Je suis libre.
Je suis libre de penser.
Je suis libre de tolérer.
Je suis libre de caricaturer.
Je suis un Charlie.
As one monotonous tune blends in to the next piece of derivative rubbish the [thinks he is funnier than he is] DJ pitches in with some false enthusiasm for the last track, and I quote him here;
“Did you hear me wanking over that?”
I wasn’t sure I had heard properly, I am old now and I don’t hear as well as I used to, so i asked the guy sitting next to me what he had heard just then. He didn’t need to say anything, his face said it all. The next piece of childish boyband rubbish was now playing so I pulled up the BBC web site and found out who I was listening to. Nick Grimshaw. Frankly I have no idea who this man is, he sounds just like all the other children presenting on Radio 1.
For a long time, and I don’t think its just my age, I have thought Radio 1 has lost its way. I remember when everyone listened to Radio 1, it was the place to be on a Saturday evening before you went out to the sixth form disco. It premiered some of the best bands in the world. Radio 1 pioneered the way and I have tuned in almost every day for the last 40+ years.
The problem is it seems Radio 1 has been dumbed down, like so much of the media content these days its like there is no budget any more, just fill the space with self proclaimed personalities and hope no one notices you are not spending money on content any more.
So where was I? Yes; You just cant have a prime time radio DJs saying “Did you hear me wanking over that” at 9:50 on a Tuesday morning. no excuses, no. A few minutes later; “Oh you thought you heard me say wanking, i said wanging; w a n g i n g”. He even spelt it out. Idiot.
Anyway, “Wanging”, according to the Urban Dictionary; To wang someone is to slap your wang in someones face from side to side repeatedly.
Like I said; Idiot.
It has been a strange and disturbing few weeks in the world but between the lines there is a story sometimes amusing and at the same time disturbing. This is a story that highlights the extreme cultural differences between middle aged English Man and middle aged American Man.
Mild mannered, middle class, BMW and power washer owning suburban English man reacted badly to the following headline; EU ban on high-power vacuum cleaners comes into force, hitting five of the seven best-rated products.
The EU directive is tied up in the member countries commitment to clean up our environment and although the headline is shocking it hides the true message. Manufacturers have to design better, more efficient products. A bit like changes in the rules for Formula 1 cars mean they dont use massive petrol guzzling V8 engines. Natural evolution and great design has evolved the small, ultra high revving frugal but ultimately powerful engines that carry the cars round the tracks of the world at amazing speed. Vacuum cleaners need to go the same way. This change in the law will force manufacturers to make fester, leaner and more efficient cleaners.
Unashamedly riotous and provocative headlines prompted a veritable rush on the shops to buy the last remaining stocks of high powered vacuum cleaners, rumor has it that the 2,200 watt Miele s8330 is selling for more on ebay now than you could buy them in the shops a month ago, I should have stocked up!
While this story played out in England the middle aged American man was suffering an equally terrible, but much more disturbing loss as UN sanctions placed on Russia began to bite. Intended or not by Obama and his administration the ban on imports of some Russian goods came to a head when Americans realized their beloved AK47 assault rifle was made in Russia and was now a victim of the war in Ukraine. It was announced that there will be no more imports of Russian made arms to America [the hypocrisy of this will become apparent soon] and so a rush began on the gun shops of every American town as the last of these iconic machine guns was snapped up.
And now for the hypocrisy. While America has used sanctions to ban the import of Russian made weapons the Europeans have continued to supply Russia with weapons ranging from hand guns to war ships.
On the 23rd July, just a month ago, the Guardian reported “UK arms export licenses for Russia still in place despite claims of embargo”
More than 200 licences to sell British weapons to Russia, including missile-launching equipment, are still in place despite David Cameron’s claim in the Commons on Monday that the government had imposed an absolute arms embargo against the country, according to a report by a cross-party group of MPs released on Wednesday.
A large number of British weapons and military components which the MPs say are still approved for Russia are contained in a hard-hitting report by four Commons committees scrutinising arms export controls.
