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November 25 2008
It's mounting up

Charting the progress of my Ecobutton savings, here's a picture of the screen that appears when I come back after a break.

ecobutton

If you can make it out, the text on the right says CO2 8.959KGs, and above it £4.5832 [6.95591 US$], a sum not to be sniffed at for less than two weeks savings. It means that I'm likely to save in the region of £150+ a year, and 250+ KGs of carbon. For something only costing £15, it doesn't take a math genius to figure it is cost effective. If you have your PC on all day, in other words, if you work on it, whether at home or at an office or studio, this small object could save you money, and what's more important, it will save carbon, and the more people get one, the more carbon we'll save, and that is what we all want isn't it?. What are you waiting for?

The media are now discussing whether the recession can have some positive benefits such as on people's health. A no brainer, of course it will improve health; less junk food, less overeating, less drinking, more people quitting smoking, less excessive consumption generally, and less obese people. The real benefits though are for the planet; a constantly growing economy sounds the death knell for the environment, so less shopping, less commuting, less truck deliveries, less useless stuff, has all got to be an improvement, and I welcome the recession, the planet has needed it for a long time. As someone who has lived frugally for most of my adult life, it holds no worries for me; when you know you can survive the best and worst of time, what's to fear? Unless widespread starvation ensues [more likely with environmental breakdown that financial] when I guess I could get killed in a food riot, I don't see much change. Those addicted to conspicuous consumption are already feeling the pain, and will feel it increasingly, but as with any drug, they have to get through that and come out the other side free of their addiction. It can only be good for everyone. Welcome to the brave new world of uncertainty!

November 24 2008
Ask the grandmothers

A scientific team has examined the buggy, that familiar means of transport for small children, and it's design, and found it wanting. Their report says that the modern buggy is leading to children with poor communication skills, because the child is seated facing forwards and can't see or interact with its mother, instead it is strapped to the buggy and propelled into the world full of threatening and scary things and people, with no interaction or control. My partner has been saying this for at least ten years, having noticed that the old style pushchair, which seated the child backwards and facing its mother, had given way to the much more modern buggy, with chunky wheels and go faster stripes [there's even an all-terrain buggy, though why any mother would want to push her child up and down trailbike courses is not immediately apparent]. Her answer to why so many children were starting junior school barely able to talk was change the buggies and let the mother talk to the child as she once did.

The buggy must have been designed by a man without any input from a serving parent. It's the only explanation why they should reverse the child and remove contact with the parent pushing them. Walking with a pushchair was always full of interest, communication and learning; the mother [usually the mother] chatting to the child as they progressed. Now, the child sits alone at the front, with no one to talk to them, no feedback to their gurglings, no communication. It took a team of 'scientists' to 'discover' what one woman [and I'm sure many more] knew instinctively.

A government minister, Hazel Blears [not the brightest penny in the box] has stated that the white working class are abandoning the Labour Party in favour of the British National Party [BNP] and that Labour should pay attention to why. The reason why is obvious, and I've mentioned it here once or twice over the years; Labour became NewLabour, adopted Thatcherism in place of socialism and sucked up to rich people, who it courted shamelessly, even promising not to ever raise tax on the better off and dishing out knighthoods to rich supporters including a number of Asian businessmen who donated to the party. Along with the politically correct doctrine of multiculturalism which has resulted in uncontrolled immigration into the UK, along with the creation of separate ethnic ghettos where British culture is rejected, even derided, this has resulted in working class people feeling disenfranchised and abandoned by the party that always represented their interests, resentful against the flood of immigrants who the government give precedence to for social housing and benefits, and seething at the injustice; many other long term immigrants who did integrate, feel much the same. The BNP were only waiting for just such an opportunity, and are now gathering disaffected labour voters in increasing numbers.

A similar thing happened in Germany when the Nazis came to power. And we are now in a recession just as Germany was at that time.


