Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The Seas Turn Red

Over the past few years, Japan has been actively lobbying fellow members of the International Whaling Commission and would appear to have a majority of the countries on its side to facilitate a return to commercial whaling.

For the past 20 years, only Norway, Iceland and Japan have been allowed to hunt and slaughter whales, supposedly for "scientific" purposes (though it seems strange that they need to take so many each year, and somehow end up in restaurants!). However, of the 60 country Commission, Japan now seems to have about 35 in its pocket.

A lot of these countries have never had whaling industry (some don't even have a coastline), such as Belize, Mali, Togo and Gambia - yet they will support Japan at the next Whaling Commission's meeting in St Kitts in June. Much of this support has been bought through lavish and cheap aid / loan agreements.

I just hope the whales appreciate this lavish attention! However, it is proof that you can't be complacent, even if you think the battle is won!

I make no apologies for the pictures!

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Real Tragic News

News is coming through that Britain's oldest brewery is to be sold and all brewing to cease when a merger between two of the UK's foremost real-ale brewers merge.

The 400-year-old Ram Brewery in Wandsworth, London, is to be sold by Young & Co in a tie-up with Charles Wells, - the brewer of Bombardier Bitter. This will probably mean that approximately 90 jobs will be lost when Young's brewery operation is transfered to the Well's site at Bedford.

Is this a start of consolidation in the real-ale world. I hope not. I think I need a beer!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Are Dell Keylogging For America's Home Security Services

Quick post. Came across this on Moxiegrrrl's site which made me sit up and think. Someone dismantling their Dell Laptop came across a little gismo that sits between the keyboard and the integrated ethernet board, - an ideal position to intercept keystrokes!

Do read the article. It may be nothing, but in this day and age, it might very well be something. The letter this guy has from the DOHS would indicate they know something about it!

Iraq - An Exercise In Self-Delusion

Monday saw a surprise and secret visit to Bagdad by Tony Blair offering his support to the newly elected and installed Iraqi government. He flew in by helicopter direct into the Green Zone - that extremely heavily guarded enclave in Bagdad to deliver an up-beat message. It does seem strange that the worse things get in Iraq, the more positive Blair and Bush's pronouncements are on the subject!

What I found interesting was what he had to say: "We have a government of national unity that crosses all boundaries. Iraqi people are able to write the next chapter of their history themselves". The irony here is that as he was speaking those words, two car bombs exploded killing nine people along with the reported deaths of 23 others in various attacks bringing the death toll, so far in May, to 848. This is on top of the kidnappings and sectarian torture that is the daily fate for many who now exist in this American/UK generated mess.

There just seems to be so much ad odds with reality in what Blair was saying. First off, the fact that Iraqis do not have the ability to determine there own future is so obvious. The first Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, was basically forced out by the US who thought he wasn't suitable for their purposes. Secondly, yes there is a cross-sectarian government, but the government seems so divided that each ministry is basically run and staffed by the party that runs it. Funds are being milked and corruption is rife, but no-one can be sacked because that would upset the delicate balance that presently holds. Moreover, there is a Ministry of Tourism, but no Ministry of the Interior or Defence!

I am so angry about the mess these two idiots have made in the world. It is going to take generations to put right, and in the mean time everyone suffers either through cost (us) or death (the Iraqis).

Monday, May 22, 2006

Europe, - Centre Of Culture

On Saturday night, my family and I settled down to watch that pinnacle of culture, - the Eurovision Song Contest. In brief, it is a contest where European countries each enter a song (and singer(s), group etc) with the aim of selecting through a democratic process, the best song.

A number of problems with this is the political nature of the voting, - Greece won't vote for Turkey or vice versa, the Balkan countries all vote for each other, but not for Serbia, the Balkan states also all vote for each other, and also for Russia so they aren't offended. Ironically, the only country to give us maximum points, considering our history, was Ireland!

But this year, there was only ever going to be one winner, a Finnish 5-member combo who sang an up-lifting little number called "Hard-Rock Hallelujah". What made me want them to do well was that a Finnish right-wing politician thought they should be withdrawn. Anything that upsets a right-winger is alright by me!

But what really appealed were the conservative, but imaginative costumes of the members of the band. Not something you would see in Gap! I thought they looked lovely and would make very good ambassadors of European culture.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Where's My Silver Lining?

I've not been in the loop a lot recently, and not been able to get around or do very much in blogland over the last week or so.

Work has been manic, including coping with a customer who called us and then went into an epileptic fit while on the phone. Ordering an ambulance in Manchester for an address in Edinburgh was a bit of a novel experience.

