Friday, 30 November 2007

"Business call for plan on climate
Global businesses have called for a legally binding and comprehensive international deal on climate change. A binding agreement on emissions reductions would encourage business to invest in low-carbon technologies, a statement from 150 businesses said.

The statement - backed by Prince Charles - will be sent to environment ministers and heads of state ahead of talks in Bali on climate change. Nokia, Tesco, Lloyds TSB and Nike are among the 150 firms that made the call. The signatories represent companies from Europe, the US, China and Australia.

This comes as quite a surprise to me - is it all just hot air?

"The signs from America are that the business leaders will be rebuffed while President George W Bush is still in charge. The US head of climate policy has confirmed to the BBC's Environment Analyst that the White House will not agree to binding international emissions cuts during the UN's climate negotiations. James Connaughton said the US favoured national and sectoral policies - not a one-size-fits-all international target. He said the US would continue to increase the carbon efficiency of its economy but he could not foresee the day when America would stop its growth in greenhouse gas emissions."

So the USA, or much more accurately, the Bush administration is playing the same old tune and basically doesn't give a damn about global warming. Now, isn't that a surprise? My advice to industry - at least those who want to do something positive - ignore that lame duck administration and go your own way.

BBC NEWS | Business | Business call for plan on climate

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Marc Eisenstadt retires
One of the founders of my department, and a long-term friend and colleague of mine, Professor Marc Eisenstadt took early retirement today. After relinquishing his role as department co-director, his title became 'chief scientist' - appropriate since he very much liked to push the boundaries of our research. I was very glad to see a good turnout for his retirement do. He will be sorely missed.

Photo shows Marc (left) cutting the cake with our new director Dr.Peter Scott looking on.

Tuesday, 27 November 2007

David Cameron hijacks BBC News website

Got a shock when I tried to view the Business section of the BBC News website - looks like the page has been hijacked by Conservative leader David Cameron.

Sunday, 25 November 2007

An excellent result for the OU Vets football team today in their 4-0 shutout of Hanslope Wanderers. I used my EOS 1D Mk.II for this game and it has definitely still got focus issues - time for a visit to Fixation I think.

Friday, 23 November 2007

T-Mobile to open up iPhone sales

"T-Mobile to open up iPhone sales
The iPhone was launched in Germany in early November iPhone users are still tied to just one network in the US and UK T-Mobile is to start allowing German customers to buy Apple's iPhone without a contract to its network, as it moves to comply with a court injunction. Its announcement comes after rival Vodafone went to a German court to challenge T-Mobile's exclusive tie-up with the iPhone in Germany.

Well done, Vodafone, for breaking this monopoly.

BBC NEWS | Business | T-Mobile to open up iPhone sales

"Qinetiq deal 'cost UK taxpayers'
UK taxpayers could have gained 'more money' from the privatisation of defence research firm Qinetiq, the National Audit Office (NAO) has said. While saying taxpayers could have gained 'tens of millions' more, the NAO also condemned an incentive scheme that netted fortunes for Qinetiq's bosses. Qinetiq's 10 most senior managers gained £107.5m after the move, a return of 19,990% for their total £540,000 investment in shares, a return labelled 'excessive' by the NAO.

BBC NEWS | Business | Qinetiq deal 'cost UK taxpayers'

This all sounds very familiar - remember the sale of BT and British Gas in the 1980s? Where thousands of citizens were made to feel good about themselves and their country by buying the minimum number of shares in these companies (that they already owned as taxpayers), only to see all their profits wiped out when they came to sell them by dealing charges. Proof, if it were needed, that Thatcherism is alive and well in British politics.

A whole world sold on sell-offs | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited

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"Browne hits back over troops row
Defence Secretary Des Browne has hit back at criticism by former defence chiefs, saying morale among serving soldiers is 'as high as it could be'. Admiral Lord Boyce said Gordon Brown treated UK forces with 'contempt' - and his decision to make Mr Browne Scottish Secretary as well was an 'insult'. Mr Browne said he had not heard those criticisms from serving soldiers and he was happy to be judged on his record.

Must have his fingers in his ears, then.

"But Mr Browne said: 'We have in the United Kingdom the second highest defence budget in the world, in real terms. We are exceeded only by the United States of America.'"

Higher than China? I think not.

"Shadow defence secretary Liam Fox accused the MoD of spending £2bn refitting its Whitehall offices, while there was a lack of battle helicopters in Afghanistan."

£2bn might not buy many helicopters, but I'm sure it would fund a good number of bullet-proof jackets.

BBC NEWS | Politics | Browne hits back over troops row

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Wednesday, 21 November 2007

"UK's families put on fraud alert
Two computer discs holding the personal details of all families in the UK with a child under 16 have gone missing. The Child Benefit data on them includes name, address, date of birth, National Insurance number and, where relevant, bank details of 25 million people.

What a bunch of idiots we have in charge of sensitive data in this country?! It should be illegal to post personal data like this. What's the point of all the security, firewall, etc. put in place in the data centre when some arse copies the data and bungs it in the post, or leaves a laptop in the back of his car - etc, etc, etc?

Just think of the potential for data loss once the Government's hair-brained and immensely wasteful personal ID card scheme gets up and running...

BBC NEWS | Politics | UK's families put on fraud alert

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Sunday, 18 November 2007

OU First team were on the wrong end of a 1-4 score line today against Great Holm Steel. Full gallery now live.

Monday, 12 November 2007

"Targets 'distort crime recording'
Government pressure to meet targets for less serious crimes is forcing detectives off major investigations, a Police Federation report has claimed. In one case an officer stopped hunting a paedophile ring to focus on solving burglaries, it said.

