Sunday, April 24, 2016

Should I stay or should I go?

I've seen a lot of somewhat colourful rhetoric recently regarding Mr Obama's comments on Brexit, so I thought I'd add my two penneth worth.
1) You and me (the people of Britain) get to decide if we stay in or out, so whereas it's got bog all to do with him, isn't it useful information to know how the rest of the world is going to react depending which way we go? Personally I'm happy to know beforehand that our special relationship will not extend to trade deals with the US if we exit, rather than assume we'll get them and then find out we're stuffed in that direction.
2) Does he have a right to comment on what we do in Europe? Well most of are making lots of comments about Trump and Clinton...I think it's this idea of free speech that we have, so yes, I'd say he has every right to voice his opinion.
3) Was it all staged by the Stay campaign? Yes, almost certainly, but that doesn't necessarily make any of the points he made less valid.

4) America wouldn't stand for the lack of sovereignty? What do you think each State in the US does to the Central US government?
So, I'm not trying to sway you to vote one way or another, but please also don't let a knee jerk, "who the F*** does he think he is?" reaction sway you either. Listen to all the evidence, opinion and the bullshit and if you decide you can make an informed decision, vote for what you think is right.

Saturday, October 03, 2015

Bordeaux cases or iPad boxes?

The world is a strange place. Last week I sold a cardboard box on eBay for £15 purely because it had the words Apple iPad written on it. Prompted by this marketing success I currently have another such piece of merchandise for sale that nobody is touching with a bargepole at the same price....because it also has the word 'mini' on it. 
At first I though this was a bit odd, as for accessories everything to do with the iPad mini seems to cost more that a full size one (even though there's less physical material in them and, simplistically, should be cheaper, but that's another story). It seems that although the old 3rd generation iPad box was snapped up at £15, the most I can expect anyone to pay for my discarded mini box is about £5 if I'm lucky.
I think this is down to the fact that most iPad Mini's are relatively new, desirable and holding their price. So having a box to sell it in if you are trying to get rid of one isn't that important.
For a 3 year old full size iPad (3rd generation if you are interested) having a box might make the difference between making a sale or not, so they are suddenly worth something in their own right.
All this lead me to thinking.....I bought my original iPad back in 2012....if a new box is worth £5 and the old one is worth £15, this is a 300% profit margin in 3 years and so probably makes cardboard iPad boxes a better investment opportunity than bordeaux wine!

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Can you help this child?

MISSING!
PLEASE HELP
This little boy isn't. My sister once ran away from home one evening causing a bit of panic in the house, but was found not long after. Of course that was before the days of computers in the house, let alone the internet. In fact we didn't even have a telephone, but I digress.
I wonder if we had had the internet whether her picture would have been displayed like this to mobilise as many people as it could reach to try and find her? The Internet is a powerful tool and really can help to quickly reach the resources of the public at large to avert tragedy and at times we should be grateful for it.
But listen, just for a moment before you share this picture to help find a boy that isn't missing. 95% (made up statistic by the way) of missing person pictures are either a scam, 5 years out of date, or refer to someone who has already been found; hopefully returned to their family or in more tragic cases, their bodies recovered.
What am I trying to say here? Well, it's this: please check the details before you share the missing son or daughter photo on Facebook and twitter. It takes a few moments to do a google search on the name (e.g. "Dave Green missing Facebook" - search) and find out if it's real and still current. Because if it's a scam or the situation is resolved then continuing to post that picture means that some poor child runs the risk of their photo being circulated on Facebook for years to come and this in itself can be psychologically damaging for people - imagine being stared at by strangers because they have "recognised" you as a missing child, being taunted by school "friends" etc.
Yes, the need to find a missing child outweighs this, but if a quick check on a search engine is all it takes, then if you really want to help the child, please do that check first.
I wonder if this will go viral by the 95% of very well meaning people that will just read the headline and share in the hope of helping to find the boy in the picture?
NB - it's me in the picture and the only thing I'm missing is my marbles :)
PS - I am sorry if I offend anyone of my friends that do forward shared missing person photos - this is not my intention, as in doing so you show hearts of gold that care and this is to be encouraged in a world too full of apathy.

Friday, August 29, 2014

Ice, Ice Baby - Part 2

OK ladies and gents, I've finally decided what I'm going to do with the Ice Bucket challenges I've received and if you are so inclined please give me 4 minutes of your time to find out by watching my Ice Bucket challenge video (yes Neil, we've got a video!)
video
http://thewaterproject.org
Please share on social media if you like the message in this video

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Ice, ice baby!