Existing arms export licences for Russia cover equipment for launching and controlling missiles, components for military helicopters and surface-launched rockets, small arms ammunition, sniper rifles, body armour, and military communications equipment, the committee says. They also include licences for night sights for weapons, components for operating military aircraft in confined spaces, and surface-to-surface missiles.
The French also have two battle ships on their way to Russia, the orders were not cancelled as that would make 1,000 French men and women unemployed.
Like I said, a strange and disturbing few weeks in the world.
Mr Cameron today constructed a sentence with references to both pedophiles and the growth of Isis and used it to justify the implementation of laws that are intended to replace an EU directives that was considered to infringe human rights. And he did it for your protection?
The European Court struck down an EU directive in April requiring phone and internet companies to retain communications data on the grounds that it infringed human rights.
On July 10th 2014 the government argued Emergency legislation was needed, because service providers were being threatened with legal action by campaigners if they did not start destroying data [in compliance with the European Court ruling] , some of which could prove vital to criminal investigations and court cases according to the government.
Accordingly Mr Cameron said: “We face real and credible threats to our security from serious and organised crime, from the activity of pedophiles, from the collapse of Syria, the growth of Isis in Iraq and al Shabab in East Africa.
“I am simply not prepared to be a prime minister who has to address the people after a terrorist incident and explain that I could have done more to prevent it.”
He added: “I want to be very clear that we are not introducing new powers or capabilities – that is not for this Parliament.
“This is about restoring two vital measures ensuring that our law enforcement and intelligence agencies maintain the right tools to keep us all safe.” [The very ones the European Court struck down in April]
In return for agreeing to back the legislation, Labour and the Lib Dems highlighted new moves to “increase transparency and oversight”, including:
Mr Cameron stressed that the data being retained does not include the content of messages and phone calls – just when and who the companies’ customers called, texted and emailed.
But the emergency Data Retention and Investigation Powers Bill would also “clarify” the law on bugging of suspects’ phones by the police and security services, when the home secretary issues a warrant, after concerns service providers were turning down requests.
“Some companies are already saying they can no longer work with us unless UK law is clarified immediately,” said Mr Cameron.
“Sometimes in the dangerous world in which we live we need our security services to listen to someone’s phone and read their emails to identify and disrupt a terrorist plot.”
Well hang on Mr Cameron, did not you just stress that the data being retained does not include the content of messages and phone calls – just when and who the companies’ customers called, texted and emailed? Which is it Mr Cameron?
I wrote about statins a few weeks ago, that article was inspired by the pain my wife has been experiencing trying to get her familial hypercholesterolaemia under control. Her difficulty is convincing her GP to refer her for the right tests and make the right prescription. She has weighed up the evidence and decided that if they are appropriate she will take them.
All of that was thrown into disarray when the media recently picked up a small detail from a six month old medical report and published headlines along the lines of “Statins Kill 20% of those taking them”
I will now do my part to put the record straight. The original report was published by the BMJ in October 2013 but soon after it was published peers questioned the conclusions. This is normal, “peer review” is how every respected piece of research gains respect. And equally inaccuracies are highlighted and corrected.
The process worked perfectly in this case and in May 2014 the BMJ published this;
The BMJ and the authors of both these articles have now been made aware that this figure is incorrect, and corrections have been published withdrawing these statements. The corrections explain that although the 18-20% figure was based on statements in the referenced observational study by Zhang and colleagues—which said that “the rate of reported statin-related events to statins was nearly 18%,”3 The BMJ articles did not reflect necessary caveats and did not take sufficient account of the uncontrolled nature of Zhang and colleagues’ data.
You can read the original BMJ statement here.
It was this report, the retraction and correction, that the press picked up and drew its information from to create the “Statins Kill” headline. It is shocking that so many people who are making such a difficult decision over their own health are subjected to headlines like this from editors who are simply looking to sell more papers.
I encourage you all, do your own research, draw your own conclusions, and do not be distracted by shocking headlines.
I consider my self an early adopter, especially when it comes to technology and networking opportunities but when it came to LinkedIn I am scrabbling along behind the pack trying to keep up and find my way round.
Yes, it was a mistake, I knew about LinkedIn for years before I finally gave in and signed up. Now I am here I still resent the peer pressure that brought me here.