Yet another example of government meddling making a situation worse. As with doctors and nurses - can't you please leave these people to get on with their jobs?

BBC NEWS | UK | Targets 'distort crime recording'

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"UK 'landfill dustbin of Europe'
The UK is officially the "dustbin of Europe", figures have suggested.

What a misleading headling?! It suggests that continental Europe is sending their rubbish to the UK - which it isn't. Instead of all this Government-fuelled tosh about charging on the weight of your wheelie bin - which everyone with an ounce of common sense knows will simply lead to more fly tipping - they should clamp down on the producers of waste - all the excess packaging we are (at least partially) forced to buy, transport and dispose of.

BBC NEWS | UK | UK 'landfill dustbin of Europe'

Sunday, 11 November 2007

A big up to OU Reserves who won their cup game 6-2 today. Full gallery of photos now live - just click the image.

A severe case of trench foot to those few locals who think its acceptable to continue celebrating Guy Fawkes on Remembrance Sunday.

Saturday, 10 November 2007

"Drivers of big, high emission cars - including family saloons - could be penalised by a £1,000 hike in their motoring costs, it has been reported. Recommendations are likely to include higher excise duties and a purchase tax for larger cars, the Times reports."

BBC NEWS | UK | 'Green' tax could hit family cars

The £1000-a-year tax disc was proposed a while back while smiling Tony was still in office - but in the end, I don't think a dared bring it in. Is Brown going to have more guts, I wonder?

"Mr Livingstone's proposal - which would affect cars that produce 225g of CO2 per kilometre, and vehicles with engines larger than 3 litres that were registered before March 2001 - is now out for public consultation."

Not sure what the year of registration has got to do with anything.

"The Energy Saving Trust points to the fact that carmakers are still struggling to meet voluntary C02 reduction targets agreed with the European Union. 'We welcome industry achievements in reducing overall energy use, as well as the steady reduction in CO2 emissions per vehicle,' says Caroline Watson, transport policy manager at the Energy Saving Trust. 'However, the UK industry still has far to go. We will fail to meet the EU Voluntary Agreement for average new car emissions by 2008/09, and on the current path it will take more than 10 years to meet the proposed 2012 target of 130g per km.'"

BBC NEWS | Business | Carmakers laud emission reductions

And motor manufacturers can bleet all they like about how fuel-efficient their cars have become - while monsters like the Mercedes CLS 63 AMG still exist (less than 20mpg combined, 345 g/km CO2) some of them haven't got a leg to stand on. If the EU can't stop the makers from making them, blatant oil-wasters like this should be taxed out of existence.

Thursday, 8 November 2007

"Errors blamed for Menezes death
Police made serious and avoidable errors in the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station, a watchdog says. The Independent Police Complaints Commission report revealed 17 witnesses said they had not heard police shout a clear warning before firing.

The body's chair said Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair had tried to prevent its investigation. It also revealed investigators had asked the Crown Prosecution Service to look at possible charges against the two officers who shot Mr de Menezes, and the commander on the day, Cressida Dick.

So did the CPS ever really consider a prosecution? If so, why didn't they? Were they told not to?

"The IPCC said the Met had to rethink policies around deploying firearms officers and critical language governing the manner in which they stopped a suspect. It also called for a public debate over the Operation Kratos policy, which deals with the threat from suicide bombers and details how armed response teams should react. The watchdog said Operation Kratos had not been deployed on the day - but some officers had believed it had been."

The Home Secretary in a TV news interview last night said she expected that none of those calling for the resignation of Sir Ian Blair would ever have to make a split-second decision to end a potential suicide bomber's life. In this case it looks as though no one did. From the actions of the officers concerned, it really does appear that someone higher up had already made the decision to kill de Menezes. Is a "shoot-to-kill" policy actually legal - I don't remember hearing of any law having been passed allowing it. Remember all the furore over the SAS action in Gibraltar in the 1980s?

BBC NEWS | UK | Errors blamed for Menezes death
Blair under pressure after De Menezes report | Special reports | Guardian Unlimited
Blair blamed for delay in shooting investigation - Independent Online Edition - This Britain
ITN - Met Police chief refuses to step down

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Google Maps API error
Ever get this error when using the Google Maps API, even though you know what it says is wrong? Looks like the API key application is case-sensitive, so if someone visits your website and uses just one letter in a different case, this message will pop up. This happens with my Santiago de Compostela voice and photo blog (created for a Spanish language summer school) if you put the 'S' in upper case - try it.

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Tuesday, 6 November 2007

Glad to have finally found a Rolling Stones track that's been in my head since it was used in trailers for the (not too successful) Robert De Niro and Sharon Stone 1995 movie Casino:

The Rolling StonesGimme Shelter

Having problems getting the Windows client to scrobble the tracks you're listening to in iTunes? Keep getting the message saying "Won't scrobble: track is in a directory set to not scrobble" - even when that is patently complete tosh? Apparently the only solution (at least with the current client - as of now) is to repeatedly go into the Options... and check the folder that your music files are in. Just keep doing it. Don't take no for an answer.

Monday, 5 November 2007

"Moon Shot" movie stillsHave completed my involvement in a second movie specifically shot for a competition - this time to shoot a 3-minute movie in 24 hours for the 24 Hour Film Challenge. Actually had to act this time - although (probably fortunately) no talking was necessary. Photo shows our setup for the most complex scene, in a church using four Redhead lights on stands. Unfortunately there was a technical problem with the DVD that was submitted for the competition (the sound didn't work) so we didn't stand a chance of winning.

Friday, 2 November 2007

Greenflame album coverGreenflame have launched their first album - sample tracks on MySpace