A little while ago I was nominated for the ice bucket challenge by an old friend, which I have to say annoyed me a little. This is because I am a very grumpy old git. Although I do have reservations about people being pressured to be charitable or even pressured into freezing their tits off just because "everybody else is doing it", I can honestly say my main objection was more to do with me being just a miserable twat. Now having been nominated a second time, I felt the need to think about things a little further since, as well as being Mr Grumpy, I wanted to make sure I'd thought a few things through rationally, as various issues have been raised by this phenomena of late.
Water.
The question has been raised that is it ethically right to be 'wasting' water in this way when 3.4 million people die for lack of clean drinking water each year compared to the few thousand that ALS claim? Matt Damon raised much awareness of this issue by accepting the challenge but using toilet water rather than clean water on the grounds that our toilet water in the west is cleaner that a lot of the world's drinking water ( Link to article on Matt Damon's challenge ). Well done Matt, for managing to balance things here as he has managed to bring awareness that ice bucket challenge was causing controversy but in a positive way that raises awareness of a bigger issue without necessarily 'having a go' at those who have done this challenge with good motive. I found it somewhat ironic to see the above death stats quoted on pictures of people doing the challenge with comments like 'sick humanity' when if fact the person drenching themselves in freezing water is doing so in some small way for what is best in humanity - the act of charity. I have yet to see a video of anyone doing the challenge whilst yelling "ha ha, you Ethiopian peasants! Feeling thirsty?"
No, I think it's a worse part of humanity that is cynical about people's desire to give, than it is of a charitable person who might unintentionally be sending a wrong message.
If I do choose to pour a bucket of clean water over my head or not, here in Britain it is not going to make one iota of difference to anyone without access to drinking water elsewhere in the world. We are lucky in this country as plenty of water falls from the sky, and whereas we do waste that resource, this challenge is in no way a significant factor in that waste, so I honestly believe there is no call to be disparaging about those that do the challenge....just don't nominate anyone in the Sahara.
Peer Pressure.
One of my first gut reactions was that I object to feeling pressured into doing anything as then it ceases to be an act of charity, but more one of trying to fit in. Well, gut reactions cannot always be trusted, as after much thought I've reached the following conclusions:
if it helps save lives does it really matter if I am giving for a sense of charity or a sense of sociability?
Do I really hold my friends in such little regard that I think I will lose then if I just said 'no'? I have a hunch my friends are truer than that
At base emotional level, is there really any difference between the pressure of a nomination and the 'guilt' giving induced by the telly on each Red Nose Day?
Without that nomination, would any charitable giving increase? I.e. If I were not nominated, would I ignore that charity - answer - probably.
Is the challenge itself safe or sensible?
There are a few issues here. Firstly there are numerous cases of injury (metal bucket thrown I people's faces, dustbin's full of water being dropped on top of people rather than the contents tipped, etc.) and at least one death cause by doing this challenge, so is it right to perpetuate a potentially dangerous practice? Secondly, this follows a trend of challenges on social media, many of which have nothing to do with charity, and some are very dangerous (e.g. Salt and ice challenge!), so should we encourage this type of practice by adding the additional pressure of the 'it's for charity' guilt trip?
To answer the first point, well people do stupid things all the time, injure themselves and even kill themselves - no, we shouldn't encourage stupid reckless behaviour, but to be honest pouring a bucket of ice water over the head is really of very little actual risk. Those that try to go one better by having there friend upend a full wheelie bin from a first floor window on to them are likely to be due a Darwin Award at some point in their life anyway, so like everything in life, if you use a modicum of common sense, then I think the risks are minimal.
For the second point, these social media challenges are a fact of life now, and whereas I think everyone should not have to feel obligated to do dumb ass crap to feel accepted, at least the ice bucket challenge has overshadowed some of the more dangerous ones for a time. 
Only 27% of ALS donation actually go to research
Hmmm, this is a biggie for me as it's always hard to give money to charities that spend 6 figure salaries on their chairman (source not confirmed, it's just another of the comments circulating on Facebook), but 27%, does seem to be a very low figure to actually go to the intended cause.
OK, so I don't want to waste 73% of my donation, but just because I've been nominated for the ALS ice bucket does not mean I have to accept that charity? Will I feel like I've failed if I make it a MacMillan ice bucket challenge, or one for Oxfam or the North East Air Ambulance ? (NB currently I've no idea on donation percentages for these either at the moment). I see no issue at all with accepting the challenge but picking on a different charity to benefit - perhaps one that does work to provide clean water for people to drink?
Conclusion
So what am I going to do about my nominations? At the moment I am undecided, but I feel I have a little time yet to make a decision, as being holed up with flu at present, I'm certainly not going to be pouring ice cold water over myself in the very short term. But once I'm back to health, well, watch this space and find out how all this introspection panned out :)
Perhaps you might like to add comments  and two pennies worth on Facebook to help my decision - please keep them calm and polite :)

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Spread the Word

It seems with the rise of social media we have an inevitable rise in the propagation of Daily Mail style intelectuallism that at times amuses me and at other times irritates me. Why is it that people just believe everything they read as if the mere presence of it as written word confers factual status.
So anyway, someone I know re-shared this load of bollocks about margarine the other day and I just thought for once I'd write my own response, which please do not take as gospel, as it's mainly of the top of my head and so just as suspect as the original writers comments, but hopefully it is enough of a discourse to make a few people query what they read rather than just accept it.
So the original article went as follows and the blue text is my responses to the various statements made.
(NB - none of this in anyway is intended to suggest margarine is in any way healthy or indeed that butter isn't much much better for you, merely that that arguments used to try to make this point are….well…rubbish)
--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Pass The Butter ... Please.

