Sunday, 24 January 2016

Spring launch

Oh joy, that buzzing sound, the second flush of spring.

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Pollution merchants.

There are one or more motifs quite close to my increasingly blackened lungs, that i might have mentioned from time to time. Pollution, check. Particulates, check. Noise, check…. So much so that i quite often feel like a broken record, and a particularly annoying one at that.

But you reach a stage when something has to be done, once your friends start to look increasingly askance at you, subtly implying the issue must surely have being resolved by now? I'm sure those people bent over the pollution desk at who, probably feel the same way too. And if they don't, then why bloody not?

It's odd really.  On current form humanity is turning out to be just like those science experiments so many of us undertook in our more formative years, and many of those who are currently in their formative years still do, of bacteria growing in a petri-dish. Finite resources, finite energy, only so many hospitable places to live without over running and dying off.  But unlike the bacteria we know what potential pitfalls are awaiting us, if we continue down the path that's been taken. Yet so many are still quite happy to put on blinkers waiting to
be whisked away in a funnel, or drowned wondering why you can bring a snowball indoors.

It wasn't that long ago that more people started living in, than out of urban environments.  All those cars, vans, lorries, buses, aeroplanes, motorcycles, tankers, ships, warships, fighter jets, rockets, bombs, rpg's, satellite launches, mining, pigs, cows, gas burning, electricity production and usage, production of food, transporting food, processing all the waste, waste of food, sewage systems, and fracking are all producing their own bits of pollution, every second of every day, by the thousands, millions, hundreds of millions. So when someone says that humanity's not having any impact, just remember that little list, pick one item, and use it to beat them around the head with.

Back to who. Before the new figures on air quality land on the desks of concerned citizenry everywhere (at least for those living in the 2,000 or so cities that'll be classified as perilous hell-holes for human habitation), who director (dr maria neira) of the department of public health, environmental and social determinants of health basically said, if i can condense her comments into a couple of words, we're fucked!

Imagine if all the conflicts around the world were concentrated into one large-ish area and 7 million people on the losing side were summarily executed in a day? There'd be an outcry. Coalitions coalesce, jihads would be screamed from the tallest minarets. Allies and axis' would form, and before you realised it trillions would be spent as the world beat with one, or probably four, calls to end it – naturally both sides would be given advantageous bank lending rates – until it became crystalline clear which side was going to win, then they'd call the debts in. Currently, however, as with many things which take place and who they mainly impact (baring global extreme calamity), the vast majority of the potential dead and dying will be concentrated amongst the marginalised poor. Those who have to work for employers whose only concerns are about how many filters they can crank out before they're carried out in just a larger box. The skivers. The enemies within, daring to look towards houses filled with filters made of gold; whether in delhi, beijing, new york, or london,

According to the eu public health portal, the annual number of deaths in the region from smoking is approx 700,000. The who's eu estimate on premature deaths from all the other crap we're cheerfully chucking up in the air? That will be 600,000. Of course, it doesn't say if all of those people were lifelong non-smokers; but, that's plenty of citizens who don't put cancer sticks (as an ex-smoker i claim my right to the word use) in their mouths, who prematurely die every year from the rubbish being purposefully dumped into the atmosphere. That's roughly 578,000 more people than are killed in the usa each year, and that's with their particular fondness of guns with everything.

More than half the worlds human population live in urban settings. By 2030, or in 5,095 days time, the global urban pollution will swell to 5 billion from the current 4 billion (a very rough estimate). So just think of your own current sprawling city, or town, and plop in a quarter more people – again roughly. How would your transportation system, health, education systems cope? How will you cope? Smaller places, longer queues, those long thought dystopian idylls of shoe-boxes for homes? If our city air's crap and killing us now, what will it be like in 14 years?

For example, as i sit here (not quite furiously tapping away), at any one time over 21 hours a day there are a number of buses each weighing 11+ tons, anywhere from 9 to 30 ft away. The drivers leave their vehicles engines in one of the following phases – in order of popularity: running, idling revving, off. The drivers (oh you have no idea how much i'm looking forward to driver-less buses) can remain at the stand for anything from a couple of minutes to 20 minutes, and that's 21 hours a day, every day.  Of course with a mixture of buses from helicopter-bus-ships, to hybrid-noise-storms there's no end to the delights this little stretch of road dishes out on a regular basis.