The problem is simple, there are to many social networks and not enough hours in the day to manage all our connections and get any work done. I have an account with FaceBook, I reserve that for sharing with family, and keeping up to date with the antics of my teenage children. I have a few Twitter accounts to go with all the web sites I run, I have a personal Twitter account but I do not remember when I last checked it out or posted to it! I have Instagram, like that one. I have stravafan.com one of my own social networking sites in development, I have this site, readbetween.co.uk and probably a few others I have forgotten about and if I tried to keep them all up to date I would not have time to eat. Oh and FlipBoard… I will come to that later.
So we all install auto responders, content posters, auto collators and any number of other labour saving, cross posters so we at least add content to our accounts where it matters even if we never check in, in person, to find out if anyone has read our posts.
You see where I am going with this? There are to many social networks and I am as guilty as any other web developer in perpetuating this situation; I have built and deployed 3 social networks this year!
I would love to be able to aggregate all these networks in to one unified wall and posting engine but then that removes the one thing that makes a social network successful. The very reason I signed up for LinkedIn all these years to late, its where my friends are.
So what did I do when I got there? I searched out a few select friends and connected. Then I joined some groups and that is where all my fears were confounded. Groups on LinkedIn are like little micro sites within the main site, each one progressively granulates the total membership and so dilutes the content. It is a disaster.
I would love to love LinkedIn but I cant. It is fundamentally flawed and I can not see a way out of it so I am sorry LinkedIn, for now I will connect this blog to my profile there and auto post it.
In the mean time, does anyone want to work with me to develop a unified wall/posting system/universal core social engine software?
These are just a few examples of the headlines used in the advertising on my TV this evening. The problem with these headlines is? They are all bollox, every one of them.
“A few powerful drops of serum” is from a hair products advertisement. Does anyone know what “Serum” is? There is no explanation on the advertisement, just an assertion that you need it.
“I drink pure collagen every day” is another beauty product headline. In this case no one explains what collagen is or why you should drink it every day. Collagen is in fact about 25% of all the soft tissue in our body, it is all the connective tissue and is in muscles. It is a natural protein. I still don’t know why you should drink it.
“Cold plasma Sub-D” Honestly, I watched half an hour of programmed advertising and still didn’t find out what it is so I went to Google and asked. It was created by Dr Nick Perricola, a real doctor of medicine in the US, a self proclaimed expert in beauty. I still don’t know what Clod Plasma Sub-D is. Or why I need it.
“Save an average of £866” is from an advertisement from a company that wants to buy your car. Although they explain this is the saving made over the trade in value they don’t explain how that value is derived. It is meaningless.
“38% Larger” Than what?
“Moisturise in the shower” Im a man, I don’t moisturise.
However the last quote here “With Anti Stain Technology” is the headline from an advertisement for a washing machine. I thought getting rid of stains was the idea of a washing machine. They all have, by definition, anti stain technology. How can you turn a basic feature into a benefit?
Advertisers are so confident you will buy their product they don’t even bother to be clever about their advertising any more. They hold it up, wave it in front of you, talk bollox then sit back and relax as you buy it. And buy it you will.
Although it is clear all products are sold this way the main culprit has to be beauty products.
The advertisers of beauty products have given up using language we would recognise and are now inventing a whole new vocabulary to describe their products.
The Sub-D Serum Cold Moisturizing Plasma Drops are an entirely made up products. From concept to innovation they are created not to solve a problem but to fill a tiny niche of market that has been identified. A market for a “blue package with orange labels smelling of apples and used by 18 year old women in the shower” Go make it!
And then sell it, don’t forget to use these compelling statements;
Ah yes, you could get the same results, if you talk bollox and have the advertising budget you too could be a big brand beauty company.
Women and girls, and to a small extent young men are the victims. Cosmetics, beauty and media companies have cooperated in brainwashing 50% or more of the western worlds population into believing they are well below perfect.
Without the right hair, face, skin, shower, deodorising, moisturising and, or hand products these people will remain less than perfect, they are doomed to be lonely, unloved, freaks who no one will ever give any attention to. Except that is, the very companies selling the products you need if you ever want to succeed at work, in love or life.