This is interesting . .. .
Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back.
Dog food is bad for Cat’s health but obviously fine when eaten by dogs. A koala can ONLY eat eucalyptus leaves and certainly would have some problems with butter, so just because the turkeys don’t like it has no bearing on it’s effect on humans
It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow colouring and sold it to people to use in place of butter. How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavourings....
Carrots were originally purple, Oranges originally green, look at 98% of every packaged food stuff and you will see colouring and flavouring in the ingredients list. Some food colourings are natural, some are artificial. Some are harmless, some are not so harmless. To mention margarine has been coloured is just to say it is in common with the vast majority of other food we eat.
DO YOU KNOW.. The difference between margarine and butter?
Read on to the end...gets very interesting!
Both have the same amount of calories.
Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to 5 grams for margarine.
Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.
As does Alcohol over water…. is anybody reading this thinking of switching from alcohol to water? I thought not! Plus if you are going to quote stats please quote the source – “a recent Harvard Medical Study” sounds convincing and official, but actually amounts to as much evidence as “They Say” J
Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.
Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few and only because they are added!
“Only because they were added” ?!? Are you seriously suggesting that a nutritional benefit is somehow a “better” one if it wasn’t “added”?
Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavours of other foods.
Just plain idiotic – taste is a completely subjective quality. Some people like the taste of celery…. I think it’s the food of Satan.
Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years .
Paper has been around for centuries but the iPad or PC you typed this up on has been around for less than 50 years. Obviously you are as bad as Margarine for not using said paper instead.
And now, for Margarine…
  • ·     Very High in Trans fatty acids.
  • ·     Triples risk of coronary heart disease.
  • ·     Increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol)
  • ·     Increases the risk of cancers up to five times..
  • ·     Lowers quality of breast milk
  • ·     Decreases immune response.
  • ·     Decreases insulin response. 

Now the list of bad stuff about Margarine here might be convincing if
a) It was substantiated by the sources of the information (is it another Harvard Medical Study?)
b) There was any frame of reference for the comments – i.e. triple the risk of heart disease/x5 risk of cancers…. Compared to what? Just not eating it? Eating butter instead? What quantity are we talking about consuming?
And here's the most disturbing fact... HERE IS THE PART THAT IS VERY INTERESTING!
Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC... and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT.
OK – this is where I virtually fell off my chair laughing! Margarine is one molecule away from being plastic. In the same vein Water is one molecule away from being Hydrogen Gas, one of which I will drink quite happily, the other, probably not good to fill my stomach on. Or Sodium Chloride (salt, to you and me) I will have a little in my food, indeed I need a little in my diet, but I think I’ll steer clear of eating any amount of Sodium on it’s own as it would kill me.
My point is one molecule can make an enormous difference. Your DNA shares 98% of the same “ingredients” as that of a potato, but perhaps you might be upset if I draw further comparison?
These facts alone were enough to have me avoiding margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).
“facts” – titter, guffaw, wheeze!
Open a tub of margarine and leave it open in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will notice a couple of things:
* no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)
It suggests to me that it doesn’t rot…. Ah sorry you’re going on to explain that anyway….So actually you want me to notice one thing stated twice rather than “a couple of things” J
* it does not rot or smell differently because it has no nutritional value ; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny weeny microorganisms will not a find a home to grow.
This is pure speculation on the part of the writer with no explanation to the supposed link between rotting and smell with nutritional value. There has been rice found in the pyramids of Egypt from 5000 years ago that would still have been good to eat. It had not rotted, but are we therefore going to deduce that rice has no nutritional value?
Why? Because it is nearly plastic . Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast?
See above – it is NOT nearly plastic. It shares some molecules with plastic and….oh I can’t be bothered to explain it again!
Share This With Your Friends.....(If you want to butter them up')!
Chinese Proverb:
When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others.
Pass the BUTTER PLEASE"
GreedyGreen’s Proverb:
When someone shares something they’ve not bothered to think about or research with you and you cringe at it, you have a moral obligation to take the piss out of them and share that with others.

Pass the Beers and Twinkys please (check out the ingredients list on those puppies if margarine scares you! – lol)

Friday, April 11, 2014

Will you stop with the complaints!

Last night, yet again, on the telly was a programme all about the woes of parents that have to pay more for holidays in the school holidays! For goodness sake, do you not understand the laws of supply and demand? This is not holiday companies fleecing you, - its how economics work! More people want to go on holiday at those times so the prices are higher. In the same way, less brussel sprouts are available in summer, and the price of them goes up in this period. Should I start a petition with the government to freeze the price of brussel sprouts throughout the year because I don't want those profit grabbing farmers to fleece me when I feel like a sprout in July?
"But we can't afford to take out kids on holiday at those prices!" - NO - you can't - it's as simple as that. You can't afford it, so you can't have it. My family holidays as a kid were a trip to a farm owned by my aunt and uncle. I didn't get a holiday abroad until I could pay for it myself aged 18. We couldn't afford it before that, so we didn't go. For some reason parents seem to think it's a god given right to be able to go wherever they like with their whole family and the travel industry should make it cheap enough for them to do so - well wake up and smell the coffee! It's arguable that you have a right to feed, clothe, educate and house a family at an affordable cost, but a holiday IS A LUXURY! And luxuries you can have if and when you can afford them.

