Tuesday, 29 September 2009


The news today has been filled with the tragic suicide of a mother and her daughter. Fiona Pilkington set her car on fire with herself and her mentally handicapped daughter inside - a horrific death for them to suffer, but in her eyes better than continuing to face the teenage thugs who were making their lives a misery back home.

The old adage is that an Englishman's home is his castle. That no longer appears to be the case in this country. While at home not only are you in danger of being inundated with junk mail, unwanted telephone calls, having you identity stolen, being scammed online and being burgled, you now have the possibility of being terrorised by your neighbours.

The sense of community has gone for the majority of people now. How many of your neighbours do you know by name? How many of them could you rely on to help you out if you had a problem? Compare this to even one generation ago and it may come as a shock.

The youths that were interviewed on the radio seem to feel no remorse and fail to see that they have done anything wrong. "There's nuffink to do except get pissed and take drugs" said one of them. "Then if we get a bit noisy people get pissed off and call the police. When they do that it's no wonder we get pissed off and have a go at them and do fings" he went on.

Nothing to do? Here we are in an age when kids have FAR more than even children of my generation had, and we didn't feel the need to run riot and make innocent peoples lives a misery! Why can't they play on the X-Box they pestered their parents for? Go on the internet, or, shock horror, READ A BOOK? They might even learn something, like how to speak properly to start with.

As a child, if I had a football to kick around I was happy. If I had mates to play football with, even better. If one of us had a few pence to buy a bottle of pop and crisps we felt like kings. What has happened to the world that has taken away such simple pleasures, such innocence?

The internet is frequently blamed, and yes, it does have a lot to answer for, but it cannot take the full force of the blame. Parents seem to have lost the ability to control their children, teachers and police are no longer allowed the freedom they used to have to instill discipline in the young.

My dad used to say to me "more wants more", and at the time I didn't get it. I do now - the more you have the more you want. Gone are they days that you only had what you NEEDED and could AFFORD. People are too easily bored with their latest gadgets and "must have" possessions.

What has happened to respect? People don't seem to respect one another like in days past. Working in retail I see this more than most.

What of these thugs that terrorise their neighbours then? If you "terrorise" people, by definition you are a "terrorist". Since 9-11 and 7-7 this government has targeted terrorists around the world, but isn't it about time a similar level of commitment was aimed at this other kind of home grown terrorist? These don't pick on people just because of their creed, religion or colour, but simply "just because".

Its time for this to be stopped. We simply don't need people of this type in the gene pool anymore. The majority of them won't amount to anything, won't bring anything useful to this country or the world in general. Enough is enough. We need to stand up to them, and they need to learn what is acceptable and what is not. The authorities need to have their hands untied, law and order needs to be restored to our fair isle before it is too late.
Sent from my BlackBerry® wireless device

Wednesday, 16 September 2009

Mac Report - week 2

Week two of owning a Mac. So, how is it going then? Very well thank you for asking!!! The keyboard is an absolute delight to use, and it makes me want to write which is good news, and so far I have been working on quite a few different articles and blogs.

I have got my head around most of the operating system, and while it is different in many ways to Windows, the way it does work is so much more intuitive and obvious – sensible even. The way you can use different numbers of fingers on the track pad to do different things is amazing, you just have to remember how to do them all, but it is becoming more natural with every day.

I have in fact bought a wireless “Mighty Mouse” for it, which is good for when you are using the mouse a lot, it is easier than the trackpad, though not quite as functional in some ways.

I have got more software on it now – Office 2008, Aperture and Photoshop – I really want to keep it at that – it is supposed to be a tool for me not a plaything after all!!

The software seems to be very stable so far as well, and it is certainly a lot faster than a PC in many respects.

So, full marks to Apple so far – I am very impressed and look forward to many more happy hours of Mac’ing in the future!!

A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Moon

This year has seen the 40th anniversary of the Apollo moon landings. While there was some media coverage, there was not as much as one might have expected, which is quite surprising for such a major, history changing event.