November 23 2008
A proofreader's lot

I'm always irritated by those ads for making a living in your spare time from home proofreading for publishers. I'm sure countless gullible people fall for it every year and fork out sums of money for 'a course' which will supposedly give them the skills and the keys to this glorious future of working a few hours a day, even by the pool, which you will have miraculously have been able to afford. The truth couldn't be more different. The pay for proofreading is crap, largely because the only proofreading that is done these days is on academic books, and these are extremely budget driven due to their very small distribution. Other than art books and coffee table books, and quality fiction, no other books are proofread, a spellchecker is all they're likely to get. It's pure economics, shovel them through the mill and into the bookstores and airport kiosks.

Proofreading isn't anything like reading a book. It's more like unpicking a knitted garment to see how it all hangs together then reassembling it. You have to detach that part of the brain which engages with the content, and examine the text for structure and meaning; how the sentences work; that nothing contradicts; that there is consistency in spelling, terminology and acronyms; and then that the typesetter hasn't introduced errors of his or her own, as some will do. Indian typesetters whose first language isn't English and who have a certain arrogance when it comes to knowing what is right can sometimes introduce their own without knowing. My favourite is the inappropriate hyphenation which can cause such things as anal-ytic to appear on two lines when introduced by a non-native speaker. I found this twice in an academic book that wasn't at all about anything anal. The majority of books both fiction and non-fiction are typeset in India and China now, and UK typesetters have largely gone out of business as a result.

For pulp fiction, mistakes are nothing to bother about, standards have lowered considerably due to economic pressures to cut costs and it really is pulp, or will be soon enough. So the idea that anyone could earn a good living reading the fiction they like to read, along with spotting the occasional mistakes and being paid, is a fantasy. Which doesn't stop the spurious 'academies' from selling their proofreading tuition courses. The thousands of disappointed people [I get emails from some of them asking about work] who fail to even land one freelance proofreading job never get to tell anyone else about their experience, and certainly don't get their money back. It's a cruel world full of of sharks looking for unwary surfers.

The actual job of proofreading is incredibly draining, tiring on both the eyes and brain, grindingly slow and so poorly paid that the national minimum wage doesn't come close to it.


November 22 2008
An eco-solution for PCs that's saving me money

I was given a totally useful tool recently, which can make a real difference to the power consumption of my PC, thus it will save money on energy bills and help cut global emissions, and if enough people at home and in offices take it up, it could make a real contribution to reducing the burden we place on the planet. It's a little gizmo called Eco Button. The website has full details about it along with a software download and sales page, so I'll just briefly explain here how it works, and anyone interested [and that should be everyone] can get more details from the site.

eco button

It's a retro-fit computer device, acting as a strong visual reminder for you to save electricity each time your computer is left idle. It's illuminated [see picture above, although this doesn't show it pulsing slowly off and on as it does] and it sits on your desktop next to the keyboard, connected via USB.

Each time you take a short or long break, such as a phone call, toilet break, make a coffee or anything else that takes you away from the computer for even a few minutes, you simply tap the ecobutton™ and your computer is put into energy saving 'ecomode' which ensures that both your computer and monitor draw only the same nominal power as when they are shut down!

Under normal circumstances people generally don't like turning off their computers except at the close of day due to the time it takes to boot up, restart software and find and load the files you were working on. But by hitting the eco-button as you leave and simply pressing any key on your keyboard when you return, your computer instantly goes off and then returns to where you left off; the programs you had open are still open at the place you left them. It takes a couple of seconds.

An additional bonus is that each time your computer is put into ecomode the software calculates how many carbon units and how much power and money you save and when you return, the ecobutton screen shows these totals for today and since fitting it. I am using it all the time now, and have so far saved 7.6K of carbon emissions and that means £3.90 off the electricity bill for just a week's use!

The cost to buy this device in UK money is £14.99+postage, and it's available at comparable prices in other countries' currencies and with international stockists accessible online from the site. Lots of companies are giving them away as free corporate gifts, but if you aren't lucky enough to get one, I recommend you buy one as you're likely to recover the cost in a few months and from then it's all savings in money as well as carbon. More here.

The only downside is the company didn't reply to my email asking for opportunities to earn by promoting it, they don't seem to have an affiliate program, boo hoo, but it's so effective that I want to tell everyone about it anyway, even if there's nothing in it for me other than knowing I'm helping the planet.

