Tuesday, August 30, 2011

The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 Ten Years On

I thoroughly enjoyed The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 Ten Years On, which was broadcast last night on BBC2 television. It only last for 60 minutes but it covered a lot of ground. The programme was well balanced and let the viewer form their opinion of the veracity of each conspiracy theory. Here are five of the most prominent 9/11 conspiracy theories circulating in online communities. The death of Osama Bin Laden might have been expected to put an end to the conspiracy theories, but the failure to release any pictures of Bin Laden's death and the hasty disposal of his body in the Arabian Sea, has instead given these theories a new burst of life.

The Conspiracy Files: 9/11 Ten Years On was a great programme to watch. It was entertaining and although it happened nearly 10 years ago, the reporting seemed very fresh. I enjoy all conspiracies as they offer food for thought and quite often governments have shown that they can't be trusted. Watching the whole programme, I believe that all the 9/11 conspiracies were debunked and shown to be false. Brilliant television though and as I watched each conspiracy being explained, I did think that maybe they were on to something and lies may have been told. Then when experts explained the many flaws in these conspiracies, I understood how people can jump to conclusions when they have been lied to so many times in the past by their elected representatives.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Bleed For Me by Michael Robotham .

Ray Hegarty, a highly respected former detective, lies dead in his daughter Sienna's bedroom. She is found covered in his blood. Everything points to her guilt, but psychologist Joe O'Loughlin isn't convinced.

This novel is set in Bristol and Bath, which is rather nice as I lived around Bristol for 20 years. It is easy reading and has a steady pace. Bleed For Me is a crime thriller and is written in a similar style to novels from Peter James . This story is written in the 1st person, which is the right format because Joe O'Loughlin is the central character and the key to this mystery. Joe solves the murder not through investigative Police skills but by understanding how people think. The ending was okay and all the ends are tied up in the epilogue.

The joy of this book is how Joe analyses everyone he meets. He sums up the other character, decides how they think and then structures his conversation with them to get the required response. There is a lot going on in this novel, the murder, Joe's social life and a court trial. These 3 areas are cleverly linked and the reader develops a lot of doubts. You always hold the hope that Sienna is innocent but you are not convinced. The research into how people think and interview techniques is both good and entertaining. Bleed For Me is a good book and an enjoyable read. It has 470 pages and was written in 2010 but published in paperback in 2011. I found out about Bleed For Me on last year's TV Book Club and I shall vote it 4 stars on Good Reads .

To illustrate the writing style and humour found within Bleed For Me, look at page 51...

Preston is famous for terrorising his pathology students. According to one apocryphal story, he once told a group of trainees that two things were required to conduct an autopsy. The first was no sense of fear. At this point he stuck his finger into a dead man's anus, pulled it out and sniffed it. Then he invited each student to follow his lead and they all complied.

'The second thing you need is an acute sense of observation,' he told them. 'How many of you noticed that I stuck my middle finger into this man's anus, but sniffed my index finger?'

Urban myth? Compelling hearsay? Both probably. Anyone who slices open dead people for a living has to maintain a sense of humour. Either that or you go mad.

...That's one to ponder!

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Radiator hose clamps .

I thought I would change the engine coolant on my Citroen C3 today. The anti-freeze has not been changed since I bought the car new in March 2007. A simple job of remove the radiator bottom hose clamp, drain the coolant, flush and refill with a 50% anti-freeze mixture.

I look at the radiator hose clamp and it is not a common Jubilee Screw/band (Worm Gear) clamp but a type of spring clamp I have not used before. I bought a jubilee clip to replace this spring clamp when I bought the anti-freeze.

I start trying to remove the spring clamp with various screwdrivers and it does not seem to budge. I look at it, curse and try levering it clear with my screwdriver. All I could manage to do was to push the spring clamp around the hose! Will I have to chat with one of the boys at the farm? There must be a simple way to remove these spring clamps.

I look next door and our neighbour's service van is parked on his drive. Anthony is a service engineer for a range of lifting gear. I ring his door bell to pick his brains and ask if he has used them in his day job.

Anthony walks into my garage and I explain the problem. He does not use these spring clamps in his day job but rises to the challenge. Right, he suggests, get a pair of pliers and squeeze both "ears" towards each other, that may loosen the spring clamp. Well, it was a fiddly job and I got a few scratches to my hand but the metal band did expand just enough to slide it back with my other hand. I never thought of using a pair of pliers to open this spring clamp by moving the "ears" closer together. I thought it would have to simply spring open.

