Tuesday, July 26, 2005

 

The End

You've probably noticed how my posting has fallen away to practically nothing. I'm probably going to drop this blog now.

I already mentioned about my friend Geoff who died a few months ago while visiting the US on business.

The night he died, he'd enjoyed dinner at the home of his business partner where he was also staying. About two in the morning he awoke and realised he was suffering a heart attack. We know this because he had the time to write a two-page farewell letter to his wife and kids before passing.

Nobody could understand why, since he'd had enough time to write a fairly long letter, he had not hollered for help.

Geoff had already lived enough to fill several lifetimes. He had the energy of a teenager but was unfortunately not in the same physical shape, the result of years of international travel, the stress of running a small business and his love of great food and drink.

My own opinion, is that Geoff knew that his future - should he survive the heart attack - would be very different. He would have undergone heart surgery and would have spent his remaining few years (because that kind of damage can never really be repaired) sat at home, an invalid. No travel; no business; a sparse diet of healthy food, before inevitably succumbing in the end.

So as at many other times in his long and eventful career he was faced with a major decision. Check out now, or check out later. And just like those other times, I think this shrewd man made the right one.

So what's that got to do with my blog?

When you're writing 'Opinion' pieces, you have to feel some type of passion for the subject. Since Geoff's passing I just don't feel it for any of the subjects I used to write about.

It's not that I'm depressed, or grieving, or any of that nonsense. But the types of things which previously bothered me and moved me to write, just don't anymore.

o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o-o

Before I go, if you read many blogs and use Outlook, a recommendation.

RSS Popper.

It plugs the blogs into your Outlook Personal Folders so you can always see when a blog has been updated.

Available here.

Saturday, July 23, 2005

 

Oops

Shot man not connected to London bombings

Monday, July 11, 2005

 

Dell Sucks

Five years ago I bought an ultralight Dell Latitude LS. I was very happy with it. Considering that it is really designed to sit on an executive's desk and be used for some light web surfing and the occasional email, it survived an unbelievable amount of abuse, involving late night coding sessions, world travel, and frequent use in hostile environments like manufacturing facilities. After two years, the hard drive gave out. I replaced it, and the machine still runs fine to this day. It runs Linux and Windows 2000.

Over the past couple of years, though, I've heard nothing but bad things about Dell. An individual I know bought five Inspirons for use in his small consulting firm. Every single one of them gave trouble, which ranged from total motherboard failure to hard drive and screen problems. The Dell tech support is like your medical insurance company; their tortuous procedures are designed to wear you down so you'll give up. They make you go through pointless procedures like removing and reinserting the hard drive.

My wife uses a newer model Latitude from work, and it's fortunate she works for a major law firm. She has had so many replacement parts practically only the shell is left of the original machine she was given two years ago.

There are some great blogs on the subject of Dell's dire products and customer service here here and here.

Younger readers may find this difficult to believe, but going back 15-20 years, it was actually possible to make a good profit assembling and selling PCs yourself. I worked in a business where we had a nice sideline doing just this. Of course, now, given the amount of kit your customers can get for $400, you now need to be buying Walmart-sized quantities of parts to be making a profit in that game. And given the size of the profits to be had in this commodity area, you are also not likely to be funding a world-class service and support organization.

15 years ago we could sell you a PC and send a knowledgeable person round to fix it in the event there was a problem. But you were paying for that! Now we all want to buy complicated equipment at commodity prices, but still expect high standards of service.

Some firms can manage this very difficult balancing act. IBM, for instance. When it came for me to get a new laptop I opted for a wonderful IBM Thinkpad G40. I love this piece of kit for its speed and ease of use (better keyboard than many desktops), and also for the feeling it gives you of rock-solid bulletproof stability, kind of like a late 80s early 90s Mercedes-Benz (before they started a race to the bottom like Dell). And all for $1400. (Remains to be seen what happens to quality now Lenovo have got their hands on IBM's laptop business. Maybe I should buy another G40 as a spare. Too bad you can't lay down computers like people laid down supplies of classic Coke when they brought out new Coke)

But it looks like Dell have got a long way to go.

Sunday, July 10, 2005

 

Bad News For Cruise

First, Tom Cruise jumps around on a sofa during a chat show. Then he bizarrely attacks Brooke Shields - not for being a spoilt, whiny brat - but for using antidepressants.

And the latest news is Cruise's blockbuster War of the Worms has been knocked off the charts by a film about the mating habits of Penguins.

Star penguins walk all over Tom Cruise
John Harlow, Los Angeles

THE film star Tom Cruise is being savaged at the American box office by a troupe of lovelorn birds.