I have discovered that 10% of the population purchase 50% of the alcohol [by price I assume]. They have not actually said, but I suspect the 10% demographic buying all the beer is the same 10% who are the poorest of our population. I also discovered that those six million people spend on average, £3,000 per year, each, on their drinks. Thats £18 billion.
Its no surprise therefore that the main objectors to any Government interferance with this market are the very companies who make the drinks. They have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo.
On the opposition benches are plenty of social workers, doctors, nursing staff, police and other people who consider they are victims of this over indulgence.
Supposedly moderating all these opinions and proposing corrective policy are the politicians who fall in to two categories; Those who have interests in the drinks industry [or would like to have interests in the drinks industry] and those who don’t and have decided there is more political milage in being in favour of price capping.
Either way I have my suspicions that they are all wrong, managing the price of booz will not make any difference, it might even make it worse.
Let us start with the basic pretence that increasing the price per unit of alcohol will reduce consumption and by virtue of our population being a little more sober, crime will drop, fewer livers will fail and the cost to the nation will decrease in proportion to the reduction in collected tax. In the long term a healthier nation will be more productive and we will all benefit with increased wealth, flat screen TVs and new BMWs.
Unfortunately there is an alternative scenario. Increase the cost of a bottle of Lambrusco and desire and aspiration will increase proportionally to promote desperation leading to an increase in crime, more people in prison, broken families, badly parented kids, drugs, more booze and well no one is any better off.
The first proposition fits well with the White Middle Class views of how to deal with their perceived problems with the ‘Drunk Lower Classes’. I am surprised they have not yet recognised that simply repeating the same actions, and talking about how well it is going while ignoring the glaring facts does not in fact make it go well.
Permitted to continue I forecast a change of headline followed by a diversion of attention and eventually we will all forget about the price of beer. That is until it is back in the headlines, about six weeks before the next election.
Now I do not have all the answers, In fact I have no answers. What I do have is an observation.
I live in France for a lot of the year and in my local supermarket I can buy bottles of excellent local wine for about €2 each. Well it is not just me who can buy €2 bottles of wine, any one can. And its good stuff.
Everyone drinks in France, from a stiff one in a PMU at 10AM to the evening Genepi after dinner with local wines. The whole family drinks and no one worries about it.
It is rare to find drunks on a park bench [I dont think I have ever seen one], or the youth swigging from cans on a street corner, or people filling their shopping trollies with cans of cider [except the tourists when they arrive on a saturday afternoon].
I checked my local police records and found no cases of ram raiding the local bottle shop, no arrests of brawling men in the local night club, a couple of drunk drivers and well, thats about it.
Alcohol is just not a problem in my bit of France. The reason is commonly attributed to parents introducing their kids to wine at dinner when they are only 8 or ten years old and instilling good attitudes to drinking.
But it can not be that simple, for parents to do that it implies there are two and that they are sitting at a table. They are eating as a family and sharing everything about their social standards, not just an appreciation of good French wine.
The difference is in the culture. The French, on the whole do not over indulge.
The solution? like I said earlier, I dont have one.
At the same time relatives of those we assume died on the lost aircraft are threatening hunger strikes as a protest at the apparent lack of effort going in to the search.
Well I did some research and some checking and this is what I discovered.
So next time you think it should be easy to find a jumbo jet think about it like this [in football pitch clichés];
Alexi writes a blog here which to us in the free press would seem mild and harmless. Garry [the chess player], announced his retirement from professional chess on 10 March 2005, so that he could devote his time to politics and writing. He formed the United Civil Front movement, and joined as a member of The Other Russia, a coalition opposing the administration and policies of Vladimir Putin.
Neither man has done anything that would land them in jail in the UK, Europe or the US but their voices in Russia are loud enough to disturb Putins sleep.
What are they trying to stop the Russian people being exposed to? Things like this by Vitaly Portnikov; [paraphrased after translation]
If you are reading this in Russia and can not access the online content you seek leave a comment below telling me what you want to see and I will re-post it here for you.