Taking the hose off was a doddle and I replaced the old spring clamp with a traditional and user friendly Jubilee type worm gear clamp. I do not know why Citroen uses spring clamps in the manufacture of their excellent cars. What I have learned is that if it is not your day job, do not worry about your pride but ask someone who may do that kind of thing at work. With fiddly jobs like that, two minds and fresh eyes are a bonus that can swiftly get the job done. Thank you Anthony, I offered him some beer but he said no and that you can't beat a Jubilee clip, every time.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Amy Winehouse toxicology reports showed 'no illegal substances'

People were so quick to jump to conclusions about the tragic death of Amy Winehouse. Okay, so Amy did have a history of drug use which was well known but her death could even have been caused by a double decker bus. I thought that Amy's death was very sad and I was further saddened by people's assumption that she had a drugs overdose.

The general public quite often jump to conclusions when they know very little about the circumstances. The public can get brainwashed by the media and can be obsessed with celebrities. The little knowledge they have of celebrities makes people think they know which celebrities are on the slide.

I took the opinion that the coroner would establish the cause of Amy's death. I had an open mind on the cause of her death. Something killed her but I could not guess what it was. I did not think it was suicide as I feel she would have left a statement. I hoped that she was not stupid enough to overdose on drugs. I did not suspect murder but I thought her death was either a tragic accident or an unknown health problem. Tragic accidents do happen all around the world and Amy's death may have been one of those. My top guess is that she had a medical problem that she was totally unaware of and she could have died suddenly at any time.

Monday, August 22, 2011

"Beep!", that's clever.

I have had our Citroen C3 since the 1st March 2007 and I am very pleased with it. I like the design and it does just what I want from a car. We have had no problems with it and all we have paid for is the routine replacement of tyres and oil plus filters.

I switched the ignition on yesterday and watched as the dashboard electronics booted up and went through the normal start up procedures. Then I turned the key further and started the engine. The ECU light then went out as it should with the engine running but just before I dabbed the clutch pedal there was an audible "Beep!". Just the one "Beep!" and nothing else. There was no warning light on the dashboard and all the gauges were okay. The only time before I have heard a "Beep!" is when the petrol tank has less than 6 litres left. When this happens the petrol gauge displays one bar and the pump icon lights on the dashboard. All I got yesterday was a single "Beep!" and no warning light.

I got out to do an inspection to find out what made the electronics return a single "Beep!". The answer was easy for me to spot - a failed offside brake light bulb.

What a wonderful idea that was for Citroen to build into the electronics. In the background after starting the engine the electronics must check the light bulbs and return a single "Beep!" if one is broken. There are no nagging sounds or lights to distract the driver and you can complete your journey. I am impressed with this added safety feature I never knew the Citroen C3 had.

Friday, August 19, 2011

"Duh! What day is it?"

Driving all around our country in my coach I pass many, many billboards. It is only natural for me to read them and take notice, even if it is something that does not interest me. I view advertising billboards as an art form and look forward to new advertising campaigns. The billboard campaign for the new series of Big Brother is rather striking. It really gets the point across with the most important thing in big bold type, that it starts on Wednesday 17th August

I am not a fan of Big Brother but Gail is and she is looking forward to the new series. I told her that it is advertised on many billboards and will come back on Wednesday 17th August. No, Gail said, it starts on Thursday 18th August because it says so in her television magazine. Going shopping with her on Wednesday I pointed out the billboard on the Cowbridge Road. She was anxious to consult her magazine again and the on screen television guide. Well, I teased her, look at how big the billboard is compared to your magazine and our television set! Surely Channel 5 would not spend all that amount of money advertising the wrong date!

Big Brother did in fact start on Thursday 18th August and ALL the billboards were wrong. Seems that Big Brother does not know it's arse from it's elbow, never mind a calendar.

The other Big Brother is no better though. Our coaches are fitted with the Alcolock system where the coach will not start unless the driver provides a zero breath sample. I blow into the device this morning at the farm, start the coach and drive to Cardiff. I pull onto the stand and Gavin drags me into the office for a Random Breath Test. I said don't be stupid, how could I have got the coach started and driven here? He replied that Head Office still demand Random Breath Tests even where Alcolocks are fitted. What does the other Big Brother think drivers may be doing? Passing the Alcolock breath test and then opening a bottle of beer to drink on the way to the Central Station.

So, which is dafter, the Channel 5 Big Brother or the nationwide company?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Judge Elgan Edwards in knee jerk reaction.

Two men have been handed four-year jail terms for setting up Facebook pages encouraging people to riot – even though the riots never took place. Jordan Blackshaw, 20, from Marston near Northwich, and Perry Sutcliffe-Keenan, 22, from Warrington, appeared at Chester Crown Court yesterday and both pleaded guilty to inciting violent disorder.

The court heard how Blackshaw was the only person who turned up to his own riot and was promptly arrested by police whilst Sutcliffe-Keenan's riot page was only up for a few hours before he took it down again. Blackshaw labelled his Facebook group "Smash dwn [sic] in Northwich Town" and called on his friends to meet behind McDonald's in the town centre on Tuesday 9 August for "lootin". The police had already infiltrated his group and, according to the prosecutor Martin McRobb, only nine of his 147 friends even bothered to reply to his call to arms.

