Wandering in Fields of Idiots

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Article on Housing

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Following a posting by my brother about mortgages and negative equity I thought it was time to publish an article that I have been sitting on for some months. Why I didn’t put it up here earlier is beyond me, but I also thought that someone might like to actually take this up.

Read it, comment on it, share it!

The article is about how you can build a housing project in not only an ecologically sustainable way but in a way which is also economically sustainable. It might not be vastly profitable from a capitalistic point of view but it is sustainable and has room to make some money. You can find it here.

Why Be a Republic?

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Anyone who is claiming that the Royal family isn’t a draw for tourists has clearly not spent enough time out of the UK nor actually spoken to many tourists. Perhaps the 2.9 million people who, in 2008, visited the sites managed by HRP were just there for the architecture alone? I spend more time with international people than with British because of my work (unrelated to tourism or royalty) and I can testify that the royals are significant figures internationally.

Saying that the Crown Estate does not belong to the Queen is just choosing to define something as such because it suits your case. It is called the “Crown” Estate for a reason. Yes, it belongs to the nation because the Monarch IS the HEAD OF STATE, thus the Monarch IS the country! She represents the country, note: despite your self-interest she does not represent you, she represents the country. Who decided she should represent you? Hundreds of millions of people over the past several hundred years endorsed their presence and now you choose to say their wisdom was flawed. Oh dear. If the the Crown Estate was detached from the Royal Prerogative would in many ways be diminished in its public image and just become a tool of politics. Much of it’s property would be sold off to satisfy the short-term needs of the present political administration in order to be “more cost effective” instead of remaining to provide a constant steady income. Short view political administrations cannot be trusted with legacies because they are narrow minded and reactionary.

This brings me to my primary point: how would an elected head of state be better? Do we not already have enough bureaucracy? Do we not already have enough self interested egomaniacs attempting to run the country? We get proof time and again that politicians cannot be trusted and yet you seem to put your faith in a purely ‘democratic’ process. I might be convinced if there was direct real-time input into the political process by citizens but unfortunately the way it works is that a non-majority proportion of citizens elect a representative who then uses their own agenda to direct their actions. The representatives only truly represent people when public opinion reaches a tide and even then a tide does not represent an ocean: politicians are reactionary cowards who are scared of loosing their supporters.

Even an elected second house isn’t the answer, because the second house is there to provide ‘checks and balance’, thus they should be independent of politics and should just debate the merits of legislation for the good of the nation. The fact that the House of Lords cannot create any legislation but can only question it provides an independent watchdog for the House of Commons and prevents them being too reactionary. If the politicians truly wanted to push through some piece of legislation then it would happen because neither the House of Lords, nor the Head of State have absolute control. The Monarch has not been over-ruled in recent history because there is not the political will to do this, if that will existed and if the legislation was so necessary then it would be done. We need an independent mechanism which is un-swayed by tides of public opinion to stop our political system running away. Spend some time looking at the politics of the USA and tell me they have a better system!

Often comparison is made to the state of other European countries who no longer have a monarch, so let us take a look at my favourite example of the day: Greece. Said country is the country with the longest history of direct representation of the citizenship in the world has had a Monarch, been a Military Dictatorship and is currently a Republic. And as far as I can see it has never been in a more sorry political situation (outside of invasion, occupation and general war). The people decided they didn’t need a monarch so they exiled King Constatine and his family. Currently he resides mostly in London, but his country Palace remains closed and decaying near Athens. In order to prevent royalists being nostalgic they had to ban the former-King from public life in Greece, could the UK separate the Monarch from UK life? Next we can look at the politics of Greece which is quite frankly a mess. Recently the Greek Parliament was closed for one month, the reason they claimed was to allow the European Parliament Elections to get the most focus. However everyone I know in Greece was telling me it was because a senior figure in Siemens had been found-out in a massive corruption scandal. Because this corruption was political and across both leading parties the government could easily have been dangerously implicated. However, Greece has a great system of immunity in public spaces (for example if you commit a crime and hide in a University or Church the police are not allowed to come and get you). By closing the Parliament for one month the national prosecutor was prevented from investigating the scandal and that is even if the prosecutor had the will power to do so. But because the prosecutor is appointed by the politicians they are too scared to investigate because they know they won’t be in the job long enough to complete the task. The idea of the UK Crown Prosecution Service being responsible to the Head of State and not the politicians is much safer because: if the Head of State has limited power to affect change then their position is secure, a political figure who’s position is secure and has limited powers cannot be so easily corrupted. (At this point I must apologise to the one Politician I know in Greece as he seems to be the exception not the rule) The national politicians in Greece are in a difficult position, if they aren’t incompetent then they are assumed to be corrupt (irrespective of if they are or not), apathy is the most common attribute of Greek politician, they won’t change the status quo because otherwise they might be displaced. The Greek people are a significant factor in this as they refuse to be told what to do by politicians, even if it results in a positive outcome for the majority. But I strongly feel that had the Greek people leadership and representation in the form of an incorruptible Head of State then the politicians would be obliged to act in a moral way for the ‘Greater Good’ and with an agenda understood between the Head of State and the Prime Minister the people can be fully in control.