Friday, December 06, 2013

The Mandela Legacy

Less than a day after the sad death of Nelson Mandela I have already seen two Facebook friends share onward photo comments that slam David Cameron as a hypocrite for comments he 'might' make about the man's death in light of claim that he was instrumental in producing the 1985 'Hang Mandela' poster and that he went on a pro apartheid fact finding trip to South Africa paid for by the anti sanction lobby in 1989. Now I'm no fan of Mr Cameron, but firstly these 'facts' are not all true to start with - yes he did indeed go on the mentioned trip, but the poster allegation there is not evidence for at all. The Facebook posts claim he was a top member of the FCS student organisation that produced these posters, whereas he was a fairly passive member of the student body (most reports say he wasn't much interested in politics in his student days) and the posters themselves, although may have been produced by some members of the FCS, were not produced by the FCS itself and do not mention the FCS on them.
This though is not the thing that grieves me the most. No, what does is that the astonishing legacy that Nelson Mandela left was a South Africa that did not revert to civil war post apartheid, but instead was a society he nurtured to put the past behind them. It was not about revenge or hate. It was about forgiveness and cooperation; about ending the hatred and racial inequality - not replacing one injustice with another.
As one of his prison friends mentioned, Mandela said not to hate the white guards that oversaw them, but engage with them, make them your friends and thus the world can be changed for the better.
So my sadness now is that I think Mandela would be weeping tears of sorrow to think that people were reacting to his death by posting messages of scorn, hatred and blame.
His legacy should be one of love, forgiveness and rising up to the challenge of creating a better world!

Saturday, June 01, 2013

An Open Letter to Greek Taverna Owners

Greek cuisine can be some of the tastiest food in the world, and there is nothing now short of the Apocalypse that might stop me from returning again and again to Greece to enjoy it's lovely flavours and the hospitally of the country's wonderful people. However with at least a generation of taverna owners having been in business since the start of the package tour holiday business that have brought us Brits (for better or worse) to your many islands and beautiful mainland resorts, there are a few things that may help you to stay ahead of the competition if you can understand their significance to our British psyche.

1) toilets are not an afterthought. Many Brits will actually come in to your bar or taverna and buy a drink just so they don't feel guilty asking to use the toilet. Hence if they know you have nice toilets there's an extra bit of passing trade to be had here... "I'm busting! Shall we stop at Nikkos' bar?"...." Nah, lets go next door to Spiros's place, he's got locks on the door!"
There's about four basics that the Brit wants to see:- A clean toilet, a toilet roll, a lock for the door and last but not least a toilet seat! The cold porcelain to sit on just doesn't do it for us.

2) Nescafé is a brand name, not a just a label to say there isn't a layer of coffee grinds in the bottom of the cup. To us Brits if you say something is Nescafé then we're expecting a mug of instant coffee, not something that arrives with a foamy head on it that would sit proud on the average pint of Guiness.

3) Look up the meaning of the word special. Everything on the menu cannot be special, served on special plates with a special wine, in special glasses at a special price. Use the word too much and we really do start doubting the sincerity.

4) Tea is a hot drink. Most of us now understand that Greece has a slower pace of life and chill out enough on holiday that we're not bothered that things take a little longer to happen than we are used to in Britain. So a wait until the drinks arrive is fine, but tea takes a little time to brew in hot water, and a geological era to brew in luke warm. So when a cup of tepid water arrives with a tea bag waiting still in it's individual envelope on the saucer having not yet been close to being dampened, you should not be surprised when you hear the same phrase from the over 40's of the UK who with a grimace, chant, "Ooooo, they've no idea about tea over 'ere, do they?"

5) Taverna Greek has certain rules of etiquette. Some of us Brits make a stab at trying to learn the language a little and most that try after about 30 years of practice may achieve a level of competency known as 'Taverna Greek' which to keep us happy needs to be responded to according to certain rules. Firstly, it should not be ignored, even if your only reply is "po po, poli kala!", before you switch back to English and hope we don't befoul your classical language any further with our bumbling attempts. Secondly though, and probably far more importantly, if we've managed to ask for two beers and a saganaki correctly even down to pronoun gender and plurality, this does not indicate we are in any way fluent, and so launching into a full speed interrogation in your native tongue asking "how we learnt it?", "did we go to night class?", "How long have we lived here?", and "What do we think of the latest political scandal?", will only result in a look of utter confusion and mutterings of, "shall we just get egg and chips tomorrow at Zorba's where that welsh lass works?"
So humour us, don't ignore us, and certainly don't baffle us with the language, and we'll be back to assault your ears another night over a 'special' Mousaka.

Then again all these things together with menus full of 'Rost Lamp', 'Fried Squits' and 'beef steaks' that end up being burgers, are probably part of the charm of what makes Greece such a wonderful, friendly and rich culture for me, that brings me back time and time again. Would I want any of it to change? Probably not. As the man from Shirley Valentine said, "Greece would be alright....if it were more like Spain!" Well, no it certainly would not, and if you want your ideal home toilets, egg and chips, no risk of gritty coffee, and a perfect cuppa, then bog off back to the Costas and leave Greece for me.