March of the Penguins, a low-budget wildlife film about the mating habits of the emperor penguin, is promising to be the surprise hit of the summer after pulling in larger audiences at the few cinemas where it has been shown than Cruise’s War of the Worlds and the other summer blockbuster, Batman Begins, combined.

It has proved so popular in its first two weeks in 20 cinemas that it was opening at 350 others this weekend.

"This film is awesome," said Paul Dergarabedian, president of Exhibitor Relations, which analyses ticket-buying habits for Los Angeles studios. "No one saw it coming and where it’s been released so far it’s outperforming all the big boys. It’s all down to word of mouth, friends’ recommendations rather than studio hype."

The film - described by one critic as an avian version of When Harry Met Sally - was born with a classified advertisement in a French newspaper in 1991 that read: "Wanted, biologist willing to spend 14 months at the end of the world."

Luc Jacquet, who at 24 had just graduated with a masters in animal biology from Lyons University, applied and found himself in Antarctica with a 35mm camera and instructions to "follow the bloody birds around until they mate".

"What I really discovered in Antarctica is not just that it has the strongest winds on earth - and of course penguins only mate in the deepest winter when temperatures are down to -85F - but that I wanted to tell stories," Jacquet said.

Back in France, it was the year 2000 before he wrote the screenplay for the film, a love story about penguins who walk up to 70 miles though blizzards in search of the right ice shelf on which to breed.

With some funding from National Geographic, he returned to Antarctica for 13 months, trailing a flock of birds and shooting the footage of love, sex, birth and death he needed for his narrative.

"I think they are a very special species," he said. "There are very few animals, or even humans, that can communicate their feelings so well, and make us laugh and weep at the same time."
Audiences have been entranced. The original French-language version of the film - which cost just £5m to make - has been the third most successful in France this year.

The penguins are riding a wave of successful documentaries such as Michael Moore’s Fahrenheit 9/11, Morgan Spurlock’s Super Size Me and, perhaps most closely, another French nature film, Winged Migration, which followed birds around the world.


Thursday, July 07, 2005

 

Atrocity in London

37 people are believed dead and hundreds injured following four separate bombings in London.

Londoners will take this terrible event in their stride, which surprises people on the other side of the Atlantic. Given recent history, it should not. There have been many such attacks. Doubtless this will not be the last.


August 3, 2001: Car bomb in Ealing Broadway. Real IRA. No dead, 7 Injured.

April & May 2001: Incendiary devices exploded outside a postal depot in North London. Real IRA. 1 Injured.

March 2001: Bomb outside the BBC Television Centre in West London. Real IRA. 1 Injured.

September 2000: Anti-tank rocket fired at MI6’s headquarters in Vauxhall Cross, South London. Real IRA. No injuries.

Summer of 2000: Near Ealing Broadway underground station. Made safe by bomb disposal. Real IRA. No Injuries.

May & June 1999: Three Nail bomb attacks on ethnic & gay communities. Lone Neo-Nazi. 3 killed. Many injured.

April 1996: 32lb Bomb under Hammersmith bridge. Failed to explore. IRA. No injuries.

February 1996: Bomb destroyed a bus in Central London (killing the terrorist). IRA. 1 Dead. 10 Injured.

February 1996: Massive bomb at Canary Wharf, East London. IRA. 2 dead. 100 injured.

February 1994: On three separate occasions a number of mortar shells fired at Heathrow airport. IRA. No injuries.

February 1991-January 1994: 30 separate attacks in London including a mortar fired at Downing Street. IRA. 1 Injury.

April 1992: City of London bomb destroys Baltic Exchange. IRA. 3 Dead 80 injured.

1980s: Nine separate IRA attacks on London including Harrods department store. IRA. 6 Dead. 90 Injured.

1984: Machine gun fired from Libyan embassy. Libyan "diplomat". 1 dead (Police officer). 10 injured.

May 1980: Hostages taken at Iranian embassy. Iranian separatists. 1 hostage dead, 2 injured. All but 1 of the terrorists killed by SAS.

December 1974: Bomb in Harrods department store. No injuries.

September 7, 1940 - May 10, 1941. The "Blitz". Germans. Many thousands killed.



So we've had the Germans, the Irish (both Provisional and Real IRA), lone nutters, and now a rag-bag group of Islamist terrorists.
 

Great Statesmen

Britain has produced some truly historical figures like Winston Churchill and Margaret Thatcher.
Unfortunately they are the exception rather than the rule.

Consider, for example, John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister.

He used to be a waiter on cross-channel ferries before becoming a full-time union agitator. His appointment as Blair's Deputy was done as a gesture aimed at bringing all the old-guard communist Labour supporters onside.