Sutcliffe-Keenan, meanwhile, used his Facebook account in the early hours of 9 August to design a web page entitled The Warrington Riots. The page was live for several hours before he took it down but it had already caused a wave of panic in the town.
According to prosecutors, 47 people confirmed their attendance on the site before it was shut down. In the end, however, no one turned up.

...The above story demonstrates a knee jerk reaction by Judge Elgan Edwards. I consider this punishment totally inappropriate to the offence. What ever happened to free speech and freedom of association? Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan did not create a riot, they only posted on Facebook. Yes, they did create some mischief but so do Muslims when they discuss jihad and terrorism. Will the courts be sentencing Muslims if they write on Facebook their support for jihad? We should be able to have freedom in the press and on the internet. What good is putting in prison at tax payers expense Blackshaw and Sutcliffe-Keenan for 4 years? I do not think that their risk of re-offending is greater than the average citizen. The only sentence I would give is one of adult literacy to Blackshaw and to let Sutcliffe-Keenan off with a caution because he deleted his web page when he had second thoughts. Bringing this case to trial was malicious by the Police and a waste of public money. And now we have to pay for these to mischievous young men to stay in prison for 4 years.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Shining a light on.

I am not a fan of soap operas but Gail loves them. Last night I was sat on the sofa next to Gail reading a book. At the end of each paragraph I would glance up at the television, take in the scene and return to my book. Gail enjoyed her trio of soap operas, Emmerdale, EastEnders and Coronation Street. What amazed me was the lighting used on all the soap operas. Each programme was filmed with bright stage lights shining onto the talking actors. There is a place for strong spotlights in entertainment, that is the theatre. Bright lighting onto a stage performance is appropriate and brings out the best in the actors. Television soap operas are supposed to reflect ordinary life. In real life when you have a conversation with someone, you do not shine a search light on them.

At the end of each paragraph I continued to glance up and this stage lighting started to annoy me. This lighting brought these programmes further away from reality. All I seemed to do was to look for the unnatural shadows. All three soap operas did it and none was worse than the other two.

I challenged Gail about this bad filming and she claimed not to have noticed. Gail reckons that the dialogue is so absorbing that she did not notice the bright lights! As I type this blog post now, EastEnders is on again. The sound is a distraction and it amazes me that the dialogue is question orientated. Actor one asks actor two a question. Actor two replies not with an answer but with another question! This constant question, question, question is dreadful! Normal people do not talk like that, surely? Still, Gail loves her soap operas and that is better than her droning on the telephone whilst I am on the computer.

But did you know that too much television can shorten your life? Watching too much television could shorten your life, a study suggests. Research carried out in Australia, and published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, showed that every hour of TV watched after the age of 25 may shorten lifespan by 22 minutes. According to one of the report's authors, Dr Lennert Veerman, from the School of Population Health at the University of Queensland, it puts long hours spent in front of the box "in the same ballpark as smoking and obesity". "While smoking rates are declining, watching TV is not, which has implications at a population level," he said.

Last year, another Australian study found an hour of TV a day led to an 8% increase in the risk of premature death.

The report also showed that a person who watches an average of six hours of TV a day would live on average 4.8 years less than someone who watches none.

Which is rather sad as Gail is obese and does watch rather a lot of television.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

"Look, I'll pay you another 30 minutes."

Today was the London Olympics 2012 test event . People were warned in advance of severe traffic congestion in London, particularly in West London as the London Surrey Cycle Classic takes place on closed roads along a 140km route which runs from central London to Surrey and back. Roads were closed from 04.00 this morning and the Transport for London website warned that...

It will be an exciting spectacle, but roads and transport,
including access to Heathrow and the M25, will be severely affected on the day.

...The nationwide company warned passengers that their coach journey into London Victoria Coach Station would take 60 minutes longer due to the congestion. Looking at the BBC News website I read that...

there were some complaints on social networking websites about traffic problems and that the event was not televised.

One traveller who contacted the BBC from Fulham Palace Road near the route said she had been stuck in heavy traffic for about three hours which eventually came to a standstill.

She said: "There are lots of security people saying they can't move the bollards off the road until they're told otherwise but they don't seem to be making much effort to find out.

"People are sounding their horns, they can't get through. It is a bit ridiculous. There's no through route to get to where we live in south-west London."

...So, how did Stephen get on today? I had the same duty as yesterday and was instructed to go a very different way into London Victoria Coach Station. I was told that the regular route along the A4 Cromwell Road was closed and that I would have to drive along the M25, the M40, the A40, the A501 to Kings Cross, then the A201 to Blackfriars Bridge and then along the Southbank of the River Thames as far as Vauxhall Bridge. This is quite a round about way, like going three quarters of the way around a circle. So you are looking at the same duty, at the same time of day on consecutive days. It was anybody's guess just how late I would be due to the extra mileage and the traffic congestion. I thought it would either go okay or London would grind to a halt. I did not think it would be somewhere in between, it would either work or fail big time.