When President Kennedy announced to the world that America would send a man to the moon and return him safely before the end of the decade, it sent a shockwave through not only the world in general, but NASA in particular. They had no idea that Kennedy was going to make such a rash promise – one that they would have to keep.

At that time they had only had moderate success with their rocket launches, and now, in front of the entire world, it was being promised that they would be able to do something which many of their own staff believed was impossible, and in a ridiculously short time frame.

Sure enough, they did it, landing Apollo 11 on the moon in July 1969. Or did they? Much evidence throws doubt on the validity of their claims. They went from thousands of individual faults on every Apollo rocket to none by the 11th. That is some feat – if only Microsoft could do this with their products!!

Recently, it was discussed about them going back to the moon, to use it as a stepping stone towards a mission to Mars. However, one of the chief NASA designers claimed that it would take 15 years to be ready to go back to the moon. Now this is a little strange – back in the 1960’s with very limited technology and knowledge by today’s standards, they went from not being able to reliably launch an unmanned rocket to walking on the moon in well under 10 years. How come with modern technology and a whole lot more experience it is going to take 50% longer to do it again?

Right from day one, the Van Allen belt was cited as a major problem. This is a belt of intense radiation that surrounds our planet. Here on the ground we are protected from it by the Earths atmosphere, once you get beyond our atmosphere, there is no protection from it, certainly no protection that could be offered by a few millimeters of aluminium skin on a space craft. It would take several FEET of lead to protect man from this deadly radiation, making the space craft so heavy that it would not be able to take off in the first place.

It is a record of fact that since the Space Shuttle missions began, none of these missions have gone beyond the Van Allen belt, most in fact staying well below it. One mission that did get closer to it had the astronauts reporting that they could see “tiny flashing lights” even with their eyes closed – these would be caused by the radiation passing through the skin of the shuttle and the astronauts themselves.

So, if a man had in fact gone to the moon, the severe radiation he would have been subjected to would have killed him. Strange then that most of them are still alive up to 40 years later.

Anyone who has more than a passing interest in photography can easily see the anomalies in the photos from the Apollo missions. The cameras they used were made by the Swedish company Hassleblad, and were just minor modifications of the ones they sold to the public. They had no viewfinder and no exposure meter, and the only addition to them to try to repel radiation was a layer of silver paint inside the body.

It is strange then that every photograph is perfectly framed, perfectly focused and perfectly exposed. Most of us find that hard with a modern auto everything camera! The films suffered no effect whatsoever from either the radiation (try taking your films through a few airport X-Ray machines and see what happens to them!) or the extreme temperature changes. By rights, the films should have been fogged by the radiation, and the sprocket holes torn or at least distorted. (The temperature difference between areas of shade and sunlight on the moon was reported to be 300 degrees!! -100 in the shade to +200 out of the shade) The films should have alternated between being frozen and melted!

Neither Hasselblad or Kodak (who supplied the film) can explain the above – Kodak certainly don’t produce a film that they would claim to be able to withstand such abuse, and never have done.

Then, when you look at some of the photographs and see shadows that run in different directions when the only light source was the sun itself, you have to have doubts. This is impossible without extra lighting. The fact that in certain photos areas are well lit that should be in total shadow throws up more doubts.

Add into the mix that there is a rock in one photo that has a letter seemingly written on it that also crops up in photos from a different mission to a different part of the moon, and the fact that in some photos the cross hairs which were etched into a screen inside the camera go BEHIND objects in the photo, you really do have to start worrying about what is real and what is not.

I could go on about the mysterious deaths of some people involved with the early Apollo missions who voiced doubt about the possible success of the project, and journalists who have tried to investigate the truth. The very odd behaviour of some of the astronauts involved (Armstrong will not even talk about it, and Aldrin broke down in tears and stormed off when asked what it was like to walk on the moon during one interview) but this would become a book rather than a blog entry, and there are already plenty of those on the subject.