With so many staff off on holiday or sick, I've hardly had any time to scratch my bum, let alone take a decent breather. Customers, contrary to all established dictacts, are not always right. In fact, they are generally wrong on most things, ordering items or services they are neither knowledgeable or competent to have or use! On top of that, being asked for advice by colleagues about this and that every five minutes, and for which they should know the answer, just adds to my general feeling of mallaise! Sometimes, it feels I'm in charge of school classroom, except, children seem to have some idea of what they are doing, whereas my team don't!

At present, I'm looking for a new job in a company with prospects, but that in itself is just as stressful, and I feel it is 2 steps forward and 1 step back. I don't hate my job, but I want one where I can see where I could get to over the next 10 years and I have a team of staff that have some idea of what they should be doing and why they are there.

But all this has given me little time and inclination to blog in any meaningful way. The same old b*****ds are telling the same old lies and playing the same old games, and in the meantime, we, the ordinary sods who really keep this world going, get more and more dumped on us.

What I need is some hope!

Monday, May 15, 2006

When Are We Going To Stop Letting The Terrorists Win?

Each and every day brings yet another government attack on our hard fought and won civil liberties. Tony Blair is furious that the courts can go against government decisions based solely on the rule of law! The government want some Afghan hijackers to be returned to almost certain death in Afghanistan, which the courts disagreed with. The totalitarian Britain of Tony Blair's dreams is on hold for a little longer.

But a much more cogently argued attack on Tony Blair's position on civil liberties and rights was argued in the Observer this weekend. I would recommend every one to have a read of it as it talks a lot of sense. Tony Blair (along with Bush in America) has set himself up as the protector of British "way of life", but seems ignorant of the fact that our "way of life" includes honesty, probity, fairness and the rule of law.

Every time we chip away our fabric of civil rights and liberties, the terrorist wins, and it is this intolerant and dictatorial government that glorifies terrorism.

This weekend, I got a copy of Neil Young's Living with War. Well worth listening to.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Big Brother? This Getting Out Of Control!

A regular read of mine is Moxiegrrrl who posted this particular post which should shock all and every honest American. A further report can be found at USA Today which, apparently, broke the story wide open.

I'll not repeat the details here, but ask that you read the links above, but in a nutshell, the NSA has been secretly compiling what is probably the biggest database in the history of computing storing phone activities of American people. All done with the connivance of the major phone companies after the White House cried 'terrorist'.

Is it just me, or has all semblance of reason now been abandoned in the pursuit of control and invasion of privacy? This is government intrusion well beyond what is acceptable. It is the sort of action one would expect in totalitarian regimes, not in a democratic, freedom loving country.

The nagging worry for me is that if it is happening over there, is it happening here and we just don't know about it yet.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Photographic Memories

I mentioned a couple of posts ago that I had started to scan the best of my photo collection onto the PC as a sort of backup, - as well as making it available for easy viewing. When I started, I knew it would be a long and slow process, but I hadn't counted on the emotional ride it would take me on.

It's strange how we take photos look at them and then stuff them into boxes, never to be seen again. Some of the pictures I've been going through have only been seen the once, and that's a shame. The memories, these pictures have brought back have been startling. The picture of my Uncle John with his brother, my Dad, over from Australia for a visit. They are sitting on a grassy bank watching a display at the Wirral show with Bethen, my daughter sitting in the middle beaming her head off. Beautiful picture, but sad. Shortly after returning to Australia, Uncle John died.

Other pictures include Dad's other siblings, my Auntie Margaret and Uncle Norman, both also now died, others include pictures of my wife's family and relations now departed sad memories.

But other memories are much happier, - the girls as babies, other people who were important to me in the past. Places that have and hold memories both good and bad. This project, which at the rate I'm going, has some way to run, and more revelations no doubt. But what it has taught me, old photos are important and were taken to be looked at.

Monday, May 08, 2006

They're All Guilty, So Stop Whining

The great defender and upholder of civil rights, President Bush, made an extraordinary statement on German TV over the weekend. Talking about Guantanamo Bay's Camp X-Ray, he said, "Of course Guantanamo Bay is a delicate issue for people. I would love to close the camp and put the prisoners on trial".

He went on to say, "Out top court must still rule on whether they should go before a civil or military court". This top court I believe, is the Supreme Court which Bush has gerrymandered so that it is likely to do what he wants. He goes on, "They will get their day in court". However, it is now that he reveals something extraordinary. He concludes, "One can't say that of the people that they killed. They didn't give these people the opportunity for a fair trial".