Some drivers were a little nervous of going a different route and were worried of getting lost. I went to school in London for 3 years and spent quite some time as a boy travelling around on buses throughout London with a day rider ticket. So, I simply looked at the map and thought okay, that appears easy enough. The result, 30 minutes late arriving into London Victoria Coach Station and 30 minutes late finishing work. My meal break was reduced down to the bare legal minimum of 45 minutes. The traffic was steady but moving in both directions. I will be okay going this route again in 2012.

So I have earned another 30 minutes pay today, thank you Boris.

Friday, August 12, 2011

Sacred Games by Vikram Chandra .

I read the product description on Amazon ...

An enormously satisfying, exciting and enriching book, Vikram Chandra's novel draws the reader deep into the lives of detective Sartaj Singh and Ganesh Gaitonde, the most wanted gangster in India. Sartaj, the only Sikh inspector in the whole of Mumbai, is used to being identified by his turban, beard and the sharp cut of his trousers. But 'the silky Sikh' is now past forty, his marriage is over and his career prospects are on the slide. When Sartaj gets an anonymous tip off as to the secret hideout of the legendary boss of the G-company, he's determined that he'll be the one to collect the prize.This is a sprawling, epic novel of friendships and betrayals, of terrible violence, of an astonishing modern city and its underworld. Drawing on the best of Victorian fiction, mystery novels, Bollywood movies and Vikram Chandra's years of first hand research on the streets of Mumbai, this novel reads like a potboiling page-turner but resonates with the intelligence and emotional depth of the best of literature.

...That's one for me, I thought, a crime thriller set in Mumbai. You open this book and come to the Dramatis Personae, which is a list of all the major characters in this novel...

Sartaj Singh: a Sikh police inspector in Mumbai

Katekar: a police constable who works with Sartaj Singh

Shalini, Katekar’s wife

Mohit and Rohit, their sons

Mrs Kamala Pandey: a married woman and airline hostess with a lover, an airline pilot named Umesh

Kamble: an ambitious police sub-inspector who works with Sartaj Singh

Parulkar: a deputy commissioner of police in Mumbai

Ganesh Gaitonde: a notorious Hindu gangster and don, leader of the G-Company in Mumbai

Suleiman Isa: a much-feared Muslim gangster and don, leader of a rival gang in Mumbai

Paritosh Shah: a supremely gifted money handler for gangsters, including Ganesh Gaitonde

Kanta Bai: a businesswoman who deals with Paritosh Shah and Ganesh Gaitonde

Badriya: Paritosh Shah’s bodyguard

Anjali Mathur: a government intelligence agent investigating Ganesh Gaitonde’s death

Chotta Badriya: Ganesh Gaitonde’s bodyguard, and the younger brother of Badriya

Juliet (Jojo) Mascarenas: a television producer/agent for aspiring actors and models … and a high class Madam

Mary Mascarenas: Jojo’s sister who works as a hairdresser

Wasim Zafar Ali Ahmad: a social worker in a poor neighbourhood in Mumbai who has political aspirations

Prabhjot Kaur, ‘Nikki’: Sartaj Singh’s mother, originally from the Punjab Navneet, her beloved oldest sister

Ram Pari: the maidservant of Nikki’s mother in the Punjab

Bunty: Ganesh Gaitonde’s right hand man and organizer

Bipin Bhonsle: a Hindu fundamentalist politician whom Ganesh Gaitonde helps get elected to public office

Sharma (aka Trivedi): Bipin Bhonsle’s ally who also works, through intermediaries, for Swami Shridhar Shukla

Swami Shridhar Shukla, ‘Guru-ji’: a Hindu guru and nationalist, a spiritual adviser of international renown, who becomes Ganesh Gaitonde’s spiritual mentor

Subhadra Devalekar: Ganesh Gaitonde’s wife and mother of his young son

K. D. Yadav (aka Mr Kumar): a pioneering Indian intelligence officer who ‘ran’ Ganesh Gaitonde and became a mentor to Anjali Mathur

Mr Kulkarni: the intelligence agent who runs Ganesh Gaitonde after K. D. Yadav

Major Shahid Khan: a Pakistani intelligence agent who masterminds a counterfeit money operation against India

Shambhu Shetty: proprietor of the Delite Dance Bar

Iffat-bibi: Suleiman Isa’s maternal aunt who is one of his main controllers in Mumbai

Majid Khan: a police inspector in Mumbai, a colleague of Sartaj Singh

Zoya Mirza: an actress and a rising star in the Indian film industry

Aadil Ansari: an educated but poor man from a small rural town who flees to Mumbai to escape the violent conflicts of his native Bihar

Sharmeen Khan: the high-school-age daughter of Major Shahid Khan, who moves to the USA to work in Washington, DC, and brings his family – wife, daughter, and mother – with him

Daddi: Shahid Khan’s mother, originally from the Punjab; to her family, she is a Muslim, but she hides a secret

...Sacred Games is not a short story, it is a HUGE epic novel that was written in 2006 and has 960 pages in paperback, also available as a 1503 KB Kindle text file. The current price for the Kindle Edition is £6.12 but I bought in April for £1.35 which is an absolute bargain and real value for money!