In summary, I am a Monarchist, but I don’t think they are important for the nostalgic reasons some might imagine, yes I like the Royal Family in an historical sense but I see the truth of politics and appreciate the truth of what Plato said in his works. If you read ‘Republic’ and thought that it was saying Democracy works then you were reading the wrong book. That book is a composite work of many of his other books and they elaborate more extensively on the subject of political leadership. Overall the theme that power corrupts remains, and this it is my belief that an Absolute Monarch in a democracy who has defined and limited powers is far more effective because their interest is purely for the country. Any politician who says they are doing what they do for the country is either an idealistic idiot or lying; they are their because they want the power. To paraphrase Plato: those who crave political power are those least suitable to rule. The UK would NOT be better off as a republic and to suggest so is optimism on a grand scale. Being a Republic is no better than the situation we currently have in the UK and if anything over time it just degrades the political process instead of aiming to optimise it. Let us have a written constitution, let us have some reform, but let us not take away the in-line independent review from the political process. As a nation any people have shown time and again they cannot be trusted to be either honest or not reactionary, so we as a nation need to understand our limits and ensure independent checks. We don’t allow companies to go unmonitored, so why not see the Monarch as the watchdog of the nation?

Hybrid Cars

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My brother just wrote an interesting post about hybrid cars saying how the current measures for economy we see aren’t really effective.

He has a good point, but also what worries me about hybrid vehicles is the environmental impact of them over their life-cycle. Most hybrid vehicles have batteries, these batteries are often made with toxic chemicals and heavy metals. How long do the batteries last? What happens with them when they are expired? I know my laptop battery, after two years of heavy use, is now at half its’ capabilities so how long will the very expensive batteries in a hybrid vehicle last?

Apparently if the KERS (Kinetic Energy Recovery Systems) used in F1 was applied to London Underground they would use 50% less electricity, but like in hybrid cars where would this charge get stored? Certainly not with conventional batteries because they can’t absorb charge quickly enough and have trouble with the discharge power for fast acceleration; that said Altairnano and Hitachi both claim dramatic improvements in this area. Super capacitors suffer leakage so this wouldn’t be very efficient for a standing vehicle. One of the most effective stores of energy is actually mechanical storage because conversion losses can be reduced substantially and this would be the best solution for London Underground. Fit a large spinning mass under the train and store the energy recovered in breaking deceleration directly on the mass, then couple the mass to the drive train during acceleration to give it that extra boost.

However, we can’t all carry round a huge mass in our cars because it will have a worse affect on the efficiency of a car compared to the constant stop-start of the Underground train.

Some new technology is needed and I don’t know where it will come from but, like mechanical storage, I think we will be surprised and it will come from the past!

Smart Q7 and Q5 UMPC Devices

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Yesterday I was looking at the O2 Joggler device and thinking how, despite the environmental concerns, I wouldn’t mind a UMPC as a digital sign in the lounge giving information such as weather, travel status, internet connection status and domestic energy consumption. However the Joggler is locked from customisation and the Hack the Joggler website seems to be offline at the moment.

But I was stumbling around the net as I usually do and I found that DealExtreme (those fab people in China who sell cheap stuff to the world) are selling a little but potentially powerful UMPC called the Smart Q5, this little devil runs ARM Ubuntu, has a 667MHz Samsung S3C6410 SoC chip, 1GB of flash and a modest 128MB of RAM. Now the 128MB of RAM is a little on the short side but it is workable and the fact that the chip has some video acceleration could be an advantage. The big hesitation for me with this product was the fact that it only has a 4.3in display and that isn’t very big compared to my HTC Touch HD mobile phone. This brings me to find the Smart Q7 which has the same specification but with a larger 7in screen.