I still assert that earlier buses were designed by someone, or a group of someones, who's experience of a bus ended, when they finally grew out of their favourite tonka toy collection phase. But surely after the buses were built, did no one deem it necessary to test them on roads and streets where people actually lived? At least then, the possibility of listening to a bloody bus sounding more like a helicopter parked 9ft from a window, followed by drivers revving their engines and bibbing their horns, slamming doors and emergency exits in faux maintenance walks, would hopefully have created some sort of a spark in someone with a few more spare brain-cells than the average, and caused them to ponder "just how will people react with all that noise and racket at 2am, or 5am, or any other times the things are in close proximity to them? Hm, i wonder!"

From my interactions with tfl, i've come to the conclusion they view the bus department as more of an annoyance.  A horrid burden they have to endure, over the wonderful grandiose delights offered by running the tube network; with those glorious sweeping entrances, arched halls, and historic stations.

It probably went like this. At some stage the bus department failed to get the attention the other departments had managed to seize; and so when it came to procuring new buses they grumbled, grudgingly and said “yea, they'll do,” and so the helicopters which drivers think are good fun not to switch off, and tfl would rather not think about, or act on, were born.  And in time they spread far and wide, throughout the residential land. Causing grief to anyone unfortunate to think that double or triple-glazing would surely be enough to keep the offending noise away from delicate ears.

A long example i know.  But just imagine for a moment imagine, across london there are thousands of the red buggers all at it; despite tfl saying “they shouldn't be doing that. It will be stopped… They will be disciplined… They don't do it, it has been stopped… Is it still going on?"  

If tfl, an authority so vaunting of its green credentials and respect for neighbourhoods, fails so dismally, and is incapable of policing it's own operators and drivers, then how will humanity, in any significant number do anything in time to ensure there's a world fit to live in? And don't forget the new watered down aim of cop 21 is to limit any temperature rise to 2 degrees celsius, but aspire to keep any rise to under 1.5.  It'll be lucky if the rise remains under double figures.  

You might just wonder why i'm somewhat skeptical of our ability to really knuckle down, and forge our way out of this slowly unfurling disaster.  Apart from the attitude of tfl, people in general.  A few months ago, over food and drinks, conversation with friends turned to money spent on shopping and where to shop.  I brought up a shop called the 99p store, which I frequent for household cleaning materials. For those who don't know, it was a retail outlet  where most things were going for 99 pence, more often than not for less - until it was acquired by their more aggressive competitors, the £1 shop (otherwise known as poundland). So we argued about the relative merits, until the nugget was boiled down to an issue of pride.  Simply put, they would rather travel somewhere and pay £3 for an item instead of 99p at the store, as the 99p store was just far too down-market for them.  If you multiply that and similar attitudes across the billions of inhabitants, then where do you see things heading?

As dr maria neira might well possibly say in an unguarded private moment, “we're fucked!”

Monday, 18 January 2016

Sayonara Samsung

Well, the mobile division at any rate. I have a few months to go before my contract is up. I was using the galaxy s3, when the screen cracked. That will teach me not to use a screen protector, nor to have the phone enclosed in a case. The entire thing happened in a moment of absent-mindedness. I went to forcibly catch the phone after it fell from my hand, when I attempted to move it about 2 feet from one part of the desk to another. The upper left-hand screen-edge impacted against a 5 or 10 pence piece sticking out from the side of a book. There was a slight retort and a partial spider screen, and that was that. A pristine phone ruined in an instant, but luckily still functional. As i was only a few months away from an upgrade, i decided to simply wait.

It was in december 2013, after the long awaited update to jelly bean 4.2, that things started to go sour between samsung, orange, the s3 and me. One problem, was the dreaded slow charging. After leaving the phone plugged in, using the original charger and cable, with wifi, mobile data, sound, brightness, either all switched off or set to minimum.  After nine hours of non-stop charging the battery had finally reached 80% capacity. Then the moment it was switched on i could count the seconds as as it lost a percentage point of charge. It took a month for samsung/orange to correct that little cock-up. Once it was corrected, normal battery charging and usage were resumed. In the meantime i was left with my veritable and sturdy htc wildfire – which happily works to this day and is a default backup for phone calls, sms, and even the odd painful attempt at an email, should an upgrade go wrong.