Sacred Games is not just a crime thriller, it takes the reader on a journey to explore life among the people of Mumbai. It is like an adventure holiday with people and a culture you would never meet. There are criminals and other people caught up in this underworld of Mumbai away from the gloss. This full story of Mumbai life covers a wide range of issues and shows how Hindus, Muslims and Sikhs can live together.

Sacred Games highlights attitude, for example at location 2901...

It was unseemly, after all these years and years, this unvanquished and sullen spark rising from clothes on the floor, this small spurt of anger at having to always do things for men, always.

...and highlights prejudice against religions, for example at locations 3306 and 3465...

Mata-ji began to curse Muslims. ‘No one can ever live with these people,’ she said. ‘They are incapable of living peacefully with anyone.’ Her face was suffused with blood, flushed and thickened by it. ‘Dirty lying people,’ she said.

‘Why? Why be quiet? I’ll shout it out loud. These Muslims are bhenchods and maderchods. If all their women were standing in front of me, I would hang them up and cut them open like goats. I would pull out their intestines with my own hands. With pleasure I would do it. Bhenchods. Maderchods.’

...A great deal of Sacred Games deals with spirituality, the meaning of life and the relevance of gods between faiths. You do not need to be an expert on Hinduism, Islam and Sikhism to understand how these characters challenge their own beliefs and that of other faiths. The interaction and mistrust between these characters who observe different religions is rather interesting as they get on with their lives in Mumbai. Two quotes to highlight spirituality can be found at locations 4713 and 14486...

I was tempted to believe. But early in my life, I had seen how belief was an inner rot that hollowed out a man and made him a eunuch. I knew faith was a convenient crutch for cowards and weaklings. No, I wanted no such disease inside me.

Where would home be when home was gone? Could you have a home away from home when there was no home? What would you long for, what would you dream of when you settled into sleep? When somebody asked, where do you come from, what would you say?

...But it is not all about survival in Mumbai, there is a lot of good banter and humour too, for example at locations 5064, 8062, 11480, 11770 and 14737...

‘You watch. One heavy rain and trains will stop. This chutiya central line, if ten schoolboys stand in a row and piss on the tracks, bhenchod service is disrupted.’

Dipu and Meetu were talking about women, about the prodigies of chodoing they were going to achieve when they got out. Kataruka was laughing at them. ‘You ganwars,’ he said. ‘You think those Lamington Road whores are women? They’re bhenchod worse than animals. You might as well chodo the next bitch you see nosing around in a garbage dump.

Giving a woman any information is a foolishness that I counselled my boys against. Whatever you tell will always be one day used against you.

‘Baba, I said it’ll be a hit, no? All I’m saying is that it’s a certain kind of film.’ ‘Yes, it’s not the kind where you have three women jabbering at each other about how sad and put-down they are for one and a half hours, and then another two women ranting about how bad men are for another hour. Gaandu, you make a dozen television shows like that if you want, but you’re not going to shove my film down that smelly path.’

‘A virgin?’ ‘Yes.’ ‘You idiot. How do you think she survived in this city before she came to you? You bhenchod men always pay more for virgins, so she became a virgin for you.’ ‘No. I saw the blood.’ She laughed so hard she had to hold on to the side of a table. ‘Gaitonde, of all the pompous, gaandu men in the world, you are the blindest. Arre, inside ten miles of here there are twenty doctors who will make any woman a virgin again. The operation takes half an hour, it costs twenty-five, thirty thousand rupees. And in three weeks the renewed virgin can be ready to spread her legs on a white sheet, so some tiny little Gaitonde can see all the blood and think he’s big.’

...India had problems over the years with terrorism and the intelligence community has it's work cut out. These terrorist threats may not come from the usual suspects. A relevant quote is at location 5243...

‘The old saying goes: once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, three times is enemy action.'

...Sacred Games features lots of villains on both sides of the law. A police force with endemic corruption that is accepted by the Police and the residents as the norm. This book gives the reader a view of another world from the comfort of your armchair. There is a lot variety with this story as there are many plots running at the same time. Because Sacred Games is such a HUGE epic novel, it took me 14 weeks to read through it all. Then I had a wave of feeling that I had been to Mumbai and now I had returned to everyday life back in Britain.