To check out your carbon emissions try the ETA's carbon calculator.


November 21 2008
The Hypocrites of Australia

I had intended to write about something else entirely today, but it will have to wait as I just got an email from Captain Paul Watson of Sea Shepherd talking of the hypocrisy of the Australian government, and I felt it was too important not to pass on.

In The Politics of Pretending to Save the Whales, Paul writes:

The Labor government of Kevin Rudd came into power a year ago on the crest of numerous promises to the people of Australia. One of those promises was to get tough with the illegal activities of the Japanese whaling fleet.

As someone who has spent a lifetime defending whales, I have to say that the performance of the Australian government in regard to the defense of the whales has been dismal and impotent. There has been plenty of posturing and posing, meetings and diplomatic ping pong but the plain simple truth is that the government has done nothing at all. MORE

The Japanese intend to kill endangered whales in an established whale sanctuary in violation of a global moratorium on commercial whaling and in direct contempt of an Australian Federal Court ruling specifically barring Japanese whalers from killing whales in the Australian Antarctic Territory. Yet the Australian government is actively working to bar Sea Shepherd from Australia; making it impossible for them to birth their ship without outrageous costs, detaining Paul at the airport for questioning for an hour and a half, refusing to allow the delivery of Kevlar vests for the crew - it was a Kevlar vest which saved Paul's life last year when he was fired at from a Japanese whaler.

Anyone who objects to the hypocrites [especially if you are Australian, but everyone else as well] should write to the Australian environment minister Peter Garrett here and tell him what you think of his cowardly acquiescence to Japanese financial pressures and his victimisation of Sea Shepherd, the only people opposing Japanese whaling. Those wishing to leave a message for the Japanese government can do so here


November 20 2008
I blame Johnny Depp

The current surge in piracy off the coast of Africa is surely partly the fault of Johnny Depp making pirates appear sexy. With his pursed feminine mouth and saucy good looks, Depp has changed the image of the pirate from a bloodthirsty, murderous rogue, often with a leg [Long John Silver] or arm [Captain Hook] missing, in other words, a bad guy, into a cheeky scamp and a good guy, making it a more attractive career choice for anyone, including Samalians looking for a way to make a living, with their country a failed state without a government. Having apparently got away with capturing a cargo vessel, The Faina, packed with guns and ammunition a few weeks ago [and still not released], they went on to take an oil tanker, the Sirius Star in the Gulf of Aden, the 9th ship captured in 12 days, and have demanded $25M. They even thought they'd grab an Indian Navy warship wanting to search them, but warships tend to have guns unlike cargo vessels, and they were blown out of the water and sunk.

Last week, Indian navy commandos operating from a warship foiled another pirate attempt to hijack an Indian cargo ship in the Gulf of Aden. The navy said an armed helicopter with marine commandos prevented the pirates from boarding and hijacking the Indian merchant vessel. So the Indians seem to have the right idea. Perhaps they could give some tips to the USA whose warships are also in the area, but who have failed to engage any pirates since arriving there - the world's only 'superpower' with a massive navy can't sort out some drug-crazed Somali thugs in search of easy money. I say call in Steven Segal and Bruce Willis, that's bound to scare the shit out of them.

All in all, Hollywood's got a lot to answer for.


November 11 2008
A question of poppies

As every year for the whole of my life, Royal British Legion poppies have been sold everywhere, outside shops, in the streets, at every place where people walk. They are said to be to commemorate those who were killed in WW1, and the few remaining old chaps, mostly now in wheelchairs, are wheeled out, replete with chestfulls of medals, to take part in the grand war celebration at the Cenotaph in London. I have never bought or worn a poppy.