But the day came after months of waiting, it was time to upgrade to a shiny new device. I had my eye on the note4 for flexibility, the android os (despite the rubbish overlay), replaceable battery, microsd slot, and the s-pen.  It was still in the samsung fold, but i was more than happy giving them another free opportunity.  Unfortunately i had to swap from orange to ee, but after sitting down and doing my calculations it was all worthwhile. So i upgraded and waited for it's appearance on my doorstep. It arrived. I could feel the box wrapped in an unopened bag, which didn't sport any external signs of damage.

I opened the bag and carefully removed the contents. The delivery note seemed odd.  I read down the list of contents, and among them was a letter for the devices' return, a refund letter for the device, and the device in its box.  A furrowed pucker started to burrow its way to the surface of my brow. I put the delivery note down, and picked up the letter, which began “we're sorry to hear that you're not satisfied with the device...” Not satisfied, i thought. I've only just received it. How can i not be satisfied? I looked at the delivery note and back to the letter. Put the letter down and picked up the box. The first label was intact. Turned the box around and looked at the second label, the security label. The one which says 'do not accept if broken'. It had a nice break running all the way through it.

I contacted ee, and queried why there was a break running through the security label.

“Oh the box is like that, as we have to test some of the phones,” she said.

Bullshit, I thought. “It's not acceptable, it's used.” I said. “I don't want a returned phone, when i'm paying the price of a new one!”

“We can send you another one, if you're not happy with it?” she said.

“Fine. Thank you,” I replied, and rang off.

Luckily, after learning my lesson the hard way with the s3, i had pre-purchased a case and screen cover for the note4 – both of which have kept it in very usable condition, despite the odd knocks it's experienced. Even with insurance, I'd rather try to hang on to it, and not have to schlep to a store, or send it away never to see it again as it's been run over after falling into the path of a forklift, after dropping from a lorry whose door had swung open as the driver had been out the night before and only saw, at the last moment, the postman crossing the road with earphones stuck in his ears connected to a s3.

Suffice to say, i was more than happy with the note4, and probably like many other owners, were eagerly looking forward to seeing the specifications for the note5. What wonders would they tempt us users with next?

No replacement battery, and no microsd slot!

I'm on my 2nd original manufacturers battery, i have the the microsd slot at 75%. When the phone plays up, I can simply remove and replace the battery and restart, and yes if that means sacrificing 2mm of thickness, then I can really say that I don't mind in the slightest.

Since the note5's unveiling, I knew that my love affair with samsung (as tempestuous, and unpredictable as it was) had run it's course. It was time to look elsewhere.

I had thought all was lost. That all the manufacturers had lost their senses when it came to device design and were all following the apple-cart of oblivion, well those who only depended on phones for their living. I made a conscious effort not to put the device in harms way, or near an edge, or halfway hanging out a side pocket easily available for a mugger to hoik, and run off with. Until one day lg, of all companies, brought out their V10. Yes, I know it doesn't have a s-pen, or a pen of any description. But it has battery that can be replaced, it has a microsd slot that can take anything from 32gb up to 2tb – i'm sure one of the reviews and spec sheets will be proven correct when the v10, or the g4 pro, finally lands in the uk. 

There is, however, a large fly on the horizon: mobile world congress in barcelona from the 22-25 February 2016.

Cover on… cover off.  What more could a nerd want.

Sunday, 17 January 2016

Where's my prole?

It's quite disappointing watching the uk disappear up the annus of american ideology - especially when it’s not the perfumed, sweet-smelling, rose-tinted kind! With consecutive uk governments (whether true tory blue, or twitchy new labour serenity) following the crazy ideas of their more lunatic-fringed american brethren, it really is mindbogglingly fantastic that the malcontented detritic electorate who didn't vote, or who voted against the ruling paper-bangers, have failed to do anything other than grumble, or loft perfectly calligraphed signs - expressing disgust - above their heads, at the myriad papercut betrayals inflicting our democracy.

