Saturday, August 04, 2012

Moving on.

I started writing this blog, natural yogurt, in January 2004. The internet and the way people use computers has changed a lot in those 8 years. The internet and the people using it has moved on a lot in that time. So after 1,086 posts it is now time for Stephen to move on to other platforms within the internet.

Many, many blogs have started and ceased being active in those 8 years. My blog has been active a lot longer than most and I have enjoyed writing it big time. It was lovely having a platform for my views on the world. I could write at great length about whatever I wanted in my labour of love that was natural yogurt.

The internet and the people using it have moved on and this Thursday, I took the decision to move on. I will find a new digital home somewhere where I will be happy in my little corner of the internet. The internet is a much bigger place now than it was back in 2004. Some things have improved but others have gone downhill.

Freedom of speech has been reduced over the last 8 years with companies turning nasty on their employees. People have been thrown off websites for posting their views, if a reader does not like them. Some people have even been taken to court for posting their views on various websites.

There are now two types of internet. The wild open spaces that search engines can index and walled gardens that only account holders can search. This is a shame and is another loss to our freedoms of association.

Twitter has taken off big time and traditional bloggers like natural yogurt are declining in active numbers. This is a shame because serious blog posts have been replaced by a torrent of small talk in 140 characters blocks.

I would like to give a big thank you to everyone who has read my blog. Thanks also to the many people who have also left a comment. I will not delete this blog but leave it to stand in the wild open spaces of the internet. I am proud of what I have written in those 1,086 posts and I will leave my digital footprint behind for people to look up when they use an internet search engine.

Good bye everyone.

Stephen, posting for the very last time on natural yogurt, from his home in Cardiff, UK.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Whistle by Flo Rida.

This song gets a lot of airplay on the radio and it is a real catchy tune. I like the song and I tend to sing along to it. But now I wonder if it is at all innocent? Is Flo Rida singing about a harmless whistle or is he really singing about oral sex and a blow job? Read the lyrics because they make me wonder and I think Flo Rida is a cheeky chappie!

Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Let me know
Girl I'm gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow
You just put your lips together
And you come real close
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Here we go

I'm betting you like bebop
And i'm betting you love creep mode
And i'm betting you like girls that give love to girls
And stroke your little ego
I bet i'm guilty your honor
But that's how we live in my genre
When in hell I pay rottweiler
There's only one flo, and one rida
I'm a damn shame
Order more champagne, pull it down hellstream
Tryna put it on ya
Bet your lips spin back around corner
Slow it down baby take a little longer

Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Let me know
Girl I'm gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow
You just put your lips together
And you come real close
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Here we go

Whistle baby, whistle baby,
Whistle baby, whistle baby

It's like everywhere I go
My whistle ready to blow
Shorty don't leave a note
She can get any by the low
Permission not approved
It's okay, it's under control
Show me soprano, cause girl you can handle
Baby we start snagging, you come in part clothes
Girl i'm losing wing, my bucatti the same road
Show me your perfect pitch,
You got it my banjo
Talented with your lips, like you blew out candles
So amusing, now you can make a whistle with the music
Hope you ain't got no issue, you can do it
Give me the perfect picture, never lose it

Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Let me know
Girl I'm gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow
You just put your lips together
And you come real close
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Here we go

Whistle baby, whistle baby,
Whistle baby, whistle baby

Go girl you can work it
Let me see your whistle while you work it
I'mma lay it back, don't stop it
Cause I love it how you drop it, drop it, drop it, on me
Now, shorty let that whistle blow
Yeah, baby let that whistle blow

Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Let me know
Girl I'm gonna show you how to do it
And we start real slow
You just put your lips together
And you come real close
Can you blow my whistle baby, whistle baby
Here we go

Whistle baby, whistle baby,
Whistle baby, whistle baby

Friday, July 27, 2012

Is The London Olympics The Next 9/11?

This is a very short story written in 2012 and is available as a small Amazon Kindle eBook of just 104 KB. It is a tale of conspiracy written in the style of an investigative journalist who remains anonymous. This report is nicely pitched and answers the problems of the recruitment of new security guards by G4S and the deployment of the army to make up the numbers. You can view this book as satire but the author does have a point to make.

Look at what is going on in the setting up of security before the games and ask yourself the question why? Are security guards so hard to recruit and train? Is our government not telling us something and will G4S become the scapegoat? Or is this short story written by a disgruntled employee?

Reading this before the Olympics start makes you wonder. It is an amusing story and well worth a read. I downloaded it for FREE shortly after it was released but today's price is £2.67 - quite a lot for a 104 KB eBook. I vote this short story a HIT simply for making people think. Can this be true? Time will tell.

Bring on the games!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Victim Six by Gregg Olsen .

Victim Six is a regular serial killer crime thriller novel. It is set in America and follows the work of 2 police officers and 1 journalist on the chase of the killer. They have to identify the killer and find him before another victim is found. This book is an entertaining read and is one of the better crime thrillers at the bookstore. The story develops the moods of a diverse character set and it is a very modern and up to date tale. This novel is a good mix of forensics, police procedure, small town journalism and adult emotions. This story is well written and you understand the motives of the killer and the terror of his victims...

Her last thoughts were the darkest that had ever gone through her mind. I hope he only rapes me. Yes, only rapes me. Her wits were nearly gone, but she knew the ridiculousness of her thoughts. She had a friend who’d been raped in a restaurant parking lot. It was nothing to wish for, but in that moment it was the only hope that she had. She wanted to live...

“He said he penetrated her with a rolling pin. He said he put a vacuum cleaner hose onto her nipples. He said that he choked her while she begged for her life.”...

“This is far more than torture,” she said, locking her eyes on Kendall. “Victim’s areolae on both breasts have been excised,” she said...

“Good isn’t what I want or need. I like my women a little on the rough side, bitch. You know, sweet like a soft cookie, but with the crunch of nuts inside.” He let out a laugh.

...The killer is clearly a sadist, which spices the story up a little. The story develops at a good pace and everything slots together. The chosen title of this book is misleading and a bad choice. You know from the start, when nobody has been murdered, that there will be six victims. You also read the actions and thoughts of the killer throughout the story, so you already know who his is. The ending is poor but the journey you have travelled has been a good one.

Victim Six was written in 2010 and I bought the Kindle eBook which is a 663 KB file. It is a good book and I shall vote it 4 stars on Goodreads . Whenever I see a mobile home parked in someone's garden, I will always wonder if it is another "fun house".

Thursday, July 19, 2012

New duties at work.

We have another new roster that started this week down on the farm. The old roster basically had 22 duties spread over 32 weeks. This new roster is slightly larger with 24 duties spread over 34 weeks. This is because we have 2 new duties running a late night service to Gatwick Airport.

The big problem with this roster is the same as the old roster. There is NO PATTERN. All the duties are jumbled together without any sense of progression.  There was an opportunity to compile a roster that would flow in a natural way in line with drivers body rhythmns. This opportunity has been lost and we have been given this hodge podge of a roster.

In the rostered 34 weeks there are 12 lines which involve a single rest day to fulfill the weekly rest requirement. This is perfectly legal but still a bad show as I prefer 2 consecutive rest days for my weekly rest period. There is no pattern to the sequence of rest days. Fifteen years ago we had a roster where all the rest days went in a strict repeating sequence. There are also 9 lines where you work the maximum 6 consecutive days before a weekly rest period. Some of these shifts are rather long and our drivers can get very jaded and short tempered on their 6th day.

On the plus side there are 6 lines where you get 3 consecutive rest days together. There is one small pattern which is a conscession to common sense. There are 2 long duties to Gatwick Airport and what our line manager has done is make a trio of late shifts. Day 1 starts at 14.30 and finishes the next day at 04.00 - day 2 starts later that day at 16.15 finishing at 05.15 the next day - day 3 starts later that day at 16.15 and finishes at 01.50 the next day. Because of the late finishes on these 3 duties there may not have been another option but to string them together. This is the only pattern in the whole roster. All the other duties appear on the roster at random.