Thursday, May 23, 2013

Vengeance is a dish best served cold

The events in Woolwich have without doubt caused complete uproar and within that will be those who feel justified in wanting vengeance. I am not one to judge if it is right to do so or not in that my first reaction was that I wised the police had targeted the assailants knee caps with gunfire and then left them to die in agony. But amid all this, my fear if that vengeance is all too likely to be misguided, and a 'Daily Mail' style backlash will target Muslims.
Please let us remember, those that commit these atrocities are totally evil wankers and they may say they are doing something in the name of Allah, but as 99% of all Muslims would concur, Allah has nothing whatsoever to do with this. There are evil people from every religion, nation, and walk of life. There always has been and there always will be, but did we, for example, take vengeance on the Icelandic people as they descended for the Arian stock the Nazis considered superior for the horrificcrimes of  the Third Reich? No, and just as we do not target blond haired blue eyed people, neither should we target mosques and Muslims.
Lets not stoop to the same level as these evil bastards, but resist evil and strive to be better in the face of it. Use a little cold logic to temper the hot vengeance.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

The Finer Things In Life

A strange duality is occurring as I get older when it comes to those diminishing levels of return that comes with greatly escalating investment. Back when I was young I was very keen on my HiFi, and although I was never in a position to afford to high end stuff (that end of the market where vinyl is still very much king, CDs are sneered at, and the mention of an MP3 is like inferring carnal knowledge of someone's mother) but I was always spending much time reading the magazines to determine what the experts considered the best quality kit that could be afforded if I routed 80% of my student grant to deck, amp and speakers, and lived off pasta in white sauce with green beans for the whole rest of term. And at the end of the day, I probably spent most of the time just pretending I could hear the 'startling increase in bass definition and subtle warmth in the high end vocals' from one HiFi setup to the next.
Nowadays, I think I'm a little more pragmatic about things, and for the amount of time I end up listening to music, that accursed MP3 file in it's little metal iHome that he shares with 8764 of his mates, is just far to easy and convenient to ignore, and the bits of old HiFi now sit in the transistor and valve graveyard of an attic waiting for that mythical time when I'll 'get them fixed up properly'.... Yeah, right!
So I've settled for something decent enough and usable. But strangely, the converse is now true in other areas where I'm now far more willing to throw extra money into things to try that little extra, again probably without have the ability personally to make the distinctions. With some items it's a matter of 'just in case' such as the mattress topper we bought the other day. Having gone through the shop looking at them all, of course they seemed to be better and better the more expensive they came...as expected, and when dealing with the possibility of ensuring my wife gets the best possible night's sleep (and hence my best possible waking day) then it just seemed to make sense to say, let's have the best we can. Did I feel like I'd had any better night's sleep? I'm really not sure, but I still don't begrudge spending the dosh there.
With wine however, I seem to be caught in a bit of that same youthful feeling I had about HiFi. I so want to be able to appreciate the difference between the 'levels' of wine value and actually do enjoy a decent bottle more than others, but once you get beyond the realms of what the 'average' person might spend on a bottle, can I tell the difference? I so want to be able to, and at the same time my logical mind says, 'hope for your wallet's sake that you can't!'
I've always said that it has to be a very, very dire bottle of red before I'll actually not enjoy drinking it (in fact I can still count on one hand the occasions when I've had a problem drinking a red), so I was quite content quaffing the contents of the Coop box of cab-sav on offer, but I could instantly tell a huge leap in yumminess when switching to a delicious Californian cab-sav from Charles Smith at about the £10 a bottle mark. Yeah! My aspiration to wine snobbery seems to be happening, but then I went from that to the converted bottle of Amarone that I parted with £25 for as it was on offer at half price. Hmmmm, now here is the most expensive bottle of wine I've ever bought, so again just like my student HiFi days, I'm not going really high end (it's no 'chateau d'ReMortgage'), but I guess it's fine wine much in the same way my amplifier and speaker were HiFi as opposed to being a 'stereo centre'. And what did it taste like? Well very, very nice it has to be said.... But at the end of the day, it looks like my logic and wallet are going to win, as nice as it was, being brutally honest, I couldn't say for one moment it was any nicer that the Charles Smith of the night before.
So for wine at least, I think I have found my level beyond which the diminishing returns are tending to zero. I wonder what the next luxury item will be that will start to tug at my wallet and ingrained desire to be a snob :)