Suffice it to say that if you care to Google the subject, or better still, watch some of the You Tube videos, you will begin to have doubts yourself. It is not easy to come to terms with a lie of this enormity, and it is all too easy to dismiss it as rubbish spouted by conspiracy theorists, but the photographic evidence is something that cannot be easily explained away.

Of course governments have to keep some things secret from the general public, maybe even lie a little, but this lie has gone on too long and too far. The moon landings were the biggest single historic event in human existence, and yet they were probably faked. Will we ever know the truth? I doubt it, but one can hope.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

Mac Report - Day 1

Day one of owning a Mac, and so far so good! The first thing that hits you is how well made and solid they are, compared to your average PC laptop, the MacBook Pro is a stunning piece of kit. The second thing that you notice is just how quickly it boots up - it is like lightning compared to Windows XP. The third thing that you discover is just how different it is to use - to start with where is everything?!

As with any new OS, whether it be a new mobile phone, video recorder or computer, there is a certain learning curve one has to negotiate before one becomes comfortable with the device. To begin with there is always that feeling of not wanting to click the wrong thing for fear of loosing everything or breaking something. I guess that if you didn’t know another operating system already that Mac OS X would be pretty easy to pick up - it does seem fairly logical even to someone with well over a decade of experience of Windows, which, to be fair, isn’t the most logical of systems, and certainly not the most reliable!

This particular MacBook has version 10.5.7 installed, which i believe is “Leopard”, and although it also came with a CD ROM of “Snow Leopard” which i gather is 10.6, i am rather un-keen to change up to it just yet - i still am only tip toeing my way around this one, and would like to feel a lot more comfortable with it before i go mucking around with things that i don’t really understand.

I have managed to download and install “Bean”, which is a basic word processor - a bit of an upgrade to the text editor that Macs come with, which is basically like notepad on windows. While Bean is not going to worry MS Word, it does most things that us mere mortals need, is fast and compact, which i like.

Even the method of installing software is different - the downloaded file shows up as a disk drive type icon on the desktop, you drag it to the folder of your choice, it is installed and you then “eject” the virtual disk drive. Odd, but blindingly easy and quick.

Of course, one of the main problems with PCs is Windows - the basic architecture of them was never designed to run a graphical user interface (GUI) - oh those good old days of MS DOS, with the command line interface when you had to type the commands in with the correct syntax. Lovely......once you had got your head around it that is. It meant that you really had to want to know how to use a computer, unlike these days when they are designed to be so obvious that even the most idiotic of people can use them without a problem. Which causes problems of its own - surf the internet to see what i mean!!

Microsoft knew that they had to create their own GUI because of the waves the first Apple Macs were creating - there was a machine that was designed from day one to be used with a GUI. Microsoft knew that they had to compete, and that although their best option would be to start from scratch, that this approach would alienate their existing user base - if their current software wouldn’t work on the new machines, they would have to replace them and may as well change to Apple anyway. To avoid this, Microsoft found a way to bolt their new GUI (Windows) onto the existing DOS, and it basically ran as a program that could run others within it.

The next snag was that this needed more memory. Originally, memory was very expensive, and as the text based systems didn’t really need much of it anyway, 640Kb was deemed to be plenty. The system could not officially access any more than this even if it was present, and so a routine had to be written which would “fool” the computer into using the extra memory that was now being fitted.

Imagine if the only car that had ever been created was the Model T Ford. Any updates to it as the decades wore on were just bolted and welded onto it, so that even the latest car was actually a Model T with a body kit - that is basically Windows for you - MS DOS with other bits bolted on. Other bits that have been created by people working in different departments who never actually meet up, meaning that different segments of the system don’t “fit together” perfectly, and have to be cobbled and fooled into working as one. This begins to explain why PCs are so unreliable and crash so often. It’s a miracle they work at all to be honest.

So, now i am using a system that has been created by a small team dedicated to making something that just works. We will have to wait and see if this is the case, i know that i have a lot to learn before i feel comfortable, but i believe that the effort will be worth while. I will get back to you and let you know.....

Mobile match made in heaven?