We will be working around the clock as 2 duties start at 03.00 and 1 duty at 03.15 every day. So with a first start of 03.00 and a last finish of 05.15 this is truly a 24/7 operation. Of course the nationwide company drones on about how concerned it is about public and road safety by fitting alcohol breathtesting locking devices. These devices stop the driver starting the engine if his alcohol breath sample is anything other than zero. These devices do not measure driver fatigue that can be caused by a badly compiled work roster. They had the chance but management just cobbled together this nasty roster. We do not come down the farm at 08.00 and have every weekend off but have to accept a roster we had not chance of compiling ourselves.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Barney gets his hair cut.

We took our pet dog to get his hair cut yesterday. Barney is a 12 year old Jack Russell - Lakeland Terrier crossbreed and we took him to the Best Friends Grooming Parlour, 6, Camms Corner, Dinas Powys, South Glamorgan CF64 4QY - Tel: 029 2002 0352.

We have taken him there before to have his hair cut and the service yesterday was just the same, first rate. Barney looks so much younger when he has had his hair cut. They do a lovely close cut that brings out the Jack Russell in him and it is well worth the £30 we paid.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Magical Maze: Seeing the World Through Mathematical Eyes by Ian Stewart .

This book was written in 1997 and I downloaded a free copy onto my Kindle although it is no longer available on Amazon for some reason. The book uses the metaphor of a maze to explore how our world is related to mathematics. It is not a text book on pure mathematics but an easy read on applied mathematics - how our world follows mathematical rules. It does explain the beauty of mathematics and is very easy to understand. The aim of this book is clear.

Ian leads the reader through a number of problems that make you think. All becomes clear and you then understand how those magic tricks of guessing numbers actually work.

• Think of a number.
• Add ten. Double the result. Subtract six.
• Divide by two. Take away the number you first thought of.
• The answer is seven. Always.

The ancient Tower of Bramah puzzle is worked through by first looking at the smaller Tower of Hanoi puzzle. The process you use is the same and leads to the mathematical motto of "think first, calculate later".

Have you noticed that when you get a big group of people, a couple share the same birthday? Yes, if the group is greater than 23, you will get 2 people whose birthdays match. Why is this when there are 365 days in the year and the group is as small as 23? Ian explains the mathematics behind it and states "Amazing. I know how to calculate it, and I still have difficulty  believing it. But it's true. Try it at parties with over 23 people. Take bets.  In the long run, you'll win. At big parties you'll win easily".

There is a good section that deals with conditional probabilities and what game show contestants should consider to double their chances of winning the prize. This calculation fooled a lot of educated people who should know better! The contestant has 3 choices hidden behind closed doors. One door hides a car, the other two hide goats. I will not spoil the answer for you as this tale shows how conditional probabilities are not especially intuitive.

Ian explains why all coastlines look the same, which is strange when the structures appear so random. Chaos is not as random and you first think because coastlines are 'statistically  self-similar'. The same mathematics applies to vegetables like broccoli.

Ian does show the beauty of mathematics in everyday life but he does go into extreme detail and history. Ian does not give any conscise answers and fills his book with tons of background from mathematicians who are long gone and dead. Ian is an expert in his field and can get his message across but it is a long journey.

93% of this Kindle eBook is the content of his work but the last 7% is references he has referred to earlier. The average reader will not need to know his sources so that they can check them, you can take them in good faith. I feel that this book has not covered an awful lot of ground but the small ground it has covered has been drilled to death. The reading pleasure I got from this book was poor as the number of mathematical issues covered was small. I did not like the employment of the maze metaphor as the detailed description of hedges, walls etc had little to do with mathematics and just padded the book out wasting the readers time.

I really enjoy applied mathematics but this book was a disappointment. It was not a good daily read and although Ian maybe a good teacher of mathematics, he is not a good author. I did not like the way this book was written. I did not like it's structure, the way Ian waffled on about mathematicians who were dead and gone. I really hated his stupid idea of a maze that the reader had to travel through. It was not an entertaining read and therefore failed as a book. This is all a shame as I had seen a programme on television some time ago about numbers and I am sure it was Ian Stewart who presented it. That television programme I really enjoyed as it showed how our world revolves around mathematical rules. I was glued to the television series and thought it was a hit. But this book is poor and I shall only vote it 2 stars on Goodreads .

Friday, July 06, 2012

Announcement 13.

Following the success of the Coach Driver's onboard announcement guide, I now have the pleasure of posting an update with an additional announcement...

The effect of driver announcements in the real world (to be done when stationary) Announcement 13.

Step 1 - Bring your coach to a stop. Apply the parking brake and select neutral. Press the front door and luggage hold open buttons. Take a deep breath.

Step 2 - You must make the following P.A. announcement:

"Ladies and gentlemen, we have now arrived at (stop name)

If you are leaving the service here, please make sure you take all your personal belongings with you.

If you have luggage in the hold, please wait to the side of the coach while I unload it.

Thank you for choosing the nationwide company and have a pleasant onward journey."

Step 3 - Switch off the microphone, unfasten your seat belt and leave the driving seat. Walk off the coach and discover that all the passengers have ignored your announcement and helped themselves to the luggage. Press the luggage door close button and be content that although nobody listens to your announcement, the passengers have unloaded the luggage and your operator will not be charged a 5% penalty on the whole diagram because a driver did not make an announcement, word for word, from the guide.

 ...Of course, readers of this blog must be aware that there are 2 nationwide companies operating express coach services around our country. I do not think that the other nationwide company has a Coach Driver onboard announcement guide following yesterday's drama on the M6 Toll Road in Staffordshire...

On the M6 toll road, near Lichfield, Staffordshire, the kind of public alertness that anti-terrorist investigators encourage led to the evacuation of 48 passengers from a coach and the closure of the motorway for seven hours, when a concerned passenger apparently mistook a fake, electronic cigarette that gave off a vapour for a bomb.

In Staffordshire the police defended their response to the alert by a passenger on board a Megabus coach run by Stagecoach, which was on its way from Preston to Victoria station in London. The alarm was raised when a passenger saw an individual, described as of Asian appearance, pouring what they believed was liquid into a bag that was emitting vapours, the police said. The passenger alerted the driver, who called the police around 8.20am.

A full multi-agency response was put into motion, with an army bomb disposal team, a chemical and biological weapons team, armed police, counter-terrorism officers, ambulance and fire crews, called to the scene at Weeford, near Lichfield. Passengers were evacuated one by one from the coach. Drivers caught in the traffic jam as emergency services blocked the road in front of them were told by police to shut their car windows and not to use the air conditioning.

After arriving at Victoria coach station in London on a replacement bus last night, one of the passengers, student Vermilion Von Kangur, said she had feared for her life as armed police swooped around the coach. "Some people thought there was a bomb on the bus, some people thought it was going to explode," the 20-year-old said. "Some people thought the bus had broken down, or that there was a prisoner on board. I was scared."

She said everyone on board was made to leave it one by one at 10-minute intervals with their hands visible, as officers looked on with their guns poised. "My legs were like jelly, I couldn't walk," she said. "I felt very intimidated. I thought if I moved I would get shot."

She said passengers were not given any information about what had happened after the coach pulled over without warning at around 8.30am. She said: "The driver was talking to police but they weren't saying anything to us. People thought they were going to die. They were calling their families.

"People didn't know what was going on so we only had to use our imaginations and picture the worst."

Staffordshire police said they acted after a "genuinely concerned" member of the public mistook the vapour from an electronic cigarette – used by smokers to circumvent the ban on smoking on public transport – for something more sinister.