Instead of running the corporaphyte puppets out of parliament whilst waving a round bowl above their heads, to the cheering delight of some addled old lag laying sprawled in the street reaching for a pint, their only concern appears to be that of virtually connecting to the current wardrobe phase of the latest celebrity (who has been plopped onto a pedestal for general consumption), or checking to see whether the latest mobile gizmo will have something, added as a bonus. For the really hardcore noncarers christmas is popping up every other day, courtesy of the latest terrorist outrages, leaving them at a loss as to which bruised and blooded part of the globe to squeeze the last bit of blood from, in search of the next cheap getaway.

There are those who say the levers of power have been infiltrated by lumpenproletariats play acting at running the country, and ruining it for the vast majority who just want to live and enjoy a peaceful life; if the maelstrom of carnage and chaos experienced by many in the name of austerity and ideology is any indication, you might concede that they are more than likely correct.

The conservatives, under the premiership of margaret thatcher, truly began the privatisation runaway train as if there was no tomorrow. Fire sales of public services & assets. All with the lauded aim to create a share owning democracy, and new home-owning class. Subsequently over 40+ state organisations have been up for grabs, and politicians probably knowing that the vast majority of sids, at the first sign of flushed wealth, would flog off their holdings, made the bargain so much sweeter. It’s almost as if most of the country's assets and business were animals at a market, with the financial attendees haggling over the best piece of meat, slavering at the thought of making the killing.

That major period was followed by people throwing their hands up in disgust and voting for labour, giving the party a previously unheard of landslide. This was in the mistaken belief they would reverse the policy of the conservatives and turn if not 180 degrees at least pull sharply about, to stave off the worst bits of capitalistic greed, and bolster the services that the public wanted and believed were of communal and social benefit. Instead of reversing the policies, which the vast majority of people who voted for them wanted, the party closed their eyes and fell into the arms of the corporate lobbyists, newspapers - 98% of whom do not represent the average person's interests except for when it transpires they can make more money - and continued with most of the mendacious conservative policies. On top of which they added their own egregious bills to really put the pressure on. Ending with one last gasp of an act of their governance, the digital economy act 2010, plus the myriad of private finance initiatives - a conservative policy new labour devoured like a well trained puppy, lapping up puke.

Bbc’s question time of the 15th january 2016, was quite illuminating. I found myself constantly mesmerised by some of the nonsense being spouted by members of the panel. I was briefly under the impression many of them either believe there are no other sources of news for people to look at, and so the public's general goldfishiness can be taken for granted, or they really do live on a different plane and only momentarily interact with this one once they start talking, and return to their own reality once they’ve stopped spouting drivel. I mention the show, as talk veered on to the topic of housing and the government's aim to have a few houses built from now until 2020. Naturally those on the hang-them high side of thinking, wanted to bulldoze the green belt and have tower blocks covering everything. The ukip representative muttered about immigrants, yet no one mentioned that councils were stopped from building more housing by the government at the time, and subsequent governments since then have failed to allow councils to do anything in any meaningful measure since.

Talking of illumination, let’s take the latest news pouring in from the energy sector. Utilities are been harangued by various organisations, for not dropping their prices to household customers at a similar rate to the fall they’ve experienced in their wholesale prices. Indeed media outlets felt sufficiently aggrieved to provide nice and easy understandable figures, which were more than sufficient to encourage a rise in the gore of at least one morning breakfaster. For gas, the wholesale price has fallen by over a third in the past 12 months, for electricity, by a quarter. The large utility companies have failed to pass those lovely savings on to their customers; and why should they? After all these new computers just can’t cope like the old abacuses. All these ups and downs that have to be calculated. On top of that, they don’t have enough staff. What’s the point of them reducing prices when they’ll only have to put them up again when the next calamity hits, in four years time. They are, after all, companies who happen to provide something people need, and all companies (bar charities) are in existence to make a profit for their shareholders, and a nice big fat one at that. A bonus for the board members. Pay the employees as little as they can get away with, and see what pesky bits of legislation they can avoid, along with how many rings they can run around the regulators.

