts on Facebook as I discovered that these forums can be linked.

So, is there an underlying threat to us all from Facebook that they will go to these lengths and threats against this company who are giving people the means to clear social media from their lives and to get back to the real world? Have Facebook and Twitter got secret plans to suddenly charge us all a monthly fee to be part of the 'virtual world' and therefore anything that is going to allow us to opt out must be met with a battery of high priced and high profile litigators?

Or is it that we put so much information on these sites that they 'sell that information' to third parties who can then target us through other mediums to purchase their goods and services and is that where these companies are making their money, I have no idea what the reasons are, but it all seems more than a little odd.

Finally, The question was should Virtual Suicide be Outlawed? Answer: I have no idea, but lean towards No. but what do you think?

Best Wishes  

Amid The Market Carnage, Apple's The New King -But is it digging its own grave?

Amid The Market Carnage, Apple's The New King - Yahoo! UK & Ireland Finance

As of last night, Apple was valued at a cool $337 billion, trumping the oil giant ExxonMobil at $331 billion. Other companies in the mega-cap list include:
Petrochina - $277 billion
Industrial (Mexico: ST2000.MX - news) and Commercial Bank of China - $226 billion
Nestle (BSE: NESTLE.BO - news- $217 billion
Microsoft - $203 billion
This story got me to thinking about video recorders, whhhaaaat? I here you say, in fact some of you reading this probably don't even know what a video recorder is, or care for that matter.
But for those of us who do, do you also recall that there were two systems, Betamax and VHS and of the fight for survival between the two.  Now if you look at the links for both you will see that Betamax comes out on top as the better system, technically, but clearly with drawbacks as described in the articles, and this is where VHS won the battle.  But the battle wasn't just one of technical superiority, as I recall. There was also a cost implication for most people.  As home video took of in the UK in the early 80's to buy a recorder of any description was one that had  to be looked at as a major luxury item.  I wasn't long out of the Army and I recall my first job was as a warranty administrator for a commercial garage and my take home wage was circa £75.00 after tax, etc., per week.  So just under £4k a year.  Video machines were on sale (and for rent) for anything from £300+ to £600+, so, as you can see, while desirable, one of these machines was way down the order in terms of things that we needed, but really wanted!
Interestingly while looking at this I found this blog that looks at all things 80's and there was also an article on videos recorders as well, here for your delectation is the link 1980s-coming-to-your-home-vcr
So, what is the link between Apple today and video recorders of the 1980's, well, maybe none, but it got my thinking going of again in a lateral direction, as I usually do with these things.  Today, as in the 1980's I am working and as in the 1980's I do not earn a big wage and while Ishbel and I have been left to fend for ourselves by our children, who have grown up and gone on to have families of their own with no consideration to looking after us any more (only kidding), we still don't have that much money to throw around.  Now being a bit of a technophobe, in that I like to own gadgets, but can't always afford them, I have and do, on a regular basis, pop in to the local Apple shop and drool over the sleek lines of the ipods and ipads, and macs, but I have never bought one.  My kids have, (hate them) but I haven't. Ishbel wanted one as she travels around on the train to visit the kids mid week when she isn't working, but ended up with Creative's Vision M  mp3 player .  Having listened both to the ipod and the vision M I believe that the latter is every bit as good as the former.  What drove me to that was nothing more than price, but since she got it about 4 years ago now, it has let us down only once.  It was popped into a box sent back to Ireland and a replacement was sent by return, and that has functioned without problem ever since.

So, quality, of product, quality of sound and size of memory cannot be faulted.  Compared to and iPod, well I can't really but I wouldn't change from Creative to Apple for those reasons mentioned and also for price.  Sure Creative have much more expensive products as well but they are well below the price of Apples stable of gadgets and this is where I think Apple may well be digging there own grave ahead of toppling in to it!

Apple are now the most valued company on the planet and they have achieved that by building and selling what is unquestionably quality merchandise.  But how can they justify the continued high prices that they continue to maintain, especially as, a) we have been told since Adam was a boy that the more of a product that is produced the lower the cost, doesn't seem to be the case with Apple though does it? And, b) we know that the vast majority of their products are built using what one would loosely term as 'cheap labour, in the far east and China,  Again then the question has to be asked how they can continue to justify the continued high prices?

But the final spadeful of dirt being dug out of that hole that they may well get buried in surely has to be the Android operating system. As well as the report that Apple is now the most profitable company on the planet we learn that Smart phones and other gadgets containing the Android OS are outselling Apple by two to 1 across the world.  As I said I do not have an iPhone and nor does Ishbel.  I have an HTC and Ishbel has a Samsung Galaxy S.  We both 'love' these phones, although I am a late entrant to the smart phone market, I wouldn't want to do without it now. On the other hand for our daughter's, Marie, who swears by her iPhone and Jennifer is counting down the 'sleeps' until she gets her new iPhone, but Brian, our son, who according to Ishbel, 'gets more like his dad' everyday to the riposte, 'Oh shut up, mum!' also swears by his HTC.

The point of all this is of course, that Apple, like windows before them have a virtual monopoly on their OS system and will not share.  They continue to charge premium prices in every country they operate in and while we all might aspire to own an Apple gadget, it is always going to be out of the reach of many more than it sells to.  On the other hand Android is in everything else from the cheap and gaudy to the, 'as expensive as an Apple' and can much better supply more economical gadgets to the masses around the globe.  Surely this has to be a warning to Apple to change their strategy and make their product less elitist!