...So, that is what happens when a driver does not make an announcement and passengers wonder if the Police will shoot them on sight. Very frightening indeed. Look forward to the Olympics everyone as things could get a lot worse!

Monday, July 02, 2012

The Christening.

Okay folks, it is family time on Natural Yogurt. Readers by now will know that I am an Atheist but yesterday I was press-ganged into a church. Oliver was being Christened at the Church of the Resurrection, just down the road from us along the Grand Avenue in Ely, Cardiff. There were 2 children being Christened yesterday but we did not know the other family at the church. The Church of the Resurrection is a branch of the Church in Wales but this blog post is not about the differences in the liturgy between Anglicans , I will leave that to my dad.

What affected me was the patience of the Priest conducting his service. Here he was doing his day job in front of a group of strangers. These people were not Christians but people who had come along to see Oliver and another child "get done". These people were not members of his church but consumers of a service. These people would not normally dress like this on a Sunday morning but appeared to be dressed for a court appearance to support the defendant. These people would not be there next week unless it was a funeral or a wedding of someone close to them.

In my day job driving coaches, passengers ignore announcements on the microphone and the CD player. The passengers do not control their noisy and badly behaved children. Passengers drone on and on into mobile telephones. At night you can get distracted by camera flashes.

The Priest has the very same problems in his day job. He started his service by pleading with anyone who would listen, to switch off their mobile telephones and not take photographs until the end. His attitude to children was different as he said it was okay for them to be noisy and run around.

We then had the very short Christening service that followed a laminated 2 side of A4 paper sheet. Yes, the children were noisy and the adults chatted amongst themselves. I was not aware of any telephone use or camera flashes but the adults were clearly not paying much attention. It looked more like a large queue at McDonalds and the adults slowly making their way to the counter.

At the end I felt rather sad for the Priest. Here was a crowd of people who had come along simply to get a child "done" - like a vaccination at the doctors. There seemed no respect for his religion from the crowd and he may as well have treated his service as an audition for the X Factor and sang a hymn. I am an Atheist but still feel offended that this crowd of people abused his religion just to get their child "done". This was a show for the parents and the children did not ask to be Christened. This cheapens religion no matter which religion, if any, you practice. I went to the Christening because it was a family thing and I was expected to go. The Priest was there because it was his day job. The Priest is a very patient man and I know how he feels when he speaks and knows he may as well be speaking to a brick wall.

Sunday, July 01, 2012

More chicken abuse.

We read many tales about the bad treatment of chickens in our food chain. People want cheap food and as businesses cut costs, chickens are reared in worse conditions. But the cost cutting in the name of profit does not stop there. People serving hot take away chicken are now living and working in worse conditions. Take away shops in East London are ignoring the national minimum wage and as Newham council found "We came across one chicken shop where the pay was £1 an hour. To be fair, they gave the workers some free accommodation – a mattress at the back of the shop, with three of them taking turns on it."

It is a long story but certainly worth a read. A lot of people will be paying big money to attend the Olympics in East London oblivious to the squalor going on in nearby take away shops. These staff are very cagey about their lack of pay and awful living conditions but know to the penny the cost of their chicken meal deals.

Welcome to the other side of London where the Olympics are not the only games being played. There is a cat and mouse game being played among businesses, councils and illegal immigrants that is being ignored by the public as they stumble into these take away shops offering what appears to be cheap food. Now we know why it is so damn cheap, not only are the chickens probably badly treated but the staff are valued like pigeons.

What value are pigeons in London? They are scum, dirty creatures and should not be encouraged. Why some people can actually fancy pigeons is beyond me but then the same goes for those nasty take away chicken shops.

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Gaviscon to the rescue .

Driving back from London on Thursday night I experienced some stomach pain, low down on the left. It was quite a localised pain as though somebody had kicked me there. I also felt very thirsty. Oh dear, I thought, maybe I have picked up a nasty little bug. When I got back to the farm I drank a litre of water before going home. At home I had a mug of coffee and a mug of squash before going to bed. Trouble was that I did not need another pee before going to bed so I knew something was not quite right.

I was awoken a few times in the night with stomach pain in the same localised area. I got up, drank some squash and still no need to pee.

The next morning I felt rough but walked Barney as usual and came home for breakfast. I could not face my cooked breakfast and Barney had most of it. Then I took out of the kitchen cupboard a box of Peppermint Gaviscon and ate 4 tablets before leaving for work. I was fit for work but felt really rough as though I had been in a nasty fight. Still, I thought, take things steady and in stages. The first driving block was 2 hours followed by a break. In my break I had a big pooh and my urine was back to normal, so I knew that things would start to get better. To be sure I took another 2 Gaviscon tablets as my next driving block would be 4 hours 15 minutes.

Half way to London I wanted to be sure of things, so I did a "Matthew" and pulled into Membury services for a 10 minute comfort stop. Plenty of wee and a good fart so I knew I was on the mend. The pain was still there but it was reducing a little.

Before leaving London I took another 2 Gaviscon tablets because I was still feeling rough and it is a long day's work. I drove back to Cardiff without an unscheduled comfort stop. When I got home I had the usual coffee and biscuits before going to bed. I wondered how I would feel today and when the stomach pain would stop.

I woke up this morning like a new man! I had a good night's sleep and did not stir once. The stomach pain had gone overnight and it was like it had never happened. So the nasty little bug I had picked up had been sent packing with the help of Gaviscon. I could feel it working as soon as I took the tablets. It is a dampening feeling in your stomach as the chemicals calm activity down.

I am not in the business of product placement but these Peppermint Gaviscon tablets give so much relief  that I feel they are worth a blog post. So, if you have a bad stomach ache, try those Peppermint Gaviscon tablets because they worked for me.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Corporate language.

The use of corporate language really annoys me and it is spreading across the UK everywhere. I am used to the droning on by the nationwide company about "customers" rather than what these people actually are: passengers.

Today I have received a letter from E.ON - our energy supplier. The company has a new Chief Executive called Tony Cocker and he has written to all his account holders, who he calls "customers". Tony likes this awful corporate language that annoys me as he writes...

I want to change that, which is why at the beginning of the year I set up a 'Reset' programme that is intended to review all of the activities we perform as a business to ensure that our customers perceive them to be simple, clear and fair. Since then we have consulted extensively with customers from all walks of life, as well as with organisations such as Consumer Focus and Which? We have taken that feedback on board and started to do something about it.

...Help, pass me the sick bag somebody, this is awful corporate language. It is bad enough in my workplace from the nationwide company but to read a letter in my own time in my own home is awful. Come into the real world Tony because your staff and householders are not fooled by this fancy corporate language. You can dress it up all you like but what it comes down to is which company is it cheaper to read your electricity and gas meters. It has always been cheaper over all for me to buy my electricity and gas from E.ON - that is important to me and not this fancy corporate language that simply annoys rather than builds trust or loyalty.

Friday, June 22, 2012

The Phoenix Conspiracy by Richard Sanders .

Raidan is the model commander of the Phoenix starship doing his job keeping the Empire safe. He is well respected when suddenly he attacks and destroys some Rotham starships. This is totally out of character and he is arrested. No body knows why Raidan became a rogue commander and Calvin Cross decides to find out why he did it.

Okay, this novel is science fiction but I do enjoy all conspiracies. It is set in the future but the problems of races and cultures is very contemporary. The battles and challenges raging through these galaxies are no different to the present day land wars and conflicts going on every day in our world. This novel gets off to a great start because you do not know why a celebrated starship commander put his whole life on the line. It does not make sense but you travel with Calvin Cross to discover the truth.

Along the way there is a good range of characters who help Calvin in his quest. Not all the characters are human...