Overall they are fun little devices and not without their flaws, but they have potential to make a big impact, especially if they had a little extra RAM. With this in mind I have purchased one for ‘testing’ purposes and will report back my findings.

Liberties in the UK and Photography

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This is the kind of posting that will likely make me no friends in government security, but I’m tired of all of that.


I’ve been reading far too often lately about the liberties being taken away from us in the UK for the sake of our protection from terrorism. As a regular traveler I have never minded airport security until recently. I flew out of New York a few months after “9/11” and felt quite satisfied that security was sufficient. However, since then the authorities have stacked on more and more restrictions on travel based on badly founded risk assessments. Examples of these are:

1) That all persons carrying liquids could be a threat to safety

2) Our shoes are a potential hiding place for objects/substances that could threaten safety

So, lets take a look at those threats:

1) There was a reported threat that it might be possible to make a binary explosive by mixing two or more chemicals in the bathroom of an airliner. This is the stuff of Hollywood legend and has very little practical application.

2) Richard Reed, a disturbed English/Jamaican man from Bromley who found religion after being in prison. He failed to ignite a small quantity of explosives hidden in his shoes. So that is one failed attempt to blow up a plane with a badly conceived and executed plan.

So overall, I now have to have my liquids scanned (what use is it to put the bottles through an x-ray machine?) and I have to take off my shoes to prove I am not hiding any explosives in them. Apparently for some people it makes them feel more secure to know that action is being taken, but do they really realise how ineffective this action really is? How much of a waste of resources it really is? If I wanted a knife on-board an aircraft I could make one out of readily available materials (drinks cans), or I could just fly first class and order the steak!


Apparently it has now become a crime to take photographs in a public place and even where it isn’t a crime it is now decided that if you are taking photographs of public places that you must be a terrorist planning something. When did it happen that actions that many could consider common actions became so suspect. Not all of us just take photographs when we are tourists, some of us like to take pictures when we are out and about of interesting but everyday subjects. It also is becoming a crime to refuse to give your identity when asked by a Police Officer and this I also disagree with.

I am not an opponent of the Police, I think many of them do a sterling job but I felt I had to write an email to the Kent Police Authority just as an appeal to their better nature and it is in the Read More section below and as always I welcome comment.

Dear Kent Police Authority,

I would just like to quickly add my concerns to that of many others in regard to the treatment of photographers. As a Man of Kent and a keen photographer I don’t want to feel that I will be regarded as a terrorist as a result of taking photographs and I don’t expect there to be an assumption that photography is a mechanism for terror. I am sure you will agree that it is the duty of the Police to ensure that all who are in the UK are able to feel safe and this includes those who might wish to enjoy their hobbies. If we make too many assumptions about terrorism, which in the past 10 years has harmed statistically few people compared to other crimes, then we have allowed the terrorists to win. I know that Police forces need to be seen to act: but when the data shows that of all the actions taken under the guise of the Prevention of Terrorism Act very few have actually been proven to be related to those involved in terror activities we are casting a net too wide to actually be effective.

Many of us who have been victims of crimes against property will be well aware that due to available resources the Police would rather leave the work to the insurance companies. It would be much better for general crime statistics in the UK for the Police to let the specialist terrorism units handle terrorism matters and for the general Police population to concentrate on the daily crime. Remembering that before Al-Qaeda the UK was being terrorised by the IRA to much greater effect over a much greater period and without so much loss of freedom by the people of the UK. If it can be demonstrated that a significant minority of the UK population poses an actual threat to the safety of our nation, rather than a perceived threat, then we should perhaps consider stronger measures but at present this is not the case.

I hope that the Police of the UK and Kent Police especially can take on board that terrorism is uncommon and that statistically it is unlikely to occur on their beat. I hope that the Police can not give in to spin and hype around terrorism and can take a rational view. Above all I hope the Police in any state can understand that it is a persons right to do as they wish without being intimidated, being viewed as suspicious and monitored without more than just circumstantial evidence. Never has it been more true that ‘the price of freedom is eternal vigilance’ but also the same consideration must be given towards ourselves, we must be vigilant that we do not lose our liberties in the pursuit of the perception of safety. I leave these thoughts with you and hope that you can issue guidance to your officers so that they might take a different view of their role in maintaining the liberties of the UK and the world.