Friday, January 11, 2013

Adam's Apple - Information Consumers from Eden to Ebay

It's said by some that sin came into the world when Adam succumbed to temptation and took a bite out of the apple, and like most things sinful, I'm guessing that until he did all the guilt trip hiding behind bushes and fig leaves once he realised he was tackle out in public, he though, "boy, does this taste good or what!". I'm also guessing that the munching did not stop at a single fruit, but rather many a 'om, nom, nom!' could be heard for much of the day as Adam chomped through a major banquet worth of deliciously sinful helpings of juicy knowledge laden edibles. He became the world's first information consumer; an addict for knowing more whether he needed to or not (not, being the case as far as the big G was concerned in this instance).
And humankind have been on the same track ever since. In this latter age of course we have come full circle and the information consumer 'apple' we bite into is the corporate giant of the same name, and indeed I, like Adam, have succumbed and am typing this on one of my many 'i' devices.
Of course Apple, like the whispering serpent, would very much like me to continue consuming too, and if I want to maintain my addiction to information I have a hard time resisting their insidious whispering to buy and upgrade to the latest and best iDevice. Don't get me wrong, I'm not trying to equate Apple with Satan here; they are not (subjective opinion) evil as such. More they are just extremely annoying as they have a fairly aggressive strategy to ensure you keep buying more and more hardware. To illustrate, I recently came to the end of my contract with Orange for my Windows Phone, which as I'm sure I have mentioned before, I really didn't take to much (it still seems absurd that the only phone OS that can't directly sync with Microsoft Outlook is the only one written by Microsoft), so was keen to take the opportunity to switch to a lower tariff, sell the Windows Phone and buy something else. And of course having previously invested in an iPad, I followed the same logic (even though it had turned out to be flawed in the Microsoft instance) and went for an iPhone for compatibility's sake. All was well and good until I did the same for my wife (her Nokia never really recovered from a dunk in the toilet) and accidentally bought the iPhone 3G instead of the 3GS. It hadn't occurred to me that there would be much difference and I guess I didn't do my research properly. Here is where I first came across the deliberate manifestation of that strategy, as the 3G will only support iOS up to 4.1.something, and Apple themselves will only support 4.3 and above. At first glance this is all normal and the same as the policy of most IT companies, but the point here is that Apple don't just drop support for the older OS and hence the older hardware, but positively make it harder for people to use the older technology. The developers for apps are given toolkits to test and the older OS modules are deliberately removed from these so that the applications cannot be created to be backwards compatible. Probably the first most obvious one of these was the Facebook app that would not run on the iPhone 3G. On more traditional computer systems it wouldn't be a problem as you can go get the older version of the application that does work on the older OS, but as iOS needs it apps to be loaded via the App Store online, then we just don't have access to the older versions and so slowly and surely the older iDevices will become more and more worthless.
Quite how worthless I will soon find out as ebay hosts my current listing for an iPhone 3G that is being 'sold due to upgrade' :)
And now that my wife and I both have shiny new (well slightly newer second hand actually) iPhones with access to the whole world of knowledge and information to gorge on.....what will we actually do with them? Well 99% of the time we'll look at cute pictures of fluffy animals doing strange things and post the words 'beer o'clock' every Friday. Adam, was it really worth the fall from grace?

Sunday, January 06, 2013

3D Was Jonny Woo ahead of his time?

As I mentioned on Facebook the other day, I had the great misfortune to watch 'Journey 2: The Mysterious Island' and decided that it was one of those moments when you realise it's 91 minutes of your life you can never get back.
However the experience did leave me musing a little on the latest fad for 3D cinema which seems like it might be here to stay unlike the several previous attempts in the decades gone by - for some reason 'The Creature From The Black Lagoon' and 'Jaws 3D' never converted the world to thinking that 3D was the new talkies. This outing for the technology seems to be lasting with TV channels (or channel at the moment) and home equipment making it much more accessible.
Unfortunately I just don't like it for a variety of reasons. Firstly, things looks unrealistic in 3D, as the way it's portrayed on the screen is not how the eye sees in reality. There's just too much in focus! Look up from this screen for a moment and at the nearest wall - the wall will be in focus as you look at it and the computer screen will be out of focus. Look back at the screen and that will come into focus and the wall will be out of focus. This doesn't happen on a movie however. Every level is in focus, so what you end up with is a sense of 'layers' rather than a continual depth. The director can never focus and de-focus individual objects on screen to reproduce 'real' viewing as he can't know which bit of the screen you'll be looking at at any time. So 3D actually ends up producing just 'cool looking' special effects rather than something realistic.
That then, plus the crappy glasses you have to wear, are my problems with the technology, but my bigger gripe with 3D is with what the movie makers do with it. 'Journey 2' was a good example of these issues (well it had to be good for something). Now it has to be said I wasn't watching the 3D version of this film, but this in part serves to illustrate one of my points. It was very obvious the 'bits' of the movie where the 3D effect was supposed to 'wow' you and hopefully they were far more successful than it's predecessor (Journey To The Centre Of The Earth, which used the red and green cardboard glasses on the DVD and in which sadly the best bit of 3D was a dripping tap), but there was no other substance to the movie. It seemed like the entire plot and action was just engineered around setting up cool 3D sequences. And that's just lazy - 3D should try to enhance a movie, not be the sole purpose of the movie.
In 2D of course all these effects didn't just not work, but the way they are filmed make the scene look just a bit 'odd' - generally everything goes into slow motion and there's random objects floating in the screen that just look out of place. I remember Jonny Woo always overdosed his movies with slow motion, and the standing joke was that at normal speed you'd only get a movie half the length of anyone else's. We have the same here; Journey 2 is only 91 minutes to start with, so once you have taken the slow motion out you've probably only got an an hour or so left - no wonder the plot seemed a tad light.
The other problem with this use of slow motion, is you just get very, very bored with it. Sometimes slow motion enhances things, as Attenborough's recent Africa documentary showed with a battle between two giraffes, which just looks like an almost playful scuffle at full speed, but in slow motion you can see the ripples of force the impacts of head butting causes, and get a better idea of the serious nature of the fight. However, when every time there's a special effect the movie goes into slow motion then you just end up groaning whenever it's kicks in.
Lastly, as I say, 3D should enhance rather than detract, and this should include respect for previous formats. Much as Dolby digital and DTS sound systems made a huge difference to the surround and the 'oomph' of a movie's soundtrack (I'll always remember the thrumming in the chest of the sound of the pod race in Star Wars Ep. 1, even if it was the only impressive thing about that movie). To watch the movie on a regular TV will not make it sound worse than had the DTS technology not been used in the first place - it sounds better if you have DTS, but sounds no worse if you don't. 3D on the other hand, does make a movie look worse if you can only see the film in 2D, so for me I am still clinging on to that hope that I am wrong, and that this current fad will after all be as short lived as the attempts at 3D in the 50's and 70's. it's probably an eternal cry to Hollywood, but can the movie makers concentrate a bit more on making good movies first, and then tinker with the toys if you have time please?