Three aliens stood up briefly and then sat down again on the only other platform. They were rotham, humanoid in appearance except for their golden eyes, scaly-crimson skin, and generally smaller physiques. They could also grow tails but most had them removed right after birth. All three present were male and wore the lavender uniforms of Rotham Military Command. Their hair was as black as oil, common for rotham, but braided—a style symbolizing status in their culture...


"A human, actually." He tapped his console. "Err... now I'm not so sure."
"What do you mean, not sure?"
"It's a modified human, sir."
A chill traced Calvin's spine, rippling through his body while flashes of buried memories came to mind, images from his deepest, darkest nightmares.
"What kind of modified human?"
"Database lists it as a type three remorii."

...The plot develops at a good pace and you feel that something dodgy is going on. Characters say strange things to Calvin and you suspect members of his crew may have a hidden agenda. On one outstation people are after Calvin and are trying to kill him, so the heat is on. Maybe Raidan was right to attack the Rotham starships and the Empire is corrupt. Sadly around 80% through this novel the conspiracy angle drops to zero and it is boyish battle in outer space between aliens and humans. After this battle Calvin does find out why Raidan destroyed the Rotham starships and this leads the way to a sequel.

The Phoenix Conspiracy is available as a free Amazon Kindle eBook of 1404 KB and was published in 2011. Richard Sanders is only 25 years old and I hope his writing will improve as he gets older. This novel is okay as a freebie but as a conspiracy it fails because it lacks depth of deception. The conspiracy is shallow and rather far fetched. The Phoenix Conspiracy starts off as a great mystery, develops well but then runs out of steam and begins to disappoint. There was potential for The Phoenix Conspiracy to be a great novel but the lack of hidden workings let it down. It does provide escapism and is an easy every day read that I will vote 3 stars on Good Reads because it is simply Okay.

If you want to read a good conspiracy, then there is one that I can really recommend, Body of Lies by David Ignatius and I think Richard Sanders could learn a lot from it too.

Friday, June 15, 2012

The level is down and the sound is a little different.

We all get used to computers and take them for granted. We read displays and react accordingly. This happens in all walks of life. At work I switch on the electrics of my allocated coach, read some displays, press some buttons and do my walk around check.

In my car I switch on the ignition, watch the display boot up and when it is ready I start the engine. Easy peasy with with no warnings displayed. Lately I have noticed that when I feather the foot brake the sound is a little rough as though there may be some dirt on the discs. It comes and goes but seems to happen more often when Gail is with me in the car.

Further inspection showed that the brake fluid level had dropped to the minimum level in the reservoir. So I started thinking to myself, the MOT at the end of February showed that the brake pads were wearing low. A lower fluid level in the reservoir indicates brake pad wear. That rough sound when I feather the foot brake could be badly worn brake pads. The car has covered 50,600 miles from new on the original brake pads. Ah, I thought better get this checked out at a garage as it might be time to get new disc brake pads.

In the UK garages are notorious for ripping motorists off by replacing items before they are really needed. Bearing this in mind I went to one garage and asked for a brake inspection. The fitter declared that I needed new pads AND discs and the cost would come to £200. I said thank you and that I would shop around. I went to the next garage which was a branch of National and asked for a brake inspection. The fitter came into the reception area and asked me to follow him into the workshop. He then explained the condition of my disc pads and discs by showing me the grooves scored into the discs. I was free then to examine my own discs and pads. I asked how much it would cost to fix and he quoted me £180 which I was happy with.

I know that very often when discs pads are worn you need to replace the discs at the same time because this is the nature of the beast. I also know that garages do rip motorists off by replacing discs when they do not need to because the profit is welcome. Where National scored with me was not only because they were £20 cheaper but because the fitter showed me what was wrong and I could see with my own eyes and feel with my fingers that this was not a con. Trust is hard to earn with motorists today but showing them the worn components rather than simply claiming it is worn out develops a confidence and trust so often missing.

And the new brakes, marvellous - quiet and smooth. Thank you National.

Friday, June 08, 2012

The new toy .

Whilst away on holiday in Norfolk, I purchased a new toy. We took with us the laptop that runs Windows 7 and Gail took her tablet computer that runs Android. As readers of this blog will already know, I am not a fan of Windows and run Lubuntu with LXDE on our desktop computer. So there we were in Norfolk doing mobile computing away from home and it got me thinking. I played about on the laptop and noticed how much Gail was getting from her tablet. She was unsure about getting an internet connection at the Premier Inn, so I set it up on her tablet. I noticed what a simple whizz it was to use her tablet. The next day she showed me what her tablet could do as I had not taken an interest in it before. Well, that was it and the seed was sewn. I then started thinking about getting a mobile computing device.

I started with an open mind and considered buying a laptop, a netbook or a tablet. Each device has many advantages and disadvantages. I was very much impressed by Gail's tablet and all the things it could do with the technology behind it. I decided to buy a tablet and wondered which screen size to plump for. I wanted something really handy and portable that I could take along to work if I wanted. I already have an Amazon Kindle and I think it's size is ideal for reading at home and taking to work. Therefore I was in the market for a 7" tablet computer.

A quick look around the net showed that the best value deal that week would be a Samsung Galaxy 7" Tab with a free upgrade to 32GB for just £199 at the Carphone Warehouse. I have now done the steep learning curve with my new device and I am very happy with it indeed. My Galaxy Tab is very easy to use with loads of features pre-installed. It is a very good piece of kit to use both at home and away. I can now sit next to Gail on our sofa rather than use the desktop through the archway of the dining room.

The use of an Android tablet is very different to desktop computing. It's best use is through Apps (Applications) that are optimised for mobile devices. This is different as you use the tablet as an appliance rather than a computer. The focus is different and many commentators are warning about the dangers of tethering and the way the internet has developed. But using Apps on a tablet within these walled gardens is very easy and the quality is good.

The design of the Samsung Galaxy 7" Tab is good and I have found nothing to complain about. I like way you can personalize it to the way you want it to look. I like the many options available so that you can get it to work just the way you want. It is like having a top of the range smartphone but with a useable 7" screen and not having to pay a monthly rental. Battery life is good and the touch screen does it's job.

I am very happy with my new toy and I now realize just how much computers and mobile phones have moved on in the last few years. Tablets are a step forward although I still like to go "old school" once a week and bang away on this traditional desktop computer running Lubuntu with LXDE and a real keyboard at my finger tips. It is horses for courses and with my tablet I now remember Lisbeth Salander and her Palm hand held computer in the Millennium Trilogy novels.

Which news App have I downloaded and like the best on my Android tablet? No surprises, it is the same as the best news website on the internet and it is British. Have you guessed it yet.... come on Matthew, your hunch is probably right...The Guardian.

Monday, June 04, 2012

Snatched off the bus.

I was miffed that I was unable to go on holiday to Egypt because I was admitted to hospital. I have always enjoyed my foreign holidays and loved to potter about wherever we stayed. In the past we have had holidays in Turkey and I really used to enjoy travelling on their local bus services. These buses were called a dolmus, were of various seating capacities and provided very cheap, high frequency services all over Turkey. The fares were peanuts and it was great to travel about with the locals. It really added to the holiday experience as you felt as though you went to the real Turkey rather than be processed like a tourist. I never had any problems whatsoever and could recommend a "day out on the Dolmus" to anyone, just look at the map and go for it.

What a shock I got tonight when I switched on the internet and read this report from AFP ...