The people of Mumbai appear to be trapped in their vibrant city but make the most of it and never want to leave. I enjoyed reading Sacred Games and got a lot from it. It is quality writing and is easy to read. This novel is full of local colour and you get the vibe of the city. This book not only entertains but also broadens your mind. When you finish reading this story, you think back and feel as though you have travelled.

Ganesh Gaitonde and Sartaj Singh are the two main characters but everyone plays a meaningful part. The structure of this book is unusual because early on Sartaj captures Ganesh. From this point the story splits in two directions, Ganesh describes what has happened to him before his capture by Sartaj and Sartaj describes what happens after Ganesh's capture. Normally books that mess about with a time-line really annoy me and I avoid them. Sacred Games is different and this use of two time scales actually works because it teaches the reader about how life goes on in Mumbai for the people work live and work there, quite often among the underworld. This playing around with the time scale allows the reader to understand the whole culture of Mumbai and this is the real treasure of Sacred Games. Then you understand the constant threat of betrayal that all the characters have to live with every day. This sense of betrayal really works at the minds of characters and you then begin to feel empathy for them, even if they are the bad guys. You take on this worry about betrayal and you start to think ahead and wonder who will betray who next and for what reason.

I make no apologies for the length of this book review. It took me 14 weeks to read through Sacred Games and it was not a chore but a joy. It is an epic novel and a tremendous amount of work has gone into it. There does not appear to be any padding in this novel, it just seems to be it's natural length to explain in full the vibrancy of Mumbai's underworld and how the values of Ganesh and Sartaj actually meet. It is no wonder how Vikram Chandra has won so many awards and acclaim for Sacred Games...

Sacred Games is the winner of the Hutch Crossword Book Award 2006 in the English Fiction category; the winner of a 2007 Salon Book Award; and a Finalist, National Book Critics Circle Award for Fiction. It is also included in:

"Books of the Year," The Independent (UK)

"Twenty Best Books of the Year," Le Point (France)

"Books of the Year," Financial Times (UK)

"Pick of the Month," January 2007, Booksense (USA)

"10 Best Asian Books of 2006," Time Magazine (Asia Edition)

"Best Fiction of 2006," Guardian (USA)

"The Fiction List for 2006," Bloomberg.com (USA)

"Notable Books," Sahara Time (India)

"Fiction of the Year," Business Standard (India)

"Best Books," Man's World (India)

"Roll of Honour," The Financial Express (India)

"Notable Books," San Francisco Chronicle (USA)

...So, what do I vote Sacred Games on Good Reads ? For this epic reading experience I vote Sacred Games the maximum score of 5 stars without hesitation. Well done Vikram, you have written a lovely book which was also excellent value for money.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Out of bounds in Birmingham .

What sort of country has Britain turned into? I thought we lived in a free society where people had freedoms of movement and expression. I thought people could wander about openly in public spaces and enjoy the freedom of our cities. I thought the idea of a police state belonged to parts of Russia. No, the police state is a little closer to home, like Birmingham.

I was shocked watching the news on television this morning to witness that the Police had closed off Birmingham city centre. I could not believe that in 2011 the Police could simply close off a whole city centre. This is disgusting and brings Britain further down the road to a police state. Our freedoms are slowly being eroded away. We all pay for the police through the community charge and what do they do, treat us no better than cattle.

This is awful the Police closing a city centre, that should never happen in a free and democratic society. What has our country come to when you are denied access to a city centre and public transport passengers are left stranded by the whim of the Police?

Looking at the Birmingham Mail , here are some snips to describe the new police state that residents pay for and could be arrested for breaking through police lines...

4.30pm update: 600 officers on streets as city centre closes early BIRMINGHAM city centre is once again closing down early for the night amid fears a third night of violence may be about to blight the city.

The Bullring shopping centre decided to close at 4pm today after being targetted by rioters on Monday, when arond 800 people ran amok in the city centre, smashing windows and looting stores.

10pm update: City centre locked down but police report quiet night

Police have shut off routes into the city centre, but say this is just a precaution.

As a result, buses are terminating just outside the city centre.

Earlier, the force had advised people to steer clear of the city centre. Many shops, including those in the Bullring, closed at 4pm today.

Birmingham Riots: Transport bosses defend decision to stop services

TRANSPORT chiefs who left bus passengers stranded by stopping services short of Birmingham city centre defended the decision.

Innocent bystanders were left stranded in the middle of Birmingham from 8.30pm on Tuesday when buses began terminating a mile from the central area.

Birmingham Coach Station, in Digbeth, also closed after a van was set on fire and looters stormed a cafe in nearby Bordesley Street.

Travellers left high and dry tweeted they were concerned for their safety.

But a spokesman for bus and coach company National Express West Midlands said it curbed services on the advice of West Midlands Police.

“It was not a business decision,” the spokesman said. “We made it in consultation with police.”