The poppies are made by disabled military personnel, not, however from WW1, or even WW2, but from more recent wars. And far from being the war to end all wars, WW1 is just an excuse for the militaristic caste to celebrate and wallow in sentimentality over all the old soldiers 'who gave their lives for us' and all the rest of the hypocritical, self-serving rubbish. It's an opportunity for all those who are excited by war and killing, to don uniforms and parade about with brass bands and flags, medals jangling. There is no determination to end wars, despite the mealy-mouthed words uttered on these occasions, quite the opposite; the two ongoing wars the UK is involved in are equally celebrated. But to criticise or question the morality of this is, apparently, to disregard the 'sacrifice' the old soldiers made back before we were born. Yet WW1 is agreed to have been the most pointless and brutal waste of life, a whole generation of young men slaughtered for no good reason other than they got excited and volunteered in large numbers for 'the adventure', only to be mown down by machine guns like a crop to be harvested.

Currently, one of the wars we are embroiled in, Afghanistan, involves British soldiers destroying poppies, a nice irony as paper immitation poppies sprout on every lapel in the media and everywhere else in public life. Weasel words are spoken in sonorous, serious voices, the old tired cliches trotted out like a litany, and then the old chaps are wheeled away, to appear next year, smaller still in number, their trembly lips unable to say anything much other than 'terrible waste of life', and then the flags are packed away again and normal life resumes.

Disabled soldiers making poppies merely absolves government from properly caring for them. It places the wounded from more recent conflicts in the same situation as the soldiers who defended this country against Germany in two European wars, however avoidable those two conflicts were, and ignores the fact the the invasion of Iraq was widely opposed. Having tried to subjugate the Afghans in the nineteenth century, and failed, you'd think the British state would know better than to become embroiled once again in that country. Comes from having a 'special relationship' with the USA. Not a relationship which benefits us, but one which provides willing assistance when America decides it wants some killing done. The British warrior class will doubtless continue celebrating war and morally blackmailing others to support them and wear a poppy; they claim that the British public holds great affection and respect for its Armed Forces. But it's their scene, aberrant as it is, and no need for those who oppose war as a method of solving differences to take part in the national exercise in hypocrisy.


November 7 2008
A new camera

I just bought a camera. It's my first DSLR, something I've been lusting after for years, and I seem to have struck incredibly lucky.

This is it below, sexy or what?

Olympus E-1 DSLR

I knew nothing of Olympus other than they made cameras, they never figured in my wish list which started with Canon and ended with Sony. But I had had a look on Ebay, and marked five DSLRs as possibles, one was an Olympus, an unknown quantity. The first two went over my limit of £200, both Canons, and then there was this one. I liked the look of it, and, having lost out on two, I decided to have a try for it. Being canny with ebay I didn't bid, but put it on my watch list and bided my time. A day passed and the top bid hadn't changed - £120 - the hours went by and the end of auction approached. I held back, waiting to see if any of the six existing bidders would come in with another bid. It jumped to £140, the minutes went by, and with a minute to go I bid; I was immediately outbid by ebay bidding up for the existing bidder, I bid again, I was pipped again, I slapped in my last bid of £190 just a second before the auction ended, and it was mine! Sounds of trumpets and clapping, a roll on the drums, I take a bow; the classic way of winning an ebay auction; wait till the end and act fast and decisive, know your limit and stick to it.

Since then I've been finding out about this camera, a professional DSLR which seems to be highly rated by everyone who owns one, some people saying that it's their favourite despite having more expensive, later models. I found a price for a new one here and was astonished to see it selling, still, for £1,160! Another site had it for £1,030. Mine is second hand, but in superb condition with many years useful work left in it and the price was perfect.

I've joined an Olympus E-1 user forum. quite the friendliest forum I've ever joined, and already had loads of encouragement, advice and help. Everyone there loves their E-1, most appear to be professional photographers, and the standard of the work there is stunning. I have high hopes I can take some equally stunning shots, but I'm far too busy now to take it out and about, and must content myself with reading the manual and familiarising myself with it in readiness for the day I take it out for a spin.

Those who don't have the camera bug won't understand my feelings for this kit. But the feel of it in your hands, the lens with its matt black nobbly rubber outer grasped in the left hand, turning to focus and zoom in and out, is a joy only avid photographers could understand. Point and click cameras just don't cut it, useful as they are for quick, candid shots out of the pocket. There's just no control. Serious picture making demands a seriously chunky camera, and the E-1 is that camera. I'll post some shots here as and when I take them. Prepare to be amazed and enchanted!