Briton kidnapped by Kurd rebels in Turkey is freed

(AFP) – 10 hours ago


A British tourist who was kidnapped by Kurdish rebels in southeastern Turkey at the weekend was freed on Monday, officials in London and Turkey said. The 35-year-old man was described as being in good health and is to be taken to the main southeastern city of Diyarbakir for brief questioning about his ordeal, a Turkish official said on condition of anonymity. The Briton was snatched on Saturday by members of the outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) who had stopped the bus he was travelling in between the Black Sea city of Trabzon and Diyarbakir. In London, a spokesman for the Foreign Office confirmed his release, but declined to disclose his identity. "He has since been in touch with his family in the UK. Embassy officials are speaking to him and are offering consular assistance," the spokesman told AFP. "The British ambassador in Ankara, David Reddaway, would like to express his gratitude to the Turkish authorities in securing his release." No details were immediately available about the circumstances of the release. Saturday's abduction came amid an upsurge in activity by the rebel group, which last month kidnapped 10 people from a village in the Kurd-dominated southeast. The motive was unknown.

...Thankfully the 35 year old British tourist was released and is in good health with one hell of a tale to tell his work mates when he gets back home! Still, it would not put me off travelling on a Dolmus, maybe I should buy a Kurdish phrase book just in case.

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Annoying female habits.

Women, they have some annoying habits and we can learn to live with them. Even so, women can be so damn annoying. Over on Yahoo! they have a list of 7 things women do that drive men mad .

So I read the article and all 7 issues are annoying but which one would get my vote as to being the most annoying? Simple, it was not even close between the 7 issues, there is only one simple winner by a lot way...

Annoying female habit 7: Incessant talking

We’ve heard that women are estimated to say around 20, 000 words a day – which is an awful lot compared to the paltry 7, 000 estimated for men – so we understand that she needs to get her daily nattering fix, but why is it always at the most inappropriate times? She was quiet all the way through the family dinner when we needed her to break the awkward silence, but as soon as we start getting to the competitive part of a multi-player game with our friends, she just won’t shut up about how cute the neighbour’s cat looks when it sits next to the rose bush. To make it even more annoying, the actual part of the story she was getting at whilst rambling on about the neighbour’s cat, was that the cat’s owner now works at the grocery store down the road. Ladies, if you’re going to talk, pick the right moment and please, just get to the point.

...Okay, there is another side to this and there is a link to another page called 7 things men do that drive women mad . And what do I think is the top thing that men do that drive most women mad? That one is simple to answer also, Annoying male habit 2: Selective hearing. This is obvious because all men are so fed up of the incessant talking from their partner, that we simply switch off when our woman is nattering away.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Raf I'm No Angel by Raf Nadroy.

This book is a long narrative told in the first person of the life from childhood to 50 of Raf Nadroy. He is an American male of Spanish descent and was born in New York. This is a good tale of a man growing up, who finds love and work as he copes with problems in relationships and business. He is very self deprecating and realizes his mistakes and missed opportunities. He explores many social problems in America and how some people like himself have a strong work ethic but others rely solely on benefits and other hand outs.

Raf meets a good range of characters along the way but his love life leads to many problems.  He has two failed marriages and you develop a strong empathy of Raf as he is a good worker and tries really hard to make things happen and work out good for everyone. The relationship with his second wife is very well described and their problems explained. I understand all too well where he was coming from!

I liked this book but will only vote it 3 stars on Good Reads for one simple reason. Raf I'm No Angel would have been voted good with 4 stars rather than okay with 3 stars if someone had proof-read and corrected the text before publication. I have never read a book with so many mistakes. A spell checker had been used and all the words are valid but not the right words in context. This sloppiness spoiled what could have been a good book as the reader has to correct and guess so much of the time. Raf I'm No Angel was badly edited by Joann Piekut Everria, what was she doing and why did she not correct all the mistakes? I thought proof-readers or beta-readers were two a penny but this failing sadly lets this book down.

Raf I'm No Angel was written in 1994, although it was published by Amazon in 2011 and is available as a 634 KB Kindle eBook. Raf Nadroy has a bright urban writing style that is easy to read. He does ramble on quite a bit in the same way as a friend talking in a pub can go off-topic but return to the thread of the story after a short while. There is not a strict time line in this narrative as bits are thrown in here and there before Raf returns to the time line. There is a gradual shift through time as the book develops but this is not absolute and things do crop up out of order. The general structure of this book is of short paragraphs and you get the impression that he wrote this book as a hobby, with a couple of paragraphs written every day after his day job. To illustrate his writing style I will end my review with a selection of quotes from his book...

It was no use. She tried but could not stay in school, because of the hunger of her and the small children. Not only that, she had to walk almost a mile just to get to school, because of the lack of money for carfare, to and from school...

Yet, the beautiful Japanese girl, or I should say women because she must have been fifteen years my senior. She felt that she was taking on a CHERRY-BOY-SON. To them it was a real turn on if a boy never had sex before. What a different world. It truly excited her, but after I had finished she quickly left the bed room for her trip to the bath room to wash up. Upon her return she was saying, NO, you no CHERRY-BOY-SON, YOU-NO-CHERRY-BOY-SON. You come to much...

After ringing up my item her next comment was, "If there is anything else you want just let me know". I looked and smiled at her and gave her my thanks. She again said, "If there is any thing I could help you with just let me know". I looked again at her eyes and said thank you once more. The next words even hit harder, "Do you understand what I am saying". This time my words were, yes, I do and I am honored, and again I thank you. This time I played the make believe itch on my nose game and exposed my wedding band. She saw it and again her reply was, "I understand, but the offer still stands"...

I remember, I always loved to go down on her and the way she moved to my action truly turned me on. After that moment I recall laying on my back and Lady Dawn would gently lower herself on to my face. It would drive her wild. I even let her finish in my mouth, then it was not over just yet...

That was when I decided to file for divorce from her. I was told that by my friend Manning, years before he passed away. If you see your former lady with another man and it does not bother you, that's when you are ready for the divorce...

Oh there are plenty of jobs for little money and work as if you were getting paid twenty dollars an hour. And I heard many a time by the locals, and I Quote them, "Nigger Jobs"...

The New Yorkers daughter was no house maker. But I am sure she was a good fuck. Most young women are that way today. They grow up so fast and could even become make up artist in Hollywood but they cannot wipe their ass properly after going to the bath room...

...The ending was okay and I felt that Raf was well aware of all the mistakes that he had made. He only did the best that he could do at the time but sadly things did not work out for him. He was just unlucky the way his life unfolded and although he always worked so hard to make things work, sometimes with women there is little any man can do to make their relationship last.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

My holiday in Norfolk.

I was due to go away on holiday to Egypt but unfortuneately I was poorly and was admitted to hospital. The cost of the Egyptian holiday will be reclaimed from our travel insurance and having booked my time off work I hoped to still be able to go away. Gail and I had a brain storming session and decided to have a holiday in Britain. We knew what sort of holiday experience we were looking for and it was just a case of choosing a region of our lovely island. We decided on Norfolk and a quick look on the internet gave us 3 good value hotels to stay in. We chose the Travelodge at Norwich Cringleford, the Premier Inn at Lowestoft and the Swan Inn at Horning. Okay, we all know that Lowestoft is in Suffolk but it is close to the Norfolk boundary and the price at the Premier Inn is right.

 A Travelodge is basic accomodation, you just pay for the room, no breakfast or dinner. The price is per room whether you are on your own or are a married man. We paid just £99.50 to stay 3 nights at the Travelodge Norwich Cringleford which is just off the A11/A47 junction adjacent to the Park and Ride. This is an out of town location with good main road access. For our money it gave us just what we wanted and gave us the freedom to eat out anywhere at any time.

Our first night was Sunday and we went out for a drive around the area. We ended up having a meal in the centre of Norwich, along the river near the railway station. It was a pub chain we had not come across before and I doubt they have any outlets in south Wales. The pub was called the Compleat Angler and is a branch of the Original Pub Company. The menu offered good value regular meals and the style was similar to Wetherspoons.