It has been announced that T Mobile and Orange are to merge to become the largest mobile phone company in the UK. It is being touted that this will enable them to slash their operating costs, and create huge benefits to their customers, albeit with, as yet, unknown numbers of job losses to their staff.

While it is true that merging will enable them to make certain cutbacks, i can’t see that they will be able to make quite the savings that are being predicted. Of course, they will only need one accounts department, one call centre etc, BUT they cannot possibly cut back on the number of masts and transmitters as is being talked about in the media without having a dramatic negative effect to their customers.

Let’s say for argument that they each currently have 5 million users (they both actually have a lot more than this, but these numbers make for easy calculations), so between them they have 10 million users, and currently have enough capacity for them. If they rip down half their masts and transmitters, they will now only have enough capacity for HALF of their users - how does that benefit people? It is also being said that as each company has slightly different coverage, the merger will give users better coverage than they have now - so how can they even be thinking of taking down masts?

Secondly, most masts carry more than one transmitter, with companies sharing the masts/locations, so any of these shared masts cannot be removed without adversely effecting customers of other networks.

Thirdly, and possibly most importantly, the two networks use vastly different frequencies. Orange uses channels of about double the frequency of T Mobile - without wanting to get too technical, they are simply not compatible with one another. This would mean that for the merger to actually benefit all their customers, they would have to decide which of the two sets of frequencies to use - change all the other transmitters to this band ( a VERY expensive exercise, which would also reduce their user capacity) and set up all of the users of the obsolete frequencies with new phones. Utter madness.

Maybe i am missing something, and i certainly don’t claim to be an expert on this subject, but what i do know about the mobile phone system leads me to believe that it really is not going to be a simple matter for the two company to merge and save themselves anything like the sums that are being talked about. I just hope that someone at their head offices has thought this through properly.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Hockey - Blaze old players.

So, here we are once more at the start of another ice hockey season. I never quite know whether to feel glad or sad at this time of the year. Glad because the hockey is back, or sad because it means that the Summer is over and the dark cold nights will soon be with us.

There have been plenty of changes for the Coventry Blaze over the Summer - some welcomed with open arms, and some less so. Firstly, let's have a look at who has gone from the team:-

J F Perras - Poor JF, he really didn't have a great season - not only did it seem as though he was made of rubber (so many pucks bounced off him straight to a forward to tap in), he didn't appear to be able to catch a cold for most of the season, he was obviously low in confidence, and his defenders had little confidence in him. When you look at our final league position in comparison to our performances, it is a bit of a miracle that we finished 2nd. Fourth would have been a far fairer assesment in my opinion. He was always going to find it hard to be as good as Koenig, and in the end, TKs skates proved to be just that bit too big to fill.

Ben O'Connor - I look forward to Edinburgh coming to play at the Skydome this year, to see how the crowd reacts to young Ben. He was a VERY popular player last season, and was arguably our most consistent defender. However, he blew his reputation in Coventry when he walked away from the 2nd year of his contract because the 25% pay rise he had agreed at the start of his contract was not big enough for him. I cannot imagine that the Capitals have been able to pay him what he wanted from the Blaze, so cannot see his logic in the move back North of the Border. It seems from Thommo's comments in the press that he was none too impressed with what happened and the timing of it. Rule number one - never hold a gun to Thommo's head - it will always backfire on you.

Leigh Jamieson - i quite liked him you know, and felt that he was very under-rated for most of the season. Yes, he looked more confident when played as a forward rather than as the defender he spent most of the season as, but i thought he could hold his head high overall.

Blake Forsyth - you have to feel sorry for those who had to fill the role that Blake ended the season filling - our "number 1 import D man". Overall, he filled this role as well as, or indeed better than those who preceeded him during the season:- Cory LeClair for instance. Man could he skate. If the league was decided on the best skater, we would have won by a country mile - Cory would get the full compliment of "6s" from the judges - it was as though he was floating over the ice like an angel. Unfortunately, he couldn't play hockey for toffee, which was a bit of a disadvantage! Like JF, these guys had to replace the irreplaceable - in their case Neal Martin. They were always going to be compared with Neal, and if we are honest, short of a player with loads of NHL experience, that's never going to happen. Blake did a good solid job though, and i wouldn't have been too upset to have seen him back.