What i do find ghastly, is the crocodile expressions of amazement politicians express, shocked that companies are not passing on savings to customers, and pocketing the difference instead. That would be the same as someone buying a pitbull terrier from a cage-fighter, then looking on in horror, wondering why it’s using a chihuahua as a chewy toy.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Productive serf

It's no wonder there are more us feeling just that little bit cranky nowadays. You could almost say we’re looking a bit frazzled around the edges, and weather worn from the slow drip of increasing stress, as the hours glibly fly by.

We’re less than a week into the new year, and already people feel as though their heads are going to explode from the sheer stream of utter bs, streaming in from all directions.

Oh, where to start… Let’s see, tfl, neighbours, letwin, putin, daesh, trump, buses, parliament, presidential campaigns, floods, climate change… Parliament!

Politicians say the modern day serfs are not been productive enough. That they can only expect a pay rise, or improved living conditions, if they work harder. Much harder damn them. We want to see blood pouring from those fingernails, and watch as those layabouts gnash their teeth under another 70 years of hard blue labour!

Now before you nod your head savagely, in sage agreement with them, remember that this will be the same politicians who take even more holidays than teachers. Indeed through dint of elbow grease, or silver spoon, they are the best of the citizenry that's floated to the top, and as such 98% of them shouldn’t be allowed anywhere near the reigns of power.

But in their role of representing all those other lazybones - who claim they have better things to do such as foraging around in foodbanks, pretending to be poor by wearing less than their sunday finest, or waiting for a letter telling them how many months they’ll be sanctioned and receive no money for, for failing to receive a letter that should have been sent by the dwps’ 100% efficient machinery, via the department which doesn’t understand the concept that the species hasn’t yet mastered the art of mind reading. Those saintly souls, during the helter-skelter ricochets of 2015s ongoing turbo-charged austerity, had their basic pay packet increased by 10%, or roughly £7k to £74k. That’s only the basic. On top of that they could get anywhere from £13k to £74k extra, dependent on what other post, or job they managed to parachute themselves into, during their hallowed paneled-hall tenure.

Don’t worry, i’m nearly past this bit. If this is proving a bit much, here’s a cat
video you can watch, it even includes toilet paper.

The 10% increase, plus extra, was just the first and second fiscal posts for the job of serving the people. Going to the third post are the various expenses that can be claimed, plus subsidised canteens, 24 hour booze dens, pensions, and as we’ve seen from those arch crypto-commie-socialists: brown and darling (plus all the others in the past) the final post of a nice cushy directorship at the end of the line - should you end up pleasing your masters, or a speaking tour where you can charge £15k to tell them just how you got away with it, thanks to the majority lemmings having not a clue.

But this 10% salary increase was made by the independent parliamentary standards authority (ipsa), with the promise that further pay increases will be clipped to the level that mp’s constituents have to face; naturally it fails to say (that i could see in my skiving skimming) whether that’s the average, middle, lower, or upper levels of said mp’s constituents.

Who makes up the board of the ipsa? After all, according to their blurb…

“IPSA is independent of parliament, government and of political parties. In everything we do, we focus on our main duty; to serve the interests of the public”
Well, it’s made up of an ex-mp, a sir, ex-civil servants, an ex-audit company member and so on. Hardly your local reformed gang member, nor checkout assistant from your local sainsbury's; whom would be a true boost to the claim of independence, and could truly be said to have served the interests of the public - however poorly.

I digress.

Of course this 10% inflation busting pay rise eventually followed on from the expenses scandals which peaked in 2009, which were so mouthwateringly audacious, that even ducks would paddle around their moats with a wing held over their heads in shame, at such unfortunate an association. The fact mp’s managed to surpass that peak five years later, is a topic to be mulled over during a different bout of shirking.

The modus operandi we proles, we vast swathes of the bone idle, we feckless grommets, we lazy everyday shirking layabouts have failed to grasp, is that such prized fiscal remuneration would be within grasp of our nettle, if we weren’t so roundly and utterly damned unproductive.