November 5 2008
Now the healing can begin

I woke at 4pm UK time and turned on the radio where the BBC announced 'Obama has definitely won Virginia, and the BBC is stating officially that he was won overall and will be the next US president.' Good timing or what? My subconscious was even on the case. Deep relief that the dirty tricksters had failed this time and a landslide was happening. I hope he lives up to expectations and that expectations aren't too high. He's just a man, not the messiah, although the descendants of slaves could be forgiven for thinking of him as such.

America's standing in the world has just taken an enormous leap with this one act, the hope is that it will no longer be the global bully, but will start to work to get on with people no matter that they have different cultures, religions or worldviews. We'll see how he shapes up in the following months, but on his utterances over the last few months, I think he'll do allright. He must be brave to even want to take on America in the grip of a worsening recession and embroiled in two unjust wars. Iraq is the easier one to extricate from; Afghanistan, as the Russians found out, can suck you in and wear you down, and Obama's plans to increase troop numbers is the least appealing utterance he's made. From the British in the 19th century, Afghanistan has been an impossible country to control.

Money doesn't talk, it swears

The Scottish Parliament, under the control of Alex Salmond, has bowed down to billionaire waster and trasher of the environment, Donald Trump, and given the go-ahead to destroy an SSSI [Site of Special Scientific Interest] in Scotland's coastal dunes to build a millionaires golf course, going against the planning committee which turned the application down. How anyone in this point in time and the world suffering environmental degradation on an unprecedented scale, could make such a retrograde move is staggering, I suppose individual greed and corruption are at the heart of it as usual. The obscenely rich walk the planet as if a different species with no stake in the future, their only concern making yet more money. What a wierd sicknes they suffer from. Perhaps Trump's toupé will strangle him one quiet night and spare us any more of this tasteless oik's grand plans.


November 4 2008
Lone Ranger and Tonto

I can't not mention the US election as it's the last day and, but for the Republican's habit of lying and cheating, would be a done deal for a new president Obama, and the world heaving a sigh of relief.

A friend and collegue in the UK just yesterday morning got an email from some retard end of the GOP who clearly doesn't understand British citizens don't have the vote in Amurka. It's long, clearly took a long time to fabricate, and is full of the most appalling lies and distortions a fascist could come up with, and all couched in a pretend family email as if the writer knows you. It includes loads of links to youtube where their misinformation campaign seems to reside [I have yet to visit the links and verbally smash the retard's brains into the gutter where they belong], and all the usual lies about him being a Muslim [they don't consider the American Muslims feelings, but then they're probably all in hiding by now], stress his middle name Hussein as if it's an illegal name in America - if the dieing McCain were inexplicably to get in, it probably would be illegal along with freethinking and publishing books with big words in - and Obama's so-called 'links' to terrorists and his intention to treble taxes on 'ordinary Americans' and bring in a communist state forcing women to have abortions and breeding babies for consumption [those two being mutually exclusive shouldn't bother the lame brains that think Palin is sexy, no, that brain cell will remain untroubled by contradictions].

If it weren't for the fact that America can do such damage, the world would largely ignore the election, but the outcome is so vital to all of us, and especially to Iraqis and Afghans, and of course Iranians as well as Cubans, that it looks like it's dominating the attention of the world.

So panicked are the nazis of the Republican party, they will literally try anything to grab power again, including sending out an official looking letter informing voters that voting for Republicans is to happen Today, and for Democrats the day after polling is closed. But there's a flaw in this fiendish plan, it would only fool retards, and they already vote Republican. The Nazis [the German ones over half a century ago] didn't even stoop this low to grab power, but these bastards have so much to lose; a Democratic president and administration are likely to set up a few investigative committees to look into the crimes that have been going on under the Monkey-President, that's on top of the war crimes, and they have so much to lose from that. These are dangerous fascists and if they do manage to cheat yet another election, I for one would donate to a civil war fund to arm Democrats to take them on - I suspect most of the arms are in retard hands, dangerous indeed.