Here's a picture of Prescott on the campaign trail in 2001. He is punching a passerby who had thrown an egg at him



Anyway, yesterday, he stood in for Tony Blair at Prime Minister's questions. This is where Blair or whoever is deputising for him sidesteps questions from the opposition and responds to 'planted' questions from his own side which are designed to show him in a good light.

Here is Prescott's (verbatim) answer to a question about people who were left off the electoral register (voter's roll)

"It is of great important to all of us to see the maximisation of people voting on these issues, if increased, and the postal ballots did increase the people actually voting by millions and, whilst there has been a lot of criticism, I’m bound to say you have to get the proper balance in these matters and that is one of the ways, without a doubt, you can get people voting in these elections."

Well, that's alright then!

Wednesday, July 06, 2005

 

Who says UK Government is out of touch?

The life of a UK Government minister is a mercurial one. They shuffle from post to post, spouting politically correct nonsense put together by their teams of spin doctors, gorging on the privileges and perks which are part of the job, lording it over their subjects before eventually being pushed out to a nice cosy 100,000 a year 2-day a week job as head of some Government agency like the Wet Fish Authority, or ending up on the Brussels gravy train.

Few ministers are in the jobs long enough to master their briefs, if, indeed they had the wit and intelligence to try, and anyway, if they did try to actually do something, Prime Minister "My Little" Tony Bliar would have them out of his politburo quicker than you could say Mandelson.

An exception may be Louise Casey, the Government's chief adviser on antisocial behaviour. There are signs that she may have carried her research into the role too far.

ASBO boss in 'foul-mouthed rant'
6 July 2005

The Government's adviser on anti-social behaviour arrived at work on Wednesday amid reports that she delivered a foul-mouthed rant to an audience of police chiefs.

Civil servant Louise Casey boasted of getting "hammered" and praised binge drinking in a speech which was peppered with obscenities, it was alleged.

Home Office permanent secretary Sir John Gieve this morning began an investigation into the Daily Mail's claims that Miss Casey made a series of inappropriate comments at a private event organised by the Home Office and the Association of Chief Police Officers in Stratford-upon-Avon on June 7.

Miss Casey, 38, was appointed by Prime Minister Tony Blair to head the Home Office's anti-social behaviour unit.

Last month she was told to report direct to the Prime Minister on the issue of restoring "respect" to Britain's streets, amid reports that he was dissatisfied with the performance of Home Secretary Charles Clarke on the issue.

The paper quoted from what it said was a tape-recording of the speech, in which Miss Casey was alleged to have said: "I suppose you can't binge drink anymore because lots of people have said you can't do it. I don't know who bloody made that up, it's nonsense."

She was quoted as saying that Government ministers might perform better if they "turn up in the morning pissed" adding: "Doing things sober is no way to get things done".

And the paper says she joked that she would "deck" 10 Downing Street policy advisers if they kept spouting jargon at her.

Miss Casey is responsible for encouraging the use of anti-social behaviour orders by police and local authorities clamping down on loutish behaviour.

One of the top priorities of Mr Blair's "respect" agenda is to reverse the tide of drunken violence blamed on binge drinkers in Britain's city centres.



It sounds like the lovely Ms. Casey (picture below) now has a full appreciation of her duties and is carrying them out to the full.


Tuesday, June 28, 2005

 

One Tough Senior...

What do you think about when you think of your grandfather? In my case, a rather large man smelling strongly of beer pursuing me (in fun) around the kitchen table.

My other grandfather enjoyed a smoke right up until his death at 98. He outlived two wives and was still riding his push-bike to the pub in his 80s.

But these two kindly fellows had nothing on this guy from Kenya.

Grandfather kills leopard with his hands

NAIROBI (Reuters) - A 73-year-old Kenyan grandfather reached into the mouth of an attacking leopard and tore out its tongue to kill it, authorities said Wednesday.

Peasant farmer Daniel M'Mburugu was tending to his potato and bean crops in a rural area near Mount Kenya when the leopard charged out of the long grass and leapt on him.

M'Mburugu had a machete in one hand but dropped that to thrust his fist down the leopard's mouth. He gradually managed to pull out the animal's tongue, leaving it in its death-throes.

"It let out a blood-curdling snarl that made the birds stop chirping," he told the daily Standard newspaper of how the leopard came at him and knocked him over.

The leopard sank its teeth into the farmer's wrist and mauled him with its claws. "A voice, which must have come from God, whispered to me to drop the panga (machete) and thrust my hand in its wide open mouth. I obeyed," M'Mburugu said.

As the leopard was dying, a neighbor heard the screams and arrived to finish it off with a machete.

M'Mburugu was toasted as a hero in his village Kihato after the incident earlier this month. He was also given free hospital treatment by astonished local authorities.

"This guy is very lucky to be alive," Kenya Wildlife Service official Connie Maina told Reuters, confirming details of the incident.


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