Birmingham riots: A tense calm returns to Birmingham city centre

As a precautionary measure, all routes into the city centre were closed off by police from 9pm and National Express West Midlands buses were dropping passengers off at the inner city centre ring road.

Shops and offices in the city centre shut early so that staff and shoppers could get home without incident.

The Bullring was one of the first to close before 4pm, followed by the House of Fraser and nearby Great Western Arcade.

...So, that was Birmingham City Centre closed off to the public. Next Sunday, a large number of roads in Central and West London will be closed off for the London Surrey Cycle Classic . London is preparing to welcome the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and the London-Surrey Cycle Classic road race on 14 August 2011 will be one of the most important test events. The race will take place on closed roads along a 140km route which runs from central London to Surrey and back. It will be an exciting spectacle, but roads and transport, including access to Heathrow and the M25, will be severely affected on the day.

The nationwide company advises passengers that journeys to and from London may take another 60 minutes. Time will tell but London could quite simply gridlock. So much for freedom of movement in our democratic country.

Sunday, August 07, 2011

the whole truth by David Baldacci .

The rear cover of this novel reads...

Nicolas Creel, a super-rich arms dealer, decides that the best way to boost his business is to start a new cold war - and he won't let anything or anyone get in his way.

...the whole truth has 545 pages and was written in 2008. This book is a conspiracy and it is one of the better ones. It is an enjoyable tale and is one of David's better novels. David Baldacci can write some very good novels but the last novel of his I read, Stone Cold , left me rather disappointed and I voted it a FAIL with only 2 stars on Good Reads . Thankfully the whole truth see's David back to his quality writing form!

The Author's Note at the end of this book explains this story which I think was inspired by the events leading up to the illegal invasion of Iraq in 2003...

The term "perception management" has firmly entered the public lexicon. The Department of Defense even defines perception management in one of it's manuals, so the military folks obviously take it very seriously. Many public relations firms now offer perception management, or "PM" as one of their services. However, it seems that not many of them do it very well. Apparently, if you want to be exceptional at creating the Big Lie, you really need to specialize in it.

PM's are not spin doctors because they don't spin facts. They create facts and then sell them to the world as the truth. And that, to quote the venerable Mark Twain (who would've has a field day with the PM guys), is the difference between the lightning bug and lightning.

Many of the techniques outlined in the story are standard operating procedures for these folks, even if I give them a different rubric. And by using these methods, a major untruth can be established so quickly and overwhelmingly across the world that no digging by anyone after the fact can make a dent in the public consciousness that it actually isn't true at all.

And that's precisely what makes it so dangerous.

...This novel gives you a good walk through in how to make a false tale believable. It fully explains the techniques of perception management, for example on page 368...

By that evening, Pender had planted in several different but highly visible places on the Internet entries implying that a drastic turn of events regarding the London Massacre was about to be revealed.

"Startling new revelations," one fake blog entry proclaimed. "Insider's account to be revealed."

Another said that "global consequences are resting on the murders in England and what really happened there and why." and that it was connected to another recent murder in London. And that the story would be revealed in full any minute and the truth would be astonishing.

Pender had had these statements placed on sites that he knew most newspapers, including the scribe , trolled hour by hour for material.

...But our heroes are an intelligence agent called Shaw and a journalist called Katie James. Together Shaw and James spot some tiny errors in the detail of these lies and save the day. David's usual trademark of plenty of action that is quick and fast, moves this tale along at a fast pace. What is nice is the detail concerning perception management and our security services. This novel is not a local drama but a tale spread across a wide range of countries as they become a part of this conspiracy. The great attention to detail makes this story a joy to read and shows the huge amount of research David did to create such a realistic background. For example on page 363...

The cafe was near King's Cross Station. She sat outside and waited for him, watching the "bendy-buses," as Londoners had dubbed them. They had taken the place of double-deckers and were basically two buses joined together by a flex joint. They were not liked very much by Londoners because they often clogged the city's narrow intersections when making a turn.

That's my life, thought Katie. I've got a dozen bendy-buses blocking every possible direction I can take.

...All the main characters in the whole truth are not nice people, even our heroes are rather rough. The ending of this story was a little far fetched though. However, the whole truth is a good book and I will vote it 4 stars on Good Reads. After you finish this book you wonder just how much perception management is going on today. The obvious candidates are the invasions of Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003. The less obvious ones are the claims made by nationwide companies regarding their punctuality of service, concerns about safety and being customer focused.

Thursday, August 04, 2011

More than the odd picture .

Home computer users quite often have a number of images on their computer. Bus spotters can collect a huge number of images of buses and coaches. Look at the Bus Pictures Group on Flickr and you can whip yourself into a frenzy over 129,672 images in this pool. Now then 129,672 is an awful lot of buses to look at but this is less than half the number of images on Daniel Taylor's computer. Daniel is not interested in buses or coaches.