On Monday we went for a long drive and had breakfast at Tesco in Thetford. We parked in the bus station and surveyed the damaged wall on the exit where a coach from the nationwide company had crashed into a while ago. We also had a lovely stroll along the river as far as Nuns Bridges. Then we drove through Thetford forest and all the way to Downham Market. A couple of miles north along the A10 was the reason for this long drive. We fancied Church Farm at Stow Bardolph, a hands on rare breed centre. Admission is £7.20 each and is well worth a visit for all townies who enjoy eating meat! The work they do at Church Farm is to be praised because these are not commercial farm animals bred purely to enter the food chain and maximise profit but breeds of chicken, goats, pigs and sheep that would disappear as their yield is low. It is both educational and fun for all the family. From Church Farm I continued up the A10 to Garage Lane in Setchey, where there is a shop selling a range of over 1600 beers. Beers of Europe claims to be Britain's biggest beer shop and I have never seen anything like it before. The range of beers is simply amazing and I always like to try beers that I have never heard of before. I was spoilt for choice, which was great and I chose beers from brewers who I had never heard of. Gail liked the look of a particular cider and put it in the trolley. Where was this cider produced? Llantwit Fardre of all places, talk about taking coals to Newcastle. We had a nice drive back over the marshes and the Welney Wildlife Trust. We bought our evening meal at the Castle Carvery, in a building called the Clocktower, at Bowthorpe in Norwich.

On Tuesday we had an all you can eat breakfast for £8.25 each at the Oaks Brewers Fayre, near Norwich Airport. This is a very good deal, just help yourself to unlimited cold and hot buffet breakfasts plus fruit juices, tea and coffee. Then we drove up the A140 to Cromer and along the A149 to the Hillside Shire Horse Sanctuary on Sandy Lane at West Runton. Normally admission is £5.95 an Adult but sadly due to the recent heavy rain and localised flooding the general public is not allowed onto the grass areas in case they slip and try to put in a claim against the sanctuary. Rather than close the sanctuary to the public, they have allowed visitors to look around for free provided they do not go over the farm gate and onto the grass. We had a lovely look around the concrete paddocks and saw some chickens, deer, goats, horses, lambs and rabbits. But there is more to see as there is a very interesting museum of carts, wagons, caravans and farm
machinery. I could not get over a horse drawn "wagon" that was a very early Public Service Vehicle. This very basic bus had solid tyres, leaf spring suspension and a very rudimentary rod operated braking system. They also had a good display of really old farm tractors. After our visit we had a look at West Runton beach before moving onto Cromer. The beach at Cromer is not dog friendly at this time of year and dogs are not allowed near the pier. Further along owners can walk their dogs but under the local Dog Leads Order of 2007 they must at all times be on a lead of less than 1.8 metres (6 foot) or risk a fixed penalty fine of £80. As we enjoyed our breakfast so much at the Oaks Brewers Fayre, we returned for a good value evening meal. Before 18.30 you can have 2 main course dinners for £10 and 2 deserts for £2.

On Wednesday we checked out of the Travelodge and had a breakfast at a Morrisons along the A146 at Beccles. We continued along the A146 and drove to Kessingland beach. After our picnic lunch we moved to Parkfield Cliffs which is a headland and beach to the south of Lowestoft. Our next hotel for 4 nights was the Premier Inn at Lowestoft where we had paid £282 for a room plus £22 each per day for their meal deal of a breakfast and a 3 course evening meal.This breakfast is an all-you-can-eat-and-drink affair so that the diner leaves the restaurant with full stomach and a full bladder, ready to enjoy their day. The 3 course evening meal gives you a choice of a prawn cocktail, a soup, breaded mushrooms, potato skins or chicken liver pate as a starter. The main courses are gammon and pineapple, chicken breast, beef burger, salmon fillet, chicken and bacon salad, chilli con carne, pepper and creme fraiche tart, rump steak or a vegetable risotto. The deserts are apple crumble pie, profiteroles, chocolate fudge brownie, lemon sundae or banoffee sundae. The drinks are a bottle of J20, large pepsi or lemonade, pint of Carling, pint of Tetley's or a glass of red or white wine.  All in all this is very good value for our £458.

On Thursday after our all-you-can-eat breakfast we spent a lot of time at Gorleston Cliffs and the south beach at Gorleston on Sea. Later in the afternoon we drove into Great Yarmouth and parked at the far north end of the beach, shown as North Denes on the map.

On Friday we went to the Redwings Horse Sanctuary at Fritton. It is a very good charity that saves horses and educates the public. I learned a lot about horses by reading the information boards and strolling around the paddocks and stables. In the afternoon we spent some time at the North Denes picnic area and park at Great Yarmouth which runs alongside the River Bure.

On Saturday we spent the morning at the North Beach in Lowestoft before moving onto the Parkfield Cliffs to the south of Lowestoft in the afternoon.

On Sunday we went to Winterton-on-Sea beach and nature reserve. Later in the afternoon we moved onto our next hotel, which was an Inn Keepers Lodge called the Swan Inn at Horning. We paid £187 for 3 nights accomodation and this included an all-you-can-eat-and-drink continental breakfast. The Swan Inn is part of the Vintage Inns group and as such their menu is rather pricey for what food is on your plate. Therefore we had the complimentary continental breakfast at the Swan Inn but bought our main meal elsewhere. Later that afternoon we had a lovely carvery at the Lodge in Salhouse. The Lodge is a privately run free house and their food is simply top rate, traditional British cooking at it's best.

On Monday we had a drive around the Norfolk broads, the weather was poor with the odd shower, so we did not go on a boat trip. In the evening we had dinner at the Bridge Inn in Burgh St. Michael near Arcle.

On Tuesday we returned to the North Beach at Lowestoft which we enjoyed so much on Saturday. The other reason we went to Lowestoft was because I was buying a new toy that was being delivered to a store in the town. After picking up my new gadget we drove to the Captain Manby at Great Yarmouth for a carvery meal. The Captain Manby is a Toby Carvery, so you know exactly what you are getting for your money before you walk in.

On Wednesday we left the Swan Inn at Horning and drove back home.

All in all it was a good holiday and we made the most of our time away. The best accomodation was the Premier Inn at Lowestoft but we could not have afforded 10 nights there. I was surprised at how much pub meals cost in the sticks compared to urban areas. It was a refreshing break but was not as refreshing as a holiday in Egypt would have been had I not been admitted into hospital 2 days before we were due to fly out.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Are traditional 101 button keyboards dying out?

I read the other day that there are 10 million Twitter users in the UK. That is 1 in 6 Britons using Twitter and that 80% of their tweets are made using a mobile phone. These figures are quite surprising and they made me wonder.

These statistics mean that 8 million people a day in the UK are using smartphones to connect to Twitter and the internet plus email. That is a lot of people using smartphones with either tiny little buttons like on a Blackberry or a virtual keyboard on a touch screen like on an Android phone.

This amount of data entry is rather surprising considering these people can't touch type like I can at great speed on a traditional 101 button keyboard attached to a desktop computer. As I rattle off this blog post, I wonder how long it would take Matthew to post the same number of characters on his smartphone.

Will our nation lose the skills to touch type at great speed on traditional keyboards as we become a nation of phone stabbers? These smartphones are great for portability but must be frustrating to type at length on. Maybe that is why Twitter has a 140 character limit for it's posts because the phone stabbers can't go the distance. If this rise in Twitter continues then we could become a nation of phone stabbers that are limited to 140 character soundbites.