This is an amazing statement and raises some issues. First off, Bush and his gang have always maintained that they were not soldiers and so not subject to the Geneva Convention, so if the Supreme Court decide they should be tried by a military court, what does that say about their designation. Of course, if the trial is in a civil court, then a lot more information will come out to the general public which I'm sure Bush does not want to come out.

Secondly, that statement must surely be seen as prejudicial to any future trial when the president of the United States says they are killers. My point is that all these people are innocent, - they haven't even been charged. Surely if the authorities were sure of a person's guilt, as Bush seems to be, then get them charged, get them in front of a judge and jury and let's hear the evidence, and then, maybe, I'll be able to get off Bush's back.

One other thing Bush divulged in his interview, was that the highlight of his Presidency was catching a 7.5lb perch in his lake! Well, bully for him.

Friday, May 05, 2006

We Can Save The World

Recent newspaper and magazine stories have reported encouraging news in the battle to save the ozone layer, and in particular, closing the Ozone Hole. Technology News, The New Scientist, Reuters and others have all recently stated that at present rates of progress, the Ozone Hole should be closed by 2050.

The 1987 Montreal Protocol banned the use of CFC's (chlorofluorocarbons) as aerosol propellants and in refridgerators. 180 countries ratified the protocol, - including Republican led America and Thatcher led Britain, and this leads me to a hope that man-made damage can be repaired given brave, collective will and leadership from those countries that should provide an example.

It is strange to think that those times could almost be considered enlightened times, compared to the negative, head-in-the-sand, self-serving attitudes of those in present day leadership positions. Many of those reports go on to say that the upper, protective atmospheric layer is still under attack, primarily from nitrous and carbon compounds, which we are doing next to nothing to stop.

The tenuous and fragile progress in the repair of the ozone layer should be proof that when mankind stands together, we can make a real difference. All it takes is some backbone from those in positions to take a lead.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

A Link With The Past

Recently, I've started a new project which is to go through all the photographs I've managed to retain over the years, select the best, - or at least those I think are best, or have special significance, and scan them onto the computer. Some of them may even find their way onto Flickr (some already have).

It has, so far, been a fascinating voyage, and I've come across some interesting pictures. Of course I have tons of the girls in their early years, but I've also got many pictures that go well back into the past before being married or having a family. I've still got the pictures I took during a 'glamour' day at the Photographer's Club in London, Deer in Richmond Park, even an ex-girlfriend! These are all memories, and were important to me at the time, and many still have a relevance today. I'm sure there will be many more memories in the boxes I have to go through. I just wish I had gone for quality rather than quantity.

However, one thing I did find which made me stop for a while was a brown envelope sitting at the bottom of the box. It is address to me and had been posted at 1:30pm on the 10th February 1956 in Manchester. On opening it I found a birthday card that had been sent to me for my 3rd birthday from my Granddad and Nanna, my mother's father and mother. My birthday is on the 12th February.

Inside the card was a letter.

The beautifully handwritten letter had been written by Granddad to wish me a very happy birthday, and had probably accompanied a 10 shilling note for Mum to buy me something. At the age of three, I probably would not have read the letter myself, and I'm sure it was more a letter from a father to a beloved daughter. However, one paragraph struck me as I re-read this letter. In it Granddad said that he was "back between the blankets for a day or two". He goes on to say that, "I am not too bad, but I have shivered all over." Granddad was none too well and had gone back to bed.

On the back of the envelope is a short note from my mother:

"Granddad died - 8.20pm, 11th February 1956". The day before my 3rd Birthday, and my card and letter was the last thing he ever wrote.

Monday, May 01, 2006

The Rules Of Cricket

The 2006 cricket season has started, and, of course, it is raining! After last year's efforts by the England team thrashing the Aussies at a game they thought they were the world's best at, it is going to be very hard to beat. Lancashire, my local county side, should be in-line for a trophy or two as the team now looks a bit more balanced and experienced.

However, I have recently become the Boston Red Sox's (I wish that Americans learnt to spell!) biggest fan, but when I went onto the sites about them and rounders in general, I could not find anything to explain the rules. Because of that, I thought it would be useful if I provided a summary of the rules of cricket for those who don't understand the game. They are really quite simple, so here they are in a nutshell:

You have 2 sides, one out in the field and one in. Each man that's in the side that's in goes out, and when he's out he comes in and the next man goes in, until he's out. When they are all out, the side that's out comes in, and the side that's been in goes out and tries to get those coming in out. Sometimes you get men still in and not out. When both sides have been in and out, including the not outs, that's the end of the game.