With the dieing McLone Ranger looking lumpier by the day with the cancer that's eating away at his face and brain and has spread according to accounts I've read, the idea that the severely challenged LipstickTonto could be the most powerful person on the planet is understandably giving the world bad dreams of armageddon outta here.

We'll know soon if the Diebold voting machines [owned by Republicans] have once again successfully been fixed [it looks like they have] so best to insist on paper votes, however arduous they are to fill in. All polls indicate, President Obama will have a landslide victory. I think he would be well advised not to go on a motorcade through Dallas, or anywhere else in anything but an armoured car. The real killers of the Kennedies and Martin Luther King were never convicted.


November 1 2008
Parking really isn't difficult

Whenever I drive, which is as infrequently as possible, I'm struck by the fact that nine out of ten people don't know how to park their car. It's first order desire - there's a space, I want to park, drive into the space - without a thought to later when they leave. Perhaps parking isn't part of the driving test these days, so not part of driving tuition.

No matter how many times they park, it seems the majority of drivers just aren't capable of learning a simple thing; reversing into a space is a million times easier than reversing out of one. Whether the parking space is off a road or in a supermarket carpark, the majority just drive straight in and off to shop. But reversing out of a narrow space with cars either side means you can't begin to turn the wheel until clear, so it's straight out and then a five point [or more] turn to get the car positioned to drive away. If the parking space is beside a road, it's that much more difficult as you're backing out blind into oncoming traffic, and unless you have someone to see you out, this can be dangerous.

To reverse into a parking space is easy; drive past, turn the wheel, reverse into space, being sure to check mirrors as you go. The front moves round sideways and the back leads into the space. Driving off is easy, you get in and drive straight out and away! As the front turns the back keeps coming straight and no cars are scraped or mirrors knocked. I'm still left wondering why most drivers fail to see this.

Halloween waste

Our NO Trick or Treat notice in the window worked last night, not a single knock on the door. Call me a killjoy if you like, but door to door begging shouldn't be encouraged, no matter how elaborately the kids are dressed up, and how much money the parents blew on costumes. I know it's a big thing in the US, but it bears no resemblance to the actual ancient traditions it's been copied from, relying instead on consumerism supplying ready-made all the gear, which seems mostly to be related to movies, and yet another marketing opportunity to relieve the saps of their hard-earned cash. Shop assistants dress up too, presumably because serving in a shop is such a total bore that anything to relieve the tedium is welcome.

The worst thing about it is that all the pumpkins that are carved out [it was once a potato in Ireland, with a candle inside] are wasted as a food source and the contents trashed, or at best put on the compost. Don't people know how to cook pumpkin any more? Being a member of the squash family, it can be made into delicious, nutritious soup, pumpkin pie, or sliced in fat chunks, oiled and garnished with garlic and roasted. If the whole pumpkin is used, the inside can make soup, and the outside, including the hard skin which turns crisp and delicious, can be roasted, making two meals.

I hate the very idea of throwing food away, and I suspect we'll be seeing less of this waste as the recession bites and people have to make do on less.

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Time to move to higher ground

The time to move to higher ground link [above] will change from time to time, illustrating how this phrase has become more and more common of late; from New Orleans, to Fiji to East Anglia to Holland.
I moved to higher ground in 2000 when it was clear that flooding was becoming the norm and climate change was happening now.
On the journey west, we passed flooded fields right across the midlands, it felt almost apocalyptic.
Since then, floods have become common in the UK and many other countries.


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Fadhel Al-Sa'd: The sun circles the Earth because it is smaller than the Earth, as is evident in Koranic verses... No verse in the Koran indicates that the Earth is round or that it rotates. Anything that has no indication in the Koran is false.


 

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The scenes from this war will create thousands maybe even millions of militants intent on inflicting damage on the only superpower. The war will be waged across America and in any American outpost and embassy. It will be brutal and messy and will continue for decades. Bush doesn't know what he has unleashed.
Fool on the hill March 2003


 


Some links to interesting climate-change related websites:

climateextremist

marklynas.org

greenseniors.org

Animals Matter - a political party to change the way people think about animals

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