We’re so unproductive that we deserve the austerity brought down upon our necks by the banks imploding and then been dutifully bailed out by the government. Who then found themselves with no other option but to cut public services, and freeze people's benefits due to the sheer cost of having to magic the money out of the air, to bail out the banks, to then go back to the banks to obtain loans with wedges of interest attached; which with hindsight firmly under wing, some might say such politicians had acted appropriately, if the aim was to ensure their future pay-masters needs were properly serviced.

But you, you shirking non-productive unit! You have to work longer hours, harder, and have less benefits, and oh yes, work until you're 90. That will teach you to be so lax in your productivity.

So just in case we've forgotten, ongoing austerity is all our fault. We’re all in austerity together. That's all of us earning less than £74k per year. You might for one moment think that you really can't work any harder, nor faster, and at the rate you're going your body will fall to bits due to the shear levels of stress – but this is only the working environment we’re considering, you can re-allocate time from your leisure, home environments and any other duties which obviously can’t be as important to the servicing of this need.

No you can’t? Well that’s tough. Atos the previous gestapo glove (as viewed by many) of the government's dwp arm is firmly out of the way, and replaced with maximus, another globalised (how many units can we move) company, poised at the ready to sign you back as “fit to work!”. A quick look at their history, might make you wonder which path all of this will lead down. I predict, not the happy one - especially as they’re still implementing the same tests that atos had to, as those are the tests mandated by the government. Or put another way, it’s the same burnt disgusting gravy, just served by a different, more exotic waiter.

When it comes to these tests, you can hide in the casket you were buried in, or have your ashes thrown to the four winds; they'd only send someone around the globe to find all your ashes, pop them back into the urn, take the urn to an examination room and give it a stern telling off, before applying sanctions (so you can only blow to three corners and not four) for been tardy in your approach to gainful employment.

Fuck the machines, and the robots, and the artificial intelligences coming increasingly on stream. You will have to up your productivity to compete, either with some poor five year old from malawi that's been forced to work for 20 hours a day, 364 days a year and drops dead when he’s aged seven, or the machines working every hour of every day until they rust to bits and reach that great bender in the sky. That is the sort of productivity they want from you, and even if you were capable of providing it, they still wouldn't be happy, as it would never be enough.

However societies, the modern ones, where on balance the more intelligent people outweigh the dim ones, are rapidly zooming to a point where their toasters are going to be smarter, and more intelligent than their politicians - let alone the people using the toasters. Pop into that mix the revolution of quantum computers running at a gazillion flippers every second and all just melding together to become the true masters of the planet. Then in 20 years, if we are all connected via our quantum watches and every decision can be voted on instantly, without the spin, the hype, the lies nor mistruths, what will we actually need politicians and parliaments for?

Monday, 4 January 2016

And we're off!

I believe this poor thing might be a few months too early.

First honeybee i've spotted, ready for the off.

Friday, 1 January 2016

And a jolly happy one

Yes a jolly happy 2016 to one and all; which will be the most bit of happiness and cheer i'll be spouting for the next 365 days, as this year's a gorgeous leap year, or a year with an extra day of misery to wade through, before it's all over.

But the year's still young, hope and joviality's fresh in peoples minds, relatively untrammelled, and fresh with promise... which means it should soon come crashing down and be all over by noon.

Why my positive thoughts you might ask?  Well, for starters, and following the opinion  of experts, 2016 and el nino will probably mean it'll be hotter than 2015 and with yet another year of weather records potentially waiting to fall, it's seriously time to consider having a solar collecting, water filtering, salad growing inflatable to hand for emergencies, floods, earthquakes and rising tides. 

However, it wasn't just that cheery thought which set my teeth chattering; no, with the dog hours of the year nearly buried, so was plans for an inquiry into the banking culture, behaviour and pay, by the financial authority.  Neatly brushed away as been too difficult to look into, and really, don't you know, all those misdemeanour’s happened ages ago.  So do mind that little bit of a hump beneath the carpet, as you're going through brown-paper-revolving directorshipland. 

Not to be outdone in the "hated by the public" stakes, small businesses are now complaining of the onerous rules and regulations they are been forced to endure, such as having to pay people a living wage, after all having one set of armani wear hanging in the walk-in, and cutting down to 26 business flights a year, is just, unthinkable.

However, it's not yet noon ... happy 2016!