Discuss - hopefully with comments greater than 140 characters long.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Beers of Europe

Quite a while ago I had a comment on this blog from. Grumpy Dragon about a shop near his home called Beers of Europe . I rememberd his comment and whilst I was on holiday in Norfolk I decided to visit this store on his recommendation. I am very glad that I did!  Beers of Europe claims to be Britain's biggest beer shop and I have never seen anything like it before. The range of 1600 beers is simply amazing and I always like to try beers that I have never heard of before. I was spoilt for choice, which was great and I had no difficulty in choosing a gallon.  Into the trolley went Ramsbury Gold from the Ramsbury Brewery at Axford, Marlborough - Ridgeway Organic from the Ridgeway Brewing, Oxen - Town Crier from Hobsons at Cleobury Mortimer - Fools Gold from the North Yorkshire Brewing Company near Guisborough - Kelpie Seaweed Ale from the Williams Bros Brewing Co at Kelliebank, Alloa - Pure UBU from the Purity Brewing Co at Gt. Alne, Warwickshire - Hop Garden Gold from the Hogs Back Brewery at Tongham, Surrey and Foundation Stone from the Lymestone Brewery at Stone, Staffordshire.

Gail liked the look of a particular cider and put it in the trolley. Orchard Gold from Llest Farm at Llantwit Fardre of all places, talk about taking coals to Newcastle.

This shop is amazing and if you are in the area it is certainly worth a visit. It looks like a bargain goods warehouse from outside but inside it is a voyage of discovery. So, of the 8 beers I purchased, which one did Stephen like the most? I am a fan of Golden Ales but the beer I liked the most out of the 8 was...

Kelpie Seaweed Ale from the Williams Bros Brewing Co at Kelliebank, Alloa in Scotland.

It is very different from other real ales and I have never had a beer brewed with seaweed before. It does sound odd but it tastes delicious and gets my vote as best of the eight.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Back from my holidays.

Stephen was due to go away on holiday to Egypt but unfortuneately I was poorly and was admitted to hospital. The cost of the Egyptian holiday will be reclaimed from our travel insurance and having booked my time off work I hoped to still be able to go away. Gail and I had a brain storming session and decided to have a holiday in Britain. We knew what sort of holiday experience we were looking for and it was just a case of choosing a region of our lovely island. We decided on Norfolk and a quick look on the internet gave us 3 good value hotels to stay in. We chose the Travelodge at Norwich Cringleford , the Premier Inn at Lowestoft  and the Swan Inn (Inn Keepers Lodge) at Horning . Okay, we all know that Lowestoft is in Suffolk but it is close to the Norfolk boundary and the price at the Premier Inn is right.

We had a good time touring around Norfolk and it was a refreshing break. There was plenty of variety and it brought back memories of driving Leyland Leopards under contract to the nationwide company in the 1980's. I was surprised at the number of roads I came across with a 20 mph speed limit - this seems rather slow and a reflection of the nanny state as opposed to actual hazards or  risk. The further away from large towns we got, the higher the price for pub meals on offer, which made us feel that the Norfolk Broads are a tourist rip-off. We loved the Norfolk beaches and the wind in our hair.

Normally on holiday I have a break away from computers and the internet. Recently I have noticed a lot of places advertising wifi, so I decided to take our laptop along with us. I am not a fan of Widows 7 and prefer the Lubuntu running LXDE on our desktop computer at home. However, I decided to give it a try and was pleased that we took the laptop with us. It proved very useful indeed!

Still, I am back home now and I have another 2 days before I return back to work. I am fully refreshed and have fully enjoyed the trip away from my usual stomping grounds.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

The walled gardens of the internet .

I read a very good article in the Guardian newspaper a last month about how the internet has changed from an anarchic open space to tightly patrolled walled gardens. The article is quite large and you can read it in full by clicking the link above. However the gist of it is this... 

Personal computers are "generative": they can be programmed to do more than they were set up to. Smartphones, on the other hand, generally can't be programmed directly by the user. For the most part, they're appliances, as limited in what they can do as a coffee maker. Facebook does not let Google or any other site index the vast majority of its content; a tiny file called robots.txt on its homepage stops search engines from grabbing details of photos, feeds or other data. 
John Battelle, who runs online advertising network Federated Media, says Facebook poses an existential threat to Google. "The old internet is shrinking and being replaced by walled gardens over which Google's crawlers can't climb," he noted earlier this year, as Facebook prepared its flotation. 
In the same way, Apple's iTunes store is available on the web, and Google can index it, "but all the value creation in the mobile iPhone and iPad app world is behind the walls of Fortress Apple. Google can't see that information, can't crawl it, and can't make it universally available." 
Zittrain has expressed fears about how the devices we use to connect to the net have moved away from being fully capable personal computers – where in theory you can write programs that can use any capability of the computer – towards appliances such as the iPad or iPhone, with tightly limited functionality and access to the underlying operating system software, where only "allowed" programs can be installed from a vendor-maintained store. He calls such a process "tethering". 
Even Microsoft, which ushered in the era of the personal computer running software that in theory could be used to write any program, is heading in the same direction. Versions of Windows 8, to be released in the autumn, will also use Metro Store for apps, which Microsoft will control.
 Media commentator Jeff Jarvis says Apple's iPad is "sweet and pretty but shallow and vapid ... I see danger in moving from the web to apps," he said. "The iPad is retrograde. It tries to turn us back into an audience again." 
The same broad criticism is applied to smartphones, where not just Apple's product, but almost all platforms prevent any sort of easy access to the underlying code; there's no "command line interface" for a smartphone, no black screen and blinking cursor as you can find on a Windows or Apple computer, if you look hard enough.  

...So, what is it that people actually want? A simple, easy to use, safe appliance or the freedom of the internet. You can't have both and as trends catch on it is so easy for vast numbers of users to become residents in these walled gardens that control what content you can view. With this shift of focus by the majority of internet users into these walled gardens we could develop an online society where the average user is afraid to roam the internet and stays totally within the walled gardens. Then the more adventurous and liberal internet users like myself could find that most of the valuable content has migrated to the walled gardens and the only way to get our quality internet fix is to migrate our online life into a walled garden. Trouble is once inside any walled garden your input is closely policed and if anyone can raise an objection to your postings then the moderator of the walled garden can boot you out of the garden for ever. Matthew down on the farm knows this from his own personal experience as he has been booted out from 2 different walled gardens because he posted his opinions frankly, calling a spade a spade.  The general internet has freedom and you can exercise your own freedom of speech and expression. The walled gardens are safe but are open to censorship. What is the point of being in the general internet if the user base is declining and the majority are migrating to the walled gardens? If you want to be in with the action then you may have to join a walled garden but you will lose a lot of freedoms. I do not think that the vast majority of Facebook and Twitter users have thought this through and their continued use of these walled gardens encourages other people to follow rather than to be left out of the party. It is a case of conform to join in or else you will be outlawed to the wilderness of the general internet. 

Friday, May 11, 2012

Crime in the Community by Cecilia Peartree .

Amaryllis moves to Pitkirty in Scotland and straight away takes interest in joining the PLIF - Pitkirty Local Improvement Forum, a jolly band of characters who conduct meetings in the Queen of Scots pub. These monthly meetings are rather drab and appear to be just an excuse to go to the pub. But will the newcomer change things?

Crime in the Community is a farce about village life and steering committies. The reader is teased with sinister undertones and you begin to search for some action or a conspiracy. This novel is a classic slow burner that simply nags at possibilities of a plot but just rambles on. There are many jolly conversations between the characters and there is some mild social comment about problems within British society. This book is good at setting the tone of everday life, for example...

‘Aye,’ said Big Dave. ‘Never trust a man with a silly looking beard and a filofax.’

... and...

He didn't know what to do about Marina and Faisal. He knew if he took them with him, they would be completely impossible en route, whether the small party travelled by train or bus – they would complain about the journey, they would want to go to the toilet when there was no toilet, they would want to gorge themselves on luminous sweets until they were physically ill, and want Diet Coke when there was only Pepsi, and Pepsi Max when there was only Coca Cola.