Yours Sincerely,

Bytemark MD Posts on Progress From Email Industry

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Matthew Bloch is one of the key team behind Bytemark and he has posted about what he sees as a lack of progress in the development of email as a technology.

On his twitter feed he asked what people thought, I posted a response but it seems to have been moderated out, so I will copy it here:

I am one of those who wanted customisation of their mail handling, my family has followed me and is using my host because the majority of mail hosting companies couldn’t account for connection oddities. I use MailWatch to track MailScanner filtering quickly and tweaking the filtering has been very important. I have one domain of mine hosted with Google Apps just because I can and it is good but perhaps it lacks the granularity for heavy business use?

If a mail hosting company was able to provide the same granularity of control as MailScanner + Postfix + PostfixAdmin + Mailwatch + MySQL + Dovecot1.2 then I think it would give businesses a case to drop their internally hosted servers. Adding RequestTracker into that mix would just be the final leap to give them a feature not available with most off-the-shelf systems.

On the mail client side what I have come to realise is that I can’t navigate my email quickly enough. I have many GB of email and at work I have thousands of emails waiting to be sorted into the myriad of sub-folders. I think the answer is tagging and bayes suggestions but I think tagging hasn’t truly been leveraged to it’s maximum. I think it should be possible to browse tags with depth to narrow down the emails. Thus the initial view should have every mail, there should be a tree list of every tag; then each tag should have every tag which is shared with the previous tag. Thus a matrix hierarchy of tags can evolve and with Bayes suggestions mails can be tagged as they arrive (I already use the Bayes sort add-in for Thunderbird). In this way the mass of mail can be filtered down to the target quickly and more importantly mail can be in many places! An email might be to do with marketing but also to do with a client.

Perhaps I need to blog this….

Anyway, good posting!

I’ve been thinking about this concept for a matrix mail client for some time and I think I need to write a white paper about it so that I can see if I can drum up interest in developing it! I will see what I can do.

A Million Words and Web 2.0

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Apparently Global Language Monitor has declared that “Web 2.0” is the English Language’s millionth word.

 But this doesn’t seem to have impressed British academics according to the Guardian:

Professor David Crystal, professor of linguistics at Bangor University, called the idea “the biggest load of rubbish I’ve heard in years”. He said: “It is total nonsense. English reached 1 million words years ago. It’s like someone standing by the side of the road counting cars, and when they get to 1 million pronouncing that to be the millionth car in the world. It’s extraordinary.”

And the Daily Mail also achieved this excellent quote:

However John Simpson, chief editor of the Oxford English Dictionary, said: ‘We find it curious that Web 2.0, a term that was coined in 1999 and has been in broad use since 2004, is being regarded as a new entrant to the language.”

So overall, measurement of entomology with high precision seems to have its flaws and is more about publicity than useful fact. I am proud of the balanced journalism by both these media groups in the reporting.

The Difference Between Politicians and Citizens

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From an email I received yesterday:

One day a florist goes to a barber for a haircut. After the cut he asked  about his bill and the barber replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you.  I’m doing community service this week.’ The florist  was pleased and  left the shop.
When the barber goes to open his shop the next morning there is a  ‘thank you’ card and a dozen roses waiting for him at  his door.
Later, a policeman comes in for a haircut, and when he tries  to pay his bill, the  barber again replies, ‘I cannot accept money from you. I’m doing community  service this week.’ The policeman is happy and leaves the  shop.
The next morning when the barber goes to open up there is a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen donuts waiting for him at his door.
Later that day, a professor comes in for a  haircut, and when he tries  to pay his bill, the barber again replies, ‘I cannot  accept money from you  I’m doing community service this week.’ The professor  is very happy and  leaves the shop.
The next morning when the barber opens his shop, there is a ‘thank you’ card and a dozen different books, such as ‘How to  Improve Your Business’  and ‘Becoming More Successful.’
Then, an MP (a member of Parliament) comes in for a haircut, and when  he goes to pay his bill  the barber again replies, ‘I cannot accept money from  you. I’m doing  community service this week.’ The MP is very  happy and leaves the shop.
The next morning when the barber goes to open up,  there are a dozen MPs lined up waiting for a free haircut.

And that, my friends, illustrates the fundamental difference between the citizens of our country and the members of our Government

Sample Article

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This is a sample article text which can be read by the RSS feed.

It includes some breaks.

Now it ends.