A paedophile who police believe is the UK's most prolific collector of child abuse images has been given an indeterminate jail sentence. Daniel Taylor, 31, of Farnley, Leeds, had more than 300,000 images of abuse and pleaded guilty to 27 offences.

At Bradford Crown Court, he admitted 20 counts of making indecent images, four of taking indecent images and two counts of sexual assault on a baby. Taylor had a video guide on abusing children and "not leaving a trace".

Police in London identified Taylor as being "the single most prolific 'owner' of such images in the UK". West Yorkshire Police said new file-sharing technology and software from the US had been used to cross-reference a range of data in order to "rank" suspects. A spokesman said: "Even today, according to this software, he is still listed as number one in the country."

Why did Daniel want so many images of children? Over 300,000 is more than a group of bus spotters on Flickr can pool together, never mind one collector on his home computer. No wonder Daniel pleaded guilty as this was not just a passing or spotting interest but an obsession. No wonder Judge Rodney Grant said Taylor had been "opportunistic and predatory" and imposed an indeterminate jail sentence. The risk of Daniel re-offending must be HUGE. Well done to the Police for catching Britain's number one collector of child abuse images.

Wednesday, August 03, 2011

My new talk talk broadband wireless router has arrived.

Postman Pat delivered my new wireless router today. There was no charge for this device as I have agreed to stay connected to talk talk for another 12 months. This new router is a D Link DSL 2680 . It is a very small box with just 2 LAN connections and an internal wireless aerial. Setting up this router was very easy indeed. For new users there is a simple CD to install the device or you can configure it using the dialogue boxes on your operating system. You can view the router from your browser by entering "" into the address bar. The username and passwords for this webpage are both "admin" which is a convention that talk talk have used for a number of years with their routers. This new wireless router works very well and I am happy with it. I have checked the WiFi with my Kindle and it works fine. Looking at the specifications it appears that the D Link DSL 2680 is very similar to my Belkin N150 Enhanced Wireless Router.

D Link have been in business for 25 years and has 5 manufacturing plants worldwide:
* one manufacturing plant in California, USA;
* two in Hsin-chu, Taiwan;
* one in Dong Guan Province, China;
* one in Verna, India.

So time will tell how long this new wireless router will last. I wonder if talk talk has changed it's supply of routers from Huawei to D Link because of frequent component failure?

Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Virgin takes a gamble on the streets of London .

Okay, I could not resist the raunchy title for this blog post. The Daily Telegraph provides the cleaner title and details though...

Virgin Media to 'take a punt' on free London WiFi network.

Virgin Media is close to launching a free public WiFi scheme in London that will challenge BT’s Openzone network, which charges for access. The firm’s chief executive Neil Berkett told investors that it was in “quite advanced negotiations” with London councils over the plans and said he was optimistic the rollout would begin “in the not too distant future”.
“The proposition would be that we would provide free Wifi access for all,” he said.
Virgin Media’s WiFi network will be freely available to anyone at 0.5Mbps, and to its home broadband subscribers at up to 10Mbps.
The approach contrasts with BT’s extensive Openzone network, which although free to BT broadband customers, is charged at as much as £5.99 for 90 minutes’ browsing.
Mr Berkett described the plans as “a punt” that will cost Virgin Media “a few million pounds” and will “keep them [BT] honest”.
Virgin Media plans to install WiFi routers in its existing infrastructure, including the street-side cabinets that distribute its cable network into home. The talks with councils are focused on gaining permission for the necessary works.

...This is rather good news and in the spirit of a free internet. Virgin Media are taking a gamble by giving away for free their spare capacity. But this gamble should pay-off for Virgin Media as it really gets their brand across to the public for less cost than traditional advertising. People like things for free and it will make BT Openzone appear rather greedy and Richard Branson the good guy. It is very public spirited to offer free WiFi to people away from their homes. Many businesses are now offering free WiFi to their customers, a perk that costs little per user but generates great customer loyalty and good will.

Many Police stations have extensive radio type equipment on their roofs. The Police have great difficulty in getting support from the general public because of their policies on peaceful demonstrations and speed limits. Maybe if the Police were to offer free WiFi to people near their stations, they may recoup some of their lost support from the public.

Monday, August 01, 2011

Google Chrome is now Britain's second favourite web browser.

I have been using Google Chrome for 17 months and I am as happy with it now as I was in January 2010. Three years after launch, Chrome last month captured 22% of UK users and marginally overtook Mozilla's Firefox browser, according to the web metrics firm Statcounter.

So I am clearly not alone and I believe it still has the edge over Mozilla Firefox. Google Chrome is fast and gives me the experience I want from the World Wide Web. Although Google has been criticised recently over privacy concerns, it's search engine and browser does send you very quickly where you generally want to go. I will continue to use Google Chrome and although it can send you in certain directions due to it's data mining of your previous browsing history, it is you who enter the criteria into the search box.

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