Friday, January 04, 2013

iBlog? The shape of things to come?

Have found finally the iPad app for Blogging so perhaps this might rejuvenate this blog page as I haven't posted on here for a while now.
The sad truth is that Facebook these days seems to take care of the short musings you have and want to share and with the advent of smart phones and tablet computing, those sort of dedicated social media sites (and their associated 'i' apps) make the kind of longer more thoughtful posts that if typical of a blog site, seem just too much effort when you can sit in the pub with pint and post how happy you are that you have a pint in the pub, with such ease.
I tend now to use an iPad in preference to the laptop for most things 'social' or browser or media related these days so until I found this app for blog posting the thought of faffing about with signing on to google blogger via safari was just too much effort. but now you never know.
So, watch this space to see if it's just technology that's blocked the blogs, or if it really is that I'm just too darn lazy. :)

Friday, December 02, 2011

Apologetic Execution

I'm not the greatest Jeremy Clarkson fan going, it has to be said. In fact, I'm probably first to join in the laughter whenever he gets slagged on Mock the Week or QI etc, but with this latest news story over the "execute the strikers" comment I find myself firmly on his side. Do people really now live their lives just waiting to be offended? It seems so as this is the latest of many occasions where offence has been taken where none is intended. When being hounded across a concourse, Mr Clarkson said to reporters, "Listen to what I actually said." And so I have, and to anyone with half a brain, there are several good reasons why it shows great stupidity to be taking offence from his remark. Firstly, the context of statement is within a joke! So, for goodness sake, can't everyone please just stop taking themselves so seriously that they can't take a joke. It's not as if any of the strikers have actually been taken out and executed in front of their family (at least I think that should have been a bigger news story if it has happened), so it's not as it the joke could really have been insensitive even it it had been aimed at the strikers. And leading on from that, the joke wasn't even aimed at those taking offence. Just as Clarkson said, if you listen to all of what he said the gist is:
  • The Strike is great as it's so much easier to get about in London, but I'm at the BBC and I have to be balanced, so no, the strikers are bad and should be shot.
Have you listened? Have you the wit to understand? Yes, the butt of the joke is the BBC! He's saying the BBC is a ludicrous enough organisation that it forces you into giving, possibly un-held viewpoints, purely for the sake of being balanced. i.e. if it were not for the BBC policy he would not be expressing that view. So the worst point about all this to me is that Jeremy Clarkson is having to apologise because he might face legal action due to other people's ignorance, stupidity and lack of understanding of either language use or humour. A great pity as some of those are the ones teaching today's children....or they would be if they were not on strike.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Portion Control

It's a common myth that the older I get the more like Victor Meldrew I become, when the truth is I've been grumpy bugger for most of my life and I don't see why I should stop now. So what minor annoyance has got my goat today? Cottage Cheese!
Not that cottage cheese itself is something I find annoying. More accurately I should say that the person responsible for Tesco's "lighter choices" cottage cheese with chilli is now on my ever growing list of first against the wall when the revolution comes. Many of you may know that in recent years I have joined my wife in following (however vaguely at times) the weight watchers diet system and though I say it myself haven't done bad at all in shedding 3 or 4 stone to reduce (BMI-wise) from obese, through overweight, to finally "in-weight" for the first time in a decade. Now those helpful people at Tesco actually add to there lighter choices range the weight watchers points contained in the product, which does make things easier than faffing about with arcane formulea or calculators. So plus point to them for that.
But why I ask you...I mean what is the point or listing that a point value per serving on a pot that has no bearing at all on the size of the pot itself! 1 point it says in a nice big red high visibility number to comfort you. The small print however...ah yes, you've always got to read the small print...notes that 1 point is per "serving" - not for the whole pot. That in itself isn't what gave me a Victor moment. No, it's the fact that a serving didn't seem to be based on how much would be a sensible amount to eat, but rather how much of the stuff would equate to one point. So a serving becomes 60g.... in a pot that has a total of 150g. For those not so quick with the maths, that means the whole pot is two and a half servings. For goodness sake couldn't you just have made the pot 120g or 180g so some poor sod doesn't get short changed with half a serving! Or perhaps list the point value for 75g? Or god forbid the whole pot even - because I would be hard pushed to find anyone who after polishing off the whole pot in one go could in honesty say "that was a bit greedy of me".
I know, i hear you say, why am I ranting over such a small detail? As ever.....because I can :)

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Kindle the fires

Not that I would stake my life on this being a fact, but I'm pretty sure that the definition of History is something like "stuff that's happened since it could be written down and recorded". So before writing, stuff gets labelled, Prehistoric. The written word then, is such a significant part of our concept of civilisation that it's understandable that events that effect the written word seem to matter so much to us; the invention of the printing press is universally considered a pivotal turning point in history, the wholesale burning of books by a variety of regimes in the world having almost as much impact on our psyche as the blood those same regimes had spilt.

Books have become such an integral part of our lives - whereas other stuff we possess ends up on a generic regular shelf, books even have their own specially named "bookshelf" - and be they paperback, hardback, cheap or expensive, old or new, there are few people in our relatively affluent (in worldly terms) society that don't have a book collection of some sort, even if we never get around to reading any of them.