Greg Wood - If ever a player was underused by the team it was Woody. On the odd time he got onto the ice he was like an unleashed terrier. Thommo even admitted that he should have used him more than he did - of all the players who left at the end of last season, he is the one i would most like to see come back. I believe he has gone to Manchester this season, and i wish him well there - let's hope we do see him back in a Blaze shirt at some point.

Barrie Moore - Well, Barrie is a slightly different case, as he retired rather than simply left at the end of the season. I can remember his first game for the team - he was jetlagged, scored two goals and skated everyone else off the ice. He then seemed to blow a bit hot and cold for the next few years. Part of the problem is that we, as fans, simply didn't quite understand his role within the team, and see what he brought to the ice. Thank goodness in his last season he did get most people to open their eyes and understand him and his game. Offensively, he often seemed lacking for a forward - apart from that fantastic wrist shot, what did he bring to the team? The answer was his superb defensive skills and his ability to change play from one end to the other with a single pass. He will be missed.

Sylvain Deschatelets - Now, there was a man who had been hit with the ugly stick!! ;-) A much maligned player while he was with Cardiff, and again blew hot and cold for us. On his night he could be breathtaking, and on another night have you pulling your hair out in frustration. Just what did make the guy tick? We never got to find out, and it is questionable as to whether Thommo did either. In fairness, he was the last minute replacement for Cloutier when he got his coaching job back home, and he was never in the same mold as Clouts either in skill or leadership.

Carlyle Lewis - Hmm, our "tough guy" - a man who either could or couldn't be bothered as the mood took him. A man fully capable of getting himself thrown out of a game for no valid reason. Another frustrating player who really didn't bring as much to the team as he could have. The only player that he really seemed to have an understanding with was Danny Stewart, and ultimately, Carlyle didn't really seem to fulfill any of the roles he should have. Despite his undoubted toughness, he didn't seem to instill any fear into the oposition, and the whole team seemed to have a distinct lack of steel about it.

Steve Fone - our back up net minder for the last few seasons - a player that we never got to see enough of, but who never let us down when he was called upon. Good luck to him in his new role as starting netminder for Manchester - he deserves the chance to really prove himself.

Erik Hjalmarsson - Eric the Viking, the man brought in to replace Scott Kelman. (more on him in a minute). Eric came into the squad having had a lot of injury problems, and was clearly not 100% fit. However, he gave his all, and really showed up a lot of the other players with his skill, touch and vision. I would have loved to have seen him stay for longer, and witness a fully fit version of him play.

Scott Kelman - Now, here is a player that could of, and should have, set the league on fire. In his first few games he showed that he had more talent, more skill, more vision than anyone else in the country. So, why oh why couldn't he be bothered to show it every night? He would be invisible for most of a game, and then pop up with a sublime pass before vanishing again for weeks on end. His history shows that he has a problem - first round NHL draft pick, but never stayed anywhere for long - he must have been a coach's nightmare, you know that he can do it, but it all depended on if he could be bothered or not. The player that has most impressed me in his first few games for us. What a shame he didn't keep it up. Aaaarrgghhh!!!

Next time, my impressions on the new players.....

Friday, 4 September 2009

Photos uploaded to Flickr at last!!

Yeah, i'm back!!

After being nagged at by a few people, i have finally gotten around to uploading some of our holiday photos to Flickr.
(http://www.flickr.com/photos/jester42/ if you want to have a look)

I have had to work a lot recently, due to my boss being on holiday, but i now have a few days off, and am relaxing! This is why i finally got the photos done....

I have also had my first article published in Amateur Photographer magazine - don't get too excited it's on a short piece in the "BackChat" column, but it's a start - plus i get paid for it. (though not sure when......) I'm already working on some more - can't quite give up the day job just yet, but you never know what the future will bring. (Yeah, right - back to reality Mike!!)