...Crime in the Community is a drawn out story that is slow to develop. Things slowly drop into place and your suspicions are confirmed. There are no "WOW!" factors. The ending of this novel is no surprise and this book simply fails. I have taken nothing away from reading this quaint tale of village life. Crime in the Community does poke great fun at people's lives, prejudices and funny little ways - but nothing else. It is an easy read and is available as a 356KB Amazon Kindle eBook that was written in 2011. Crime in the Community is a poor book and I shall vote it only 2 stars on Good Reads .

Thursday, May 10, 2012

How the other half live .

I read a shocking article in the Guardian today. The image of London is one of prosperity and wealth. People are getting on with their lives in this vibrant city. You read that London prices are around 25% higher than in the rest of Britain and you put this down to supply and demand. You think that London is such a wonderful and popular place to live and work that paying premium prices must be worth it. But would you want to pay £350 a month to live in a garden shed? No, this is not a joke but it is what is happening all the time in the London borough of Newham. Have these shed dwellers come on hard times? No, they consider themselves to be the lucky ones with their own front door. The alternative for the shed dwellers is to share a room in an overcrowed multiple occupancy house. 

Jyoti, 30, who has an MBA and worked for an American bank before she left India, is good-humoured but politely incredulous at the conditions she has had to put up with since she joined her husband in London. She thinks there are nine people in the house, as well as the family in the back garden. "This many people, I did not expect. When this many people stay together, sharing, obviously there are problems," Jyoti says. 
Most unpleasant is the amount of rubbish the household generates, which never fits into the dustbins, and the rats the litter has attracted. "The dustbin problem is there. The rat problem is there." Her husband pays £520 a month for the room. She has had to take on the bulk of the cleaning in the house because the other tenants (with the exception of a man from Sri Lanka upstairs) don't bother.  

Jyoti feels most sorry for the neighbours in the shed, who tell her the conditions are very poor: it's damp and the drains seem to be seeping upwards, making an unpleasant smell. "There is a problem with the drains here too. They are not set up for the number of people living here," she says. There are only two toilets, which she says, "is not at all enough". She is looking forward to returning to Hyderabad, where the living conditions will be much better. 

...So forget about the flash houses in Kensington and Chelsea, remember that some people can only afford to live in a garden shed or garage. And the rates these people pay are rather high when you consider rents and mortgages in the rest of Britain. So not you know just how the other half in London live and it is rather grim.

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

We have wifi.

My original intention was to go away on holiday and go back online when I got home. On other holidays I have had a break from the internet and I expected this one to be the same. Just in case I changed my mind and as our holiday is in Britain, I brought along our laptop. Okay, it is not my favourite machine as it runs Windows 7 rather than the Lubuntu with LXDE I have on the desktop at home but I can use it. Then we found out that you can buy 7 days unlimited wifi at Premier Inn for just £10 - I can surf on the laptop and Gail can use it or her tablet computer. It is great to be connected and catch up with things. The emails keep coming and Facebook is the usual diet of short updates and jokes.

Oh and what is this on my Google News feed...

Cows on the line 

The cows, which are understood to have been on the tracks in a rural area between Oxford and Banbury, were killed in the accident, but no passengers were injured. Mr Benvie, managing director of Hotwire PR, said: “There’s blood all down the windows of the train. People in the front carriage were in tears, thinking we’d crashed or hit something. You don’t know what it is and obviously fear the worst. The main thing is that everyone is ok. The driver is very shaken and we’re all waiting, hoping we’ll be able to get home.”

Another traveller, Mike Hobson, 53, said: "We started to decelerate very quickly, with cups and bottles falling over on the tables, and felt a juddering." He added passengers in his carriage, towards the back of the train, had reacted in a "stoically British" manner after the accident, at around 5pm today. He wrote on Twitter: "Our train has hit a herd of cows outside Oxford. Soz for all those behind us, just about to tuck into some bbq ribs. Ps no one hurt."

...So, that was a nasty shock for the passengers but they reacted in a typical British manner. We get used to Network Rail making statements like "the wrong snow, rain or leaves on the line" but "cows on the line" is something new. I think the driver must feel dreadful as it is an occupational hazard for people to commit suicide in front of your train but nobody can expect a herd of cattle to stray onto the track. Very lucky that the train did not derail and cause injuries to passengers or staff. Unlike coaches, passengers on trains do not wear seat belts and a train derailment would have many fatalities.

Saturday, May 05, 2012

The new Glamorgan Wanderer.

We are off on holiday tomorrow and I will be off the internet until Thursday 17th May. Our friends will be looking after our pet dog Barney. He is a 12 year old Jack Russell/Lakeland Terrier crossbreed.

This morning I took him on his final walk around Cardiff Bay whilst Gail was shopping in the ASDA. We have done this same walk many times before and takes 60 minutes. We walked from the ASDA to the Cardiff Bay flyover, then under the flyover and through Hamadryad Park. Then along the Clarence Embankment and crossed the River Taff using Clarence Road Bridge. We followed the path south along the river past the Avondale houses. When I got to the Channel View Centre, a venue for canoe training where the footpath joins Jim Driscoll Way, I paused for Barney to catch up as he had run into the bushes. I waited but there was no sign of Barney. I walked back maybe 200 metres calling his name. Still no sign of Barney. I thought he may be ahead of me and as we have done this walk many times before, he may be going back to ASDA and be waiting for me. Sadly when I got back to our car, he was not there.

So I drove our car to the Channel View Centre on Jim Driscoll Way as this was the last location I had spotted him. Gail stayed in the car hoping Barney would appear and I retraced my steps the exact way Barney and I had walked from the ASDA. But there was no sign of Barney. I returned to our car for the second time without our dog. I had been walking for 120 minutes but Barney was only with me for the first 45 minutes.

We then drove to the Cardiff Dogs Home and reported him missing. Today is my mother's 75th birthday and we went to their flat to take her out for her birthday meal. We were just leaving Mother's sheltered housing complex when Gail's mobile telephone rang. "Have you lost a dog?" asked the caller. "Yes, we have." replied Gail "Where are you?"

"Number xxx South Clive Street" replied our mystery caller. So obviously we drove down to South Clive Street and were re-united with our pet dog.

Later this afternoon I was cutting the grass because with going away on holiday tomorrow it would be to long when we got back. All the grass is done and the gear put back in the garage. Now it was time to take Barney to our friends. I am washing my hands and Gail asks "Is Barney with you?" - "No" I replied, "I thought he was with you".

Barney had sneaked off again, Gail went outside shouting his name but Barney did not come. So I left the house and walked around our estate and down to the local park. I got a telephone call from Gail "Come home Stephen, I have got him".

Gail had looked out of our front room window and there was Barney sitting on the grass between Gail's bushes. He was very happy sitting there minding his own business and was totally unaware of the second dog search of the day. He probably thought when I want to come back in I can bark and Stephen will open the front door. Gail has called him other names than Barney today, I think he should change his name to Glamorgan Wanderer.

Readers of this blog who do not know Cardiff and/or where I live should know that the Glamorgan Wanderers is a rugby club 10 minutes walk away from my home. I am sure that if Barney suddenly took an interest in rugby that he could go to matches on his own and come home when he is ready.

Friday, May 04, 2012

You always get one!

Wonderful news across the country as the Labour party defeats the Coalition parties in the local elections. But you always get one disappointment. Sadly it looks almost certain that the comedian with the floppy, fly away blond hair will be re-elected as London Mayor.

How many service doors do you need on a double decker bus? An amazing 3 according to Boris Johnson as his baby of choice, the New Bus for London goes into revenue earning service as opposed to daft talk from bus enthusiasts when they have a little too much to drink.

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