And I guess this all may be a subconscious part of my unusual hesitation to purchase the next must have gadget - the Amazon Kindle bookreader! In case you didn't know, the Kindle is a small tablet style device about the size of a regular paperback book, that is a dedicated (well almost) machine for reading eBooks, or digital books stored in it's internal memory. The new version of this device, the Kindle 3, has already overcome a lot of the obvious downsides reading books on electronic devices used to have:

  • The screen is now good enough to read in direct sunlight
  • The memory is enough to hold about 3500 books (a lifetime's reading)
  • The price has come down to a (fairly) affordable £111
  • The battery life is quoted as up to a month
  • The books are now a little cheaper (only by pence mind) than the hardcopy
  • The device itself is lighter than a paperback book

So why am I hesitating? I leapt merrily into the age of digital music and love the idea of my little ipod having my entire music collection plus audiobooks and a few videos in a device smaller that a packet of cigs. OK there one big downside to digital books that moving to digital music didn't suffer from and that' convertibility. Without a vast amount of effort I could convert my music back catalogue to mp3. I won't be able to do this with Kindle unless I want to re-type entire books. Hence I'm in a position of multiple formats. Some stuff I'd have to read as a real book, other stuff on digital which given one of the advantages of this sort of device is the capacity, is kind of defeats the object if I end up having to carry both the Kindle and a load of old books about because I haven't decided what I'll be reading. So for instance when I'm away from home, remember my ipod have every single piece of music I possess ready and waiting for me to listen to, unless I want to buy a Ford Transit to have my bookshelf come with me, the Kindle won't achieve this for reading.

To highlight this effect, the initial outlay, although now much cheaper than it was, still amounts to a sizeable number of actual books, and until I know I'm going to be happy using a Kindle for the long term, I'm unlikely to purchase many books in that format, so whatever the capacity of the device, for a while it will still contain only a couple of titles.

Then there is the nickability of it to consider. It's unlikely that anyone is going to bother stealing the latest Dan Brown best smeller from the beach bed as you snooze in the sun, but a Kindle will be gone faster than you can say "DaVinci" no matter what crappy books are loaded onto it.

However, when alls said and done, I think the real reason I don't already possess this wonderful new gadget, is probably that it just isn't really a book! There's an indefinable quality to holding and reading a real book, there's a smell to the paper, there's a tangibility of experience that I just can't foresee being there with any electronic device. Will Kindle be the beginning of the end for real books? Well, from my perspective don't go kindling those book burning fires just yet...let me agonise over it for a little longer before I inevitably justify buying it with the "I wants it!" argument.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Give Back

Come the revolution, the wall is going to have to be a very long one indeed considering all the people who are going to be first against it. Today my venom is directed at whomever invented the corporate buzz phrase of this year...."Give Back"
I'm not sure if it extends to other corporations or is peculiar to my company, but the idea is that as a happy and thankful employee I "Give Back" some of my time to special projects without being paid for it. It's even talked about by managers in terms of your annual review, "That's a good choice for your Give Back this year".
What the phrase does is cleverly imply that there is some onus on you to return a favour, when in fact you haven't been given anything to start with to give back. My time is MINE, not the companies to give me. I sell my time to the company and they pay me for it - end of that transaction! Any more of MY time they want more normally falls into the category of overtime and they should be paying even more for.
The term Give Back should be scrapped in favour of the more correct term of "Give away for free because I'm a mug"
You only get one allotted span of time on this planet, and it's YOURS, no-one else's.

Friday, February 04, 2011

Invictus

I watched the film Invictus the other day and there was one line in the movie that really made me think. It's a line so memorable that I actually can't remember it word for word, but it's the scope of meanings it had that struck a chord. Nelson Mandela is meeting the Springbok Rugby team and he's tried to learn all their names and faces before he went. Their is just the one black player on the team and when they meet, Mandela says first, "Ah, you are easy to recognise!", but the line that is interesting is the next where he says (and I paraphrase), "one day that will not be so"
At face value, now that the apartheid system is done away with this refers to the possibility that more and more blacks will have the opportunities to be in the team, or that with the country getting behind the team in the up coming World Cup more blacks will take an interest and want to play what was up until then the sport of the whites.
But the double edged meaning could also possibly be that Mandela was looking forward to a time when it wasn't just that there were equal opportunities for all, but more that perhaps the colour of your skin would no longer be a person's most distinguishing feature. If so (and if Nelson Mandela even said this - after all I'm basing this on a film script), then the inspired vision makes the line almost as momentus as that most famous speech which I'm sure you all know...."I have a dream....."

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Christmas has arrived early

Those that know me, also know I have a compulsive addiction. Panic not - it's not heroine or alcohol or sex (well, let's ignore that last one) but the thankfully slightly less expensive habit of having to upgrade my camera all the time. I reckon it's probably about once a year which in turn probably makes each photo I take cost about £5 a shot, but there you go...these cruel manufacturers keep coming out with another model that I simply must have!
Hence my Christmas present to me this year is the new Fuji Finepix HS10 which sports an enormous (yes you can read in penis extension if you want) 30x optical zoom with a manual barrel twist which makes framing a shot so much easier than when it's linked to motors to zoom in and out. OK my camera may now be the size of the average satellite NASA launches, but it's my new baby! :)